Can this year’s G8 put people first?

This year the G8 returns to the UK. Last time in 2005 Africa and international development was top of the agenda. The commitments made on aid and debt cancellation, combined with African leadership, have helped spur great progress. Since the 2005 Gleneagles summit, annual child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen by 423,000 and 21 million more children are in primary school.

Next week G8 sherpas – the government representatives charged with preparing for June’s Lough Erne summit – will meet for the first time under the 2013 UK Presidency. David Cameron wrote to fellow leaders in early January setting out his priorities for the year: transparency, tax and trade. In addition he announced a pre-G8 summit on agriculture and nutrition. Sherpas will be discussing what progress they think the G8 can collectively make on both sets of issues.

The context in 2013 is, however, very different to that of 2005. From 2002 to 2011, the importance of aid in sub-Saharan African government revenues fell from 17 percent to 11 percent, despite the fact that aid had increased by $28 billion. This reflects a big rise in the volume of domestic revenues from $74 billion in 2002 to $341 billion in 2011. Aid still remains a vital part of the picture, as it can meet immediate life-changing needs and also help create the conditions for countries to grow. But as more and more countries attract investment, exploit their natural resources and expand their tax base, Africa’s development prospects rest on its ability and will to harness domestic resources for the benefit of all.

To help achieve this we are proposing a package of targeted and mutually reinforcing transparency reforms:

(1) enhance transparency about resource inputs (e.g. aid and extractives revenues);
(2) open up budget processes so that citizens can see how their resources are being invested;
(3) collect better and more timely data about what those investments are achieving (service delivery quality);
(4) build the capacity of oversight institutions and citizens’ groups to use information to hold governments to account; and
(5) agree a common open standard that all data released through the G8’s focus on transparency will meet.

If implemented ambitiously, these five steps would open up the development process, moving us towards a world where people are able to access, understand and use information to take charge of and accelerate their own development.

We will also continue to hold G8 leaders to account for past promises. At the 2012 Camp David summit a partnership of G8 countries, private companies and national governments pledged to lift 50 million people out of poverty over 10 years through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. However, this pledge will not be met unless the New Alliance is enhanced and expanded this year, from the starting six countries to an additional 12. Alongside enlargement the G8 should ensure that transparency and accountability of the Alliance is improved, there is a greater focus on nutrition and women, and investments from African and small and medium enterprises into the partnerships are increased.

More generally the G8 and partner countries should back African governments’ agriculture plans with the resources they need to deliver sustainable food security. According to the World Bank growth in the agricultural sector is at least 2.5 times more effective at reducing poverty than growth in other sectors. This year should also  accelerate the quality of national nutrition plans and mobilize the finances to turn the tide against chronic malnutrition.

Progress on a package of transparency reforms, and on agriculture and nutrition, would amount to the G8 putting citizens first by empowering them with information and creating economic opportunities in the sector where most Africans work.

In the coming weeks watch out for further blog posts on ONE’s G8 policy asks