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Economic crisis looms over G8 summit

Latest update : 2008-07-07

The 2008 G8 meeting has opened in Japan with calls for urgent action on rising oil and food prices.The summit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's first, will welcome 15 guest countries, including 8 African states. (Report. M. Henbest)

Watch our Top Story: 'Can the G8 make a difference?'



Leaders of the G8 nations – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Russia and the United States – plus 15 other nations meet from Monday to Wednesday for a summit in the resort town of Toyako on Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s isles.


Kicking off Monday’s summit is a discussion of plans to boost aid to Africa. The non-G8 attendees invited to these sessions include several African nations and the head of the African Union.


Also in attendance is European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who announced before the G8 Monday that the European Union will channel 1 billion euros in unused European farm subsidies to African farmers.


The highly anticipated summit has higher stakes than usual, as many world leaders in both the industrial and developing world are hoping for a resolution to the pressing matters that have been mounting worldwide over recent months, including global climate change, the fuel and food crises, and poverty in Africa.


G8: Do we need it?


The summit has been precipitated by sharp criticism from analysts and activists alike, who question its effectiveness in undertaking these enormous issues.


This kind of cynicism is in sharp contrast to the atmosphere surrounding, for example, the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. As FRANCE 24’s Tokyo correspondent Nathalie Tourret points out, that summit had ended with much fanfare and promises “to double aid to Africa by 2010. They’re way behind. Africa is feeling abandoned.”


Even entertainers are trying to raise public awareness of their criticisms aimed at the G8. In an interview with FRANCE 24, rock star and anti-poverty activist Bono said of the G8, “Is this a joke? That you can stand in a photograph, with your arms around other statesmen, and say, ‘Yes, we make a promise to the world’s poor that we will increase aid to Africa…’ and then walk away…?”


This scepticism gives rise to the question as to whether G8 summits are all talk, or whether they lead to the implementation of policy changes. 


Yale political science professor Jolyon Holworth says the group’s effectiveness differs for each issue. For example, he does not see the G8 as resolving the problem of escalating petrol prices. “The markets determine the price of oil,” he said on FRANCE 24’s Top Story. “There’s not much the G8 or anyone can do about it.”


HolworthJolyon also believes that nation’s individual concerns can overshadow their G8 promises, such as those regarding aid to Africa. He explained, “Because of the world economic crisis, some nations are backpedalling (on their Africa pledges) to solve their own short-term economic crises.”


So what good is the G8 if nations are delinquent? For Holworth, “One of the benefits is that it creates peer pressure for member nations to keep their promises.” 


Date created : 2008-07-07