[m2c] Make G8 Policy History: African Women's Rights and the G8
sandinista at shaw.ca
Wed Jul 20 15:53:28 MDT 2005
Make G8 Policy History: African Womens Rights and the G8
By Yifat Susskind, Associate Director
June 30, 2005
In a world made up of more than 190 countries, eight countries effectively
control the global economy. The Group of Eight (G8)comprised of the US, the
UK, Germany, France, Canada, Japan, Italy, and Russiais an unelected,
unofficial body that meets in secret and is accountable to no one (though it
demands good governance from the Global South). This year, the G8 convenes
in Scotland from July 6-8. The focus of its summit is Africa, though the
policies that it mandates will affect poor women and their families in every
country of the Global South.
Thanks to centuries of slavery, colonization, and ongoing economic
domination by G8 countries, sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest place in the
world. African governments are forced to rely on aid and loans that the G8
countries grant, mainly through the World Bank and International Monetary
Fund (IMF), which the G8 controls. This dependency holds African countries
hostage to global trade rules, written and enforced by the G8 through the
World Trade Organization (WTO). These trade rules, in turn, ensure huge
profits for corporations based in the G8 countries and block economic
development in Africa, thereby perpetuating Africas debt, dependency, and
The vicious cycle has a human face: that of African women, whose daily lives
are shaped by the key topics of the G8 meetingtrade, aid, and debt. Their
capacity to find clean drinking water, feed their children, and send their
daughters to school is profoundly affected by decisions being made by the
G8, yet they are excluded from participation in G8 meetings. African women
are primarily responsible for producing food, procuring water, and providing
care for the undernourished, underserved majority of the continent,
including the six million people who die each year from poverty-related
conditions that are overwhelmingly treatable and preventable. To meet the
needs and ensure the futures of African women and their families, MADRE
calls for making G8 policy history and offers the following alternatives:
Global trade rules are based on a flagrant double standard. The G8 demands
that poor countries open their markets to imports while rich countries
maintain trade barriers (usually tariffs, or taxes on imports) amounting to
$100 billion a yeartwice as much as poor countries receive in aid. 1
G8 countries subsidize their industries, but bar poor countries from doing
the same. The 2002 US farm bill, for example, promised $180 billion to US
factory farms, enabling them to under-sell and ruin the livelihoods of
millions of small farmers in countries pressured to import US products.2
African governments could make much more money from trade than they have
ever received from aid, but for the G8s double standard of protectionism
for itself and free trade for Africa.
The G8 on Trade and Africa:
The G8s interest in Africa is summed up by a 2003 World Bank report that
identifies sub-Saharan Africa as the most profitable place in the world for
direct foreign investment.
The G8 is pushing for completion of the 2001 Doha Round of WTO negotiations,
which aim to further open poor countries markets to G8-based corporations
seeking cheap labor and raw materials.
The US is mainly interested in securing access to African oil reserves,
likely to account for 25 percent of US oil by 2015 and in increased
privatization of African assets, including basic necessities like water
Make G8 Policy History: What Would a Fair Trade Deal for Africa Look Like?:
It would work to generate and sustain African economic independence and
Africas vast natural resources would be used to benefit the people who live
Services and resources needed to meet basic needsincluding water,
electricity, food, education, and healthcarewould not be commodified or
Foreign investors would be held to at least the same environmental and labor
standards as in their own countries and a fair share of the jobs and profits
generated would be reinvested to meet the basic needs of people within the
Local industry would be safeguarded from unfair competition with foreign
Policies would comply with international human rights standards, including
instruments addressing the rights of women, Indigenous Peoples, and small
Africas share of development aid will need to double (to $50 billion a
year) in order to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of
halving poverty by 2015.4 An additional $25 billion sounds like a lot, but
Bushs tax cut to the richest Americans is worth $140 billion.
The G8 Presents Aid as a Form of Charity. But Donor Countries Use Aid to:
Line their own pockets: Nearly 70 percent of US aid money is tied to
purchases from US-based corporations.5 For example, the US mandates that
African governments use US funds for combating HIV/AIDS to buy drugs
patented by US companies. These cost up to $15,000 a year per patient
compared to $350 a year for generics.6
Secure political allegiance: Bushs Millennium Challenge Account
explicitly ties aid to cooperation in his War on Terror. Less than 1
percent of US aid goes to the poorest countries.7 Most goes to countries
considered strategic to US interests. For example, Israel gets the same
amount of aid money (about $3 billion annually) as sub-Saharan Africa and
South Asia combined.8
Impose their own ideological agendas: Bush has allocated portions of the US
aid budget for combating HIV/AIDS to Christian organizations that promote
abstinence over proven safer sex approaches to prevention and violate
internationally agreed-upon sexual and reproductive rights.9
Enforce policies that benefit the rich: The G8 conditions aid on policies
such as privatization, trade liberalization, and debt servicing that result
in poor countries paying rich countries about $200 billion a year (compared
to about $50 billion a year that they receive in aid).10
How Much Does the US Give?
People in the US commonly estimate that their government gives 25 percent of
its Gross National Income (GNI) to aid.11 The actual figure is less than one
quarter of one percent (.16%).
Compare that reality to a target amount of 0.7 percent (nearly
three-quarters of one percent) of GNI that wealthy countries agreed to
contribute in 1970 and to which other G8 countries recently recommitted
In the lead-up to the G8 summit, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has lobbied
Bush to double US aid to Africa. Instead, Bush is trying to pass off $674
million already approved by Congress as new aid to Africa.
Repeated surveys show that people in the US want a significant portion of
GNI to be used for development assistancean ethical stand that should be
reflected in government policy.
Make G8 Policy History: Development AidJustice, Not Charity
Aid should not be tied to purchases from donor-country corporations or to
economic reforms designed to further enrich the wealthy.
Rich countries should meet their commitments to allocate at least 0.7
percent of GNI to aid.
Governments should recognize that the key to economic development is not
delivering aid, but guaranteeing human rights. In particular, safeguarding
womens economic and reproductive rights facilitates enhanced child health,
improved nutrition and food security, lower rates of HIV infection, higher
incomes, and, of course, better quality of life for women themselves.
Money aimed at fighting poverty, disease, and environmental degradation
should not be conceived of as aid, but as urgently needed international
public investment.12 Rich countries should pay their fair share based on a
model of progressive taxation that accounts for the fact that Northern
wealth is based on the plunder of the Global South.
Most debt in poor countries is a legacy of loans made by G8-controlled banks
and governments to win the allegiance of repressive regimes during the Cold
War. These rulers are now gone, but their debt has been passed on to poor
women and families.
As a region, sub-Saharan Africa spends four times more on debt service than
on education and healthcare combined.13 The worlds poorest countries pay
more than $100 million a day in debt servicingmany times the amount they
UNICEF estimates that 500,000 children die annually from IMF-imposed
economic policies aimed at extracting money for debt servicing.15
G8 Debt Cancellation: Good Intentions or Good Publicity?
After a decade of mobilization by economic justice advocates, the G8 is
addressing demands for outright debt cancellation.
Mainstream media have uncritically accepted G8 claims that the deal means
100% debt cancellation for poor countries and will free up money for
urgently needed social services, such as clean water and healthcare.
But as the Rwandan Finance Ministrys Secretary-General said, This money
that is now being relieved will go towards private sector investment.16
Thats because, in exchange for debt cancellation, the G8 plan is requiring
countries to boost private sector development and eliminate impediments
to private investment, both domestic and foreign. These conditionsknown to
generate tremendous profits for G8 corporations and increased poverty and
inequality in countries that have implemented themare sure to bring the G8
more money than it writes off.
Moreover, the deal applies to only a limited number of countries (18 of the
62 that need total debt cancellation in order to achieve the MDGs by 2015)17
and is worth only about $1.5 billion a year (or about 6 percent) of the $25
billion that Africa needs.18
Finally, the deal requires countries to adjust their gross assistance flows
by the amount forgiven, so that what they gain in debt relief they lose in
The IMF announced with great fanfare that it will use its gold reserves to
finance debt cancellation (a long-standing demand of the global justice
movement), but declined to mention that its gold was plundered from
Still, its important to recognize that the deal is a positive step,
especially because it includes debts to the IMF, which have been the most
exploited to impose economic policies on debtor countries.20
Make G8 Policy History: 100 Percent Debt Cancellation for All Poor Countries
is Feasible and Just
A 2004 study by the Debt and Development Coalition Ireland demonstrates that
the World Bank and IMF can afford to cancel poor countries debt without
much impact on their operations.21 Debt cancellation should be funded from
such sources, not from government aid budgets.
Total debt cancellation should be implemented for all poor countries without
exploitative economic conditions.
Governments in the Global South must be held accountable to using proceeds
from debt cancellation to meet basic needs.
National processes, informed by human rights and womens organizations,
should determine specific priorities for funds freed up by debt
Countries such as Uganda and Mozambique have demonstrated that debt
cancellation can enable significant progress in fighting poverty and
The G8 should formally recognize its culpability for the debt crisis. After
centuries of exploitation, massive lending to illegitimate regimes, billions
of dollars worth of ill-conceived development projects, and decades of
harmful neo-liberal "reforms," it is the G8 countries that owe a debt to the
Why are G8 Issues Womens Issues?
Throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, poor women and their families
are disproportionately harmed by the trade, aid, and debt policies mandated
by the G8. This year, the G8 summit will focus on Africa.
Trade: G8 demands on African countries to grow export crops instead of food
have meant a loss of livelihoods and social status for African women (who
are responsible for producing food) and increased hunger and poverty for
their families. Increasingly, G8 corporations, rather than African women,
control Africas food supply. US-based Monsanto, for example, controls 52
percent of South Africas maize seed, the countrys staple food.22
Aid: As the majority of poor households worldwide, women-headed households
are the main target of development aid. Yet poor women are rarely included
in the design or implementation of aid programs. As a result, most programs
reinforce gender discrimination. For example, in Africa, where women do most
of the farm work, less than 1 percent of agricultural aid loans are made to
Debt: The G8 has exploited poor country debt to demand reduced public
spending on water, healthcare, and education, making basic services
unaffordable for poor families. Womens workloads have increased
dramatically because they are expected to meet peoples needs for these
services. And the needs of women themselves are the first to be sacrificed:
women in poor countries have shown drastic drops in school enrollment, food
intake, and life expectancy since these policies have taken hold.24
SUPPORT MADRES PROGRAMS FOR WOMEN DEMANDING RIGHTS AND RESOURCES IN RURAL
AFRICA AND THROUGHOUT THE GLOBAL SOUTH
YES! I WANT TO HELP WOMEN BUILD A BETTER FUTURE FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR
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1 Rigged Rules and Double Standards: Trade, Globalisation, and the Fight
against Poverty, Oxfam International,
2 Agriculture, Investment and Intellectual Property: Three Reasons to Say
No to the FTAA, Oxfam International,
3 Torcuil Crichton, When It Comes to Africa, Bush has More on His Mind than
Aid, The Sunday Herald, 12 June 2005, http://www.sundayherald.com/50283.
4 Crisis in Africa: The Facts, DATA,
5 Monterrey: US Will Seek Advice On Spending Aid, 21 March 2002, The
World Bank Group,
6 Thalif Deen, Tied Aid Strangling Nations, Says U.N, Inter Press Service,
6 July 2004, http://www.ipsnews.net/ interna.asp?idnews=24509.
7 Crichton, ibid.
8 Monterrey: US Will Seek Advice On Spending Aid, ibid.
9 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and
Development, Cairo, 13 September 1994,
10 Development Funds Moving from Poor Countries to Rich Ones, Annan Says
UN News Centre, 30 October 2003,
11 Crumbs for Africa, The New York Times, 8 June 2005, late edition, A18.
12 Salih Booker and William Minter, AidLets Get Real, The Nation, 8 July
13 Charles Mutasa, Information Sheet on Africas Debt, African Forum and
Network on Debt and Development, 2003
14 Do the Deal: The G7 Must Act Now to Cancel Poor Country Debts, Joint
NGO Briefing Paper: ActionAid International/CAFOD/Oxfam International,
15 "The State of the Worlds Children, 1989," UNICEF, reproduced in part in
the statement of Richard Jolly, deputy executive director for programs,
United Nations Childrens Fund, before the House Committee on Banking,
Finance and Urban Affairs hearings on "International Economic Issues and
Their Impact on the U.S. Financial System," 4 January 1989, 101st Cong., 1st
16 In Quotes: Reaction to G8 Deal, BBC News, 11 June 2005,
17 G8 Debt Relief Proposals: A First Step in the Right Direction And a
Long Way to Go, Jubilee Research, 14 June 2005,
18 Jeffrey D. Sachs, Four Easy Pieces, The New York Times, 25 June 2005,
19 John Pilger, The G8 Summit: A Fraud and a Circus, New Statesman, 22
June 2005, http://pilger.carlton.com/ print/133469.
20 G8 Debt Cancellation Deal: An Incomplete, Yet Positive Step Forward, 50
Years Is Enough, 21 June 2005, http://www.50years.org/cms/updates/story/265.
21 Sony Kapoor, Can the World Bank and IMF Cancel 100% of Poor Country
Debts? Jubilee Research at the New Economics Foundation for Debt and
Development Coalition Ireland, September 2003,
22 Pilger, ibid.
23 Gender and Development Plan of Action, Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations, 2003,
24 Pam Sparr, Mortgaging Women's Lives: Feminist Critiques of Structural
Adjustment, (London and Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Zed Books, 1994).
Related Materials MADRE's Programs in Kenya
MADRE's Programs in Rwanda http://www.madre.org/programs/Rwanda.html
US in Africa: Partnership or Pillage?
MADRE Conducts Women's Human Rights Trainings and Delivers Aid to
Indigenous Communities in Kenya
A Noose, Not a Bracelet (Naomi Klein, The Nation)
3 million reasons to act for Africa (Kevin Williams, International Herald
Prospero, you are the master of illusion.
Lying is your trademark.
And you have lied so much to me
(lied about the world, lied about me)
that you have ended by imposing on me
an image of myself.
underdeveloped, you brand me, inferior,
That ís the way you have forced me to see myself
I detest that image! What's more, it's a lie!
But now I know you, you old cancer,
and I know myself as well.
- Caliban, in Aime Cesaire's "The Tempest"
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