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Post-G8 Summit: Will Leaders Keep Faith?

Q U I C K S C A N

1. Forgive African Debt
2. Assist Resettlement in Gaza
3. Address Climate Change
4. Improve Global Trade Policies
G8 Should Mean Global

Three months ago, terrorists failed to derail the meeting of the G8 (the Group of Eight includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States) in Scotland.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t get off track. G8 nations—linked by industrial interests and power—are somewhat accountable to one another. Their meetings are not so open and transparent to us, however, which makes it imperative to keep asking questions.

The most recent summit agenda had a distinctly Franciscan edge. The saint we celebrate October 4—poor man, peacemaker and patron of the environment Francis of Assisi—would urge effective follow-up on their agenda. Let’s not lose sight of the actions on which the G8 agreed.

How these political realities affect the poor is primary for those who take seriously gospel and papal teachings.

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1. Forgive African Debt

Africa’s woes extend far beyond debt, but social ills have an economic dimension. How can the African continent address the health, development and peace issues of its peoples when mired in billions of dollars of debt to international financial institutions?

G8 finance ministers did agree to forgive the debts of 14 African nations. This forgiveness acknowledges the reality of what many describe as illegitimate debt, founded on Cold War-era loans to defunct, despotic African regimes. Justice—more than mercy—argues in favor of canceling these debts—and those of other African nations as well.

Africa’s crippling debt crisis can also be on your agenda. Consult—even join—the Religious Action Network of Africa Action, 1634 Eye St., NW, #810, Washington, D.C. 20006, 202-546-7961. Its Web site (www.africaaction.org) offers “Top Ten Ways to Take Action for Freedom From Debt!”

Assist Resettlement in Gaza

In meeting with an Egyptian sultan, St. Francis rejected his society’s perception of Muslims as the enemy. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rooted in a similar dichotomy—historical, political and religious.

G8 leaders have approved a generous package—up to $3 billion a year—for the Palestinian Authority. Funding over several years will be used to help build an infrastructure in Palestinian settlements, create jobs and improve border crossings. Bishop John H. Ricard, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Policy, welcomed this commitment and urged its speedy implementation.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has been present in the Middle East for over 50 years. While the G8 and Middle East Special Envoy James Wolfensohn (representing the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations) await complete Israeli withdrawal, CRS is already at work. Their efforts in Gaza can be supported through contributions sent to 209 West Fayette St., Baltimore, MD 21201 (www.crs.org). As withdrawal continues, G8 support for Palestinian resettlement should be more apparent.

3. Address Climate Change

The poor suffer most from climate change, because they are unable to adapt easily to such changes and cushion themselves against their impact. That takes money!

Drought, floods, famine, heat stress, insect-borne tropical diseases—all these are impacted by climate. Climate, in turn, is heavily impacted by the emissions of industrialized (read G8) nations.

President George W. Bush should join the other G8 leaders in supporting the Kyoto protocol, which requires limits on emissions. Meanwhile, the governors of California and New Mexico have announced major mandatory pollution reduction targets for their states, as have some U.S. businesses.

Advocacy and action at the state level may be the most effective way to tell national leaders and lawmakers that the G8 pledge to act “with resolve and urgency” to reduce emissions is also the will of U.S. citizens who respect creation.

Improve Global Trade Policies

President Bush pressed G8 nations to create new markets, improve access to those markets and support increased trade. Bishop Ricard particularly praised recommendations to reduce internal agricultural subsidies by G8 nations so that “poor nations will have a chance to compete fairly.”

It’s fairly obvious that what helps the G8 doesn’t necessarily favor poorer nations. To establish the moral base for considering global trade, Catholic Relief Services and the USCCB have established a Catholic Campaign Against Global Poverty. The campaign is a three-pronged effort, addressing the interconnected issues of trade, debt and aid. (See www.usccb.org/globalpoverty.)

Whenever global trade hits the headlines, tracking its impact on the poor is a response worthy of the Christian conscience.

G8 Should Mean Global

Let’s face it: G8 does not stand for Generous, much less for Gospel. Even decisions for economic aid are shaped by self-interest. But G needn’t stand for Greedy, either.

The Group of Eight, aware that its every move affects the entire planet, must act for the mutual interest of all— both rich and poor nations.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, responding to the terrorist attacks during the recent summit, called the G8 decisions an “alternative to hatred.” As a G8 constituency, we U.S. citizens must track and encourage the pursuit of these peaceful alternatives.—C.A.M.


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