G8 negotiators have spent much of the week in disagreement over a range of issues – including the commitment made two years ago at Gleneagles to increasing aid to Africa. As the Summit opened today, the prospects for Africa weren’t looking bright.
Perhaps that’s unsurprising. It’s well known that aid has actually gone down in real terms, once debt relief is taken out of the equation. In fact aid agency Oxfam says, going by the present trends, the G8 could miss its 2010 target by $30 billion.
As the rows continue at the Summit, Germany too has been accused of only being interested in pushing its own model of social health insurance while apparently ignoring Africa’s own health strategy.
That all this is happening when some of the G8 countries – especially the US and Germany – made important aid increment announcements prior to the Summit is mind-boggling.
But what's happening here reflects the confusion these countries exhibit in their aid programmes for Africa and the rest of the developing world. More importantly these conflicts have damaging consequences on the ground.
In my country, Uganda, the ideological differences among the G8 donors are also reflected in the programmes they fund. One third of the money that comes from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is earmarked for abstinence projects.
Promoting condoms to young people as an HIV prevention measure is discouraged. Yet research is showing that abstinence alone can’t work in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
On the other hand, a recent project funded by the UK’s development agency DFID and carried out by Marie Stopes International Uganda aimed at improving uptake of adolescent reproductive health services did not have such conditions attached.
Young people were able to get free condoms and other valuable information on contraception. It was a big success, but was discontinued after just a year, after raising huge expectations among young people. Meanwhile the PEPFAR programmes continue to enjoy funding, but the conditions attached to funding defeats the ultimate purpose of stopping the spread of AIDS in Africa.
And, as long as this circus continues, the people who pay the price are those with the least power to negotiate.