Tony Blair (U.K) is heading the conference, but remains fairly vague about the possibility of meaningful change. Vladimir Putin (Russia) has indicated that he agrees with the position taken by Blair and is perpared to compromise. However, George W Bush (U.S) has made it perfectly clear he is not prepared to have any meaningful discussion on climate change. He has also indicated that he will only make gifts of aid to countries which fit his highly subjective criteria of "good governance", a position supported by Silvio Berlusconi (Italy) and Gerhard Schroder (Germany). The other reprepsentatives are Junichiro Koizumi (Japan), Paul Martin (Canada) and Jose Manuel Barroso (President of the European Commission)
Blair wants the G8 to agree action on implementing the United Nations Millennium Development Goals on reducing global poverty, providing primary education for all and combating Aids. He proposes;
1 All members agree to aid payments equivalent to 0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015
2 100% cancellation of debt owed by 62 developing countries to international institutions such as the World Bank.
3 Changes to world trade rules to allow African economies to grow.
4 All members acknowledge the need for further action to control carbon emissions.
The G7 finance ministers (Russia does not attend all of the economic meetings) have already agreed to write off the debts of 18, mostly African, countries to international institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in a deal worth £22bn. A further nine countries could benefit from the write-off within 18 months.
Sounds good, but...
Blair has confirmed that he will not ask for any targets on the reduction of carbon emissions at the G8, and he admits that trying to talk Bush into signing the Kyoto treaty is pointless. The anouncement that the E.U would double its aid package also confirmed that the planned to "boost private-sector development" and eliminate "impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign" (ie allow the rich countries to further profit from Africa)
Similarly, Bush pledges to double the amomunt of US aid by 2015. As usual there are strings attached, and the amount falls far below the 0.7% GDP proposed by Blair. The money will only go to countries with good governance (so if you are unlucky enough to live in a dictatorship that the U.S doesn't like, you will have to manage without US assistance) and the aid is dependent on the purchase of US goods (eg expesnive U.S drugs instead of cheaper generic medication) and adopting policies which allow US companies to exploit their economies.
Leaked documents confirm that the White House tried to delete suggestions that global warming was caused by greenhouse gas emissions from the G8 agenda. They objected to the phrase "our world is warming" or that this was due "in large part to human activity". The documents also confirmed that Bush has reneaged on of financial pledges to fund a network of regional climate centres throughout Africa to monitor the impact of global warming. The US also cancelled the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) which was established to help developing countries develop economically while controlling greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the UN, one in six countries in the world face food shortages this year as a result of severe droughts. This situation is expected to become semi-permanent because of ecological damage caused by climate change. Blair answer to this issue - more roads.
Yes, roads will save Africa from poverty by allowing it to break into world markets (never mind the unequal trading positions or that fact that raw materials are exported and more expensive finished goods have to be imported, or that most of the resources are already being plundered by foregin companies).Of the $75bn needed to implement the commission's recommendations, 27% would be spent on infrastructure, mainly for transport, compared with 13% on HIV and Aids, and 10% on education. Of course, more roads also means more pollution, worsening climate change, and more frequent droughts.
Then we turn to the blatant hypocracy inherent in statements that aid can only come with good governance. Rwanda's Paul Kagame and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni have managed to obtain funding from the U.K despite causing the deaths of an estimated 4 million Africans and stealing billions of dollars worth of natural resources. According to our government they show "good governance". But I suppose, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. None of the G8 countries have themselves ratified the UN convention against corruption. If the U.K signed the treaty, our companies couldn´t legally bribe the governments of developing countries into selling control of their resources to British companies. In order to get funding from the World Bank, Uganda was forced to privatise the majority state-owned companies before applying any regulation to combat corruption. The companies were worth an estimated $500m, but raised only $2m. Foreign companies and corrupt officials made a tidy profit. Unrepentant, the World Bank has demanded that the Ugandan government sell off its water supplies, agricultural services and commercial bank - with minimal regulation. If they do not, they get no further assistance.
What Blair fears is a repeat of Seattle, or Genoa. They want a tidy, well behave street-party, and so they play along with Live 8 and Make Poverty History. The packages proposed so far will do little to solve the problem, because the G8 themselves are the problem. One of the main causes of the poverty in Africa is the neoliberal agenda African countries have been forced to follow by the powerful nations and their economic vultures (the IMF and World Bank). Yet when these same policies are applied again, we all gather round to praise them.
The G8 may be the worst group of people to look to for serious action on poverty and global warming, as they are essentially there to entrench their economic control of the world economy.They are not the solution to the problem, they exemplify the problem, and their plan for saving Africa was aptly described by George Monbiot as an extortion racket.
The real issues are trading rights and cilmate change, and we will all need to shout really loud if we are to be heard, as the G8 seem to suffer from selective deafness.