Mon, Jul 11, 2005 - Page 6 News List

G8: Will leaders hold true to their pledges?


Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN, center, with Bob Geldof, right, and Bono at the G8 summit on Friday.


Some might grumble, but the Gleneagles summit of the world's most powerful leaders produced more than most if not all previous G8 conclaves, political analysts say.

What remains to be seen, they add, is whether the eight top industrialized nations will hold true to their pledges -- however minimal some may see them -- on combating climate change and extreme poverty in Africa.

Much will hinge on the way that Russian President Vladimir Putin sets the agenda for the next Group of Eight gathering that he will host next year in Saint Petersburg. He has already staked out energy as a priority.

Key as well will be a string of critical dates already pencilled into the global diplomatic calendar.

The three-day summit at the posh Scottish golfing resort of Gleneagles wrapped up on Friday much the way its host Prime Minister Tony Blair wanted it to, despite the shock of the bomb attacks the day before in London that killed more than 50 people.

"We speak today in the shadow of terrorism, but it will not obscure what we came here to achieve," said Blair, flanked by his fellow leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US.

Significantly, each of the leaders signed, with a silver pen that glistened in the summer sun, a pledge to do more -- but not as much as many wished -- to help Africa through aid, trade and debt relief.

Publicly putting their names to promises is not G8 custom.

On climate change, the G8 reached beyond their bitter differences over the Kyoto Protocol, agreeing to open a dialogue with up-and-coming powers like China and India on curbing, then reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

"It's probably one of the best G8 meetings in ages," said Paola Subacchi of the Chatham House foreign policy institute in London as the leaders -- and their invited colleagues from Asia, Africa and Latin America -- headed home.

"The fact that these items have been discussed is, to me, a very important point. Obviously we have to see the following up, but everything worked according to the script," she said.

Blair, backed by his powerful finance minister Gordon Brown, invested huge political capital in getting the G8 to agree to debt cancellation for 18 poor countries and a doubling of development aid for Africa by 2010.

On fair trade, the best the G8 could do was to give a nod to their negotiators to pursue the issue at the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks at the end of the year.

They notably failed to set a date for an end to rich-country export subsidies which badly undercut African farmers -- not surprising, given the current row within the EU over the future of its Common Agricultural Policy.

Less than impressed was Make Poverty History, the coalition behind the pre-summit march in Edinburgh last weekend of more than 200,000 people demanding robust G8 action on Africa, in tandem with Live 8 concerts worldwide.

"Important steps have been taken, but more action is urgently needed," it said. "To secure a deserved place in history, the G8 must go a lot further and secure real change."

A gentler assessment came from pop star Bono, who with fellow singer Bob Geldof organized the global rock concert.

"The world spoke and the politicians listened," he said. "Now, if the world keeps an eye out, they will keep their promises."

On climate change, the World Wildlife Fund, among other groups, said the summit's plan for action -- looking beyond Kyoto's expiry in 2010 -- "moves neither forward nor back."

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