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PH Opinion

PH Opinion


Views and comment from Westminster

David Cameron: I will get things done at the G8 summit

The Prime Minister writes exclusively for PoliticsHome about his priorities for the G8.

Camp David is a very special place. From the time when Winston Churchill became the first foreign leader to visit in 1943, it has been the site of some of the most important political discussions of the past two generations. And it is the perfect venue for the kind of free-flowing and personal interaction that leaders need.

The fact is the summits of the past had become overblown. The intentions were good. Big announcements were made. But too often the good intentions did not translate into real action. The costs, the disruption and the long Communiqués were out of line with the outcomes. And the G8 itself looked out of touch when the world’s fastest growing economies were not at the table.

So it is right that the G20 was developed to focus on economic co-operation with a new group of the leading economies. But the G8 still has a vital role as an organisation established by a group of nations that share a commitment to free institutions, free markets and free societies. As such it is a good forum for leading nations to give proper strategic consideration to the economic ties that bind us and we will of course be discussing how a stable and successful eurozone is an essential part of supporting the global recovery. We will also discuss the big foreign policy and security challenges we face and how we can work together to improve the future of the poorest. The task now is to free ourselves from the baggage and bureaucracy of past summits and actually get things done.

Muskoka was the first step on that road, including an initiative on maternal health that could save as many as 1.3 million lives. We took another big stride forward at Deauville when we focused our efforts on responding to the historic uprisings of the Arab Spring and sought to harness the power of social media through the e-G8. Camp David will take us further towards a new kind of Summit.

We have a lot to talk about. There are four things I want to see us accomplish at this Summit.

With families across the world struggling with the impact of oil prices and a fragile global economy, we must renew our joint efforts to support growth, financial stability and energy security. And we must work together to give the world economy the one big stimulus that would really make a difference: an expansion of trade freedoms - breaking down the barriers to world trade and getting global trade moving again. Where there are coalitions of the willing, we need to seize the opportunities to forge ahead with ambitious deals. So I will be pushing for progress on the trade deals that the EU is pursuing with three of our G8 partners - Japan, Canada and the US. Together, the EU and US account for almost a third of global trade, so a deal with the US could potentially be bigger than all the other EU trade deals on the table. As leaders of some of the world’s largest economies have a role in driving this forward. That’s why I want us to use our time at Camp David, and at the G20 Summit and European Council next month, to make progress so we can launch negotiations next year.

Second, we must support the march of democracy and freedom as the best basis for stability and prosperity around the world. Since we met last year, there have been free elections in Tunisia and Egypt. Qadhafi has fallen. Saleh has left power. And most recently of all, in Burma we have seen the courage and quiet dignity of Aung San Suu Kyi inspiring the beginnings of democracy. Of course, progress on economic and political reform remains difficult and the risks from Syria and Iran in particular are grave. But the trend towards more open and accountable systems is clear. Those who deny this reality will end up on the wrong side of history. The G8 must continue to show real leadership and creativity in finding ways to support successful transitions.

Third, Afghanistan. This year’s NATO Summit will confirm the timetable for the handover of security responsibility to the Afghans and the withdrawal of ISAF from combat operations by the end of 2014. We are now looking for real political leadership as we head to the Chicago summit and the Tokyo conference. Today the G8 accounts for four-fifths of the donor funding now going to the region. We must encourage other countries to step up and contribute to the future of Afghanistan, irrespective of the role they have played so far.

Fourth, development. Every nation must make a renewed effort to meet its aid commitments. But that alone is not enough. We need to make sure our aid reaches those that need it most, and offers a hand-up, not a hand-out. In doing so, we must focus on achieving measurable results like schooling and vaccinations, and supporting investment in food and farming to tackle hunger and malnutrition. That is why it is right that the G8 this year is focusing on food security in Africa, a shared commitment to sustained and inclusive economic growth for agriculture, helping give people the tools they need to become self-sufficient.

And that is why going forward I want to see the G8 taking a broader approach to development. To be successful, aid must also be used to support the underlying enablers of growth, what I call the golden thread of development: the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, the rights of individuals, a free media, free association, strong political parties and a proper, rich civil society. That means rooting out corruption, making sure people's right to own land and property is protected, and promoting the rule of law so people know that contracts can be relied on. And it means using aid to help the poorest nations stimulate the private-sector to create jobs for their people and sustainable, equitable growth for their economies.

I want to make the best of the strengths of the G8 when the UK takes over the Presidency in 2013. That means giving space for Leaders to build the personal relationships that lead to political agreement. And it means enabling frank discussions on the issues that matter most for our security and prosperity. From our commitments to support the reform movements of the Arab Spring and help the poorest to lift themselves out of poverty, to the resolve to return our own economies to strong and sustainable growth, I am convinced that a focused, results-oriented G8 can be a powerful force for good in an ever more complex and challenging world.


Comment: War Child

The Prime Minister cannot be expected to have covered all bases in a short article and it is therefore all the more relieving and encouraging to see the aid agenda so prominently addressed. His opinion-piece sets out an ambitious agenda and a series of almost-innovative ways to reach it: but it fails to propose any of the innovative solutions that would turn something passive into something active and harness David Cameron's wish to, "actually get things done". Some brave and unorthodox thinking is needed to make strides that match up to the uncertainty and violence that hamper progress and thereby each of the primary goals upon which the G8 prides itself.

Read a full response from War Child here.

Comment: Ben Jackson, chief executive, Bond

While the G8 this year will rightly focus on the immediate challenges within the global economy, it is encouraging that the Prime Minister is also committed to the G8's long-standing focus on development and we look forward to this be a principle part of the UK's G8 next year.

The world has changed significant since the UK last hosted the G8 in 2005 - shifting geopolitics and the economic crisis have elevated the status, remit and mandate of the G20 leaving questions about the added value of the G8 as a relevant forum for international agreements. For the G8 to continue as a meaningful forum for leaders, it will need to carve-out a clear mandate for the group, one that complements others international processes and demonstrates its usefulness. And while the new, informal summit format lends itself to more frank discussions, with a focus on ‘issues of the day', G8 leaders should also consider using the opportunity created by the gathering to make progress on a rolling-agenda of core issues.

Read a full response from Bond here.

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