News

MEPs urged to oppose EU-Israel relations upgrade

3 December 2008 - 12:00am

Human rights abuses condemned

COMMENT/INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY

NEWS HOOKS:

  • 6.00-7.00 pm GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008 - Members of the European parliament debate proposals to advance the EU's trade relationship with Israel
  • 1.00-2.00 pm GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008 MEPs vote on the proposals

The British anti-poverty charity War on Want today urged members of the European parliament to vote against EU moves to strengthen links with Israel over its human rights abuses.

The alert comes as MEPs prepare for a Brussels debate this evening (Wednesday, 3 December) on plans to upgrade the EU's relations with Israel beyond the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which at present gives Israel preferential treatment on trade deals. This new protocol of cooperation will enable far greater Israeli participation in European Community programmes. War on Want urges them to oppose these steps as Israel's ongoing illegal occupation has meant that millions of Palestinians are living with human rights abuse and crushing poverty in refugee camps or under occupation. The EU must suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement in order to bring pressure on Israel to abide by international law. Article 2 of the Agreement makes Israel's trading preferences conditional upon respect for human rights, a condition which UN specialists say has been breached by Israel on many occasions.

John Hilary, the charity's executive director – available for interview today in London and tomorrow in Brussels - said: “Far from upgrading relations with Israel, the EU should suspend the Association Agreement as Israel has flouted its conditions. Millions of Palestinians are paying a terrible price for the illegal occupation. Rather than telling Israel it can count on the EU's political and economic backing, irrespective of its treatment of the Palestinian people, it is high time the EU put real pressure on Israel to end the Palestinians' torment. The EU must press Israel to abide by international law, stop defying UN resolutions, and dismantle the infrastructure of the occupation, including the illegal wall and settlements."

In a briefing paper, War on Want cites millions of Palestinians living with human rights abuse and crushing poverty in refugee camps or under occupation.

One of them, Hanni Ammar, saw his livelihood destroyed and property stolen when the illegal Separation Wall was built near to his home and business in the West Bank village of Mas'ha.

Mr Ammar commented on Israeli soldiers: "They have said that if my children go near the wall, they will shoot them. The settlers also regularly harass us, throwing stones from behind the fence without warning. One of my children got hit in the face, so he needed stitches. I am an example of someone who is suffering day by day, and reflect the suffering of the Palestinian people."

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

Campaigners spoof executives battling for giant contracts at Iraq oil fair

28 November 2008 - 12:00am

Picture opportunity

When?

9am, Monday December 1 2008

Where?

Iraq Petroleum 2008, Millennium Hotel, 18 Harrington Gardens, London SW7

Who?

Conference attendees: Including Shell, BP, and Exxon executives plus Iraqi ministry of oil representatives. Protestors: Hands Off Iraqi Oil coalition www.handsoffiraqioil.org

As Iraq's biggest oil fields go under the hammer at the Iraq Petroleum 2008 conference [1], protestors impersonate top executives in a mock auction outside, complete with giant secret contract.

Activists from Hands Off Iraqi Oil will protest the auction of eight of Iraq's major oil and gas fields [2] through secret contracts.

Shell, BP, Lukoil and Crescent Petroleum executives will be spoofed outside the first major commercial oil and gas conference to be held in London since 2004. [3]

The Iraq Petroleum 2008 event comes in the wake of a historical first licensing round in October, also held in London, covering 40% of Iraq's known reserves and accounting for 90% of all export revenue.

A second licensing round will be held in December where a further 40% of Iraq's reserves will be available for private control.

The contracts currently on the table - Risk Service Contracts - will last 20 years. [4] The deals remain shrouded in secrecy, despite calls by Iraqi experts, technocrats and civil society to render them open to public scrutiny. [5] The Iraqi cabinet recently approved a $4bn no-bid gas deal with Shell which has been criticized by the Iraqi parliamentary oil and gas committee. [6]

Ewa Jasiewicz, of Hands Off Iraqi Oil, said: "These deals are not about investment and reconstruction, they're about private corporate control over the third largest reserves and last bastion of conventional oil on the planet. Their signing may be a political legacy issue for Bush and Cheney, but the legacy of injustice, foreign control and an economy wedded to the oil industry will disempower generations of Iraqis to come."

Gabriel Carlyle, from Voices UK, said: "These secret deals could sign Iraq's sovereignty away with a pen's stroke. If signed, they could lock in both dictatorship and occupation law, leading to increased conflict, human rights violations and economic dispossession. They represent yet another injustice against the Iraqi people and should be torn up."

CONTACT: Ewa Jasiewicz, Hands Off Iraqi Oil 07749 421 576 www.handsoffiraqioil.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] http://www.cwciraqpetroleum.com/

[2] The eight fields are Rumeila, Zubair, Qurna West, Maysan, Kirkuk and Bay Hassan - all oil fields - and Akkas and Mansouriya Gas fields http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-06-30-iraq-oil_N.htm

[3] Linda Cook, executive director, Gas & Power at Shell Trading, BP chief executive officer Tony Haywood, Luay Jawad, Crescent Petroleum Iraq country director and former Shell executive, and Vagit Alekperov, CEO of Lukoil.

[4] Risk Contracts explained - The real significance of the oil ministries bid round, Greg Muttitt http://www.platformlondon.org/carbonweb/showitem.asp?article=332&parent=9

[5] Platform briefing on contracts, oil law and trade union opposition http://priceofoil.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/iraqi-oil-in-the-balanc...

[6] Iraqi law makers will challenge Shell gas deal http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssEnergyNews/idUSLP12241120081125

[7] Hands Off Iraqi Oil is a UK coalition opposing any foreign exploitation of Iraq's oil reserves that cheats the Iraqi people. Members include Corporate Watch, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, PLATFORM, Voices UK and War on Want. More information on the campaign is available at www.handsoffiraqioil.org

UK ‘blocking progress' at UN summit

28 November 2008 - 12:00am

Brown isolated on development finance

Anti-poverty campaigners today attacked the UK government for attempting to prevent progress at the UN conference on financing for development which opens in Doha tomorrow (Saturday 29 November).

The charity War on Want criticised British prime minister Gordon Brown for blocking essential tax and finance initiatives which could help developing countries survive the global economic downturn.

The UK government is increasingly isolated in its position on tax cooperation, new sources of development finance and regulation of financial markets, according to War on Want.

The UK government has joined with tax havens such as Liechtenstein and Switzerland to oppose upgrading the UN tax committee, a key measure proposed for Doha by the G77 group of developing countries and supported by the majority of world governments.

Tax dodging by multinational corporations costs developing countries an estimated £250 billion a year in lost government revenue, enough to enable them to meet the anti-poverty UN Millennium Development Goals. War on Want warns that in the current economic climate developing countries need tax revenue more than ever to fund essential public services and anti-poverty programmes.

The EU council of ministers, under the presidency of the French government, has affirmed the importance of new sources of development finance, especially in light of the challenge of climate change. Yet Brown has consistently rejected a stamp duty on sterling currency transactions that would raise billions of pounds each year for development at no cost to UK taxpayers, says War on Want.

Despite pledges to meet the UN aid target of 0.7% of gross national income by 2013, the UK government's aid budget is still only 0.36% of GNI – lower than it was 30 years ago.

It is also clear that developing countries need to control their financial sectors in order to achieve stability. Instead, Brown is calling for further deregulation of financial services through world trade talks that would harm poor countries' ability to manage their own monetary sectors.

Ruth Tanner, Director of Campaigns and Policy at War on Want, said: “While the rest of the world struggles to put the global economy back together, Gordon Brown is blocking key initiatives which could make a real difference to the world's poor. The UK needs to come back in line with global efforts to fight poverty. Gordon Brown cannot be allowed to block progress on such important tax and finance measures.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:
The International Conference on Financing for Development takes place in Doha, Qatar from Saturday 29 November to Tuesday 2 December. It will review progress since the first international conference on development finance held in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

‘Brown blocking G20 progress on regulation'

14 November 2008 - 12:00am

Finance moves threaten poor, says War on Want

NEWS HOOK
Friday, 14 November 2008 to Saturday 15 November 2008

Washington DC, United States

British premier Gordon Brown takes part in G20 summit of the world's richest economies on the global finance crisis

John Hilary, executive director of anti-poverty charity War on Want, comments below and is available for interview

John Hilary, executive director of the anti-poverty charity War on Want, says: “For all his claims to be leading the world out of the crisis, Brown could well be the one blocking progress at the G20 summit.

“Brown is resisting proposals that regulation of the financial sector should be anything more than a light touch.

“Instead, he aims to secure further deregulation of financial markets through his call for a swift conclusion to the current round of global trade talks. The UK government's main objective in these negotiations is the liberalisation of financial markets in emerging economies such as India, Brazil and Chile, with the aim of increasing business opportunities for UK financial service companies overseas.

“Britain is also attempting to hinder progress on international cooperation over tax dodging which costs developing countries £250 billion a year in lost government revenue.

“And the prime minister has obstructed moves to introduce a stamp duty on sterling currency transactions, which could raise billions each year for development.

“Brown has made much of his commitment to the fight against poverty. It is time for him to come clean on whether he supports restructuring international finance in the common interest or a return to casino capitalism.”

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

War on Want up for more awards

12 November 2008 - 12:00am

War on Want has been shortlisted for the consumer award in the world's first dedicated prizes for ethical fashion.

Judges have nominated the charity for this honour in the RE: Fashion Awards, organised by the group Anti-Apathy, the Ethical Fashion Forum and the communications agency Futerra.

The fair trade fashion company People Tree and the women's magazine Marie Claire are also on the short list.

The consumer prize is among the awards to celebrate action which has achieved positive change in the fashion sector.

War on Want is up for the honour through its campaign for a living wage for garment workers overseas producing clothes for British stores.

Its fashion push has also been shortlisted for the communications campaign prize in the magazine Third Sector's Excellence Awards.

This honour is for an innovative drive which has delivered its message to its target audience.

The others shortlisted are Help the Aged, Leonard Cheshire Disability, the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation, Sustrans and the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: “Our campaign has exposed the scandal that workers producing clothes for high street retailers face poor wages and conditions. There is now growing support for UK government regulation to ensure a living wage for these workers.”

Earlier this year War on Want helped Guardian reporter Karen McVeigh win the press honour in the One World Media Awards for her story on Bangladeshis paid 4p an hour to make clothes for Primark, Tesco and Asda.

The RE: Fashion Awards will be presented tomorrow at Shoreditch town hall in London.

And London's Hurlingham Club will host the Third Sector Excellence Awards on 18 November.

Last month War on Want secured fifth place among Britain's 190,000 charities in Third Sector's Most Admired Charity award, won by the Children's Society.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

Brown pressed on 'global greed'

10 November 2008 - 12:00am

War on Want and other anti-poverty groups today pressed Gordon Brown to end his love affair with big business, with activists posing as a fat cat in bed with the British prime minister outside the Bank of England, and the charity's campaigner Nadia Idle as an alarm clock with the slogan 'Call time on global greed.

The protest came hours before Mr Brown gives a foreign policy speech to City business leaders tonight at the nearby Guildhall in the Lord Mayor of London's banquet.

And activists will stage a noise demonstration with bells and alarm clocks outside the Guildhall as Brown speaks.

The protesters represent a broad alliance of global poverty and environmental organisations representing more than nine million people, including War on Want, the Trade Justice Movement, the Jubilee Debt Campaign, the World Development Movement, ActionAid, CAFOD and the New Economics Foundation.

The coalition is urging Mr Brown to end his love affair with big business and push for a radically different global economic system that puts people and the planet first.

The protest comes ahead of a controversial G20 summit of leaders from the world's richest economies in Washington DC on Saturday (15 November) to discuss the financial crisis.

Campaigners are demanding that decisions about reform to the global economic system are made in a much more democratic forum that gives the poorest of the world a full and equal say.

NOTE TO EDITORS
The noise demonstration will take place from 6.30pm-7.30pm GMT today (Monday 10 November 2008) opposite the Guildhall, Gresham Street, London, EC2V 7PG.

CONTACT
Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

Fighting corporate expansion on the fringes of the Amazon

7 November 2008 - 12:00am

The women of the Movement of Women Babaçu Breakers, or MIQCB, have been through hard times. To defend their right to access the babaçu nut, the primary source of their income, women nutbreakers, known as quebradeiras, have stood firmly in opposition to large landowners who want to clear the land for mining, cattle ranching and biofuel production. Now, in partnership with War on Want, the MIQCB quebradeiras are beginning to reclaim their way of life.

Maria Altermira is a founding member of the Chapada da Sinda Production Group, which is based in the state of Piauí and is one of 25 local MIQCB groups spread across the north and north-eastern regions of Brazil. An active campaigner against government land seizures, Maria has been imprisoned for her efforts to protect the quebradeiras' access to the palm trees where the babaçu nut grows. To avoid being detected by the authorities, Maria and other quebradeiras would collect the babaçu at night in secret.

More than 350,000 Brazilian women like Maria Altermira earn a living by gathering and breaking the nuts from the palm trees that grow on the fringes of the Amazon. Many of these women have worked in the region for generations collecting, breaking and then selling the pieces of the babaçu nut which, in addition to being a protein-rich food source, can be turned into charcoal, cooking oil and even soap.

This way of life, however, has been under attack for years by large landowners who, backed by the Brazilian government, have been clearing the land for ranching, logging, mining and biofuel production. Palm trees are increasingly being destroyed by large-scale producers, forcing many quebradeiras to walk farther to gather nuts or, in some cases, even pay for the right to collect them. Unlike the quebradeiras who practice sustainable farming, these industries cause extensive damage to the land, denuding huge areas of forest and contaminating the water and soil used by the local population.

In the 1990s small production groups like Chapada da Sinda joined to form MIQCB. The groups, which are based in four different Brazilian states in the north and north-east, share the aim of protecting the livelihood – and way of life – of the quebradeiras against the encroachment of large-scale industries. The movement has emerged as a leading voice for the quebradeiras, advocating for their unfettered access to the land where the babaçu grows and promoting a positive image of their identity and way of life to a national audience.

After years of tireless campaigning, MIQCB's hard work has begun to pay off. By establishing contact with members of local, regional and national government, MIQCB has made significant headway towards achieving land autonomy. As a result of the movement's efforts, bills protecting the quebradeiras' right to collect the babaçu nut have been passed in several municipalities; in 2007 a version of this bill was brought before the Brazilian national government.

As Maria explained to War on Want, these gains have had a huge impact on the lives of workers: “I'm satisfied. We even have visitors from abroad, which shows people have heard our story. Today, we can call it a victory for the quebradeiras.” Equally important, MIQCB has fostered a sense of pride among quebradeiras in their common identity. Maria spoke of the significance of this development: “Before I joined MIQCB, I was excluded from society, I wasn't worth anything. Now I am proud to be a quebradeira.”

War on Want has been supporting MIQCB since 2003. Although the organisation has had many successes, particularly in raising national awareness of the core issues affecting quebradeiras, further challenges lie ahead. In the coming years War on Want will assist MIQCB in its ongoing efforts at both the local and national level to block land seizures, as well as support its broader work towards protecting the culture and livelihood of the quebradeiras.

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