African American News

"CBC applauds Prime Minister Tony Blair for his bold efforts to achieve major debt relief for Africa"

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"Africa's debt crisis is the single biggest obstacle to the continent's development, to the fight against HIV/AIDS and represents a crippling load that undermines economic and social progress."


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Congressional Black Caucus commended British Prime Minister Tony Blair, today, for his bold efforts to achieve major debt relief and a significant increase in aid to Africa.

Mr. Blair, who is the host of this year's G-8 Summit, which is comprised of the major eight industrialized democracies, has asked the world's richest countries to make a $25 billion increase in support for Africa.

"We commend you for having the wisdom to insist that the risk of increasing aid to Africa is worth taking, particularly since the amount of aid you are proposing can readily be afforded by all Summit participants," the CBC said in a letter to Mr. Blair. "We strongly support your efforts to ensure that debt cancellation is a critical item on the agenda during the July G-8 Summit in Scotland."

President Bush, who was initially cold to the idea, recently announced that the U.S. will pledge $674 million for famine relief, which is considerably much less than the Prime Minister's initial ask. Mr. Bush's explanation: "It doesn't fit our budgetary process."

The Caucus' letter explains that Africa's debt crisis is the single biggest obstacle to the continent's development, to the fight against HIV/AIDS and represents a crippling load that undermines economic and social progress. The idea of 100 percent debt relief is not about handouts, but about mutual interest and mutual security, the Caucus notes.

Noting the urgency and importance of time, the CBC said that Africa remains the only part of the developing world that remains no better off than it was 25-years ago.

"Time is not on our side and this is not a time for timidity or a time to fear reaching too high," the CBC said. "More than 25 million of sub-Saharan Africa's 700 million people are infected with HIV, and life expectancy, which peaked at about 50 years in 1992, has since fallen to about 46 years. Child nutrition, illiteracy and lack of access to clean water are serious problems throughout the continent."

The Caucus noted that it stands firmly with Mr. Blair in fighting for a new partnership with Africa. "Although there is much work to be done to convince some stakeholders of all the steps that need to be taken, the momentum for change is real," the letter states.

Mr. Blair has been pushing a broad, long-term effort to help Africa's economy get on its feet, not just emergency food aid. He also wants G-8 countries to commit new money for Africa rather than reallocating funds already earmarked for foreign assistance.

The G-8 Summit will take place in Gleneagles, Scotland.



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