The G8; Not So Gr8

The 2010 G8 summit is being hosted for the 5th time by a Canada from June 25th-26th. The city of Toronto bears the responsibility of this congregation, dolling out over $1 billion to organize this day and a half meeting. The G8 summit is an annual conference organized by the world’s eight wealthiest nations, in an attempt to tackle difficult and pressing social issues that effect society on a global scale.

The primary issues concerning this year’s conference are maternal health, global economic policy, climate change, and foreign aid, all of which are important, social, political and economic issues. These key issues, among others, will be discussed by the leaders of the eight nations, in hopes of outlining a fiscal budget and action plan for aiding their forward progression.

While the purpose of the convention does seem meaningful and legitimate, there are a number of issues surrounding it that breath doubt into its effectiveness and democratic value. By virtue, the diplomatic, military, and economic power that these nations and the G8 organization possess enables them to influence global governance. This then questions their purpose in acting as a source of conflict resolution or a global political party that can police less wealthy and structured governments. This then proves to undermine the influence of more inclusive global governing bodies like the UN that incorporate the majority of the world’s nations, ultimately providing a more egalitarian global governing system.

In addition, the costs associated with this meeting are extraordinary. Both the G20 and G8 summit meeting, hosted in pair with one another, will cost a combined total of $1.1billion. To address the obvious, it seems hypocritical for a global governance body addressing important global issues to inject this amount of money in an event that is focused on providing fiscal funding to nations harbouring disparities not endured by the eight nations. In fact, with current communication tools, it is unnecessary for these world leaders to leave the security of their already extremely safe residences, incurring security costs for the host nation in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This cost becomes even more absurd when past G8 commitments are reviewed. As a whole, the nations are $10 billion short of their promised funding from the 2005 Scotland summit.

Another pressing issue is the suspension of democratic and constitutional rights that occurs during every G8 meeting. During the event, a temporary retracting of all individual rights is allowed in as a means for security. This allows police to arrest people without cause, enter domiciles without warrant, and use excessive force without reasonable grounds. In addition, it essentially makes protesting illegal as being on the streets is an offence in designated areas regardless of the violator’s knowledge of its legality. Obviously, all of these policies are in direct contradiction of the laws that have established these nations as elite democratic leaders, and bring about further questions regarding the conduct and purpose of summit.

Local Vancouverites have displayed their opposition regarding the Toronto 2010 G8 summit, as six protestors were arrested. During a mid-May G8 summit meeting of Canadian university presidents at the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver, a group of protestors stormed the building, refusing to allow the bus load of students to leave the premise. When interviewed, several protestors said that their intention was to bring light to organizational groups that perpetuate G8 elite ideologies that use their own influence to dictate mass policy that is not representative.

Research alternative media sources in addition to mainstream media in order to understand both sides of any issued that has been presented. SFPIRG is SFU’s local hub for information regarding social justice. They have a wide variety of research resources that may be helpful in learning more about the G8 summit. University encourages us as students to be critical or the environments in which we reside. Make sure you are well informed before making up your mind regarding a particular issue.

By David Swanson