Sunday, June 05, 2005

Make Poverty History

I'm working on a particularly difficult posting at the moment re: the Democratic Republic of Congo that requires my full concentration, research abilities, and writing skills. I should have it ready in a day or two.

Lately I have noticed that people on the other side of the "Big Pond" are showing a lot of nervousness if I am to believe reports from press and media networks re: the upcoming visit to Washington by Tony Blair and the scheduled G8 Summit at Gleneagles, Scotland. A lot of this has to do with Tony Blair's Commission for Africa, debt relief for Africa, and so on and so forth.

My advice on all of this is as follows:

1. Chill out. Tony's among friends when he comes to the States. We know that we owe Tony a great deal and we don't need aging rock stars and fatass finance ministers (G. Brown & Co.) to help us remember stuff. The British people know that Americans have an awfully long and very good memory. People in Europe from Calais to the Caucuses know that Americans do not forget who owes who what and when the bill is due.

2. Millions of people in the States (We, the People...) want to help Africa(ns) solve their myriad problems and take their rightful place in the world economy and on the world stage as do millions of people in Europe. America has a long history with Africa and we have about 50+ million people of African descent to prove it (that's counting only North America, South America has even more).

The U.S.A. donates approximately TWICE AS MUCH FINANCIAL AID to developing nations as either of the next two leading donors (Japan, France). We are not interested in what percentage of your GDP is set aside for development and aid. We are interested in how much money you've got to spend on programs and projects that really work. We are interested in how much extra cash you in the G6+1 can come up with and make ready for immediate use to alleviate poverty and other problems in the developing world. How much you got??

3. After Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder and other select EU leaders finish their business dinners and damage control meetings and what have you re: the collapse of the EU Constitution and other political/economic crisis facing the European Union, and after they finish picking the "Schweinehaxe und Saurkraut" out of their teeth give them this message from me and my people:

Come to Gleneagles with a plan for Africa that the American people will back and make sure that you (leaders and citizens of the G6+1) are ready to back that plan with money and know-how and not just talk. After all, the U.S.A. has many strategic plans for the people of Africa, plans to help secure the economic future of Africans, to secure the biologically sensitive and endangered plant and animal species of the continent, and all kinds of other plans. These plans are backed up by some of the finest minds and hardest working people on the planet: in business, in government and the public sector, in healthcare, in education, you name it we've got it.

And this message from U.S. is really, really important: If you catch somebody from our country inside Africa stealing, killing, and acting like a bloodsucker then turn that person in to the highest authority on the spot. You have our permission to do so, we the People of the United States of America. 100% Guaranteed. Of course, do this in as legal a manner as possbile, if that is at all possible. Otherwise, just do it and we can work on the consequences later.

Plans to help save a continent require working partnerships, and that means global partnerships. The most important partnership of all for Africa is the partnership and cross-border cooperation that Africans can offer to one another and to make it work. That is what NEPAD and the AU is supposed to be all about. Make it work or get rid of it and build something that really works for you and for us.

I truly believe that we (the World) working together can make it happen in Africa before my generation totally disappears from the face of the Earth. We can begin to Make Poverty History in Africa and elsewhere around the globe. Don't talk about it, Do It!

UPDATE June 06: Brian, author of the Black Star Journal blog has an excellent opinion essay on a similar subject over at his companion blog musings of a (fairly) young contrarian. Checkout his June 1st posting titled "Language bias, Live8, and sustainable development".

UPDATE June 08: Boy this is a hot debate amongst the Africans that I speak with daily here in Germany. Just this morning a Nigerian friend of mine pleaded with me "not to give them more money". He was of course talking about government officials in specific African nations and I can't influence where U.S. aid and development dollars go, unfortunately. Thanks to the Global Voices Daily World Blog Roundup I see that Ph.D. scholar Pampazuka of Chanuka has weighed-in on the subject and Emeka Okafor of Timbuktu Chronicles has recommended a good book on development issues in Africa via his May 4th posting " Africa Unchained: George Ayittey".


Imnakoya said...

Well said! Africa needs help and Africans must be willing to help themselves also. I am an African, I think the crooks that call themselves leaders are the greatest stumpling blocks to progress on the continent. The western world is the haven for their ill-acquired wealth, and as long as this is, poverty eradication in Africa and anywhere else will remain a fantasy.

Black River Eagle said...

Thank you Imankoya. It's people like you, Carine, Brian, Louis, Ali, and others that gives me the inspiration to keep trying to reach out via this blog.

I personally am not looking for people who agree with me, but I am looking for people who can and will stand up and speak out. For Africans and for people living all over the world this is the first time in history that we can communicate with one another with this ease, low cost, and power. Thanks to the early pioneers of new information and communication technologies and to the young people who are so rapidly filling their big shoes and walking in their footsteps today.

As I've stated before in my comments on other blogs, be careful with that term "Western World" and "The West" because it includes far too many people who have nothing to do with the exploitation and murder and abuse that plagues Africa and other continents. There are plenty of "havens for the greedy" and for the evildoers in the East, South and North as well. Those players are even less transparent to the world's eyes and ears than the so-called Western nations, and it has been that way for centuries.

Word on the street is that folks over there in the East are starting to speak up loud and clear as well, at the risk of losing their very lives. It will be interesting to see how they re-write world history and impact the present and the future for all of us. The Genie is out of the Bottle so-to-speak for those who have throttled free speech and free thought and association for centuries. Run, Run, Run!!!

It is young people like yourself who will help to save Africa and not the despots and criminals who cling so desperately to power on the continent today. Stand up straight and strong and you might be surprised who stands up with you. Don't worry about great numbers, focus on the quality of the people who choose to stand and remain standing by your side.

Brian said...

"The British people know that Americans have an awfully long and very good memory."

I'm afraid I'm not as optimistic as you. We Americans have a long memory about our own glories, but gratitude is not our strong suit. Or perhaps you were being a bit sly with your psychology. Many Americans never cared two bits for PM Blair until he decided to be Pres. Bush's token ally (bootlicker).

Black River Eagle said...

Now, now Brian. Let's not jump on the name-calling bandwagon when it comes to Tony. Bootlicker is a very harsh insult even though I've seen worse in print and online.

In my opinion Blair is head-and-shoulders above any European leader on the scene today, and not because he backed the U.S. Congress and the (majority of) the U.S. people when it came time to make a decision for War or No War in Afghanistan and in Iraq. After all, history will be the final judge on Blair's leadership and a lot of other things happening in our lifetime including wars, Jihads, wars against poverty, and finally you and me (early bloggers).

My comment re: America's memory and the British has to do with the long history between our two nations which has not always been so amiable as some would like to portray. The British know what I mean and so do the Americans, and if someone from either nation doesn't understand then I can't help 'em. I deal with the British on an almost daily basis and the War in the Colonies (1776) and the loss of the British Empire has still not quite settled into the minds of some fools. I'm handing out painful reminders all the time and I'm not nice about it. Why should I be?

People down my way in America's heartland don't forget when good people help us out, never. I'm sure that this still applies to a great many people all across my wonderful country as it does to people I have met around the world.

That was a great essay you wrote the other day on Language bias, the Live8 concerts, and sustainable development.

Let's let Mad Dogs & Englishmen rest in the midday sun for awhile.

Brian said...

Yes I acknowledge that bootlicker is overly harsh and should've omitted that phrase. However, I can only wonder how much Blair will let himself be used before he realizes (or admits to himself) what's happening. I once had a high regard for Tony Blair, which is precisely what made it so disappointing that he supported Bush to the hilt on Iraq. Not merely supported, which many decent, if misguided, people did. But supported uncritically. I respect the way Blair led the debate on Iraq. He acknowledged and engaged his fiercest critics. This was a stark contrast to the allegedly strong LEADer Bush who steadfastly refused to do. He has a vision and energy which makes it all the more mind boggling that he would support Bush so uncritically.

If there is a popular revolt in the "heartland" against President Bush's opposition to Blair's poverty reduction plan, then I will hold my hand up and say you were right. But I wouldn't hold my breath. Americans like Tony Blair only because he supported the popular (in this country) invasion of Iraq. Before Iraq, conservatives who now want to canonize him were deriding him as a "typical left-wing socialist." I wouldn't be the least bit surprised this "bleeding heart" Africa initiative revived those sentiments.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope this particular Africa initiative gets on the American agenda where so many others did not. I'd like to believe that the mere support of American ally Tony Blair would be enough to get it on the radar screen. But my experience cautions me against optimism.

Black River Eagle said...

Well stated Brian. Looks like I and others need to get back Stateside ASAP in order to help move the World Agenda along with the American people who need to be onboard but don't understand what they need to do.

As far as the (American) idiots who blindly follow anyone who claim to be able to secure their God-given rights to supremacy over people, property, and the world's natural resources...well, I'm afraid there is going to be some real serious fighting on that front unless we can get leadership that unites the country and not divide the people of the U.S.A. We'll see what happens in upcoming state and national elections, and business and citizens need to do their part as well.

I understand your anger and frustration with "America" fully, I once felt that way years ago. We have to work harder to make the country better for ourselves and especially for others who want and need our help and leadership around the world. Keywords here are Want and Need, not words like "in our national interest".

Irregardless of what others think or demand of the people of the U.S.A., we have to first demand of ourselves what certain American leaders preach with such fervor to others. Period and Amen.

Meanwhile back in the D.R.C. and Liberia (where I might need your help on an upcoming posting)....

Brian said...

" Keywords here are Want and Need, not words like "in our national interest"

Actually, one of my pet crusades is to redefine the whole concept of 'our national interest' from something commercial to something humanitarian. You think it would be an easier sell in a country where most people proclaim themselves Christian.

I don't feel that it's in MY interest as a human American for my tax dollars to be used to exploit, aggress and invade other peoples and lands.

Louis said...

I was just over at Ingrid's blog talking about political orientation vs. concern for the wider world. In the American blogosphere especially, we are harshly polarized by popular and skillful blogs that gleam blue or red. But when it comes to thinking of ways to help people who are suffering, we should do our best to depoliticize ourselves. I always think of Yeat's negative capability, or F.Scott Fitzgerald's notion that the best minds hold contradictory ideas simultaneously... I am trying to find a stance between liberal interventionism and hatred of what military deployments do; then there's the problem of power vacuums and failed states, and a civilian's right to order and law.

The fact is that Blair's effort to reorient our priorites toward Africa is laudable; people misconstrue things when they think this involves only money. There is a lot that can be done before upping aid. In fact, as we see here, and as I hear all the time from Africans from many countries, people don't want money. They want justice. They want respect. They want to feel that they matter to the the world.

Saving Africa isn't relief work. It's a reordering of policy and above all, a focusing of concern.

Kaede said...

I'm sorry but I can't act with as much aplomb as poster Brian here. I don't agree with much you said apart from the fact that Africans need technical help, not money and what help they do need, let them decide it for themselves, not having us go in there and tell them what they need. Especially not when it comes with serious American strings attached. I say American because they are seen (rightly or wrongly) as only offering aid with strings attached, even if only hidden ones. The propagation of democracy and other huge issues can wait. Getting food on the table and roofs over peoples' heads are more of a priority, or should be.

Sure governmental change is necessary, but demanding that it be 'one way or the highway' is one thing that I find highly offensive and one of the many reasons why I dislike the general American public (as you can probably tell, I am not American) and their government. There are other reasons but I won't bore you just yet with them ;) I just find it annoying that everywhere you turn, the US government is offering one thing, while taking with the other hand in ways that not even the American public know about, or even care, which is worse. Why impose a system of government on a continent that had done just fine until several hundred years ago? I firmly believe this is where most, if not all, the African problems began. A bit simplistic, sure, but by necessity given limited space and time.

Anyway, I'm glad to see that at least you're trying to do your bit as you see it, I just don't agree with some of what you've said. More can and should be done but not without changing the priorities of ALL of us, not just some...

Black River Eagle said...

Thanks for all the inputs folks and especially for my new visitor Kaede. I think that now may be the most important moment in Africa's modern history as it is certainly one of the most dire times for its peoples.

It's certainly O.K. Kaede to disagree with me or others here. I'm sad to hear that you don't like Americans generally as it tells me that you don't know very much about them. Come spend some time with us vs. judging Americans by what you see abroad or in your home country (where is that?).

I can understand where you are coming from 'cause I am always claiming that I dislike people from here and there until someone from one of those places make me a liar by becoming a friend. That said the chances are good that I vehemently dislike the people where you come from...:-)

In regards to the conditions and attachments that my government places on development aid and assistance, can you share with us any information about an aid donor government that does not do that? Russia or France or Germany perhaps? Certainly not a Middle Eastern or Asian nation like China.

Once the truth finally (if ever) comes out on what Western & Eastern governments and businesses have been doing down in Africa over the past few hundred years we citizens from "the West" are going to look pretty stupid and duped. Of course most of the people from "the East" don't give a rats ass about Africa or Africans.

Please come back again and share your views with us on Africa. Thanks for linking to my blog and good luck with your own.

Kaede said...

I am from Canada, so you can understand my antipathy towards Americans *chuckles* as I've had far too many dealings with ignorant (and proud to be so) people. To be fair, you get that everywhere, but it seems like the US has more than its fair share of people who are happy to remain ignorant about world issues and just let the government of the day get away with anything it choses.

I don't mind people that I do know, ones that have shown that they think outside the box, or who are trying to get out of the ignorance of the general masses. I have American friends and family, in fact. I don't always agree with them (or with my Canadian family for that matter *grins*) but at least we can talk on things without the 'the US is better than you' mentality.

I am sure that everyone else places strings on aid but none have been more vocal about their aims than the US, you have to admit that. I don't believe that ANYONE has the right to dictate to a country what sort of government they HAVE to have. Sure it works for the West (but does it??) but you have to really think about the culture you're going into as to whether democracy (for instance) is going to really work in that context. Some people are historically defined by their distinct lack of democracy and they are quite happy (the majority, that is) with being so. Elements of democracy are wonderful, but I don't see that anyone really has a true democracy that can be held up as a shining example to these people as a great system of governance, any more so than the system they may already have and be generally happy with. I am making generalisations here, but you see what I mean? How can we dictate to the Amazon Indigenes that their system is wrong when we're still working on our own? (just as an example)

I do agree with you in that it seems that the East couldn't give a toss what happens to Africa, but they haven't particularly (unless I'm missing something) claimed to be interested in anything outside their spheres of influence. Not at the moment anyway. They have too much to deal with in their own territory to worry about other places right now, yes?

One thing I will say, as good as the cause is in Africa, there are other parts of the world that are just as deserving of attention, if not more so. Maybe the world needs to look at one part of the world at a time, that's not a problem, but we need to remember that Africa is not the only struggling part of the world and act accordingly. There's a bit of a knock-on effect in that positive (and negative) policies towards Africa could also affect other poor regions, such as trade rather than aid, climate change issues etc.

I don't mind to debate with anyone who's willing, and I'm perfectly happy to be proven wrong *chuckles* I just have a lot of issues with the world in general and the US in particular, but again, I'm quite happy for my preconceived notions to be smashed *grins*

Thanks and keep up the good work...

Black River Eagle said...

Well said (written) Kaede and thank you very much for adding your well thought out and sound opinions on these issues to our little circle of blogger buddies.

I expect to hear more from you and read your work in the near future. I've just learned this afternoon about the attacks on London so I must like many around the world turn my attention to that unfortunate series of events.

Thank you again for visiting and commenting on Jewels in the Jungle, and for the encouragement.

Black River Eagle said...

Here is an excerpt from the August 14th comment I left at the great blog "Booker Rising" thanking the author for her June 5th, 2005 posting about "Make Poverty History". Note the corrections to Official Development Assistance financial amounts:

"Thanks Molotov for the reference to one of my earlier posts on the G8 Summit at Gleneagles 2005. Actually there is an error in my statement that the U.S. contributes more than double the amount of financial aid to African nations vs. the entire EU. I think that the U.S. Net ODA for 2004 in USD (millions) was $18,999 followed by Japan $8,859 and then by France $8,475.

More information on Official Development Assistance by country can found at the OECD website and Anup Shah's Global Issues website has a very good summary on (U.S.) foreign aid at Checkout his categories Trade-Related Issues > Sustaninable Development > US Foreign Aid

Booker Rising is a great blog and it is a pleasure to see you still going strong and making a difference for us here in the Blogosphere."