Mandela calls for trade justice in wake of G7

Nelson Mandela has called upon world leaders to make trade fair for third world countries and work towards eradicating the poverty that kills thousands of people and traps nations in environmentally damaging ways.

Speaking to a rally of thousands of supporters in London’s Trafalgar Square this week, the legendary figure was joined by long-time campaigner for human rights in Africa, Sir Bob Geldof, who also put it to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to take leadership on trade issues and to “make poverty history” in 2005.

Mr Mandela said that the steps that rich countries needed to take to abolish poverty in developing countries were clear.

“The first is ensuring trade justice. I have said before that trade justice is a truly meaningful way for the developed countries to show commitment to bringing about an end to global poverty,” he said.

“The second is an end to the debt crisis for the poorest countries. The third is to deliver much more aid and make sure it is of the highest quality.”

He pointed out that world leaders had still yet to honour the promise to halve poverty made at the Millennium Declaration in 2000, and that those leaders now needed to work hard to help the world’s poorest citizens.

The rally came the day before the G7 finance ministers met in London, and Mr Mandela urged them to grasp the opportunity to begin to make a significant difference to the lives of millions of people.

“Do not look the other way, do not hesitate,” he compelled them. “Recognise that the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision.”

Representing the Make Poverty History coalition campaign, encompassing many national and international development charities, Adrian Lovett orchestrated a mass text from the thousands in the crowd to Tony Blair, instructing him to make poverty history.

“Today we stand shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela to demand a better future for the world’s poorest people,” he stated. “This is not about charity, it is about justice, and it is time for the G7 ministers to act.”

Implementing fair trade in place of free trade has also been cited by environmental organisations, such as Friends of the Earth, as the only way to prevent the huge environmental damage, pollution and contamination to the land that is caused by poor farmers trying to compete unfairly with the produce from rich nations that floods the global market (see related story).

This has also led to some countries, such as Brazil, to experimenting with Genetically Modified food products in an attempt to compete more successfully.

Throughout the course of 2005, millions of people will be showing their support for an end to poverty by wearing white bands.

Three special white band days have been organised for the G8 summit in July in the UK, at the UN General Assembly in September, and in December at the WTO Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong.

But Sir Geldof said it was now also time for politicians to take responsibility for the third world, and for the world leaders to begin to lead on trade and poverty issues, understanding that only they had the power to enable the world we would wish to create.

“I say feed the world still,” he concluded, “we starve for justice.”

By Jane Kettle

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