G6B delivers report to federal ministers

By Corinna Callsen

On June 25, 2002 the Group of Six Billion People’s Summit ended in a lively discussion between the workshop’s leaders and federal ministers.

The discussion’s main focus was the G6B’s report–the result of the four-day-long summit at the University of Calgary. Fourteen topics of global significance were debated in G6B workshops and the final report was delivered to the ministers and outlined main points of concern and suggestions to improve current situations.

Bill Graham, Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade opened the dialogue, emphasising his appreciation of the G6B’s work.

“We are here to listen to you, the civil society,” he said. “I look forward to critical recommendations, which I will send on to the Prime Minister.”

Susan Whelan, Federal Minister for International Cooperation shared Graham’s concern about matters raised at the G6B.

“We care for Africa and the Prime Minister made certain that Africa will stay at the centre of the agenda,” she said. “We want to make sure that Africa stays in the focus of attention after the G8 is over.”

Following the opening speeches, chairpersons of the G6B workshops stated the main concerns of the over 1,400 people attending the G6B. Issues raised repeatedly included Canada’s ratification of the Kyoto Accords, 100 per cent unconditional debt cancellation for African nations and more respect for human rights by world governments. There was also discussion about complete funding for the World Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is $8 billion (U.S.) short.

“The G8 results have been disappointing, because G8 governments are directly part of the problem when they pursue policies that foster greater insecurity,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

The ministers responded to issues raised by the G6B members, pointing out programmes or institutions which are already or which will soon be dealing with problems. Minister Whelan said the Tanzanian debt was already cancelled but did not mention if any further cancellations are being pursued. She also promised transparency in the policy-making process and a positive response to issues raised.

“The education programs for HIV will get quadruple funding by 2004/2005 to prevent premature deaths,” she said.

Graham responded to the G6B speakers’ concerns.

“True security lies in areas where human rights are respected, not where terrorism reigns.” This was certainly nothing new to speakers and audience, but he moved on to a more important point, promising he will make sure U.S. President George W. Bush will see the suggestions made by the G6B.

“Human security is a key part of the foreign policy agenda and small arms trade is certainly a weak point in it,” said Graham.

His attempt to justify the cost of the G8 summit, which exceeds the financial support given to Africa each year, was drowned in angry reactions from the audience.

Responding to their criticism, Graham advised people and groups to speak before governmental committees, because the government has to respond to issues raised through them. As the final point of his speech, Graham pointed to the Canadian lead in establishing the G20, an initiative to include more countries in the decision making process.

Leave a comment