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Analytical Studies

Preliminary Assessment of the Human Context of the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit

George M. von Furstenberg
Robert Bendheim Chair in Economic and Financial Policy, Fordham University, New York City
as of Sunday, July 23, at 14h00

Rather than going item by item, this report will assess changes in the general approach taken at the summit compared with earlier summits. With the satisfactory state of the world economy and the absence of financial crises, the G8 communiquÈ has very little to say on truly global issues that are influenced mostly by the G8 and their own economic performance. Instead, its focus is on reaching out, on including more countries and people and on a multidimensional conception of how to make the engagement with developing countries more fruitful.

Although the communiquÈ itself still lists issues separately, the spirit of the document is to see them conditioning each other. For instance, instead of an almost exclusive focus on debt relief and financial transfers, there is now a much greater appreciation that effective development requires coordinated efforts on several fronts and continuous engagement with developing countries on many levels. This is partly because the emphasis has shifted away from financial flows and physical capital investment to information flows and human capital investment. Health and education are supported by information technology, which then supports coordinated development and technology catch-up with the most advanced countries. Conflict resolution and the prevention of conflicts, particularly in developing countries, in turn are preconditions for those countriesí ability to process debt relief and other forms of aid effectively.

A humanistic dimension has been added to the productivity and profit-oriented private-sector approaches that had received greater emphasis in past summit communiquÈs. For instance, the benefits of IT are described as helping the poorest and those disadvantaged in the world economy to catch up. But there is even a mention of improving the quality of life for the elderly through including them in the IT revolution. A strong focus on a shared quality of life and on improvement in human resources, and in the conditions of governance under which people live, permeates the communiquÈ.

The three announced themes of the summit, repeated in the communiquÈ, have all been subtly transformed: The first, prosperity, has changed into shared prosperity, i.e., solidarity. The second, peace of mind, involves not only traditional military security issues but also new issues such as cybercrime and the potential risks from bioengineering, genetically modified foods and other untested developments that could directly affect humans. The third issue, stability, has taken on almost an entirely political meaning at a time when the worldís economy is temporarily in balance. Thus societal values and multidimensional approaches to improving the human condition have become the chief underlying theme at the summit and one that correlates well, at least in its basic approach, with many of the concerns of civil society.

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