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Large summits are nothing new. The 36th G8 summit will set up shop in Huntsville June 25-26. Toronto, a past host, will this time welcome the 4th G20 summit June 26-27. The following is the second in a six-part series of briefs looking back on past G7/G8 summits and protest. Check back each Sunday for a blast from the past when we recap a different summit's official agenda and civilian and activist responses.
G7 leaders in Halifax in 1995 were given the tall task at the Naples summit the previous year to "assure that the global economy of the 21st century will provide sustainable development with good prosperity and well-being of the peoples of our nations and the framework of institutions required to meet these challenges.”
According to the Canadian government, the Halifax summit would “set the standard for more results-oriented, informal and businesslike summits.” The summit was labeled the Chevrolet Summit, for its supposed scaled-down style.
While the cost of security of this summit was a mere $25 million (compared to over $1 billion for security at this year's in Toronto), leaders put terrorism on the agenda for the first time. The estimated ratio of delegates to security personnel was 2:1.
The newly-created World Trade Organization was featured prominently in the summit's final declarations, and leaders pledged to support its development.
In the lead-up to this summit, Canadian NGOs, labour unions and faith-based groups joined forces to create the Halifax Initiative, an organization that today provides an analysis of G8 summits and issues, and calls for reform to international financial institutions (IFIs). The Halifax Initiative was formed against the backdrop of widespread criticism for the lavish 50th Anniversary meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund).
“[The people] wanted major changes and there were signs the Halifax summit would respond to those calls,” said Fraser Reilly-King of the Halifax Initiative. “As a result, Canadian NGOs formed the Halifax Initiative in December 1994 to ensure that demands for fundamental reform of the IFIs were high on the agenda of the Group of Seven's Halifax Summit.”
The Halifax People's Summit (P7) was a gathering of NGOs, labour unions and activist groups from Canada and around the world. Sponsored by 50 NGOs and coordinated by hundreds of volunteers, the P7 included talks by Vandana Shiva, David Suzuki, Maude Barlow and Ed Broadbent, and a host of organizations from South Africa, Latin America and Turtle Island's First Nations.
The attempts made to freshen up the G7 with a new format don't appear to have changed its end results.
"Thankfully it [the G8/G20] looks to finally be going the way of the dinosaurs," said Reilly-King. "But regrettably, today’s responses [to global economic problems] by the G20 are remarkably similar to proposals issued 15 years ago at the Halifax Summit."
Amanda Wilson is a researcher and writer based in Ottawa.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.