The G8 leaders are committing a passive genocide

By Kumi Naidoo, the chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. Response to ‘Bob Geldof too has…‘ (THE GUARDIAN, 07/06/07):

Madeleine Bunting rightly identifies the complexity of the aid debate, one which has left Africans and people across the developing world floundering for far too long (Bob Geldof too has a part to play in the G8’s broken promises to Africa, June 4).However, the fault lies clearly at the door of the G8 leaders for back-pedalling on their commitments rather than on the campaigners who merely tried to hold them to account. Bunting says: «What Make Poverty History didn’t even attempt to explain to the generation it was trying to recruit was that campaigns on global justice have to be counted in decades, not months, let alone weeks.» Although campaigning that engages a wide range of age groups and interests often risks a certain amount of watering down in the messages, many behind Make Poverty History did keep the long-term challenge in focus and carried with them many of the people who marched and petitioned so vociferously in 2005.

In the past two years, Global Call to Action Against Poverty, of which Make Poverty History was a founding part, has mobilised millions of citizens to hold their governments to account in over 100 poor and rich countries.

«Nor did Make Poverty History explain how development is a complex business,» says Bunting. Yes, there are lots of complications to the debate on aid and on some levels they need to be explained, but the bottom line is that aid saves lives. It is that simple. It pays for the provision of essential services that we can’t otherwise afford. We, the people living in the most disadvantaged economies on earth, need more and better aid, fairer trade conditions and the lifting of the debt burden.

Bunting talks about how «targets dictated by western donors [are] in danger of choking the kind of long term investment African public services need». Yes, Africa needs long term investment, but it is crucial that it happens alongside the aid commitments made by the G8 governments, not in isolation.

Bunting mentions the risk of donor fatigue setting in: but what would Europe have done if donor fatigue had set in during the Marshall Plan rebuilding of their continent? Why is it that 60 years ago billions in aid could be delivered to reconstruct war-torn Europe, but the rich are reluctant to do so with their former colonies in Africa and the rest of the developing world today?

It is starting to feel as if the anti-racist struggle of my youth in South Africa needs to move to a new global level. If the G8 fails to deliver, it would consolidate the growing perception among people in the developing world that we are living in a world of global economic apartheid. Six thousand people die of HIV/Aids every day in Africa alone, is this not some sort of passive genocide?

The blame lies with the G8 leaders. The public couldn’t be clearer about the urgent need for action, but the politicians prefer procrastination and complacency as millions continue to die from preventable poverty. Not only have they betrayed the poor in developing countries but also their own citizens.