SAPPORO — After years of broken promises and ignoring problems until they turn into crises, it is time for the Group of Eight leaders to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk when it comes to climate change, poverty and human rights issues.
That was the message international nongovernmental organizations delivered in Sapporo on Sunday, the opening day of the People’s Summit 2008.
The three-day NGO summit, which bills itself as the alternate G8 summit of industrialized nations, drew hundreds of activist leaders from around the world.
“As the G8 leaders gather in Hokkaido for their summit, every day, 50,000 people worldwide die from preventable causes, and in Africa alone 6,000 people die every day from AIDS. This is a form of passive genocide. You can be sure if this was happening in the developed countries, they would have taken action by now,” said Kumi Naidoo, a South African representative of the Global Call to Action against Poverty.
Over the past few months, a sense of pessimism that the G8 summit starting Monday in Toyako will effectively tackle issues ranging from climate change to aid to Africa has set in among the NGOs working in Africa and other developing countries.
NGOs involved in climate change have also been bitterly disappointed by the lack of leadership on the part of Japan to use the G8 summit to forge consensus on the need for mid-term greenhouse gas reduction targets and wonder what, if anything, the nations will agree to.
“You may have countries announcing various unilateral initiatives on climate change. But for that, you don’t need a summit,” Jurgen Maier, a German NGO representative, said at a news conference.
Japan is promoting long-term emissions reductions by 2050, despite calls from not only NGOs but also the United Nations to ensure that developed countries reach a consensus on mid-term targets by the time the U.N. meets in December 2009 to hammer out a post-Kyoto Protocol treaty from 2013.
But recent reports that the United States would oppose a strong commitment by the G8 to long-term reduction targets have added further to a sense the summit won’t produce much in the way of combating global warming.
The global food crisis and rising oil prices, and how the G8 leaders address these issues, were among the topics raised by NGOs at the symposium Sunday.
On Saturday, as NGOs gathered in Hokkaido, Oxfam, one of the world’s leading NGOs on development issues, called on the G8 not to forget that the food crisis is hitting the world’s poorest countries particularly hard.
SAPPORO — Japanese and international NGOs lodged a formal protest with the government Sunday over an immigration crackdown against international activists denied entry into Japan or refused visas.
“Between 20 and 30 people who came to Japan for events related to the Group of Eight summit at Toyako were denied entry. And a number of those who had planned to come to participate in G8-related NGO activities were denied visas for reasons that remain unclear. Clearly, immigration and police authorities are going too far,” the statement said.
It was prepared by the 2008 G8 Summit NGO Forum and sent to the Justice Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.
One activist who did get through was Walden Bello, from the Philippines, who represents the group Focus on the Global South and is a vocal opponent of the G8.
“I was detained at Narita (International Airport) for nearly an hour, as immigration officials asked me why I was coming to Japan, and what I planned to do in Sapporo. They implied I was coming to Japan to stay and work illegally,” Bello said at the People’s Summit 2008 in Sapporo.
The NGOs also protested the heavy police presence in major cities in the past few weeks.
Some 40,000 police officers nationwide have been mobilized for the summit, and plainclothes officers were conducting passport and identity checks over the weekend on non-Japanese who passed through the domestic terminal at New Chitose Airport near Sapporo.