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NGO's Prepare 'Summit for Another World' as Reaction to G8 Meeting - 2003-05-28

On the eve of a summit meeting of leaders from the Group of Eight countries in Evian, France, non-governmental organizations are launching a series of protests and counter-meetings near where the summit is taking place.

Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of environmentalists, human rights advocates, and globalization critics from around the world will gather in the French town of Annemasse, and across the Swiss border in Geneva, starting Thursday.

Dubbed the Summit for Another World, the alternative gathering will include seminars on issues ranging from downsides of international trade, to the growing problem of water scarcity in many parts of the world.

The three-day meeting ends Saturday, the day before the G8 summit begins, with a demonstration against the policies of the seven industrialized nations and Russia.

Such alternative forums have taken place for years alongside the summits of leading industrialized nations. But Bruno Rebelle, director of Greenpeace-France, one of the summit organizers, said many non-governmental organizations have particularly strong grievances this time because of the recent policies of the United States and of other G8 members.

Mr. Rebelle criticizes the Bush administration's rejection of the Kyoto global warming treaty, and the U.S.-led war in Iraq, among other recent policies. He argues American unilateralism has reached new heights, and rich nations are adopting policies that harm the environment, and poorer countries.

Bernard Cassem, the international coordinator for the anti-globalization group ATTAC and another critic of the policies followed by G8 leaders opposes the free-trade policies backed by the G8, said many countries were better off economically before the trade liberalization policies of the past two decades. Among other changes, ATTAC is calling for new taxes against the rich and environmental polluters.

This year's G8 host, French President Jacques Chirac, has taken steps to dilute criticism that the summit is simply a clubby meeting of rich nations. He has ensured that African development is on this year's G8 agenda.

Mr. Chirac has invited several African leaders as guests, along with those from China and other developing nations. Among them is Brazil's new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who says he will propose industrialized nations invest more in the developing world.

Meanwhile, counter-summit organizers are uncertain just how many people will join the G8 protests. France has been roiled by separate demonstrations against proposed pension reforms. Those protests may well compete with, and dilute, the protests of the anti-G8 opponents.