Wednesday, November 24, 2004

ID Cards : Need Vs Want

I recently saw the ‘strap line’ (advertising phraseology for catchy marketing line / pitch) 'Need Vs Want'. The hoarding also boldly declared that there was a ‘thin line’ between each word. If we go back to basics, we can observe that:
A need is defined as a condition or situation in which something is required or a necessity / obligation. Whereas a want is defined as to greatly; wish for, seek with intent to capture or have an inclination toward.
In both cases, a ‘want’ or a ‘need’ is often driven by desire.

Take for example, the question of identity cards. Is there a need for one or does the government want to place an additional mechanism to track its population? I am sure we all agree that we wish to live in a safe and secure country. Maybe the reasoning or desire behind the identity card issue is the need to simply verify identities and stop possible terrorism. However, civil liberty groups consider the introduction of the identity card as a device to restrict personal freedom.

Some anti-id card protesters suggest that ID cards would contain selective biometric information, for example, iris scans or fingerprints. ID cards would probably be required to attain employment, use a banking system, use the national health service, vote, buy a house, receive benefits, drive or travel abroad – thereby preserving the status quo, Or some cynics may suggest a capitalist society. Therefore, any organisation or individual which threatens the status quo is a potential target of organisations on the side of large firms such as the ‘security services’ and police. ID cards could be used to increase the surveillance of certain activists that disagree with specific government policies – therefore constraining voices of concern or freedom of speech. Just imagine if the anti-poll tax protesters of the past during the 1980s had been gagged. In addition, ID cards would fail to significantly combat crime or ‘terrorism’ since criminals would easily be able to forge the cards or obtain ID cards for other people illegally. There appears to be a fear that the introduction of such cards would subtly facilitate an Orwell type ‘1984’ culture. Recently a firm that supplies loyalty cards to a large supermarket chain denied an accusation that it was monitoring and analysing consumer purchases patterns.

On a positive note, ID cards could in time replace carrying physical money or replace the multitude of cards that we carry, including other types of identification, for example: our passport and driving licence. The reality is that there is a cost for each of us to own the new id cards - New Labour have now announced that they want to make ID cards compulsory yet force people to buy them for possibly £35. Fines for failing to tell the state where you live have also been mooted. We need to be concerned about the possibility and dangers of generalising of personal profiling that could take place. Will the data that the government will hold on us ever be truly secure?At this stage, we should each analyse the pros and cons and alert your MP’s of your opinions. What we do not want is a forced agenda and we all need to be aware that there is a fine line between wanting and needing such an item. Finally, let us also not introduce a scheme that is only motivated with one agenda. The danger being that in the future it could be used as a device to make paranoia take-over the basic instinct of fear.

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Monday, November 15, 2004

Is a Band-Aid enough ?

Ethiopia 1984
In the spring of 1984, the ugly face of famine unveiled itself. Almost seven million people were threatened by severe food shortages. Stark photographs of undernourished children ripped through the consciousness of the civilized world. The whole world stood witness at the devastating force of famine. Michael Buerk's BBC documentary in October 1984 brought home the true horror of the situation to the UK.

November 25th 1984
Band Aid was the name of the group who recorded the original single ‘Do They Know It's Christmas? / Feed The World’. Written by Bob Geldof (ex Boom Town Rats) and Midge Ure (Ex Ultravox) , the song was recorded on November 25th 1984 by a group consisting of almost 40 of the UK and Ireland's best-known pop stars of the time. Originally Geldof hoped to raise £72,000 for charities from sales of the single, but that estimate was exceeded almost immediately the record went on sale; it went on to sell over three million copies in the UK, becoming the best-selling record ever, and to raise over £8 million worldwide. Several other countries and organisations followed suit, the best-known being USA for Africa with ‘We Are The World’. In July 1985, Live Aid, like Band Aid was held to continue to raise money. The concert eventually expanded into sixteen hours of music from around the world, featuring many of the biggest stars of the time. At the last estimate, it had raised over $100 million.

Ethiopia 2004
Twenty years on chronic poverty is still widespread in Ethiopia and will continue to rob children of their future unless donations help to commit to more long-term aid that invests in development. This is the vivid message from the charity, Save the Children. Ethiopia may have changed in the last 20 years. However, it still has a multitude of problems. Today Millions are worse off and even more vulnerable. Four million people every year remain dependent on food aid. Almost half the children in Ethiopia never go to school. Many die from illnesses related to malnutrition before their fifth birthday and those who survive have few opportunities for earning a living.

November 14th 2004 – A new Band Aid single was recorded.
Sudan – 2004. On Monday, 15 November 2004 Non-Government Organisation called on the United Nations (UN) to take strong action. Sudan’s six international humanitarian aid agencies working in Sudan today urged the UN Security Council to agree on a strong resolution setting out concrete measures to be taken against the Government of Sudan, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement if they continue to renege on their commitments to resolve the crisis in Darfur. The Security Council is preparing to specifically address the issue of Sudan in an historic session in Nairobi. Meanwhile, according to Care International, Christian Aid, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam International, Save the Children UK and Tearfund, violence and insecurity has escalated in the troubled region of Darfur. What the people of Darfur urgently need is an immediate improvement in security on the ground.
Despite two previous Security Council resolutions on Darfur, the agencies report that civilians continue to suffer attacks and abuse, causing them to flee to over-crowded and unsanitary camps. The Sudanese government’s efforts to force people to return home or relocate have resulted in increased harassment and violent coercion of displaced people. Humanitarian access is deteriorating as insecurity and the actions of the warring parties are stopping agencies reaching many populations urgently in need of assistance

It is great to see operating charities active and helping. However, it appears little is done by multi-nationals to encourage volunteer help schemes. Buying the DVD of the original Live-Aid concert and the proposed new single will definitely help. In addition, although treasury chief Gordon Brown has recently announced that Britain would increase development aid to $11.7 billion, or 0.47% of national income, by 2007 (Mr Brown is quoted to have said that by 2013 the country plans to meet a United Nations target of giving 0.7% of gross domestic product to aid poorer countries), there is something more we can do. We can collectively push this issue of the unequal distribution of world wealth to a higher agenda amongst our politically elected representatives (MPS and local government). We need to link this ‘push’ for fairness to key political goals – especially as the UK will hold the rotating presidency of both the European Union and the G8 group of wealthy countries in 2005. Politicians also need to be reminded that to tackle world poverty they need to understand that the issue is linked to the need for debt reduction and the set-up of renewal and regeneration funds. They can also ensure that developing countries that are at war do not spend their money on weapon sales.

We also need to change our attitude to personal wealth and not viewing the world from ‘afar’. As we head towards the first half decade of the new millennium the world appears to be no better off – In the words of that famous song,’ Man in the mirror’: ‘if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change’.

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