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Gee Whiz

In the end, history always catches up. These days, it often catches up rather quickly. It is not yet two years since G8 leaders met in the earthquake-stricken Italian town of L’Aquila in the middle of the financial crisis to ponder the all-important issues of global present and future. Yet try to find anyone except a few bureaucrats who remembers where the meeting took place, what issues came up, what plans were adopted, or even who participated. Maybe the last one — it sounds really easy. The G8 summits bring together the leaders of the eight largest economies, i.e. the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy … and China? Wrong. The last one is Russia, which may not be a very large economy but certainly is a very large country.

It would be unfair to omit China entirely, so China makes up part of another grouping, also present at the summit. Comprising China, Mexico, Brazil, India, and South Africa, the G5, as it is now known, labors under even more obscurity than the G8, which is probably why some instead focus on the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) when talking about emerging economic powers.

Yet there remains more to this G8 than meets the eye. At the behest of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, there were a few other countries present at L’Aquila, countries belonging to neither of the two above groups but apparently essential for resolving the very serious problems the summit tackled. One was Sweden, which then held the presidency of the European Union (the Czech Republic missed out on its global destiny by ten days). Then there were the Netherlands and Spain, two active members of the international community. There was Turkey. There was South Korea, Indonesia, and Australia, which all belong to something called the Major Economies Forum. There was Denmark, which was preparing to host the UN Conference on Climate Change … After all, no one could have known how that meeting would turn out.

The list goes on, but bear with me. A part of the summit was dedicated to the dialogue between the G8 and Africa, which accounted for the presence of Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, Senegal, and Ethiopia, the founding countries of NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

Even this formidable concentration of statesmanship was apparently not guaranteed to resolve the momentous problems of financial crisis, global growth, and issues of development and environment. More expertise was needed, so under the heading of “other countries,” the Italian presidency of the G8 invited President Mubarak of Egypt, and Colonel Qaddafi of Libya, who at that time presided over the African Union. The results of the summit speak for themselves. Memorabilia buffs might also hurry to download the group photos of the leaders from the summit before some of them are consigned to the dustbin of history.

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