Global economic recovery and food security are expected to be major topics at this weekend’s G8 summit. Leaders will gather at a short, scaled-down version of their annual meeting at Camp David in Maryland.
John Kirton, co-founder of the G8 Research Group, said the summit may be brief, but also significant.
“The G7 leaders, together with Dmitry Medvedev from Russia, will be meeting to deal with the latest eruption of the Euro crisis coming out of the elections in Greece and of course the election in France that put into power Francois Hollande from the Socialist Party,” he said.
The election results have been viewed as voters expressing anger over austerity measures put in place during the global recession. The Euro crisis, and especially Greece’s economic woes, have affected financial markets around the world and threaten to slow economic recovery.
Kirton said, “What the G8 leaders are going to have to do is really sit down for the first time with President Hollande – many of the leaders are meeting him for the first time – and say, look, just how much flexibility do you have to move away from your campaign promises and work with us to come up with a credible strategy that will convince voters, convince markets, that finally Europe will stave off the markets attacking it’s bonds?”
A strategy, Kirton said, that must deal with both debt and economic growth.
However, how far can Hollande go without breaking his campaign promises to concentrate on growth rather than austerity? He succeeded Nicolas Sarkozy, who had a close working relationship with German leader Angela Merkel.
:We’ve already seen from his meeting with Angela Merkel of Germany that she has signaled some flexibility. Hollande has shown a real desire to work with Germany, and then to have a united front that they can take to the very traumatized people in Greece to find a solution to the current crisis that everyone faces,” he said.
But while economics may dominate the G8 summit, Kirton says the recurring issue of food security will also be addressed. President Obama has invited African leaders from Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania to discuss the matter.
“Well, I think they’ll get their full share of what is a very short summit, so several hours. The African leaders have been brought in just to deal with the food security issue. And of course they’ll be showing that dialogue respectively with leaders of private sector corporations, who have been also on the forefront of meeting the food security challenges in Africa [in] a new way,” he said.
The African leaders are expected to explain how home-grown programs are helping to ensure their countries’ food security.
In 2009, at the L’Aquila Summit in Italy, leaders, led by President Obama, pledged $22 billion for agricultural investment. Kirton doubts a similar initiative will be approved this time. Instead, he says, G8 leaders could support local African initiatives, while following through on their L’Aquila commitment.
“So the job of the Camp David Summit,” said Kirton, “is to make sure that that promise made has now been a promise kept and then to turn to the task of accountability. Have all the countries actually delivered the money? Is it being disbursed? Is it being disbursed to the intended recipient? Is it being disbursed in the proper way and in a way that actually works to produce the intended results?”
Many humanitarian groups are calling on the G8 to renew its commitment to food security to reduce hunger and poverty – and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, which come due in 2015.