- As the G8 summit of the world’s economic powers wound up in St Petersburg, Russia, a “Poor People’s Summit” in Mali slammed global institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, and demanded immediate debt relief for developing nations.
Several hundred people, mostly from Africa but also from Europe and North America, trekked to this far-off dusty corner of Mali for the three-day event, taking place more than 1,000 kilometres from the capital, Bamako. About 60 non-governmental organisations took part.
“I learnt here that this world is not just,” said Coumba Diallo, an elderly farmer from Guinea, after she attended a lecture on privatisation and debt. “I learnt that our leaders are not free, that they have masters elsewhere who give them orders.”
Held for the 5th year running, the forum discussed issues such as debt and privatisation. It also examined immigration, GM foods and conflict.
“GM foods must be banned from Africa,” said Tamadaho Emilie Atchaca, who heads a sustainable development group known as CADD in Benin. “If they’re introduced here we’ll lose our seeds and westerners will seize control of our seeds.”
Mali’s Barry Aminata Toure, who heads a coalition on debt and development (CAD-Mali), said: “We refuse to be the rubbish-bin of the world. We want just international rules for fair trade.
“The international community should recognise our right to maintain, protect and develop our food production in respect of the diversity of our cultures and our products.”
Current moves to fortress Europe against illegal immigration by switching to selective migration also came under attack at the forum. “How can men and women who emigrate to help the survival of their families be considered to be ‘public dangers’?” said a group of Malian deportees.
In a final statement, participants called for “the suppression of the World Bank and of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the creation of new institutions that are democratically controlled by states and by citizens.”
Likewise, debt relief was a matter of urgency, the summit stated. Debt must be cancelled totally and unconditionally because it stunted productive investment and closed the door to basic social services such as education, health and water. Despite the G8’s pledges in 2005 to cancel debt for the world’s 35 poorest countries, only 17 countries had been targeted so far, participants said.
“We want to build a world of justice and solidarity,” the summit slogan said.
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