August 9, 2008

The G8 and People’s Summit

From July 7th to the 9th, government officials from the United States, Canada, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan convened in Hokkaido, Japan for their yearly meeting at which they evaluate numerous world crises and decide which disasters are most worthy of their largesse. Despite all of the hype, this great meeting of the minds neglected to deliver much in the way of long-lasting solutions and instead turned into a display of impeccable skill in the arts of avoidance and escapism.

However, the Big Eight and their invited guests were not the only voices heard during those hot July days. Not far from the G8 in Toyako, over 220 Japanese NGOs came together for the People’s Summit in Sapporo and Rusutsu, the location of the media center. They convened to debate and make policy recommendations uninfluenced by those governmental perspectives molded by vested economic and strategic interests.

Thanks to media coverage of the People’s Summit, NGOs were able to put extensive pressure on the men and women in Toyako. Moreover, the organization of a separate Summit offered legitimacy that a crowd of protesters simply couldn’t convey, even from the front page of the newspaper.

Of course, NGO policy recommendations weren’t exactly eagerly adopted into legislation. However, what the People’s Summit did do was offer an alternative viewpoint to anyone following Summit events. For example, instead of leaders conveniently omitting a pledge made in 2005 of $50 billion in additional aid by the year 2010, a debate into the early morning hours, catalyzed in part by a barrage of questions posed by NGO media representatives, resulted in them putting the figures back into the budget.

Just think what kind of impact meetings like the People’s Summit could have if they were as well publicized as the G8 itself. If a huge meeting of passion and activism is held alongside a huge meeting of power, leaders will know that we are watching and only then might they start delivering.

Volunteers are an integral part to any campaign, local, domestic, or international. Visit idealist.org, or do an internet search for international volunteer opportunities. A lot of campaigning can be done in your own neighborhood, or even from the comfort of your own home. Write a letter, sign a petition, or call a friend. Say, “The world is changing. Let’s get in on this.”

For more information about the People’s Summit 2008 and the NGO Forum go to http://www.g8ngoforum.org/english/2008/03/information-for-ngos-in-toyako-1.html



This post was written by Allison Tritt, a former high school English teacher, volunteer for Oxfam Japan and blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. She blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Please leave your comments or email Allison at ajtritt@gmail.com with any questions!

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