Thursday, 5 July 2007

EU and Brazil urged to prioritize poverty above corporate interests

On the occasion of a summit between Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates (see Photo) on 4 July, ActionAid, the international development agency, urged the EU and Brazil to priortize poverty above corporate interests. Portugal currently holds the EU presidency. As part of their meeting, the leaders discussed bilateral initiatives as well as a free trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur trade bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay).

“Right now, negotiations concerning a free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur are strongly influenced by business representatives. If the EU and Brazil are serious about doing something concerning poverty, they must open a genuine dialogue with civil society and listen to populations affected by hunger,” said Francisco Sarmento, ActionAid food rights co-ordinator. “The agreement currently on the table does nothing to address poverty in Mercosur nations, and may serve to only worsen already grim situations. Right now, Portugal and Brazil have a unique opportunity to put the fight against hunger at the top of the international political agenda. Let’s hope they do what’s right.” At the meeting the leaders were expected to also discussed joint political initiatives concerning Africa. “If Brazil and Portugal are to be serious players in the fight against hunger in Africa, then African civil society must play a significant consultative rule. Only in such a way can the inequalities that cause poverty be properly addressed,” said Felipe Pequenino, coordinator for Africa of the International Food Security Network (IFSN).

However, the EU-Brazil Summit issued a Joint Statement putting the main emphases on a “strategic partnership” between the two countries in addressing global challenges and expending trade and economic relations. The statement did not mention Africa explicitly and recognised only in general terms “that one of the greatest challenges of our century is the eradication of poverty”. The EU and Brazil re-affirmed their commitment to continue working together closely in promoting and implementing the Millennium Development Goals and welcomed the initiatives taken by Brazil and some Member States to implement innovative sources of financing and they underline their interest in intensifying co-operation in the field of development assistance.

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