HEADLINE: ARGENTINA -- Argentina's economic chief, seeking new financial help for his beleaguered country, continued discussions Friday with International Monetary Fund officials.
"Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna has assured us that substantial further progress may be expected next week," IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler said in a statement. "Consequently, Argentina and the IMF are entering an active negotiating relationship focusing on four areas." Those areas include establishing a budget framework, ending a banking freeze and reinforcing the independence of the central bank, Koehler said.
Lavagna arrived in Washington Thursday for two days of meetings with IMF, World Bank and U.S. Treasury officials. Originally scheduled to return to Buenos Aires Friday, he has extended his trip one more day, Economy Ministry spokesman Sergio Federovisky told reporters. Lavagna said the most immediate goal of his meetings in Washington was to get IMF's board of directors to consider a one-year postponement of a $1.7 billion payment to multinational lending agencies due in mid-July.
"During the negotiations with IMF, which would start next week, we will talk about next year's payments," Lavagna told reporters at the Argentine embassy. Argentina, with South America's second largest economy, is in the midst of its worst economic crisis. One in five workers is now without a job, inflation has soared 26 percent in the first five months of the year and a banking freeze begun in December is still locking away billions of dollars in Argentine savings.
The government defaulted on $141 billion in debt at the end of 2001 and then devalued the peso, which has lost 73 percent of its value. Argentina has about $5 billion in debt service due in 2002 and another $9 billion coming due next year to the IMF, World Bank and other agencies. An IMF deal would unlock other credits from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank - and bilateral aid from governments.
An IMF mission that returned from Argentina last week reported no progress. Koehler said the Argentine government has resolved problems with two legal reforms that the IMF demanded as a condition for return of the negotiating mission to Argentina. (The Associated Press)
Organizers said they expected more than 100,000 protesters from all over Europe. Organizers said they had set up a security force of 450 people to prevent violent incidents. They complained that police had stopped numerous groups of demonstrators from entering Seville, including 450 leftists who were barred entry on the Portuguese border.
Up to 100 Spanish, French and Italian anti-globalists who had launched a sit-in at a Seville church abandoned it to join the march. They had wanted to back the 48-hour hunger strike of around 400 African immigrants who have been holding a sit-in at a Seville university since June 10 to press Spain to grant them work permits. Some of the hunger strikers also joined the demonstration, which featured posters reading "No person is illegal." (Deutsche Presse-Agentur June 22, 2002)
HEADLINE: CANADA -- THE G8, IMF and World Bank are the source of African countries' problems, Women for Change (WFC) executive director Emily Sikazwe has charged. In an interview with Canadian Broadcasting (CBC) Corporation national radio, Sikazwe said the G8, IMF and World Bank have no moral authority to begin restructuring African countries' economies.
She said the G8, IMF and World Bank should stop pretending to care so much about Africa when they had been the source of the continent's problems. "What I ask instead is your solidarity in our fight against the terrorism that sees ten thousand of Africa's children die every day of poverty-related diseases. I believe that a better world is possible. Africa and its children will rise," she said.
Sikazwe said the G8, IMF and World Bank should stop imposing what they thought were solutions to Africa's problems. They must leave us alone to determine our destiny," she said. Sikazwe said New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was based on the same development and economic model crafted by the G8, IMF and World Bank that has been in place for the last 20 years, with catastrophic effects.
"As the group of eight richest and most powerful countries meet in Kananaskis, on their agenda is the so-called NEPAD. It's been hailed as a plan developed by Africans for Africans - a kind of Marshall Plan to lift Africa out of poverty. But in reality, NEPAD was developed by African leaders, without consulting their people," she said.
Sikazwe said the G8, IMF and World Bank policies have destroyed Zambia's economy, ruined its social safety net and devastated the nation's environment. "To illustrate, let me tell you the story of Mary Ngoma. Aged just 14, she now heads her household because her parents died of AIDS. Everyday, Mary sees her younger sister and brother cry from hunger but there is no money to buy food.
When they are sick, they cannot go to the hospital because they cannot pay the user fees that are charged. So Mary has decided to sell her body on the streets as a prostitute. Even though she risks getting HIV, she tells me she can make money to feed her family," she narrated. Sikazwe said the G8 were forgetting that there was a connection between poverty, HIV/AIDS and foreign debt.
"Because Zambia is forced to service debts which the G8 insists we owe the World Bank and IMF, our government has no resources left to take care of its citizens," Sikazwe said. "The World Bank and IMF behave like a very rich person who takes the bread out of the mouth of a very hungry child." Sikazwe said there could be no new partnership with Africa before there was total debt cancellation.
"We don't owe the G8 anything. Rather it is the G8 countries who are indebted to us as a result of the slave trade, colonisation and now extraction of our mineral wealth," she said. While in Canada, Sikazwe joined the international community in protesting against World Bank and IMF policies. (Africa News June 29, 2002)
HEADLINE: AFRICA -- A new website to serve as a one stop regional portal for knowledge and information on gender issues in the Horn of Africa was recently launched with support from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the World Bank.
Hawknet, which stands for The Horn of Africa Region Women's Knowledge Network, is designed to enable women to discuss emerging national issues, network, participate in global debates and have a voice on national policies regarding information and communication technologies (ICTs).
"ICTs are the train tracks upon which globalization is moving, often at breakneck speed," said Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of UNIFEM. "Hawknet is an example of how we can create an environment in which ICTs support equality and connections between countries, ethnic groups, and men and women." While the African continent contains 13 per cent of the total world population, Africans comprise a mere one per cent of Internet users globally. Limited technological access, know-how and literacy, especially among African women, prevent many people from taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by ICTs.
Hawknet is attempting to change that by offering women in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, and Somalia the opportunity to participate in various chat rooms, read the latest news on gender and business and take advantage of Internet networks and resources. The new website is hosted by the African Centre for Women, Information & Communications Technology (ACWICT) and can be accessed at www.acwict.or.ke.
As part of its commitment to gender equality, UNIFEM has been working to ensure women's access to and benefit from ICTs. In January 2002, UNIFEM launched a multi-year programme to help bridge the gender digital divide in Africa. The programme is guided by an Advisory Committee comprised of twelve IT entrepreneurs living in the Diaspora and in Africa, as well as representatives from the private sector and the UN system. Under the guidance of the Advisory Committee, UNIFEM will provide training for African women's organizations and business associations in the use of ICTs, help them create business partnerships and access financial support. The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) works to promote women's empowerment, rights and gender equality worldwide. (Africa News June 18, 2002)
So Mexico has embarked an effort to attract a new kind of maquiladora, one that requires more skilled workers and will, the government hopes, offer more satisfying, stable jobs. The closing of so many maquiladoras reflects the harsh economics of globalization. Cheap as Mexico's labor is, it is not as cheap as that in Asia or Eastern Europe. They now attract the kind of manufacturing that sprang up here, first along the border with the United States and then farther south, in places like this balmy part of the Yucatan peninsula.
Now, this area displays flickering signs of an industrial evolution in which Mexico's maquiladora industry moves to multimillion-dollar high-tech factories that offer skills, and even decent salaries, to workers. One such beacon of hope is the plant formally opened here in February by PCC Airfoils, a subsidiary of an Ohio-based company that produces airplane parts for General Electric.
Although workers like Dianela Suarez or Victor Flores make more than double the $4 minimum daily wage in this region, a sum that counterparts in the United States would earn in less than an hour, they are acquiring technical skills, have risen quickly from factory floor worker to group leader and sound fulfilled. "I have had many jobs," said Mrs. Suarez, a 35-year-old former secretary with a junior high school education who is studying company manuals for tests to become a licensed quality inspector. "My vision is to have a career."
Mr. Flores, 28, was educated at a technical high school, and worked five years as a refrigeration and air-conditioning technician before joining PCC Airfoils. The government paid more than half the cost to train him for an entry-level position at the factory. "This is an experience that is different from most maquiladoras," he said. "I am learning things about technology and engineering that I can use all my life. This kind of experience is invaluable." Government officials are hopeful that high-tech companies will take the place of the factories that rely on low-scale labor.
"We are not interested any more in these types of companies," said Patricio Patron, governor of the state of Yucatan, where the number of maquiladoras grew from 16 to 131 in just one decade; most are clothing companies like Eddie Bauer and The Gap, which liked the proximity of a port with direct shipping to New Orleans and cheaper wages than on the United States border. "They are part of an era we are trying to overcome. We want to give opportunities to higher level factories -- and some are beginning to come."
Nonbelievers say such sentiments are wishful thinking. They note that the number of high-tech factories that have opened is relatively small, and say Mexico's poor education system cannot fill a labor pool large enough for highly skilled jobs. But even skeptics acknowledge that Mexico has few strategic options.
"Mexico's going to have to graduate the way all other countries do," Sidney Weintraub, an economist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a recent radio interview. "It's inevitable that countries that earn their money through relatively cheap labor, as their situation improves and the labor costs go up, they just have to move up on the technology scale." Indeed, almost as fast as they came, Yucatan's textile factories have begun to go, battered over the last two years by an economic decline and drop in consumer demand in the United States. Meanwhile, Mexican wages increased, supported by a superstrong peso.
"Our costs have gone up 10 percent a year for the last five years," said Fabio Atti, general manager of an Italian-owned swimsuit factory, Produce Mexico. "If that trend continues, it is going to be difficult for us to stay." PCC Airfoils is one of two high-tech factories that have opened here in the last year. The other, Seal and Metal Products of Latin America, a subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based Stein Seal, also produces airplane parts for General Electric.
"T-shirt factories do not stimulate economic expansion," said Alberto Barrera, a Mexican who is the general manager of Seal and Metal. "But a maquiladora that invests in technology and in training its workers creates slow but stable growth." So far, Mr. Barrera said, he has hired fewer than 20 workers. But each goes through months of training. "A textile plant can open and close in a week," he added. "It took half a year just to get this plant up and running."
His sentiments were echoed by Jean Freyre, general manager at PCC Airfoils. "I'd like to think that in time we are going to offer the kinds of jobs that will keep people from leaving their hometowns and their country to make a decent living," he said, "the kinds of jobs that give people a sense of belonging, and a sense of stability." http://www.nytimes.com (The New York Times June 29, 2002)
HEADLINE: CANADA -- The fear this year, following Sept. 11 -- and the reason for the ridiculously high $300-million cost of this summit, most of it for security -- But, given the huge cost, and given the disruptions to the life of cities hosting these international extravaganzas, we have to ask whether the whole exercise is worth continuing in its present form.
There's much to be said for world leaders, and their entourages, meeting face-to-face. Sometimes a quiet chat or the power of personality can solve problems that a year of diplomatic meetings could never resolve. It's also useful to have a meeting, like the G-8 summit, that sets a deadline for dealing with certain issues, like aid to Africa, that might otherwise drag on and on. But the reality is, the G-8 leaders already meet each other in person at various functions several times over a year -- perhaps not all together at once, but close enough.
A video camera is not the same as meeting face to face, but if leaders are serious about dealing with the issues facing them, such as aid to Africa, it shouldn't matter how they meet. The next G-8 meeting will be held in France, at who knows what cost. Perhaps, just as a trial for one year, the eight leaders should meet in cyberspace instead. (Times Colonist (Victoria) June 29, 2002)
HEADLINE: LATIN AMERICA -- Mexico, Central America seek economic integration, development Mexican and Central American leaders ended a two-day summit by announcing an ambitious plan to integrate the region, including a $3 billion highway project.
The goal of the so-called Plan Puebla Panama's goals is to promote the region's development by integrating its roads, electricity grids and tariff systems, as well as building a gas pipeline from Mexico to Panama.
In the meeting that ended Friday in Merida, 620 miles southeast of Mexico City, the region's leaders also condemned terrorism and pledged to improve the defense of human rights. Central American countries plan to open a joint office in Mexico's southern Veracruz state to protect migrant rights, delegates said. Thousands of Central Americans travel through Mexico on their way to the United States, and many report being robbed or mistreated by Mexican officials.
Mexican President Vicente Fox, who originally proposed the plan when he took office two years ago, said regional integration "is an imperative need." Mexico is already providing seed money for the construction of highways in Honduras and Nicaragua. Spain is contributing $70 million of $320 million that the Inter-American Development Bank has made available for electricity programs.
The plan's proposals include a highway project that is estimated to cost more than $3 billion.
Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos said that "only together and integrated in our political plans and programs ... can we be successful in today's world of globalization." Some of the objections to the plan originally came from environmental and indigenous groups in southern Mexico.
Ambassador Gustavo Iruegas of the Mexican Foreign Ministry said presidents agreed Friday that the interests of indigenous and other minority groups will be considered. Although some observers and possible investors said the plan was not concrete enough yet, others expressed interest. "The state of Missouri has some very major, sophisticated construction infrastructure firms that are taking a real close look at a lot of the infrastructure projects that they are talking about doing," said David W. Eaton, director of Missouri's trade office in Mexico City. (June 29, 2002, Saturday, BC cycle)
HEADLINE: KANANASKIS, Alta. (CP) -- The planet's richest countries ended their annual meeting Thursday with promises to help the world's poorest people in Africa, but fell somewhat short of lofty pre-summit expectations. The leaders of the Group of Eight also admitted Russia as a full member and agreed on a global partnership to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists, including $20-billion US for Russia to destroy most of its nuclear, chemical and biological arsenal.
The sharp-shooters and attack helicopters hovering in the magnificent mountains surrounding this stunning village didn't hear a peep from terrorists or protesters. A hungry and persistent bear was the lone victim of the extraordinary security blanket thrown over the summit. The black bear was put down after it was injured falling from a tree while trying to get at a soldier's food bag. Prime Minister Jean Chretien said he hopes the blueprint for substantial new African aid will be the lasting achievement of a summit that was partially overshadowed by a controversial U.S. Mideast peace plan.
And he committed Canada to spend $6 billion over five years to help Africa fight poverty, improve education and battle AIDS. "We promised a different kind of summit to encourage better results and we have delivered," Chretien told a news conference wrapping up the two-day summit.
The G-8 Africa Action Plan will provide aid, economic and other support to African countries that demonstrate good governance, rule of law and sound economic policies. The aim is to improve the lives of African people by reducing corruption, poverty and human rights abuses.
"Each of us will decide, in accordance with our respective priorities and procedures, how we will allocate the additional money we have pledged," the leaders said in a statement. We believe that, in aggregate, half or more of our new development assistance could be directed to African nations that govern justly, invest in their own people and promote economic freedom."
Chretien announced the agreement on Africa following discussions with the presidents of four African nations and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. We have acted collectively to make sure that globalization benefits all and no continent is left behind," Chretien said.
The Africa plan also:
- Slashes the debt of 22 countries with good records by $19 billion US. On top of other debt relief, that represents a reduction of $30 billion for Africa, or two-thirds of the continent's debt.
- Calls on African countries introduce a peer-review system to judge whether a government is meeting its commitments.
- Pledges support for African agriculture, but doesn't offer to cut western agricultural subsidies, which make it difficult for African farmers to compete.
- Offers support for efforts to resolve the many armed conflicts on the continent.
Critics complain the plan was rushed through by a small group of leaders with little public consultation. They also question whether African leaders with poor human rights records can be trusted to police themselves and their "peers" adequately.
"Our collective disappointment is that it's been touted as something new and wonderful, but it's the same old ideas," said Njoki Njoroge, a Kenyan who heads 50 Years Is Not Enough, a U.S. coalition dedicated to transforming the IMF. The action plan is based on the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was developed by African leaders.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, one of the architects of the plan, acknowledged that Africans have squandered billions in past aid, but promised to punish future miscreants. "We are seen as non-performers in the past," he told G-8 leaders assembled behind him outdoors for a final photo.
"If any of us are lagging behind we will give him a push or we will give him a sanction."
Annan called the Africa package "a turning point in the history of Africa, and indeed, the world."
Russia was another big winner at the summit, with its full admission to the G-8 and money to destroy its most deadly weapons. Russia's obligations include providing the G-8 partners access to disposal sites, such as facilities where nuclear submarines are dismantled, officials said. Russia also has ensured adequate auditing and oversight authority to its partners. Canada has offered to help Russia dispose of some of its beached and rusting nuclear submarines as part of its contribution, a senior official said.
Canadian expertise gleaned from the development of CANDU reactors would be used to dispose of the fissile material that could be used to make a devastating weapon should it fall into the hands of terrorists. But while the agreement calls for eliminating chemical and nuclear weapons, there is only a commitment to "reduce" biological agents.
"We didn't have a perfect agreement," Chretien acknowledged. The plan to eliminate Russia's old stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction will cost the United States $10 billion over 10 years. The other G-8 countries, excluding Russia, will contribute an additional $10 billion. Canada will kick in $1 billion over 10 years.
G-8 leaders also agreed on a series of measures to make transportation more secure in the wake of Sept. 11, including reinforced cockpit doors, a global standard for sharing airline passenger information and the need for a better system to identify high-risk shipping containers.
It remains to be seen whether Chretien will profit politically from his turn at the chair of the exclusive club -- and put some distance between himself and the move afoot in his Liberal party to force him to surrender his leadership to Paul Martin. Chretien helped thwart his stated intention of keeping Africa as the summit centrepiece by sowing confusion over whether he endorsed a U.S. demand to replace Yasser Arafat before a Palestinian state can be recognized.
On Tuesday, Chretien suggested it "might be a good thing" if Arafat was gone, prompting American officials to boast that the prime minister was on side. On Wednesday, Chretien refused to state outright if he agreed with U.S. President George W. Bush on Arafat. He said he supports the U.S. plan, but added: "it's going to be the people of Palestine who decide who will be the leader." Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi said Bush was alone in calling for Arafat's ouster. But he added that among the leaders, "there is the conviction that Arafat should make a grand gesture and remove himself."
While the leaders met securely at the Kananaskis lodge, protesters marched through the streets of several cities. On Thursday, about 100 kilometres away in Calgary, dozens of bare-breasted women with willow branches wrapped around their heads rolled in the mud at a downtown park, singing songs to celebrate Mother Earth and protest the G-8. That followed a day of peaceful protests Wednesday.
In Ottawa, up to 2,000 demonstrators, dogged by clattering police helicopters in the sodden skies, snaked through city streets toward Parliament Hill for a second day. The wet weather soon drove most away and police said they received no complaints about vandalism or violence. (The Leader-Post (Regina) June 28, 2002)
Jan Rocha reports Hunger is spreading in a world of plenty: in Brazil, one of the world's major food producers, a third of the population goes hungry. The governments and corporations that run the world insist that only free markets, the removal of trade barriers, the spread of GM crops will solve the problem. So far, this sort of globalisation has only brought more, not less hunger.
Yet a movement which grew out of violence and despair claims to have found the answer. Its solutions are radically different from those on offer from the rich countries. They involve empowering the poor through land reform, education and mobilization. The Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) - the Landless Rural Workers Movement - has become one of Brazil's biggest and most vocal popular movements and their red T-shirts, caps and flags are now a familiar sight at every demonstration, rally and strike.
Through direct action - occupations, marches, confrontations with the authorities - they have won land and undeniably eliminated hunger from the lives of hundreds of thousands of Brazilian families. Twenty years ago an unacknowledged war raged throughout Brazil's vast interior. It was an unequal conflict - on one side illiterate peasant farmers and smallholders, sharecroppers and rubbertappers, on the other the powerful forces unleashed by the military regime's economic policy - ruthless cattle ranchers and landowners, road and dam builders. In the 1970s this policy led directly to the displacement of almost five million people in the three southern states alone. They became "sem terra" - or landless.
Their choices were stark: move to the cities and swell the shantytowns or migrate thousands of miles north to the malaria-ridden shallow soils of government colonies in the Amazon, far from roads, schools and hospitals. Those who tried to stop the advance of big capital were eliminated. Between 1981 and 1984 alone 277 peasant leaders, union officials and rural workers were killed. It was in this climate of violence and desperation that the MST was born. With nothing left to lose, families began occupying the estates of absentee landlords.
We visited one of the many MST settlements that now exist on former big estates in Rio Grande do Sul. In a high-roofed community hall, families sat at long trestle tables, tucking into beef steaks, chicken legs and spicy sausages with the unrestrained relish of people who have known hunger. "We've come a long way in 20 years," said Vilmar Martins da Silva, president of the farm cooperative. "By occupying huge unproductive estates, we forced the Brazilian government to carry out land reform. Today we've got about one million members and we've become one of the most successful peasant movements in the world."
The learning curve has been steep. At first the families tried to beat the big farmers at their own game, planting cash crops instead of food. Claudemir Mocellin, who as an eight-year-old child accompanied his father on one of the early occupations, today works as an agronomist on a settlement. "We used the most fertilisers. We bought the modern hybrid seeds and the biggest machines. We wanted the largest harvests." But it did not work. "Families found that, as their soils got exhausted, they were spending more and more money on pesticides and fertilisers, and they were getting ill from the side effects of the chemicals. It didn't make sense, either economically or environmentally."
Gradually, the families were won over to more environmentally friendly ways of farming and went back to growing their own food. "I don't like calling it subsistence farming, because that suggests we're sub-existing, or under-existing, whereas really, with our concern for biodiversity, we are the truly modern farmers," said Mocellin emphatically.
"Chemical farming is doomed, as it exhausts the soils so rapidly. Families began to remember the way their parents and grandparents had farmed. Today people are seeking out old varieties of crops," said Joao Rockett, a self-educated agronomist who is helping the MST produce organic seeds. "For instance, we're cultivating three varieties of wheat - one that's good for noodles, another for bread and another for biscuits. The other day a settler came back with an old variety of wheat that produces excellent straw for hats. Imagine a multinational company letting you grow wheat for that! But people love it. It fosters their sense of community."
The changeover to "agroecologia", or ecologically-friendly farming, is far from complete. In some settlements families are still using chemicals and in others they rear chickens for Sadia, a major Brazilian food company, which exports frozen poultry to Europe, including Britain. "We don't really think this chicken is fit for human consumption, but we need the money. We keep chickens in our backyards to eat ourselves," said one of the farmers. In another cooperative, COPAVI, the families have made the break. Their free-range chickens, fed on organic maize, weigh less but taste better, and are winning a space in the local markets.
Through these changes the MST is reinventing itself, a process that historian Eric Hobsbawm believes necessary if a popular movement is to survive as circumstances change, as they have during the MST's short history. The integration of Brazil's economy into the world market has transformed the country's agriculture, with cheap imports flooding in as trade barriers have been dismantled.
While the government's agrarian reform programme gave land to 260,000 families, in the same period (1995-1999) over one million small family farmers lost their land under market pressures. Only the big exporters of soyabeans, coffee, orange juice and poultry and the transnational companies, such as Cargill, ADM and Bunge, who control the export network, have benefited.
If, as seems likely, the battle by NGOs and enlightened public prosecutors to stop the government authorising genetically-modified crops is finally lost, the big bio-technology companies, led by Monsanto, will dominate farming through their control over the seed companies, just as they already do in neighbouring Argentina. Sebastiao Pinheiro, a leading environmental campaigner, has warned: "What we have seen so far is nothing. The avalanche that lies ahead, as the global food and agricultural complex strengthens its control, will be terrible. There is little room for small family farms in this world, unless they are willing to provide what amounts to bonded labour, growing seeds for Monsanto or rearing chickens for Sadia.
The MST believes that, because of its extraordinary capacity to mobilise the excluded, it can take on these forces and win. Yet the outcome is still uncertain. Future historians may look back at the MST, as Christopher Hill did at England's 17th-century Diggers and Levellers, and see landless peasants who attempted "a revolution that never happened". Or it may just be that the sem terra are torch-bearing front runners in the global movement towards greater sustainability, greater equality and less hunger.
Cutting the Wire, the Story of Brazil's Landless Workers Movement, by Sue Branford and Jan Rocha, edited by Latin America Bureau, will be launched at a public meeting on July 3 at 6.30pm in the Union Chapel, Upper Street, London N1. Speakers will include MST settlers Chico Strozak and Guardian environment editor John Vidal. (The Guardian (London)
Abdoulie Janneh, assistant administrator and regional director of the UNDP in Africa also noted Africa has the highest proportion of an entire population living in poverty among the various regions of the world. Besides, Africa is still facing the challenges including the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the debt burden, environmental degradation and progressive loss of biodiversity, marginalisation in the globalization process and widening digital divide as well as proliferation of conflicts, said Janneh in a speech delivered at the opening forum on Campaigning for Action in Implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in central and eastern Africa.
He noted that the proportion of Africans living in poverty is projected to grow from 300 million in 1999 to 350 million in 2015, the only region in the world where the proportion is rising.
The UN General Assembly adopted the Millennium Declarations ( MDGs) in September 2000 that incorporated global goals and targets for the year 2015, including halving poverty, eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education, halving proportion of people without access to safewater, among others.
Janneh noted concerted actions including fairer trade, deeper debt reduction, reduced military expenditures, improved governance, political will and better-targeted social priorities are indispensable to meet the MDGs. Representatives from 14 African countries are presenting the three-day forum organized by UNDP-Africa. ((XINHUA GENERAL NEWS SERVICE June 17, 2002)
HEADLINE: ROME -- First world leaders failed in droves to turn up for the UN World Food Summit which kicked off in Rome yesterday. Among western heads of government, only Spanish premier Jose Maria Aznar and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country was hosting the summit, showed up.
This prompted accusations of a lack of concern in the West at the world's 815 million hungry and the impending famine in southern Africa. By contrast, the leaders of dozens of developing countries led delegations, as if to highlight the priority of food shortage on national agendas. Among delegates, the most controversial was Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, whose attendance provoked consternation from many. Mugabe is widely charged with responsibility for many of his country's five million hungry through his government's restriction on movements of food (which it has been alleged is not getting to those who voted for the opposition) and its monopoly on grain imports.
The EU, however, insisted it was right that he should be admitted. A clause making an exception for UN summits allowed him to circumvent sanction-imposed travel restrictions. An impetus, perhaps, for staying away from the four-day summit was the certainty that there would be no back-slapping. There has been a marked failure to achieve the targets subscribed to at the first World Food Summit in 1996. Then, leaders from 185 nations vowed to cut by half the number of hungry in the world -- then at 841 million.
Since then, the number has declined by only 6 million annually and stands at 815 million. To achieve the target, this would now have to be reduced by 22 million a year. Charges of empty rhetoric were implicit in speeches, with UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director General Jacques Diouf talking of words that didn't reflect actions. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan gave grim warning of impending famine in southern Africa saying "the time for making promises is over."
He also fired shots at farm subsidies in wealthy nations: "You put yourself in the shoes of a small developing country, which cannot export agricultural products because of restrictions and tariffs, a developing country that cannot export and compete on world markets because its richer partners are heavily subsidized."
Among measures proposed to alleviate the situation were the cancellation of debt, the education of women, and vegetarianism. Italy had originally refused to host the summit, due in November, following anti-globalization protests at the G8 Summit in Genoa last year. But this summit was quiet with high security and passive protesters. 20,000 or more staged a peaceful demonstration on Saturday to complain at the involvement of the World Trade Organization in agriculture. (The Hamilton Spectator June 11, 2002)