NGOs complain poor left with 'crumbs' at G20

4th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Non-governmental organisations expressed disappointment Friday that the poor had been left with "crumbs" as Greece and the eurozone crisis hijacked the attention of leaders at a G20 summit.

While they welcomed that some nations led by France vowed to pursue a tax on financial transactions to help raise funds for anti-poverty and development efforts, they complained that Europe's woes had dominated the agenda.

The measures approved in Cannes by the leaders of the world's top economies contain "a full hearty meal for Greece and the other countries in the G20," said Soren Ambrose of ActionAid Kenya.

"But in the developing world the impoverished people are again being fed crumbs," he added, complaining development slipped to the bottom of the agenda as leaders focused on the combatting the financial crisis.

"While we accept that resolving the problems of Greece and eurozone is important, however, we expected G20 leaders to define global and sustainable solutions to the global crisis," said Taneem Essop of WWF.

"From our perspective the most important challenge is to make the governments put people and nature first, not the banks," said Carlos Zarco of Oxfam Mexico.

Development groups said G20 leaders also missed an opportunity to send a strong signal ahead of key climate change talks later this month in South Africa as they failed to clearly state their willingness to financially help people and countries hit by the effects of global warming.

Anti-poverty groups welcomed a report made to the G20 by Microsoft chairman and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates with suggestions how countries can raise funds take innovative steps to boost development.

But they were disappointed that the G20 leaders concentrated on market mechanisms and private investment, noting that the financial crisis showed that role of states is crucial.

State involvement "is a prerequisite for any kind of responsible development to happen and a prerequisite for democratic accountability," said Ambrose.

G20 leaders acknowledged the importance of official development aid, and said developed countries should meet their pledges of support while emerging nations step up their efforts.

But most of the G20 proposals are market oriented, like boosting private investment in agriculture and infrastructure in poor countries.

G20 leaders also backed stronger regulation and monitoring of commodity derivatives markets to discourage speculation that has been blamed for playing a role the rise of food prices.

Anti-poverty groups welcomed this step, but said Luc Lampriere of Oxfam France said the measures "don't respond the current crisis situation."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he shared the disappointment of aid groups that development issues were eclipsed by the need to deal with economic crises, but insisted "overall progress has been made."

He said it was unrealistic to have expected universal support for a financial transaction tax, and said it was considerable progress that a number of countries plan to move forward.

"Morally, we consider it absolutely indispensible that the people of the world know that the financial actors who led the world into the mess will contribute financially to repairing the damage they created," said Sarkozy.

He also pointed to the G20 leaders endorsing a plan for each country to introduce a minimum of social protection measures.

© 2011 AFP

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