Blog » Live by the sword…

7 Jul 2005

Live by the sword…

Filed under: Africa,Noteworthy news — paulcook @ 12:32 pm

Tony Blair is, on current form, likely to be remembered for two, perhaps three, major foreign policy drives. The first is his staunch support for the war in Iraq; the second is his efforts to promote debt relief and trade with Africa; and the third may come to be his influence on the direction of the EU, and in particular it’s funding emphasis.

I write this in the immediate aftermath of the attack on London. It’s a little risky writing before the details have become clearer, but it would seem that al-Qaeda has succeeded in attacking the US’s great ally in the Iraq campaign. My condolences go to all the victims of the attack, their relatives, and all affected. Once again the victims of violence are people who had nothing to do with the “causes” of the war in the first place, or even necessarily supported Blair’s conviction that invading Iraq was the correct thing to do.

What really stands out for me, though, at this time, is how Blair’s earlier warlikeness is making his peacetime efforts so much harder. The attacks seem to be synchronised with the G8 industrialised nations summit in Scotland, 4-8 July. Blair has, to his great credit, managed to make Africa (and climate change, another vital issue I won’t get to here) the focus of this summit. Substantial progress has been made in recent months towards measured relief for heavily-indebted developing countries, and the G8 meeting represented the best chance for a long time of real change to help Africa: entrenching debt relief; opening of the developed world’s insanely restricted agricultural import sectors; support for leveling of the global trade playing field leading into the World Trade Organisation meeting later this year; and the doubling of aid to Africa by 2010. And, for a change, it seemed that other leaders might be willing to make commitments.

Recent weeks have also seen a huge movement across the world to exert public pressure on the G8 leaders to make things happen. Notably, many have travelled to Scotland (including our own Holly), and a who’s who of rock bands have been playing Live 8 concerts around the world to raise awareness. By all accounts, they’ve been very succesful, and I have been very excited to finally see things happening.

Right until the London attacks. The focus of the media and global interest will be pulled inevitably away from building a better, fairer world, to the strife of the last few years. Once again people will be talking vengence or security, rather than cooperation or social justice.

The G8 leaders have said the conference will continue, but these attacks will have had a heavy toll not only for the people involved, but for the millions who will have to endure preventable poverty for that much longer. I can only imagine the bitter disappointment in the hearts of those, like Blair, who had been driving recently for positive change in the world. The moral for today: war doesn’t solve problems, and has the nasty habit of causing knock-on problems in all sorts of apparently-unrelated areas.

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  1. UPDATE: A diary of a Kenyan journalist in Scotland for the G8 meeting — his most recent post is already talking about journalists leaving for London.

    Comment by paulcook — 7 Jul 2005 @ 12:52 pm

  2. Yes. Whoever planted the bombs in London is certainly no friend of Africa – the timing could hardly have been worse, not just for distracting attention from Blair’s important initiatives, but also I expect unfortunately for hardening attitudes towards the victims of poverty. In a time of threat, the “them” who should be pushed away become anyone other than the “us” inside our wall of protection. We will just have to keep plugging away at representing a world of peace and justice.

    Comment by Jonathan — 8 Jul 2005 @ 9:07 am

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