THE host country at the G8 summit meetings of leading industrial countries always gets to set the agenda. For the 2008 gathering which started in Japan yesterday the Japanese government wanted to put climate change and the follow-up to the Kyoto Treaty on control of carbon emissions at the top of the subjects for discussion. However, with remarkable rapidity other issues have claimed the leaders' attention - most notably the global economic down-turn and the knock-on effects of escalating oil prices on life in prosperous as well as poor countries. The all-embracing nature of the problems caused by these factors throws into tsharp relief the limitations of the membership of the G8 group which reflects a view of those who were the movers and shakers of twenty or thirty years ago. Brazil, China and India are now invited to join the G8 members on the final day of the meeting but by then they can do little to influence decisions or policies already formed. However strong the pressure on the G8 leaders to move to new, apparently more urgent issues, they should nonetheless insist on a review of the special problems of Africa and an audit of the development aid promises and financial pledges initially made when Britain was host at Gleneagles in 2005. In many ways Africa is its own worst enemy but that does not relieve the West's responsibility to continue to help its people.


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