By Вen Li
The Group of Six Billion Peoples’ Summit opened Fri., June 21 to a packed audience of over 1,000 at the Red and White Club.
"We are extremely pleased with the support and interests the Peoples’ Summit is getting," said Conference Chair Organizer Saren Azer. "We only hope the efforts and dialogue exhibited throughout the conference will continue even after the G8 Leaders Summit is over."
Participants, aged 15 to 65, came from diverse socieo-economic backgrounds and listened intently as the reverend Dr. John Snow, Stony Nation Chief, delivered opening remarks.
"We the people live in a global village," he said. "We have one planet, one mother earth."
Snow focused much of his time expressing concern over the loss of traditional knowledge regarding environmental stewardship.
"We have seen drastic changes occur over the last 30 years," he said. "We have witnessed the exploitation and destruction of natural resources and our beautiful environment. We should be very concerned with the global state of the environment which includes six billion people."
Of those people, keynote speaker Stephen Lewis focused on the 673 million living in sub-Saharan Africa. Lewis, who was United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and former Canadian ambassador to the UN, spoke emotionally about the more than 23 million infected with HIV/AIDS.
"The development goals of sub-Saharan Africa are an impossible hope unless the AIDS pandemic is defeated," said Lewis. "This single pandemic can undermine development in Africa for one generation."
Lewis feels development in Africa can only come from a healthy population, contrary to current beliefs that social services such as health care will develop around a successful economy.
"The G8 is guilty of a profound moral default. Whereas we should be giving $250 million (U.S.) per year [in aid for AIDS treatment and prevention] we are only giving $150 million Canadian over three to four years," said Lewis, noting the $500 million cost of the upcoming G8 leaders summit in Kananaskis.
Dr. Kathleen Mahoney of the U of C Faculty of Law framed the issue using the term "Homo economicus" to describe current state of global industrial activity.
"The world view of the Homo economicus is selfish, ego-centric, with a lust for possessions and power and an unwillingness to share with others," she said. "He is indeed a disaster for the environment. The Homo economicus does not see or care about the growing inequality in the distribution of wealth across the world and within societies."
Mahoney noted economic policies in an interconnected world affect everybody and that human rights should be at the focus of the G6B conference.
"People living in extreme poverty are effectively deprived of all human rights. They are essentially deprived of the right to life."