The Sustaining Global Growth conference kicked off Sat., June 22 with discussion about issues surrounding the upcoming G8 Summit in Kananaskis.
Conference Chair Stephen Randall, Dean of the University of Calgary's Faculty of Social Sciences, set the tone for the conference with opening remarks about sustainable growth.
"Since the end of the Cold War, the world has been traumatized by the challenges posed by environmental degradation, ethnic, racial and religious conflict, poverty, the crisis of HIV/AIDS ravaging sub-Saharan Africa, unequal access to quality education, and in many instances, no access to education or health care at all. There are also the challenges of building participatory democracies, and more recently, the heightened threat of terrorism," said Randall. "There is an unprecedented involvement of civil societies in debate over these critical issues."
The conference will address economic and social development and organizers hope to make a compendium of ideas and discussions which can be presented to leaders of G8 nations.
G8 Summit Policy Office representative Laurence Blandford helped set the agenda for the June 26-27, 2002, G8 Summit, and explained to Sustainable Growth delegates how their topics of discussion may overlap.
"Last year's summitt in Genoa was substantively a great success in terms of the results it produced but in many ways it was challenging in terms of public understanding of the G8. Clearly the image of the summit was not of G8 leaders and the leaders of developing countries discussing important issues but rather what was going on in the streets. The Prime Minister Jean Chrétien felt after that meeting that a new approach was required, one which took the summit away from the large bureaucratic delegations and the imperatives of the bureaucrats."
Blandford said that Kananaskis will be an informal retreat for G8 leaders which minimizes travel and maximizes time for informal face to face discussions.
"We've worked very hard to focus the agenda to achieve a results-oriented focused agenda that's not 'Christmas treed,'" he said. "[That is] where every person wants to attach their favorite bobble to a tree which then becomes unfocused.
"We placed importance on building public awareness and including public opinion in our preparatory process early on. These kinds of events are very significant in contributing to public awareness of work we are doing as is the G6B which we also support," he continued. "We also argued that to influence the summit agenda, we need to start much sooner-we need to appear much earlier on in the process. If you're trying to influence the summit agenda today, it's rather late in the game, the agenda has been set on what discussions will be happening. Now is not the time to put new issues on the table. We've been talking extensively to Canadians and citizens of other G8 countries and Africa, the PM has been very active in traveling and speaking, advocating that."
Ella Kokotsis from the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto, agreed with Blandford and sees great potential in the G8 agenda to deliver on promises, citing fulfillment of a majority of such agreements made in Genoa and the increased role of public consultation in this round of talks.
"Despite the uncertainty, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has designed and should deliver a conference of historic significance," said Kokotsis. "The challenge is for him to find a way to engage civil society in global governance. Success rests on citizens of the world in coping with forces of globalization that will hopefully make Kananaskis a historical success."
After Blandford's address, Bank of Canada official Allan Crawford discussed the growth of the economy.
"Productivity plays a very important role in determining the national standard of living and is an important source of gains in real income," said Crawford. "Most of the United States' increase in productivity growth can be attributed to efficiency gains in information and communications technology. Much of that push seems to be related to use of technology in all sectors of the economy."
Crawford also noted the importance of gains in ICT production, and that such trends are not generally observed outside the U.S.
According to Crawford, five key factors drive productivity growth in Canada. They are investment in capital and new technologies; adoption of business and organizational structures complementary to changes in technology; the increase in average education of the work force and availability of skilled workers; the diffusion of technologies through foreign trade; and favourable micro and macro-economic regulations and policies.