Some journalists persist in trying to get an internet connection. Credit: Oxfam

G8 logistics slow down our efforts - but can't stop us!

Pulling together the logistics for a G8 is no simple task. With an ever-growing number of world leaders, hundreds of journalists, and groups working to influence the outcome from around the world, the security, communications, transport and accommodation issues are almost endless. On the eve of the Summit, the Italian hosts have done a great job on the food and facilities but such basics as internet access to the Media Center remain a problem. Perhaps that's not so surprising given it was only a few weeks ago that Prime Minister Berlusconi decided to shift the location from Sardinia to L'Aquila, the site of earthquakes that shook the Abruzzo region last spring. But it does complicate our efforts to influence the results and the coverage of the summit -- a key objective of Oxfam's presence here in Italy. I've spent hours today trying to get a connection, only to wait more hours waiting for a file to open. Nothing is more frustrating for a blogger than a frozen screen, but such is our fate! Firewalls and filtering have been blamed for some of the problems. High levels of security are almost certainly partly to blame. When I tried to access the Oxfam Canada G8 blog I received a message saying "you have tried to access a web page which is a violation of your internet usage policy. Category: Advocacy organization." When asked to explain why a journalist working in the G8 International Media Center should be denied access to the web site of a development agency pressing G8 leaders to live up to their commitments, I was first told by an embarrassed Summit staff that it was a technical problem. When I responded that it seemed instead to be a political problem, there was a flurry of activity and within a few minutes I was assured access would no longer be blocked. Despite the hassles, we continue to make progress, doing media interviews with Radio Canada International and several print outlets. Given most Canadian journalists will arrive tonight on the Prime Minister's Airbus, we can expect that tomorrow will be hopping. Three G8 communiques are expected tomorrow -- on the economic crisis, aid and development, and climate change -- so we'll be busy assessing performance against commitments and dissecting new announcements. To aid in this effort we have a crackerjack team of policy and advocacy experts from nine Oxfams, including representatives from each of the G8 members. It's a larger team than any other NGO and it reflects our view that the G8 can be a forum for positive leadership on the key issues that confront our world. Tomorrow we'll begin to see if they live up to their promise.  Stay tuned.

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