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G8 Leaders Make Grand but Unconvincing Declaration

DEAUVILLE, France, May 27 2011 (IPS) - As leaders of the Group of Eight ended their two-day summit in this seaside town Friday, non-governmental organisations said the meeting had resulted in few concrete commitments.

Oxfam called the summit the “G8’s YesNoVille”, saying that the heads of states were “losing credibility by showing no real decision-making” in their final declaration.

“The G8 has still not come to terms with the reality of the official OECD verdict on their aid figures, which shows that the 50 billion dollar aid promise has been missed by a massive 19 billion dollars,” Oxfam said in a statement.

“Instead they are content with listing both this number and their own massaged figure that puts them almost on target,” the group added.

“When it comes to giving basic, practical milestones, G8 leaders have once again fallen short. We need specifics,” said Samuel A. Worthington, president and CEO of InterAction, the biggest alliance of U.S.- based international NGOs.

Some organisations said the summit had failed to address the issue of poverty and human rights sufficiently. Matt Davies, head of policy and advocacy for ATD Fourth World, told IPS that his group was disappointed that although the G8 stressed economic recovery, “there is no recognition that poverty is also an issue, with one in 12 people living in severe and material deprivation in Europe.”

“This is a number that is unacceptable,” he said.

At the summit, the heads of state of the world’s major economies focused on developments in the Arab world, relations with Africa, nuclear safety, the Internet, climate change, and the global economy.

They came out strongly in support of the move towards democracy in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, and called on Libya and Syria to end the brutal crackdown on their populations.

“In light of the recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, we renewed our commitment to support democratic reform around the world and to respond to the aspirations for freedom, including freedom of religion, and empowerment, particularly for women and youth,” the G8 leaders said in their declaration.

“We demand the immediate cessation of the use of force by the Libyan regime forces as well as the cessation of all incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population,” the statement said.

It continued that that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had “failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Libyan population” and had “lost all legitimacy.”

“He has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go,” the statement said.

Speaking to journalists at the end of the summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated this stance, stressing that mediation with Gaddafi was not possible.

“Mr. Gaddafi must go,” Sarkozy said. “What we can discuss are the modalities of his departure.”

The President said he planned to visit the rebel base of Benghazi, perhaps on a joint trip with British leaders.

To help promote democracy, G8 leaders also announced a 40 billion dollar financial trade and aid package to countries in North Africa, particularly Tunisia and Egypt, although other states might also benefit later.

Tunisia’s Finance Minister Jelloul Ayed told the press that his country was “satisfied by the clear decision to help.” But he said that the G8 announcement did not amount to a concrete agreement, only that this was the financial package being envisaged.

There is already agreement on a 1.3 billion dollar package from the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other institutions, he said.

He said the country’s priority was to create employment for the thousands of young people out of work.

In implied criticism of the way Europe has treated Tunisian refugees, some of whom are living outdoors in parks in Paris, Ayed told IPS that “Tunisia has shown and demonstrated its civility and its deep sense of civilisation” by the way it has treated its own refugees, particularly from Libya.

He said Tunisia has had more than 410,000 refugees passing through the country. There have been recent clashes between various groups of the refugees, and Tunisia has asked for help.

“It’s a big problem, and we are concerned that the difficulty will be exacerbated if the situation in Libya were to deteriorate even further,” he told IPS. Both France and Britain have said that there will be a new phase of operations against Gaddafi.

Some organisations said they were disappointed that the G8 had failed to work more closely with civil society and citizens in trying to reach goals that would improve the lives of people in the Arab world and sub-Saharan Africa.

“Drawing on the lessons of the people’s movement in North Africa, it would have been normal to prepare this summit not only with ministers but with structures coming from the revolution that are preparing the democracy of tomorrow,” said Nathalie Dujat, a spokesperson for Coordination Sud, a coalition of French NGOS.

“For years now civil society has been trying to gain a place at the summit and it has been very difficult,” she added. “One good thing about this year is that we got a place among the media.”

She said that NGOS planned to work towards having a larger presence at the G20 summit in Cannes later this year, and at next year’s G8 summit which will be hosted by the United States.

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