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G8: What has it achieved?

By CNN European Political Editor Robin Oakley

GENOA, Italy (CNN) -- G8 leaders left Genoa vowing that despite the street violence which now dogs every gathering of world leaders their work would go on.

But, conscious of those who criticise them as a self-perpetuating oligarchy, they struck a new note of humility too.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister and Summit host, stressed that the summit leaders were not there to force other people to do things but to provide a service to less prosperous countries.

“The G8 leaders have no coercive powers over other countries -- none of us ever thought that we could impose anything on any other country.”

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, was one of many summit leaders to insist that the G8 shared the objectives of many of the anti-globalist protesters and many voiced their frustration that the media had concentrated so heavily on the violence in the streets.

 IN-DEPTH
graphic G8 Summit: Genoa 2001


  • What has G8 achieved?
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  • Official Genoa G8 site

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UK Prime Minister Tony Blair angrily told reporters: “You go and talk to the African leaders and tell them the summit was of no value.

"For the first time we've got a positive, definitive process and plan for dealing with the problems of Africa and yet you measure the amount of coverage -- protests and Africa -- what's the ratio? Ten to one in favour of the riot -- the world's gone mad when that's the case.”

In truth the leaders’ work was concentrated heavily on the problems of poor countries.

African debt still a problem

Although they did not announce any new initiative on debt forgiveness they did agree their plan for intensive involvement in Africa’s problems and set out a detailed programme of poverty alleviation measures.

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They subscribed $1.3 billion to the new Global Health fund designed to battle Aids, malaria and tuberculosis, a big step forward even if poverty campaigners complained it was only a tenth of what was needed.

Since the Cologne G8 in 1999, when the leaders agreed to forgive $100 billion worth of debt owed by the poorest countries, there has been more common ground between protesters and leaders than many would credit.

Last year’s G8 summit in Okinawa, Japan launched efforts to close the "digital divide" between rich and poor nations.

But the G8, which has no secretariat or follow-up mechanisms of its own, works mostly by exhorting others and it never achieves results fast enough to satisfy committed campaigners.

The UK is not alone in having forgiven all the bilateral debts owed by the 41 poorest countries.

But pr