G-8 Plans to Address Aid Accountability

Top on the agenda for the Group of Eight (G-8) meeting in Japan, North Korea's nuclear weapons program, soaring oil and food prices, and climate change.
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 7, 2008

TOYAKO, Japan, July 7 -- Leaders of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations expect to sign off this week on a plan to provide detailed assessments of how well individual countries are fulfilling promises of development assistance to Africa, according to sources familiar with the initiative.

The plan is likely to be viewed as a significant breakthrough by nonprofit groups pushing the G-8 to be more accountable about the billions of dollars in well-publicized aid its members have promised Africa for fighting malaria, AIDS and other diseases.

Several recent studies suggest that the G-8 countries will miss their goal, set in 2005, of doubling developmental assistance to Africa to $50 billion annually unless they reenergize their efforts.

"Donors are yet again 'off track' in delivering upon their commitments and, with every 'off track' year that passes, fully delivering the commitments by 2010 becomes more difficult," the anti-poverty group Debt AIDS Trade Africa, or DATA, reported last month.

Arriving here for the first of four days of meetings, President Bush made clear Sunday that developing an international monitoring mechanism for African assistance is one of his top priorities at his last G-8 summit. He suggested that Japan, the host of this year's summit, is on board with the idea and praised Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda for a "strong belief in the accountability aspect of this meeting."

"In other words, when people say they're [going to] make a pledge to feed the hungry or provide for the ill, that we ought to honor that pledge," Bush told reporters at a joint news conference with Fukuda.

The two leaders met privately and then dined Sunday at this scenic mountain resort, before the annual gathering of large industrialized countries that is aimed at developing strategies to tackle problems such as global warming and the food crisis.

Bush was eager to calm relations with Japan, the most important U.S. ally in Asia, which in recent weeks have been strained by his decision to remove North Korea from the official U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. That move came as part of a deal aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

During the news conference and a meeting with Fukuda and his top aides, Bush sought to assure the Japanese that he will not abandon efforts to determine the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Koreans in the 1970s and '80s, a highly sensitive subject in Japan.

Bush also defended a decision announced last Thursday to attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games next month in Beijing, saying that skipping the event would be an "affront to the Chinese people."

Human rights advocates concerned about Tibet and those seeking to pressure China on resolving the Darfur crisis in Sudan have urged Bush to stay away from the opening ceremonies. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he will not attend the opening, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering a boycott of the Games.

But Bush said he views the Olympics as a opportunity to cheer on athletes, not to make a political statement. "I had the honor of dealing with the Chinese -- two Chinese presidents during my term, and every time I have visited with them, I have talked about religious freedom and human rights," he said. "I guess I don't need the Olympics to express my concerns. I've been doing so."

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