Justice (Part 1)

I’m writing about the need for justice in our relationships with the poor and oppressed in developing countries. Much poverty is directly caused by injustice.

In a previous article I wrote about compassion and how this is an excellent motive for wanting to help the poor and oppressed of the world. But an equally important motive can be a willingness to help out the sense of justice.

The following situations contribute towards poverty through a lack of justice.

  • Unjust international trade.
  • The selling of arms to regimes that will use them to repress their own populations.
  • Countries caught up with unsustainable debt.
  • Corrupt legal systems resulting in injustice for the poor.
  • Exploitation of the powerless by the powerful.
  • Lack of access to education, healthcare etc.

Unjust trade

Justice is needed in international trade. Import tariffs and quotas militate against developing countries in denying them the possibility of exporting finished goods rather than just raw materials. The real profits are to be made by producing “added value” products rather than in the raw materials but tariffs and quotas often make it impossible for developing countries to share in those profits. When we say, “protect British jobs”, are we really saying, “let us maintain our standard of living and never mind the impoverished producers of the raw materials”.

Developed countries must become aware of the dangers of dumping excess food, used clothing etc. on developing countries In ways which damage local farmers and manufacturers. In drought and famine conditions obviously food aid is necessary but where these conditions are not present we have to be careful not to destroy local producers and markets. For example, the EU disposing of a temporary excess of tomatoes on a developing country causing a complete collapse of the local tomato growing industry.

Even a well-meaning collection and distribution of second-hand clothes can have a devastating effect upon local industry.

The popularity of “fair trade” goods shows that there is a lot of public support to the concept that farmers receive a fair price for their produce. But for so many products the originators receive only a tiny fraction of the final price paid by the consumer. This is unjust and we need to find a way of ensuring that the overseas producers have a reasonable share of the profits made in international trade.

What can we do?

So how can we, as individuals, have an effect upon trade, although this is largely a government issue? Do we have any power at all? Politicians will not take action until there is an overwhelming groundswell of support for a particular issue. We can help by:

  • Buying fair trade products when possible.
  • Acting together as consumers to ensure that supermarkets etc. have a good and just fair trade policy.
  • Ensuring that our own personal attitude, towards the producers of the raw materials we use, is just and right and free from even a trace of racism.
  • Use our influence as individuals, in everyday conversations, in our Facebook entries and our voting habits to ensure that this topic is not forgotten about.
  • Give financial and other support to organisations involved in campaigning on trade issues and in sustainable development overseas.
  • Lobby our members of Parliament to ensure that they are in touch with the way we’re thinking.

Remember, when it comes to dealing with extreme poverty, there is no “magic bullet”. Dealing with this issue is not the only thing we need to do. But tackling unjust trade is certainly one of them.

What do you think?

Do you know of more examples of unjust trade. Please add your comments to this article. All contributions, unless abusive, will be accepted and follow this article.

Author: George Dowdell

I was the founder of Karuna Action (formerly Kingscare) and was the director for 24 years. I have now handed control over to younger people but continue as an advisor and trustee. My passion is to see extreme poverty eliminated and to see justice for the powerless.

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