Bishop Nigel’s responds to G8 in Dundee Courier


G8 - After the talking

What makes our world a better place to live in? For the G8 leaders meeting at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland this week the answers were all about Tax, Transparency and Trade and a lot of Talking, which is of course what politicians and civil servants engage in. Britain occupied the chair this year, leading an imaginative and ambitious agenda aimed at promoting growth, prosperity and economic development.

Did the outcomes match the photo-opportunities? The G8 Declaration, available on the UK Government website, commits the governments of France, Germany, Italy, the USA, Canada, Japan, Russia and the UK to ten practical ways of making a real difference. For example collaboration over world trade that boosts jobs, and transparency over taxation, land rights and mineral extraction in conflict zones.

Has the G8 lived up to its promise? Politicians are rarely the only ones who can make things happen, being faster on positive thinking and sound bites than practical delivery. Maybe G8, borne of late 1970’s concerns, has passed its shelf-life. Without India, China and Brazil or other Latin America and African countries involved, addressing international issues and tackling the most pressing global challenges must be more difficult. I was struck by the contrast in the media coverage this week between the calm of Lough Erne and the continuing horrors of the Syrian conflict.

Is this all a bit remote from Courier country? Well, point ten of the Lough Erne Declaration says: governments should publish information on laws, budgets, spending, national statistics, elections and contracts in a way that is easy to read and re-use, so that citizens can hold them to account.  This is interesting because it underlines the ways in which we all share a responsibility for how we transact political and financial power, everyday business and simply relate to one another in local communities.

So what might our own regional G8 look like? We could bring together a forum of significant people across the public, private and voluntary sectors - political and business leaders, banks and land owners, education and care providers, community groups and faith representatives. The trouble is that we are often trapped in our own bubble or organisational silo and not very trustful of collaboration.

Our G8 would have no posturing, no grand communiques, rather some speedy bite-size commitments, joint action to change the changeable for the better, and then moving on to the next opportunity. Investing in meaningful work for more of our local young people would be a great place to start. 

World faiths each have something to say about political, economic relationships and human dignity: the duty for example to help a needy neighbour or not to grab what belongs to others, and Jesus’s famous distinction between ‘rendering to Caesar and rendering to God’. Underpinning this perspective is the belief that our enduring relationships are actually about covenants – kept promises rather than contractual small-print.

This article appeared in the Dundee Courier on 21 June 2013.

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