Tuesday, September 30, 2008

[press release] World Vision Launches Bold Initiative for Worldwide Elimination of Mosquitoes

from World Vision

The humanitarian agency World Vision, in an effort to reduce infant mortality, has taken a bold initiative for a worldwide elimination of mosquitoes.

This was made known by its President, Rich Stearns in a statement, adding that the good news is that the elimination of malaria is possible as was done in the United States in 1951.

He pointed out that now it's time for the rest of the world to benefit from the U.S experience and that by God's mercy and in partnership with other humanitarian organizations and individuals, World Vision is determined to end malaria in the entire world.

"We have launched this initiative to: significantly increase private funding for anti-malaria programs; advocate for increased government commitments, including at least $1 billion per year from the U.S. government to combat malaria; develop corporate partnerships to leverage resources like bed nets and medication and to initially contribute to a 50 percent reduction in the number of malaria deaths by 2015 in countries where World Vision operates," he further said.

Stearns also said that while malaria is entirely preventable and treatable using inexpensive, proven solutions, those most at risk of malaria infection often lack access to these simple solutions and that to strategically address this threat, World Vision is at the moment scaling up its malaria prevention and treatment efforts.

These efforts, according to him, include the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, community health education, and provision of anti-malarial drugs and other treatments.

In his words: "However, no single response can defeat malaria. So we are part of a growing global movement to combat malaria with strong coordination between governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations, local citizens and supporters like you."

Stearns continued: "Last week, through the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, I joined world leaders in a discussion about the role each of us may play in fighting this deadly disease. At the event, a new global plan to combat malaria was announced. By partnering with communities, World Vision will play a crucial role in the implementation of the global plan and efforts to successfully achieve an end to malaria-efforts that you can be a part of."

He called on the body of Christ world-wide to partner with his organization in this critical and exciting endeavor to save the lives of millions of children, urging people to visit World Vision's End Malaria site in order to join a movement to stop this child killer in a lifetime. "For most of us, mosquitoes are a pesky nuisance; but for millions of children worldwide, this tiny menace poses a deadly threat."

He further stressed the need for Americans in particular to send proposals to Congress to advocate increased resources to fight malaria. "Donate to provide a family with bed nets and critical malaria prevention education and pray for those affected by malaria and for the will to end it and share the site with friends and colleagues to expand the movement."

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.

They serve close to 100 million people in nearly 100 countries around the world and serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more on this visit World Vision website: www.worldvision.org

Preparing to Get at Resources of the Poor

from IPS News

European Union officials are drawing up a new strategy for giving multinational companies greater access to minerals and wood located in poor countries.

With Europe importing up to 80 percent of the raw materials its firms use to manufacture goods, lawmakers in Brussels have identified taxes and other measures imposed by governments as an obstacle they should strive to remove.

In November, the EU's executive branch, the European Commission, is to issue a policy statement outlining how firms based on this continent can exploit the natural resources of other countries, including those where much of the population lives in poverty.

The strategy will address the 450 export restrictions in the world that the Commission has identified. These include taxes on exports which some governments levy in order to encourage processing of raw materials by domestic companies, subsidies, and limits on foreign investment.

Patrick Hennessy, a veteran official who has been involved in drafting the strategy, drew a distinction between differing groups of poor countries. Whereas rapid growing economies such as China and India have "huge requirements" for raw materials, countries in Africa have "huge resources but very acute problems," he said at a meeting in Brussels Monday.

Hennessy argued that it necessary for the EU to strike "a very delicate balance" in its relations with others. "It is important to try to convince them to see it our way," he added. "That sounds very condescending. But at least they should follow common rules as part of a sustainable industrial policy."

Some details of the new strategy -- known in Euro-speak as a 'communication' -- were outlined at a conference in Brussels Sep. 29, which was dominated by European officials and industrial lobbyists.

Peter Mandelson, the European commissioner for trade, said that the Commission is seeking to have clauses that will ban export restrictions included in all the free trade agreements it negotiates. Such provisions have already been placed in accords with Chile and Mexico, he added, while the EU is hoping to clinch similar deals with India and South Korea.

Mandelson noted that in industries like chemicals, plastics and wood, raw materials can account for one-third of the price of goods made in Europe. "The imposition of an export tax can price a European company out of the market overnight," he said.

But anti-poverty campaigners feel that many countries must retain the option of being able to restrict exports.

Marc Maes from the Belgian organisation 11.11.11 said it is "very worrying" that the Commission has been trying to convince African countries to scrap taxes on exports as part of free trade agreements it is negotiating with them.

"There are many reasons why developing countries in Africa should keep controls on exporting wood, for example," he said. "It is very important for the environment, for indigenous people and for local processors. We need to watch this communication carefully and we need to tell the Commission that eliminating restrictions is not good for these countries' development."

Chocolate offers a case study of how export taxes can be a vital source of revenue for poor countries. Nearly 60 percent of cocoa used by Europe's confectionary makers originates in just two west African countries: Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire.

Caobisco, the umbrella group for Europe's biscuit and chocolate industry, regards a 26 percent export tax on cocoa levied by Cote d'Ivoire as excessive. Yet the group's representative Tony Lass conceded that Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana "have few other export opportunities so you could say it is quite reasonable for them to tax cocoa."

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Slim and Yunus to offer credit to Mexico's poor

from Business Week

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and Bangladeshi Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus are joining forces to offer credit to poor people in Mexico.

Slim and Yunus are creating Grameen-Carso, a lending institution that in its first phase will provide at least 80,000 loans.

Slim is committing at least US$45 million to the venture, which they expect to expand to other parts of Latin America.

Slim said Monday the institution will follow the model developed by Yunus' Grameen Bank.

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'Get smart' on child poverty, leaders told

from the Toronto Star

by Laurie Monsebraaten

Canada can either "get tough" on youth crime by handing out life sentences for 14-year-old criminals, as promised by the Conservatives, or "get smart" by developing strategies to fight child poverty, anti-poverty activists said yesterday.

"In contrast to building prisons, we should be building a national network of early learning and child-care centres and investing in a child benefit that would lift children out of poverty," said Ryerson University professor emeritus Marvyn Novick.

"It's not a question of being tough on crime or soft on crime. I say we can either get tough or get smart," said Novick, a founding member of Campaign 2000, a coalition of 120 groups committed to ending child and family poverty in Canada.

Stubbornly high child poverty rates in Canada's largest cities underscore the urgent need for all federal party leaders to tell voters how they would tackle the problem, said Novick and other coalition members who note that only the Tories have been silent on the issue.

Data from the 2006 census shows one in four children in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver lives in poverty and one in five does so in Winnipeg, St. John's and Victoria.

Nationally, about 880,000 children are poor, or about one in eight, according to the coalition, which defines the poverty line as Statistics Canada's after-tax "low-income cut-off," which calculates the income level at which a family spends a greater portion of its income on shelter, food, and clothing than an average family.

"Child and family poverty in Canada has remained high during a time of unprecedented economic prosperity," Campaign 2000 spokesperson Laurel Rothman told reporters. "This will only get worse if the effects of the financial meltdown in the U.S. ripple into Canada's economy."

Four provinces – Quebec, Newfoundland, Ontario and Nova Scotia – with two-thirds of the Canadian population are acting on poverty reduction plans, Rothman said, but cannot do it without federal help.

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Tory party conference: Conservatives would cancel British aid to China

from the Telegraph

By Andrew Pierce

Britain's international aid budget to 115 countries, which costs more than £6 billion a year, will also be reviewed by a David Cameron administration.

But it is the aid budget to China, which this year spent £20 billion on the Beijing Olympics, which will be eliminated first. The money will be redirected to genuinely poorer countries in Africa.

Andrew Mitchell, the shadow international development secretary, will make the pledge in his speech at the party conference today.

"We have just marvelled at the spectacle of the Beijing Olympics and gloried in the success of our brilliant young sport stars. Those games did not come cheap – the price tag was a record £20 billion. Not a great surprise perhaps for a country that is powering out of poverty, had a trade surplus last year of £175 billion, and put a man in space last week.

"Many British taxpayers would be astonished to learn that we are still giving aid to China – and that last year, under Labour, China received in aid for the British taxpayer £38.6 million.

"Out aid budget is the fruit of hard work of the British people. It must be spent wisely. And that means it must be targeted on the countries and peoples who need it most. No money for China, more money for the very poorest people in the world."

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Monday, September 29, 2008

[comment] No Rescue for the Hungry

from the Washington Post

By Joel Berg

When social services advocates like me hear that the cost of the federal bailout of the finance sector might top a trillion dollars, we're not quite sure how to process such a massive figure.

Our country has been told that a gargantuan government rescue of the private sector is necessary because the collapse of major financial institutions would lead to unthinkable outcomes for society. Almost as if by magic, our nation's leaders conjure up vast sums to respond to this crisis.

Yet when advocates point out that our nation is facing an altogether different kind of crisis, one of soaring hunger and homelessness, and that a large-scale bailout is needed to prevent social service providers nationwide from buckling under the increasing load, we are told that the money these agencies need just doesn't exist.

In 2006, fully 35.5 million Americans, 4 million more than in 1999, lived in households that couldn't afford enough food, according to the Agriculture Department. Those households included more than 12 million children.

Last December, the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that out of 23 major American cities, 80 percent had an increase in people using emergency soup kitchens and food pantries and 43 percent had an increase in the number of homeless children. All that happened between November 2006 and November 2007.

How did the federal government respond? It didn't.

The only federal program that provides cash to both emergency feeding programs and homelessness prevention services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Emergency Food and Shelter Program, wasn't expanded by a penny. Even though the program enables thousands of nonprofit agencies (many of which are faith-based) to aid millions of struggling people nationwide, its budget hasn't been increased for six years. Given that costs for food and housing have skyrocketed over that time, the program has, in effect, suffered from massive cuts; the charities that depend on this money are reeling from the strain, many teetering on the verge of collapse.

Even the farm bill's much-touted increase in federal nutrition assistance funding was nominal. The bill provided an extra billion dollars in funding annually, but that works out to less than $30 per year for every hungry American, an amount already lost to the spike in food prices. When we ask members of Congress and lobbyists to help obtain serious funding increases to meet the soaring needs, we are patronizingly praised for our good work but told that times are just too tough to increase budgets. Maybe there will be more money when the economy improves, they tell us, oblivious to the reality that funding for our programs is most needed when the economy is weakest.

In New York, where I live and work, the situation is bleak. The number of meals served by city-supported soup kitchens and food pantries was up 9 percent in the spring from a year earlier. While the City Council rebuffed Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to cut funding to these agencies in June, Gov. David Paterson has persuaded the state Legislature to cut funding for emergency feeding programs twice in the past six months.

We're told to simply accept these cuts because everyone is suffering. But that's just not true. According to Forbes, there are 64 billionaires in New York City with a combined net worth of $344 billion, a staggering 469 percent more than the collective worth of the city's billionaires two years ago.

Just as it is unthinkable for the country to allow financial giants to go belly up, it should be unthinkable to look the other way as tens of millions of low-income Americans (the types of people who clean the offices of AIG and Fannie Mae at night) go without food or shelter. It's time to get our priorities in order.

Joel Berg is executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and author of the forthcoming book "All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?"

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'Millions' of UK young in poverty

from the BBC

Millions of children in the UK are living in, or on the brink of, poverty, a report claims.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty says 5.5 million children are in families that are classed as "struggling" - 98% of children in some areas.

The campaign classes households as being in poverty if they are living on under £10 per person per day.

A government spokeswoman said it had lifted 600,000 children out of poverty and was committed to the cause.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty is a coalition of more than 130 organisations including Barnardo's, Unicef and the NSPCC.

According to its research, there are 4,634,000 children in England living in low income families, 297,000 in Wales, 428,000 in Scotland and 198,000 in Northern Ireland.

It says 174 of the 646 parliamentary constituencies in Britain have 50% or more of their child population in, or close to, the poverty line.

The parliamentary constituency with the highest number of children in or close to poverty is Birmingham Ladywood, with 81% (28,420 individuals).

'More likely to die'

She said: "There are currently 3,900,000 children in the UK that are classed as actually living in poverty, which impacts on every aspect of a child's life.

"A child in poverty is 10 times more likely to die in infancy, and five times more likely to die in an accident.

"Adults who lived in poverty as a child are 50 times more likely to develop a restrictive illness such diabetes or bronchitis."

Ms Fisher said some families could not afford school uniforms, and chose schools for their children based on uniform cost - which was "not acceptable".

She said: "The government has lifted 600,000 children out of poverty, but 100,000 have gone back for each of the last two years.

"If the government does not allocate £3bn in tax credits and benefits in the next budget, then their plans to reduce child poverty will fail."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the government was committed to the cause.

She said: "We have lifted 600,000 children out of poverty, we are introducing free nursery education for all two, three and four year olds and have seen an increase in educational outcomes at all ages."

Campaign director Hilary Fisher said the figures were "absolutely shocking".

She said local authorities and other service providers had to help it raise family incomes, encourage people to apply for tax credit and benefits and help parents work.

She said the latter was known to be one of the best ways for families to get out of poverty

Donald Hirsch, author of several reports on child poverty, said a single-wage couple with two children would stop getting Working Tax Credit when they were on £18,500 a year - leaving them just above the poverty line.

He said: "The official government measure of poverty is families below 60% of median income before housing costs, so families with this composition on Working Tax Credit will be close to the poverty line."

The report's figures are made up from Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit data, and have been calculated by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion.

Government pledge

Another area with high child poverty is Bethnal Green and Bow, which has 79% (23,450) of its children in low income families.

The constituency of Bradford West has 75% (24,900) of children in or near poverty, while Nottingham East has 68% (12,360).

An estimated 98% of children living in two zones in Glasgow Baillieston - Central Easterhouse and North Barlarnark and Easterhouse South - are either in poverty or in working families that are "struggling to get by".

And there are 58% of children in Swansea East (10,470) in families of this description.

The constituencies with the lowest levels of families in, or near, poverty are Buckingham and Sheffield Hallam, both with 17%.

At last week's Labour Party conference, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said child poverty "demeans Britain" and repeated his party's pledge to halve child poverty by 2010, and ultimately to end it.

During his speech he said: "The measures we have taken this year alone will help lift 250,000 children out of poverty.

"The economic times are tough - of course that makes things harder - but we are in this for the long haul. The complete elimination of child poverty by 2020."

'Broken Britain'

Harry Potter author JK Rowling recently donated £1m to the Labour Party, saying she was motivated by Labour's record on child poverty.

But shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling said the figures "underline the vast social divide" within cities.

He added: "There are examples of wards within cities where hardly any children live in poverty but sitting alongside these wards are others where virtually every family lives below the poverty line.

"This just goes to show the extent to which Britain is truly broken."
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Witchcraft Increases Poverty, Says NGO

from All Africa

Byline: Dan Wandera

Communities that practice witchcraft or that believe in superstition and religious fanaticism have little chance to progress and fight poverty in the modern economy, an NGO leader has said.

The East African Representative for International Humanist and Ethical Union, Mr Deo Ssekitoleko told a press conference in Luweero last week that religious fanaticism, and superstition had left many people unable to scientifically reason and use their natural abilities to start income generating projects but were waiting for miracles to lift them.

"Witchcraft and superstition incapacitate people from free thinking and only enriches the few who have the ability to manipulate others to give in the little they have earned without questioning," Mr Ssekitoleko has said.

The International Humanists and Ethical Union has embarked on a programme to sensitise the youth in schools and communities to abandon belief in witchcraft and superstition.

[comment] The World Bank and IMF response to the food crisis

from the Bretton Woods Project

By Nuria Molina, Eurodad and Bhumika Muchhala, Bank Information Center

Although conditions attached to food and fuel crisis lending are somewhat lighter, the Bank and the Fund should turn the crisis into an opportunity to learn that finance can be granted without the usual strings attached.

At the Food Summit in Rome last June, world leaders pledged to "eliminate hunger and secure food for all, today and tomorrow". Today is quite a tight deadline. According to the UN World Food Programme, $755 million is required to immediately address hunger. But $15 - $20 billion would be needed to implement measures to resurrect the hollowed-out agricultural sectors of low-income countries.

The World Bank came up with the Global Food Crisis Response Programme (GFRP) in May (see Update 61), which will fast-track up to $1.2 billion of the Bank's resources within the next three years; while the IMF has revamped its Exogenous Shocks Facility (ESF) and temporarily scaled up loan amounts to poor countries. However, IFI money almost never comes without policy conditionality and despite the magnitude and urgency of the crises, the Bank and Fund continue to dictate policies to developing countries.

Loosening conditionality?

The GFRP is partly financed by the newly established World Bank food price crisis response trust fund - using a transfer of Bank income (from the IBRD) - which is intended to "provide rapid assistance to the most fragile, poor and heavily-impacted countries." It has already approved loans for fifteen countries including Djibouti, Liberia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Niger. The rest of the programme is resourced with funding from a multi-donor trust fund. The vast majority of these operations are provided as grants. There is yet more good news: in general, the operations approved tend to have a very light conditionality framework.

A new development policy operation, a standard form of bank lending, for Djibouti approved in May contained only two policy conditions requiring the elimination of taxes on basic food items and an action plan to channel direct support to poor households - neither of which are particularly controversial. Policy matrices for new operations in Sierra Leona or Burundi are very similar. In cases when the Bank is topping up existing loans - such as Honduras, Liberia or Madagascar - no conditions are added. However, conditions attached to the existing loans do need to be fulfilled and no waivers are extended given the new circumstances.

New operations run in parallel with recent loans which may contain conditions which could be deemed sensitive. In Burundi, for example, an April loan required the privatisation and liberalisation of the coffee sector, a condition which will still have to be fulfilled despite the crisis.

The majority of operations approved are investment loans, provided on grant terms. They are intended for specific purposes, such as purchase of key agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers); funding safety nets (school feeding or cash transfer programmes); or compensating revenue lost by reducing taxes or import tariffs. These operations do not have conditionality attached, but include exhaustive guidelines on procurement (related to the purchase of the goods they are intended for) and often suggest changes to government policy.

The looser conditionality frameworks are due to the emergency situation not a trend towards loosening the institutional grip over poor countries. And investment loans do not necessarily increase the policy space available for recipient countries. The question remains whether countries will have the freedom to determine their own agricultural models (see Update 58)in order to secure food sovereignty.
IMF traditional recipes

Since April, the IMF has been warning that the gains made by developing countries in the last decade could be "totally destroyed" by the food crisis. In an early July seminar, IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn urged for a "broad cooperative approach" and assured that the Fund would respond through all three of its primary mechanisms: policy advice, technical assistance, and lending. However, at the G8 summit in Japan, Strauss-Kahn persuaded leaders that "inflation should be the top concern of policymakers confronted by higher food and fuel prices," not food security or meeting immediate needs through public spending.

The IMF's advice, spelled out in its end-June policy paper on the food and fuel crises, offers a distinctly free-market recipe for fiscal, monetary and trade policies. According to the IMF, the pass-through of food and fuel price increases to higher domestic prices is "ultimately unavoidable". The Fund's economists repeatedly underscore the importance of phasing out subsidies, reducing taxes and aligning public sector wage increases with that of the private sector. Recognising that such steps would intensify economic burdens on the poor in crisis-hit countries, the Fund argues for targeted social safety nets to protect the most vulnerable.

The Fund's monetary policy advice for low-income countries says that when "policy credibility" still remains to be established and inflation targeting is still nascent, the risk of losing growth and stability by hiking up interest rates is well worth taking. This is because the cost of "lower credibility if inflation objectives are missed" might be even greater than that of economic loss. This is consistent with the Fund's historical role in orchestrating the liberalisation of fuel and food imports, as it advocates that the global food market be kept open, export restrictions and taxes be avoided, and food production be boosted.

While some anticipated "a deluge of new business," so far the IMF has only increased lending to existing customers. Loans to low-income countries through the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) have been augmented for 12 countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Conditionality on the fiscal deficit, long criticised for constraining public spending needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals and limiting long-term investments in health and education, has been loosened to allow public spending for food. However, these are temporary flexibilities and are unlikely to signify a long-term change in the Fund's macroeconomic conditionality.

The promised review of the Exogenous Shocks Facility (ESF) which was scheduled for June (see Update 61) took months to materialise. The ESF, which is supposed to provide rapid and accessible concessional support during sudden external shocks, has not been used since its inception in 2005 despite this year's food and fuel crises. The executive board discussion on the ESF was delayed to late August, and then mid-September amid rancour in the board.

Under the agreed revision, the first quarter of funds available from the ESF would carry little or no conditionality, but anything above that limit would carry conditionality and programme modalities that mimic that of the PRGF such as IMF field missions, negotiations with finance ministers and letters of intent. Conditionality is supposed to be limited to directly addressing the price or economic shock the country is facing, and should not extend to other areas of economic policy. According to an executive director from a developing country, ESF process modalities "do not respect the urgency of the commodity crises ... when it follows that of the PRGF".

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Some Retailers Have Still Not Caught Up With Fair Trade Boom

from All Africa

Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)

By Teresa Robins

Fair trade has grown in leaps and bounds since the mid-1990s but retailers such as El Corte Ingles, the department store chain with the most sales in Europe, are still not giving consumers the choice to buy these products.

In 1996 the Spanish parliament introduced an initiative to encourage fair trade products, with regional governments introducing similar resolutions across Spain. The government became a consumer of fair trade products and encouraged local businesses and private and public organisations to follow suit.

Some interest groups have also worked to promote and regulate fair trade. Of these, InterMon Oxfam is a major importer of fair trade goods and has committed itself to promoting African goods, sold under their own "InterMon Oxfam Comercio Justo" (fair trade) label.

In 1997, the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations (FLO) International was set up to establish clear minimum criteria for importing fair trade goods from developing countries. It also set out to oversee standards to make sure these goods were traded at a fair price in the developed countries and were produced under ethical working conditions.

FLO sets a minimum price so producers are able to recover their costs. It also inspects and certifies the terms and conditions under which these small producers work and helps to provide support towards achieving economic self-sufficiency and improving their lives.

FLO has a wide variety of partner organisations involved in charitable, relief and development aid, including international religious, social and economic groups. Their work is divided into two parts to ensure impartiality and independence in its certification process.

The Spanish member of FLO, the Asociación del Sello de Productos de Comercio Justo (ASPCJ) (the Association of Fairtrade Label Products), was established in 2005. InterMon Oxfam is one of the founding members of Spain's ASPCJ.

ASPCJ's two main objectives are the licensing of the FLO certification mark in Spain and raising awareness to help boost sales of fair trade products. The ASPCJ confirms that licensed companies selling products under the "Comercio Justo" label have been examined to ensure they fulfil all the requirements.

InterMon Oxfam's puts the value of fair trade sales in Spain at 7,7 million euros for the year ending June 2007. Fernando Contreras Almela, head of fair trade marketing at InterMon Oxfam, says that 31 percent, or 2,4 million euros, of the sales are for goods from Africa. This is up from 25 percent in previous years.

Its fair trade goods are imported from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Mauritius, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

"The volume of imports is complicated to calculate, as products such as handicrafts, food and so forth are valued in different currencies and with variable timescales. However, the net average margin is approximately 50 percent, from which costs and overheads are paid. If there is any profit, InterMon Oxfam reinvests this in the producers," according to Contreras Almela.

The following commodities are imported from Africa: batik from Burkina Faso and Uganda; wooden products from Cameroon and Kenya; soapstone carvings and tea from Kenya; cocoa from Ghana; sugar from Mauritius; and coffee from Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. These products arrive in Spain via some 30 African co-operatives serving hundreds of small producers.

Oxfam Intermon regards Africa as a priority, which is why the percentage of goods sourced from Africa has increased. However, growth is difficult to achieve in Africa, says Contreras Almela.

African goods have been much slower in getting a foothold in the Spanish market but there have been significant signs of improvement. However, Contreras Almela told IPS that, "working with African producers is not easy. This is due to the lack of every type of infrastructure you can think of."

African producers are affected by numerous problems at the time of exporting. The most important of these are, according to Intermon Oxfam: high costs, as in many cases the merchandise must travel by air instead of sea, to ensure reasonable transit times and to maintain the quality of the products.

Second, lack of access to information about European markets, with the consequent lack of suitable adjustment between the designs and needs of the consumers and the supply of products.

Third, difficulty in communication. Fourth, problems of access to banking services such as credit. Fifth, difficulty in fulfilling the timescales established for importing the merchandise to ensure it is available for the important times of the year, such as Christmas.

Among retail outlets in Spain stocking fair trade products are the larger supermarket chains, such as Grupo Alcampo, Carrefour, Consum and Eroski. They all have special agreements with InterMon Oxfam to stock and promote these goods as part of their corporate social responsibility programmes.

The retailer Grupo Alcampo holds special promotional events called "quincedías", or "fifteen days", and have staff awareness events to ensure they can talk to customers about fair trade products and their origins.

One noticeable absence among these names is that of El Corte Ingles, Spain's largest department store group, having taken over the Galerias Group in 1995 which was its main competitor.

El Corte Ingles has large department stores in practically every major town or city, huge hypermarkets and supermarkets and 24-hour, seven-days-a-week shops across the whole of Spain.

On Sept 1, El Corte Ingles announced their annual profits, which showed an increase of 4,7 percent on the previous year, achieving annual sales for the group of 17,898 million euros. In Europe, this puts El Corte Ingles in first place among retailers, well ahead of UK company Marks & Spencer (which supports fair trade products) with its sales of 13,268 million euros.

In the third place is France's Groupe Galeries Lafayette with sales of 4,960 million euros. Worldwide, El Corte Ingles achieved third place in world ranking for the retail sector, behind U.S. companies Sears Holdings (37,010 million euros) and Macy's Group (19,207 million euros).

When asked about the absence of fair trade goods at El Corte Ingles's retail outlets, Diego Copado, director of communication and institutional relations, confirmed that the company had been "in discussions with InterMon Oxfam over some years but had been unable to reach agreement".

He added that, after the announcement of increased profits, El Corte Ingles had also launched its new corporate website which included a section on social responsibility. It is, he said, part of a continuing effort on behalf of El Corte Ingles, which include looking at fair trade.

So remember, if you want to be sure that what you are buying is a fair trade product and that your money is going exactly where you want it to go, check the label thoroughly.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

NDP pledges to end poverty by 2020

from the Toronto Star

by Robert Benzie

A New Democratic government would eliminate poverty in Canada within 12 years, NDP Leader Jack Layton says.

Layton set the ambitious target in his party's $51.6 billion, 57-page election platform, released yesterday in Toronto.

"Don't you think it's time we finally put an end to the shame of child poverty?" he said to about 200 cheering supporters at a Broadview Ave. hall.

Speaking to reporters after his speech, Layton made no apologies for setting the aggressive 2020 deadline.

"This is the goal. You know something, if you don't set a goal you're never going to get there," he said.

The most expensive tool in the NDP's anti-poverty arsenal is a new $17.4 billion child-benefit plan that would pay low-income families up to $416 a month per child.

The New Democrats say the $17.4 billion price tag for the child-benefit plan is only $4.4 billion more than the $13 billion patchwork of Conservative benefits the NDP package would replace when it's fully phased in by 2012-13.

Speaking in Toronto, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion was harshly critical of Layton's corporate tax plans, saying they would kill jobs, and of the child-benefit plan, which he called unrealistic. No country or any NDP provincial government is taxing corporations at the rate Layton plans, Dion told reporters.

"Jack Layton's old-fashioned socialist mentality is as backwards as Stephen Harper's old-fashioned conservative ideology," he said.

Speaking for the Conservatives, incumbent Pierre Poilievre, who is running in the riding of Nepean-Carleton, slammed the NDP program as "unaffordable."

The promises "will put Canada back into deficit and force taxes to go up," Poilievre said in an interview.

He called into question the NDP's strategy to reduce poverty, saying that cancelling corporate tax cuts would hammer Canadian businesses "with billions in new taxes that will kill jobs and create new risks for our economy.

"Driving Canada's economy into the ground through higher taxes and more debt will only lead to more poverty," he said.

Under the NDP child-benefit plan, a family with a household income of $38,000 or less would receive $416 a month per child under 18. Those with a household income of less than $188,000 would get between $73 and $330 a month per child, depending on income. Families earning more than $188,000 a year would receive $53 a month per child. The money would not be taxed.

Layton's platform document includes a slew of other measures designed to eliminate poverty, including an hourly minimum wage of $10 that would be indexed to inflation.

An NDP government would introduce a Poverty Elimination Act, setting firm reduction targets and making the government accountable for meeting those goals.

A progress report would have to be tabled every five years.

The NDP wants to reduce child poverty by more than 50 per cent and the overall poverty rate by more than 35 per cent in the first five years. The NDP defines the poverty line as Statistics Canada's "low income cut-off" or LICO, which calculates the income level at which a family may be in dire straits because it has to spend a greater portion of its income on shelter, food, and clothing than an average family. The LICO measurement varies, depending where in Canada a family resides.

Layton's platform goes on to address Premier Dalton McGuinty's quest for a fair deal from Ottawa by promising to reform employment insurance (EI). The party says it is working toward ensuring Ontario workers qualify for the same EI benefits as other Canadians.

McGuinty, who is remaining non-partisan in the campaign for the Oct. 14 election, says the average unemployed Ontario worker is shortchanged by $4,630 a year.

With files from Tonda MacCharles and Bruce Campion-Smith

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Forum highlights ‘new poverty’

from the Taipei Times

It’s time for the government to rethink its social security and immigration policy as the nation faces challenges such as “new poverty” and an increasing flow of immigrants through marriage, academics specializing in labor, social welfare and immigration issues told a forum in Taipei yesterday.

Wang Yung-tzu, a professor at National Taiwan Normal University’s (NTNU) Graduate Institute of Social work, pointed out that while poverty has always existed in Taiwan, rapid urbanization and interconnection in people’s economic lives have created a “new poverty” that needs to be dealt with differently.

“In the rapidly changing economic environment, people have developed different ideas on who is responsible for poverty,” Wang told the forum, which was organized by the Institute for National Policy Research and the Hsu Chao-ing Charity Foundation.

“In 1997, more than 50 percent of the people considered personal factors such as not working hard enough and spending too much money to be causes of poverty,” she said, citing figures from Academia Sinica.

Statistics also show that nearly 48 percent of people at the time believed “no employment opportunities” to be the cause of poverty — but the number increased to nearly 63 percent last year.

Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of people last year said that the government should work harder to create more job opportunities.

“This goes to show that when dealing with ‘new poverty,’ the government should not put responsibility completely on individuals and overlook social factors,” Wang said.

Saying that the government has not offered a complete social security system to help people escape poverty but only tried to hand out pensions, Cheng Li-chen, a social work professor at National Taiwan University, said that the government should quit its “patronizing” mentality and provide job training or assistance for families in poverty to participate in economic activities.

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Religious groups target poverty

from the Buffalo News

By Harold McNeil

Members of the three Abrahamic faiths and other religious traditions broke bread together and endeavored to collectively address local poverty during an event Wednesday in the Islamic Society and Mosque, 745 Heim Road, Getzville.

The third annual "Tent of Abraham" coincides with the Muslim observance of Ramadan, a monthlong period of daily fasting. The aim, according to Dr. Khalid J. Qazi, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York, is to invite those of other faith traditions to join local Muslims in collecting nonperishable food items and cash donations for distribution to the area's needy through the Food Pantry of Western New York and Viva La Casa.

"The Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York started this two years ago to bring all faiths together under one roof to share the blessings of Ramadan with everyone," Qazi said.

"But at the same time, we also felt there was a need in the community that should be addressed simultaneously," he added.

A charitable response to poverty is a part of all religious faiths, said the Rev. Stan Bratton, executive director of the Network of Religious Communities. Bratton's organization had planned a joint venture with Catholic Charities of Western New York to collect food and raise money for the needy when it decided to join forces with the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

"Instead of two separate events, we merged the two into one," Bratton said. "So, we're trying to retain still the Tent of Abraham, but then it's as a religious response to poverty."

In addition to the three Abrahamic faiths, the Network of Religious Communities is made up of individuals from five other religious communities, including those of the Sikh, Hindu, Bahai, Unitarian and Buddhist faiths.

Bratton said the network is circulating a petition asking Gov. David A. Paterson to create a commission that will identify and address the needs of those in poverty, particularly in Western New York.

Those attending the event heard from several guest speakers who spoke about the duty to assist the poor.

G8, Other Rich Countries Need to Honor Commitments to Combat Global Poverty

from All Africa

Byline: Rose Mestika

Addis Ababa,- The Poverty Action Network of Civil Society Organizations in Ethiopia (PANE) announced plans to campaign in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and against poverty and inequality from October 17-19.

The organization called on the developed nations to respect the promises they pledged to fight poverty and help alleviate the suffering of poor people in developing countries.

The three days will be marked by meeting with Ambassadors, government officials, civil society members and others, PANE, collection of over 90civil society organizations representing various sectors and spheres disclosed yesterday.

The campaign will be having three main aims; to request for debt cancellation, to request for more and better aid and to have fair trade between the riches and the poorest country.

"Thirty-two years after many of the world's wealthy countries agreed that 0.7% of their gross national product (GNP) should be directed to international development, none of the G8 countries have reached anywhere near that level and the October 17 will be the day to reinforce them and to stand up for the success of MDGs" Eshetu Bekele Executive Director of PANE said.

PANE organized the half day event on yesterday in relation to the UN High Level Events to launch its work on the MDGs in particular and poverty reduction and development in general during the past few years.

Fighting to make a difference as hunger stalks Horn of Africa

from the Age

THE people are desperately hungry. Two thousand of them queue from early morning to see Australian nurse Alana Baker and her co-workers for the chance to escape from the grip of acute malnutrition.

Drizzling rain and cool temperatures do not deter them nor does the crowd-control man whipping people back into line with a branch. Their babies cry. They wait.

Ms Baker, 28, is in the second week of a three-month mission in southern Ethiopia with Medecins Sans Frontieres Belgium, working as an outreach nutritional nurse.

Thousands of people, mainly farmers, travel up to 250 kilometres to reach the mobile clinic where Ms Baker and up to 10 other staff work.

The team visits five locations each week, testing for malaria and screening the people for severe and moderately acute malnutrition. They were working in the small rural village of Allelu when these photographs were taken.

The team weighs, measures and tests the appetites of those who come to see them, registering them and giving nutritional supplements to those who need them.

Ms Baker, from Brisbane, has been a nurse for seven years. She has worked in remote locations in Australia, including Thursday Island and Derby in Western Australia, as well as London.

Her first mission with MSF was in Sri Lanka. Five months after coming home and working as an agency nurse, she flew to Ethiopia.

In May, the nutritional crisis in southern Ethiopia was dire, according to Ms Baker, but the clinics are making a difference. To see a child becoming healthier and gaining weight "makes your heart sing", she says.

Last week the UN estimated that up to 17 million people in the Horn of Africa urgently needed food, up from 9 million earlier this year, as drought, soaring food prices and conflict took a toll on the region.

An anti-poverty summit this week pledged nearly $US3 billion ($A3.58 billion) to fund an ambitious malaria control plan to save more than 4.2 million lives around the world. The funding, which includes $US1.1 billion from the World Bank, will be used to support rapid implementation of the first global malaria action plan.

It was announced at a summit called by UN chief Ban Ki-moon to re-energise the race to achieve eight poverty reduction goals by 2015.

Malaria affects half of the world's population — 3.3 billion people in 109 countries — and causes nearly 1 million deaths per year, according to UN officials.

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Bono praises McCain, Obama and Americans

from CNN

Global activist and U2 frontman Bono attended the United Nations General Assembly in New York to push world leaders to join his ONE campaign in fighting disease, poverty, and hunger. He talked to CNN's John Roberts on "American Morning" about recent successes and what's next.

ROBERTS: All this talk has been about the economy collapsing, $700 billion bailout. Congress is absolutely absorbed with that. Did that in any way affect what you were trying to do this week? Are people more focused on this economy than in helping out developing nations?

BONO: We got good news this week. I know normally I'm on your program with bad news -- the whingeing rock star -- but it's great. There's a disease, malaria -- it's 3,000 African kids die every day of mosquito bites. Sounds mad, but it's true. And people have committed and it looks like the funds are on the table so that that disease will be no more by 2015. That makes people like me punch the air and everyone who wears a ONE T-shirt and all our white band campaigners on college campuses all over the country -- it was a great day for them yesterday so we're celebrating that. I know it's extraordinary, that while you're having this meltdown on the markets, that people could even concentrate on this stuff, but I'm really grateful that they did. We had both [presidential] candidates make very powerful statements about the necessity for nonmilitary tools, for instance, in foreign policy. This is an America that both candidates want to show to the rest of the world -- the greatness of America.

ROBERTS: So you're hearing what you want to hear from these candidates?

BONO: Yeah. And you couldn't imagine a few years ago that you would have candidates so close to an election talking about this stuff, so yeah. Video Watch Bono say how he uses his star status on politicians »

ROBERTS: You were talking to Christine Romans outside the studio, who just did that piece for us a few minutes ago on what else could you do with $700 billion. What could you do with $700 billion?

BONO: We wouldn't be asking for that kind of money. These are serious matters, people have lost their jobs. But I think the bill for the whole world -- so America would be like a third of it -- for $25 billion you could absolutely change the world. You could put kids in school, most kids in school. You could eradicate diseases like malaria, as we're saying. We could change the water supplies. But what's important is that people who want to change the world, want to see their country, they see it as a patriotic act to show the world innovation of America, technology of America, pharmacology of America.

ROBERTS: For $25 billion, you could put every kid who's out of school in the world into school? That seems like a lot of people for $25 billion. Pretty good return on your investment.

BONO: It's a great return on investment. You heard me on your program before talking about debt cancellation. Strangely Americans don't know that because of debt cancellation there are already an extra 29 million African children in school. That's incredible. Because people got out on the streets on the (RED) campaign and stuff like that, there's now 2.5 million Africans on AIDS drugs, which are expensive. So your country is turning for me in the right direction on these issues.

ROBERTS: So you're hearing some of what you want to hear, particularly on the malaria issues. But the European Union had promised to increase aid by $50 billion between 2005 and 2010. It looks like they're going to fall $40 billion short.

BONO: They are, but they're still ahead of America. That's the bad news. You don't want to get me into the ring.

ROBERTS: Absolutely! Come on.

BONO: We've had meetings with Sarkozy this week as well as talking with McCain and Palin and as well as always talking with the Obama campaign. We do keep up the pressure on the Europeans, but the Europeans are way ahead of America on aid, just to put it in context. But you're right. They're not coming through on all of it. We will torture them too. That's our job.

ROBERTS: You talk a lot about these United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Let me go over a couple of those. It was supposed cut global poverty in half by the year 2015. Universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010. Begin to reverse the incidence of malaria by 2015. How far along that road are we?

BONO: The Millennium Development Goals are in a bit of trouble. It is astonishing to me ...

ROBERTS: Whose fault is that?

BONO: You know, politicians. They love signing checks, but they don't like cashing them. They love the photograph. These G-8 meetings, you'll see myself and my partner Bob Geldof arm-wrestling with politicians up against the wall.

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Fighting poverty makes business sense to companies

from the Los Angeles Times

By Richard Boudreaux,

UNITED NATIONS -- It's been a bad week for a global anti-poverty summit. Even before Wall Street's turmoil damped the generosity of donor countries, economists were predicting that food and fuel price shocks would drive 100 million people into destitution across the world.

But Thorleif Enger and Michael Landau see opportunity amid the gloom. They have launched investments aimed at helping some of Africa's poorest countries ease the crisis by producing more food.

Enger's Norwegian fertilizer giant, Yara International, and Landau's New York-based financial services company, Map International, announced the ventures this week in response to an appeal to corporate chiefs to join a United Nations campaign to reduce poverty in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Unlike previous U.N. pitches to business executives, which played to their sense of social responsibility, this one asks them simply to look for profitable markets in underserved regions of poor countries.

"If you look at where is the biggest potential to increase agricultural production, it's Africa," Enger said in an interview. "We're there to make money. We make no secret about it."

Yara plans to spend $60 million to build two seaport terminals, in Tanzania and Mozambique, to speed shipments of its fertilizer to millions of African farmers, bypassing now-clogged government port facilities and lowering the product's cost.

Map expects to bring modern electronic banking to 1 million Ugandans within two years via low-cost, specially programmed mobile phones. Many of its target customers are long-isolated farmers, who would gain access to credit.

The commitments were among $16 billion in pledges announced this week by private companies, governments, charities and U.N. agencies during a summit of the world body's 192 member states to finance its anti-poverty goals.

Those pledges included $4.5 billion to get all the world's children in school by 2015, a $1-billion-a-year program to buy surplus crops from poor farmers and $3 billion to fight malaria.

More than 60 companies have signed commitments to invest in poor countries in support of the development goals, U.N. officials said. They include Coca-Cola, DuPont, Vodafone, Sumitomo Chemical and Microsoft.

U.N. officials gathered executives of 33 companies, many of which have not yet signed up, for lunch Wednesday. They heard an appeal by former President Clinton, who said the drive for self-sufficiency in poor countries facing food shortages offered "staggering" opportunities to invest in agriculture.

Executives said the credit crunch was not a serious obstacle to planned investments, although some said they would seek support from their governments to face the risks involved.

Private overseas investment in poor countries is often plagued by lawlessness and weak regulatory regimes. But Enger and Landau said they were not discouraged by conditions in Africa.

"There's a lot of goodwill on the part of governments there," Enger said.

Enger's company is offering to help link its port terminals to isolated farming regions by road or rail so that farmers could import fertilizer and move crops to market faster and more cheaply.

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Stringing together strangers

from the Herald Mail


BOONSBORO - Sally Poole will never meet the women who make the necklaces and other handmade jewelry she's selling on their behalf through BeadforLife.

To Poole, who lives in Boonsboro, it doesn't matter that those women live a world away in East Africa.

"I think we need to care for each other around the world," Poole said.

Poole will sell the beads from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, as part of the Fall Fest at Mount Lena United Methodist Church. The event will feature food and crafts. All of the money collected from the sale of the jewelry will be sent to BeadforLife to benefit Ugandan bead makers.

Since BeadforLife was founded in Colorado in 2004, it has been helping women of Uganda find a market for the paper beads they've been creating for years. In North America, BeadforLife is recognized as a nonprofit organization.

It was Poole's sister-in-law, Evonne Cave, who introduced her to BeadforLife, whose mission is "Eradicating poverty one bead at a time." Poole said Cave's church had used BeadforLife as an outreach program last Christmas and suggested Poole use it for her own church.

Poole said with her sister-in-law's recommendation, she logged online to find out more about the nonprofit program.

"I just loved it. I thought it was amazing," she said. "And the fact that they are a Fair Trade Federation member is just wonderful."

Fair Trade Federation provides fair wages for disadvantaged persons.

After Poole signed up, BeadforLife provided her with a box of jewelry and other items, a price list and information about the organization. She said she didn't have to make a monetary investment for any of the products.

"It's a really nice program. You sell what you can and send back what you haven't sold," she said.

Pieces range in cost from $5 for a simple bangle bracelet to $30 for multiple-strand necklaces. In addition to beads, she has other products, including a CD, note cards and soft jewelry bag. Poole said the shorter necklaces are the most popular.

Unlike similar programs, Poole doesn't receive any special incentive to sell the product. "I don't get a piece of jewelry just to be a hostess," she said.

On first sight, the jewelry looks like beads made of stone or a molded bead. Actually, each bead is handmade from strips of paper. The Ugandan beaders cut long triangular pieces of paper from colorful pieces of magazine paper.

According to BeadforLife literature, it takes 30 seconds for a beader to roll each individual bead. Once the paper is tightly rolled, a drop of glue keeps the paper together. Than each bead is treated with sealant to give the bead a shiny appearance and also to make the jewelry water resistant. It takes the women about two weeks to string a complex necklace.

The result is a piece of jewelry that Poole said people have a hard time believing is made of paper.

The organization is careful to show that all proceeds support the women, their communities and the BeadforLife program. According to the organization's 2006 financial overview, for every $10 necklace sold, $2.10 goes directly to the beader, $1.70 supports community development work in Uganda to fight extreme poverty, $2.40 supports work in North America to educate people about the program, 70 cents is spent between administrative costs in Uganda and North America and fundraising in North America, and $3.10 is allocated for future investment in community development.

BeadforLife reports that the average beader now makes on average $1,200 a year for their work. By comparison, they used to make less than $1 a day.

Wearing a few purchased pieces herself, Poole said she has had many comments from others, asking where did she get the necklaces. One woman, Poole said, told her that the long, single-strand necklace "felt really light" around her neck compared to heavier wooden beads.

With the response she's received from the beads, Poole's hoping to accomplish her goal.

"I'll be able to send back $2,000 if we're able to sell every piece of jewelry," Poole said. Previously she sold more than $300 worth of beads in one day.

Those who want to do more than purchase jewelry can also sponsor a student through BeadforLife, or host a bead party to sell the beads from home.

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U.N. Receives New Pledges of Aid Totaling $16 Billion

from the New York Times


UNITED NATIONS — Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, announced on Thursday that the organization had received an additional $16 billion in pledges to fight a host of global ills like hunger and malaria, calling it an important signal that the world financial crisis would not impair aid efforts.

“That expression of the global commitment is all the more remarkable because it comes against the background of a global crisis,” Mr. Ban said at a news conference.

But his optimism was not shared universally, with some other senior officials suggesting that the ripple effects from the credit crisis would eventually force governments to cut back the amount of money they actually donate.

The new pledges emerged from a special series of meetings attended by 96 heads of state or heads of government, which were held on the sidelines of the annual General Assembly, all focused on a series of eight development goals. They included $4.5 billion for education, $3 billion to combat malaria and $1.75 billion in aid to prevent starvation in the Horn of Africa.

Some of the bigger donations came from oil powers. Norway pledged $1 billion over 10 years to reduce child and infant mortality, while Saudi Arabia committed $500 million toward enrolling an additional 24 million children in primary school by 2010.

China offered to provide a battery of programs to improve agricultural yields, health care and education, as well as to promote clean energy in Africa. On the extended list of new pledges released by the United Nations, the only donation listed from the United States was $61 million over five years to help African farmers get better seeds.

A spokesman for the United States Mission to the United Nations said it was checking the figure, which was released late on Thursday.

Gordon Brown, the British prime minister who shared the podium with Mr. Ban at the news conference, said an economic crisis was precisely the wrong time to reduce development aid. Given the rising cost of food, fertilizer and fuel, for example, it was more important than ever to help African farmers improve their yields, he said.

But other officials said people expecting the latest commitments to be met were kidding themselves because the financial crisis was likely to cause Western governments to cut their budgets. “Promising to get people more money for development?” Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said during a breakfast with reporters on Thursday. “This is not true. We are lying.”

The Group of 8 industrialized nations pledged in 2005 to donate more than $25 billion to Africa by 2010, but figures released by the United Nations this month showed that only $4 billion had actually been provided.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

YouTube, Will.i.am lend names to anti-poverty fight

from AFP via Google

Video-sharing website YouTube and Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am launched an initiative called "In My Name" on Thursday aimed at raising awareness about efforts to fight global poverty.

In what it described as a "video petition," YouTube set up a new channel where contributors can post their own videos urging world leaders to step up their efforts to end poverty.

"This is your chance to join the video petition to end world hunger," YouTube said in an announcement on the site's blog (youtube.com/blog).

The initiative was timed to concide with a summit being held at the United Nations, where world leaders are meeting this week to discuss the UN Millennium Development Goals aimed at ending global poverty by 2015.

The YouTube drive is led by Will.i.am and non-profits Oxfam, Global Call to Action Against Poverty, Save the Children and Comic Relief.

Singers John Legend, Annie Lennox and Fergie, actresses Scarlett Johansson and Mischa Barton and Jordan's Queen Rania were among the celebrities lending their names to the project.

YouTube said it would accept submissions through November 1 at youtube.com/inmyname and that a mash-up of the best entries would be put together and shown to world leaders at the UN General Assembly.

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Australia private sector encouraged to help end global poverty

from the ABC

Australia's private sector has been being encouraged to take a bigger role in ending global poverty at the launch of Make Poverty History's 2008 campaign in Sydney.

The launch was timed to coincide with the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals Summit, a meeting of more than 180 UN member nations in New York.

The chairman of Business for Millennium Development, Simon McKeon, says businesses need to think outside the square and invest in projects to end poverty in developing countries.

"There is money to be made in poverty and I don't think we should be embarrassed about that," he said.

"Tens of millions of the poorest people in the world over the last two decades have been lifted out of abject poverty simply by the workings of the market.

"Many of them are in China and we need to learn from that and actually just spread it around."

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Clinton calls on business to end hunger

from Forbes


Former President Bill Clinton and activist-rocker Bob Geldof called on business leaders to do their part to help solve the international food crisis that pushed 75 million people into hunger and poverty last year alone.

Clinton said businesses could help solve the problem by providing farm credits, help improve agricultural productivity and foster storage and distribution systems in developing countries.

"This is not a thing that government can do alone. We have to have heavy private sector involvement," Clinton said. "The money here is not going to be massive and the payoff is going to be great."

He said he believed the future would see much more food produced locally and that would help reduce world hunger.

"The energy prices and supply reality alone, the inevitable necessity to get the developing world involved with the developed world in the fight against climate change, all of these things are going to drive us toward more agricultural self-sufficiency," Clinton said.

Clinton and Geldof spoke at a luncheon Wednesday devoted to bringing the private sector into a partnership with government and civil society to help meet the UN millennium development goal of halving the number of hungry people on Earth by 2015.

Currently there are some 923 million people going hungry on the planet and world food production will have to double by 2050 to keep up with population growth, according to the UN.

Geldof challenged the private sector to look at the problem - especially in Africa, the world's poorest continent, as a business opportunity rather than a charity case.

"There should be a logical approach to the business of Africa, a continent that has yet to be built and is open for business," he said. "There's nothing that means you have to go there with a bleeding heart, anything different than just creating profit, opportunity and growth."

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World leaders to give new impetus to fight against poverty

from AFP via Google

UNITED NATIONS — UN chief Ban Ki-moon was Thursday to host a summit here to galvanize world support for achieving key poverty-reduction goals by 2015 despite soaring energy and food prices compounded by the financial crisis.

Nearly 100 world leaders are to join top private sector officials, including billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates, foundations and civil society, to pledge new commitments to revive the flagging battle to the achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Among those expected at the plenary session and 40 partners events on malaria, education and health will be British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, World Health Organization head Margaret Chan, World Bank President Robert Zoellick and U2 singer and global anti-poverty campaign Bono.

In 2000, the United Nations adopted eight goals to be met by all the world's countries by 2015.

They include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability and creating global partnerships for development.

Despite some progress, "We're still significantly off track on a number of MDGs," British Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander told reporters Wednesday, citing "the 75 million kids without no classroom and teachers to teach them, more 55 percent of them young girls."

In other setbacks, more than 500,000 mothers in developing countries die in childbirth or from pregnancy complications every year and almost half of the developing world population still lacks sanitation facilities.

"I hope the meeting would mark an occasion whereby words of commitments can be turned into plans for action," Alexander said. "We will be keen to see at the conclusion of the summit practical actions being taken by a number of different states to make sure that we step up our commitments at this point, half way through 2015."

Monday a high-level meeting on Africa's development ended with call for rich countries to honor their pledge to double their annual aid to the continent, which is trailing the rest of the world in achieving the MDGs.

"We are concerned that, at the current rate, the commitment of doubling aid to Africa by 2010 as articulated at the (2005) G8 summit in Gleneagles (Scotland) will not be reached," a statement issued at the end of the meeting said.

"We call for the fulfillment of all official development assistance-related commitments, including the commitments made by many developed countries to achieve the target of 0.7 percent of gross national income for official development assistance by 2015," it added.

The OECD said rich countries were behind in their aid commitments and needed to increase the level by 12 percent by 2010.

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Child poverty website piloted in the Valleys

from Wales Online

by Katie Bodinger,

AN INNOVATIVE website to help lift children out of poverty has been piloted and launched in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Council leader Russell Roberts joined the Minister for Social Justice & Local Government, Dr Brian Gibbons, at the launch of the Child Poverty Solutions Wales website.

The bilingual site was created to offer essential advice, support and information to councils and their partner agencies as they work together to change the future of children and young people, through innovative practice and working within the law.

It also includes training modules for councillors to help them understand the causes and effects of child poverty and how local authorities can tackle the issues.

A first of its kind in Wales, it was vital it was tested by the people who will benefit most from it before being launched across the country.

As a result, following its development by the Save the Children in Wales and the Welsh Local Government Association, it was introduced in a number of authorities, including RCT, for a trial run.

Following its success, the Welsh Assembly Government-funded site was launched at the award-winning Rhydyfelin Integrated Children’s Centre this month.

Mr Roberts, who is also WLGA improvement spokesman, said: “Every child in Wales deserves the best start chances in life and the opportunity to live life to his or her full potential.

“Tackling child poverty is a key priority for every council in Wales and this toolkit shows local authorities’ seriousness and commitment to ensuring the best possible outcomes for the most vulnerable children and young people across their communities.

“Furthermore, it is an example of real partnership working at its best with all partners striving towards the same goal in delivering responsive services for those who need them the most.”

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Illinois legislature overrides Blagojevich on hospital discounts

from the Chicago Tribune

By Judith Graham

A groundbreaking bill extending hospital discounts to people without health insurance has become law after the legislature overturned Gov. Rod Blagojevich's amendatory veto.

The Illinois House voted 97-0 Tuesday to endorse the original measure, which was passed unanimously in June. The Senate's vote Monday was 55-0. The legislation requires hospitals to offer significant discounts to uninsured Illinoisans. Instead of paying the full sticker price—typically two to three times the actual cost of care—consumers will pay charges based on the actual cost plus a 35 percent markup.

To qualify for discounts, consumers have to meet financial criteria. In urban areas, families who earn up to six times the federal poverty level—$127,200 for a family of four—will be eligible for price breaks. In rural areas, the eligibility limit is set at three times the poverty level, or $63,600 for a family of four. According to one estimate, about 775,000 Illinois families will qualify under those standards.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

45 Pct of Puerto Ricans living below poverty line

from Comtex

San Juan, - Almost half of Puerto Ricans last year lived below the poverty line, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released Tuesday.

The median household income in the U.S. commonwealth last year was $17,741, though the figure for families including a married couple was $26,930.

The data published by the Census Bureau show that the 45.5 percent of Puerto Ricans living in poverty included 11.2 percent of the island's college graduates and more than 62 percent of people who didn't complete high school.

The report also states that in 2007, 66 percent of the population over 25 years of age had a high school diploma, while in 2000 the figure had been 60 percent.

Among the 25-34 age group, the percentage of those who had a high school diploma was 82.5 percent, compared with 37.1 percent among residents over 65.

Rising Food Prices Affect World's Poor

from the Voice of America

By Véronique LaCapra

Worldwide, the demand for food is increasing. According to Janet Larsen, director of research at the Earth Policy Institute, the world population is growing by more than 70 million people each year. The institute is an environmental research organization that focuses on sustainable development.

"Around the world there are four billion people trying to move up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock products," says Larsen. She also blames the increasing diversion of food to fuel to run our growing automobile fleets.

Expert Says Not Enough Money Invested in Agriculture

Global food production has not been keeping pace with increased demand. Larsen says that in seven of the last eight years, the world has consumed more grain than it has produced.

Ann Tutwiler, the managing director for trade and development at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, says inadequate investment in agriculture by developing country governments and international aid agencies is a major reason why today food demand is outstripping supply.

"Spending on farming as a share of public spending fell by half between 1980 and 2004," says Tutweiler. "While official development assistance has almost doubled in the last five years, the agricultural share of that official development assistance has fallen from about 20 to 15 percent."

Rising Food Prices Hurt World's Poor

With demand already exceeding production, the recent spike in food prices has been a disaster for the world's poor. David Beckmann, president of the hunger relief organization Bread for the World, says that the impact has been most severe in 35 low-income countries that depend heavily on imports for food, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Those 35 countries are spending $60 billion more on food imports this year than they did in 2006," he said.

The World Bank estimates that the surge in food prices could push 100 million more people deeper into poverty.

And according to Janet Larsen, environmental problems will exacerbate the crisis. "We're looking at a future of water shortages," she says.

Larsen says that irrigation is the primary culprit, accounting for about 70 percent of all water use worldwide. "Irrigation has tripled since 1950," says Larsen, "but we have tripled our irrigation by over-pumping underground water resources, diverting rivers so that they no longer make it to the sea."

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Gates Foundation to Fund Experimental Food Aid Program

from the Washington Post

By Philip Rucker

UNITED NATIONS, - The world's largest philanthropy on Wednesday announced an initiative to transform the way the U.N. World Food Program purchases food by helping poor, small-scale farmers in undernourished countries of Africa and Latin America sell their surplus crops at competitive prices.

The Purchase for Progress program is designed to help combat hunger and poverty in the developing world by giving farmers, many of them women with little or no access to commercial markets, opportunities to reach reliable buyers, including the World Food Program. In a five-year pilot period, the $76 million program hopes to increase the incomes of 350,000 such farmers in 21 countries, including 15 in sub-Saharan Africa.

The program, to be administered by the World Food Program, is being funded largely by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's biggest grantmaker, and also is being supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the government of Belgium. It is the latest initiative focusing on small farmers for the Gates Foundation, which has committed more than $900 million to its agricultural development programs.

Purchase for Progress is one of several public-private hunger initiatives expected to be announced this week in New York, as world leaders converge at the U.N. General Assembly to draw attention to efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals, a series of benchmarks aimed at slashing the poverty levels in the world's poorest countries by 2015.

Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder and co-chair of his foundation, said in a statement that the Purchase for Progress program is "a major step toward sustainable change that could eventually benefit millions of poor rural households in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions."

"This is exactly the kind of innovative public-private partnership we need to advance the Millennium Development Goals and address extreme hunger and poverty around the world," said Gates, who will address a special session of the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.

The World Food Program, a humanitarian aid branch of the United Nations, feeds about 90 million people worldwide who do not have enough food. David Stevenson, the agency's director of policy, planning and strategy, said the new initiative will allow the agency to purchase more locally-raised food.

"Purchase for Progress is not about charity," Stevenson said. "In fact, far from it. It's about rewarding small-scale farmers, hard-working farmers, the majority of whom are women who are out every day working from sunrise, planting their fields in very difficult circumstances."

Hunger around the world is so chronic it far outstrips the financial resources committed to fight it, some scholars said. The World Food Program has warned of a surge in hunger that could plunge more than 100 million of the world's poorest people deeper into poverty.

The problem could grow more perilous against the backdrop of a food price shock that has been roiling world markets and igniting street riots. Over the past three years, world food prices were estimated to have surged by 80 percent -- outpacing even the 78 percent jump during the Soviet grain emergency of 1972-75.

"There's a need for a much larger international response," said Jeffrey D. Sachs, an economist and founder of the Millennium Promise Alliance, an anti-poverty nonprofit organization. "The Gates Foundation is playing an important role in helping people become aware of this, but in this case no single action is going to be decisive and what's really important is a scaling up of overall financing and support."

About 1.1 billion people live on $1 a day or less, and more than seven in 10 people around the world depend on work in agriculture for food and income, said Rajiv Shah, agriculture development director of the Gates Foundation.

"In order to help farmers and small farmers in part move out of poverty, you need to help them improve productivity," Shah said. "But you also need to improve access to markets and create the financial and commercial incentives so that farmers are rewarded for their additional efforts."

Shah said a preliminary test of the Purchase for Progress program in Uganda last year had "dramatic" results.

"For the first time, they had the incentive and the reward for participating in a formal and commercial market and that was transforming the way they thought about farming and agriculture and their ability to invest in their children," Shah said.

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LaBruzzo: Sterilization plan fights poverty

from the New Orleans Times Picayune

By Mark Waller

Worried that welfare costs are rising as the number of taxpayers declines, state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, said Tuesday he is studying a plan to pay poor women $1,000 to have their Fallopian tubes tied.

"We're on a train headed to the future and there's a bridge out," LaBruzzo said of what he suspects are dangerous demographic trends. "And nobody wants to talk about it."

LaBruzzo said he worries that people receiving government aid such as food stamps and publicly subsidized housing are reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated people who presumably pay more tax revenue to the government. He said he is gathering statistics now.

"What I'm really studying is any and all possibilities that we can reduce the number of people that are going from generational welfare to generational welfare," he said.

He said his program would be voluntary. It could involve tubal ligation, encouraging other forms of birth control or, to avoid charges of gender discrimination, vasectomies for men.

It also could include tax incentives for college-educated, higher-income people to have more children, he said.

LaBruzzo, 38, is white, married to a lawyer, has a toddler daughter and holds a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University.

His 81st House District runs from Old Metairie north to Bucktown and west along Lake Pontchartrain to the Suburban Canal. In a somewhat different configuration, it is the same district that sent white supremacist David Duke to the Legislature in 1989.

LaBruzzo described the tube-tying incentive as a brainstorming exercise that has yet to take form as a bill for the Legislature to consider. He said it already has drawn critics who argue the idea is racist, sexist, unethical and immoral. He said more white people are on welfare than black people, so his proposal is not targeting race.

LaBruzzo said other, mainstream strategies for attacking poverty, such as education reforms and programs informing people about family planning issues, have repeatedly failed to solve the problem. He said he is simply looking for new ways to address it.

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[comment] Markets should not rule us

from the New Statesman

by Nick Dearden

Bailing out the banks without progress on the world's problems such as poverty and climate change is like socialism for the rich. It's time for proper regulation...

Gordon Brown’s conversion to financial regulation this weekend is certainly better late than never. He has joined a wide range of statesmen who, despite their role in maintaining “hands off” global finance, have come to see the error of their ways.

In May the great and the good of European social democracy, led by Jacques Delors and Jacques Santer, both former Presidents of the European Commission, declared in a letter that “Financial markets can not govern us!”.

In fact much of the world has been governed by financial markets for decades, and the severe poverty which still exists in so many developing (and indeed developed) counties can in no small measure be laid at the door of all-powerful financial globalisation. Indeed the freeing up of the financial sector – to be as reckless as it chooses – has been the real essence of the globalisation project over nearly 30 years.

Real progress towards solving the world’s problems, poverty or climate change most prominently, would mean that the vast bailouts and injections of money that have been announced in recent days were not merely another form of ‘socialism for the rich’, but used to fundamentally reform global financial architecture.

A little discussed conference taking place in Doha in late November is a perfect opportunity for Brown to show his new-found credentials. The UN’s second Financing for Development conference will discuss the principles that should underlie aid, debt relief and funding for climate change. While campaigners currently fear the conference may represent a step backwards from the first conference held in Monterrey in 2002, it does have the potential to show the ‘have-nots’ of the world that global leaders are serious.

The starting point is the fact that financial globalisation allows massive transfers of money from developing to developed countries, with unprecedented ease. What in times past would have required guns boats and armies can now be achieved with a few clicks of a mouse.

To give a few examples, $160 billion is lost to the developing world every year through tax evasion, based on the fact that most trade takes place within global corporations and those corporations now have the ability to move that money around the world with few restrictions or questions asked. $250 billion is lost because $11.5 trillion of global assets are currently held in tax havens, like the UK, one of the centres of financial globalisation.

The global money markets turn over a mind-blowing $3.2 trillion every day – much of which is so-called ‘hot money’, speculative capital which moves very rapidly in and out of countries and currencies, causing immense damage. Indeed currency speculation played a large role in the South East Asian crash in 1997. Another $1.6 billion a day is transferred from poor to rich countries in debt ‘repayments’, based largely on loans recklessly thrust on newly independent countries in the 1960s and 70s by financial institutions which promptly raised interest rates to extortionate levels.

Needless to say these gigantic sums dwarf aid budgets.

Solutions to run-away finance are out there. A Currency Transaction Tax could be introduced to reduce volatility on the money markets or a restriction placed on the selling of developing country debt on secondary markets which would prevent ‘vulture funds’ profiting from the misery of developing countries.

It would be possible to prevent ‘capital flight’ removing the ability of countries to effectively tax corporate and individual activities within their jurisdiction through better policing and control of financial flows, allowing the international community to effectively shut down tax havens. A fair, transparent and participative mechanism could be introduced to work-out debt disputes and reduce the dependence of developing countries on financial markets and unelected, unaccountable organisations like the Paris Club.

These would be just the first reforms that would be necessary to put finance back in its box, return sovereignty to nations, and ensure a more equitable future for everyone.

Nick Dearden is director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign

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[comment] Will Canadian leaders keep promise to world's children?

from the Toronto Star

by Dave Toycen

Canadian elections are times to make promises and, hopefully, times to keep promises that are on the verge of being broken.

Tomorrow, Canada will have another critical opportunity to keep its promises as more than 100 world leaders gather at UN headquarters in New York City. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is convening them for a high-level event to re-energize their earlier commitment to meet the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Reducing by 50 per cent the number of people living in extreme poverty and cutting the child mortality rate by two-thirds are among the goals that leaders set in 2000 and promised to fulfill.

While some headway has been made since 191 countries, including Canada, established the goals in 2000, the current economic crisis along with recent soaring food and fuel prices threaten a halt to further inroads.

A new World Vision report on progress of the two goals related to child and maternal health to date, to be released at the UN summit, notes that more than 9 million children under the age of 5 still die annually from easily preventable causes.

Shocking as that number is, it marks an improvement from three decades ago when one in four children failed to celebrate their fifth birthday. Today, this number is less than one in 10.

Still, 62 countries are in danger of failing to meet the goal of reducing their child mortality rate by two-thirds.

Africa presents a special challenge – half of the continent's countries have shown either no change or an increase in their child mortality rates. Without a major boost in help from Canada and other developed nations, these countries will fail to meet their targets – and millions of children will needlessly die.

Preventing this tragedy requires neither unrealistic outlays nor medical breakthroughs. Most children die from diarrhea, malaria or respiratory illness, often in a lethal combination with malnutrition. Investments in safe water, anti-malaria nets and nutrition programs cost little and are proven lifesavers. The World Health Organization estimates that an additional $5.6 billion (U.S.) annually would save the lives of 4.3 million children in 2015 alone.

We know that leaders can raise almost $1 trillion in short order to respond to the global financial crisis. Why can't they find that same political will – and far less cash – to help the world's children?

We believe that Canadians want our country to be a leader in addressing poverty. In my conversations with many of World Vision's 600,000 supporters, I am struck by their concern for the poor. They keep their promises to children in developing countries through their generous support. Shouldn't our leaders do the same?

In June 2005, all parties backed a House of Commons resolution to increase foreign aid so that it would reach 0.5 per cent of our gross national income (GNI) by 2010, and 0.7 per cent by 2015. Currently, our foreign aid budget is a paltry 0.28 per cent of the national income, ranking 16th out of 22 OECD nations.

Canada first endorsed the 0.7 per cent level in 1970 shortly after Lester Pearson established that target. Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have achieved that goal, but the best Canada has done is 0.53 per cent–and that was more than 30 years ago, in 1975.

The Paul Martin government agreed to increase foreign aid spending by 8 per cent per year until 2010. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has maintained that commitment, but it has not been enough. Our contribution as a percentage of gross national income has fallen further from the 0.7 per cent objective, declining to the current 0.28 per cent over the past three years.

Dave Toycen is president and CEO of World Vision Canada.

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