July 08, 2008

Mediascout's roundup on the G8

8 Talks Big, Achieves Little

Western leaders pretended to occupy the moral high ground yesterday at the start of the annual G8 summit, this year in Rusutsu, Japan. The heads of seven African nations, attending a supposedly goodwill meeting with the richest countries in the world, were summarily chewed out by “the rich-man’s club” for not censuring Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe after he rigged his own re-election. Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined the chorus of disappointment with African nations, using some of the strongest language of all G8 leaders in his condemnation of Mugabe. But the supposed world leaders were quickly humbled by a persistent media and a corps of non-governmental organizations that also made the trip to Japan, and immediately took to criticizing the G8 for its lack of action on major issues. A leaked memo that contained a draft of the summit’s final communique suggested that discussions about a G8 move to increase aid to Africa would be tabled until a later meeting, and action on emissions reductions would be deferred to a later meeting of the United Nations. Later reports confirmed that the leaders have agreed to long-term targets on reductions, but that agreement is already being criticized by environmental groups as being vague.

The most-reported sound bites of the day come not from the most powerful politicians in the world, but from Oxfam. Spokesman Max Lawson blasted the G8 - and Canada in particular, and Harper specifically - for failing to keep a promise to double aid to Africa over the past five years. Harper said that the $2.1 billion in aid Canada currently sends to Africa is effectively a doubling of aid, while critics say it falls hundreds of millions of dollars short of the target. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda didn’t provide much insight to reporters, but she did say that issues of governance are tied to issues of aid; Canada would not give money to nations with tyrannical leaders. African leaders suggested that insufficient aid was the root of the problem in countries like Zimbabwe. In the midst of what was quickly becoming a do-nothing summit for leaders, the Citizen and the Post (neither available online) published the most damning - and awkward - indictment of the G8 leaders’ potential insincerity. It chronicled the lavish, eight-course dinner of caviar, smoked salmon, and Kyoto beef that leaders enjoyed while they debated solutions to the world food crisis. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had told reporters on the way to Japan that the world should reduce “unnecessary demand” for food. Right. If the G8 continues to embarrass itself at its own summits, the world will simply stop listening to anything its leaders have to say.

No comments: