From: IIED
Published: Sun Jul 03 2005

At least half of all new development aid should go directly to local Africans and grassroots organisations to ensure effective use and greater accountability, according to the International Institute for Environment and Development ahead of this week’s G8 summit.

The think tank says the biggest block to development is the "power deficit" that means those at the frontline, particularly women who form the majority of African small farmers, struggle to control their own lives. Direct aid, supported by "capacity-building" to boost the voice and influence of local people and organisations, would radically reduce the "power deficit" and put people in charge of building better futures.

IIED is concerned that the voices of marginalised people, such as small farmers or slum-dwellers, are sidelined in the current debate about Africa’s future and warns that the "G8 project" risks failure unless world leaders do more to listen to and act on their concerns.

IIED Director Camilla Toulmin said: "The debate has got to move beyond macro-economic thinking to embrace the commonsense idea that ordinary people are the driving force of sustainable development in the modern world. We need to listen more and better to grassroots thinking and learn from local realities. Of course, greater aid and debt relief are big steps forward, but we will not contribute to Africa’s success at the stroke of charitable pen. Sustainability cannot work without equity, and that means shifting the balance of power away from big business and governments and into the hands of local people who daily dig themselves out of poverty against the odds. Africa is a huge, complex and vibrant continent requiring diverse solutions that grow from below rather being imposed from the top. World leaders can show that they really mean business by listening to those at the frontline of development and giving them the tools to do the job, starting at the G8 summit and continuing at important meetings on trade, climate change and Millennium Development Goals later this year. Business as usual is not an option; people power is the way forward."

IIED Chair Mary Robinson said: "Africa is not a failure, nor is it backward, but it is too often failed and held back by the unwillingness of the international community and national governments to trust local people and build on what works already, such as small-scale farming. African women, who face the biggest hurdles in accessing land and markets, need the greatest support over property and inheritance rights, particularly as their vulnerability is increased by the HIV/Aids pandemic. Who knows how best to manage land and other natural resources? Is it local people with hundreds of years of experience and knowledge? Or aloof national governments and big business touting an economic model that has already failed people and the planet? Are we going to help Africa to help itself, which means bottom-up thinking, removing unfair barriers to development and putting power in the hands of ordinary people, or do we simply want to open up markets ultimately for rich country gain in the vain hope that some residual benefit may trickle down to the poor? We should be investing directly in the African farmer and creating a fairer marketplace by ending subsidies on rich country produce and the dumping of surpluses on poor nations. The international policy lens has got to be refocussed to recognise the positive things in Africa and all poor regions, and build on them rather than undermine them."


Further information

Tony Samphier on +44 (0)208 671 2911


Janet Boston on +44 (0)207 388 2117


Notes to editors

Mary Robinson is currently Chair of IIED and formerly the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and President of Ireland.

Camilla Toulmin and other IIED spokespeople are available for interview.

Broadcast material: beta tapes available with excerpts (max five mins credited use) from the new documentary film "Keep it in the family" showing the challenges and solutions for small farmers in Senegal (to be screened by BBC World TV during the week of the G8 summit as part of the "Earth Report" Africa season).

Written case studies illustrating the situation facing African farmers are available.

Photographs of African farmers are available on disk or by email.

IIED is an independent, non-profit policy research institute working in the field of sustainable development. IIED aims to provide expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development at local, national, regional and global levels. Working with international and Southern partners, primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America, IIED aims to transform decision-making at all levels. This is done primarily through research, communication, engagement with actors and their networks, capacity development and advocacy. In alliance with others IIED seeks to shape a future that ends global poverty and delivers sustainable and equitable management of the world's natural resources.
Company: IIED
Contact Name: Tony Samphier
Contact Email: tony.samphier@btinternet.com
Contact Phone: 0208 671 2911

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