Make poverty history

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There will be a Live 8 concert in Canada July 2 featuring Canadian artists. The event is part of a campaign calling on the Group of Eight summit countries to provide more development aid, drop the debt and introduce trade justice. The aim is for the Edinburgh G8 summit to reverse the terrible economic scenario reserved for Africa by current policies and conventional wisdom.

The global justice movement has deep roots in Canada, and make poverty history deserves support. In introducing the concert Bob Geldof said the world needs more Canada. He also told Prime Minister Paul Martin to stay home if he was not prepared to have Canada contribute to the make-poverty-history objectives.

The most indelible political force of the last 500 years is imperialism. A succession of empires drew, and redrew the boundaries of the world, in the process creating colonies — including Canada, which was part of two formal empires, the French and the British, before joining the American project. And, of course, Canada itself colonized the Aboriginal nations.

The war aims outlined in the 1941 Atlantic Charter served notice that decolonization was on the agenda of the postwar world, and so it came to be. Except the post-colonial world of former British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian and Dutch possessions never really escaped empire.

The nature of the imperial project changed: political independence was won, signified by a seat at the United Nations, but economic independence was rarely gained, even for the fabulously rich oil states.

In a colonial regime, productive resources were under the control of the imperial centre. Rules of trade, investment and finance were set to benefit the old capital. Much of this remains true today, 60 years after the creation of the UN, and 61 years after the birth of the Bretton Woods institutions, the IMF and the World Bank.

Multinational corporations have replaced entities such as the British East India Company, and other state trading companies. Instead of colonial rules set in the centre, we have rules of economic relations set internationally by weight: the more wealth you have, the more you have to say about how it should be treated.

The task set by the make-poverty-history campaign is no less than the overthrow of the current world order: the imperialism of capital, run by financiers in suits who own and exploit the resources and the land of the world for their own immediate benefit, creating injustice, environmental destruction and poverty in the process.

Trade justice should be interpreted as a blueprint for transforming the current economic order. As important as aid flows could be, and as essential as it is to write off debt owed by Africa to both private sector and public sector lenders, it is the rules that govern the international economic order that need to be changed. Otherwise, the aid money will be lost, and debts reappear.

Trade justice means, first, that the strong countries must change their policies to meet the needs of the weak countries; second, that trade reforms must include investment and finance, and not just trade; and third, a recognition that the world economy is about people working together to produce goods and services to meet each others' needs, in one world, with a fragile environment that needs to be protected.

Currently new international money is created through the U.S. balance of payments deficits, and through net bank lending in convertible currencies. Under this system new international money only goes to poor countries, when super profits are to be made, and certainly not to meet the basic needs of the population.Reversing the external control of Africa's economies by foreign investors, and their financial institutions is not on the Edinburgh agenda, but it must be in the minds of the global justice activists.

Figuring out how to establish a world currency under democratic control to replace the imperialism of the dollar and other reserve currencies is one way to advance thinking about how to bring about trade justice.

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