G8: A Mountain of Wishes Waits
by Ramesh Jaura
From Saturday’s IPS
TOYAKO, Japan, Jul 5 (IPS) – When the leaders of seven western industrial democracies and Russia gather for their meetings Jul. 7-9 in Toyako on the northern island of Hokkaido, a mountain of wishes tabled by a multitude of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from around the world would have piled up before them.
It is unlikely that they would be in a position to fulfil those wishes. As Andrew Cooper, associate director of the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada concluded in a recent report, the G8 (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada, Japan and the United States) was not set up to be the important international body it has become.
“The structure of the G8, designed to make its members look good and seem co-operative, and avoid the intense debates that might lead to real progress, conspires against its success,” says Cooper.
Among the organisations that has tabled a set of wishes for the G8 is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition, ‘Religions for Peace’. It is asking the G8 “to take bold action to address the threats that confront humanity, including the destruction of the environment and climate change, extreme global poverty and deteriorating food security, nuclear arms, terrorism and violent conflict.”
The call was issued following the World Religious Leaders Summit for Peace Jul. 2-3 in Sapporo, capital of the island prefecture of Hakkaido. Representatives of major faith traditions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism and Islam attended the summit.
“We must draw attention to the link between the health of the environment and war,” the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Moderator of Religions for Peace said in a call to action to Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukada.
“In addition to killing people, disrupting the lives of entire societies and thwarting development, war destroys the ecosystem. We religious leaders urge the G8 governments to a reduction of total national defence and military expenditures and utilise the saved funds to establish an Earth Fund dedicated to environmental protection,” the call to action said.
“Terrorism — the intentional killing of innocent people as a way of achieving political objective — is never morally justified whether it is perpetrated by individuals, groups or states,” said Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace. He called on the G8 to cooperate with religious leaders to address the problems of terrorism and violent conflict.
Prime Minister Fukuda said he would deliver the religious leaders’ statement to his fellow G8 heads of state and government. “Our global challenges require cooperation among all sectors and peoples. It is now time for religious and political leaders to dialogue and work hand in hand to tackle our common problems,” he said.
But there are the needs of other NGOs. The Hakkaido summit is “a golden opportunity for the Government of Japan to exercise its responsibilities for the world along with the other G8 countries,” says Masako Hoshino of the Japan International Volunteer Centre that is coordinating the Japan NGO Forum.
“We hope that the Government of Japan and the other G8 countries do not only seek their best interests but also make a strong commitment to tackling global issues and announce concrete actions for building a sustainable and peaceful world,” the Forum said in a statement.
“Today, we face a growing number of diverse global issues. The average temperature of the globe has risen by 0.74C during the last 100 years. The earth is losing its biodiversity 100 times faster than in the past. The amount of waste produced on earth is estimated to double in the next 50 years.”
While the planet faces such environmental stress, adds the statement, one billion people live in extreme poverty, the Forum says. Fifteen million a year lose their lives because they have no access to health services.
“Policing, surveillance and exclusion of people practising particular kinds of religion and belonging to certain ethnic groups or race are spreading throughout the world. Our hope is to change these gloomy pictures of the world. We can change the world.”
The G8 meetings coincide with the famous Japanese Tanabata festival, where people tie written wishes to bamboo trees. The Forum has asked people to tie their wish to a “virtual tree” as a step towards changing the world.
In collaboration with the Hokkaido Peace Movement Forum and the Hokkaido Peace Network, the NGO Forum is organising a ‘People’s Forum’ next week in Sapporo and Rusutsu on the island of Hokkaido.
The NGOs held protest demonstrations Jul. 5 in the centre of Sapporo. The protestors came from various parts of Japan as well as other countries such as Greece, the Philippines, Indonesia and South Korea.
They said the world’s most developed countries are “largely responsible for most of the wars, widespread starvation, the food and energy crisis and, last but not the least, global warming.”
In yet another move to influence G8 decisions, Friends of the Earth International Climate and Energy Coordinator Joseph Zacune said: “The G8 meeting is being promoted as an opportunity to address global warming but G8 nations are promoting policies such as World Bank climate funds and carbon trading for forests that will damage the environment, and harm developing country communities that are least responsible for climate change and most vulnerable to its impacts.
“G8 countries have benefited economically by exploiting fossil fuels across the planet for the past 250 years and they must live up to their historical and current responsibilities by radically cutting their own emissions and supporting developing countries and communities’ efforts to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change,” he added.
Campaigners and community leaders will be protesting and speaking out during the G8 Summit against the World Bank’s launch of its climate investment funds, which are being supported by the United States, Britain and Japan.