G8 faces its moment of truth

This article was published in the Japanese edition of Newsweek
G8 faces its moment of truth
In Hokkaido there will be no hiding place. The G8 will have to show leadership or announce its impotence to a nervous, anxious world. Created thirty years as a friendly chat between the leaders of the free market northern democracies, the G8 today has grown in ambition to be the executive committee of the planet. Russia and more or less China have joined. South Africa is invited. India and Brazil turn up. Spain has a bigger GDP than Mexico but the Mexican president, Felipe Calderon is invited while Spain’s Prime Minister Zapatero sips Sangria in Madrid. The presence of Canada with the same size economy as South Korea which is not invited reinforces the dominance of the Euroatlantic Christian white powers.
But can the G8 provide world governance? Thirty years ago there were the capitalist democracies, the communist world, and the developing world. The G7 as it then was only had to worry about its own geographically small share of the world. Now everyone wants to take the capitalist road but not everyone wants to take the democratic road. Then, the problem was one of sharing out an unfair world economy. Now, as every citizen in China, India, Indonesia, Latin America and Africa expects the right to a car, to air conditioning, and to meat or fish in a daily meal, the fight is over core and dwindling resources like energy, raw materials, water, clean air, and food. It is not yet war but it is far from peace.
Ghandi noted that there is enough in the world for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed. Today the G8 has to find a politics that allows the world to satisfies its needs and stop the world being deformed by its greeds. And the greediest of nations are those that sit around the G8 table.
Take the United States which has refused any limit on the god-given right of Americans consume as much energy as they please. The US also rejects any international rules aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. Or take Germany which refuses to contemplate nuclear power in the hope that windmills will produce enough energy to turn turbines and provide heat, light and cooling at the flick of a switch.
China is now colonising Africa and refusing all appeals to help promote peace or democracy in the genocidal dictatorships of Sudan or Zimbabwe. If President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa lifted his finger, he could stop the mass murders, tyranny and torture in Zimbabwe and allow free elections to replace the dictator, Robert Mugabe. But he will not. China is stealing the world’s intellectual property. The biggest sales in Beijing during the Olympics will be fake Casio watches, counterfeit Mont Blanc pens, and imitation Ralph Lauren polo shirts.
Russia stops a peaceful resolution of the Balkans conflict by insisting Kosovo still belongs to Serbia and allows other disputes with Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova to keep alive tensions and conflicts instead of promoting a wider integration based on open markets and rule of law between the Atlantic and the Caucasus.
France’s President Sarkoy has launched an assault on the European Commission’s efforts to secure a world trade deal in the Doha round, insisting that the EU must "protect" its citizens from globalisation even as French multinational companies draw all their profits from an open world economy. Japan’s protectionist approach to agriculture helps keep the poor peasants of the world, unable to export their produce, in an abject condition.
Thus the G8’s narcissism of small differences. Each political leader is convinced that his national position is righteous and that national public opinion will not allow a greater sharing of sovereignty to promote common world solutions.
President George W Bush comes for his last G8. Prime Minister Yasuo Fakuda for his first. Nicholas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, Canada’s Stephen Harper all face sinking popularity in opinion polls at home.
Their citizens want less world and more nation. Barack Obama has talked more nation-first and protectionist rhetoric than any US leader since the 1930s. European voters are leery of giving more power to the EU. The United Nations is seen more and more as a remake of the League of Nations unable to impose its will anywhere in the world and blocked from offering a clear world lead by non-democratic China or neo-authoritarian Russia. The G8 leaders will have to confess they are reducing their promised aid to Africa. The armies of Nato are bleeding in Afghanistan with no answer to Islamist terrorism which has bases from Pakistan to Algeria with support for democracy-denying Islamist ideology in many parts of the world, including in the heart of Europe’s main cities.
Can the G8 plus other invited top nations find something more than lowest common denominator answers? Or is the world reverting to a network of competing nations each insisting it has the one shining truth and self-righteously tell the rest of the world go hang. Never has global leadership been more needed. Never has it been less on offer. Perhaps the Hokkaido G8 will be different. Don’t hold your breath.