Leaders of the eight leading industrialized economies gathered in Hokkaido, Japan, on Monday for the start of this year's G-8 summit. One of the items on the agenda will be a European Union proposal to create a food reserve system to stabilize grain prices.
On Monday, many German newspaper commentators criticized the idea, arguing it will only have a short term impact on markets at best and is merely a symbolic step that highlights the powerlessness of the G-8 in its current form to tackle the world's problems.
The Group of Eight leading industrialized nations made up of the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Russia, has a range of pressing global problems to tackle: climate change, surging oil and food prices, the financial crisis, a looming world recession.
But the forum, founded in 1975 as an informal talking shop on global economic issues, is outdated and incapable of solving the world's problems because it doesn't include key players such as China and India, the commentators write.
In fact most of the world's major global forums -- the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations -- are Western-dominated constructions born of the rubble of World War II and the necessities of the Cold War, commentators write, adding that the world urgently needs a new format structure for so-called "Global Governance."
Conservative Die Welt writes:
"The (G-8) government leaders usually produce pseudo results. The proposal to set up a strategic food reserve fits into this category. It will only have short-term influence on the market at best. The true problems -- the increasing use of farmland for biofuels production and increasing demand from emerging economies -- won't be tackled."
"That highlights the fundamental problem of this debating society founded in 1975: on the most pressing global issues, the countries that are required for a solution to be found are missing from the table. How can supply and demand in the oil market be brought to an equilibrium if Saudi Arabia and China aren't permanently included?"
"How should one come to grips with the global rise in inflation and the dollar crisis if the economies that are causing the surge in prices are, at best, invited to a lunch on the sidelines of the summit? It may well be that it's hard to find solutions in talks with the Chinese, Saudis and Brazilians. But without them, many proposed solutions are worthless."
"The French president is right to demand that the G-8 be enlarged. It's better to have less influence in a functioning institution than a lot of influence in a forum no one needs."
Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"The world lacks the forums in which it can solve the problems of the 21st century. The international institutions are increasingly proving to be incapable of tackling global worries. Be it climate, energy supply, food or pressing trade issues -- there is no forum where any of the big globalization issues can be solved legitimately and efficiently."
"Most international organisations were set up by the West amid the rubble of World War II or in the Cold War era. But the events since 1990 -- globalization, the emergence of giant growing economies, religious ideologization of the most important raw materials suppliers -- isn't reflected anywhere in the international order."
"The Security Council of the United Nations is a dusty relic of the post-war order. The G-8 is a Western club that no longer reflects the economic dynamics of the 21st century. The same is true of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund whose leadership is traditionally and stubbornly made up of Europeans or US citizens, as though the world's most important growth engine hadn't long since moved to Asia."
"It's a system of the West for the West which is making it all too easy for the emerging economies of Asia to shun global problems such as climate change."
"The globalized world needs a more representative system, for two reasons: the Western institutions are ineffective and subject to the accusation that they're keeping out emerging economies to preserve their own power interests."
"'Global Governance' is the new magic word of the future To prevent Global Governance from degenerating into an empty buzzword, a few quick decisions need to be taken. The first could be that the G-8 expands itself and as soon as possible includes the true shareholders of World Inc: Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa."
Business daily Handelsblatt writes:
"The eight countries won't be able to come up with solutions to these pressing problems. Since the club of leading industrialized nations was founded in the 1970s after the first oil price shock, the world has changed fundamentally. The industrial nations are increasingly powerless to solve crises on their own. The G-8 is getting old."
"The G-8 has reached the limits of its capabilities. Symbolic steps such as the possible establishment of a food reserve are aimed at proving the group is capable of taking action, but they don't solve problems.
"As global economic powers, the US and Europe must continue to be participants. But doesn't the EU suffice as representative of Europe? And does Canada have to belong? And what about the emerging Asian and Latin American economies? There aren't any respected leadership structures among the emerging economies. But they will have to be set up, and will have to be represented in the G-8."
"The group will only hold onto its legitimacy as a forum for leadership if it comes up with proposed solutions that are globally acceptable. And the more complex the challenges, the more the South needs to cooperate. Only if the G8 achieves both these conditions can it credibly convene as a 'Global Economic Summit.'"
David Crossland, 1:30 p.m. CET