Errant European

Michael Jackson’s televised funeral farewell turned out to be rather dignified, surprising those who expected the worst from a crowd of fanatical fans. But that doesn’t mean I approve of the time the world spent on this distraction.

So far, the G8 summit in L’Aquila has produced photo ops galore for host Silvio Berlusconi, and we’ve been spared the promised release of compromising photos of the Italian PM with his “Lolita harem.” So far. Is this supposed to make us happy?

I wish the leaders gathered in the ruined Italian city well, and give them credit for saying responsible things concerning climate change. But consensus of eight of the world’s two hundred plus countries, even though they be eight of the richest, is not nearly enough. I’ve said it before: it’s time to can the G8 in favour of the G20.

The members of the G8 know that they are not representative of the world. They keep inviting other countries to add voices from the South – the G5 has weighed in with its own formulations – and Berlusconi himself has been talking of a “G14.

I have friends who have been intimately involved in the organisation of prior G8 summits, and much credit goes to them and other “Sherpas” who do the hard preparatory work which is the essence of these meetings. But just like Nepali Sherpas who do the drudgery of hauling mountain climbers’ loads up to the summit in the Himalayas, once the photos are taken and the ink dries on the summit communique, the Sherpas and their bosses head back home. And resume preparations for the following G8: 2010 in Huntsville, Ontario, where they will experience “the warm hospitality of Muskokans,” according to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in this “jewel in the Canadian Shield.” The PM added that summits (this will be Canada’s fifth as host) are good for the local economy (to the tune of $300 million).

No doubt that consideration was uppermost in Berlusconi’s mind when he switched the venue of this year’s summit to L’Aquila from the Sardinian town of La Maddalena, but not before spending some €300 million (a stimulus package or “the G8’s legacy to the island”) needlessly.

There is always a tendency in international organisations to create steering groups. In NATO, the big four of the US, UK, France, and Germany will often meet to set the outlines of Alliance action, and within the EU, similar – if shifting – groupings among the biggest countries try to move the institution. But with the advent of last April’s London G20 meeting, in the aftermath of the world’s richest countries leading the way to global impoverishment, the G8 met its logical – if unacknowledged – end state. This unrepresentative group has no credentials with which to “steer” the rest of the world.

So, PM Harper, here’s your chance: make Huntsville the venue for a change-of-command ceremony, the G8 handing over the reins to the G20, and giving the institution a small but permanent secretariat, so that those Sherpas can have a home away from home.

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  1. I got a great inward chuckle out of the idea of the G8 in the Muskokas. My image of the muskokas looks something like this… Family camping, poison ivy, canoeing, the world’s smallest but freshest perch, and an unforgettable annual watermelon seed spitting competition.

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