“G8 must be about more than the interests of powerful nations.” deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
The announcement that the G8 Summit to be held in Fermanagh this month will no doubt showcase the tourist potential of the Irish countryside and provide the opportunity for prospective investors to consider investing in a country that is at peace.
I welcome President Obama and the other world leaders visit to this part of Ireland for the first time.
I also believe that more important than the location of the summit is the impact that it will have on many millions of people throughout the world. Our world is very unequally divided, poverty, disease and conflict is rampant. The leaders of the G8 countries need to find solutions to the economic crisis that faces the world and also to resolve the very grave situation in the Middle East.
Ireland, north and south, has suffered terribly as the result of the world recession caused by the wreckless behaviour of financial institutions facilitated by blind-eye government policy and deregulation.
In the face of endemic unemployment not just here in Ireland but across Europe and further afield the focus of the Summit must be on devising an economic strategy which puts people and not financial institutions, including the banks, first and foremost.
I urge G8 leaders when they come to Fermanagh to recognise and accept the need to do something deep and profound to assist people who have lost their jobs, businesses and homes, and most of all too many of whom have already lost hope.
As for the cost of staging the Summit in Fermanagh, I have previously stated that the British Government must step forward and accept that it will be responsible for providing funding to cover all costs associated with this event.
Neither the Executive nor Fermanagh District Council can afford to divert finance from already depleted budgets in order to facilitate a summit to which we have had no substantive input. I, therefore, welcome the commitment by Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the British Treasury in the last few days, that most of the cost will be borne by the British government and that all of the equipment and specialist facilities installed to accommodate the summit will remain in place for our use once the event has concluded.
On the world stage the G8 leaders must find solutions to the growing instability in the Middle East and the threat to the region posed by the escalating conflict in Syria.
I believe that the failure by the EU Foreign Ministers to reach agreement on continuing the arms embargo to Syria when they met is a major set-back to efforts to negotiate a ceasefire. I would urge the other G8 leaders to impress on the British government the folly of its efforts to allow the arming of opposition forces in Syria. I believe that this would only exacerbate and prolong the conflict.
The international community should be seeking a political solution to this conflict. The one lesson that Britain should have learned from the conflict here is that you cannot resolve a political conflict through military means.
The civil war in Syria has already claimed over 80,000 lives and created 1.5m Syrian refugees. More weapons and fighters will increase the bloodshed and deepen the conflict. It would also have the potential to further destabilise other countries in the region, which are already struggling to accommodate huge amounts of refugees, especially in the Lebanon.
It must be recognised that the rebels in Syria are not one unified group, with an organised command structure or shared goals. They are made up of a variety of disparate groups and have been accused of large scale human rights abuses, as have the government.
Adding more weapons to this volatile situation could destabilise the entire region. The best way to stop the conflict is through peace talks and a peace process. The USA and Russia have recently shown an interest in creating a forum for the Government and rebels to try start peace talks.
This is a welcome initiative and needs to be given more time. Exporting weapons to Syria will only continue to fuel this civil war and claim more lives. I hope that the USA and Russia will further explore this initiative with the other participants at the upcoming G8 Summit in Fermanagh.
Our Peace Process is hailed as the most successful in the World today. We achieved this because there was both a will and a desire to end conflict and to pursue a political Agreement. The G8 represents some of the most powerful nations on Earth. With a collective will and desire they can make a difference to the lives of those tens of millions of human beings afflicted by poverty, disease and war. There is no better place to make that difference than at the Fermanagh summit.