Sunday, July 04, 2010

An influential voice pans the G8 & G20

Renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs writes in the Guardian today with his take on the G8/G20. He's very critical of the accountability track record of the G8 on development assistance, his principal critique of the weekend, but takes aim at the spectacle of the summits as well:
Hosting this year's G8 summit reportedly cost Canada a fortune, despite the absence of any significant results. The estimated cost of hosting the G8 leaders for a day and a half, followed by the G20 leaders for a day and a half, reportedly came to more than $1bn. This is essentially the same amount that the G8 leaders pledged to give each year to the world's poorest countries to support maternal and child health.

It is absurd and troubling to spend $1bn on three days of meetings under any circumstances (since there are much cheaper ways to have such meetings and much better uses for the money). But it is tragic to spend so much money and then accomplish next to nothing in terms of concrete results and honest accountability.

There are three lessons to be drawn from this sorry episode. First, the G8 as a group should be brought to an end. The G20, which includes developing countries as well as rich countries, should take over.

Second, any future promises made by the G20 should be accompanied by a clear and transparent accounting of what each country will do, and when. The world needs true accountability, not empty words about accountability. Every G20 promise should spell out the specific actions and commitments of each country, as well as the overall promise of the group.

Third, the world's leaders should recognise that commitments to fight poverty, hunger, disease, and climate change are life-and-death issues that require professional management for serious implementation.

The G20 meets later this year in South Korea, a country that has emerged from poverty and hunger over the past 50 years. South Korea understands the utter seriousness of the global development agenda, and the poorest countries' needs. Our best hope is that South Korea will succeed as the next host country, picking up where Canada has fallen far short.
That's quite a rebuke coming from Sachs ("...widely considered to be the leading international economic advisor of his generation.") Sachs is also the UN Secretary General's adviser on the Millennium Development Goals.

Useful international perspective on the success of these summits as we continue to deal with all the fallout.