Live Below the Line week..

I wanted to pledge support for the Live Below the Line week and attempt to live off £1 a day to show solidarity with the 1.4 billion globally living in extreme poverty, but I haven’t done it. Being in between work it seemed like the perfect time to pledge support since I am counting the pennies, however moving around a lot without a routene makes it impossible, with travel etc. excuses, excuses it sounds like… and you are right..

Looking at the campaign website today I thought that one thing Live Below the Line could have done would be to have some engagement with people struggling to live off this little and what it is like essentially. I can imagine there are lots of politics around this. However there is something slightly uncomfortable about imitating a struggle which is profoundly so removed from anyone who would ever pledge to do this. Obviously this is the point of the whole campaign but is it patronising? Do people living off the equivalent of £1 a day think it is a ridiculous way of showing solidarity? I think it would add weight to this campaign which aspires to ultimately live in another’s shoes for a week, and really shift peoples attitudes, to perhaps get some of the people who are living like this to say how they feel about the campaign. I see none of this on their website, which I find a little off-putting and makes me feel like it is another very western-centric cosy comfortable campaign, where we are simply just challenging ourselves not to give into the temptation of our morning coffee from pret.. and having to remember a packed lunch every day.

I guess I should try doing it first and then have a rant. The idea certainly can’t do any harm – watch The Global Poverty Project’s vid or the IF campaign vid (see below) in the run up to the G8 summit to take place in June. It is upsetting to think that 1 in 7 go to bed hungry and we produce enough food to feed the world one and a half times over ( suggesting the food system does not need GM to create more food but simply a more effective market and distribution reforms). Also I just read in The Week that according to a new study by Oxford University poverty is in decline from 43% in the 1990’s to as low as 16% in the next two years, so we must be doing something right as global society.

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New Deal: Promoting Peaceful States

A New Deal for global development is being advocated for fragile states, building on the precedent of global responsibility set by the Millennium Development Goals at the turn of the century. International Dialogue and g7+, a group of fragile states, will host the third meeting in Washington DC next Friday to establish a new global development strategy for the 1.5 billion people still living in fragile, conflict-affected areas.

‘We need to transform the way we all engage with fragile and conflict affected states. That’s the message from our own research and also from heeding the calls for a “New Deal” from an innovative coalition of fragile countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, known as the g7+’ Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank.

The New Deal places greater emphasis on Peace building and State building Goals (PSGs) as the core capacity building blocks that provide the necessary foundations for further progress on MDGs. The main focus is to ensure Legitimate Politics, Security and Justice, Employment and Services based on a country-by-country fragility assessment that enables a country-led response, coined One Vision, One Plan.

In brief the idea is to focus more on building infrastructures and systems, legal frameworks that establish trust, transparency, and accountability in order for the effective delivery of aid and the implementation of the PSGs. ‘The New Deal for Fragile States, which [the g7+] have developed from the very beginning, is an exciting and fresh approach that has the chance to deliver real results’ Hillary Clinton, Former US Secretary of State.

As may well be assumed the majority of listed fragile states are to be found in Africa, still filling most of the bottom spots on the World Banks GDP per capita rankings. Afghanistan has the lowest GDP outside of Africa, a particularly fragile state as the only country to have its MDGs extended to 2020, due to the war that began in 2001. But how many internal conflicts, toppled governments, guerrilla wars from neighbouring states, were not taken into account for many of the other countries who made the pledge? The lack of consideration for context is one of the main flaws in the MDG approach and suggestive of why none of the fragile states will achieve a single MDG by 2015 at the current rate of progress.

This New Deal for peace building identifies key symptoms of fragile states and needs of conflict-affected populations through the PSG objectives, which forms the core of this new approach for development. So far more than 40 countries and partner organisations have signed up and six countries have agreed to pilot the programme, including Afghanistan and some of the poorest countries in Africa, reflecting the need for improved global assistance to enable fragile states to make the transition towards a more peaceful state.

For more information please visit New Deal For Peace

More balanced information on GM is needed

I went to a lecture on the benefits of using GM foods last month, unsurprisingly given by a US advisor to Hillary Clinton on bio-technology.  I am not an expert on GM foods and do not want to rant about the fears of ‘franken-food’ (well maybe i do a little bit but I’ll try not to – although that is one of the joys of blogging!) but the presentation was certainly a pr stunt to various UK companies with vested interests, to equip them with the supporting facts they wanted to hear, rather than a balanced oversight to the realities of a future world fed on GM.  Essentially the presentation showed figures to support the desired conclusion that GM food will solve global hunger and increase food production by 60% by 2050 using less water, fertiliser, land and pesticides than organic methods.

If the EU refuses to budge on its anti-GM stance, we were told that we were heading for a trade wreck, putting our farmers at an unfair disadvantage to cheaper GM imports. A fair point but not necessarily one heading in the right direction, when the long term outlook is not so advantageous.

Monsanto’s UK representative was having a close old chinwag with him before-hand, see another post on Monsanto’s latest antics. No one questioned his pro-GM stance. It was all plus+plus+plus=plusses – despite the escalation of suicide rates amongst farmers in India, who can’t afford to buy the seeds year after year and fall into increasing debt. GM is now being proposed to increase food security in Africa, an attractive short term solution to food scarcity, but likely to cause a similar hand-lock as experienced in India.

The fact that the US have an agenda to promote GM foods is widely known since Bush’s presidency and the cables published on Wikileaks as highlighted by the Guardian here.

And they are certainly still at it. The advisor was an approachable and informative man, probably being paid a fortune to wage this campaign across Europe, setting off to Brussels the very next day. At the IFE Food and Drink Event in March I heard the Managing Director of Sainsbury’s admit that the likelihood of GM foods being on shop-shelves soon is almost inevitable.

Not that GM seeds should be our biggest fear when you see the size of these perfect king-sized GM Salmon currently being farmed in Panama, potentially for the US market next year.