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Monday, July 7, 2008
G8 SUMMIT 2008
How did last year's G8 summit fare?
When it comes to meeting pledges, leading industrialized nations were 'average' in 2007
OSAKA — Each year, the Group of Eight nations meet in scenic locales, pose for photos, and make hundreds of promises and pledges on everything from climate change to financial markets to human rights. But do they actually keep their promises?
The University of Toronto's G8 Research Group was set up to answer that question and to serve as the institutional memory of the G8 by identifying what its member nations have committed themselves to, and to what extent those commitments have been met.
On June 30, the group released its final compliance report on the promises made at the 2007 Heilegendamm summit in Germany. The 310-page report looks at 23 different areas of commitment and evaluates the extent to which Japan, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Russia and the European Union have fully, partially, or not complied with those commitments between the time they were made last June and May 31 of this year.
As host of this year's G8, Japan has announced an agenda that includes the world economy, climate change, development and Africa, and nuclear nonproliferation. Looking at how the G8 nations have done over the past year in 11 specific areas related to these three broad themes reveals full or partial compliance in most, although some countries failed to comply in the areas of African debt relief and ODA, corruption, trade, and nonproliferation of nuclear materials.
"Overall, compared with past years, it's been an average year in terms of how the G8 nations have fared in complying with promises made at the 2007 summit in Heilegendamm," said Jenilee Guebert, a senior researcher for the G8 Research Group involved in preparing the report.
"This year, the U.S. has done the best. In the past, Canada and the European Union have always scored quite well, while Russia and Italy have traditionally done less well. Japan tends to fluctuate, scoring well on energy issues and less well on Africa," she said.
The G8 Research Group's analysis on the issue of climate change showed all countries were in full compliance with their commitments made at last year's summit. The G8 promised to "actively and constructively" participate in the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali, which was held in December, to come up with a post-2012 agreement that includes all major greenhouse gas emitters.
All of the G8 members did participate in the conference. The resulting Bali agreement called for common but differentiated responsibilities from all nations to fight climate change. Thus, the G8 nations were judged to be in full compliance with their Heilegendamm commitment.
As to Africa, the Heilegendamm summit made a number of commitments in specific areas. The G8 noted the cancellation of some $60 billion in debt was well under way. For official development assistance, there was a promise to increase ODA to Africa by $25 billion a year by 2010.
With the exception of Japan, all G8 nations were found to be in either full or partial compliance with their Heilegendamm promises.
"Japan's failure on this issue stems from its continued use of interest-bearing loans instead of grants to fund development assistance. Loans were approved for countries that already qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative. Furthermore, Japan lent ¥3.484 billion to Uganda, a state that qualifies for debt relief from both the HIPCI and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative," the report says.
On aid to Africa, last year's summit noted that the G8, along with other donors, was increasing ODA to Africa by $25 billion a year by 2010, using 2004 as a baseline. Here, all G8 nations with the exception of France were judged to have fully or partially complied.
"France has been awarded a score of minus one (meaning failure to comply) for the sharp decline in ODA allocations to Africa, despite the promise of an increase in future years," the report noted.
North Korea's recent report declaring its nuclear materials, which will lead to its delisting by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism, as well as Iran's nuclear program will be the nonproliferation topics of great discussion in Hokkaido. At the same time, Japan is expected to push the other G8 nations to commit further to promoting new nuclear power plants as a viable way to combat global warming, a position that raises proliferation concerns.
Last year in Germany, the G8 reaffirmed its support for an early commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. Such a treaty, currently being debated at the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, would ban further production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium and nuclear weapons technology but would allow for the production of uranium and plutonium for use in nuclear power plants.
Only Japan and Germany were found to be in full compliance with the commitment, with the report noting Japan publicly voiced its support on two occasions at the U.N. in the past few months for treaty negotiations to begin. By contrast, Russia failed to comply because there had been no official public statements about treaty negotiations, although the report noted Russia had undertaken some actions to cut off fissile materials.
Commitments to promoting trade liberalization and helping developing countries better integrate into the multilateral trading system, as well as providing support to the poorest countries to help them benefit from globalization, were made at the 2007 summit. Here Japan, the U.S. the U.K., Canada, Russia and the EU were all found to be in full compliance, while France was judged as having failed to comply because it failed to show support for, and made statements hostile to, the Doha Development Agenda, which covers liberalization of agriculture.
In the area of energy technology, the G8 said last year it would urgently develop, deploy and foster the use of sustainable, clean energy and climate-friendly technologies. Japan, the U.S., the U.K. and Canada were judged to be in full compliance, while other G8 members were only in partial commitment.
The difference between countries judged in full compliance and those seen as only having partially complied often came down to who introduced concrete measures to develop and promote green technologies over the past year and who did not.
To attain the goals the G8 has set for itself, especially development-related goals in Africa, trade liberalization between developed and developing countries, and making sure the transfer of nuclear materials ostensibly for nuclear reactors does not end up in nuclear weapons, curbing corruption is essential. Last year, the G8 said it was committed to full implementation of their obligations under existing international agreements created to combat corruption, particularly U.N. and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development agreements.
With the exception of Japan, all members were found to be in full or partial compliance with this agreement. Japan's failure, the report said, was due to several factors, including a recent OECD review showing nearly all of Japan's extradition treaties in the Asia-Pacific region are based on domestic legislation, not international treaties. Nor has Japan ratified the U.N. Convention Against Corruption, and it is the only G8 member not to have ratified the U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.
While the University of Toronto paper is a valuable report card for progress over the past year, each year the bar is either raised or lowered, and this is reflected in the language of the final statements, which must be unanimously approved by all members. But Guebert said a review of the historical record shows the commitments are usually eventually honored.
"Generally, the G8 nations have kept their promises, but some summits do better than others. The 2000 summit in Okinawa got the highest compliance scores. Because it was a success, perhaps this year will be as well," she said.