Lower your sights, antipoverty activists told
G-8 leaders vary in outlook, Britain's Treasury chief warns
EDINBURGH Activists kept up pressure on leaders of the world's richest nations yesterday to lift Africa out of poverty, but Britain's Treasury chief said those who believe human misery can be eliminated ''with the stroke of a pen" may be disappointed by the results of this week's G-8 summit.
As Irish singer Bob Geldof -- energized by his Live 8 concerts' success -- joined the demonstrators in Scotland, police warned they will crack down on any further violence by anarchists and others bent on spoiling the summit. About 100 arrested during clashes a day earlier appeared in court yesterday.
The Make Poverty History campaign launched around the summit has been endorsed by the Dalai Lama, Pope Benedict XVI, and Nelson Mandela, along with scores of others around the world.
They have something of an ally in British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who holds the G-8 presidency and hosts the three-day summit opening today at nearby Gleneagles. He has made Africa and climate change the central themes of Britain's G8 presidency, and he describes global warming as ''probably the most serious threat we face."
Blair, who has been battered domestically over his support for the Iraq war, has pressed those two issues with such zeal that the increasingly chaotic situation in Iraq has all but disappeared from the summit's agenda. Yet that by no means guarantees a summit free of acrimony.
At the heart of Blair's difficulties may be that his closest ally, President Bush, does not share the ambitious goals he has set for the summit.
Although the leaders appear ready to wipe out $40 billion worth of debt owed by 18 of the world's poorest countries, Bush has not accepted Blair's call for a massive increase in aid to Africa and seems unlikely to back British ideas about urgent action on climate control.
An additional complication is the lingering bad blood between Britain and European Union heavyweights France and Germany over a ferocious dispute about spending at last month's EU summit.
En route to the meeting, Bush arrived in Denmark in a light drizzle last evening and was spending the night in a royal palace on the outskirts of Copenhagen. He was greeted by Queen Margrethe and music from a fife and drum corps. Bush thanked war ally Denmark.
The summit protesters find themselves in the unusual situation of being at least theoretically in agreement with the host government, and their protests to date have not been very violent.
But some of the protesters are anarchists opposed to the G-8 in principle, and they could yet explode in anger. There are fears they may try to stop leaders from getting to the elegant Gleneagles golf resort where the summit is being held, or even try to breach the tightly protected five-mile security perimeter.
Geldof said Britain was pushing hard for a deal to help Africa, but sounded pessimistic. ''I am not sure the others want to do it, which will be a grotesque failure," Geldof said. Treasury chief Gordon Brown, who has worked closely with Geldof, U2's Bono, and other campaign leaders, said he has warned them to temper their expectations.
''I know that what you will say is that what we can achieve is perhaps not good enough, but we have got to bring the whole of the world together," Brown, in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. television, said he told Make Poverty History organizers. ''What Britain says is one thing, [and] what we can persuade the rest of the world to do together is what we will get as the outcome of Gleneagles."
In addition to the proposal to double aid for Africa by 2010, Blair's Commission for Africa has also recommended a second $25 billion increase in aid to Africa, to $75 billion annually, by 2015.
Oxfam, the British relief agency, said yesterday that children would die without swifter action. ''2010 will be five years too late for the 55 million children who will die waiting for the world's richest leaders to deliver on their promises," said Jo Leadbeater of Oxfam.
But Bush has rejected the British targets, saying he could not commit a future US administration to meeting them.