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8 June 2007

As the dust settles

If the G8 leaders represent us, why are they forced to hide behind fences?

By Leila Deen

As the 2007 G8 summit concludes today, we hear that the G8 leaders have been re-packaging their existing aid commitments in order to appear to be ‘doing something’ about poverty. But the aid increases were not enough back in 2005 and they are not enough now. And regardless of how much aid cash that rich countries are prepared to spend, there is something much more important at stake.

As the activists have being saying here all week, for genuine change we need to fundamentally shift the way we structure our global economic system – but perhaps that is expecting a bit too much of the G8!

As for their statement on climate change – that they will “consider seriously… at least halving global emissions by 2050” – this kind of woolly rhetoric is nothing short of insulting to the thousands of demonstrators in Germany and the millions facing imminent climate chaos across the world.

We need to start a radical process immediately if we are actually going to make any positive difference to the impacts on millions of people around the world.

While journalists, NGOs, and policy-makers pour over the detail of the communiqué and file their verdicts, Rostock is set to return to normal. Delegates will fly home, activists will pack up their tents, and the camps and blockades scattered around Heiligendamm will move toward Rostock city centre for a closing rally by the harbour.

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Our experience has been a positive – one of collective action. Both the activists and the local people in Rostock have been incredibly welcoming to us, with only a few shops boarded up.

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A German friend told us that the headline of the Hamburg regional paper reads: “Success for the G8 blockaders.” Not sure who or what they were referring to but this is an interesting statement to have seen in the press. Was it a success? The fact that thousands and thousands of people felt the need to travel to Germany to register their protest I think is a success in itself.

The fact that protesters managed to successfully blockade roads, train lines, and attempted to block the sea is also a success. The fact that once again, people from all walks of life, ages and nationalities stood up to be counted – and that violence was minimal – is perhaps the greatest success of all.

The G8 summit may have managed to continue, and produced little or nothing new, but they know that we were there in our tens of thousands. And when leaders are forced to hide behind huge fences – and spend millions on security evading the people they are meant to represent – the movement can only feel vindicated.

As for us, it is time to take stock, reflect and relax with a beer, before packing up our tent, and making the long train journey back to the UK. I think we’ve earned it.