May 31, 2011 Comments

Ahead of the G8 Summit, the prospects for a solid discussion on the partnership with Africa on development issues seemed promising.  But with a packaged agenda covering topics ranging from the Libyan conflict, Japan’s nuclear disaster, the financial crises in Europe, piracy, drug trafficking, transnational crime, and the commitments that emerged related to supporting the “Arab Spring”, what time and energy was left for the African development agenda? 

It seems that other issues have once again diverted commitments promised long ago to other developing countries, especially the $19 billion gap between what was pledged at Gleneagles in 2005 and what has been delivered to date.

While it is laudable that up to $40 billion in bilateral and international aid was promised to Egypt and Tunisia in support of the countries’ democratic transition, Sub-Saharan Africa merely saw a renewal of the group’s partnership pledge with the continent.

It is therefore not surprising that many international commentators now see the G8 Summits as yet another talk shop, consisting of vague promises and friendly headlines, but also unmet promises, and lack of solid action in follow through.

One potential advance was the G8/Africa Joint Declaration on Shared Values and Responsibilities. It outlines the group’s support for peace, security and governance initiatives, including: gathering support for Cote d’Ivoire’s path to sustainable peace; encouraging the peaceful transition of South Sudan to independent statehood; full support for the African Union’s AMISOM mission in Somalia; and the ratification of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

On the economic development and environmental front, the Joint Declaration emphasizes the importance of human capital development, scaling up of infrastructure, expansion of domestic and foreign direct investment, combating  corruption, regional integration  to foster growth and stability, transparency of capital flows in the extractive resources sectors and prudent governance of the revenues earned from such resources, and underlines the focusing on renewable energy sources, sustainable agricultural practices, and the discerning use of water resources.

As part of the group’s recognition of issues of mutual accountability, the Joint Declaration states the full commitment of the G8 and Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa, and the African Union Commission to meeting its promises, with a special focus on achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. It further emphasizes the need for continued commitment to the implementation aid and development policies, such as the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action. Lastly, the document recognizes the importance of continued ODA to benefit the continent’s poorest.

While the Declaration touches on many issues, based on past experience, one cannot help but wonder how much of its headlines and repeated commitments are mere fanfare, lacking substance.  Although discussion of development issues at high level meetings is imperative, without agreement on actual accountability mechanisms to monitor progress or to hold the club accountable, the result will likely only be more empty promises, which only make the G8 look even more irrelevant and out-of-tune with emerging global realities.     

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Ibi Brown is the Exchange Program Coordinator of the Africa Initiative at The Centre for International Governance Innovation. She holds an MA in political science from the University of Waterloo.

The opinions expressed in this article/comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors and/or International Board of Governors.