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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
G8 summit at-a-glance

Who is there?

  • UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
  • Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien
  • French President Jacques Chirac
  • German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
  • Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato
  • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • US President Bill Clinton
  • President of the European Commission Romano Prodi

    What's on the agenda?

  • Debt relief

    A year ago in Cologne, the Group promised to write off $100bn of the $260bn owed to the West by the most indebted states.

    They promised that 25 of the 40 countries identified by the World Bank and the IMF as the worst affected would receive help by the end of this year, provided lenders were satisfied that the funds would be used to reduce poverty.

    By the start of the summit, debt relief should have been approved for nine countries. But only one, Uganda, is anywhere near having its debts cancelled.

    Campaigners are not optimistic about achieving their objective of full debt cancellation and there is concern that this summit will not provide any substantial new initiatives. Germany is the main creditor and is opposed to cancellation.

  • Information technology

    A main topic of the summit will be on the digital opportunities and digital divides caused by the revolution in information technology.

    Eighty-eight percent of the world's Internet users live in the industrialised countries, only 0.3% in the poorest countries of the world. While the internet could become a powerful force for development and empowerment, if only the rich have access it could heighten social inequalities.

    According to officials, a "digital opportunity task force" will be established, consisting of two members from each of the G8 countries - one from the government and one from the private sector. It is to hold its first meeting by the end of the year.

    The G8 leaders may also discuss internet-related crime, terrorism and sabotage in the wake of events like the "ILOVEYOU" virus.

  • Food safety

    Food safety is a major issue between the US and Europe, with frustration in the US at the backlash by European consumers against genetically modified food, largely supplied by US corporations.

    At last year's Cologne summit, leaders invited the OECD Working Group and Task Force to undertake studies of the implications of biotechnology and other aspects of food safety.

    These reports called for more standardised tests of GM foods and their risks by members countries with greater sharing of information on both environmental and health issues and possibly more testing on animals.

    A key issue is likely to be whether a world body to study and regulate GM foods will be set up.

  • Infectious diseases

    One out of every two deaths in the developing world is attributed to infectious diseases.

    Yet over the 1990s, international funding for primary healthcare steadily declined.

    The G8 countries are expected to declare the need for global measures to curb infection rates of Aids, tuberculosis and malaria in developing countries by setting numerical targets to be achieved by 2005 and 2010.

    The two other proposals to combat infectious diseases are the establishment of an international co-ordination committee, which would include members of non-governmental organisations, and the creation of an NGO assistance fund to fight such diseases.

  • The global economy

    The global economy is enjoying a period of relative tranquillity at the moment. Growth in the euro-zone has been strong and the Russian economy has recovered faster from the 1998 crisis than most people expected.

    Concerns that the US economy, which has been the engine of world growth by sucking in imports, may slow down too much are the only possible cloud on the horizon.

  • Financial institutions

    Discussion will also focus on improving the workings of global financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF.

    There is particular concern over the attacks on the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO by activists. The G7 countries are the real power behind the major global institutions, and so will be looking at ways of increasing their legitimacy.

    At their meeting earlier this month, the G7 finance ministers agreed to several significant changes to the loans offered by the IMF.

    Interest rates are to rise over the duration of some loans, encouraging swifter repayment and discouraging those countries seen as excessively dependent on IMF funding.

    Lending policies and interest rates at the World Bank are also set for an overhaul.

  • Money laundering

    The summit will also focus on a new campaign to deter money launderers and undermine the attractiveness of tax havens.

    The G8 is to endorse a "hit list" of 15 countries compiled by the Financial Action Task Force. Some $600bn a year from drug cartels, mafia barons or other criminal outfits is believed to pass through banks each year.

    Russia, embarrassingly, was named one of the 15 countries uncooperative in the fight against money launderers, while most of the others are small islands in the Pacific or Caribbean.

    Other Issues

    • The G8 will also probably set a 2015 goal for universal primary education in developing countries. The eight nations will make the goal one of their key objectives for assistance to the developing world.

    • A joint statement by the G-8 leaders in support of revitalising Colombia's economy is expected to be released, the first time that Colombian issues will be discussed at a G-8 summit meeting.

    • Britain will urge the G8 nations to support a global certification scheme for diamonds that aims to prevent rebel movements selling stones and buying weapons with the proceeds.

    • Reform of the United Nations will also be on the agenda as will be the Balkans, East Timor, efforts to reduce the availability of small weapons, North Korea and India and Pakistan.
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