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LONDON, Apr 6 2009 (IPS) - For those of us focused on eradicating poverty and inequality, the greatest risk about the G20 summit was that the richest countries would use the global financial downturn to cut back on aid commitments and put the interests of their own countries first. This would spell disaster for the millions of people suffering from rising hunger and climate change and living in deep poverty across the developing world.

When Gordon Brown finally emerged to announce the terms of the “deal”, those of us watching were cautiously optimistic. He spoke of the more than USD 1 trillion for emergency loans to help struggling countries. The scale seemed impossible to grasp and the mechanisms for delivering it to the poorest countries appeared dubious, to say the least.

That the G20 proposes to deliver such massive new resources mostly through existing International Financial Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and regional development banks, which have in the past insisted on failed policies of globalisation as a condition for poor countries getting their help, is perhaps the most worrying aspect.

Poor country governments have often been forced to implement policies of free trade and deregulation of their financial markets, and caps have been imposed on government spending for health and education. Will this continue now? The meeting was not clear.

We have been saying for years that these institutions urgently need to be reformed, and giving them more money without thorough reforms may not help the people who need the help the most.

We were also wary of the lack of detail in their communique on using stimulus investments to build a green economy.

It all boils down to the big governance question; is this the forum best suited to make these decisions and really tackle the flawed financial order that has been created recklessly over decades?

The G20, comprised of a tiny fraction of the world’s nations, is not the best place to work out the details of how to address the multiple global crises the world faces. The details need to be addressed at the UN, which has 192 member states. UN meetings coming up later this year -the United Nations Conference on the World Economic and Financial Crisis and Its Impact on Development, set for June, and the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change in December- will be key to moving forward on these issues, so we must be there and we must make sure they are not sidelined. Sarkozy cannot speak for Bangladesh, nor can Brown for Zimbabwe.

We cannot fix in one day what has been broken for more than 30 years.

We have long attended summits and meetings of world leaders which promised big on development aid and financing but delivered little. Frankly the words of our leaders often ring hollow. For Africa alone, the donors are USD 40 billion behind on the aid commitments they made at Gleneagles in July 2005. Countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, need untied grant money to help them achieve the MDGs: ODA, not more loans. Otherwise, the solution itself could become a problem. The reaffirmation of the commitment of the G-20 to achieving their respective ODA pledges, including commitments on Aid for Trade, debt relief, and the Gleneagles commitments, especially to sub-Saharan Africa, is therefore welcome.

This is about something real. Poor countries are in utter despair. They are suffering from the crippling effects of inflated food and energy prices, and from worsening climate change, and now they’re being hit by a financial crisis that their governments played no part in causing.

We really need equal representation of all the world’s countries on a fair platform to repair a de-stabilised and tipping global economy. The sentiments expressed in the G20 communique are good but it lacks the important details showing how the poor will be protected and how money will be channelled to the neediest women and children. Those of us in the anti-poverty movement will not be able to relax for a minute in the months ahead. We will be poised at the upcoming World Bank and IMF meetings in Washington, at the UN meetings in June and December, and of course the meeting of that even more elite group of nations, the G8, in July. This struggle is far from over. Only if we step up the pressure considerably will we be able to deliver justice to those that deserve it the most. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

(*) Kumi Naidoo is co-chair of Global Call to Action Against Poverty.

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