Poverty  2004 -2009 File

Anti-Slavery TransFairUSA 8 Areas of Poverty near C.A.S.
One World Transparency International Fairtrade

2009-07-08:  One billion people starving - what can I do?

2009-05-23  Five minute movie:  Chicken-a-la-Carte

August 27, 2007: The movie Amazing Grace ...... + follow up site to work for an end to slavery www.theamazingchange.com 

February 14, 2007:  Reflection on Dr MY's microcredit success

October 24, 2006:  Microcredit - lecture in China by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus - must read

January 25, 2006: Trade Secrecy. The growing intimacy between business and political leaders is leaving poor countries on the sidelines of the world trade game, writes Dominic Eagleton (Guardian)

January 13, 2006 Tidings: Denial, self-absorption and blaming the victim keep us from understanding the plight of the poor - powerful article

2005 The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs - must read

June 28, 2005: Rich states told to stop poaching doctors (Guardian) ....and...."doctors" can be changed to "teachers"/"priests"/"nurses" etc

June 21, 2005: George Monbiot re G8 Meeting 

December 26, 2004: Fight poverty, not wars (Abp Williams - Guardian)

December 11, 2004: Half the world's children suffer from poverty, violence and AIDS (ABC)


Despite his own frailty, Pope John Paul II has vehemently called attention to the dire economic plight of the poorest people in developing countries. In October 2003 he urged bishops to be champions of social justice and human rights. In astonishingly undiplomatic language, he declared: 'The war of the powerful against the weak has, today more than ever before, created profound divisions between rich and poor. The poor are legion! Within an unjust economic system marked by significant structural inequities, the situation of the marginalized is daily becoming worse. 'How can we keep silent when confronted by the enduring drama of hunger and extreme poverty, in an age where humanity, more than ever, has the capacity for a just sharing of resources?' (#67). He called for a globalisation based on the principles of social justice and the preferential option for the poor, and singled out the problem of impossible international debts. (#69).

John Paul has tried to highlight this message in hundreds of talks and documents during the last 25 years. But his depiction of the global struggle against hunger and poverty as a 'war of the powerful against the weak' is, as far as I can recall, unprecedented. It reflects extreme exasperation at the current lamentable efforts, the dramatic failure of last year's trade negotiations at Cancun in Mexico, and the slow implementation of the UN Millennium Goals, with their clear strategies to cut in half the numbers of people suffering hunger and extreme poverty (living on less than $US1 a day) by 2015. Though 189 nations in 2000 adopted this historic project, few of the richer countries have honoured their commitments. Australia has done practically nothing to increase its aid.

In using the phrase, a 'war of the powerful against the weak', a wording almost Marxist with its overtones of class war, has John Paul overstated the situation? After all, the problems of development and global poverty are complex and arise from deep-seated and often intractable causes. Economists insist hunger is unnecessary Yet many leading economists and development experts agree with him very strongly, including Michael Todaro, Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, Jeffrey Sachs and James Wolfensohn, the Australian-born president of the World Bank, who warned after the September 11 2001 attacks that the response to terrorism must not detract us from the even more significant struggle against poverty and hunger.

Increasingly development thinkers have emphasised the need to bring social equity and justice into the heart of economic planning. The new consensus is reflected in Michael Todaro's standard text, Economic Development, now in its eighth edition. The writings of some economic development thinkers read curiously like papal social documents, with a striking consensus on the need to focus much more on enlarging human wellbeing. The thinking of Amartya Sen has also been significant in the development of the UN Human Development Reports since 1990. Sen won the Nobel prize for economics in 1998, with a prodigious output ranging from a critique of utilitarianism in economics, to describing the dynamics of famine prevention. His 1999 book, Development as Freedom, has won a remarkable international public readership, broadening the understanding of development beyond material dimensions to situating the process in terms of humanisation, of 'capacity' to function, to allow people to enlarge their freedom and wellbeing as moral persons.

Perhaps the failure of the world trade negotiations at Cancun gave the strongest signal yet to the developing world that, despite all the hopeful pledges made at the UN Millennium conference in 2000, most richer nations were not prepared seriously to help alleviate the desperate poverty in developing countries. Iraq war diverts resources

Moreover, the unilateralism and militarism of the US Bush Administration have polarised world opinion and destroyed the consensus that the war on global poverty was the most urgent priority for the entire human community. Immense sums of money are being squandered on arms and defence spending, instead of funding urgent economic development. The United States is estimated to spend up to $US400 billion on arms in 2004, compared with the $US15 billion it has pledged to economic aid and development. It is not melodramatic to say that millions of hungry and desperately poor people in developing countries will pay a cruel, unnecessary and deadly cost for the unprecedented arms spending.

 Astonishingly, there is almost total silence in our media and parliaments about these implications. Unfortunately Australia has been complicit with this dreadful outcome, enthusiastically encouraging the US to intervene militarily in Iraq, and then joining the invading forces of Britain and the USA. In the view of the Pope and church leaders worldwide, this war was unjustified and unnecessary, and has cost tens of thousands of lives. Though the numbers of people killed are relatively small by modern standards, very many more, perhaps millions, will die because of the resources diverted from the attack on poverty.

Sometimes sins of omission are vastly more deadly than sins of commission. Shocking though it be, it is no exaggeration to say that millions of people are dying unnecessarily and from diseases that are readily preventable. According to C. Ford Runge et al. in Ending Hunger in our Lifetime, every year 18 million people 'die prematurely from poverty-related causes... 50,000 every day, including 34,000 children under age five.' As Sen wrote: 'What makes this widespread hunger even more of a tragedy is the way we have come to accept' it 'as if it is essentially unpreventable'. Paul Streeten, another leading development economist, wrote: 'It is the fact that hunger today is unnecessary that makes its continued existence so shocking.' In his view, 'ultimately, the problem of eradicating hunger is a political problem rather than a nutritional or economic one.' The problem is not just one of production, but one of a more adequate distribution. The good news: we can do this! The great good news is that the eradication of hunger and the worst forms of poverty is possible within our lifetime. And it can be done comparatively cheaply.

 In his book, World Hunger and Human Rights, Thomas Pogge says that whereas 50 years ago the shift in world resources to eliminate poverty would have been enormous, today 'the required shift would be small and the opportunity cost for the developed countries barely noticeable.' 'Shifting merely 1 percent of aggregate global income - $US312 billion annually - from the richer to the poorer countries 'would eradicate severe poverty worldwide'. The aid needed to implement the Millennium Goals is much more modest, requiring richer countries to double their aid to $US100 billion, a fraction of what is spent on arms (more than $US800 billion) or agricultural subsidies (more than $US300 billion).

The Pope is right to be absolutely angry about the continued toleration of widespread hunger and poverty. Yet Catholics and other Christians in the West seem overwhelmingly deaf, dumb and blind to the phenomenal opportunities to defeat these ancient enemies of humanity. Need for action Why are we not shouting this message from the rooftops? Why are we not shaking the political foundations of this country to feed the hungry and generate resources to eradicate poverty? Despite the great efforts of Caritas and other organisations, when will we translate this cause into robust political action? When will our bishops speak out more strongly? When will our lay people, with their immense expertise and resources, show skilful leadership on these issues? Why are there not howls of outrage that Australia's overseas aid budget is so small, at 0.25% of GDP, a third of the target set by the United Nations? Do Australians realise that despite the government's lavish budget spending, we have cut our aid to Africa, to some of the most desperately impoverished people in the world? Even aid to Iraq, which we helped devastate, has been reduced from $40 million to a pitiful $22 million. Have we no shame? God, at least, is not indifferent, as Jesus insisted in his parable about the Last Judgment.

 Bruce Duncan is a Redemptorist, and teaches theology at the Yarra Theological Union in Melbourne

May 13, 2004 (Guardian)
Fair Trade Coffee Shops

Guardian May 9, 2004
Mao's Promised land ends in sweated labour 

The 19 dead cockle-pickers were victims of modern business practices

Monday February 9, 2004
The Guardian 
Felicity Lawrence

It has taken 19 bodies on a Morecambe beach to bring the scandal of modern working conditions to public attention. While police vow to bring to justice the ruthless gangmasters who sent migrants out against such treacherous tides, we reel in shock at this sudden exposure of the brutal exploitation that has been taking place right under our noses. Yet we are still talking of victims of "sands and snakeheads", as though last week's tragedy was an unfortunate conjunction of climate and crime.

It is the nature of the free market, however, rather than its rogue elements, that we should be examining now. Today's food and manufacturing sectors are dependent on hidden armies of cheap migrant labour, both legal and illegal. They cut our daffodils in Cornwall, pack our carrots in Lincolnshire and pick our fruit in Kent. They piece together our microwaves in the north and build our electrical goods in the south.

This is the new 21st-century global business model, where "efficient" manufacturers and retailers talk of driving costs out of the chain. They avoid tiresome forward contracts committing them to specific volumes. Such contracts would help suppliers plan their factory rotas, but they also entail a risk of under- or over-supply. Instead, retailers and manufacturers order "just in time" from wherever is cheapest around the globe, waiting for their barcode scanning to tell them how much consumers are buying. Instant communications allow them to relay what they need at a moment's notice. Modern transport networks enable them to have it delivered with unprecedented speed. To survive in this brave new world, today's supplier must leap to in equally short order, so they pass the risk down the line to those at the bottom, to labourers who are turned on and off like a tap to meet fluctuating demand. And if necessary they must be kept hard at it until the orders are finished.

Few workers in developed industrial economies are prepared to tolerate the conditions this new model creates. In the west, we imagine we left behind the brutal pecking order of the docks, or the semi-slave hours of the textile factories, at the turn of the 20th century. But this new flexible ordering system still needs not just flexible labour, but flexible labour in excess. For to turn labour on and off like a tap, you must have a surplus.

The need has been met by migrants, many of whom are drawn into Europe by collapsing agricultural prices at home, who are desperate enough to take whatever they are offered and frightened enough to be docile.

Instead of protecting them, we try to send them home, imagining illogically that we can enjoy the free movement of goods and capital that globalisation has brought, but can shut out the free movement of labour that has inevitably accompanied it. If they are organised by crime, it is because the new business model refuses to take responsibility.

But for their numbers, the Chinese who died might have gone unnoticed. Many others do. Two Poles killed in a greenhouse accident last summer. An unidentified migrant electrocuted when he pushed the wrong button on a tractor, closing the arms of a crop sprayer on overhead power lines. A coach crash in the snow at dawn last month between two vehicles taking Czechs and Portuguese to work in a bacon factory. These accidents happen because migrants are routinely exposed to danger - driving machinery without training, out on the roads before the gritters, sent on to quicksand without knowledge of the tides.

Nor is there anything unusual about the conditions in which the Chinese labourers and their compatriots were living - hot-bunking, dozens to a small flat, inhumane working hours, pitiful pay. Today's gangmasters house 21st-century workers in squalor like this right round the country. I have come across cases from Bristol to Sussex to East Anglia, from the 65 migrants living in an old 10-bedroomed hotel with no kitchen and no heating to the 27 camping in a small house without sanitation. Extortionate rents are deducted from wages for this housing to disguise the fact that migrants are being paid less than the minimum wage.

Instead of giving permanent jobs to regular staff, many factories have devolved a substantial part of their workforce to employment agencies, which subcontract to gangmasters - so that any contractual relationship between the factory and its labour is at several steps removed.

These conditions are not confined to migrants in the developed world. Globalisation has seen migrations within developing countries too, with newly urbanised workers providing "flexible" labour 16 hours a day, seven days a week, from spreading slums in Africa and south-east Asia, to meet retailers' "just-in-time" ordering.

The gangmasters work not in a vacuum but in a globally competitive free market. The drive to reduce consumer prices is being led from the US, and in particular by the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart. Even the pro-business magazine Business Week recently questioned whether Wal-Mart, which owns Asda in the UK, and its seemingly virtuous business model, might have perverse consequences.

With sales of $245bn in 2002, Wal-Mart is bigger than all but 30 of the world's largest economies. It has cut tens of billions of dollars out of the supply chain and passed the savings on to shoppers as bargain prices. It has a global workforce of 1.4 million people, and plays a huge role in wages and working conditions worldwide. It is driving productivity across the globe. It is also vigorously anti-union. Its prices are lower because it has aggressively squeezed costs, including labour costs. In anticipation of its arrival with 40 new stores in southern California, other supermarkets have tried to freeze or reduce wages and benefits, saying they will not be able to compete if they don't.

In this country, it is casual labour that has felt the squeeze of price wars. Out in the fields of East Anglia or on the sandbanks of Lancashire, it is as though we have regressed to the dark days of the early industrial revolution. In the name of a flexible workforce and cheap consumer goods, two centuries of reforming legislation have been thrown away - the factory acts pioneered by philanthropists' sense of humanity and shame, the employment regulations fought for by early labour organisations. These were introduced to curb the abuses and excesses of that last great revolution in trade. Regaining these basic rights in a global labour market is a huge challenge.

 Not on the Label, Felicity Lawrence's book on the politics of food, is published by Penguin in May


Special report  Refugees            Special investigation Maggie O'Kane: the refugee trail

No peace without hope
The Australian  - Roy Eccleston
04 February 2004

JAMES Wolfensohn, the 70-year-old Australian who heads the World Bank in Washington, DC, sounds like a worried man. The world, says the wealthy former investment banker, is out of kilter.

The rich minority on the planet live for today and don't see the deluge of impoverished people about to descend on them during the next 30 years. The world's developed countries spend vast amounts on arms but only a fraction on aid.

There's a protectionist mood in the US and Europe at present, and that's a problem because without free trade the poor countries can't prosper.

All these things add up to poverty and despair for many of the 5billion people in the developing world, and help fuel terrorism and extremism.

If a Martian were to land here, Wolfensohn mused recently, it would report home that this planet is crazy.

.....    "I personally feel the world is out of balance," he says. "The way the world is dealing with problems of poverty and peace seem to be disconnected."

Military spending worldwide is now probably $US1000 billion ($1315 billion), and spending on subsidies or tariffs to protect developed world farmers is about $US300 billion. Meanwhile, the rich countries offer no more than $US50-$US60 billion in aid to developing countries while blocking most of their agricultural exports one of the few ways these countries could pull themselves out of poverty.

"The three things are linked," Wolfensohn argues. There are 5 billion people in the developing world, 3 billion earning under $US2 a day, and 1.2 billion earning under $1 a day. "If you can't give them hope, which comes from getting a job or doing something productive, giving them their self-respect, these people become the basis on which terrorists or renegades or advocacy groups can flourish. It's an essentially unstable situation."  ....

"If you cannot deal with the question of hope or economic security, there is no way that with military expenditure you can have peace. I think you could spend $US2 trillion on military expenditure, but if you do nothing about poverty and development you're not going to have stability."

"So my message is a simple one: You cannot take your eye off the ball of poverty and I hope that's a view Australia will also take." ...

Poverty  2003 File