AROUND AFRICA
June/July 2001


Table of Contents
AFJN Welcomes New Executive Director
AFJN Leadership Summit
Global Momentum on HIV/AIDS
Bush Administration Officials on HIV/AIDS
African Union Formed from OAU
African Farmers' Rights
Meet AFJN's Interns
New Catholic Publication on Debt
Recent AFJN Sign Ons
Sudan Update
DRC Update


Dear AFJN Members & Friends

I am pleased to share some important and exciting news with you about a big change here at AFJN. On 01 August we will welcome Marcel Kitissou as AFJN's new Executive Director. Marcel is from Togo, West Africa, and you'll find out more about him in the description below. I want to be the first to extend very best wishes as he begins his work with us.

I have been Executive Director for just over three years now, and I feel privileged to have enjoyed the support and friendship of AFJN's board, members and staff during that entire period. AFJN not only does quality work and has great members, it is sorely needed to bring a Catholic social justice perspective to US Africa policy. In the time I have been here, we've worked hard to keep our policy agenda on pace with critical contemporary issues such as the conflicts roiling Africa, HIV/AIDS, Africa's debt crisis, international trade's impact on people at the grassroots level, and how US policy affects all of these areas. We've effected key organizational changes, including carving out new roles for AFJN within the Africa advocacy community, bringing our membership and accounting systems up to date, revising AFJN's by-laws and undertaking important new efforts like the Africa Grassroots Response Initiative.

We've done a lot, but so much remains to be done. Among the things that are most important are mobilizing our membership more effectively for advocacy and creating better informational and networking tools to make that happen, notably through opportunities provided by Internet resources.

Now, you may be thinking at this point that I'm saying goodbye here. I hope you'll be pleased when I tell you that that's not the case. Last December I petitioned the board to bring on a new Executive Director so that I could turn my attention to following through on AFJN's Africa Grassroots Response Initiative and developing our membership's advocacy capacities. I felt that my own skills and experience lent themselves to that option at this time in AFJN's history. The board agreed, and in January the Executive Committee began its search for a new AFJN director. I feel that our decision has been blessed and validated by Marcel's agreement to join our AFJN family.

Many people have reflected that it's unusual for someone to step out of the director's role in order to take on a different one in the same organization. Perhaps it doesn't happen that often. In this case, it feels very much like the right thing to do, not least because I get to remain with a great group of people. As Marcel steps into the director's position in August, I will assume the role of Associate Director for Organizing.

So please reenergize your involvement in AFJN through your prayers, activism and financial support. We are poised to take AFJN to the next level of its mission. Grab hold and hang on. We need you, and it's going to be a ride you won't regret.

Peace,

Larry J. Goodwin
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AFJN Welcomes a New Executive Director

AFJN warmly welcomes Marcel Kitissou as its new Executive Director starting in August. Originally from Togo, West Africa, Marcel has been teaching at Oswego State University (NY) since 1990 with a stint at the University of Benin, Togo, in 1991-92. Marcel's background includes an impressive array of skills in areas of peace and conflict resolution, political science, history and public administration. He has undertaken studies in Togo, France and the US, obtaining a Ph.D. in Political Science from Syracuse University in 1991. In the last three years he has directed the P.E.A.C.E. Institute at Oswego State University. Marcel has written extensively on international affairs for numerous publications in Africa, France and the US. He has taught courses on a wide range of topics including international law, US policy toward Africa, nonviolent strategies for social change, politics and conflict in Africa and decision making in public administration.

With such formidable credentials, his strongest qualification for the Executive Director's position is the faith-filled commitment he brings to social justice. Marcel is deeply imbued with a love for Africa and a desire to see political and economic justice flourish there. He sees AFJN as an ideal outlet for his ideals and energies.

WELCOME MARCEL!
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Leadership Summit Summary
AFJN’s May 31 leadership summit, attended by XX people representing XX different organizations, was a useful stock taking of what gave rise to AFJN, what it means to members today, and how it might strengthen its impact and effectiveness.

Following a moving opening prayer by Board Vice-Chair Sr. Durstyne Farnan, OP, that evoked our ancestral spirits, participants were introduced to AFJN’s new Executive Director-designate, Marcel Kitissou. AFJN’s first director, Joseph Donders, M.Afr., gave an overview of AFJN’s history and purpose, stressing its efforts to involve Africans, to ensure that ‘Africa counts’ in the eyes of Washington policymakers, and to engage religious organizations in the face of gross human rights abuses in countries where they have a presence.

Anthony Gittins, CCSp, addressing the ‘essential missionary nature of AFJN’, evoked lively discussion with a set of questions on how the participants’ organizations are involved in Africa, what AFJN means to them, and how it can better meet their needs. "Only if AFJN is an explicit reflection of our faith, our hunger for justice, and spreading the ‘Good News’" will it be meaningful, he concluded.

Nancy Sylvester, IHM, then spoke on the relevance of AFJN’s mission now. Noting that AFJN is committed to changing US mentality and policy on Africa, she challenged the group, saying that "we have been transformed by Africa: how do we communicate this to our own congregations and communities?" First in small groups and then in plenary, participants addressed how they were first inspired to engage Africa. She reminded the assembly of the need to share Africa’s abundance and richness, not only its problems and suffering.

AFJN’s Larry Goodwin then spoke on AFJN’s current operational plan and vision for the future. These include plans to develop the newsletter, web site and e-mail networks into more effective advocacy tools, build stronger grassroots links to activist leaders across Africa through the GRI project, coordinate initiatives with Africa-focused groups and Catholic justice and peace offices, and mobilize campus groups. Participants broke into small groups to discuss building stronger relations with the Africa-Europe Faith & Justice Network, developing a strategy vis-a-vis the Bush administration, more effectively mobilizing religious congregations and building on AFJN member contacts in Africa.

Nancy Sylvester IHM concluded with thoughts on ownership of AFJN’s mission. AFJN Board Chair Seamus Finn, OMI, summarized key points made during the day and sounded the final call for greater commitment to AFJN’s work and purpose.
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Global Momentum on HIV/AIDS Building ... But Issues Remain

The unprecedented June 25-27 UN General Assembly Special Session [UNGASS] on HIV/AIDS, attended by 160 countries, initiated the first-ever global initiative aimed at reversing the AIDS pandemic, which has already killed 22 million people, most of them in Africa. HIV now affects 36 million people, 25 million of them Africans.

Final Declaration: On June 27, UNGASS issued a Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS outlining an international plan of action to address the pandemic. Raising money for anti-disease and public health programs is central to the plan. Its framework for action highlights general issues of leadership, prevention, care, support and treatment, human rights, vulnerability, orphans and the impact on development. It also places women at the forefront of this battle.

The Declaration committed UN member states to:

– back deeper, more effective and comprehensive debt relief for affected countries

– back bulk procurement of anti-AIDS medications (including generics) on the basis of competitive bidding;

– meet targets and deadlines for developing national programs to increase the availability of AIDS drugs, establishing education programs on AIDS prevention and reducing the number of HIV-infected infants.

Global Fund: Central to the initiative is a proposed global fund seeking $7-10 billion annually to combat AIDS. At the conference’s conclusion, members had pledged an initial $700 million for the fund. The US Administration and Congress are divided on what the US share should be. NGOs, keenly disappointed at President Bush’s decision not to address UNGASS, sharply criticized the $200 m. the administration has earmarked so far as much too low. Some Congressional proposals would reduce this to $100 m, others raise it to $750 m.

Cancelling debt:: Four nations, including Nigeria, explicitly appealed for deeper debt cancellation. While the initiative backs further debt relief, the US argued that this relief was unnecessary because "the HIPC program is a success." OXFAM noted, however, that of 17 states that have qualified for debt relief under HIPC, 8 were still paying more in servicing loans than it would cost to establish a basic HIV/AIDS treatment, care and prevention program based on the HIV rates in their respective countries.

Differences on issues: Member states differed sharply on several issues:

-- The Vatican and the US joined Egypt, Pakistan, Libya, Sudan, Iran and other Islamic nations in successfully opposing explicit references to homosexuals, prostitutes and drug users as particularly vulnerable groups needing special attention.

– Islamic countries also opposed any guidelines that implied nations would have to review laws criminalizing homosexuality and provide condoms to prison inmates.

– Governments differed on the issue of prevention vs. treatment, with the declaration setting more goals for preventive campaigns than means of access to anti-retroviral drugs. Some felt drugs were over-emphasized over basic health care. Others noted Brazil had cut its AIDS deaths in half since 1966 through a free anti-retroviral treatment program.

NGO concerns: Many NGOs feel key decisions on the design and operation of the Global Fund proposed by the UN are being made by wealthy donor nations with little input by civil society. While US NGOs are concerned at the low US fund pledge, others question whether any of the money will reach the grassroots organizations in the frontlines of the struggle against AIDS/HIV.

There are several bills now pending in Congress that would earmark between $1.3-1.5 b. annually for anti-AIDS/HIV efforts through various programs. Many NGOs would like to see this at least doubled. For more information on current US HIV/AIDS legislation, contact Carole Collins or Fidele Dikete at the AFJN office.

The crisis continues: As the UN conference ended, Africa’s crisis continued. New research indicates half the deaths of South Africans aged between 15 to 49 are now due to AIDS, and that 7 m. people could die in the next decade without proper treatment. Zimbabwe’s health minister says it now has zero population growth because 70% of all new births merely replace those who are dying of AIDS. UNICEF projects that Zimbabwe's average life expectancy will drop to 27 years in the next decade, down from the current 44 years, and 62 years in 1990. In Botswana, people are dying on average 23 years earlier than they would be without AIDS.
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Bush Administration Officials on AIDS...
US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited four nations in Africa from May 22-28 [Mali, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda], specifically to speak with African leaders about HIV/AIDS as well as conflict resolution issues. He toured projects helping Africans cope with AIDS, praised Uganda’s success in lowering HIV/AIDS infection rates, and declared that ''No war in the world is more important'' than the one against AIDS.

But a Kenyan anti-AIDS Coalition told Powell that Bush’s $200 m. pledge for the UN Global AIDS Fund was woefully inadequate. Powell omitted discussing AIDS as an issue when he met with South African President Thabo Mbeki, sharply criticized for blocking SA government action to provide anti-AIDS medications to pregnant women with AIDS.

The new head of USAID, Andrew Natsios, provoked a furor, charges of racism and calls for his resignation over his June 7 comments to the Boston Globe urging that UN funds be directed primarily on prevention and not for financing anti-AIDS drugs for those living with AIDS.

He went on to say that many Africans ''don't know what Western time is. You have to take these (AIDS) drugs a certain number of hours each day, or they don't work. Many people in Africa have never seen a clock or a watch their entire lives. And if you say, one o'clock in the afternoon, they do not know what you are talking about. They know morning, they know noon, they know evening, they know the darkness at night." His remarks echoed an unnamed Treasury Department official who told the New York Times that Africans lacked a requisite 'concept of time,' implying that they could not benefit from HIV drugs.
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African Union Emerges from July OAU Meeting

On July 11, at an extraordinary OAU summit in Lusaka, 41 of Africa’s 53 heads of state agreed to replace the 38-year-old OAU with a newly created EU-style African Union (AU).  

Electing Amara Essy, former Ivory Coast foreign minister, as OAU secretary-general, and Zambian President Frederick Chiluba as OAU chairman, they also adopted a New Africa Initiative (AI), an economic development plan intended to rid Africa of conflict, poverty and disease by the year 2015.

The African Union: Essy will head the OAU during a 2-year transition period as OAU assets are transferred to the new AU. The AU is intended to be a closer-knit, stronger organization that will address economic and social as well as political issues. Chiluba said while member states agreed to eventually establish a pan-African parliament and central bank, initially the AU would focus on creating a heads-of-state assembly, a council of foreign ministers, a secretariat and a permanent committee of ambassadors. Its charter calls for a shared currency and a court of justice.

Outgoing OAU chair Salim Salim said the AU would facilitate greater involvement by civil society in its work. Still to be resolved is how the AU will relate to existing regional and sub-regional economic and trade bodies, including ECOWAS, COMESA and SADC. Some see them as dissolving, others as contact points for the AU.

The Africa Initiative: The African Initiative merged elements of South African President Thabo Mbeki’s proposed Millennium African Recovery Plan [MAP] and an OMEGA plan proposed by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. MAP reportedly emphasized the indigenous nature of the program and African ownership and implementation of it, whereas OMEGA gave priority to infrastructure and social programs.

The summit also backed a commission to protect children from war, slavery and sex trafficking and ongoing efforts to resolve several conflicts on the continent, including the wars in Congo and Burundi. At the urging of Nigeria, however, it issued a declaration on Zimbabwe's land crisis that toned down a draft resolution by the council of ministers harshly critical of former colonial ruler Britain.

The AU originally was proposed in 1999 by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. But it faces several obstacles on its path, not least the extent of African debt (now estimated at US$ 334 billion) and numerous unresolved conflicts. As UN Sec.Gen. Kofi Annan told the summit, "Sixty percent of the UN Security Council's agenda focuses on Africa, ... [not] something we should be proud of." The inaugural summit of the AU will take place next year in South Africa.
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African Farmers Rights over Agricultural Resources
You are a farmer in East Africa. You cultivate on five acres of land, providing most of the food for your husband and children throughout the year. Your homestead produces plantain, millet, beans, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, cassava, and corn. You also grow tomatoes, avocados, onions, paw-paw melons and mangoes. You and your neighbors cultivate pineapples and sugar cane on communal plots nearby. Your livestock consists of chickens, some goats and a few cattle. Your family’s income derives from a small stand of coffee trees, for which your husband has responsibility, and from selling some of your crops and chickens in the local market. Occasionally you butcher a goat for sale. Your earnings pay for school fees for your children, medicine, salt, clothing, hoes and pangas, and a bicycle.

The World is Changing
The world is changing for African smallholder farmers. Global trade regulations are leading to monopoly control of seeds, crops and plant genetic resources through an expanding system of patents over living organisms. For staple food crops, at issue are both genetically modified seeds and plants, engineered by inserting genes from non-related species into their genetic make-up, and varieties created from more conventional crossbreeding methods. The genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are most often bred to resist chemical herbicide applications or insect pests.

Promoted by the World Trade Organization (WTO) with support from many industrialized nations led by the United States, Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights, popularly known as TRIPS, permit individuals and corporations to claim exclusive rights over life forms, genes, microorganisms and the micro-processes by which they perform their functions. The WTO requires its member countries to patent plants as an integral part of the global trade and market-based framework it obliges them to follow. This is a radical break from the customary practice of centuries in which people exchanged, saved and used their seeds and crop materials as resources belonging to the entire community.

The situation is complicated by the fact that other international agreements are at odds with TRIPS policies. For example, the Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources and the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity both uphold the principle that plant genetic resources belong to humankind’s common heritage and should stay within the public domain. However, these agreements do not have enforcement mechanisms; the WTO does. As a result, WTO policies predominate in the contest between private and public control of plant and agricultural genetic resources.

Traditional Resources At Stake
Individuals and corporations are claiming monopoly rights over resources and traditional knowledge that indigenous farmers have developed and been using for generations. This practice is expanding as agribusiness and pharmaceutical interests vie for control of commercial innovations and lucrative markets in medicines, food crops and other agriculture-based products.

For example, in 1997 the U.S. issued a patent to RiceTec, a Texas-based company, for basmati rice, a strain grown in India for centuries. The Indian Government challenged the patent, and in April 2001 the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO) rejected 13 of the company's 16 claims to the patent. Three claims are still in dispute. In a comparable 1999 case, Larry M. Proctor obtained a U.S. patent for the traditional yellow enola bean from Mexico. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has filed a formal request for re-examination of this patent.

In Africa, foreign interests have claimed rights over a number of African indigenous resources. For example:

  • The U.S. Plant Variety Protection office (PVP) issued a certificate on a variety of Teff, the grain used to make "injera" bread, which is a staple of the Ethiopian diet.
  • The PVP also certified "Kunde Zulu," an African cowpea variety.
  • The U.S. has issued two patents on genetic material derived from a West African cocoa plant.
  • The Hoodia cactus plant, which has been used for untold generations by the San people of the Kalahari Desert to stave off hunger on long journeys, has been patented by a British company as an appetite suppressant and licensed to a U.S. firm.

Patents and certificates have also been issued on varieties of African sweet potatoes, millet, rice, melons, sorghum and cassava.

African Farmers Squeezed
What are the implications for smallholder farmers of the rush by commercial interests to acquire monopoly rights over African agricultural resources?

  • Food security – patents threaten farmers’ historic right to save, exchange, use, breed and sell seeds, plants and crops.
  • Development – patents increase the likelihood of farmers each year having to buy expensive seeds and the chemical inputs that often go with them, which could deal a blow to their limited incomes.
  • Land ownership – if pressed to adopt a more industrialized model of agriculture based on large-scale commercial production, often for export, pressure would be immense to consolidate landholdings, which means that many smallholder farmers ultimately would be forced to give up their land. Industrial agricultural benefits agribusiness interests. And because farmers need to get back what they pay out for expensive seeds and inputs, it makes little sense to grow the resultant crops primarily for home consumption. Yet making a return on their investment would require more than the small acreage most African farmers own or use.
  • Local markets – export agriculture, whether of food or cash crops, would reduce food production for local markets and consumption, creating a situation where rural people would have to rely on buying food imported into the area. Most African rural economies do not have the job and wage base necessary to enable people to adopt a system of purchasing the range of food products they need.
  • Biodiversity – use of patented seeds for commercial agriculture engenders monocropping - growing a single crop over an extensive area - which results in clearing large expanses of flora and fauna and abandoning local crop varieties. In addition, use of chemical inputs and/or invasion by genetically modified or non-native varieties risks disrupting or supplanting local biodiversity.

Hunger at the Heart of the Issue
Agribusiness promotes GMO and other patented seeds and plants as a solution to hunger in the developing world. Proponents often use the one-dimensional argument that biotech agriculture is good and necessary for impoverished people because it increases yields, which provides more food to feed hungry people. Critics contend otherwise, asserting that contemporary organic agriculture matches and can even best yields from biotech crops. When coupled with natural technologies like Integrated Pest Management, they argue that a regenerative approach to agriculture actually enhances food security and biodiversity.

But the issue is about much more than yields. Of fundamental importance is the fact that monopoly control of agricultural genetic resources involves essential ethical and practical questions about food security, development, social and economic justice, community and farmers' rights, environment and biodiversity. These questions revolve around the principle of public versus private control of humanity's basic life-support systems - seeds, food crops, air and water.

African Model Legislation
In grappling with the question of their agricultural and biological heritage, Africans have staked out clear positions in favor of protecting community rights over resources. The African Group of ministers at the 1999 WTO Third Ministerial in Seattle, WA took the lead in opposing the patenting of life in any of its forms. They continue to push this position as the WTO prepares for its Fourth Ministerial in November 2001 to be held in Qatar.

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) has drafted African Model Legislation for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders, and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources. Its aim is to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biological and agricultural genetic resources and traditional knowledge systems and technologies, and to maintain public and community control and rights over these resources. The OAU is urging individual African Governments to enact the model legislation into national law.

We invite you to join AFJN, the Africa Trade Policy Working Group and over 200 others in supporting the principles of the African Model Legislation. We plan to present our Declaration of Support for African Smallholder Farmers (see Around Africa, April 2001 or visit AFJN's web site) in several international fora, and we are working to identify a legislative vehicle to express support in U.S. trade policy for the model legislation.

To add your organization's name to the Declaration of Support for African Smallholder Farmers, please use the endorser form that is included with this newsletter.
Thanks to Rev. Leon Spencer at the Washington Office on Africa for his contributions to this article.
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Bush Administration Africa Policy

On 07 June, Ms. Jendayi Frazer, the National Security Council's Africa Director, spoke to the Great Lakes Policy Forum on the Bush Administration's Africa priorities. She introduced her remarks by saying that the president had ordered a thorough review of Africa policy, which is still underway.

Ms. Frazier, an expert on security issues, described administration policy as constructed on three pillars. The first is a strategic approach to Africa. Here she spoke of the need to leverage U.S. resources by focusing on regional and sub-regional alliances and structures rather than on individual countries. Certain countries play pivotal roles in their regions, and their impact must be taken into account. However, the basic approach would be to shape policy at regional levels, dealing with organizations like the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), for example.

The second pillar is to clarify substantive priorities within Africa policy. Here she mentioned economic growth and development, HIV/AIDS and ending armed conflicts. She noted that the administration has an on-going concern about the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone and Angola, and that Sudan has risen as a priority. Other situations, such as Zimbabwe, bear watching.

The third pillar is to build on foreign policy successes. She emphasized the need to focus on countries that are making political and economic progress, and she voiced caution about policies that would enmesh the U.S. in crisis situations. She noted that the Bush Administration remains committed to the Lusaka Accord as the framework for ending the DRC conflict. And she expressed significant reticence about pursuing foreign policy by supporting rebel movements.

There was little in what she said that indicated increased support by the administration for sustainable and economic development programs and spending. The gist of her remarks reinforced the view that more open markets will supply the development Africa needs.

AFJN will look for more clarity from the Bush Administration after it completes its policy review. In the meantime, we continue to urge the president to give Africa higher priority, especially in practical commitments toward peace building and poverty reduction. As we noted in the last issue of Around Africa, ending the war in Sudan is the best way to stop the slave trade, and placing a moratorium on oil drilling by foreign corporations would put a brake on the massive disruption of the civilian population. An Inter-Congolese Dialogue that authentically incorporates broad-based civil society would greatly assist peace and democratization in the DRC. Closing down the markets in conflict diamonds and small arms would be a significant step toward ending the conflicts in Angola and in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Canceling Africa’s bilateral and multilateral debt and assuring Africans’ access to affordable medicines and a decent health care infrastructure would fortify African HIV/AIDS initiatives. Promoting organic, sustainable agriculture and maintaining farmers’ rights over their agricultural resources by opposing patents on life forms would strengthen food security.
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Meet AFJN's Interns
Michelle Olin
is a Senior at the College of Staten Island (CUNY) majoring in international studies. She has visited Africa, is married to a Nigerian and has a deep interest in political and economic justice as they apply to Africa. She hopes to pursue a Master's Degree in an area that will allow her to return to Africa in a professional capacity. She will finish her two-month internship with us at the end of July. In her time at AFJN, she has focused on the Africa Grassroots Response Initiative, especially doing research on how corporate and individual pursuit of monopoly rights over African seeds, crops and plants are affecting African smallholder farmers. Her research has been a tremendous help to us in our efforts to advocate for US and WTO trade policies that benefit rather than exploit Africa's farmers and rural communities.

Fidele Dikete, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a seminarian with the Missionhurst congregation. He has been in the US since October 1995 and completed his Master's Degree in Theology last May at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. Fidele came to AFJN at the beginning of June. His aim was to immerse himself more fully in social justice issues, especially in how they relate to public policy. He has focused specifically on HIV/AIDS and the conflict in the Sudan, monitoring these issues and representing AFJN at coalition meetings. Fidele will be with us for several months and help us to produce position papers on these topics for AFJN members and partners.
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New Catholic Publication on Poverty and International Debt

International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (CIDSE) and Caritas Internationalis, two international Catholic development agencies, have collaborated on producing a report entitled From Debt to Poverty Eradication by Kathleen Selvaggio of Catholic Relief Services with a contribution by Fr. Pete Henriot, SJ. It examines the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), introduced in 1999 by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in response to the demand that debt reduction for poor countries be more closely linked to poverty reduction. The report provides an explanation of the PRSP, its link to the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative, and the forces that led to its creation. It also examines both the principles and the initial practice of the PRSP through the lens of Catholic social teaching, and makes recommendations for improving the PRSP in concept and in implementation.

Most importantly, the report examines the potential role of the Catholic Church and other civil society groups in formulating and monitoring poverty reduction strategies. An annex provides a set of guiding questions to assist civil society groups who want to get involved in PRSPs in their own countries.

For information on obtaining copies of From Debt to Poverty Eradication, contact Candace Little • Catholic Relief Services • 209 W. Fayette Street • Baltimore, MD 21201 • tel. 410 625 2220 ext. 3548 • e-mail <clittle@catholicrelief.org>
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Recent AFJN Sign-Ons

29 June -- Interfaith Statement on Conflict Diamonds, which addresses the issue of gems that are used to fund warfare and civilian atrocities. The statement supports clean diamond legislation, including the Clean Diamonds Act, which would prohibit the direct or indirect importation of any and all diamonds and diamond jewelry without a global certification system in place.

03 July -- Letter sent to the House Appropriations Committee opposing fees for basic health, primary education and access to water as part of World Bank and IMF loans, debt relief actions and other policies and programs.

09 July -- Interfaith Statement on Trade and Investment, a set of five principles that should underlie ethical trade and investment practices, especially toward developing countries and regions. The Interfaith Working Group on Trade & Investment, which produced the statement, is seeking endorsements by organizations internationally. The text of the statement is on AFJN's web site under "What's New." To add your organization's name, email <iwg@coc.org>

11 July -- Letter to President Bush from the Global Aids Alliance urging stronger US support for poor country debt cancellation in order to free up resources for addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
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Sudan update, including Peace Act status

While peace talks are possibly in the offing, civilians in southern Sudan continue to suffer from the ongoing war and resulting economic and social dislocations.

Political developments: The focus of proposed peace negotiations shifted recently from an African to a more Arab arena. On June 2, Sudan’s government and southern Sudanese rebels had agreed, at a regional summit of the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Kenya, to work toward a ceasefire, but little progress ensued.

In late June, however, both sides publicly backed ending Sudan’s 18-year civil war. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a rebel coalition opposed to Khartoum, agreed June 28 to support the peace initiative. On July 6, Egypt and Sudan called for an immediate ceasefire in the South. The Umma party, which briefly joined the NDA before a rapprochement with Khartoum, also backs the plan.

But whether both sides really agree on the same plan remains to be seen. The initiative calls for a transitional government, a plural democracy, guarantees of basic freedoms and human rights, a decentralised system of rule, and a unified country. Although endorsing the plan, the NDA wants negotiations to be based on the principles of separation of religion and politics, self-determination for southerners, and government accountability for "crimes against the opposition." Whether Khartoum will eventually agree to a transitional government of all political parties also remains to be seen.

Efforts to unite the fragmented southern Sudanese opposition forces continued as well. In late June, the New Sudan Council of Churches sponsored peace discussions in Kenya seeking greater unity among these forces. The final declaration urged the international community to establish a military no-fly zone over southern Sudan to end bombing of civilians.

Yet the war goes on: The Sudan Government has continued to bomb civilians in the South and Nuba mountain regions. In mid-June international aid agencies, except for the ICRC, evacuated 34 expatriate staffers from Wau, a southern Sudanese garrison town rebels sought to capture. Also in mid-June, the SPLA’s Joseph Garang declared foreign oil firms working in southern Sudan "legitimate targets" for attack.

A growing campaign against Sudan’s oil industry has also gained momentum. At end May, 50 humanitarian NGOs launched a campaign to freeze foreign oil company activities in Sudan, arguing they were helping the government finance the war. Oil companies active in Sudan include: Canadian-owned Talisman; China National Petroleum Corporation; Malaysia's Petronas; Qatar's Gulf Oil; the United Arab Emirates' Thani; Austria's OMV; British Petroleum; and Sweden's Lundin. L

Legislative pressures: Among African issues, Sudan has increasingly preoccupied policymakers’ attention. The Sudan Peace Act (HR 931) was marked up May 16 by the House Africa subcommittee following a March hearing. [See AA, April 2001 for a summary of HR 931/S180 as introduced in January]. Several amendments were passed by voice vote. One would define various acts of the Government of Sudan as genocide. Another would reauthorize $10 m. for non-lethal, non-food aid for the NDA forces opposing the Khartoum Government. A third would bar any company engaged in commercial activity in the Sudan from trading any of its securities in any capital market in the US unless it met strict disclosure conditions.
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DRC update: delayed disengagement and dialogue

Developments in the DRC have been marked by continuing delays by all parties to fully implement the ceasefire called for in the Lusaka Peace Accord signed in August 2000. Uganda and Rwanda have withdrawn some troops but maintained others there. RCD rebels have refused to draw back from the frontlines in Kisangani and elsewhere in the east.

In mid-July, preparatory meetings for the Inter-Congolese dialogue envisaged under the Lusaka Peace Accord were again postponed. Civil society representatives have been selected to attend the ICD in only five provinces so far. A government-organized human rights conference June 24-30 attended by 385 delegates from across the country and 30 observers from overseas adopted a "Congolese Charter of Human Rights" and a national plan of action to promote and protect human rights. It also made several recommendations to the DRC government, including training the police and military to respect civilians, the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission, and regular payment of reasonable salaries to civil servants

In June the Belgian foreign minister became the first western head of state to visit the DRC in over a decade. But his offer of US$17 m. in aid to Kabila’s government sparked protests from opposition party head Tshisekedi, who feels the aid will bolster the unelected leader. He also met with rebel leaders in Kisangani but failed to persuade them to withdraw from the Congo’s third largest city.

Meanwhile, the extensive suffering of ordinary Congolese, especially those in zones of conflict, continues to emerge. The US Committee for Refugees, in a June report, estimates the DRC now hosts 2.1 m. uprooted people. ICRC has not yet resumed activities in eastern Congo after six of its workers were killed in late April delivering relief food. ICRC was waiting for answers from Congolese rebels and Ugandan army units that control the area as to why the six were killed.

And even as external forces exerted their weight inside the DRC, rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC played a key role in stymieing an attempted coup against the Central Africa Republic’s president. Over 200 of Bemba’s soldiers helped put down the attempted putsch, which reportedly may have been backed by former Mobutu supporters opposed to Bemba and seeking a comeback.
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