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Oxfam International

The view from the summit – Gleneagles G8 one year on

Oxfam Briefing Note, Oxfam International

9 June 2006

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On 31 March 2006 the Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa announced that from that day on basic health care would be free to everyone. This was made possible partly due to the money saved following the cancellation of Zambia’s $5 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A visit to the clinic for basic medicines, which until then had been the privilege of the few, became the right of all.

One year has passed since the G8 summit in Gleneagles in July 2005. One million HIV-infected people in poor countries now have access to treatment, as of the end of 2005. In Burundi, removal of education fees in 2005 has led to 300,000 children going to school. Yet despite these stories of progress, in the same year 500,000 women died in either pregnancy or childbirth and 11 million children died from poverty, conflict, and disease. This is the equivalent of a woman every minute, a child every three seconds.

One year has passed since 36 million people in over 70 countries united under the Global Call to Action against Poverty, and demanded that the world’s leaders act, in the words of Nelson Mandela, to overcome the injustice of global poverty. In the UK, a quarter of a million people marched across Edinburgh demanding that the G8 take action, and across the world 2 billion people tuned in to watch Live 8. They demanded that leaders deliver debt cancellation, more and better aid, and trade justice. They set a new goal for this generation – to make poverty history.

One year has passed since the G8 leaders responded by agreeing to cancel the debts owed by 40 of the world’s poorest countries to the World Bank, IMF, and African Development Fund. They also promised to increase aid to poor countries by $50 billion by 2010, with half of this going to Africa. They promised increases in humanitarian aid and support to peacekeeping and arms control, and they called for a world trade deal that favours poor nations. Finally, they agreed to tackle climate change. Although these promises fell far short of what was demanded and needed to end poverty, they nevertheless represented substantial commitments that, if delivered, would make a difference to the lives of millions.

This weekend G8 finance ministers meet in Russia. This meeting is critical in agreeing the financial commitments to be announced at the ensuing G8 summit in St Petersburg in July. Exactly one year ago it was the G8 finance ministers who brokered the debt cancellation deal at tense negotiations in London. On the table this weekend is a review of progress since last year, and in particular the need to mobilise further finance for health and education in poor countries. Annually, $10 billion is needed to get every child into school,1 and $27 billion to provide basic health care for all.2

A year ago G8 leaders made significant promises that could affect the lives of millions living in poverty. Of course, miracles should not be expected in a year, but substantial progress can and should be. As the Russian G8 approaches, this paper explores progress (or the lack thereof) since the G8 in Gleneagles in the areas of debt, aid, conflict, trade, and climate change.

  1. This figure of $10bn p.a. is taken from Doney, M. and Wroe, M. (2006) Keeping our promises: Delivering education for all. London: HM Treasury and DFID.
  2. Commission for Macroeconomics and Health, final report 2001:

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