29 February, 2008

One month till Freedom Day!

The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey". Exodus 3:7-8

Exactly one month until Freedom Day in Melbourne! There has been so much information and debate over the issue of human trafficking and slavery on this blog over the last couple of weeks. The information is powerful and equips us with a motivation, a passion and hopefully a plan of action.

Don’t let the flurry of arguments dissuade you from acting on your initial impulses to help! It is common for people to give up under the weight of complexity, apparent disagreement and sheer quantity of information. But you cannot give up or turn away. If you are a witness then you are involved. You have been subpoenaed by God to testify to what you did and did not do. Let there be no defense for inactivity.

But you are right to feel confused and overwhelmed and cautious. And yet we are told again and again throughout scripture that we are to remember the God who brought his people out of Egypt.

We know this; Our God is powerful and our God is concerned for those held under the oppression of slavery.

Are we to be an immature Moses who stammered and stumbled in response to God’s call? Or are we to be the Moses who led God’s people out of slavery and towards a land of milk and honey? The point is, we may not, and are in fact unlikely to have the answers. But we serve a mighty God who is more powerful than the slave, the man at the farm gate, the middle man, the manufacturer, the stock holders and any NGO working tirelessly in the fight.
"In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” Exodus 15:13

- Freedom day is a children's focused event which will highlight the issue of chocolate slaves. The event itself will include a range of interactive activities that will help children learn about the issue and what they can do in response. It will also have a range of activities aimed specifically to entertain such as a jumping castle, sausage sizzle etc. There will be a march at 4pm where children can walk together in solidarity and demonstrate their support. The event will be held in Box Hill Gardens, Nelson Rd Box Hill and will run from 2pm to 5pm. You should also look out for the special Stop the Traffik Kidzone edition! If you want more information about the event, if you want to help or if you want to let us know you are coming, feel free to post a comment –


28 February, 2008

Pay For the Training

There has been considerable debate in the local Zambian media over the report in the Lancett medical journal of the cost to Africa of the drain of medical practitioners to the advanced western nations. Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States of America have received considerable criticism in the letters to the editor and on talkback radio. BBC World Service Africa has been a real voice for African communities concerned about the loss of skilled persons to advanced countries.

This problem is quite acute. It affects not only doctors, but also a whole range of other skilled and professionally trained people.

Recruitment agencies come to countries such as Zambia from the developed nations. They offer big salaries – in comparison to what is paid locally. Many African trained doctors are extremely overworked and very under prepared for the nature of their work. The curriculum that they trained under is dominated by western medicine with equipment that the majority will never see in their working life if they stayed in Africa. They are forced to forget most of that and work at a very basic level of medical practice treating diseases that often did not enter their western centric curriculum. For all this they are paid a pittance.

It is no wonder that when aggressive recruiting agencies from the west offer them seemingly good salaries and attractive working conditions – for a fee or commission paid to the agent on behalf of the recruiting hospital/government department – these professionals move. They leave their country of training with its great needs for the comparative luxury of the bait dangled before them.

For most, it is a difficult decision. They know their own country needs their services. However, they are frustrated about their training and the relatively poor salaries they receive. They are overworked and under equipped. They rationalise that they can send money back to their families and colleagues and still support medicine in their own country.

I do not blame these doctors – and other professionals. However, I do blame western governments and their spin-offs the recruiting agencies.

Why? Because the western governments are getting trained doctors without contributing to their training. It has cost huge amounts to train these doctors, and then they are simply recruited and brought to another country. No compensation is paid to the African country for the training they have provided. This is colonialism in all its worst forms – admittedly a different form. Nevertheless, it is still the North exploiting the South. The raw materials they are taking are human capital that they have not paid for.

I believe the Australian government (or any advanced western government) and recruiting agencies should pay the governments of the countries they have recruited doctors from a compensation for the training of the professionals.
Perhaps then western governments would put more planning and thought into training more doctors in their owncountries if they had to compensate poorer countriesd for poaching skills without paying for them. This is exploitation at its worst.


26 February, 2008

Encourage Zimbabwe to Vote.

Stop the Traffik Responds.

Stop the Traffik is extremely disappointed that Kevin Bales has posted such an aggressive and unhelpful response to the Stop the Traffik campaign (https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=3666055403717960332&postID=6227638341898591219). Stop the Traffik stands by all we have said and will continue to fight for the independent certification of cocoa in Ivory Coast, to end child trafficking in that country, a problem which the chocolate industry, governments and NGOs all recognise as a serious issue.

Recently Stop the Traffik met with the head of the International Cocoa Initiative, Peter McAllister, the organisation that Kevin Bales sits on the board of and whose activities he promotes in his posting. At the meeting McAllister promised to publicly endorse the Stop the Traffik campaign. He also described us as taking what could be complimentary approaches to the same end of stopping human trafficking; the ICI working with industry, while Stop the Traffik works to hold them to account. We are therefore very surprised to see, instead of an endorsement, a public attack by an ICI board member.

The ICI admits that there is a problem with child trafficking in the cocoa industry in Ivory Coast. It is working to establish projects to help communities combat this problem, but has not received the backing of Industry to the extent that it can make a significant impact. According to latest reports, the ICI has reached 88 communities in Ivory Coast so far, since the problem of slavery in cocoa production was highlighted in 2001. Given that there are 600,000 cocoa farms in Ivory Coast, this seems like good work, on a small scale. Is it a safety net for children as Mr Bales claims? No, sadly it is not. Is slavery being eradicated in village after village across the region? Sadly, despite the valiant efforts of the ICI, it is no where near making that sort of progress. As Aidan McQuade, director of Anti Slavery International recently said, “Now the industry needs to put its money where its mouth is, to get West African children off farms and back into school where they belong.”

Crucially, Mr Bales makes no mention at all of the certification process, which is curious given that it is the centre-piece of the Harkin/Engel protocol, the agreement Industry signed up to in order to try to end the worst forms of child labour including human trafficking, in the cocoa supply chain. It was from this agreement that the ICI was born. The protocol promised that “Industry, in partnership with other major stakeholders will develop and implement credible, mutually acceptable, voluntary, industry-wide standards of public certification, consistent with applicable federal law, that cocoa beans and their derivative products have been grown and/or processed without any of the worst forms of child labour”. In other words, industry promised to ensure that only farms which were certified as free from trafficked labour could supply the cocoa that makes our chocolate.

Without industry's fulfilment of this promise, slavery will never be eradicated from the cocoa industry. Industry promised to deliver this by July 2005, it failed. Now they are changing the definition of certification so it becomes a mere survey. This is not good enough, and must be very disappointing for the work of Mr Bales and the ICI.

Stop the Traffik is committed to ending the trafficking of thousands of children who work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. The ordinary cocoa farmer is not involved in exploiting children, but significant numbers of children are being abused. We invite Kevin Bales to stand with us and other serious organisations, in calling for farm level certification of cocoa beans to show that the cocoa supply chain is free from trafficked labour. There is movement already towards this, with Cargill, Nestlé and Mars joining with the certification organisation UTZ, to try to find a way forward outside of the Harkin/Engel protocol. There is a long way to go on this, but we believe that we should work together to make sure that Industry fulfils its obligations so that the work of many organisations, governments and individuals is not in vain.

Steve Chalke,
Chair of Stop the Traffik
UN.GIFT Special Advisor on Community Action against Human Trafficking.

24 February, 2008

Zimbabwe Getting Worse - Wake Up World!

Zimbabwe’s president of 28 years, Robert Mugabe, turned 84 this year. His country is in chaos, but he is still holding desperately to the reins of government.

Zimbabwe ranks fifth on the list of failed nations, and here’s why:

The inflation rate is now at 66,000% pa, and over the past 10 years the GDP has shrunk by 42%, the biggest drop in any nation that's not in a war zone. 75% of Zimbabweans who work, do so outside of Zimbabwe, and 80% of Zimbabweans live below the poverty line. Those who have attempted to advocate for a rescue of the economy have ended up in jail or worse. In 2007 28,000 business executives trying to act unilaterally, were arrested and imprisoned.

90% of the farming land lies unused, whilst half a million farm workers are unemployed. The national production of crops has fallen to between 50% (soy) and 10% (wheat) of pre-Mugabe levels, and the national beef herd is 20% of its former size.

The UN has declared Zimbabwe as one of the global hunger hot spots and estimates that 4 million people (1/4 of the population) are in danger of starving to death, and already 45% of the population are showing signs of malnutrition. A further 4 million people have left the country and are living all over the world.

Zimbabwe’s health system is broken down. 24.6% of Zimbabweans have HIV/AIDS, with no access to treatment or prevention. 3,500 people die each week from AIDS and malnutrition. One quarter of all children are orphaned. 75% of all doctor’s posts go unfilled and there is one doctor to every 10,000 people.

Human rights abuses and government corruption are rife. In the early years of the Mugabe regime the farms of independent farmers were confiscated and given to government supporters, and 20,000 people from Matebeleland were killed. in 2005, 700,000 poor people were made homeless and jobless in Operation Murambatsvina (which translates as “remove the shit”).

Why is the international community silent? Now is the time to speak out for the broken hurting dying people of Zimbabwe. The previous Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, was involved with this issue, on a number of levels. Now is the time to call on the new government’s foreign minister, Stephen Smith, to build on the work of his predecessor.

You might even consider sending an e-card to Minister Smith. Go to http://www.sokwanele.com/sendcard/tid/112 , choose an e-card and email it to Stephen.Smith.MP@aph.gov.au with a few facts and figures from this blog, and asking him to outline what the new government is doing to support the people of Zimbabwe.

(There are thousands of Salvos in Zimbabwe and they are need our support!)


22 February, 2008

A cough that won't go away

I heard the argument again last night. There is no reason anyone in Australia should be homeless or hungry. We have programs and allowances that should keep them above the poverty line. There is just no reason.

To a certain extent I guess it is a valid point. We do live in a well-off country with a number of welfare provisions. However the community that I live in fail to take full advantage of the ‘generosity’ afforded to them. Why? There are lots of reasons, but I think we have digested enough facts and figures over the last little while. I shall just tell one story and it might illustrate an important point.

My friend went to the doctor today as he needed a medical certificate to save him from a cancellation fee from a weekend course. He is sick with this annoying cough, but he had been to his regular doctor a few days earlier and so this time he decided to go the quick and painless way…the bulk billing clinic. His doctor, a family doctor in a wealthier suburb, gave him a half hour consultation and ordered a number of blood tests as his illness has lingered for some time. The clinic in our neighbourhood runs a little differently and is the source of many jokes in our household. The doctor sits with a prescription and certificate pad and may give a two minute consult if he is really concerned by a particular symptom or if the patient is a slow talker!

The old cliché applies, ‘you get what you pay for’ and when you are paying nothing…

Yes there are a number of provisions that seek to cater for the needs of all in our society. But just because they are present, does not mean equity of opportunity is achieved throughout the classes.


19 February, 2008

Fuel for the Fair Trade fire: Part 2

Part 2: the Global Cocoa Supply Chain

Small farms - Most cocoa is grown on small farms of less than 6 hectares. Cocoa bean production is labour-intensive and overwhelmingly a family enterprise.

The cocoa supply chain includes many intermediaries also. Small farmers typically sell their cocoa harvest to local middlemen for cash. The middlemen work under contract for local exporters, who, in turn, sell cocoa to international traders and the major international cocoa brands.

Therefore for small farmers, access to market or price information is difficult and as a result, many become increasingly dependent on these middlemen and receive smaller and smaller returns for their work. In bad times, many lose their only property - their land - and thus, their livelihoods.

The global market price for cocoa beans, averaging 78 cents per pound in August 2004, is determined on the future markets (explanation below) of the London Cocoa Terminal Market and the New York Cocoa Exchange. Of course, after every level in the supply chain earns a profit, farmers receive substantially lower prices per pound than the price on global markets.

What is a futures market?
The world price of cocoa is determined by the futures market. A cocoa futures contract is an agreement for a specified quantity and grade of a commodity (Cocoa or coffee) at an established point in the future and at an agreed upon price. This is a contract between the exporters and manufacturers.

The profitability of cocoa there depends on world prices that farmers' cannot control (they are price takers). Cocoa is known to be one of the most volatile commodity markets in regards to price. Supply of cocoa is extremely vulnerable to climatic changes and as such the price of cocoa may rise or fall considerably during the year. Currently, the Ivory Coast and Ghana are the world's leading cocoa producing nations. Conflict in the Ivory Coast region has hindered cocoa production and added considerable volatility to the cocoa futures markets. Demand, or Buyers – that is, the cocoa-processing industry and its clients – naturally wish to cover themselves against such price fluctuations.

The futures market in cocoa owes its existence to these uncertainties. Consequently this negatively affects the farmers as they get less profits, so then they look for ways to cut costs by using cheap labour, driving them to even resort to use slave labour.

For a long time, many major chocolate makers have insisted that they bear no responsibility for the problem, since they don't own the cocoa farms. They buy from exporters on the international market. But there are other chocolate companies who manage to take this responsibility, and it would seem that if the bigger companies really wanted to reform problems in the supply chain, they have the power and ability to do so. With an annual sales of over $65 billion, Nestle SA is not only one of the world's largest manufacturers of chocolate products but also the third largest exporter of cocoa from regions affected by forced and abusive child labour. Through its subsidiary Nestle Cote d'Ivoire, Nestle maintains distribution, administrative and sales offices throughout the Ivory Coast, even as it claims to have little idea where its cocoa comes from or what the conditions are like on the farms with which it regularly does business.

With pressure on the chocolate industry mounting, on October 1, 2001, the chocolate industry announced a four-year plan to eventually eliminate child slavery in cocoa-producing nations, and particularly West Africa, where most of the world's chocolate is grown. If all went according to the plan, called the "Harkin-Engel Protocol," the "worst forms of child labor" - including slavery - would no longer be used to produce chocolate and cocoa by 2005.

The agreement was signed by the manufacturer's association and the World Cocoa Foundation; as well as chocolate producers Hershey's, M&M Mars, Nestle and World's Finest Chocolate; and the cocoa processors Blommer Chocolate, Guittard Chocolate, Barry Callebaut and Archer Daniels Midland. It was endorsed by a wide variety of groups including the government of Ivory Coast, the International Labor Organization's child labor office, the anti-slavery group Free the Slaves, the Child Labor Coalition, the International Cocoa Organization (which represents cocoa growing countries), and the National Consumer League.

The six-point protocol commits the chocolate industry to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the International Labor Organization in monitoring and remedying abusive forms of child labor used in growing and processing cocoa beans. A series of deadlines is part of the plan. For example, an independent monitoring and public reporting system is to be in place by May, 2002. Industry-wide voluntary standards of public certification are to be in place by July 1, 2005.

In addition, the chocolate companies agreed to fund a joint international foundation, run by a board comprised of industry and NGO representatives, to oversee and sustain efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the industry. Plus, the agreement provides for a formal advisory group to investigate child labor practices in West Africa, and a commitment by the chocolate companies to "identify positive development alternatives for the children" who might be affected.

Stop the Traffik – Chocolate Campaign – WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?
"Do you remember the ICI (International Cocoa Initiative)? This is the body that was set up in 2001 which promised to deliver the Harkin-Engel protocol, with a clear aim to eradicate child slavery from the chocolate industry and establish certification on all farms by 2005. They failed. They announced another deadline of 2008 and reduced the definition of certification to handling and collecting data. We will watch closely to see whether the chocolate industry will finally admit that their process is not working and that they cannot keep delaying clear action to eradicate this crime leaving thousands of children caught today in this horrific life.

We are placing our Cocoa Pledge, which has growing international support (see the web site), as the best response to a failed industry protocol."

So now we’ve looked a little further up the cocoa supply chain and now it gets to us as consumers and hopefully the aims of Fair trade may make a little more sense:

Fair Trade is understood as having three components:
1. The organization of alternative trading networks;
Fair Trade started as a partnership between non-profit importers, retailers in the North and small-scale producers in developing countries. Many of these producers were at the time struggling against low market prices and high dependence on intermediaries. They saw Fair Trade as an opportunity to protect their livelihoods, bypass the middlemen and directly access Northern markets. Over the years, more and more Alternative Trade Organisations (ATOs) were created in different countries, often closely linked to volunteer groups and Worldshops. These networks of ATOs and Worldshops played a vital role in the development of Fair Trade as we know it today.

2. The marketing of Fair Trade labelled products through licensed conventional traders and retailers;
In 1988, in an effort to expand the distribution of Fair Trade products to mainstream retailers, a Dutch ATO, Solidaridad, found an innovative way to increase sales without compromising consumer trust in Fairtrade products and in their origins. The organization created a label, called Max Havelaar, which guaranteed that the goods met certain labour and environmental standards. The label, first only applied to coffee, was named after a best-selling 19th century book about the exploitation of Javanese coffee plantation workers by Dutch colonial merchants. The concept caught on: within years, similar Labelling Initiatives such as the Fairtrade Foundation, TransFair and Rättvisemärkt, emerged across Europe and North America in an effort to follow Max Havelaar’s footsteps and boost Fairtrade sales. The organizations launched their own campaigns and certification marks and originally operated independently.

In 1997, these organizations created Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), an umbrella organization whose mission is to set the Fairtrade standards, support, inspect, certify disadvantaged producers and harmonize the Fairtrade message across the movement.

3. the campaign-based promotion of Fair Trade to change both purchasing practices and the rules of conventional trade.
In 2002, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations launched a new international Fairtrade Certification Mark. The goals of the launch were to improve the visibility of the Mark on supermarket shelves, convey a dynamic, forward-looking image for Fairtrade, facilitate cross border trade, and simplify procedures for importers and traders. The Fairtrade system has always been about global relationships and global standards of fairness - these were recognised for the first time with an international Fairtrade Certification Mark.

Active and concerned consumers are an important part of a civil society. Though young consumers cannot vote, their decisions about what to buy, and what not to buy, are a way of expressing their views on a range of consumer issues, including global and ethical ones.

According to Consumers International, consumers have a responsibility to use their power in the marketplace to "drive out abuses, encourage ethical practices and support sustainable consumption and production". This, they believe, will help achieve good government, fair and effective markets and protection for the environment.

Some of the cites I gathered this info from for your future reading:

Hope this helps people :-)
Til Next Time,

18 February, 2008

Lets create some 'Intelligent' fuel to the Fair Trade fire...

I think to understand ‘Fair Trade’ and what Freedom Day is promoting, we first have to understand the cocoa trade in its context and entirety so that we know what we are saying is fair or unfair and who we need to target in response to the injustice of child slavery.

As has already been highlighted, the issue of bonded labour and slavery on the cocoa farms is a complex one simply because there are so many factors and actors implicated in the $31 Billion a year chocolate industry. It is not a simple case of the manufacturers exploiting farmers and child slaves. As Mike mentioned, there are middle men, an international market and a range of historical, cultural and economic reasons why the situation has got to this. It is not just about demonising Nestle simply because that is something people will understand. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to let the 'billion dollar profits' a year producers off the hook because at the moment solutions are out there that would go a long way to change the situation, and have only been addressed by these companies through lip service.

Because of the complexity and size of the issue, we have debates such as this raging about what the appropriate responses from the industry, and ourselves as consumers of that industry, are. Is it the chocolate producers responsibility to monitor farm level labour practices and therefore them that we need to boycott until they do? Is it the Ivory Coast government's responsibility to ensure trafficking and labour laws are established and enforced? That traffickers are persecuted and stopped, that child slaves are released? Or should the response be legislation in developed countries that forces companies to put ‘made by slaves’ on the labels of products and leave it to consumer choice to fix the problem in the market?

I personally think all of the above sound great. Social Justice will only be achieved when we have a legal system that protects people, a society that views all humans as equals in the eyes of God and each person is given equal opportunity. The complexity of the differing interests in the industry make finding an effective simple solution a challenging task.

This issue actually exposes a lot about the current world system we live in and the processes that lead to exploitation. I don’t believe this issue is simply about Nestle or Cadbury being evil but a much broader understanding of what is going on in the world. The more I learn about the context of Jesus’s ministry, the more I see how well he understood the root causes of the social problems, and how the political powers were implicated.

So lets take the challenge of Mike’s and lets try and understand the injustice. I don’t believe reading just the fair trade brochures is enough, because they point to the problem without giving enough context for us to engage in 'intelligent' debates with the actors involved. So lets take a look:

Part 1: Push and Pull factors of Traffiking in the Ivory Coast today

In attempting to understand trafficking, often push and pull factors are used. Lets nut a few of these out and understand the trafficking link to the Cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast:

Historical Factors: The sheer size of the Ivory Coast’s Cocoa Industry is a Pull factor for trafficked children
Cocoa first appeared in Cote d'Ivoire in 1880 on a plantation. Initially only the Europeans owned cocoa plantations there until World War I. As cocoa prices increased on the world market during this period, Africans themselves began to grow cocoa. By the latter part of the 1970's, cocoa supplanted coffee as the major commodity when a cocoa boom occurred as the government encouraged cultivation by offering various price incentives. This emphasis on cocoa production has been entrenched in the economy to the extent that many farmers are dependent on cocoa for their livelihood. Approximately 1/3 of the Ivorian economy is based on cocoa exports.

Low productivity and the volatility of the commodity market, resulting in low and unstable farm-gate prices also creates a vicious circle of lower investments, lower productivity, lack of competitiveness and dwindling incomes. This only perpetuates the problem of child slavery on farms.

Cultural Factors as a Push Factor
An important concept we need to distinguish here is confusing child slaves with children working on family farms. There is a difference. Children working on farms is a very common practise in developing countries. They start working at an early age and are seen to play a vital function in the daily survival of the household and family. That however is where child labour is a cultural variable that contributes to the problem. Unlike in the west, where we might think it unimaginable to send our children away to work, this in many places is an acceptable and cultural practice. What we are talking about here however, are the children who trafficked under false pretences.

Poverty as Push Factor
Although some children come from Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Togo, most of the estimated 15,000 trafficked children, or child slaves, come from Mali. Since Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, people travel to Ivory Coast to find jobs. It has become a destination of promised hope. Families send their children away thinking they are sending them to better job opportunities. If people are able to secure work, then they could send money back home to help their families for daily subsistence. Therefore, families allow their children to go away with people who turn out to be slave traders and are unaware of the reality of the situation.

Part 2: the Cocoa Supply Chain tomorrow...
Til then, blessings


17 February, 2008

TSA had a dream (in 2000)

This was an historic week with the first ever “Welcome to Country” ceremony in federal parliament on Monday and the apology to the stolen generations on Wednesday.

Both Australian territories of The Salvation Army were quick to welcome the apology, which is in part fruition of TSA’s call to “listen to the voice of suffering, rejection, loss and despair, to acknowledge past failures, and to resolve to work together for the good of all Australians of Indigenous Australians”, a call made in 2000.

Already many commentators are indicating that there is a shift in the national psyche, a collective ownership of the problems, and a widespread acknowledgement of the pain that indigenous people have, and do, experience. There seems to be the kernel of a nationwide graciousness that is replacing the former hardness around this issue (notwithstanding some notable examples of the contrary).

Now it is beholden on us as a nation to close the gap of life expectancy, health, education, and housing standards between the Aboriginal population and the rest of Australia. But there is the optimism and the hope that it can be done.
(If you would like to listen to the apology again, go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/events/apology.htm .)


16 February, 2008

1.5 million signatures to Stop the Traffik.

The Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking, which this week brought together 1,400 delegates from 116 countries to share knowledge and develop an international strategy to combat human trafficking, called for greater awareness, more resources and coordinated action in the fight against human trafficking.
At the Vienna Forum, the campaign Stop the Traffik, a global coalition of over 900 grassroots organizations, presented UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa and Ricky Martin with a petition signed by 1.5 million people calling for an end to human trafficking. The campaign aims to prevent the sale of people, prosecute the traffickers and protect the victims.
Thank you to all of you who signed postcards and petitions and were part of the 1.5 million!

Chocolate and Slavery

I want to make a response to Mikes post a few days ago.
The Chocolate Campaign that Mike referred to is one that is aimed at the Grass Roots. To help the average person get involved with and give them some simple things to do while discovering more about and issue that is part of a $31 Billion a year industry.
In 2006 we launched a campaign at Brisbane Unlimited about Traffiking - raised the issue and encouraged people to get engaged. The trouble is, how does the average person in Australia get engaged in the issue of Traffiking? It's really difficult.
In 2007, we continued the push of raising awareness of Traffiking, but this time introduced the Chocolate Campaign. Why? Well, it gives the average person the opportunity to do something practical about this issue - and not feel hamstrung because they can't go and rescue a 6 year old girl from a Mumbai Brothel.
Changing our buying habits, and 'rewarding' the multinational companies who are proactively doing something to make sure their goods are not engaged in this issue is a good thing. They struggle to make a profit because their good cost a bit more because they go to the trouble to make sure they have ethical products - while their competitors certainly know that the problem exists (see Gen's post on the Harken protocol) and their promises in 2001 to do something by 2005 have still not been met and it's 2008!
Last year I had a phone call with one of Australia's largest producers of Chocolate about the issue. I wasn't getting anywhere, especially when asking specific questions about the Ivory Coast (they are quick to talk about what they are doing in Ghana or other countries but will not confirm or deny that they get some of their cocoa from the Ivory Coast and certainly can't tell us that it is slave free) and this lady said to me, and I quote:, 'you will be like all the other campaigns - you will go away after a while!!!'
This is the arrogance and attitude of some of our largest producers of chocolate! They need to be forced to do something.
I was also in a meeting with another corporation at the end of last year, and this senior manager was telling us how in the UK their company wanted to make a multi-million dollar donation to a Cancer charity and it was knocked back by the charity because of their questional practices - partly highlighted by a grass roots campaign. This senior manager could not understand or fathom why they didn't want their money - the fact that their product causes harm and injuctice just seems to pass them by!
We need a campaign that hits all levels and involves all sorts of people.

Mike goes on to say in his blog:
7. Extreme poverty drives people into unjust employment. Most child-workers in Ivory Coast come from Mali, which has a GDP of just $850 per capita! (Compare this with Australia’s $37,500.) Child labour is abhorrent to the Western mind of course, and it is becoming so in most developing countries. Most African countries for example have programs to eradicate child labour. However, some families rely on the income from their children for subsistence, and many, many, more rely on it to be able to educate their children and end the inter-generational cycle of poverty. So, abruptly curtailing child labour without changing the economic landscape, is over-simplifying a complex problem.

In the past 6 months I've had many people challenge me that this campaign will take people out of work and deny them of wages. Mike seems to share their belief.
What we need to get our heads around is that the Chocolate Campaign is talking about SLAVES! and CHILD SLAVES! We are not talking about the local teenager who works at the local Woolworths Supermarket and get's paid an unfair wage or something. We are talking about kids as young as 10 who are tricked into going from Mali to the Ivory Coast, they are separated from their families, locked up at night, work maybe 12 hour days, beaten, tourtured and THEY DO NOT GET A WAGE TO TAKE HOME FOR THEIR PARENTS!!!!!
We are not talking about employment. We are talking about SLAVERY!
I have a DVD interview of boys who were rescued from a slave plantation in the Ivory Coast and they were there for 5 years and the NEVER received one cent for their work!

While we can't dumb down the issue, we also need to realise that this is SLAVERY - not a low paying job at the local supermarket! And it's a process to get people to engage with the issue.

This is not a simple issue - it is complicated. There is injustice in the world, and maybe the fact that I write a letter to the major corporations and that I change my buying habits doesn't do much in and of itself, but a whole movement of people, who unite together and walk for justice can make a difference.
We need to allow people of all ages, demographics, educations and abilities to engage with this issue. One of the best champions we have in Brisbane for the Chocolate Campaign is an 11 year old girl! She is doing amazing things pushing the issue and encouraging people to buy fair trade.
And the solution to stopping it needs to include changes in national policies, more aid, better education and health systems, faier trading practices where the rich western corporations don't call all the shots, education of Farmers so they have better farming techniques, organising farmers into co-operatives etc. It's complex and difficult and will most likely take a lot of time - but while we are at it, let's make it as easy as it can be for grass roots people to engage in the fight and don't just leave it to the people who are the most informed and educated in Social Justice issues.

Human trafficking industry worth $31bn

THE human trafficking industry is a beast of unknown size whose extent must be determined, a senior UN official said at the close of an international forum on the racket.
"We need to move into a better knowledge of the problem," Antonio Maria Costa, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said.
"It's a beast of which we only know the footprints but don't know the size of it."
Costa was talking to journalists at the end of the three-day forum in Vienna sponsored by UN.GIFT (the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking), an offshoot of the UNODC funded by the United Arab Emirates.
British actress Emma Thompson, Latino pop star Ricky Martin and Egypt's First Lady Suzanne Mubarak were among those who lent their names to an international campaign when the forum opened on Wednesday.
Some 1200 experts, law enforcement teams, business leaders, NGO representatives and trafficking victims were to draw up strategies for the worldwide fight against human trafficking.
What was most important was to understand the scale of the phenomenon, which according to the UN generates some $US31 billion annually but only began to be tackled six or seven years ago, Costa said.
"I don't think we have understood what's going on in the minds of victims and exploiters," Costa said, both of whom were tempted by the prospect of gain.
Among other measures, UN.GIFT plans to help poor countries fund program to combat the scourge.
"But some governments still show unwillingness to recognize the severeness of the problem," Costa said.
He welcomed the participation of entertainment stars, hoping that in the future a concert similar to Live Aid might be staged to raise public awareness about the trafficking industry.
According to UN estimates, around 2.5 million people are being trafficked around the world at any given time, and 80 per cent of those are women and children.
The estimated global annual profits made from the exploitation of all trafficked force labour are $US31.6 billion.
Taken from http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,23223293-5003402,00.html

15 February, 2008

"I'm sorry"...for making Mike 'mad'!

So this week I had a friend come to me quite concerned and curious asking, “how did you feel about being called dumb?” He was of course referring to the blog entry prior to this one. Now I’m pretty certain Mike was not calling me names, but I have to say I was initially a little miffed, then amused and then, after a while, in agreement. It is true that when it comes to social justice issues, many of us are quite simple in our knowledge and typical in our response. I have blogged before on the frustrations of movements that produce a lot of noise but not a lot of substance. I am a huge advocate of social inclusion policies that look at holistic solutions to complicated problems and acknowledge that most social justice issues are attacked only with a finger pointing strategy. Blame and boycotts are a very small part of the solution, it is true. But don’t be disheartened! You can make a difference even if you have not been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize! Here are a few rough thoughts in response to the blog:
1. If we have a bunch of people in pews, passionate enough about social justice that they are prepared to give up chocolate even though they are relatively uninformed…I am excited not mad! Imagine how pumped and effective they will be once they learn exactly how they can help! I agree we need to get better informed. If you are getting the majority of your information about social justice from a blog, or even from google, I’m thinking you won’t be the one that will transform and rectify the complex slave trade industry within the third world. Information is important, so take Mike’s advice and get informed. But never under-estimate the power of the uninformed passionate masses. Most revolutions are built on this.
2. I would expect that multi-billion dollar multi-national corporations would be doing better than the local Pete Smith in the pew. I am sure chocolate corporations are doing an admirable amount of social responsibility, but the question is, are they doing enough? As simple as this may sound, I think these massive global entities have a little more power than they are making out. I am imagining a scene with a farmer and a CEO and the imagery alone seems to illustrate the point. One may hold a machete, but the other is holding cash.
Some information from google…“The chocolate industry has acknowledged that child slaves are harvesting cocoa in Cote d'Ivoire. In response, in late 2001 the chocolate industry, as represented by the Chocolate Manufacturers' Association, proposed what is now commonly referred to as the Harkin-Engle Protocol. The Protocol calls for the development of industry-wide labor standards, and ultimately a voluntary-based system of corporate reporting, monitoring, and certification. It also provides for the creation of an industry-funded foundation that will oversee specific programs directed at alleviating child labor in the cocoa industry… In 2001, the chocolate and cocoa industry chose to make a public commitment to end child labor, and to provide credible and transparent monitoring of their supplier farms. By 2004, even though ten multinational corporations control virtually all of the cocoa exported from Cote D'Ivoire, not a single one of these corporations has taken the first step toward instituting changes in its own supply chain. Such changes would be fairly simple to institute. In the first instance, credible monitoring and certification of cocoa does currently exist, in the form of Fair Trade certified cocoa. Yet none of the major industry players have chosen to source even a small percent of their product from fair trade certified farms. In addition, each of the major exporters in Cote D'Ivoire control a small army of middlemen who have direct relationships with the farmers who produce the cocoa. Yet, no training or other information has been provided to these middlemen to enable them to play a positive role in communicating with farmers and verifying labor practices at the farm level.http://www.chicagofairtrade.org/aboutFairTrade/chocolate/chocolate-and-child-slavery-unfulfilled-promises-of-the-cocoa-industry/
3. I am not sure how to respond to the issue of child slaves being a positive source of income to the family. I have no doubt that it is true, but it appears we are almost giving slavery legitimacy. It is an important point though, that we are advocating for fair payment for services rendered and not simply an end to slavery. It is almost inevitable that the end to slavery will bring initial negative consequences. I think about the Civil War…(“The Civil War, the deadliest in American history, caused 620,000 soldier deaths and an undetermined number of civilian casualties, ended slavery in the United States, restored the Union by settling the issues of nullification and secession and strengthened the role of the Federal government. However, issues affected by the war's unresolved social, political, economic and racial tensions continue to shape contemporary American thought.”) The end to slavery was on the whole positive even though it was a turbulent time and there were of course slaves who felt more secure as slaves. Were there costs? Yes, but would we reverse the civil war?
4. If you feel strongly about this issue, of course get informed. And if your response is to stop eating chocolate, then I encourage you to be vocal about why. You may not change the world yourself, but your decision may affect someone that will. Remember Rosa Parks? “On December 1, 1955, Parks became famous for refusing to obey bus driver James Blake's order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. This action of civil disobedience started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which is one of the largest movements against racial segregation. In addition, this launched Martin Luther King, Jr., who was involved with the boycott, to prominence in the civil rights movement. She has had a lasting legacy worldwide”. I’m not sure of her qualifications or her level of intelligence in the field of civil rights or her understanding of the inter-relatedness of race and social policy, but I do know she felt an injustice and responded in the way that felt legitimate for her...sitting down.
5. I too am pleased social justice got on the agenda within Corps and I too want us to be as informed as possible. But if you don’t feel qualified or particularly intelligent, (which is me most of the time so you may want to use more than me as a source), you can still make a huge impact. Did you know that “the imprisonment of two Portuguese students, who had raised their wine glasses in a toast to freedom, moved Peter Benenson to write about it in an article. This article turned out to be the genesis of Amnesty International. Now Amnesty international has more than 2.2 million members, supporters and subscribers in over 150 countries and territories, in every region of the world who work to stop the abuse of human rights.”

So, the lesson to us all is to get cracking with the reading and then get loud and involved in making significant change. Do your part!

And in addition, we have a location for Freedom Day! So it’s the 29th of March at Box Hill Gardens, Nelson Rd Box Hill.
See you and all of your friends and family there,

10 February, 2008

Why dumbing down Social Justice makes me mad!

It seems that in our zeal to make social justice advocacy accessible to the Salvo-in-the-pew, we are missing some of the important subtleties.

Take chocolate as an example. We love to demonise chocolate manufacturers, but sometimes they’re doing better than we are.

Some of the things we like to think about them include:

“They are exploitative, self-seeking, and amoral.”

“They do nothing to reduce the injustices in chocolate production.”

“They have the power to end all of these evils immediately.”

But even a cursory investigation will show that the situation is more complex than this. Consider this:

1. The volume of cocoa that multi-nationals buy is so large that they have to use middle men to collect it all together. (43% of the world’s chocolate starts out in the Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire) from one of 600,000 farms, on which there are about 15,000 child workers.)
2. Thus, the multi-nationals do not have absolute control over the price paid at the farm gate, nor the conditions under which the labourers work.
3. However some of them are working with agencies such as the government of the Ivory Coast to eradicate unjust employment practices, and working through their wholesalers to set up labour accountability systems.
4. The price at the farm gate has little impact on the price we pay in the supermarket. It could double and the price we pay for our chocolate would be only slightly higher, and the profitability for the multi-nationals will not be greatly impacted. Most of the costs in making chocolate come from the transport, manufacturing and marketing. (Thus there are only minor built-in economic drivers for the multi-nationals to exploit.)
5. Farmers in the Ivory Coast have farmed cocoa since 1880, and have got locked into traditional inefficient methods of farming on small-holdings. Attempts by multi-nationals to move them to more efficient means of farming is a double edged-sword. It means that small-holdings have to be combined into larger areas, but by doing this the farmer is deprived of his right to the land. Efficiency may bring the capacity for greater income, but at the cost of autonomy for the small-holder. The resistance from local farmers keeps them ineffecient, and their income low.
6. Cocoa is a world commodity and market prices are determined on the world stage. Indirectly, African small-holders are competing with highly efficient cocoa farms in (for example) Queensland in one of the most agriculturally efficient countries in the world, Australia.
7. Extreme poverty drives people into unjust employment. Most child-workers in Ivory Coast come from Mali, which has a GDP of just $850 per capita! (Compare this with Australia’s $37,500.) Child labour is abhorrent to the Western mind of course, and it is becoming so in most developing countries. Most African countries for example have programs to eradicate child labour. However, some families rely on the income from their children for subsistence, and many, many, more rely on it to be able to educate their children and end the inter-generational cycle of poverty. So, abruptly curtailing child labour without changing the economic landscape, is over-simplifying a complex problem.

It is clear that there are a variety of historical, economic, and cultural systemic factors that cause the current situation. Just refusing to eat chocolate does not account for this inter-relatedness and complexity. If you really want to take an intelligent approach to the chocolate injustices, don’t just stop eating chocolate. Instead Google “Ivory Coast” or "Cote d’Ivoire” and “cocoa” and start reading.

Its great that at last social justice is back on the agenda in TSAAST, but let’s get intelligent with it. No more dumbing down!
- Mike.

08 February, 2008

Freedom Day!

Freedom Day is coming! 29th March 2008. Be there! Where? Well for the good people of Victoria, we have not confirmed the location yet. I can however confirm that it will be both a fun day for kids, and more importantly, a day where they will become more informed and involved in the fight against slavery. 'But Gen, don't you think children are a little young to be exposed to the devastating injustice of slavery and human trafficking? Shouldn't we let them enjoy the copious amounts of blood chocolate bunnies they will consume over Easter in peace? They are 'just' children. Let's not make them feel guilting for something they have no control over.' Hmmm, I raise a good point. Children are precious and innocent litle things and should be shielded from the evils of this world...well at least our children anyway.
12,000 children have been trafficked into cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. These children are worked without pay in terrible conditions and without the freedom to leave. (I will not rehash more as I will not do the information justice. Please check out more info through justsalvos.com) The point is; if children are old enough to be dragged into slavery for the benefit of making you a chocolatey treat, then our children are old enough to help in the fight.
The day will have a range of interactive stations to help kids learn about the chocolate slave issue and what they can do to help. There will also be a BBQ and some fun family activities. SO please come along and bring your children.
We cannot expect our world to change is we continue to raise our children just as we were. They need to be equipped to fight battles they did not create. Let this be our gift to them, and to child slaves around the world.
Stay tuned for more details!

07 February, 2008

Poverty is Expensive

These words were told to me not long after my arrival in Zambia. The truth of them is just beginning to dawn on me. It costs the poor an enormmous amount to live.

Let me explain. I have come to realise that if you are poor, you are not able to have the resources to do things correctly in the first place. I have been trying to get tradespeople to undertake work around our compound. I cannot get an established trade company - they cost far too much. I have to settle for a single person tradie. I know the job will not be done as well as the registered company with hi-tech supports, bank overdrafts, insurance and appropriately trained staff. All I can afford are skilled single operators who have no capital. So I have to buy their equipment and materials they will use for them to be able to start the work.

However, the job will be done to a price. That we could not afford high quality materials, nor that it will not be done perfectly the first time, means it is going to have to be done over and over again. It won't last as well as a properly done piece of work. No fault of the single person tradesperson. They are too poor to have capital behind them.

So our roof leaks - it was never built properly in the first place. We spend a fortune on repairs - we may have paid for a quality roof 5 times over by the time the cost of all the repairs are added.

Now think of the individual poor person living in a country like Zambia. They are too poor to see a doctor, to get early diagnosis, or take preventative measures. Malaria is rife now as the rains ease a little and what was running water now is formed in pools and puddles without movement. Ideal mosquito breeding ground. I can afford to take preventative medicines. But most can't. So people are coming down with severe malaria. For the older peole they almost have a certain immunity. But the very young and infants do not have that immunity. They are at risk. No mosquito nets, no prevatative medicines, no sprays. Can't afford them. But sooner or later, they will require expensive hospitalisation and treatment.

Poverty is expensive!

Chikankata Hospital is engaged in reserach with a USA University on early intervention with Malaria. By having community health workers move out into villages and diagnose malaria early they are trying to reduce the incidence of severe cases. Early detection means esaier and less expensive teratment. Please support initiatives such as this.

Lusaka, Zambai

01 February, 2008

Gather into the huddle

The Superbowl approaches and I await it with great anticipation! While usually an underdog kind of a girl, I have to say I am barracking for the Patriots and hope to see them crush the Giants into the ground...sorry Mike! So in the spirit of NFL it is appropriate to reflect on an inspirational quote wasted on men with objectives limited to run, stop and pound. So here it is...

"Don't confuse routine with commitment" - Bill Parcells- former NFL head coach

Now I make a habit of analysing things way beyond their design, but I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that the statement above is one cause of poor church growth, shallow discipleship and limited social justice. As churches and as Christians we design routines for ourselves. Sunday meetings, prayer meetings, 'outreach events', Bible Study, prayer walks, tithing, donating, volunteering. Our routine is often so filled with stuff for God and humanity that we feel satisfied and justified. And yet I imagine that our routine can become a blockage. Imagine the Hoover Dam...the wall becomes our routine and God the water...present and useful, but controlled. Commitment on the other hand refers not to what we do, but why we do it. Commitment is about results and not about landmarks. If we act according to our commitment and not our routine then God can be an unstoppable force in our life. We won't be afraid to sacrifice, be disturbed or feel uncomfortable.

Maybe your routine is good. Maybe it helps you to stay close to God. Your regular giving most likely helps many. Your half hour prayer times heard. Routines are a good tool. But what are you committed to? What drives your routine? Where is your destination? And is your routine going to get you there?

Think of this as your half time address. I am guessing by the state of the world and the church that we are losing. It's time to turn this game around and score a few touchdowns. I know you're tired, I know you're doing your best...but we have to dig deep. There will be glory, you'll get a shiny ring, but the crowd needs more!

Till next week,