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G8: The Five Throw a Challenge

Sanjay Suri

L'AQUILA, Italy, Jul 8 2009 (IPS) - “The world needs a new global governance,” the G5 declared Wednesday, “the construction of which must be based on inclusive multilateralism.” As rhetoric goes, this might sound like more of the same. But the time and place of that declaration gave the words a new significance.

The current G8 summit in Italy was billed as an occasion where developed and developing countries would come together to seek common solutions to such global problems as the economic crisis, climate change and food security. And some commonality is certain to emerge.

But on a string of vital issues the major five developing countries – China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa – took a common position that approached confrontation with the G8 on several counts; certainly they outlined their own paths.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva demanded that the G8 take note. “We cannot go on being split into 300 working groups,” he said on the first day of the three-day summit Wednesday.

The G8, he said, must consider first the joint declaration produced by the G5, so that a consensus may emerge. And in consensus-building with the G8, “developing countries must not be treated as second-class citizens.” They need to be up on the “top floor” with the G8, “for the collective welfare of humanity,” said Lula.

All of which might have been just nice words if the G5 had not also taken collective steps in line with this position. This they did most effectively over climate change, that most controversial of international issues this year, strongly taken up by the G8 in a year that is meant to end with a consensus in Copenhagen in December.

A Major Economies Forum is due to come up with a declaration Thursday on climate change. That declaration by a group of countries that includes the G8 and the G5 stops short of specific numerical targets. And the developing countries effectively blocked any move to sign them on to binding targets – while pledging to cut emissions on their own.

So while agreement will be reached in general terms, there will be no individual or group targets for either developing or industrialised countries, according to a senior official close to the negotiations.

The G5 campaigned collectively to ensure that the principles they support are respected – prime among them the recognition that the developed nations are the prime polluters, and therefore carry primary responsibility to cut emissions such as carbon dioxide that are believed to cause global warming, and consequently, damaging climate change.

Through the climate change negotiations, an effective grouping among the developing nations is already fact. A strong message went out following their summit on Wednesday that they can stand together and bargain hard with the G8.

Extraordinary, too, was the very range of issues on which they took a firm stand in relation to the perceived interests of the G8 countries (the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia).

The G5 called on the G8 to act in line with their speeches at the G20 meeting of major industrialised and emerging nations in London in April. The leaders then had agreed to financial stimulus to boost investment and economic activity in developing countries. Nothing of the sort happened since. As a first step out of the economic crisis, the G5 said Wednesday, “we call for the full implementation of the G20 London summit declaration without delay.”

The G5 declared they would work together to reform the world’s financial system and to replace it with one that is “fair, just, inclusive and well-managed.” They declared they would work together to “fundamentally resolve the issue of under-representation and the inadequate voice of developing countries in international financial institutions, which is urgently needed.”

They asked for an end to trade protectionism and measures “inconsistent with the World Trade Organisation (WTO),” and agreed to “vigorously support South-South and trilateral cooperation,” while acknowledging that it is not a substitute for North-South cooperation.

The G8 have also stepped up their campaign for reform of the U.N. system, most potently the United Nations Security Council. That demand, primarily for expansion of the Security Council’s five permanent members with veto powers, has the backing of several of the G8 countries as well, particularly Britain.

The G5 issued a trade declaration separately from their political declaration. And that only firms up the position the developing countries have taken at talks so far that have blocked a deal on the principle that no deal is better than a bad deal.

The G5 said they want to see an end to subsidies in rich countries. Broadly speaking, the developed world has refused to drop subsidies, while demanding that developing countries open up their markets to goods from industrialised nations.

On trade rules, as with the negotiations on climate change, developing countries have been holding firm, and holding together. This G5 summit appears to have toughened their plans to work together to break down established forms of dominance.

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