Saturday, 27 September 2008

Business cannot be the solution to hunger

While the US Congress is currently finalizing a $700bn bailout for financial firms, seems the UN General Assembly cannot mobilize the $72bn a year needed to realize targets set to end world poverty and hunger. "Money is on offer freely to reward the failures of the private sector in Washington. But in New York the pleas from poor countries, representatives from marginalized communities, and UN agencies, for a massive injection of finance to address the food crisis, appear to be falling on deaf ears”, said Colm Ó Cuanacháin, International Head of Campaigns at ActionAid International.

Adding to the conundrum, governments gathered in New York are turning to the private sector for financial help to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals, through a series of parallel meetings here. Public Private Partnerships are being announced as the new way forward for development, but with a total lack of transparency and accountability, and with no regard to the costs for poor countries. Corporate partnerships are being pedaled as positive supports for development, rather than profit oriented business relationships. Is it states that are responsible for fulfilling human rights, and if governments need to rely on companies to provide support, they have a duty to regulate the activities of these companies.

The British NGO War on Want attacked premier minister Gordon Brown for claiming that support for the summit from UK companies including mining giant Anglo American and Wal-Mart, including its British subsidiary Asda, can help achieve the development goals. War on Want research has revealed that Anglo American operations abroad are fuelling conflict and human rights abuse in developing countries. And in addition to Wal-Mart’s notorious anti-union practices, War on Want has found workers still paid less than half a living wage producing clothes for Asda in Bangladesh.

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