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Recovery Plan Depends on G8 Backing

An ambitious Africa recovery plan released on Friday challenged the rich world to end its "appalling" trade protectionism and stump up an extra US$25 billion aid a year.

But the widely trailed Africa Commission report, an initiative of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, faces a daunting task to gain acceptance from the G8 group of rich nations and win over sceptics who see it as a talking-shop.

"African poverty and stagnation is the greatest tragedy of our time," began a summary of the 464-page report by the commission, which includes Blair, his finance minister, several African leaders and Irish rocker turned campaigner Bob Geldof.

Its promoters liken the plethora of recommendations on improving governance and ending wars in Africa, plus providing better aid, debt relief and trade rules from the West.

"Let us today pledge to make 2005 the year our eyes opened to the full reality of Africa," Blair said at the launch of the plan.

"To the horror of its daily and preventable death toll, to the grinding misery of so many millions of its people, yet also to the hope that together we can change that reality for the better."

Critics, however, say the report's lofty words will go the same way as previous Africa plans unless rich nation groups like the G8 and the European Union, both of which Britain chairs this year, put their money where their mouths are.

"The recommendations are an ambitious but realistic agenda for debt, aid, trade and HIV and AIDS," British agency Action Aid said. "The first real test will be whether it is acted upon at the G8 leaders' Gleneagles summit (in Scotland) in July." "The report... throws down a challenge to the G8 to either put up the necessary money or shut up with the empty rhetoric on development in Africa," Catholic Charity CAFOD added.

(China Daily March 12, 2005)


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