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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

G8 Reform and the Heiligendamm Process

After 32 years of existence the G8 showed its ability to accommodate change. However the elite forum of industrialized countries today needs to deal with power shift in global relations towards emerging market countries. Without full participation of China, India and Brazil satisfactory answers to global problems cannot be found. Furthermore the Group of Eight looses output legitimacy since it is not fully capable to deal with new issues such as development needs or trade regimes.

A working paper by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) looks back on the history of the organisation. Furthermore it provides a comprehensive literature review of papers discussing G7/8 performance and reform proposals. The work is strongly focusing on the L20 initiative, which suggests turning the G20 forum of finance ministers into a group of 20 on leader’s level.

Nonetheless the L20 initiative involves a group which might be to big to function efficiently. Thus at the end of 2006 a new concept of a G14 emerged, including the current G8 plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa and Egypt. This is already close to the currently implanted format of the G8+5 (also known as G8 + outreach countries (O5)) which was also applied at the Heiligendamm Summit. Here, beside the G8, five emerging economies (China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa) were invited.

To enhance dialog with emerging economies the G8 summit in Heiligendamm agreed to lunch a new form of cooperation called the Heiligendamm Process. The process aims to find common solutions in the following areas:

  • „Promoting and protecting innovation;
  • Strengthening the freedom of investment by means of an open investment climate, including strengthening the principles of corporate social responsibility;
  • Determining joint responsibilities for development, focussing specifically on Africa;
  • Joint access to know-how to improve energy efficiency and technology co-operation, with the aim of contributing to reducing CO2 emissions.”

According to the summit website the dialogue is to be launched in the second half of 2007. The OECD is going to provide a platform for dialogue and a first process report will be presented at the 2008 G8 Summit in Japan.

In the latest issue of the magazine Development+Cooperation Jens Martens, director of the European Office of the Global Policy Forum, strongly criticises this approach. He argues that:

“[a]ccepting a few additional members into its ranks would not make the exclusive club of G8 nations more representative and transparent. In this respect, the G8’s attempt to commit the O5 countries to “joint responsibility for development, with particular attention on Africa” is strange. It looked as if old and new donors were staking their claims – indeed, without even consulting the African nations affected.”

Additionally Andrew F. Cooper associate director of the CIGI declares in the same magazine that it’s not even clear that the emerging economies are willing to stay associated with the G8.

“The G8’s future relevance – both in terms of making the global political architecture more inclusive and setting the international agenda – will depend on the O5 countries’ willingness and ability to participate. Such cooperation, however, may well be contingent on how this initiative fits into other complex negotiation processes through the UN and the WTO.“

Story by Martin Behrens

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