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G20 to look at global poverty, leaked communiqué shows

The G20 will expand its narrow focus on the economy to include plans for tackling global poverty, according to a leaked version of the final communiqué for the Toronto summit.

Should the essence of the draft, which is dated June 11, hold true until Sunday, it would be a clear sign that the G20 is poised to further eclipse the G8, which has made foreign aid the focus of its agenda in recent summits.

Development groups welcomed the added focus on the world's poor, but there is some concern that the G20 nations, with their varied economic status, could produce less ambitious pledges.

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Some point out that emerging powerhouses like India and Brazil are dealing with extensive poverty in their own backyards, making it unclear how they would fulfill any foreign aid promises the group might make.

"I think it's a mixed blessing," said John Ruthrow of InterAction, which speaks on behalf of nearly 200 U.S.-based development agencies. Mr. Ruthrow points out that while the G8 is getting better at documenting how well it lives up to past development commitments, the G20 still has a long way to go in terms of measuring its performance and involving outside experts to help develop policy.

A spokesperson for the development advocacy group One, said a G20 focus on aid would be "a very positive step" and credits the South Korean government for pushing development onto the agenda of the G20's next meeting in Seoul.

"With its 900 million potential producers and consumers, Africa has enormous potential to contribute to the global economy," said Kimberly Hunter.

The draft communiqué, which was obtained by Greenpeace International and confirmed by Reuters, begins with a summary of the global economy. It states unemployment remains at unacceptable levels and that emerging fiscal challenges in many states could seriously threaten the global recovery.

On trade, the document calls for the slow-moving Doha Development Round of trade talks to "move into endgame negotiations." It also pledges to "continue working to develop voluntary, member-specific approaches" for phasing out government subsidies for fossil fuels.

An official with Greenpeace Canada expressed concern that the language is a "climb down" from a G20 pledge made last year in Pittsburgh to release a clear plan in 2010 to end the subsidies.

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"I expected that they would really deliver something pretty concrete," said Dave Martin. "It was surprising when we looked at it."

Environment Minister Jim Prentice declined to comment on fossil fuels subsidies in an interview on Wednesday.

"We'll leave that to the G20 discussion," he said.

With a report from Shawn McCarthy



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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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