Oxfam at the World Social Forum: World leaders must act to make a breakthrough on poverty in 2005

Published: 1 November 2005

(Porto Alegre, Brazil) International agency Oxfam will join thousands of civil society groups, organizations and people from around the world at the World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, calling for world leaders to commit to a breakthrough on poverty in 2005.

(Porto Alegre, Brazil) International agency Oxfam will join thousands of civil society groups, organizations and people from around the world at the World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, calling for world leaders to commit to a breakthrough on poverty in 2005.

Oxfam believes the WSF is a unique platform where social movements, networks, NGOs, and individuals come together to debate, analyse and formulate alternatives. This year the World Social Forum will open more space for civil society campaigns to present their demands and proposals and to discuss them with those being criticised, like international institutions and governments, in the so called “controversy tables”.

For Oxfam the WSF is also a fundamental opportunity to build up alliances around critical issues that cannot be solved alone, such as the fight against poverty, the unfair trade rules, and the control of arms. In this context the World Social Forum also represents an opportunity to influence big decisions by world leaders since it is held as rich countries meet in Davos at the World Economic Forum, and right on the eve of the G7 finance ministers meeting in early February.

“In 2005, the leaders of rich countries have the opportunity to lift millions of people out of poverty. The world has never been wealthier, yet rich nations are giving less and less. Across the globe, millions of people are being denied the most basic human needs – clean water, food, health care and education. People are dying while leaders delay debt relief and aid”, says Katia Maia, from Oxfam International.

Oxfam is part of the world wide Global Call to Action Against Poverty coalition (GCAP), which will be launched in Porto Alegre on Thursday 27th with the presence of Brazilian President Lula da Silva. The GCAP will call on the leaders of G8 countries – Germany, France, Italy, Japan, UK, US and Canada and other rich countries – to make history in 2005 and help millions of people out of poverty by acting to cancel poor countries’ debt, increase aid, and take action to make trade fair.

“Time is running out for millions living in poverty and rich countries must act now,” said Oxfam’s Katia Maia. “It is absolutely shameful that at the start of the 21st century, more than a billion people are living in abject poverty, and more than 100 million children don’t go to primary school.”

In addition, over 900 million farmers are unable to feed their families due to the unfair trade rules and 1.4 million around the globe lack access to safe water.

The leaders of the rich countries have already made many commitments. In 2000, they committed to halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 by signing the Millennium Development Goals; to establish fair trade rules at the World Trade Organization development round in 2001; and to end the burden of debt that forces low income countries to pay $100 million every day to their creditors.

Oxfam is calling for world leaders and the international community to make these commitments real and to act to overcome poverty by acting in 2005 in key themes:

Aid and debt

• Rich countries to provide at least $50 billion in additional aid each year and to establish a timetable to deliver 0.7% of their national income in aid by 2010.

• Rich countries, the World Bank and the IMF should cancel 100% of the debts of the poorest countries with resources going to reduce poverty.

• World leaders should support new initiatives such as the International Finance Facility (IFF) and international taxation, to make more money available for development.

• Developing-country governments should demonstrate their commitment to poverty reduction by spending a greater percentage of public budgets on basic social services, ensure civil society participation in the making and implementation of policies that will affect poor people, guarantee civil and political rights to free and fair elections, freedom of expression, and the rule of law.

Trade

• End to agricultural dumping by the EU and US; promoting rules that allow developing countries to regulate agricultural trade in order to guarantee food security and reduce rural poverty; reducing the barriers to developing country exports, particularly textiles and clothing; reforming patent rules to bring down the cost of vital products such as seeds and medicines; and developing more democratic processes.

• Oxfam opposes proposed agreements like CAFTA, the FTAA and EPAs and defends that the design of regional trade agreements between industrialised nations and the developing world should be based on development needs. That implies they should not involve damaging liberalisation or deregulation, or rules that go beyond WTO commitments, especially in regard to intellectual property protection. Negotiations should be more transparent and responsive to public opinion.

• The World Bank/IMF should stop attaching trade policy conditionalities to loan agreements.

• The international community should take action to stabilise prices for primary commodities at higher levels, and pay more to small farmers.

• Governments and companies should respect labour rights and ensure better pay and conditions for workers in export industries in developing countries, especially for women.

• National policies in developing countries for public services and economic development must enable poorer people to develop their capabilities and participate in national and international markets on more equitable terms.

Control Arms

• The arms trade is out of control: all governments are responsible and should engage with the Arms Trade Treaty process.

• Governments must work with the UN's current negotiations on an international tracing and marking instrument as part of the United Nation's Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, to create a legally binding treaty on marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons.

This treaty should include:

• High common standards for the marking of all small arms and light weapons

• Provisions for marking and tracing ammunition

• Ways of strengthening governments' capacities to implement the treaty's measures

• Detailed international standards for record-keeping on arms transfers, with Governments required to keep accurate records of arms and ammunition manufactured, held and transferred in and out of their countries, and having access to manufacturer's records.

Contact Information

For further information, please contact:
Marisa Kohan – Tel: 55-51-9672-0572 – Email: mkohan@oxfamintermon.org
Renato Guimarães – Tel: 55-51-9603-5338 – Email: rguimaraes@oxfam.org.uk