Big News: G8 Summit Special Report
Debt Campaign Survives G8 Violence
Last weekends G8 summit in Genoa, Italy – the last of it’s kind - will be remembered for Europe’s worst rioting, rather than discussions of G8 leaders on economic and policy issues for poor countries.
While representatives from the worlds richest nations – United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada and Japan - met, thousands of anti-capitalist activists from rich countries were rioting alongside peaceful debt campaigners. Both groups were rallying against G8 policies they say harm the poor.
The G8 also announced a $1.5 billion Global Fund to combat AIDS, and a development plan for Africa. They pledged to address AIDS and poverty, broaden debt relief through existing programmes, and pledged to make globalisation work.
“The situation in many developing countries -- especially in Africa -- calls for decisive global action. The most effective poverty reduction strategy is to maintain a strong, dynamic, open and growing global economy,'' G8 leaders said in their final communique.
The summit cost $145 million – $120 million for refurbishing Genoa and $25 million for security - equal to Ghana’s debt to rich countries.
The anarchic activists were condemned by relief agencies, debt campaigners and rock stars, all saying the violence distracted attention from their four-year campaign to wipe third world debt and address poverty and injustice.
More than 430 people were injured, including 23-year-old protestor Carlo Giuliani who was fatally shot between the eyes by police on the day debt campaigners organised an inaugural meeting between G8 and African leaders. Manslaughter charges are likely against the policeman who fired the fatal shot.
“Of all the days to destroy, they destroyed one where there was some actual dialogue happening between the G8 and leaders of developing nations,” U2’s Bono said at a Drop the Debt media conference on Friday.
Adrian Lovett, head of Drop The Debt, a short term successor to Jubilee 2000, a network of agencies campaigning to cancel third world debt by the end of 2000, condemned the violence. Along with Catholic agency CAFOD, Drop the Debt pulled out of a planned march on Saturday for fear of being drawn into anarchic violence from anti–capitalists, instead holding peaceful “debt not violence” protests.
“The people who started trouble here are not real protestors. They have no concern for the poorest people of the world. The violence has destroyed our campaigners chances to have their issues heard.” Lovett said.
The media also condemned activists. German paper Bild asked when will, “political hooligans finally realise that peaceful demonstrators will be given less attention and their arguments be taken even less seriously”, if this violence prevails?
“Violence gets press coverage, poverty does not” complained CAFOD’s policy analyst Henry Northover. “The violence in Genoa must not distract the world from the real violence of poverty in the poorest countries.”
Bono could understand the anger at G8 policies, but said violence is never right. “It’s OK banging your fist on the table. It’s not OK to put your fist in the face of an opponent, whether they are protestors or police”.
The G7 claims to have provided $53 billion of debt relief, after agreeing to cancel $100 billion of poor country debt two years ago. But figures obtained from the World Bank put debt relief at $34 billion.
On Friday Russia announced a $20 million pledge for the global AIDS fund. But Bono maintained the USD$1.2 billion fund – equal to six weeks debt payments of Africa - will fail to address the scale of the pandemic. Although CAFOD says it is an encouraging step to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Northover warned that money would not work as a stand-alone measure on poverty reduction.
“A successful Health Fund will be one that is integrated into a more coherent approach to poverty reduction…and a more robust approach to debt relief”
Although the Global Fund is the G8’s attempt at addressing the AIDS epidemic, CAFOD accused the leaders of behaving like loan sharks by forcing countries to pay millions in debt on one hand, while offering aid from the other.
The World Development movement accused G8 leaders of “debt” fatigue, and questioned why G8 leaders can only come up with $1.5 billion when sub-Saharan Africa pays $40 billion in debt service. WDM Spokesperson Alison Marshall maintains that debt is a causal factor to AIDS, which must be addressed by tackling the cause of poverty, not just symptoms.
“You can’t tackle HIV/AIDS without solving third world debt.” Marshall says “Debt worsens AIDS and AIDS exacerbates the debt crisis.”
Jubilee Plus, who succeeded Jubilee 2000, backed US President George Bush’s comments to the World bank on Monday that the Bank ensure grants – as opposed to loans - were made available to the poorest countries for education, health and water supply. Liana Cisneros, Latin America’s Jubilee Plus coordinator said, “Bush should lead the G8 in writing off 100 percent of debt of poor countries to the World Bank and the International Monetary Federation”
“President Bush is right to argue that the debt should not be compounded by new loans. World Bank loans effectively provide subsidies to big companies wanting to do business in developing countries,” said
Despite the disappointment in the failure of the G8 to deliver a New Deal on debt and the difficulty many had in exercising their democratic right to protest peacefully, debt campaigners confirmed their commitment to continue campaigning until all the unpayable debts of the poorest countries are cancelled.
Next year’s smaller summit will be in Canada and expected to attract just 400 delegates. Although G8 leaders will be restricting their numbers, they will be developing contacts with non-governmental organisations on major issues.
Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist, in addition to writing for Scoop he is the Australasian correspondent for newsroom-online.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com