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.
You may not know anything about the G8, but if you've been moved to purchase a RED Starbuck's card or write a check to an organization working to end world hunger, improve the health of mothers and infants or to educate orphans you have a vested interest in what the G8 does at its annual summits.
The G8 countries provide the lion's share of foreign assistance, so they greatly influence the global development agenda -- which is why keeping them accountable for their promises matters.
If everything goes according to plan, none of the heads of state attending the 38th annual G8 summit will leave Camp David a penny poorer than when they arrived. A big switch from the 2005 Gleneagles summit, when G8 leaders agreed to a breathtaking batch of commitments ranging from slashing African debt and doubling development assistance to promising universal access to AIDS prevention and treatment -- all in five years' time.
A retreat from the days of bold G8 commitments may be distressing, but would it be any better if the promises were still made without the commitments being kept? Even before the global economy went into the ditch, the G8 had commitment issues.
That is why as the Gleneagles commitments were under discussion, trade unions and a small group of civil society allies working on AIDS issues began lobbying the G8 to create a permanent accountability mechanism. Four years later the last vestiges of opposition relented and the G8's Accountability Working Group (AWG) was formed. The next year the Muskoka Accountability Report -- the most comprehensive to date -- was released at the 2010 G8 summit. Commendable progress certainly, but the G8 has more work to do.
Topping the agenda is the need for transparency. Organizations like InterAction and their global allies have been pressing the G8 for needed improvements to make the accountability process more accessible. It makes sense for G8 development discussions to be informed by the affected countries, UN agencies, and organizations like Care and Save the Children, who are often called on to do the work. The G8 can begin by releasing an annual meeting schedule of its working groups and disclosing who it relies on for information and advice.
The G8 Accountability Reports could be strengthened considerably if the Accountability Working Group adopted a consistent approach to tapping outside expertise. Governments already rely on the highly regarded assessments of group's like ONE, an advocacy organization fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Why not open up the process?
These are just sensible steps the G8 can take to make sure its promises matter. The real test of any successful G8 summit is not a communiqué peppered with promises, but whether its commitments are kept. Many of us think the G8's leaders should be doing more at Camp David, but the least they can do is to finish what they have started. They can do this and still return home not a penny poorer than when they left.
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