-What or who are the G-7? The Group of Seven are a mini-version of the Group of Ten (now Eleven) but an expanded version of the Group of Five, if that makes any sense. In 1962, ten countries agreed to lend the International Monetary Fund extra currency, on condition that they had some influence over how this money was used. Financial representatives of this Group of Ten and the IMF have meetings regularly through the year. In 1967 the finance ministers of five G-10 countries (France, Japan, UK, USA and West Germany) began to meet regularly for informal and confidential discussions. With the addition of Canada and Italy in 1975, the Group of Five formed the Group of Seven. G-7 summits now have an agenda wider than economic co-operation - including international terrorism and arms control. Global Express asked young people from around the world what they would most like to say to the leaders of the G-7. Here are their replies...
Be decisive, but always consider that you may be wrong. Be strong, but keep your heart open and unjudgemental. Be compassionate, but not naive. Be righteous in your own life before attacking another's. Make sure your decisions, your relationships and lifestyle, your choice of words and tone of voice, your very principles are not the product of your own needs and weaknesses - however subtle!
People who are above the fray are targets. Only in weakness and fear do they return fire. All the great heroes of the past have things in common. Many have power in common - but not all. It is self-deception to think they were great because they were powerful. They were great as a result of what they did with power. The 'truly great' reached levels of power not because they sought it, but because they were wise enough, mature enough and connected enough. But ultimately, because they passionately cared for the state of humanity, their nation or the world. Please, please become heroes.
Melanie Trimble, USA
As the richest nations in the world, the G-7 have used huge natural resources. This brings a lot of problems to our environment. I think these nations should take responsibility for dealing with environmental issues. If we could reduce our use of natural resources, such as oil and coal, it would greatly benefit the environment. The G-7 leaders should make an effort to make this part of their national policies.
Chang, Ching-Chiang, Taiwan ROC
I come from Ukraine, a country that was under Communism for more than seventy years, and is now starting to build a democratic society. Caught behind the Iron Curtain, it was never exposed to the world, but closed in on itself - although geographically part of Europe. The beginning is difficult and uncertain when you start something new. It will take a long time for our country to develop prosperity and stability. A shattered economy stagnates and slows down progress in a developing country.
I do not think that foreign companies investing money in Ukrainian enterprises to use our cheap workforce is the answer. There must be another form of co-operation and integration that will bring support and help. The most difficult thing to change is the mentality of people, so we need more shared experience and knowledge from the West.
My request to the G-7 leaders is that such experience be gained through European and world unity. Unity that follows the values and principles of democracy, and does not look down on 'a poor country'. The more prosperous countries are, the more responsibility they should take. We must not forget that the responsibility of national political leadership is both broad and narrow - from a country and its people, to the world. One concept must not be separated from the other.
Svetlana Bednazh, Ukraine
Did you know that...
*In 1960 the richest fifth of the world's population enjoyed twenty times the income of the poorest fifth. By 1990 it was sixty times wealthier.
*In 1992 Sudan's debt was over thirty times its annual export earnings.
*About one tenth of the South's debt is owed by the severely indebted low-income countries. Half of this is owed by Nigeria, Vietnam, Ivory Coast and Sudan.
*It would cost about nine billion dollars a year to meet Africa's basic health and education goals. This is less than a third of the interest due on the continent's debt.
*For every dollar given in aid in 1993, the North took back three dollars in debt repayments.
*Trade barriers to protect the North's textile industries cost the South thirty-five billion dollars a year in lost trade - more than the aid it receives.
The duty of richer countries to help the poorer is beyond dispute. It springs from the common identity of the human race. The Jubilee 2000 Campaign for the Remission of Third World Debt is aiming to achieve total elimination of the commercial, governmental and quasi-governmental debt of the poorest countries by the year 2000. A substantial level of debt relief for those who are still poor, but not the poorest, is also hoped for.
This proposal is long overdue - it is a practical solution to a problem that afflicts hundreds of millions of people. But like the abolition of slavery it will only succeed with wide public support.
Privilege brings responsibility. You are fortunate enough to represent some of the world's most privileged nations. But it is all too easy to regard this prosperity and security as a right rather than a responsibility. Maintaining and extending your power, security and economic strength, regardless of the cost to other nations, amounts to treating it as a right. Regarding it as a responsibility involves giving the human interests of other nations the same priority as your own material interests - allowing others to share the fruits of your good fortune. Surely your greatest challenge is to motivate your people - en masse - to respect their fortune as a privilege rather than to guard it as an exclusive right.
If you could win the full support of your citizens in seeking to serve the global community, your countries would earn international respect. Ultimately, this approach would be more rewarding than being a nation where the citizens believe they have a greater right to prosperity.
Chris Lancaster, Australia
I come from a country that, even in the time of its greatest wealth, has never been regarded as economically powerful. It now has tremendous debts. I do not wish to see Poland among the world hegemonies, I just wish for a sufficiently high income so that people do not have to worry about what to eat for dinner. I wish there were no homeless people suffering in the cold and rain. Without the help and good will of those in a better economic position this is impossible.
I hope the G-7 leaders will not only work for their own well-being - but will look at the whole world from a more human perspective. Poorer countries are your fellow travellers on this life-journey, and they need your help right now. As the winds of history change, you many find yourselves in their position. Create bonds of friendship and trust instead of making others dependent on you. Offer, without demanding in return. Let it be the beginning of a better future for this fragile world.
Marta Dabrowska, Poland
The collapse of the Stalinist command economies in Eastern Europe has clearly demonstrated their inability to create an economically sound society. As a result, countries of the former Eastern Bloc are engaged in the painstaking process of adapting to a market orientated economic system.
In the West, the ideological goal of protecting the free market economy demands lean management and a reduced work force. But a considerable percentage of people are now politically and economically neglected - creating an alienated and disaffected section in society. As the former Communist states show, disaffected citizens pose a threat to the state. So the problems that East and West face are very similar.
The leaders of the G-7 must ensure the livelihood of all their people. In a world of limited resources, economic growth must also be limited. With only finite resources, fair distribution is imperative. Excluding large strata of society is not only morally despicable, but also political suicide. The experiences of Eastern Europe could hint at solutions to the problems in the West, and vice versa.
The G-7 leaders must face the social realities in our societies, be brave enough to rid themselves of ideological ballast and constructively analyse the good and ill of both experiences. Only when the welfare of people is balanced with the demands of the economy can we live in peace with each other.
Ralf Krewer, Germany
The leaders of the G-7 countries must have a vision and plan to achieve the happiness of the majority of the world. International relations and the economic world order are still based on inequality. You must put our spirit's pollution before the environment's pollution. Please be unselfish and live into another's situation. Without helping and learning from each other we cannot live in this world which God gives us. 'Unselfishness is the rent we pay for living on the earth' (Robert Baden-Powell).
Ohta Atsushi, Japan
Today there is perhaps a little more humility about the limitations of politics and economics - a mood reflected at street level with scepticism. We do, however, need leadership to encourage purpose and a spirit beyond ourselves to help make the world healthier, happier and more secure.
The New Europe, perfect by no means, gives an indication of what is possible. The founders included training and programmes that enable workers from dissimilar regions to learn from one another. The same principle applies on a world-wide scale.
In the satellite age, young people in the West are politically neglected and commercially exploited, and so they have retreated within themselves. We need more than sporting media circuses, crisis appeals, universal brand names and package holidays to explore identity and the sense of one world.
Please assume greater responsibility to make living a richer experience - through exchanges and secondments, for example. Young people have the spirit - help them build for the future and let friendships grow.
Roger Morris, UK
I urge you to support the Peace Process in the Middle East, and to help the Palestinian people recover some of their rights by creating their own state. This will introduce stability and prosperity to this part of the Middle East - to the benefit of everyone, including Israel, who is searching for security.
A Palestinian, Jerusalem
My message to the G-7 leaders is: 'Stop trading in weapons'. A simple message, but they know why someone who cares for world peace would say this. They know that the G-7 are merchants of death, selling the developing world weapons it cannot afford and encouraging conflict in unstable regions. It is in the economic interest of the G-7 countries for wars to continue and to get more technologically complex.
Consider these statistics from the most recent yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Out of the top 100 arms-producing companies in the OECD and developing countries, the G-7 businesses have the first 37 places to themselves. Altogether they have 88 out of the top 100. These include well-known companies such as General Motors, IBM, Rolls Royce, Unisys and Mitsubishi. The percentage share of total arms sales of the G-7 countries is even higher at 95%. Together, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and the USA account for no less than 82% of world trade in weapons. The industrialised world accounts for most of the exports, while the developing world imports 60% of arms traded internationally.
In dollar terms this is equal to nearly US$13 billion, money better spent on clean water, health care, education and food. The G-7 are no better then drug pushers, dealing in lethal goods with no concern for the consequences.
Richard Davis, New Zealand
In war torn countries, innocent civilians are losing their lives because of prejudice, corruption and hate. Innocent children are born into poverty, suffering and premature death. Indigenous peoples all over the world continue to endure humiliation and emotional pain, as they attempt to rebuild what they once possessed - self-esteem. The unborn children of today's society will witness all this injustice - perhaps they will learn to be part of it.
Responsibility for promoting global unity and human equality lies not only with parents but also government leaders. The G-7 leaders could be pioneers. Today racial and global interaction are inevitable - so the G-7 leaders must promote unity and peace. There is no need for injustice. As we enter the next millennium there is much to learn from history - the future is still in the making.
Trent Fox, Canada
If I had to pick an event in the latter half of this century that altered the course of history, my choice would be the fall of the Berlin Wall. On one hand, the event itself and the lead-up showed us the courage and strength it took for the political leaders and their people to tear down a decades-old divide. On the other hand, those enduring images of young Berliners from East and West holding hands and dancing on the crumbling remnants of the edifice that had separated them for so long, signified the sheer exhilaration of a wall's destruction.
Yet there are other walls that continue to exist - walls less visible than Berlin's. Walls which, as leaders of the seven most powerful nations of the world, you have the ability do demolish. Through your membership of all the major regional trading agreements and free-trade areas of the world, you can bring down walls of protectionism; through your membership of potent security alliances you bring down walls of distrust and suspicion; by virtue of the relative affluence of your respective countries you can play a leading role in narrowing the economic disparities between North and South.
Let this exciting and dynamic time, in which we live, go down in history as the 'Era of the Collapsing Wall'. A fence-less world does not make fro a defence-less work, but a world made strong through unity.
Shampa Sinha, India/Australia