The United Kingdom put Africa and the Millennium Development Goals high on its agenda for its presidency of the G8 in 2005. In a discussion with Camilla Toulmin - Director of the Institute for International Environment and Development - the impacts of this initiative, its potential and possible implementation challenges were spelled out and debated. The Dinner Dialogue took place in Berlin on 6 June 2005. Camilla Toulmin has been Director of the Institute for International Environment and Development (IIED) since 2004. An economist by training, her work has focused on social, economic, and environmental development in dryland Africa.
During the Dinner Dialogue Camilla Toulmin talked about Tony Blair's move to take advantage of the UK's presidency of the G8 in 2005 to bolster aid for Africa, which includes a call for substantial increases in Oversea Development Aid (ODA) as well as debt relief for certain African Countries. Camilla Toulmin explained how the initiative greatly helped to bring Africa's dire situation back on the political agenda. Testimony to this is not only given by the broad media coverage of the issue in the UK and beyond as well as campaigns surrounding the initiative (such as Bob Geldorf's global call for action against poverty), but also by political measures. In fact, on the very day of the Ecologic Dinner Dialogue, US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that they are close to an agreement on providing debt relief for Africa's poorest countries.
Against this background, the discussions of the evening touched upon numerous issues; among them:
- The need for good governance to increase the absorption capacity of developing counties, which must accompany an increase in ODA;
- The role of civil society groups and the media to create transparency and good governance;
- The potential of African domestic markets and intra-African trade to spur economic growth;
- The relationships between climate change and Africa's development;
- The need to look at Africa in a more differentiated manner, recognising the economic, social and cultural differences between African countries;
- The role of the private sector in bolstering development in Africa and the required conditions for an increase in Foreign Direct Investments; and
- The question of whether aid can and should contribute to political change in badly governed countries.