52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Tuesday, December 07, 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.


  • At 1:07 am, Blogger Aravis said…

    Several members of my family make charitable donations in someone's name in lieu of a more traditional gift at Christmas and birthdays. It's really nice. A friend of mine heard that all my mother wanted for Christmas was for family to donate to her favorite charity at the time. When my friend heard that she sat down and immediately wrote a check to my mother's charity, though she had never met my mother. She thought it was a wonderful idea. It's the sort of gift that seems to be contagious, in a good way!

    Good luck to you with your own plans to give a little more. You seem like someone who gives often, in whatever way you can. You're a good man, ST. :0)

  • At 6:19 pm, Blogger Jenni said…

    ST...good post. I used to work for a non-profit, and people like yourself are definitely appreciated!

    Jim...I took a college course on the environment, in which we also discussed population issues. You are right to point out that it's no good to encourage people to have more children than the land can support. However, part of the reason that people in nations like Haiti have so many kids is because they traditionally have high infant mortality rates, and so they had to have a lot of kids to ensure that some of them survived to help support the family and aging parents. As infant mortality rates decrease due to better nutrition or healthcare, family size begins to decrease as well. There is a lag between the initial investment in food, medicine, and other improvements though, as it takes time for the population to realize that large families are no longer necessary. Additionally, the studies we looked at showed that despite differences in family size, families in the US actually use up more resources than large families in "less-developed" countries, so the increasing global population is only part of the problem. I don't know that this will change your opinion on the matter at all, but I thought I would throw it out there.

  • At 9:22 pm, Blogger JD Hoffman said…

    Just courious on how you think the rich nations got rich? and shouldn't the poor nations just copy what the rich nations do?

  • At 7:18 pm, Blogger Damo said…

    Have to say, Mr Urban Fox, I normally agree with every word you say but I disagree on your views on Bono. Personally I approve of what he does... the picture of him with Bush was galling (to put it mildly) but as he has said in the past, if he's got to meet the devil to make a deal then he'll do it. It takes guts and I think this all means so much more than a musician that just 'says the right things' in interviews for cred points. I mean, I think Bush is bad... but how does that differentiate me from millions of people?

    As for whether it affects his record sales, well, I doubt it does enormously - besides which, a lot of Americans boycott artists if they don't share their political view so no doubt he loses some as well. And considering how well they already do, it's not like it's the difference between him eating and not eating - so there has to be more to it than that.


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