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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
G8 leaders woo world's poor
President Bush is the target of protests
President Bush will be the target of protests in Genoa[
by BBC business correspondent Jonty Bloom in Genoa

Genoa is an ancient and beautiful port on the West coast of Italy and its narrow cobbled streets and ancient buildings rise up from the harbour on steep hillsides.

Normally it must be full of the sights and sounds of any other town, people out shopping, cars, commuters and everything else.

But now it is strangely quiet, the intense security measures for the G8 summit have created a virtual ghost town.

The only people out in force are the police and there are so many of them in places that they are running out of walls to lean on.

Fortress Genoa

So what has made Genoa into such a fortress?. Demonstrators have tried to wreck several recent international conferences and have almost succeeded - and perhaps more importantly they have succeeded in stealing the headlines from some of the most powerful people in the world.

Italy, this year's host of the G8 summit, is determined to do all it can to make sure that doesn't happen and intends to keep the anti -capitalist protestors well away from the world's leaders and the world's press.

What the demonstrators are protesting against is the whole agenda of the G8, encouraging the free market, opening up trade and allowing business to work across borders.

For the richest countries in the world that seems like common sense but to many of the poorer nations that seems very much like stacking the deck in favour of the west.

Nice to the poor

That is why G8 has gone out of its way this year to try to be nice to the third world at this summit.

Although all the important decisions and discussions will be about another round of trade talks, the state of the world's economy and how to avoid a worldwide recession, they will also find time for some more touchy feely stuff.

The Global Health Fund will be set up to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and the like.

Leaders from countries such as Algeria, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Mali and Nigeria have been invited along so they can get their message across to the world leaders, and the UN secretary General, the Directors General of the FAO, the WHO, the WTO and the World Bank are also attending.

The poorest countries in the world will probably hear some good news on debt relief and their will be some nice talk about how social inclusion, shorthand for trying to ameliorate the worst effects of free trade ie. discouraging sweat shops.

But when all is said and done such issues will fill a small amount of the time of the world leaders gathering here in Genoa.

Such meetings were originally designed so that the richest most developed countries could get together to fine tune the running of the world's economy, try to prevent crises and recessions getting out of hand and keep capitalism on an even keel.

No longer useful?

But the question on many people lips is whether G8 has outlived its usefulness.

These meetings are getting very big, the costs and security are immense and the demonstrators keep stealing the headlines.

Thousands of press turn up to hang on the every word of a seven or eight men and the time is filed with photo opportunities, dinners and bland communiqués.

The time may come soon when the world's leaders decide that a quieter, less ostentatious and more productive weekend could be spent getting together somewhere less grand, with a different title and a broader remit.

See also:

19 Jul 01 | Europe
Protesters flood into Genoa
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