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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

G8 SUMMIT 2008

Staid events said losing relevancy


Staff writer

TOYAKO, Hokkaido — The three-day Toyako G8 summit will become history when it wraps up Wednesday. But with its conclusion, a growing number of critics are demanding that the whole concept of the summits becomes a thing of the past.

After months of preparation, spending at least ¥60 billion, mobilizing 40,000 police officers to prevent terrorism and hiring nearly 60 gourmet chefs to prevent the Group of Eight leaders from suffering indigestion, the Toyako summit is nearly over.

"The G8 is a discredited institution and should be scrapped. It's an attempt to create an informal government because (it) subverts the authority of the United Nations. There is a term for informal governments, and that is 'mafia,' " said Walden Bello, from the Philippines, who represents the nongovernmental organization Focus on the Global South.

Bello's comments reflected the views of many from developing countries.

Kumi Naidoo, a South African with the nongovernmental Global Call to Action against Poverty, said he is torn between wanting the G8 to be scrapped entirely and wanting it rebuilt.

He identifies several problems the G8, in its current form, faces.

"First, there is a democracy deficit. The G8 makes decisions and imposes them on others without the formal consent of other countries. There is also a coherence deficit between the G8 (summits) and all of the other multilateral institutions," Naidoo said.

"But the biggest problem is the compliance deficit. I'd estimate that over the past 10 years or so, only 15 percent to 20 percent of all G8 promises have been kept. Given the huge amount of money involved in holding these summits, that seems like a low return on investment," he said.

Another quarter that agrees the G8 faces a serious legitimacy crisis wants the body transformed into something larger and more accountable to greater numbers of people.

"The G8 remains an elite club with an unconstrained agenda that lacks formal mechanisms for policy declaration, administration, or compliance. The question of the G8's legitimacy naturally extends beyond its composition to its operative functions. A wider set of countries can increase its legitimacy," the Center for International Governance Innovation, a Canada-based NGO, concluded in March following a workshop on the deficiencies of the G8, adding that the current structure is a relic from the past.

Lack of compliance is another reason to abolish G8 meetings, given the huge costs involved and the slight connection between the words of the G8 leaders and their subsequent actions.

For example, given that the international food crisis is a main topic at the Toyako summit, even some delegates were disappointed with what they saw as a lack of sensitivity on the part of the G8.

"Meeting at a resort hotel and dining on gourmet food prepared by some of the world's finest chefs doesn't exactly send a message to either the developed or the developing world that Japan takes the food crisis very seriously," said one German delegate, speaking anonymously.

And even those who criticize the G8 but reluctantly favor continued summits question the need for a huge gathering in one place.

Technologies undreamed of when France and Germany created the precursor of the G8 back in the mid-1970s are now available.

Rather than have thousands of people jet halfway around the world using gas-guzzling airplanes, cars and limos that add more greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, the critics suggest, one possibility would be to do the whole thing via the Internet and video teleconferencing.

"The World Bank has the facilities at many of its offices around the world to do that kind of teleconferencing, so that NGOs as well could participate," said Naidoo of Global Call to Action against Poverty.



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The Japan Times

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