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Published: Tuesday 27 August, 2013

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TOYAKO, JAPANWeakened by economic woes and enduring political divisions, leaders of the Group of Eight nations meeting here will be more hardpressed than usual to live up to their avowed commitment to act in the global interest.

Early indications are that Canada, the United States and other G8 countries are shying away from agreements on decisive action on some of todays most pressing problems improving health in developing nations, aid to Africa, the world food crisis and climate change.

The group, which also includes Britain, France, Germany, Italy longchamp small tote , Japan and Russia, is opening a threeday summit on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Todays talks, which include a meeting with leaders from Nigeria, South Africa and a handful of other African nations, will focus in part on the democratic turmoil in Zimbabwe. Prime Minister Stephen Harper called yesterday for the G8 to issue a strong condemnation of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabes recent onecandidate presidential runoff vote.

This years G8 meeting takes place against a backdrop of punishing global oil prices, turmoil in the international banking and credit sector and the worst economic conditions since the 199798 Asian financial crisis.

As a result, G8 leaders appear less likely to fulfill earlier commitments of significant increases in financial help for Africa. President George W. Bush and the other summiteers are expected to issue only a limited response. They may agree to step up support for developing nations to expand agricultural production, but their main response is likely to be only a recognition of the need for more food aid.

With Bush still opposed to specific emissionreduction targets to fight global warming, the G8 is expected at best to reach a loosely worded agreement on longterm reductions longchamp small tote in greenhouse gases something environmental groups say ignores the urgent nature of the climate change issue.

The hesitant responses of the G8, a 38yearold group often called the rich mans club, are prompting renewed questions about its relevance and usefulness.

Their credibility is running low because under their tenure not much has happened to help developing countries, Mark Fried, advocacy coordinator for Oxfam Canada, says of current G8 leaders.

He said Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies can only hope that Harper and other G8 leaders will find the political will to produce betterthanexpected results here on food aid and help for Africa.

We hope they are going to take advantage of this opportunity and rise to the challenge of the day, because these are very urgent problems, hundreds of millions of people falling into poverty.

Created in 1975 as a discussion forum for countries that were at the time the worlds undisputed economic powers, the G8 has seen its share of international wealthcreation diluted by the rise of emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India.

The G8 has tried to adjust to the new reality by inviting the leaders of major emerging economies and regional power Australia as well as the group of African heads of state to take part in this years summit. But many believe the G8 will become increasingly irrelevant unless it broadens its official membership to include newly developed countries whose economic and political influence cannot be denied.

Harpers stance at this influential international forum remains a matter of conjecture. While he claims to be seeking a bridgebuilding role favouring compromise, environmentalists and nongovernmental agencies who follow the G8 closely see Canadas government as a continuing obstacle to progress.

For instance, Harper has helped punt the key issue of climate change past the G8 to other international discussion forums by agreeing with Bush that no accord on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is worth signing unless it includes all major emitters, including countries like China and India that are not G8 members.

Stephen Harper is trying to derail progress on global warming by insisting on a unanimous agreement with the developing world, said David Martin, energy coordinator of Greenpeace Canada. This allornothing approach will inevitably result in nothing being done neither in Canada, nor globally.

On African aid, the Harper government claims it is living up to Ottawas 2005 commitment to double financial support for Africa. But aid groups are disappointed with the way the Canadian government calculates the assistance numbers, arguing that the current approach is shortchanging Africa by $700 million a year.

Harper met with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda shortly after arriving here from Canada. During a 45minute session, Harper and Fukuda agreed that the G8 should put out a separate statement on the illegitimacy of Mugabes government in Zimbabwe, Canadian officials said. Some countries taking part in todays discussions on Africa also favour the adoption of to longchamp small tote ugher sanctions against the Mugabe regime.

Over the next few days, Harper is expected to take time to press other leaders for commitments to shore up the military campaign against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. longchamp small tote