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Do anything but drive there

by
02 November 2006

Hazel Southam asks what amateur G8 lobbyists can do

BEFORE the G8 summit ends in three weeks' time, can people in the UK make a difference? Campaigners say that they can - even if they can't join Bob Geldof in Edinburgh.

"It can be frustrating, feeling that your efforts aren't recognised," says Claire Shelley of Christian Aid. "But the world leaders will listen. The media coverage will be huge. It will be all over the television. They won't be able to be unaware of what's happening in Edinburgh. Whether they respond is another matter."

Martin Drewry, of the Make Poverty History co-ordination team, agrees: "When the G8 leaders were in Birmingham last time, people felt that it was the demonstration that led to the change of policy on debt. That was the day that it changed, even though the protest was in Birmingham and the leaders were in Staffordshire.

"They hear about protests. They don't need to see them. There are few things more powerful than large numbers of people speaking out with a unified voice in a non-violent way," says Mr Drewry.

In the week of the G8 summit, there are three big events.

First, the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, which will feature acts including Sir Paul McCartney, Madonna, and Robbie Williams. It is already in The Guinness Book of Records, because 2,060,285 mobile-phone texts were received requesting tickets.

Second, Bob Geldof has called for a million people to join the protest rally on the summit's first day, Wednesday 6 July.

Third - the event on which most churches and Christian charities are focusing - the Make Poverty History rally in Edinburgh on 2 July is expected to attract 200,000 people, all in white, to form a band around the city centre.

The coalition has booked more than 98,000 seats on coaches, buses, and trains, to bring people to the city. Make Poverty History's website advises on cycling to the event, but tells drivers to leave the car at home: they won't be able to park.

Edinburgh police are also giving tips for the day: wear sensible shoes and clothes; take snacks and water, as well as sun cream; be patient; keep valuables secure; work out how you're getting home before you leave it; and don' t take pets.

"We are encouraging as many people as possible to come to Edinburgh for Saturday 2 July," says Keith Ewing of Tearfund.

"If enough people make their feelings known, we are at a moment in history when the tide could change."

And if you stay at home? From the Make Poverty History website, you can send an email to the Prime Minister, asking him to "seize the opportunities of 2005" and "deliver on his promises". After that, you can sign up to a statement that says: "I believe that everyone has a right to feed their families, make a decent living and protect the environment. I believe that to end poverty and protect the environment we need trade justice not free trade."

Lastly, you can buy a white band, car sticker, or Make Poverty History T-shirt. Many aid agencies, such as Christian Aid and Tearfund, also sell white bands.

Eulette Ewart, from World Vision, recommends: "Writing to your MP is effective; and your MP will also see if people are wearing white bands. It's about raising awareness."

But, she says, this is not like the tsunami appeal. This campaign is about giving your time and views. "It's not about giving money: it's about asking the Government to do something."

makepovertyhistory.org.uk

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