Next month sees the 10th anniversary of the G8 summit staged in Birmingham.
The event stirs memories for all sorts of reasons – from the image of then US President Bill Clinton sinking a canalside pint, to the fact that Russia joined the gathering of the great and good in 1998.
But one of the most induring sights and legacies of the Birmingham G8 summit remains the human chain that formed around the city to protest at third world debt.
The G8 agreed to drop the debt in 1998, but a decade on the fight still has not been won.
The Jubilee Debt Campaign, which organised the human chain, is staging a month-long series of events up to the 10th anniversary of the protest on May 18.
They will begin a 36-day rolling fast tomorrow (Saturday, April 12), demanding debt cancellation for 36 poor countries which still desperately need it.
Stephen Rand, Co Chair of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: “The rich world needs to pick up the pace as these countries are still suffering under a huge debt burden, while millions of their people live in extreme poverty.”
The fast will begin as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund hold their Spring Meetings in Washington DC, and end on Sunday 18 May when campaigners mark the 10th anniversary of the Birmingham G8 human chain. Each day will focus on one country that urgently needs the chains of unpayable and unjust debts to be broken – starting with Liberia on Saturday 12 April. Other countries covered by the fast include Bangladesh, Haiti, Kenya, Indonesia, Ecuador, the Philippines and Jamaica.
Already campaigners are registering their involvement on the JDC website. Supporters are being urged to sign up for a period of time, at least a day, when they will fast.
In Birmingham the fast is being launched with speakers including Caroline Spelman MP, Chairman of the Conservative Party, and Steve McCabe, MP for Hall Green. The launch will be part of a short service led by the Revd Stewart Jones of St Martin’s Church who will be fasting for Liberia on 12 April.
Other faith leaders taking part in the fast include the Very Revd Bob Wilkes (fasting for Tajikistan), theologian Robert Beckford (Jamaica), Ann and Yann Lovelock and members of the Jewish community who will fast for Moldova.
On May 18 a huge chain will be created in Centenary Square to demand governments pick up the pace to drop all the debt. A template chain is available at www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/fast .
Other special events planned around the tenth anniversary of Jubilee 2000’s human chain include:
1. Journey to Justice, The ICC, Sunday 18 May 2008, 2.30-4.30pm
A powerful mix of speakers, interviews, music and film to mark ten years since the 70,000-strong G8 human chain in 1998 that will be celebrate what the debt campaign has achieved so far, and demand that politicians finish the job.
2. Debt cancellation and the debt campaign: the facts – special report to be published
Ten years after 70,000 campaigners put debt on to the global agenda, three years after the debt deal in response to Make Poverty History, Jubilee Debt Campaign will publish a definitive report on what has been achieved and what still needs to be done.
3. University of Birmingham Conference, 16-17 May 2008
AIDING THE POOREST: TEN YEARS ON FROM THE BIRMINGHAM G8
This academic conference has three aims: assess the impact of debt relief in poor countries; analyse problems in debt relief processes and their underlying causes; discuss reform priorities and innovations.
The whole month of May will feature special exhibitions in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Birmingham Central Library marking the tenth anniversary of the Birmingham Human Chain.
5. Special meetings and church services, Sunday morning 18 May
Many ‘Jubilee’ church services will be held, plus other events for those of other faiths or none.
6. Centenary Square public event, Sunday 18 May, 12.30-5.00pm