2005 A YEAR FOR ACTION AND VIGILANCE
Greetings to all members and friends of the National Council of Women of Canada. May 2005 be personally fulfilling.
We are all overwhelmed by the disaster that has overtaken so many in South East Asia. I am sure that we all have made personal donations to the many agencies that are organizing aid and relief for the survivors. And I am equally certain that we all agree that our other donation, that of our tax dollars pledged by our government, is the least we, the blessed and fortunate, can do. But there is more that we can and must do.
First, we have a duty to ensure that our donations, both personal, and national are actually realized, and delivered in a timely and effective way. We can do that by following the work reports of the non-governmental organizations, and by making sure that our news agencies stay on the job, reporting on the work as it progresses over what could easily be the next few years. There will be examples of courage and inspiration and just as surely, some stupidity, but the worst thing that can happen is for all of us to stop watching, and demanding the best of results. This is, after all, what we would expect if we were the suffering victims.
Then, we have to understand the why and the how, the root causes that placed so many people in such peril. Desperate poverty drives humans to take chances, such as cutting down too many trees and thus rendering slopes vulnerable to flash floods and mudslides. National poverty (and official corruption) can lead local officials to permit laws, written to ensure that people live in safe areas, to be broken by developers. We know that bribery can flourish easily, even in our own society, and that it is always the greedy who benefit.
The outpouring of aid in the past week from governments in the developed world is very different from the stingy official responses to earlier appeals on behalf of other poor people suffering starvation, disease, and the ultimate threat, warfare. In the last decade or more, the gap between the wealthy and the poor has grown wider, both in our own country, and between social conditions in the developed and the developing world. (Globalization with its Strategic Adjustments has not spread wealth out more equally). What we have seen in the Tsunami-caused calamity, and in earlier man-made human catastrophes, is that the lack of adequate national fiscal resources, managed reasonably responsibly, leaves the citizens of developing states extremely vulnerable to all sorts of disasters. Further, the necessary infrastructure to effect first response either doesn’t exist, or is too fragile to deal with a major challenge.
Therefore, lastly, we have to make the connection between these deplorable conditions and Canada’s failure to live up to its long-term promises of aid (.08% of GDP) to the developing world. NCWC members must continue to insist that our government live up to its commitments. Our common humanity demands no less.
Catharine Laidlaw-Sly, President