UN Summit on the Financial Crisis

by Chris Sturr | June 24, 2009

The G8 will meet in early July in the Italian town of L’Aquila, in a less luxurious setting than had originally been planned, according to a recent Guardian article:

The organiser of next month’s G8 conference near the earthquake-hit Italian town of L’Aquila today shrugged off the strong aftershocks felt in the area on Monday, suggesting a few tremors may bring the world leaders closer to the victims.

“I cannot guarantee there won’t be any shocks” at the 8-10 July meeting, said the head of the civil protection department, Guido Bertolaso. “It is important that leaders touch with their own hands the anxieties of inhabitants.”

Nearly 300 people were killed and more than 60,000 made homeless by the earthquake that struck the central Abruzzo region on 6 April. In an attempt to bring attention to the plight of survivors, the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, decided to shift the G8 meeting from a plush new conference centre in Sardinia to a financial police training barracks outside L’Aquila.

But while the G8 leaders may be in no danger of the ceiling collapsing on them, they should not expect luxury, warned Bertolaso. “This will not be like staying on Via Veneto,” he said, adding that the nearest tent city to the barracks is 300 metres away. All the world leaders attending have confirmed they will sleep at the barracks, he said, including Berlusconi.

After €320m (£274m) was spent on new buildings to host the leaders in Sardinia, Bertolaso said €50m had been spent on preparing the barracks.

The 1,000 beds provided for leaders and their staff will be removed after the meeting and installed in new tremor-proof housing being built for the 15,000 to 18,000 earthquake victims whose homes were reduced to rubble and must be rebuilt.

But Bertolaso said one leader would be allowed a treat when he checks in next month. “There is a beautiful room ready for Obama and we are thinking of setting up a basketball court because we know he is keen on the sport.”

The 4.6 magnitude aftershock which struck the area on Monday night caused no major damage or injuries, but sent hundreds of frightened locals scrambling from the tents they are living in.

Bertolaso said the barracks due to house 1,000 G8 delegates, including Gordon Brown, would stand up to worse punishment than that dished out on Monday or on April 6. “International inspectors have confirmed the safety of the housing,” he said. “It will resist an earthquake stronger than any recorded there so far.”

We can only hope that the proximity of big-wigs from the rich countries to tent cities and the homeless will get them to remember the less well-off while they discuss ongoing measures to deal with the global financial crisis.

Meanwhile, less-rich countries pushed the UN, via the General Assembly, to hold a summit on the financial crisis. Here are some resources on the summit:

  • Nick Dearden of the Guardian says that the richest nations are holding back the UN’s attempts at global governance in response to the financial crisis:
    While G8 leaders will keep the agenda in their comfort zone, patting each other on the back for maintaining aid commitments, the UN will discuss a series of proposals for transformation of the global economy.
    [W]hile Gordon Brown will be beaming alongside the great and the good at the G8, the UN will be lucky if it gets a junior foreign minister to show up.

    As so often, the idea of 192 countries daring to air their views on matters of global importance causes the British—and other western delegations—a touch of indigestion.

    As such, a programme to discredit the UN process is already up and running—taking particular aim at the president of the UN general assembly Rev Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. D’Escoto, a leftist priest from Nicaragua, has enraged rich countries by offering a radical paper for nations to debate which declares “[g]lobalisation without effective global or regional institutions is leading the world into chaos”.

    Against claims that his report lacked “inclusivity”, d’Escoto has claimed that “it must speak to the hundreds of millions across the globe who have no other forum in which they can express their unique and often divergent perspectives”.

    Read the rest of the article.

  • Aldo Caliari has a good article at islamonline.net asking, “Will UN Conference Break G8’s Dominance?”:
    On June 24-26, 2009, governments from all over the world will be represented at a heated conference on the impacts of the global financial crisis on development.

    Indeed, for years, “big-picture” reforms of the global financial and monetary system were believed to be the province of rich countries, through exclusive gatherings such as the Group of 7 or 8 and their unquestionable dominance of the international financial institutions at the center of such a system.

    Bodies setting the agenda for reform of the financial system, such as the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and — as a post-Asian crisis creation — the Financial Stability Forum, were equally characterized by their rich-country, exclusive memberships.

    Claims for greater openness and participation were met with the response that the issues of financial regulation were to be left to “experts” who would know what they were doing.

    However, now all this is beginning to change. A full-blown financial crisis that has spilled onto the whole world is blamed on failures of regulation in a developed country that until recently was seen to be at the forefront of regulatory know-how.

    Such crisis will wreak havoc far beyond the borders of the country where it started.

    That everyone has a stake in financial regulation seems to be a lesson that the poorest countries are not willing to forget easily—even as developed countries that profited from the system try to play up the signs of recovery and quickly get back to the status quo.

    Read the full article here.

  • The United Nations University has set up a Conversation Series on the economic crisis, and is making available many videos of speakers with a wide variety of perspectives, including Noam Chomsky, Robert Johnson, Joseph Stiglitz, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, and many others.

    Click here to access the “video portal.”

—CS

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