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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
G8 summit takes to its roots
Papier mache heads representing six of the eight G-8 leaders attending next weeks summit in Kananaskis are worn by protesters at a rally in Calgary
Protests against the G8 have already begun in Calgary

In choosing the remote western Canadian resort town of Kananaskis for this year's Group of Eight (G8) Summit, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien has hopes of bringing the meeting back to its roots.

Rioters burned cars used as barricades during violent clashes in Genoa
Riots in Genoa forced a change in venue
When first held in 1975 outside Paris, the meeting of world's leading industrial powers was meant as an informal gathering to discuss the world economy.

It was established as a way for heads of state to openly and freely discuss issues without the glaring eye of the media.

In recent years, however, the confab has garnered attention not just from media but from those activists who feel the G8's policies are heavy handed and undemocratic.

During last year's summit, held in Genoa, Italy, the fiery protests - not the actions of the G8 - stole the headlines.

Genoa was proof enough for Mr Chretien that drastic change was needed in order to turn world leaders' attention back to pressing matters.

Focus on Africa

In fashioning his mountain-retreat gathering, Mr Chretien, the longest serving head of state of any of the G8, has also pared down this year's schedule to 30 hours, down from three days.

By deciding to isolate himself along with the other heads of state high in the Canadian Rockies, Mr Chretien risks heaping even further criticism on the G8 as disengaged and elitist.

Mamoumata Cisse, a former leader of Burkina Fasos trade union movement, holds a news conference before meeting with Prime Minister Jean Chretien along with other African labour leaders in Ottawa
African leaders have enlisted Chretien's support
Some of that criticism was witnessed on Sunday in Calgary - the nearest major city to Kananaskis - where demonstrators took to the streets to protest multi-national corporations and G8 policies.

Following last year's Genoa summit, Mr Chretien said he hoped the next G8 meeting would focus on aiding Africa, pummelled by poverty and the ravages of HIV/Aids.

G8 leaders are expected to approve a plan of action for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

Nepad would provide billions of dollars of aid to African countries that pledge to eliminate government corruption and pursue free-market economic reforms.

War on terror

The Canadian prime minister's Africa initiative gained momentum in the weeks and months following the suicide attacks of 11 September.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien fashioned this year's G8 Summit to focus on African poverty
Chretien sought to return the summit to its roots
World leaders have largely embraced the idea that a world where extreme poverty exists is one that will remain a volatile and dangerous place to live.

It is an idea largely pushed by the US and Britain. Canada, meanwhile, while acknowledging that poverty sows the seeds of fundamentalist angst, noting that terrorism is also a phenomenon among the middle-class.

Despite the commitment of billions of dollars to aid development, criticism is already mounting it is not enough to help African nations halt the wave of HIV infections and chronic poverty.

In addition, Mr Chretien's success at passing such an initiative may nevertheless take a back seat to issues of global security and the US war on terrorism.

Simpler summit

While Canada's positions on many international issues are held in high esteem in much of the developed world, Mr Chretien faces increasing scrutiny in Ottawa.

The recent dismissal of Canada's much-respected Finance Minister, Paul Martin, and accusations of scandal have tarnished Mr Chretien's reputation.

Mr Chretien, 68, is keen on seeking a fourth term as prime minister and leader of Canada's Liberal Party. And much rests on his success at hosting this year's summit.

With protesters held at bay - along with the media - 60 miles away in Calgary and world leaders neatly tucked away in their mountain hideaway, Mr Chretien may have achieved his goal of a simpler summit.

But like caged animals, protesters are likely to strike more fiercely wherever they are forced to convene.

Key stories

Aid debate

Africa's future





See also:

14 Jun 02 | Middle East
13 Jun 02 | Americas
27 Jul 01 | World
24 Jul 01 | Americas
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