Theatrics in Cannes for the G20 Summit

Swaying palms dotted the road from Nice to Cannes where the official G20 meeting was starting off, while in Nice the police tried to contain the protesters of the Alter-Forum on the streets. Under every palm tree there was a French police or two, trying to keep the rain off and trouble at bay. Every small bridge (and there are many) had police presence as we’ve come to expect at any of these global fora.

The drama has started in Cannes, a city not at all unfamiliar with great actors coming to Cannes expecting a huge prize, a paparazzi of press and a boost to their egos. As we know, there is always more drama happening behind the main stage and in this case, the birth place of drama, Greece, was adding plenty of drama for the host protagonist, Sarkozy and the European troupe.

Enter stage left, “No-drama Obama” had to hold centre court with Sarkozy despite a waning US influence and wanting Europe to deal with their own financial mess. There was plenty of posturing at the joint press conference with Obama presenting himself as quite chummy with Nicolas focusing more on what a good friend (and now father) Sarkozy is than on being a friend to solve the Greek tragedy.

Civil society and NGOs are acting out their parts on the official stage as a [silenced] audience in a play that was written behind the scenes. The day did include an NGO press conference organized by the coordinating group in France, Coordination SUD and GCAP France, which attempted to counter the lack of influence and provide a space for civil society critique on the issues. Presenters included Sam WORTHINGTON, President,InterAction (USA) , Bernard PINAUD, general delegate, CCFD Terre Solidaire (France), Khalidl ELOUARDIGHI, officer, Coalition Plus, Robin Hood Campaign (EU), Momar Talla Kane, President, Congad (Sénégal), Maris de la Cruz, Operations Manager, Asia-Europe Peoples Forum (Philippines).

The take-away – it was both heavy on northern representation, EU focused and gender-imbalanced. It was striking in its gender-blindedness and as you will read—or not—many of our colleagues reports and analysis do not provide for any gender analysis, much less any mention of the importance of these G20 issues for women. For the most part, participants reported NGO political positions more so than criticism of the official presentations and the geo-political situation of the moment which seemed to fall flat on the journalists.

There was buzz and airplay on another stage where the “People First, Not Finance” Alter-Forum and protest in Nice was making its mark with a very vibrant and charged 10,000 protesters marching through the streets (see video Their slogans included, “They’re 20, we’re billions,”Stop austerity, end inequality.”  The “People First, Not Finance”  organizers were shunted by the hotel where their pre-arranged press conference was to take place which left them scrambling for a venue.

105 NGOs applied for accreditation while 94 NGOs were accredited after background checks were conducted by the French government. Check-in at a hotel where French-sponsored NGO representatives were staying included a full security check on a corner before getting to the hotel. NGOs are sharing space with the press but are not allowed into official press conferences, only those in the smaller spaces sponsored by NGOs.

Tomorrow’s headlines include another NGO press conference with FTF GCAP member Marta Benavides providing her unique voice and analysis.

Rosa Lizarde, reporting from the G20 in Cannes, France

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