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Move over William Hague, Angelina Jolie’s got this.

12 Apr

William Hague and the other G8 Foreign Ministers ought to be commended on their agenda setting for the G8 Summit in June 2013. The Foreign Ministers met on the 10th and 11th April to discuss the issues to be addressed at the Summit highlighting challenges faced and actions to be taken. The priorities range over a number of issues including: Africa particularly North and West Africa, Mali, Somalia, the DRC, Sudan and South Sudan; the Middle East including Syria, the Peace Process, the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition and Yemen; Nuclear Proliferation and Disarmament, Iran, DPRK, Burma/Myanmar, Afghanistan, Cyber Security, Climate Change, Maritime Security, Human Rights, Counter Terrorism, Illicit Drugs and finally, Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.

It is very much worth noting the extensiveness of these priorities outlined in comparison to Mr. Cameron’s solely economics based focus on Tax, Trade and Transparency (A nice use of alliteration I must add). There is no doubt that economy is a vital issues but let’s leave that to the G20 shall we? Mr Cameron ought to take a leaf out of Mr Hague’s priority book.

Now the priorities mentioned above are certainly exhaustive and positive frameworks and actions on challenges facing each issue are vital.

However, as much as North Korea and Iran have been an issue that the media have been up in arms over, it was Mr Hague and the other foreign minister’s actions on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative that is worth applauding. Yet it was not only the work of the Ministers. Joining the G8 Ministers in London this week was Angelina Jolie (Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees) and Zainab Bangura (Special Representative for the UN on sexual violence in conflict), joining as the Foreign Ministers signed in the historic G8 Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict- a true achievement. (Of course, this must now be met with decisive government action to follow the recommendations made.)

Last year, on the 29th May 2012 the Foreign Secretary launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative as a Government initiative proving to be a very active step in work towards preventing rape and sexual violence in conflict; a horrific but often forgotten part of war. We continue to hear tragic stories from the DRC and Syria, among other places, yet these atrocities continue to be committed on a mass scale with little sign of ending.

The UK government’s step forward to tackle this issue is essential and builds upon UN actions from Security Council Resolution 1325 and the work of various bodies within the UN.

What strikes me most about the prioritisation of this issue is the work that as opposed to the all-words-no-action approach to Syria, Iran and DPRK, Mr Hague’s work for the PVSI are genuine action beyond mere words. But he hasn’t done it alone. Angelina Jolie has been working with Mr Hague on this initiative and the Hague-Jolie pairing symbolises real determination on both their parts to stop sexual violence in conflict. Last month, Ms Jolie and Mr Hague travlled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda where they’ll to meet victims of sexual violence, and discussing with doctors and lawyers how to work towards healing the victims and achieving justice for them.


The G8’s Challenge of Inclusivity

12 Apr

Once again, all eyes will be on the United Kingdom this summer as the UK hosts the Presidency of the G8 2013. However, as opposed to the cultured gathering of 204 nations, the G8 hosts an invite-only party of eight to Lough Erne, Northern Ireland. Yet the G8 isn’t likely to be as warmly welcomed to UK as were the Olympics. The G8 has been long criticised for being irrelevant, out of touch and far too limited in its selection excluding the likes of China, Brazil and India. Will this exclusive group of the world’s leading nations achieve more than mere round-table murmur to present feasible solutions to the most pressing global issues of today?

The first area of exclusivity of the G8 is represented in its limited nature as a party of eight. Made up of mainly Western nations and Russia and Japan, the G8 does not so much represent anymore the most powerful nations in the world with the exclusion of the BRIC countries bar Russia. However, there is a continuing global importance of the G8 members. The UK, USA, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan collectively represent half of the world’s GDP, emphasising the ever growing importance of economic power on the global stage.

Even so, the G8 must extend its inclusiveness to allow for increased representation as well as greater support for frameworks and solutions outlined by G8 Ministers as a response to current global issues.The G8 ought to extend an invitation to Brazil, China, India , Mexico and South Africa as part of Outreach 5 to be able to move beyond the criticism of exclusivity and establish real frameworks and goals to achieve real global change.

The second area of exclusivity that must be addressed is the extent to which the agenda for this year’s G8 has been dominated by economic related issues, leaving little to be said for global issues such as the continuing instability in the Middle East, the growing threat of North Korea, the horrific stories of sexual violence in conflict from Syria to Somalia and the growing concern of climate change.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, David Cameron outlined his priorities for the UK’s G8 Presidency in largely economic terms keeping well in line with the roots of the G8. Mr Cameron has established the priority of the G8 in relation to the global economy by using the Presidency to focus on advancing free trade, tackling tax evasion and avoidance and establish greater transparency of the development agenda.

It would be much more feasible for Mr. Cameron to leave the economic agenda to the G20 that was established as the body of the world’s strongest economies to discuss and deliberate on matters of finance and economics. The role of the G8 was not and is not exclusive to economy and trade. There are a plethora of global issues that need to be discussed. By establishing the agenda of the G8 in terms of economics, it leaves far less room to discuss other global priorities.

This is not to say that discussing the global economy is not necessary, especially as the world currently undergoes an economic crisis. However, the scope of global priorities must extend beyond economic issues to address Human Rights, food shortages affecting Sub Saharan Africa and ongoing conflict in the Middle East and Far East Asia. We ought to leave the economics to the G20, while the G8 refocuses their concerns to those mentioned here.

The main issue that ought to top the agenda for this year’s G8 is Human Rights. As conflict rages on in Syria, the Congo and many other parts of the world, Human Rights must be upheld in the G8’s discussions and be the framework upon which global policies are created and implemented. Amnesty International has voiced this very concern urging the G8 leaders to ‘ensure that respect for universal human rights will be the hallmark of their deliberations and decision-making in 2013.’

Though Mr Cameron has not explicitly stated for Human Rights to be an utmost priority for the G8, Foreign Secretary William Hague and his fellow G8 Foreign Ministers have their priorities in much better order, having already discussed a range of issues far broader than the official economic based agenda, including the situation in the Middle East, political stability across North and West Africa, gender based violence and climate change and rightly so. The priorities outlined by the Foreign Ministers will discuss Sexual Violence in conflict, a vital Humans Rights issue to be considered, as part of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative  with NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Save the Children. Sexual violence is not only an issue faced by developing countries and therefore must be seriously tackled by the G8  countries in relation to their own country’s issues and broader implications of sexual violence in conflict.

We ought to applaud this effort of inclusivity by the Foreign Ministers to move the discussion beyond the global economy by discussing Human Rights issues in relation to Preventing Sexual Violence as well as the other priorities outlined of the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition, security in cyberspace, Somalia and Burma. If the G8 prioritises these issues, as well as climate change and reaffirming its commitment to international aid and development, the exclusivity question can and will be answered with positive frameworks and progressive change coming directly from the world’s key players.