Inside the G-8: Inaction and Unresolved Issues

Like thousands of other activists who went home from Genoa dissatisfied, Neil Watkins had little good to say about the G8 leaders who engaged in summitry there. As project coordinator with the Center for Economic Justice, he returned to Washington and went right back to work, denouncing "the failure of the G-8 to cancel the debt of the poorest countries and respond to the protesters' call to stop policies that are causing global economic apartheid."

Debt cancellation was a key demand in the streets of Genoa -- where, Watkins noted, "the largest anti-corporate globalization protests yet took place." The movement has been buoyed by the influx of many young people.

Adam Taylor, the Boston-based executive director of a new student organization called Global Justice, speaks passionately about the debt issue -- and disparages President Bush's recent calls for the World Bank to increase the amount of grants made to developing countries. "That rings hollow," Taylor says, "since the U.S. gives the least of all the wealthy countries. About 0.1 percent of our GDP goes to foreign assistance."

The White House response to the AIDS crisis also angers Taylor: "The $200 million pledged by the administration for the UN Global Health Fund so far is a pittance of what is needed and sends the wrong signal to other potential donors. AIDS exposes other deeper inequalities our world is faced with, including a lack of respect for human rights, deepening poverty and debt."

Maneuvering inside global economic structures such as the World Trade Organization, the U.S. government is holding back vital progress on dire health-related problems, many activists contend.

"At a recent WTO meeting," says Health Gap Coalition staffer Paul Davis, "almost all rich nations joined with the countries of the South in asking the WTO to reform its drug monopoly rules so that affordable generics could quickly become available to address the devastation caused by the AIDS epidemic. The representative of Pope John Paul stated that 'The law of profit alone cannot be applied to that which is essential for the fight against hunger, disease and poverty. Hence, whenever there is a conflict between property rights, on the one hand, and fundamental human rights and concerns of the common good, on the other, property rights should be moderated...' Only the U.S. opposed this."

Meanwhile, critics say the G-8 and the economic elites it represents are refusing to come to terms with current realities. Ellen Frank, a professor of economics at Emmanuel College in Boston, told the Institute for Public Accuracy in mid-July: "The U.S. is sliding into a recession, Europe is stagnant, Japan is in a depression. Argentina and other major developing countries face debt problems that are insurmountable without a coordinated international response."

Frank added: "We sit on the brink of a serious world economic crisis that will require imaginative and thoroughgoing policy coordination between the major countries. But the political will to undertake such serious action seems nowhere in evidence. The leaders of the G-8 will likely agree to write off a few more billion dollars in already-bad loans to the poorer nations, but they are unlikely to fully address the serious economic issues before us -- the collapse of world demand, the irrational and speculative financial system, environmental problems of a global nature."

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