Thursday, 2 April 2009

G20 summit: We should look at specific numbers

Comment by Mary Robinson

I am worried about what the outcome of this G20 Summit will be for poor developing countries. I understand from experience how these kind of discussions are held and the pressures that are exerted. But I do get the strong sense today that the G20's focus is much closer to home - that this meeting is about reforms through stronger regulation and stimulus packages all designed to move the richer and more powerful countries out of financial crisis.

I have just returned from Liberia, the DRC, Rwanda and Kenya where I have been with poor people who are living on the very edge of survival. They are truly desperate. They are still suffering from the crippling effects of inflated food and energy prices, and from worsening climate change, and now they're being hit by a financial crisis that their governments played no part in causing. The financial crisis is hurting rich countries - but it is truly catastrophic for the poor.

Can I remind about Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It's very short. "Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized." Today, I see our "social and international order" unraveling. There have been food riots. There will be others. The financial crisis is having a profound destablising effect. I believe that the security concern is an extremely strong one.

The developing world needs its own stimulus package to help ensure better global security and to meet finally the millennium development goals particularly to halve poverty and achieve people's rights to health and education. The amount of money needed to do this is minimal compared to the vast bail-outs of the banks; one of the biggest lessons we have learnt in the past 12 months is that huge resources can certainly be mobilized if there's a will to do so.

This afternoon we should look to the G20 for specific numbers to help poor and developing countries. We should be wary of rhetoric only. More money to the IMF and World Bank is welcome but alone will not be sufficient. The G20 must put poor countries at the centre of its agreement, not in the margins.

Mary Robinson is Honorary President of Oxfam.

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