Charity appeals to ‘generous' Scots

28 April 2009 - 2:21pm

Bid to aid campaigns on sweatshops, tax dodges

The leading charity War on Want tomorrow (Wednesday) launches a new fundraising appeal to Scots' generosity to step up its campaigns against fashion sweatshops and its support of anti-poverty action in developing countries.

Last April a survey by the Charities Aid Foundation revealed that Scots are more likely to give money to charity than people elsewhere in Britain.

Mehmet Baylav, senior fundraising officer at War on Want, said: "Scottish donors have played a major role in our struggles to win justice with many of the poorest people.

"Now, as the international economic crisis hits the poor hardest, we hope more Scots will show their generous spirit by joining our fight for a fairer world."

War on Want contrasts retailer Primark's latest half-year profits, £122 million, with Bangladeshi workers producing its clothes for as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks. War on Want has also revealed that employees making Asda clothes, as well as Tesco garment and wine workers, earn less than a living wage.

War on Want hopes its street fundraisers will sign up new donors who can give £10 a month to support the charity's growing pressure on the UK government to introduce regulation which stops this abuse.

War on Want is also pushing ministers to end tax havens and tax dodging which cost Britain £100 billion a year and developing countries £250 billion a year.

War on Want fundraisers will seek to recruit donors in the mornings and afternoons on:
Wednesday in Buchanan Street in central Glasgow and Galashiels town centre.
Thursday in Edinburgh's Princes Street and the main Kirkcaldy shopping area.
Friday in Argyle Street, Glasgow, and Perth's town centre.
Saturday in the main shopping districts of Falkirk and Stirling.

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


Miliband blasted on green light for mercenaries

24 April 2009 - 5:39pm


British government announces public consultation over regulating UK private military firms

‘Approval will increase human rights abuse'

British foreign secretary David Miliband is today attacked for backing the use of mercenary troops, which the charity War on Want says will increase the risk of human rights abuse.

The accusation comes as the UK government hailed the industry's "positive and legitimate role" in spite of widespread reports of human rights abuse by private military companies.

Launching a public consultation over regulating private military firms, Miliband described the industry as "essential" and recommended self-regulation only, despite calls for rigorous controls by MPs and War on Want.

According to the charity, self-regulation could leave civilians in war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq exposed to further abuse by mercenaries working for British firms.

It says that UK troops' planned withdrawal from Iraq increases the need for strict regulation of mercenaries who will still work there and in other war zones.

War on Want points to hundreds of incidents of human rights abuse which have involved private military companies.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: "Miliband is giving a green light to the use of mercenaries in war. The human rights abuses we have seen from private military personnel cry out for proper legislation. Self-regulation is not an option."

The government's announcement comes 18 months on since the wounding of two Iraqi civilians by mercenaries with the British firm Erinys International, who fired on a cab near Kirkuk.

Earlier in 2007 mercenaries working for the US private military company Blackwater, now renamed Xe, randomly shot at and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

War on Want has spearheaded the campaign for tough legislation, including a ban on mercenaries' use in combat and combat support.

And British MPs on the Commons foreign affairs select committee have called for strict curbs on these firms, with provision for prosecution in UK courts for serious human rights abuse committed abroad.


War on Want led the call for control over Private Military Companies when the charity launched its report Corporate Mercenaries (link below).

  • A year later, War on Want stepped up its drive after the Blackwater and Erinys shootings.
  • In December 2007, the charity published the briefing paper Getting Away with Murder. It cited reporters of hundreds of human rights violations by mercenary troops in Iraq to strengthen its campaign for curbs, including a ban on mercenaries' use in combat.
  • In February last year War on Want launched a legal challenge on the British government over its failure to ensure democratic control over private armies.
  • Last July the charity accused the UK of blocking regulation after a document, acquired under freedom of information laws, revealed ministers went close to launching pre-legislative consultation.

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

Stop the Wall and the BDS campaign

24 April 2009 - 5:27pm

On 30 March thousands of people from across the globe took part in activities to raise awareness of the injustice of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine

The global day of action focussed on the need for the international community to take action by boycotting and stopping investments in Israeli products and companies. Whilst people in countries across the globe, including Britain, France, Italy, India, Canada, Brazil, took part in demonstrations by flyering and promoting the global campaign for boycotts, divestments and sanctions, War on Want the partner Stop the Wall Campaign was active on the ground in Palestine.

30 March is also Land Day, which commemorates the 1976 killing of six Palestinian citizens of Israel by Israeli forces for protesting the illegal expropriation of Palestinian land. Land day was marked by activists in Palestine and across the globe who are active in resisting the occupation.

In Palestine, Stop the Wall mobilised large groups of people to plant trees on threatened land near the Apartheid Wall and marched through the villages carrying Palestinian flags and banners. The marchers engaged in peaceful protest, but they were met with violence from the Israeli security forces, who fired rubber bullets and teargas bombs into the crowds. Five people were injured by rubber bullets and dozens more injured from gas inhalation. Muhammed Abdelhafid Musleh, a local university student, was shot in the arm with live ammunition and was rushed to a hospital in Ramallah.

The protests ended a week later in Bethlehem and Ramallah, where people came together to mark Land Day and also to strengthen the boycott movement at national level. Omar Asaf, a representative of the BDS National Committee of which Stop the Wall is a member, explained the importance of the movement: "in Palestine the boycott of Israeli products, institutions and companies is once again gaining ground. Increasing numbers of students, women and ordinary people see the boycott of Israel as an effective form of resistance and are beginning to make it a part of their daily lives."

War on Want will continue to support Stop the Wall's efforts to build a movement for boycotts, divestments and sanctions, at both national and global level in order to end the Israeli Occupation.

UK campaigners score victory towards arms embargo

24 April 2009 - 1:52pm

» Original article at Electronic Intifada - (içi en français)

The UK government recently revealed that components supplied by Britain were "almost certainly" used by Israel in its recent assault on Gaza.

Tesco, Primark ‘poverty profits' attacked

21 April 2009 - 12:00am


Tuesday, 21 April 2009: Tesco and Primark (Associated British Foods) announce profits growth

Retailers slated over clothes workers' pay

Leading British retailers Tesco and Primark today are accused of cashing in on the recession with cheap fashion sales by exploiting overseas garment workers.

The accusation comes as this morning Tesco announced record £3 billion full-year profits and Primark's owner, Associated British Foods, revealed a half-year 10 per cent rise in the retailer's profits.

The charity War on Want condemned both companies for driving down labour costs from suppliers, whose employees pay a high price through poverty pay and worsening living standards.

Its research published in December showed workers producing clothes for Tesco and Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka earn as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks.

Some employees receive only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed for nutritious food, clean water, shelter, clothes, education, health care and transport.

The average workers' pay, £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, represented less than half a living wage.

Amid food and fuel inflation, employees' living standards had fallen since War on Want interviewed them two years earlier.

Last June the charity and the group Labour Behind the Label reported that workers making Tesco clothes in the Indian city of Bangalore struggled on less than £1.50 a day for a 60-hour week, with higher rice prices making life even harder.

Employees in the factory earn on average £38 a month, and the lowest paid receive just £30, while the Bangalore Garment and Textile Workers' Union calculates a living wage as at least £52 a month.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Tesco and Primark are thriving by selling cheap clothes while the workers producing them are paid a pittance. Despite the retailers' continued promises, wages remain well below living costs for garment workers and their families. It is high time the UK government stopped this abuse."

NOTE TO EDITORS: War on Want's research in Bangladesh and India is available at:

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



No Land! No House! No Vote!

20 April 2009 - 5:28pm

As South Africa prepares for its national elections on Wednesday 22 April, many of War on Want's partner organisations in South Africa plan to boycott in protest

During elections in 2004, the Landless People's Movement (LPM) initiated the ‘No Land! No Vote!' campaign to express a vote of no confidence in the range of political parties on offer in the elections. The group Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM, literally ‘people living in shacks') joined the boycott during the 2006 local elections and changed the campaign slogan to ‘No Land! No House! No Vote!'. The campaign is now organised under the banner of the Poor People's Alliance, an alliance which comprises, among others, our partners LPM, ABM Durban, ABM Western Cape, Sikhula Sonke and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign (WCAEC). Recently, the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), a War on Want partner based in Johannesburg, also opted to boycott the forthcoming elections.

Since the fall of Apartheid 15 years ago, social movements and rights' organisation across South Africa have become disillusioned with the policies of the African National Congress (ANC) government. The slow pace of delivery of services such as electricity, housing and piped water facilities and the lack of transparency in the delivery process has left many poor residents of townships and shack settlements disappointed with the government. The introduction of cost-recovery policies for public services by local governments has meant that many poor residents are no longer able to afford access to water, electricity and formal houses, even more so after the rise in unemployment and massive job losses caused by trade liberalisation. Furthermore, social movements have criticised the lack of consultation by local and national government and the top-down nature of policy formulation and implementation.

With the 2010 Soccer World Cup approaching, many South African residents and traders face eviction from their shacks or trading places as the government tries to ‘clean up' the cities and to prevent tourists from seeing the ‘other side' of South Africa's cities. These harsh measures have led many to compare the current government with the Apartheid government, which was notorious for its ‘forced removals' that displaced many South Africans from their homes.

Against this background, social movements are demanding that the government listen to the people and make an effort to understand the plight of the poor. The decision to boycott the election vote has not been taken kindly by some government officials. Social movements have increasingly been subject to state repression and intimidation and their legitimate protests and democratic right to refuse the vote have been criminalised by the state. In February 2009, a community meeting held by the WCAEC in Gugulethu, Cape Town was disrupted by police and hundreds of men, women and children were tear-gassed and several were beaten with police batons. Two AEC leaders were arrested. In March 2009, five activists from an APF affiliate in Kliptown, Soweto were sentenced and found guilty of ‘public violence' after merely exercising their right to protest and making legitimate demands for long awaited housing and basic services.

In the run-up to the 22 April national elections major political parties, such as the ruling ANC as well opposition parties such as the Congress of the People (COPE) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), need the support of South Africa's poor. The no-vote campaign is a powerful answer from social movements to politicians that the poor cannot be easily manipulated. They have been actively campaigning in South Africa's townships and shack settlements, promising improvements in service delivery and making efforts to engage members from the community. War on Want supports their campaign for justice, and will continue to work alongside its South African partners in opposition to policies which deprive millions of their rights.

Brazil's landless pay tribute to slain workers

17 April 2009 - 5:25pm

Workers' rights groups in Brazil and across the globe mobilise for a day of action

Today rights groups in Brazil and across the global are taking part in the International Day of Peasants' Struggle. The day marks the 13th anniversary of the massacre of 19 landless farmers by military police in the state of Pará in the north of Brazil. The workers were members of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), a Brazilian social movement comprised of 1.5 million landless workers and a War on Want partner organisation.

Since the massacre the MST has continued to fight on behalf of landless workers in Brazil, a country where 3% of the population owns two-thirds of the land. This year the group is marking the International Day of Peasants' Struggle by demanding the resettlement and government assistance for 100,000 landless families living in camps. The MST has occupied land in eight states across Brazil as part of its protest for the resettlement of these families. The MST bases its campaign for land reform on a clause in the Brazilian constitution which holds that land that does not benefit the public can be occupied and claimed by landless families.

The MST is joined in solidarity by rights groups from around the world. On all five continents landless workers, youth activists and small farmers are organising demonstrations targeting the policies which have hurt small farmers across the developing world, most notably trade liberalisation, the proliferation of genetically modified foods and the drive towards export-oriented agriculture. War on Want supports the work of the MST and all groups demonstrating against corporate-led farming practices that have harmed millions worldwide.




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