No Governance, No Party

July 20, 2009


Paola Subacchi

Research Director, International Economics, Chatham House

Despite the worst expectations in the weeks before the summit, the G8 gathering in L’Aquila handed over neither a significant outcome nor an embarrassing disaster. Participants seemed pleased with the Italians who were praised for their excellent job in managing the whole choreography and delivering a great party. The Italian organisers must felt relieved, especially as some commentators seemed prepared to support Italy’s expulsion from the G8 on the ground of poor organisational skills and its Prime Minister’s penchant for scandals.

The idea that Italy was risking the expulsion hit the main headlines in the first day of the summit, with no further follow-up. But it is disconcerting and interesting at the same time. It is disconcerting because of the implicit assumption that the G8 membership could be decided on the basis of how efficient a country is in organising a meeting and how effective, and credible, the leadership of the hosting leader is. But the organising country does not equate the entire G8 even if it plays an important role in shaping the summit, and determining its relevance.

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The Heiligendamm Process: Extending the G8-G5 Dialogue

July 10, 2009

Yesterday, in their joint declaration, G8 and G5 countries committed themselves to work together to address international governance challenges. To facilitate continued dialogue on issues such as investment, intellectual property and climate, the leaders announced an extension of the Heiligendamm Process – renaming it the Heiligendamm-L’Aquila Process (HAP) – the structured dialogue among the officials of the established industrialized countries  and the major emerging economies of the global South – China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico.

In this exclusive video, Andrew F. Cooper interviews Ulrich Benterbusch, Director of the Heiligendamm Dialogue Process at the OECD. Since the 2007 Heiligendamm G8 Summit, Mr. Benterbusch has been the primary facilitator of this program that has allowed for confidence building and partnerships among G8 and G5 states, development of common policy towards critical global issues, as well as spill-over affects for the international financial institutions.

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The G8 and the Global Food Security Crisis

July 9, 2009

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Jennifer Clapp
CIGI Chair and Professor, Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo

Food security is on the agenda as the G8 leaders meet this week in L’Aquila, Italy. It is an appropriate moment to be addressing this important issue, as the FAO recently announced that the number of undernourished people on this planet has now surpassed 1 billion. This is an historic high for the number of people experiencing severe hunger.

It is extremely troubling that global hunger is on the rise despite the fact that food prices on international markets are lower today than they were last year at this time, when the G8 leaders last met. When looking at the factors contributing to this situation, it becomes clear there are multiple complex causes to the current food situation, many of which have sources in rich countries. These problems have been exacerbated by the current economic crisis as it spreads from North to South.


Japan’s Position in the G8 Club

July 9, 2009

As a member of the G8, Japan often does not get the attention it deserves. Perhaps more than in any member country, domestic politics have dictated Japan’s engagement in the summit process and the issues it chooses to discuss through this forum. A year after the Hokkaido Toyako Summit, there is a different Japanese leader in the G8 “family photo” and likely to be another one before the next summit begins.

In this video, Andrew F. Cooper interviews Hugo Dobson – Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield – to discuss the differences between the 2008 and 2009 summits and the factors that play into Japan’s performance in the G8 process. First and foremost, he points to the more relaxed atmosphere in L’Aquila where activities at Toyako were quite regimented and organized. Press briefings by the Japanese foreign ministry have been conducted in a much more informal manner, contrasting starkly with last year.

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The Latest on Currency: Lula Steps Up at G8

July 9, 2009

Lula2Gregory Chin
Senior Fellow, CIGI

On the eve of their meeting with the G8, the G5 group of major emerging economies – Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – discussed the use of their own currencies to settle trade accounts among themselves, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters. According to Menon, the suggestion to explore this possibility came from Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.

Menon wanted to clarify that this does not mean the G5 having a new currency or alternative reserve currency. China, Russia, Brazil, France, and to a lesser degree India had expressed an interest in the talks between G5 and G8 leaders due on Thursday including debate on seeking long-term alternatives to the US dollar as the global reserve currency. Brazil and China have, of course, already established arrangements to settle a portion of their trade in their own currencies.

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G5 Leaders Shifting the Balance

July 9, 2009

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Andrew F. Cooper
Associate Director and Distinguished Fellow, CIGI

While the BRIC group of states have grabbed a great deal of attention with their landmark leaders’ summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia, 15 June 2009, their expanded G5 alter ego has been a significant force at this week’s G8 Summit in L’Aquila.

Coined by Goldman-Sachs, the original BRIC investment acronym has moved from a laudatory account of the rise of 4 big economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to a geo-political reality. Such a shift indicates the extent to which we are moving into a more contested global order. In many ways, the BRIC countries are more interesting for their differences than their similarities. Brazil and India are robust democracies. Russia is a managed democracy. China is a one party state. India has a fast rising population. Russia is in serious demographic trouble with a sharply reduced life expectancy. Brazil and Russia are resource rich. India and China are resource dependent.

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L’Aquila Bends the G8 Model Out of Shape

July 8, 2009

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Andrew F. Cooper
Associate Director and Distinguished Fellow, CIGI

The G8 Summit at L’Aquila is a study in contradictions. The Italian presidency’s approach remains a languid one amidst an intense global recession. Here, style trumps substance. The site of the summit – re-located at the last moment in sympathy with the victims of the devastating earthquake is still a work in progress. The host government from the start lacked any overarching vision for the Summit. The brand trotted out in the last few weeks, that L’Aquila represented a “summit of principles”, crumbled quickly amidst its inconsistency with the scandals associated with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The United States tried to rescue the G8 by taking on some elements of leadership. Key sherpa meeting were called and shaped by American officials. A big delivery has been promised in the form of a major initiative on food security. Yet, these moves can not mask the reality that the US has already moved on from prioritizing L’Aquila to focus its attention on the Pittsburgh G20 on September 24-25. Read the rest of this entry »