Just before the weekend the President of France Nicholas Sarkozy spoke to the 18th Ambassadors’ Conference at the Elysée Palace in Paris.   Now that is pomp, I suspect.  The speech was a kind of - here is where we are roundup – with a look toward France’s dual Gx leadership role – president of the G8 – commencing in January and host of the G20 Leaders Summit following the Seoul Summit in November.  If there was an underlying theme it was – reform. Such reform included European institutions including the EU and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and also NATO. 

On the Gx front the president wondered aloud whether the fading of the global financial crisis – what he referred to as the “relative calm” that has returned – might tempt G20 countries to limit their ambitions to commitments that already had been taken and then supplementing them in 2011 by a few useful measures. 

The President urges that the G20 not be so limited. As he suggests: “Sticking with this agenda would condemn the G20 to failure and the world to new crises.”  The President urges new projects and identifies three that France will push for:

  1. The reform of the international monetary system;
  2. Controlling the volatility of the prices of raw materials; and
  3. Global Governance reform.

Now the first two are cast in very French terms, e.g. the determination to end the sovereign reserve system built on the US dollar. 

It is worth alighting on the third project briefly.  For the last few weeks, I and other global governance types have been examining the transition of from the Toronto summits to the Seoul Summit and beyond.  There is a strong concern that the emergence of the G20 as ‘The’ Leadership forum has possibly ‘stalled out’.  So what does Sarkozy have to say about the Gx? 

First Sarkozy is urging that the agenda of the G20 be widened.  But before he gets there he proposes that the G20 establish a Secretariat, “to continuously monitor the implementation of decisions and deal with issues in conjunction with pertinent international organizations(?)”

Once having dealt with process, the president goes on recommend that the G20 deal with development – although Korea has made clear that it will tackle the subject at G20 Seoul Summit – the financing of climate change and then the reform of the many institutions including specialized UN bodies that according to the President – “all need reform”.

And finally the elephant in the room – the G8.  Well, while the President recognizes that some urge it to disappear and others are determined to redirect its energies to peace and security and partnership with Africa, the most the President was prepared to say was: “The future will decide, and France intends to prepare this summit carefully.”  So, like others, the French President is straddling the fence.

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