G8 summit poDcast + conclusions
Monday June 11th 2007, 12:07 pm
Filed under: 50:50, G8, alternatives G8

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 jessica.reed@opendemocracy.net.



What came out of the G8 summit for women?

by Patricia Daniel

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You can access all the summit declarations on the official website and download them as pdf documents. But I advise you not to bother. They mainly contain bland statements which commit the G8 to nothing. In general they say: “we note that this is an important issue and we agree to talk about it again at a later date.” And as far as women specifically are concerned, I have already been through the documents with my gender lens and pulled the relevant paragraphs out for you. There aren’t many and they’re all from the declaration on Africa.

So, here’s my immediate review of what came out of the G8 summit for women, based on the five key concerns we identified in the open letter. We invite our bloggers to comment in more detail.

Combat structural economic exclusion

More of the same on the global economy – in fact possibly a lot more if the emerging economies go into G8 partnership agreements. One very bland reference to women:

“The G8 emphasize the importance of the political and economic empowerment of women as a contribution to sustainable growth and responsible government. We are promoting the World Bank’s Gender Action Plan and welcome this and further initiatives supporting our African partners’ efforts to foster the economic empowerment of women such as those taken by the United Nations.”
Paragraph 29, Growth and Responsibility for Africa

Reverse the marginalisation of women

This is really all I could find:

Education is a fundamental driver for national development and economic growth, providing a skilled labour force, and promoting equity, enterprise, and prosperity. Education also promotes good health, empowers girls and women, and leads to healthier families. We are committed to working with partner governments and the private sector to expand opportunities for disadvantaged girls and boys, including beyond the classrooms, to learn 21st century skills and increase their participation in society. We reaffirm that no country seriously committed to “Education for All” will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by lack of resources.”

Paragraph 37, Growth and Responsibility for Africa

Climate change – sustainable development

A lot of hot air and no reference to women – or any new approach to grassroots development.

Health, HIV/AIDS and women’s rights

I’m surprised. There’s some detailed analysis here, a shift in discourse and a concrete pledge to provide more funding. But $60 billion over four years is to be shared between the whole African continent and Eastern European countries, so it’s not terribly generous. And we still need to see if the money materialises. Nevertheless I see this as a real success for women’s campaigning and a personal success for Bundesministerin Heidemarie Wiezcorek-Zeul who has championed these issues in Germany these past six months.

“50. Recognizing the growing feminization of the AIDS epidemic, the G8 in cooperation with partner governments support a gender-sensitive response by the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) with the goal of ensuring that greater attention and appropriate resources are allocated by the Fund to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care that addresses the needs of women and girls. Coverage of prevention of mother to child transmission programs (PMTCT) currently stands at only 11%. In the overall context of scaling up towards the goal of universal access and strengthening of health systems we will contribute substantially with other donors to work towards the goal of providing universal coverage of PMTCT programs by 2010. The cost to reach this target, as estimated by UNICEF, is US$ 1,5 billion. The G8 together with other donors will work towards meeting the needed re-sources for paediatric treatments in the context of universal access, at a cost of US$ 1,8 billion till 2010, estimated by UNICEF. We will also scale up efforts to reduce the gaps, in the area of maternal and child health care and voluntary family planning, an estimated US$ 1,5 billion.51. By achieving the MDG on education, 700,000 new HIV-infections could be pre-vented every year. Education not only improves the understanding for infectious dis-eases but also improves women’s and girls’ economic prospects and empowers them. The G8 will take concrete steps to support education programs especially for girls, to promote knowledge about sexuality and reproductive health and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. The G8 will support the nationwide inclusion of appropriate HIV/AIDS-related information and life-skills information in school curricula, in the context of nationally owned sector plans as well as prevention information with regard to malaria and other relevant health topics.

52. The G8 will emphasize the importance of programs to promote and protect human rights of women and girls as well as the prevention of sexual violence and coercion especially in the context of preventing HIV/AIDS infections. We welcome the commitment expressed by African partners aiming at promoting the rights and role of women and girls. We will also work to support additional concerted efforts to stop sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. 53. The G8 will take concrete steps to work toward improving the link between HIV/AIDS activities and sexual and reproductive health and voluntary family planning programs, to improve access to health care, including preventing mother-to-child transmission, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by adopting a multi-sectoral approach and by fostering community involvement and participation.”

From Growth and Responsibility in Africa

Education for gender equality and women’s rights

See above. As regards our suggestion that men take responsibility for the every day challenges faced by women: I’m tempted to say that the seven male G8 leaders showed some quaint old-fashioned gallantry vis-à-vis Angela Merkel’s tough presidency role and came to unexpectedly amicable agreements in order to see her attractively perky smile when she gets her own way reflected in all the summit photographs. After all, why not? They don’t really have any intention of following through anyway.

Peace and security

We didn’t include this in our open letter, but subsequent bloggers have raised a number of issues. Absolutely no reference to women or the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in any of the relevant documents (for example, on Darfur). No, wait, I’m wrong, here it is:

“At the 8th African Partnership Forum in Berlin, we have jointly with our African partners discussed important recommendations regarding climate change, investment, peace and security as well as gender equality.”

Final paragraph, G8 Africa Partnership, Summary of G8 Africa Personal Representatives’ Joint Progress Report (Annex to Growth and Responsibility in Africa)

Conclusion

The most interesting and constructive discussions about the future took place outside the fence round Heiligendamm, at the alternative summit in Rostock, at the Nobel Women’s Initiative gathering in Galway, in women’s social movements on different continents, at the World Social Forum in Nairobi – and here in the women’s openSummit blog.

Who needs the G8 anyway to tell us how to run the world?




Only yourself can set you free
Thursday June 07th 2007, 7:53 pm
Filed under: 50:50

by Patricia Daniel at the G8

The alternative G8 summit ended with some inspirational speeches about the way forward. Ana Esther Ceceña from Mexico City University talked about:

The development of new communities without borders (for example, via the internet) so that we can develop a shared history – and a shared future. We shouldn’t just be talking about the struggle against the US, against the G8, against transnational corporations. It’s bigger than that. It’s about our own emancipation: what we are fighting for. What are we constructing? What new types of relationships? What new ways of living in the world?

In the words of one of Latin America’s great philosophers, Bob Marley – “only yourself can set you free.”

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I wear my own six yards of freedom
Thursday June 07th 2007, 7:48 pm
Filed under: 50:50

by Patricia Daniel at the G8

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhd8tQS64jE]

Vandana Shiva, winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1993, wears her sari instead of cheap blue jeans from China.

In her closing speech, she spoke about the Indian cotton farmers now committing suicide: because of GM they have no seeds left.

“Those using resources beyond their needs constitutes theft, because it takes away resources from those who have a right to them. This theft must be stopped. Consumerism has brought in economies of genocide. The first right of humanity is to produce, to construct, to create – not to consume. The G8 won’t give that to us: we have to do it for ourselves.”

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Take Serious Action on Burma and Free Aung San Suu Kyi
Thursday June 07th 2007, 2:21 pm
Filed under: 50:50, Aung San Suu Kyi, G8, alternatives G8

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.



Who is really listening to African women’s voices?
Thursday June 07th 2007, 11:25 am
Filed under: 50:50

by Patricia Daniel at the G8

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There is a team of award-winning African journalists here covering the G8 summit and the alternative summit, in collaboration with the Panos Institute, on their blog AfricaVox 2007 .The aim is to see whether the G8 are really listening to African voices, as the official press service claims Germany is doing.

I spoke to Zinhle Mapumulo, a reporter with the Sowetan in South Africa, who covers health issues and has a weekly women’s page. Zinhle was inspired to go into the media by the one black woman television presenter working during apartheid, Noxolo Grootboom. After finally opting for print journalism, she has previously covered youth issues, lifestyle and women in enterprise as well as spending two years in her native province of Kwazulu Natal as bureau chief for Sowetan news. So, what’s her particular motivation in covering the G8 this year?

“Firstly I wanted the opportunity to experience the whole sandwich – the demos, the debates – and to ask all the questions we don’t get to ask back in South Africa. Then, as a woman, I feel there’s never any in-depth coverage of women: I want to know how do the G8 contributions, how do their pledges benefit me and my 2 year-old daughter – and other African women and their children – how is this process going to help us?”

Zinhle went out on the demo at the airport when Bush arrived Tuesday evening. “I wanted to see the action. We don’t get to see this kind of confrontation now in South Africa – the violence, the police. I wanted to talk to the demonstrators.” But she came away with some concerns. “They say they want attention from the world about Africa’s problems. But when I asked them, they don’t know anything about Africa. I felt it wasn’t genuine, they’re doing it for the hype, just to be a rebel.” She told one of them: “Your struggle is not about us, it’s about you. You should be feeling some kind of spiritual connection with us.”

Nevertheless she has seen some connections herself that she didn’t know about before: for example the stigma around HIV/AIDS. She attended a youth AIDS workshop where one HIV+ male German explained how he felt when he went to see the doctor for a check-up and was told to wait until all the other patients had finished. His HIV+ friend was paying privately for his own ARV treatment because he didn’t want his employer to know his status. “I was shocked that this is normal in Germany. We don’t think things like this happen in developed countries.”

She was disappointed, however, that at the press briefing for the alternative summit, not one word was mentioned about HIV/AIDS. “For us in South Africa this is the number one issue – how much are we getting for ARV treatment? (climate change is not such an urgent concern). This especially touches women – because we are suffering from HIV/AIDS more than men. And there’s still stigma about that, for example, no-one will report the fact that their little daughter has been raped, but that’s one cause of infection.”

Her final comment for the G8: “Women’s empowerment is the key to development in Africa. That’s what I’d like them to focus on. How will their pledges empower us?”

—————–

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As climate change is high on the G8 agenda, AfricaVox also brings first-hand accounts from women and men of the effects of drought in Ethiopia (Desert Voices). The project is part of Panos London’s oral testimony programme and involved a number of journalists and community members.



Real Live security at the G8
Thursday June 07th 2007, 10:59 am
Filed under: 50:50

by Patricia Daniel at the G8

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=tEs-XwQkTNs]

Here’s the latest example of police security at the anti-G8 week in Rostock, Wednesday evening.

7.30pm

I’m in a taxi taking me along the harbour road to my hotel when we see the line of police vehicles. You can see clearly in the first video that there is nothing behind them but a few people sitting or strolling in the evening sunshine. I stop filming because the traffic has come to a sudden halt just by a large group of police officers and my intention is not to antagonise anyone.

“What’s going on?” asks the taxi-driver, as bemused as I am. The traffic starts moving again; it is the police vans that go on and on…

8.00pm

I’m in my hotel room (blogging of course) when a big black police helicopter starts circling low over the hotel. It continues circling for half an hour (no, I don’t think they’re after me but it is incredibly noisy).

8.30pm
Alles geht los, as we say in German. Everything starts happening. The open-air music concert begins down by the harbour. Sounds like nice music. People march up and down a bit and then go to sleep in orderly fashion under the stars. And that’s it. That’s the start of the 24 hour blockade. Using the methods of civil disobedience, a range of groups (church, youth, environment, radical left) aim to block the summit’s access roads and in so doing ‘will not allow the police to create an escalation.’

Glad I’m not a German police officer.

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What have Chernobyl children got to do with the sex trade?
Thursday June 07th 2007, 10:54 am
Filed under: 50:50, G8, alternatives G8, human rights, prostitution, women's rights

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.”

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Films at the Alternative G8 Summit
Thursday June 07th 2007, 10:41 am
Filed under: 50:50, G8, alternatives G8, films, gilms

“China Blue”

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?

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Bilateral trade spells the end of sovreignty for Africa
Thursday June 07th 2007, 9:35 am
Filed under: 50:50, Africa, G8, economic empowerment, globalisation

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.

(more…)

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