Time for change, time for action, time to live up to our expectations of ourselves
I ask my readers a direct question to begin this article: can you look in the mirror, look yourself in the eyes and feel happy? If yes, then it would be better not to read this article so as not to ruin your day. Two months ago, at Gleneagles, Scotland, the world's most powerful nations came together to discuss an agenda which had been carefully planned by the British prime Minister Tony Blair and the Finance Ministers of the G8 nations: debt relief for the developing countries.
The result of Gleneagles was a historic document in which the G8 countries promised to cancel the debts of 18 developing countries at a stroke, and to increase this to a further twenty to help them to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set out at the Millennium Summit of the UNO five years ago.
At the time, the world hailed the agreement as a breakthrough. As the leaders of the G8 countries basked in glory in an ecstasy of back-slapping and super sexy smiles, commentators around the world spoke wonders of Tony Blair and the new spirit of commitment towards the poorer nations, a new approach which addressed the real issues of a changing international community.
The real issues are perfectly simple to understand. The developed nations of yesteryear, reduced to a clique of western European countries, went on a spree of colonialism and imperialism a few centuries ago, while other developed nations later leap-frogged onto the stage on their backs and the result was the worst atrocity that the history of humankind has witnessed: millions of people being taken away from their families and shipped off to distant lands as slaves and the wholesale ransacking of resources of developing countries, while later on, loans were made with conditions which crippled the economies of these nations, holding them back, while their resources were siphoned off as a guarantee.
There is, therefore, a debt to be paid. A moral debt, a financial and economic debt and a humanitarian debt to set right the wrongs committed and the Gleneagles Summit went a long way towards creating a momentum in which the richer nations assumed their debts and tried to redress the imbalance.
Two months on, what do we see? A United Nations 60th Anniversary Summit which can be described, and I apologize, as piss and wind. Piss and wind because the international community revealed itself as being utterly incapable of addressing the world's problems when it comes to doling out money to save lives. The USA can spend 500 thousand million dollars on its defence budget every year and two hundred thousand million dollars on destroying Iraq's infra-structures and slaughtering one hundred thousand civilians, including children. The world is about to go crazy as the FIFA World Cup Soccer Tournament nears in Germany, with billions upon billions of dollars spent on the event: seeing pot-bellied thugs drowning themselves in beer before they throw plastic seats at police cars and long-haired professional footballers earning more in one month than the average working man earns in a decade, kicking their colleagues' legs, spitting and swearing.
Piss and wind, because now, two months on, what was achieved at Gleneagles runs a serious risk of being forgotten and sidelined because some of those who welcomed the agreement have started bickering over peanuts, while people are starving to death. Those who jumped on the bandwagon in an orgy of self-righteousness are now returning to form, asking for the terms drawn up at Gleneagles to be changed, providing a gradual phasing in of debt relief or a debt-equity swap, in which African countries, for example, have to provide assets to be held as guarantees for debt relief.
As President Olusegun Obasanjo of the African Union and Nigeria stated, “What are you asking them to give up? The only thing left to give up is life”. Asking for equity from countries such as Niger, is an insult and a callous disregard of the facts. Hundreds of thousands of people have been unable to eat and the nations where cable TV, running and potable water and free healthcare are a birthright are demanding equity, as if this were some kind of business.
Africa is not a business. The developing nations are not a business. This is about people and people everywhere are made of the same flesh and blood, whatever the outer packaging of brown, yellow, pink or white. But the developed nations continue to envisage the operation of debt and poverty relief as some kind of investment and when they make any concessions, they enter a collective orgasm of do-goodery when in fact they do Jack Sh*t.
Here we see the epitome of capitalism: the bottom line is worth more than a human life. While the international community proves itself incapable of coming to an agreement as to how to bridge the gap between the rich and poor nations, a chasm caused by colonialism and imperialism, and while the leaders of certain nations bask in the sunshine of empty promises, how can any member of the international community look in the mirror and feel good? As Bob Geldof pointed out in New York in the sidelines of the UN Conference, “The shame is ours, the name is the world”.
The debts of the developing nations in most cases were conceded at a different time while corruptible officials were corrupted by investors/thieves. Now the times are different. If the international community cannot agree on a more realistic formation of the UN Security Council, at least something should be done to make Gleneagles a reality and not a chimera.
Time is running out. If by the end of this year Gleneagles is seen as a failure, then the message to the international community is crystal clear: if you are born poor, we couldn't care less.
This is an insult to the citizens of the developing nations and to all those who worked so hard to make Gleneagles possible. Tony Blair may have made a monumental mistake on Iraq but as regards the developing nations, he is right on track. Neither he nor the millions of people at risk of starving to death deserve the type of insolent apathy that is coursing through the veins of the more selfish members of the international community today.
Interventionist journalism has a place. It is derided as being op-ed crap in most cases but where it counts, calling the world's attention to important issues which we should all be thinking about and acting on, it is crucial. I apologise if I insulted or embarrassed members of the international community with this article but to be perfectly honest, as a member of the international community, as a journalist, as a member of the staff of Pravda.Ru and as a Man, I cannot and will not sit back and see people who have great responsibility making inane statements as if they were promises and then reneging on everything as if it were a game of snooker.
Gleneagles is not dead. Respect it.