Open Letter To The People Of Viet Nam

We have come from many countries of the world to take part in the International Meeting on Solidarity, Friendship and Cooperation with Viet Nam and join the Vietnamese people in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. Its founding was the fruit of a long, hard and heroic struggle of a nation for dignity, social equity and independence. This has been a major event in world history . We recall with profound emotion the rote played by President Ho Chi Minh, your cherished and charismatic leader, founder of the Communist Party of Viet Nam.

Viet Nam has been a symbol of liberation from colonialism and imperialist aggression. It has attracted broad international solidarity and inspired the forces of peace and justice across the world. We wish to thank you for your courage, example and inspiration. You have helped us keep hope during the struggles and maintain our belief in the emancipator capacity of human beings.

The achievements of the Vietnamese people over the past decades have proved the importance and viability of socialist ideals. This bears a special significance at a time when capitalist globalization is attacking the interests of people the world over, deepening social differences and increasing social injustices.

Today, once more, we would like to express our active solidarity with the Vietnamese people. We reaffirm our commitment to further strengthening friendship and cooperation with you in your current endeavors for national independence and socialism. Meanwhile, we shall not forget the past and the sufferings of war, in particular the Vietnamese victims of the "Agent Orange" still calling for fairness and justice.

We wish the Vietnamese people every success in building an independent and socialist Viet Nam, a strong country with a prosperous people in an equitable, democratic and advanced society.
Hanoi, September 1, 2005

International Forum on Reducing Poverty in Asia, Africa and Latin America:
Peoples’ Experiences and Visions.
31 August, 2005

Poverty and Political Will
By: Dr. Fakhry Labib

Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, Former Vice President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Vice-President of the Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization and Chairperson of the Vietnam Institution for Peace and Development,

Mr. Vu Xuan Hong, President of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations.

Mr. Pham Van Chuong, President of Vietnam Committee for Afro-Asian, Latin American Solidarity and Cooperation.

Mr. Alfredo Alvarez, OSPAAAL.

Honourable Delegation Members,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have the honor of addressing you on behalf of the Permanent Secretariat of the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization, conveying to you the greetings of AAPSO President Dr. Murad Ghalib, and Secretary General Mr. Nouri Abdel Razzak.

I would like to express my deep thanks to you for your invitation, and congratulate the organizers for their intensive efforts in connection with four important events:

Celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the birth of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has been a source of my own, as well as my friends’ and my comrades’ great pleasure. It is a great pleasure for us all, that the day has come for me to visit Vietnam, the country that we turned out, in our youth, in massive demonstrations supporting its struggle, and hailing its valiant people, and their certain triumph.

It is a great honor and pleasure for me to come to the country of men whose names have resounded in human history: Ho Chi Menh, Giyab. Also there is Dian Bian Fo, the Vitkong, and the great people of Vietnam. It is a great honor and pleasure for me to come to the land of heroism and sacrifice, the land of the armed popular struggle that has defeated the mightiest military force on earth and caused it a complex that still haunts its political and military life. Vietnam is the country that has defied destruction, ruin, and annihilation of its soil, its plants and its people. Vietnam is the country that has defeated the technology of evil thanks to human intelligence, and rose to its feet to build, through a determined will, its own world of choice. Vietnam is the country whose mythical experiment has inspired millions of freedom fighters throughout the world, their confidence in their will, their future. We are on a sacred land that the blood of millions of brave and valiant martyrs has consecrated. We wish those great martyrs’ sons and grandchildren, who are the builders of today’s Vietnam, welfare and the best of everything. We are marking a glorious event that witnessed the inception of a unified, independent and socialist Vietnam. We bow in respect for this great memory.

There is also the International Conference on Solidarity, Friendship and Cooperation with Vietnam. Solidarity, friendship and cooperation between peoples are a very important issue We are now living in the age of globalization, the World Bank the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and multi-nationals. This state of affairs necessitates the rise of a globalization that confronts this imposed globalization. We need now a popular globalization that rests on close relations between peoples. The present age of a globalization that mighty powers impose on peoples everywhere requires us to have a globalization that emerges from the grassroots, a globalization that will belong to those threatened, marginalized, oppressed and exposed to pressures, extortion and blackmail. Solidarity, friendship and cooperation with Vietnam are a historic and patriotic necessity. This country deserves every love, respect and appreciation, and is worthy of renewal of these noble principles in concrete aspects of solidarity, friendship and cooperation.

Another worthy and great event is the fifty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the World Peace Council. The World Peace Council has always played a very important role in establishing and deepening concepts of a peace that rest on justice and peace, not on concepts of capitulation. The peace of colonized and occupied countries will not materialize until these countries get their independence and cause foreign forces’ withdrawal from their territories. Peace means working for freedom and mobilizing peoples in demonstrations and conferences against military bases and the exorbitantly costly armament race in general and the nuclear in particular. The peace movement has spread in the entire world, so much so that it has become a fearful specter intimidating the forces of war and aggression. The peace movement has spread not only in various countries’ capitals, but also in their provinces and outlying districts, forming a broad front opposed to war, aggression and occupation and becoming an integral part of the movement for liberation and progress in the entire world.
It has therefore been logical that committees for peace and solidarity were formed in many countries. They are committees that work for peace on the one hand and struggle for liberation on the other hand, thus achieving the right formula on which both the World Peace Conference and the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization have always rested.

On this glorious occasion, we greet the World Peace Council and wish it every success.

The fourth great event is the International Forum on Reducing Poverty in Asia, Africa and Latin America: Peoples’ Experiences and Visions.

In fact, poverty and hunger are the greatest challenge to mankind. The fact is that one fifth of the population of the world, i.e.1, 2 billion, suffers from poverty. Also, three quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas and on less than one dollar a day(1). Furthermore, half of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day(2), while eighty per cent suffers from malnutrition and hunger(3).

Worse still, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. This is manifest in the fact that twenty per cent of the world’s population possesses 82% of the world’s wealth, while the poorest twenty percent possesses 4, 1%, a percentage that was 2, 4% thirty years ago(4). It is an outrageous fact that 358 persons in the world control 62 billion dollars, every one of them having an income equal to that of entire nations(4).

Poverty is defined as the inability to access essential resources and services such as healthcare, housing, training, sources of modern energy, food, potable water and sanitation(1).

One major indicator in this respect is daily per capita income. The percentages of people living on less than one dollar a day is as follows:

(The mentioned countries are those with percent more than 25%)
Senegal 26, 2% (1995), the Democratic and Popular Republic of Lao 26, 3%, Kenya 26, 5% (1994), Mauritania 28, 6% (1995), Bangladesh 29, 1% (1996), Bolivia 29, 4% (1997), Pakistan 31% (1996), Ethiopia 31, 3% (1995), Rwanda 25, 7% (1983-1985), Zimbabwe 36% (1990-1991), Mozambique 37, 9% (1996), Ghana 28, 8% (1998), Haiti 40, 5%(1996), Honduras 40, 5% (1996), Lesotho 43, 1% (1993), India 44, 2% (1997), Gambia 53, 7% (1992), Sierra Leone 61, 4% (1989), Burkina Faso 57% (1994), Niger 61, 4% (1995), Madagascar 62, 4% (1997), Zambia 63, 7% )1998), Central Africa 66, 6% (1993), Nigeria 70, 2% (1997), Mali 72, 8% (1994) (2).

Another criterion is that of literacy rates. Following is a 1999 statistic on the literacy rates of males and females over 14 years of age.
(The countries are those with an illiteracy rate over fifty percent)
Illiteracy of males
Afghanistan 50%, Chad (50%), Mali (53%), Senegal (54%), Ethiopia (57%), Burkina Faso (67%), Niger (77%) (2).

Illiteracy among females:
Democratic Congo (51%), Malawi (55%), Sudan (55%), India (56%_, Togo (60%), Eritrea (61%), Liberia (63%), Ivory Coast (63%), Central Africa (63%), Mali (67%), Chad (68%), Ethiopia (68%), Democratic, Popular Lao (68%), Mauritania (69%), Pakistan (70%), Pakistan (70%), Bangladesh (71%), Mozambique (72%), Gambia (72%), Senegal (73%), Yemen (76%R), Benin (76%), Nepal (77%), Cambodia 79%), Afghanistan (80%), Guinea Bissau 82%), Burkina Faso 87%), Niger 92%) (2).

A third criterion is that of mortality rates of infants born on 1999.
(The following countries are those with mortality rates of 100 deaths for every one thousand newborns)
Cambodia 100, Chad 104, Burundi 105, Burkina Faso 105, Djibouti 109, Ivory Coast 111, Liberia 113, Niger 116, Mali 120, Somalia 121, Rwanda 123, Guinea Bissau 127, Angola 127, Mozambique 131, Malawi 132, Afghanistan 147, Sierra Leone 167 (2).

The above statistics show that all criteria of poverty apply to southern countries exclusively and that the African sub-Sahara countries have the lion’s share in this respect, followed by Latin America. On the other hand, poverty is on the rise in the United States of America where millions are jobless, the wages of less skilled labor decrease and social spending has shrunk greatly (4).

The most dangerous aspect in the poverty phenomenon is that it is not lessening. It rather spreads, and those living in great poverty in many countries, mostly women and children, are the most disadvantaged group, especially in least developed countries.

The UN Secretary General held on 30 January 2004, at the Geneva UN quarters a press conference with each of French President Jacque Chirac, Brazilian President Silva and Chilean President Ricardo, on the issue of fighting poverty. Silva said, at the conference, that the world agenda disproportionately focuses on security issues like terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, while a safer world would be that which is more equitable and just. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction that kills 24000 persons daily and eleven children every minute (3). For his part, Chirac said that poverty has had its impact on both the rich and the poor countries on all continents .The impact has been that of the spread of slavery: the buying and selling of humans(3).

The poverty we are witnessing today is not a new phenomenon or a new arrival. It is a historical inheritance that has accumulated as a result of dark ages of regressive, feudal and colonialist regimes addicted to plunder. When the colonized countries got their freedom, many of their peoples fell victim to new despots worse that the previous colonialists. These peoples entered into a new stage of local plunderers and insatiable, parasitical capitalism. Many of the rulers of the south sent their countries back into the age of dependence, and their peoples suffered times worse than those of the past. They found themselves squeezed between internal and external pressures. Countries became poorer than before.

The corruption that has mushroomed strongly, due to its dependence on dictatorial and repressive regimes, has sucked up all local riches and resources. It has stolen the funds in banks and individuals’ money. And it is the economic policies pursued that mainly serve the interests of certain groups that have stolen the gains of liberation movements, turning them into private booty for themselves alone, pushing the majority of peoples into abject poverty.

These regimes have also liquidated and privatized national economies, throwing thousands of workers into joblessness, putting more constrains on labor and other oppressive regulations, and straitjacketing labor and popular struggles. As a result, poverty and oppression went hand in hand.

The sieges that were imposed by superpowers on the peoples have contributed to lots of impoverishing factors. These superpowers put severe obstacles in the way of economic and social growth. Also, internal struggles, especially those armed, play a dangerous role in displacing people, rendering them homeless and impoverishing them. The trade liberalization process and the World Trade Organization’s rules have also played their role in limiting the countries’ role in the control of their own resources, replacing it with the market hegemony that cannot resolve the problems of joblessness and social inequality. It is a development that will take peoples to extreme poverty.

The so-called structural reform decisions, and the suspension by states of aid to peoples, contribute together with the World Bank’s instructions to lessened spending on services like health, education, transport and training. All that has worsened the poor peoples’ burden, rendering them poorer.

The explosive joblessness phenomenon has become an essential contributor to worsening poverty and weakening the conditions of many of the world’s populations. Joblessness in some countries has risen tenfold worse than it was a quarter of a century ago. Joblessness has grown prevalent among the youth, and is victimizing a great majority of those educated (5). This means wasting away countries’ future. The fact is that 30% of the world’s workforce, which is 2, 8 billion strong, is now unemployed, according to the International Labor Organization (4).

An unemployed person is deep in poverty. He loses his independence and dignity as he depends increasingly on his family that may also be poor. Which exposes these families and unemployed brackets to a terrible fate. Joblessness pushes the unemployed into uncalculated and unsafe emigration. The emigrants are exposed, if they reach their destinations safe without drowning in the sea or meeting their fate on land, to what resembles slavery in some countries. Their emigration might be to richer but yet more regressive and extreme countries that inculcate in the immigrants visions that the immigrants, whether out of subservience, hypocrisy or conviction, will carry back to their own countries to propagate ignorance, extremism and backwardness.
Some may even commit suicide out of despair of a non-existent future. Joblessness and poverty are a fertile breeding ground for forces of terrorism. Poverty leads to an inferior social status. It provides that climate that is very suitable for the spread of ignorance, due to lack of access to education and the spread of diseases due to lack of access to medical care, which results in a lesser ability of adults to work. Another grave consequence is the spread of catastrophic social ailments like prostitution and other criminal offences.

Poverty sends the moral if its victims to its bottom, rendering them in a pitiable state. It makes them lose faith in their own countries, weakens their sense of belonging. When coupled with a bad government that does not care for citizens, the poor among them in particular, it breeds frustration, despair and indifference. It leads to every dangerous prospect.

As poverty is really a grave challenge to humanity in its entirety, the United Nations has declared, in December 1995, its first decade for the extermination of poverty, from 1997 to 2006 (6).

The Earth Summit, held in Rio in 1992, prepared the 21st century’s agenda to limit poverty and lessen the umber of those marginalized in line with internationally accepted criteria for living expenses (1).

On the occasion of the New Millennium Summit, the United Nations also issued in September 2000 its declaration that state and government heads ratified, committing themselves to ending abject poverty, an objective that they considered an absolute necessity. They committed themselves to cutting by half, by the year 2015, the percentage of those whose daily income is less than one dollar (5).

The same has been agreed on regarding this issue during the International Conference for Development that was held at Monterey in Mexico from 18 to 22 March 2002, and during the World Summit for Sustainable Development that took place in Johannesburg in South Africa from 26 August to 4 September 2002 (6).

The United Nations has set forth its vision in this respect in the form of resolutions (6). It has also presented relevant proposals by its Secretary General, or by state leaders and presidents, during conferences held for the purpose of confronting and reducing poverty. The resolutions include the following:

-Poverty should be treated in an integrated and comprehensive manner.
-Poverty is a global phenomenon that should be treated through global methods, besides local treatment.
-Spreading the best practices to limit poverty in all its dimensions, while taking into account that these practices should be made to suit every individual country’s social, economic, cultural and historical conditions.
-Adopting sound economic policies that respond to peoples’ needs, while providing them with work opportunities, internal security and stability and respect for human rights, together with a commitment to spreading equitable and democratic communities.
-Every country should shoulder the main responsibility for the achievement of sustainable growth, extermination of poverty, while stressing the role of national development strategies, with particular emphasis on rural development.
-Actual contribution by developing countries to the internationally important decision making process.
-Finding a comprehensive solution to the foreign debt problem.
-Peaceful resolution of internal and external conflicts
-Confronting the smuggling of funds across countries.
-Combating corruption, a phenomenon that constitutes an obstacle to the mobilization and the efficient distribution of resources.
-Unrestricted opening up of Europe’s markets to all developing countries’ products.
-Eliminating all forms of support and intervention that expose developing countries’ producers to unequal competition.
-Facilitating access to technologies and information at terms convenient to developing countries.
-Backing the World Health Organization’s plan for the treatment of three million people afflicted with AIDS, and combating infectious diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, in view of their destructive effect on human development efforts, economic growth and food security, and containing the impacts of poverty.
-Providing safe drinking water and reducing by half, by the year 2015, the number of those who cannot access it.
-Providing elementary education and training and spreading by 2015, primary education everywhere.
-Supplying suitable housing.
-Establishing the poverty-combating fund proposed by Silva, Brazil’s President (3).

This fund can be financed by:
-Imposing taxes on activities like the traffic in arms. The world’s military budget amounts to $900 billion a year, half of it being spent by the United States (3).
-Imposing a tax on global financial transactions. About a trillion US dollars cross international borders every 24 hours in international speculative operations.
If a tax worth 0.5% is imposed on foreign currency exchanges, it will be possible to gather $150 billion a year (4).
-Raising the official development aid by $50 billion every year, which means raising it from the currently allotted $60 billion to $110 billion a year (3).
-Instituting financial sectors that are available to all, with the purpose of facilitating access by the needy, especially women, to small credit and financing facilities, which will enable them to undertake small projects that create work opportunities and empower them personally and enhance their ability to raise their incomes (7).
-On 15 December 1998, the UN General Assembly has declared that the year 2005 will be an international year for small credit. It called on governments, the UN organizations, related non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and other effective bodies to enhance the knowledge of small credit’s role in exterminating poverty, contributing to social development, and improving the life of the poor (7).
-It is noted that these credits improve incomes, provide work and living expenses, and enhance the human resources in terms of education, health and housing.
-Studies, however, have shown that these credits are not curative of poverty.
They succeed in certain cases, and with certain types of clients. They are more effective with those with economic opportunities that they can make use of and with those equipped with some experience in trade. They are unsuccessful with regard to the very poor who need social programs (8).

* The important declaration on the new Asian-African strategic partnership, issued by the Asian-African Partnership Summit to revive the spirit of Bandung in its 50th anniversary, which was held in April 2005 in Jakarta, Indonesia included:
- Reaffirming continued determination to eradicate racism and all forms of discrimination.
- Meeting the internationally agreed targets and goals aimed at poverty eradication, development and growth, and underline the necessity for all parties to honor their commitments in this regard, and emphasizing the importance of enhancing cooperation with all regions.
- Stressing that poverty and under-development, gender mainstreaming, communicable diseases, environmental degradation, natural disasters, drought and desertification, inequitable market access, and foreign debt remain as issues of common concern which call for closer cooperation and collective action.
- Addressing issues of common concern such as armed conflicts, weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. Preventing conflicts and resolve disputes by peaceful means and post conflict peace building.
- Promoting human resource development, enhancing capacity building and technical cooperation in order to create an enabling environment for the betterment of the regions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
All this indicates that this is a very complicated issue, and it worsens the matter that we are in a merciless world. Illiterate, jobless, hungry and very poor communities find no place for them in today’s world.

The war against poverty should take place in an atmosphere of solidarity and human brotherhood. It is not a war that evokes pity or compassion, but a war that needs scientific and well-studied action against exploitation, oppression, corruption, plunder, mismanagement, misadministration, and unstudied economic policies. It is a war against social injustice, inequality, and the increasingly widening gap between the rich and the poor, against the rising costs of living and unemployment. The war against poverty is one against a heritage that has been renewed across countless ages. It is time now to change it.

Hence, a very important factor must be mentioned when talking about combating poverty, which is the political will, the will to change.
Poverty is not just a social or economic phenomenon. It is in the main a political dimension. If the political will is there, and is equipped with a political vision, it will then be possible to talk about effective measures to bring about change, to combat poverty and realize actual achievements in this battle.

1. Hamsa Genidy: Globalization, Poverty and Change: Agriculture – The Strategic Option for Poverty Eradication.
(Development and Socio Economic Progress, January – April 2004, No. 87; AAPSO Publications).
(Paper presented to Gender and Poverty Summit 9-11 Nov. 200 New Delhi, India).
2. Confronting Poverty in the World. E-journal issued by State Department – Poverty Indicators. Source: International Bank: International development indicators 2001, also International Bank, Micro Data Book 2001.
3. Transcript of Joint Press Conference by Secretary-General and Presidents of France, Brazil and Chile at Palais des Nations, Geneva, 30 January, 2004.
(Development and Socio Economic Progress, January – April 2004, No. 87).
4. The Copenhagen Message, Challenge before Twenty-First Century. (Development and Socio Economic Progress, April – June 1995, No. 62).
5. E. E. El Naggar: Unemployment. El-Ahaly newspaper 13/8/2005.
6. United Nations – General Assembly, (fifth ninth session – Resolution 59/247): Implementation of the First UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006).
7. United Nations – General Assembly, (fifty ninth session – Resolution 59/246): Rule of Micro-Credit and Micro-Finance in the Eradication of Poverty.
8. United Nations – General Assembly, (fifty ninth session – Repot of the Secretary-General): Implementation of the First UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006) and Preparations for the International Year of Micro-Credit 2005.