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ACTION FOR GLOBAL JUSTICE Issue 77 / Autumn 2006 ISSN 1649-7368

INSIDE The EPA negotiations / Illegitimate debt / Irish minorities in the media / A Muslim-Irish success story / Malaria: the forgotten killer / A changing image of global corruption / Forests of chocolate

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A San lady in Namibia harvests mahangu crops as part of a Dutch Reform Church agricultural project set up to provide cash incomes for local residents. (Source:

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{ 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 and Cork. 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.

Correspondence Comhlámh Dublin 10 Upper Camden Street Dublin 2 Ireland Ph +353-1-4783490 Fax +353-1-4783738 E-mail:

Editorial Team Conall O’Caoimh, Stephen Rigney, Thomas Geoghegan, Sadhbh Goggins, Derek O’Halloran. Additional writing: Colette Kinsella, Brian Lynch, Dier Tong, Jane S. Nalunga, Mazher Bari. Photography: . Illustration: Thomas Geoghegan.

Comhlámh Cork 55 Grand Parade Cork Ireland Ph +353-21-4275881 Fax +353-21-4275241 E-mail:

Design: Thomas Geoghegan ( Alice Fitzgerald ( The publication of Focus Action is grant aided by Trócaire, Christian Aid and by the Development Education Unit of Irish Aid.

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.

Printed by Eco Print Ltd: + 353 (1) 8368270

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.

Printed on Corona 100% post-consumer waste paper using biodegradable soy-based inks

© Copyright Comhlámh 2006

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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: ● ● ●

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But these breakthroughs only happen because people - like you - demand change and make justice matter. For 30 years, Comhlámh (Irish for 'solidarity' and pronounced 'co-law-ve') has been educating and campaiging for global justice in solidarity with the developing world.

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{ Call to Action }

Action: Dear Minister,

In 2006, in response to your calls to make poverty history, the Irish Government agreed do meet its commitment on aid. But when it comes to trade it is on course to let poor countries down. Together with other European countries, Ireland is part of a push to have some of the poorest nations on the planet sign up to grossly unfair trade deals - linked to the aid they receive from the EU.

Have you heard the one about Africa giving aid to Europe?

The deals are called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and we have to act fast! The lives of 750 million of the world’s poorest people are vulnerable as poor farmers and producers will be forced into direct competition with rich nations. We must stop these unfair trade deals before Africa and poor countries worldwide are forced to trade away their future.

Take Action Today! Send the attached postcard to Micheál Martin, the Irish Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Ask him to use his influence to stop these deals going ahead, to listen to the serious concerns of poor countries and to work with those countries to develop new deals that will help deliver trade justice. Comhlámh is a member of Trade Justice Ireland To fi nd out more visit Comhlámh, The Irish Association of Development Workers

No, it's not a joke. African countries will have to buy EU products in return for EU aid. The EU calls it Economic Partnership Agreements. We call it ...

giving with one hand and taking away with the other

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{ Trade Justice }

The EPA negotiations: Facing the moment of truth

Selling grain in Malagasy Market in Madagascar (Photograph from


ith the deadline looming for negotiations on the midterm review of the European partnership agreements between the EU and the African, Carribean and Pacific group of countries, the ACP countries have to make a very hard decision of whether to conclude the negotiations or not. Since the beginning of the negotiations, campaigners in both the North and South have questioned the worth of EPAs as a development tool and ACP ministers and negotiators have also started to come on board as far as questioning the EPAs as a development tool is concerned. Development has become the make or break issue for the negotiations. From the start of the process, ACP countries have insisted on using EPAs as a tool for the sustainable development of their countries. But, while the EU agrees to this in principle, it has different ideas on how to achieve it. The EU is calling for what it calls “proper policies”, meaning stringent rules on investment, access to EU markets and cheap EU goods being sold in the ACP market. The ACP countries on the other hand insist that development will only be achieved by building the supply side and marketing capacity of ACP countries because, without proper capacity, market access to the EU will be meaningless. Unfortunately, the EU has refused to bend on capacity, rejecting the proposed development components in ESA/EPA draft proposal as unacceptable. At a recent conference of trade

ministers in Brussels, Southern government representatives have been forthright in expressing their unhappiness with the EU’s stance. According to Senegal’s, Mamadou Diop, “to date, our development needs and concerns have not been taken on board by the EU.” Nigeria’s trade minister, Aliyu Modibbo, pointed out that the only incentive for many countries to sign up to EPAs is the chance to address supply side constraints. Without that development aspect, Minister Modibbo did not see the meaning in EPAs. Civil society campaigners have maintained that EPAs in their current form will lead to deindustrialization, job losses and increased poverty – and this is confirmed by impact assessment studies carried out in a number of ACP countries. Minister Diop has expressed his fear that reciprocal relations with the EU will widen the gap and destroy the little development his country has achieved. So what next? The ACP trade ministers at the Brussels meeting were very clear about the way forward. The Fijian trade minister, Kalipate Tavola proposed a return to the basics of earlier agreements by developing EPAs in line with the development dimension. Minister Diop argued that an agreement by ACP countries to the EPA in its current form was tantamount to signing a blank cheque. However, finding acceptable alternatives will take time, and the EU has argued that it is not feasible to drag out the negotiations for much longer. ACP negotiators should not

be terrorized by such deadlines, according to the Barbadian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dame Millers, because this would not be the first extension, and, in any case, the agreements are predicated on a resolution of the Doha Round - which stubbornly refuses to end. If ACP leaders are so convinced that EPAs in their current form will lead to the increased impoverishment of the ACP economies and peoples, they must make some hard decisions by saying no to the EPAs. Unity of purpose among ACP stakeholders, from civil society campaigners, through bureaucrats and ministers to presidents, will be essential if a refusal is to be heard. Sadly, too often in the past, years of painstaking negotiations have been wrecked by one dissenting telephone call or statement from a single dissenting president. The major challenge facing ACP countries is standing together at this very critical time, to make sure EPAs can bring development not just profits for EU companies. ACP leaders have shown they are able to talk the talk but are they ready now to walk the walk?

Jane S. Nalunga is Ugandan Country Director of SEATINI, an African organisation campaigning for a better deal in trade negotiations for the continent.

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{ Debt cancellation }

Norway leads the way on illegitimate debt Norway has wiped the slate clean of the illegitimate debt it imposed on a number of developing countries through a controversial failed development initiative, writes Brian Lynch.

Artistic representation of a totally useless ship which has run aground, symbolising the injustice of Norway’s debt incurred by developing countries to prop up the country’s shipping industry. (Source: Google)


hen Norway’s minister for international development announced the cancellation of tens of millions of euro in illegitimate debts, he was fi nally wiping the slate clean of an embarrassing chapter in Norway’s “development” history. Between 1976 and 1980, the Norwegian government hit on the idea of offering cheap loans to 21 developing countries to buy Norwegian ships as a handy way of supporting its flagging ship building industry in Norway. The loans may have worked for Norwegian shipbuilders but did little beyond putting the ships’ new owners into ever more debt. The loans have long been held up by debt campaigners as another example of “illegitimate debt” – loans offered with the full knowledge that they’ll do more harm than good to recipient countries. Ecuador was landed with debts of $59 million for four ships, even though their whereabouts were a mystery. A 2003 report by Jubilee Norway was scathing of its government’s developmental intentions: “Many of the projects lacked a satisfying evaluation by NORAD

(The Norwegian Developmental Aid Agency) to ensure developmental effect, and in some cases by GIEK (the export credit institute of Norway) to ensure the economic viability of the projects.” Norway is writing off a total of 62 million in remaining debt owed for ships by Egypt, Ecuador, Peru, Jamaica, Sudan, Burma and Sierra Leone. But the money won’t be available straight away for some countries. The debt for the Sudan and Burma will only be cancelled when these countries

Norwegians now have less reason to go redfaced at the mention of loans for ships become eligible for multilateral debt relief operations. In the case of Sierra Leone, the debt will not be cancelled until the country has completed IMF imposed reforms, which are due to be finalised in 2007. Responding to the initiative, ActionAid Sierra Leone said, “We hope that the Norwegian announcement will now

prompt other creditor countries to open public and serious enquiries into their lending policies and practices of the past.” For Hugo Arias, co-ordinator of Jubileo Guayaquil in Ecuador, “This is a victory for organisations that work to cancel debts that violate human rights and that have fraudulent and corrupt origins.” However, he still thinks Ecuador has paid too much: “The original debt we contracted in Ecuador was for $59 million and Ecuador has paid $100 million for these ships yet a debt of $35 million was still left on the books. This means that Norway owes us more than $100 million and they should support the return of this money.” Still, Norwegians now have less reason to go red-faced at the mention of loans for ships. “Norway now cancelling illegitimate debt and admitting co-responsibility for a failed development initiative is simply historic,” says Kjetil Abildsness, chairperson of Jubilee Norway. “It’s the end of an embarrassing story for our country.” For more on illegitimate debt, go to

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{ Integration }

Telling an Irish-Muslim success story Irish Muslims can tell a long and honourable story about their participation in this country. Now, however,. sensationalist media coverage threatens to set back years of tolerance and integration, writes Dr. Mazher Bari.


hen the first Muslim came to Ireland in the 18th century, it was the first chapter in a long and successful tale of positive contributions by Muslims to Irish society. Ireland’s Muslim community has managed the difficult task of integrating into Irish society while remaining true to its diverse ethnic and religious identities. The Muslim community is an important part of Ireland’s growing patchwork of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. Ireland’s Muslims are a diverse group themselves, comprising people who have lived in Ireland for many years – generations in some cases – as well as more recently arrived migrants. Most Irish people have encountered Muslims doctors and consultants in hospitals throughout the country – where they serve at the forefront of the health service to deliver vital services to their communities. Muslim businessmen and entrepreneurs – my father among them – came to these shores in the 1970’s, to started businesses which now employ thousands of people in the retail and food sectors. Our Celtic tiger economy has attracted huge numbers of Muslim students, IT and financial professionals, who bring skills that help to ensure Ireland’s continued prosperity. The second and third generation offspring of all these earlier waves of Muslim immigrants are now growing up as Irish citizens, well integrated into their communities and happy with their identities. However, recent months have seen

a worrying trend in media and public discourse in Ireland. While most media reports are fair and unbiased in covering the Muslim community, there has also been an increase in alarmist, selective and sensationalist journalism in a minority of newspapers. As well as causing hurt and offence to Muslims in Ireland, if these stereotypes are left unchallenged, they could help prepare the ground for an upsurge of Islamophobia in this country. It’s important that we encourage balanced reporting and discussions informed by a variety of sources, including voices from the Muslim community itself. But we must also seek to highlight the damage that could be done to intercultural relations as a consequence of irresponsible or sensationalised media stories. I am optimistic that diversity in people and faith will make a positive contribution to Ireland and make us a stronger nation for the challenges ahead in the 21st century. But, for the benefits to be had, our media will have to listen to Ireland’s new voices before it passes judgment on them. Dr. Mazhar Bari is Programme Manager at the Physics Department & CRANN, Trinity College Dublin, a member of the steering group of the NPAR (www. and an executive member of the Association of Pakistanis in Ireland (

Dr. Mazhar Bari is Programme Manager at the Physics Department & CRANN, Trinity College Dublin

Some Facts about the Muslim Community in Ireland • Current estimates put the Muslim population in Ireland at between 25,000- 30,000. • The Muslim community in Ireland is extremely diverse in terms of nationality and ethnicity. Most of Ireland’s Muslims are Sunni. • Some Muslims in Ireland have been here for many years and are Irish citizens. Many more are 2nd and 3rd generation Irish Muslims. • In more recent years the number of Muslims in Ireland has increased, with immigrants from countries such as China, Egypt, France, Great Britain, Indonesia, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa. • The first Muslim organisation in Ireland, the Dublin Islamic Society, was formed in 1959 by a group of Muslim students. • The Muslim community is well organized, with a number of mosques, two Muslim schools established under the Department of Education and Science and many societies.

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{ Southern Voices { Something in Ireland }}

Joining the Community Recent research commissioned by the Africa Centre sought to measure levels of civic participation amongst the African Community in Ireland. Dier Tong tells Derek O’Halloran about the results. The African community in Ireland – participating or feeling left out? I think the most important thing we discovered with the research was that the African community are interested in playing an active part in Irish society. This report has shown their willingness to participate. However, some problems emerged that need to be dealt with. Many of the problems are common to most people in Ireland, like the pressures of work and finding affordable child care. Some, on the other hand, are specific to immigrants. For instance, language problems can make it very difficult to engage meaningfully in Irish society. Racism and discrimination can also be an unwelcome presence. The result is that immigrants can feel unwelcome or that they don’t have the same opportunities as Irish citizens and that can be a disincentive to integrating. Working long hours but finding time to help the community Many Africans reported being focussed on earning a living. Most are working in low paid jobs, where the only way to make more money is to work more hours. They are left with little time to interact or engage in community activities. Having said all that, I understand from Volunteering Ireland that a high percentage of the people who apply to volunteer are in fact immigrants. I suppose that’s because Irish people are often busy and don’t have the opportunity to volunteer, whereas for migrants, volunteering can be a way of building connections and experiences here in Ireland.

Dier Tong (Left), Africa Centre coordinator, with Mubarak Habib, Africa Centre Refugee Project Officer.

Why not offer an amnesty? One of the findings of the report was that some asylum seekers, who are wondering whether they will be deported tomorrow, don’t see why they should engage in the community. The Government could widen the space for including these people through a blanket amnesty for those who’ve lived in Ireland for several years. Many of them are victims of an underdeveloped asylum system, which has forced them into years of uncertainty. Why not give them an amnesty? The Irish Government is making the same argument in America – some Irish immigrants have lived there for years, so why not give them a chance? The same could be argued in Ireland.

What’s next? We’d like to see the creation of a National Consultative Forum for the immigrant and minority community, so there’s a structure in place to facilitate dialogue when issues arise. Unfortunately, that’s not happening now because of the lack of capacity amongst immigrant organisations. The assumption is that mainstream Irish NGOs represent the views of immigrants but, while they may have members of minority communities involved, they don’t always reflect their opinions. There certainly is a role for the NGO’s, but at the same time I think there’s a need for a direct kind of representation, an independent view that comes directly from immigrant communities.

African voices in Irish politics The survey recorded low levels of involvement by Africans in the political sphere. Again, this is often because they regard politics as less important than earning a living. On the other hand, the results are mirrored by the relatively small numbers of Irish people who are actively involved in politics. Still, we think that its important for political parties to ensure there are no obstacles to immigrants joining. We’re also advocating the development of a shadowing scheme, whereby immigrants interested in politics could shadow a TD in order to become familiar with the Irish political system. We’re working hard to get immigrants to vote in next year’s general election. Where there are strong concentrations of migrants, like the Taoiseach’s Dublin Central constituency, we could have some influence.

Why integration matters… I don’t believe in all these theoretical definitions of integration. I think it’s just important to feel normal in society, just that feeling of normality. To those of us in the first generation of immigrants you have another identity, for instance I’m Sudanese - you can live within yourself! But for the second generation who know little of their parents’ backgrounds it is Ireland really that’s their home and if they feel later in life that they’re not accepted as Irish, then I think that’s really where problems will arise. The Africa Centre report, ‘Inclusive Citizenship in 21st Century Ireland’ can be found at: iWeb/Africa%20Centre/Home_ files/ACReppdf_1.pdf

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{ Election 2007 }

If our TDs come a’knockin’, get these questions a’rockin’ The next general election is around the corner, and our TDs will be coming around looking for your vote. So that you’re prepared, Focus Magazine suggests a few questions you could ask the nation’s hopefuls before you mark their name on your ballot.

Will you work to increase transparency in how the EU works? We need to strengthen the role of the European Parliament and the Oireachtas in Europe’s foreign policy areas such as trade and military interventions.

Will you establish a commission on corruption which examines how aid money is spent, but also how European companies pay bribes and how international institutions serve rich countries rather than the poor?

Will you replace the current Immigration Bill with a law which promotes inclusion and long-term security for migrants?

Will you press for illegitimate developing country debts to be cancelled? Those who lent money irresponsibly, for arms, or for ‘white elephants’ should not be repaid.

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{ Election 2007 }

Will you pass legislation ringfencing the 0.7% aid budget? Without framing in law the commitment made at the UN we don’t know if any government will keep its promise.

Will you press for international aid to be given without economic conditions? Aid recipients should be accountable for how money is spent, but not pressed to take on policies they don’t believe in. It is their development process, not ours.

Will you stop the EU using its aid to press African, Caribbean and Pacific countries into free trade areas with Europe via the Economic Partnership Agreements?

Will you make development coherence an obligation for all departments? There need to be mechanisms to check that other departments are not undermining development.

Will you insist on changes to how the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO make decisions? Those countries most affected by their decisions have least say in the international institutions.

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{ Global Health }

The Poor Killer Poverty is one of the main reasons SubSaharan Africans have not been able to control a devastating disease, writes Colette Kinsella.


t kills around one million people every year, mostly African children. It is preventable, curable and occurs mostly in impoverished, sub-Saharan Africa. According to UN sources it costs the continent more than $12 billion annually in lost production, and could be controlled for much less. What is it? Malaria. Most of us know the parasite which causes the disease is carried by mosquitoes, and we usually take an anti-malarial drug if we go on safari. But fewer are aware of the human and economic impacts the disease still has on the developing world. The disease is very old, having been around since ancient times. It was prevalent in Europe until the last century - more soldiers died from the disease in World War I and World War II than from enemy fire. The disease had been eradicated in Europe, America and other wealty countries. So why is it still around? Because, like many communicable diseases, malaria is mainly a disease of poverty. There is no vaccine, so where people have the means to protect themselves – by living in screened houses or draining swamps – malaria can be controlled. But when they don’t have the means, the disease thrives. And few African countries have the means to either protect their citizens or sustain eradication

campaigns. A significant stumbling block is access to affordable treatments and drugs. Many strains of the parasite are resistant to the most widely available and cheapest anti-malarial drug, chloroquine, and other more expensive options are often out of the question for their already beleaguered health systems. Control campaigns tend to focus on preventing infection by stopping the bugs from biting. Insecticide-treated mosquito

[Malaria] had been eradicated in Europe, America and other wealty countries. So why is it still around? nets are one of the most important tools in this respect. According to the World Health Organisation, their use could save the lives of 500,000 African children per year. Sadly, nets are not widely available for the most vulnerable – and in some cases, local weather conditions or certain tribal customs discourage people from using them. The pesticide, DDT, was used successfully to fight malaria in the US in the early 1950s. The insecticide was banned by

many countries in the 1970s, but the WHO has since recognised its value as an important anti-malaria tool and partially lifted the ban in 2000. Some endemic countries, unable to afford other methods, are now allowed to use the pesticide in limited circumstances. Despite the fact that organisations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the WHO are channelling resources to combating the disease, malaria remains a major problem in Africa. So where to go from here? The obvious solution is intrinsically linked with the eradication of poverty. Empowering communities to help themselves is one of the ways to roll back the disease. We in the wealthier parts of the world managed it, and our Southern neighbours should be given the chance to do the same.

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{ Corruption }

Changing the image of global corruption Contrary to popular perceptions of Africa as a corrupt and helpless continent, Thomas Geoghegan finds that African governments and people are taking major steps in combating the problem themselves.





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hether involving planning scandals in Ireland, oligarchs in Russia or rows over the World Bank’s anticorruption policies, corruption is never far from the headlines – or the public mind. That’s only right, given that corruption is linked to political instability, economic crises, human rights abuse and environmental degradation. The World Bank has estimated that a whopping $1 trillion is spent each year on bribery. In 1999, 294 multinational corporations paid a total of $148 billion in bribes to win contracts – more than the entire global aid budget! But when it comes to fighting corruption, definitions are everything. “Are our understandings of corruption, corrupt?” asks Eilish Dillon, lecturer at the Kimmage Development Studies Centre, “They are often underpinned by Eurocentric assumptions about how ‘others’ should behave. “As such, vague or inappropriate understandings of corruption can fail to reflect upon complex interests or power relations involved in development, and divert attention away from deeper issues, including structural injustice. We therefore need to be clear about what is meant by ‘corruption’; when the language of ‘corruption’ is helpful or not; and when alternative language, for example, the language of ‘rights’, is needed in order to tackle injustice.” The World Bank has defined corruption as “the abuse of public power for private gain.” But critics have argued that, while the Bank’s definition may finger crooked politicians and greedy civil servants, it lets other guilty parties – like bribe-giving multinational corporations – off the hook. In response, explains Conall O’Caoimh, policy officer in Comhlámh, the definition has shifted to mean the abuse of entrusted power in the pursuit of personal wealth, power

or status. “Corruption is basically the abuse of trust by anyone with the power to make decisions that affect others, and it is the world’s poor and vulnerable who bear the brunt,” he says. “For example, a local doctor may charge a fee for what should be a free health service, or the IMF or aid donors may impose certain conditions on aid to a developing country which serves the interests of multinational corporations, such as water privatisation in Latin America.” A changing image of corruption Corruption occurs anywhere there is a mix of inclination and opportunity, but the overriding media image of corruption is of African regimes which loot Irish taxpayers’ aid money at the expense of their people who are helpless to do anything about it. But such a negative image belies the immense strides that both governments and civil societies in Africa are taking to fight corruption. In 2001, the Lesotho government prosecuted the CEO of a major hydroelectric project for accepting bribes from Western multinationals in return for lucrative contracts to the tune of $6 million. After a lengthy court battle and little foreign assistance, the Lesotho government succeeded in prosecuting four of the firms, fining them each $2 million. According to Afrobarometer, which tracks African public opinion, most Africans condemn corruption and cronyism, while Africans perceive less corruption today than they did six years ago. In Uganda, for example, a survey was conducted in the mid-1990s to see if school grants were reaching their destinations. The study found that 77 percent of grants went missing, mostly stolen by local officials. When the national press highlighted this, the Ugandan government teamed up with community groups to reverse the situation.

With everyone


.org www.unodc

A follow-up survey in 2001 found that, through empowering civil society to hold civil servants to account, the money lost fell to just 13 percent. Much more important for Africans is the establishment of democracy. In the 1980s, only three countries could have been considered democratic but by the mid-1990s, over 40 countries had held multi-party elections. Slowly but surely the kinds of checks and balances we expect at home are being built in Africa. Several corrupt leaders have been charged, and in some cases imprisoned, for bribery and embezzlement. Former Zambian president, Frederick Chiluba, has since 2003 been facing 233 counts of theft totalling over $40 million. The Zambian Anti-Corruption Task Force, which was established by current President Mwanawasa, has investigated hundreds of companies and frozen the assets of many accused of corruption. As long as those who abuse their power and others’ trust get away with it, there will be stories of corruption to report. But it’s no longer fair to simply blame African governments while ignoring the multinationals and secretive banks who facilitate illicit payments. After all, it does take two to bribe.

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{ Media & cultural diversity }

New Faces on the Late Late Show There’s a profusion of media catering for Ireland’s new immigrant communities. But is Ireland’s new diversity being reflected in the mainstream media? Derek O’Halloran takes a look?


tep out onto the streets of any town or city and you’ll witness the diversity that is a defining aspect of Ireland’s recent changes. The phenomenon is nowhere more apparent than in the throngs of faces and voices from all over the world walking along Dublin’s O’Connell Street. But how is this diversity of culture and background reflected in our media? Well, the answer to that depends on which media outlets you examine. There’s a booming minority media sector, serving the needs of Ireland’s vibrant minority

communities. Among these, the Polish and Chinese communities each have several titles vying for attention. The profusion of minority media isn’t confined to papers and magazines. The new City Channel which broadcasts in Dublin, Galway and Waterford hosts both Polish and African specialty programmes, while Anna Livia radio includes minority programming in its schedule on a daily basis. And minority programming isn’t limited to the Dublin metropolitan area. Ade Oke is a past recipient of a Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Award (MAMA) for his show

The Rainbow, which broadcasts on Kilkenny -Carlow Local Radio. The MAMA awards, produced in association with RTE, recognise and reward work that promotes crosscultural understanding and cooperation. Ade sees his show as a forum where minorities and the mainstream Irish community can learn about each other. “Where two cultures meet, learning has to take place,” he says. “My programme is a medium for cultural exchange and understanding because, where problems arise between communities, it’s mostly because of a lack of information and

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{ Media & cultural diversity }

knowledge.” Multicultural programming, he says, can bridge that gap by creating a space for meaningful communication. Chinedu Onyejelem, the editor of Metro Éireann, and the man behind the MAMAs, thinks there’s a growing market for minority media. He sees the booming ethnic media sector is part of a natural cycle which in time will change as migrants integrate and minority and majority conceptions of identity adjust. For now though, the proliferation of new media outlets serve a crucial role for minorities by providing news of home and useful tips on their adopted culture. However, most of these new media are focussed at new communities, often in their own languages, so, even though it performs a valuable service, they can sometimes reproduce the divisions already apparent in society. The result is that, within what seems like an increasingly diverse society, many people live in parallel worlds that rarely intersect. How can media outlets targeting particular minorities or ethnic groups remedy that disconnection? Mainstream media seems the obvious place for a broader engagement with the issues thrown up by our new multiculturalism. A number of mainstream media have made the effort to explore issues of identity and mutual understanding. Mary Fitzgerald’s excellent series The Faces of Islam in the Irish Times, did much to go beyond the lazy stereotyping of Muslims, by delving into the diversity of Islam at home and abroad. RTE has also introduced a multicultural element in their programming through shows like No Place Like Home, and Mono, which told the stories of minorities living in Ireland. John MacMahon, who commissions programmes with multicultural content for RTE, says the channel is currently in the process of developing a broad policy on multiculturalism. He highlights programmes like Fair City, which incorporates minority storylines into its script, as examples of what RTE is doing to reflect our new diversity. But when asked about the numbers of minority media professionals employed in RTE, he freely admits they are conspicuous by their absence. “People from different cultural backgrounds, you don’t see too many of them round here,” he says. However, he feels things will change over the next few years, adding that Ireland’s new diversity has come about quite rapidly and that it will

take time for minorities to filter through. John’s not the only one to have noticed the dearth of minorities working in the mainstream Irish media. “There’s little or no ethnic diversity in the mainstream Irish media,” is Chinedu Onyejelem’s blunt reply to the same question. Shalini Sinha laughs at the notion that she’s probably the most high profile media professional from a minority background in Ireland. Academic, activist and presenter of the popular Mono, she moved into broadcasting after gaining attention for her anti-racism work. For her, the lack of minorities working in the media means that it’s essentially failing in its duty to properly inform the

“We find some voices easier to hear. There are some voices that we haven’t noticed we’re not listening to.” public. “When you include people with different identities then you have different perspectives and a more accurate picture of what’s going on in society,” she says. “Without that diversity,” she maintains, “you can’t actually say in the broadest sense of the word that you are publishing the truth.” She notes that, although Ireland’s diversity is a relatively new phenomenon, quite a few practising journalists have moved here from other countries. That hasn’t translated into a greater presence in the mainstream media. While Chinedu Onyejelem says minority journalists often encounter the perception that their level of knowledge about Irish culture precludes them from working in the media, he doesn’t accept this assessment. “Given the opportunity, people would retrain. Many immigrants are interested in acquiring new skills and knowledge and I think immigrants could comfortably compete with Irish journalists.” He says that in the broadcasting sector an individual’s accent is often cited as a reason why they mightn’t fit into the Irish media-scape. “But I don’t accept that foreign accents would put people off. How about

Americans? Their accent is not Irish but people make an effort to understand them. Wouldn’t an audience make the same allowance to understand other immigrants?” “If someone’s right for the job, accent shouldn’t matter, as long as a person can communicate well and do the job,” says John MacMahon. But, he adds, “that’s not to say that accent’s not a factor.” Ultimately it comes down to whoever’s doing the hiring and their conception of what constitutes an acceptable accent. “We find some voices easier to hear. There are some voices that we haven’t noticed we’re not listening to,” says Shalini Sinha. Even though she’s become a prominent media presenter, doesn’t it grate that Mono is packaged as a multicultural programme, separated in effect from the rest of the schedule and marked as different? “I would consider Mono to be a mainstream programme,” she says. “People said it was a minority programme. But the issues and stories we covered would appeal to anyone. I think those stories can be extremely powerful in breaking down barriers, in that you get an insight into the depth of humanity, regardless of background.” Shalini currently writes a health related column in the Irish Times, amongst other projects. Ade has followed her media career and thinks she’s making the right moves. Ultimately, he thinks minority media professionals need to address a mainstream audience, and not be set apart because of their ethnicity or background. “She’s moving into the mainstream,” he says. “We should be taking our cue from her.” “I‘d like to see ethnic minorities working in the Irish Times, the Irish Independent and in RTE,” says Chinedu Olyejelem. “I’d like to see Metro Eireann, currently a multicultural publication, become a mainstream paper. Because when we talk about multiculturalism, we’re talking about everyone in modern Ireland, not just about ethnic minorities.” Shalini Sinha couldn’t agree more, “I think it’s extremely important we have minorities presenting mainstream programmes. If someone from a minority background were to present a Saturday evening chat show, one of the most normal things in Irish society – that would send a message that diversity is the norm.”

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{ Environment }

Forests of Chocolate


heobroma cocoa, the source of guilt for many a chocoholic, originated along the banks of the Amazon basin, deep within the rainforests of Latin America. This plant, once treasured by ancient Indian civilisations, has lost none of its allure in the modern world. Unfortunately, conventional cocoa is one of the world’s most commonly sprayed crops, often grown on land cleared of its natural rainforest, in order to make harvesting of the large, pink cocoa pods easier. Paradoxically, cocoa grows in its natural habitat as a shade plant, and actually requires the cover of the rainforest canopy to grow. In this habitat it is more disease resistant and the flowers are more easily fertilised by the insects from the rainforests. In Ocumare de la Costa, in Venezuela, one group of farmers are taking advantage of the cocoa plants’ environmentally friendly growth needs to produce organic cocoa. The majority of this produce is exported to the USA and Europe, with a small percentage being sold to Venezuelan companies. Many of the farmers are in, or near the Henry Pittier National Park and are benefiting from the Proyecto Pittier: parque, hombres y cocao (Pittier Project: park, men and cocoa). This sustainable development project aims to preserve the natural environment of the reserve, whilst supporting the work of the cocoa farmers. Many of Venezuela’s rainforests have been lost over the years, to the point that it is now one of the ten most deforested countries.

The Proyecto Pittier is part of the Venezuelan government’s efforts to halt this destruction, while also giving farmers a sustainable form of income. Currently, organic cocoa gets four times the price of non-organic cocoa.

Before the project, all the farmers produced cocoa in short cycles, with a bad effect on the environment. Now they’ve recovered many areas that were abandoned. Funding has come from several sources including the EU, the British embassy in Venezuela, the World Bank and Philip Morris – via a local NGO, Tierra Viva. Alejandro Luy, the director of Tierra Viva describes the benefits of the project: “Before the project, all the farmers produced cocoa but they did it in short cycles, with a bad effect on the environment. Now they’ve changed this way of production and recovered many areas that were abandoned.” The farmers have formed an association of both organic and non-organic cocoa producers as well as a consortium with Tierra Viva. Roughly half of the members

Photos courtesy of Terra Viva.

By growing cocoa plants in its natural rainforest habitat, a group of Venezuelan farmers are able to produce organic cocoa while preserving the forests. Sadhbh Goggins goes off to look for the chocolate. of the association are organic farmers, who generate 57% of the production. Since 2002, the incomes of the organic farmers have risen by up to one-third, while the price of cocoa has become higher. “They have managed to influence the price of cocoa and bring it up considerably,” says Alejandro. “They have recovered an ancestral practice called Cayapa o Manu Vuelta (One Hand Helps Another), a form of co-operative work, which helps to overcome some economic restrictions.” Due to the success of the project, there are currently 15-20 farming units waiting to join. Those involved are more than willing to expand. “We are the ones selling and commercialising. We had an increase in the price and we need to work together to get a higher volume,” says Jose Gregorio Lugo, one of the organic farmers involved with the project. Unfortunately, most of the produce is sold abroad for processing, as Venezuelan buyers currently don’t have the capacity to process and export their own chocolate. But perhaps in the future, we may see Venezuela benefiting 100% from their natural resources. In the meantime, the farmers can enjoy a better income, producing better cocoa and preserving the rainforests upon which their livelihoods depend. Additional contributions by Elena Garcia. To find out more about the project, go to

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{ Action News }

A reminder Trading into Poverty? from activists: Will EPAs support or poverty is not undermine development? yet history As long as they continue to be saddled with debts like the $2 billion owed for a nuclear power station that never worked, there’s little chance of poverty becoming history in the Philippines. That was the message from Lidy Nacpil, Philippines co-ordinator for Jubilee South at a conference held recently by Comhlámh and the Debt and Development Coalition. Speakers at the conference discussed the issue of illegitimate power in international relations and asked where next for debt cancellation and trade justice. Lidy criticised the way illegitimate debts are forced on countries - like the Bataan nuclear plant in the Philippines, which was built as a result of a corrupt deal between former dictator Ferdinand Marcos and US defence contractor Westinghouse. Gyekye Tanoh, who works for the Third World Network in Ghana, took up the issue of global justice. Criticising the structures which put state power and corporate profit over people, he called for a united front to challenge the unjust impacts of globalisation. Finally, Su-Ming Khoo from NUI Galway tied the strands together by describing the history of illegitimate debts and how they continue to burden the people of the global South. The clear reminder for Irish activists from the conference is until rich countries stop taking handouts from the global South through illegitimate debt and unfair trade, poverty will never be a thing of the past.

A roundtable event organised by Trade Matters, (a coalition of Irish NGOs and ICTU, of which Comhlámh is a member) was held in the European Commission office in Dublin during October. Opened by development minister, Conor Lenihan TD, invited speakers included Timothy Kondo a Zimbabwean trade unionist and Henry Weijja a representative of Tanzanian farmers (photographed). Also Junior Lodge, representative of the Caribbean countries in Brussels, Paul Goodison of the European Research Office and Diana Acconcia of the European Commission. The lively debate covered a range of crucial issues for developing countries regarding current negotiations on EPAs.

Of particular concern to the Southern representatives was the extent of trade liberalisation expected of developing countries in what is supposed to be an ‘aid’ agreement. If EPAs are to go ahead, ‘aid for trade’ packages must ensure the transformation of developing countries into vibrant economies and not reproduce unequal trade relationships that have kept them in cycles of poverty. The event was an open, frank, and at times entertaining opportunity for those at the coalface of negotiations to exchange views and hopefully to cooperate on working out a better deal for the world’s poor. A fuller report is available on

Colin Roche of Oxford Ireland (left), and invited speakers Henry Weijja a representative of Tanzanian farmers (centre) and Timothy Kondo (right), a Zimbabwean trade unionist. (Photograph: Conall O’Caoimh)

Mwahahaha! Here’s a few scary pictures of the ghastly ghouls and cross-dressing politicians, dasterdly devils and vicious vampires who were lucky enough to score tickets for the Hallowe’en fundraiser for Comhlámh’s Anti-Racism Project.

Guest speaker Lidy Napcil, Philippines Coordinator for Jubliee South and Nessa Ní Chasaide, co-ordinator of the Debt and Development Coalition Ireland. (Photograph: Conall O’Caoimh)

It was a fabulous, glamourous – not to mention flamboyant – evening and a great time was had by all, with the odd fright to liven up the general Hallowe’en mayhem and craic.

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Have you heard the one about Africa giving aid to Europe?

No, it's not a joke. African countries will have to buy EU products in return for EU aid. The EU calls it Economic Partnership Agreements. We call it ...

giving with one hand and taking away with the other For more information visit

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Focus magazine, issue 77, autumn 2006  

The EPA negotiations / Illegitimate debt / Irish minorities in the media / A Muslim-Irish success story / Malaria: the forgotten killer / A...