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JEAN CHRETIEN, ‘E IS ABOUT DIS BEEG: Robert Fowler, Personal Assistant to the Prime Minister for the G-8 and Africa, outlines the G-8 African Action plan.
Colleen Potter/The Gauntlet

A heads-up on G-8

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A passionate Robert Fowler spoke about the upcoming Group of Eight summit in Kananaskis and stressed the importance of aid to developing African countries.

"The summit is like an instance d'impulsion where it becomes a forum from which leaders can inspire or give impulsion to ideas and focus that may not be available elsewhere," said Fowler. On Tue., March 12 he addressed a receptive audience at the Rozsa Centre.

Fowler is the Canadian Ambassador to Italy and will serve as Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's personal representative to the summit. Each G-8 leader named a Personal Representative for Africa to develop the G-8 Africa Action Plan.

Unlike most years, the summit has been reduced from 48 hours to 36 hours mainly to avoid clutter and focus on the agenda items.

"The Prime Minister expects the meeting to be business-like and wanted to minimize the tendency for ceremony and gala," said Fowler.

Fowler is visiting university campuses to hear the views of young Canadians on summit issues.

The three main agenda points for the summit are the economy, terrorism and the African continent. However the majority of Fowler's speech concentrated on the G-8 Africa Action Plan.

"The leaders of the G-8 summit last year in Genoa decided that the situation in Africa was so acute that they had to intervene," said Fowler. "Africa will be the centre piece at the Kananaskis summit."

The plan will focus on a small number of countries where governance is mostly stable and work from there.

"The focus will be on development assistance to countries most likely to produce a few success stories to inspire other countries in Africa," said Fowler. "It's also to convince Canadian taxpayers that Africa is a safe place to work and invest in."

Fowler made it clear the G-8 countries will not dictate what government to implement but will encourage representative and legitimate governance. He added that although debt relief has helped several African countries, it often rewards only poorly performing countries.

"By concentrating on debt relief you penalize countries like Ghana that have chosen not to accumulate a lot of debt," said Fowler.

While the actual G-8 summit will be in Kananaskis, the university will play a role.

"We have been in discussions with the University of Calgary and welcome their initiative to support dialogue on G-8 policy issues both at the university itself and in the Calgary area community," said Director of Communications and Media Relations at the G-8 management office, Frances MacRea.

Individuals and groups can get involved by presenting to the parliamentary committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade chaired by Jean Augustine that will be travelling across Canada and report its findings to the Prime Minister.

The G-8 summit will take place June 26–27. For more information, visit www.G-8.gc.ca or call 1-888-316-2002. For U of C information visit www.ucalgary.ca/G-8/.

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