It is a long-established tradition of the G8 host to invite developing countries to take part in the summit. They are almost always from Africa. But this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chosen to broaden the circle, and include three hemispheric partners to attend the meeting of eight industrialized nations, plus the European Union.
The leaders of Jamaica, Colombia and Haiti - along with those from seven African nations - will attend a special session in Muskoka on June 25 and 26, to discuss how to combat security challenges, and help nations weakened by violence and crime.
Mr. Harper's choice reflects his oft-stated interest in the Americas, as well as the pressing need to plan for Haiti's reconstruction, after its devastating earthquake. It also reflects the destabilizing impact of drug trafficking, and the need for co-operation in the war on drugs.
Colombia, the world's leading coca producer, supplies cocaine to nearly all of the U.S. market, while Haiti and Jamaica are key transshipment points, favoured by traffickers because of their poorly patrolled coastlines and history of corruption.
Under President Alvaro Uribe, Colombia has succeeded in cutting its homicide rate in half, and in pushing back the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from the cities, deep into the jungles. However, the FARC guerrillas still rely on proceeds from cocaine trafficking.
In Jamaica, successful drug enforcement efforts in recent years have reduced trafficking. Yet the country remains a significant producer of marijuana and a transit point for cocaine. Last month, its essential fragility was underscored by a violent eruption in a poor neighbourhood, when police entered to hunt down a gang leader, wanted in the U.S. on drugs and weapons charges. Seventy-three people were killed. Politicians from all parties have vowed to end the confluence of criminality and politics. But, clearly, there are challenges ahead.
Rene Préval, the President of Haiti, will share lessons learned from the chaotic delivery of aid in the days after the earthquake, which killed 200,000 and displaced one million. There were logistical confusion and disputes over priorities, as the country's infrastructure collapsed completely.
Mr. Préval, Mr. Uribe and Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding are witnesses to the challenges faced by countries vulnerable to transnational criminal organizations, and calamitous acts of nature. They cannot solve these problems alone, and it is to Mr. Harper's credit that he has called on them to share their on-the-ground expertise.