Op-Ed

Replacing “West against Rest”

Colin I. Bradford and Johannes F. Linn

Below is a Letter to the Editor printed in the Financial Times (London) on June 14, 2004. The full headline, “UK’s perfect chance to replace ‘west against the rest’ with a forum representing the world” was shortened for use on this site.

From Mr Colin Bradford and Mr Johannes Linn.

Sir, The Group of Eight meeting last week in Sea Island, Georgia, hosted by the US presented an outdated mechanism for dealing with global challenges. Next year, the UK is host and can go global by convening for the first time at head of state level an already existing G20 that contains 10 large non-industrial, non-western countries. Instead of “the west against the rest”, the UK could transform the annual summit into a forum embodying and representing the world.

The issues in this year’s G8 summit in Georgia were not G8 issues alone. They were issues for the world that need to be addressed collaboratively by the world, not only by the west. The fundamental tension underlying the G8 is US unilateralism and more broadly the pretence of the west endowing itself with the right of deciding for the rest. As a result, the forum of the G8 embodies the problem rather than resolving it. What is needed is a new political vision and mechanism that is more dynamic, diverse and democratic.

The G20 presents that opportunity. Since 1999, the G20 has been meeting at minister of finance level. The G20 includes the G8 members plus Australia and the European Union presidency along with 10 heavyweights from the developing world: China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. The G8 represents less than 14 per cent of the world’s population; the G20 represents 63 per cent.

Tony Blair and the UK government host the G8 next year. Mr Blair has been the west’s multilateralist moving forward in tandem with the world’s leading unilateralist. Escalating the G20 to head of state level is a perfect move for Mr Blair to forge the style, substance and form of global governance for a new global era.

It has been suggested in these pages (FT June 3) that China be added to the G8. But this represents an incrementalist step that could stall the significant transformation needed in global governance. What is needed is a larger leap to an entirely different embodiment of humanity which embraces the entire world, across regions, religions and realities, and conveys a sense of global democracy, diversity and dynamism.

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