Press Responses : June 15, 2002

Calgary Herald June 15, 2002
Give Africa more of a say in its own future: coalition
By Allison Auld - The Canadian Press
Group of Seven countries must cancel soaring debts that impoverish African nations and revise aid programs to better suit the needs of people in countries that languish under heavy financial burdens, a coalition of activists said yesterday.
Almost 40 international groups condemned several aid projects at the centre of G-7 talks in Halifax and the upcoming G-8 summit in Alberta, which they say have created more problems than they’ve solved.
The groups, some of which are in Halifax for the G-7 finance ministers’ meeting, issued a letter urging the leaders to involve Africans in the shaping of key policies aimed at eliminating poverty, achieving good governance and expanding trade.
“What Africa needs is not more talk, not more promises, it’s not more technocratic fixes to the crisis of debt,” Njoki Njehu, an activist with a Washington-based group, said at a Halifax news conference, two blocks away from where the two-day G-7 meeting was being held.
“Africa needs the political space and support to be able to pursue her own fate.”
In particular, the coalition said an African development program being promoted by Canada has promise, but is seriously flawed because of its top-down approach.
New Partnership for Africa’s Development, or NEPAD, has been endorsed by all 55 African countries as a blueprint for improving the lives of the continent’s 700 million people.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who recently toured Africa, is spearheading the response of the G-8 economic powers to the African plan, and supports the initiative to link aid to good governance, a proposal he will try to have ratified at the G-8 summit.
Yet critics like Njehu say it was developed with limited African consultation, and will only lead to more poverty and corruption.
Finance Department officials said yesterday the issue will be a priority at the meetings, but gave no assurances the program will be reviewed to seek more input from African nations.
The group is also hoping to convince some of the world’s most powerful finance ministers to push for scrubbing the debt owed to foreign donors by poor African countries.
© Copyright 2002 The Canadian Press