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World leaders meet for G20 Summit

President Barack Obama spoke at the G20 Summit conference held at the David L. Lawrence Conference Center in downtown Pittsburgh last weekend. He mentioned that he was jealous he didn’t get to eat at Pamela’s. (credit: J.W. Ramp/Publisher) President Barack Obama spoke at the G20 Summit conference held at the David L. Lawrence Conference Center in downtown Pittsburgh last weekend. He mentioned that he was jealous he didn’t get to eat at Pamela’s. (credit: J.W. Ramp/Publisher) Security stood watch as the G20 dignitaries entered Phipps Conservatory. (credit: j.w. Ramp/Publisher) Security stood watch as the G20 dignitaries entered Phipps Conservatory. (credit: j.w. Ramp/Publisher) Protesters marched the streets, rallying  to free Tibet.  (credit: j.w. Ramp/Publisher) Protesters marched the streets, rallying to free Tibet. (credit: j.w. Ramp/Publisher) Police officers, dressed in riot gear, lined the streets of downtown Pittsburgh. (credit: j.w. Ramp/Publisher) Police officers, dressed in riot gear, lined the streets of downtown Pittsburgh. (credit: j.w. Ramp/Publisher)

Leaders of the world’s most prominent industrialized nations gathered in Pittsburgh last week for what will become a regular meeting to make economic decisions that will impact the economy of the world.

This group of 20, or G20 Summit, ran over two days, with dignitaries arriving Thursday for a working dinner hosted by President Obama at Phipps Conservatory. The Summit itself was held on Friday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center downtown. It began at 9:30 a.m. and concluded with press conferences given by leaders from various countries at around 5 p.m., with Obama’s conference kicking off the string of meetings to follow.

Before discussing the results of the Summit, which focus on stabilizing the market and preventing another economic crisis like the one of fall 2008, Obama stressed the importance of nations’ working together to solve problems and thanked the people and the city of Pittsburgh for hosting the summit.

Many of the leaders, he said, were “so impressed with the revitalization of city” since their last visits, reinforcing Obama’s choice to hold the Summit in Pittsburgh. Another signature Pittsburgh feature the leaders were impressed by was a breakfast food.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ate breakfast at Pamela’s in Millvale and was very pleased with the pancakes he was served.

“I’m a little resentful that I didn’t get to Pamela’s for pancakes,” Obama joked.

Despite the lighthearted comments, Obama soon explained the results of the conference, and the four main points that the delegation agreed upon.

First, he said, was sustaining recovery plans until economic growth is restored not just for the upper classes and businesses, but also for the working and middle class families who need to be able to pay their bills. “We can’t tolerate the same old boom and bust economy of the past,” he said.

To achieve this, he said, it was important to implement “tough, new financial regulations.” More transparency in business is a key element of this point. “Those who abuse the system must be held responsible,” he emphasized.

A second point of the plan ties executive pay to long-term performance rather than short-term.

The third element is to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels, which will increase our energy security and decrease the “threat posed by climate change.”

The fourth point builds on Obama’s earlier remarks about nations working together and reforms the system of global economic cooperation and governance. This means that rather than only including already-powerful industrial nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will begin to include emerging economies as well, and a new World Bank Trust Fund will be established.

“The nations of the world share mutual interests,” he said, and stressed that they should “act on behalf of shared prosperity.”
The cooperation on which Obama spoke Friday has been seen already in the response to Iran’s nuclear facilities. Intelligence agencies from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France each investigated whether Iran’s statements about their facilities were truthful or whether they were in violation of international laws. After they confirmed the violation, other countries, including China and Russia, joined these countries in condemning Iran’s actions.

Leaders from these countries will be meeting with Iran on Oct. 1 to try to solve the problem diplomatically, but Obama said that he would not rule out any options or possibilities for further action. “Iran is on notice. They are going to have to come clean and make a choice,” he said. The first path leads to peace, and the second to confrontation.

While these things were occurring on the international political fronts, protesters gathered outside, surrounded by swarms of police dressed in riot gear.

All week, demonstrators have gathered to protest various causes, ranging from the war to capitalism to the G20 itself. Some protesters, like those desiring to free Tibet and the oppressed Chinese religious group Falun Gong, were peaceful, but other protests became riotous and violent.

Obama was not concerned about the riots. “It’s important to keep things in perspective,” he said. “In London, there were hundreds of thousands on the streets [as compared with the just over 5000 reported to be outside of the Convention Center]. Pittsburgh deserves credit for managing a very tranquil G20 Summit.”

While the Summit may have been “tranquil” compared to other Summits, the protesters certainly caused a stir in the city.

Throughout the course of the week, nearly 20 businesses were damaged, reportedly by the same protesters from California, and over 100 people were arrested for refusal to disperse.

In Oakland last Thursday, students gathered to protest, and police broke up the group with the use of OC gas, which is slightly different from tear gas, as it is a different chemical compound more similar to pepper spray. To revolt against police actions, students gathered again Friday and were met with equally strong riot dispersal tactics.

Twitter updates and YouTube videos gave the world a close-up look at the police actions and protests happening in the city.

Two students from Carnegie Mellon created a website that compiled the most recent videos and Tweets relating to the G20. Haris Krijestorac and Manolis Kounelakis, master’s students in information systems management, originally did not intend for their website, www.exponentialweb.com, to focus on G20. “We both have many theories and ideas about where the social web is taking the world, and we wanted to share our youthful yet academic perspective with the world,” Krijestorac stated in an e-mail.

The site was created Sept. 20, and by Sept. 24, the first day of the Summit, Krijestorac and Kounelakis began posting live updates from social websites, allowing people to follow what was going on in real time.

“We hope that ExponentialWeb will not only give us the outlet to report social web news and express our opinions on the subject, but inspire others to engage in it,” Krijestorac wrote.

This website, as well as the original sites from which the material was taken, engaged many in the events of the weekend, supplementing traditional news sources with information straight from the participants.

Whether through protests, art, or social websites, very few people managed to avoid participating in one way or another in this event.