(06-28-2005) What Is the G8, Anyway? -- MTV News

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Apr 17, 2002
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What Is the G8, Anyway?

If the terms "Live 8," "Live Aid" and "G8" are leaving you feeling confused, don't fret. Here's a quick rundown of what you need to know about the biggest concert-with-a-conscience for many years, and the world leaders it hopes to influence.

Live Aid, coordinated by former Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldof, has been described as "the day rock and roll changed the world." On July 13, 1985, two marathon shows, held nearly simultaneously in London and Philadelphia, raised more than $200 million in funds for famine relief in Africa and featured U2, Queen, David Bowie, Madonna, Elton John and many others.

Last month, Geldof announced another landmark concert to raise awareness about extreme poverty in Africa (see "Live Aid Organizer Confirms Another 'Big Concert' Is Coming"). U2, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Destiny's Child, Elton John, the Killers, Pink Floyd, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z and many others are among the artists confirmed for gigs slated in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Canada and Russia. (Two smaller shows will also take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, and another in England will feature African musicians — see "Good Charlotte, Bjork In For Live 8 Tokyo; Moscow Concert Added".)

The choice of countries staging the concerts is no accident. The G8 (a.k.a. Group of 8) is made up of eight of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the industrialized world (Russia, added in 1997, rounds out the group, but is considered a "special member" and holds less influence within G8 than the others). Although these eight countries represent less than one-sixth of the world's population, they consume 70 percent of its resources.

The G8 leaders meet in an annual gathering called the G8 Summit to discuss the world's most pressing economic, social and political issues, such as HIV/AIDS, poverty reduction and climate change. The first summit took place in 1975 when the French president invited the leaders of the six most powerful nations, then called the G6, to an informal gathering to discuss then-current world issues. (Canada was added in 1976.)

This year's summit, spearheaded by British Prime Minister Tony Blair (the countries host the meeting on a rotating basis; the hosting nation determines the agenda for the year), will be held July 6-9 in Perthshire, Scotland. At the top of this year's agenda is the elimination of poverty in Africa and global warming (see "Bush, Blair Lead Up To G8 — And Live 8 — With Commitment To Aid Africa").

The G8 differs from other political meetings because of its informality; there are no formal rules of procedure, and the leaders usually meet in a relaxed setting away from the media to discuss the important issues in an arena largely free of bureaucracy. In fact, some critics say that the G8 has not gotten as much exposure to the public as is needed to instigate proper change.

"Most people don't know the G8 is happening, but this year we're going to make sure they do because this year's meeting is too important for us not to be fully aware of the things these eight guys are going to talk about," said Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa), a nonprofit group founded by U2's Bono in 2002 to spread awareness about the crises faced in Africa. "When these eight men sit in that room and look each other in the eye, they must decide, 'What kind of man am I? Am I going to listen to the people?' It doesn't have to get fancy. They just need to decide to do it."

The cornerstone of the 2005 G8 Summit is threefold in its plan to eliminate poverty in Africa: doubling aid, 100 percent cancellation of the debt many African countries acquired during the Cold War, and trade reform that will allow developing countries equal access into the international market.

"These politicians are working for you, but they cannot do anything until the people ask for it," said Salih Booker of Action Africa, a nonprofit organization that responds to the challenges that families and children face in sub-Saharan Africa. "Live Aid had the catalytic effect of drawing public attention and making these issues a popular cause. It got governments to do something they had been refusing to do because they felt like [the people didn't care]. But the actions of these artists helped to change all that."

Every country that hosts a G8 Summit wants to be able to announce something new that will demonstrate their leadership and how that leadership has allowed these wealthy countries to make an important contribution to solving new problems, Booker said. The influence of pop-culture icons, like Coldplay's Chris Martin, Radiohead's Thom Yorke, and U2's Bono, has also brought awareness to global issues.

"Pop culture has a great effect on making this world a better place by getting us to understand certain issues and telling us things we've never heard before," said Laura Rusu of Oxfam International, the organization that heads up the Make Trade Fair campaign (which Chris Martin openly supports). "It drives people to find out more and make a difference."

This year's concerts are timed to coincide with the G8 Summit in hopes of influencing the gathered superpowers to make progress in the fight to lift Africa from poverty.

— Brandee J. Tecson

--MTV News
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