Category Archives: 2011

Robin Hood travels to South Africa

ONE (SINGAPORE) has joined hands with more than sixty youth groups and civil society organisations to call on South African president Jacob Zuma to push negotiators at the COP17 climate talks in Durban to adopt a Financial Transactions Tax to fund the fight against climate change.

The so-called Robin Hood Tax could raise up to US$650 billion a year by imposing a fee of just 1/20th of one percent on financial transactions.
16 Dec 2011

Costumed Robin Hoods display a giant bull’s eye in the demonstration area outside the conference hall at the COP17 climate talks. Delegates are encouraged to hit the target – with Robin Hood Tax stickers awarded to those who hit the mark. A team of robins explain more about this innovative financing mechanism.

“We’re asking the COP17 leaders to stand up for the needs of world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” says Alex Kent from the Robin Hood Tax campaign. “Under the “Polluter Pays” principle, we’re asking them to back the Robin Hood Tax as one way to fill the Green Climate Fund, fight climate change and fight poverty. The world cannot wait. There is no Planet B.”

Over the past two weeks, ONE (SINGAPORE) has been consistently updating our members on the latest happenings at COP17 in Durban, South Africa. Countries negotiated, delegates debated, activist and various non-profit groups stood their ground representing the majority of the world and in one voice fought for climate justice.

Unfortunately, the Robin Hood Tax was not endorsed at COP17, but momentum is building for the tax’s adoption as more countries pledge to join a “coalition of the willing”.

“The number of climate calamaties in the past few months alone is mind-boggling. Huge areas of Central America and Thailand under water. Severe drought in Somalia. Crops ruined. So many lives lost,” says ONE (SINGAPORE) co-founder Michael Switow. “The people suffering the most from man-made climate change are not responsible for causing it. We need financing now to fight climate change and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The Robin Hood Tax is a simple, fair way to do this.”

In addition to ONE (SINGAPORE), other organisations that endorsed this open letter include CIDSE (Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité), Earth in Brackets, ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation), Stamp Out Poverty and the UK Youth Climate Coalition.

The full text of the letter is below.

An appeal to South African President Jacob Zuma

Dear President Zuma,

We write to thank you for joining the emerging coalition of the willing on the Financial Transaction Tax (popularly known as the Robin Hood Tax) at the G20 Summit in Cannes. We urge you to continue to show leadership in support of the Robin Hood Tax as one of the mechanisms for fighting climate change and poverty at COP17.

We will not accept rich countries’ excuse that the financial crisis prevents them from fulfilling their promise to deliver $100bn annually to fight climate change. Raising the money to support developing countries in their efforts to climate-proof their economies and communities is a matter of economic and climate justice.

We urge you to help turn the economic and climate crises into a global opportunity. The Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) is a practical, effective and equitable way to ensure that the world’s richest help pay for the problems they created.

The FTT is a tiny tax (around 0.05%) levied on all financial market transactions. We pay a transaction tax every time we buy food and clothes; it’s only fair that the banking sector also pay a transaction tax. The 99% bailed out the financial sector three years ago, yet the gap between the rich and the poor is growing. It is now time for the financial sector to pay their fair share. The taxes will dis-incentivize high frequency trading and risky speculation, thus contributing to economic stability while potentially raising hundreds of billions of dollars every year from rich countries for fighting climate change (by filling the Green Climate Fund) and fighting poverty.

Emissions are growing, temperatures are rising, and the impacts of climate change present a clear and imminent threat to the millions of people it will force into poverty, hunger and life threatening circumstances, on the African continent and around the globe. We look to your leadership, President Zuma, to stand up for the needs of world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Ensure rich countries pay their climate debt – back the FTT in Durban this week.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Every ONE Can – The Numbers Are In!

10 Nov 2011 (1)
The FoodXervices’ Team at Every ONE Can

Every ONE Can was a whopping success this year! More products, more purchases at wholesale prices and donations for Willing Hearts that filled a truckload! In a nutshell, products purchased have a wholesale value of more than S$17,000. However patrons actually spent about S$13,000, because of the discounts offered on the day of the event. This is actual savings as opposed to retail prices where they would have spent at least S$19- 20K!Willing Hearts

Among the items purchased for donation: cranberry juice, chilli garlic sauce, rice, noodles and much more. We filled up a truck and then some. Charles Liew of Willing Hearts says the donation would probably last two weeks if used all at once, but since the organisation has other ingredients in stock as well, it “will use some items now and others later.”

Willing Hearts prepares and delivers meals to some 2500 people everyday. Unfortunately the number of people needing assistance keeps growing. When ONE (SINGAPORE) first met Willing Hearts at the beginning of the year, it was serving about 1500 people a day.

Several partner organisations — Gift & Take, Hummingfish Foundation (Ai-Funan), Mother and Child Project, TWC2 and Willing Hearts — set up booths at Every ONE Can to raise awareness of their causes and funds for disadvantaged groups. So in addition to grocery shopping, customers also had the chance to look for that”one of a kind” item during the event and show their support for these awesome boutiques. Among the items for sale by the social enterprises, there were organic soaps made by East Timorese women, candles, children’s books, t-shirts, unique eco-friendly gifts and handicrafts.

10 Nov 2011 (2)

We would like to express our heartfelt THANKS to FoodXervices, as well as the partners and patrons who made Every ONE Can a fun and eventful day for all!

Every ONE Can feeds a hungry person. Every ONE Can Stand Up and Make a Difference. Every ONE Can Make Poverty History!

Additional Resources

  • Every ONE Can 2011
  • Check out the photos on our Flickr page and let us know which is your favorite!

“We’re Youth. We’re the upcoming Generation.”~ ACJC Stands Up

Students at Anglo Chinese Junior College have once again joined the global movement to Make Poverty History!

9 Nov 2011 (1)

ACJC’s Arts Council organised a two-day event to Stand Up and Take Action Against Poverty and the collective response from their classmates was:
“We feel it’s particularly important to Stand Up because we are Youths. We’re the upcoming generation and it’s important for us to instill the aim of eradicating poverty and of Stand Up in our generation.”

On 24-25 October, Arts Council members went around the school asking students why they felt it was necessary for them and others to stand up against poverty.  Students also set up a booth, which was prominently displayed at the school’s void deck, to raise awareness of the global poverty crisis.

Over 800 students participated. Many took photos with placards announcing why they are Standing Up.  Support for this movement has become a yearly tradition at the school since ACJC students first joined Stand Up in 2009.  This year, students were once again eager to show their support as they felt that the movement against poverty encapsulates many worthy causes.

“It’s great to know that so many of my fellow students are enthusiastic and supportive of the Stand Up movement,” says student organiser Yustynn Panicker, who adds that he was overwhelmed by the support of his peers.

A number of students requested that the the two-day event be extended so that even more of their classmates could speak out against poverty.  This is the third year running that ACJC students have joined the international Stand Up Take Action Against Poverty campaign.

“I love that our school is taking up such an important cause and I’m proud to Stand Up,” says Saira Roop, a student participant.

The ACJC Arts Council also sold ONE (SINGAPORE) Make Poverty History t-shirts and whitebands to raise funds for Care + Share, an organisation that provides milk to primary school students in Indian slums. The students raised S$ 424. ONE (SINGAPORE) is topping up the amount to S$800, which should purchase more than 4500 glasses of milk for the students.

ACJC Stand Ups for LOVE, the impoverished and more. . . . check out their photos!

Fighting Malnutrition & Encouraging Dreams among Climate Refugees

ONE (SINGAPORE) is teaming up with the Room to Grow Foundation for the second time to provide nutritional support to orphans and other ‘unparented’ migrant children along the Thai-Burmese border.

More than 180 students at the Shwe The Zin school near Mae Sot, Thailand will receive multivitamins three times a week for the duration of the school year, from 1 November 2011 to 31 March 2012. Twenty-five students who are boarding at the facility will also enjoy better meals with beans, eggs, vegetables and other forms of protein.

“Room to Grow does an excellent job fighting malnutrition and working with children from a marginalised community,” says ONE (SINGAPORE) co-founder Michael Switow. “The children and their families have fled violence, conflicts and ‘natural’ disasters in Burma. Their home region is actually a frontline victim of climate change.”

Most of the students at the Shwe The Zin school come from families that fled Burma after Cyclone Nargis ripped through the Irawaddy Delta in 2008, leaving untold numbers of people homeless. They now live in villages in Thailand that do not offer educational opportunities for Burmese children.

Shwe The Zin is one of 60+ informal migrant schools in the Mae Sot community. Approximately 85 per cent of the school’s students live in surrounding plantation zones where their parents work as day laborers; other students live in factories where their parents are employed.

She The Zin has largely functioned without regular support from donors. The headmaster, a monk who was active during Burma’s 2007 Saffron Revolution, raises money to feed children boarding at the school by telling fortunes, doing astrological readings and selling herbal medicines. But these efforts are unfortunately not sufficient to provide the children with well-balanced meals. The Room to Grow Foundation — a charity that provides food and other necessities to children so “they can go to school with a full belly” — has been working with She The Zin since June 2011. R2G works to ensure that children can “go to sleep safely with a mind full of dreams they will one day be able to realize”.

“It has been inspiring to see the headmaster working hard to generate income for his school in order to pay for rent, utilities, school stationary and transport for children living far from school,” says R2G project coordinator Jennifer Jones. “It has also been difficult to see needs remain unmet. That’s why we’re excited to be partnering with ONE(SINGAPORE) to ensure that the children living at the school receive regular meals and good nutrition.”

ONE (SINGAPORE)’s support for this programme was made possible by a donation from The Superseed Trust.

Additional Resources

  • Photos (Facebook | Flickr)
  • An update on ONE (SINGAPORE)’s first donation to Room to Grow
  • About Room to Grow
  • Radio broadcast about Room to Grow

ONE (S) urgent call to Commonwealth leaders to address health related MDGs

Tell the Commonwealth it’s time to take urgent actions to meet the MDGs!
5 Nov 2011

ONE (SINGAPORE) has joined some 400 civil society organisations and anti-poverty campaigners from across the globe in calling on leaders of the Commonwealth to take urgent actions to ensure that the health targets of the Millennium Development Goals are met for all two billion Commonwealth citizens by 2015.

While increased funding and attention to health issues have led to progress — including a significant reduction in child mortality, fewer deaths from malaria and greater access to life-saving drugs for people with HIV — much more work needs to be done in order to meet the MDGs.

Specifically, the Open Letter to the Commonwealth leaders calls on each country to take the following actions:

  1. Meet the minimum W.H.O. (World Health Organisation) standards, including providing at least 2.3 professional health workers for every 1000 people.
  2. Provide universal access to family planning services and ensure that all women are able to give birth with a skilled attendant.
  3. Scale up responses to tuberculosis and HIV
  4. Fully fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is working to eradicate the second disease in human history
  5. Ensure that all citizens have access to safe drinking water and effective hygiene by 2015.
  6. Improve food security and nutrition by increasing support to small scale agricultural producers, particularly women.

The open letter was organised by Make Poverty History Australia and signed by Oxfam, ONE (SINGAPORE) and Save the Children, among other organisations. MPH Australia planned to present it to the Australian government prior to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth at the end of October. Unfortunately, the Australian Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined requests for a face-to-face meeting. The Open Letter and an online petition will now be submitted to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

You can add your voice to the online petition through Friday 11 November.

The Commonwealth includes 54 nations, largely former British colonies in Africa and Asia. Singapore joined the Commonwealth in 1965 and the Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles provided the association with a set of ideals and shared values in 1971.

RESOURCES

Making a Difference in Children’s Lives: An Update from Room to Grow

More than 150 ‘unparented’ children — who have escaped violence in their home communities in Burma and are currently living near the Thai-Burmese border – are eating more nutritious meals, thanks to the support of ONE (SINGAPORE)’s partners.

Earlier this year, ONE (SINGAPORE) pledged S$2343 to a nutritional programme run by Room To Grow. This donation is providing 153 children with a better diet that includes yellow beans and eggs.

These fresh nutritional supplements cost just S$15 per child or about 29 cents per child per week. ONE (SINGAPORE)’s sponsorship of this programme was made possible by support from Pernod Ricard and Zirca.

Our donation is funding food at two programmes in Mae Sot, Thailand: the Agape school and boarding house and the SAW Safehouse for orphaned and abandoned children. Distribution of the nutritional supplements follows the local school year, which runs from April through March.

As promised, we would like to share the latest updates from Room to Grow. Below are some quotes from the project’s Food Programme Report for the first half of the year. We’ve also uploaded some great photos!

An excerpt from Food Programme Report, Q1 & Q2 2011
“During the funding period, a total of 221 kilograms of yellow lentils and 820 eggs were delivered and consumed by children. From the total funds provided, just over 70 per cent funded yellow lentil purchases for 153 children, 22 per cent funded eggs for 100 children and the remaining funds were used for transportation and monitoring to begin the project. The project is currently on budget and projections indicate that we will be able to offer the same level of funding for yellow lentils and eggs until the end of March 2012.”

HTY, Care Giver for SAW Safe House, explaining the nutritional value of yellow beans
“Eating yellow beans often is so good for the children, and children like to eat yellow beans curry. If we can get yellow beans for the entire year, it will have a great effect on the children because beans give them good nutrition. Children should eat bean curry at least 2-3 times a week. Eating beans, makes children’s bones strong, and they can grow fast. Beans are easy to cook, and we have many different ways to cook beans.”

KYT, Grade 2 student, Agape, on his favourite meal
“We can grow fast if we eat beans two or three times a week. I like to eat bean and vegetable curry. And I want to eat chicken curry once a week. I went to the kitchen first if the cook cooked egg and beans soup, but for the other curries, I was late to go to the kitchen.”

Additional Resources

  • ONE (SINGAPORE) Food Programme Report, Q1 & Q2 2011 (Prepared by Room to Grow)
  • What is Room To Grow?
  • Photos (Facebook | Flickr)
  • Radio broadcast about Room to Grow (“Poverty No More”, 938LIVE, 17 September 2011)

“Don’t Cut Aid,” ONE (S) and int’l civil society tell Japan

As Japan prepared to host an international meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, ONE (SINGAPORE) joined with civil society groups in Japan and from across the world to call on the Japanese government to honour its international aid and development commitments.

Following the March earthquake and tsunami, Tokyo announced that it would cut overseas aid in order to concentrate on relief and reconstruction at home. These cuts – including a 100% reduction in funding to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – will cost lives and reverse gains made towards the achievement of the MDGs.

“The Japanese government must not abandon its commitments to eradicate poverty and disease in impoverished countries,” says Masaki Inaba of GCAP Japan. “My colleagues and I were shocked to see our government cut assistance to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Global poverty is a ‘silent tsunami’ which Japanese aid has been fighting. Pitting domestic reconstruction against overseas aid is the wrong approach. Japan must be do both.”

“Much as we understand the rationale behind these cuts, we urge the Japanese government not to abandon its commitments to eradicate poverty and disease in impoverished countries,” adds ONE (SINGAPORE) President Vernetta Lopez and co-founder Michael Switow in a letter to Japan’s Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Yoichi Suzuki. “By taking action now, Japan can save lives and set a prime example of commitment and solidarity for the protection of people’s lives and the elimination of disease, poverty and conflict.”

Read the full text of ONE (SINGAPORE)’s letter as well as a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan signed by the co-chairs of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty.

RELATED ARTICLES AND LINKS

“Yet Another Case of Illegal Deductions”

Should we care how foreign workers are treated in Singapore?

By Alex Au, TWC2 Treasurer

For months, Hafeez suffered in silence. His employer had deducted S$500 a month from his already pathetic wage of $22 a day working as a forklift driver and general labourer at a glass supply firm. Do a simple calculation: If he worked 30 days a month at $22 a day, he would have made only $660 a month. Deduct $500 from that and what’s left?

Yes, he had some overtime, for which he was paid $4 an hour, but it did not add up to much.

Knowing few others except some other labourers from Bangladesh and with only a rudimentary grasp of English, Hafeez did not know who or where to turn to for help. He didn’t even know what the law said about deductions.

And then his contract ended and his Work Permit was cancelled. The employer arranged for an air ticket home and told him to make his way to the airport on the assigned evening.

With 24 hours left in Singapore, he had one last chance to ask a question: Was it within his employer’s right to deduct that?

Did he have to go back to Bangladesh with nothing to show for his time in Singapore, nothing to feed his family with, nothing to help him pay off the debts he incurred to get the job in the first place? Like virtually all migrant workers in Singapore, he had to pay his recruiter upfront to get the job; about S$3,000 in his case.

How was he going to face his mother, wife, four daughters and a baby son who depended on him to survive? Wouldn’t unscrupulous debt collectors come after him once they hear he was back in the village?

* * * * *

And so on his penultimate evening in Singapore, with increasing desperation, he walked around Little India asking, of total strangers even, where he might get a little help. By sheer luck, someone pointed him to a restaurant that the Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) was using as a soup kitchen to feed migrants who were out of work, out of money, abandoned or abused by their employers. Hafeez was one of about 250 men streaming in that evening. All of them with similar stories. Hafeez’s was not the most unusual.

10 June 2011

But his was unusually urgent and so TWC2 volunteers swung into action, tired though they were from the endless flow of cases.

“We almost had to pull him off the plane,” a TWC2 volunteer told me. “He was that close to being sent home without getting what was due to him.”

The phrasing might have been a tad dramatic, but indeed, part of the action took place at the airport the next evening. But let’s not run ahead of the story.

Immediately the following day, a volunteer accompanied him to the Ministry of Manpower where they consulted an officer. Hafeez informed them that the employer had been deducting from his salary to make up these amounts, totalling $4,200:

  • $3,500 for medical expenses,
  • $340 for the airfare back to Bangladesh
  • $360 being $30 deducted per month x 12 months.

(I couldn’t understand from Hafeez’s very basic English exactly what the last item — $30 a month — was for.)

The ministry official agreed that these would be illegal deductions. So, at the airport that evening, when the company representative attempted to pay him only $158.55 in wages, being the purported final amount net of these deductions, Hafeez refused to take the money. He even tore up the receipt that he was asked to sign. If he had signed it, it would have been acknowledgment that the $158.55 was all he was owed and nothing more . . . READ ON

RELATED ARTICLES AND LINKS

Read what other people have to say about this article

Background on The Cuff Road Project

Coordinator Named ‘Woman of the Year’

Poverty No More’ – Episodes 5 & 6 – The Cuff Road Project

Migrant workers and The Cuff Road Project: Dialogue session

Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2)

The G8’s Aid Report Card

Condemnation and commendation: G8 countries show mixed results in efforts to meet aid targets

20 May 2011 (1)

In 2005, the G8 and EU made a set of historic commitments to help sub-Saharan Africa meet the Millennium Development Goals.  As the G8 prepares to meet in Deauville, France on 26-27 May, we would like to share a report with you from ONE in the United States about how the G8 countries are doing on their commitments.

Here are the main findings of the 2011 DATA Report:

  1. Collectively the G7 delivered 61% of the increased aid they promised in 2005 to sub-Saharan Africa by 2010. The increases were largely a result of the UK making commendable progress towards its very ambitious target and the US, Japan and Canada surpassing their relatively modest targets. Italy’s performance is condemnable, falling far short of its promises to the world’s poorest people. France and Germany have also failed to meet their ambitious targets.
  2. The failure of the G8 to keep their promises deprived the world’s poorest people of $7bn in financing for effective and life-changing programmes in 2010 alone.
  3. Despite the overall shortfall, there have been historic increases in aid to sub-Saharan Africa since 2000, and especially since 2005 and the promises of the Gleneagles G8 Summit which was a response to the global Make Poverty History campaign.
  4. Much of this smart aid went towards programmes that are delivering real results in sub-Saharan Africa. Together with African efforts, aid has helped to avert the deaths of 750,000 children from malaria; allowed 46.5 million children to enroll in school for the first time; provided 4 million Africans with anti-AIDS drugs; and helped boost agricultural productivity by 50% in 17 African countries.
  5. Emerging economies such as Brazil, India, China and Russia have been steadily increasing their aid to sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, along with increased trade and investment with African countries.

20 May 2011 (2)

France, Germany and Italy “must urgently get back on track by setting out clear timetables to meet the promises they made to give 0.7% of their national incomes as overseas aid by 2015,” says ONE Executive Director Jamie Drummond. “At the same time, non-European G8 countries like the US, Canada and Japan should set new, ambitious commitments for aid to sub-Saharan Africa.”

However even if G8 donors meet all their existing and future promises on aid, much more money needs to be invested in developing countries if we are to reach the Millennium Development Goals and pull millions of people out of poverty.  Innovative financing measures — like a Robin Hood Tax and African diaspora bonds — need to be adopted.

“We welcome the momentum on innovative finance for development at the G20,” adds Mr. Drummond, “even though there are some questions over whether President Sarkozy’s new focus on this area is in part an attempt to divert attention away from France’s failure to meet its fair share of Europe’s aid targets. That is why we are calling for real and measurable progress to be made before the end of 2011.”

RELATED ARTICLES AND LINKS

TCRP Coordinator Named ‘Woman of the Year’

Debbie Fordyce, the coordinator of The Cuff Road Project, has been named International Woman of the Year by the American Women’s Association of Singapore.

After visiting with destitute migrant workers who were sleeping on footpaths in Little India two years ago, Debbie helped start The Cuff Road Project, which has since served more than 170,000 restaurant meals to jobless workers in safe clean environments where the men can eat with dignity.

Debbie works on a full-time volunteer basis, running the project and assisting participants with their cases, which often includes visits to the Ministry of Manpower, hospitals and the courthouse.

Here at ONE (SINGAPORE), we are extremely proud of Debbie! She works tirelessly to assist men who have come to Singapore to escape poverty in their home communities, but along the way have been scammed by employment agents, not paid due wages by their employers and suffered severe injuries.

4 Mar 2011

Debbie Fordyce, featured in a Lianhe Zaobao article

Additional Resources