British Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott: The G-8’s global leadership

These first few months I have spent as ambassador in Washington have flown by. Less than two months into the job, we had the prime minister and Samantha Cameron in town for an official visit and unforgettable state dinner. The foreign secretary and chancellor of the Exchequer have both been here twice. Last week we had Prince Harry.

And now, with the G-8 and NATO summits just around the corner — in terms of both time and location — we at the embassy have been working closely with counterparts from across the U.S. administration to ensure both are the success they deserve and need to be. As partners who look to provide global leadership on a wide array of issues, it’s doubly important for the U.K. and U.S. to work together in advance of these big international events.

The G-8 often faces accusations that it is no longer needed in this more globalized world, but the summit comes at an important time. Uncertainty in the eurozone poses a challenge to still-recovering economies elsewhere, including Britain and the United States. Many of the nations of the Middle East are undergoing historic transitions to greater democracy, while others are embroiled in violent conflict. The international community is shifting control of Afghanistan back to the Afghan people.


Many of these topics are on the agenda for Camp David. Taken together, they form a central theme for the summit: the G-8 taking the lead to provide stability that allows for global security and growth.

This is a role the G-8 executed well through last year’s Deauville Partnership. As Tunisia and Egypt emerged from the protests of the Arab Spring and began rebuilding a freer, more democratic civil society, the countries of the G-8 pledged $20 billion to help them along. The results have been promising.

In Tunisia, a former dissident who had been jailed and exiled under the prior regime was elected president in December. The Egyptian people took part in elections without Hosni Mubarak for the first time in 30 years.

In Libya, Britain and America — with NATO allies and other partners, of course — acted to implement the decision of the U.N. Security Council to protect the civilian population from the threat of annihilation by Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s repressive forces.

We continue to condemn the violence in Syria. The daily attacks by the Assad regime against the people of Syria must come to an end. Both sides must follow the terms of the U.N.-brokered peace deal to which they have already agreed. At Camp David, the plight of the Syrian people will be at the front of leaders' minds.

G-8 leaders will also discuss how to prepare Afghanistan for the changes that will flow from the ending of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat operations at the end of 2014. That discussion comes against a background of continuing, lower-key support for the people, economy and armed forces of that country in subsequent years, in advance of the NATO Summit in Chicago and this July's conference in Tokyo.

It's a full agenda, which will also cover climate change, greater food security, protecting intellectual property rights and the promotion of clean energy technology. Once again, the G-8 will be doing its bit for human dignity, prosperity and security, just as it has for nearly four decades.