World Bank, UN urge G-8 to help Africa (Second Lead)

July 7th, 2008 - 8:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Toyako (Japan), July 7 (DPA) The World Bank and the UN Monday urged the world’s richest countries to triple the amount of aid they give to Africa if they want to stick to their promise to lift millions of people from abject poverty. “How we respond to this double jeopardy of soaring fuel and food prices is a test of the global commitment to help the most vulnerable. And it is a test we cannot afford to fail,” said World Bank president Robert Zoellick on the sidelines of a Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Japan.

Eight years ago, heads of state and government from around the world signed up to a series of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be achieved by 2015. They include halving extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education and drastically reducing child mortality rates.

G-8 countries gave a total of $18.8 billion in aid to Africa in 2007 and have promised to raise this figure to $40 billion per year by 2010.

But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned Monday that as much as $62 billion per year would be needed by 2010 in order to meet the MDGs.

“High food prices are already turning back the clock on development gains. To avoid further suffering, we are calling on world leaders to deliver a full range of immediate needs,” Ban said.

G-8 leaders met African counterparts on the first day of their three-day summit in Hokkaido Monday amid concerns that they were not doing enough to counter world poverty.

Zoellick warned that a combination of bad harvests, rising food and oil prices, the spread of biofuels and global warming were adding pressure on the UN’s humanitarian agencies.

He said the World Food Programme (WFP), which provides immediate food relief to crisis areas, normally needed about $3 billion per year in voluntary contributions.

“But this year it could be between $5 billion and $6 billion. And it is likely that WFP will need a similar sum next year,” Zoellick said.

The two officials identified a series of solutions. Among them emergency aid totalling $10 billion, the lifting of food export bans and restrictions, an end to agricultural subsidies in the European Union and the US and a move to a new generation of biofuels.

Global warming also needed to be urgently addressed, with Ban noting that climate change was already having a devastating effect in Africa.

“We tend to think of climate change as something of the future. It is not. We see it now most of all in Africa, where drought and changing weather patterns are compounding the challenges we face in obtaining the MDGs,” Ban said.

The UN secretary general invited G8 leaders to take an investment approach to the world’s most pressing problems.

“Every dollar, euro or yen invested today, as well as every ounce of effort, is worth ten tomorrow and one hundred the day after,” he said.

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