FORWARDED MESSAGE: Please sign on and forward to all African civil society organisations
Dear friends and colleagues,
As the Summit of the G8 approaches, to be held in Scotland on the 5th-8th July, World leaders tell us that Africa is to be high on their agenda. We welcome much of the goodwill that has been shown to our continent in the build-up to this major event of global significance. We also note that if we do not call attention to the realities of the problems facing us, many of the same mistakes are likely to be repeated.
It is for this reason that a coalition of grassroots African NGOs have written this statement to the leaders of the G8. This is to be a message from the grassroots, from those of us who know what the realities, and the real solutions are. We therefore invite all other grassroots African NGOs, CBOs and civil society organizations to join with us, and add your names to this sign-on statement.
Africa Biodiversity Network
Africa Statement on the G8 and the Africa Commission
We, a coalition of local, grassroots African NGOs, see that Africa is the subject of much discussion at the G8 summit in July this year. We appreciate the efforts of world leaders to envision a way through our problems. But we feel that it is essential that more African voices are heard in this debate too. We therefore request that world leaders and development partners take concrete actions on the following issues:
”¦ The Africa Commission to the G8 emphasises the importance of "Good Governance" in its vision for Africa’s development, but the term "Good Governance" must be clarified. What does it mean?
”¦ "Good Governance" should mean a truly democratic and participatory political system, where the voices of the people are heard, their needs addressed, and politicians and policy makers held accountable. The term "Good Governance" should not be used merely as a means for Northern governments to impose trade, aid or other conditionalities that suit their own interests, or to impose their values onto us.
”¦ Just as good governance should be an African commitment, so should Northern governments and partners commit themselves and their corporations and institutions investing in Africa to legally binding obligations that ensure transparency, and that they do not undermine movements for social and ecological justice and democracy. Good governance ensures participation and accountability for all, including foreign interests.
DEBT RELIEF AND AID
”¦ We welcome debt relief and increased aid to Africa. However, many of the worst regimes in Africa’s history have in fact been supported and strengthened by Northern governments and aid. Therefore genuine "Good Governance" must ensure accountability of both African and donor countries.
”¦ Mechanisms for the distribution of aid must be participatory, transparent, accountable, and socially and ecologically just. The distribution of resources should be determined by participatory processes that include all levels of civil society in decision-making. Genuine "Good Governance" will mean that aid and resources are used to restore imbalances of justice and wealth. All parties’ integrity is at stake if this does not happen; governments and donors are accountable. Resources must get down to the levels where they need to go: to the people.
”¦ Aid and resources should enhance autonomy, rather than create dependency. They should be supported with other mechanisms and initiatives that enable African countries and communities to get out of the debt trap, free of harmful conditionalities and able to determine their own development path.
TRADE AND INVESTMENT
”¦ In order for any investment and trade to genuinely help the people of Africa, and not become a means for further exploitation, we call for corporations, agencies and governments from the North to be held accountable to legally binding codes of conduct, which include a liability and redress regime.
”¦ We support more initiatives that bring fair prices for producers, whilst recognising that development that focuses only on export-led agriculture will not help to feed Africa’s citizens.
”¦ We also note the growing number of bilateral trade deals in addition to pressure from the World Trade Organisation to open up markets to private sector interests. If these policies continue then the problem of poverty in the South will rapidly deteriorate further, regardless of the aid pledges of G8 leaders. Ending poverty is more a matter of taking less from poor countries rather than giving more. The people of Africa are poor not because they have been left behind, but because their resources have been appropriated and privatized, and their wealth creating capacity destroyed.
ENVIRONMENT AND LAND
”¦ The G8 and the Africa Commission continue to look for growth in trade and exports as a solution to Africa's problems. But we are mindful that these approaches tend to have a critical impact on the environment. People in rural Africa will not survive in an increasingly degraded environment. For the majority of Africans, a healthy environment, stable climate, rich biodiversity and clean, accessible water, are vital for our livelihoods and quality of life. However, as the recent UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has made clear, the world's ecosystems are in a critical state. As always, it is the rural poor who are the first to suffer from the degradation of the environment.
”¦ In spite of the fact that Africa contributes the least to climate change, it will suffer from it the most, as our rural populations face increasingly unreliable weather patterns. We urge the G8 leaders and others to take responsibility to act on climate change for the good of all the planet. We caution against the use of African plantation forests being used as carbon sinks by distant Northern nations, instead of actual progress on reducing carbon emissions.
”¦ The G8 and the rest of the world must recognise that taking care of our environment is not a luxury. For us, it is not a choice between "Development" and "Environment". They are not mutually exclusive
”¦ Global leaders must commit to ensuring that the African rural majority are not displaced from their land and their resources, as this all they can depend on. A healthy environment, which is not privatised nor industrialised by foreign interests or the elite, must be respected if people are genuinely concerned about poverty.
”¦ As Africans, our right to land, biodiversity, water and our own diverse cultural livelihoods, that are specifically adapted to our ecosystems, must be at the heart of any poverty reduction commitment.
”¦ We call for measures that take serious action to protect our ecosytems. We call for a portion of all investment into, and profits from Africa, to go towards an urgently needed environmental fund for ecosystem rehabilitation.
FOOD AND CULTURE
”¦ Lastly, we call on leaders to recognise the importance of the local, not just the global. We recognise the value of local agriculture in supporting women and feeding children. Diverse and local crops grown by small-scale farmers can reduce dependence on unstable world markets and prevent hunger.
”¦ Africa’s immense agricultural biodiversity is one of our greatest assets in the fight against hunger. The protection of our seed diversity is paramount. We do not want patented genetically engineered seeds to contaminate our seed banks and create dependence on the North.
”¦ We have nurtured and developed our local seed, our biodiversity and our traditional cultures for generations, and they have much to offer us for food, health, livelihoods and sustainable approaches to living. Development in Africa must respect and understand the values in our ways.
”¦ Genuine development for the good of Africans requires time and a long-term commitment to social processes that are ecologically sound, protect livelihoods, respond to the grassroots, and support local in-country growth and development of our potential. The process may be slow. But we do not believe that short-term interests or quick-fix solutions will help us in the long run.
We see that the real hope for Africa lies in a model of development that involves the grassroots in decision-making, that strengthens local capacity to feed ourselves, and that recognises the environment as critical to our livelihoods, culture and our future. We therefore hope that as the world leaders of the G8 discuss Africa’s problems, they also recognise that the solutions lie within us.