Behind the glycerine tears (some items excerpts only)

1.Tariq Ali on the G8
2.Blair's commissioners
3.Alternatives Commission for Africa report
4.G8 SUMMIT: Behind This New Interest in Africa
5.Anti-G8 summit
6.Crane occupation in Edinburgh - further details

quote from item 6:
"We find it disgusting and alarming that Blair and Brown are succeeding in co-opting this movement for social justice" - one of the 'No More Brownwash' protesters

1.Tariq Ali on the G8

Why then the glycerine tears over Africa? Why is that continent such a poignant sight? Why is Africa the last resort of scoundrel politicians and their hangers-on?

It was the same over a decade ago. A big fuss, a big spectacle but nothing changed. Why? Because there are structural causes and the structures at fault were created by the G8 and its forebears. The venal elites that rule most of Africa do so in alliance with giant corporations which milk the wealth of the country. The continent is rich in oil, gold and diamonds. It could fund its own recovery, but it has not been left alone and leaders who tried to change things were assassinated or removed. Regime-change is an old Western habit.

2.Blair's commissioners
Paul Cammack
Red Pepper, July 2005

When Tony Blair launched his Commission for Africa, it was Bob Geldof's inclusion that took the spotlight. But who were the nine Africans Blair picked to deliver his vision for the continent? A web of bankers, industrialists and political leaders with connections to the IMF and the World Bank, all committed to spreading the gospel of free market capitalism.

3.Alternatives Commission for Africa report
David Miller, 05 July, 2005
G8 blog:

On Tuesday 5th July at 11a.m in Friends Meeting House, Edinburgh, campaigners and activists from across Africa will be available to explain why they want to have their voices heard in opposition to Tony Blair's commission on Africa.

For most of the contributors to the Alternatives Commission, the problem is that Africa needs less control by the IMF and the World Bank, not more. The international financial institutions have failed Africa with flawed policies and enforced privatisation and user charges over decades. While Blair's commission argues for an increased role for the private sector, and is focused on more input from Western transnational corporations, there are real concerns about how this will impact on poverty on the ground.

African speakers will be available at the launch of the Alternatives report on Tuesday to explain why African voices must be heard and included in planning Africa's future.

4.G8 SUMMIT: Behind This New Interest in Africa
Sanjay Suri

GLENEAGLES, Scotland, Jul 5 (IPS) - Powerful western nations are committed to developing Africa but more as a market for their goods, a leading agricultural economist says.

"There is talk of the need for action by way of aid, debt cancellation and trade," Devinder Sharma, long-time campaigner for the rights of farmers in the developing world told IPS. "An impression is given by (U.S. President) George Bush and others that of the three, trade is the real answer to Africa's problems. But actually trade is the problem."

In four African countries -- Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad and Benin -- whose economies are based on cotton production, U.S. cotton is being dumped into the market and livelihoods are being lost, all in the name of trade, said Sharma.

U.S. cotton prices are cheap because 25,000 U.S. cotton farmers get four billion dollars a year in subsidies, he added. "This is obviously depressing the market in Africa, and other countries. Then they ask farmers there to diversify and go for other crops."

One cotton grower in the U.S. state of Arkansas received subsidies worth six million dollars, equal to the combined annual earnings of 25,000 cotton farmers in Mali, Sharma said.

U.S. subsidies on cotton are more than the gross domestic product (GDP) of several African countries, and three times the amount Washington spends on aid to half a billion Africans living in poverty, he added.

Ethiopia and Uganda have reported huge losses in export revenues, Sharma said. Earnings through agricultural exports in Uganda were about 110 million dollars in 2001, a fifth of the amount five years earlier, Sharma said. In Ethiopia, export revenues have also dropped heavily.

In January 2002, the European Union (EU) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) warned of increased food insecurity in Ethiopia without acknowledging that "much of the fault rests with their own policies", Sharma argued.

Talk of developing Africa is just a public relations exercise, he added. "They know Africa is the future market for the agricultural produce of the United States and the European Union."

Debt cancellation too has not been decided without consideration of advantages to the EU and the United States, according to Sharma. "When you write off the debts of the poorest countries, you enable them to that extent to buy agricultural produce from the EU and the U.S."

In the EU, the so-called reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) ensured that the level of subsidies given to farmers in 2004 became their entitlement, he said. "That will continue until 2013, so the farmers are completely protected until then. That means they will continue to produce surplus goods."

Among other produce, the EU will churn out 200 percent more milk than it needs. "Where is the market for this?" Sharma asked, answering, "the market is Africa. And if cheap milk for Africa is produced in the EU, what will African farmers do?"

Eventually farmers everywhere will lose out to corporations, Sharma predicted. "Through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) farmers in different countries are being pitted against one another," he said.

"Jamaicans are worried about cheap milk from Britain, the Americans are worried by cheaper apples from China -- it goes on. The more individual farmers suffer, the easier it becomes for corporations to move in."

Just 10 companies control the global trade in agriculture, Sharma said. Cargill, the biggest among them, has almost 60 percent of the world trade in cereals, he added.

"They are taking control, and buying from big farmers, and the small farmers are disappearing, even in the West," he said. "The U.S. had 900,000 farmers in 2002; in 2004 their number was down to 700,000."

The EU has about seven million farmers, but is losing them at the rate of about three a day, according to Sharma, yet more and more money is being given to more and more wealthy producers, he said.

In Britain, whose leaders today are showing so much about concern for Africa, the Duke of Westminster -- who owns about 55,000 hectares of farm estates -- receives an average subsidy of 300,000 pounds (more than half a million dollars) as direct payments, and in addition gets 350,000 pounds a year for the 1,200 dairy cows he owns, Sharma said.

"The recipients of the U.S. agricultural subsidies in 2001 also included (millionaires) Ted Turner and David Rockefeller."

Produce grown by such farmers, bought by giant companies, is now being distributed in world markets through firms like Wal-Mart, Sharma said. "Local farmers' marketing channels are being destroyed."

If Africa is to emerge from poverty, it would have to be through agriculture primarily, he argued. "If it's agriculture that is being destroyed, then where is the hope for Africa?" (END/2005)

5.Anti-G8 summit

Meanwhile, reports Serge Daniel, hundreds of activists will gather in the Malian town of Fana on Wednesday for an anti-G8 summit to remind the world's leading industrialised nations of what's at stake in their negotiations to end poverty in Africa.

Like the African Social Forum, the Southern Jubilee and the annual World Social Forum that occurs prior to the gathering of the economic elite in Davos, Switzerland, this fourth Forum of the People aims to focus attention on the world's poorest countries and their own solutions for their social and economic travails.

"We want to contribute to reinforcing citizen power and strength, and put governments on notice both in Africa and in rich countries for their responsibilities," said Barry Aminata Toure, president of the organising coalition of African Alternatives to Debt for Development.

This year's forum in Fana, expected to attract about 2 000 people from around the continent as well as Europe and the Americas, will run parallel to the G8 summit in Gleneagles.

The choice of Fana, about 120km east of Bamako, was a strategic one as the city is a producer of cotton, one of the primary exports from Africa that suffers under the weight of unfair trade subsidies.

"We chose Fana as a symbol of a place to take a stand to say no to savage privatization of our cotton industry and no to the deterioration of the terms of exchange," Toure said.

Subsidies and an unfair playing field have robbed Africa of about €600-million in revenue from cotton in the five-year period from 1998 to 2003, Toure said.

Over the four-day summit, participants will join workshops on themes including debt, the dangers of genetically modified organisms for African agriculture and the continent's progress towards anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations.

Representatives from development groups as well as peasant-advocacy organisations will also push for greater focus on the problems in Africa's rural zones, where poverty, illiteracy and exposure to epidemic disease are rampant.

"It is not enough to announce the annulation of part of the debt or to say that Africa is a priority," said Malian lawyer Ibrahim Maiga, a supporter of the Fana forum.

"There must be concrete actions taken to line Africa up with a proper fate, not a grand show that will allow world leaders to sleep at night with a clear conscience." -- Sapa-AP, Sapa-AFP

6.Crane occupation in Edinburgh - further details
Stuart Hodkinson
Crane stoppers protest against 'Brownwash' of anti-poverty movement

At 8.30am this morning, three protesters hung a banner off a construction site crane near Edinburgh's North Bridge demanding 'No More Brownwash' in response to the successful co-optation of the aims and message of Make Poverty History by Gordon Brown and the UK government. The development campaigners from Brighton World Development Movement (WDM) wanted to get out a message from grassroots activists that New Labour is not a defender of the poor and has no intention of delivering the Make Poverty History agenda. The activists came down at 6.15pm and were immediately arrested.

Before her arrest, one of the 'North Bridge three', Leila Deen, told Red Pepper: "We came to Edinburgh to protest against government and G8 policy in forcing through privatisation and liberalisation in Africa and other countries across the Global South. Sadly, this was not the message from either Live 8 or Make Poverty History on 2 July. We find it disgusting and alarming that Blair and Brown are succeeding in co-opting this movement for social justice by paying lip service to the coalition's slogan while not signing up to a single one of the campaign's modest demands. From now on, NGOs inside Make Poverty History need to stand firm and say 'No More Brownwash'".

Although the national WDM body is a member of MPH and has decided to keep its mouth publicly shut about the concerns it has with the way in which MPH has been undermined by the Oxfam-New Labour-celebrity alliance as reported in July's Red Pepper, it expressed its full support for the actions of the local Brighton campaigners. One WDM officer told Red Pepper: "We found Live 8 particularly problematic because it completely hijacked coverage of the Make Poverty History march and demands in Edinburgh".

A team of WDM officers were on hand underneath the crane to hand out press releases and negotiate with both Miller, the PFI construction company building new council offices on the site near to Edinburgh train station, and British transport police. Most of the site's contracted workforce expressed support for the protesters and insisted on hanging their own 'Make Poverty History' banner from another crane. Also on site was Guardian journalist George Monbiot, who came to express his solidarity with the protesters and do interviews with the media. In an interesting twist, Miller refused to shut down the construction site for the day.

One WDM spokesperson told Red Pepper: "We think it's unfortunate that Miller is putting profit before health and safety". The company is currently building new offices for Edinburgh Council as part of the controversial Private Finance Initiative. According to one worker, who wished to remain anonymous, the building work is already "over budget and behind schedule". Ironically, as African speakers pointed out today at the launch of the Alternative Africa Commission, public-private partnerships are one the main solutions being proposed for African development by Blair's Commission for Africa in return for increased aid and debt relief.

From the Red Pepper G8 Blog (
Stuart Hodkinson
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