Holding G8 Accountability to Account

The G8 keeps failing the tests it sets itself. In 2005, at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, the G8 and major aid donors pledged to increase both the quality and quantity of their aid. Targets, first articulated in UN declarations in the 1970s, were agreed to 2010 and 2015. In the aggregate, these would equate to an additional US$50 billion per year by 2010 compared to 2004 levels. US$25 billion would be destined for Africa.

Yet as the medium-term deadlines near, it is clear that most of the G8 are not on course to meet the promises they made in 2005. To check their progress, the G8 did agree to establish an internal “accountability mechanism”, publishing its first detailed report on June 20, 2010.

Unfortunately, this accountability exercise was seriously flawed, as the G8 decided to measure progress in current dollars as opposed to inflation and exchange rate adjusted ones (constant dollars). By not holding for the impact of increasing prices on the real value of every dollar spent, the G8 inflated the aid that has been committed so far: while it estimates a US$10 billion funding gap to meet the US$50 billion 2010 target, a more methodologically sound estimate suggests the actual number is approximately twice this amount – around a US$20 billion shortfall. Furthermore, despite Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wish for an “accountability summit” when the G8 met at Muskoka in Canada, on June 25-27, 2010, the G8 took no concrete policy actions or corrective measures to address the aid financing shortfalls that were identified – whether as measured by themselves or otherwise.

Individual country examples are illustrative. While it appears as though the US committed the most in absolute terms, as of 2008 (which is the latest OECD data available) it was still around US$2 billion short of its bilateral 2010 target to Africa. It is only committing 0.2% of its Gross National Income. While Canada had a nominal target, holding for inflation shows it has committed around half of what it claims over 2004-9.

None of the continental European countries are on target to meet 0.7% of GNI. The UK is perhaps the only country where ambitious 2010 targets have a realistic chance of being met: when political will is present, much can be achieved, even in the face of unexpected and more difficult economic circumstances.

The G8 had a chance to get this right itself. As real accountability was not forthcoming from within, it is now time to have this done properly and seriously from without. In this vein, we propose establishing, formally over the coming months, an external independent accountability mechanism, driven by a coalition of technical experts, to provide real and rigorous oversight of the G8 and G20’s future financing commitments for sustainable development.

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