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Euro zone crisis distracts summit from poor nations' needs
LOS CABOS, Mexico |
LOS CABOS, Mexico (Reuters) - Anti-poverty groups complained on Tuesday that Europe's troubles hijacked the G20 development agenda and pushed into the background its work on addressing poverty and food shortages in the world's poorest regions.
There are concerns the intractable European crisis will hit developing countries, whose budgets are already stretched from dealing with the global financial turmoil in 2008-2009 and a food price crisis that resulted in slowing in demand for their products.
"Leaders were absorbed with disagreements on how to fix the euro zone and lost sight of developing countries reeling from aid cuts, climate change and volatile food prices," said Carlos Zarco, spokesman for development agency Oxfam.
He said food security was meant to be a priority during the summit, but leaders failed to come up with a plan to help the more than 1 billion people worldwide facing hunger.
He said biofuels - a key driver of food-price volatility because it uses food for fuel - were ignored despite calls by international agencies to scrap subsidies.
There was also no mention of small-scale farmers as central to food productivity and security, and no plan to support them even though there are 200 million small family farms in G20 countries, he added.
John Ruthrauff, director of InterAction alliance of U.S.-based development groups, said the final G20 declaration supported important development issues on nutrition, corruption and agriculture, but none of the initiatives were accompanied by action plans or benchmarks for completion.
Development groups said the G20 had moved in the right direction by launching a new initiative supported by Britain, Canada and Australia to fund technological solutions to agricultural problems in developing countries.
"The communiqué actually has a lot of language in it that focuses on food security, and has for the first time a real emphasis on the need to address nutrition," Adam Taylor, vice president for advocacy World Vision US, told Reuters.
"We celebrate that, but the problem is that when it comes to concrete political commitments, the overall progress here is very stunted," he added.
Sameer Dossani, policy director for Action Aid, said not all measures to address poverty meant that governments needed to spend more, especially in countries where there are budget cuts.
"When we're talking about phasing out of subsidies for biofuels, these are measures that will save money, or when we're talking about strategic food reserves that could be used to control prices, these are policies that could be implemented with fairly little cost," he added.
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates last year proposed in a report ways of raising new ways to fund development in poor countries at a time when budget-strapped rich donors are cutting back aid.
The report, submitted to the G20 in France last year, proposed a tax on financial transactions, aviation and shipping fuel, and tobacco as new ways that countries could raise resources for poorer ones.
None of the proposals have moved forward and the report was not mentioned in the Los Cabos summit.
(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Philip Barbara)
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