Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 8, 2009


Michael Golfarb, Global Post - Leaders of the G8 nations begin their annual three-day summit in earthquake shattered L'Aquila Italy. Are you excited by that fact? Thought not.

Neither, would it seem, is the host of the event, the government of Italy. Disinterested chaos has characterized the preparations for the get together and the agenda is decidedly thin.

Since it was set up in 1975 as the G6, the leaders of the largest industrialized nations have used their annual summit primarily as an opportunity to make pledges, have their pictures taken and generally act as if they are on top of the problems facing the world.

Some years there are more crises to deal with than others and this would seem to be one of those years. The global economic crisis and the post-election situation in Iran being two things that the leaders might be expected to address. But so far the big item on the agenda is "food security," an initiative aimed at keeping small farmers in the developing world in business. Or something like that. . .

In 2005, Britain used its presidency of the group to focus on global poverty at the Gleneagles Summit. It was a big theme dear to the heart of both then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. The Live Aid concert, broadcast globally by the BBC, was all part of a big push to get the richest nations to commit hard cash to the poorest. . . The amounts pledged at the Gleneagles summit were historic, we were told by Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof.

Four years later, Brown, now prime minister, wants the summit to at least publish results of which countries have lived up to their pledges. That is unlikely to happen, not least because Italy has slashed its aid budget under Berlusconi. . .

The question that hovers over all these "summits" whether G8, G20 or G-everybody is can these ad hoc groups, led by politicians, who make promises they will not be in office to fulfill, possibly serve any use at all?

We live in a world where it seems all the major decisions on how human beings live are made not by our elected leaders but by a narrow group of elites working for private multi-national companies; or speculators - hedge funds and others - playing the markets for their own and their wealthy shareholders massive enrichment; or one or two autocratic regimes like China and Russia. Most leaders of democratic countries are operating from a position of weakness. . . .

Perhaps it is time to add one more demand to the protesters' list: stop G8 summits.


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