Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Pope demands action on eve of G8 as campaigners sweat it out

A short note while trying to escape the heat, humidity and tourists in a hectic Rome. Today sees NGOs and media travel out to L’Aquila to prepare for the arrival of G8 leaders tomorrow.

As you may know, L’Aquila suffered a tragic earthquake in April this year, killing 300 people and making 40,000 people homeless. Many are still living there in makeshift accommodation with basic facilities, in the midst of the rubble, while the clear up and rebuilding takes place.

The location of the summit was a controversial one. This is not only because it spolied the holiday plans of those looking forward to working at the previously chosen location - a luxury island resort near Sicily - but more importantly some believed it was playing politics with people’s lives, and also putting G8 leaders at risk. Tremors were felt in the area as recently as this weekend, and you can't imagine Obama's people being too delighted about that…

Whether a welcome act of solidarity with people struggling to recover from disaster or a political charade is your own judgement, but it has caused enough alarm in some quarters to provoke suggestions that Italy should be expelled from the G8 itself. Step up Spain, some are saying - probably not the reaction Mr Berlusconi was hoping for…

Other news while we wait for things to kick off ?

The Pope released a statement calling on the G8 leaders to listen to the voices of Africa and to stand by the poor.

Bob Geldof undertook an extraordinary interview with Berlusconi, berating him for stealing food from the mouths of the starving, while the Italian Prime Minister claimed he would keep his promises if he could, but it was out of his hands…

The UK Government claimed it would push the G8 to keep its aid promises as it announced its new strategy on international development (though surely they could push the water and sanitation part more strongly too...).

And there was time for another GCAP photo stunt in sunny and stunning Piazza del Popolo, calling on the Italian public and media to ‘Press the G8’.

Now off on an undoubtedly very sweaty bus journey…

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