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G8 Communique

7.09.2005

While London was under attack, much of the world's attention was diverted from the other major British foreign policy initiative at the moment, G8 and Africa. The G8 summit was intended to serve as a major initiative on African development and also the partial rehabilitation of British Foreign policy in the eyes of the electorate and the world. The release of the communiqué was perhaps more muted than had been envisioned, however that didn't stop the dissenting voices from the MPH campaign making sure that their objections were heard.
The document itself is a mixed bag of hopes, aims and some modicum of commitment. The moves on AID are to be welcomed but of course we would all prefer them to arrive now not in five years time. The fact of it is that those who were sceptical about the power and commitment of the G8 to make genuine historical change at this summit seem to have been vindicated by the furious spinning being done in the aftermath.
When a document is not good enough to stand on its own merits there is a large amount of spent to turn a pig's ear into a purse. One can see from the rancorous dissent of oxfam and that the hopes laid out before the summit have been summarily dashed by what appears to be more of the same. My own take on the issue of debt is that a great deal could have been done to cement the relief of Debt to a vast swathe of poor countries and to ensure the maximum pressure will be brought to bear on private creditors to do the same.
There has been a great deal of disappointment among the NGOs and MPH campaigners who see this as an opportunity wasted.
I don't wish to overly-regurgitate the points of NGO and development campaigners but I am dismayed myself with the amount of reference to the private sector that is afforded to the communiqué. Little is done to support state initiatives and many African observers see this as a prescription for more of the same in terms of trade liberalisation and corporate expansion.
From Peter Hardstaff of the World Development Movement (WDM);
"The G8's approach on trade seems to be 'Ask not what we can do for the poor, but what the poor can do for us."
The problem with much of the communiqués is that it commits the west to nothing concrete and certainly no action which is of benefit to Africa unilaterally. Much of the language can be, and in some quarters is, interpreted as a commitment to the current agenda of liberalisation with little give on trade fairness.
In other sectors there were plenty of statements of intent regarding education and corruption. It is on the latter that I am most dubious. George Monbiot has been following for some time the exploits of corporations in Africa and also at home he has highlighted how successfully they manage to avoid corporate manslaughter charges and other assumptions of liability. To change corporate behaviour in Africa means supporting government in other ways and also withdrawing export credit loans from companies engaged in Bribery.
Some companies caught out so far are major arms exporters and major contributors to the budget's bottom line.
The initial criticism of the MPH campaign by Anarchists of getting to close to politicians and not being critical enough seems to be justified to some extent. They have been taken in and used as a photo-op and, unless the communiqué lives up to its most positive spin, spat out again when used.
This wasn't the history changing moment some wished it to be, until we question the authority of the G8 to prescribe trade, aid and debt rules for the rest of the world we may be stuck in the same vicious cycle of exploitation in the name of national self interest for a long time.
RR

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