World Pathfinder Children’s Fund
March 18th, 2010
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Today’s date is March 18th, 2010, and unfortunately, the status of humankind is still uncivilized.
In general, poverty, devastation, and the atrocities inflicted on the people of the developing world can be directly correlated to the rapacious actions of the rich and powerful. In this article, I will provide evidence to support this claim, I will offer a potential solution to this disconcerting problem, and I will ask several important questions. My objective is to create awareness of global poverty, which in the future, will hopefully change.
The World Trade Organization
The purpose of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is to establish guidelines, legislation, and to monitor international commerce by ensuring each nation has equal access to development, growth, and prosperity (World Trade Organization, 2010). The WTO is controlled by its member nations and is focused on poverty reduction (World Trade Organization, 2010). Although these goals and objectives are admirable, the organization is failing to attain its mandates, and ironically, the WTO is contributing to global poverty. Because of the international treaty that established the organization, the WTO is paralyzed to fulfill its obligations, and regrettably, the entity is a farce.
According to the statistics available on the WTO website, the impoverished nations of the world will lose over $150 million in export opportunities while simultaneously paying almost the same in import duties (World Trade Organization, 2010). In the majority of situations, these repercussions are the direct result of industrialized nations increasing their trade barriers to exporters from impoverished nations. In addition, the impoverished nations are forced to decrease their trade barriers to importers from the richest countries in the world. These protectionist measures were approved and implemented by the member nations of the WTO. In short, these trade regulations have legalized the exploitation of the poor; the richest countries of the world are directly gaining from the losses of the poorest.
For example, to access certain Western markets, many exporters from impoverished nations are required to pay inflationary taxes, which cause their products to be uncompetitive in the markets of industrialized nations. In parallel, the goods imported from industrialized nations pay minimal taxes to access the markets of the developing world, which causes the reduction in economic gains for local producers; their products are no longer competitive in their home markets. In consideration minimal export opportunities exist in many developing economies, the situation directly affects local farmers and is contributing to the decline in education, health care, and economic development throughout the impoverished world (Naidu, 1998). Moreover, this scenario has allowed organizations from industrialized countries to imperialize the markets throughout the developing world.
Based on my observations of the markets in Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, and Thailand, these markets are polluted with products from wealthy countries. As an example, during my travels through the Hemja valley in Nepal, I noticed numerous advertisements for Western products painted on the sides of farmhouses, shops, public buildings, and schools. To quench my curiosity, I began asking farmers with billboards plastered on the side of their homes the amount of revenue they received for the advertisements; the majority received the equivalent of $100 with no annuities. According to my marketing experiences in the West, a billboard in North America can cost a minimum of $20,000. To put this into perspective, for $20,000 the World Pathfinder Children’s Fund can ensure every child forced to drop out of school in a Nepalese village can continue attending classes for two years. With the $100 these farmers received, they were able to feed their families for only seven days.
Although organizations such as the WTO attempt to eradicate the unethical and illogical trade conditions plaguing the world, the WTO is powerless to combat the political power held by its industrialized member nations. A devastating statistic found on the WTO website states the trade barriers imposed on the impoverished nations of the world cause a loss of over $500 billion per year; a sum significantly more than the aid provided to these very same nations (World Trade Organization, 2010). Again, the rich are legally stealing billions of dollars per year from the poorest citizens on the planet. The best-case scenario from this theft results in children dropping out of school because of poverty; the worst-case, and in many cases, children die from starvation, lack of health care, and poor sanitary conditions.
For example, Ethiopian coffee bean farmers are forced to sell one pound of coffee to the largest coffee distributors in the world for $2 per pound. In turn, these coffee dispensers sell one pound of coffee through their channels of distribution for over $150 per pound (Tsui, 2007). To make matters worse, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. The nation boasts a literacy rate of less than 45% (Central Intelligence Agency, 2010), and the economy is strictly dependent on the coffee exportation trade (Central Intelligence Agency, 2007).
Food and Water
During my last trip to Nepal, my friend and partner in the Pathfinder organizations, Basanta Poudyal, and I were discussing the differences in food prices between Canada and Nepal. Nepal is an agricultural-based economy; however, Basanta pays approximately 180% more for the same grocery products as I pay in Canada. Nepal is also a water-rich nation; conversely, most Nepalese children can only afford to bathe once a week and do not have access to clean running water in their dilapitated one-room huts; they have to walk almost one kilometer to the community water supply. A lack of development coupled with the exportation of natural resources to industrialized nations have left the citizens of the developing world dependent on purchasing water from retailers at overly inflated prices. For example, a healthy person drinks approximately four liters of water per day, and the cost for this quantity in Peru is approximately $4, which would amount to $112 per month. Unfortunately, $112 per month for drinking water is unaffordable to the average person in the developing world. In addition, the price does not include water for bathing, cooking, or cleaning. In Canada, one can leave a faucet slightly open in their home for 30 days wasting countless liters of clean water for less than $160 per month.
How do we alter these atrocious, unbalanced, unfair, unethical, and illogical conditions? The WTO website offers an interesting strategy to assist in eradicating the world from poverty, social unrest, and rogue militant organizations, or as the media in the West commonly define the term, terrorism. By balancing international trade, conditions in the impoverished nations of the world would improve drastically (World Trade Organization, 2010).
In specific reference to militant organizations, why do these people resort to violence? Are they resorting to violence to fight the injustices inflicted against the people of the developing world? Perhaps the governments and media outlets of the West have disguised the concerns of these militant groups with religious connotations. How do we find the reasons these militants are committing such terrible acts? Obviously two sides exist to every story, in this situation, what is the other story? Has a media outlet from the West ever interviewed an individual from a militant organization on primetime television? Why has this never occurred? Unfortunately, we have not been told the other side of the story and we are forced to speculate.
To implement change, our actions must first be nonviolent and intelligent. We must openly discuss these issues, ask questions, and notify politicians and business leaders of our dissatisfactions. We must cease to be apathetic. If we feel the need, we should attend peaceful demonstrations, not violent fueled destructive mayhem. If we are exploited and enslaved, we must reject our suppressors. If we have the resources, we should donate to not-for-profit organizations or charities supporting our causes. However, we must be informed and understand exactly how our resources will be spent and how much of our donation will be used directly toward the cause. If this information is not readily available, we must investigate. If we are not provided with relevant responses, we should not donate to that particular entity. If we cannot afford to donate finances, we should volunteer our time; the results are often more effective. In general, we must reduce the bureaucracies wreaking devastation on our planet, eradicate favoritism, and eliminate nepotism, or nihilism will continue. Through these actions, entities such as the WTO will eventually possess the power needed to fulfill their noble mandates. Until this ideological situation occurs, similar international organizations will perpetually be the vehicle for industrialized nations, will remain in a constant state of mediocrity, and will continue to solely protect the interests of the rich while neglecting, suppressing, and exploiting the impoverished.
Central Intelligence Agency. (2010). CIA – The world factbook – Ethiopia. Retrieved March 18, 2010 from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/et.html
Naidu, M.V. (1998). Is globalization the panacea for world crises? Peace Research, 30(2). Retrieved March 18, 2010 from ProQuest database.
Tsui, A. (2007, April 3). Film raises hackles in the coffee shops of power. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/pqdweb?index=22&did=1248755311&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1273259247&
World Trade Organization. (2010). Trade liberalisation statistics. Retrieved March 18, 2010 from http://www.gatt.org/
World Trade Organization. (2010). About the WTO – A statement by the director - general. Retrieved March 18, 2010 from http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/wto_dg_stat_e.htm