Richard North, 01/09/2005  

Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach of Ireland will today come out strongly in support of the CAP. Unsurprisingly, the Irish Farmers’ Association has already welcomed what they see as a kick in the general direction of Prime Minister Blair who rather vaguely and unwisely expressed the view that the CAP should be reformed or even abolished.

Of course, it meant nothing, since Mr Blair cannot achieve either of those aims and Mr Ahern is not expected to name names in his accusations against people who are making “negative and simplistic comments about the CAP [that] are driven by self interest”. Comments if favour of the CAP are not, of course, driven by anything as vulgar as self-interest.

At least, Mr Ahern is expected to be quite clear about the aims of CAP. Some waffle about it being good value for money (without specifying of who is paying the money and who is getting the value, if any) but mainly, he will say, that
“… to abolish or undermine the Common Agricultural Policy would weaken the entire European project at a time when Europe needs strengthening”.
Funnily enough, Mr Ahern has been facing some criticism on a different but related aspect. The NGOs are getting at him. Rather blithely he promised five years ago to increase Irish spending on overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GNP.

A fortnight or so before the UN General Assembly meets to discuss the possibility (remote at the moment) of member states handing over that famous 0.7 per cent to them to be distributed as aid to developing countries or, to be quite precise, their kleptocratic and oppressive governments as well as the various aid agencies, the latter are beginning to get restive.

Hans Zomer, of the NGO umbrella organisation Dochas, has reminded Ahern that
“It was at this very same forum five years ago that the Taoiseach promised to increase aid to reach the 0.7% target. Since then, the Government has announced it will not reach the target by 2007, but has not given us an alternative plan.”
Well, of course, no prime minister who wishes to retain his political career would ever seriously hand over large amounts of money like that either to the unaccountable and scandal-enmired UN or the NGOs.

The Make Poverty History charities, watching the prize slipping away from them, are rather desperately suggesting that the date should be rescheduled to 2010, to make sure that the world’s poor see that “we” do not break our promises to them.”

Seeing how many of the world’s poor have made it clear that it is not aid but a fair crack at trade that they would like and seeing that even the NGOs have had to agree reluctantly that not much will happen as long the developing countries have the sort of political regimes they have, one wonders whether Mr Zomer thinks that everybody’s memory is as short as his own:
“This need for leadership has never been more pressing, given the attempts by some countries to undermine the fight against poverty in the run-up to the UN Millennium Summit in two weeks’ time.”
One of the strongest ways of undermining the fight for poverty is to hang on to the CAP, as Mr Ahern is doing. (Not because it benefits the people who might vote for him, honest, guv.)

The second one is to hand aid money over to NGOs who have no particular interest in changing the situation in the “client” states and the governments who have even less interest in changing anything.

But that, I suspect, is not what Mr Zomer and his ever more anxious colleagues mean.


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