Rich countries backtrack on aid?

According to Hugh Williamson in the FT the 8 richest countries are stepping back from the commitment they gave in Gleneagles to increase aid:

Leaders of the Group of Eight rich nations are set to backtrack on their landmark pledge at the Gleneagles summit in 2005 to increase development aid to Africa to $25bn a year. A draft communiqué obtained by the Financial Times, due to be issued at the group’s July summit in Hokkaido, Japan, shows leaders will commit to fulfilling “our commitments on [development aid] made at Gleneagles” – but fails to cite the target of $25bn annually by 2010.

To be fair, the only evidence for this given by the FT is that the draft G8 summit makes no reference to the figure. In some ways this may seem pedantic – failing to repeat the number is not the sane thing as renouncing it – but for those of us who watch summit language carefully, this is a significant ommission. If the countries meant to to keep their promises, they would make a virtue of it by restating the commitment. The only possible reason for dropping the language is that they no longer believe they will live up to it.

In some ways, however, this is more worrying:

In a further retreat, the G8 is set to abandon its Gleneagles promise to provide universal access to Aids treatment and prevention by 2010. The pledge has been a benchmark around which health campaigners and others have been organising their work, especially in Africa.

Universal access to AIDS treatment is a much better target than the aid target. In principle, we should be setting targets for what we plan to achieve, not targets for how much we plan to spend (which creates perverse incentives to spend more, rather than achieve more value for money).

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