ROBBED, RIPPED OFF and RUINED...
Something is very wrong with world trade - it's filling the pockets of the rich while ripping off the world's poorest people. Why is this happening? What can we do? Read on to find out why MakePovertyHistory is calling for Trade Justice.
Millions of people are stuck in the trade trap. No matter how hard they work, they earn less every year. The situation is so dismal, half the world's population now lives on less than US$2 a day - roughly the cost of a burger.
Why are people cheated of a proper living?
You may not be aware of them, but trade rules control how countries do business with each other. They are agreed at international level, and are supposed to make sure nations compete openly and fairly.
In reality they don't.
That's because the rules are rigged - loaded in favour of the wealthiest countries and their business interests.
So no matter how hard people work in the developing world, or how much their countries produce, trade relationships benefit the rich world most.
The result is misery for hundreds of millions of people who just want the chance to make a living, feed themselves, send their kids to school and create a better future for the next generation.
So who's behind these unfair trade rules?
A handful of big international organisations set the rules and policies controlling the way we trade.
The problem is policies aren't decided democratically, but on the basis of who has the most economic clout. While paying lip-service to fairness, the richest countries, with their almost limitless resources, steer decision-making in their interests.
Poor countries lose out time and again.
Meet the big boys
Three main bodies combine to write the rules of trade:
World Trade Organisation (WTO)
International Monetary Fund (IMF)
All three are dominated by the world's richest nations.
What are they doing?
Between them, they're forcing poor countries to open up their markets to foreign imports and businesses, and sell off public services like electricity - even when this isn't in their interest. They're also banning poor countries from supporting vulnerable farmers and industries, while wealthy nations continue to support their own.
All this is being done in the name of 'liberalisation' - and 'free trade' or leaving things to market forces.
The fall out
Developing countries are getting hammered.
Livelihoods are going to the wall, as farms and businesses go bust, unable to compete with a flood of cheap, subsidised imports.
Governments are losing control of basic public services, as they're snapped up by profit-hungry investors. And workforces are being cynically plundered for cheap labour by powerful, under-regulated transnational companies, leaving thousands open to abuse and exploitation.
What can we do?
It's simple really, change the rules. Now.
It's an obvious solution - challenge and change the rules so they work for poor countries. Re-write them in favour of the poorest countries so they can develop, build their own industries, grow stronger, and one day compete as equals.
Rich countries used trade rules to protect themselves as they developed - which is how they got where they are now. We consider it fair to use trade rules to end world poverty as we know it.
Governments are listening - the call for fairer trade rules grows every day and it's becoming impossible to ignore.
And governments can actually do something. They have ultimate control over the WTO, IMF and World Bank - because they have more say in negotiations than anyone else.
And our own government? The UK is in a uniquely strong position to influence trade rules this year. As President of the European Union and meeting of world leaders (known as the G8), they have a once in a generation chance to show leadership on beating poverty.
The time is right. The rules must change. Help us press home the message.
Make poverty history, and join us.