Despite a global economic recession, there is much that is positive for leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations meeting this week in London to secure and build on. But the G-7 needs to show a more decisive attitude.
Canada is right to make help for the Soviet Union conditional on successful conclusion of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade talks. The gains from freer trade would more than pay for an aid package for the Soviets. France and Germany are hypocritical to want Western support for Soviet market reform while they cling to a European Community agricultural policy that is anathema to market forces.
Conditions have never been so propitious for the United Nations to fulfil the promise and vision of its founders. The end of the Cold War made it possible to build and sustain a consensus against Iraq. The efforts of the international community to protect the Kurds against the Iraqi regime established a precedent that holds the promise of possible applications elsewhere.
In their communique on strengthening the international order, summit leaders declare, ''The international community cannot stand idly by in cases where widespread human suffering from famine, war, oppression, refugee flows, disease or flood reaches urgent and overwhelming proportions.''
The leaders need only look at the situation in the Sudan for a pressing application. Millions face imminent starvation, and relief efforts are frustrated by a government that refuses to admit there is a crisis or to co-operate with international relief agencies.
The summiteers' call for more effective co-ordination and rapid deployment of UN relief efforts in the case of major disasters is predictable summit rhetoric. In the meantime, millions may very well have died by the time those recommendations make any difference. What is needed now, and in similar situations in the future, is the kind of decisive leadership that was manifested in the Iraq conflict.
The root cause of famine in the horn of Africa is the disruption caused by war - war facilitated by the proliferation of armaments. And Saddam Hussein was able to be such a bully because Iraq could buy more than US$50 billion in armaments since 1982.
The Iraqi war has given greater impetus to controlling the international arms trade. Countries have rights to self defence, and it is impossible to make neat distinctions between defensive and offensive equipment. Tyrants will always be able to buy modern weapons for the right price.
However, an international registry of all trade in arms and arms-related technology would alert the international community to unreasonable arms buildups. More responsible behavior could then be encouraged by reducing official development assistance to offenders and imposing trade sanctions and arms embargoes.
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Revised: June 3, 1995
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