Monday, April 11, 2005

Thanks to Target Market

Over at I want My Crayons Back Too, for her inspired post on Oxfam. I checked out the web site and it sure got me thinking, so here are a few Hard Facts courtesy of that site:

"One billion people live in poverty.
If Africa, East Asia, South Asia and Latin America each increased their share of world exports by just one per cent, they could lift 128 million people out of poverty.
In Africa alone, this one per cent increase in the share of world trade would generate $70 billion - five times what the continent gets in aid.
More than 40 per cent of the world's population live in low-income countries - yet these countries account for just three per cent of world trade.
For every dollar given to poor countries in aid, they lose two dollars to rich countries because of unfair trade barriers against their exports.
When exporting to rich countries, producers in poor countries pay tariffs that are four times higher than those paid by producers in other rich countries.
Africa has lost the equivalent of 50 pence for every pound received in aid because of the falling prices it gets for its commodities.
Coffee prices have fallen by 70 per cent since 1997, costing exporters in poor countries $8 billion.
Rich countries spend $1 billion a day on agricultural subsidies, putting farmers in poor countries out of business and driving down their income.
A Ghanaian cocoa farmer only gets 1.2 per cent of the price we pay for a bar of chocolate. Between 1996 and 2000 Ghana increased cocoa production by almost a third but was paid a third less.
About one-third of manufacturing workers in developing countries are women. They earn about 25 per cent less than their male colleagues.
Increased patent protection will cost developing countries $40 billion each year. The new rules were designed by the transnationals that stand to reap the benefits."

In particular I was also really blown away by the role that the WTO is playing in keeping poor people in developing countries sick through patent policy on medicines. This makes the drug companies richer and richer while children in places like Africa are dying. Pretty serious stuff.

But we all know that the WTO is scary in its imense disregard for anything that will put a damper on the profits of the multinationals, so instead of allowing myself to become more depressed over this, I found myself an antidote:

The Yes men (and for those of you who have not seen the documentary based on what these guys do - go out and rent it tonight.) These guys achieve social activism through selective impersonation. Their target: the WTO.

Between organisations such as Oxfam, and activists such as the Yes Men, I know I stand at least a chance of being able to sleep at night.

The Oxfam site asks us to "Tell a friend" about their latest campaigns. I urge everybody that reads Renaissance Girl to visit the site and sign their petition. From a business standpoint and from a humanitarian standpoint, the things they are campaigning for make sense. People can make a difference.


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