Year 2000 No. 144-5, September 5-6, 2000
UN Millennium Summit:
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
UN Millennium Summit:
The Way to Peace in the World Is Not through Interventionist "Peace-Keeping" Forces
For Your Reference
The Organisation of the Millennium Summit of the United Nations
Government Sends More Troops to Sierra Leone
Cutbacks to Fire Service Continue
Letter to the Editor:
What kind of health service do we want?
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UN Millennium Summit:
As the Millennium Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, its 55th annual convocation, opened on Tuesday afternoon, September 5, the focus was on the Millennium Summit, to take place on the three days of September 6 to 8. It will be the largest ever gathering of world leaders.
In the run-up to the Summit, two main themes appear to have been emerging. One is the growing divide between the rich and poor, and the trend of a handful of rich individuals and nations on the one hand, while on the other pole is an increasing level of poverty and destitution, both within states and globally. The second theme is that of peace how to bring an end to conflict throughout the globe, and open the way to a sustainable and hopeful future. As regards the UN itself, the central concern is for its renewal and democratisation.
The battle ground of contending programmes, broadly speaking, at the Millennium Summit is that of whether the marginalisation of developing countries should be ended, and all states, big or small, have an equal voice in this forum of world affairs and are enabled to make their own history. Against the ending of this marginalisation stand the big powers, particularly US imperialism which has not only been manipulating the UN for its own ends but has increasingly been ignoring it as a world authority. The British government has all along supported this position.
If the democratisation of the United Nations is accepted, hand in hand with this acceptance goes the principle that differences between member states should be sorted out by peaceful means. This principle also entails two consequences. One is that there should be peaceful coexistence between different social systems and the recognition that all peoples have the right to determine their own path of development. The other is that armed intervention as a method of imposing "humanitarianism", "human rights" or "conflict prevention" should be outlawed.
The big powers, including Britain, are pursuing an entirely different path. Robin Cook is to circulate at the Summit a proposal that Britain should train a UN "peace-keeping force". This would be a permanent UN rapid reaction force, and Robin Cooks proposals include the establishment of a UN military academy based in Britain. Ingenuously, the Foreign Secretary suggests Britain is an appropriate place because of its "expertise in peace-keeping". It should be remember that Britains official rationale for its foreign policy is that of "enlightened self-interest". In other words, Britain pursues its interests as an interventionist power, while declaring that what suits these interests is "enlightened".
The main European Union powers, it was revealed on Monday, are proposing their own paramilitary force to intervene in conflict areas across the world in pursuit of the political and economic interests of the EU. Brussels has drawn up plans for a 5,000-strong armed police force capable of carrying out "preventative and repressive" actions, which are declared to be in support of "global peace-keeping missions". It is no accident that these proposals have been promoted on the eve of the Millennium Summit. The impetus for the creation of this force has come from Britain, France and Germany.
In this situation, the peoples of the world must both strengthen their unity against globalisation and interventionism, as well as renewing their struggles for their sovereignty and for a renewed world order which recognises and enshrines these rights.
For Your Reference:
The fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly has been designated "The Millennium Assembly of the United Nations". As an integral part of the Millennium Assembly, a Millennium Summit of the United Nations is being convened.
The Millennium Summit is being held from 6 to 8 September 2000.
The Millennium Summit is composed of plenary meetings and four interactive round-table sessions, with each interactive session to be held in concurrence with a plenary meeting.
Because of the unique symbolic moment of the Millennium Summit, the head of State of Namibia, President of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly, and the head of State of Finland, the President of the fifty-fifth session of the Assembly, are to jointly preside over the Summit as Co-Chairpersons.
The Millennium Summit is to consist of a total of six meetings, on the basis of two meetings a day.
The Millennium Summit is to hold four interactive round-table sessions, the modalities for which are being established in accordance with the following procedure:
1. The four round tables will have at least forty seats each and will be chaired by a head of State or Government,
2. The chairpersons of three of the round tables will be from the three regions not represented by the two Co-Chairpersons of the Millennium Summit. Those three chairpersons will be selected by their respective regional groups in consultation with the President of the General Assembly. The choice of chairperson of the fourth round table will be subject to further consultations,
3. Following the selection of the chairpersons of the round tables, each regional group will determine which of its members will participate in each round table, ensuring that equitable geographical distribution will be maintained, allowing for some flexibility. The chairpersons of the regional groups will communicate to the President of the General Assembly the list of countries from their respective regions that will participate in each round table. Member States are encouraged to be represented at the round tables at the level of heads of State or Government,
4. All four round tables will cover the same overarching theme of the Millennium Summit, which is, "The role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century", the sub-themes proposed in the report of the Secretary General, or any other matter they wish to address. The sub-themes are: "Freedom from Want" (the Development Agenda); "Freedom from Fear" (the Security Agenda); A Sustainable Future (the Environmental Agenda); and Renewing the United Nations.
The four round tables will be chaired by the following four regional groups: (a) African States; (b) Asian States; (c) Eastern European States; (d) Latin American and Caribbean States.
The composition of the four round tables will be decided according to the principle of equitable geographical distribution. Thus, for each regional group, the distribution of its members for participation in each round table will be done in the following manner:
Member States that are not members of any of the regional groups may participate in different round tables to be determined in consultation with the President of the General Assembly. The Holy See and Switzerland, in their capacity as observer States, and Palestine, in its capacity as observer may also participate in different round tables to be determined also in consultation with the President of the General Assembly. The same applies to the intergovernmental organisations: League of Arab States; Organisation of African Unity; European Commission; Organisation of the Islamic Conference; Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments; Millennium Forum.
The list of speakers for the plenary meetings was established by the drawing of lots. A representative of the intergovernmental organisations may also be included in the plenary meetings speakers.
According to news agency reports, over 100 soldiers from the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment have been sent to West Africa yesterday, September 5, in what was described as a "precautionary measure" in the continuing efforts to free six British and one Sierra Leonean soldier who were taken hostage in Sierra Leone nearly two weeks ago. Five other British soldiers, from a force of some 200 soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment, held hostage were released unharmed last Wednesday. The militia group holding the hostages have made political and other demands that have been rejected by the government of Sierra Leone
The hostage crisis is a consequence of Britains continued armed intervention in Sierra Leone, which has no justification and must be condemned. The military interference in Sierra Leones affairs was first presented as a "humanitarian" mission, necessary to evacuate civilians and subsequently to provide assistance to UN forces. Then in May the Defence Secretary, Geoffrey Hoon, made it clear that Britains main aim was to make sure that the Sierra Leone government was in control of the diamond producing areas of the country. In order to realise this aim the British government, which had already brought the present government of Sierra Leone to power by armed intervention, would continue to arm and train the Sierra Leone armed forces, and by these means continue to interfere in the internal affairs of Sierra Leone and facilitate the exploitation of that countrys great mineral wealth on behalf of the monopolies. In June Britain led attempts to impose an international embargo on Sierra Leones diamond exports.
The current hostage crisis has also clearly exposed the alleged "training" role of British troops in Sierra Leone. The soldiers who were taken hostage were in an area not directly under government control, some fifty miles from the capital Freetown. While the claim made by British commanders that British soldiers were working with UN troops, has been denied by the UN. But whatever the precise facts, the crisis is being used to strengthen Britains military presence in the country and there are calls in some quarters for even greater British military. The most chauvinist and racist propaganda is unleashed to present the people of Sierra Leone in the most negative light, while British military intervention is presented in terms of reactionary 19th century notions of "the white mans burden" and a "civilising mission" in Africa.
It cannot be forgotten that British governments have been carrying out their "civilising mission" in Sierra Leone, a former British colony, since the late 18th century. British rule and interference left a legacy of impoverishment and division and placed that countrys human and economic resources in the hands of the monopolies. Britains current interference and the calls for further military intervention are not for the benefit of the people of Sierra Leone, but must be seen in the context of the new "scramble for Africa", which involves all the big powers and in which Britain is playing a leading role.
There can be no justification for continued British military intervention in Sierra Leone. The governments lies and propaganda about "humanitarianism" and "peace keeping" must be rejected. Britain must get out of Sierra Leone.
In August, the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority announced plans to cut £500,000 from its annual budget by closing its Newcastle's central fire station at Pilgrim Street and citys West End station. Each station houses two fire appliances. Under the cuts 24 fire fighting posts would be lost and the four fire appliances would be reduced to three and moved a new station at Elswick built under £24.5m Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme announced last April.
The Fire Brigade Union members have launched a campaign against the closures leafleting doors and issuing press statements. In a petition campaign launched in the centre of Newcastle on Saturday, August 19, the fire fighters have mobilised massive support gathering 12,000 signatures against the plans of the Fire Authority in just three hours. People queued in the rain to sign the petition and a fireman told the WDIE reporter that their aim was to collect 100,000 signatures. He said they were encouraging everyone to write to the Fire Brigade HQ and register their opposition to the proposals. The Fire Brigade was already operating at minimum standards of fire cover and therefore any such cuts must be taking a backward step.
In a report in the North East Journal on the action of the fire fighters, the Fire Brigades Union stated that with the closures it will take longer for fire engines to reach places like Jesmond and Gosforth from the new Elswick station, potentially putting lives at risk. It was also reported that earlier in the year the deputy chief fire officer Graham Butler warned that safety levels were at a bare minimum. The paper noted that these funding cutbacks were coming at a time when the number of fires attended last year rose by 18% to more than 16,500. The paper also reported the views of Jim Cousins, Labour MP for Newcastle Central. Among other things he said. "Shutting down two fire stations, and replacing them with a different station in another location means spending less money on buildings, and more on services. It seems reasonable to me."
Over the last few years the Authority has cut more that £5 million from its budget cutting back on 200 fire fighters jobs and closing a number of fire stations and taking out of service fire appliances. In February 1998, the people of Chopwell fought a militant campaign to try and save their fire station. In August of the same year, people campaigned in South Shields and Sunderland to try and stop the scrapping of one engine at Fulwell station, Sunderland and an emergency tender at South Shields.
These cut backs by the Tyne & Wear Fire Authority have been driven by the huge deficits of the Fire Authority which is caused by the government reductions in Local Authority revenue support grant. They are also being driven by the government policy to make public services an increasing source of profit for the financial oligarchy through the financial arrangement of the PFI. Fire stations built by the private sector and leased back to the Fire Authority is one such arrangement that boosts profits at the expense of the Fire Service. This new development at Elswick will intensify the crisis of funding for the fire service.
The strike at Dudley hospitals by ancillary workers and support staff has focused my mind on the kind of health service that would be a total asset to society. Why should these workers be in a position where they feel threatened simply because the government has decided it wants to privatise?
In general I would prefer that the health service would be there for all times delivering care to everyone, as a basic human right, free at the point of delivery. At no cost spared in any form of treatment, the peace of mind for all citizens should be that the health service is fully funded and society provides the means. Having said this it is by no means the only consideration.
The Dudley workers are threatened because the "Summit" consortium has put pre-conditions on its project. They have demanded that the ancillary work is put out to contract, therefore putting permanent pressure on the workforce employed at any one time, overshadowed by the threat of dismissal through termination of a contract. The consortium has also demanded that other hospitals should close at Wordsley, Corbetts and Guests. The plan is to create a "Super Hospital", which no way guarantees a better service but in fact will reduce the overall number of beds. There has in fact been no consideration as to whether smaller hospitals might indeed be better in serving the community instead of the big sausage factories the initiatives intend to create.
Immediately the question arises why do we need it anyway? The consortium is made up of big multinational businesses that have made their superprofits out of exploiting workers. The big businesses are the German electronics firm, Siemens and the building firm McAlpine. Siemens has a dubious history stretching back to fascist Germany and McAlpine have been responsible for many hazardous conditions threatening the health safety of workers on building sites all over the globe. So why do we need the finance of these big companies?
A health service that is permanently funded to its requirements need not have to rely on any private finance initiatives at all. Why should doctors, nurses and hospital staff of any description need to be put under the stress of where the funds for buildings, drugs or equipment come from anyway? If the staff are properly paid and the surgeries are kept up to date with the most advanced equipment surely we are happy all round. The community need not worry about how many beds or whether the right treatment is available or whether the wards are kept sterile and up to scratch.
The people deeply desire that an end is put to all of the grief caused by serious and chronic diseases. People want a health service that does the research that will fulfil this longing. An end to cancer and heart diseases, all kinds of illnesses that are at present termed as "incurable" need to go on the agenda as a priority to be remedied. The health service should not have to be dependent on the drug companies and left at their mercy when clearly the main interest of the pharmaceutical industry is maximum profits. The priority of a positive health service has to remain with maintaining a fit and healthy community with pro-active measures to prevent the onset of physical and mental disorder.
For most of the time the health service has been torn. Firstly, between the wishes of the working people of this country for a pro-social programme of health care, which they desire for its own sake and secondly, a requirement by employers for a fit and able bodied workforce to serve the production process. The former has to hold priority; a service that serves the vast majority because it is a requirement of the working people for a humane society based on the needs of themselves and their families.
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