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Commission for Africa Report: Let This Be The One
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There have been, and continue to be, many valuable analyses, reports and programs by the UN and other agencies, alongside calls for more aid, trade reform and debt cancellation by numerous NGOs. For the time being, the Commission for Africa's report seems to have outweighed them all.


11th March 2005, Rajesh Makwana ~ STWR

The Commissioners spoke emphatically today at the launch of the final report by the Commission for Africa (CfA) at the British Museum. Over half of the commissioners who collaborated on the report are from Africa, they include Prime Ministers, UN advisors and Finance Ministers, and all are well versed in Africa's dire predicament.

The 400 page report entitled Common Interest was described by Sir Bob Geldoff as "bolder than the Marshall Plan and more practical than the Brandt Report". Reiterating how affordable the implementation of the report would be, Sir Bob likened the costs to "half a stick of chewing gum for each G8 citizen".

There have been, and continue to be, many valuable analyses, reports and programs by the UN and other agencies, alongside calls for more aid, trade reform and debt cancellation by numerous NGOs. For the time being, the CfA's report seems to have outweighed them all.

Tony Blair intends to use the UK's Presidency of the EU and the G this year to influence the international community to implement the CfA's recommendations. It will of course be an uphill task, since the USA has rejected many UK proposals, including the International Finance Facility (IFF). Proposals for debt cancellation were also rebuffed last month at a meeting of G7 finance ministers, with countries like Canada and the USA preferring to implement their own aid programs in their own ways, and France and Germany holding alternative views regarding financing aid.

 

Africa Report at a Glance

Africa

  • Improve governance, by doing more to respect human rights and fight corruption
  • Progress has been made on democratisation
  • Provide free primary education
  • Improve health systems - by training extra health workers - and spending 15% of national income on health in the long term
  • Encourage trade within the continent
  • Use more aid money on infrastructure, such as ports, roads and airports
  • Do more to help orphans and vulnerable children
  • Double the area of land being irrigated to grow more crops.


The West

  • Double or treble aid flows, if the money can be absorbed - an extra $25bn a year by 2010 and a further $25bn by 2015
  • Forgive 100% of debts
  • Move towards grants, not loans
  • Remove trade barriers and end subsidies on goods also exported by Africa, such as cotton and sugar
  • Spend more on the fight against HIV/Aids

Although the reaction has been mixed, few NGO's and campaigners can deny the basic tenants of the Commission's recommendations. This is probably because these recommendations have not only been made before, but they have been made time and time again, without implementation.

The first in depth study was initiated by the World Bank, conducted by the former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and published in 1975. The Pearson Report was the first time that the infamous 0.7% GNP figure was first proposed as the developing countries' aid contribution to the developing world.

Subsequently there was arguably the most comprehensive analysis of international development to date, the report by the Independent Commission on International Development Issues, chaired by Willy Brandt (former Chancellor of West Germany) in 1980.

The 'BRANDT REPORT' received much publicity and wide ranging acceptance as the best way forward for governments to reduce the growing economic disparity between the rich North and developing South. The commission proposed that aid reaches the 1% GNP level by 2000. However the proposals put forward by its eminent members were never adopted by governments due to the Cold War and a resulting lack of political will.

Two Band Aids, numerous international commitments and thousands of NGO campaigns later, we find the international community more aware than ever of the plight of the poor. Yet, aid to poor nations has actually fallen from 0.35% of GDP to 0.21% of GDP. Life expectancy and economic growth rates in Africa have fallen over the last 30 years, and thousands continue to die every day, needlessly.

Clearly a degree of skepticism is necessary here with the advent of yet another report, outlining urgent measures that have largely been known and agreed upon for decades.

In addition, many argue that the report is not radical enough. Unlike the Brandt Report, it does not emphasize the need to restructure the global economy to render it fundamentally more equitable. Instead, the recommendations will be implemented within the existing economic framework, thereby promoting an export-oriented approach to development.

Unsurprisingly, the report goes against the UK's current trade liberalization, privatization and arms policies. As such it is likely that Mr Blair will come up against much resistance from members of the G8, when proposing the significant shift in policy that the report postulates.

To the Commission's credit, the report is extremely well researched, and one cannot deny the convictions of its members and their determination to 'sell' the idea to the international community.

Furthermore, its primary emphasis on reform of governance and capacity building within Africa may win over many governments who have resisted increasing aid flows in the past, and some progress has already been made with debt cancellation and increasing aid.

Overall, the strength of the report may lie in its non-radical and rather practical approach. Its also comes at a time when the global call for better aid, fair trade and debt cancellation is louder than ever before. And never before have Commissioners been as well placed to influence the international community as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, given the UK's presidencies this year.

Regardless of the report's shortfalls, this initiative must not be seen as anything less than an important opportunity for progress and development. As such it is imperative that all governments, NGOs and concerned individuals actively promote the implementation of this report.

Whilst the possibility exists to improve the lives of millions, it is our duty to lend it our absolute support. Ultimately the true value of the Report lies in its implementation and only history will be able to judge its effectiveness.


Rajesh Makwana is the Director of Share The World’s Resources (www.stwr.org), an NGO campaigning for global economic and social justice. He can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Copyright 2005 Share The World's Resources (www.stwr.org

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