23/06/2006 4 min #1436

War on Want has been developing a global thematic approach to its overseas activities

{::export from newsnet in projets by newsnet date: 23/06/06}Context Analysis: Increased poverty, exclusion and inequality

According to figures from the Human Development Report, some 1.2 billion people live in poverty, with a daily income below US$1, an amount clearly insufficient to cover minimum food requirements. The gap between developed and developing countries is growing. The income per head for the top 20% of the world’s population is 60 times that of the poorest 20%, while 25 years ago it was only 30 times.

The dynamics of globalisation and increased flows of foreign direct investment have helped to create millions of jobs in export processing zones producing goods for mostly European and North American markets. However, the huge wealth created by the garments and related industries have had little impact on making sustainable improvements to the livelihoods of ordinary workers, mostly women and their families.

Poverty indicators are even worse in rural areas where we find the highest percentages of people living in extreme poverty. Rural poverty is related to inequalities in land ownership, with few owning land, and the vast majority working for them or attempting to survive on small plots. Land reform and the participation of rural workers organisations in the political process should be a priority on the anti poverty agenda. Poverty in cities has grown significantly since the end of the eighties. During the nineties when stabilisation and structural adjustment recipes were prescribed for developing countries, complemented by privatisation initiatives, overt unemployment grew, as did under-employment making of the informal economy the key issue in the 21st century. Political violence goes hand in hand with poverty and inequalities. It is, therefore, not surprising that 80% of conflict zones are currently located in developing countries. Colombia serves as a sad example, a country that has suffered great conflict for over forty years, causing the internal displacement of approximately 1.5 million people. Most of these are peasant farmers, caught in the crossfire of the paramilitary, government and guerrilla forces.

The Approach of War on Want

War on Want recognised expertise is about workers' rights. The focus of our strategic approach is based on the understanding that the first right of a worker is their right to work, but the conditions in which they work are no less important. This understanding together with our competencies and identity, has led us to develop global thematic programmes. Each programme focuses on a theme and works across many countries, enabling us to focus our expertise and understanding of these themes and to make a difference in our struggle against poverty.

Our strategic focus is on workers’ rights and our four programme’s aims are as follows:

To create and strengthen workers’ organisations in export process zones.

To promote rural workers’ rights. We focus our activities on the rights of rural people to have land to work and to be organised and recognised by public policies.

To promote the rights of workers in the informal economy.

To promote workers’ rights in conflict zones. In times of conflict and war, workers’ rights in developing countries, often already weak, are eroded even more, and frequently the most important is the right to work

Innovation: We are also able to support activities that may not entirely fit into our thematic programmes but that tackle poverty and social exclusion in new and innovative ways or address emerging issues.

We work through trade unions, grassroots organisations and NGOs in developing countries. We aim to empower people in order to enable them to influence decisions which impact on their lives, and to see that their human and workers’ rights are met.

A thematic and focused approach has increased the expertise of the organisation within relevant sub-fields helping War on Want to become more effective in pursuing its mission and a unique point of reference for other NGOs and public and private donors. The thematic expertise will also help us to add value to the relationship with our overseas partners, which cannot be confined to the transfer of funds.

Where we work

Within the programme ‘workers’ organisations in export process zones’, is focused on South East Asia, China and Central America.

The ‘rural workers’ rights’ programme is grounded on Brazil, Southern Africa, Colombia, and Bangladesh.

The ‘informal economy workers rights’ programme is focused on Brazil, India, Southern Africa and South East Asia countries.

The ‘workers’ rights in conflict zones’ programme is based in Palestine, Colombia, Western Sahara.