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ACTION FOR GLOBAL JUSTICE Issue 83/ Summer 2009 ISSN 1649-7368

INSIDE Action – Talk to your MEP about Trade Justice / The Silent Chop – ODA Falls Victim to Recession / Alternatives at World Social Forum / Local Government’s “New Irish” Candidates / Grapefruit Revolution /

Speak out on Trade Justice Stop Europe’s unfair trade deals

ISSN 1649-7368



771649 736018

{ Welcome } Credits & Contact details Focus magazine, established in 1978, now published four times a year, is Ireland’s leading magazine on global development issues. It is published by Comhlámh, Development Workers in Global Solidarity, Ireland, which works to promote global development through education and action. Focus is produced by an editorial collective of volunteers, with the support of the Comhlámh offices in Dublin. New volunteers are always welcome. Please contact Comhlámh if you are interested in any aspect of the production of this magazine. No prior experience is necessary. The views expressed in individual articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comhlámh, Irish Aid or our other funders. We have tried to contact all relevant photographers to seek their permission to use photographs. We apologise to those we have been unable to trace.

Correspondence Comhlámh 2nd Floor Ballast House Aston Quay Dublin 2 Ph 086 226 5802 E-mail:


Code of Conduct on Images and Messages Comhlámh is signatory to the Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages (for full document see http://www.comhlamh. org/resources-library.html or contact us for a copy of the Dóchas flyer). Feedback on this issue is most welcome – email: orla@

Illustration: Alice Fitzgerald.

Editorial: Stephen Rigney, Maeve Galvin, Ruth Doggett, Orla Purcell, Stiofainin Nic Iomhaird, Chloé- Saint-Ville, Carol Dwyer, Fleachta Phelan Photography: I. Irigoien, Miren Maialen Samper, Tax Justice Network

Design: Alice Fitzgerald (

Printed by Tralee Print Printed on recycled paper

The publication of Focus Action is grant aided by the Development Education unit of Irish Aid’ The views expressed herein are those of Comhlámh and can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of Irish Aid.

Honorary Patron, Mary Robinson. © Copyright Comhlámh 2009

Charity alone will never change the world

Join Comhlámh: take action for global justice In a world that seems so unfair, don't you wish that Ireland would stand up for justice? Yet there have been moments to be proud of when Ireland helped make a difference:

You can join in campaigns  

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against apartheid for the freedom of East Timor for debt cancellation

But these breakthroughs only happen because people - like you - demand change and make justice matter. For 34 years, Comhlámh (Irish for 'solidarity' and pronounced 'co-law-ve') has been educating and campaiging for global justice in solidarity with the developing world. Our members challenge the root causes of injustice and inequality - globally and locally.

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for Trade Justice against racism for aid that makes a difference

Comhlámh can also offer advice on overseas volunteering.

Sign up for membership at Join our activist network at

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Action: Talk to your MEP About Trade Justice In June 2009, there will be elections to the European Parliament taking place across all 27 EU member states. This is a key opportunity to put our opposition to Europe’s unfair trade deals on the political agenda and to help bring about a fairer approach to Europe’s trade with poor countries. We need you to lobby your candidates for the European Parliament about Europe’s unfair trade deals, and ask them to speak out on trade justice during their term representing you in Brussels. Opportunity for change 2009 presents key moments in which campaigners can make a real impact: June 2009 – All 27 member states will be going to the polls to elect their Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in early June (in Ireland the date is 5th June). People across Europe will be lobbying their MEPs and calling on them to speak out and take action on trade justice. Autumn 2009 – A new European Commission will be appointed providing an important opportunity for the EU to review its trade policy and adopt a new approach. Most importantly, of course, a new Trade Commissioner will be appointed, giving the chance for a new direction. Get Involved! We need your help in convincing the Irish candidates for the European Parliament to support a full-scale rethink of Europe’s trade policy. There are number of different ways that you can help us to do this. • I f you have 30 minutes: Write to one or more of your MEP candidates and ask them to sign our pledge in support of a review of Europe’s trade strategy. (A template letter for you to use, and the pledge card, are downloadable from http://www. • I f you have an hour: Make an appointment to go and visit one or more of your MEP candidates. Tell them why you think the EU’s current trade strategy is wrong and ask them to sign our pledge.

• If you have longer: Your MEP candidate may be holding a public meeting in your locality. Go along, link up with other concerned citizens, and raise the issue of trade in the meeting. Or you could organise a joint meeting with one or more of your MEP candidates to explain this issue and ask them to support the pledge. What should I ask my MEP candidates to do? Ask your MEP candidates to sign the pledge card (you can download it here - This pledge sets out what the candidates can do to support a rethink of Europe’s trade strategy if they get elected to the European Parliament in the June 2009 elections and commits them to doing so. Once your MEP candidates have signed the pledge, please send it back to Comhlámh so we can keep a record of which MEP candidates are supporting the campaign and can remind them of their promise in the future. What happens after the election? Comhlámh, and the EU-wide alliance, will use the information and pledges gathered to put pressure on elected MEPs to call for a rethink of European trade policies when the new parliament is in place later in 2009. Remember, this is just the beginning of the discussion, we will need your help to make sure they keep their promises in the years to come, by closely watching and reacting to the EU’s trade policy during the life of the next parliament. Even if you didn’t track down your candidates in advance of the elections, you can still write to those who get elected after June 5th and express your concern. Any queries? Email us at If you want to speak to someone in person, please call us on 01 4783490.

Bloom is:

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Europe’s Unfair Trade Deals The Background For many years, the European Union negotiated trade deals through the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the international organisation responsible for setting the rules of trade between countries. However, in recent years developing countries have successfully resisted the worst aspects of international trade deals proposed by rich countries like the EU and the US, and refused to agree to deals which will detrimentally affect their economies. Unable to get what they want through the WTO, the EU is now trying to secure trade deals directly with countries or regions. Since 2002, the EU has been negotiating free trade agreements with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. These so-called ‘Economic Partnership Agreements’ ostensibly have development and regional integration as their central aim, but ACP countries and campaigners have identified many problems with the negotiation process and with the deals themselves. As a result, Comhlámh and other organisations in Ireland have been voicing their concern about and opposition to these deals for many years. Meanwhile, in 2006, the EU set out its “Global Europe” trade strategy, which is aggressive in its approach and looks for serious concessions, beyond those being discussed at WTO level, from developing countries. The strategy identifies 34 countries for trade deals that will benefit European corporations at the expense of some of the world’s poorest people.

Why are these EU trade deals unfair? These trade deals are heavily influenced by the interests of European corporations, who want access to new markets and resources to maximise their profits. However, the deals could have disastrous impacts on jobs, livelihoods, human rights and the environment in the developing countries that sign up. The deals will ‘lock in’ a series of policies that will prevent these countries from providing for basic needs, reducing poverty, and developing their economy in a way that is sustainable and protects the environment.

The Global Europe agenda The countries targeted for trade deals with the EU are listed below. In total, these countries are home to 922 million people who live on less than US$2 per day.

To learn more about this issue, please download our lobby pack from here - or drop us a line with your postal address and we’ll send you one in the post.

The EU is negotiating trade deals with: 1. Central America (6 countries) 2. Association of South East Asian States (ASEAN)(7 countries) 3. Community of Andean Nations (4 countries) 4. Korea (1 country) 5. India (1 country) 6. Mediterranean (10 countries) 7. Mercosur (5 countries) 8.  In addition, the EU is also pushing trade deals (called Economic Partnership Agreements) with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (76 countries with 750 million people, including 39 Least Developed Countries).

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What are we calling for? Comhlámh, as part of an EU-wide network, is calling for the European Commission to: • Stop unfair EU trade deals with Africa, Asia and Latin America • Commit before the end of 2009 to rethink EU trade policy so that it prioritises development, environmental sustainability and human rights • Open up European trade policy to enable better democratic accountability and scrutiny by parliamentarians and civil society

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The Silent Chop – ODA Falls Victim to Recession Following the decision by the Irish Government to cut the overseas aid budget by a further €100 million, the fourth such cut since June 2008, Barry Dunning looks at the Overseas Development Aid and how the global recession is affecting it.


erhaps there are questions as to the effectiveness of Irish Aid. Perhaps there are ideas that it is funding corrupt dictators and supporting countries where there is a serious democratic deficit and marginal democratic space. Perhaps there is an annoyance at being preached to by pop stars, some of whom do not even pay taxes in this country. For whatever reason, the Irish Government has once again targeted overseas development aid (ODA) when they need to cut spending. This latest government cut to overseas aid, which took place in April, is out of all proportion with cuts in other areas. Since the beginning of 2009, the budget for ODA has been cut by €195 million, 21.8% of its Budget. However, the Irish economy is projected to fall by 8%,which would equate to a reduction of €71 million not €195 million. The government’s response to criticism of such actions is to shrug and say we can’t afford it. What is even more concerning however, is the muted public reaction to this move. Ireland’s target of committing 0.7% of GNP towards ODA by 2012 now seems most unlikely. Across the globe, states’ ODA budgets are shrinking, as is philanthropy. Several EU countries including Italy and Latvia have also cut funding to ODA. The Organisation for European Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that global spending on development aid fell in 2006 and 2007 and considering the financial crisis in 2008, it is safe to assume that this figure fell further last year. The EU’s target to double ODA by 2010 now looks unfeasible. Charities and voluntary organisations who work in the Global South have also reported a fall in donations.

Globally one in three people (over two billion) today live in conditions of unacceptable poverty. With the Irish and Northern media obsessed by the economic crisis and the meltdown in stock markets and banks, little light has been shed on how all of this affects the Global South, already in an economic crisis. Hans Zomer of Dóchas recently stated “This crisis is hitting poorer countries even harder then it is hitting us.” The demand for primary goods supplied by poorer countries is down, as are remittances, while the cost of food and fuel remain high. In addition to this, global warming is having a much larger effect in the Global South than in more developed countries. So, despite how badly the global recession is affecting Ireland and the western world, Archbishop Desmond Tutu summed it up perfectly when he said “Half of the world would love to be going through your recession.” Globally one in three people (over two billion) today live in conditions of unacceptable poverty. As the journalist Catherine Shanahan recently stated in the Irish Examiner, “It is a struggle that exhausts their lives”. In Ireland the average life expectancy is 78; in Uganda it is 52. Ireland’s HIV/ Aids prevalence rate is 0.1%; in Malawi it is 14.2%. In 2008 Ireland’s GDP was $47,800, in Timor Leste it was $2,500. Even a small cut in funding to a programme country, will have a major effect on the livelihoods and health of people there. As

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21.8% overseas development aid cuts in Ireland

well as implementing disaster relief in places such as Darfur and Ethiopia, Irish Aid also helps fund numerous projects which aim to develop sustainability and independence for people. One example is the developing of the Gregara Watershed in Northern Ethiopia to prevent soil erosion and increase the productivity of farmland. Maria McLoughlin, recently returned from working in South Africa in a project part funded by Irish Aid, worked as part of a counselling service for women and children who have been abused. She says: “Ireland are world leaders in developing policy in relation to gender based violence. A cut in spending will mean that the objectives that have been identified, such as mainstreaming the eradication of gender based violence as a development target, will not necessarily be met.” Similar to governments across the globe, the Irish government says that they remain committed to implementing the Millennium Development Goals. With the continued global economic downturn, it is likely that ODA will be hit in budgets worldwide. The relatively muted public reaction to the serious cuts that have already been implemented suggests that development aid may be viewed as a politically safe place to cut expenditure again. An idea that is gaining ground in Irish and global public perception is that charity begins at home, in other words that we must look after our own in times of economic crisis. But as Tom Arnold of Concern succinctly puts it “Charity may begin at home, but it does not end here.” It is the people without a voice, suffering the worst effects of the world recession that we are letting down. Whatever the merits and

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It seems that the Government and large sections of Irish society view development aid as a luxury which we can no longer afford.” demerits of development aid, and they are a discussion for another day, cutting aid affects the health and economic outcomes of people who are born with few opportunities in a very real and tangible way. Cutting this funding really is a matter of life and death. Ireland is well respected globally for the percentage and untied nature of our aid. If we are now to levy further swingeing cuts on aid we are sending an example to other countries that this is acceptable. While funding cuts are accepted and seen as inevitable in the current climate, it is the systematic targeting of ODA that is most concerning and that these cuts are out of all proportion with other Government cuts. In just nine months, the budget for ODA has been cut four times, by a total of €255 million. It seems that the Government and large sections of Irish society view development aid as a luxury which we can no longer afford. But it is those with no voices, who suffer the worst effects of the world recession and global warming who will be hit hardest by this decision, a knock on effect from the rampant capitalism of the past decade.

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In Response to Recession Miren Maialen Samper acted as a volunteer interpreter at the World Social Forum in Belém, Brazil. She explores how the current economic crisis provides opportunities for the reinvigoration of social movements calling for an economic framework that puts people before profit Indigenous activists at the Word Social Forum in Belém, Brazil


he eighth assembly of the World Social Forum (WSF) took place this year in one of the poorest economic regions of Brazil, Belém capital of the State of Pará in the Amazon region, from Jan 27th to February 1st. More than 130,000 participants from 142 countries gathered there for the event. They included representatives from social movements, indigenous communities, trade unions and religious organisations. This was a timely gathering as the WSF was created to counteract neoliberal capitalism, a framework now clearly in crisis Meanwhile in Davos, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum (WEF) was taking place, attended by the world’s elite and economic leaders, aiming to review the current global economic crisis. In contrast, the WSF participants called for an alternative financial system in the belief that “another world is possible.” While the WEF in Davos is an example of how the current neoliberal top-down system of globalisation has failed, the Belém gathering represents hope for a bottom-up globalisation by opposing neoliberal corporate policies and forging alternatives to neoliberalism. Nevertheless, Davos still gets more media attention; the media are interested in hearing world leaders and decision makers. It escapes them that these so-called “leaders” have caused the current economic crisis and are now tasked with identifying the best way out of it. Interestingly, the WSF in Belém brought together, for the first time, more heads of state than the WEF in Davos. In attendance were five Latin American presidents including Fernando Lugo, President of Paraguay, who participated at previous forums as an activist, and highlighted that “Paraguay has changed thanks to the support and hope from the social movements”. In Belém, Cândido Grzybowski, a founder of the WSF said: “This year was the best attended forum so far by grassroots activists and community members along with the participation of Amazonian social movements who discussed local models of development and alternatives”. The WSF discussed how corporate-led globalisation recognises a need for a paradigm shift in the world’s economy. Responding to the current economic crisis, WSF has increased its emphasis on alternative social, economic and political movements and its participants called for a new financial system which satisfies basic human rights such as decent work, food sovereignty and a fresh concept of wealth. WSF participant, Salete Camba, from the Paulo Freire Institute

stated: “Now that the economic crisis has discredited the World Economic Forum in Davos, this is the moment to put alternative proposals into practice”. However, the world has not yet changed, and civil society has yet to build and strengthen social movements to enable new alternatives to replace the current capitalist system. The current crisis presents an opportunity to motivate people who want to get involved in issues of international solidarity. For social movements, it offers an opportunity for reinvention and increased creativity and effectiveness. The WSF process calls for worldwide mobilisations and global days of action for a new financial system. These have already begun, starting with global mobilisations around the G20 on the 28th of March. More info on: www.choike. org and The main demands, calling for a new international financial system are as follows: - A more democratic UN to deal with the crisis and to put in place a new financial system - A new international monetary system based on a system of reserves with the creation of regional currencies in order to end the current dollar supremacy and to ensure international financial stability - A global mechanism of public control of the banks and financial institutions. The prohibition of hedge funds and over-the counter markets which escape public and citizen control. The eradication of speculation on commodities, namely on food and energy, by the implementation of public controls on prices - The dismantling of tax havens and sanctioning their users (individuals, companies, banks and financial intermediates): the creation of an international tax organisation to combat tax competition and evasion: the redistribution of earning including a fairer tax system at national level and the establishment of global taxes to be paid (on financial transactions, pollution) to finance global public goods.

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{ EU Election 2009 }

Put Development on the Agenda of your MEPs!

Will you ensure that EU aid protects poor countries and the most vulnerable within them? The growing global economic crisis will hit the most vulnerable people in the world– including women, children, the elderly, people living with disabilities and those affected by HIV and AIDS the hardest. However, many of the problems can be alleviated if EU aid remains focused on, and inclusive of, those who most need it.

Will you encourage the EU to be a world leader on tackling climate change, by implementing a global deal that will ensure that developing nations do not bear the financial burden? The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks on climate change are due to conclude in December 2009. The EU should ensure that vulnerable populations are not asked to bear the costs of lowering greenhouse gas emissions or adaptation to climate change, which they have not caused.

Will you work to strengthen the EU’s policies towards hunger eradication? Almost half the world’s hungry are small farmers who can’t produce enough food to feed themselves. Europe must focus on increasing investment in agriculture, food production and nutrition in developing countries.

Will you promote coordinated action by EU countries on tax evasion and on mandatory country-by-country reporting by transnational corporations of their profits and taxes? Tax evasion and illicit capital flows from Southern to Northern countries cost poor countries between €271 and €388 billion every year. Action as outlined above would help to increase financial transparency and force companies to pay all the taxes they should be paying.

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Will you call for a rethink of EU trade policy, to ensure it prioritises development, environmental sustainability and human rights? The EU is the world’s biggest exporter and has an enormous influence on world trade. Yet current EU trade policy is deeply unfair to developing countries as it continues to push for trade agreements that work against rather than for the world’s poorest countries.

{ EU Election 2009 }

The EU elections are coming any day now, and MEP candidates will be looking for your vote. We’ve compiled a handy list of questions to ask your candidates when you meet them. Keep it by the door so you’re ready if they come a knocking. You can also keep asking these questions throughout the life of the new parliament. MEPs are our representatives in Brussels and we must keep them on their toes!

Will you keep pressure on the EU and its member states to deliver on their world aid commitments? The EU currently gives over half of world aid and has promised to increase its aid spending to 0.7% of GNI by 2015. However, many Member States, including Ireland, are not on track to reaching these targets, and are slashing their aid budgets in the context of the financial crisis.

Will you actively scrutinise any EU trade agreements, especially ones with developing countries, to ensure they support and facilitate development objectives? Proposed Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA’s) currently in negotiation with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries seek to open up markets to EU exports at the expense of jobs and livelihoods in developing countries. Free Trade Agreements being negotiated under the ‘Global Europe’ strategy with other developing countries are even worse!

Photo: Fionuala Cregan

These questions are primarily based on the Dóchas manifesto which urges Irish MEPs to use their power for the benefit of the world’s poor, marginalised and vulnerable. There are many more important development-related issues on which MEPs can make a difference too. For more info see here: http://

Will you promote the cancellation of all debts, without conditions, for developing countries that need it? There is an urgent need for expanded, unconditional debt cancellation for poor countries and the cancellation of all illegitimate debts.

Will you insist that development be considered a separate issue from other EU foreign policy interests? This is important so that the EU keeps a clear focus on eradicating poverty, and that development is not used for other EU foreign policy objectives.

Will you call for reform of the global financial system, including equal representation for developing countries in the process? Developing countries have been calling for reform of the International Financial Institutions for many years. This is all the more important in a time of global financial crisis.

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{ Alternatives }

Local Government’s New Faces

As campaigning for June’s local elections got under way, Jeannie McCann spoke to some of the “new Irish” candidates.


hat with June’s local elections fast approaching, the number of “new Irish” candidates running for a place in the country’s councils and local authorities is at an all time high. So far, 22 new Irish hopefuls, from Pakistan to Poland and from Moldova to Nigeria, have been picked to run in the elections by mainstream parties. Fianna Fáil has selected eight candidates, Fine Gael and the Green Party have recruited six each and Labour has two. Issah Huseini is national coordinator of the New Communities Partnership, which aims to empower minority ethnic groups to participate in public life in Ireland. He thinks Barack Obama’s election as US president played a role in encouraging new Irish politicians over here: “It proves that ethnic minorities can do it. It has given great confidence.” But why would someone without ties to Ireland’s complicated Civil War politics join one of our larger parties? For Shaheen Ahmed, who comes from Lahore in Pakistan, family relationships were a motivation but not the only reason for his decision to run for Fianna Fáil in Lucan. “My wife’s family had a strong political influence on me and it was under their influence that I became a Fianna Fáil supporter.” he says. “But one of the key factors that attracted me to Fianna Fáil is the pragmatism and common sense that they

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show towards governing in this country.” Bartlomiej Bruzewicz, a Polish candidate for Fine Gael in Dublin’s north inner city says: “There were many reasons why I decided to join the party. Fine Gael is the most pro-EU and pro-immigration party.” His party colleague in Letterkenny, Michael Aboila Philips from Nigeria agrees: “Fine Gael is a party of integrity. In Letterkenny it has supported the new communities and embraced multi-culturalism.” Tendai Madondo from Zimbabwe, a candidate for the Green Party in Tallaght, was approached by several parties before she made her final decision. “The Greens have a globally centred policy that supports communities in bringing about social change,” she says. “They provide me with a structure of support and were very welcoming. They operate on a local level, support my initiatives and let me be me.” Some, however, prefer to keep their independence in representing the public. Ignatius Okafor from Nigeria is one of three new Irish candidates standing in Dublin 15. “I prefer to be independent as I don’t want to be handicapped by a party with limited policies,” he says. “I am independently minded and want to talk and deal with issues that affect people directly.” Whether party political or independently minded, most candidates decided to stand because they want to help their communities integrate into Irish society.

“I remember my grandfather telling me that all people are good and the right thing to do is to help people.” “I faced many challenges when I first arrived because I didn’t know how things worked here,” says Tendai. “Now I am more integrated I know many people who are going through similar things. I can have a positive impact on their lives.” Anna Banko, who is from Poland and is standing for Fianna Fáil in Limerick, says: “As I have quite good English I have been helping other Polish immigrants to fill in forms in the bank, go to the doctor and write CVs. It’s easier to help when a lot of people know your face.” At the same time, however, the candidates don’t want to be seen as solely concerned with immigration issues. Moldovan Elena Secas, who is standing in Limerick for the Labour Party, wants to represent all the people. “The issues people are talking to me about are better road conditions, better public services, more amenities for young and old and anti-social behaviour,” she says. Nigerian Frances Soney-Ituen is an independent candidate running in Kildare on behalf of the Women’s Integration

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Network. “The women involved are from all backgrounds and political affiliations,” she says. “And the challenges we face transcend all nationalities, the settled, travellers and immigrant communities.” For many of the candidates, the politics bug took hold before they came to Ireland. Shaheen was heavily involved in politics as a student and was a member of the Pakistani People’s Party, the party of Benazir Bhutto. Michael studied political science and education before becoming protocol officer for a state governor in Nigeria. Others, like Anna Banko, were influenced by family histories: “My father was involved with the Solidarity movement in 1980 and both my grandfathers fought against the Nazis in the Second World War. I remember my grandfather telling me that all people are good and the right thing to do is to help people.” But despite the enthusiasm shown by many new Irish for political activism, some communities, notably the Chinese, are not represented among the candidates. If our political leadership wants to include these communities, cautions Isaac, they will have to take a more active role in recruiting them. “Political parties need to get right down to the grassroots to encourage communities,” he says. “It is very important that ethnic minorities also have a voice in the political system.”

From top left: Anna Banko, Shaheen Ahmed, Tendi Madondo, Michael Abiola-Phillips From top right: Ignatius Okafor, Frances Soney-Ituen, Elena Secas, Bartlomiej Bruzewicz

For more info see: http://www.integratingireland. ie/local_and_eu_elections_2009_

Polling Day is June 5.

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{ Alternatives }

Grapefruit revolution Can boycotts be effective today? Thomas Geoghegan talks to Brendan Archbold, who in 1984 played his part in toppling apartheid South Africa.

Illustration: Alice Fitzgerald


hen twelve Dunnes Stores employees found themselves on a picket line in protest at the chain’s selling of South African goods, they were doing their bit in a global campaign that would finally tumble the apartheid regime ten years later. In 1984, riding a wave of world protest against apartheid, Brendan Archbold’s trade union, IDATU, issued a directive to its members to boycott South African goods. Many Irish stores caved in to their employees’ demands once they were put into action. “Best Menswear returned garments, Cleary’s returned shoes, Roches Stores stopped ordering wine from South Africa,” recalls Brendan. But it was when his colleague Mary Manning followed her union’s policy by refusing to check two Outspan grapefruits through the register that things heated up. “Dunnes Stores refused to give in and, in fact, had Dunnes Stores not suspended Mary that day, the strike may never have happened.” Anti-apartheid boycotts had happened before but it was this tense dynamic that catapulted the issue from a minor industrial dispute into a confrontation that would echo around the world. But change did not come quickly. “It was a difficult, difficult strike,” recounts Brendan. In addition to economic hardship - Mary lost her home - it was at times terrifying. When attempting to visit anti-apartheid campaigners in South Africa in 1985, Mary and Karen Guerin were detained at gunpoint by South African authorities for eight hours before being expelled from the country. But they also managed to propel the protest

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into the international media limelight. “After a year and a half of going nowhere with Dunnes Stores we targeted the Irish government and they eventually introduced sanctions against South Africa by banning the importation of their agricultural produce.” Brendan believes the government’s unilateral decision in 1987 to condemn the apartheid regime had the biggest impact. “As a symbol of what could be achieved by one small country, it was very significant. It put the global antiapartheid struggle on the map in Ireland and around the world. It was a demonstration of what solidarity really could achieve.” But what of boycotts today? Can they still be an effective or fair tool for fighting human rights abuses? Brendan remains a firm advocate of the boycott approach but thinks it should be labelled ‘handle with care’. Due to globalisation, it has become more difficult to call for blanket boycotts of entire corporations or countries. A boycott against Israel over its treatment of the Palestinian people is growing in Ireland and internationally and, as someone involved in the campaign, Brendan is careful to remind us that “the boycott weapon can be a very blunt weapon at times. If you say ‘boycott Israeli goods’, do you mean goods from Israel as it is now, or from the occupied territories, or goods produced in Israel by Palestinian workers?” This may be one of the problems with consumer boycotts. They tend to be diffuse and not always well thought through, but that is not to say that they are always counterproductive. “You can’t go around boycotting

As a symbol of what could be achieved by one small country, it was very significant. It was a demonstration of what solidarity really could achieve. everything, it would be too chaotic. With consumer boycotts, people react to something that arises and when it’s dealt with, they tend to forget about it but the problem can often continue or become worse.” Much more effective and ethical, Brendan believes, is genuine solidaritybased action. Brendan recalls the apalling conditions of banana plantation workers in Ecuador when he visited them as part of a trade union delegation and the lesson it taught him. “For any company, a boycott is very bad news. But I asked the plantation workers whether a boycott campaign would be an appropriate response to their problems. They said to me, ‘don’t even talk about a boycott!’. They felt it would do more harm than good, so we didn’t follow that up. That goes to show the power of boycotts either way, good or bad.” Further reading

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The climate countdown! (6 months to stop climate chaos) Now is the time for us to put climate change on the agenda. In 6 months crucial UN negotiations are happening in Copenhagen and we urgently need to demand that our government show leadership and play their part in securing a fair and safe global deal on climate change. Join other Stop Climate Chaos activists on Sandymount Strand in Dublin on June 13th 2009, 12pm take part in a fun and engaging action to persuade our politicians to act now on climate change. Watch this short film made by Friends of the Earth in Belgium and be inspired to join us and make our action extraordinary

Financial Fools Day Bloom members Africa Centre, Comhlámh, Debt and Development Coalition and Latin America Solidarity Centre along with the Seomra Spraoi Collective held a financial fool’s day on 1 April this year outside the the Bank of Ireland and AIB on College Green. We wanted to highlight the concerns from civil society about harmful practices in the financial sector that undermine democracy and social development, both locally and globally, and called for economic justice at home and around the globe. We collected a number of complaint forms from passers by and supporters to submit to the banks about their unethical practices, and held a conversation with managers of both branches about our concerns, requesting them to pass them onto their CEO. To read more about the event see here

Introductory Training on Partners ‘Intercultural Companion to Training for Transformation’ Comhlámh in collaboration with Partners Training for Transformation is proud to present this two day training introducing a key intercultural facilitation resource, Partners ‘Intercultural Companion to Training for Transformation’. This two day training offers opportunities to: • Learn about, become familiar with, and explore the thinking and principles behind the Companion. • Experience exercises and processes you might use with others. • Identify and prepare for ways in which you might use this resource in your context. • Explore and reflect on how you have been shaped by your own culture. It takes place on June 19th and 20th in the Irish Aid centre, O’Connell St, Dublin 1. Visit http://www. for more information or contact

A Bloom activist outside the Bank of Ireland in her financial fools finery!

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Tax Justice Campaign As the financial crisis exposes the urgent need for transformation of our financial and economic systems, there is a growing movement around the world to ensure that rich individuals and corporations pay the right amount of tax. It is estimated that countries of the Global South lose some US$160 billion per year due to corporate tax evasion. Crucially, Ireland has been classified by the International Monetary Fund as an ‘offshore financial centre’ and is therefore seen by many to be facilitating this injustice. Support Debt and Development Coalition Ireland (DDCI), Comhlámh and other organisations in calling for tax justice. Join DDCI’s campaign group and get active! Visit http://www.debtireland. org/. To read more about the impact of tax evasion on developing countries see Christian Aid’s excellent report here

Nessa Ní Chasaide from Debt and Development Coalition Ireland, calling for tax justice outside AIB’s branch in Jersey

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Comhlamh’s Volunteering Options One-to-One Advice Service Thinking of volunteering? Finding it hard to make a decision? Want to know more about the options available? 30 minute appointments are available with Comhlámh staff to talk through options for volunteering for global development. The next opportunity is on Thursday 4th June, 4.00 – 7.00pm in the Irish Aid Volunteering Centre, O’Connell Street. Booking essential! To book an appointment or find out about other opportunities to avail of this service please contact Kate on 01-4783490 or kate@comhlamh. org. Visit to learn more about how to volunteer responsibly and effectively.

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Interested in volunteering in a developing country?

Working for a Better World: a Guide to Volunteering in Overseas Development Available in shops now! You can also order copies from the Volunteering Options website The Volunteering Options programme is supported by Irish Aid

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