Africa: ILO summit vs. poverty

The International Labor Organization’s 10th African Regional Meeting, Dec. 2-5 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will project ways to build job opportunities and reduce poverty in Africa, the ILO said in a press statement last week.

The delegates from 53 African states will prepare for the Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in Africa to be convened in Burkina Faso next year by the African Union.

Calling Africa “a continent in search of decent work,” the ILO said the continent has “the highest regional poverty level and the widest gap between rich and poor in the world.” Over 300 million people there live in extreme poverty with income the equivalent of one U.S. dollar per day, the ILO said.

The conference has three aims, the ILO said: eliminating barriers to Africa’s productive potential, promoting investments that will function within ILO principles of workers’ rights, and building opportunities for rural families.

Honduras, Nicaragua: Protest Powell’s visit

Indigenous people, students and other grassroots activists greeted U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell with resounding protests during his visits to Nicaragua and Honduras Nov. 3 and 4.

Honduran President Ricardo Maduro was forced to apologize to Powell for the protesters’ chants of “Colin Powell, you’re a terrorist” and “Powell and IMF, get out of here!” – audible inside the government building where the two held a joint press conference. The demonstration was organized by the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which demanded U.S. forces leave the Palmerola air base, and called for the return of Honduran troops from Iraq.

Some 5,000 Nicaraguan university students also marched to protest Powell’s stop over in that country. They demanded U.S. forces leave Iraq, and that the Nicaraguan government not approve proposed budget cuts for the universities.

Japan: Protests vs. troops to Iraq

On Nov. 16 the peace movement and the Japanese Communist Party demonstrated in a number of cities to oppose government plans to send units of the Self-Defense Forces(SDF) to Iraq, the JCP’s newspaper, Akahata, reported. As U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Okinawa for talks with Governor Inamine Keiichi, demonstrators from the Okinawa United Action Liaison Council assembled in front of the prefectural office to oppose the SDF dispatch to Iraq.

Among other cities where protests were held were Toyota City and Nagano, where JCP members gathered petition signatures at railway stations.

Akahata reported that in October and November the SDF and U.S. forces held large-scale joint exercises, under the new Japan-U.S. Guidelines for Defense Cooperation and war contingency laws – both designed to mobilize Japan for U.S. wars.

The maneuvers included live-fire exercises, and joint exercises with the U.S. Navy and Air Force.

Poland: Coal miners strike vs. closings

Thousands of Polish coal miners struck for 24 hours on Nov. 17 to protest the government’s plans to close four pits. Union leaders said the one-day action could be followed by a general strike unless a solution is reached.

An earlier protest brought thousands of angry coal miners to the capital city, Warsaw, in September.

Under the government’s plan, 8,500 miners would lose their jobs in a region where nearly one-third of workers are already jobless.

Overall, the proposed restructuring of the coal-mining industry would cost miners 25,000 of the industry’s present 140,000 jobs. The layoffs are part of Poland’s plan to cut spending and lower its budget deficit before it joins the European Union next May. But the layoffs and other austerity measures are very unpopular with the country’s working families, who were accustomed to full employment and benefits under socialism.

East Timor: NGOs demand fair boundaries

Some 100 non-governmental organizations from 18 countries have written to Australian Prime Minister Howard, demanding that he “play fair” with East Timor during negotiations on the sea boundary between the two countries.

During the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia, an agreement was made with Australia excluding from East Timorese territory the rich oil and gas deposits under the sea. The Australian government is continuing to use this agreement, which violates the international law of the sea, in negotiations with the newly independent government of East Timor. This deprives East Timor, whose people are among the world’s poorest, of resources estimated to be worth $30 billion.

The NGOs called on Australia to set a firm timetable to establish a permanent maritime boundary, and urged that East Timor be “treated fairly and as a sovereign nation, with the same rights as Australia.”

International Notes are compiled by
Marilyn Bechtel (