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Politics Could Dominate G8 Summit of World Leaders

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 2011 (IPS) - When leaders of the Group of 8 (G8) industrialised nations meet in Deauville, France later this week, there is a strong possibility that politics will take precedence over traditional socioeconomic issues like food security and development aid, which are being overshadowed by the Arab revolution and Palestinian statehood.

“The upcoming G8 likely will be dominated by a range of international political issues, especially Libya,” predicts Rob Vos, director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division of the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The nuclear plant crisis in Japan, he told IPS, is likely lead to discussion on stricter international standards.

The economic repercussions of the recession in Japan and the global financial disruption also will be subjects of discussion, as well as the European sovereign debt crisis. But the policy implications of these likely will be left to the larger G20 bloc, he added.

A summit meeting of G20 leaders is scheduled to take place in Cannes, France in November this year.

The G8, which comprises Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada, Japan, Russia, France and the United States, is also expected to place priority on strengthening its partnership with Africa, including on issues related to food security and poverty reduction, and the critical role of agriculture in achieving these goals, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

But some of these critical socioeconomic issues may be left for the G20, which (besides the G8) includes Australia, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey, and also seven developing countries ‑ namely Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa ‑ plus the European Union.

According to one newspaper report, U.S. President Barack Obama will attempt to counter the proposed General Assembly resolution on Palestinian statehood by trying to convince some of the European leaders not to vote for the resolution when it comes up at the United Nations in September.

“But this may be a good try in a lost cause,” says one Asian diplomat, who points out that some of the major European nations, including Britain and France, have already hinted they may support the resolution on Palestinian statehood.

Asked whether the G8 has fulfilled most of its past economic pledges, Vos told IPS: “As to global commitments to the South, clearly the G8 fell short about 20 billion dollars on aid commitments in 2010 (the deadline to deliver on the commitments made at the Gleneagles Summit in 2005).”

Additionally, he said, the G8 also still has to deliver on the promise of more support for sustainable agriculture to deal with ongoing the food crisis.

However, he pointed out, this G8 Summit, scheduled to take place May 26-27, does not seem to have this on its agenda.

“So the summit likely will be dominated by international political issues and I don’t expect anything much in terms of new pledges for supporting developing countries” said Vos, a lead author of the U.N.’s two flagship reports, ‘World Economic and Social Survey’ and ‘The World Economic Situation and Prospects’.

In a statement released early this week, IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan said G8 leaders had pledged more than 20 billion dollars to boost food security and agricultural development.

And last year, a multilateral fund, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, was launched with the goal of improving agricultural production, crop productivity, and food security.

“Although these financial commitments are substantial, challenges remain,” Fan said.

First and foremost, donors need to make good on their promises, as do African governments themselves.

Second, investments in agriculture should reflect a country’s national priorities, contribute to an overall development strategy, and be supported by good governance and effective policies.

Finally, determining the how of agricultural spending is as important as the how much, he added.

Luc Gnacadja, a senior U.N. advisor, was quoted as saying that the world’s food production system is under stress. But the critical links between land degradation, food insecurity, political instability and migration are often overlooked.

“Examining these links would advance the G8’s agenda on partnership with Africa on peace and security,” he pointed out.

Additionally, this will “concretely advance” the 2009 L’Aquila G8 summit declaration on sustainable development.

“Growing political restlessness, unceasing economic hardships and increasing environmental vulnerability globally mean a lot is expected from this year’s G8 and G20 summits,” Gnacadja declared.

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