WASHINGTON - The Group of Eight industrial nations are collectively off course in delivering on a 2005 pact to more than double aid to Africa through 2010, with France and Italy falling far short of their commitments, according to a new report released on Thursday.
The annual report by the ONE anti-poverty campaign charts progress by the G8 in meeting their aid promises made at a summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 to more than double aid to Africa to reach $25 billion a year by 2010.
By the end of 2008 the G8 nations had made good on one-third of their aid commitments and by the end of this year, they are expected to meet just half of their Gleneagles targets, the report said.
The majority of the shortfall -- about 80 percent -- will be because of declines in aid to Africa by Italy and France, it added.
"Certain members of the G8 are meeting and even beating the targets they set for themselves. Others, most notably Italy and France, have made exceptionally poor progress and are damaging the G8's collective credibility," the report said.
"Given how far some G8 countries have drifted from their promises, it will be challenging for the group to get back on track to keep their commitments," it added.
Many countries in the G8 have spent billions of dollars of their budgets on fiscal stimulus to spur global recovery, affecting their ability to increase foreign assistance.
GLOBAL ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN
The report comes as G8 finance ministers prepare to meet in Italy this weekend to discuss the state of the world economy. African countries are being hit by the global economic slowdown and financial crisis that threatens to undo more than a decade of progress in reducing poverty and spurring high economic growth.
The report said the failure by the G8 powers to fully deliver on their aid pledges was particularly troubling given the impact on Africa from the global crisis that was not its fault.
Still, on a country-by-country basis, Canada, the United States and Japan have exceeded their Gleneagles commitments, the ONE campaign said.
In addition, the report said that while Germany and Britain are currently off track in meeting their aid goals, both are making progress to meet their commitments that were more ambitious than the United States, Canada or Japan.
But the report said France's development assistance to Africa fell from 2007 to 2008 and it has delivered only 7 percent of what it promised at Gleneagles.
The report said last year, Germany became a bigger donor to Africa than France, which has traditionally played a major role in its former colonies mainly in West Africa.
Meanwhile, Italy has so far delivered only 3 percent of what it promised at Gleneagles and has cut aid to Africa since the 2005 summit and is planning further cuts in 2009, the report said.
"Italy must urgently reverse its course if it is not to be embarrassed at the forthcoming G8 summit," the report added.
To get back on course, the seven largest G8 members -- the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy, France and Canada excluding Russia -- will need to deliver on average an additional $7.2 billion each year in 2009 and 2010, the report said.
When it comes to aid effectiveness, Britain ranked first followed by Canada, Japan, Germany, France, the United States and then Italy, the report said.
It said when used effectively, aid to Africa had produced results including providing AIDS antiretroviral therapy to 4 million people at the end of 2008, dramatically reduced deaths from the mosquito-borne disease malaria, and helped put some 34 million children in primary school between 1999 and 2006.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Sandra Maler)