challenges for the G8
Angela Merkel, chancellor, Federal Republic of Germany
Teamwork will help us to make progress on issues such as reforms in the Middle East; building an open, global economy; protecting intellectual property; promoting sustainability; engaging with developing countries; and fighting internet attacks
From "The 2011 G8 Deauville Summit: New World, New Ideas." edited by John Kirton and Madeline Koch
Published by Newsdesk Media Group and the G8 Research Group, 2011
To download a low-resolution pdf, click here
Political challenges continue to grow as the world becomes smaller. Whether it be environmental or natural disasters, wars or bad government, stock-market crashes or bank failures, with the regions of the world being so closely interconnected, local events gain global importance as quickly as wildfire. An increasing number of countries are thus facing identical challenges that they can hardly, or not at all, solve on their own. The old saying ‘we are all in the same boat’ has become more relevant than ever in this age of globalisation and the internet. It takes teamwork to advance and to master dangerous rapids. The international financial crisis has highlighted this issue in a particularly pressing way. To counteract the turbulence on financial markets and to make provisions for the future, at Pittsburgh in 2009 the G20 leaders pronounced themselves to be the leading forum for international economic cooperation. This brought to the table the large emerging countries, based on their increased economic and political importance. This development had started in the Heiligendamm Process that was initiated in 2007 by the G8 under the German presidency.
The format of the G20 involves a broad spectrum of countries and public interests, and thus a high degree of legitimacy. But the members are – in terms of their ideals and societal systems – very heterogeneous. In the G8, however, the basic principles of a free economic and civil society and democracy predominate. This homogeneity increases the chance of reaching a consensus on workable solutions. Therefore, the G8, with its economic power, remains an important body for international political cooperation. This combination of economic power and common political values creates a unique basis for finding a common stance on foreign policy and political security.
Current international developments will be on the G8 agenda at Deauville, too. The changes in the Arab world and the resulting questions of security will be central. These events provide dramatic proof that sustainable development is feasible only when human rights are observed. The G8 is governed by the idea that peaceful change and political stabilisation in the affected countries should be supported by reforms and new economic freedom. We leaders must use this opportunity to promote political participation and wealth in our neighbouring Arab countries.
The situation in North Africa and the Middle East also demonstrates how the movement of migrants increases at times of social upheaval. Industrialised countries find themselves confronted with the hopes of desperate people who want to leave behind their lives of hardship in their home country. Accordingly, we must all take responsibility together.
The agenda of this year’s French G8 presidency is in no way restricted to such current problems. France would like to return the G8 to its origins as an informal forum, with much room for discussion. The G8 would continue to function as an important impulse generator in the most diverse debates and questions about the future. This includes an exchange among the G8 leaders about the global economy – last, but not least, about the economic-political principle of creating free markets.
For some time, Germany has been suggesting that the G8 focus on the target of an open, global economy. What continues to be important is the multilateral liberalisation of trade within the World Trade Organization. I am delighted that the G20 set the clear objective in Seoul last November of entering the final phase of the Doha trade negotiations this year. At Deauville, Germany will insist on a course to follow up with action.
Germany has weathered the fallout of the global economic and financial crisis well. In 2010, our economy experienced the strongest growth since reunification 20 years ago. Growth is expected to continue in 2011. This newly revived economic dynamism is carried by both foreign trade as well as domestic demand. The German government has contributed its share to overcome the crisis with timely and adequate stabilisation measures for the financial sector, a comprehensive economic stimulus for the real economy and relaxing of rules for short-term work.
Now we face new tasks. Following these short-term crisis-management measures, the conditions for long-term growth, both domestic and international, must be improved. This requires consolidation of the budget and investments in education, research and development. The protection of intellectual property not only is in the interests of the industrialised countries, but also benefits emerging economies in transition from importing knowledge to producing knowledge. Ultimately, it must become profitable for developing countries to produce innovations, so that they can promote sustainable growth on their own. This makes it necessary to unite worldwide in the fight against product and brand piracy. I thus appreciate President Nicolas Sarkozy’s inclusion of this topic on the G8 agenda.
When the G8 leaders talk about growth, we do not mean growth at any price. The principle of sustainability demands that we adhere to those limits set by the protection of the climate and the finite nature of resources.
The trend is to move toward an economy with low levels of carbon-dioxide emissions and efficient use of resources, based on the conviction and realisation that sustainability and wealth are two sides of the same coin.
Sustainability embraces the basics of an economy created for the long term that does not consume the future but develops it. Short-term growth at the expense of development opportunities for future generations is not an option. This applies equally for developed, emerging and developing countries. All can leverage the immense potential of efficient and environmental technologies, and the increased use of these technologies requires policies that create suitable frameworks. Consequently, the resolutions of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Cancún in December called on industrialised countries to initiate low-carbon-dioxide development strategies. If the G8 sends a clear signal for green growth, it can be a decisive factor in connection with the UN conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.
The G8 has always been an important catalyst of development policy, as in the bilateral cancellation of debts in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in Cologne in 1999, the multilateral cancellation of debt, the fight against poverty as well as the historically unprecedented commitments to promote health in poor countries at the G8 Heiligendamm Summit. The G8’s responsibility is especially visible in Africa, where its engagement far exceeds the provision of foreign aid in a strict sense. Rather, it includes dialogue that embraces the entire breadth of economic, social, political and security-related development. However, G8 members – as with all donors – can only make contributions to strengthen efforts of national self-empowerment. Without such contributions the results would be significantly worse, both in economic terms and in the fight against diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Today, the exchange of knowledge, progress and development can hardly be imagined without the internet. The internet provides transparency and helps to spread democracy. As a modern means of communication, it is firmly fixed in daily life. However, this increased interconnectivity also provides a target for dangers of many kinds. Because adequate protection from internet attacks can best be provided on a largely international basis, the French president has included this important topic on the G8 agenda as well.
What happens on one side of the world today increasingly affects the other side, too. Geographic distances are losing their significance, thanks to continuously developing and deepening interconnectivity. This means the future must be defined under the conditions of globalisation. It requires reliable, international bodies for discussion and decision making. The G8 thus plays an important role as a proven format alongside the G20. Both are derived from the necessity to assume responsibility in unison – for the future of this planet.
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