Make Poverty History

Fighting chronic compassion fatigue
I can already hear the groaning through the modems, “Not another campaign for Africa!”, “We’ve already done Africa!” or even “Why bother?” Fair question when you consider that despite continuous aid, life in African countries is getting worse. Is there a hole in the bucket? Nope. The first problem is debt relief. At the end of year gathering of the Jubilee 2000 coalition in London, Nigerian campaigner Skidd Ikemefuna gave a simple example,

Human slavery may be over but economic slavery is certainly not over. Check this out! Nigeria borrowed $7 billion and as for today has repaid $15 billion and now owes $30 billion. What is this, if not economic slavery?

The aid money is used to pay back interest on loans. So the lending governments and financial institutions actually manage to make aid a profit-generating activity. Nice work if you can get it. And to think that usury used to be a crime.

A lot was made of the successes of Jubilee 2000, but I think its biggest achievement was making more people aware of the problems faced by developing countries. Since then, there have been more promises of debt relief and more talk of new ‘new’ initiatives for Africa, the latest led by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (=UK Finance Minister). All well and good and I applaud his vision, but then in my case he’s preaching to the converted.

So who does he need to reach? How about all the bloggers out there who complain about corruption in the developing world, standing on your own feet, America first, capitalism is the only system that works, bleeding hearts, suck it up, etc. etc. etc. Many of them appear to be sports fans, so how about this? Let’s play one-on-one. I start with 30 million points. You’re at minus 60 million from all the previous games our grandparents and parents played. Your hoop is at knee height and 3 metres wide. My hoop is on the ceiling 20 metres up and is covered with a perspex shield. Ready?

It isn’t the raving nationalism that gets me, it’s the hypocrisy. You want free trade? Ok, but make it fair trade and cut the massive export subsidies used in rich countries. See more details here. Go on, DuWayne, it’s a Christian site! The point is that with trade justice, nobody’s asking you to pay more, just set the rules so everyone can play.

The worst that can happen is that there’s a potentially high risk of hearing Bono trying to say something deeply heartfelt and like really meaningful, y’know what I’m sayin’?

Thanks to Gordon for putting me on to Make Poverty History. See? It works! Spread the word…