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Editor’s blog – Russia is to host G8 but the summit is ‘not fit for purpose’ in the 21st century

By Dean Carroll

The luxurious resort, the five-star meals, the expensive suits, the million dollar smiles and the obligatory family photo shoot to conclude proceedings. It can only be the G8, which we now learn is to be hosted by Russia next in Sochi, in June. What with all the fanfare and media frenzy that always surrounds the Group of Eight conference, the question never asked is – why does a collective, which is supposed to include the world’s leading economies, operate without the likes of China, India and Brazil?

Is Italy, a G8 stalwart, really a more important global player than these emerging giants? Not to mention the CIVETS – Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa. In addition, MIST – Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey – and the Next Eleven – Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, South Korea and Vietnam – have been identified by Goldman Sachs as having the potential to become key players in the 21st century. Some have even talked of a G100 meeting eventually becoming the norm. Recently, the legendary BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China – acronym inventor Jim O’Neill came up with another: MINT for Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.

One thing is for sure. It makes no sense to talk fine words about tax transparency and other pertinent issues solely among the G8 when the rest of the world is not part of the conversation. Hoping for other nations simply to follow suit as if by osmosis, when they have not even been part of the dialogue, suggests a certain arrogance. Developed nations in the West, and the intergovernmental organs they dominate, have failed to keep pace with geopolitical power shifts towards the East when it comes to membership, voting rights and so on.

The United Nations, World Bank, G8, World Trade Organisation and more are all guilty of the same sin. All are living in the past. The world has moved on from Bretton Woods. Trying to maintain the fragile and toothless status quo of Western dominance just will not do in what some scholars are predicting will be the Asian century.

A stubborn adherence to the way things were may give Western leaders a warm feeling inside every time they meet for some fine dining at international summits. But it certainly will not result in any practical or workable solutions to global problems. As things stand, our intergovernmental organisations are not fit for purpose. Even when something bold and radical is agreed, the participants quickly row back on the commitments after the favourable headlines have been won and the last summit truffle digested.

Once the enormity of the task ahead comes into view and it dawns on summit participants that they have no jurisdiction over the scores of other countries not in the room when negotiations are taking place, all we are left with is a bad taste in the mouth. Just try to remember one recent G8 triumph, if you can. One morsel of progress that makes all the cost and the glad-handing worthwhile. It is probable that you will be unable to put your finger firmly on even a single win.

So let us stop the pretence now. The G8 can solve precisely nothing in isolation. As long as they continue to alienate themselves from the emerging powers, such international groupings will be found wanting. Enjoy the glistening spectacle of the G8 following the Sochi Winter Olympics but just remember it is nothing more than that – a triumph of style over substance.

Dean Carroll is editor of Policy Review. Follow him on Twitter @poljourno and follow Policy Review @Policyrev

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