Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Toward World, Citizen-Empowered Democracy: Crossing The Iron Curtain Of Ignorance

"In its coverage of Russia’s January 1, 2006, cut-off of gas to Ukraine, which would not pay for it, and Ukraine’s subsequent cut-off of Russian gas to Europe, the western media overwhelmingly blamed Russia. In return, Russians responded with bewilderment and anger at this harsh reaction to their effort to follow the market principles long preached by the West. The combination was a stunning display of the strength of the iron curtain of ignorance, inherited Cold War imagery and mistrust between Russia and those outside, as the months unfolded and Russia’s presidency of the G8 took shape. It forced those on both sides of the old iron curtain to take a closer look at the other and to learn more about the other’s faults and achievements, about the wide and deep range of interdependence and shared vulnerabilities, and about how best to induce the other to pull together for the common cause. Due to the dense summit preparatory and follow-up process, the novelty of Russia hosting the summit and the thousands of contacts among ministers, officials, experts, parliamentarians, legislators, youth and others, a dynamic process of direct and deeper learning has been unleashed. Many Russians are thus directly discovering what western democracy, with all its flaws, is really like, and that they like it, suitably adopted and improved, for themselves at home. ...

Russia’s skilled summit leaders, who have lived and worked in the West had an understanding of open democracy and markets that many of their colleagues in the domestic departments of the Russian government often lacked. The unusually vibrant process of G8 ministerial meetings to prepare the summit—featuring unusual gatherings of those for energy, health and education— brought knowledge of how the established democracies did things to those in the domestic departments with great force. Thus Russia’s initial G8 proposal on energy security contained little
recognition of the contribution that free market mechanisms could make. However, by mid-March, the G8 energy ministers “Chair’s Statement” drafted by its Russian host, proclaimed that “meeting energy security challenges will require reliance on market-based pricing…” The summit itself will declare that the democratic, market principles of “transparency” come first."...

Deepening Russia's Democracy: The St. Petersburg Summit Contribution John Kirton, G8 Research Group (Toronto), July 17, 2996


"The G8 leaders’ 2006 gathering at St. Petersburg on July 15-17 was a summit of significant success. It largely delivered its ambitious and innovative priority agenda on energy, health and education, responded effectively to the breaking crisis in Lebanon, and deepened democracy in a Russia hosting a regular G8 summit for its first time.

A. Delivering Priority Agenda

In overall terms, St. Petersburg set new highs on some key dimensions of summit performance (see Appendix A). It produced 311 specific, concrete commitments — the highest of any summit since they started in 1975. It also set several new directions, affirming a large number and broad array of democratic values as the foundation for its work in energy security, education, health and corruption, as well as on Africa, counterfeiting, counterterrorism, UN counterterrorism, stabilization, nonproliferation and the Middle East (see Appendix B). Its documented deliberations approached the historic high set at Sea Island in 2004. While the $4.4 billion in new money mobilized was far less than the $212 billion raised at Gleneagles in 2006, it was still above the sum raised at Evian in 2003. St. Petersburg also created three new G8 bodies to help carry out its work, and received grudging recognition from the leading media across the G8 countries for its good work.

B. Responding to the Lebanon Crisis

St. Petersburg also responded effectively to the escalating crisis in Lebanon, which erupted just before the summit started and took centre stage during its second half. Building on their strong consensus on terrorism, the Middle East Peace Process and the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, G8 leaders crafted a detailed, balanced and forceful declaration on the Middle East that was endorsed by United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan and the other outreach participants at the summit the next day. The summit’s strong unified statement seemed to have an immediate impact, as the violence in the region levelled off, Israel signalled it would accept a cease fire on the G8’s terms, and world oil prices declined.

C. A Summit of Significant Achievement

Perhaps the largest and most long-lived legacy of St. Petersburg is its impact in deepening democracy in Russia itself. This impact unfolded in the lead-up to and during the summit itself. Given the G8’s core mission of promoting open democracy, individual liberty and social advance, and the many doubts about whether Russia deserved to be in the democratic G8 club, these were of particular significance, as they unfolded in ten specific ways." ...

"A Summit of Significant Success: The G8 at St. Petersburg 2006 John Kirton, G8 Research Group (Toronto), July 19, 2006

Petersburg, the Russian Federation. The historic urban center across from the Hermitage (Winter Palace). The old buildings of the 18th century University are under the trees to the left of center. The Neva River bifurcates and flows into the Gulf of Finland, in the distance.

Photo credit: Associated Press via With thanks.


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