“Seeming to care about Africa was last year’s business, this year we don’t have to pretend and we’re getting back to our usual concerns.” If the G8 leaders were honest, that would be their assessment of this year’s agenda.
Their discussion will centre on carving up energy markets and on “combating terrorism”. The US and Britain will sympathise with Russia’s president Putin about the revolt in Chechnya, and he will sympathise about their problems in Iraq.
In truth the G8 is not the place where the most important decisions are made. The ongoing World Trade Organisation talks are far more significant for global capitalism.
And the IMF and the World Bank police the debt system and impose structural adjustment on the Third World more directly than the G8 can do.
Rising powers such as China, India and Brazil will be absent. Nonetheless, the G8 does act as a caucus for a key section of the world’s elite.
That is why they are so keen to trumpet the alleged success of their debt, trade and aid decisions last year. And they pretend to accountability - hence Blair’s selection of UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof and Nigeria’s President Obasanjo to sit on a panel to monitor the G8’s progress since Gleneagles.
As Peter Hardstaff, head of policy at the World Development Movement, says, “Tony Blair is picking his own panel to hold himself accountable for his own promises. Why not just keep the promises instead?
“We are tired of world leaders heaping praise on Make Poverty History while simultaneously stabbing us in the back by breaking their promises.
“The panel was designed to distract attention from the fact that Tony Blair is already breaking the promises he made last year and that those pledges were themselves inadequate.
“There is a real danger that keeping the G8’s pledges becomes an end in itself. Yet even if all the pledges are kept they will still fall well short of the measures necessary to meet the UN’s millennium development goals.
“We have seen numerous panels and monitoring bodies in the past. None of them have made the G8 any more likely to keep their promises. Just an endless cycle of commission, pledge, failure and back to commission again.
“Only massive public pressure will ensure that rich countries are held to account for their actions.
“For the past 30 years the G8 has played a fundamental role in directing the global economy - pushing free trade, deregulation and privatisation on the world’s poor. This has created massive poverty.
“Nothing in either the Gleneagles declaration or the remit of this new panel does anything to change this agenda.”
In March, Britain announced that its aid budget has increased from 0.36 percent of national income in 2004 to 0.48 percent in 2005.
However, if the major debt relief initiatives for Nigeria and Iraq are subtracted, British aid fell to 0.33 percent of national income.
The G8’s Gleneagles declaration stated that, “It is up to developing countries to take the lead on development. They need to decide, plan and sequence their economic policies to fit with their own development strategies, for which they should be accountable to all their people.”
Despite this, no move was made by the G8 to stop the IMF and World Bank imposing economic policies such as privatisation as a condition of debt cancellation.
The bitterness felt by many of the hundreds of thousands who took part in Make Poverty History’s activities is summed up by the World Development Movement’s latest initiative.
It asks supporters to “cut in half a white wristband (or a strip of paper with Make Poverty History written on it) and send it to Tony Blair.
“The broken band symbolises how rich countries are breaking their promises to Make Poverty History.
“He was correct to say economic strings should no longer be attached to UK aid, but that more debt relief will be delayed and aid wasted if the IMF and World Bank keep forcing the same failed free market policies on poor countries.
“There is no point preaching democracy while taking away people’s right to decide their own economic policies.”
For details of the G8 since Gleneagles go to www.wdm.org.uk