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Obama speaks of peace as G8 prepares to address poverty

By editor - 18 June, 2013

US President Obama has urged young people to constantly  remind people about peace in Northern Ireland. The American President visited  Belfast before attending the G8 summit in Co Fermanagh, and told the many schoolchildren among the audience of 2,000 in Waterfront Hall:

“There are still wounds that have not been healed and communities where tension and mistrust hangs in the air. There are walls that still stand, there are still many miles to go.”

He added: “Peace is indeed harder than war. Its constant fragility is part of its beauty. A bullet need only happen once but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”

He said that young people in Northern Ireland must remind people of the existence of peace, the possibility of peace and to hope again and again despite resistance and setbacks.

US First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters, Sasha and Malia saw the Book of Kells and will visit Ireland’s monastic Glendalough in the coming days. Addressing a lively audience of school children and youth groups from all over Ireland at a special performance of Riverdance,  Mrs Obama urged them to work hard and believe in themselves, learn to pick themselves up when they fall and then they can make the world a better place for everyone.

Trócaire and many other aid agencies have highlighted the issues that should be addressed by G8 summit this week. The current global systems of trade, tax and finance simply aren’t working for a great many of the world’s people, according to Trócaire. Eoghan Rice, in his blog, highlights the fact that the world’s bottom billion people remain trapped in extreme poverty. Tax avoidance costs the developing world €123bn each year; 1.5 billion people living in ‘resource rich’ countries live on less than $2 a day; and in just seven years time, crop yields in some African countries may have reduced by up to 50% due to climate change.

While trade and tax are top of the agenda at the G8 Summit, Eoghan Rice wrote: “This has more to do with their own faltering economies than any attempt to undo structural injustices that have left the world’s poorest people trying to push a boulder up a mountain.”

He wrote that developing countries are noticeably absent from Fermanagh, despite the fact that there is an unprecedented shift in world dynamics. For the first time in 150 years the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies – Brazil, China and India – is about equal to the combined GDP of the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and the US.

Justin Kilcullen, Director of Trócaire, in an article in The Journal stated that as world leaders prepare to meet, the reality of three billion people – 40 per cent of the world’s population – living in extreme poverty will cast a shadow over their photocalls.

He highlighted the fact that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), unveiled in 2000 and due for completion in 2015, have recorded notable successes, but still the problem of extreme poverty persists. He quoted the 1960s President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania who requested “trade not aid”. Back then, and now, the prices for products exported from newly independent African states, such as coffee, remained under the control of commodity markets in the West. Radical reform of this system is needed, which will enable countries to work their way out of poverty. Justin Kilcullen explained that a key challenge was to reform the structures that govern economic relations between developed and developing countries, including fairer trade rules. Tax avoidance schemes, is another major issue.

“We denied developing economies the chance to develop their own industries, instead pursuing policies which made them almost completely reliant on inward ‘investment’. We did this because the wealthy nations are not interested in developing poor economies for the benefit of the people who live there, but to benefit themselves. We have recently seen the tragic consequences of this in clothing factories in Bangladesh,” he wrote.

He stated that the recently approved EU Directive to force European companies in extractive industries, such as mining and timber, to publish what they pay developing states for natural resources is a good start, but much more is needed. The human rights of citizens also need to be looked after.

There is also need for a new sustainable development model, with accountability, transparency and a genuine commitment to shared development and solidarity over self-interest,  he wrote and concluded: “The world needs a new and realistic alternative vision if we are to deliver justice to the poor.”

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