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G8 in Germany

Blogging - a new era

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Apr 08, 05:49 PM

blog203.jpgAs many of you who've used the BBC's blogs will know, it has for some months been a deeply frustrating experience, not just for you but for us too.

The point of blogging about our programmes is to have a swift and informal conversation with our viewers. That's impossible if it takes hours to get your comment or our response through.

I'm relieved to say that as of yesterday we have a new system which should be much more robust and which I hope will usher in a new era of blogging for Newsnight.

One change is that in order to comment you'll need to register by filling in a simple form.
Once signed up, you'll be able to comment on any BBC blog using the same login.

Many of you have already commented on how it's working and one or two have suggested it's designed to introduce more censorship.

That's certainly not our intention. The aim is to encourage much more open discussion about the programme and much more interaction with the programme-makers. I'm sure it isn't perfect and that you'll let us know how it could be improved.

Thanks very much to all those contributors - the Bob Goodalls, Barrie Singletons, Mistress76UKs and many others - who have persevered through all the blog problems. Apologies for all the Error 502s, and welcome to the new era.

Blog fix imminent

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Apr 08, 04:32 PM

Blog closed temporarilyFrom 1800 this evening (UK time), we'll be doing some essential maintenance to the blog. As a result of this, you won't be able to leave any comments on our blog posts from that time until Thursday morning and the comments function on all old posts will close. We apologise for any inconvenience.

The work will fix the very frustrating problems we've encountered for some time now with the whole comments system.

From Thursday a new system will be in place - this will mean you will need to complete a simple registration form in order to post a comment on the blog. Once signed up, you will be able to comment on all BBC blogs using the same login. There will be more details in the morning. In the meantime - if you wish to comment on the programme you can email us via newsnight@bbc.co.uk.

Blog problems - a solution is nigh

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Apr 08, 11:40 AM

blog502error.jpgAnyone who regularly reads the Newsnight blog will know that we have suffered from a series of technical problems for some time now. Comments disappear, the dreaded 502 'not available' message appears, and multiple copies of comments get submitted in error. (More on the problems here.)

Well, to much relief (not least here at Newsnight), a solution is about to be unveiled.

In the very near future the comments system that causes all the problems is being replaced by a BBC-wide system.

Under the new system, anyone wishing to leave a comment will need to sign in - a relatively swift and painless affair that comes with the added bonus of enabling you to leave your thoughts on blogs and message boards across all BBC websites.

Finally, we hope to revamp and relaunch the whole Newsnight blog shortly, with more bloggers, more variety, and the odd bit of video thrown in. But one step at a time...

We'll update you on the changes next week.

Exclusive: G8 Climate change communique text

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Jun 07, 04:02 PM

From Stephanie Flanders in Heiligendamm.

Newsnight exclusive on the climate change text of the G8 communique, in which the US almost commits to a 50% target for cutting greenhouse gases by 2050.

"in setting a global goal for emissions reductions in the process we've agreed today involving all major emittors, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the EU, Canada and Japan, which includes at least a halving of emissions by 2050. ......We commit to achieving these goals and invite the major emerging economies to join us in this endeavour."

I'm told that the President surprised his own staff by agreeing to the mention of a 50% target in the text, over breakfast with Tony Blair one-on-one this morning. Even the environmental groups are pleasantly surprised (though not, of course, entirely satisfied.)

Barriers to understanding

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Jun 07, 01:13 PM

From Newsnight's Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders, somewhere near the G8 summit in Heiligendamm.

g8bushsign203.jpgToday is supposed to be the big day for protests in the temporary police state that is the G8 venue. Thousands of demonstrators will spend the day trying to breach the 12 km perimeter fence around the hotel where the leaders are meeting - and block the roads going in and out. Here's my question - or questions. What, exactly are they demonstrating about? And why don't I know?

I'm not speaking rhetorically here. I'm genuinely confused about what these demonstrators are about, because the mood today seems so different than when these protests really got started, at the WTO meetings in Seattle in 1999. Back then, you had your Black Bloc equivalents and your downright crazies, but most of the protestors were there to protest concrete injustices - the plight of Mozambican cashew farmers, for example - and could recite chapter and verse of which IMF program and/or international trade rule was to blame. Journalists quickly discovered that the activists were often better informed than the delegates. So, even when the demonstrations turned nasty (the infamous "battle of Seattle"), the activists still got a hearing from the likes of President Clinton. "I disagree with a lot of what they say, but I'm still glad they're here", he told the disgruntled trade ministers besieged in the conference hall.

Hard to imagine Angela Merkel or George Bush saying that today - and not just because they are cut from more conservative cloth than Mr Clinton. Since then the system has changed - and so have the protestors. The "system" has changed by co-opting the demonstrators' agenda to a remarkable extent. For the next WTO meeting the ministers had learned their lesson - they held it in the highly inaccessible city of Doha. But they also co-opted much of the demonstrators' agenda by dedicating the Millennium round of trade talks to developing countries. There's been a similar change in the agenda of the G8.

Now I'll admit, delivery on that agenda has been mixed, at best. As I explained yesterday, delivery is not the g8's strong suit. (And it's been non-existent in the case of the Doha trade round - though how much that round could really have achieved for developing countries is a subject I'll leave to another day). But you can't say that the issues of poverty, unfair trade rules, or climate change aren't being discussed. That's pretty much all that is discussed at these meetings. And many of the people who used to be on the streets protesting are now working for NGOs who lobby and engage with the G8 governments and the IMF and the World Bank on an almost daily basis.

g8_fenceprotest203.jpgAre the protestors here to complain about delivery on aid promises? Some are, for sure: Oxfam has had some nice theatrics here, as usual. Greenpeace have put to sea here to call for more on climate change. I like to think a few want to prevent the meetings to protest the waste of taxpayers' money. But the fence-chargers? I am at a loss. When I look at the protestors crossing the fields here or blocking the roads, I don't see any signs about aid, or debt, or evil multi-national corporations. Nor are there any t shirts saying "value for money for G8 taxpayers" (I would have bought one). Maybe we journalists should spend a little less time feverishly reporting the twists and turns of the Battle of the Fence, and a little more asking the protagonists why they're here.

G8: Promises, promises...

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Jun 07, 07:52 PM

From Newsnight's Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders at the G8 Summit. Watch her report here.

merkel203sarkozy.jpgThey say G8 summits are about the numbers. And this one is no exception. We've got 16,000 police, 11,000 soldiers, two minesweepers, a dozen AWAC planes and I don't know how many helicopters - all dedicated to protect the leaders of the seven largest rich countries in the world (plus Russia). If you watch my report you'll see my heroic efforts to get as close as possible to where the action is. Which is not very close at all.

It's all a long way from 1974, when the US invited a handful of finance officials for a chat in the White House library. That "library group" was the precursor to the G8. And I have a strong suspicion that they got more things done.

Of course that's not the official line. The official line is that you can get more business done with 8 leaders sitting in a room for a few hours than you can in months of lower level diplo-chat. But that's only half-right. It's true that the prospect of having such a meeting - and the world and his dog waiting outside to hear the results - means that any leader with voters to worry about will call a meeting of his staff about 3 months before aforesaid meeting to ask them what the "deliverables" are going to be. Then the staff - in the case of the G8, the worthy Sherpahs, devote several months of diplo-chat to finding stuff for their bosses to announce (the deliverables).

This system can work fairly well - with the right leaders and the right issue. The right leaders means people who are either very dedicated to a given cause, or need to get re-elected quite soon, or both. And the right issue is one where either the G8 can deliver on their promises immediately - or give the task to someone else. Because the G8 is an institution that's designed to produce deliverables. It's not designed to actually deliver. Consider what happened two years ago. Say what you like about Gleneagles (and who doesn't?) they DID deliver on most of their promises to write down African country debt. Why? Because it was the IMF and the World Bank that actually had to do it.

Where the promises involved individual governments translating their promises into aid budgets, year after year - they weren't kept. Or many of them weren't kept. The G8 research group at the University of Toronto reckons that governments have stuck by only 65% of the commitments at Gleneagles. Perhaps Chancellor Merkel should look on the bright side - if she doesn't get any big new commitments from the heads at this year's summit, there will be fewer promises leftover for leaders not to keep.

Join the 'How gr8 is the G8' debate here.

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