The push by states to counter problems facing their nations and regions

The recent G8 Summit in the Italian city of Genoa was marred by violent riots, which resulted in one death. The real cause of the agitation, which was clearly a traumatic experience for the grouping’s leaders, was their apparent failure to come to grips with the crucial problem of the gap between the haves and the have-nots – for which globalisation was not seen as a solution.

Despite the obvious embarrassment this caused, world leaders at the summit succeeded in agreeing on a programme of aid to developing countries aimed at drawing the poorest nations into the global economy as the surest way to address their aspirations.

A highlight of this programme is its focus on Africa as a partner with the G8 and to address issues that are crucial to its development. Its plan to help eradicate poverty in Africa includes a commitment to a new war against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases for which a budget of more than US$ 1 billion has already been pledged.

The last-minute agreement reached at the recent summit of 180 nations in Bonn to uphold the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is being hailed as an achievement that will ensure progress in combatting global warning in the future. Under this agreement, the states concerned have agreed to cut emissions by creating a world market in carbon saving and imposing penalties for the failure to effect the cuts accepted four years ago in Kyoto.

For its enforcement, a special committee of representatives of both developing and developed countries was established whereby defaulting nations would face higher targets. The agreement was made possible through last-minute concessions and an earnest endeavour by the EU. The US had withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol in March, claiming that it would negatively impact its economy.

A keynote event that could shape the future of Africa was the adoption (by an African Summit in Lusaka) of a new pan-African bloc to replace the old Organisation of African Unity, which was established in 1963. The latter was unable to overcome the main challenges facing the continent, which were persistent civil wars and internal conflicts, as well as its debilitating social and economic problems of poverty and disease.

Over 40 African heads of state attended the summit and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan addressed the members. He urged them to take the opportunity to build a stable Africa, asserting that this will require leadership, courage and a willingness to depart from the past – if it is to do for Africa what the EU has done for Europe.

The African Union has plans to model itself on the EU with a single currency, parliament and court of justice.

To see this transformation through, the summit nominated Amara Essy – a former diplomat from the Ivory Coast – to accomplish this in a period of 12 months. In launching the African Union, several leaders had no illusions about the prospects and difficulties facing it, as had been summed up by Annan.

“From Burundi to Sierra Leone, Angola to the Sudan and Western Sahara, we are confronted with persistent conflicts and crises of governance and security, which threaten to derail our hopes for an African Union of peace and prosperity,” he cautioned.

The headquarters of the new union will continue to be Addis Ababa and the election of a new secretary-general is awaited.

Not to be outdone, ASEAN countries are having their own summit in Hanoi with a wider scope of including the foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea. It’s being further widened to include members of the ASEAN Regional Forum, which includes the US and EU as dialogue partners, and constitutes a unique group in the region.

Whether it can cope with the problems facing it currently like the political turmoil in Indonesia, the cold war frontier in the Korean Peninsula and proposed missile defence system from President George Bush are the questions that Colin Powell – who is attending the meeting – will face.

Another achievement, although it fell short of expectations, was the successful conclusion of the UN conference on small arms trade, which at least reached consensus on a number of key issues.

The conference fell short in that it failed to confine arms sales to sovereign states, which was requested by developing countries especially in Africa. But the US opposed it because it would be a restriction on the rights of companies; and its position prevailed. This means that small arms can still be purchased by rebel movements – and to countries fighting terrorism, this is certainly a setback.

BY  The late Deshamanya  Dr. Vernon L. B. Mendis