L’AQUILA, Italy, (AP) – Leaders of the exclusive club of eight industrialized nations opened up their forum Thursday to the five fastest developing market economies — Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa — tacit admission that their leadership alone is not enough to fix the world’s major problems.
The so-called Group of Five, making their fifth straight appearance at the annual summit, albeit as invited guests, will discuss climate change, development aid, global economic growth and international trade with their Group of Eight counterparts — all topics touched on by G-8 leaders meeting on their own Wednesday.
The G-5, along with special invitee Egypt, on Wednesday urged a resumption of the stalled Doha trade round, noting that the developing countries were particularly damaged by protectionist trends emerging from the global economic crisis. Stronger multilateral trading, they said, would play a role in promoting development and reducing poverty.
“We are concerned with the present state of the world economy, which submits the developing countries to an inordinate burden resulting from a crisis they did not initiate,” the G-5 said in a statement after a preparatory meeting Wednesday. Concluding the Doha Round would aid “the restoration of confidence in the world markets and inhibit emerging protectionist trends,” the G-5 said.
Among the G-8 leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have been particularly vocal that the G-8 needs to be expanded to better represent the world’s population and economies. Sarkozy told reporters on Wednesday that a possible formula would be to have the G-8 meet within the structure of a G-20, major economies taking the lead on ways out of the economic crisis, or a G-14, combining the industrialized nations and emerging economies forums.
In their statement, the G-5 called for greater inclusion in international decision-making, noting its members’ positive contributions to tackling global challenges.
On the issue of aid, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday that the leaders have decided they need to change the way they help Africa, and introduce a mechanism of accountability to review efforts.
“We want our funds to go to precise investments, schools, buildings and so on,” Berlusconi told reporters.
Berlusconi also has said the G-8 was looking into establishing an agricultural development fund for Africa, to shift away from giving handouts to the poor to helping them grow their own food.
Italy has been under intense criticism going into the G-8 summit for having maintained only 3 percent of its aid pledges of $3.5 billion to Africa made at a 2005 G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. The G-8 at that time promised to increase aid to sub-Saharan Africa by US$25 billion a year by 2010.
Berlusconi has acknowledged Italy’s failure to respect its Glenagles aid pledges, but has said it only was a delay and that he had no other choice but to cut aid because of Italy’s mounting debts and the global financial crisis.
“I’m sorry we didn’t keep our promises,” he said in an interview over the weekend with Bob Geldof, musician and head of the anti-poverty group ONE, which has shamed Italy for its poor performance.
The United Nations Millennium Campaign, which monitors the Gleneagles goals, urged leaders not to turn their backs on the world’s poorest during the L’Aquila summit, warning that the economic crisis will force developing countries, such as Laos, Senegal, Uganda, Cape Verde and Sudan, to slash spending for the poor. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya could run out of foreign reserves needed to purchase goods “in a matter of weeks.”
“When world leaders break a promise, it is a sin, but when governments break a promise to the poorest people on the planet, it is nothing short of a crime,” said Salil Shetty, director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign.
The campaign called on leaders to announce clear timetables for aid delivery promised in 2005, provide new financing to poor countries, not merely dress up old commitments, improve aid quality, and eliminate agricultural and export subsidies.