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“G8 summit could be the last as rising nations want their voices heard”
by Timesonline - Philip Webster in L’Aquila   
July 15th, 2009

World leaders wrapped up the G8 summit in L’Aquila last night, saying that it could be the last meeting of its kind.

President Obama joined Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister who hosted the meeting, in suggesting that the G8 was too small to cope with the problems facing the world and that other emerging countries needed to be included.

“To think we can somehow deal with some of these global challenges in the absence of major powers like China, India and Brazil seems to be wrong-headed,” Mr Obama told reporters shortly before leaving for Ghana on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as US President.

The demise of the G8 — made up of rich northern hemisphere countries — illustrates its limitations in dealing with global issues such as climate change and the economic crisis. In any case the G8 countries were joined by the leaders of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Egypt, spontaneously forming the G14.

It was this group, Mr Berlusconi said, that would become the dominant international talking shop. “As far as I am concerned the G14 is the format that in the future will have the best possibility to take the most important decisions on the world economy — and not just that,” he said.

President Zuma of South Africa welcomed a bigger forum. “It is a recognition that you couldn’t just continue with the G8 when the global matters that are being discussed affect many countries,” he said. Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, said that the G8 was an important forum but a more representative body was needed. “At one point we had a G8, a G9, a G14 or 15, a G18, a G19, a G25, and we finally ended with a G28. And, we have the G20 process going on around the world, which is up to G24 last time I counted. I think our challenge for the year ahead will be to bring some coherence to this.” Canada takes over the G8 presidency next year.

The G8 did manage to take one key decision yesterday as it announced a $20 billion (£12.3 billion) programme to help poor nations feed themselves.

The fund — more than expected, and to include $1.8 billion (£1.1 billion) from Britain’s development budget — will be spent on agricultural development in Africa and other parts of the world, a switch of priorities from the traditional practice of direct food aid.

Leaders had been expected to agree a $15 billion (£9.2 billion) fund but more pledges came during the final session from other nations.

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