DOHA (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a U.N. aid summit on Saturday that the Group of Eight major industrialised nations has become outdated and any solution to the financial crisis must include China, India, Brazil and other emerging states.
Sarkozy, who holds the presidency of the European Union, said the crisis should not supersede poor countries' needs.
"Because of this crisis we could adopt two attitudes: business as usual (or) make this an opportunity to change the world, to change the global financial system," he said.
"We think that within the IMF, the developing countries must have a seat and a much more important role to play," he said. "We believe that the G8 format that was once useful is now obsolete".
The credit crunch has frozen lending markets, forced trillions in government bailouts and sent a raft of nations into recession. The crisis has taken a heavy toll on poorer nations through trade, aid and an inability to access credit markets.
Sarkozy said Europe had wanted the African Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political bloc of Gulf Arab states, to attend a Group of 20 meeting in Washington earlier this month.
Sarkozy was the only Western leader to attend the U.N. meeting in Doha. The heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank were absent, prompting questions on how much the conference can achieve in the absence of so many key players.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had chided leaders of rich nations on Friday for not attending in greater numbers.
"If not handled properly, today's financial crisis will become tomorrow's humanitarian crisis," he said "We need to see the Doha round revived and concluded successfully as soon as possible."
The Doha aid conference is unrelated to the World Trade Organisation's Doha trade round. Talks to reach a breakthrough in those discussions are underway in Geneva this weekend.
WTO head Pascal Lamy, speaking at the aid conference on Saturday, said it was key to send a message from Doha that states "will avoid unilateral beggar thy neighbour" actions.
"This weekend, Doha must send a signal on the urgency on committing on trade," he said.
Developing states lamented paying the price for a financial crisis they had no part in creating, saying they had had little voice in international institutions, and demanded a fresh approach to the global financial system.
"My country's agricultural sector is now banckrupted as a consequence of the advice of international institutions," said Fradique de Menezes, president of Sao Tome and Principe, a nation of small islands off the West African coast which undertook structural adjustment programmes in the past decade.
"We believe it is time that we can have a bit more imagination, that we might be able to find other ideas. Perhaps we'll be capable of creating our solutions to help our populations."
Expectations had been high that the meeting, which runs from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, would advance U.N. goals on reducing extreme poverty. But, with Western leaders preoccupied with the global financial crisis, aid groups are left pleading with governments to stick to previously made commitments, at the very least.
"At this point in time, with the financial, food, energy and climate change crises, the world expects the donors to be responding," Frazer Goodwin of the Brussels-based European Public Health Alliance said. "Just saving their skins isn't going to be enough."
Did you find this article insightful?