G8 leaders put terrorism, NEPAD and education on the agenda for Canada summit
On 26 June leaders of the G8 nations will gather in the western Canadian mountain resort of Kananaskis, dubbed the “Qatar of Canada” in reference to last year’s WTO meeting held in the isolated oil state. The stated summit priorities are the fight against terrorism, supporting the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD, see box), and reviewing progress towards the Millenium Development Goals.
Early agreement was reached by G8 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors during recent meetings in Washington to coordinate efforts against terrorist financing. The IMF and World Bank will “begin conducting financial sector assessments, incorporating reports on compliance with anti-money laundering and terrorism financing standards”. It is unclear what this will mean in terms of increased conditionality for recipients of Bretton Woods financing.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien has called NEPAD the “centerpiece of our agenda”. Northern government representatives met in Cape Town in February to begin negotiations on a G8 Africa Action Plan and a follow-up meeting will be held in Switzerland concurrently with the G8 summit. International institutions have rushed to show their support for the NEPAD initiative which has grown out of the World Bank-chaired Strategic Partnership with Africa. The UNDP has pledged support to improve country credit ratings, strengthen emerging stock exchanges and facilitate investment meetings. Private sector representatives from Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Chevron amongst others recently met to sign the ‘Dakar Declaration’ to “set up structures under which they can cooperate with NEPAD.” However, Ken Kweku of the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, described the Dakar business meeting as just a “talk shop”.
Support for the ‘Education for All’ initiative figures to feature prominently on the Summit agenda. A G8 taskforce on education issues has been created, the Canadian government pledging $CDN 555 million, a quadrupling of education investment, to the initiative. Worryingly however, the Canadian International Development Agency has highlighted the provision of “Canadian expertise”. A key point in the Global Campaign for Education, a network of NGOs lobbying for the ‘Education for All’ agenda, has been the insistence that aid should not be tied.
It is unclear whether the role of the G8 in influencing loan conditionalities will be discussed. At the meeting in Washington, Finance Ministers committed themselves to “linking greater contributions by developed nations to the adoption of good economic policies by developing countries.” The risk for developing countries is that the latter will be interpreted narrowly. In a recent paper, Carlos Santiso of John Hopkins University questioned whether the current emphasis on good governance will allow states “sufficient space to articulate their own development strategies and political development models.”
This issue will certainly be on the agenda outside the official meetings. Several events are being organized in the run-up to the Summit. From 21-25 June will be the G6B (G-six billion), a series of seminars on economic and social justice issues at the University of Calgary. During the conference days, the Council of Canadians and several other organizations will be organizing a ‘Solidarity Village’ at the site of the Summit itself. Participants will be wary after the death of a protestor at the last G8 meeting in Genoa, and the performance of Canadian police during APEC demonstrations in Vancouver.
G8 Education Taskforce Consultation with Civil Society (Global Campaign for Education)
University of Toronto’s G7 Information Centre (also Carlos Santiso’s Governance Conditionality and the Reform of Multilateral Development Finance: The role of the G8)
NEPAD – African Renaissance?
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development is a pledge by African leaders “to eradicate poverty and to place their countries on a path of sustainable growth and development”. The plan will attempt to integrate existing bilateral and multilateral financing programmes, staking its success on “the building of a strong and competitive economy as the world moves towards greater liberalisation and competition.”
Despite enthusiastic support from governments and the international business community, civil society reaction to the initiative has been mixed. Most commentators have lauded the initiative’s attempt to forge a new relationship with development partners, and its focus on African ownership and self-reliance. Critics find, however, that practice falls far short of rhetoric. Third World Network charges that the ‘new relationship’ represents little more than a rehashing of neo-liberalism. Despite the language of ownership, Trevor Ngwane, Soweto Local Councillor, has said that “no civic society, church, political party, parliament or democratic body was consulted in Africa”. Ngwane’s views reflect the attitude of the Bamako Declaration, made at the African Social Forum in Mali in January, where there was a consensus against the NEPAD initiative.
NEPAD = SAP + GATS + DSB, Yash Tandon, TWN
Should African social movements be part of NEPAD? Trevor Ngwane