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Saturday, March 25, 2017
Mali hosts alternative G8 summit
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 As the leaders of the world's eight most wealthy and influential countries meet up for their annual talks in the Rocky Mountains in Canada, another summit is taking place thousands of miles away in the local school in Siby, in Mali, west Africa. "This is the first time Africans have organised a counter-summit to the G8", said Makanfing Konaté, communications officer for Jubilee 2000 in Mali. "When we are talking about how to reduce poverty we have to hear from the ones that are suffering from poverty themselves. This is why we chose to have the summit in Siby. There is no trace of development here. We have no transport system, no clean drinking water and no access to telephones". Siby is 50 kilometres from the capital Bamako, near the Guinean border. It is also of historical significance in the West African region as it hosted the first West African Constitutive Assembly. The 300 participants include local MPs, teachers, farmers, women, youth and faith organisations and the media from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, the Ivory Coast and Senegal. They will be debating under the mango tree in the school playground and taking part in workshops in the school classrooms. The aim of the forum is to discuss the issues on the G8 agenda and to see how civil society organisations can have a role in important issues such as debt, trade and structural adjustment. "Our leaders might be striking deals with the G8 that will bring us nothing. These policies won't work unless they take into account the social realities of poor communities", added Konaté. "Just look at the WTO and its effects on agriculture in this country. We have to open up our borders and let cheap subsidised goods into the country like rice. But meanwhile there are barriers such as high tariffs and low prices which prevent us from exporting our products. Imported products are coming from countries that subsidise their farmers but we aren't allowed to subsidise ours. Local farmers are really suffering because of these rules but they aren't campaigning about it because they don't know why this is happening. And MPs are not making informed choices because they often do not have the necessary knowledge" said Konaté. The New Partnership Agreement for Africa"s Development (NEPAD) is high on the agenda at the G8 summit in Canada but, according to Jubilee 2000, many of the people who should benefit from this initiative do not know what it is all about. "We want to inform all the participants of the contents of the agreement and to get their feedback and opinions on the initiative. It is important that all Africans get involved in NEPAD as we have to draw the attention of national and international decision-makers to the challenges it presents", added Konaté. The two-day summit will be filmed and shown on national TV. Daily bulletins and video copies will be sent to local and national governments, political leaders and international financial institutions. Following the event, organisers will also set up a permanent forum for meetings and exchanges on NEPAD.
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