L to R:  Simekinala Kaluzi, GCAP Malawi, Eshetu Bekele, GCAP Ethiopia, Kumi Naidoo, GCAP co-chair; International Executive Director, Greenpeace, Sonia  Kwami, GCAP Africa Project, Ghana, Dennis Howlett, Make Poverty History. Photo: Jennifer Henderson.

The G20 is failing Africa, both in terms of delivering on development promises and in providing the African Union with a permanent voice within the international political club. This was the message delivered by the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) members during a Saturday press conference at the Toronto summit’s Alternative Media Centre.

“Africa, as a continent, just as the EU does, should have a permanent seat at the table. Over 52 states are excluded. Countries rich in natural resources that the whole world has benefited from are excluded. Countries rich in human resources are excluded,” said Sonia Kawami, GCAP Project Co-ordinator for Ghana.

GCAP also called on the G8 and G20 to live up to poverty reduction and developing world debt forgiveness commitments made during the Gleneagles G8 summit in 2005.

Kumi Naidoo, CGAP Co-chair and International Executive Director of Greenpeace argued that professed financial austerity is not a valid excuse for inaction, noting that political will trumps claims of empty pockets. “The very same leaders who plead poverty are able to mobilize not millions, not billions, but trillions of dollars overnight to bail out banks, bankers and bonuses,” he said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s own $5-billion Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health also came under critical fire for failing to commit sufficient resources to the cause.

Make Poverty History’s Dennis Howlett deemed the underfunding of maternal health issues in the developing world to be a fatal blow to the G8 credibility, while Naidoo claimed Canada’s own contribution of $1.1 billion to the Initiative pales in light of the government’s spending on the G8/G20 summit itself.

“The Canadian government’s portion of that pledge is less than what Canada has come up with for security for three days,” he said.

GCAP concluded by calling for a commitment to African enfranchisement within the G20 and a good faith effort to live up to and build upon past aid promises.

According to Naidoo, the need for increased African development efforts cannot be overstated:

“If we want to call it as it is, we are losing 6,000 people a day to HIV/AIDS. We are losing 7,000 every day to malaria and 1,500 to tuberculosis. To put it in macro terms that G20 leaders understand, it’s the equivalent of five 9/11s every day.”

Jennifer Henderson is covering the G20 summit for rabble.ca