Grim Fairy Tales and Hard Times

That opportunity for change it seems has passed. In the years before the crash the City insisted on light touch regulation and governments obliged. The whip was in the claw of the Golden Goose and the City’s importance to the UK economy was its shiny golden egg nesting at the centre of the European money markets. When the egg went rotten our governments should/could have acted. At that moment there was a perfect moment for democratically elected leaders to act, to take back the power and to regulate the banks. Instead they dithered and in a perverse turn around our governments now have had to come to heal.

Wrong Question, Wrong Response

Some weeks ago I was invited to Westminster to be a ‘witness’ at The Conservative’s Globalisation and Global Poverty focus group. David Cameron has said he’s serious about dealing with poverty in the developing world and has invited some big names to help find solutions.
Offering their views on the day were Sir Geldoff, Duncan Green from Oxfam, Mike Moore ex Director General of the World Trade Organisation and Kurt Hoffman director of the Shell Foundation.

I have no reason to doubt David Cameron is sincere in his desire to eradicate poverty. Listening to the evidence though I couldn’t help but think that the assembled experts were bound to offer solutions shaped to fit the needs of the global corporate economy. In fact the process seems about finding new ways to make old and largely failed strategies work. Duncan Green from Oxfam in his opening statement said, “Bad rules are better than no rules,” referring to the flawed WTO regimes imposed on developing countries. The rules that have ensured that very little of the wealth generated in the last 20 years has found its way into the hands of the poor. It’s hard to imagine how much worse it could be without rules.

It seems to me that the experts are starting from the same old premise. The accepted mantra is increased trade generates development which creates wealth that alleviates poverty. All strategies that deviate from this formula are deemed unrealistic. Yet you don’t have to look far to see that there is no hard link between wealth creation and poverty reduction.

I saw a great poster the other day; it read, “If war is the answer, we’re asking the wrong question.” It seems to me that Free Trade is the wrong response to poverty

What institutions like the IMF and the World Bank offer the developing world as a model is flawed. It’s unsustainable and inequitable; in truth it’s not much more than an extension of colonialism. Crumbs from the top table in return for hard labour and the resources of their lands on the cheap

Thriving communities have at their heart all kinds of exchanges, goods, services and knowledge and more. Trading systems should help to distribute the resources that people need to live happy healthy lives, tools to achieve an equitable balance, that’s all. Trade isn’t community and when we make economic activity the barometer for a healthy lifestyle we are bound to overlook the fundamental elements of a happy life. Trade serves people best when people aren’t in servitude to trade.

The developed nations of the world are approaching a major change point. Rapid and continuous economic growth has been possible through cheap and abundant oil. Resources like minerals and timber have been there for the taking. The speed at which we’re using these commodities became unsustainable even before economies like China entered the game. Like it not the developed economies are in for a shock sometime soon. It will be hard enough for wealthy countries to adapt to the coming energy shock of rising oil prices and insecurities of supply but to encourage poor countries to adopt our energy intensive economic model will be a disaster. For instance what will happen to the farmers in Africa growing flowers for the European market when aviation fuel costs make it prohibitive to send their blooms to market?

It’s about time we realised that we don’t have all the answers. In fact it may be that developing nations will have a thing or two to tell us about adapting our economies to living within our means and creating local solutions and local markets as the energy crisis bites. If anything this could be a wonderful opportunity for a true exchange of ideas rather than the perpetuating the idea that the west knows best and that a free global economy is the answer to poverty.

Make Stock Challenging Links Dot Org

Passionate Lilly free trade dysfunctional Labour waste Conservative globalisation alternative crime history new growth fatigue in asylum of mass destruction of as many people as possible and poor Geldof giving poverty a Liberal sustained weapon

Don’t miss out on this Stock! Cock!

Did you get one of these emails recently? I’ve been getting them for weeks now. A list of random words probably designed to maximise search engine results and then an offer on shares in a new ‘Petroleum wonder stock’

The string of emotionally significant words that actually don’t amount to anything but trigger a response as sucessfully developed by Mr Bush and more recently taked to new hights by Condoleza Rice seem to have been adopted by email marketers.

Talking of words that go nowhere, I notice that the Conservatives have launched a new initiative “Global Poverty Challenge” and a new website to go with it. The headline reads “David Cameron has set out six big challenges that our country faces. They’re complex, interconnected and require serious long-term thinking. We want to make sure we get these challenges right…” [nice emotive word grouping David]

There a just two links on the Global Poverty Challenge site which, are The Conservatives (working) and Make Poverty History (dead) The problem it seems is that the MPV site is dot org, NOT dot com. Easy one to miss for Sir Bob who’s going to help the Conservatives get it sorted and credited here as being instrumental in the creation of the “Make Poverty History” campaign.

So there, we can trust them to meet the challenge. Anyway wasn’t the MPV campaign designed to run for just 2005? Mmm these boys have their fingers on the pulse!

Anyway I promise to eat my words if this bunch are any better at delivering trade justice than the current bag of ‘Significant Scrabble tm!


The Dark Side

Green & Blacks falls to Cadbury, Zac Goldsmith editor of The Ecologist poses with David Cameron on his first day and now Sir Bob Geldof is to advise the Conservatives on global poverty.

Why do I find these developments disturbing, like my hero’s have gone to the other side?
Will Cadbury’s trash the ethical principals of Green & Blacks chocolate? My guess is no simply because as a brand it has come to represent something well beyond a great taste. It stands for trade justice and organic ingredients, a safe and ethical purchase. In acquiring Green & Blacks, Cadbury Schweppes has not only captured the fastest growing confectionery but also given a tarnished portfolio a new lick of green gloss. Nestle have just created their own ‘ethical’ coffee brand from scratch to cash in on the boom in conscious consumer sales.
This is where the hypocrisy catches. I have no doubt that when a corporation has a mixed portfolio it will continue to source ingredients for it’s mainstream products without the consciousness reserved for its new ethical lines. In marketing terms ‘ethical’ is just another ‘market segment’ and the ‘ethical shopper’ another target market. Any idea that an ethical brand will transform the heart of the hardnosed corporation from within are pretty naive.

Throughout 2005 the development of the ‘Geldof’ brand has been going very nicely. From standing with Nelson Mandela at the Launch of “Make Poverty History” to “Live8” his product equity has risen and risen even contrary to the success of the campaign to eradicate global poverty. The Conservative Party have no doubt chosen him to advise them even though there are better qualified to do so for improved ethical ‘cred.’ Sir Bob has dismayed many of his admirers including myself for failing to criticise the G8 countries for their failed response to the massive call for action on poverty. I don’t blame him for the failures of government but I do think that he has a duty to point out that failure before he goes onto advise another party and perhaps future government.