FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Humanitarian Failure at the G8

It’s hard to dismiss the temptation to write off the G8 meetings as a meaningless talkfest.

On the other hand, when the political leaders of the most powerful countries get together and issue joint statements, it may be worth looking at what these planetary stewards have in mind. This is particularly true at a time when new global crises — skyrocketing oil prices, the spike in food prices, the impact of the U.S. recession and accelerating global warming — are added to ongoing public health disasters and persistent global poverty.

Is it too much to expect the G8 leaders (the political leaders of the United States, Japan, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia) to offer something meaningful in response to these problems?

With the G8 meeting in Hokkaido, Japan just concluded, the answer apparently is, yes.

G8 failures seem to fall into two categories: first, promise to do too little, and then renege on commitments made; second, promote harmful policies and projects.

In the first category comes the G8’s statement on global public health. Following aggressive lobbying by public health groups, the G8 agreed to reiterate its commitment to provide universal treatment for HIV/AIDS. But the rich countries have not agreed to put the money on the table to achieve this objective. “The AIDS crisis in Africa is an emergency, and reaching universal access by 2010 will require a quadrupling of spending over current levels,” explains Masaki Inaba of the Africa Japan Forum. “A restating of existing commitments is not a sufficient response by the G8.”

The dominant public health need in the world’s poorest countries is to restore the public health systems decimated by decades of International Monetary Fund and World Bank “structural adjustment” programs. The G8 leaders said only that they aim to “work toward” poor countries achieving the World Health Organization (WHO) target of 2.3 professional health workers per 1,000 people. (By contrast, according to WHO data, the United States has about 31 health workers per 1,000 people, and 56 per 1,000 if you include the category of “health management and support workers.”)

Also in the first category is the pathetic G8 statement on climate change. Dragged down most of all by the anti-leadership of the United States, the G8 announced a commitment to a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Well, a sort-of commitment.

The best science says the world needs at least an 80 percent reduction from 1990 emissions levels by 2050, and very likely more, so the G8 commitment is totally inadequate on its face.

But the G8 position is even more lame than it first appears. A statement from an environmental coalition including Friends of the Earth International explained the key flaws. “First, the G8 formula is a global cut,” not imposing particular responsibility on the rich, high carbon-polluting countries. Second, “the cut has no clear baseline. It was revealing that in announcing it, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda initially said it was from 1990 levels, then had to take back that statement and subsequently mentioned a 2000 baseline.” Third, the statement is not binding, and “indeed, the G8 announcement reinforces the G8 as a site for climate action that rivals the UN process [for climate change negotiations] and effectively subverts it.”

In the second category of doing direct harm come many of the G8 recommendations in the declarations on the global economy and on food security.

The G8 leaders call for opening and deregulating financial markets, even as it is clear that financial deregulation has helped create the current global financial crisis.

The G8 leaders call for stronger patent, copyright and trademark monopolies. Remarkably, in a document purporting to address the key issues in the global economy, they make space to encourage rapid negotiation and completion of an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a deal that may hinder or criminalize peer-to-peer file sharing, require Internet Service Providers to limit consumers’ web access, and interfere with parallel trade in goods (like Canadian drugs brought into the United States), among other problems.

The G8 leaders call for completion of the Doha Round negotiations at the World Trade Organization, aiming to further deepen reliance on a global food trading system that has driven the poorest people off their land and undermined developing countries’ ability to feed themselves.

The G8 leaders also call for more aid for food-importing, poor countries — to be delivered through IMF lending facilities that typically require countries to adopt more of the market fundamentalist mandates that have driven people off the land and undermined governments’ capacity to assist the poor and pursue expansionary economic policies.

“I’m pleased to report that we’ve had significant success,” said President Bush as the G8 summit concluded.

Not exactly.

ROBERT WEISSMAN is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and director of Essential Action.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

ROBERT WEISSMAN is president of Public Citizen.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail