Tuesday, June 12, 2007

G8 Summit 2007 in Germany closes with a fizzle. Will Africa's voices fall silent?

Dateline Berlin 06/12/07 – Sweltering in a sudden heatwave west of Germany’s cool capital. Updates on the close of the G8 Summit with a focus on African voices.

I’m still trying to figure out what happened at Heiligendamm? Was it a success as claimed by the G8 Summit 2007 host country Germany and some members of the German press and media, or was it a bust as described by Bob Geldof and Bono and other high-profile activists and various experts? If the G8 Summit at Heiligendamm was a success then a success for whom, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel?

I’m not as disappointed and pessimistic about the outcome of these talks as some people seem to be but at the same time you have to wonder, are the G8 Summits relevant anymore? Were they ever useful in helping to solve the world’s problems? It has all become such a circus for the politicians and every group under the sun to voice their outrage and anger about all kinds of causes that have little or nothing to do with the summit agendas that one has to ask, why bother?

TIME Magazine’s Massimo Calabresi writes in the article ‘
Does the G8 Summit Have a Point?’:

It's hard to get a fix on just what the 80,000 protesters who descended on the G-8 summit here in northern Germany this week actually want. Plodding through a field towards the 7.2 mile, multimillion-dollar fence designed to keep him and his unkempt peers out, Channing Jones, a 40-year-old American freelance programmer, said Wednesday his purpose was to get governments to "help the common people." Earlier in the day, the art group Dropping Knowledge had released a huge floating sculpture of a baby into the River Warnow, in a less-than-self-explanatory attempt to show that "the Western world is not really taking Africa seriously," according to one of the group's sponsors, Stefan Liske. Late Thursday afternoon, a man wearing a fluorescent pink wig and standing on stilts made up to look like enormous pink go-go boots declared he was blocking the main road to the summit "for freedom of movement for all people, and no nations and no borders!"

One priority these disparate, confused groups share, however, is bringing the annual G-8 meeting to a grinding halt. They managed to shut down all the road and rail access to the summit Wednesday, and interrupted it Thursday. Some skeptics at think-tanks and college campuses around the world have suggested that may not such a bad thing. The annual G-8 meeting is an anachronism that no longer pursues the economic agenda for which it was created, they argue; it doesn't include some of the world's most important economies (China and India are not in the club) and fails to achieve even the limited goals it sets for its members.

As a small group of protesters bounded through a wheat field on Wednesday afternoon pursued by a slightly larger group of policemen, it was hard not to wonder what the point of the whole exercise was.

Inside the fence, it turns out, some were asking the same question. In the whitewashed buildings of the elaborately restored Baltic resort of Heiligendamm, important things seemed to be happening. Russia's Vladimir Putin and President Bush strolled out past the massive beds of hydrangeas to say they had held good discussions on missile defense in Europe, with Putin provocatively proposing the use of Russian installations as a substitute for the ones the U.S. plans to place in Poland and the Czech Republic. And the G-8 leaders agreed on a putative program for addressing climate change.

But even in the highest-level delegations, there were skeptics. "They should just hold the whole thing over secure video-conference and make it every other year," said one White House aide Thursday morning. "There's a whole industry now surrounding the G-8, and two weeks from now, when it's all over here, they're going to start again for next year. In my opinion, they'd be better off sending the money to Africa."

The Germany summit cost $134 million, much of it spent on security. Measured by the organizers' outlay or by the media coverage the event receives, it appears as if the protests themselves have become the point.

End excerpt---------------

My analysis: Call the whole thing off and save the taxpayers money. The
carbon footprint alone from the 10,000’s of people at this summit is enough to setback efforts to fight global warming by one hundred years. Private passenger jets and military and police helipcopters for the official delegations, gas-guzzling motor vehicles of every type for the security forces and demonstrators, and 25,000 open-air barbecue pits using ill-gotten timber (charcoal) from developing countries on a planet under ecological pressure. I mean BITTE (Please)! Get a grip on yourselves.

What news do I take home for my people? AfricaVox journalists call it a wrap at the G8.

The 9 African journalists and media professionals invited by
Panos-London to attend this year’s summit are heading home this week and I must say that I will miss their contributions to open expression and the sharing of their ideas and thoughts about the G8 Summit. Unfortunately not very many other CJ’s (Citizen Journalists) who write regularly about African news and affairs bothered to stop by the AfricaVox 2007 blog to express their appreciation and welcome these journalists to our sector of the blogosphere. I find that to be sad but heck, maybe many Africa bloggers didn’t know about this great journalism project. So if you haven’t stopped by the AfricaVox 2007 blog yet then do so before it’s too late (a hint for Melissa at Africa Media and other hardworking blogger colleagues out there in the Sphere).

I’ve made myself a real nuisance at the AfricaVox 2007 comments section but Risha Chande, external relations assistant for the Panos AfricaVox project, sent me a very nice message today thanking me for my support and encouragement. Problem is that “We the Bloggers” who write about Africa need to be thanking Panos-London and this fine group of African journalists and media professionals. Africa’s bloggers need to show much more support for Africa’s professional journalists and editors and publishers so that we all can learn from one another, not compete with one another as is so often the case.

Collins Vumiria, chief news editor of Uganda’s Radio West (Mbarara), writes in her G8 summary article titled ‘What news do I take home for my people?

As far as I can tell, everyone who's attended the G8 Summit here in Heiligendamm leaves it with mixed feelings. Some are bitter that the G8’s announcement of $60 billion to fight disease failed to mention when it would arrive. Others complain that the Gleneagles promises have yet to be fulfilled.

But out of all this, what do I have to tell my people back home in Uganda when I return? To get a steer, this afternoon I rushed down to a news conference given by two musicians who for years have been campaigning to rid Africa of poverty and disease: Bob Geldof and U2’s Bono.

I find Geldof describing the Summit as a total mess. “I do not want to see 2005 reiterated endlessly,” he tells the assembled journalists. “The richest countries of the world, trillions of dollars, swirling around that table… do me a favour! Get serious guys! This wasn’t serious. This was a farce. This was a total farce.”

All very well, I think to myself. But I need specific information for my own people, not just these soundbites. I had hoped for something more constructive to communicate to my people in Mbarara than this emotional dismissal.

Next it’s question time for the journalists. “My name is Collins Vumiria, I am a journalist from Uganda.” Faces turn to look at me. “After this summit, what news do I take home for my people?”…

Read the full article
What news do I take home for my people?

More articles of interest from the very fine AfricaVox 2007 crew:
AfricaVox 2007 – African voices at the G8 Summit 2007
Africa: master of its own destiny
The G8’s $17 million dollar security fence scandal
AIDS prevention paying the price of the G8 donor circus
The sick priorities of the G8
The J9 (Junior G8+1 Summit) at the G8

openDemocracy Speaks Up for Women & Girls at the G8 Summit

openDemocracy.org’s blog project ‘
openSummit – Women talk to the G8’ has a good series of posts about the G8 Summit 2007 and the Alternative G8 Summit. See the great work by Patricia Daniels and the summit summary post by Jessica Reed. The openDemocracy open blogs section has an article by Chukwu Emeka Chikezie titled Africa at the G8 Summit: déjà vu? Mr. Chikezie who works for the London-based non-profit organization AFFORD writes:

So, here we are again. Two years on from the July 2005 gathering at Gleneagles, Scotland, the acceptable face of African leadership is preparing to assemble on the steps of the Group of Eight (G8)
summit at Heiligendamm, Germany for a photo-opportunity amid more heartfelt pleas to increase aid to Africa.

presence of "this" Africa at the summit owes much to the promotion and patronage of individual G8 leaders, most notably Tony Blair. Indeed, it seems hard to think now about the African component of the G8 summit at all without considering the input of the outgoing British prime minister; he has even made Africa a central part of his valedictory tour, whose aim (according to a normally reticent BBC) was to burnish the Blair legacy for posterity.

And this is the
problem. The mere fact that media commentators seem routinely to put "Blair, Africa, aid, legacy" together in the same sentence underlines the inability to "see" Africa as it really is: a living, proliferating, diverse collection of some 700 million people in fifty-three different countries, making their lives, lurching forwards, sometimes falling backwards, occasionally sideways. "That" Africa is invisible; the one that has come to dominate public perception is a meek, grateful place that provides a soft, faintly glowing backdrop to an assessment of Blair's ten years in office. The African leaders on the Heiligendamm steps are unlikely to do anything to change the focus.

Aid: from critique to reform

Two years after Gleneagles, a year after
St Petersburg, it is striking how little the discourse around Africa has changed. G8 leaders, NGO activists and African leaders all seem to agree that aid is pivotal to Africa's turnaround. Germany's chancellor and host of the G8, Angela Merkel, has joined the club - promising that this time the G8 will redeem its pledge to double aid to Africa by 2010.

This approach rests on a studied evasion about why so much
aid to Africa in the past has failed to deliver transformation. It thus seems more concerned to salve consciences than to bring real change. It also ignores the lively debate that is raging behind the scenes and in public forums about whether aid is really effective as an instrument of development.

A thirty-year veteran of the World Bank,
Phyllis R Pomerantz contributes one valuable view to this argument (see Aid Effectiveness in Africa: Developing Trust between Donors and Governments [Lexington Books, 2004]). Pomerantz attributes much of aid's ineffectiveness in Africa to donors' failure to pay attention to culture. Monologue and one-way impositions, donor paternalism, and insensitivity undermine the trust, mutual respect and understanding that should, in Pomerantz's view, underpin aid relationships.

Pomerantz would like to see donors pay more attention to African traditions and conditions. She is aiming for trusting relationships that underpin shared purpose, commitment, reliability, transparency, and familiarity.

Such a vision - which is echoed from a different direction by Michael Edwards in his openDemocracy
article on the reinvention of "development" - seems very far from the cold calculations of summit talks where the paternalism of the discourse about aid is reinforced by hypocrisy over a second potential route to African development: trade. Here, the contradiction between the rhetoric of free and equitable trade and the reality of subsidies and preferential agreements is all too established. As the United Nations human-development report of 2005 says: "The world's richest countries spent just over one billion dollars for the year 2005 on aid for agriculture in poor countries, and just under one billion dollars each day of that year for various subsidies of agricultural overproduction at home."

Read more at openDemocracy.org
Africa at the G8 Summit: déjà vu?

More posts and podcasts about the G8 Summit at openDemocracy.org
Podcast Nr. 22 – G8, are you listening? by Solana Larsen
Women won’t wait by Susana Fried
G8: the aid gap by Tina Wallace
Merkel’s G8 – spot the difference by Patricia Daniel

It would appear that the
G8 Summit 2007 at Heiligendamm ain’t quite over yet but instead has only just begun. The follow-up activities from this summit to insure that what has been promised is actually done and that these initiatives and programs and processes bring the desired results for all stakeholders, depends on us. Oder?

We shall see.

Related news articles, posts, and online resources:
Guardian Online (U.K.)
Geldof hits out at G8 ‘farce’, 06/08/07

Globe and Mail (Canada)
Bono singles out Canada’s PM Harper in deriding leaders, 06/09/07
PM’s ‘laggard’ effort on Africa assailed

Bloomberg Financial News
Merkel quarrels with Bono, Geldof over Africa aid, 06/07/07

Washington Post
Geldof puts Africa on front page (BILD special Afrika edition), 06/01/07

Jewels in the Jungle
Germany: Saving the Africa Agenda at the G8 Summit 2007
G8 Summit and Tanzania (TED Global in Africa)
Circus Maximus Opens in Germany
G8 Summit and TED Global Updates II

Africa Media
World’s most famous African: Bono or Madonna?

More news coverage of the 2007 G8 Summit
Spiegel International (Germany)
G8 Summit in Heiligendamm special feature archive

Financial Times London
G8 Summit 2007 In-Depth special coverage
African graft is a global responsibility by Richard Murphy and Nicholas Shaxson
Why Africa needs a Marshall Plan by Glenn Hubbard and William Duggan
The rich world can help Africa by Jeffrey Sachs and Glenn Denning

New York Times
Group of 8 (G8) special coverage

Reuters and Reuters Alertnet
Interview with Kofi Anan: G8 must give Africa aid faster
No Coke, only German AfriCola at the G8 Summit (soft drink of choice since 1931)
Factbox: G8 measures to tackle African poverty
Reuters’ blogs: Who should hold the aid world to account?

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1 comment:

Melissa said...

I can take a hint! :)

-- Melissa