It's a deal, it's a steal

8 July 2005
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The deals are done. In one of the most sweeping generalisations I have ever heard, Tony Blair has declared that “everybody outside the G8 and the G8 have come together”. That indefatigable coalition has endorsed a deal that condemns 50,000 people to die before aid reaches them in 2010, obliges all but the world's 14 poorest countries to carry on charging for health services before they get a sniff of a write-off for their crippling debt, and calls on the WTO to cement the obscene distortions in global trade rules that asphyxiate developing economies. If the aim of those who bombed London yesterday was to give the West license to shaft the poor once again, they have resoundingly succeeded.

The communiqués have weak pledges for further dialogue on climate change, a belated increase in aid (still well below commitments adopted 35 years ago), and various abdications of domestic responsibility to the World Bank, the body now headed by Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of the invasion of Iraq. Bob Geldof says it is a “disgrace” to criticise his pal Tony. Rounding on his outraged colleagues in Make Poverty History, he said no one had ever asked for more than the recommendations made by the government's Commission for Africa.

Multinational companies will continue to be invited to sign up to voluntary self-regulation. The Kyoto Treaty will now never include the world's biggest polluter, the United States. Tax havens and offshore registering will continue to be allowed to foster corporate abuse. While armed guards storm the freebie tent in search of free whiskey courtesy of Diageo, Make Poverty History campaigners are drifting away. Few expected their efforts to succeed; only the most politically aware expected such a Brownwash.

The only African to take the platform for MPH's post-communiqué press conference, Kumi Naidoo of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, was harangued by Geldof for his ingratitude. He had dared to suggest that delays in channeling aid to Africa would lead to more bodies filling the continent's overloaded graveyards, a phenomenon that is polluting water tables.

For a week, Africans, Latin Americans and Asians have been telling me that the very idea that the G8 will absolve them of poverty is an insult to them, their societies and democracy. Make Poverty History made its fatal mistake: it got too close to power. The NGOs who maintained the illegitimacy of the G8 throughout have come away with some credit. One leading campaigner said aid agencies would refuse “the crums from the G8's table”. Led by the global south, those groups will now have to redouble their efforts to break the encrusted structures of power. It is clear that the masters of the universe continue to see poverty as the scythe with which they can reap the resources of the poor.

Today, 87 per cent of the world's population were told that, if they learned how to behave themselves properly, the West would deign to tighten their chains. The vocabulary of compassion masked the dogwhsitle of greed. Christian Aid's statement captured the mood of those who had dared to hope that a wristbanded elite might live up to their word. “Millions of campaigners all over the world have been led to the top of the mountain, shown the view, and now we are being frogmarched down again."




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