[Sinn Fein]

1st February 2002

Tackling Hunger and Poverty

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP MLA is in New York attending the World Economic Forum.

Praising the role of Irish America in the peace process he urged his audiences ``to redouble their efforts, particularly in seeking to help find a resolution to the issue of Policing,'' which he described as ``probably the single most important issue at this time in the peace process. Sinn Fein is determined that we achieve the new beginning to policing set as a goal in the Good Friday Agreement almost 4 years ago.''

Speaking prior to attending a workshop in the World Economic Forum on `Attacking Hunger and Poverty: The other Global campaign' Mr Adams spelt out some of the measures he feels are necessary if this issue is to be properly tackled. He said:

Mr. Adams said:

In a world of increasing wealth, a world growing smaller with technology and communications and ever faster transport, it is wrong, it is outrageous, it is heart-breaking that each week 134,000 children die from starvation or ill health.

That is 1000 children every hour, of every day of every week, of every year.

It is not inevitable. It is not something fated to happen. It can be stopped.

If the money being used by third world nations to pay back debt were channelled into health and education, the lives of 11 million children a year could be saved.

That is more than twice the entire population of Ireland.

To effectively tackle poverty and hunger we have to understand the context in which they occur and the policies and problems that create this human disaster.

The reality is that the policies of the IMF and the World Bank have locked third world nations into a vicious cycle of borrowing and repayment of loans and interest on loans that can never be paid. To make matters worse, these countries are forced to adopt economic policies that force further reductions in social welfare spending.

The reality is that for every $1 in grant aid from first world countries to developing countries, some $16 comes back in debt repayments.

Let me say this clearly. It is wrong that the third world should be crippled with debt while the first world is affluent.

It is wrong that armaments production and sales exceed by over 60 times the World Health Organisation's annual expenditure on the world's four main preventable diseases.

It is wrong that 1.2 billion of the world's people live on less than one dollar a day.

Institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have acted for too long without accountability.

Too many people are suffering because of the lack of concern of a few at the top.

Enough is enough. The debts should be cancelled now.

Challenging Globalisation

Inextricably linked to the problem of debt is the issue of Globalisation.

According to some the end of the Cold War was to herald a new era of peace and prosperity for countries in the third world.

Instead it has unleashed a decade of accelerated globalisation that has increased the poverty gap between the wealthy and poor throughout the world.

At the United Nations' Millennium Summit, world leaders agreed goals for development and poverty eradication to be achieved by 2015.

The central target is to halve income poverty in the developing world. However statistics provided by the authoritative United Nations Human Development Report for 2001 state that 70 countries or 60 per cent of the world's population are far behind or slipping in this key objective.

Of the 40 per cent of the world's people on track to meet this objective, some 38 per cent live in only two countries: China and India.

Globalisation has seen multinational corporations assume the power and wealth equivalent to Third World and, indeed, some industrialised countries.

These corporations are part of a new world order which prioritises profit over human needs, and sacrifices the poor and vulnerable on the altar of the market.

The policies of these organisations and of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have to be challenged and the social inequities their policies create and sustain must be ended.

What does this mean? It is wrong that underdeveloped and poor countries opened up their markets and economies only to discover that the developed counties would not allow free access to their own markets, to goods from the developing world.

For example, farmers in poor countries cannot compete against the massive subsidies dispensed in the EU and US. This means that goods from the EU and US can be sold relatively cheaply in developing countries, undercutting local producers and frequently putting them out of business.

In addition, produce from the Developing World is subjected to punitive tariffs.

This is especially true of food and textiles, the chief exports of the developing world.

Thus, while being urged to ``export or die' this is precisely what they are prevented from doing.

Trade barriers cost the developing world an estimated $700 billion every year - or 14 times what they receive in development aid.

The United Nations Administration Committee on Co-ordination, Sub-Committee on Nutrition (ACC/SCN) Commission chair, Philip James, said, ``The nutritional health of children and adults often deteriorates as a result of cutbacks and austerity programs imposed by international institutions like the IMF. IMF-negotiated structural adjustment programs normally focus on an immediate balancing of the budgets even at the cost of human hardship. It is evident that this seemingly temporary sacrifice prejudices the lives of future generations - balancing budgets at a cost of unbalancing children's lives.''

The result of all of this unsurprisingly is that in the last two decades, the inhabitants of High Income Countries have seen their household income rise by approximately $9,800 per head.

Meanwhile the majority of the world's people - those living in Low Income Countries - have seen their share of the world's wealth grow by just $4 per person.

In 1980, someone living in a High Income Country had 22 times as much to spend as a person living in a Low Income Country.

By 1998, that figure had tripled - inhabitants of wealthy countries had sixty times as much to spend as someone from a Low Income Country.

This then is the context in which we have to view the hard and enormous task of ending world hunger and poverty.

These are some but not all of the harsh realities.

What can we do?

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