Monday, June 02, 2003

Funny how the all the Summits of the Masters of the Global Economy now need to be held in amazingly remote inaccessible places, isn't it? The G8 has met in Evian, France (2003); Kananaskis, Alberta (2002); and Okinawa, Japan (2000) three of the past four years. We all know about Genoa, Italy (2001). I guess the G8 doesn't want to get too accessible ever again.

Not as if the world is missing much of substance in these gatherings. They are mostly symbolic opportunities to hold hands and tell us all that everything is going to be OK; hence the massive protests every year, which also play mainly in symbolism and remind us that everything is not so peachy after all. While the G8 is trotting out some Big Ideas again this time around (fighting AIDS, more debt relief for Africa, Lula's global hunger relief fund) as well as ostensibly tackling the mundane (global currency instability), Larry Elliott of The Guardian reminds us of past talks and the molehills moved there:
"The 2000 summit was in Okinawa . . . was the last time the G8 did anything of note, but only because it could no longer ignore the public demands to cut the unpayable debts of poor countries. Needless to say, the promise of a $100bn package was a smoke and mirrors exercise, inflated by debt relief already in the pipeline. Equally predictably, less money has been delivered than was pledged. Even so, it was better than nothing. To understand how G8 summits have become exercises in political opportunism, you need look no further than last year's farce in Kananaskis. In the build-up to the event, aid agencies and African governments were convinced the meeting would herald a breakthrough. It was billed as a "something for something" occasion, in which the west and Africa would sign up to Nepad - new partnerships for Africa's development. The Africans would clean up their governance, root out corruption and pursue sound economic policies, while the west would front up with some serious dosh. Delegations from Africa duly turned up, bent the knee to the G8, and went away with an extra $1bn to top up the global fund for debt relief, plus a few extra billions that had already been pledged at least once."
Will Lula's plan to bring in the major states of the Global South into the meetings be a worthwhile step toward renewed relevance of the summits, or start it on the fast path to complete irrelevance (after all, do you think Bush and Blair and Chirac and the rest really want to chum around with the other Masters of the Universe only to have a bunch of Indians or Brazilians peeing in their Corn Flakes by telling them about all the real problems they face and how the rich countries can address them)? Perhaps this traveling circus should simply be shut down.

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