G8: Are NGOs Stealing The Show?

(Youtube video with Oxfam activists at the G8 Summit in Japan)

World leaders' jumbo jets landed through thick fog in Hokkaido, Japan without any major incidents. Thousands of cops are keeping our streets safe. And world leaders make announcements after announcements. Cue NGOs: I'd say they are the real stars of this summit.

Oxfam, Greenpeace, WWF, One and DATA, together with hundreds of local groups have gathered in camps set aside by the local government - no doubt with a lot of screening by Tokyo's security forces. The demonstrations are mostly peaceful, and as shown on Japan's TV networks, you get a sense of the party mood. Tonight, one local Hokkaido resident said, "Summit Bansai!" with a big smile on the NHK 7 O'clock prime time news.

Monday was spent discussing Africa, oil at $200 and food issues. Japan's prime minister Yasuo Fukuda tried his hardest to get his quotes broadcast around the world - most people probably don't know who he is. Instead, Reuters chose to quote - yes, you guessed right: NGOs.

"There are good plans being developed. We also know when efforts are made, great results can be achieved. But the problem is these plans are not being backed by serious financing," said Oliver Buston, a spokesman for activist group ONE.Max Lawson, a policy adviser to Oxfam, a British advocacy group, said the summit was arguably the most important G8 gathering in a decade.

"The world is clearly facing multiple crises -- serious, serious economic problems, both rich and poor countries. But it is poor people who suffer the most, suffering hugely from food price increases," Lawson said, according to Reuters.

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As part of the People's Summit held in Sapporo, Hokkaido, on Sunday, members of Oxfam disguised as the G8 leaders waved checks but were reluctant to hand them over to other members playing the roles of doctors and teachers in developing countries.

The NGO aimed to show that it's important for the developed nations not to spare support for healthcare and education in developing countries, according to NHK.

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Akiko Mera from Oxfam's Japan office said to NHK that no solutions are in sight for poverty and healthcare in developing countries. She noted she wants the G8 members to take effective action immediately. Oxfam plans to hold similar events on Tuesday to highlight a range of problems, including global warming.

Even The Japan Times ignored poor old Mr. Fukuda:

"As the G8 leaders gather in Hokkaido for their summit, every day, 50,000 people worldwide die from preventable causes, and in Africa alone 6,000 people die every day from AIDS. This is a form of passive genocide. You can be sure if this was happening in the developed countries, they would have taken action by now," said Kumi Naidoo, a South African representative of the Global Call to Action against Poverty.

The Japan Times: NGOs call on G8 to take action on tough issues

Dennis Howlett from GCAP Canada, who carried the climate change 'tanzaku' (wish) from the Tanabata action that GCAP and partners have been running since May, was among a group of GCAP campaigners who made sure the messages of over a million people were seen before the G8 officially opens. Dian Kartika Sari from GCAP Indonesia carried the message calling for more investment in health services, Chona Ramos from GCAP SENCA bore the message on G8 leaders fulfilling their HIV/AIDS commitments. Anil Singh from India carried the wish for action on the food crisis from the leaders while Shukria Barakzai showed the message that we want Action Now held aloft and suspended from a giant white helium filled balloon. Thousands of smaller white balloons carrying the messages represented the scale of the action.

The remainder of the day was spent at the Opening ceremony of the Alternative Summit hosted by the Japanese NGO Forum. GCAP co-chair Kumi Naidoo gave the opening presentation, speaking passionately about our need to question our leaders with one voice on the series of grave injustices inflicted on poor countries by the G8 on debt, trade, aid and climate change. He reminded the audience of the importance of civil society voices in ensuring these basic rights are not neglected in the quest for profits.

Greenpeace, meanwhile allows you to send a message to asking for...

- A global treaty that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by more than half by 2050

- Renewable Energy supplying more than half the world's power by 2050

- Laws that dramatically improve global energy efficiency, from light-bulbs to automobiles

- Powering the world with as little coal as possible and no nuclear power

- An end to climate-endangering deforestation

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Brought to you by Martin Frid at greenz.jp

Tags: Japan

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