Tuesday 7 July 2009

Is the G8 still relevant?

Just days before the G8 summit, L'Aquila is still being rebuilt.

The central Italian town - still recovering from April's deadly earthquake - will host the leaders of the world eight's leading industrialised countries, the UK, U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

Some analysts and leaders are asking if the G8 should also be rebuilt.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seen here at the G20 meeting in London in April - said the G8 was dead.

And James Walston, a political commentator from the American University of Italy agrees with her.

James Walston, Political commentator at American University of Italy, saying:

"It was very clear with the G20 in London in April that the real business of organising the world came from a much bigger group than the G8. So they're going to have to today rebuild or reinvent the G8."

But even as analysts discuss the G8's relevance - they are looking to see if the leaders can find solutions for some truly global problems.

Take the global economic downturn.

Here's James Walston again.

James Walston, Political commentator at American University of Italy, saying:

"If they can agree on how they are going to approach the actual nuts and bolts of regulating financial markets, that'll be a great achievement. If they can work out some sort of guidelines for energy ministers - not just the G8 but OPEC countries and China and the other producers - of how we're going to regulate oil prices."

Aid for Africa and other developing countries - has been the focus of previous summits.

Irish singer and anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof recently berated the summit's host, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for cutting Italy's aid budget.

And aid organisations are worried rich countries will reduce their aid donations further during the global economic downturn.

Livia Zoli, Head of policy and lobby unit, Actionaid's Right to food programme, saying:

"We are convinced that it's not a problem of having actually the money, it's just a problem of political will, it's not something that is politically relevant today and we have such a big problem as the financial crisis which just gives us a lot of unemployment and poverty in our houses."

There's scepticism over what the G8 leaders can actually achieve during the summit here in L'Aquila.

But it's also unclear whether a revamped G8 would be any more effective.

Joanna Partridge, Reuters

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