Poverty is the enemy of humanity [Archives:2005/855/Front Page]

June 30 2005

By Nadia al Sakkaf
Yemen Times Staff

While the Great 8 (G8) countries are getting ready for their summit in UK next month, civil society organizations around the world including Yemen are lobbying and campaigning for the cancellation of the poor countries' debts. In Yemen, the civil society thematic working group (SC-TWG) supported by Oxfam-GB and headed by Yemeni Women's Union carried out a campaign yesterday at the Union's premises in which non governmental organizations gathered from around the republic. Wearing white bands around their heads and arms and demanding that Yemen should be given a chance to overcome its poverty. The alliance lead by Sisters Arab Forum (SAF) and SC-TWG arranged for gathering around 100,000 signatures from around the country, and a petition that was signed by the president of the TWG Ms. Ramzeya al-Eryani head of the YWU on behalf of all the signatories. The alliance took this petition and signatures and marched to the Embassy of United Kingdom, Yemeni Parliament, Prime Minister's Office and the OIC conference that is taking place concurrently these days.

“What do we want?! We want to be able to live without thinking of heavy debts carried over to the future generations. We want to be given a chance to get out from poverty and advance this country. We want our voice to be heard and that Yemen gets a chance just like many of the poor Afriacan and Latin American countries. This is why we are campaigning and we will not stop until Yemen gets its fair chance.!” Ramzeya al-Eryani said in an enthusiastic talk to the civil societies gathered yesterday.

The white band Yemen has chosen is in line with the Global Campaign Against Poverty. The logo Yemeni civil society chose was written on the white bands says: “Poverty is the enemy of humanity”. Yemeni people have enthusiastically signed the petition remarkably in 15 days 100,000 signatures were collected from around the country, and still many more to come. “We hope for a better life, we want our voice to be heard and that is why I am here. I came all the way from al-Shahil in Hajja to be part of this movement.” Says Abbas alMamari of the Shahil Association in Hajja.

The world's leading industrial nations struck an historic deal to immediately write off all multilateral debt owed by 18 of the world's poorest countries, mostly in Africa, amounting to 40 billion dollars (33 billion euros).

If this happened then why not Yemen? This is what Jamala al-baidhani head of al-Tahadi Association for disabled women said. “we can and we will in sha allah. We must do our best and now that the Great Eight countries are meeting we want to convey our concern to them and let them know that the people of Yemen had had enough of being deprived and poor.” She added.

But it's not just that, simultaneously with the demands of cancellation of the debts there is demand for good governance and transparency from the government. Suha Bashireen from SAF attended the earlier meeting in Cairo last May where GCAP campaigning experience has been shared. “We are actually working on two levels: asking that the international world represented by the rich countries “G8″ would given Yemen better aid and better financial conditions and wipe off the due debts we also want the Yemeni government to live up to its responsibility and integrate civil society in how the budgeting takes place and what is done with these resources.” She said.

Most of Yemenis debts are to the World bank and International Monetary Fund. Despite of the billions of dollars of loans and grants given to poor countries per year, their life is not getting better. The poorest countries in the world pay 100$ dollars a day to the rich creditor countries. It is more than they spend on health. The letter addressed to HE ambassador of United Kingdom in Yemen states that according to the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation Yemen's total debt in September 2004 amounted to US $5.23 billion. And this means that attaining the MDGs and other national objectives are next to impossible.

“The world leaders agreed that the rich countries would dedicate 0.7% of their gross national income for the sake of development in poor countries. But only five or 6 lived to their word and majority of the world leaders simply did not. The GCAP run by civil societies around the world demands and puts pressure on world leaders to take immediate actions towards extreme poverty by ensuring increased unconditional development aid to poor countries, cancellation of debts on poor countries and fair trade. These are the three demands of the campaign and there are three events that we are targeting globally. The G8 summit taking place on the first of July and to which we are sending this letter, the UN MDGs+5 meeting on 10th of September and the WTO ministers summit on the 10th of December this year. If you notice the objective of achieving fair trade is suitable for the later event, while the first two are for the G8 and UN summits and we intend to carry out events on the national level on a calendar we decide that could be for example the national budgeting or five year plan tc. to promote our cause” Ayman Omar PRSP program manager in Oxfam-GB commented. He added: “Basically Oxfam Yemen Program is interested in this campaign for two reasons: first that Oxfam international is a key stake holder in the GCAP and hence its regional offices and country programs support this issue and secondly in Yemen our program supports any alliance and empowerment of civil societies especially if the issue in concern is poverty. And seriously speaking it is remarkable how the civil societies came together united in this matter”.

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