G8 fail (again)

By Published On: July 8, 2005Categories: Global governance3 Comments on G8 fail (again)

G8 have just finished their summit, and you’ve guessed it, failed completely to respond to the scale of global poverty and the environmental crisis we faced.

Make Poverty History, have as I predicted, gone for the "they have failed to do what we wanted, but made important steps" response. But they fail entirely to question the legitimacy of the G8 in the light of yet another failure, when no leader can use the excuse that there wasn’t a mass demand for them to take radical action.

Instead, they naively say that the G8 can "secure a place in history" by going further at the WTO and the UN Millennium Summit and praises the UK Government for demonstrating "leadership on these issues."

Now for a slightly naff analogy… if an untidy flatmate of yours had promised after concerted complaints to clean the flat and didn’t do it one week, you might be persuaded that a little more pressure might just do the trick. You might even be prepared to believe that after 3 more weeks complaints, that he might still do it.

Now if 30 weeks later, you had persuaded your entire street to march, persuaded all the town celebrities to hold concerts across the country in protest against his untidiness, and all he did was gently wave a feather duster over the sofa, would you send a letter saying he still had a chance to redeem himself. Or might you just kick him out, saying he clearly had no intention of ever tidying the flat?   

Clearly the G8 aren’t just untidy, but they have shown themselves to be equally wilful in the care of a planet. As the World Development Movement argue: "The agreements on trade, debt, aid and climate change are nowhere near sufficient to tackle the global poverty and environmental crisis we face. We are furious, but not surprised…this once again proves that the G8 is not a legitimate body to be tackling these urgent global problems, this should be the last G8."

Unfortunately unlike flatmates, the G8 hold a lot more power and challenging this illegitimate domination of the world will be a hard and difficult task. But it is time for aid agencies to stop legitimising their power and instead in a united voice (yes with carefully controlled celebrities, if need be) say that the G8 has lost all claim to any legitimacy.

The campaign should build and focus their campaign on undermining the power of the G8 and their corporate backers. This will need to take many forms that could include any of the following: Backing Southern governments as they push to democratise International Institutions, pushing for international legislation that puts human rights above corporate power, undermining the World Bank by boycotting World Bank bonds, supporting grassroots movements as they challenge enforced liberalisation, giving backing to political backing to Southern movements and Governments to refuse to pay unjust debts.

At the heart of the G8 summit this week and the campaigns this year is the issue of power. Sadly the Make Poverty History campaign seemed to lack any analysis of power.  Debt burdens and trade liberalisation are not coincidentally unfair policies (where all that is needed is to point to the unfairness to get them resolved), they are mechanisms of control of the South. Tackling injustice requires tackling unjust power.

The G8 are the very epitome of a minority in the world controlling power (and by default wealth). Their failure to act this week showed more starkly than ever, their inability to act against their own interests and relinquish the power they hold over the third world through debt burdens and unfair trading relationships even when those are supposedly the very issues they are meeting to resolve.

But this week we have also seen more evidence of what some have called "the second superpower" – the global movement of people who are demanding a more just and sustainable world. In the weeks running up to the G8 summit, they combined with celebrities (often problematically) to take the issues to a popular audience on a scale not seen before.

Tragically, due to its leadership, this unprecedented global focus on the summit was misdirected. It was based on a seemingly-naive and misdirected assumption that enough pressure would force the G8 to act when years of evidence pointed to the contrary. As a result it ended up only reinforcing the illegitimate role of the G8. It also failed to give voice to those in the South fighting against injustice, those who should lead the struggle for a more just world.

But who knows what could happen if the Second Superpower led by people from the South focused its efforts on undermining the G8, and to demand a fundamental democratisation of our global order? Perhaps, then we could be on the start of a road to more just world.

POSTSCRIPT: There is a very good analysis of the deal signed by the G8 seen 3 months on by Charles Abugre, Policy Director for Christian Aid



  1. thomas from perú July 9, 2005 at 9:17 am - Reply

    are you trying to say you’ve got problems with your new flatmate?
    Don’t give up then… am already walking over Cuzco’streets for you!
    See you soon.

  2. Leah July 12, 2005 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    Nick, we were in Lyon on holiday the other week and visited their museum to the Second World War French Resistance. What came across to me was the battle they waged for the hearts and minds of the French citizenry and how important the Resistance leaders thought that battle was. In fact their take on things was that the major Resistance movements started with groups getting together to print newsletters about the terrible things the Nazis were doing. And the sabotage etc. that we hear so much about grew out of these groups with their newsletters.
    Sad to note, though, that they felt the real breakthrough in terms of getting people involved was when the Nazis started compelling ordinary (i.e. non-Jewish, well behaved citizens) to do compulsory war work in Eastern Europe. Will your mass movement really gain ground in the West when our cosy daily lives aren’t being adversely impacted?
    Take care, Leah

  3. Nick July 13, 2005 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Good question, Leah. I guess I do have hope from the fact that 2 million British citizens turned up to demonstrate about a war in another country and more recently 250,000 turned up at Edinburgh to demonstrate. So I feel with the right facts people in the UK do take action on issues that don’t directly affect them.
    The trouble is that I think we don’t generally look at our own responsibility ie we are happy to send a postcard to the government but not to cut down on the amount of energy we use on flights or cars, and more often than not choose to buy something cheap rather than paying more to ensure a fair price for a farmer in Honduras.

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