Relevant to All

Article excerpt

The United States is about to host the GS summit at a secluded resort at Sea Island, Georgia. There has been widespread concern that, consumed with developments in the Middle East and the worldwide 'war' on terrorism, Washington would downgrade attention to Africa that has featured at the last three meetings of the world's leading economies. That would be unfortunate, for it would slow momentum and discourage African reformers who have championed democracy, human rights and good governance. It would also be a mistake to imply that the continent is not relevant to the three global themes that America has used to develop the agenda: freedom, security and prosperity. Africa figures importantly in all three.

THIS PARTNERSHIp IS in its very early stages. Years of effort and much greater political commitment will be needed to make it bear fruit. Pushing it to the sidelines could damage it badly, losing momentum. As other issues crowd the headlines, it must not go down in history as but a passing focus.

While other regions may dominate discussion at Sea Island, Africa has to be recognised as relevant to all the global issues on the table. Commitments to the Africa Action Plan must be reiterated; the scene will then be set for a fuller evaluation and greater progress next year.

These are the conclusions of a special report by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, produced in cooperation with Chatham House. The report, Freedom, security and Prosperity: The GS-Africa Partnership at Sea Island - www.cfr.orcj - is the product of meetings of more than fifty experts and officials in Washington, New York and London. It includes an appraisal of the progress achieved by the G8 and African leaders under the Africa Action Plan and the challenges ahead.

As next year's summit host, Britain has pledged to make Africa the principal focus of the meeting. Prime Minister Tony Blair has established an international commission on Africa to report before then.

Some of the earlier anxiety has been alleviated. Washington has now decided to invite a group of African leaders to confer with the G8, as in previous years. The US is also proposing that the gathering addresses several items that concern Africa, including food security, transparency in the oil and mineral sectors, peace support, and debt relief for post-conflict countries.

However, these do not encompass the breadth of issues in the G8's Action Plan, nor do they substitute for commitment to the long-term overall partnership that has been at the heart of the G8-Africa relationship. It is essential to reaffirm the commitments of earlier summits and recognise the continent's relevance to the major global issues under discussion.

For good reason, Africa has had a prominent place on the agenda for three years. Africa alone failed to join the worldwide growth of trade, capital investment and development in the 1990s. Its share of world trade has declined, its proportion of foreign investment is minimal. Major conflicts have crippled many countries and drawn the G8 into providing military contingents to restore peace and provide massive amounts of humanitarian assistance. The continent is also at the epicentre of the worldwide HIV/AIDS pandemic, with nearly thirty million people infected and over two million dying from the disease each year.

At the Genoa G8 meeting in Italy in 2001, African leaders presented a plan for economic and political reform and urged a relationship with the industrialised countries that would provide greater opportunities for trade, investment, development and peace. The plan, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), was endorsed by all present.

The following year African leaders were invited to develop the Action Plan with more than a hundred commitments by both G8 members and African states. It was revised and updated at the Evian summit in France last year.

AMERICAN INTERESTS

The US has good reason to maintain a strong G8 partnership with Africa. …