When Is A Promise For Keeps?

DEAUVILLE, France - When is something smoke and mirrors and when should a promise be believed? This was a frequent question during the G8 summit in Deauville last week as world leaders dedicated billions to help "Arab Spring" countries Egypt and Tunisia and promised full transparency in the delivery of previously announced development assistance which never came through.

The main focus of reporters was on the IMF's successor; conflict in Libya, financing for the Arab Spring nations, Internet freedoms and global economic strife. There were, however, some interesting development nuggets in the “accountability on development” section of the lengthy final press release.

G8 leaders said they were committed to tracking the implementation of pledges in a “fully transparent and consistent manner.” This tracking mechanism is to be welcomed but there needs to be follow-through as much needed development accounts remain under-funded despite the best of intentions.

One of our constant rants is under-funding for the L’Aquila food security initiative, when the world’s powerful leaders publicly promised $22 billion over three years for food and agriculture programs. That only 22 percent of that – a little over a fifth – has been paid out is discouraging.

One interesting inclusion in the statement was the quiet admission of a $19 billion shortfall in promised development assistance announced in 2005 at Gleneagles. This is a statistic that came from the OECD but which a G8 report had omitted to include when it was released last week, instead putting the amount at a shortfall of just $1.27 billion. The G8 report failed to take into account inflation-adjusted dollars, which change the picture entirely.

“Apparently in Deauville, $19 billion can equal $1.27 billion, but in the real world, the difference can mean life and death for the poorest people,” said InterAction member Oxfam, which drew a lot of attention when it first pointed out this discrepancy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, to his credit, noted this shortfall in his news conference.

There is also interesting language on plans to support transparency in the extractive industry although details on this were sketchy and policing of this appeared to be voluntary.

While ”innovative financing” did not seem to feature prominently in the discussions in Deauville, President Nicolas Sarkozy was at pains to underscore France’s “strong” commitment to seeing this happen, even if other nations (read the United States), do not agree. Innovative financing is expected to be an agenda item at the G20 in Cannes in November.

InterAction will be in Cannes too, along with many of our members seeking to get development on the G8/G20 agenda. What would you like raised at the next big summit? Share your thoughts...