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Finn Brothers star in campaign to Make Trade Fair


Finn Brothers star in campaign to Make Trade Fair

The Finn Brothers and other international stars have joined the Oxfam Make Trade Fair campaign to highlight the plight of more than one billion people who are hungry and poor because of the crisis in world agricultural trade.

Along with celebrities Bono, Chris Martin, Antonio Banderas, Minnie Driver and others, Tim and Neil Finn have donated to Oxfam's campaign a sequence of striking images of themselves being drenched with milk and showered with coffee, cocoa, feathers, wheat, sugar, rice and cotton.

"It's a testament to the integrity of these A-list international stars that they feel so passionate about this vital issue," said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.

The photographs have been taken by Greg Williams, a leading London and LA-based photographer and creative director, who first worked with Oxfam 12 years ago in drought-ravaged South Africa. Williams has continued to support Oxfam's work.

"I wanted to give a quirky and imaginative twist to a serious campaign by highlighting the almost violent misuse of something as mundane as cotton or sugar," Williams says. "The immediate impact of the photographs is an unsettling one - it is about something very familiar being used to hurt or humiliate."

The Finns, who were showered with beans, said: "It is a disappointment that the world's love for coffee does not extend to paying fair prices to the farmers that grow it. It would be good to see them benefiting as well as the big corporations. We are pleased to be doing something to help Oxfam's campaign to Make Trade Fair."

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Thom Yorke from Radiohead, who had chocolate dumped on him, said: "How sweet does your chocolate taste when you know the producer in a country you will never see did not even get paid enough to feed his family? How sweet does it taste when you see the amount of profit a few multinational corporations make on it?"

Michael Stipe from REM, who was drenched in cold milk, said: "It leaves a very sour taste in the mouth to know that world trade rules allow the richest countries in the world to milk the poorest farmers dry".

Chris Martin of Coldplay took time out from recording the band's new album at their studio and got dumped with rice. He said "rice farmers in Haiti used to produce enough for the whole country - now they are bankrupt. It doesn't have to be this way."

Colin Firth arrived direct from a press conference for his new Bridget Jones movie and then had coffee poured over him, "and we found out quickly that liquid coffee is incredibly burning when it gets in your eyes," Williams says.

Jamelia and Minnie Driver had feathers and cotton dumped on them "which wasn't as pleasant or as easy as it might seem," said Williams. "There was so much dust and bits and pieces that I had to wait while everyone finished sneezing."

Make Trade Fair activists will use the images around the world to help pressure politicians to change the rules causing the global agricultural crisis. Make Trade Fair is aiming for 10 million signatures next year to its Big Noise petition.

"Twenty years ago, celebrities donated their talents to Live Aid, placing poverty on the political agenda," said Oxfam's Coates. "Twenty years ago the main message was to provide food aid. Today, the message is that fairer trade rules are essential for long-term change. Poor people need rights, not only short term aid."

Oxfam says that rich countries are making the agricultural crisis worse by rigging international trade rules for their own corporate gain and national privilege. In developing countries, nearly 900 million people now suffer from lack of food and more than a billion people struggle to live on $1 a day - and most of these people are farmers.

Agricultural trade is worth $674 billion a year but most of it goes to rich countries; Africa captures barely 4% of that. Rich countries subsidise their farmers by hundreds of billions of dollars each year - with the biggest farmers hogging most of it. This encourages massive over production and dumping of cheap surpluses. Poor farmers can't compete with such unfair practices and their livelihoods are destroyed.

Rich countries force poor countries to open up their markets too quickly while in turn keeping their own markets protected. Equally, the huge companies that increasingly dominate international agricultural markets count their super profits as the price of raw commodities collapse.

"Fairer trade rules could lift millions of people out of poverty. Instead the rules are robbing them of opportunities to work their way out of poverty, while allowing the rich to get richer," said Coates. "We're demanding that the rules change, and 2005 is the make-or-break year for that to happen."

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