GLENEAGLES, Scotland - Outside of British officialdom, celebrations over increased G8 aid for Africa were confined mostly to a population of two -- rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono.
"A great justice has been done," Geldof said after the announcement following their summit at the Gleneagles golf resort in Scotland the Group of Eight most powerful industrialised countries and other institutions propose to double the aid package for Africa to 50 billion dollars a year by 2010.
"The world spoke out and the politicians listened," said Bono, frontman for the ever-popular Irish band U2 and now an outspoken advocate for poverty eradication.
The day of the announcement was a "great day", said Geldof, another Dubliner, from the former band Boomtown Rats, and organiser of the 1985 Live Aid concert for African famine relief. Geldof was also at the helm of the Live 8 concerts held in each of the G8 countries last week to coincide with the G8 summit.
"Never before have so many people forced a change of policy onto a global agenda. If anyone had said eight weeks ago will we get a doubling of aid, will we get a deal on debt, people would have said 'no'." Geldof gave the July 6-8 summit of the G8 "10 out of 10 on aid; eight out of 10 on debt."
Groups campaigning for greater G8 commitments were far from ecstatic; and there were no reports of jubilation in Africa either. A closer look at the G8 offer would suggest that those not celebrating had far more reason on their side.
Much of what is covered by the "extra" aid is no more than G8 dressing for what was in the pipeline anyhow. And much of this "doubling" comes from an addition of intentions, not of commitments, according to anti-poverty activists.
Britain announced firmly that it "will double its bilateral spending in Africa between 2003/04 and 2007/08." Canada too said it will double aid to Africa over the next few years. Japan, which gives very little aid to Africa currently, also made firm pledges. It "committed to double its ODA (official development assistance) to Africa over the next three years." Japan also pledged more than one billion dollars over five years for the Enhanced Private Sector Initiative for Africa.
But all this would still be only a small fraction towards an increase to the extra 25 billion dollars a year package. Most of the remaining additional funds stop short of firm commitments, and comprised statements of intent that have already been announced.
The European Union, the G8 leaders declared, has pledged to reach 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) for ODA by 2015, and at least half of the increase "should" go to sub-Saharan Africa. Germany and Italy have both "undertaken" to increase aid generally, and France has "announced a timetable" for 0.7 percent by 2013, of which two-thirds would be for Africa.
The United States too "proposes to double aid to sub-Saharan Africa between 2004 and 2010." But only Britain has announced it will not tie its aid to market liberalisation and privatisation requirements. And the G8 declaration was silent on the whole question of quality of aid, and whether it would be tied to purchases from the donor country.
The 50-billion-dollar aid figure has been inflated in good measure by debt cancellation proposals. "Russia has cancelled and committed to cancel 11.3 billion dollar worth of debts owed by African countries," the G8 declared. That alone explains close to half of what this supposedly new aid package is about.
And all these, the G8 declaration said, were only financing commitments "as submitted by individual G8 members": United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Britain.
Bono declared that this aid package will save more than half a million lives. "Six hundred thousand Africans, mostly children, will remember this G8 summit at Gleneagles because they will be around to remember this summit, and they wouldn't have otherwise." Geldof called it a "qualified success", without suggesting how qualified it was.
"Bob Geldof's response to the G8 communiqué is misleading and inaccurate," said Peter Hardstaff, head of policy for the World Development Movement. "By offering such unwarranted praise for the dismal deal signed by world leaders he has done a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of people who marched in Edinburgh at the weekend."
Speaking at a meeting in Edinburgh after the announcement, Hardstaff said Geldof's comments "do not reflect the collective conclusions of the development campaigns who make up Make Poverty History. Mr. Geldof has become too close the decision-makers to take an objective view of what has been achieved at this summit."
John Hilary, director of policy and campaigns at War on Want, said: "Bob Geldof may be content with crumbs from the table of his rich political friends. But we did not come to Gleneagles as beggars. We came to demand justice for the world's poor."
Hilary added: "We have no problem with Geldof celebrating the successes of the Gleneagles summit and the 10 million lives he feels will be saved as a result of this deal. But what about the other two billion people driven into poverty by the policies of the G8? Did the leaders of the rich world have nothing for them?"
© 2005 IPS