Mali people's forum challenges top-down G8 agenda
As the July 2006 Group of Eight (G8) summit ended in St Petersburg with little discussion on world poverty and trade issues, more than 600 people met at an alternative Peopleís Forum summit in the desert of Mali.
CAD-Mali (the Coalition of African alternatives on debt and development) organised the Peopleís Forum from 15-17 July 2006 as a counterpoint to the rich worldís leadership agenda.
Over 600 participants from across Africa, Europe and the United States gathered in the eastern town of Gao.
The main objective of the alternative forum was to enable associations of farmers, women, or young people to take part in discussions on trade justice and debt cancellation, emigration and genetically modified (GM) foods.
Barry Aminata Toure, President of CAD-Mali, says the Forum has been an opportunity for majority-world campaigners to raise their voice against social injustice.
ìPeople have come a long way because they want to be heard on these issues, and therefore they feel they really own this forum,î he declared.
It is the fifth year CAD-Mali has organised an alternate G8. Similarly, those who wish to challenge or re-route globalization and the Davos agenda have been organizing World Social Forums in different parts of the world.
Civil society groups, religious organizations, trade union and labour movements and NGOs are among those involved in the ëglobal grassrootsí.
Workshops focused on the urgent need of debt cancellation and the negative impact of enforced privatisation.
Participants also talked about the long-term damaging effects of GM foods and discussed new initiatives for peace and development to prevent mass emigration from the region to Europe.
There was a 'peopleís market' displaying both locally grown and imported products to show the impact of foreign goods on local markets and the difficulties that farmers face.
Since its creation in 2002, the Peopleís Forum has been running in different parts of the country to encourage civil society and to promote future actions.
Gao is located in a desert area of Mali where lack of infrastructure has caused conflicts; the town is also an important migration gate to Europe.
Many people have petitioned against a project of oil exploitation in the region that they feel would make them even more dependent on multinationals.
ìWe are calling on the G8 countries to review their position and to cancel the debt of poor countries without conditionsî, says Madame Toure.
She concludes: ìToo many people are suffering the effects of globalisation. All we are asking for is the chance to get our human and natural resources organised so that we can be more competitive on an international level. It is time we had an equal share of resources.î
[Also on Ekklesia: Poverty and trade sidelined in summit talks, says Christian Aid  19/07/06; Mixed aid agency reaction to Blair G8 poverty pledge panel ; Scottish church aid agency says G8 must do much more ; Churches call for decisive G8 action ; UK Evangelicals urge Bush to act on world poverty ; Poverty campaigners to form human wristband around Edinburgh ; Scotland gears up for 200,000 poverty campaigners ; Cardinal rallies Catholics to protest at G8 summit ;Chancellor proposes five point plan to continue 'make poverty history' ; Debt campaigners look to 'unfinished business' of G8 ; World leaders failing global poor, says Christian Aid ]