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Globe And Mail Special Issue Examines Africa, Includes Look Ahead At G20 Meeting, Interview with Pres. Obama

The Globe and Mail examines Ethiopia and Malawi’s role in next month’s G20 talks in Toronto, Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has invited both countries to participate in the meeting, which could significantly affect Africa because it has become the “premier forum for confronting global economic problems and for co-ordinating solutions,” according to the Globe and Mail.

Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s president, “was elected chairman of the 53-member African Union in January, and is thus the logical choice to represent Africa at the summit,” the newspaper writes. Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s director of communications, said Ethiopia was selected because of its “regional and continental influence,” the Globe and Mail reports, noting that its involvement “signals that Africa is finally starting to contribute to solutions, rather than just passively waiting for help” (Ibbitson, 5/10).

The article is part of a special edition of the newspaper, which was edited by “anti-poverty activists Bono and Bob Geldof.” The issue focuses on the future of Africa and the continent’s relationship with the West. Among other topics, it includes articles about foreign investment in Africa and an interview with President Barack Obama.

The Obama interview, conducted by Bono, covers a range of subjects, including the G8 meeting, the U.S. global food security initiative, foreign aid and the U.S. national security strategy. In response to a question about the $3.5 billion global food security initiative, Obama said, “The challenge now is to translate principles into action. It’s still early, but we expect that by the time the summit kicks off, we’ll be able to say that we’ve allocated resources to country plans and to research and development, that we’ve launched a new trust fund headed by the World Bank, and that we’re at the table with resources, technical advice and support, and the willingness to invest as partners.”

Obama also said this year’s G8 meeting is an opportunity for countries to “recommit … to making serious and sustainable progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. We can, and should, celebrate the progress we’ve made, but we also need to be frank about where all of us – developed and developing countries alike – have fallen short (5/9).

The special edition includes several opinion pieces. An editorial about maternal health in Africa calls for funding for a “new facility at the Global Fund” to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria focuses on maternal and child health. According to the editorial, the “recent political debate on maternal mortality has focused on unsafe abortions, but this is a distraction. … The bigger task – and one where the G8 can actually make a difference – is empowering women to have more control over their sexual lives, by increasing access to family planning and ensuring that pregnant women have access to care when they are ready to deliver” (5/10).

In an opinion piece about aid to Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf writes: “Governments and partners alike share the responsibility to ensure that aid budgets are targeted effectively and co-ordinated efficiently, so that money is not wasted and efforts are not squandered through duplication from lack of planning.” According to Sirleaf, “There is a need to be transparent and accountable for the results of this support, not only by national governments, but also on the side of the donor agencies themselves, so that everyone can be clear on what works and what does not.”

She continues that “aid must ultimately be seen as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. For that to happen, aid has to be targeted by the countries themselves, as they know best what they need to lay the foundations for increased private sector growth. We can then continue our economic development and, with the right policies and international support, eventually leave the need for aid behind entirely” (5/10). 

A second opinion piece by Christy Turlington Burns, a CARE advocate for maternal health and director of a documentary about maternal health, looks at some of the health issues pregnant women in Africa face (5/10).

Harper To Meet With U.N. Secretary-General

In related news, Agence France-Presse reports that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday “to discuss a range of global issues, including the G8 and G20 summits that Canada hosts in June.” In a statement, Harper said, “The visit of the secretary-general is an opportunity for Canada to reaffirm our commitment to the U.N. and recognize its central role in promoting peaceful relations and a stable, prosperous world” (5/9).

Toronto Sun Examines Viability Of G8 Maternal, Child Health Initiative

The Toronto Sun examines Canada’s G8 maternal and child health initiative. “The last time Canada hosted a G8 summit, Ottawa’s centrepiece – to build a self-help plan for Africa – was well framed and well financed by this point in the summit cycle. This time, with just seven weeks to go before G8 leaders meet in Huntsville, Ont., the signature campaign is still so vague that observers are left wondering if it will ever be meaningful,” the newspaper writes.

The Toronto Sun looks at the factors that might prevent the initiative from fully materializing: “Non-governmental estimates for how much the G8 should contribute range from about $4 billion (U.S.) over the next five years to about $15 billion. But as development officials figure out how to deliver something substantial by June 26, the G8 agenda has been overcome by other priorities that are just as demanding of the countries’ pocketbooks. Rich countries have promised to pay poor countries $30 billion to help them deal with climate change. The G8 promised a year ago to contribute $20 billion for food security.”

The article includes input from John Kirton, director of the G8 research group at the University of Toronto, and advocates from ONE and Oxfam (Scoffield, 5/8).

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