Posted by: tinaflores | 09/25/2009

NGOs Bring Perseverance, Creativity, Spunk to G20

PITTSBURGH — This city was atwitter this week as civil society descended upon it to highlight global health, the environment and poverty eradication in the lead-up to the G20. But along with the press conferences and briefings were a number of interesting events crafted to create media buzz around the issues.

The ONE Campaign, for instance, worked with local artists and school children on a mural in downtown Pittsburgh.  The block long mural depicts people from around the world, including countries that are not part of the G20. Its message is to bring a future G20 meeting to Africa, where the need is greatest.

This theme of incorporating the needs of struggling economies was echoed by Oxfam, whose call was to prevent 100 people a minute from falling into poverty. In a media stunt, staff posed as caricatures of world leaders in Pittsburgh Steelers uniforms – punting, as it were, for poverty. Though seemingly silly, there was a lot of media there and @GlobalHealthorg’s photo tweet of the stunt got RTed quite a bit.

The local chapter of the peace organization CODEPINK staged a two-day camp to highlight the issue of refugees. Indeed, refugees – women and children in particular – are especially vulnerable to disease and violence. Refugee camps are breeding for malaria and diarrheal disease. Women and girls are targets of rape. Adequate nutrition is a rarity.

Ironically, one of the interesting stories this week has been the media itself. Because security around the G20 perimeter has been so tight all week, most of the media remained within the bubble of the convention center where the story was… the media. Interaction took advantage of this yesterday by holding an impromptu press conference that included policy and communications staff from the Global Health Council, World Vision and Save the Children.

NPR referred to our group as “a modest shop indeed.” Then it went on to say, “They stood for hours on a concrete floor in the middle of a vast media workspace, chatting with any journalists who wandered by their handwritten sign saying ‘NGOs.’ ” But then the story continued on to discuss health and development.

Save an invitation to the G20 dinner, the hottest ticket around was to the private reception hosted by Teresa Heinz Kerry at the Andy Warhol Museum. Environmentalists, development champions and Pittsburgh’s elite married music and art with advocacy. Though the main focus of the evening was climate change, Heinz Kerry, also called attention to the need to protect the health of children.

Many development organizations, the Council and Save the Children among them, were shepherded by a team from Interaction. Interaction facilitated participation, coordination and collaboration around the G20 Summit among several NGOs. In the process, they fostered both camaraderie as well as a united front in improving the lives of the world’s poorest people. The Brother’s Brother Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based aid group hosted an NGO Hub, providing us with a place to work, rides to the convention site, food – yes food – and unbelievable hospitality all around.

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