G20 protest – 3 reasons

Three Reasons You Should Attend The G8/20 Protests

by Greg Shupak

If you are interested in social justice you should attend the protests that will take place in Toronto during the G20 Summit from June 25th-June 27th and in the days leading up to the arrival of twenty of the world’s “leaders.” Though I will present three reasons why you ought to be in the city as though they were separate, I want to stress that they’re intimately linked, cause and effect.  In no particular order:

1.The G8/20 proliferates war.

The G20 might properly be called an international arms dealers summit.  The Canada Peace Alliance notes that G20 countries are “responsible for more than 85 per cent of global military spending and 95 per cent of global arms production.”

According to Foreign Policy in Focus, five G20 countries (the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea) spent nearly $1 trillion in 2008 on the military but “for about one-tenth of this . . .we can achieve more genuine security by eliminating global starvation and malnutrition, educating every child on earth, making clean water and sanitation accessible for all, and reversing the global spread of AIDS and malaria.”

At home, meanwhile, the Harper government has committed Canada to spending $490 billion on the military over the next 20 years.  Think of that when you are told that there is not enough money around to fund your parents’ and grandparents’ pensions.  The consequence of these military build-ups is, predictably, death.  To give just two recent examples:  the New America Foundation notes that 871 Pakistanis were killed by American drones in Barack Obama’s first sixteen months as President; and in June 2009, NATO bombed civilian houses in Afghanistan’s Farah province killing more than 100 people.  If citizens of Western countries were killed at this rate we’d call it terrorism.

2.The G8/20 deepens poverty.

The G8/G20 decides the policies of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  Under the guise of debt relief, these institutions provide loans to the Global South with conditions attached that, in collaboration with local elites, force these states to limit spending on health and education, to weaken labour and environmental laws, to produce cheap export goods for the Global North, to flood their own markets with goods from the North that make local production unprofitable, and to allow international corporations privileged access to national wealth.

This is done because it supposedly produces economic growth in the developing world.  Yet the economist Mark Weisbrot points out that over a twenty year period “of IMF and WB-directed reforms, the vast majority of low-and-middle-income countries have suffered a drastic slowdown in economic growth.”

Specific examples of the consequences of IMF and WB “reforms” are outlined in Mike Davis’ masterpiece Planet of Slums, including:  Ivory Coast, where urban poverty doubled in just two years; Nigeria, where extreme poverty went from 28 percent in 1980 to 66 percent in 1996; Mexico, where the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty rose from 16 percent in 1992 to 28 percent in 1999.

The UN’s Human Development Report 2004 notes that, in an era characterized by the implementation of WB and IMF prescriptions, “an unprecedented number of countries saw development slide backwards.  In 46 countries people are poorer today than in 1990.  In 25 countries more people are hungry today than a decade ago.”

Why would G8/20 leaders advocate such policies?

Because their result is that the world’s poorest nations end up subsidizing the richest.  Professor David Harvey points out that from 1980-2007 $4.6 trillion was transferred from the Global South to the Global North.  (Keep this in mind whenever some condescending politician in the developed world brags about how much “aid” his or her nation sends to less developed countries.)  Many in the Global North world who are unemployed, haemorrhaging student debt and/or are appalled by the federal government’s withdrawal of funding from the First Nations University of Canada might well wonder what happens to all the money the G8/20 obtains via grand larceny.

3.The G8/20 is undemocratic.

Reasons one and two are among the best arguments I can think of for economic democracy and community self-management.  The G20, however, is wildly undemocratic.  The summit’s webpage notes that “Although participation in the meetings is reserved for members, the public is informed about what was discussed and agreed immediately after the meeting of ministers and governors has ended.” In other words, the meetings are held in secret and once our sage mandarins have decided what is best for us they will tell us what they think we ought to know.

While G20 governance over the Global North is undemocratic, its rule over the Global South is downright neo-colonial.  Though the G20 does include a few less developed countries, unlike the G8, the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation notes that “the G20 functions mostly as a sounding board” for the G8 and “does little to alter the elite nature of the G8.” This is what plutocracy looks like.

There are many equally important reasons to protest the summit that I haven’t mentioned so I’d encourage everybody to investigate the relationship between G20 policies and issues such as environmental degradation, First Nations sovereignty and global gender inequity.

I encourage everyone to visit the website of The Toronto Community Mobilization Network (TCMN)* for details on demonstration times and locations and to come on out.  We have a world to win.

*I am based in Guelph, Ontario, where I do most of my activism, and should note that I am not directly affiliated with the TCMN and do not speak on their behalf.

Greg Shupak is a writer, activist and PhD student in Guelph, Ontario.  Versions of this article have appeared in The Ontarion and The Peak.


6 Responses to “G20 protest – 3 reasons”

  1. I have different opinions from yours according to my experiences.

    1. You said, “… we can achieve more genuine security by eliminating global starvation and malnutrition, educating every child on earth, making clean water and sanitation accessible for all, and reversing the global spread of AIDS and malaria”. I came from South Korea and we went through extreme poverty; starvation, malnutrition and everything after war. We were one of the 20 poorest countries. Since then, we worked hard to improve the situation; we could produce enough food for us, 99% of population is literate. We have one of the best health care system. Our AIDS and malaria incidents are quite low. Yet, people don’t feel genuine security. Competition is getting harsher and suicide rate is getting higher. Genuine security has nothing to do with such things as nutrition, education, or health.

    2. We also had to borrow money from IMF in 1997. It was tough time. Stock market was collapsed. How bad was it? Whole market value was merely as twice much as Michael Jordan’s one year salary not even including his other income. Many companies were sold to foreign capitals. Personally, my employer filed Chapter 11 and 5000+ employees suffered from it. However, it is not right to blame the lender. It was not their fault. There was internal reasons to be in such a situation.

    Also where the money comes from? It comes from governments. I’m sure you are a generous giver and there are many who are willing to donate. But I’m not so sure how many taxpayers are happy when they hear that their government gives out their tax money to the poor countries. You can’t blame the leaders without blaming the people.

    3. The world is not democratic. There is no world government. There is no reason the world should be democratic, nor democracy is the absolute good. Even not all countries are democratic. For instance, North Korea is not democratic and they chose not to be.
    Each country may be democratic. Even though the meeting is secret, their decision should be approved by their people. South Korea is so and I believe Canada is like that, too. The leaders are to pursue their peoples’ best interest. If it is not, it is the country’s problem, not G8/G20’s problem.

    Finally, I don’t see any points of the protests from the broken window of the stores.

  2. I am from vancouver and i wanted to comment on democracy.In any capitalist country democracy is for the wealthy people.There can’t be any real democracy for the majority of the people in a class divided society.Democracy is the rule of one class over another.In a capitalist society it is the rule of the minority over the majority.There is no capitalist gov.that likes democracy that much.
    When the wealth of the minority is threatened all capitalist govs.don’t hesitate to take away what democracy the working class got under capitalism.It has been done many times in the past.If there wasn’t a class society we wouldn’t have to worry about democracy.For real democracy the working class will have to take political power into their own hands.You can’t have equil democracy for the wealthy and for the working class.That have been proved many times.


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