The discussion of the Shadow G-8 meeting centered on four themes: climate change, global imbalances, promoting growth and reducing poverty in the developing world (especially in Africa), and global governance. Two themes ran through much of the discussion. First, many of the actions of the advanced industrial countries have had, and continue to have, adverse consequences on developing countries—countries that make up some 80% of the world’s population. These actions often impose unacceptably high levels of risk on developing countries. We must address these issues if we want to achieve long-term sustainable global
growth with responsibility, but addressing these issues is also a moral imperative. And if we are to effectively address these issues, we need to reform our systems of global governance. Second, the effectiveness of the G-8 process (or the reformed process described below) requires more continuity over time, including monitoring the extent to which commitments are lived up to. While the strength of the G-8 process lies in its informality, this aspect may have to be institutionalized. There is an in-built bias against continuity: each leader is more interested in creating a new agenda and leaving his or her mark than in seeing the fulfi llment of an agenda that was set at a prior meeting. It is this personal involvement that provides some of the vitality of the G-8, but the problems of the world are too complex to be resolved in one-year efforts.
The Role of the G-8 and the Creation of a G-N
The G-8 can, and on occasions has, played an important role in addressing issues of global concern. Indeed its actual and potential infl uence is why so much attention is focused on these annual meetings of the world’s economically most powerful
countries. The informal discussions allow the leaders to develop a better under standing of each others’ perceptions of these problems and the constraints they face, and to break bottlenecks that may have hindered progress. The attempt to forge a consensus, articulated through an agreed communiqué, may, however, be counterproductive. In diverse democracies, sometimes progress can be more effectively achieved by striving for large elements of common ground, but recognizing and respecting the existence of divergences in viewpoints.
Furthermore, in today’s globalized world, many of the most important problems can only be addressed by more global participation: this is obvious in several of the issues that are at the center of discussion today—global warming and global
imbalances. The G-8 is no longer the appropriate forum for these issues. Indeed, the discussions may be counterproductive: their positions can be seen as the stances of the wealthiest industrial countries to advance their interests at the expense of others. While inviting (even on a regular basis) some other countries to participate in some of the discussion might be seen as a step in the right direction, it too may actually be counterproductive—it can become a two tier system that reflects global inequities of the past and imposes responsibilities on the new semi-members of the club for decisions and positions in which they did not fully participate.
There needs to be a new forum, a G-N, in which leaders of the advanced industrial countries, middle income countries, and developing countries can gather together, to discuss informally the major issues facing the world. This should be a small enough gathering that there can be meaningful exchange, yet a large enough gathering that discussions can adequately refl ect the diversity of circumstances and perspectives that exist in today’s world.1 This group would help identify key issues on which global action was required and help set in motion initiatives involving informal groupings of variable size and membership.2 The G-8 meeting should set in motion plans for the fi rst G-N meeting in the summer of 2008.
The group discussed a number of possibilities for how the G-N members might be selected. See the summary
by Professor Griffith-Jones.
The formation of recent groupings within the WTO to address the multiple issues on the agenda is an example of this “variable geometry.” For instance, a grouping to address the variety of issues in aid should include not only the G-8 but the large donors in Northern Europe, the only countries that have lived up to their aid commitments.