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?
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…