G8 summit poDcast + conclusions
by Jessica Reed
To close this blog I will post about openDemocracy’s poDcast # 22, in which Solana Larsen talks to oD columnist and blogger Patricia Daniel, Ricken Patel from Avaaz.org in New York, German journalist Jan Hendrik Becker. Together they discuss the different ways world citizens have been getting involved in the G8 summit – and the alternative one as well. You can listen to the poDcast here.
As Patricia Daniel summarised in yesterday’s blog entry, only a few of the points our bloggers have made are on the G8 agenda. And if the help does come, it will be too little. Any grassroot development within the micro-economics and climate change fields are likely not to be considered. One hopeful note: the pledge to provide more funding to combat HIV/AIDS is encouraging, and even surprised Patricia.
This blog has gathered the voice of academics, journalists and activists worldwide for more than 20 days. A lot has been explained and advocated for with great enthusiasm; 40 entries, 20 bloggers and dozens of e-mails later, we hope that openDemocracy has provided a much-needed platform for debating the advancement of gender equity.
In addition there are 2 other articles published last week:
Tina Wallace G8: the aid gap
Susan Fried Women won’t wait
We welcome any comments regarding the blog: please post your thoughts here, or e-mail any feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take Serious Action on Burma and Free Aung San Suu Kyi
by Maura Stephens, journalist and humanitarian, coauthor of “Collateral Damage: The Iraqi People”
The world’s only incarcerated Nobel Laureate, the democracy leader of Burma, sits imprisoned in her own home. She has, this time, been kept from the world since May 2003. Aung San Suu Kyi was not present at last week’s Nobel Women’s Initiative, founded in 2006 by the other six living female Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
It should be no surprise that the plight of this great woman and her country are subjects long paid lip service to by the United States and other nations, and indeed by the United Nations under Kofi Annan. But that’s all there has been, really: lip service. Perhaps new Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will do better.
The UN Security Council must be the place where meaningful action on Burma is taken. But four of the G8 nations sit on the UN Security Council: France, the UK, the USA, and Russia. (Only China, of the five permanent UNSC members, is not represented on the G8.) China and Russia are unwilling to even allow Burma to be discussed in the UNSC.
But right now there’s the opportunity for the G8 to take an official stand about Burma. All the G8 nations except for Russia are willing (and in some cases, such as the United States, eager) to take action against the brutal military regime in Burma — a regime that routinely, officially, and blatantly practices torture, rape, forced labour (slavery), child conscription, the burning of entire villages, and the proscription of anyone who does not toe the political line of the military.
This is an opportune time for the other seven nations to work to convince Russia that the world must insist on full transparency by the Burmese regime and the admittance of international journalists, the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, the establishment of a multinational oversight body with full access to monitor the human rights situation, the immediate cessation of all Burmese regime-sponsored hostilities against the Burmese people, and the beginning of a political dialogue and national reconciliation process.
With Russia’s understanding that Burma’s human rights violations are totally separate from its own human rights situation, perhaps it will be persuaded that it is okay to act against the Burmese regime. And with Russia won over, China may well cave in.
So I urge the G8 nations to discuss Burma immediately, and to begin to work on Russia within this forum, where 7 versus 1 makes for better convincing than 3 versus 2 in the UN Security Council. Aung San Suu Kyi and her suffering people deserve the attention of the world, and the clock is ticking away.
What have Chernobyl children got to do with the sex trade?
by Patricia Daniel at the G8
This is one of those depressing stories that the G8 leaders ought to be considering, especially, in this case, Germany and Russia. This is where trade liberalisation intersects with man-made environmental damage at the crossroads of woman as the ultimate commodity.
I attended a workshop organised by Terre des Femmes on the links between free trade and the so-called sex trade (I think the term sanitises the activity). I learned a few statistics: 400,000 prostitutes in Germany, 35% of them trafficked. More than one million German men go to prostitutes daily. Migrant women are more popular. For German prostitutes, the stigma means they can’t talk about their work and so can’t get support and get out of it. For migrant women, the choices are even more limited. Terre des Femmes campaigns on their behalf and also runs an awareness campaign for men (the clients).
But what have Chernobyl children got to do with the sex trade? An inspiring woman from the University of Minsk in Belarus, Dr Irina Gruschewaja, explained. The eastern part of Belarus, which borders on Russia, was contaminated 21 years ago by the Chernobyl disaster. 250,000 children were sent away to be cared for in seven different countries, including Germany, in order to provide a safe environment where they could grow up until the area at home was considered clear.
That benevolence has been turned around. From the end of the 1990s, a lot of those children, now beautiful young women, are being trafficked to Germany as prostitutes. Why does it happen? There’s no work at home. Even if young women get work, they’re earning only 55% of what men earn – and that’s not a lot. Prices of basic food like bread and milk are high in a ratio to wages. In the countryside you’d be lucky to earn 100 euros, compared to 3500 euros in Germany.
Then come nice smart German men with a smile and an offer you can’t refuse.
“How should these girls be suspicious?” asks Irina. “They’ve lived in Germany as children. They were treated with affection and care. Everyone was friendly to them. They still expect the same – and this expectation is being abused.”
Coercion is defined by European law as “abuse of a position of vulnerability; abuse of authority; labour bondage; theft, isolation, deception; illegal holding of money or documents.” It doesn’t have to be use of direct force.
“We don’t want to tell our girls, don’t go to the west,” says Irina. “We know the work – and the money – is there. There’s no chance for them here, even to get work in the city. But we still haven’t developed a situation where a woman is free to make her own decisions and to seek out real prospects for herself.”
Since the Belarus government tightened up controls two years ago, young people have not been able to travel to the west, even to a conference or on holiday. But the border is open with Russia – so that’s where Belarus girls are being trafficked to now.
Irina, who has been running the Malinowka Advice Centre outside Minsk for eight years, still has a good word for some aspects of globalisation:
“If it wasn’t for globalisation we wouldn’t have the network with Terre des Femmes that raises money to help with education and awareness-raising for our girls and young women. In addition, I’ve had the chance to come to the alternative summit! And it’s great to be here with other women. I need their moral support in order to continue our work.”
Films at the Alternative G8 Summit
The film shows the daily lives of women workers in Chinese sweatshops. Evelyn Bahr also talked about the Campaign for Clean Clothes and possible ways to act.
“Running on Empty”
The film follows the stories of three mothers with children under the age of two – in Ethiopia and the UK – and their daily struggle to feed their children. Save the Children’s research has shown that predictable cash transfers to mothers can make a significant difference in reducing chronic hunger of children. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Bilateral trade spells the end of sovreignty for Africa
by Mohau Pheko
All nations have intellectual property rights essential for protecting innovation, knowledge and creativity. This is essential in the area of medicines, inventions and new technologies. In order to deliver essential services such as healthcare, education, water and other essential services, the state buys services and goods to fulfill their obligations to citizens through a government procurement system. There are key sectors of industry where a government needs to seek investment to either establish or strengthen its industrial development strategy.
If a state trades away its intellectual property rights, allowing more industrialized countries to have more rights in the ownership of a nation’s knowledge, invention and new technologies can we still call it a sovereign state? If it allows foreign corporations to compete with local small companies for tenders in supplying government with goods on an equal footing, what one should pose will happen to efforts to empower women and affirmative action programmes put in place to bridge the inequalities of the past in the economy?
The G8 through many of it’s trade agreements such as the Singapore issues and Economic Partnership Agreements is weakening the African state. If the state allows foreign investors a status equal to that of citizens in the ownership of key sector of the economy, can we still call such a nation economically viable and sovereign?
In reviewing some of the G8’s existing free trade agreement one notes that the architecture can go far beyond trade. Some of them are long on foreign policy objectives and short on substantive trade liberalisation. Kwame Nkrumah in Neo-Colonialism, the Last State of Imperialism, reminds are that the “essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trapping of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.”
How sovereign is a nation that has no control or ownership over the key sectors of its economy? How sovereign is a nation that can no longer be a social provider because it has traded away the right to educate, provide healthcare, and affirm potential entrepreneurs in its economy?
The covert action, and hard-nosed attitude of the G8 countries in their trade talks Africa symbolize the neo-colonial or economic colonial era Africa as a whole is faced with. Under the old pretense that if Africa gives the G8 countries concessions in the areas of intellectual property, government procurement and investment, which is important for G8 companies doing business on the African continent, African countries in turn, will enjoy new levels of economic growth. Judging the over 2,300 bilateral free trade agreements that exist in the world today, nothing could be further from the truth.
There are alternatives
by Patricia Daniel at the G8
The alternative summit got off to a good start with the opening podium yesterday. Held in the lovely Nikolaikirche (St Nicholas Church) it attracted even more participants than the organisers expected, so many that, at one point, there were people literally sitting in the rafters.
The rousing keynote speech was given by Jean Ziegler on the main theme of the summit: Rethinking Globalisation. He was given a standing ovation. As the teenage girls giving out leaflets at the door told me: TINA (there is no alternative) is dead.
The panel consisted of three women, which augurs well for the summit to include a gender perspective.
In their own words:
Thuli Makama, Yonge Nawe Environmental Action Group, Swaziland on development in Africa:
It’s important to remember that the resources are there in Africa but they are being taken over by other countries, for their own comfort. Women even need to compete with transnational companies in order to have access to water. There are alternatives to climate change, they’re in the Kyoto Protocol. But these aren’t accepted by the US. One nation’s needs reign supreme. Now in Africa we are being asked to give up our lands to grow products so they can make bio-fuel to solve their problems. Meanwhile we can’t put food on our own table.
Annelie Buntenbach, DGB, Germany’s Federation of Trade Unions emphasised the fact that:
Although we belong to a rich country, one of the global players, we still have problems, there are also children in need in Germany. Labour conditions are getting worse, there is little job security – and women in particular are vulnerable in the ever-growing informal sector which so far has been ignored by government. Ordinary people are caught – and connected – in the chain of the international economy. We need to develop solidarity between workers through trade unions and with other organsiations.
Madjiguene Cisse, Sans Papiers, Senegal spoke about the link between development and migration.
Our own governments are part of the problem. We have the impression that they’re not there for us. Senegal has treaties with Spain and France, which mean that migrants are sent back home. Meanwhile we have EU frontier police in West Africa. Women’s organisations are now really beginning to mobilise, to establish their own rights in the market. We used the World Social Forum (WSF) this year as an opportunity to get together, to build solidarity and strength – and for the first time to exchange ideas on how can Africa develop.
The alternative summit has followed the format of the WSF – with a list of key themes to be explored through panels and workshops and a final podium where outcomes will be presented. Peter Wahl of WEED described it as an opportunity to use “intellectual power”. Let’s see how it goes. Although the organisers have invited participants from 40 countries worldwide, the majority of people here are German or European, so I’m not quite sure if it’s the way to move the whole world forward.
Diana Fong’s report on Deutsche Welle has a World Bank spokesperson claiming ‘the issue is how we can achieve better globalisation’ but it seems to be more of the same…
It’s Getting Hot Out Here
by Maura Stephens, journalist and humanitarian, coauthor of “Collateral Damage: The Iraqi People”, February 2003
There are many things the G8 should be paying attention to because they matter to the 51 percent or so of us on the Earth who are female. Tops among them, I believe, are global climate change and bringing peace to the Middle East.
I’ll address the first point in this essay. If I recall correctly, the G6 (later G7 with the addition of Canada, and then G8 with the addition of Russia) was initially formed in response to the oil crisis of 1973. But it would be 2005 before this body issued a statement on global climate change, essentially saying that it agreed with the consensus of the International Panel on Climate Change.
That’s really rather a pathetic step. These 8 countries, which control 65 percent of the world’s economy, have got to do more. And do it now, not make proclamations about what they will do in the future once some other factors fall into place. And they must pressure other nations to come along — including the most resistant “developed” countries.
Global climate change is the big bear in the closet, the one looming disaster that will almost certainly bring unplanned class equity to most of the world. Those who now live in wealthy seaside dwellings may well not have homes 10 years from now, and those who live in artificially irrigated desert oases will likely be engaged in wars of a new and different sort: water wars. And those who are already poor, living in fishing villages or huge cities situated on water, will continue to pay high prices. They already have: witness the devastation in numerous countries following the Indian Ocean earthquake that triggered the Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004, and the hurricane-pummeled, poorly maintained infrastructure that flattened mostly poor areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, USA, in 2005. The beautiful islands of Iceland and Ireland (my homeland, that economically booming gem of the EU) will most likely no longer enjoy the temperate climes they have been blessed with, thanks to the changes in the warming North Atlantic currents.
Some of these changes cannot be averted by island nations. Yet many can. All countries must first take responsibility for themselves, and then recognise they have a responsibility to the other countries of their regions and the entire planet Earth.
Ireland, to use an example dear to my heart, will not only be harmed by direct environmental effects of global climate change, according to several studies. The near future brings about many possible threats to Ireland, as an EPA report points out. Yet Ireland is brazenly continuing its rate of economic expansion and has actually increased its greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent above 1990 levels, nearly twice the increase the government committed to under the Kyoto Protocol. The current head of government, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (who with his Fianna Fail party was re-elected, with a majority in the Dail, or Parliament, in May 2007), turned down requests from environmental organisations to discuss their participation in sociopolitical partnership. The G8 and indeed the EU need to tell Ireland and other would-be scofflaw countries that this cannot be tolerated.
Coastal flooding, availability of fresh water, and food supply are all important factors in a region’s adaptive capacity and resilience, so a population’s income and technological capabilities must be taken into account when forecasting its vulnerability to ill effects of climate change. In societies where women predominate, especially women raising young children—because of war or displacement—fewer strong bodies are available to mount storm buttresses, build wells and sewers and other methods for procuring drinking water and properly channeling waste streams, and to work farms for food production.
We must step up and make real change now. All of us, in rich countries especially, must change our living styles, our consumption habits, our expectations of endless more. Ireland is just one example. Unfortunately, now the people of Ireland and other “later-developed nations,” have caught up and even surpassed the biggest offender, the United States, in gross overconsumption and waste.
To paraphrase a great leader, Mahatma Gandhi, Women must be the change we want to see in the world. And there is no time to lose.
Art goes to Heiligendamm
There are different ways of approaching the fence, which has become the symbol for protesters, a source of provocation for those, unfortunately, inclined to violent action and a statement of exclusion to all of civil society. Artists without borders have come together to transcend the fence, the power it stands for – and the violence – with a range of activities from international art installations, through street theatre and cross-cultural concerts, to unexpected interactions at the fence itself. With the help of giant power puppets you can get the G8 leaders to say what you want to hear. And the world parliament of clowns founded by Antoschka aims to bring ‘a wave of wisdom and a smile’ to the proceedings. I’m hoping this kind of creativity wins out.
The stile: Francis Zeischegg, Berlin
Stitching the wound: Bankok Project
Stories under occupation:Al Kasaba theatre, Ramallah
Clowns protest at Wittstock
Guest at the fence:Powerhasi (Superbunny)
From Nairobi to Heiligendamm
by Patricia Daniel
I have official press accreditation to go inside the fence to the G8 summit itself. But I am more interested in the alternative summit outside. As I did when I blogged the World Social Forum in Nairobi 2007, I’d like to focus on the extent to which women are involved in the process and what they are saying. I also want to gauge how well the bridge has been built between Nairobi and Heiligendamm – one of the intentions of the G8NGO Platform – in terms of civil society networking and strategising. But I have mixed feelings setting off from Berlin to Rostock, with the escalation of violence that began on Saturday and continued Monday. I’m not afraid for my own safety but those (yes, at least 99% male) protesters have cast a dark shadow over what should have a positive week for global civil society action – using aggression against the aggressors rather than, like the majority of men and women here, celebrating the collective vision that a different world is possible. I’d welcome other women’s comments on this. Readers who wish to keep up with events in detail can check out the ticker news from Indymedia which gives a rather different account of the proceedings to Germany’s official press website.
by Ancila Adrian-Paul, PhoenixConsulting UK and openDemocracy blogger
It is a pleasure to share space with you again in this Women and the G8 blog.
The G8 represents approximately 65 percent of the world’s economy. The ministerial meetings organized annually in the country of leadership for that year, discuss both global and mutual issues – with topics ranging from health and foreign affairs to justice, terrorism and climate change. Afghanistan should be of priority interest to this forum as all of the governments listed above are involved in its reconstruction in one way or another. Afghan women should be of particular interest since their oppression was cited as one of the overriding reasons why the country was bombed.
As some of you may remember, during the 1325 blog in 2005, I had just gone to Afghanistan to work for the German based non-governmental charity – medica mondiale – a group of women advocating for the human rights of women in conflict and post-conflict scenarios and focusing on sexual violence against women and the attendant psycho-social issues affecting such women. Initially, I was going to be there for 6 months but ended up spending 19 months. I finally left Afghanistan in February this year (2007). In this blog, I want to share with you some of my overriding memories of the country, to give you a flavour of life there and an indication of the situation of women.
Imagine a country with mountains that reach to the sky. I am talking about the Hindu Kush mountains. Imagine a capital city nestles between barren hills, icy and treacherous in the winter. A city that becomes green and fruitful, ripe with pollen, flowers, fruit and a multitude of dust participles in the spring and summer. Afghanistan is a country of extremes – bitterly cold during the long winter months and frighteningly hot and humid during the summer months. Imagine a feudal and tribal society that despite its poverty has a piquant and otherworldly charm and romantic allure that belies the grim reality of women’s unequal status. Afghanistan is a country of many marvels and many riches – the foremost of which are undoubtedly its women.
Women in Afghanistan face significant odds. According to the 2005 annual report of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) headed by its well-known chair Dr Sima Samar, over 90 percent of Afghan women are illiterate. Poverty is chronic and is made worse by continuous drought as well as the deleterious effects of over 25 years of conflict. In this country, the feminization of poverty takes a very brutal face. Women were prevented from working during the Taliban regime and were kept inside the house – unable to attend school, seek gainful employment or at times even to take their children to the hospital. The situation has changed for some, but not for others.
While some women – especially in Kabul (the capital city), Mazar-i-Sharif (the large northern city) and in Herat (the intellectual stronghold to the West) on the border with Iran, are able to work and have a degree of unprecedented freedom, others in cities in the South such as in Kandahar and Helmand are often not so fortunate.
Undoubtedly, since the fall of the Taliban and the signing of the Bonn Agreement in 2002, Afghan women have made significant gains. Some of these include the 25 percent inclusion of women in parliament (in both the Upper and Lower houses) – a higher percentage than found in our own parliament in the United Kingdom! Afghan women are also Provincial Governors. For example, Bamyan in the central region is headed by a former woman minister – Dr Soraya Sarabi. Women are organizing their own village and community councils – which in some areas, have the burden of dealing with the high percentage of violence and brutality perpetrated against women. Unfortunately, these gains are not enough and are mitigated by the tribal, cultural and other customs that lead to many of the estimated 50 000 widowed Afghan women becoming beggars. Add to this, Afghanistan’s place among the countries in the world with the highest maternal mortality rate. In fact the remote and largely inaccessible province of Badakshan, on the border with China is reputed to be the worst affected.
My time there enabled me to visit several provinces and to interact with women at different levels of society and from both rural villages as well as within cities – including the three cities named above. The work in which I was involved, leading the political lobby and advocacy work of medica mondiale, enabled me and the Afghan team working with me to support the Ministry for Women’s Affairs and the Ministry for Public Health in many ways – including by conducting issue based research and targeted recommendations for lobby and advocacy work.
One very important research project that was conducted in 2006 was a three-month project on suicide among Afghan women which includes various forms, the most insidious of which is self-burning (self-immolation) and that occurs mainly among Afghan women and girls between the ages of 12 – 45 years. The research highlighted the fact that approximately 80 percent of these women and girls commit self-immolation due to violence and brutality of various types – including widespread forced and early marriages. The research led to a three-day regional conference bringing together participants from Afghan government and society as well as from neighbouring countries including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Iraqi Kurdistan.