Meditation Focus #131

Making Poverty History


What follows is the 131st Meditation Focus suggested for the next 3 weeks beginning Sunday, May 29, 2005.


1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus
4. Peace and Humanitarian Vigil for Darfur
5. Reframing our Perspective as Healers



The gap between the worlds's rich and poor has never been wider. Malnutrition, AIDS, conflict and illiteracy are a daily reality for millions. But it isn't chance or bad luck that keeps people trapped in bitter, unrelenting poverty. It's man-made factors like a glaringly unjust global trade system, a debt burden so great that it suffocates any chance of recovery and insufficient and ineffective aid. Back in 2001 the governments of the eight wealthiest nations on the planet said that they were going to do something about it - in what was seen as a breakthrough, they promised to halve world poverty by 2015. Four years later the world is failing dismally to reach those targets. This year offers a truly exceptional set of opportunities for everyone to say that enough is enough.

Something is very wrong with world trade - it's filling the pockets of the rich while ripping off the world's poorest people. Millions of people are stuck in the trade trap. No matter how hard they work, they earn less every year. The situation is so dismal, half the world's population now lives on less than US$2 a day - roughly the cost of a burger. Despite grand statements from world leaders, the debt crisis is far from over. Creditors have still not delivered on the promises they made seven years ago to cancel unpayable poor country debts. As a result, many countries still have to spend more on debt repayments than on meeting the needs of their people. International institutions like the IMF and World Bank must stop asking poor countries to jump through hoops in order to qualify for debt relief. Poor countries should no longer have to privatise basic services or liberalise their economies as a condition for getting the debt relief they so desperately need. In Benin, 54% of the money saved through debt relief has been spent on health including rural primary health care and HIV programmes. In Tanzania, debt relief enabled the government to abolish primary school fees, leading to a 66% increase in attendance. After Mozambique was granted debt relief, it was able to offer all children free immunisation. In Uganda, debt relief led to 2.2 million people gaining access to clean water. Each year, Africa faces demands for over $10 billion in debt repayments. Little more than 10% of the total debt owed by the world's poorest countries has been cancelled.

According to FAO Director General Jacques Diouf, the number of hungry had gone up over the last decade -- despite a 1996 pledge to halve world hunger by the middle of next decade. "Our latest estimates indicate that 852 million people worldwide were undernourished in 2000-2002." In March 2005 some 36 countries were suffering from food shortages, 23 of them in sub-Saharan Africa and seven in Asia. Next July 6, the world's wealthiest nations will have yet another opportunity during the G8 Summit in Scotland to correct the global imbalances that led to such dismal statistic and so much suffering. To make sure they get the message that the whole world is anxious for them to make real progress both on mitigating global warming, the proven cause of an imminent global crisis of biblical proportions, and on alleviating global poverty, over 450 charities and development agencies have joined in a campaign in the UK to Make Poverty History, the biggest movement of its kind in British history. Next July 2, a globally televised 16 hour concert with an amazing line up of world renowned musicians and celebrities that Bob Geldof is organizing 20 years after his well remembered Live Aid concert will be watched by over 3 billion people. At least 100,000 people dressed in white are expected to surround the center of Edinburgh, close to where the G8 Summit is to be held, in one of the biggest rallies against poverty ever organized in Scotland. In the meantime, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is on a whistlestop tour of major world capitals asking nations to donate an extra $25 billion annually to reverse poverty in Africa. He is also attempting to have the debts of poor nations written off in full. Blair, who took a massive political risk supporting the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 when many Britons opposed it, is expected in Washington soon to make a final pre-G8 push for support. He faces an uphill battle to win wider agreement before hosting this summer's G8 summit, experts say. Although European nations are largely in agreement, the main stumbling block is the United States.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming three weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following two Sundays, to contribute in supporting the global efforts now underway to ensure that abject poverty and the countless millions of premature deaths it causes will finally deserve the same urgent global attention and succor the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami elicited 5 months ago. Please envision that world leaders, particularly in the United States, realize keenly their direct responsibility in marshalling the considerable resources at their disposal to redirect the priorities of their governments and financial institutions so as to create the conditions through direct aid, complete debt relief for the poorest countries, more favorable trade agreements, and investment in the sustainable development of all poor regions of the world, to quickly and permanently make poverty history, for the Highest Good of All.

This whole Meditation Focus has been archived for your convenience at

"Live Aid in 1985 was about mass mobilisation to raise money and awareness. 2005 must be about mass mobilisation to get politicians to do the right thing. 30,000 children are dying needlessly from preventable diseases each day because of poverty. In our own small way we must play our part in the international effort to make the 21st century Africa's century."

- Jack McConnell - First Minister of Scotland

"Dire poverty and climate degradation feed off each other. In Africa, the impact of climate change is devastating. The predicted average temperature rise in the centre of Africa is 4C (8F) and it is thought for every degree rise countries would lose 4% of GDP. Many areas of currently cultivated land would become infertile."

- Margaret Beckett - UK environment secretary


i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes. Please dedicate the last few minutes of your Sunday meditation BOTH to the healing of the Earth as a whole and to reiterate our willingness and desire - if we so choose - to receive assistance from our space family in order to help set things on a path towards a new era of global peace, love and harmony for all. See the Earth as healthy and vibrant with life, and experience the healing of all relations as we awaken globally to the sacredness of all Life and to our underlying unity with All That Is.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below will correspond, this Sunday April 3, to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM

+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.

* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.

You may also check at to find your corresponding local time for tomorrow if a nearby city is not listed above.


This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.


1. Landmark Deal to Increase Aid to Poor Countries; U.S. Urged to Join In
2. In the next 50 days, you can change the world for good
3. Africa Can't Be a World Apart
4. More Calls for Military Intervention in Sudan's Troubled Darfur Region

See also:

Minute's silence to mark global death toll of hunger (May 29),13365,1495020,00.html
As ministers step up pressure on the US to wipe out Africa's crippling debt burden, Geldof prepares to unveil U2 and Coldplay as Live 8 headliners - The government is to back a national minute's silence to remember the world's poor ahead of the crucial G8 Summit in July. The symbolic gesture is planned to illustrate the huge British support for plans to alleviate Africa's poverty and will be watched by the world's largest televised audience as part of the Live 8 concert on 2 July. The International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, told The Observer that highlighting Africa's poverty would be vital in the run-up to negotiations between world leaders on how to tackle the continent's problems. He said: 'Any way in which we can raise awareness of the condition of millions of people in Africa is a good thing and around the summit the country is going to be very, very aware why this matters.' Benn said that the mounting political momentum alongside growing global expectations could yet see the US and Japan agree to Tony Blair's proposals on debt relief and aid ahead of the Gleneagles summit on 6 July. He added that the Bush administration was being pushed hard on Africa's plight and revealed that the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, had already opened discussions with the US on relieving Africa's crippling debt burden. 'The Americans have been talking about the importance of action on debt. This is going to be the year when we take the right decision ... it's a real time of opportunity and we absolutely have to seize it with both hands as a world,' added Benn, who last week took part in the announcement of the European Union aid package for the world's poorest countries. The minister also praised the backing of the British public for the Make Poverty History campaign - backed by The Observer - describing the response as among the best of the G8 countries. On Tuesday, details for Live 8 will be unveiled by Sir Bob Geldof two decades after the original Live Aid concert. It will dwarf its predecessor with a series of concerts lasting more than 16 hours taking place in at least three continents with the largest events in Washington, Johannesburg and Edinburgh as well as the centrepiece gig in Hyde Park, central London. Acts expected to feature include Coldplay, U2 and the Spice Girls with estimates that the global viewing figures could double the 1.5 billion in 1985.

Consultants pocket $20bn of global aid (May 29, 2005),2763,1495096,00.html
Consultants are creaming off a staggering $20 billion from hard-won global aid budgets. The $20bn total is 40 per cent of the international communities' overseas development pot of $50bn - money that is meant to relieve poverty in developing countries. The World Bank has confirmed the figure for the first time: this weekend it admitted that money spent on 'technical assistance' and consultants had increased by $2bn on last year's $18bn total. A spokesman conceded that ballooning consultants' fees 'need to be addressed'. The news comes in the wake of a hard-hitting report by charity ActionAid, which said that a huge proportion of aid was wasted, misdirected or recycled in rich countries. The focus on the effectiveness of aid coincides with the drive by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to persuade G8 countries to double aid to poor nations to $100bn at a crucial meeting of world leaders in Gleneagles in five weeks. Last week Brown managed to persuade European Union leaders to commit to a programme that would see Europe's aid contribution double by 2010. Campaigners are demanding that world leaders move to halve the figure of 3 billion people living on less than £1 a day, and dramatically improve access to education, health and water to half the world's population. 'More aid is urgently needed to help poor people, but we must ensure that aid is real and benefits those who need it, rather than lining the pockets of rich people's consultants,' said Romilly Greenhill, policy officer at ActionAid. Peter Hardstaff, head of policy at the World Development Movement, said: 'This shocking £20bn figure is not just a waste of aid; it is also a back-door route by the US and UK to force free-market policies which have demonstrably failed in so many poor countries.' The World Bank admission of what amounts to a crisis in the way that aid is handled comes as Paul Wolfowitz, the controversial neo-conservative and architect of the Iraq War, this week starts work as its president. Wolfowitz will be closely watched to see whether he moves to prevent western consultancies from profiting unduly from privatisations and the deregulation of poor nations' key industries and utilities. Wolfowitz's arrival at the bank comes at a pivotal time. Many see any proposed increase in international aid as the last chance to seriously address fundamental global inequalities. Since the 1950s, some $300bn has been spent on aid to Africa while living standards have fallen. CLIP

Geldof to follow up Live Aid and 'turn the world' (May 27, 2005),13365,1493576,00.html
After weeks of speculation Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure yesterday confirmed plans for a follow up to Live Aid to coincide with the G8 summit in Gleneagles in July. Picking up an Ivor Novello award for the best selling UK single with last year's Do They Know It's Christmas by Band Aid 20, Ure said: "We'll have all the biggest names we can find. But it's not just about big names, it's about making a point." (...) Geldof and Ure are rumoured to be planning a series of concerts around the world, including one in Hyde Park, central London, to put pressure on world leaders during the summit to cut third world debt, reform trade agreements and increase aid to the region. Ure, the former Ultravox singer, said the event should not be compared to the original. "I can say there's never going to be a Live Aid II."Bands who have already taken part in the Make Poverty History campaign such as Coldplay and U2, who yesterday won the international hit of the year award for Vertigo, are likely to be involved with dozens of other big names. Geldof, the Boomtown Rats singer who organised the original Live Aid in July 1985, said: "Once more into the breach. What started 20 years ago is coming to a political point in a few weeks. "There's more than a chance that the boys and girls with guitars will finally get to turn the world on its axis and I need you there with us. What we do in the next five weeks is seriously, properly, historically, politically important." Sting, who presented Ure and Geldof with their award, said he had already agreed to take part. CLIP Many more related news at

Blair gets Italy's backing over African aid (May 27 2005)
Tony Blair has won support from Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over his plans to tackle poverty in Africa. Mr Berlusconi said he fully backs the UK's initiative to boost aid to the continent that will top July's G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. Mr Blair is on a whistlestop tour of major world capitals asking nations to donate an extra $25 billion annually to reverse poverty in Africa. He is also attempting to have the debts of poor nations written off in full. The Prime Minister will travel to Washington to meet President George W Bush and will visit President Jacques Chirac, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Italy donates the smallest amount of aid contributions in real terms within the Group of Eight industrialised countries. Despite pledges to boost the handouts, the country has dropped from some 0.2 per cent of gross domestic income (GNI) in 2002 to 0.16 per cent in 2003 while the UK's aid contribution represents 0.34 per cent of GDP. Mr Berlusconi said: "I think, frankly that Italy does its bit as a protagonist on the world stage."

Blair faces uphill battle over G8 priorities (May 28),00430004.htm
While British Prime Minister Tony Blair has received a ringing endorsement in Rome for his ambitions to tackle poverty and climate change, he faces an uphill battle to win wider agreement before hosting this summer's G8 summit, experts say. Although European nations are largely in agreement, the main stumbling block is the United States -- despite Blair's political credit in Washington for backing the Iraq war. (...) At the centre of discussions are new ways to finance aid. London has proposed the International Finance Facility (IFF), under which loans raised in international markets could be secured by pledges from the rich. France and Germany are, for now, backing their own initiative, an additional tax on air travel to benefit developing nations. The Europeans could eventually agree on one or other of these, the source said. However, in contrast Washington is clearly against both ideas and is also far from enthusiastic about Blair's moves to tackle climate change. Blair, who took a massive political risk supporting the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 when many Britons opposed it, is expected in Washington soon to make a final pre-G8 push for support. "He is desperately trying to get a consensus ahead of the G8 summit... because the two things that he has set as priorities -- climate change and Africa -- appear to be falling apart," said Victor Bulmer-Thomas, director of the Chatham House foreign policy institute in London.Blair's ability to get what he wants from Washington is being "increasingly questioned", Bulmer-Thomas said, saying the Gleneagles summit would be a big test of the British prime minister's clout, or lack of it. CLIP

US told to face up to climate change (May 28, 2005),9061,1494310,00.html
The environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, says Washington is not doing enough to help the fight against global warming - Margaret Beckett today urges the Bush administration to accept that the "incontrovertible" weight of scientific evidence on the dangers of global warming is stimulating an urgent worldwide dialogue that the US must seriously engage with - or risk being left out. But she also admits that Britain itself has much to do to meet the "self-inflicted wounds of our more ambitious domestic target", a 20% cut in greenhouse gases by 2020. Renewable energy, notably wind power, and greater energy efficiency - "we have not done enough with households" - are her priority, not a new generation of nuclear power stations. In an interview with the Guardian ahead of the British-chaired G8 summit in July which seeks to promote climate change and Africa as the great challenges of the decade, Tony Blair's veteran environment secretary says that the US is "doing more than people give them credit for in terms of new technology investment such as carbon sequestration. "But the question is 'is that enough?' And the general feeling in the world community is that no, it is not doing enough. (...) There is more awareness in Europe. But even in the United States multinational businesses as well as states and big cities are getting their act together. General Electric is planning to cut emissions. Nine north-east states are copying Europe's infant carbon trading system, scorned by Washington, for which there are high hopes. Mrs Beckett is also keen to stress the link between climate change and the plight of Africa. "Dire poverty and climate degradation feed off each other. In Africa, the impact of climate change is devastating. The predicted average temperature rise in the centre of Africa is 4C (8F) and it is thought for every degree rise countries would lose 4% of GDP. "Many areas of currently cultivated land would become infertile," she said in her Whitehall HQ in Smith Square. CLIP

Geldof urges Scots to tackle poverty in Africa (May 16, 2005)
Sir Bob Geldof has encouraged Scotland to tackle poverty in Africa at a meeting with First Minister Jack McConnell. The musician and anti-poverty campaigner said it is time to "do something" as he left the official residence of Mr McConnell, ahead of making a speech on the challenges facing Africa. Sir Bob, who launched the Live Aid appeal for Ethiopian famine relief in 1985, told a conference in the Scottish Parliament that the G8 leaders should not come to Britain as planned in July unless they were willing to deliver the pledges they make on the issues of debt, trade and aid. He also suggested it was "disgustingly ironic" that the G8 - the original G7 group of leading industrialised nations and Russia - were meeting at the luxury Gleneagles Hotel resort, an hour north of Edinburgh.

£1m 'ring of steel' erected for G8 summit (May 24)
THE first sections of the five-mile-long "ring of steel" security barrier that will protect world leaders at the G8 summit went up around Gleneagles yesterday. The six-feet-high cordon will be made up of 10,000 wire mesh panels which will cost £1 million, police confirmed last night. The fence will completely encompass the complex and its grounds in an attempt to keep out the thousands of activists from the UK and Europe who are expected to travel to the area to protest against issues such as world poverty, global warming and the war in Iraq. Last night anti-capitalist groups described the latest security measure as "symbolic" but said it would not deter the major protest march on 6 July, the opening day of the summit, which will be attended by Tony Blair, George Bush, Vladimir Putin and other G8 heads of government. (...) Ian Hood, an organiser with Globalise Resistance, said he witnessed tear gas attacks at the Genoa G8 conference fence in 2001 and said the construction of such a massive structure sent out a threatening message. "This fence is a symbolic act by rich and powerful world leaders having to hide themselves away by creating a barrier between themselves and the rest of the world. "It is hard to imagine nearly £1 million being spent on such a sinister structure when you consider thousands of people will die of starvation throughout the world during the duration of the summit." Robin Harper, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, also criticised the construction of the steel fence. He said: "There is a symbolism in that successive G8 conferences in the past have not managed to solve Africa's ills, resulting in a situation where the G8 in Gleneagles will be held in a state of virtual siege. It is also a sign they are feeling the pressure." CLIP

Cost for G8 summit in Scotland spiral up (May 21, 2005),3604,1491609,00.html
$80bn by 2010 for developing nations is boost for Blair-Brown crusade - European Union ministers last night surprised and delighted aid agencies around the world when they agreed a dramatic increase in help to countries in Africa and the rest of the developing world that will see the EU's richest states reach the United Nations' historic goal of giving 0.7% of national income in aid by 2015. The move, which came just six weeks ahead of the G8 industrial nations' summit at Gleneagles, will mean a virtual doubling of the EU's combined aid by 2010, when the rich 15 all pass the 0.51% mark. CLIP

War main reason for world hunger, says UN (May 23)
ROME (AFP) - Armed conflicts and economic crises are the chief reasons for mounting world hunger, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, while offering a grim outlook on plans to cut the number of those going hungry worldwide in half by 2015. "Peace encourages investments and allows social and economic development. Conflict destroys lives, opportunities and environments," the FAO's food security committee said as it began meeting in Rome. "It can destroy in hours and days what has taken years and decades to develop." "Conflict and economic problems were the main cause of more than 35 percent of food emergencies between 1992 and 2003, compared to around 15 percent in the period from 1986 to 1991," the FAO said. The effects of war spill over a country's proper borders, it said, "due to the influx of refugees, the increase of military expenditure and the impact on the regional economy," as well as the spread of AIDS. In his opening speech for the four-day meeting FAO Director General Jacques Diouf said the number of hungry had gone up over the last decade -- despite a 1996 pledge to halve world hunger by the middle of next decade. "Our latest estimates indicate that 852 million people worldwide were undernourished in 2000-2002," he said. In 1996 in Rome 186 heads of state met at a World Food Summit (WFS) and set the objective of slashing hunger by half before 2015 when it was revealed that 815 million people suffered from a lack of food. "It is with great regret that more than eight years after the WFS I still have to report that we have not progressed enough towards its objective," said Diouf. "In three of the four developing regions more people were undernourished in 2000-2002 than in 1995-1997. Only Latin America and the Caribbean achieved a modest reduction in the number of hungry people," he added. Diouf explained that hunger continued to cost a huge amount of lives."The latest FAO report on the state of food insecurity in the world 2004 underlines that under-nourishment and deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals cost more than five million children their lives every year," he said. Diouf also said that infant mortality linked to hunger posed long term problems for economies in developing countries. In March 2005 some 36 countries were suffering from food shortages, 23 of them in sub-Saharan Africa and seven in Asia.

Pavarotti adds voice to UN anti-poverty campaign (May 26)
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Italian opera star Luciano Pavarotti will bring his tenor voice to a global anti-poverty campaign, using his concerts in Ireland this week to urge his audiences to back the cause, a UN official said. Pavarotti has offered to show, during his concerts Thursday and Saturday, several short films on the Millennium Development Goals "to call on his audiences to take action to reach the targets" of the campaign CLIP

Abolish the debt burden (May 16),2763,1484831,00.html
Today is World Debt Day. As on every day, poor countries will pay $100m to the rich world in debt payments. And preventable poverty will kill 30,000 children. This injustice must be stopped. Seven years ago today, 70,000 people formed a human chain around the G8 summit in Birmingham to demand the cancellation of debt. Now, seven weeks before the G8 returns to the UK - when thousands will gather in Edinburgh to call on the G8 to Make Poverty History - we are still demanding an end to the debt crisis. Debt relief so far has released funds, for example, for teachers in Mali, HIV/Aids programmes in Benin, classrooms and clinics in Niger and access to education in Uganda, Tanzania and other African countries. But current debt relief initiatives have delivered too little, too slowly and have been used to force harmful economic policies on to indebted countries.This year we are working together to call on powerful governments to Make Poverty History, through delivering trade justice, dropping the debt and providing more and better aid. Today we are pressing the prime minister to use his chairmanship of the G8 to deliver action on these issues and, at last, cancel in full the unpayable debts of the world's poorest countries, from additional resources, without attaching harmful conditions. CLIP

Hopes of 100,000 at anti-poverty rally (May 3, 2005),2763,1475152,00.html
Details for one of Britain's biggest rallies against poverty were released yesterday, as organisers stressed that the event involving up to 200,000 demonstrators before the G8 summit in Edinburgh would not be hijacked by radical anti-capitalists. Organisers of the Make Poverty History day on July 2 have asked marchers to wear white T-shirts to form a giant white band around the centre of the Scottish capital.

Guardian coverage on Debt Relief,2759,178197,00.html

Feel-good factor - But will it save the planet? (May 20, 2005),12458,1488241,00.html
Farmers in developing countries are some of the most vulnerable people on earth, prey to world commodity markets, middle men and the weather. So-called "fair trade" arrangements guarantee cooperative groups a price above the world market price and a bonus on top. The growing fair-trade market has distributed hundreds of millions of pounds to more than 50 million people worldwide. But critics say that fair trade will never lift a country out of poverty; indeed, it may keep it there, because the money generated from sales goes almost in its entirety to rich countries which promote the products. Only about 5% of the sale price of a fair-trade chocolate bar (which retails for £1.73 in the UK shops) may actually go to the poor country. CLIP

Guardian coverage on Fair Trade,12458,794377,00.html

Yahoo coverage on Poverty

Tobin-lite could raise £3bn for third world (April 7, 2005),2763,1453896,00.html
A new campaign will be launched today to persuade the government to levy a stamp duty on foreign exchange trading that would raise billions of pounds for poverty relief in developing countries. The campaign, Stamp Out Poverty, unites 50 charities, non-governmental organisations and church groups and says existing ideas to finance the drive to eliminate poverty in Africa will not raise the $50bn a year extra that is needed to meet the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals of 2000. Campaigners are pushing for a levy of 0.005% on every currency transaction in sterling, to be adopted unilaterally by Britain, which would raise up to £3bn a year and would be ringfenced for international development. The campaign says the stamp duty would be so small that it would not impede the markets and could easily be afforded by the banks that carry out the bulk of the world's annual £250 trillion of currency dealings. Trade in sterling alone is worth £21 trillion a year. CLIP

Make Poverty History official website
Every single day, 30,000 children are dying as a result of extreme poverty. This year, 2005, we finally have the resources, knowledge and opportunity to end this shameful situation. That's what this website is about. Join the band of people who are taking action to make poverty history. It only needs to take you a matter of minutes every month, but it will help us to literally change the world. If this is your first visit to the site these are the 3 things you should do - join us now, get a white band & find out more.

Ethical wristbands made using 'slave labour' (May 29)
Wristbands sold to raise money for a campaign against world poverty are made in Chinese sweatshops in "slave labour" conditions, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. The "shocking" conditions are disclosed in confidential "ethical audits" of factories that make the ultra-fashionable white wristbands for the Make Poverty History campaign, started by a coalition of more than 400 charities.Bob Geldof, who last week confirmed a follow-up to the 1985 Live Aid concert - to coincide with the G8 summit in July - called for action when this newspaper broke the news to him. "The charities should pull out of deals with those companies immediately or set a firm deadline for improvements and pull out if the improvements are not met," he said. One senior official with a British charity last night described the labour abuses as "deeply shocking".He accused Oxfam, Christian Aid, Cafod and others of "rank hypocrisy" for buying from sweatshops while campaigning for "fair and ethical trade". CLIP

World Debt Day Report (May 16)
Cancel Debt - or millions will die -- Millions of poor people face early death unless the world's richest nations write off all the unpayable debts in developing countries.This warning comes as campaigners reveal that at least 62 states - not just the 27 heavily-indebted poor countries so far earmarked for debt help - need total debt cancellation to lift people out of poverty. CLIP

G8 SUMMIT: Divisions Deepen over Route to Africa (May 20)
LONDON (IPS) - Britain has declared that the development of Africa will be a priority at the G8 summit, but little agreement is in sight over the preferred aid route. British officials say that support for the International Finance Facility (IFF) proposed by Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Gordon Brown is rising. But there is no sign that the United States will abandon or amend the aid programme under its Millennium Challenge Account to adopt the IFF. (...) U.S. President George W. Bush announced in 2002 that the United States will increase its core assistance to developing countries by 50 percent over the next three years, resulting in a 5 billion dollar annual increase over 2002 levels by financial year 2006. The United States aid programme ties in closely with its political and economic interests, and there is no sign it is letting go of its plans ahead of the G8 summit. The different approaches have added up to another transatlantic divide, though divisions remain also within Europe. There is no certainty just how much cash France and Germany would raise through government bonds to fund the IFF. (...) Gordon Brown has been pressing home the moral argument. ''If present rates of progress were to continue in sub-Saharan Africa, we would not meet the goal of primary education for all by 2015 -- we would meet it in 2150, 135 years late -- which is why additional finance is required and why the world community must examine the provision of resources,'' he told the House of Commons. CLIP

G8 to set no timetable for reducing global warming (May 28)
The forthcoming 2005 summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations (G8) will not set a timetable to reduce global warming, British newspaper The Independent reported on Saturday. The G8 summit will discuss the role of nuclear power in reducing climate change, but it is not preparing to set new targets or a timetable to cut global warming, the paper said, citing a leaked draft communique on climate change for the G8 summit. The paper, Draft G8 Climate Change and Sustainable Energy, which outlines the key climate change issues for the G8 summit, shows no new timetable for reducing carbon emissions or any ambitious new targets for progress after 2012, said the paper. CLIP



Landmark Deal to Increase Aid to Poor Countries; U.S. Urged to Join In

Abid Aslam, OneWorld US

May 26, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 26 (OneWorld) - Activists are seeking to use a European breakthrough this week to turn up the heat on some of the world's richest countries to come up with money they promised decades ago in the global fight against poverty.

The moves follow a European Union (EU) announcement Tuesday that members would boost aid to poor countries and are aimed at intensifying pressure in the run up to two sets of talks next month: the summit in Scotland of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized powers plus Russia, and a meeting of EU finance ministers in Luxembourg.

The EU's 15 oldest members agreed Tuesday to increase official aid for immunization, sanitation, schools, and other programs in poor countries to the equivalent of 0.7 percent of their economic output by 2015. The bloc's 10 newer members pledged to ''strive for'' 0.33 percent.

Aid charity Oxfam International welcomed the announcement and sought to parlay it into increased pressure on Washington and other wealthy capitals to follow suit.

The ''landmark agreement could inject up to $40 billion extra in the fight against poverty and save millions of lives,'' said Jo Leadbeater, the organization's head of advocacy.

The EU move ''throws down the gauntlet to the U.S., Japan, and Canada just weeks before crucial G-8 meetings,'' Leadbeater said, adding that it ''leaves the U.S. with nowhere to hide. If they fail to step up to the mark and pay their share they will be responsible for derailing an historic deal on aid that would help lift millions out of poverty.''

On average, EU members spent 0.38 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on foreign aid last year, compared to 0.16 percent of GDP earmarked for aid by the United States, according to figures cited by European officials.

Global Call to Action against Poverty, an anti-poverty coalition, welcomed the European commitments but urged that they be bolstered with hard-and-fast deadlines.

''The EU can still go further and all eyes are now on the EU finance ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on June 7,'' said coalition spokesperson Kumi Naidoo. ''We want them to strengthen (Tuesday's) deal and show even more ambition to make poverty history.''

Germany, which activists and even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan--seizing an opportunity presented by Bonn's pursuit of a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council--had pressed on its spending record, also said this week that it would raise aid levels to 0.7 percent by 2015.

''Whilst we welcome Germany's announcement,'' said Naidoo, ''we are now looking forward to hearing from Finance Minister Hans Eichel and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on how Germany is planning to move forward on this. Firm action must follow public commitments.''

The 0.7-percent commitment represents a funding promise first made in 1970 with a 1980 deadline. The target was revived with a new deadline under the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, a statement of ambitions launched in 2000. The goals, to be fulfilled by 2015, include halving global poverty and hunger, reducing death rates for babies and mothers, and improving access to health care and schooling.

Four European countries already have exceeded the target, according to EU statistics: Luxembourg (0.85 percent), Denmark (0.84 percent), Sweden (0.77 percent) and the Netherlands (0.74 percent).

Aid alone does not determine a wealthy country's impact on poorer ones, according to the Center for Global Development, a Washington, D.C. research and advocacy group, and Foreign Policy magazine.

The center and the magazine have, for the past two years, ranked 21 rich nations on how their aid, trade, investment, migration, environment, security, and technology policies help poor countries.

Denmark and the Netherlands shared the top spot for 2004 and Japan took last place. The United States shared seventh place with Germany, Norway, and France.

''The world's poor countries are ultimately responsible for their own development--and for years, rich countries have measured, categorized, scored, advised, and admonished them to cut their budget deficits, invest more in education, or liberalize their financial markets,'' the authors of the ''Commitment to Development Index'' said.

So they decided to turn the tables, ranking the rich according to how their policies help or hinder poor countries' pursuit of social and economic progress.

''Why should rich countries care about development in poor ones?'' the center and the magazine asked in their joint study.

''For reasons both pragmatic and principled,'' they answered. ''In a globalizing world, rich countries cannot insulate themselves from insecurity. Poverty and weak institutions are breeding grounds for public-health crises, violence, and economic volatility. Fairness is another reason to care. No human being should be denied the chance to live free of poverty and oppression, or to enjoy a basic standard of education and health.''

Finally, the countries ranked all are democracies that ''preach concern for human dignity and economic opportunity within their own borders,'' the study added. ''The index measures whether their policies promote these same values in the rest of the world.''



In the next 50 days, you can change the world for good

Every day, poverty kills 30,000 children in Africa alone. It is preventable. Here The Observer starts the 50-day run-in to the G8 summit in Scotland, where world leaders have one final chance to Make Poverty History

Mark Townsend and Nick Mathiason

May 15, 2005

She turned from the Prime Minister's gaze and clicked her slender pale fingers. Around her, the eight most powerful men in the world sat open-mouthed, gawping at the generous dollops of souffle laid before them. Click. 'There they go,' Gina said, her delicate features flushed with quiet rage. Click. 'And another one.'

Britain's Prime Minister stared at the floor. Across the vast dining table, his Chancellor buried his face in his palms. They knew precisely what the three clicks meant. They knew that every three seconds of every day a child in Africa dies from extreme poverty. And as they gaped at the lavish banquet to mark the final supper of the G8 summit, they too knew that the 100 million African youngsters on the brink of starvation would never dare dream of the scraps they would leave.

Gina is an unemployed young woman played by Kelly Macdonald in a forthcoming film written by Britain's most successful screenwriter, Richard Curtis. The Girl in the Cafe is a poignant 90-minute romantic tale starring Bill Nighy, of Love Actually, as a bashful civil servant working for the Chancellor who whisks Gina on an unlikely break to a G8 summit in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Sure, there is love and there are laughs, but Curtis's latest work is no Notting Hill or Four Weddings and a Funeral. Instead the plot explores the cynicism of global politics and its ultimate victims; the voiceless people of Africa.

Next month, The Girl in the Cafe will be broadcast by the BBC. Days later, on 6 July, the leaders of the eight most influential industrial countries will gather again for dinner at a G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland - only this time it will be for real. Chairing the gathering will be Tony Blair, who has sworn to amend the moral weakness of the West by finally eradicating the 'scandal' of Africa's poor.

For the continent's 800 million people it promises to be the defining moment of a dark and troubled recent history. Just over 20 years after Live Aid thrust the scars of Africa before a mortified world, Blair stands on the brink of an agreement that would, according to campaigners, be recalled in history along with the abolition of slavery and the extinction of apartheid.

Today The Observer joins the campaign to Make Poverty History, a coalition of 450 charities and development agencies that is already the biggest movement of its kind in British history. In just over 50 days time when Blair sits down alongside his peers in the oak-panelled opulence of the Gleneagles Hotel banqueting suite, the campaign expects to have the support of 10 million Britons. By then, a sixth of Britain's population will know that 120,000 African children will have died from poverty during the four-day talks.

Curtis, who co-founded Comic Relief and has met both Blair and Nelson Mandela several times to discuss Africa's suffering, is among those convinced that G8 provides a final but realistic platform to halt a crisis that claims far more victims each year than died during the Holocaust.

He told The Observer: 'We have to look very hard at ourselves and 30 years from now our children laying wreaths on the tomb of the unknown child in Africa and saying there was a holocaust and nobody thought it was worth bothering about.

'If 50,000 people died in London on Monday, in Rome on Tuesday, Munich on Wednesday, in New York on Thursday and in Paris on Friday, they would find the money and the solution to the problem as they walked from the lift to the breakfast bar, they just would.

'There is no way they wouldn't find it and the thing is to try and say to people that we care as much about these deaths happening elsewhere as we would if they happened on our front doorstep. We don't have to be condemned by the fact that 20 years ago it wasn't possible to do something big and structural. It is possible now. A huge amount is at stake for a huge amount of people.'

A multi-coloured cloud of petals cascaded over the mourners gathered in St Paul's Cathedral last Wednesday. In total, 275,000 fluttered down from the building's famous dome, each one a vivid symbol of every victim of the Asian tsunami, whose devastation extracted such an extraordinary, generous response from the British public.

Although it already seems otherworldly, the year had begun dominated by searing images of waves crashing against the Asian coastline, an unprecedented event that few believe will be repeated in our lifetime. Yet the start of 2005 also marked the beginning of another event that could change the planet even more profoundly. Six days after the earthquake off northern Sumatra had propelled a vast curtain of water with such fury, eight million Britons settled down for Curtis's BBC sitcom The Vicar of Dibley.

During the New Year's Day episode, actress Dawn French performed a broadcasting first; her fictional character imploring parishioners to support a then unknown but grand-sounding campaign called Make Poverty History. At the time of transmission, the tsunami's death toll stood at 150,000. A horrendous, shocking total, but still 100,000 fewer than the number who had died from poverty since the earthquake struck.

And that was just in Africa. Thousands of miles from its epicentre, mankind was being reduced by a 'casual holocaust'; an entire continent joined in silent mourning. Disease, starvation and a lack of clean water has ensured life expectancy in some African countries has shrunk to a level last seen in AD 500.

The Make Poverty History campaign has so far attracted the support of at least 2.7m Britons, an average of 20,000 a day since its launch. Those co-ordinating the campaign, like television and radio presenter Emma Freud, married to Curtis and fellow founder of Comic Relief, have been 'astonished' by the growth of a campaign whose symbol is a white wrist band.

Unlike Live Aid there are no demands for donations. Make Poverty History is about the sheer weight of support, the power of a people willing to express concern for the plight of a distant continent. By today almost three million Britons will have secured a wrist band. Another 300,000 have sent a text message to Blair demanding action.

On the eve of the G8 summit, at least 200,000 will converge on Edinburgh for a massive peace protest. Dressed all in white they will form a gigantic 'human wristband' encircling Scotland's capital to coincide with the vital negotiations 50 miles north of the city, in Gleneagles.

The roll call of celebrities is impressive. So far 150 have pledged support, among them Kate Moss, Kylie Minogue, Damon Albarn, Emma Thompson, Helen Mirren and Jamie Oliver. Blair himself was regularly seen during the election campaign sporting a Make Poverty History wristband, an accessory many hope is a statement of intent rather than political expediency.

Clasping the hand of a man dying with Aids, a disease which kills two million in Africa each year, Gordon Brown was clearly struggling to control his emotion. 'We are all brothers,' the Chancellor said. When he visited Africa a fortnight after the Make Poverty History campaign began, Brown's eight-year crusade to persuade the wealthiest nations to write off the continent's crippling £140bn debt had become more than a distant moral crusade. Finally he had seen at first hand the pain of abject poverty.

Like Blair, Brown is haunted by past failures, particularly the promises delivered five years ago by world leaders to halve the number of people living on 70p a day, pledges that have already unravelled. Oxfam says the West's overseas aid is equivalent to the cost of a cup of coffee per person. Unless rich countries double the amount they spend on overseas aid, more than 45 million children are predicted to die over the next decade. As the world's population is projected to increase to about nine billion by 2050, the number of people born into dire poverty will grow exponentially.

At the heart of the Brown-Blair proposal to maximise Britain's chairmanship of the G8 are plans to raise an extra £30bn a year in overseas aid over the next decade. Known as the International Finance Facility, it would pool rich countries' aid budgets to generate a huge injection of cash to be paid back over the next 25 years. France and Germany have already said they will back the plan, but Brown has secured little enthusiasm in Washington.

Brown, concerned that for every £1 in grant aid given to developing countries more than £13 bounces back in debt repayments, wants to eradicate almost £100bn of the debt owed by poor nations to major banks. The worry persists that giving extra billions of pounds to Africa is throwing good money after bad. Since the Fifties, around £200bn has been offered as aid only for much to be siphoned off by corrupt regimes. Even leading African politicians now believe that this could be their last chance to convince the public in the wealthiest countries that they will not waste the West's cash.

Moeletsi Mbeki, deputy chairman of the South African Institute of International affairs and brother of the South African president, said: 'To me the critical issue is how to improve African countries' administration. If extra aid puts money into the hands of some incompetent civil servant then any additional money will not add up to anything.'

They walked proudly into Downing Street last Thursday, their traditional African dress providing a dash of colour on an otherwise drab May afternoon.

Balanced precariously on the heads of the six African women were traditional carrying bowls, each overflowing with almost half a million Make Poverty History signatures, the first tranche of what will be the biggest petition ever received by a British Prime Minister. The women met Blair and swapped ideas on how best to tackle debt, aid and restore trade justice. Pamela Malo of Kenya was smiling afterwards. 'As chair of the G8 Blair has the power,' she said. 'It's whether or not he can deliver without compromise.'

In The Girl In The Cafe Nighy says: 'We acknowledge the extent to which we have failed; everyone licks their wounds and heads for home.' During his words another African child will have died. Another 200 or so will have lost their fragile grip of life during the time it has taken for you to read this article. Tomorrow 30,000 African youngsters will die. The same as today. And the day before.



May 19, 2005

Africa Can't Be a World Apart

The Monitor's View

A tsunami of hunger is washing over sub-Saharan Africa this year, caused by drought, conflict, and inept government. More than 20 countries are in need of food aid, especially 2.6 million refugees from Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur province.

But this continent-wide crisis is so spread out and out of the media spotlight that it's hardly receiving the same intense level of private and government aid as did the survivors of last December's tsunami in Asia.

Such disparities in global giving have officials scratching their heads over why Africa's hungry are treated so differently.

"There is a built-in discrimination," said the chief UN relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, before a private briefing to the UN Security Council last week. "If we all agree that a human life is the same value wherever he or she is born, there should be the same attention to northern Uganda as to northern Iraq, the same attention to the Congo as there was to Kosovo. That is not the case."

What's needed is less pessimism and an equality of compassion toward Africa in order to relieve food shortages in the world's poorest continent. Mr. Egeland has asked Western governments for $3 billion more in aid, citing food crises from the Horn of Africa to the Sahel to southern Africa.

The greatest need is for Darfur's refugees. They have been forced to flee since 2003 when Sudan's Arab-led government tried to suppress a Darfur independence rebellion by supporting attacks on non-Arab villages by roving Arab militias.

The US, which estimates the conflict has left some 160,000 dead, has labeled it genocide. But that hasn't pushed the international community to solve this crisis quickly by making Darfur safe for the refugees to return.

As a result, harvests are way down and the coming rainy season will make it very difficult for aid agencies to deliver food over Darfur's inadequate roads. While international aid has been pledged for Darfur by various governments, aid workers say they need to see the cash quickly if famine is to be avoided.

Most of the UN's aid projects in Africa remain woefully underfunded. That's poor reward for efforts made by Africans to do more for themselves. Economic growth in sub-Saharan African rose last year to 5 percent, the highest in eight years. And more than two-thirds of governments have had multiparty elections.

Donor nations shouldn't just give more when a crisis plays well on TV. African needs may not be all that visual, but they are huge.

Compassion must be universal, just as he idea of loving one's neighbor is.


Here are some of the latest developments in Darfur. Please also keep this situation in mind during your meditations in the coming three weeks to help ensure that peace prevail there.


More Calls for Military Intervention in Sudan's Troubled Darfur Region

Abid Aslam, OneWorld US

May 24, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24 (OneWorld) - U.S. political celebrities and activists demanded Tuesday that the White House ''take specific steps to stop the genocide in Darfur'' and warned that inaction could push the death toll in the war-wrecked Sudanese region past one million people by the end of this year.

''What could possibly be more pressing than genocide?'' asked Salih Booker, executive director of the advocacy group Africa Action. ''Unless there is an immediate international intervention in Darfur, up to a million people may be dead by the end of this year.''

''The President of the U.S. has recognized that genocide is occurring, but apparently there are more pressing matters requiring his attention,'' Booker added.

The U.S. declared last year that the killings in Darfur amounted to genocide but Washington has not taken significant steps to stop the carnage, Africa Action said.

The Washington D.C.-based organization has led U.S. campaigning for an international peacekeeping force to be deployed to Darfur, where rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government in early 2003 after years of tribal conflict over scarce resources in the arid region.

On Tuesday, it released an open letter asking President George W. Bush to ''assert leadership at the United Nations'' by pushing a resolution to bolster African peacekeepers' mandate to protect civilians and by encouraging the world body to quickly approve and assemble a ''robust international force'' with troops, money, and logistical support from the international community, not just African countries.

Those steps would help to stop the killing and provide security for millions of internally displaced people; enable humanitarian supplies to flow; and enforce a ceasefire and provide a stable environment for meaningful peace talks, the letter said.

At present, peacekeepers from the African Union (AU) represent the only actively engaged military and police presence on the ground in Darfur. The troops have impressed international observers by establishing pockets of security but they remain woefully under-equipped, outmaneuvered, and outnumbered in a region of difficult terrain the size of Texas.

''Mr. President, genocide is a unique crime and it requires a unique and urgent response. We can still save thousands of lives in Darfur if we act now,'' said the letter signed by 80 politicians and activists including Booker, seven members of Congress, and representatives of prominent religious and inter-faith, women's, civil rights, and students' organizations.

The fighting in Darfur has killed at least 180,000, the United Nations said. British parliamentary investigators estimated the death toll at up to 300,000.

Africa Action put the number killed so far at around 400,000 and the number forced to flee their homes and livelihoods at 2.5 million.

Rebel groups accused the government of neglect and of arming militia groups known as Janjaweed to loot and burn non-Arab villages. The authorities in Khartoum have admitted arming some militias to fight the rebels but denied any links to the Janjaweed, which it has called outlaws.

Rights watchdogs including Human Rights Watch have said Khartoum repeatedly failed to make good its promises of reining in the militias and resolving the Darfur problem at the negotiating table.

More than two million people have been forced from their homes by the fighting, according to the latest U.N. and AU estimates--twice the number believed to have been displaced a year ago.

''Displaced persons fear losing their land, but are unwilling to return home because of continued Janjaweed attacks, ongoing burning of villages and widespread destruction of crops,'' Human Rights Watch said earlier this month.

In an Apr. 28 report, the AU called for an increase in African forces in Darfur to 12,300 military, police and civilian personnel by spring 2006.

Human Rights Watch this month urged the AU, the African equivalent of the European Union, to commit and deploy the 12,300 troops immediately, saying that at present the AU mission consists of 2,372 troops posted across a region the size of France.

International observers also have warned that the overall humanitarian and security situation continues to worsen.

A U.N. commission concluded in January that crimes against humanity--but not genocide--had occurred in Darfur. Last month, the world body passed a resolution referring cases of alleged atrocities since July 1, 2002 to the International Criminal Court.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan then handed the names of 51 people suspected of war crimes and atrocities in Darfur to the court. The list, drawn up by a U.N. commission investigating allegations of killings, torture and rape, included Sudanese government and army officials as well as militia and rebel leaders.

Tuesday's open letter came as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan traveled Tuesday to Darfur and the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa, site of talks about the conflict.

At those talks, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bloc of Western military powers is expected to announce non-combat aid for the AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

On Monday, European Union defense ministers pledged to offer the African peacekeepers transport aircraft and help with planning.

Groups signing on to Tuesday's open letter included American Jewish World Service, National Council of Churches USA, Physicians for Human Rights, Women's Edge Coalition, and a number of labor unions.


See also:

The international effort on Darfur is failing lethally - By Kofi Annan (May 27, 2005)
While no one knows for sure how many people have died in the conflict in Darfur, western Sudan, more than 2.6 million are suffering because of it, and are in urgent need of assistance. Villages have been burnt, crops uprooted, men murdered, women raped, children abducted. Some 1.9 million people have been displaced from their homes within Sudanese territory. Others are still at home but prevented from planting the crops on which their lives depend. If food does not soon reach them, they too will be forced to go in search of it, swelling the already overcrowded camps. For a period, crimes against civilians in Darfur were not on the front pages. But for well over a year, they have been. That it took intensive coverage in the world media to prompt action is a reproach not only to Sudan, but to the whole world. Even today, those who are trying to bring the crisis in Darfur to an end do not have the kind of support they need.Our two organizations have come together to prevent further suffering. The United Nations is in the lead in bringing relief to the victims, and in seeking to end impunity for those who have committed the most heinous crimes. The African Union (AU) is in the lead in providing security on the ground, and in efforts to revive political negotiations - which alone can bring lasting peace and which are now scheduled to resume on June 10 in Abuja, Nigeria. In recent months the situation has stabilized, and fewer large-scale crimes have been reported. A massive UN-led humanitarian operation is under way, with over 10,000 humanitarian workers (mostly Sudanese) delivering food, water, shelter and other life-saving relief to up to 1.8 million people. In the areas where AU troops are on the ground their heroic efforts have made a real difference: people are less exposed to predatory violence, many have returned to their villages, and attacks have decreased. The humanitarian situation is thus undoubtedly better in some areas than it was a year ago, but access remains limited, the harassment of humanitarian workers has increased, and insecurity remains unacceptably high. Hundreds of thousands of war-affected people are still not receiving the help they need, and the AU troops are as yet far too few to deploy throughout the whole vast territory. Relief workers are often harassed by local authorities, and sometimes even attacked, kidnapped or threatened with violence. Nongovernmental relief workers from abroad find it increasingly hard to obtain visas. And trucks delivering aid are hijacked, often by rebels. Early this month two drivers for the World Food Program were killed in separate incidents. As a result, aid does not get through to many of those who most need it. The international response is thus falling short in two lethal ways: another $350 million in aid is needed to help more than three million people survive the rest of this year, and more troops, police, aircraft and other transport, training and logistical support are needed to enable the AU to protect the population in much of Darfur. CLIP

Donors pledge nearly $300 mln for Darfur force (May 27, 2005)
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Donors have pledged nearly $300 million to fund a bigger African Union (AU) force to help end fighting in Sudan's western Darfur region, AU officials said on Friday. ADVERTISEMENT They said Canada gave the biggest contribution of $133 million, followed by the United States with $50 million and Britain with $12 million. Smaller donations will come from other countries. The AU had requested $466 million to more than triple its force to about 7,900 troops. The 53-nation AU has deployed about 2,300 troops to monitor a shaky ceasefire in Darfur, with international financial backing to pay for the mission, but experts say the force is far too small to patrol an area the size of France. It first deployed in August."The donors also agreed to provide helicopters, armored personnel carriers, trucks and fuel," an AU official said. The European Union and NATO have agreed to provide air transport, materiel and training for the expanded AU force. Canada offered 25 helicopters, two planes and more than 100 armored personnel carriers, the officials said. Britain is offering 400 troop transport trucks, and Germany and France will provide airlift services. CLIP

Yahoo Coverage on Sudan


It can sometimes appear to us, in our personal lives and in the world at large, that life is fraught with suffering and difficulty, and that there is little we can do about this, despite our trying. What is happening here is that we are identifying with the victim archetype, and are judging the world from our own perspective of powerlessness. The more we believe that we are powerless, the more our expectation of powerlessness shapes our reality so that it appears to confirm our beliefs. We then move into a state of depression and eventually resign ourselves to our perceived powerlessness. We choose to label events in the world and in our personal lives as 'disasters', as if life is somehow cruel to us, and conspiring against us and the ideals we hold.

All this is an illusion. While there is indeed a lot of pain and suffering in the world, this is just a response to how people create their reality. The cause of suffering is always rooted in illusion. This illusion is created through an act of personal choice, when we choose to perceive life in an incomplete way as a result of the unprocessed beliefs and emotional trauma that distort our vision.

Life gives us everything we need to grow. It is wonderful! How can the Source of our being, and the Source of all that is, which is pure and unconditional love, deny that love for us? We have never been deserted or let down by life, even in our darkest hour. When we think this has happened, we are choosing to isolate ourselves from the flow of life because we have identified with the victim and are feeling sorry for ourselves. In short, we have a poor self-image and with it low self-esteem.

When we develop a fuller perspective of life, no longer distorted by limiting beliefs and emotional trauma, we realise that life is actually conspiring to give us what we need in order to grow and become self-realised as a spiritual being. This fuller perspective of life also enables our self-image and self-esteem to rocket. We will experience the joy of being back in the flow of life, and will regain the integrity of our soul and the creative power and magic this gives us.

When we are working on planetary healing, we therefore need to be working on our own personal healing. Otherwise our own judgements about the world can get in the way of the healing, and even reinforce patterns of suffering in the world. When the media presents an image of the world to us, and when our friends and contacts present a similar image of the world to us, we should not assume that we are getting the full picture or interpretation, and remember that the original experience has been filtered through the mindset of those who are commentating on that experience. So focusing love and healing on a particular image of a world situation is not enough, and may even be dishonest. Planetary healing is not simply about changing how we react to world events by developing love towards those involved: it is about changing how we perceive world events.

In the planetary healing community, people have been caught up in a debate over whether it is beneficial to focus on the negative as well as the positive, or whether we should be focusing on the positive only. The argument to focus on the negative as well as the positive is based on an unwillingness to deny suffering. The argument to focus on the positive only is based on the principle that what we focus on expands, and the conclusion then formed is that if we focus on the negative we give it more power. However, neither argument is focusing on the real issue of healing, and so the debate is to some extent an unnecessary diversion that will create conflict amongst healers and even break up healing groups.

Successful healing is about identifying the false image that is held of a situation and seeing past the veils of illusion that are at the root of all suffering in our world. When the whole world can see past the illusion that separates us from unconditional love and unity-consciousness, the world will be healed very quickly.

In terms of energy dynamics, if we reveal to ourselves the illusion behind a situation in the world that is giving us despair, we will not give the illusion power, precisely because we have recognised it as an illusion; but if we do not recognise the illusion behind the situation, we still give the illusion power even if we send all the positive thoughts in the world to it.

To finish we would like to suggest that the focus of any directed healing be based on the prayerful and loving intention to facilitate an end to the illusion behind the suffering that holds people in conflict with each other and the Earth and in opposition to their spiritual nature, and that we are never so arrogant or self-denying to leave ourselves out of this healing too.

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