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Posts Tagged ‘disease’

The Life You Can Save

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

If we could easily save the life of a child, we would. For example, if we saw a child in danger of drowning in a shallow pond, and all we had to do to save the child was wade into the pond, and pull him out, we would do so. The fact that we would get wet, or ruin a good pair of shoes, doesn’t really count when it comes to saving a child’s life.

UNICEF, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, estimates that about 24,000 children die every day from preventable, poverty-related causes. Yet at the same time almost a billion people live very comfortable lives, with money to spare for many things that are not at all necessary. (You are not sure if you are in that category? When did you last spend money on something to drink, when drinkable water was available for nothing? If the answer is “within the past week” then you are spending money on luxuries while children die from malnutrition or diseases that we know how to prevent or cure.)

The Life You Can Save seeks to change this. If everyone who can afford to contribute to reducing extreme poverty were to give a modest proportion of their income to effective organizations fighting extreme poverty, the problem could be solved. It wouldn’t take a huge sacrifice.

But first we need to change the culture of giving – to make giving to help the needy something that any normal decent person would do. To help bring about this change, we need to be upfront about our giving. Will you take the pledge, and thereby encourage others to do the same?

For more details, and sources for the claims made here, please see the book The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty.

Trigger Issues - Mosquito

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

By Richard Swift

malariaMosquitos are the ultimate survivor and to date all attempts to wipe Malaria out have failed. But are scientists finally on the verge of a breakthrough in the fight against this deadly disease? This practical pocket sized book explores how the mosquito’s 2,500 species have invaded not only bodies but culture too: every language acknowledges its fearsome reputation and pays a grudging respect to the tiny terror. In the words of the Dalai Lama, “If you think you are too small to make a difference try sleeping with a mosquito”

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

(red): Selfish giving?

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Part one of a two part series by William Zhang

A giant global initiative’ aimed at you…
If I told you that some of the largest multinational corporations in the world have joined together to form a giant global initiative’ which is targeted at you, the consumer, what would you think? With names including Microsoft, Apple, Motorola, Hallmark, Converse, Gap, Emporio Armani, and even American Express, you’d probably think it must be some sort of a marketing conspiracy by the most powerful companies in the world to get us all to spend more money and boost their profits.

What if I told you that these companies are not after your money for their profit, but to help the fight against AIDS in Africa — would you believe me? That these enormous companies, with a combined profit exceeding the GDP of many small nations, are committed to fighting the ongoing struggle against AIDS. And that so far, $100 million has already been contributed by this initiative. That we’re not talking about simple donations and charity, but something much bigger and more sustainable.
Don’t believe me? Just walk down to an electronics store and look for a red coloured iPod. That’s right — a red iPod. Trust me, there’ll be one there. This little red iPod is proof that these huge multinational companies are not all about sales and profit.

What’s so special about a red iPod?

The answer is PRODUCT(RED). PRODUCT(RED) is a global initiative in which some of the world’s largest companies are working together to promote their unique PRODUCT(RED) branded items. What makes these products special is that up to 50% of the profit from their sales is given to the Global Fund, an organisation established to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa. The PRODUCT(RED) range includes iPods, laptops, credit cards, watches, shirts, shoes and even birthday cards. Usually, there’s little or no difference in price between a PRODUCT(RED) item and a normal one.

aids ribbonAccording to its website, PRODUCT(RED) is neither a charity nor a campaign, but an “economic initiative that acts to deliver a sustainable flow of private sector money to the Global Fund.” The key word here is sustainable. Rather than simply asking these corporations to donate a chunk of money to the Global Fund, a sustainable and longer lasting flow’ of money is created through giving a percentage of the profits from consumer purchases. Sounds good right? Before we can dig any deeper into this issue though, we need to know what exactly holds together the PRODUCT(RED) initiative.

What does the initiative rely on for its success?
While on the surface it may appear that the ultimate aim is to help AIDS victims in Africa, once we look a little closer it becomes clear that all three groups involved (consumers, companies and the Global Fund) are in it for themselves. Ultimately, PRODUCT(RED) is based on the premise that our actions are usually motivated by personal gain.

As consumers, we think that we are getting a great product, while at the same time supporting a great cause and making a statement about our values. In effect though, our actual motivation is the feeling of generosity and satisfaction from knowing that part of our purchase is going towards helping AIDS victims in Africa. It’s this feel good’ sensation which motivates consumers. We’re encouraged to think: “Why not? I’m going to buy this anyway, so why not do some good if it doesn’t cost me much extra?”

The companies involved are also motivated by self-interest, concealed behind the mask of good will’ or charity’. Ultimately, they hope their image and reputation will be enhanced, which will have a positive impact on their profits. After all, profit is the primary goal of private sector business. These corporations are aware that as consumers become more ethically minded, lab-workthey’re more likely to buy products which give them the feel good’ sensation.

Finally, the Global Fund is obviously motivated by the boost to their finances, allowing them to build more treatment centres, research facilities and improve medical supplies in Africa, especially for women and children.

What’s wrong with a bit of self-interest?
Although there is a tendency in society to see self-interest as selfish and egotistic, it is the key factor holding together the PRODUCT(RED) initiative. Like it or not, in this case at least, philanthropy is only a mask for self-gain.

For instance, if the companies involved did not gain from PRODUCT(RED), it’s unlikely that they would have even taken part and the initiative would never have gotten off the ground. In a survey by The Conference Board, a business research organisation, 77 % of businesses said that the needs of the business itself is the most critical factor to affect their giving’ to charity, campaigns or initiatives). This pretty much confirms that corporate philanthropy is a myth.

Likewise, if consumers were not motivated by the feel good’ sensation, the PRODUCT(RED) label would become just another brand among the ranks of Ralph Lauren, VISA and Sony Ericsson. This feel good’ sensation is the major point of difference’ for the PRODUCT(RED) brand — it lets you be both consumeristic’ and socially conscious’ at the same time!

A win-win situation for everyone?

By now, you’re probably thinking: Great! I get an awesome feel good’ product, the companies enjoy some promotion and the Global Fund is able to do more to combat AIDS in Africa. If only it were that simple.

If you read a little more about PRODUCT(RED) on the internet, you’ll find several articles where it is quite savagely attacked . For example, check out Spending to save, (Product)Red: help or hindrance?, or the Buy (Less) Crap campaign, which questions whether shopping really is the answer. Before you make up your mind though, read on to my next article and see why I really think it is worthwhile to support PRODUCT(RED).

red girl


Give (red) a chance!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Part two of a two part series by William Zhang

red paint brushIf you went over to your local hospital with a group of friends and volunteered to clean and repaint the entire children’s ward, only to demand afterwards that you all be shown on the 6 o’clock news so that the entire country can see what great people you are, would this be considered socially acceptable? No, of course it wouldn’t be.

So, is it ok that a group of huge multinational companies are actively promoting their contribution to the Global Fund, a foundation set up to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria? If you’ve read through any of the articles I listed in Part One, your answer will probably be an outright NO WAY!’ Before I tell you why I think it really IS worthwhile to support PRODUCT(RED), let’s take a closer look at the issue from the critics’ perspective.

Who benefits most?
Essentially, the argument is about whether the multinational corporations are benefiting more from their increased sales and improved corporate image than the AIDS victims are benefiting from the improvements in medical care, treatment and research centres.
Many of the critics point to the reasons why companies choose PRODUCT(RED) over alternative ways to contribute to “worthy” causes.
The first reason is the initiative’s visibility. With backing and support from celebrities such as U2’s Bono, Giorgio Armani, Julia Roberts and The Killers, any association with the PRODUCT(RED) brand in the media and with youth culture is likely to hugely benefit the image, prominence and reputation of the companies involved.

The second reason is PRODUCT(RED)’s ability to mask the actual extent to which the companies are contributing to the initiative. All of the companies are made to look equal, despite the Red mobiledifferences in the amount they actually contribute and the small proportion of the retail cost which actually finds its way to the fund. For instance, one percent of all spending on American Express’s (RED) card goes to the Global Fund as does fifty percent of the net profit from the sale of Gap (RED) items, and just $8.50 from the sale of a Motorola (RED) Motorazr. In effect, companies are contributing relatively little while being portrayed through PRODUCT(RED) marketing as giving generously to the cause.

What’s the problem?
Is PRODUCT (RED) the most effective way support the cause? A more transparent option would be a direct campaign set up by the company itself, meaning that a set amount of money would be given to a specific cause.

Another aspect of the PRODUCT(RED) initiative which has been brutally criticised is the amount spent on advertising and promoting the brand compared to the amount actually raised for the Global Fund. In its March 2007 issue, the Advertising Age magazine reported over $100 million had been spent on advertising, but only $18 million raised as a result. They make the argument that the Global Fund could have received that $100 million if the money was directly donated rather than channelled through PRODUCT(RED).

Some reports even go on to say that based on these figures, the companies have purposely chosen PRODUCT(RED) because it allows them to spend the difference between the $100 million and the $18 million on promoting their own corporate image and improving their sales and profits!

The crucial flaws to this argument are…
These critics have completely forgotten the other benefit of the PRODUCT(RED) initiative — not financial support, but simply bringing the issue of AIDS and poverty in Africa under the public spotlight. For example, some consumers would have had little awareness of the growing AIDS crisis in Africa had it not been for the PRODUCT(RED) advertising campaigns. You sure can’t beat an ad during the half-time break of the American Super Bowl watched by 90 million people!

CashMany critics have also ignored a crucial statistic which blows their argument into tiny fragments: the amount of money raised for the Global Fund is now over four times more than the amount the private sector had contributed prior to the establishment of PRODUCT(RED). An increase of over four times their original funds! Surely you can’t say that PRODUCT(RED) is just an attempt by companies to improve their corporate image if they’ve managed to quadruple the finances of the Global Fund within a two year period?

The reason why the arguments against PRODUCT(RED) are flawed is that they insist on focusing on what the companies are getting out of it by comparing it to alternatives, such as giving set amount directly to a cause, rather than looking at the initiative in terms of the beneficial changes it has made to the lives of the victims of AIDS, disease and poverty in Africa. The truth is, it IS a win-win situation for everyone involved, even if some groups (such as the multinational corporations) appear to win’ more than others. Some people are upset that the companies are even benefitting from PRODUCT(RED) at all!

These people forget that in a world driven by self-interest and personal gain, this imbalance is crucial to holding the entire initiative together (see Part One). Ironically, in attacking the imbalances of PRODUCT(RED), such critics are actually affirming the very principle which PRODUCT(RED) relies on for its success!

My (RED) soapbox:
Global Fund LogoWhatever the motivation of PRODUCT(RED) companies, the initiative has undeniably made a real difference to the medical treatment of AIDS victims in Africa. Does it really matter that the companies are in it for themselves or that only a tiny proportion of the funds are actually going to the Global Fund? No. I don’t think that’s the important thing.

“When I was going to medical school a few years back, we would see patients and send them home knowing they were going to die without medication … I don’t feel that way now. The money we got from (RED) through the Global Fund is helping to save lives. That’s the important thing.”

Dr. Asiimwe, Managing Director for the Treatment and Research AIDS Centre, Kigali.

The important thing is that lives in Africa are being saved. The important thing is that we need to stop this argument against PRODUCT(RED) because while we argue, lives are being lost. PRODUCT(RED) needs your help, not your criticism. So buy (RED). Save lives. Has there ever been a better reason to shop?

Visit to find out more and check out all the cool stuff you can buy to support PRODUCT(RED)

And find out more about The Global Fund
Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) The main advocate for global action on HIV/AIDS that aims to strengthen and support the response to the epidemic

The Who, What, and Why of

Unicef on malaria

red girl
What do you think? Have your say on the forum!

Join the PRODUCT(RED) campaign

Help to spread the word

Māori language decline and revitalisation

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Pip Bennett

For all people, language forms an important part of culture, and plays a crucial role in daily life as a means of effective communication. The Māori language is described as a taonga of the Māori people, a special possession or treasure. Unfortunately, since the arrival of tauiwi, or non-Māori, the Māori language (te reo ) has been put at risk. This is a trend that can be seen in most colonised countries which have indigenous cultures where, in particular, English has been imposed as the mainstream language, causing a loss of indigenous language. Examples of such countries are Australia, Canada, the United States, and many of the Pacific Islands such as Tahiti and Fiji. There are also examples where the people are not necessarily identified as indigenous (even though they are), such as in Wales, Ireland, and Spain.

The history of te reo and English

maori warriorInitially in Aotearoa New Zealand, te reo was widely spoken by the Europeans, particularly in interaction with Māori, and by both Maori and European children. By the mid 1860’s, the Crown introduced legislation which began to enforce the growing assimilation attitude, with the Colonisers wanting Māori to be absorbed into the new colonial culture, and so the wearing away of the Māori people began. Māori land was removed, stolen, and its use restricted by the Crown. Schooling was enforced, first in te reo for Māori, but by 1910, in English only. Māori populations dwindled due to introduced diseases, war, and substandard living conditions. Urbanisation and the development of New Zealand’s independent economy after World War Two led to Māori leaving their rural homes, marae and whānau to work in cities. All of these factors greatly contributed to the decline of the Māori language.

How much language was lost?
The extent of the decline varies across different regions. The upper North Island, in places like Rūātoki and Northland which have higher Māori proportion retained greater levels of language for longer. Ngāti Kahungunu (Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa) reports that there are no longer any native speakers of their dialect .

Language Revitalisation
Māori language revitalisation has been a movement particularly strong since the mid 1970’s. The Ātaarangi Movement, Kōhanga Reo, and Kura Kaupapa were all established in the late 1970’s to mid 1980’s. The Māori Language Act 1987 established te reo as New Zealand’s first official language, as well as defining goals, expectations, and responsibilities of the Crown in respect to the language and its revitalisation.

little girl at schoolMāori language surveys, carried out by Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development) and Statistics New Zealand, seem to show that language levels are currently being retained, although this level is still less than ideal. Unfortunately though, there are few proficient speakers, with most of them aged over 50. Currently the focus is on the education sector but the use of language outside of school grounds is not controlled, and the Act cannot contribute to the production of fluent speakers, only regulate the level and quality of language (like how we learn grammar in English schools, to increase the diversity and skills of language we have).

Despite this, many people who support revitalisation still continue to place faith in the education system as the primary method. Nevertheless, as well as the fact that schools can only control language use inside of school grounds, other problems exist. For example, there are insufficient resources (particularly for teachers of specialist subjects such as biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics), teachers with low quality language skills, and even when teachers are fluent there can be more problems, for example there aren’t well-circulated words for school subjects, so teachers often have to make them up (some of which don’t fit into the Māori language correctly), and also because many of the teachers are second language learners, which means they also have the influences of their first language which can destroy grammatical constructions.

So what’s the future?
The next 25 years have been identified as crucial to the revitalisation effort in raising the number of native speakers. The home and the community have been identified by agencies, such as Te Puni Kōkiri, as crucial to the survival of the language. If parents and whānau cannot ensure the Māori language is protected at home, revitalisation will not be a success because te reo is not protected at workplaces, mainstream schools, or in the media in our English-dominated world. It is important to remember that Māori need to determine their own needs and wants, and require space and support for this. Everyone has a part to play in the revitalisation of the Māori. It is a part of our heritage as well as our future, and its importance needs to be reflected in our life and activities, by for example, using te reo where possible, joining a te reo language club, or going to te reo classes. If it is not used, it will be lost.


Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development)
Te Taura Whiri (Māori Language Commission)
Statistics New Zealand


If you want to be active in the revitalisation effort, try:

Ugdana’s Invisible Children

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Hanna Butler

buvuunya kidsWhile I sit at a desk and swivel on an office chair, a little known phenomena has begun on the other side of the world where night is falling and children should be getting ready for bed. Instead, tens of thousands of Ugandan children begin what has now become termed as a “night commute”. Every night, children who live in dangerous rural areas where a militant rebel group have stronghold, walk up to 20km just to be able to sleep in the safety of the city. Fear of being abducted by rebels in their sleep, and being kept as soldiers or sex slaves, easily justifies a nightly marathon. And as thousands of eyes close to go to sleep, dreaming is not likely in a world where nightmares are a reality in more ways than one.

20 years ago, a self proclaimed prophet and spirit medium started a rebellion against the Ugandan government. The Lords Resistance Army (LRA) headed by Joseph Kony began a rebellion of terror without clear reasons or intentions and until recently never made a clear statement of its political aims. The current situation in Northern Uganda - of a cultish fanaticism, ruthless military might, complimented global attention or concern- has produced one of the most evil situations in the world.

Since 1987, 95% of the population has been displaced due to the LRA. 1000 people die every week from disease, the poor living conditions and violence. There are 300,000 child soldiers in the world, and 30,000 of these are in Uganda, and they make up 80% of the LRA. Imagine an unknown town destroyed by war and populated by children turned into killing machines and sex slaves. Recruits as young as 8 are subjected to a form of warfare involving more than just guns and bombs. The LRA have become known for their atrocious style of attack, and can be seen on the faces of the people of northern Uganda who now smile without lips, hear without ears and smell without noses. Children are taught to perform terrible atrocities — including killing their families and other children — or face death themselves. Forgetting the conflict however does not deny nor discredit what has happened. The facts are shocking, hard to believe and, what is even worse, these facts very rarely known.

In a competition where war, death, horror, and exploitation are the criteria for winning, the LRA can justifiably accept second place for their 20 year war without a reason in Northern Uganda. Last year 100 international experts launched a poll on which of the world’s “forgotten” emergencies they wanted the world to focus and act on. United Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland stated, “I cannot find any other part of the world that is having an emergency on the scale of Uganda, that is getting such little international attention.” Adding that it is worse than Iraq’, and a moral outrage.

Last month the elusive Kony broke his silence and very unconvincingly blamed the atrocities of the last twenty years on groups trying to frame him, and the use of propaganda for creating his monster image. He explains that he was just trying to do as the voices had told him, and enforce the 10 commandments. Kony is now top of the International Criminal Courts warrant list and alone is wanted for 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I have a message to give you, while you sit on your office chair, from a 15-year-old girl who escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, who now makes the nightly commute while you and I swivel on our chairs.

“I would like to give you a message. Please do your best to tell the world what is happening to us, the children. So that other children don’t have to pass through this violence.”

Guluwalk site
Night Commuters in Northern Uganda by Rebecca Czarnecki


Movie: The Invisible Children and the media kit you can download
Lira: Uganda’s Child Soldiers


    • Watch the movie Uganda Rising - screening free at the Southern Cross, Abel Smith St, Wellington on November 13 and 20 2006
    • Join Hanna in Wellington 25 November 2006 in giving the message of this girl to New Zealand. GuluWalk is an international event that replicates the walks of the children in order to raise awareness and support for this crisis. Be that message of hope for the children of northern Uganda, and walk to tell their story. Northern Uganda is not the only place in the world where children live amongst war and poverty, it is unfortunately far too common, and more often that not we are in positions where there is not much that we can do. GuluWalk is an opportunity where you can “do more than just watch”.
    • For more info visit the GuluWalk site or email

    What’s wrong with the G20’s neo-liberal agenda?

    Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

    Omar Hamed

    anti-capitalism signThe premier item on the G20’s agenda at it’s next meeting in Melbourne, in November 2006, is the reform of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Fifty Years is Enough Network describe them as two US-controlled institutions that for the last fifty years have been,

    “imposing economic austerity policies in the countries of the so-called “Third World” or “global South.” Once Southern countries build up large external debts, as most have, they cannot get credit or cash anywhere else and are forced to go to these international institutions and accept whatever conditions are demanded of them. None of the countries has emerged from their debt problems; indeed most countries now have much higher levels of debt than when they first accepted IMF/World Bank “assistance.”(1)

    The IMF and World Bank have been under pressure from a number of different corners in recent years, including the Argentinean uprising (between 2001 and 2002), mass mobilisations across the planet against neo-liberalism, and campaigns for the rich nations and these international finance institutions to drop the debt’ that many developing nations owe them.

    The IMF is losing its grip over much of the developing world with Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Uruguay and Turkey seeking to pay back their loans as fast as possible, and high global commodity prices which have cut the IMF’s outstanding debt from over $70bn in 2003 to currently just over $20bn.(2) With the legitimacy of the Bretton Woods consensus under fire, and more and more nations refusing to take up its loans, the rich nations will be seeking a way to prolong the new world disorder they seek to build via the Washington consensus However, the iron grip of the IMF remains on many poor nations, such as Papua New Guinea, who are forced into “liberalising their economies and reducing social spending” by the IMF and World Bank. (3)
    hand holding dollars
    Barry Coates, the executive director of Oxfam New Zealand wrote that, “Because of its debts, Papua New Guinea has few resources to fund HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care… HIV infections are increasing by up to 50 percent per year and, if the epidemic follows the path of Zimbabwe, by 2020 the working age population in PNG will be 40 per cent smaller than it is today.”(4)

    Oxfam and the Make Poverty History coalition think that if debt relief was offered to all 62 developing countries that need full debt cancellation to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) then progress will have been made. However, many of us who will hit the streets in Melbourne in December 2006 to protest against the G20 believe that the IMF and World Bank cannot be reformed, and that because of the stranglehold that the United States has over these institutions, the only way forward is to abolish both the World Bank and IMF, for developing nations to stop repaying their loans and for a new and fair institution to be set up to manage loans to nations.

    As Global Exchange points out, “voting power at the World Bank and IMF is determined by the level of a nation’s financial contribution. Therefore, the United States has roughly 17% of the vote, with the seven largest industrialized countries (G-7) holding a total of 45%.” (5)

    The WTO straightjacket’

    The G20’s agenda of neo-liberalism and privatisation has been accurately described as “capitalism with the gloves off”. The G20 is pursuing neo-liberal economic reforms across the world, particularly in vulnerable developing nations such as those in the Pacific. Australia, aided by New Zealand, is working towards a free trade area in the south Pacific, while the European Union is seeking to impose free trade agreements with its former colonies and could, with its economic power, very easily crush Pacific economies through its Economic Partnership Agreements’. Add into this the predatory behaviour of many of the G20 nations in the WTO and World Bank towards developing nations and you have a very disturbing picture painted of many of the G20 nations acting in an imperialist nature as each seeks to carve out its own slice of the world.

    The WTO aims to fit nations into a straightjacket of privatisation and deregulation which, in reality, will be dominated by corporate power and characterised by a loss of indigenous sovereignty and the “marginalisation and impoverishment of vulnerable sectors of populations”, as the nation-states involved move towards full compliance with the World Trade Organisation’s neo-liberal trade regime. (6)

    The recently averted accession to the WTO by Tonga demonstrates the disastrous consequences that joining the WTO has for developing nations. Oxfam New Zealand, in its report, Blood from a Stone, exposed the reality of Tonga’s accession. Tonga will be allowed tariffs at no more than 20%, resulting in tariff cuts that are expected to “affect Tonga’s ability to provide basic health care, education, water supply and other essential services for its people.” (7)

    “What can we do? We can re-invent civil disobedience in a million different ways. In other words, we can come up with a million ways of becoming a collective pain in the ass.” (Arundhati Roy)

    Neo-liberalism must be stopped. Subcomandante Marcos of the Mexican Zapatista movement said: “what the Right offers is to turn the world into one big mall where they can buy Indians here, women there…”
    police and protestors
    The only way to a humane and fair world where global poverty really is history is to mobilise people, especially young people and students, to struggle for a better world and against the corporate agenda that will be promoted at the G20. Our, and everyone else’s, future is not for sale. We will join forces to resist the rule of the market, the cutting of social spending, deregulation, privatisation and the global push to make us forget about that thing called “community”. (8)

    In December 2006, we will dance through the streets of Melbourne to oppose the G20 and the World Bank and IMF and the stooges of imperialism, like Paul Wolfowitz, that run them.

    “Against the single economic blueprint where the market rules, we represent diverse, people-centred alternatives. Against the monoculture of global capital, we demand a world where many worlds fit…
    Resisting together, our hope is reignited: hope because we have the power to reclaim memory from those who would impose oblivion, hope because we are more powerful than they can possibly imagine, hope because history is ours when we make it with our own hands.” (9)

    (3) Oxfam’s Questions and Answers on Debt
    (4) Drop the Debt by Barry Coates
    (5) Global Exchange : World Bank / IMF Questions and Answers
    (6) Professor Jane Kelsey, A People’s Guide to PACER, Commissioned by the Pacific Network on Globalisation, Suva, August, 2004.
    (7) Oxfam International Briefing Note, Tonga: Blood from a Stone, December 15, 2005.
    (8) Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcà­a, What is “Neo-Liberalism”? A Brief Definition, February 26th, 2000.
    (9) Notes from Nowhere, We are Everywhere, 2003, London.


    Read Omar’s other article on the G20, and about why he plans to protest against the G20 in Melbourne, Get Up! Stand Up! Say No to the G20

    Global exchange
    Focus on the Global South
    Fifty Years is Enough
    Oxfam New Zealand
    Make Poverty History

    The Fourth World War!
    The Take
    (both available to borrow from the Just Focus library)

    No Logo” by Naomi Klien
    “Empty promises : the IMF, the Word Bank, and planned failures of global capitalism”


    DRUGS: Nobody’s is winning the war

    Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

    Phoebe Borwick and Amy Donohue

    opium poppiesThe trade behind cocaine (or coca, as the plant of origin is known) and heroin (which comes from opium poppies) is a global issue. An estimated four million people depend on income derived from the cultivation of illicit drug crops. In the year 2000, the global drug trade was estimated at a value of US$400 billion. It’s an issue worth more than the price of feeding the planet over the same period of time.

    From the rainforests of South America to the remotest parts of Afghanistan to Pete Doherty’s honker, we trace the journey of the most profitable crops in the world.

    From the dark ages…
    Way back when we were still running around with leaves covering our lower regions, South Americans chewed the leaf of the coca plant. Often incorrectly considered a narcotic, cocaine is actually a stimulant and when chewed suppresses hunger, while increasing strength and energy.

    Cue the Spaniards arriving in South America and branding coca a plant that the devil invented for the total destruction of the natives’. Or, that’s what one prominent Catholic artist declared.
    They changed their minds a bit when they discovered it really did stimulate quite nicely thus legalising it and charging a nifty little tax for their own economic benefit. For a time, coca was even the main source of income for the Roman Catholic Church. Sneaky, sneaky!

    …to today…
    Ironically, the two most fatal drugs are still legal today and taxed to the hilt by governments around the world. Alcohol and tobacco kill more people than illicit drugs every year and are both widely accepted and available.

    The very fact that other drugs are illegal increases the profit to be made. With criminals running the show, the prices skyrocket.

    …to leafy fields…
    Cocaine is an economical crop for farmers not only because of its high selling cost and ever-present demand, but its quick maturation period. Within one to two years of planting the seed, the coca plant’s leaves will be ready to harvest with a drying period of only six hours. And opium poppies have an even quicker yield.

    …to environmental destruction…
    More than 30 years ago, the US came up with the superhero tactic to rid the world, and especially their own country (where the demand was coming from), of the evil empire of narcotics. They called it the War on Drugs.
    george bush
    The most widespread method of destroying the coca plant in the 90s, and the opium poppy still today, was to manually pull up every single plant in a field. Time consuming and tiring, there must have been an easier way?

    Consequently, air eradication with herbicides became rather popular. In as little as ten days after spraying, the plants are stripped bare of their leaves and within around 70 days, the plant will be completely dead. RIP, indeed. US-sponsored Plan Colombia was, to effect, an aerial fumigation of this country — the second most ecologically diverse in the world. Spraying caused poisoning and environmental damage.

    Herbicides have been linked to diarrhoea, hair loss and skin rashes on children. Also, legal crops like bananas, coffee and pineapples are often destroyed along with the coca plant. Yes, we have no bananas. Not quite the lycra and rippling muscles the US had envisaged. In Afghanistan, post the US-led invasion, local and international troops are enlisted in eradicating poppy crops — as are schoolchildren in some provinces. This is dangerous work.

    Imagine you’re a farmer who’s invested cash and time in a poppy field. How would you feel if you saw it being literally stamped out? Might make you want to protect your only chance of making a living. Where’s that gun that’s been lying around since the war? Further problems arise as more coca plants and poppies are eradicated. Demand for the drug remains constant (or grows) while there are fewer crops, resulting in the existing crops becoming more lucrative. More farmers then begin to grow the plant to take advantage of the price increase. What a conundrum!

    …to poverty…
    With secrecy comes vulnerability and international drug rings are not covered by fair trade agreements. Globalisation of the drug trade has led to even greater exploitation of the crop farmers along with cheaper and easier international trafficking. The globalisation of the drug trade forms a connection between organised crime, small arms, terrorism, human trafficking and all kinds of criminal and seedy life.

    In 1999, nearly 80 per cent of opium cultivation took place in Afghanistan. Chances are, a gram of coke purchased in the US, Europe or New Zealand comes from a coca bush grown in the Andean countries. In fact, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru account for more than 98 per cent of the world supply. Already in poverty, working with poor soil and unempowered to change their circumstances — not to mention the influence of drug lords and anti-government groups — farmers often have no choice if they want to keep food on the table.

    Yet, the War on Drugs is not being won. The US’ efforts to strip Latin America and Afghanistan of their coca and poppy crops are also stripping the livelihood of millions. While thrill-seekers in the west demand the drugs, and their governments react by trying to stop the supply, farmers will continue to grow the illicit crops unless they are offered a real alternative way to make a living.

    ….to terrorism…

    Yes, that’s right. Terrorism. Stop or they’ll shoot (up). The links between terrorism, drugs and war are extensive and very real. In 2001, just weeks before two planes barrelled into the Twin Towers, the US pledged a further $1.5m to plump out the reported $140m in ‘humanitarian’ aid it sent to Afghanistan. Why?

    Because western methods of enforcing drug cultivation laws proved ineffective, but groups with violent means available to them could whip out grenades and guns willy nilly, without a thought for morality. The Taliban was limiting drug production by threatening to shoot farmers of illicit crops. Thus, they were held in high American esteem until everything went to custard on September 11.

    But the corruption ran deeper. After the attacks, the Taliban turned tail to force farmers to grow the poppies. They, and other anti-government organisations, act as trafficking middlemen and a defence force, making profit out of the trade and protecting drug smugglers with weaponry and vehicles.

    Still wanna get high, butterfly?
    So, you still down with shovelling that candy up your nose this Friday? Are you quite content to continue your involvement with one of the world’s deadliest industries? You don’t need to rent Traffic, Requiem for a Dream or Maria Full of Grace to understand the true repercussions of your habit on the developing countries of the world. And if you still don’t get it, then you must be wasted. Go blow your nose and have an OJ.


    Afghanistan country profile
    Colombia country profile
    Drugs: an overview
    Drug Policy Alliance is America’s leading organisation working to end the war on drugs.
    The worldwide collective of committed scholar-activists at Transnational Institute
    Illegal Drugs: Scourge or Globalization’s Great Equalizer? by Baylen J. Linnekin

    This article was originally published in Tearaway magazine as part of the Global Focus project.

    The Pharmaceutical drugs industry: TRIPSy!

    Monday, September 18th, 2006

    Mariana Gledhill
    assorted pillsEveryone in the world desires good health, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives everyone in the world the right to have access to medical care that allows them to have adequate health and wellbeing. Pharmaceutical drugs are often able to help provide this, and help people live longer lives. However, not everyone is able to afford the drugs that they need to take in order to live.

    “Big Pharma”
    The “Big Pharma”, which make up the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, set prices high in order to make big profits (Robinson, 2001). Patents are put on drugs in order to stop other companies making cheaper copies of them. The Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) aspects of intellectual property agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) backs these companies up. The WTO aims that by 2016, all countries in the world will have laws that will restrict companies from making drugs when they do not have a patent that will allow them to do so (Legrain, 2002).

    The power of patents
    The Big Pharma argue that honouring of patents is necessary, because they say that Research and Development is expensive. Without the honouring of patents, drug companies will not want to make new drugs. This claim has been disputed. The largest drug companies are the most profitable in the world and they only spend 15% of their budgets on Research and Development, which mostly involves the testing of the drugs.(Angell, 2004)

    Where do the drugs come from?
    bottle of pillsThe drug companies do not actually discover the new drugs; chemists who are based in universities and other training institutions do. Drug companies merely buy the compounds off these developers. Some of these compounds are existent in nature, but residents of the areas where they have been found do not usually benefit from them.

    One example is the Neem tree, which is found in India. This tree is known in Sanskrit as Sarva Roga Nivarini, ‘the curer of all ailments’ and it has been used by Indians for thousands of years in various medicines and fertilizers (Davis, 1998). However, the rights to this tree were sold to W. R. Grace & Co. in 1988. Patenting of natural products by companies for the sake of profit is common, and existing intellectual property laws do not give indigenous people much room to claim the knowledge that their ancestors bequeathed to them (Davis, 1998).

    Where is the money in pharmaceuticals?
    Drug companies spend most of their budgets on the marketing of drugs, rather than research and development. Big sellers are drugs that are popular in the global North: drugs for conditions such as hay fever, and impotency. There is not much money in drugs for the diseases that attack the populations of the South, and even when there is, drugs are not often made available to these people.

    When they are, drug companies milk a lot of publicity from them. This is not to say that they do not make huge differences to people’s lives. Onchoceriasis, also known as river blindness, was a disease that made everyone in Fougadougou, Mali, blind. Now Merek and Co. distribute a drug in this village that prevents onchoceriasis . This has given Fougadougou new life (British Broadcasting Corporation, 2006).

    A personal example
    Millions of people in the South are affected by AIDS and HIV. I know one of them. She is a girl whom I will call Juanita*. Juanita is barely ten years old and she has recently developed AIDS. She is a bright girl, who is ahead of the other girls in her class, despite having to take lots of time off school due to her condition. She is an affectionate girl who loves playing with dolls. She probably won’t have a 15th birthday. This girl comes from Peru, where the generic drugs that the big Pharma demonise cost about one US dollar a day. This is too expensive for many people in Peru. AIDS drugs made by the big Pharma, with their patents, cost tens of thousands of dollars a year.

    Drug companies say that cheap drugs in the South will cut their profits. That is not true. Drug companies are not going to profit from poor people who often earn a fraction of what the drugs they need cost each year (Legrain, 2002). Drug companies provide drugs that often save lives, but that purpose seems to be in second place to making money, and agreements such as the TRIPS ones are encouraging this trend.
    hands holding pills
    So what is the answer?
    Some people say the answer to the problem is greater regulation, (Angell, 2004) and others think that drug companies should be owned by governments, who can be voted out when they do not what is best for the voters. Drug companies are controversial at the moment. Award winning books have been written about their mistakes and an Oscar winning film has been made about the corruption that exists within them. If they are to improve the health of the world’s people, something needs to change.

    * Her real name is not Juanita. I have changed it out of respect for her privacy.



    Angell, Marcia (2004) The truth about the drug companies : how they deceive us and what to do about it New York: Random House

    Marcia Angell is a doctor who thinks that drug companies need saving from themselves. Her argument is very persuasive, and her insider status in the medical profession is valuable.

    Legrain, Philippe (2002) Open World:/ The Truth About Globalisation London: Abacus

    Philippe LeGrain has written a book defending free trade. I do not agree with much of what he writes, but the chapter that he is written on the drugs industry (Patently Wrong) disagrees with the TRIPS agreement and sets out a number of reasons why TRIPS is not only immoral but anti free trade’.

    Robinson, Jeffrey (2001) Prescription games : money, ego and power inside the global pharmaceutical industry London : Simon & Schuster

    Jeffery Robinson’s book is an attack on Big Pharma, and is easy to read. It makes for compelling and chilling reading. Warning: it might make you get quite angry!


    Atwood, Margaret (2003) Oryx and Crake London: Bloomsbury

    Margaret Atwood is a prizewinning author. Oryx and Crake is a book about what happens when drug companies have too much power and are not regulated. Although this book is set in the future, it touches on many of the ethical problems that the world currently faces with drug companies.

    Le Carre, John (2002) The Constant Gardiner London: Sceptre

    This book is a murder mystery that ends up being related to corrupt drug companies testing their drugs on unsuspecting people in Africa. In the course of these tests, many people die. An award-winning movie has been made of this book, which Roger Ebert has called the movie of the year for 2005 (I have not seen it).

    Other Cited Resources:

    British Broadcasting Corporation Miracle Village

    This photo journal is about the village of Fougadougou the problems with Onchoceriasis and how the village has changed with the arrival of a preventative drug.

    Davis, Michael Biological Diversity and Indigenous Knowledge Research Paper 17 1997-98
    This is about how patents on natural substances impact badly on indigenous peoples.

    United Nations (1948) “Universal Declaration on Human Rights”

    New Internationalist Issue on Big Pharma, Issue 32 in November 2003


    • Yuck, No Thanks in Big Pharma, New Internationalist, has some really ideas about taking action globally.
    • New Zealand is a very small slice of the Big Pharma market, and compared to other countries, we have easy access to the drugs we need. The government subsidises many high cost drugs and people on low incomes can get their prescriptions for reduced prices. However, there are some drugs that are still not sold in New Zealand due to the regulation industry, Pharmac, not allowing them to be sold or subsidised. Lobbying of Pharmac might give some people access to the drugs that can save their lives.
    • Advertising for drugs is currently legal in New Zealand. Now I have nothing against Jude Dobson, but I think that it is a real shame that Drug companies can advertise their products under the pretense of educating people. Maybe you can write a letter to the Health minister calling for the abolishment of advertising by drug companies.
    • Find some isolated areas where injustice is happening in relation to this area. Then talk to the media, find the drug that will help the people and lobby the company(ies) that supply it. If anything happens, it will not change the roots of the injustice, but it will change the lives of some people.


    Thursday, February 16th, 2006

    Eva Lawrence

    All the time we hear about global pandemics like Bird Flu. We’re always told that we are at risk, but never given the guts of it… Like for instance, HIV/AIDS. What does it mean for me, an average young person living in Aotearoa New Zealand? Why should I care? It’s a scary thing that exists on the other side of the world and we’d rather ignore it right? Wrong.

    Currently, about 40 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide. 12 000 people are infected with HIV every day

    In 2003 there were 188 new diagnoses of HIV reported in Aotearoa New Zealand, the highest ever! The figures for 2005 are likely to be higher. Latest stats show that the rate of new HIV infections among gay/bi men in New Zealand alone was one every four days! In the past five years in Aotearoa New Zealand, the rate of heterosexuals diagnosed with HIV infection is equal to homosexuals diagnosed (NZAF). This means that HIV is an issue for all of us, whether you are gay, bi or straight.

    AIDS is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide. Young people, mostly young women, make up nearly half of the new cases of HIV infections worldwide — one every 14 seconds.

    Young people are the group most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and we are also the window of hope’ — we’re the ones who can stop the spread and turn the pandemic around.

    Are we at risk?
    While HIV may seem far away from life here in Aotearoa New Zealand, the disease may have a big impact here in the next few years. The rates of HIV in Papua New Guinea are the same as the rates were in South Africa in 1990 — just before the epidemic. The Pacific region (of which we are a part) is vulnerable, like Africa.

    Don’t believe me? Aotearoa New Zealand holds the not-so-glorious title of having some of the highest rates of Chlamydia and teen pregnancy in the developed world… which means we are at risk of HIV. Having an STI can make you ten times more vulnerable to HIV because the existing STI makes it easier for HIV to gain hold in your body. And of course, both the high STI and teen pregnancy rates mean a lot of unprotected sex is goin on.

    What is it?
    HIV stands for the “Human Immunodeficiency Virus”. HIV infects cells of the immune system, and destroys or impairs their function. When an immune system is deficient it can no longer fight off infection and disease. AIDS stands for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”. The term AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. For people with AIDS, infections are often severe and sometimes fatal because the immune system is so damaged.

    What are the causes of HIV/AIDS?
    The HIV virus is transmitted through body fluids such as blood and semen, and occasionally breast milk. HIV is generally transmitted through sexual intercourse, intravenously (through needles) and from mother to child.

    While these are the technical ways to get HIV, they are not the only factors that make people vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Here are some underlying causes of HIV transmission and vulnerability.

    95 out of every hundred people with HIV live in the developing world. Poverty makes people more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and in turn, the virus leads to an increase in poverty. Poverty also leads people to unsafe practices such as prostitution. Poverty exists in the Pacific and here too.

    While poverty is not a major contributor in Aotearoa New Zealand at the present, global pandemics affect poor people more than wealthy due to issues such as access to health care and resources. Regardless of this, whether you are rich or poor, you are still vulnerable to HIV.

    Gender inequality
    Women are more vulnerable to infection than men as they often don’t have control over if, how and with who they have sex. Teenage girls in some African countries are six times more likely to be infected with HIV than are boys of the same age (UNFPA).

    Child Abuse and Rape
    Children are often infected with HIV through sexual abuse. Some adult men are seeking young female partners (under 15) in an attempt to avoid HIV infection. Coerced sex including rape, increases risk of cuts to the vagina and anus and therefore of HIV infection.

    People are still ignorant about HIV. A recent survey in 17 countries around the world showed that over half the youth questioned couldn’t name any methods to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS (UNFPA). Furthermore, almost half of 15 to 19 year old girls questioned in sub-Saharan Africa, didn’t know that a healthy looking person can have HIV/AIDS (

    Mobile populations
    The movement of people within and between countries has led to the spread of HIV. In many countries men will work temporarily in the cities, at sea or for the armed forces, contract HIV and then return to their communities and unwittingly spread it.

    People traveling on holiday also catch or spread HIV with local populations and other travelers through sex and intravenous drug use. Sex tourism is a major factor in HIV/AIDS spread in countries such as Cambodia.

    Myths and Stigma
    Inaccurate ideas about HIV/AIDS contribute to unsafe behaviour. Many young women in Africa have caught HIV due to the mistaken belief that infected men can cure’ themselves through sex with a virgin.

    The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS often leads to exclusion and violence towards those infected. The fear of stigma means people get tested. Negative attitudes about the use of condoms also increase infection.

    A major myth in NZ is that only gay men get HIV. As you can see from the statements above, it is increasingly becoming a heterosexual issue.

    Silence is perhaps the biggest killer. HIV/AIDS is associated with sex and drugs and death. These are all things people don’t like to talk about. Silence and inaction has led to the pandemic that the world now faces. Only the breaking of the silence and concerted action will turn it around.


    • Wear a red ribbon to show you care about the issue, especially on World Aids Day - the 1st of December
    • Combat world poverty — join the Make Poverty History Campaign
    • Always. Use. A. Condom… got the message?
    • Break the silence — ask questions and challenge the stereotypes around HIV/AIDS


    New Zealand AIDS Foundation
    Family Planning Association
    The Global Education Centre

    This article was originally published in Jet Magazine’s World View column and is published here with their permission. Images courtesy of Save The Children.