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Opinion:
In substance, summits were a success on several fronts;
Gains on maternal health, security issues and the economy

John Kirton, G8 and G20 Research Groups
Published in the Toronto Star, June 28, 2010

The Muskoka-Toronto twin summits have been a substantial success, each in their own right and in pulling together for the greater global good. The Muskoka G8 took a big baby step forward on its top priority of saving the lives of mothers, newborns and children around the world, mobilizing $7.3 billion in new money to help deliver two of the critical Millennium Development Goals by their 2015 deadline. This Muskoka Initiative is a new toddler that will need to be nurtured to become a healthy child and functioning adult. But the G8 and many others will have more chances to contribute more badly needed money when they meet at the United Nations in September and at the next G20 summit in Seoul in November this year.

Muskoka's second achievement was accountability. It was delivered even before the summit started when the G8's Muskoka Accountability Report detailed just how much the G8 had done and what it still had to do to deliver the ambitious development commitments it had made over the past five years. The leaders agreed to build on this bold beginning of systematic summit self-assessment by focusing on their promises on child and maternal health and food security when they meet next year in Nice, France.

In the security sphere, the G8 showed again why the world needs this exclusive club committed to promoting globally the values of open democracy, individual liberty and social advance. The Muskoka leaders signalled to an aggressive North Korea that G8 countries would again stand shoulder to shoulder with their ally in South Korea, just as they had 60 years ago, to the day, when the Korean War broke out.

The G8 extended the great achievement of the last G8 summit Canada had hosted by eliminating nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction before they could fall into terrorists' hands. It enhanced human security here at home by countering crime, the drug trade and human trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in vulnerable countries elsewhere in the world.

Muskoka also showed that the G8 cared, as all Canadians do, about the global environment, by calling for free trade in environmentally enhancing goods and services and by finally putting in place a platform to track and help stop biodiversity loss.

The G8 leaders then travelled to Toronto for the G20 summit, a gathering that they had previously proclaimed in Pittsburgh would be the permanent premier forum for international economic cooperation. Where Pittsburgh proclaimed, Toronto performed.

Team Toronto showed they would put growth, jobs and recovery first before turning to save the hard-pressed taxpayers from the long-term burdens that their current extraordinary fiscal stimulus could bring.

To calm jittery markets, they backed Prime Minister Stephen Harper's bold call to have the advanced economies halve their fiscal deficits by 2013, and cap their cumulative debt as a proportion of their GDP by 2016. These Toronto terms for responsible global growth followed the path pioneered by Paul Martin's Canada in the 1990s when the cancerous debt dragon was slain largely by generating growth through freer trade with the emerging economies in the world.

The Toronto leaders also kept their eye on the ball on domestic financial regulation, promising to build better banking capital, liquidity and leverage ratios by the previously promised dates. They again buried the very bad idea of a bank levy that would take more money away from the very firms they were asking to lend more to their citizens to fuel necessary growth for all.

The one big disappointment was their failure to deliver their Pittsburgh promise to reduce and eliminate the unsustainable, inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. This move could both control climate change and save cash-strapped governments around the world over half a trillion dollars that they badly need to protect the poor and save the lives of vulnerable children and their moms.

More broadly, at Muskoka Canada hosted its fifth G8 summit in a completely peaceful way, in part because the G8 had done much to involve civil society, as shown by the impressive gathering of global faith leaders in Winnipeg a few days before the summit.

While the newer G20 in Toronto did less well on both counts, the Canadian government had invested enough in security to ensure that no innocent civilians were killed, as one had been at the London G20 a year before.

The challenge now is to make the new G20 summit work more like the old G8 one, by giving civil society beyond big business a real role in G20 governance and by having G20 governance based on transparency, accountability, political openness and the respect for human rights and the rule of law.

John Kirton is director, G8 Research Group, and co-director, G20 Research Group, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Reproduced with permission.


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