Puzzling outbreak of gratitude at G8 - Macleans.ca

Puzzling outbreak of gratitude at G8


Summitry is difficult enough for the summiteers — witness the months of preparation and hours of final drafting that go into the final communique. But consider the equally delicate challenge facing the activist groups monitoring the G8 and G20: how to calibrate their reaction. You think summit sherpas agonize over every nuance of phrasing? So must the anonymous drones who write up the press releases from “civil society” groups. Are we “outraged”? “Disheartened”? “Alarmed”? Or “cautiously optimistic”?

The G8’s Muskoka Initiative on maternal and child health is a case in point. I had barely arrived at the press centre yesterday when an activist from one of the many Canadian aid groups who have been pressing for action on this front buttonholed me to say how pleased she was at the news: the government of Canada had committed another $1.1-billion over five years, on top of $1.75-billion in existing pledges. “It’s everything we’d hoped for,” she beamed. “We’ve been working towards this day for 11 months.”

I was taken aback. These people are never satisfied. In a way, it’s their job not to be satisfied. How could this be?

Sure enough, within an hour another activist group, World Vision Canada, had weighed in with its response, and all was right with the universe again. “World Vision on Muskoka Initiative: Deeply concerned G8 will fail to deliver for mothers and children,” it read. “While we applaud the Prime Minister for his leadership, as things stand now, the Muskoka Initiative looks more like a down payment than an adequate investment, and won’t reach as far as it could to stop needless early deaths… The G8 has less than 24 hours left for its leaders to demonstrate credibility on aid promises and turn disappointment into celebration.”

By today, however, the world had turned again. “World Vision heartened by child and maternal health funding progress,” read the mid-day release. “World Vision is grateful for Canada’s leadership and strong commitment to child and maternal health and the G8’s commitment to build the fund to $10 billion.

“Despite lower-than-expected funding for development from some countries at this summit we refuse to lose sight of the fact that this G8 summit has brought us incrementally closer to meeting the [Millennium Development Goals].”

The glass, it seems, is no longer disappointingly empty. It’s incrementally full.

ADDENDUM: Then there are these two press releases we received from the Fissile Materials Working Group, “a coalition of more than 40 leading experts in nuclear security.”

Experts Praise Extension of G-8 Global Partnership

Toronto, Ontario — The Fissile Materials Working Group (FMWG) … praised G-8 leaders renewal of their commitment to address the spread of materials and weapons of mass destruction, and to prevent nuclear terrorism…

On the other hand,

Experts Disappointed by Failure to Extend G-8 Global Partnership

Toronto, Ontario — The Fissile Materials Working Group (FMWG) … is disappointed G-8 leaders failed to renew their commitment to address the spread of materials and weapons of mass destruction, and to prevent nuclear terrorism…

One of these was sent out yesterday, the other today. I’m just not sure which is which.

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Puzzling outbreak of gratitude at G8

  1. Since we're running a deficit, the $1 billion in additional money is coming from somewhere. Perhaps the scribes can figure out which aid program is losing out?

  2. Elizabeth May must be having the worst day of her life.

  3. Perhaps the FMWG wrote up two alternative press releases, one for each outcome, and accidentally released both. It's a little hard to reconcile them otherwise.

  4. I represent the FMWG. An alternative release was created and one must have mistakenly slipped into the pile of advance releases I distributed at the media center. Sorry for the confusion, but the Global Partnership was not extended today so it should be clear (to observant reporters) what release was relevant. Of course, you always could have phoned the number on the press release if you were confused by that — Sean Harder

    • If I'm not mistaken, you're actually insinuating the reporters should have acted differently in the face of your own massive and ridiculously embarassing screw-up for which you have nobody to blame but yourselves. It's not a reporter's job to try to guess whether a press release is a real one or a fake one! The whole concept of a press release is something that is carefully worded and prepared to clearly articulate without question the position of an individual or organization. If you want to be taken seriously, then act professionally.

  5. I dislike the way people use the word "investment" for something that is a "gift". Canadians have given billions of dollars, which works out to roughly $100 for every man, woman and child in Canada, for maternal health in other countries. Whether or not the money is badly needed, it is a gift. There are many needs and many causes in the world, and those to receive such a massive handout should give it the respect it deserves.

    • Good point. An investment gets paid back, usually with interest. By using the word "investment" instead of "gift" are they suggesting that Canadian taxpayers will get paid back?

      • it is or the good of all manknd.

      • This could be regarded as an investment in human capital. But I think the point is hat we have plenty in Canada who could use that boost. What is the average debt being carried by Canadian students now? What is the mortality rate of Canadian aboriginals and Metis? Charity begins at home.