World leaders have wrapped up their debates at the G20 in Canada. They've been trying to map out ways to bolster global economic recovery and slash budget deficits.
There have been no breakthroughs. Nevertheless, leaders agreed to reduce budget deficits in half by the year 2013. They have also withheld from voting on the decision about a new tax on international banking operations for financial institutions.
Some critics say that many leaders are more focused on their national agendas than international ones – like the US, which is pushing for the stimulus plan, which is their way out of the global financial crisis.
Many analysts point out that that would simply give Wall Street the boost it needs, and other countries, such as Canada, Russia and many European states, say that deficit budget is the only way forward.
The decisions made in Toronto will be further discussed at the G20 summit in the South Korean capital of Seoul later this year.
For the first time the G8 and G20 meetings have been held back to back. The G20 summit kicked off in Toronto on Saturday, following the G8 summit, which convened in Huntsville, a resort to the north of Toronto.
And while leaders are returning home after days of debating the state of world affairs, hundreds of protestors are spending their time in prison.
Thousands of protesters filled the streets of Toronto while the summits were underway. Canadian police arrested more than 600 people during clashes that turned parts of usually quiet Toronto into a no-go area.
Officers said they had never used tear gas until Saturday's run in with anti-globalists who set alight four police cars and broke shop windows.
Despite the unrest, no serious injuries were reported among police, protesters or bystanders.
Security measures taken in the capital before the summit included a 12-foot-high, five-mile-long steel and concrete fence covering several blocks in the city center to protect the site of the summit.
Critics say that the G8 format no longer represents the interests of the international community.
Nevertheless, most of the G8 members and the G20 leaders say that the G8 is a very necessary form of gathering, that it does concern itself mostly with foreign policy and can provide a real impact in the international arena.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at the final press conference to members of the international media, said he believes in the future of the G8.
“I do not think that the G8 is outdated as a format,” Medvedev said. “It’s convenient for political discussion, covering issues of global security and coordinating foreign policy.”
As the G8 summit drew to a close, its delegates agreed to pledge $5 billion in aid to developing countries – a move that has been slammed with criticism from NGOs and activists.
Bill Nighy, ambassador for Oxfam, expressed his deep discontent with the goals outlined during the G8 summit.
“Obviously, I am seriously disappointed that the G8 leaders have reneged and broken their promises of five years ago and have not even addressed the $20 billion that they have fallen short and have offered $5 billion, which is not in fact new money. As usual, it is old money that has been moved around,” Nighy said.
Dr. Alan S. Alexandroff from the University of Toronto has no doubt that “$5 billion from the other G8 countries is a disappointment.”
“Speaking to officials, they would reflect some disappointment that the numbers are not what they probably wanted it to be,” he said.
And Oxfam spokesman Mark Fried said the G20 had an enormous golden opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the poorest people on the planet.
“The G8 – sadly – did not come through with the increased aid they promised; they fell $20 billion short. And instead of coming up with an emergency plan for how to get that money to people, they said, ‘let’s forget about it for the moment,’ and they kind of swept it under the carpet. The G20 is talking about taxes on the financial sector,” he said, adding that “a coordinated tax on financial transactions could raise hundreds of billions of dollars that are needed to repair the damage to the poorest people on the planet caused by the financial crisis.”
David Shorr of the Stanley Foundation said that despite the sluggish pace with which the summit’s leaders take on and keep their obligations, there is still something to be said about the value of their protocol meetings.
“The thing for me to watch is these communiqués. Within them there are steps. There are meaningful actions,” Shorr said. “But they are hard to find sometimes, in the middle of all the boilerplate language that is repeated over and over. So I think the communiqués show whether there is a kind of diplomatic discipline that they need to really be focusing on to be moving on in their agenda.”
Scott Stockdale from the Canadian Charger newspaper is hesitant to assume that the G20 could be any more successful at putting forth effective propositions, especially in regard to the global financial crisis.
“I don’t think anybody knows. We are in uncharted waters,” Stockdale said.
Asked whether the summit’s participants could work out the differences in their agendas to the benefit of the global economy, Stockdale replied in the negative.
“I think that the priority of the American government is to support the Wall Street banks and it’s a secondary priority to get the world economy functioning,” Stockdale alleged. “And they are already a long way on the road to supporting the Wall Street banks.”