MILAN, ITALY -- The G8 summit in a few days will be one of first times that the newly sworn-in Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta meets with international heads of state. As Italy focuses on its own economic turbulence, it appears that we may not see much political leadership on international aid commitments coming from the country this year.
With Mario Monti's resignation as prime minister at the end of last year, much of the Italy's preparation for 2013 summit has been steered by Pasquale Terracciano, the Italian G8 Sherpa - a term used for the official in charge of preparing for the annual G8 gatherings. While both officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Treasury are well trained in global negotiations, it was not enough to make up for the lack of clear leadership domestically and the inability to increase aid volumes in a time when the country was so economically torn.
Most recently, in 2012, Italian aid volumes dropped to a mere 0.13 percent of the GDP, the same level as Greece. This amount is down from the goal to reach .51 percent of the GDP when the economy was in better shape in 2010. As the country rebuilds under new leadership, Italy's current goals are to increase aid to 0.31 percent of GDP by 2017. While .31 percent is minimalistic compared to previous goals, these new goals should be welcomed by the international community as we strive to make them realistic.
In the meantime, such decline in aid has made Italy one of the major culprits for the G8's poor global performance. The recent Accountability Report elegantly referred to the collective performance the G8 nations as mixed.
Such a poor performance from Italy has pushed the most vocal campaigners to call for the nation to be kicked out of the G8. In my opinion, it seems untimely to suggest this at a time when all countries are struggling economically and adjusting their own aid budgets. Italy has intentions to re-boost aid levels, and we must hold them to account to make their commitments a reality.
We must also remember that there was a point in time when Italy had a strong presence on the global stage. The deliberations of the Genoa 2001 Summit sparked The Global Fund for the Fight Against Tuberculosis, Malaria and Aids. In 2000, Italy lead an effort to cancel the debt of the Third World, as a result of civil society's Jubilee 2000 campaign and Pope Joan Paul II's placement of debt forgiveness at the center of celebration of the Jubilee year. In 2009, Italy hosted during the creation of the L'Aquila Pledge, which supported developing country-led plans for agriculture.
Times were thriving as Bono spent some in time in the "Bel Paese," or "the Beautiful country," as Italy is sometimes called, to campaign and put the Italian political leadership under the spotlight for international development. In due time, I hope Italy will once again rise to and exceed that level of commitment, and ActionAid is here to keep the pressure on to maintain it. In the meantime, as Italy goes through hard economic times, I hope that the international community will welcome the country's drive to increase aid to 0.31 percent of GDP by 2017.
In the meantime, as the G8 nations struggle to find economic resources, we hope they will look for alternative sources of revenue to fill funding gaps that do not impact domestic budgets like closing tax loopholes that prevent multi-national corporations from paying their fair share of duties in developing nations. We hope that Italy will show strong leadership on the inclusion of smallholder farmers, who produce the majority of Africa's food, and developing country-led plans for global hunger reduction initiatives.
The Millennium Development Goals are soon to come to an end, and now is not the time to let ambition fall just because of some economic recession across some of the G8 nations. Those living in poverty are in constant recession, and we need to do everything we can to still mobilize our resources to make all economies more just for everyone.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction around the G8 summit being held in Northern Ireland, June 17-18. For the next eight days, we will be featuring one post from an NGO based in each of the G8 countries -- this piece is from Italy -- and then one blog from the vantage point of the developing world. To see all the posts in the series, click here. For more information on InterAction, click here. And follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #DearG8.