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Posts Tagged ‘trafficking’

Trigger Issues - Diamonds

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

By Nikki van der Gaag

tiffanysHow many other symbols of love also fuel violent conflict? At the same time as sparkling innocently in a footballer’s ear, the gems fund some of the worst fighting in Africa.

Diamonds are not as rare as we think and they have been mined by virtual slave labour, so why are they so expensive? These simple pieces of carbon have, over centuries, turned into the ultimate ‘rocks’: desired, possessed, traded, stolen, smuggled and, literally for many, ‘to die for’.

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Trigger Issues - Kalashnikov AK47

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

By Gideon Burrows

ak_photo“Kalashnikov” explains the arms trade, politics and culture through the lens of the world’s deadliest weapon and shows how its direct social effects have swept across whole continents. Some 90 million of these guns exist - and they do not die when their owners do. They are now made in dozens of countries and have been fired in hundreds of conflicts since their introduction. In contrast, campaigns round the world are removing guns from gangs and communities. As they are recycled and made into sculptures might the Kalashnikov one day be seen as a symbol of peace?

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Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

By Liam Sweeney

sold_photo1Think back, if you can, to year 6. What were you doing then? You probably didn’t even know what a prostitute was. But for many of the children living in the red light districts of countries like India, Cambodia and Thailand, at the same age- and younger!- they know all too well what a prostitute is. They are one.

What is child trafficking?
Child trafficking is the recruitment, transfer and receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. Trafficked children usually live in poverty. They are sold, kidnapped or sometimes enticed with promises (which are soon broken) of a better life. Exploitation can include forced labour, slavery, recruitment as child soldiers or beggars, and many are forced to become sex workers.

It is estimated that over 1 million children are involved in the commercial sex trade. That’s equivalent to a quarter of New Zealand’s population, trapped in a world where anything goes and there is very little to protect them. This tragic trade is more widespread than you may think. Although there are laws against this in most countries, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reports that people from 127 different countries are being sexually exploited in 137 different nations - with 50% of these people being minors! Confronted with these shocking statistics you may ask, what’s being done about this? But the real issue is why is it happening in the first place?

Demand and Supply
You might assume it is due to the conditions the child is living in, poverty. Children who live in slums or poor areas are often in a situation where their parents are desperate – sometimes so desperate that they sell their child for extra income. But poverty isn’t the sole cause of child prostitution. Poverty is a factor that makes it easier for traffickers to exploit people desperate for money, or a different life. But traffickers would not be able exploit children if there was no demand. You don’t need to be an expert in economics to realise that with no demand a product will not be sold. But unfortunately, as the figures show, there is a high demand for this trade, and according to Anti-Slavery International, demand is growing.

Sexualisation of Children
The main demand comes from people, mostly men, all across the world, who can afford to travel to these countries for sex. This is called child sex tourism. It is hard to imagine why these people would do this. But if you take a look around you, you may see some clues. Advertising and the media play a huge role in shaping the thoughts and desires of people. Every time you barbie-dollturn on your TV or open a magazine you are likely to see sexually revealing images being used to sell a product, anything from a car to a burger. Children, especially girls, are sexualised at a young age. From the pole dancing kit marketed in the UK to girls as young as 5, to the classic icon of a Barbie doll dressed in a miniskirt and high heels, flirting with boyfriend Ken, girls are viewed by some as mini women. Add to this the powerful influence of consumerism - the attitude that anything can be bought - and you will find people willing to act on their desires and pay any price to get what they want.

You can help
The horrifying reality of child prostitution is experienced by children from every continent. While poverty and the powerful forces of money, the media and consumerism allow (even encourage) this trade to thrive, there can never be any justification for this kind of child exploitation. Show you care by finding out more about the issue and getting involved in the fight to stop child prostitution.


  • Go to the Stop The Traffik website www.stopthetraffik.org and check out their ideas for how to help.
  • Join the Stop The Traffik page on Bebo http://upload.bebo.com/unlockfreedom and Myspace www.myspace.com/stopthetraffik
  • The ECPAT website suggests that if you or your family are going on holiday, find out if your travel company or hotel has signed the Code of Conduct. (This relates to the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.) If it has not, then find a one that has!
  • Be informed and make your protests heard for your fellow children across the world.

This article was originally published in the Global Focus pages of Tearaway Magazine.

Even one child is one too many

Friday, April 17th, 2009

By Megan Elder

h_trafficing2What are you doing right now? You might be sitting on a bus, or eating lunch, or at school. You are probably surrounded by friends, teachers and your possessions. Imagine for a minute a dark, dirty, cramped room with an equally dirty mattress sitting in a corner. Imagine being taken from your family by someone you trust, with the promise of a better life. Imagine being drugged, beaten and raped. Imagine having abortions performed by an unlicensed doctor. Imagine getting AIDs. Then imagine all this happening at age 10.

Child prostitution isn’t a myth. It isn’t a profession. It can be a death sentence. As spoken by Sita, a 15 year old girl sold into prostitution in Mumbai, “I would not wish that life on an enemy. It was pure hell.” And it isn’t just happening in faraway developing countries The UK, America and Russia are all thriving child prostitution destinations. Yes, destinations. As in, wealthy men from other countries, even from New Zealand, are not just travelling to Mumbai or Bangkok to find child prostitutes; they are going to Birmingham and Moscow. This is a HUGE problem on a global scale. In fact it is such a huge problem, involving so many people, that it is really hard to imagine how this affects the individuals.

Carol* from Zimbabwe.

Carol was orphaned and living with her grandparents, with her brothers and sisters. One day, when she was 16 years old she was on her way to school and was approached by two men who offered her a job. Carol was tempted by opportunity to help out her grandparents and support her siblings, so she accepted the offer.  Carol left with the men and they took her to a place where they raped her, then she was drugged and placed in a coffin and crossed the Zimbabwean border. When she arrived in South Africa she was taken to a brothel and forced into prostitution.  She was not allowed to go anywhere, she was threatened and abused, and was under constant lock and key. After a few months she was taken to Mozambique where the abuse continued. Here Carol contracted HIV.

Source| Oasis Zimbabwe (*not her real name)

Surrounded by all this abuse, disease, poverty, and even death, how do these young slaves cope? Fact is, sometimes they don’t. But many have spirit and faith, which keeps them alive. They know that one day they’ll escape from their captivity. Some girls with these unbreakable spirits arrive at the brothels and refuse to have sex with the clients. But the brothel owners use many techniques to break the girls’ spirits. Lighted cigarettes are pushed into their skin, they are beaten with wooden sticks, metal rods, branded, and they are threatened with death or being buried alive. You girlstatue_photomight ask, with these terrible conditions, why don’t they try to get away? Some do, like Jyoti, an Indian girl taken at age 7 and rescued age 16. But it’s incredibly difficult to run from the only life you’ve known since you were 7. Especially if you are in bad health and have no education, no family and no other job prospects.

However, there is hope. Organisations such as the Youth Partnership Project, ECPAT International and Stop the Traffik and inter-governmental agencies such as UNICEF are all dedicated to fighting child exploitation. Each play a part in trying to stop child trafficking, prostitution and slavery. From lobbying governments to strengthen the laws which protect children, to providing support to survivors of the sex industry, they are working with the children, for the children. And they’re making a difference.

Sokha* from Cambodia

Poipet in Cambodia is known as the ‘Wild West’ of South East Asia because of its roaring sex trade and gambling scene. People go there to buy or kidnap children and girls as young as five are trafficked from Cambodia over the border into Thailand. Sokha’s mother was ill with a liver complaint and the family needed money to pay for drugs to treat her and to buy land to build a home. Sokha and her friend Makara (who were 14 and 15) were sold to a trafficker who promised good jobs for them in Thailand. But reality turned out to be very different. Sokha explains how there were no ‘good’ jobs and she and Makara were used as slaves. They were given jobs selling fruit, but with their bosses taking most of the money for themselves, they were not able to survive or send any money home. Soon their bosses forced them into sleeping with men to pay their way.

The families contacted a group, Cambodian Hope Organisation (CHO), who rescues girls from prostitution. They gave them photos of the girls which were sent to Thailand. They were found and rescued and brought back to their families, where CHO then offered them counseling, support and training in sewing.

When asked what they hope for in the future, Sokha says she hopes to set up her own sewing business and employ and help girls in her situation. ‘We were scared all the time in Thailand,’ she says. ‘Now I’m happy, getting support, living with my family and free to work when I want.’

Source | Tearfund (*not her real name)


  • Go to the Stop The Traffik website www.stopthetraffik.org. There is info on how to start a freedom wall, where to sign the declaration on stopping trafficking and how to buy a freedom key or a Freeset bag.
  • Join the Stop The Traffik page on Bebo http://upload.bebo.com/unlockfreedom and Myspace www.myspace.com/stopthetraffik
  • The ECPAT website suggests that if you or your family are going on holiday, find out if the travel/tourist company has signed the Code of Conduct. (The code of conduct relates to the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.) If it has not – then try another company and encourage others to do the same. The same with your hotel. Has it signed the code? Or does it take positive steps to ensure that children are not being abused on its premises. If not then book another hotel!
  • Be informed and spread the word about child trafficking and the problems of child prostitution. Make your protests heard for your fellow children across the world.


To learn more about this subject useful tools and websites are:

Born Into Brothels (DVD) available to hire for free from the Global Education Centre www.globaled.org.nz

Fact: The perception of the word “child” is different in different cultures, countries and religions. In Iran, a country with between 30,000-500,000 adult prostitutes, any girl over the age of 9 is considered an adult. This means that any number of those 500,000 prostitutes could be under the age of 18!

This article was originally published in the Global Focus pages of Tearaway Magazine.

Human Traffic

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Rachael Stace, with the support of Just Focus

Imagine being a child sold by your parents not knowing where you are going, or what lies ahead, the only thing you do know is that you will probably never see your family, your neighbourhood or anything that you have grown up with, and care about, ever again. Or imagine being a woman with no work and no money, leaving your home because of promises of a better life, just to find out that you have been sold into slavery.

ManaclesHuman trafficking is the movement or sale of people by others (called traffickers), often through the use of force, threats and violence, and with the purpose of exploiting the victim. It affects every continent and most countries, with approximately 2.5 million people trafficked every year.

2.5 million people, REALLY? 200 hundred years ago the British Empire put an end to the slave trade, so why, in today’s modern society, are people still bought and sold like commodities?

Boys beggingLiving in poverty greatly increases your chance of being a victim of human trafficking. People who are struggling to survive and don’t have a lot of money are desperate for a way out and traffickers can, and do, exploit this, offering false promises of money and good jobs. Men and women who lack better options locally are persuaded by the prospect of better jobs in other regions or countries and agree to migrate. Parents may be offered a brighter and better life for their children, who they cannot afford to look after anyway, so they sell their children, hoping for a better future for them. Orphans are sold by orphanages to traffickers and sometimes children off the street are simply taken.

Human trafficking is at its most extreme during times of hardship such as natural disasters, for example droughts, famines, floods, earthquakes or tsunamis (eg: the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami) because when people, already dealing with poverty, are distressed or in panic they are at their most vulnerable. They are fooled or easily persuaded and when separated from their families are easy pickings for traffickers. Orphaned children especially are easily kidnapped.

TraffickingVictims of human trafficking become slaves and are forced to do things such as hard physical labour, prostitution, become mail-order brides, work in the military forces (e.g.child soldiers), become domestic workers, fish in dangerous areas or work in factories or sweat shops.

Trafficking is worth about US$32 billion a year! The UN attribute the rapid rise in trafficking to globalisation, with the flow of information and better communications making it easier to lure poor people with unrealistic promises. Open borders in regions like Europe make it easier to move people around.

To try and fight trafficking the UN developed the Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons which was ratified in 2003 and signed by 117 countries. It makes trafficking an international crime. But law enforcement in many countries is ineffective and the punishment quite light. Trafficking is one of the world’s most lucrative crimes, with US$32 billion at stake, unfortunately the potential gain well outweighs the risks.

Sokha, Cambodia

Girls as young as five are trafficked from Cambodia over the border into Thailand. Sokha’s mother was ill with a liver complaint and the family needed money to pay for drugs to treat her and to buy land to build a home. Sokha and her friend Makara were sold to a trafficker who promised good jobs for them in Thailand. But reality turned out to be very different. Sokha explains how she and Makara were given jobs selling fruit, but with their bosses taking most of the money for themselves, they were not able to survive or send any money home. Soon their bosses forced them into sleeping with men to pay their way. Sokha’s mother died within a year, and with no more resources the family still couldn’t afford to buy land.

Fortunately their parents contacted a group, Cambodian Hope Organisation, who found and rescued the girls, bringing them back to their families and offering them support and training.

Not everyone is this lucky.

Source | Tearfund

Human trafficking is a personal horror, a family’s misfortune, a community’s grief, a country’s despair and a world tragedy. All human beings are born equal, so why it is that some work and live in situations that are often too gruesome for others to even think about?

ShoesBut we HAVE to think about it, because it affects us all. Even here in Aotearoa New Zealand. The globalisation process which makes trafficking easier, also means that products made by the victims could easily find their way onto your table, or into your wardrobe, through the chocolate you eat or the shoes you walk in. You may be contributing to the problem without even knowing it.

Don’t despair about the problem, take action and be part of the solution!! Check out the websites below to learn more about the issues and for some ideas on how to get involved.

Learn More


Take Action

  • Join Just Focus www.justfocus.org.nz
  • Get involved with Trade Aid’s campaign to fight modern slavery www.tradeaid.org.nz
  • Join Amnesty International and help fight all human rights abuses www.amnesty.org.nz
  • Watch Amazing Grace, a film which follows the life of William Wilberforce, the driving force behind the abolishing of the slave trade in the British Empire
  • Talk to your friends and family
  • Sign the petition at www.antislavery.org
  • Check out the international campaign at www.stopthetraffik.org

A version of this article was published in JET Magazine.

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 bitter side of chocolate

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

Eva Lawrence, Just Focus Coordinator

Whether you are a whitey, darkie, nutty or gooey on the inside what we all have in common is that we love chocolate. Oh chocolate, it is one of those rare pleasures that releases endorphins and keeps us coming back for more… well enough on that.
cocoa beans
When you find out about where chocolate comes from and the unfair conditions that people experience to bring us that magic bar, it can leave a nasty bitter taste in your mouth.

Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean and is produced tropical countries. Most of the world’s cocoa is grown in West Africa — the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and the Cameroon. Almost half of the cocoa worldwide comes from the Ivory Coast.

Conditions for people working on cocoa farms are often terrible. Poverty is extreme, hours long and tasks unsafe. Child labour is common on cocoa farms, and these children often lack any chance of gaining an education as they are working from a young age.

In the Ivory Coast slavery is also occurring. Children and young men, many from neighbouring Mali are being sold or tricked into slavery. Child slaves are forced to work long hours, are underfed and of course, not paid. They are kept in inhuman conditions — often locked in at night so they can’t run away. Those that do try to escape are physically punished.

Chocolate in New Zealand

  • Cadburys claim to source their cocoa from Ghana and Malaysia
  • Whittakers claim to source their cocoa from Ghana
  • Nestle source their cocoa from a number of countries including the Ivory Coast.

(Source: Oxfam)

Bitter Ingredients
Cocoa prices are unfair and unstable on the international market. A small number of multinational corporations control the market and exploit the need of poor farmers to have an income — once the crop is grown a low price is better that no price. Therefore exporters are competing for sales by offering the lowest prices. This means that farmers have few options other than paying their workers low wages.
3 men in ghana sorting cocoa beans
Cocoa makes up a significant part of the income of some West African Countries. For the Ivory Coast for example, approximately one third of the national income comes from cocoa. Cash cropping has replaced the diverse and locally sustaining farming of the past. This means that the population is dependent on earning money from international markets to earn money to be able to buy food. Cash cropping, as well and removing the independence of communities, also creates vulnerability of economic collapse due to natural disasters, pests and crop disease.

Poverty, as always, is a huge factor in the unfair conditions. Most of the enslaved workers come from Mali, which is one of the poorest countries in the world. Young people hoping for work in neighbouring countries have been easy prey for child traffickers.

The sweeter side - Fairtrade
There is a positive side to this story though. Fairtrade cooperatives have been set up for cocoa growing in a number of countries. With fairtrade, farms are guaranteed a fair price for their cocoa and the workers receive a fair wage. Fairtrade certification forbids the use of slave labour or children working if it interferes with their education or in dangerous conditions. Furthermore, money is paid to invest in developing the community and schools

Global Links
kids in Ghana
Chocolate, which is so associated with positive stuff here in Aotearoa New Zealand, is directly linked with a whole lot of very negative stuff in some poor countries. It is a clear illustration of the link between us all in this globalised world. As is the case in many trade situations, we in the west gain goods from the labour of those in developing countries The good thing about this link is that we can do something about it.

There is no need to give up your chocolate addiction, but there are a number of things you can do to make chocolate sweeter for everyone.


  • Join the fair-trade chocolate campaign!
  • Fairtrade Fortnight goes from April 29 to May 13 2006— Get involved
  • Write to your favourite chocolate company and tell them you want them to use fair-trade cocoa
  • Buy fair-trade chocolate — available from Trade Aid and some health food stores.


Fairtrade Association of Australia and New Zealand
Trade Aid

This article was originally published in Jet magazine in the Focus column. All photos courtesy of Oxfam.

Globalisation — what are the negative impacts?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

Andrew Colgan

What is Globalisation?
Globalisation is the buzz word on everybody’s lips in the 21st century. But what does it mean? It basically means the world is getting smaller in just about every sense, except for geographically. Exchange is becoming more rapid, travel more feasible, communication faster and more accessible, advertising and media more widespread and movement of money more free-flowing.

Globalisation’s winners and losers
But globalisation is causing huge problems. Those who appear to be in control of the process (transnational corporations (TNCs), multilateral institutions and governments of wealthy industrialised nations) don’t seem to have the interests of everybody in mind. Consequently, economic and financial globalisation is happening at a rate disproportionate to all other developments. Economists and world leaders speak in terms of revenue, exchange, capital movement, structural adjustment and interest. Such concepts as emotion, cultural identity equality, environmental protection and social benefit seem to be foreign and are left out of the equation.

Some problems caused by Globalisation

The resulting problems are huge, and hit women, children and those on the periphery (especially in poorer countries) the hardest. These problems include:

  • Exploitation in employment — as well as appalling wages and working conditions, in many cases women and children are abducted and forced to work in oppressive factories or as sex workers.
  • The rise of the HIV / AIDS pandemic, displacement and longer working hours resulting in the orphaning and abandonment of children.
  • Neglect of the sick, illiterate, disabled and elderly as governments’ priorities shift towards economic growth and servicing of public debt.

The role of International institutions
The fate of many poorer or “developing” nations lies in the hands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Claims that Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) are in the best interest of those poorer nations, and not simply for the benefit of the wealthy creditors of these International Financial Institutions (IFIs), are dubious at best. The liberalisation of trade by the WTO has meant a removal of tariffs. Now only governments which can afford to pay subsidies can protect their producers. The complexity of international trade often makes it difficult to understand how huge disparities come about. Some excellent examples are given in a Christian Aid video called “Nuts”.

The problems with Transnational Corporations
Transnational corporations (TNCs) are quietly gaining dangerously unaccountable political power in both rich and poor countries. For example:

  • Finland is home of the mobile phone company Nokia. This company is so big that it accounts for 2/3 of the stock exchange, 1/5 of all exports, a significant proportion of the country’s tax revenue and employs over 22,00 Finns. By threatening to remove production to another country, Nokia effectively holds the Finnish government to ransom and so has a great influence in its political decision making.
  • Wal-mart is a huge American department store. Its clothing range is produced in factories in Bangladesh, taking advantage of the fact that there are no minimum wage laws there. Wal-mart is 55 times the size of the entire Bangladesh economy. By threatening to remove production to another impoverished (and therefore cheap) country, it has negotiated a deal with the government so it no longer pays a single cent of taxes.

The widening gap between the rich and poor
Despite extensive plundering of the world’s natural resources, this wealth has been shared less and less equally and extreme poverty remains. The gap between rich and poor is growing on a local and an international level:

  • The richest 20% of the world’s population enjoy 86% of its resources while the poorest 20% must survive with a little over 1%.
  • The 225 richest people in the world have the equivalent income to the poorest 2.25 billion.
  • The world’s 3 richest people have fortunes equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the world’s poorest 36 countries.
  • 200 million children never start school (3/4 of these are girls). The amount needed to send these children to school each year is less than the amount spent on cosmetics in the USA and less than half the amount spent on ice-cream in Europe.

The Homogenisation of a Global Youth Culture

The growth of advertising and the entertainment media is contributing to the rising of a homogenous global youth culture. In New Zealand it is now estimated that we see on average over 3000 advertisements every day. Young people are made to feel insecure through “image advertising” and then told consumption is the answer to their insecurities. The result is a rise in individualism and a lack of compassion and care for others. People are encouraged to care more about money and image than family and community. Perhaps this plays a part in the high youth suicide rate in New Zealand. The other adverse effect of this global youth culture is that we are seeing people all around lose their unique cultural identities in pursuit of a branded western culture. In many ways, diversity is fighting a losing battle against globalisation.


Try googling any of these subjects and you’ll find heaps of articles and discussion — but here’s a selection to start you off…

Corporation Watch — exposing sweatshops
Article in A World Connected
The feminist perspective

Child labour
Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch
United Nations

HIV and AIDS — stats, info, aid agencies etc
Young People and AIDS
UN Report (June 2005) on the impact on young people

International Financial Institutions (IFIs)

Watching the IFIs
US Network for Economic Justice

Jubilee Debt Campaign
Article in Global Issues on Debt

Corporation Watch — holding corporations accountable
Corporate Watch


  • Read an article on this by the same author, Andrew Colgan : Youth Response to Globalisation