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CANADA 2002 Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

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G8 leaders gather in Kananaskis


Leaders of the world's richest nations will focus on an African action plan, terrorism and global economic growth when they gather for the G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alta.

The two-day meeting begins on June 26. It will bring together leaders from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Russia.

At the top of the agenda for the world leaders will be an Africa initiative, called the New Partnership for the Africa's Development (NEPAD). The leaders plan to approve an Africa Action Plan based on NEPAD at the end of the summit.

The initiative by African leaders proposes to raise $64-billion in investments annually for Africa and sustain annual economic growth of over seven per cent for the next 15 years. In exchange, African countries must commit to democracy, good governance and human rights.

"We want these African people to prosper," Prime Minister Jean Chretien told a Liberal fundraising dinner last month. "It is not charity. It is an investment. But we have to give them a chance to compete."

Mr. Chretien traveled to Africa earlier this year to promote NEPAD, which also aims to improve education, health, transport and water systems.

"The Prime Minister has put emphasis on the need to discuss the Africa initiative," said Michael O'Shaughnessy, spokesperson for the Summit Management Office.

Mr. O'Shaughnessy said Mr. Chretien decided to set the agenda ahead of time so that House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and G8 Sherpa Robert Fowler could hold public consultations.

This is also the first time that non-G8 members will be included in the summit. Included are representatives from five African countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Senegal and Egypt. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will also participate.

"It's really in response to the NEPAD," Mr. O'Shaughnessy said.

As for the issue of terrorism, the G8 will be looking to implement a UN security resolution adopted just 17 days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed close to 3,000 Americans.

Resolution 1373 calls on all G8 countries to work together to stop terrorism by freezing the finances of terrorist front operations, exchanging information and general cooperation on all fronts.

Getting back-to-basics

This summit is expected to provide delegates with fewer distractions than in the past. With the venue set in Alberta's Kananaskis Country, world leaders are more likely to encounter a wild bear than a masked protester.

"It's going to be a back-to-basics working summit," Mr. O'Shaughnessy said. "We're holding it in a location where leaders will be able to focus on the agenda."

Police will maintain a six-and-a-half kilometre radius security area around the protected park, to ensure protesters don't disrupt the meeting. But the RCMP may have their work cut out for them in other parts of the country if they hope to keep demonstrations peaceful.

Protesters are planning to target Ottawa in a demonstration dubbed "Take the Capital." On day one of the summit, organizers are calling for snake marches and independent action targeting "symbols of capitalism and imperialism in Ottawa." Day two will see a march from the U.S. embassy to Parliament Hill.

A group of anti-G8 activists are also planning to slow down traffic on major highways across northeastern North America with "slow roving caravans," according to the Portland Independent Media Center.

Cpl. James Johnston, RCMP spokesperson for G8 summit security, said the RCMP have conducted outreach programs with several groups planning to protest.

He said one of the RCMP's main goals is to allow people to exercise their constitutional right to protest "in a peaceful environment and stop the confrontation and escalation of violence the world has seen at other summits."

Cpl. Johnston would not say how many members of the RCMP and Calgary police will be on duty in Kananaskis and other parts of the country, citing security reasons. However, he did suggest that large demonstrations weren't expected in Kananaskis.

"We don't expect very large numbers in Kananaskis itself."

For those few who do try to get by summit police, they may have to contend with Kananaskis wildlife that includes the largest density of cougars in North America, in addition to wolves, and both grizzly and black bears.

Cpl. Johnston said all the bears have been collared so park wardens can track their movements, adding there is also a bear response team.

As for security for specific delegates, there have been reports that U.S. President George Bush will not spend the night at Kananaskis. Mr. O'Shaughnessy called these reports "rumours" and said he would not comment on delegates' accommodations.

"We will not discuss exact locations of where leaders will be staying for security reasons," he added.

Reality check

While the delegates have been assured a quiet, focused summit, there are questions as to how much the leaders will be able to accomplish in two days.

At the last G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, the leaders set in motion plans to combat poverty, particularly in developing countries such as Africa. This led to the support of the NEPAD initiative, which will be the main focus of the Kananaskis summit.

As well, G8 leaders and Mr. Annan announced a global fund to fight HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases by pledging $1.3-billion (U.S.) in funds, including Canada's contribution of $100-million (U.S.).

Leaders also endorsed a Genoa Plan of Action on the digital divide, which they pledged to review at the Kananaskis summit. This plan of action was put into place on the recommendation of The Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force), which was developed at the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit in July 2000.

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