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.
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
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.
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
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