London vigil for trade justice
THOUSANDS of campaigners, including leading trade unionists, last weekend staged an overnight candlelit vigil in Whitehall, London to demand trade justice for the world’s poorest workers.
The vigil was organised by the Trade Justice Movement as part of a Global Week of Action for Trade Justice. It was followed by an early morning march from Westminster Abbey to Downing Street.
The Trade Justice Movement is a coalition of 65 progressive organisations based in Britain, representing nine million people, including the Fair Trade Foundation, Make Poverty History and Friends of the Earth.
The event began at Westminster Abbey with readings and performances from the many celebrities who supported the event, including Ronan Keating, Vanessa Redgrave, Pete Postlethwaite and Beverley Knight.
Also present was Pauline Grant, representing the public sector union Unison. She said: “I’m proud to be representing the trade union movement at the finale of this global week of action on trade justice.
“Unison has been actively campaigning against the GATS trade agreement, so it is important that we are here alongside other campaigners, calling together for international trade rules that benefit poor people and the environment.”
The campaigners made three main demands on the Government, calling on it to:
• Fight to ensure that governments, particularly in poor countries, can choose the best solutions to end poverty and protect the environment;
• End export dumping that damages the livelihoods of poor communities around the world;
• Make laws that stop big business profiting at the expense of people and the environment.
The campaign has already won some policy changes from the Government. Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development has agreed that his department “will not make UK aid conditional on specific policy decisions by partner governments, or attempt to impose policy choices on them, including on sensitive economic areas such as privatisation and liberalisation.”
In addition Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt has pledged that each African, Caribbean and Pacific regional group should make its own decisions “on the timing, pace, sequencing and product coverage of market opening, in line with individual countries’ national development plans and poverty reduction strategies.”
Unison assistant international officer Polly Jones said: “These changes are very significant for the campaign. They show that Make Poverty History is a truly just campaign, and one with some bite.”
The demands of the campaign are highlighting the real causes of poverty in the poorer countries. But the demands it is making on our elected government – that capitalism should stop exploiting the poor and cease to be capitalism – are beyond its power to deliver.
If this results in a greater awareness of the limits of bourgeois democracy and the need for an end to capitalism/imperialism and its replacement with socialism, it will be an important step forward.
Council sets quota for Asbos
THE LONDON Borough of Camden has set its staff quotas for the number of anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) they are expected to win.
Last week it emerged that the local authority’s 50 housing managers have been told they must help bring at least one Asbo case a year.
Currently the council and local police are pushing ahead with plans for an Asbo to be imposed on a 12-year-old boy. So far the council has successfully imposed 150 Asbos.
But now pressure is mounting on the council to review its policies after 200 protesters met in Friends Meeting House in Euston Road to launch the pressure group Asbo Concern. This coincided with Camden Labour Party launching its election campaign.
Dame Helena Kennedy QC was the guest speaker. “They are being used inappropriately,” she said. “They started out as an honourable intention but have had a dishonourable outcome. They were meant to be used as a last resort but all too often they are being used as a first resort.”