News

‘Scrap Israel trade agreement'

15 January 2009 - 12:00am

War on Want hails EC move

The anti-poverty charity War on Want today urged the European Commission to follow up its decision to suspend moves to upgrade political and trade links with Israel by stopping the upgrade process altogether.

War on Want welcomed the EC freezing negotiations on upgrading ties amid growing pressure for sanctions against Israel over its attack on Gaza, with more than 1,000 Palestinian deaths, almost one in three women and children.

It also welcomed reports that senior Brussels officials say a Europe-Israel summit to launch a new “special relationship” – piloted by the Czech Republic, which holds the EU presidency - would probably not take place.

And the charity pressed the commission to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement which already ensures preferential treatment for Israeli trade in Europe.

The new protocol of cooperation would enable far greater Israeli participation in European Community programmes.

War on Want opposes this step and the existing agreement, citing Israel's ongoing illegal occupation, with millions of Palestinians suffering human rights abuse and crushing poverty in refugee camps or under occupation.

It earlier called on the EU to suspend the Association Agreement in order to bring pressure on Israel to abide by international law.

Article 2 of the Agreement makes Israel's trading preferences dependent on respect for human rights, a condition which UN specialists claim Israel has often breached.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: “It has taken Israel's brutal assault and carnage in Gaza to persuade the commission to act. The suspension represents a positive initial development. Now the EC must use its leverage by ending the present Association Agreement.”

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

'Israel war crimes shame UK'

7 January 2009 - 12:00am

Brown, Miliband slated on Gaza atrocities

The British government is today accused of complicity in Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.

The accusation, from the anti-poverty charity War on Want, comes only hours after 40 people, including children, died when Israel shelled a UN school inside Gaza.

In the first 12 days of the attacks, over 680 people have been killed and over 3,075 injured. As governments around the world speak out against Israel's actions, the British government refuses to condemn Israel for its assault on Gaza.

War on Want hits out at the UK government for supporting the US block on the original UN Security Council resolution, submitted four days after the attacks began, which called for "an immediate ceasefire and for its full respect by both sides”.

The charity also denounced the government for licensing arms sales to Israel such as key components for F-16 fighter jets, used to bomb Gaza.

War on Want points to past admissions by the British government that UK military equipment licensed for sale to Israel could be used in attacks on Palestinian civilians.

It also cites the statement from Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which challenged the complicity of countries “knowingly providing the military equipment, including war planes and missiles, used in these illegal attacks”.

War on Want criticises British ministers for continuing to support the European Union's decision to upgrade the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which will reward Israel with even more privileged access to European institutions.

The charity brands Israel's attack the culmination of its policy of collective punishment and killing against the people of Gaza over the past 18 months.

It says Israel has imposed an illegal state of siege on Gaza and created a devastating humanitarian crisis for the 1.5 million people trapped there.

According to the charity, the root cause of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is Israel's illegal occupation, which has raised poverty among ordinary Palestinians to the levels of sub-Saharan Africa.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: “British ministers should hang their heads in shame for their failure to condemn Israel.

“By rewarding Israeli aggression with economic preferences and upgraded diplomatic relations, the UK government and other EU member states have given the green light to Israel's campaign of illegal violence.

“Gordon Brown and David Miliband are complicit in Israel's war crimes against the Palestinian people.”

War on Want is urging the public to write to UK foreign secretary David Miliband, demanding sanctions on Israel.



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

Fighting poverty through organic farming

7 December 2008 - 12:00am

The rising price of food has devastated communities in the developing world. In Sri Lanka our partner organisation C-Sard of MONLAR has been empowering affected communities by promoting sustainable agriculture and self-sufficiency. In November 2008, War on Want visited Sri Lanka to see first hand how MONLAR's unique approach has helped hundreds of communities cope with the global food crisis.

‘Poverty clothes shame Primark'

5 December 2008 - 12:00am

Retailer thrives on 7p an hour workers.

NEWS HOOK: Friday, 5 December 2008 Annual meeting of Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods
EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Workers producing clothes for Primark face growing poverty on as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks. But they are helping Britain's most popular cheap fashion retailer beat the recession, the charity War on Want reveals today.

War on Want warns that Primark is ignoring rising basic living costs as employees making garments in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka are now worse off than two years ago, when the charity first exposed their hardship. War on Want contrasts the retailer's 17 per cent profits jump to £233 million during the 12 months ending in September this year with employees on the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, and all of them earning far less than a living wage. Amid high inflation and increasing fuel costs in Bangladesh, the price of low-quality rice has rocketed by 70 per cent. And prices of other cooking items, including oil, onions, pulses, wheat and flour, have soared by 30-60 per cent. Employees calculate a worker needs £44.82 (5333 taka) a month to give their family nutritious food, clean water, shelter, clothes, education, health care and transport. Yet average workers' pay, £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, is less than half a living wage. The vast majority of employees live in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities. War on Want will stage a protest outside Primark's flagship store in London's Oxford Street this morning with its researcher Khorshed Alam, who has flown to the UK from Bangladesh. Campaigners from the charity and Alam will then go into the annual meeting of Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods, to speak out against its sweatshops. The report also reveals similar pay and conditions for Dhaka employees making clothes for Asda, Britain's second-largest clothing retailer by volume, and Tesco, the UK's biggest supermarket fashion chain. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: “I can't feed my children three meals a day.” Runa, who makes Asda and Tesco clothes, is one of many young women forced by poverty to leave her rural home to earn money to send back to her family. She said: “My pay is so meagre that I cannot afford to keep my child with me. I have sent my five-month old baby to the village to be cared for by my mother.” Though forced overtime is illegal in Bangladesh, employees said they were made to toil extra hours, often unpaid. Workers complained that in the fast fashion rush to produce the latest styles, many of them suffer verbal and physical abuse as they struggle to meet unrealistic targets. Primark, Asda and Tesco all claim to respect the rights of its garment suppliers to join and form trade unions. But Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised. War on Want is demanding that the British government introduce regulation which ensures a living wage for overseas suppliers and allows exploited staff to seek justice in UK courts. Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at the charity, said: “Primark, Asda and Tesco promise a living wage for their garment makers. But workers are actually worse off than when we exposed their exploitation two years ago. The UK government must bring in effective regulation to stop British companies profiting from abuse.” NOTES TO EDITORS

  • Researchers interviewed 115 workers from six factories during August and September.
  • War on Want will demonstrate from 9.00 am (opening time) until 10.00 am on Friday, 5 December outside Primark's flagship store at 499-517 Oxford Street, near Park Street, London W1K 7DA (Marble Arch Tube). Anti-poverty campaigners will protest with Khorshed Alam, the Bangladeshi who led the research.
  • War on Want campaigners and Alam will attend the annual meeting of Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods, to speak out against its sweatshops. The meeting will take place at 11.00 am on Friday, 5 December at the TUC, Congress Centre, 28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.

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

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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

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