European Commission to Wear First White Band for Africa

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 16, 2005 (ENS) - The European Commission’s Headquarters in Brussels, the Berlaymont building, is displaying a white band today in support of the campaign for the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP). It is the first of a number of well known buildings across Europe, Africa and Australia to be wrapped with white bands in the coming months.

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso will launch the white band with Development Commissioner Louis Michel, GCAP spokesperson Rene Grotenhuis, and Axelle Red, the well known Belgian singer, long time campaigner on poverty issues, and one of the headline acts for the Live 8 concert in Paris.

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The European Commission’s Headquarters, the Berlaymont building in Brussels (Photo courtesy European Union)
The first white band will greet European Union leaders meeting in Brussels for the European Summit which opens today. The white band will be created by closing the shutters on the windows of floors five and six of the Berlaymont building starting at 10:30 this morning and ending at 3:00 in the afternoon. A huge banner announcing the “Global Call to Action” has been mounted on the Berlaymont overlooking the Council headquarters where EU leaders meet for the summit.

Today, GCAP coalitions across Africa are organizing joint actions to mark the Day of the African Child, an annual event to mark the 1976 massacre of Soweto children by the apartheid regime. They have chosen this date to have an African White Band Day, demanding that world leaders "take immediate action to end the extreme poverty that leads to a child dying every three seconds."

Speaking in Brussels Wednesday President Barroso said, "Even in a week like this, when the eyes of the world are focused on EU finances and the constitutional debate, I will talk about Africa. We must not allow ourselves to accept the present reality, in which 25,000 people die every day from hunger, in which 25 million people have died from AIDS in sub Saharan Africa."

The European Union’s Overseas Development Aid for 2005 will be €46 billion - making the European Union the biggest donor of overseas aid in the world, Barroso said.

The European Commission will be asking the EU leaders to approve new proposals that would increase EU development aid to €66 billion in 2010, rising to more than €90 billion in 2015.

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European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso explains the symbolism of the white band at a press conference Wednesday. (Photo courtesy European Commission)
"Europe is already taking a lead, but we can and we must do more," said Barroso. He expressed the hope that "European leaders will confirm at the highest political level their determination to put the Union on track to double aid for development. And to enable me to go to the G8 in Scotland with a clear and ambitious European message about action to tackle poverty, hunger and disease."

“The European Commission is determined to keep development and Africa on Europe’s political map," Barroso said. "This campaign, and the white band as its symbol, is a reminder to EU leaders to remember the wider world as they grapple with internal issues."

The Commission’s Headquarters first of many buildings which will be wrapped this year.

On International White Band Day July 1, people around the world will be wearing white bands and wrapping public buildings in white to send a message to the Group of Eight (G8) wealthy countries that they demand action on trade justice, debt cancellation, and more and better aid.

The G8 finance ministers last week approved debt cancellation for 18 of the poorest countries, all but one of them in Africa. This action is expected to be approved when the heads of government - Jose Barroso, Silvio Berlusconi, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Jacques Chirac, Junichiro Koizumi, Paul Martin, Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schroeder - attend the G8 meeting in Scotland July 4 to 6.

White Band Day July 1 is predicted to be one of the largest global actions ever taken, with white bands planned for buildings and other structures across the world.

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People around the world will wear white bands on July 1, 2005. (Photo courtesy GCAP)
In the Soweto township of Johannesburg, South Africa, a group of shacks will be wrapped in a white band, to symbolize perpetuating poverty in Africa.

In Freetown, Sierra Leone, the famous cotton tree, planted by freed slaves when the nation was founded, will be draped in a white band.

In Senegal, the slavery archway will be wrapped in a white band.

From June 30 to July 14 the Sydney Harbour Bridge, in Australia, will be wrapped in a white band, with the Australian coalition's slogan "Make Poverty History" across it.

The Coliseum in Italy will be wrapped, and so will the Brandenburger Gate in Germany. In Paris, France, the Trocadero's buildings which sit on either side of the Eiffel Tower, will be wrapped with two white bands. In Spain, bridges will be wrapped on the main highways.

In Georgia all the trees along the Central Avenue of the capital, Tbilisi, will be wrapped in white bands.

The hemicycle of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France will be wrapped in a white band from the July 4 to 6 during the G8 meeting.

Live 8 - at least five free concerts on July 2 - will rally millions around the world to persuade the eight world leaders to support the Commission for Africa’s conclusions and to take the actions recommended.

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UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bob Geldof at a Commission for Africa hearing (Photo courtesy British High Commission)
Irish musician Bob Geldof, who organized Live 8 and has been involved as a commissioner in the Commission for Africa process, said, "In front of these eight men will be a costed and cogent plan – the result of a year’s work by the Africa Commission – a plan to drop 100 percent of the debts owed by the world’s richest countries by the world’s poorest countries, to double the amount of high quality aid which is spent in those countries adding an extra $50 billion, and to change the injustices of the trade laws so that those countries can build a future for themselves."

Five simultaneous free concerts are confirmed with the cream of international rock and pop artists performing in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and Philadelphia. Hundreds of thousands will attend, and millions more will watch the international broadcasts.

Historic venues have been selected. Hyde Park, London, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Philadelphia - the Cradle of America and the Live Aid City in 1985, the historic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and the Circus Maximus in Rome. Plans for concerts in the other G8 capitals are being developed.

“The boys and girls with guitars will finally get to turn the world on its axis," said Geldof, who organized the Live Aid concert to avert African famine in 1985. "What we started 20 years ago is coming to a political point in a few weeks. What we do next is seriously, properly, historically and politically important."

Find out who is performing at Live 8 and where online at: http://www.live8live.com/theconcerts/index.shtml

Visit the Commission for Africa at: http://www.commissionforafrica.org/

Learn about the Global Call to Action against Poverty at: http://www.whiteband.org/