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So did the G8 matter?


Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 15 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have, to put it mildly, mellowed.

I'm not a believer in brushing the past under the carpet. I've written some offensive rubbish on here in the past: deleting it and pretending it never happened doesn't change that. I hope that stumbling across something that's 15 years old won't offend anyone anew, because I hope that people can understand that what I thought and felt and wrote about then is probably very different to what I think and feel and write about now. It's a relic of an (albeit recent) bygone era.

So, given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views may well have changed in the last 15 years. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find utterly cringeworthy today.
  • This post might use words or language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate, offensive, embarrassing, or all three.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken, and embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

A little over a week ago, I argued that the symbolism of the G8 was far more important that anything it would achieve. Now that the summit is over, the final communiqué has been issued, and the leaders are on their way home, have my opinions changed?

In my last piece, I pretty much wrote off anything the G8 would achieve in terms of African poverty, since I thought that

They are far to focused on Western cultures and ways of approaching problems to provide genuine solutions.

Whilst I still believe that, I think that real steps forward in the aid that is given to these countries have been made. There have been big pledges for increased monetary aid, not least in terms of $1.5bn per year to help to combat malaria – an easily preventable and treatable disease that kills a shameful number of people each year in sub-Saharan African. But aid will still remain below the UN target levels – instead of wanting to exceed the expectations placed upon us by the world in terms of helping other nations, we’re not even shamed enough by the current lack to come up to scratch and give what’s expected of us. Every step in the right direction helps, but every step not taken results in the deaths of thousands, and I just hope that in future that our government will support African governments in the ways that they themselves decide they need help to make their own countries better places.

On climate change, the communiqué is generally full of lots of non-committal bumph, generally about waiting for technology to provide the solution to all our problems instead of taking pro-active measures to reduce carbon emissions with the technology we currently have available. This is, of course, a valid strategy, and if the technology does indeed rescue us then it will provide the most effective solution. But it seems foolish to stake the future of the planet on such a gamble, and I think that it would be more wise to look at cutting greenhouse gases here and now, if only as a backup which may appear to represent a foolish overspend in future if the technology does come along to solve the problem.

In my opinion, not much has really changed policy wise at the G8 summit, especially when you consider that this was a summit of countries with the financial power that these have. But last time I suggested that

Achievements aren’t everything. The symbolism is just as important… we should celebrate the fact that at least these eight leading nations are co-operating and even holding meetings in an age of cynicism, distrust, and warfare.

Of course, I wrote that before yesterday’s terrible attacks on London, and it would be lovely if I could now say that the symbolism of these countries standing firm together against the attackers only heightened the point. But, for me, it didn’t. I have to say that I personally was disturbed to see eight of the most powerful men on Earth standing united against ‘terrorism’. Terrorism is subjective: One man’s terrorism is another man’s war. To see, therefore, eight men resolutely determined to fight an abstract subjective concept filled me with fear, far more that it did confidence and peace.

Clearly, if the G8 nations were on the verge of all-out war, the world would be worse-off, and of course we should celebrate co-operation between these nations – and, indeed, between all nations. But we should not support this open declaration of ‘War on Terror’. Warring against a concept is not just illogical, it’s also dangerous, particular with such a subjective concept. One would have hoped that the meeting of the eight greatest minds of a generation would have reached that conclusion, and the fact that it actually reached the opposite conclusion is cause for concern indeed. Of course all of the nations should condemn the callous attacks on London, resulting in the deaths of scores of people, but it is difficult to do so convincingly on the ground of ‘fighting terror’ when many of the countries around the table are active engaging in terror in Iraq, killing many times more Iraqi civilians. Why should the lives of citizens of the G8 nations be worth more than the lives of other human beings? Are we not all the same?

Following the G8 summit, I’ve been left feeling more uncertain about the value of the G8, and a little more concerned about its power and potential for destruction. We can only hope that the leaders choose to use their undeniable powers wisely… not something with which they have a good track record.

This 666th post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

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