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Alex Scrivener addresses the meeting.

New name, same aim

The local action group that was called World Development Movement Bexhill and Hastings unveiled its new name and logo at a launch event last Friday. Under its new name, Global Justice Bexhill and Hastings will continue its usual operations, including holding regular meetings, running stalls, lobbying MPs and organising protests, as it explains below.

Global Justice Bexhill and Hastings is one of 45 local groups operating as part of the Global Justice Now network, which has its central office in London. For more than 40 years the World Development Movement has been campaigning against the root causes of poverty and injustice in the world, with campaigns encompassing a variety of issues, from trade to food and energy. In September 2014 WDM members from around the country voted to change the name of the organisation to Global Justice Now.

“For many years we’ve brought together residents of Bexhill and Hastings who are concerned about global injustice to campaign for a fairer world,” said Denis Lucey, the chair of Global Justice Bexhill and Hastings. “As Global Justice Bexhill and Hastings, we’ll continue to act in solidarity with activists, civil society organisations and social movements in the global South and campaign for economic justice and an end to global inequality.”

To mark the change of name, working in collaboration with Bexhill Fairtrade group, they put on last Friday a great evening of films and discussion about power and inequality across the world, and what people both here and in the global south are doing about it. The event was entitled IN WHOSE INTERESTS? The corporate takeover of food and trade.

“It was a rich mix of documentary film, and live expert input brought the conflict between global agribusinesses and family farming in the poorest countries vividly before an appreciative audience of Global Justice, Fairtrade and CAFOD supporters,” commented Julia Dance.

The first film, Seeds of Freedom, illustrated how corporations are taking control of food production worldwide and the effect this is having, especially in the global South. These farmers spoke movingly of their traditional ways of caring for their land, feeding it organically and saving a variety of seed for use in future years. Their love for the land and care for it was very moving. Their very existence has depended on it for many generations. Barbara Echlin, well-known locally with her husband Dr Edward Echlin for their amazingly diverse organic garden, commented, “The film about seeds was particularly fascinating. Seeds are vital for life and for our food supply. “

Alex with Christina Lucey of Global Justice Bexhill and Hastings.

The guest speaker was Hastings-born-and-bred Alex Scrivener, policy officer at Global Justice Now and author of The Poor Are Getting Richer and Other Dangerous Delusions. He briefly explained the reason for the change of name: “Unlike  the World Development Movement, the meaning of Global Justice Now is immediately recognisable: we want a fairer world and we want justice for the world’s poor NOW”.

During the Q/A session after the film, Alex explained that in Africa a new colonialism is taking place, as huge agribusinesses take over large areas of fertile land and develop farms on an industrial scale. This ties farmers into purchasing new patented seed each year, along with the deadly chemical pesticides and artificial fertilisers that are required for this type of farming. Far from helping to feed Africa, the result is increased poverty and the inability of small-scale farmers to feed their own families. The bulk of the crops grown is destined for export and large sums of money are being invested in constructing highways to ports to facilitate this process.

“It is scandalous that the DfID (Department for International Development) is putting a huge amount of money into large corporations like Monsanto, which is forcing farmers to plant prescribed seeds. Aid money meant for helping the poor, with the assistance of the UK government, is harming the poor,” he said.

After an interval for Fairtrade refreshments and Fairtrade wine tasting, the second film, Fairtrade Matters, was shown. Made recently by the Fairtrade Foundation in a small remote village in Malawi, it showed how fair trade is giving the villagers an income which has enabled them to build a bridge enabling an ambulance to access their village.

It was an enjoyable and informative evening, but ended on a sad note when it was announced that in the village where we had just seen such hope, the rains which fell not long after the completion of the film were more intense than usual and had washed away the soil and crops on which the villagers depend. Climate change, largely caused by fossil energy emissions from richer countries, is increasing the intensity of monsoon rains.

The evening concluded with a discussion on the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) which the EU is negotiating with the US. Alex explained how TTIP would grant big businesses the power to sue governments, lock in the privatisation of public services such as the NHS and education and undo regulations to protect workers and the environment.

He gave some startling examples of the consequences of similar country/corporation deals which are already happening in Australia, Argentina and Egypt, where the governments are being sued because of legislation which adversely affects corporate profits. In Australia tobacco giant Philip Morris, whose sales have dropped since a law requiring the plain packaging of cigarettes was introduced, has taken the government to court. Here our NHS is slowly being privatised and if the TTIP treaty goes ahead it will be impossible to bring it back under government control.

Our local community was alerted to the threat to our democracy when WDM members held a protest in Devonshire Road last July. Since then two further awareness-raising actions have taken place in Bexhill and a strong movement is growing across Europe to prevent this agreement.

 

The full background on this and the other issues discussed can be found on the Global Justice Now website.

Global Justice Bexhill and Hastings continues to meet on the second Monday of each month. Full details can be found on the group’s website. Anyone interested should email luceys@talktalk.net or call 01424 845225.

 

 

Posted 16:43 Wednesday, Mar 4, 2015 In: Campaigns


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