The G-8 Summit held in Scotland last week was fraught with many ups and downs. Following is a brief review of what transpired –
Angry radical protesters which included youth groups, peace protesters, anti-capitalists, anarchists, anti-globalization campaigners and environmental activists fought running battles with the police as leaders of the world's richest nations gathered in
the Gleneagles estate, in Scotland, the G-8 summit. The dominant theme of the three-day summit was alleviation of poverty from Africa and climate change. Despite one of the biggest security operations, violence erupted as activists of "anarchist'' groups attacked
shops and businesses they regarded as "symbols'' of unbridled globalization. Several protesters and police officers were injured, and a number of arrests were made. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is hosting the gathering and has pushed Africa to the top of
the agenda, faced accusations of exploiting the issue of poverty in Africa to improve his international image battered by the events in Iraq. At the same time Iraq war allies US President George W. Bush and Tony Blair found themselves advocating rival positions.
Bush defended his handling of Iraq and the treatment of prisoners at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. He sought less aid for Africa than Blair wanted, and leveled renewed criticism at the Kyoto treaty on global warming. Bush also said he recognized that
human activity had contributed to climate change - a concession from an earlier position that the jury was still out on such a connection. But he stood by his rejection of the Kyoto treaty on global warming, calling instead for more cooperation on cleaner
fuels. ``Kyoto didn't work for the United States and it frankly didn't work for the world. The reason it didn't work for the world was that developing nations weren't included,'' Bush said. The United States is the only G-8 member not to ratify the agreement,
which took effect in February. Bush shows no signs of budging from his view that it would harm the world economy to force cutbacks on greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush administration wants voluntary reductions, incentives for alternative fuels such as ethanol,
and nuclear power and conservation.
Then as the summit started the news of the London bomb blasts came through forcing Mr. Blair to leave the Summit and return to London. Meanwhile, the governments of Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa held their mini-summit at Gleneagles and came
up with an interesting enough Joint Declaration. It called for providing "a greater voice to developing countries in U.N. decision-making," promoting "multilateralism," enhancing North-South cooperation, and a renewed commitment to "sustainable development
and the harnessing of the benefits of globalization for all." It also reaffirmed "the role of South-South cooperation in the context of multilateralism" and committed the five large developing countries to "close coordination and cooperation to meet the challenges
arising from globalization, and to promote the common interest of developing countries by striving to more effectively bring together our priorities and international engagement strategies." While the issues of mass hunger and poverty in the developing world
at large did not get anything like the focus African poverty has got in the Summit and in the run-up to it, it raised trade issues connected with barriers to products and services of interest to developing countries and spotlighted the "fundamental requirement"
of achieving "substantive progress, by the end of July 2005, regarding agricultural negotiations, access to non-agricultural markets, services, trade facilitation and rules." It demanded a reduction in "trade-distorting" domestic support for agriculture in
developed countries, and an end to all forms of export subsidies by a date to be agreed. On the gamut of issues relating to climate change, the Joint Declaration highlighted the key point that the international regime represented by the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol rest on "the differentiation of obligations among Parties," according to "the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities of States," namely the developed as distinct from the developing
countries. It will be tough sailing for the informally banded group of five in a world where the Bush administration, and like-minded developed country governments, refuse to accept any such dictum.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a strong pitch at the G8 summit for converting environmentally clean technologies into a “public good” — to be shared without the restrictions of the Intellectual Property Rights regime. He said technology was available today
for eradicating poverty, ill health and protecting the environment but unless “proper mechanisms” were developed, the benefits would not reach the developing countries. Clean energy technologies that would prevent global warming by not generating greenhouse
gases such as carbon dioxide needed to be shared, Singh said. For this, he argued, the international community needed to address the issues relating to intellectual property rights, find new financing mechanisms for spreading the use of new clean energy technologies
in the developing world and collaborative international research in environmentally sustainable technologies on the same scale as was done in the field of agriculture in the 60s. He has reiterated that the G8’s action plan on the environment must not come
at the cost of development. But he has much more clearly articulated the core value that the G8 should take into consideration. It would be tragic if the G8 were to enact measures that made it difficult for millions of people to lift themselves out of poverty.
At a very abstract level, it is easy to pronounce that the care of the environment and reduction in poverty can go together. But the concrete measures that are often proposed in the name of protecting the environment have repercussions for developing countries.
These measures diminish their comparative cost advantages and often act as a non-tariff barrier against greater exports. The implication of the prime minister’s intervention is to direct our attention to the concrete costs and benefits of specific measures.
He has taken a leadership role is asserting that developing countries will make these trade-offs on their own terms. But the other implication of the prime minister’s stance is that mere development alone cannot be a paramount value in judging the impact of
environmental measures. The argument about development is often used indiscriminately to block any sane discussion on the environment. But development as an argument is justified only if its relation with poverty reduction is made clear. This stance is also
consistent with some of the other demands India has put forward — like the relaxation of intellectual property rights in the case of specified new technologies and the dissemination of affordable technology. In each of the cases the core value of reducing
poverty is paramount. In fact by stressing poverty reduction, the prime minister has cut through some of the polarities that have marked recent debates. The choice between developing versus developed countries, environment versus growth, intellectual property
rights versus a regime without such rights, big versus small technology, is simply a false choice. The issue is simply which elements of these different positions will help the poor and which won’t. But to be swayed by a dogmatic allegiance to one side of
the argument will almost certainly not help the poor.