Tuesday, 7 December 2004

Wounds that heal and cracks that fix

Further to yesterday's post, I was reading in the paper today that:

- 45m children will die by 2015 because of the cuts the world's richest nations are making in their donations to tackle poverty.

- 247 million more people in sub-Saharan Africa will be living on less than $1 a day in 2015

- 97 million more children will still be out of school in 2015

- 53 million more people in the world will lack proper sanitation facilities.

Barbara Stocking, Oxfam Director, said:

“As rich countries get richer, they’re giving less and less. This is a scandal that must stop. The world’s poorest children are paying for rich countries’ policies on aid and debt with their lives. 2005 offers the chance of an historic breakthrough, but unless world leaders act now, the year will end in shameful failure.”

Britain is about to take on the presidency of the G8 - the gathering of the world's richest nations (the US, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia) and pressure seems to be mounting to force Blair to do something constructive with this platform.

The problem is that G8 has a pretty poor record at doing this. As Oxfam point out in their report "Paying the Price"

"In 1970 G8 countries agreed to spend just 0.7 per cent of their incomes on aid. Thirty-four years on none of the G8 members have reached this target and many have not even set a timetable.

"In addition, only 40% of the money counted as aid actually reaches the poorest countries, and when it does it is often arrives late. For example, 20 percent of the European Union’s aid arrives at least a year late and 70 percent of American aid is spent on US goods and services.

"At a measly 0.14 per cent of national income, US spending on foreign aid in 2003 was one-tenth of what it spent on Iraq. The US won’t reach the aid target needed to halve world poverty until 2040. Germany won’t reach the target until 2087 while Japan is decreasing its aid commitments."

That's pathetic.

All of this made me think of the Band Aid single again. I just watched a really interesting, and yes, moving documentary on the making of this record. The first "Feed the World" single and Live Aid raised about £84m between them. It's hard not to be cynical about that in the face of the statistic that the interest on the African debt is growing at a rate of $100m per day. True, but Bono talked passionately about how he has met doctors who had been put through medical school in Ethiopia because of the Band Aid Trust. Rather than ranting at the musicians and make accusations of tokenism though, I think we should be saving our anger for the governments that refuse to drop these debts. The British Government has dropped the VAT on the Band Aid single and the Live Aid DVD, which was nice of them, but nowhere near enough.

We should be angry. I'm angry. And dammit. I'm going to do something about it.

Starting here but I'm determined to get off my arse and have started looking into this. We can do something about this. We can make a difference. Instead of the usual collection of CDs and DVDs on your christmas list, ask your family to give you a goat, or a brood of chickens (thanks to C. for that link). It's got to be better than a pair of socks, anyway.

I was going to end with a quote from Bono - a tireless and visible campaigner for Africa. I've changed my mind though, and I'm going to finish with the Edge, who came up with this pearl of wisdom whilst watching Bono rehearsing before laying down his vocal for the Band Aid Single:

"If you look after the consonants, the vowels will look after themselves"

Sleep tight.

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