Violence in Seattle. Protests in Washington, D.C. Are the world's leaders in for more of the same in Okinawa?
The Japanese are hoping to host discussions on global concerns like information technology, education, the environment, genetically-modified foods, and ways to help poorer countries.
But some people may travel to Japan to protest a variety of issues.
Seattle, DC, Now Okinawa
Last December protesters
clashed with Seattle police at a World Trade Organization meeting, and
in April thousands of people traveled to Washington for demonstrations
at an International Monetary Fund and World Bank conference.
Now groups are eager to voice their opinions in front of the world's most powerful leaders.
One group called Jubilee 2000 says the politicians have broken a promise.
At last year's summit in Cologne, Germany, the richest countries-- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the USA-- agreed to forgive $100 billion of debt that the world's poorest countries owed them.
Jubilee 2000 says that won't happen by the end of this year.
"Despite all their promises, [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, Clinton and the other world leaders have failed to cancel the debts of the poorest countries," Jubilee 2000's Jamie Drummond says.
In Okinawa the group hopes to stage large demonstrations for their cause, but they know this will be harder than it was in Seattle and Washington, DC: Okinawa is in the Pacific Ocean, one of Japan's small islands.
Jubilee 2000 chief Ann Pettifor accuses the leaders of "running away from the problem to a small inaccessible island in shark-infested waters."
So what do the politicians have to say about these claims?
Some debt has been forgiven as promised, and much more is expected to be forgiven by 2005.
But the nations that make loans want the poor nations to first make some adjustments so that money goes to where it's needed and similar problems don't come up in the future.
Leaders from the G8 and several poor African nations are planning to get together just before the summit starts to discuss the situation.
President Clinton and the American delegation may also face anti-military base protesters.
Ever since World War II the U.S. military has had a presence in Japan, and America still stations troops at bases in Okinawa.
On the day before the Okinawa summit, anti-base groups and peace activists plan to form a human chain to surround one air base, protesting the construction of a new heliport.
It's Time for IT
Protests and demonstrations can steal the media's attention at major conferences, but as you might expect, the G8 countries have an agenda of their own.
Japan wants to focus on how information and communication technology (IT) can boost economic growth.
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori wants to make sure both rich and poor countries can take advantage of IT developments like the Internet and mobile phones.
He hopes the G8 will address the digital divide which separates wired countries like the U.S. with unwired developing countries. As the leaders note, half of the world's population still has not used a telephone.
"I believe that the use of IT will contribute to further development not only in developed countries, but also in developing countries, especially in such areas as education and health care," Mori said at a recent pre-summit meeting.
Mori has already proposed new programs to aid countries in his part of the world with IT issues.
At the summit, the G8 countries are hoping to sign an "IT charter," that expands digital opportunities around the world.
The U.S. thinks deregulation and keeping Internet transactions tax-free will help economies grow. But it also acknowledges that if rich countries continue to boom, then poor countries may be left even further behind.
And Then There Were Eight
While G8 summits have always dealt with international economics and developing nations, the G8 hasn't actually always been the G8.
For over twenty years it was just the G7, the world's seven leading economies: Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the USA.
At the 1997 summit in Denver, Russia joined in almost all of the summit discussions, and the next year, Russia participated fully to create the G8.
Last year's summit in Germany focused a lot on Russia.
The leaders discussed IMF loans, Russia's nuclear arsenal, and Russia's roll in the global economy. The nations also worked out some differences over the recent bombing of Yugoslavia which were led mainly by the U.S. and Britain despite Russian concerns.
Overall, Germany was a positive summit: leaders adopted an education charter that stressed the importance of learning to economic growth, and plans were drawn for humanitarian aid to eastern Europe.
But will Okinawa be as positive as Germany?
Are the protests going to interfere with the G8's plans?
Education, the environment, and genetically-modified foods are on the agenda. What will Okinawa be remembered for?
What do you think? Are summits which bring together world leaders a good idea?
by Matt Muspratt
Forgiving the Debts A look at Jubilee 2000 -- an effort to write off the debts of poor countries. (04/11/00)
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