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Blair: Why we must act on Africa

Blair: Thousands of children are dying every day from preventable diseases.



Tony Blair

LONDON, England (CNN) -- CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour spoke to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair about his vision for Africa. The following is a full text of the interview:

Amanpour: What motivates you to take up the cause of Africa?

Blair: There's a strong moral reason because there are thousands of children dying every day from preventable diseases, there are millions of people who have died from circumstances that are preventable over the past few years, through conflict, through famine and through disease. And I think there is a very strong reason of self-interest as well. Africa's a, a continent of mixed religion and mixed races and if we end up with the continent continuing to get poorer and it's people devoid of any hope, I think that could cause us huge problems in the future. So I think there are reasons of self-interest but frankly, there's the moral causes are upper most in my mind.

Amanpour: Do you mean a war on poverty could also be a war on terrorism?

Blair: I think you've only got to look at the conditions that give rise to terrorism. Now sometimes people who become terrorists are people who are well-off, and for various reasons get drawn into terrorism and, and you can't really say it's their social conditions or poverty that's given rise to that. On the other hand, I think it's very clear as we saw with Afghanistan, if you have an immensely poor country without any economic infrastructure, without any hope that people have for the future then it's in those conditions that terrorists can recruit, and can train and if you look at Africa, you've got Christians and Muslims living side by side. It's important I think that for those reasons too, that we try and make progress in Africa. But, again, as I say, in a sense, I think they're always long term reasons of enlightenment, self-interest for doing these things. The most immediate reason is how many people die in circumstances of tragedy and preventing it.

Amanpour: Urgent issue -- how quickly will you and other regions move to the 0.7 in terms of budget and foreign aid?

Blair: Well, we're going to move over the next few years and by 2013 we will reach 0.7 but already we've been increasing our aid and trebled aid to Africa over the past few years. But other countries are doing the same now. And I'm reasonably hopeful at the summit that we will get a substantial increase in aid to Africa. Although, very much with emphasis on measures to root out corruption, for better governance, for conflict resolution as well as simply more money. Although for things like the killer diseases, HIV, AIDS and malaria, polio, TB and so on, the money plus the help in using the money is precisely what the countries need.

Amanpour: How will you do it if the U.S. doesn't move up to 0.7?

Blair: Well, I haven't actually asked the U.S. to get to 0.7, they're a long way from that now and frankly it would be a lot to expect the President suddenly to say right we're going to, I don't know what it would be, but you would multiply it by many, many times to get there. What I would ask him to do and hope that he would be able to do, is increase significantly the amount of aid that's going to Africa. I mean, he's trebled it already, I would like to see a, effectively a doubling of the amount of money that America is paying because I think that, tied to the proper ways of using that money, to things like education and dealing with the killer diseases, to water sanitation and infrastructure, it, the proof is there, it can make a real difference.

Amanpour: Columnists being derisive, is this about Africa lifting the poor into the middle-class?

Blair: I think the first thing it is about is stopping Africa from declining as a continent and things like HIV, AIDS are affecting the population to such an extent that some countries can't teach children properly because the teachers are dying of AIDS. Now, there's an urgent need to act in these areas that I think, that I hope is obvious to everybody. But we are not saying that AIDS is the only thing. Opening up markets and tide is important, too conflict resolution is important but we've got sitting on our desks for the past two years, a report from the United Nations that describes how we should build an African peace-keeping force and peace enforcing force that will allow the African union to go into various conflicts for example the Sudan and manage to keep people apart so the political process can work. There's also measures to do with building capacity in those countries, capacity for governors, proper judicial systems, proper commercial and legal systems. There is a lot more than simply aid but without aid it is difficult to make progress. And, you know, it's important to look at some of the countries like Mozambique or Botswana and you can actually see tremendous progress has been made. It's not true in Africa things have gone backwards. Even in Ethiopia and even with the problems you will have seen that there is significant progress.

Amanpour: An effort to get people off the bottom of the ladder, what is your reaction when people say we've been there, done that, it doesn't work?

Blair: I mean, my reaction is to say first of all, look at the areas in which it has worked and often countries have been helped to do better. The second thing is to say we've made certain commitments internationally. All of us signed up to the United Nations millennium development goals on poverty and on education, on the killer diseases. We're not going to meet these goals unless we change course. And it's not a great deal to ask. I mean, even when we get to 0.7 per cent of our GDP, it's not, it's not a massive undertaking that's going to mean our people here in Britain are poor. If you look at the way the world came together and helped over the tsunami. It's a magnificent collective international effort. And yet the consequences in terms of the death toll of the tsunami, such things are happening , I can't work out the statistics, virtually every month in Africa, so you, know, I think that it simply isn't right to say that nothing can be done which is a council of despair and far too easy to fall into in politics, or that when you act, it doesn't have an effect. Because you can see them in the debt relief that we've given to some of these countries , look at, you know, primary education in Uganda, look at the changes that have been happening recently in Ghana. It's possible, I mean, it's not impossible for countries to change.

Amanpour: I've just come back from Ethiopia, spoke to the PM, he said what is really necessary -- the unfair trade policies -- what are you going / can you do about it?

Blair: We can make sure the EU changes. We've tried to make sure the EU does that but America and Japan have got obligations to change that as well. There's the World trade round that's coming up later this year, we've got to make progress there. You're absolutely right, I mean, this is one of them main things that the aid, the aid can help relieve the worst poverty, the aid can help build capacity but in the end these poor countries have got to be able to sell their goods into our markets and particularly their agricultural products. And the trade distorting subsidies that the wealthy countries have in respect of agriculture, it's not in the interests in any of our own consumers and it's certainly not in the interests of those poor consumers.

Amanpour: An EU cow gets more than a an average African gets ...

Blair: Correct. That's right. And that's why it's got to change. It's all part of, if you accept as I do, that the world is more inter-dependent today and that it isn't an intelligent international policy to allow one part of the world to lapse into, you, know, deprivation and decline, then there are very strong reasons for us, particularly with an emerging African leadership that is prepared to take it's responsibilities seriously of saying, how in partnership can we make a difference. And you'll always get people who'll say, well it doesn't matter what you do, nothing ever works and so on. But I mean that's, people who say those things don't end up achieving anything.

Amanpour: Is it fair to hold the people accountable to their governments?

Blair: Well, there are two things here. I mean, first of all, of course it is outrageous when you have situations as is happening in Zimbabwe at the moment and it's a terrible situation, the government there is causing it's people untold misery and deprivation, wholly unnecessary. So of course we say that and part of the whole deal here is, you are not going to get the extra help for governments to improve unless they are prepared to come up to the mark in terms of government, action against corruption and son.

But the second thing is for the, the children that are dying needlessly of disease. It's not their fault if their governments aren't making the proper measures and putting the proper measures in place in order to tackle them, we've got to help them anyway. And we can help them and sometimes, the help would be to governments to help them build their capacity because for example with HIV, AIDS its not just a question of getting the drugs and the right treatments into the country, they've got to have the capacity in their health care system to deal with it and you know, there are ways that we can with the international institutions, make sure that the money's tied to proper outcomes and the fact is there are around about a million people in Africa now getting help with HIV/AIDS. Those million people weren't getting help before. If you go and talk to those people and say is this aid all wasted, they will sure enough tell you it isn't.

Amanpour: Do you think if people knew how little their governments paid in aid, do you think they would back their governments if they paid more?

Blair: I think they would. But I think what is important this time is that we do show real deliverables out of this so for example we are able to turn around at the summit in two years time and say here are the number of extra children in primary education. You've got a hundred and thirty million kids in Africa without access to education. If you were able to turn around in a few years time and say here are six million more children that are in education as a result of the help that was actually given. This is what's actually happened to death rates from malaria as a result of the expenditure on treatments and bed nets.

If we were able to say look this is what the African union conflict resolution force has been able to achieve, whether it's in the Sudan or Burundi or elsewhere. If you were able to do this and show tangible outcome, then I think that would make a big, big difference to public support I think you're right in saying there is a worry, we've heard all this before, we've been hearing it for decades over Africa, is there anything that can be done? And I think one of the things that we've got to show is that there is also an African leadership that is ready to take responsibility and that it is recognized, it isn't just about charity or a donor -- recipient relationship, it's also about a partnership between African countries prepared to assume their responsibilities of leadership and the developed world that is the wealthy world, prepared to help them do so.

Amanpour: Bush is not prepared to increase, what are you going to ask him to do when he stands beside you at the G8 summit?

Blair: Well, the first thing is, in fairness to the administration they have increased aid to Africa, significantly ...

Amanpour: But that's like aid ...

Blair: No, that's right but it's just worth pointing out that I think, they've trebled it over all. And that's a substantial step forward and people have welcomed that. What I would like to see however, is a substantial extra increase tied to the specific projects that I know the administration care about whether it's education or it's things to do with infrastructure or whether its to do with the killer diseases. Now these are all things that can be done with the policies the administration have set out and I hope they are able to do that and then it's up to the European Union and Japan and Canada to commit themselves too.

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