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.