If Tony Blair is lucky when he arrives in Kananaskis, Alberta, next Tuesday
night for the annual summit of leaders from the world's eight most powerful economies,
he might see a grizzly bear, a bald eagle, a cougar or wolf. One thing he is unlikely
to see is any anti-globalization protesters.
After last year's disastrous G8 summit in Genoa, when a 20-year-old demonstrator
was shot dead by security forces, leaders pledged to go back to basics for future
Anti-globalization protesters march peacefully through downtown Calgary, Alberta,
Sunday, June 23, 2002, ahead of the Group of Eight summit of world leaders in
Canada. According to police estimates, there were about 3,000 protesters attending
Sunday's march. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Instead of expensive jamborees in cities - an easy target for "summit hoppers"
in the anti-globalization movement - the G8 decided to return to the original
concept proposed by the French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing: a "fireside
chat" between world leaders, the first of which took place in 1975 at Rambouillet,
This year's summit host, the Canadian prime minister, Jean Chrétien, has
chosen the most remote fireside he could think of. Kananaskis is two hours away
from the nearest big city, Calgary, and will be virtually impossible for protesters
A security cordon 13 miles wide has been thrown around the resort village.
The hikers who usually throng its mountain trails in the summer have been warned
to avoid the area, which will be swarming with police.
In a typically Canadian touch, the security forces will be armed not only with
the normal anti-terrorist weapons, but also poop-scoops to ensure that the forests
of Alberta are left in pristine condition.
The September 11 attacks have given the police more to worry about than the clean
up. At one stage, it was rumored that George Bush might stay across the border
in Montana because the White House was not happy about security in Kananaskis.
Now, reassured by Canada's preparations, he has decided to stay with the rest
of the gang. In this jittery environment, the village's small complex of luxury
hotels has to be one of the safest places to hide world leaders.
As part of the back to basics approach, the summit will be on a smaller scale
than previous events. Last year, Mr Bush traveled with a retinue of 800 government
officials. This year, the total number of officials attending will be just 200.
Most of the thousands of journalists covering the summit will not be allowed through
the security cordon - they will be in Calgary, 80 miles away, with briefings conducted
The anti-globalization movement's response is also likely to be more low-key.
City authorities in Calgary have denied activists permission to set up a protest
camp downtown, so the movement has decided to try to disrupt the Canadian capital,
Ottawa instead. Only the most determined protesters are expected to try to penetrate
the leaders' mountain fastness.
Even without the geographical challenge posed by the summit's location, the
movement was already facing some tactical difficulties.
Last year's protests in Genoa were the culmination of an increasingly violent
series of clashes which have marred global summits since the Seattle meeting of
the World Trade Organization in December 1999.
Violent clashes at the World Bank's annual meeting in Prague eight months later
gave a warning that parts of the European anti-globalization movement were becoming
But on the other side of the Atlantic, September 11 has changed the nature
of protests. Some of the biggest groups in the North American anti-globalization
coalition - unions, debt relief advocates and mainstream aid lobbyists - have
decided that mass street marches involving confrontation with the police are no
However, the real test of the new-style summit will not be whether the police
manage to keep everything except for the wildlife at bay. Mr Blair and Mr Chrétien
both promised last year that Africa would top the agenda in Kananaskis - but as
the leaders prepare to fly to Canada, the world's poorest continent appears to
be at risk of being sidelined by talks on terrorism, security and the Middle East.
The cost of conferring
When Japan hosted the G8 two years ago, officials decided the summit was a grand
excuse to pump some money into discontented Okinawa, whose citizens were angry
about a US military base on the island. However, the bill of £500m was large
even by the lavish standards of previous G8 shindigs.
Last year's Genoa summit cost the Italian government £100m, though the
lion's share went on enhancing security, including the installation of a missile
defense system at the airport.
Kananaskis is supposed to be a slimmed-down summit, but the contrast between
the cost of staging it and the pitiful amounts that leaders are likely to deliver
for the world's poor will raise more questions about the relevance of the G8.
This year, the Canadian government estimates that its arrangements for the
two-day summit will cost around £140m. The opposition says feeding and housing
the leaders and officials will cost tens of millions more.
The estimated total is, ironically, the same amount as Canada has donated to
the G8's so-called "Marshall Plan for Africa".
Canada is the only country to have made a firm pledge on the plan for Africa
ahead of Kananaskis.
Hopes that the summit will deliver anything like the sums which the US gave
Europe in the original Marshall Plan look certain to be disappointed.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002