Advocacy Group Says Italy Has Failed In Africa Aid

Italy has failed to meet its commitments to reduce poverty in Africa and has lost credibility in its relationship with the region, an aid group backed by Bono and Bob Geldof warned Thursday.

The G-8 _ the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia _ laid out ambitious plans in 2005 to increase aid to Africa by $25 billion a year by 2010, more than doubling the 2004 level of aid to the continent.

But the anti-poverty group ONE, founded by singer and activist Bono, warned that Italy faces being embarrassed at the Group of Eight summit it will host July 8-10 because it has cut development assistance to Africa and is planning more cuts this year.

"Italy has said it will put Africa at the forefront of the agenda at the G-8 Summit. Based on its performance against the Gleneagles commitments, it has no credibility to host discussions of such global importance," ONE said in its fourth annual report.

Geldof told reporters the Italians' paltry contribution made it unworthy of hosting the gathering.

"What is the legitimacy of this crowd?" he said. "How dare they?"

Italy's Premier Silvio Berlusconi appeared to respond to the report's charges during a joint press conference with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Wednesday, calling for decisive action from wealthy countries to help bring Africa out of its misery.

But Berlusconi rejected the idea that aid should simply continue to pour in, and said leaders in certain African countries had funneled aid into their own Swiss bank accounts rather than use it to help their people.

He said donors had to make sure governments used the aid for schools, hospitals, roads and railroads, and not to enrich political elites.

Nevertheless, he stressed the need for aid to improve conditions in poor countries, saying it was in Europe's interest to stem the flow of illegal immigration _ a major issue in Italy.

ONE said the G-8 has failed to deliver the financial support it has promised Africa at a time when the continent is losing other sources of revenue, such as remittances and foreign direct investments.

ONE projects that the G-8's development aid to sub-Saharan Africa will increase by $3.46 billion this year. It says for the G-8 countries to meet their poverty reduction targets, they will have to increase development aid by around $7.2 billion in both 2009 and 2010.

The group said Italy and France had reneged on promises and were holding the rest of the group back. The report said the U.S., Canada and Japan have met their commitments but those commitments were modest. It also said Germany and UK had missed some targets but had embarked on more generous development programs.


Associated Press Writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this story.