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THE G8 HAS NO LEGITIMACY

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GENEVA, Jul 29 2008 (IPS) - (IPS/South Centre) The last G8 summit (Hokkaido, Japan,July 7-9) sat in judgment over the democratic credentials of the government of Zimbabwe, but it had itself no legitimacy. The G8 had no choice but to bring the matter to the Security Council of the UN. And there the West lost: China and Russia vetoed, writes Yash Tandon, Executive Director of the South Centre, Geneva. The G8 is no longer even the seat of the powerful. It is a club of the six richest Western countries -France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, United States and Canada, plus one rich Asian country (Japan), plus nearly rich Russia, a former Communist country that was admitted in 1998, but still sits, uncomfortably, in the margins of G7. As it turned out, the so-called G5 developing nations (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa) that were invited to Hokkaido as observers, declared that they had no particular appetite for a pre-cooked dinner in which they had no hand in preparing. They constituted themselves into the coalition of the unwilling, and issued their own Political Declaration. On the matter of climate change, for example, they placed targets for the developed countries, calling for quantified emission targets for these countries under the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, \”of at least 25-40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 2050, by between 80 and 95 per cent below those levels, with comparability of efforts among them\”. What is needed is a radical reform of the Security Council of the UN, not a patch-up job of the G8 that should, by now, dissolve itself. It does not constitute the international community that it thinks it does.

Recently, for example, the people of Ireland decided by referendum, that contrary to the will of their government, they did not want to surrender their sovereignty to some supranational body called the European Union. What the Irish vote showed was that the democratically expressed will of the people is the ultimate test of the legitimacy of any institution that seeks to make decisions on behalf of the people.

Of course the international domain is different from the national. There is no World Parliament of Peoples. The nearest we have to a peoples assembly is the United Nations. The UN, however, is a cleverly devised global body based on an adroit balance between power (the Security Council with big power veto) and the voice of the people (the General Assembly, where this voice is presumably articulated through governments). This is the UN ultimate legitimacy test; does it properly balance the power of the mighty with the voice of the worlds people?

Fifty years after its formation, the General Assembly has more or less kept up with its representative character. It has, for example, absorbed all the new nations arising out of colonial past and given them an equal voice in the Assembly. It still enjoys some legitimacy. But the Security Council has lost its legitimacy; it no longer reflects the new reality of power. The exercise by the United States, the United Kingdom and France of a triple veto of the Western nations whilst keeping out countries like India and Brazil does not make sense any longer. Nonetheless, as long as the Security Council does not reform, it is the body that decides, for example, whether or not the internal situation in Zimbabwe constitutes a threat to international security.

The UN is a rule-based institution, even if the rules are now applied by an anachronistic Security Council. The G8, on the other hand, has no legitimacy whatsoever. It has the power of its mighty, but it does not have the voice of the people. The G8 is a self-selected club of the Rich and Powerful. Nobody ever gave it the mandate or authority to decide on matters of economy, climate change, security, or to impose sanctions on states that do not bend to their will.

The last G8 summit (Hokkaido, Japan,July 7-9) sat in judgment over the democratic credentials of the government of Zimbabwe, but it had itself no legitimacy. The G8 had no choice but to bring the matter to the Security Council of the UN. And there the West lost: China and Russia vetoed.

The G8 is no longer even the seat of the powerful. It is a club of the six richest Western countries -France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, United States and Canada, plus one rich Asian country (Japan), plus nearly rich Russia, a former Communist country that was admitted in 1998, but still sits, uncomfortably, in the margins of G7.

As it turned out, the so-called G5 developing nations (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa) that were invited to Hokkaido as observers, declared that they had no particular appetite for a pre-cooked dinner in which they had no hand in preparing. They constituted themselves into the coalition of the unwilling, and issued their own Political Declaration. On the matter of climate change, for example, they placed targets for the developed countries, calling for quantified emission targets for these countries under the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, “of at least 25-40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 2050, by between 80 and 95 per cent below those levels, with comparability of efforts among them”.

The G8 missed the wisdom of the voice of the South by shortsightedly presuming to co-opt the Big Five in a preordained agenda. They thought that if they finally got the US on board on climate change, the G5 would also rejoice. They were creating grounds for their own disappointment.

They thought that if they put the President of South Africa in a corner in Hokkaido and press on him to give the G8 the legitimacy it lacked to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, they would be able to reverse the decision of the African Union (AU) taken the previous week at Sharm al Shaikh. They did not realise that with all its weaknesses the AU has more legitimacy than the G8.

What is needed is a radical reform of the Security Council of the UN, not a patch-up job of the G8 that should, by now, dissolve itself. It does not constitute the international community that it thinks it does. .(END/COPYRIGHT IPS/SOUTH CENTRE)

 
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