UK Treasury – stop paying for poverty
Bishop of Swindon Lee Rayfield
Michael Wills MP (Labour, North Swindon)
Eight companies earn more than half the world’s population
Kate poses for a photo
Petitions and postcards on the stall
Make business work for people and planet
Against water privatisation
Drum trade justice home
As well as the record-breaking attempt, today’s event also had the aim of persuading the UK government to cut funding to the IMF and World Bank, until they stop forcing damaging free-trade policies on poor countries, such as demanding that they open their markets to multinational companies at the expense of local producers, and forbidding them from adding value to their own products before exporting them (such as shelling the peanuts they’ve grown).
Five minutes of drumming attracted the attention of passers-by, before the bishop of Swindon Lee Rayfield and North Swindon MP Michael Wills said a few words to the assembled crowd.
The bishop said that to him, fair trade is about telling a story, for example the story of someone growing up in Nicaragua who is trained in a skill like handicrafts, resulting in the ability to make quality goods which can then be fairly traded so that the proceeds are then invested back into his village (as opposed to lining the pockets of corporate fat cats and shareholders in the developed world – my comment). Those stories, he said, need to have a bigger stage. He observed that the idea of fair trade has moved on in recent years, from being something people did once a month in the corner of a church, to being a lifestyle choice.
Michael Wills then spoke; pointing out that this was a good time to remember the optimism of a year ago, and that the past year had been a time for putting that optimism into practice. He observed that although a lot of progress had been made since then, it had been grindingly slow, bureaucratic and not yet very visible. He said that in order to deal with the blight of global poverty, we must deal with the “iniquitous world trade system, which prevents the world’s poorest people from building their own way out of poverty”. It wasn’t long before he got onto his favourite theme of subsidies to agribusiness (not farmers, he pointed out), using taxpayers’ money, which keeps the money flowing into the coffers of big business and keeps the poor in poverty. Whatever other disagreements we may have (such as his passionate support for the invasion of Iraq, which I mustn’t make the mistake of failing to mention), this is one point we agree on.
“When we look back at this period”, he said, “and look at what we did as a society, and what we failed to do, this simply is the biggest moral challenge that we face. And unless we can make real progress, our children and our children’s children will look back at us and say that we failed.” Nice soundbite, Mr Wills, and one which could reasonably be used in relation to many of the issues facing us today (climate change being just one of the others). Whilst cautiously welcoming his support for this cause, the cynic in me is still questioning how much of it is genuine, and how much is just slick PR.
“I will march with you, I will be with you, but please keep the pressure on me and all my colleagues in Westminster, everyone in Washington, everyone in Brussels, everyone throughout Europe. It is simply unacceptable for the situation to stay as it is” he concluded.
The beat goes on at festivals over the summer, including WOMAD 29th-30th July, V 19th-20th August, and Greenbelt 25th-28th August, culminating in a march and rally on Thursday 14th September, just before Gordon Brown and Hillary Benn go to Washington for IMF and World Bank meetings – see http://www.pressureworks.org.uk/dosomething/events/2006/140906_beat.html for flyers, posters and more details of this event.
If you would like to join Swindon campaigners in London on the 14th September, please contact Kate Nash on nashfamily_uk [at] yahoo.co.uk to arrange transport.
For more information about the campaign, visit Christian Aid’s campaign web site at http://www.pressureworks.org.uk/
Previous articles on trade justice and the Make Poverty History campaign in Swindon:
10th April 2005: Ring around the clock http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/04/308871.html
10th September 2005: White band day 2 http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/09/323021.html
25th February 2006: Swindon attains fair trade status http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/02/334515.html