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The image below delivers a pretty standard message from the social justice / international development community, and it makes me so furious that I choke on food that I successfully swallowed hours ago. It doesn’t even make sense that I could choke on such items, but such a rage defies physics.
Why does my food besiege me for a second time? Because pictures like this assume that the proverbial short guy is always disadvantaged through no fault of his own. That if someone or something is undersized, that we should pull out our wallets and buy them as many wooden boxes as they need to be just tall as lanky over on the left. Worse, the big fella has actually even lost his own box in the pursuit of this... this... “justice”.
There’s a tougher question to ask. “Is something behind the eight ball as a result of its own bad behaviour, and to what extent should we help it if it refuses to change?”
An example is a small, developing, island nation which spends 80% of its tax revenue on salaries for government workers. Thousands of these government workers are relatives of village elders and other government officials, parachuted into jobs because of who they know. It is not rare in numerous ministries to see workers asleep at their desks, if indeed they decided to go to work that day. These horrible inefficiencies are a key reason why the government can’t balance its budget, and is receiving “Budget Support” from numerous foreign government donors. This involves the foreign governments writing multimillion dollar cheques to the island nation, and the money being used as overpriced, corrupt welfare for the friends and family of powerful people. So is the budget support actually helping the recipient country? Yes and no... the cheques allow the salary scam to survive for another year.
So, tell me again. How many free wooden boxes should we give the short guy?
It’s often politically awkward for donor governments to impose reform requirements on recipient governments in return for aid money. The donor governments are variously accused of neo-colonialism, exporting political ideologies via blackmail, ulterior motives, or a lack of cultural sensitivity. But, where there’s a good argument for it, I want them to do it. A culture of laziness and nepotism isn’t a culture, it’s a bunch of people making excuses, and trying to hide behind an emotional concept that donors are reluctant to closely examine. Yet the recipients still want stuff for free. Not only do they want their dessert before their vegetables, they want to have their free cake and eat it. Cake contains as many as five of the six food groups, but in ratios that make it an irresponsible breakfast option.
If we’re serious about aid effectiveness, the blank cheques have to stop, and the tough conversations about governance have to increase. Why should a nation that became tall as a result of discipline and efficiency indefinitely subsidise a nation that refuses to make similar sacrifices (Germany says hi, Greece)? Is this seriously our best attempt at defining justice?
This is a guest blog by economist Michael Jayfox. All views expressed are his own.
Global Citizen has partnered with the Development and Aid World News Service (DAWNS) to provide two (2) $1,000 humanitarian reporting and storytelling grants.
Now, we need your help to select our grantees.
Global Citizen and DAWNS are community-powered organizations committed to telling stories about issues related to global poverty. The 12 finalists you see below each have a compelling humanitarian story to tell.
Click on their names to read, learn about and support their independent projects. Log onto Global Citizen and you can vote for your favorite to win by clicking on the petition button at the bottom of the page.
My project encompasses combating present violence against women as well as reconciling and healing from the wounds of conflict primarily focused in Liberia. Women were systematically raped during Liberia's 14 years of civil war. Today, rape is among the highest crimes in the country. I have a fantastic opportunity to shoot and interview four female Nobel Peace Prize winners who are traveling to Liberia this January to work to empower people on the ground seeking solutions to violence against women.
Poverty in Gambia is said to have a gendered face, with women forming the majority of the poor in both rural and urban households. Data obtained from government sources (SPA II 1998), indicate that 64 percent of those in agriculture are either extremely poor (47 percent), or poor (17 percent).
‘know herStory’ is a 3 to 6 months project to narrate 15 personal and unique stories of grassroots women leaders involved in community mobilization, HIV/AIDs, peace building, social justice, and human rights advocacy.
My Africa Is - an interactive documentary series that identifies innovations on the African continent from the youth. The series will follow unexpected developments in the humanitarian, music, fashion, film, arts, and business sectors of the continent, using each African city as a backdrop to showcase the diversity of each city and country.
‘Through the Fire’ is a documentary film project that shows a side of Somalia beyond the all-too-familiar news reports of piracy, war, and famine. It gives an intimate portrait of the life and work of three exceptional Somali women, who, in the midst of two decades of bitter civil war, have risen up to rebuild their shattered nation.
My project documents the lives of sex workers and their children in Falkland Road, one of the largest red light districts in Mumbai, India. The purpose of the project is to listen to and record the daily challenges these women and children face without sensationalizing or victimizing them. I intend to spend time with them in the brothels where they live and work, talking about the issues that matter most to them.
Whilst volunteering in Kenya three years ago I encountered a group of IDPs, Kenyans displaced by the post election violence of 2007-08. After returning to the UK I wrote a book about the community I had been living with but remained haunted by the stories I heard from the IDPs who'd been forced from their houses, some of whom enduring unspeakable violence.
More than 5000 farmers in Doho Rice scheme, Uganda, have spent more than a year waiting to restart farming their paddys after they were stopped from cultivation due to a construction of a dam over the river that supplies their gardens with water. Uganda's largest community Rice scheme have started seeing thuggery, theft, robbery and murders as people struggle to survive amidst no harvest. The farmers and their families and relatives are now suffering and this is also being felt in local schools as parents fail to send their children back for studies for luck of money for school fees.
In Hindu culture, boys represent a status symbol. Many regard girls as a financial drain because parents face the pressure to provide a dowry to marry her off. The low status of women results not only in the abortion of female fetuses, but also the abandonment of baby girls, neglect of girl children, the abuse of women in “dowry deaths,” “honour killings” of women, and even burning widows to death in a ritual called sati.
The project I intend to work on is based on water shortages and challenges being experienced by villagers. The story should be told because water is vital and a basic human right . It would be very important to find out how the people in these villages are getting by without water. Areas are remaining underdeveloped because teachers and nurses are refusing to be deployed to the area because of water problems. Schools and health institutions run without water.
Eighteen-year-old Maheshwari comes from a family of quarry workers in rural India, none of whom completed schooling past the eighth grade. For the first four years of Maheshwari's life, it seemed she would follow a similar path: Waking at 5 a.m. to start the household chores, marrying young, bearing children, and bringing in money through odd jobs wherever she could. Instead, she was selected by the Shanti Bhavan Children's Project to attend their boarding school, a brush with fate that would change the trajectory of her entire life.
"Birth is a dream" I named my photography project which aims to document and raise awareness about the maternity crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa. I started documenting the maternal health crisis in Malawi in 2011, and in DRC, Uganda in 2012.
It’s a snowy Saturday evening in Syracuse, and I am freezing. My day began many hours earlier when I packed my belongings in two bags, said good-bye to my family and piled into the van that would be my home for the next 14 weeks. Now, five hours and two gas station coffees later, I am here – quite cold, a bit tired, but ready to talk.
In particular, I am ready to talk about Bon, a seven-year-old Burmese refugee who I met while working with an arts therapy program in Thailand.
Bon is unique because he is tiny – really tiny. He dances Gangham-style like a pro and somehow manages to get the teachers to help him more then we ever should.
If you happen to be curious, you’ll ask Bon why he’s so small. He’ll tell you, “It’s because I drink Coke and not milk, because Coke is cheap.” Then, he’ll grin at you and add, “and more delicious.” Bon’s family cannot afford to feed him the things he needs, and because of it, he does not grow.
It was around the time that I came to know Bon that the Global Poverty Project offered me a position as presenter on the spring 1.4 Billion Reasons tour. And it was because of Bon and others like him that I accepted it.
Extreme poverty means a lack of choices. It’s why David, the young Zambian who was my best friend during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer, probably won’t be able to access an education above a ninth grade level. It means no healthcare, no sanitation, and no shelter. It’s about not having options, or having only the heart-wrenching ones: which child to send to school, which mouth to feed, which basic necessity to sacrifice in order to pay for another.
Bon and David are just two of the 1.4 billion people who live on less $1.50 USD a day. But to me, they are important – because I know them. I drew on the floor with Bon. It was David who came to my hut’s doorstep every morning, asking to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and review his math homework. I can no longer reach these friends around the world. I cannot write a letter, or send an e-mail, or dial a number and know that they will be on the other end. Since they cannot share their stories with the world, it falls onto us to share them with you.
So, it’s Saturday in Syracuse and I’m excited. I’m excited because change is possible. I have read enough statistics to know that extreme poverty can be eliminated in our lifetimes. I have seen enough in my travels over five continents to know that such poverty is intolerable in any form.
If Bon and David were able to tell their own realities, they would do it in a way infinitely more eloquent and vivid than I will. But in the absence of that, you’ll have to settle for me. I encourage you to share your stories – with your friends, family and co-workers. I tell a story, and you tell a story, and more and more people tell a story, we won’t have 1.4 Billion Reasons. We’ll have 1.4 Billion Friends. And when that day comes, extreme poverty will be a part of history.
On 23rd January, The Global Poverty Project together with over a hundred development organisations launched the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign.
Devised to build momentum and inspire action to end global hunger ahead of the UK Presidency of the G8 in June, The IF campaign brought together charities, policy-makers, politicians and celebrities for its launch event in Central London, at Somerset House last week.
The purpose of the IF campaign is to fight hunger, calling for a concerted focus on its underlying causes, namely: insecure development assistance, land grabs, tax dodging, and a lack of transparency over investments in poor countries. These issues were in turn brought to life through a 3D animation projected onto Somerset House, and presented by Lauren Lavern who introduced influential guest speakers such as Bill Nighy, Olympic athlete Mark Foster and GPP Ambassador Bonnie Wright.
We have made great strides in human progress. From halving the number of people who live in extreme poverty (the equivalent of £1 per day) since 1990, to reducing the incidence of polio by 99.9% since 1988, and enabling more than 50 million children to start going to school in sub-Saharan Africa in past 10 years, we are measurably improving the lives of our global citizens.
But in spite of these incredible achievements, an important issue still remains:
In a world where there is enough food to feed everyone, why do 1 in 8 people live with the pain of hunger? Why does hunger continue to kill more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined?
The answer, whilst complex and multi-faceted, broadly lies in the actions of our governments and corporations. We can be the generation to end global hunger, and strive for greater human well-being, IF we choose to fix the problems inherent in our global food system:
Firstly, in persuading richer nations to secure Official Development Assistance (ODA) (otherwise known as ‘aid’).
This is crucially important, as it finances the ability to meet a range of development goals, including tackling hunger and food insecurity. UK aid, for example, will help to reach 20 million pregnant women and children under the age of five with nutrition programmes by 2015.
Mobilising greater international support to secure aid is therefore vital to honour existing commitments and is importantly financially feasible. For example, to provide half the funding to tackle global malnutrition (an exiting obligation), which kills more than 2 million children every year, represents a mere 0.015% of G8 countries’ collective national income.
Secondly, there must be a global imperative to prevent irresponsible investment into the purchase of land (‘land grabs’). Although foreign investment can be a major driver of development, according to recent UN analysis, the current wave of land deals, which represents an area the size of London being sold or leased every six days ‘is damaging food security, incomes, livelihoods and environment for local people’.
Lastly, in order to effectively tackle hunger, the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign looks to encourage action on tax, and transparency. Ensuring companies do not dodge tax owed, which currently represents 3 times more than developing countries’ receive in aid each year, could raise enough public revenues to save the lives of 230 children under the age of 5 every day.
Combined with guaranteeing greater transparency in the operation of governments and corporations; creating an open forum for dialogue with local communities and small-scale producers surrounding public sector contracts, will further ensure that decision-makers are held to account for their actions.
With the upcoming Food and Hunger Summit coinciding with the UK Presidency of the G8 Summit in June, as well as the UK Prime Minister David Cameron playing a lead role on the successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals, 2013 could truly represent the beginning of the end for hunger…IF we choose to act now.
This Valentine's Day we plan to “share the love.” Not just with our close friends and family, but with disadvantaged communities across the world. We don’t plan on making opulent donations or holding fiery protests. We’re putting down the petitions and simply picking up a different kind of present - a Fairtrade present, to be precise.
Purchasing Fairtrade products is one very simple and effective way for people to take action against poverty. In Australia, Fairtrade is still an emerging concept with consumer recognition of the Fairtrade label at only 44% in 2011. The good news though is that retail sales of Fairtrade products have steadily been growing since 2010, with a $35m increase within a year indicating that as time passes, more people are starting to catch on to the benefits associated with Fairtrade.
To try and shed some light on this important and growing movement, the Global Poverty Project sat down with two passionate Fairtrade advocates to help explain.
Changing people’s lives, one chocolate at a time Karen Ngoh, founder of Fairtrade chocolate brand Heart of Chocolate says she was compelled to sell ethically sourced and produced chocolate bars after discovering that in many instances, the forced labor of children played a big role in producing the commercial chocolate that so many of us unwittingly enjoy today. CNN’s documentary ‘Chocolate Child Slaves’ focuses on the chocolate production industry in the Ivory-Coast. In the investigation, children as young as seven have often been trafficked over borders to harvest cocoa, even though some have never even tasted chocolate.
Although Fairtrade is a top priority to Karen, her consumers’ needs are equally important.
“People feel that they’re somehow being asked to do farmers a favor [when purchasing Fairtrade] and that they are compromising the selection, the packaging or the ultimate quality of the product they are receiving,” says Karen.
But Karen’s chocolates have proved that companies can deliver products of an outstanding quality whilst still enhancing and contributing to the lives of the less fortunate. She's the exclusive Australian distributor of Seed and Bean chocolate, which has won five Great Taste Awards by the Guild of Fine Food, two from the Academy of Chocolate, and scored 100% in the UK's Ethical Company Organisation’s 2012 ranking.
Ensuring that farmers are self-sustainable all year round is another key part in being Fairtrade, and the Divine Chocolate range, which uses cocoa from the Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative, Ghana’s largest Cocoa farming union, enables farmers throughout the off-season with a credit union that gives them access to credit and banking services at affordable rates. The women in particular are supported through a soap making initiative that makes use of the waste material from the burnt cocoa plants that can be sold so that they are less dependant on their husbands to provide for their families.
Instant karma comes back to you, and it feels great! The notion of helping producers to be independent also compelled Ric Webster who alongside his wife Jen Chaput, founded Instant Karma Roses, the first Fairtrade certified rose importer and distributor in Australia. By purchasing Fairtrade, farmers receive premiums that they can invest back into education, health care, transport and other crucial community sectors.
“It’s not just about helping people - its about helping people help themselves,” says Ric.
Instant Karma Roses come from Kenya and whilst Ric sees a lot of value in consumers buying local, he stresses the problem occurs when people mistakenly think they are buying domestic, when they’re actually buying imported flowers.
"It's matter of knowing where [the flowers] come from,” says Ric. “Eighty percent of flowers are raised in Australia, and 20% are from overseas. But we want to give people the option to buy flowers where they always know the source is ethical."
He describes Australians as being ‘worldly’ people who he genuinely believes would make ethical purchasing decisions given the correct information. He urges other Fairtrade retailers to embrace the same optimism about their consumers.
“You have to trust that customers do want to make a difference,” says Ric.
Making a difference Getting people to understand the impact their purchasing decisions make is an ongoing challenge in promoting Fairtrade. People seem to think that the concept of Fairtrade stops at workers receiving a fair wage, but there’s more to it than that. Workers receive a Fairtrade premium to invest in social, economic and environmental community development projects that promote sustainability in their communities; and farmers have the security of long-term contracts and use environmentally sustainable farming methods. Under the Fairtrade banner, forced and abusive child labour is prohibited and women receive equal pay to men.
“We can’t keep maintaining the status quo to keep going where workers and producers aren’t getting a fair share of what they produce,” says Daniel Mackey, Business Development Manager of Fair Trade Australia and New Zealand.
He hopes that through the partnership with the Global Poverty Project, people will become more aware of the issues surrounding Fairtrade and therefore, consider the whole picture before picking up a product.
“Sharing the love is what Fairtrade is all about. When you buy a Fairtrade product you move beyond just buying a product for yourself - you’re buying a product you know has an impact on other people,” says Daniel. “It moves people away from individual consumption to conscious consumption.”
He hopes that once people start to realise the merit in Fairtrade, ethically produced products will be the norm that will eventually push unethical products off the shelves. Dan ideally hopes that producers get to a level in which they can “develop the kind of voices that can negotiate on the world stage with industries and governments” so that over time they can be fully self-sufficient.
Help us Share the Love! As the name of our latest campaign suggests, we’re asking people to share the love with the people behind the products we give as gifts. Whether it's roses or chocolates, by choosing to buy Fairtrade gifts for every occasion you can ensure the presents you give to the ones you love give back to those most in need. To find out more about how you can support Fairtrade and take other actions to help end extreme poverty within our generation, go to www.sharethelovefairtrade.com. You can also share and show your support for Faitrade this Valentine’s day by “liking”http://www.facebook.com/imbuyingFairtradethisValentinesDay