G8 leaders have got to be starting something

While queuing to buy a paper at my local newsagents this morning I noticed Michael Jackson’s greatest hits were being played in the background. It took me a little while to clock that as well as the shop owners being Jacko fans, they were marking the fact that a whole year has passed since his death.  I can't believe how quickly time flies; it doesn’t feel like a year has passed.

As the G8 summit begins I’m probably not the only one thinking how rapidly time can pass.

The eight leaders scheduled to meet in Ontario this weekend will have no choice but to confront the fact that it’s been five years since promises were made by their predecessors at Gleneagles in Scotland to address poverty in the developing world.

In those five years, about 2.5 million women have died from pregnancy-related factors; millions of women, men and children have been living in makeshift houses with poor sanitation, and millions of  children have died because of malnutrition and other diseases related to poverty.  Put simply, for the poorest people – very little has changed in those five years.  For some it’s got a lot worse.

In Canada’s Globe and Mail David Cameron wrote that ‘too often these summits fail to live up to the hype and the promises made’ and that ‘these good intentions rarely seem to come to fruition’.  Salient points, Mr Cameron – and perhaps never as accurate as when it’s come to addressing the G8 2005 targets which were based on the UN Millennium Development Goals.

I was one of the hundreds of thousands of hopefuls parading the streets of Edinburgh in 2005 to demand that world leaders ‘Make Poverty History’ as they met in Gleneagles.

It’s disappointing therefore to see how so little has changed since then.  Five years on and world leaders have to face the fact that little progress has been made on some of the key goals.

For example MDG Five states that by 2015 the number of maternal deaths should be cut by two thirds (from figures from 2000). That target is way off track.  

It’s heartening to see that Stephen Harper’s aiming to address this issue at the weekend, as we see from his G8 Muskoka Accountability Report his keenness to dramatically reduce the number of preventable maternal and child deaths.

In order for those attempts to be fully successful, we would stress that barriers to accessing health care have to be removed and there must be greater commitment by country leaders to sexual and reproductive health rights such as access to information and family planning.

The Guardian’s Sarah Boseley writes an interesting blog on the need for the G20 leaders (in the summit that follows this weekend) to address the need for safe abortions – a key element to reducing the amount of maternal deaths.  

We're also urging the G8 delegates to ensure that any development plans they set up are consistent with human rights standards and have plans to ensure gender equality, disability rights and environmental sustainability.

There really is no more time for idle chatter. It is time for world leaders to step up to their promises.

I would agree with David Cameron that the G8 should no longer be a talking shop. So in the words of the great MJ, I would urge Cameron to ‘start with the man in the mirror’ and make sure that the world’s poorest can no longer say ‘they don’t really care about us.’

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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