Global Health Summit, part of Rx for Survival

Tuesday, in New York City, Time magazine, National Public Radio, PBS, Penguin Books and other media will join the likes of Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Bono, Ted Turner and even Paul Wolfowitz at a celebrity-studded gathering intended to focus worldwide attention on a chronic set of human disasters known euphemistically as "global health."

The event, the Global Health Summit, is part of a media blitz called Rx for Survival, conceived, coordinated and largely funded by Seattle's top two billionaires, Gates and Paul Allen.

"Bill (Gates) has been frustrated that many of these issues in global health are generally ignored by the media," said Joe Cerrell, spokesman for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "He believes if people could see these problems firsthand, they'd be motivated to act."

So, with most media unwilling to come to this mountain, the head of Microsoft Corp. is paying to bring the mountain to the media.

In 2002, the Gates Foundation gave the PBS Boston affiliate station WGBH a grant for $6 million to produce a television series and accompanying public education campaign on global health. Paul Allen's Vulcan Productions agreed to donate as much, in-kind, by co-producing the PBS series. The three-part documentary "Rx for Survival" will begin airing Tuesday.

Available with the PBS series is a companion book of the same name, written by former New York Times science reporter Philip Hilts, published by Penguin Books. National Public Radio, which in 2002 received $807,800 from the Seattle philanthropy to encourage more global health reporting, is doing a series of stories this week. Time will make global health its cover story. Other media are expected to get stories from the summit.

It's all for the good of humankind, of course, and Gates can hardly be criticized for trying to raise public awareness of the terrible toll diseases such as AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and even diarrhea still exact on many in the developing world.

But the Gates Foundation is also a major player in this story. The philanthropy spends nearly as much, well more than a billion dollars per year, as the World Health Organization. Many regard it as the most influential organization in global health today.

So how do media tell this story when a major character is paying for this round of storytelling? Larry Klein, executive producer at WGBH, said when the Gates grant came in, the station set up a panel of outside advisers and built an editorial "firewall" to make sure the philanthropy had no say in the series. The documentary mentions the foundation's support of an AIDS project in Botswana, but that's all.

"We can't ignore them, but we're certainly not overplaying their role," said Klein. The companion book also only focuses on the Botswana project -- mentioning Bill Gates on just one page, as one among many who have recently warmed up to the idea of taking action in global health.

The Gates Foundation's Cerrell said it does appear that when the philanthropy gives financial support to cover global health, media often underplay, or even try to ignore, its leading role in this arena.

"That's fine with us," Cerrell said. "We don't necessarily want to raise awareness of what we're doing. ... We want to raise awareness of the problems and the fact that there are solutions."

[By Tom Paulson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer]


Corporate Non-profit Citizenship Boost Profits

Four in 10 Americans say they're more likely to do business with a company that is a "good corporate citizen," but only one in four believes U.S. companies are doing a good job of being socially responsible, a new study says.

GolinHarris Research of Chicago conducted the online survey to gauge their opinions of the importance and effects of corporate citizenship.

Americans believe the best way to learn about a company's citizenship performance is through beneficiaries of companies' generosity, through media coverage, and through partnerships with nonprofits or government groups, the study says.

Source: Philanthropy Journal


Philanthropist donates $100 Million to fight global poverty

Sir Tom Hunter, the Scottish entrepreneur and philanthropist, pledged 55m pounds ($100 Million) to help fight global poverty. The money will provide seed funding to launch the Clinton-Hunter Development Initiative, a charitable foundation.

Although the sum is a drop in the ocean compared with the $78 Billion official aid that flows from rich to poor countries each year, Mr Clinton and Sir Tom aim to create a new model of intervention that is applicable to any poverty-stricken country.

"This is about enabling developing communities, empowering them to define and deliver the solutions that best fit their needs," Sir Tom said, adding: "We aim to support communities and large regions in gaining a foothold on the first rung of the development ladder."

Initially, the fund will pick two countries for assistance and pilot regional programs across the sectors of education, health, infrastructure, agriculture and entrepreneurial support.

As such, its aims are the same as those of official aid from countries, the World Bank and non-governmental organizations.

But Mr Clinton feels this donation is the sort of action that could succeed where others have not: "I’m excited about this commitment and the approach it takes toward the destructive issue of global poverty."

[From article by Chris Gile in The Financial Times]


Google Philanthropy will fund "What's best for the World"

When Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin took the company public more than a year ago, they promised in a letter to shareholders to use 1% of the company's equity and profits for philanthropy. The hope: giving by Google would eventually "eclipse Google itself in terms of overall world impact," the executives wrote.

On October 11, Sheryl Sandberg, Google's vice-president of global online sales and operations, unveiled plans for Google's philanthropic empire in a posting on the company's blog. With an initial endowment of $90 million, the new foundation puts Google on track to rank alongside the biggest U.S. corporate givers, many of which have been around a lot longer.

And while many corporate philanthropists pursue traditional causes such as education, Google is focusing its philanthropic efforts on alleviating world poverty and addressing environmental problems.

BusinessWeek Staff Editor Jessi Hempel recently spoke with Sandberg about Google's plans. Edited excerpts of the conversation follow:
Can you explain how Google.org works?
The foundation will be one part. We expect to do some investing in social entrepreneurs, either with for-profit companies or nonprofit companies.

There are individual entrepreneurs doing great work. There are social-venture funds, for-profit venture funds -- all of these things are having an impact. We're giving ourselves the flexibility to follow any of these approaches.

We are going to take 1% of our equity and profits, and we are going to do philanthropic work with it. This is part of the DNA of Google, and it's part of what you are investing in.

So shareholders should have known they were investing partially in philanthropy?
They did know they were investing in this. We think it's important not just for the world, but for our company. Efforts like this and thinking out of the box are part of what make Google special and what drives us to have the innovation, which is what shareholders are buying when they purchase our stock.

We're interested in fighting poverty in the real global sense of the word, the 4 billion people living on less than $4 a day. We're interested in anything that will help us make a difference over time.

[Excerpt of article by Jessi Hempel in BusinessWeek]


Donations to charities in 2004 and 2005

Donations to America's biggest charities grew by 11.6 percent last year, according to The Chronicle of Philantrophy's 15th annual survey of the 400 charities that raise the most money in the United States.

And 2005 has already been a strong fund-raising year for many groups. At the 79 charities that provided fund-raising totals for the 2005 fiscal year, contributions grew by a median 7.3 percent, meaning that half achieved bigger fund-raising gains and half did worse.

Although many people in philanthropy have been worrying about the effects of the spate of natural disasters around the world -- the December tsunamis, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and this month's earthquake in India and Pakistan -- few large charities say they have seen a big slowdown in contributions because donors are giving to relief efforts.

As the stock market fares relatively well and real estate keeps rising in value, many affluent donors feel comfortable expanding their charitable gifts.

What's more, many fund raisers are expecting a spurt in super-size donations over the next few months, as donors take advantage of a new law, enacted after Hurricane Katrina, that allows taxpayers to write off up to 100 percent of their income for charitable gifts made before January 1.

Even as giving recovers from several lackluster years, however, nonprofit officials say they still face daunting challenges. The rising cost of fuel and postage is increasing charities' operating costs and squeezing the wallets of many people with low or moderate incomes -- individuals whose small gifts add up to a lot of money for many charities.

In addition, charities face growing competition as more and more groups mount ambitious fund-raising campaigns, particularly as governments cut back financing for charities.

[From article by Holly Hall, Leah Kerkman, and Cassie J. Moore, Chronicle of Philanthropy]


The Death of 2,000th U.S. service member in Iraq

Another horrific milestone in the war in Iraq: The death of the 2,000th U.S. service member.

Events to mark the 2,000th reported U.S. military death will range from candlelight vigils to public actions that illustrate the size of the death toll.

The American Friends Service Committee, an international Quaker organization, believes that there is no military solution to the Iraq war. Continued fighting and occupation promises only further deaths and injuries, more widows and orphans, more separated families.

AFSC, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, and Iraq Veterans Against the War are calling for people across the U.S. to stand up and say that the needless killing of U.S. troops and Iraqis ---including an estimated 100,000 civilian deaths, and many more maimed--- must stop and that the resources funding this war are needed for other things.

The U.S. is spending over $5.6 billion a month to fight the current Iraqi war—over $200 billion total to date.

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the hard truths it brought home about who does and doesn’t have access to the American Dream tells us all how desperately these resources are needed in other areas.

The U.S. Constitution gives the Congress financial oversight. The time has come for our elected representatives to listen to the country’s pro-peace majority and end funding for this war.

The Iraq War has already committed us to aiding a generation of veterans and their families and to rebuilding Iraq. We need to meet these just obligations and stop the funding for further destruction so that our resources can be used to strengthen our communities and help those in need.

Working solutions for Iraq will be political solutions. Diplomacy and dialogue in close cooperation with the Iraqi government and broad sectors of Iraqi society are the way forward to peace and to rebuilding the U.S.’s strained relationship with the international community.

Source: afsc.org
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Casualty Count Resource: http://icasualties.org/oif/


What has our Tax Money Bought?

What has our tax money bought in Iraq? The short answer: War and frustration.

Another question: What hasn't it bought?

EVERY MINUTE Two Million Dollars is spent worldwide for military purposes.

Just 3 HOURS of military spending, $200 Million, could wipe out basic diseases that together kill 4 Million children every year.

The cost of one Stealth bomber could supply all of India with clean drinking water. (Current population: 1 Billion people)

Just 10 DAYS of military spending, ($30 Billion), could provide a 10-year plan to provide clean water for the poor of the entire developing world.

Just 18 DAYS of military spending yearly could eradicate malnutrition worldwide.

Question: What has our tax money bought as far as the Iraqi War?
Answer: Read the following article "Iraqis Frustrated with Diversions" on this blog for the long answer to this question.


Iraqis Frustrated with Diversions

Did Thaer Abbas Shammari --whose scars were inflicted during 14 years as a political prisoner under Saddam Hussein—vote on Iraqi constitution referendum day?

"I did not vote or encourage anyone to vote because the government has given us nothing," the 47-year-old shop owner said, grimacing and waving his arms in disgust. "Where are the results?"

It's easy to find people like Shammari in today's Iraq. The electricity and water systems are still in shambles 30 months after Hussein was toppled, unemployment has soared, and gasoline lines stretch for miles in a country with the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. There are kidnappings, assassinations, suicide bombings and sectarian strife. Even many people who did vote in last Saturday's referendum have indicated they are running out of patience.

The week also brought the opening of Hussein's trial on war crimes charges. While many Iraqis welcomed it as the beginning of a national catharsis, they criticized the government's focus on the trial as a milestone in the country's march to democracy. What matters most, they said, is improvement in the conditions of daily life.

"If I'm able to get fuel . . . it's more useful for us than this theater called the Saddam trial," said Salim Hussein, a taxi driver waiting in a long line for gasoline.

"The Americans and the Iraqi government are trying to divert people's attention, first with the constitution and second with this fake trial," said Mohammed Yousif, 31, the owner of a downtown Baghdad parking garage. "Explosions increased, enemies of Iraq increased, and the current situation is terrible. I wish we still lived under Saddam."

In interviews across Iraq during and after the Oct. 15 referendum, people expressed relief that Hussein was gone but anger about the path the country is on. "These frustrations have only gotten worse even as the rhetoric that 'democracy is coming' has increased," said Joost Hiltermann, a Middle East analyst for the International Crisis Group, a Belgium-based organization.

Citizens "are asked to persevere and defy terrorism, violence and all threats," he said, "but when a man goes home and finds that there is no electricity, no gasoline for his car, no water to wash with, no garbage collection, what is he to say? How should he react?"

On Dec. 15, Iraqis will go to the polls again to select a new parliament -- the third time this year that the country will have mobilized for a national vote -- and some Iraqis are questioning why. The time, effort and money would better be spent fixing the water and electricity systems, in their view.

"There is no need to hold elections in Iraq -- we tried elections before and got nothing," said Rauof Abdullah Ouji, 35, a doctor from Kirkuk. "People lost hope in their government and political powers and the Americans."

Compounding the anger, Iraqis and political analysts said, is the widespread view that senior Iraqi government officials are carpetbaggers who came home principally to enrich themselves and who now spend most of their time outside the country or in secure compounds equipped with private utilities. Those notions were fueled by arrest warrants issued this month for Iraq's former defense minister and 22 others who are accused of embezzling more than $1 billion from the ministry's accounts.

"This government is making the same mistake of the former government, which is being far from the people," said Tawfic, a Baghdad university professor. In the provinces, he said, "the governor, the police commander, high political officers, and so on, live inside secure compounds with continuous electric power, and clean water, surrounded by high concrete blast walls. So the simple people ask: What have we gotten out of all that?"

"The Americans say they brought democracy -- yes, we have democracy, but on paper," he said. "There is no development, improvement, peace or construction because of this democracy." After the Persian Gulf War, Ali said, "Saddam rebuilt Iraq in 1991 within months, but now, 2 1/2 years have passed and nothing has been rebuilt."

[From article written by John Ward Anderson and Bassam Sebti, Washington Post]


International Drive to Develop Energy Service to Fight Poverty

India's NGOs and private entrepreneurs to participate in international drive to develop energy service schemes to fight poverty.The Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP) announced the establishment of its Action Programs Fund - the GAPfund..

This announcement was made at a meeting in Hyderabad hosted by Ms. Gayathri Ramachandran, director-General of the Environmental Protection Training and Research Institute (EPTRI) and a member of the GVEP Board.GVEP - which is now in its third year and has 700 partners worldwide - was set up as a direct result of the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg and works in 26 countries throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.

GVEP works to provide energy in all its forms, including electricity, which has been identified as one of the most effective tools of combating poverty and improving livelihoods as it provides light, drives industry and improves health care.Dr Abeeku Brew-Hammond, Manager of the GVEP Technical Secretariat, said the GAPfund would make US $1.5 million available for innovative projects that would provide energy services to poor communities around the world, including India. He added that the fund would support projects that deliver benefits in education, health and agro-enterprise, and so help reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

GVEP serves as a vehicle for promoting innovative approaches to increasing energy access as a 10-year implementation-based partnership offering a unique mechanism for building upon the global commons of knowledge and experience for mitigating some of the traditional barriers to energy service delivery and socio-economic development. The GVEP approach is based on being technology-neutral, multi-sectoral, multi-application, market-based, and multi-stakeholder.

An example of GVEP's achievements to date is the US$15 million Productive Uses for Renewable Energy (PURE) investment project in Guatemala. The PURE project will provide poor communities and households with higher sources of income and better living standards through improved lighting, water supply, micro-enterprises, etc.

In Brazil, GVEP is linked to the Programma Luz para Todos (Light for All Programme), which is a major productive-use based rural electrification programme seeking to provide energy services to 2.5 million people by 2008. In Senegal a number of Multi-Sectoral Energy Projects (PREMs) have obtained investment financing to the tune of US$ 4.5 million.

Source: gvep.org


Quake Aid Helps U.S. Alter Image in Pakistan

High in a remote valley, the U.S. Army transport helicopter settled with a bump, and the earthquake survivors came running. Jostling and shoving for space, they crowded around the rear cargo hatch as the soldiers on board began tossing out tents, blankets and biscuits until they had no more to give.

As the helicopter revved its engines for takeoff, a balding man with a beard leaned across the edge of the lowered cargo ramp and, smiling his gratitude, extended his hand toward Brandon Chasteen, a 21-year-old Army medic from Chattanooga, who gave it a hearty shake. A moment later the chopper was churning toward another landing zone to pick up a load of injured.

Two weeks after the massive Oct. 8 earthquake in northeastern Pakistan, a mushrooming U.S. aid operation is doing more than just saving lives. It also is helping to improve the dismal public image of the United States in a conservative Muslim country where anti-American feeling has been aggravated in recent years by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Television news broadcasts have been filled in recent days with images of U.S. Navy cargo ships offloading relief supplies in Karachi, olive-drab Chinook helicopters disgorging bundles of tents and blankets in isolated mountain villages, and American soldiers -- some diverted from military operations in Afghanistan -- working with their Pakistani counterparts to evacuate the injured.
Even the conservative clergy, who have long been in the vanguard of anti-U.S. feeling in Pakistan, have grudgingly praised the U.S. response.

"Obviously, this is the other side of the United States," said Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Shujabadi, a prominent religious scholar in the port city of Karachi. "For the first time in so many years I have seen the American planes dropping relief and not bombs on the Muslim population."

It is too early to say whether the aid operation will have any lasting effect on public attitudes toward the United States in this impoverished nation of 160 million people, many of whom regard Osama bin Laden and the Taliban as heroes.

The Bush administration has close relations with Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism. But the United States elicits far less warmth among ordinary Pakistanis, many of whom are convinced that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq reflect hostility toward their faith. A survey released in June by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found 23 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable view of the United States.

Against that backdrop, the Bush administration is eager to highlight its role in aiding victims of the massive 7.6-magnitude quake, which shattered towns and villages across a vast swath of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir and adjacent parts of North-West Frontier Province.

With many survivors trapped in remote areas that will soon be blanketed in snow, U.N. officials have warned that thousands more could die if foreign governments do not contribute more to the hugely complicated relief effort.

[From article written by John Lancaster, Washington Post]


Why the Gap Between Rich and Poor

The gap between the world's rich and poor has never been wider.

But it isn't chance or bad luck that keeps people trapped in bitter, unrelenting poverty. It's man-made factors like:
a glaringly unjust global trade system,
a debt burden so great that it suffocates any chance of recovery and
insufficient and ineffective aid.

Despite grand statements from world leaders, the debt crisis is far from over. Creditors have still not delivered on the promises they made seven years ago to cancel unpayable poor country debts. As a result, many countries still have to spend more on debt repayments than on meeting the needs of their people.

Rich countries and the institutions they control must act to cancel all the unpayable debt of the poorest countries. They should not do this by depriving poor countries of new aid, but by digging into their own pockets and providing new money.

International institutions like the IMF and World Bank must stop asking poor countries to jump through hoops in order to qualify for debt relief. Poor countries should no longer have to privatize basic services or liberalize their economies as a condition for getting the debt relief they so desperately need.

[From MAKEpovertyHISTORY.org]


Corruption undermines efforts to eradicate poverty

Corruption undermines efforts to eradicate poverty, with graft by public officials hampering attempts to raise the living standards of the poor, Transparency International said.

"Corruption must be vigorously addressed if aid is to make a real difference in freeing people from poverty," said Peter Eigen, chairman of the Berlin-based group.

To form its annual corruption index, Transparency International asked businessmen, academics and public officials about how countries they live in or do business with are perceived.

On a scale of one to 10, Bangladesh and Chad both scored 1.7, meaning that graft is perceived as being rampant. The least corrupt country, Iceland, scored 9.7.

Corruption is a widespread problem in Chad, but difficult to detect in a nation where most civil servants and judicial workers are paid low — and often delayed — salaries.

Human rights organizations and civic groups in Chad say corruption is most widespread in the customs and tax enforcement services, the judiciary and the government procurement office. Legal clerks are known to obstruct procedures to elicit bribes. Tax and customs officials sometimes facilitate tax evasion only to return later to pursue the crimes they facilitated.

There is a perception that most graft goes unpunished in the African country, despite a February 2000 anti-corruption law that spells out penalties. Bribery, for example, is included, but there is no known case of anyone having been prosecuted since the law was enacted.

In Bangladesh, government agencies siphoned off a reported $68 million through corruption last year, with the communications sector the worst offender, the group said in September.

Government officials and senior bureaucrats were blamed in 72 percent of the cases involving misuse of public funds in the South Asian nation. In terms of bribes and misuse of power, the police department was responsible for nearly 17 percent of money lost, the earlier report said.
Minister for Communications Nazmul Huda dismissed the September report, saying "it's not based on truth."

Transparency International chief executive David Nussbaum said many developing countries need reforms in the public sector to ensure that U.N. aid reaches poverty-stricken populations. The United Nations has a goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

"Corruption isn't a natural disaster: it is the cold, calculated theft of opportunity from the men, women and children who are least able to protect themselves," he said in a statement. "Leaders must go beyond lip service and make good on their promises to provide the commitment and resources to improve governance, transparency and accountability."

Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Haiti, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Angola joined Chad and Bangladesh as the most corrupt countries, the report said.

After Iceland, the least corrupt were Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Australia and Austria. The United States was ranked 17th.

The watchdog said worsening of corruption levels from last year's survey were recorded in Costa Rica, Gabon, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.

Improvements were found in Estonia, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Qatar, Taiwan and Turkey.

[By Emily Behlmann, Associated Press]


WHO: Chronic Disease May Kill 400M by 2015

Heart disease, diabetes and other chronic ailments will kill nearly 400 million people over the next 10 years, but many of those deaths can be prevented by healthier lifestyles and inexpensive medication, the World Health Orgnaization said Wednesday.

The financial burden from an increasing death toll from such non-communicable diseases will also be enormous, costing countries such as China and India billions of dollars, WHO said in a report.

"The lives of far too many people in the world are being blighted and cut short by chronic diseases," said Lee Jong-Woo, WHO director-general.

Until recent years, these chronic conditions were overshadowed by infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS , though they cause far more deaths. Chronic, or noncommunicable diseases, account for three out of five deaths worldwide, the WHO says.

The 128-page WHO report estimated that 39 million deaths from chronic diseases in the next 10 years can be prevented through healthier lifestyles and relatively cheap medication, including 28 million in developing countries.

Although other studies have predicted the number of deaths from individual diseases, the WHO report was the first to project the toll from all major chronic conditions.

It was also the first to quantify the economic burden of treating such conditions in individual countries. China could spend $558 billion treating heart disease, strokes and diabetes over the next decade, the study said. Russia could spend $303 billion and India $236 billion.

"This is a preventable epidemic," said Robert Beaglehole, co-author of the study. "We know what to do, we know how to do it, preventions are very cheap."

The study urged developing countries to adopt prevention policies that have helped cut death rates in industrialized countries. Heart disease-related deaths have fallen up to 70 percent in Canada, Australia, England and the United States in the last three decades, the report said.
It also cited Poland, which reduced deaths among young adults by 10 percent in the 1990s, in part by making fruit and vegetables more available and removing subsidies on dairy products like butter.

"There is no question that low-income countries can follow the example of industrialized countries," Beaglehole said. "Most of their success stems from population-wide campaigns. For example, to reduce the intake of saturated fats, sugar and salt and to encourage activity."

The reported also pointed to cheaper treatments. Medication to prevent complications from heart disease, for example, is no longer subject to patent restrictions and is cheaper to make.

[By Uta Harnischfeger, Associated Press]


Celebrity 'hyper-agents' transform philanthropy

Call it the dawn of the Golden Age of Philanthropy. And one early manifestation was on display recently at an elegant hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

Kings, prime ministers, international entrepreneurs, media moguls, and savvy local business people met at the first annual Clinton Global Initiative to pledge themselves to take on a lofty set of once seemingly intransigent challenges: from international poverty and AIDS to global warming to ethnic and religious strife.

The goals were chosen because "together, they will determine in large measure the future of people all across the globe," said former President Bill Clinton at the opening session.

This initiative, along with others, like the ONE Campaign, headlined by Microsoft's Bill Gates and U2 rock star Bono, and the Africa Initiative, started by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, are part of a philanthropic shift. Scholars like Paul Schervish call these the "fruits of dramatic change" in the nature and expression of people's natural tendency to reach out to help one another.

It's a result of a combination of factors that are emerging together for first time in history: One is that crises - from hurricane Katrina to the tsunami in the Indian Ocean to famine in Sudan - get delivered "right to our hearts through the media," says Professor Schervish. Combine this with the fact many Americans have the economic resources to help, and that makes it possible to "dream and to act."

"What we have are the first roots of a dramatic change in philanthropy that we're going to see emerge and become a regular part of our culture in the next 10 years," says Schervish, the director of the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy. "It's philanthropy as a natural dimension of people's economic and work life; it's becoming more regularly a category of expenditure even for those who aren't wealthy."

It's being spurred in part by individuals like Clinton, Bono, and Gates - people Schervish refers to as "hyper-agents." They are celebrities with the wealth and time to dedicate to finding new ways of addressing age-old problems, as well as the charisma to motivate others. At the weekend conference, Clinton said he was delighted to be able to bring together "so many people from seemingly divergent, even oppositional viewpoints in the same room.

"But I believe there is more that unites us than separates us and the issues we're going to discuss are too big for government or business or Republicans or Democrats or any single religious group to solve alone," he told the assembled crowd. "We've all come here today with a common purpose: to find real solutions - and to commit to do our part on four issues that plague modern society."

Such individualistic, can-do tendencies have been part of the American culture since its inception.

As Alexis de Tocqueville noted in the early 1830s, the inclination for individuals to band together for the larger social good thrived in the nascent country because America lacked the aristocracy and formal church hierarchy that dealt with such social needs in Europe.

From firehouses to prisons to hospitals, local neighbors pooled their resources to create such institutions. In more recent generations, foundations and nongovernmental and church organizations took on the main philanthropic role. But now, as the nation matures in an age of globalization and Americans have more resources, that individualistic spirit is again asserting itself, producing a new kind of philanthropy.

Clinton, in his role as "hyper agent," has required that each participant make a pledge to address one problem over the next year. If they fail, they won't be invited back next year.

Dr. Charash's pledge: to create a new foundation called "Doc to Dock," which will allow the American medical community to donate extra resources directly to colleagues in developing nations, as well as set up an internet forum for collegial advice.

"We can get cardiologists to donate stethoscopes one year - 10,000 or 20,000 of them - the next year we can get orthopedic surgeons to donate plaster and splinting materials," he says. "Clearly, there's been a great suspicion when donating to other nations, particularly, as to how much goes to the needy. This conference can find a better way to give direct access because there are some structural problems with [current] fundraising mechanisms."

The commitments made here were as diverse as the almost 1,000 participants from around the world. Some involved tens of millions of dollars, like the decision of the former head of Cel-Tel Africa, Mohamed Ibrahim, to give $100 million of his own to create the African Enterprise Private Investment Fund that will help nurture small- and medium-size businesses in Africa. Other pledges were more personal but no less compelling.

"On the one side, the stakes have never been higher, but on the other, very positive side, the possibilities have never been greater," says José Maria Figueres, the former president of Costa Rica. "To see so many different people coming together in a much more action-driven agenda is a terrific way to do things."

[Excerpted from article by Alexandra Marks, The Christian Science Monitor]


Muslim Charities Re-emerge for Pakistan Quake Victims

All across America, Muslim charities, many of which have shunned the spotlight since 9/11 lest they attract unwanted law enforcement attention, are now stepping up their efforts to raise money for the victims of the earthquake that crumbled the northernmost corner of Pakistan.

In many cases, they have been more successful than their mainstream charitable counterparts, many of which have said that donors are not responding to their appeals for contributions for Pakistan.

Islamic Relief, one of the largest Muslim charities in the United States, had raised almost $1 million online alone through Wednesday, or about 10 times the amount raised by Save the Children. Other organizations reported similar success.

"Donors are responding really well," said Arif Shaikh, a spokesman for Islamic Relief. "A lot of mosques have been collecting money on our behalf, and our phones have been ringing off the hooks with people wanting to make contributions."

[Excerpt of an article written by Stephanie Strom in The New York Times]


Islamic charities trying to win back donors

Last January the board of Dallas charity KinderUSA made an unusual request to its 6,800 donors: Please don't send gifts. The Islamic charity, which delivers food and aid to children in war zones, had just received a federal grand jury subpoena asking its officials to turn over all meeting minutes, tax returns, and other documents. It feared that the government could freeze its assets or seize its list of donors at any moment.

After four months with no word from the FBI about whether KinderUSA was being investigated, the board resumed fund-raising. But board chair Dr. Laila Al-Marayati worries for her donors, who want to support charity but fear being caught up in a terrorism investigation. "Charities are in the position of being guilty until proven innocent," she says. "Our donors are afraid. They don't know what to do." (The FBI would not confirm or deny an ongoing KinderUSA investigation when contacted by BusinessWeek.)

Donors and charities alike have reason to be on guard. Since September 11 federal authorities have frozen the assets of five Islamic charities in the U.S., including three of the largest, for alleged links to terrorist groups -- in effect, shutting the groups down. The U.S. Treasury Dept., which is charged with cutting off monetary support for terrorists, has frozen the assets of 41 aid organizations globally for alleged connections to terrorism.

These inquiries resonate powerfully across the Islamic charity sector, shifting the direction of millions of dollars as donors fret that giving to organized Islamic charities could lead them into a legal morass. Muslim Americans are now looking for methods beyond traditional charitable giving to fulfill Zakat, a pillar of Islam, which requires Muslims to give 2.5% of their income to the poor.

To bring donors back, charities are employing new measures to prove that their work is legitimate. KinderUSA has gained a reputation among Islamic charities for good governance and transparency and posts audited financials on its Web site. But such measures did little to prevent a formal inquiry, and Al-Marayati remains frustrated by how little she knows about the inquiry's status.

Such situations have led Muslim-American leaders from more than 20 Islamic charities to unite to find a solution. Last March they launched an umbrella organization called The National Council of American Muslim Nonprofits that will offer a seal of approval to charities that meet their criteria, which are still being developed. The council is working closely with the Treasury Dept. to ensure rigorous standards that will offer some protection to donors and charities.

But some say the council, with its rigorous application process, could put an undue burden on charities without offering them much in return -- such as the assurance that if they meet all the standards they won't be pulled into a probe. Treasury Dept. spokesperson Molly Millerwise says the seal won't shield charities from the possibility of investigation. "Donors want a vetted list of charities. We can't provide that," she says.

[Ecerpts from BusinessWeek article by Jessi Hempel, with Bremen Leak]


British Voters Demand More Action on World Poverty

A YouGov poll published in Britain reveals that 78 percent of people want to see the main political parties do more on fighting global poverty.

82 percent believe that politicians need to respond as urgently to the number of children dying every day in Africa as they did to the Asia Tsunami.

Two-thirds think fighting poverty would do more to make the world safe than fighting wars.

MAKEpovertyHISTORY, a growing coalition of aid agencies, faith groups, unions and other organizations, is urging for action on trade justice, dropping the debt, and more and better aid. The campaign was launched on 1 January 2005 and will run until the end of the year.

MAKEpovertyHISTORY spokesperson Alison Fenney said, “Every single day, 30,000 children are dying as a result of extreme poverty. This poll tells us that the public are taking action on global poverty. Their campaigning work over the last five years has made global poverty an election issue. They want to see the next government do more on tackling the issues of trade, debt, and aid. On World Poverty Day, political parties must respond on what they are going to do to meet these demands.”

On trade, 88 percent of those polled believe international trade rules should be rewritten to help people in poor countries to work their way out of poverty.

On debt, 75 percent of people polled agreed that rich donors should cancel the unpayable debts of the poorest countries.

On aid, 50 percent of people polled wanted the UK to meet its commitment to giving 0.7 percent of national income in development aid by 2010 or earlier.

[From http://www.makepovertyhistory.org/]


How the United Kingdom Fares

With the belief that the developed world has a responsibility to fund international development programs, the UK previously committed itself to the 0.7% target [that is 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) would be spent on international development].

The promise was made in 1970. Some 35 years later, the world is still waiting for the promise to be kept.

In the 2004 Comprehensive Spending Review, the Chancellor committed to raising aid spending to 0.47% of GNI by 2007/08. That would mean a jump in aid of £1.5 billion by 2008.

If growth continued at that rate the UK should finally reach its promised 0.7% target by 2013.
This new commitment is significant and welcome. Yet, by 2013, some 45 million people will be newly infected with HIV.

Only half of Africa's children will complete primary school and one in six will die before their fifth birthday.

Although UK aid is growing in volume, in historical terms it is not keeping pace with the leaps in British wealth. Britain gives a smaller proportion of its national wealth than it did in 1979, when 0.51% of British gross national income went on development assistance.


Generosity of the American people

The generosity of the American people is far more impressive than that of the US government.

The private aid and donations through charity from individual people and organizations is much more impressive, though this of course can be weighted to certain interests and areas.

Nonetheless, it is interesting to note for example, per latest estimates, Americans privately give at least $34 billion overseas .

This is more than twice the US official foreign aid of $15 billion (at that time):

American NGOs: $6.6 billion in grants, goods and volunteers.

Religious overseas ministries: $3.4 billion, including health care, literacy training, relief and development.

International giving by US foundations: $1.5 billion per year

Charitable giving by US businesses: $2.8 billion annually

Personal remittances to developing countries: $18 billion

It is certainly noteworthy what NGOS and religious overseas ministries, that is generally smaller non profit organizations, are doing in the field of international relief and development.

Certainly an argument could be made that these are the organizations that deserve our support, and via whom we'll get the best bang for our buck.

Source of above statistics: Dr. Carol Adelman, Aid and Comfort, Tech Central Station


West's response condemned as slow and inadequate

Western governments rushed to step up their pledges for the earthquake relief effort after their initial response to the disaster was condemned as slow-moving and financially inadequate. [ Note: The earthquake causing upwards of 40,000 deaths and leaving 5 million lhomeless and living in the open air -- in freezing temperatures.]

The United States, which was under pressure to increase a pledge of $500,000 considered almost derisory by many Pakistanis when it was originally made, announced it intended to give $50 Million in emergency aid.

The gesture, intended to make up for the resentment caused by the initial pledge which, along with the British offering of £100,000, was labelled as "peanuts" by the leader of the Pakistani opposition party, was greeted as a major boost to the struggling relief effort.

Britain, too, increased its initial pledge to £1 Million for the effort, which the Government stressed would again be increased in coming days.

A donation of $500,000 made by Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong's richest business tycoon, is equal to half of the British Government's increased pledge, and five times the amount it originally wanted to give.

So far, international donors have announced tens of millions of dollars in aid. But, again echoing the tsunami relief effort, aid agencies were quick to draw attention to the shortfall which almost always occurs between pledges made by governments in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and the total money that eventually arrives.

"Every move of the United States is judged here on political grounds. It was a rare opportunity for the United States to show that it's a true friend of Pakistan," said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a Pakistani political analyst.

It is not likely to have escaped Washington's notice that its response to this latest disaster could be key in improving perceptions of the United States in Pakistan, an Islamic nation where many harbor deep resentment over the United States' invasion of Afghanistan and the Iraq war.

[Excerpted from an article by Elizabeth Davies and Jan McGirk in The Independent]


Pakistan to Accept Quake Relief From India

Pakistan said Monday it will accept relief aid for earthquake victims from its longtime rival India, a move that carries immense political implications for the neighbors who have fought three wars.

India's Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said his country would send tents, food, blankets and medicine to the hard-hit Pakistani portion of The announcement came after Pakistani Foreign Ministry said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh telephoned Pakistan's high commissioner in New Delhi and "reiterated his offer to send relief aid to us for earthquake victims."

High Commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan met Singh and then contacted the government in Islamabad, which decided to accept the Indian offer after consultations at the highest level, Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

Earlier Monday, India said Pakistan turned down its offer of helicopters for rescue operations, saying it had enough at the moment. Pakistan also ruled out launching joint rescue operations with India for earthquake victims in Kashmir.

Pakistan and India have a long history of bitter relations, particularly over Kashmir — the focus of two of their three wars. However, the two sides have taken several steps since last year to improve relations.

Soon after Saturday's earthquake, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and offered humanitarian help. Musharraf also made a similar offer for the victims of the quake in the Indian portion of Kashmir where more than 800 people died.

Death toll estimates in Pakistan ranged from 20,000 to 30,000.


Pakistani president asks for international aid

Between 20,000 and 30,000 people are estimated killed in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan as a result of Saturday's 7.6 quake.

The death toll is expected to rise once remote areas of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir and the country's North-West Province are reached. Communication to many of those areas was cut off because of the temblor, and landslides had rendered roads inaccessible.

The death toll may have been compounded by the calendar. This week marked the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of prayer and fasting. As a result, many Pakistanis were asleep when the earthquake struck, having risen before dawn to pray and have a light meal in preparation for the daylong fast, then gone back to bed.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf issued a plea on Sunday for foreign aid -- specifically, cargo helicopters and relief goods such as tents and blankets. He also appealed to the international community for medicine and financial assistance.

"We do seek international assistance. We have enough manpower but we need financial support ... to cope with the tragedy,"

Helicopters are necessary, he said, because roads leading into some remote areas have been buried by landslides and the areas cannot be reached. Musharraf said he had asked the U.S. government to send helicopters from Afghanistan, and had been promised those helicopters.

"We are handling the worst disaster in Pakistan's history," said Pakistan's military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, and the country has launched its largest relief operation.

"In certain areas, the entire villages -- they have collapsed. In certain areas, almost entire towns, they have vanished from the scene," he said.

India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, offered his country's help. "While parts of India have also suffered from this unexpected natural disaster," he said in a message to Musharraf, "we are prepared to extend any assistance with rescue and relief which you deem appropriate." India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir but since early 2004 have been engaged in negotiations aimed at ending their historic enmity.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered U.S. assistance to both countries. "At this difficult time, the United States stands with its friends in Pakistan and India, just as they stood with us and offered assistance after hurricane Katrina," she said in a statement.

Aid organizations warned that relief efforts could be hampered by winter conditions that will soon prevail at the higher elevations of Kashmir. "Winterized tents and blankets will be urgently needed," Raphael Sindaye, Oxfam's humanitarian response coordinator, told Reuters reporters after a meeting of aid agencies in Islamabad.

The quake hit Saturday at 8:50 a.m. Its epicenter was about 60 miles north-northeast of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. At least 22 aftershocks followed within 24 hours, including a 6.2-magnitude temblor.


Thousands dead as quake rocks 3 Asian countries

A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake near the Pakistan-India border today reduced villages to rubble, triggered landslides and flattened an apartment building.

So far reports have indicated more than 1,700 people were killed in both nations, and a Pakistan army spokesman called the devastation "a national tragedy."

The epicenter was 60 miles (about 95 kilometers) north-northeast of Islamabad near Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.

The effects of the quake -- estimated to be the most intense in the region -- rippled hundreds of miles away, striking remote but populous regions and felt in major cities, including Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, India's capital of New Delhi and the Pakistani city of Lahore.

Across Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, buildings shook and walls swayed for about a minute, and panicked people ran from their homes and offices. Tremors continued for hours afterward. Communications throughout the region were cut.

About 1,000 people were killed in Pakistani Kashmir, said Sardar Mohammed Anwar, the top government official in the area.

"This is my conservative guess, and the death toll could be much higher," Anwar told Pakistan's Aaj television station.

He said most homes in Muzaffarabad, the area's capital, were damaged, and schools and hospitals had collapsed.


World Leaders Fall Short of Summit Goals

A summit billed as the largest gathering of world leaders in history achieved far less than U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had hoped in the fight to overhaul the UN and alleviate poverty, terrorism and human rights abuses.

President Bush two years ago questioned whether the United Nations was relevant, surprised many by giving the world body his strong backing. He also won praise for declaring that poverty breeds terrorism and despair and challenging world leaders to abolish all trade tariffs and subsidies to promote prosperity and opportunity in struggling nations.

"I cannot disguise our profound disappointment that we were not able to agree at this summit on all of the elements required to make it operational," Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said of the Human Rights Council at a news conference.

The three-day summit brought presidents, prime ministers and kings from 151 member states to the United Nations — a record number according to U.N. officials.

Yet instead of adopting Annan's sweeping blueprint to enable the world body to deal with the challenges of a new century, they were presented with a diluted 35-page document. The final document represented the lowest common denominator that all countries could agree on after months of negotiations.

[From article by Nick Wadhams, Associated Press Writer]

UN's birthday letdown

There were failures of solidarity and generosity in the haggling that produced the UN summit document world leaders approved on the final day of the New York gathering celebrating the organization's 60th birthday.

The Bush administration and its UN ambassador -- the proudly undiplomatic John Bolton -- must take the blame for a shameful refusal to accept specific goals and timetables for eradicating extreme poverty and fighting preventable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.

Other governments, including Iran, Syria, Cuba, Egypt, and Pakistan, are to blame for thwarting the efforts of Secretary General Kofi Annan to reform the UN by conferring needed decision-making authority in the secretary general.

In blocking progress, member states were doing what too many of them have done too often at the UN: defending the narrowest possible conception of their national interest at the expense of a common interest.

Bolton and his supervisors were acting on a doctrinal hostility to any gesture that might be construed as subordinating US national sovereignty to foreigners. The governments that opposed Annan's UN reform plans were seeking to preserve their limited naysaying powers as members of the UN General Assembly.

[Excerpts of article in Boston Globe]

Hardly radical, but it’s a start

It had been billed as the biggest gathering of world leaders ever: a five-year review of the Millennium Summit that set ambitious development goals, and a chance to modernise the United Nations. But the world leaders gathering in New York this week to sign off on a package of reforms to the world body have been given a document that falls short of many of the aims of its negotiators.

In the run-up to the summit, the beleaguered UN was wincing from a body blow. In a devastating report last week, the independent committee of inquiry into the UN-administered oil-for-food programme in Iraq castigated virtually every aspect of the world body, including its Security Council. The report painted a grim picture of corruption both inside and outside the UN system, with evidence of bribes, kickbacks, smuggling and other illicit deals going on throughout the vast programme.

In this environment, both fans and detractors of the UN agreed that it needed thoroughgoing reforms. … Though some progress was made in the negotiations, the need for consensus meant that many worthy aims were watered down.

Among the main issues tackled by the negotiators were:
Humanitarian intervention
The UN Charter prohibits intervention “in matters which are essentially within the jurisdiction of any state”. But a panel of experts argued in a high-level report in December 2004 that the principle of non-intervention could no longer be used to shield genocidal acts and other atrocities. The UN should assume a “responsibility to protect” civilian populations when governments are “unable or unwilling” to do so. Military action should be authorised by the Security Council as a last resort.

The United States was wary of any wording that smacked of a legal obligation, but in the end the language of the “responsibility to protect” section is fairly strong: the international community “has the responsibility” to use peaceful means to prevent or stop atrocities, and the document states that “we are prepared to take collective action”.

Developing countries, supported by members of the European Union and some others in the rich world, want wealthy countries to commit to giving 0.7% of their GDP per year in development aid. The Americans, while they have increased their (unusually low) levels of foreign assistance under George Bush, think it is more important that aid recipients reform themselves, tackle corruption and prepare for investment.

Compromise language emerged in the end: America was prepared to see the document recognise that some countries are committed to the 0.7% goal, while it also reaffirms the need for action by countries that receive aid. Development wonks fear that this is nothing new, and that crucial momentum for “eradicating extreme poverty”, begun with the Millennium Summit in 2000, will be lost. Nicola Reindorp of Oxfam, a non-governmental organisation, said “the summit is in danger of failing before it has begun”, calling the language on development a showcase of past commitments, with nothing new to offer.

This part generated some of the fiercest disputes of all and, in the end, no agreement. The Americans wanted greater emphasis on arms control, believing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction constitutes “the pre-eminent threat to peace and security”. Developing countries wanted the West to make new commitments to get rid of its own weapons, including nuclear warheads. They also wanted action against small weapons, which threaten poor countries far more than nuclear terrorism does. The summit document makes no mention of action on either. Kofi Annan, the UN’s secretary-general, told reporters on Tuesday that this omission was “a real disgrace”.

[Excerpted from an article in The Economist]

UN summit has failed Africa, says Geldof

Sir Bob Geldof accused world leaders of backsliding on their historic commitments to combat poverty at the Gleneagles summit as he gave the United Nations' conference only four marks out of 10.

The Live8 organiser told a press conference at the UN's 60th anniversary summit in New York yesterday that the organisation had missed an opportunity to build on the pledge to double aid to Africa made by G8 leaders in July.

He said the section of the UN summit declaration on trade subsidies was "a clawback" from the agreement at Gleneagles, which raised the prospect of a timetable for eliminating them.

Sharing a platform with Tony Blair, Sir Bob gave a less positive verdict on the UN summit than the Prime Minister following criticism from some aid groups that he had oversold what was achieved at Gleneagles and become too close to the Government. The former rock star said he felt "a sense of disappointment" because the UN gathering had originally been called to review progress on its Millennium Development Goals to tackle poverty and disease but had been "suborned" by other issues. The progress made by the G8 "should have been accelerated and added to in the UN", he said.

The UN statement on debt was "not good enough for the world forum" and he warned that there would be a "disaster" if the International Monetary Fund and World Bank did not approve the G8's plans when they meet later this month.

At the same press conference, Mr Blair acknowledged the need to ensure that the "pressure is kept up" so that the G8 leaders' commitments were adhered to.

But he insisted the Gleneagles pledges on aid had been "safeguarded" at the New York meeting, which ends today when the General Assembly will approve a 35-page declaration that has been watered down from the original goals set by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general.

[From article written by Andrew Grice]


What Will U.N. World Summit Accomplish?

175 world leaders met in New York City Sept. 14-16 to discuss proposed reforms at the 2005 U.N. World Summit.

The U.S. has requested numerous changes to the proposed agreement on reform, and newly appointed ambassador John Bolton, already the source of controversy, was the face of the U.S.'s requests.

Among other things, the summit was intended to address progress on goals outlined at the 2000 Millenium Summit, including drastically reducing poverty by 2015 (progress on many of the initial goals, however, has been much less than hoped).

The question is: Will this gathering of world leaders accomplish anything in this respect?

[The following Commentary is by Roger Coate, co-author, "The United Nations and Changing World Politics", and a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina]
The Summit will produce a highly watered-down declaration that heads of state and government can take back, get some good press and pat themselves on the back for giving it a good fight.

In terms of actually moving the world forward toward promoting human security—NO.

This Summit represented a golden opportunity—perhaps the only remaining opportunity—to get the world on track for meeting the Millennium Development Goals and moving toward eradicating poverty, hunger, disease and other maladies facing the world’s poorest peoples. The MDGs are not loft—pie-in-the-sky—goals, but rather straightforward and pragmatic goals, targets and indicators. They are part of a larger UN system-wide initiative to raise people out of hell-like conditions.

Washington is heavily to blame for the failure of the General Assembly to send forward to the Summit a plan of action that could move the world considerably forward. By injecting Mr. Bolton into the process at such a late date, President Bush appears to have been successful scuttling any real international consensus to meet the MDGs or accomplish mush else at the Summit.

U.N. Scales Back Plan of Action

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a declaration on the need to combat world poverty, promote human rights and strengthen management of the organization, but only after negotiators scaled back the document because of intractable disagreements among nations on sensitive issues.

The 35-page declaration will be endorsed by an estimated 170 world leaders at a three-day summit on U.N. reform, and delegates expressed disappointment that it had fallen short of Secretary General Kofi Annan's aspirations for a broad reorganization of the 60-year-old organization.

Still, they voiced relief that the entire process had not collapsed, which would have left the summit with no tangible result, and they highlighted relatively modest achievements in the document. Those included provisions that call for an increase in foreign aid, condemn terrorism and underscore the obligation of states to halt genocide and ethnic cleansing. Only Cuba and Venezuela voiced reservations about the agreement.

The negotiators were forced to put off action on some of the thorniest and most ambitious goals, including proposals to expand the U.N. Security Council, to create an independent auditing board to scrutinize U.N. spending, and to impose basic membership standards for a new Human Rights Council so that chronic rights abusers will not be able to join.

Various proposals for expanding membership in the Security Council, for example, had been opposed by countries that felt they would lose out in the deal. And some developing countries fought proposals for changes in U.N. management practices, which they felt would shift authority from the General Assembly to the secretary general's office.

Negotiators also failed to agree on provisions calling on governments to halt the transfer of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists and urging nuclear weapons states to abide by their commitments to dismantle their atomic arms.

Annan said that the members' inability to adopt these measures on disarmament and nonproliferation constituted "a real disgrace" and that he hoped world leaders would see this as "a real signal to pick up the ashes and show leadership."

"There were governments that were not willing to make the concessions necessary," Annan told reporters after the declaration was adopted by the General Assembly. "There were spoilers, let's be quite honest about that."

Still, Annan said he was pleased that the declaration reiterated the U.N. commitment to meet targets for slashing rates of poverty, disease and child mortality and that it called for creation of the new human rights council and a peace-building commission to oversee postwar recoveries. "I would have wanted more, all of us would have wanted more, but it's an important step forward," he said. "I think we can work with what we've been given."

The negotiations provided the first test of American diplomacy at the United Nations since President Bush bypassed congressional confirmation to install John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador for 17 months.

Bolton demonstrated sufficient flexibility to reach agreements on some issues, while fending off provisions that might have restricted U.S. prerogatives and the freedom to use force unilaterally. Bolton, who led efforts to block the disarmament provision, succeeded in eliminating language that would have urged countries to support a host of international treaties or organizations, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the International Criminal Court, which the United States opposes.

But Bolton failed to secure support for a number of key U.S. priorities, including the provision urging states to halt the transfer of the world's deadliest weapons to terrorists and measures intended to expand Annan's authority over hiring and to strengthen the oversight of U.N. finances.

Bolton said that while he would have preferred stronger provisions to ensure greater accountability in the U.N. bureaucracy, the agreement would lead to a "somewhat improved U.N."

"But it would be wrong to claim more than is realistic and accurate about what these reforms are," he said. "They represent steps forward, but this is not the alpha and the omega, and we never thought it would be."

"This is not the end of the reform effort," added Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns. "It really is the beginning of a permanent reform effort that must be underway at the United Nations."

Despite setbacks, Burns said that the agreement would eliminate the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission, which includes Zimbabwe, Sudan and other human rights violators. But he acknowledged that "it is going to be a difficult exercise" to win the votes in the General Assembly to create a human rights council that reflects the wishes of the United States.

Burns said that although the United States and other governments had failed to include a clear condemnation of the deliberate targeting and killing of civilians, they had succeeded in extracting an Arab-backed provision that would have excluded so-called national liberation movements that target civilians from being labeled terrorists.

"We have broken the back of this ideological debate here about what constitutes terrorism," Burns said, noting that "sometimes in diplomacy defeating negative measures is very important." U.N. delegates, however, said Arab governments would insist on protections for armed groups fighting foreign occupation in an international convention on terrorism that is being negotiated by U.N. members.

Human rights and development advocates said the membership had squandered a rare opportunity to improve the organization, but praised the negotiators for endorsing the creation of an international obligation to halt attempted genocide.

"There is very little to celebrate," said Nicola Reindorp of Oxfam International. But governments "are showing that they can act boldly, by endorsing their responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity."

[By Colum Lynch and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post]


MAKEpovertyHISTORY campaign

Supporters of the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign called on the UK government to fight for positive progress at the UN's 2005 World Summit.

As with the G8 summit in Scotland in July, campaigners are asking the Prime Minister to urge the world leaders gathered in New York to act now to end extreme poverty, which kills 30,000 children every day.

The white band - global symbol of the campaign to make poverty history - will be worn on wrists, draped on buildings, tied to lampposts, trees and statues. Each campaigner will be joining millions around the world, demanding that the promises made through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should be kept.

Richard Bennett, Chair of MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY said: "On July 2 in Edinburgh, a quarter of a million people gathered to demand that the G8 leaders deliver real change on debt cancellation, trade justice and more and better aid. The G8 responded by promising some steps, but these now need to be built on and delivered."

"As with the G8 summit in Scotland in July, we are asking the Prime Minister to represent our wishes, this time in New York. We ask him to show global leadership and urge every world leader to make the decisions necessary to consign poverty to the history books."

White Band Day II is the day when millions of campaigners united around the world in the Global Call to Action Against Poverty will stand up and be counted and demand justice for the poorest people of the world.

Objections Emerge to G-8 Debt Relief Plan

Full debt relief for the world's poorest countries was finally in the bag. Or so it seemed two months ago when leaders from the Group of Eight major industrial powers, at their summit in Scotland, approved a plan to cancel the debts that 18 nations, mostly in Africa, owe to international lenders such as the World Bank.

But objections to the plan are emerging as it heads toward an official vote at the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Most notable is an internal World Bank report that warns the plan could deplete the bank's coffers so severely as to impair its ability to provide new aid for impoverished nations.

Debt cancellation was one of the key goals of the movement that mobilized behind the "Live Eight" concerts in early July aimed at prodding President Bush and other G-8 leaders to spare no expense in assisting the developing world. The movement had a powerful ally in the British government, which agreed that debt loads were keeping nations such as Tanzania, Uganda and Bolivia mired in poverty even after previous rounds of partial forgiveness. Many activists were pleasantly surprised when the Bush administration embraced that logic as well.

But the debt-relief bandwagon got hung up on the issue of who would bear the cost. The bulk of the loans in question were no-interest, 40-year loans granted by IDA, which gets its money mainly from two sources -- repayments of prior loans and periodic infusions of cash from rich donor nations. Failing to provide IDA with additional donations to replace the revenue lost to debt relief would risk diminishing the World Bank's role on the global stage -- and that, some policymakers and experts suspected, was the Bush team's true aim.

The G-8 summit communique issued in Scotland reflects a compromise on the issue that, according to the World Bank's internal report, does not go far enough in protecting IDA. Although the communique contains firm commitments to cover the $1 billion that IDA would lose over the next three years, the report projects that losses would total $8.9 billion in the first decade, $17.6 billion in the second decade, $14.1 billion in the third decade, and $1.8 billion in the last decade if all 38 countries potentially eligible received full cancellation of their debts. (Only 18 countries so far have met the criteria for full relief, though more are expected to do so.)

The report acknowledges the G-8's pledge that for the period after the first three years, "donors will commit to cover the full costs for the duration of the cancelled loans" by making additional contributions to IDA. But the pledge has no binding force, and there is no "benchmark" for gauging how much donors would have given before the supplemental contributions, notes the report, which proposes several options to more firmly ensure IDA's future financing.

The Treasury's Fratto blasted as "absurd" the fear that Washington would fail to honor its pledge to provide additional contributions to IDA, and he ridiculed the report's assumption that debt repayments by poor countries are a reliable source of income.

"The World Bank's analysis seems to give greater credence to the ability of a Niger to pay back its unsustainable debt than it does for the G-8 countries to meet their commitments," Fratto said.

Another objection to the G-8 plan voiced by policymakers in recent days, according to IMF officials, is that it may violate a long-standing IMF rule assuring "uniformity of treatment" to all member countries. The plan would fully cancel the debts to the IMF of only nations that qualify as "heavily indebted poor countries," while leaving untouched the obligations of nations such as Kenya and Indonesia that are not heavily indebted enough to be included.

[Excerpted from an article written by Paul Blustein, Washington Post ]


The Millennium Review Summit

On September 14th - 16th, Heads of State from around the world converged on New York for the Millennium Review Summit.

This was the first official chance the world had to check in with itself and find out how progress is going on achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Set in 2000, a list of eight targets (see article below) is supposed to be achieved by 2015. With five years gone, and only ten to go, are we on track and what needs to happen to make sure we get there? This is one of the big sets of questions the politicians will be looking at. Running alongside the MDG discussions, there is a reform process happening within the UN itself.

At the end of the Summit a declaration, agreed by all the Heads of State, will state what the community of nations believes is important, and what they think needs to change. A blueprint, in many ways, for what will happen at an international level in the coming few years.

It won't, in itself, do much on the foreign aid, trade and debt agenda, but it will enshrine certain principles and actions as agreed norms, and will be the standard bearer for international agreements on a range of important issues for years to come.

To find out more about the UN and the Millennium Development Goals go to www.undp.org/mdg/

[Source: MAKEpovertyHISTORY.org]

What are the Millennium Development goals?

All 191 United Nations member states have pledged to meet these goals by 2015.
Eradicate extreme poverty & hunger
Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day
Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
Achieve universal primary education
Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling
Promote gender equality and empower women
Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
Reduce child mortality
Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five
Improve maternal health
Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases
Ensure environmental sustainability
Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources
Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water
Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020
Develop a global partnership for development
Develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory. Includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction—nationally and internationally
Address the least developed countries’ special needs. This includes tariff- and quota-free access for their exports; enhanced debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction
Address the special needs of landlocked and small island developing States
Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt problems through national and international measures to make debt sustainable in the long term
In cooperation with the developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth
In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies—especially information and communications technologies

[Source: MAKEpovertyHISTORY.org]


U.N.: Food Operations in Iraq at Risk

The U.N. World Food Program warned that its emergency operations in Iraq, which feed about 3 million people, were at risk because donors have only come up with 44 percent of the necessary money.

The Rome-based agency is aiming to provide 73,700 tons of food to 1.7 million extremely poor primary school children, 220,000 malnourished children and their families, 350,000 pregnant and nursing women, and more than 6,000 tuberculosis patients this year.

But the $66 million operation is at risk because it has only received $29 million from donors, the agency said.

"We provide food to those who cannot support themselves — children, women and the chronically sick," said Calum Gardner, WFP's country director for Iraq. "If we don't get more funding soon, we will no longer be able to assist them."

Last year, a Norwegian research group, in conjunction with the United Nations and the Iraqi government, reported that malnutrition among Iraq's youngest children had nearly doubled since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, from 4 percent to 7.7 percent.

A separate WFP food security survey published last year found that more than 27 percent of all children under 5 were chronically malnourished despite receiving government food rations.
In July, "donors again pledged millions of dollars for Iraq's reconstruction, yet we find ourselves dismally short of cash," Gardner said.

Associated Press

Footnote: As commented in an earlier posting on this site, last May Congress easily approved another 76 Billion dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan. That boosted the total spent on fighting terrorism since 2001 to beyond $300 billion.

And this bill for the War on Terrorism continues to increase at the rate of $4 - 6,000,000,000 each month!

But there’s no "spare change" available to feed the innocent decimated by this war?

Again let’s compare the figures:
$315,000,000,000 Estimated cost of the War on Terrorism to date
60,000,000,000 Total ANNUAL estimate of Iraqi/Afghan War
37,000,000 Amount needed to feed malnourished children and women (a result of the U.S.-led invasion.)


Katrina Evokes Questions in Africa

Images of poor, black Americans homeless and in despair in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina resonatedg in Africa, evoking pointed questions about racism and surprise that disasters can wreak havoc and leave refugees even in the prosperous United States.

"So much for the land of liberty," read one unsigned commentary Sunday in Nigeria's This Day newspaper, adding that some televised images of Katrina's victims in Louisiana "could actually be mistaken for Rwanda."

In hurricane-hit New Orleans, U.S. soldiers cradling M-16s flanked out across the swamped, disease-infested city as officials readied thousands of body bags. Indeed, the scene was reminiscent of any African tragedy of recent times.

"Who would have thought that over a million American citizens would become 'refugees' in their own country and flay their government for its failure to come to their aid" quickly enough, read an editorial Tuesday in South Africa's The Star newspaper.

Some Africans say the U.S. government's allegedly bungled response to Katrina revealed a society more divided by race and money than most Africans had previously thought.

"We share in the grief of the victims," a Liberian teacher said. "But at times these things happen for people to know what hardship really means, what it means to be a refugee in your own country."

[From article by Todd Pitman, Associated Press Writer]

Hurricane Victims Get a Taste of Life in Third World

Taps run dry. Food rots when the power goes out. Toilets overflow with waste. Looters strip homes, businesses and public buildings. Armed bandits run wild in the streets. Fires rage out of control. Terrified policemen abandon their posts. Flies buzz over bloated corpses. People wave signs at passing helicopters. "Please help us," they read.

Water, food, housing, electricity: in the modern era, society collapses without them. I found while reporting on the invasion of Afghanistan, they are not equally essential.

"Help is on the way," their head of state assures them. But the government sends soldiers instead of relief workers. The troops treat the victims, who are taxpayers and citizens, as if they were prisoners. Aiming weapons at the sick and dying, they herd thousands into sports arenas where they receive neither water, nor food, nor safe harbor. While indifferent soldiers man checkpoints to prevent the detainees from leaving, babies starve, the elderly die from lack of medicine and children are raped and murdered. They set up checkpoints to prevent anyone from leaving.

Reuters reports from inside a convention-center-cum-refugee camp: "Sitting with her daughter and other relatives, Trolkyn Joseph, 37, said men had wandered the cavernous convention center in recent nights raping and murdering children. She said she found a dead 14-year old girl at 5 a.m. on Friday morning, four hours after the young girl went missing from her parents inside the convention center. 'She was raped for four hours until she was dead,' Joseph said through tears. 'Another child, a seven-year old boy was found raped and murdered in the kitchen freezer last night.'"

The horror of the aftermath is so extreme that it nearly erases the memory of the initial disaster.

It only took a few days for New Orleans to descend into anarchy, for the survivors of Katrina to lose hope, for disgusted Americans to conclude that their leaders are too staggeringly stupid, incompetent and uncaring to protect them from bad weather, much less a terrorist attack.

Now think about this: the citizens of cities under U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan have been suffering under similar conditions, exacerbated by an identical lack of planning by the same U.S. officials, for nearly 900 days. New Orleans is Baghdad plus water minus two and a half years.

Still wondering why they hate us?

[From an article written by Ted Rall in Yahoo News]


New Orleans crisis shames US

While the focus of this blog is INTERNATIONAL aid, allow me to touch on the subject of NATIONAL aid for the poor victims of Hurricane Katrina.

To best understand our country, sometimes it’s necessary to see how others view us. -Even our close allies like Britain.

Following are excerpts of an article published by BBC News (Los Angeles bureau)

At the end of an unforgettable week, one broadcaster bitterly encapsulated the sense of burning shame and anger that many American citizens are feeling.

The only difference between the chaos of New Orleans and a Third World disaster operation, he said, was that a foreign dictator would have responded better.

It has been a profoundly shocking experience for many across this vast country who, for the large part, believe the home-spun myth about the invulnerability of the American Dream.

The party in power in Washington is always happy to convey the impression of 50 states moving forward together in social and economic harmony towards a bigger and better America.

But what the devastating consequences of Katrina have shown - along with the response to it - is that for too long now, the fabric of this complex and overstretched country, especially in states like Louisiana and Mississippi, has been neglected and ignored.

The fitting metaphors relating to the New Orleans debacle are almost too numerous to mention.

First there was an extraordinary complacency, mixed together with what seemed like over-reaction, before the storm.

A genuinely heroic mayor orders a total evacuation of the city the day before Katrina arrives, knowing that for decades now, New Orleans has been living on borrowed time.

The famous levees that were breached could have been strengthened and raised at what now seems like a trifling cost of a few million dollars.

The Bush administration, together with Congress, cut the budgets for flood protection and army engineers, while local politicians failed to generate any enthusiasm for local tax increases.

New Orleans partied-on just hoping for the best, abandoned by anyone in national authority who could have put the money into really protecting the city.

Meanwhile, the poorest were similarly abandoned, as the horrifying images and stories from the Superdome and Convention Center prove.

The truth was simple and apparent to all. If journalists were there with cameras beaming the suffering live across America, where were the officers and troops?

The neglect that meant it took five days to get water, food, and medical care to thousands of mainly orderly African-American citizens desperately sheltering in huge downtown buildings of their native city, has been going on historically, for as long as the inadequate levees have been there.

Divided city

I should make a confession at this point: I have been to New Orleans on assignment three times in as many years, and I was smitten by the Big Easy, with its unique charms and temperament.

But behind the elegant intoxicants of the French Quarter, it was clearly a city grotesquely divided on several levels. It has twice the national average poverty rate.

The government approach to such deprivation looked more like thoughtless containment than anything else. No-one wanted to pick up the bill or deal with the realities of race relations in the 21st Century.

Too often in the so-called "New South", they still look positively 19th Century.

It is astonishing to me that so many Americans seem shocked by the existence of such concentrated poverty and social neglect in their own country.

In the workout room of the condo where I am currently staying in the affluent LA neighbourhood of Santa Monica, an executive and his personal trainer ignored the anguished television reports blaring above their heads on Friday evening.

Either they did not care, or it was somehow too painful to discuss.

When President Bush told "Good Morning America" that nobody could have "anticipated" the breach of the New Orleans levees, it pointed to not only a remote leader in denial, but a whole political class.

The uneasy paradox which so many live with in this country - of being first-and-foremost rugged individuals, out to plunder what they can and paying as little tax as they can get away with, while at the same time believing that America is a robust, model society - has reached a crisis point this week.

[Article written by Matt Wells, BBC News]

Reaction to "New Orleans crisis shames US"

U.S. and Worldwide reflection on the government response to Hurriacen Katrina:

It disgusts me to think that my 'brother and sisters' in New Orleans have been ignored and discarded by the US government like so much trash that now line the streets of this once beautiful city. I am embarrassed it took so long to get help to people only eight hours away. - LT, Nashville, Tennessee

The crisis did seem political, racial, and I am disgusted. It's unconscionable that after an entire coastline was just destroyed, while New Orleans began to drown, the President was making fundraising speeches in California on Tuesday. As president, elected to serve the people of this country, why didn't he stop everything and call out the help those people needed immediately?- Lori T, Reno, Nevada

My sympathy to Americans sufferings from this natural disaster. The most advanced nation on earth and unable to response soon. A political disaster too. Mr Bush: time to wake up and cut red tape. More action and less talk. - D Sharma, Antwerp, Belgium

This disaster did not have to happen. Years of environmental damage to the gulf coast and building a city below sea level surrounded by water was a disaster waiting to happen. Now the clean up will cost untold amounts of money and the toxic stew of chemicals will pollute the gulf even more destroying precious fishing areas which were in trouble to begin with. The pictures tell the story bad planning, lack of vision and the fact that racism is still alive and doing well in America - HG, Staten Island, New York

What most people from other countries don't realise about America is that for all the great things we do we do some really horrendous ones too. Most Americans don't realize that we have a lower class, despite it being so blatantly obvious. The tragedy of this Gulf State disaster is that it is has exposed just how poor those states are and how much they've needed help for decades.- RG, Gainesville (Florida)

I wonder what the response would have been if a similar problem had happened in "Miami Beach" America should be ashamed - EJ, Ontario.Canada

I think one should not only blame G W Bush for having neglected so dramatically some States of the South, but also all former Presidents of the US. But as was said many years ago by a famous American economist: "it's hard to try to produce at the same time guns and butter". - RD, Wervicq Sud, France

I think now America and Americans in general will learn to appreciate the problems of the 'developing world' they so easily dismiss disparagingly. Even so-called weak nations like Sri Lanka and India manage to routinely respond to natural calamities of similar and greater intensity. It is time America shook off its complacency and check how strong are its credentials as a free, equitable and prosperous country. - Haripriya, Delhi, India

U.S. receives Aid Offers from Third World

(CNN) -- The U.S. government received offers of aid from dozens of nations across the globe in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the State Department said.

Among those offering assistance are India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, the four countries hardest-hit by the December 26 tsunami.

The United Nations has offered to help coordinate international relief.

Following is a list of some [developing nations] offering aid:
· Nigeria has pledged $1 million to hurricane disaster relief, government officials told CNN. "Nigeria will be happy to pledge $1 million to the hurricane disaster fund in the spirit of brotherhood," Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said.

· China offered $5 million in aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina. If needed, the Chinese government also is prepared to send rescue workers, including medical experts, officials said.
· India is making a $5 million donation to the American Red Cross, Ronen Sen, Indian ambassador to the United States, said Saturday. In addition, Sen said India was willing to donate essential medicines to the relief effort.
· The Singapore armed forces, responding to requests by the Texas Army National Guard, has sent three Chinook helicopters to Fort Polk, Louisiana, to help in relief efforts.
· South Korea awaits a U.S. response after pledging aid, a government official said.
· Afghanistan pledged $100,000 to help provide aid to the hurricane victims, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
· Sri Lanka will donate $25,000 to the American Red Cross.
· Taiwan has pledged more than $3 million to the relief effort.

Latin America
· Cuban President Fidel Castro offered to fly 1,100 doctors to Houston, Texas, with 26 tons of medicine to treat disaster victims.
· Mexico has offered $1 million and is sending 15 truckloads of water, food and medical supplies via Texas. The Mexican navy has offered to send two ships, two helicopters and 15 amphibious vehicles.
· Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vocal critic of the United States, offered to send cheap fuel, humanitarian aid and relief workers to the disaster area.

Middle East
· Qatar has offered the United States $100 million to assist in the humanitarian crisis triggered by Hurricane Katrina.
· Saudi Refining, a Houston-based subsidiary of state oil firm Saudi Aramco, will donate $5 million to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts for hurricane victims.
· Iran has offered to send humanitarian aid to hurricane victims, Reuters reported. "We are prepared to send our contributions to the people through the Red Crescent," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told Reuters.