In the final event of Zamyn's Cultural Forum 2013, a panel of high-level experts discussed practical recommendations for the leaders of the G8 countries who met for the G8 Summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, 17-18 June 2013. The discussion brought together arguments and insights from the previous eight events in the series, which considered a wide range of interconnecting issues, from the international market in artefacts to good global governance and the regulation of capital.
Introducing the event, Hans-Joerg Rudloff from Barclays, which is among the largest banks in Africa, stressed the importance of ‘fostering cooperation between governments, business and other sections of society’ on the continent. He said that, under its new chief executive, Barclays is looking closely at its operations to make sure that it is being run in a way ‘prudent, cautious bankers should conduct their business’. He also argued that doing business with ‘“emerging markets”’ – which he pointed out was ‘not necessarily an appropriate expression’ – was ‘more important than looking for lectures and boycotts’.
He then introduced the panel: Paul Collier, professor of economics and public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford; Jamie Drummond, executive director and co-founder of ONE, a global advocacy organisation that calls on governments to keep their promises to support the citizens of the world’s poorest countries, especially in Africa, in achieving the Millennium Development Goals; Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of the global telecommunications group Econet Wireless and member of the Africa Progress Panel.
The event’s chair Mary Robinson, president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice and former president of Ireland, introduced the keynote speaker, Sir Mark-Moody Stuart, chairman of Zamyn and of the Foundation for the Global Compact and former chairman of Anglo American and the Shell Group.
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart’s recommendations to leaders of G8 countries included doing more to support collaboration between business and civil society as a form of ‘soft power’, and encouraging greater transparency in international business, as corruption is ‘perhaps the greatest threat to economic and social development’ worldwide. He pointed to Paul Polman’s address earlier in Zamyn’s Cultural Forum 2013, which he said painted a ‘vivid picture of responsible business’, of the sort which it is ‘essential’ other businesses look to if they are to survive.
He also recommended that G8 leaders ‘honestly sit back and review what policies of isolation’ by western nations towards others have actually achieved, and ‘consider instead what policies of trade and engagement might bring about’. Speaking from his own experience working in Iran, he said that the effects of US-led sanctions over the last 20 years have been, perversely, to give more power to extremists and a crony government. He suggested that the alternative should be richer countries ‘abandoning economic sanctions’, which should be replaced by the ‘soft power’ of business and civil society, as long as they work together to respect international conventions and norms.
The G8, G20 and African countries: progress or pageantry?
Paul Collier, who advised David Cameron on the development agenda for this year’s G8 Summit, said that he had urged the British Prime Minister: ‘don’t preach’ and ‘don’t promise’. He said that getting the country’s ‘house in order’ in terms of tax avoidance, money laundering and transparency, particularly in the extractive industry, will benefit citizens of poorer countries as well as those in Britain. He cited the statistic that money coming out of Africa through corruption and over-invoicing is more than double that which comes in as aid.
He added that he hoped this year’s G8 Summit would ‘not be theatrical’. He contrasted this with the 2005 G8 Summit hosted by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in Gleneagles, Scotland, which he described as a distraction to ‘forget about [the invasion of] Iraq’.
Jamie Drummond disagreed that Gleneagles had been ‘all about Iraq’. He said that millions of people had campaigned for the cancellation of poorer countries’ debt leading up to that Summit, and had achieved it through a concerted effort. Throughout the evening, he stressed the power of activism – including ‘clicktivism’ – and the importance of a more informed global citizenry, which he said can help ‘good’ politicians make the ‘right decisions’, and hold ‘bad’ politicians ‘to account’.
Paul Collier and Jamie Drummond both welcomed the European Union’s recent legislation compelling oil, gas and mining companies to publish payments they make to governments and release information on their earnings in each country, saying that it was a huge step in the right direction.
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart argued that such accounting systems will involve an enormous amount of work but make ‘no difference’ to practices in Africa. He argued that a strong civil society working cooperatively with business was much more likely than such accounting systems to create real change.
Strive Masiyiwa, who advised President Barack Obama ahead of the 2012 G8 Summit in Camp David in the US, disagreed. He described feeling ‘horrified’ when the US government first passed anti-corruption legislation focussed on foreign companies, because he sensed that it would stifle business in Africa. But he said that he now realises that it was remarkably effective: ‘for the first time, the boardroom conversations were about corruption and bribery’. He argued that the point is not to ‘knock down’ such legislation, but to make it ‘more global’.
He also pointed out, however, that the capital African countries need for essential large-scale infrastructure projects is not available from western banks. The massive expansion of telecommunications infrastructure in Africa over the last twenty years has instead been largely funded by the Chinese government. Commenting on the increasing importance of China in relation to African economies, he added that he didn’t know if G8 meetings ‘will be relevant to Africa in five years’ time’.
During questions from the audience, a reporter from Africa Today magazine lamented that the yearly G8 Summit has ceased to be ‘about heads of state’, and is now a ‘journalists' jamboree’.
Paul Collier countered this claim by stating that an issue such as ‘beneficial ownership’, which has been high on the agenda of this year’s Summit, could not have been driven by the media, as it’s too difficult to explain.
International decision-makers differ on how to avoid climate catastrophe. International agreements, business innovation or individual actions?
In his address, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart highlighted sustainability as one area in which business and civil society have made ‘serious progress’ over the last 20 years, but lamented the ‘dispiritingly slow progress’ on an international agreement to cut carbon and admitted that he was ‘somewhat resigned to a more piecemeal approach’ to climate change.
Mary Robinson, leading discussion, said candidly that she felt ‘disappointed’ in Sir Mark Moody-Stuart’s resignation. She said that she felt it was ‘extraordinary’ that climate change was not top of the G8 agenda, given the scale of the threat it poses.
Paul Collier argued that the ‘right forum’ for taking action on climate change is the G20 rather than the G8, as the largest increases in harmful emissions will come from ‘the 12’ not from ‘the eight’. He expressed doubt that there would be any success in establishing an adequate international deal on cutting carbon if it was designed around the sorts of ‘woolly targets’ currently being proposed. He asserted that any deal should instead concentrate on closing down the world’s coal industry.
Jamie Drummond challenged Paul Collier using the example of Mozambique, where large deposits of coal have recently begun to be exploited. He asked whether the people of Mozambique should have a right to be compensated by the rest of the world, if they were not allowed to extract coal, as western nations have done for centuries.
Paul Collier explained that any ban on the use of coal would have to start with the richest country and work downwards, if it were to be fair.
In response to a question from the audience about peak oil, Paul Collier quoted a former head of OPEC who said ‘the world didn't move on from the stone age because we ran out of stone’. He argued that, as competition for scarce resources grows, it drives prices up, which will lead to innovation in cleaner technologies.
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart was less confident that the market would drive sufficient innovation to combat climate change before it is too late. He said that ‘there is an element of urgency’ over climate change ‘that trumps economics’.
Cultural Forum 2013 closes with a new poem by Ben Okri
The Forum ended fittingly with a poem by Nigerian writer Ben Okri. The poem was written for the occasion and dedicated to Zamyn founder Michael Aminian. It ends with the lines, ‘[it’s] time to write on the face of the earth / the value of everyone's name'.
Watch the video here
Image copyright Matt Jolly