Africa: Debt relief plan provided no relief

A 10-year plan instituted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to curtail poverty through debt relief has not succeeded in that goal. A new report by the Washington-based Independent Evaluation Group on behalf of the WB and IMF said that in most cases debt had risen to an even higher level than before, the Johannesburg Inter Press Service reported.

The Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative was intended to give debt relief to the world’s poorest nations and raise their standard of living. In eight participating countries, all in Africa (Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali), the level of indebtedness after the decade-long program exceeded what the HIPC initiative considered a safety threshold.

The majority of the world’s most heavily indebted countries are in Africa.

Ecuador: Movement to oust foreign oil

Pressure is growing to expel Oxy Oil from the Amazon region here. The Amazon Defense Front (Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia — FDA) has demanded an immediate government investigation of Oxy’s fields, saying that oil spills and dumping of toxic waste have created irreparable ecological damage and the fracture of indigenous communities.

According to Prensa Latina, the Confederation of Ecuadorian Workers supports the demand and announced a march and demonstration against the transnational corporation’s presence.

PetroEcuador, Ecuador´s state-run oil company, is exploring a possible lawsuit against Oxy for drilling wells outside its concession area.

FDA was formed in 1994 in an effort to hold Chevron/Texaco accountable for severe pollution and environmental degradation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It provides training and legal counseling to 25 indigenous communities throughout the region.

Australia: Police confront work laws

When the Catholic bishop of Parramatta addressed the Police Association’s Biennial Conference in New South Wales last week, he presented the representatives of the 15,000-member police union with a question regarding the ethics of police breaking up demonstrations against new anti-labor industrial laws.

Bishop Kevin Manning reminded the 160 union members that they were part of a larger trade union movement and were subject to the same homelessness, poverty and dislocation due to laws he described as “morally indefensible.”

“A just society,” Bishop Manning said, “cannot expect its police force to enforce laws that undermine human dignity.”

The NSW Police Association had earlier announced that its members would not support use of water cannons at picket lines and labor protests, the Sidney Morning Herald reported. A police official said many off-duty police were likely to join the protests.

Yemen: Women move towards leadership

Women are playing an increasingly vocal role in the approaching elections in this Middle Eastern country. Although the number of women voters has increased from 500,000 in 1993 to 4 million registered for the September elections, the chair of the National Women’s Committee, Rasheeda al-Hamdani, says fewer women are running for office and women’s participation in political parties is primarily in separate women’s sectors.

The exception, IRIN noted, is the Yemeni Communist Party, which has called for a 30 percent parliamentary quota for women. Within the Communist Party itself, women fill 30 percent of the leadership positions, including the recent election of a woman as assistant secretary general.

The ruling General Peoples’ Congress has pledged to nominate women for 10 percent of parliamentary seats and 15 percent of seats on local councils.

Iraq: International union support for dockers

When the offices and committees of the Port Workers’ Union at the Khour Al-Zubeir port were closed down last week and union leaders and their families severely harassed and intimidated, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) responded with a global call for support.

All affiliated unions were asked to write the Iraqi Minister for Transport to protest the unjust treatment of the workers and the denial of their fundamental human rights.

In a letter to the Iraqi Transport Minister the ITF said it “stands united with other ITF-affiliated unions around the world and will not hesitate to use its influence both nationally and internationally in the joint effort to end this unacceptable treatment.”

The Port Workers Union is a member of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers and affiliated with the ITF, a federation of 642 transport trade unions representing 4.5 million workers in 142 countries.

World Notes are compiled by Pamella Saffer(