Global Policy Forum

A Wristband and a Concert Aren't Enough,


By Stefania Milan

Inter Press Service
July 4, 2005

"The politics of G8 got somewhat lost at Live 8," says Neil Williams, an activist with the British socialist coalition known simply as Respect, about the 10 concerts performed Saturday in 10 cities.

Pop music stars and rock bands performed in each of the Group of Eight most powerful industrialised countries, plus South Africa, drawing more than a million people -- plus untold millions who took in the music via television, radio or Internet broadcasts. An aim of the concert organisers was to send the leaders from the G8 (United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia) the message that their own people want to help Africa, and to raise global awareness about poverty in Africa.

"To some extent Live8 was like saying 'we all need love' -- yes, but where does this take us? The Live 8 music overshadowed the months of work for the Edinburgh demonstration (against the G8 summit) and this will occur again next Wednesday," Williams said. On Wednesday, July 6, the first day of the G8 summit, another Live 8 concert organised by Irish rock legend Bob Geldof will take place in Edinburgh's Murrayfield Stadium to "signal the end of the long walk to justice." It will be preceded by a march. On the same day, activists from the Dissent! network and other groups will march on the golf resort at Gleneagles, Scotland to blockade the G8 summit. An entire week of a variety of protests is already under way, targeting issues affected by G8 policies, such as global war, restrictive immigration and nuclear weapons. The two main items on the G8 agenda are promoting development in Africa and fighting global climate change.

The British newspaper The Guardian quoted Midge Ure, one of the Live 8 organisers, when asked if he was worried that Live 8 would be "hijacked" by the protesters, responding that the concert series "was hijacking the anarchists' events." "Live 8 taps into the social justice movement which has been so active in the last few years. In a negative sense it 'hijacks' them because it uses the momentum that these movements have built up around the G8 summits for its own, very simple and naive message," an activist who gave only his first name, Erik, told IPS. "But in a positive sense, one could hope that it complements that momentum and helps to build greater pressure and visibility," he said.

The Wednesday concert is regarded with a mixture of concern and disinterest by the activists organising the direct actions against the summit. Some of them are critical towards what they call a "very simplified approach to the poverty problem." "Positively speaking, one could regard Live 8 and the anti-G8 protests as parts of the same struggle," Erik said. "But people should raise questions as to whether a white wristband or a concert go far enough."

Make Poverty History, a coalition of non-governmental organisations, faith groups and charities, has called for people to wear a white wristband as a sign of concern of global poverty. "Twenty years ago, (Live 8's) predecessor Live Aid was collecting money and was hoping to relieve poverty by buying food. The naivety of this approach was clearly visible, even back then," an activist who identified himself as Sean told IPS. "The problem was not a lack of food but a perverse distribution of resources." In 2005 the focus has changed. "We do not want your money, we want you", was the Live 8 organisers' slogan. "Live 8 has realised that sending money will not solve the problem, and instead it is appealing to the G8 leaders to solve it. But this approach is at least as naí¯ve," Sean said. "The unequal economic relations are responsible for hunger and poverty. It's not the lack of money or the lack of will by the G8 leaders. That is the relation that has to be changed to make a difference."

The question seems to be: will the world leaders be able to solve the poverty issue? "Why should those who have established and maintained economic relations which systematically impoverish large parts of the world now suddenly start to tear down the structures on which their own wealth is based?," Sean said. "Live 8 will certainly not 'convince' the global leaders to change global economic relations, but it may add to the pressure which has been built up by a global social justice movement during the past years, and it may complement the widespread voices saying 'ya basta! enough is enough!'" said Erik. "Let's hope that many people won't buy the simple answers that Live 8 is presenting, such as 'ask your leaders and they will comply' but will start to ask their own questions, to dig into the issues, and to look behind the screens which usually tell them 'everything's alright, don't worry'," he added.

More Information on NGOs
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More Information on the Gleneagles Summit Protests
More Information on NGOs and Social & Economic Justice
More Information on the G8


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