Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The need for ecojustice: Wall Street, the City, Zurich take food out of the mouths of babes

MDG 2005 in Grid-Arendal. The 2009 report turns many more squares red. Click to see details.
Gains since the 1990s have been wiped out in one year, says the recent UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2009. Careful reading (summary below) suggests the need for a world social movement combining faith and aid groups, human rights, and environmental NGOs. Join the Quaker discussion on QEWnet.ning.com.

The following analysis cites the UN statistics, but goes beyond its polite phraseology.

  • Hunger which had dropped by 16% since 1990, reversed course during the 2008 food crisis -- largely due to commodities speculation and the ethanol craze. East Asia was particularly hard hit. This means 20 years' of gains under the Washington consensus "globalization" were lost in one year to the vampires of Wall Street, the City and Zurich.

  • Longterm trends to hunger [not in the MDG report]: Scientific data show other tipping points have been passed: peak fish in the 1990s, peak fertility for food crops a few years ago, peak water in the next decade, peak oil which raises cost of fuel and fertilizer

  • In 2009 global unemployment will reach 6.1-7 % for men and 6.5-7.4% for women, reversing slow gains in gender equality. (See summary of 2007 ILO report)

  • The fight against poverty has stalled. In 2009, an estimated 55 million to 90 million more people will be living in extreme poverty.

  • Child nutrition will fail to meet the 2015 MDG target. Even before the food crisis, more than 1/4 of children in poor countries were underweight for their age.

  • Rich countries have cut aid for family planning since the mid-1990s, on a per woman basis, despite the undeniable contribution of such programmes to maternal and child health. (See also ECOSOC and WHO criticism.)

  • Poor countries are unable to finance their own programmes. The debt service to export ratio has suddenly increased, as exports have fallen. But the World Bank will insist on its pound of flesh. Despite promises, its SAP policies (renamed PRSP) have changed little but the name.

  • Rich countries have broken their aid promises in NEPAD 2001 and Gleneagles 2005. Even if the promises were kept, actual aid (because it is calculated as a percentage of national income) would fall as a result of the financial meltdown. Remember the bailout bonuses and golden parachutes! Taking food out of babies' mouths.

Before the 2008 food and finance crisis

  • the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day had decreased from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion.

  • Primary education had reached 88%

  • Child deaths under age 5 decreased; even in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria nets and measles immunization had made dramatic progress.

  • The rate of infection by HIV (and of AIDS deaths) had peaked and declined. However, the provision of retroviral drugs to poor countries is once again in doubt due to Big Pharma lobbying and fewer donations.

In his introduction to the MDG report, UN Sec-Gen Ban Ki-moon puts the best face on it: if we act,there is hope. "We cannot allow an unfavourable economic climate to prevent us from realizing the commitments made in 2000. The global community cannot turn its back on the poor and the vulnerable. Now is the time to accelerate progress towards the MDGs. The goals are within reach, even in the very poor countries, with strong political commitment and sufficient and sustained funding."

Those who have been following the climate negotiations will recognize a familiar pattern. When corporations make money, the rich nations are generous -- at least in promises. Otherwise, nothing.

Could a new church-led Jubilee movement, this time in combination with climate NGOs, put enough pressure on our governments to change this? There has been talk of repaying ecological debt.

On June 24 Ban Ki-moon begged the G8 meeting (which turned deaf ears to him and to the Pope)

1. to remedy its $20 million annual shortfall in promised aid to Africa,
2. to make "ambitious and firm commitments" to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent, the levels the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says are required on the part of industrialized countries to ward off the worst effects of global warming" and
3. to "commit to a specific timetable and modalities to deliver the billions of dollars needed during the next few years to assist the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change."

Peace concerns also coincide with eco-justice. The theme of the UN's 9-11 September 2009 DPI/NGO Conference in Mexico City is "For Peace and Development: Disarm Now!”. Launching this campaign, Ban Ki-moon said, "We must disarm to save lives. We must disarm so that we can redirect precious resources to health, education and development."

Further references (an incomplete list)
For more details and campaigns:
Jubilee Research UK
Third World Network Singapore
Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP): coalition of over 100 NGOs incl One.org (USA), Make Poverty History (UK, Canada), Global Poverty Project (Australia). Their demands: trade justice, drop the debt, more and better aid
Kairoscanada info in English and French

Youth actions
The Trade to Climate Caravan in Europe Nov-Dec 2009: details in QEWnet Forum - Drewery
Quaker Right Sharing of World Resources USA
The Global Youth Action Network (GYAN) New York
UNICEF Voices of Youth
Oxfam International Youth Partnerships
CARE youth corps

Graphs, statistics, research
UNEP /GRID Arendal graphs, newsletter Environment and Poverty Times
IFPRI Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture (Sep 2009)
John Breen's
Poverty.com and FreeRice
Anup Shah's Global Issues raises questions about poverty, inequality, environment, militarism
Poverty mapping for researchers - includes environmental factors
Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) research
World Bank
PovertyNet tends to be technical and self-congratulatory; its research section is better.

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