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Only outcome of G-8 summit was violence, say NGOs

by Jorge Pina

Rome, 23 Jul 2001 (IPS) - The summit of the Group of Eight (G-8) leaders in the Italian port city of Genoa only produced violence, as there were no positive results for the world’s poor nations, according to development-focused non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The three-day G-8 meeting concluded Sunday just as it had begun: amid violence that devastated broad swaths of Genoa. Official estimates indicate that repairs for the streets, shops and banks, which were damaged or torched, will run near $50 million.

Sunday evening, the Italian police raided schools occupied by the Genoa Social Forum, a network of 300 NGOs that had peacefully demonstrated against the G-8 and the model of economic globalization that the world’s most powerful nations promote.

Then, during Monday’s early hours, Italy’s Caribinieri force arrested 30 foreigners as they prepared to leave Italy, charging them with having participated in the disturbances over the weekend.

The balance after three days of running street battles between protesters and public security forces was the Friday shooting death of 23-year-old Italian activist Carlo Giuliani, 560 people being injured and 219 arrests.

[Several media reports, ranging from the conservative Wall Street Journal to the Washington-based ‘Nation’ and the London Guardian, strength the civil society suspicions about the agent provocateur role of the very small number of ‘anarchists’ who at all such anti-globalization protests engage in violence, and as a result the police and paramilitary react by hitting peaceful protestors, and blaming the protestors.

[The Wall Street Journal reporting from Genoa quotes the leaders of the Genoa Social Forum, who organized and brought in peaceful non-violent protestors, as saying that they had no knowledge about the identify of the ‘Black Block’ militants - “and claim that these rioters are, in fact, police infiltrators’.

[The WSJ also reported that “an Italian TV station, La 7, showed over the weekend, ‘grainy coverage’ of the ‘black block’ activists conversing with the policy shortly before a riot began,” but that the police denied such links.  Throughout the weekend, the WSJ reported, “the ‘Black Block’ , militants, usually wearing black ski masks, helmets and protective body gear, mingled with GSF peaceful marchers... appear at the edge of the crowd, throw molotov cocktails into bank branches, set vehicles and garbage containers on fire and then retire, exposing the other demonstrators to tear gas and a charge by the police. Well-organized and connected by cellular phones, these militants wold then reappear behind the police lines, wreaking havoc at random spots...”]

Meanwhile, ensconced in the Ducal Palace, the G-8 leaders had signed the summit’s final declaration, in which they underscored the need to fight poverty, saying, “we are determined to make globalization work for all our citizens and especially the world’s poor.”

The heads of state from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US agreed to continue on the road towards the reduction of foreign debt for developing countries.

They also reached accords for fighting organised crime, and for combating drug trafficking, in particular.

The eight leaders taking part in the Genoa talks decided to create an HIV/AIDS fund of $1.2 billion, though UN secretary-general Kofi Annan had stressed that the minimum amount needed annually is $7.0 billion.

“There was no progress with respect to foreign debt, only the confirmation of measures that had already been adopted,” pointed out Luca De Fraia, coordinator of the Italian NGO Sdebitarse, which has gathered 800,000 signatures in favour of annulling the developing South’s external debt.

De Fraia said that world leaders had previously agreed on reducing the debt of 23 countries by $53 billion, despite the fact that the 41 poorest countries hold a combined $215 billion in external debt. The NGOs are calling for the forgiveness of the developing world’s debt of $2.5 trillion.

The 40 NGOs making up the Italy-based COCIS network (Coordination for International Development Cooperation) called the G-8 summit “useless.” The declaration of principles listed in the meeting’s final document “are inversely proportional to concrete efforts,” they said in a joint statement.

The only effective commitment, the outlay of $1.2 billion for the battle against HIV/AIDS, is “paltry, and with all probability (those resources) will be destined mostly for the pharmaceutical industry,” said a pessimistic Mario Gay, COCIS president.

“They did not annul the foreign debt and the entire final document is aligned with the guiding policy of the US administration of (George W.) Bush towards the Third World: charity, not rights,” said Gay.

Furthermore, the city of Genoa “was left in the hands of professional provocateurs, while the security forces savagely beat the peaceful protesters,” he said.

Sabina Siniscardi, of the NGO ‘Mane Tese’, commented that the fight against poverty had suffered a reversal because the G-8 did not uphold the commitment that the UN General Assembly had imposed on the nations of the industrialised North to set aside 0.7% of their gross domestic product (GDP) as development aid for poor countries.

The $1.2 billion fund for AIDS “is absolutely insufficient for confronting this kind of health emergency,” added the activist.

“There were no concrete policies from the eight powerful nations, there were only polite words about the fight against poverty,” said Siniscardi, head of the Italian office of Mane Tese, a group engaged in development projects in 16 countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

It should be noted, she added, that “the security forces did not attempt to isolate” the militants of the extremist group Black Block, reportedly the instigators of the street violence during the summit. Instead, the police “indiscriminately used violence against everyone, but especially against the movements that were peacefully protesting.” – SUNS4943

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