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Ben Jackson

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Looking to 2013 and the UK Presidency of the G8

Posted: 05/19/2012 12:27 pm

This piece is part of a series of blogs by leading NGOs to call attention to a range of issues that should be raised at the G8 summit at Camp David in rural Maryland from May 18-19.

Even as we enter the final approach to the Camp David G8 summit, attention will begin to turn to the UK and its presidency of the group in 2013.

While it is too early to speculate about what the UK government will prioritize next year, and it's unlikely that it will publish any formal agenda until the end of this year, we do know that much has changed since the last UK presidency of the G8 in 2005. Back then, the leaders of seemingly strong G8 economies -- oblivious to the financial meltdown that lay three years ahead -- were pressed to focus on action on world poverty and African development by Make Poverty History. Will continuing economic problems close to home mean that world poverty simply cannot feature in the way it did at the 2005 summit? Well -- yes, and no.

For sure, the financial crisis catapulted into focus a longer-term shift in the balance of world economic power and geopolitics, with the G20 assuming the mantel of lead global body on world economic issues which the G8 used to claim. This has left questions about the added value of the G8 as a relevant forum for international agreement. For the G8 to continue as a relevant and meaningful forum, it will need to carve out a clear mandate for the group, one that complements other international processes and demonstrates its usefulness.

So what would this look like? On the one hand, the G8 governments -- despite their current economic woes -- still need to show that the richest nations take seriously their obligations to commit to concrete action to tackle global poverty. The world has not so changed that G8 governments can be allowed to turn away from their existing commitments and future responses to global challenges.

On the other, they need to show how such actions complement and support commitments made in other processes, such as the G20, and from one summit to the next. So, for example, we know that the U.S. is set to announce a new initiative on agriculture at the Camp David summit. In the work of carrying this initiative forward to next year, it will be important for the UK to increase its scope and level of ambition, ensuring that it reaches small-holder farmers, particularly women, and delivers local livelihoods and sustainable food security. The UK can also play an important role in coordinating the food security agendas of the G8 and G20 by working closely with the Russian presidency of the G20 in 2013 to ensure coherence between the two summits. Given that Russia will take the G8 chair in 2014, there is a clear route for agreeing a stream of work that would link the summits together to maximize their effectiveness and impact.

Another test of the G8's ability to demonstrate a continued -- if changed -- value in the wider global picture would be to intensify its focus on the delivery of existing commitments.

The U.S. will publish the second G8 accountability report just ahead of the Camp David summit and it is understood that it will focus on food security targets, such as those agreed upon at the L'Aquila 2008 G8 summit. The U.S. government's commitment to continue this initiative should be welcome, and next year the UK should seek to build on this report and ensure that key stakeholders such as developing countries and civil society are part of this process. This commitment to transparency and accountability is closely aligned with the Open Government Initiative, which the UK will chair into 2013, so we would expect the UK to take a leading role in elevating the theme of accountability in the G8 summit process.

Seven years ago saw the largest civil society campaign towards the G8, Make Poverty History. Eight year before, UK NGOs brought the Jubilee debt campaign to the door of the G8. While there will not be a repeat of Make Poverty History, as campaigns must be created for their time, UK NGOs will again be active in the lead-up and during 2013, putting pressure on the UK and other G8 countries to deliver their existing commitments and take meaningful action to tackle the injustice of global poverty that remains very much with us, even in a changing world.

Read more G8 news and blogs on HuffPost's G8 big news page.

 
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