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political magazine It's a deal, it's a steal
political magazine New G8 cash for Palestine
political magazine Blair live
political magazine Down to the wire
political magazine The fallout
political magazine Blair leaves Gleneagles
political magazine Explosions in London - news from Gleneagles
political magazine Tibet Action
political magazine And the march goes on...
political magazine Police cancel protest march to Gleneagles
political magazine July 2005
political magazine June 2005
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It's a deal, it's a steal

The deals are done. In one of the most sweeping generalisations I have ever heard, Tony Blair has declared that “everybody outside the G8 and the G8 have come together”. That indefatigable coalition has endorsed a deal that condemns 50,000 people to die before aid reaches them in 2010, obliges all but the world's 14 poorest countries to carry on charging for health services before they get a sniff of a write-off for their crippling debt, and calls on the WTO to cement the obscene distortions in global trade rules that asphyxiate developing economies. If the aim of those who bombed London yesterday was to give the West license to shaft the poor once again, they have resoundingly succeeded.

The communiqués have weak pledges for further dialogue on climate change, a belated increase in aid (still well below commitments adopted 35 years ago), and various abdications of domestic responsibility to the World Bank, the body now headed by Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of the invasion of Iraq. Bob Geldof says it is a “disgrace” to criticise his pal Tony. Rounding on his outraged colleagues in Make Poverty History, he said no one had ever asked for more than the recommendations made by the government's Commission for Africa.

Multinational companies will continue to be invited to sign up to voluntary self-regulation. The Kyoto Treaty will now never include the world's biggest polluter, the United States. Tax havens and offshore registering will continue to be allowed to foster corporate abuse. While armed guards storm the freebie tent in search of free whiskey courtesy of Diageo, Make Poverty History campaigners are drifting away. Few expected their efforts to succeed; only the most politically aware expected such a Brownwash.

The only African to take the platform for MPH's post-communiqué press conference, Kumi Naidoo of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, was harangued by Geldof for his ingratitude. He had dared to suggest that delays in channeling aid to Africa would lead to more bodies filling the continent's overloaded graveyards, a phenomenon that is polluting water tables.

For a week, Africans, Latin Americans and Asians have been telling me that the very idea that the G8 will absolve them of poverty is an insult to them, their societies and democracy. Make Poverty History made its fatal mistake: it got too close to power. The NGOs who maintained the illegitimacy of the G8 throughout have come away with some credit. One leading campaigner said aid agencies would refuse “the crums from the G8's table”. Led by the global south, those groups will now have to redouble their efforts to break the encrusted structures of power. It is clear that the masters of the universe continue to see poverty as the scythe with which they can reap the resources of the poor.

Today, 87 per cent of the world's population were told that, if they learned how to behave themselves properly, the West would deign to tighten their chains. The vocabulary of compassion masked the dogwhsitle of greed. Christian Aid's statement captured the mood of those who had dared to hope that a wristbanded elite might live up to their word. “Millions of campaigners all over the world have been led to the top of the mountain, shown the view, and now we are being frogmarched down again."




July 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (53)

New G8 cash for Palestine

Ahead of his 2.15 press conference, Tony Blair has just made a statement, flanked by the others G8 leaders, the African leaders here today and the heads of the WTO, IMF, World Bank and UN. Kofi Annan looked solemn, Paul Wolfowitz looked lupine.

The leaders are now signing the G8 communique, though it will not be issued until the PM's press conference. Blair headlined a US$3bn cash injection for the Palestinian Authority, aimed at reinvigorating the Middle East peace process. While that was always on the table - the PM is a leading advocate of more well-meaning meddling in the Middle East - yesterday's attacks may well have pushed it up the briefing list.

Overseas aid from G8 donors will rise to US$50bn a year, though it is not yet clear how much of that is new and how much is tied. He conceded that the deal on Africa is "not all everyone wanted" (one wonders if he meant Bono or the two-thirds of destitute people who do not live in Africa).

On climate change, there appeared to be some consensus. A new dialog on global warming will begin at a meeting in Britain in November.

One clause was crucial. Blair said the communique would contain "a signal for a new deal on trade". His sheepishness suggests that deal will be a new bind for the global south.

More anon...

July 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Blair live

Blair's 2.15 press conference, announcing the results of the G8 talks, will go out live on the Downing Street website. The world will be watching (well, the world that can afford a television will be watching, the world that can't will find out what was said soon enough...)

July 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Down to the wire

Another day at Gleneagles and sleep is at a premium. Yesterday's timetable for negotiations junked after the news of the London attacks, and delegates have been going flat out to seal deals on trade, aid, debt and the environment. We now expect the prime minister to give a press conference around 2.15, at which he will issue a communique on Africa and Africa and a personal statement.

While the sherpers were burning the midnight oil, NGO leaders were cloistered over draft reactions to the communiques. I hear that a meeting of the Trade Justice Movement - the trade arm of Make Poverty History - was heated. Mainstream NGOs were pushing hard for a statement that would welcome the G8's language, expected to endorse greater self-determination for African nations to decide trade policy, and woolly commitments to cut subsidies.

Holding firm, radical NGOs refused to allow the G8 such credit. One senior insider told me that it would "make us look like idiots" if MPH were to slap the G8 on the back while the World Trade Organisation continues to kick the world's poor in the teeth. "It's like sending the missiles in to Baghdad while talking the about peaceful resolution," the source said. The WTO is holding a mini-ministerial in China on 12 and 13 July. The talks are also stalled (sometimes the global financial institutions put one in mind of a flotilla of learner drivers), and outcome is expected to push for the WTO ministerial in December to widen its free-trade net to include industry, manufacturing, finance and services. That means unfettering corporations still further from such irritating concerns as sustainability, responsibility and working conditions.

The UK delegation continues to stall. Tom Kelly, the prime minister's official spokesman, is keeping stumm. Blair, one imagines, is on his sixtieth fair-trade coffee, and the NGOs are pondering Valium. We await the west's latest set of dictats to the poor. If I were you, I'd ready the Enigma machine.

July 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (16)

The fallout

A friend tells me that London is rallying. From here, it is hard to gauge the mood. I hear ice-creams are being eaten in parks; shoppers are going about their shopping. Ken Livingstone has offered solace and resilience.

At Gleneagles, confusion reigns. In two of the few scheduled press conferences to take place, Mexico's Vicente Fox and France's Jacques Chirac talked of solidarity, of the leaders of the G8 and G5 (the richer developing nations) united against terror.

NGOs fear that the terror attacks in the British capital may indirectly deal the world's poor another duff hand in this round of globalised poker. Though all comments are qualified with doubt (the delegations have suspended briefing), the word is that the statement on trade will be minimal, even harmful to the global south as negotiations on subsidies are curtailed.

But it is impossible to say with any certainty what tomorrow's belated communiques will contain. Make Poverty History has ensured that the vocabulary will be different, the rhetoric more compassion than high economics. Its trade arm - the Trade Justice Movement - will meet tonight to draft responses should the statement on Africa merely call for a end to the stalemate at the WTO.

That said, the consensus born of solidarity with dead and injured Londoners could bear fruit. Chirac, though he wouldn't budge on the Common Agricultural Policy, said the seven vs one stand-off against the United States on climate change was close to resolution. Though Bush still won't touch the Kyoto Protocol with a dip-stick, Washington is said to be considering finding synergies in its own environmental policy that will align the world's biggest polluter more closely with Kyoto's basic principles. At last, it seems the cast-iron scientific evidence that the planet is warming will be acknowledged.

Yet another team of armed guards has just prowled past me. Tony Blair is back, though he will return to Westminster tomorrow to chair the Cobra cabinet security committee. Journalists are dribbling in and out of the media cavern. Two seasoned summit correspondents have told me, rather depressingly, that they are basically  waiting for the leaders to tell them what to write.

London is shaken. For hundreds, life will never be the same. But we must not lose sight of what is going on in the depths of Scotland. There is a danger - a danger as real to life and limb as today's bombs - that the security consensus among the G8's leaders will allow them once again to dictate terms to the south. Though it is not in this entity's power to act democratically, we might hope that it will temper its self-interest. If, in tomorrow's rhetoric, protecting the people of the west is conflated with furthering its economic power, the pain of this week will be felt far beyond Kings Cross.

July 7, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Blair leaves Gleneagles

The rotor blades on Tony Blair's helicopter are turning as the British prime minister prepares to leave the G8 summit to return to London. Shortly after noon, Blair issued a statement announcing he would leave the summit in Gleneagles and head to the capital to meet security officials and ministers implementing the state's contingency plan for a terrorist attack. He said meetings at the summit would continue, styling that determination as a refusal to bow to terrorists.

An hour later, Blair's seven counterparts in the G8 assembled on the podium here, alongside the five invitee leaders from the developing world. Blair read a collective statement (shortly to be posted on the Downing Street website). Invoking the rhetoric of the "war on terror", the leaders vowed that they will "not allow violence to change our societies and values ... We shall prevail, they shall not."

Speaking on the lawn of the Gleneagles hotel, US President George W Bush said the "contrast could not be clearer" between the G8 and "people who kill innocent people". The leaders here seem intent to emphasize the good they believe the G8 will do for the world's poor. There is little doubt, though, that the symbolism of the attacks' concurrence with the summit of the world's richest leaders matches that of the choice of the World Trade Centre as the target for the 9/11 attacks in New York.

Meetings between delegates and leaders will continue. That perseverance is matched by the rhetoric we have heard so far, which has the summit as an image of the "ideology of hope" that the leaders sat they will defend.

Police sources say there has been no change to security arrangements inside the hotel. Police teams are patrolling the hotel, and numerous helicopters are circling overhead. Special tactical units are on standby. There seem to be no plans to deploy seconded forces back to London. Over 2,000 of the Met's 35,000-strong force are in Scotland this week to secure the summit.

July 7, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (16)

Explosions in London - news from Gleneagles

I am at the Gleneagles hotel, where the G8 leaders are meeting. On the bus here from Edinburgh, we heard rumours of explosions in central London. The news services are covering this, with Reuters and AP keeping fingers on the pulse.

The UK delegation here are yet to issue a statement, simply saying "wait and see". Aid, trade and debt are off people's lips for the first time in weeks. As this block is rammed with journalists, speculation is rife. As soon as anything is confirmed here, I'll post again. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is due to make a statement at 12 noon GMT.

July 7, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tibet Action

At 5.30am this morning me and other members of the 'Students for a Free Tibet' group headed into the centre of Edinburgh in the wet weather to publicise the Tibetan cause at a demo outside the Sheraton Hotel. Inside the hotel various delegates involved in the G8 process stayed. Outside the hotel there was a massive police presence, with the police easily outnumbering the protesters. The early start, the rain and the fact that a lot of campaigners had chosen to head directly to Gleneagles rather than stay in Edinburgh meant the turn out was quite low.

Many of the protesters who were there seemed to be anti-G8 camapiagners. Our objective however was focused on awareness and action related to the Tibet campaign- to promote this undeniably important cause to both other demonstators present and those politicians involved in the G8. The message on the banner was "Don't Forget Tibet".

The gravity of the main issues on the G8 agenda is of course immense and the fact that there is now such a focus on the issues of climate change, poverty and trade is, I think, extremely positive. However to re-iterate my point from an earlier blog, the seemingly smaller issue of Tibet should be addressed at the summit, linked as it is to all three of the main issues. China currently contains 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities (The Independent- 5th June 2005). Vast numbers of Tibetan refugees live in dire poverty within neighbouring countries. Ex-political prisoners released from brutal Chinese prisons are unable to work and support themsleves, as they are stigmatised and discriminated against by some Chinese authorities and individuals. China is well known for its abomniable use of sweat shops which make goods to be sold here in the U.K and other rich countries. Yet human right issues (which includes enviromental issues, detrimental as climate change is to humanity) are rarely taken into consideration as the western world and China's trade relations blossom. For these reasons and many more we rasied the message "Don't Forget Tibet" this morning.

July 6, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2)

And the march goes on...

In a Gerrard-esque U-turn, police in Scotland have reversed their earlier decision to cancel the anti-G8 rally at Gleneagles today. The march was scheduled to start at 1pm, but has been put back in order to allow buses to get to Auchterarder in time. The BBC's Mark Simpson reports the atmosphere in the village as "calm and good-natured".

July 6, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Police cancel protest march to Gleneagles

The BBC this morning reports that the police have cancelled a planned march to Gleneagles due to start in Auchterarder at 1pm today "amid fears for public safety". Organisers have said the march will go ahead regardless, citing people's democratic right to protest.

The Daily Mail predictably reports today's developments, following news of overnight violence in Stirling, as a result of "masked hooligans" conducting "running battles" with police in "the second outbreak of serious violence" since the G8 protests began. However, others view the cancellation of the key G8 alternatives march on the opening day of the summit as the culmination of police pressure and heavy handedness that began at Saturday's Make Poverty History rally, and escalated through the week. See these eyewitness accounts from Monday's Carnival for Full Enjoyment. Red Pepper's Make the G8 history blog also carries an eyewitness account from yesterday's protest at Dungavel detention centre where the Scottish Socialist Party's Carolyn Leckie was charged after refusing to let police search her handbag.

July 6, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

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