Letter to Prime Minister Harper Re: CSO priorities for the 2010 G8 ahead of L'Aquila 2009 - June 16, 2009

June 16, 2009

The Right Honorable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

Re:  We call on Canada to be a leader on global poverty at the G8

The 2010 Canadian G8 Civil Society Coordinating Committee, whose members include Canadian international development, environmental, humanitarian, human rights, health and AIDS service organizations, faith-based groups and trade unions, ask that you use your influence at the upcoming Italian G8 Summit, and Canada’s G8 summit in 2010, to address the urgent needs of countries in the global South who are disproportionately affected by the global financial, economic and food crises and climate change.

At La Francophonie in 2008 you spoke about the financial crisis, acknowledging that “countries in the South are certainly not responsible, and not the source of this crisis, in any way, shape or form.”  We are seeking your leadership to help ensure that the world’s richest countries take decisive action at the G8 to allow the world’s poorest countries to recover from a crisis not of their making.

The global financial crisis requires a response at least on par with the speed and depth of the response taken by G8 countries to bail-out their banks and car companies.  In this economic climate, any move by Canada and other nations to renege on current commitments of international assistance and cooperation will only worsen the crisis for developing countries, with dire consequences in terms of human suffering and loss of life.  

Canada’s recent policy commitments to development, including the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act, untying aid and the doubling of aid to Africa, put Canada in an effective position to lead by example and influence other countries. In this regard, the government should announce a forward plan for increasing Canadian ODA and a renewed priority for aid to Africa beyond 2010 in advance of Huntsville.

The impact of the global economic crisis, climate change and the food crisis is compounded by uncertain aid levels overall in G8 countries. G8 aid levels must continue to grow if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — to which all G8 members have agreed — in particular meeting the targets for child and maternal health, universal education and productive employment.  Commitments to strengthen publicly-funded health systems and infrastructures in developing countries and to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010 remain seriously off track.  G8 member states are also failing to meet the financing needs of the Global Fund, which the G8 itself created to effectively respond to the AIDS crisis. 
The food crisis continues to worsen, and despite the economic slowdown, the price of basic food in developing countries continues to rise.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the number of people without access to sufficient food has risen by 150 million to reach 1 billion in just two years. Canada should focus its recently announced commitment to food security by emphasizing support to poor rural men and women to sustainably strengthen their livelihoods; improve food and nutrition security; and build their capacity and resilience to adapt to climate change.

Significant steps to increase accountability for past commitments must be taken.  Canada is well placed to help ensure that the G8 promises made in 2008 and at the recent G20 summit are delivered.  An accountability mechanism must be put in place that builds on initiatives at the Hokkaido Toyako Summit and the OECD’s Accra Agenda for Action on aid effectiveness, to ensure effective implementation of past G8 commitments on health, aid to Africa, education, food security, anti-corruption measures, and water and sanitation, and supported by improvements in aid transparency and predictability in these areas. 

With new emergency financial resources for poor countries coming in the form of loans, rather than grants, a new debt crisis has become a distinct possibility unless significant reforms are instituted. In 2005, the G8 played an important role in debt cancellation. In light of the impact of the current financial crisis on still indebted poor countries and small middle income countries, debt relief and cancellation is needed now for a much larger group of countries. Such support must also be de-linked from harmful economic policy conditionalities that have proven to exacerbate poverty.

To be effective, specific commitments by the G8 leaders are needed to transform the economic and financial system.  These must include new international rules for trade and finance grounded in social, ecological and economic justice. Specifically, the G8 should promote, and where appropriate implement, the recommendations of the UN Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System.

Finally, G8 countries have a crucial role to play in this year’s Copenhagen climate change negotiations. Due to their historical responsibility for emissions, their current per capita emissions and high levels of per capita wealth, G8 countries must both take the lead in cutting emissions and provide adequate financial support for climate action in developing countries in order to ensure an effective post-2012 agreement.

In Italy this year, we urge you to address the need for substantially increased financing for the urgent and immediate adaptation needs of the least developed countries.  As the fulfillment of an eight-year-old commitment by developed countries and a first step towards addressing the full adaptation needs of developing countries, the G8 should agree to fully fund the US$2 billion needed to implement the adaptation actions set out in least developed countries' National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs).

This triple threat of the climate change crisis, the food crisis and a global economic crisis threaten to undo previous gains in poverty reduction, health and HIV/AIDS, and education. These setbacks will not be addressed in months like the market, but rather, will require decades. 

Global leadership is urgently needed. Canada and all G8 members must join others to act against poverty, to take action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to act decisively to make a constructive contribution to a strong Copenhagen agreement on climate change.  Progress made in Italy in 2009 will greatly influence the agenda, priorities and obligations for the 2010 G8 when Canada assumes leadership. As Canada’s representative, we ask that you be a clear advocate for urgent action now to address the impact of the multiple crises on the world’s poor and that you announce that fighting global poverty will be central to the agenda of the G8 in 2010.  

In the lead-up to 2010, we look forward to the Canadian government taking leadership to consult widely on the priorities for this G8 Summit, to host a Civil Society dialogue in advance of the Huntsville Summit and to ensure a strong participation by civil society organizations, North and South, in Canada 2010.

Yours truly,

Gerry Barr                                                               
Canadian Council for International Co-operation                                             

Graham Saul
Executive Director
Climate Action Network

Catherine Coumans                                                 
Halifax Initiative coalition                               

Dennis Howlett
Make Poverty History

On behalf of the 2010 G8 Canadian Civil Society Coordinating Committee 1

cc.    The Hon. Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Hon. James Flaherty, Minister of Finance
The Hon. Beverley Oda, Minister of International Cooperation
Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois
Jack Layton, Leader of the New Democratic Party
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada
David Angell, Director General, International Organizations Bureau, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, and the Prime Minister's Personal Representative for Africa in the G8
Len Edwards, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, and the Prime Minister's Personal Representative to the G8

1 The 2010 G8 Canadian Civil Society Coordinating Committee is a working group of development, environment, faith-based, health, human rights, and labour groups and networks working to ensure constructive citizen engagement on global issues around the 2010 G8. Its members include the following organizations: Africa Canada Forum, Amnesty International, AQOCI, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Canadian Crossroads International, Canadian Global Campaign for Education (CGCE), Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Society for International Health, Climate Action Network Canada, G8 2010 Interfaith Partnership, Global Treatment Access Group, Halifax Initiative Coalition, Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development, KAIROS – Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Make Poverty History Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Québec, The Pembina Institute, Plan Canada, RESULTS Canada, Save the Children Canada, UNICEF Canada.