Category Archives: Global Development

Tourism Departures – An Indication of the Rise of the BRIC Nations?

I just knocked up this graph using World Bank data on tourism departures between 2003 – 2011 (which is very easy to do btw!)

 

Data from World Bank

 

It’s a nice illustration of the relative increase in the spending power of (some) people in the four BRIC nations in relation to the relative decline of spending power in the United Kingdom and the USA.

It also shows how much further ‘ahead’ China is compared to the other BRIC nations, as well as serving as a reminder of just how inward looking Americans are   – The same number visit abroad do from the UK, but their population is about six times the size of ours!

China and Russia – Among the world’s worst human rights abusers

China and Russia have both been moved to the bottom tier of the U.S. human trafficking rank, joining the likes of North Korea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, according to a recent U.S. State department report.

20130622-190731.jpg

In China, the one-child policy and a cultural preference for male children perpetuates the trafficking of brides and prostitutes. Chinese sex trafficking victims have been reported on all of the inhabited continents. Traffickers recruit girls and young women, often from rural areas of China, using a combination of fraudulent job offers, imposition of large travel fees, and threats of physical or financial harm, to obtain and maintain their service in prostitution.

Forced labour is also widely practised in China, in which both internal and external migrants are conscripted to work in coal mines or factories without pay, as well as its continued use of re-education hard labor camps for political dissidents.

In Russia, there are estimates that 50,000 children are involved in involuntary prostitution and about one million people are thought to be exposed to exploitive labor conditions, including extremely poor living conditions, the withholding for documents, and nonpayment for services.

Human Rights Watch has pointed out that some of Russia’s labour abuses have occurred during the preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, with some workers enduring “12-hour shifts with one day off per month, having their passports confiscated, being denied employment contracts, and facing unsanitary and overcrowded employer-provided accommodations, with up to 200 migrant workers living in a one single-family home.”

While the nature and scale of such absuses isn’t on a scale with what’s going in Syria, these two nations are not ‘rogue states’, they make up half of the BRIC nations. Given their status as rapidly growing and globoalising economic superpowers, combined with the size of their populations, the potential for further human rights abuses in these two nations profound.

It would be nice to think that this lower designation results in the U.S. imposing sanctions on these contries countries, such as voting against any IMF or World Bank loans. However, given the historical record of the U.S. tolerating and even supporting governments who champion capital over human rights, I don’t think sanctions are likely anytime soon.

A crisis of overpopulation?

populationThe world population recently topped 7 billion, and current UN predictions are that it will reach 9 billion by 2050, but does this matter – are we facing a crisis of overpopulation in which population growth will outstrip the limits of the planet to provide for us?

The original and most famous exposition of this thesis was by Thomas Malthus in 1798 whose basic idea was that population increased exponentially but food supply only increased incrementaly, so population growth would always outstrip the ability of the population to feed itself. Malthus predicted that the world would run out of food by 1890.

Malthus of course failed to foresee the incredible increases in agricultural yields that were to be brought about by the green revolution after ww2 (nicely summarised in the video below) which trebled food production per acre in countries such as Mexico and India – allowing them to sustain increased population

However, such population increase lead Malthusianism to be revisited by Paul Erlich in his 1968 population bomb, who predicted that high birth rates would lead to mass famine and reduce the population by at least 1/5th by the end of the 1970s.

Again with hindsite Erlich also got it wrong, and clearly not because of any global reduction in population, which has grown significantly since Erlich’s day, so could it be that the Malthusian doomsayers are just wrong?

Criticisms of Malthusianism – Overpopulation is a myth (.com)

This web site offers (at time of writing) six video-based criticisms of the Malthusian view point – Some of these include

  1. Going back to the graph at the top of this post, the average projection has it that the world population will peak at 9 billion in about 40 years from now and then start to go back down, although the overpopulation web site draws on even more optimistic figures of an 8 billion peak in 30 years.
  2. Many developed countries, most noteably Japan, have very low fertility rates, far below the level necessary to replace the population. These countries face an increasing depenendency ratio as the number of people retiring relative to those of working age increases.
  3. Overpopulation proponents suggest that there is not enough food for everyone, however, the FAO and WFP point out that there is enough food for everyone, but several hundreds of millions of people lack access to that food because of such things as poverty, conflict and poor agricultural infrastructure – In other words it’s not too many people that’s the problem, it’s the economic and political systems that block access to available food.

There are more criticisms of Malthusianism on the web site, with data and links!

 

Limits to growth – How many people can the earth support?

This video, hosted by David Attenborough,  lies somewhere between Malthusianism and the ‘overpopulation myth busters’ – It starts off with the point that we are approaching the Earth’s limits to growth, while holding open the possibility that we can prevent meltdown, but only if we make a concerted global effort…..

Some of the evidence being cited for us reaching the Limits to Growth include…

  • Nasa’s satellite imagery showing us that we are already using nearly all of the earth’s surface to provide for our needs
  • The fact that we appear to have reached the technological limits for increasing food yields per acre
  • Extensive land grabs (mostly in Africa) suggest that developed countries are concerned about their ability to feed their populations in the future
  • The reduction in capacity many of the earth’s water sources

Attenborough suggests three solutions to our reaching the limits to growth

Firstly we can rely on technological advances to produce more with less land

Secondly we could reduce our consumption

Thirdly we can control population growth in the developing world

None of these are necessarily going to happen of course, and I think I might deal with these in  a seperate post…

Perspectives on the April 2013 Bangladesh Factory Collapse

The recent factory collapse in Bangladesh in which over 1100 workers died makes this the second worst industrial accident in world history – after the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India.

For Sociology students studying Global Development this is a good example that seems to offer broad support for the continued relevance of dependency theory.

One article highlights the following factors which contributed to the 1000+ death toll –

  1. Bangladeshi factory workers cannot afford to not work when wages are only around the $50/ month mark.  Behind this, of course, lies Western demand for cheap and fast fashion – We only get £2 because of those low wages…..  
  2. The lack of long-term commitment to suppliers on the part of Corporate buyers – which means that it is economically irrational for many factory developers to invest in health and safety measures in their factories. As I see it behind this lack of commitment lies transnational firms’ desire to take advantage of the ‘race to the bottom’ – short contracts means the parent company can move out of Bangladesh at short notice to take advantage of cheaper labour elsewhere….  
  3. International Corporations effectively wash their hands of responsibility for monitoring health and safety through outsourcing – As a result, many of our high street shops have scant representation themselves in Bangladesh, leaving monitoring of health and safety to the Bangladeshi authorities, which basically means effective monitoring doesn’t take place.

However, The Ethical Trading Initiative takes a different approach, preferring to put responsibility on the Bangladeshi authorities, pointing out that…

‘A common reaction in the UK media and from NGOs has been to focus anger on brands sourcing from Bangladesh. But the view in Dhaka is rather different.  Newspapers here have concentrated almost exclusively on the failure by government agencies to implement the law on occupational safety and health (OSH) and the building code. This in turn is blamed on the nexus between garment factory owners and politicians – sometimes the same people.

According to the 2008 building law, any new structure, for any purpose, has to obtain an occupancy certificate from a government agency before it can be used; only six certificates have been issued since 2008, although it is estimated 4,000 – 5,000 new buildings come up every year.’

The ETI also aruges that the lack of unionisation of workers is an important contributory factor in these deaths – As the article above says, the workers could clearly see the cracks in the walls of the factory, but were forced to go in and work – Unionisation may have given them the sense of empowerment to stand up for their rights and stay alive.  

Of course both of these perspectives – one blaming the TNCs, the other blaming the Bangladeshi elite – still offer broad support for the continued relevance of Marxist Theory – At the end of the day this is still a situation where the poor and powerless are dying so the powerful can maintain their profits.

 

Ugandan Alchemy or The Resource Curse?

Here is a nice illustration of the resource curse from relatively recent history- taken from the UN

The pink line shows Uganda’s gold production

The blue line shows Uganda’s gold exports

Uganda – A Nation of Alchemists?

 

Note the way in which gold exports, but not gold production, suddenly increases immediately following the entry of  Ugandan troops into the Congo War in 1994.

Some observers might suggest this offers support for the view that Uganda’s military involvement in that war was merely a cynical attempt to extract a few tonnes of gold – 40 tonnes over the period shown.

Of course it wasn’t only Uganda – Rwanda, Burundi, Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe were all extracting DRCs resources during this period too!

Find Out More –

The Curse of Gold – The Democratic Republic of Congo

Great new web site – ‘Welcome to the Anthropocene‘ – charting the human impact on the planet.

This post really just pilfers a couple of videos from the site to make it easier for anyone who teaches this kind of thing – The two videos chart the impact of humanity on the planet – starting 200 years ago in Britain with the Industrial Revolution.

Personally I think it’s worth showing the first 2 mins or so of this video (without the narration) first – because it’s so nice, maybe just mentioning what’s above

‘Welcome to the Anthropocene’ Earth Animation from Globaïa on Vimeo.

Then showing the narrated version…. which explains things in a bit more depth

Temporarily disabled because it kept starting up automatically – see the web site above

Should be easy enough to fit this in somewhere on a lesson on climate change or population growth.

Putting DRC Poverty in context (2)

My first ever infographic!

/

/

Not perfect I know, and maybe a bit tedious in terms of the ‘same old theme’ again, but I’m pretty pleased for a first effort…

Disclaimer – The relative sizes might be a bit skewed, I square rooted the relative numbers and then ‘tweaked’ so they looked about right. Anyways, it’s just a first effort, defo more to come. Hopefully one day I can figure out a way to get paid to knock (much more professional versions) of these up.

I made it in inkscape  – Pretty easy to get the basics, even for a total novice like me!

Putting DRC Poverty in Context

DRC – Resource Rich but ‘dirt poor’

The GDP of The Democratic Republic of Congo is $15 billion. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the total value of goods and services produced within a country in one year, and so is roughly equivalent to the amount of money that will be spent in total on everything by everyone in one year in that country.**

You might find it difficult to put this amount of money in context, so to give you an idea of how little this it’s useful to think about how we spend similar amounts of money in the UK….

The GDP of the DRC is equivalent to less than half the amount of money the UK Government spends on Housing Benefit per year – (average per year prediction for next four years – $38.1bn (£23.75).

UK government housing benefit expenditure is about 2.5 times greater than the DRC’s GDP

/

The entire population of the DRC have about half as much money to spend as BP.’s profits for 2011 ($25.7 Billion) – (BP. Is the UK’s most profitable company).

BP.’s 2011 profits were nearly twice the GDP of the DRC

/

The UK population spend $9 billion more on their pets than the entire population of the DRC spend on themselves – Total UK pet expenditure per year stands at £14.9 Billion or $23.9bn

People in the UK spend $9 billion more on their pets every year than DRC’s GDP

/

Britain’s second most profitable company, Royal Dutch Shell, made $5 billion more in profit than the total GDP of the DRC – Shell’s 2011 profits were $20 billion.

Shell’s profits in 2011 amounted to $5 billion more than DRC’s GDP

/

Finally, and depressingly, the closest equivalent I could find is that DRC GDP is roughly equivalent the amount that UK adults spend on Christmas presents this year – An amount which stands at $13.6bn or £8.5bn.

‘Please sir, I want some more’

 

Merry Christmas!

/

**Yes I know there’s probably quite a lot of additional money floating about because of the massive corruption in DRC, but I have to go with official figures because at least they exist!

 

 

A Very Brief History of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

This year I’m using the DRC as a major case study in underdevelopment (it is last on the UN’s HDI rankings after all) – Here’s my (mainly cut and paste from Wikipedia) very brief history of the DRC – I’ll add in video links, general links, pictures and extracts from numerous books laters… 

The Stuff in italics below each heading are the ‘key historical reasons for underdevelopment’

Pre-Colonialism

It was quite nice, suggesting Western Nation States f***ed The Congo Up 

[Pre-Colonialism, tribes in the region were doing pretty well for themselves – Organised into the Kingdom of Luba, according to Wikipedia – Each of these kingdoms became very wealthy due mainly to the region’s mineral wealth, especially in ores. The civilization began to develop and implement iron and copper technology, in addition to trading in ivory and other goods. The Luba established a strong commercial demand for their metal technologies and were able to institute a long-range commercial net (the business connections extended over 1,500 kilometres (930 miles), all the way to the Indian Ocean). By the 16th century, the kingdom had an established strong central government based on chieftainship.’

The African Congo Free State (1877–1908) – Colonialism, Brutalisation and Extraction

History of Colonialism

King Leopold II of Belgium formally acquired rights to the Congo territory at the Conference of Berlin in 1885 and made the land his private property and named it the Congo Free State.Leopold’s regime began various infrastructure projects, such as construction of the railway that ran from the coast to the capital of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). It took years to complete. Nearly all such projects were aimed at increasing the capital which Leopold and his associates could extract from the colony, leading to exploitation of Africans.

Rubber was the main export from the Congo Free State, used to make tyres for the growing automobile industry, and the sale of rubber made a fortune for Leopold.

Leopold’s colonization of the Congo was incredibly brutal. Thousands of Congolese were forced to work on Leopold’s Rubber plantations, and the practice of cutting off the limbs of the natives as a means of enforcing rubber quotas was widespread. During the period of 1885–1908, millions of Congolese died as a consequence of exploitation and disease. In some areas the population declined dramatically; it has been estimated that sleeping sickness and smallpox killed nearly half the population in the areas surrounding the lower Congo River.

The actions of the Free State’s administration sparked international protests led by British reporter Edmund Dene Morel and British diplomat/Irish rebel Roger Casement, whose 1904 report on the Congo condemned the practice. Famous writers such as Mark Twainand Arthur Conan Doyle also protested.

The Belgian Congo (1908–1960) – Colonialism, Condescension and More Extraction

In 1908, the Belgian parliament took over the Free State from the king. From then on, as a Belgian colony, it was called the Belgian Congo and was under the rule of the elected Belgian government. The governing of the Congo improved significantly and considerable economic and social progress was achieved. The white colonial rulers had, however, generally a condescending, patronizing attitude toward the indigenous peoples, which led to bitter resentment from both sides. During World War II, the Congolese army achieved several victories against the Italians in North Africa.

Independence and Political crisis (1960–1965) – Turmoil and Transition

The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name ‘The Democratic Republic of Congo’. Just previous to this, in May a growing nationalist movement, led by Patrice Lumumba, had won the parliamentary elections. The party appointed Lumumba as Prime Minister. Shortly after independence, most of the 100,000 Europeans who had remained behind after independence fled the country, opening the way for Congolese to replace the European military and administrative elite.

On 5 September 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu’s action unconstitutional and a crisis between the two leaders developed. Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congo army. Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to create mutiny. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu paid his soldiers privately. Mobutu took power in 1965 and in 1971 changed the country’s name to the “Republic of Zaïre”.

Mobutu and Zaire (1965 – 1996) – Dictatorship (propped up by the United States), extreme corruption, yet more extraction and infrastructure deterioration

Corruption, Aid, The United States, Cold War

The new president had the support of the United States because of his staunch opposition to Communism. Western powers appeared to believe this would make him a roadblock to Communist schemes in Africa.

A one-party system was established, and Mobutu declared himself head of state. He periodically held elections in which he was the only candidate. Although relative peace and stability were achieved, Mobutu’s government was guilty of severe human rights violations, political repression, a cult of personality and corruption. By 1984, Mobutu was said to have $4 billion (USD), an amount close to the country’s national debt, deposited in a personal Swiss bank account. International aid, most often in the form of loans, enriched Mobutu while he allowed national infrastructure such as roads to deteriorate to as little as one-quarter of what had existed in 1960.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Mobutu was invited to visit the United States on several occasions, meeting with U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. In June 1989, Mobutu was the first African head of state invited for a state visit with newly elected President Bush. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, U.S. relations with Mobutu cooled, as he was no longer deemed necessary as a Cold War ally.

The first and second Congo Wars (1996 – 2003) – Rwanda’s Ethnic conflict heads west while neighbouring nations plough in and extract resources    

End of the Cold War, Ethnic Conflict, Rwanda, Resource Curse

By 1996, following the Rwandan Civil War and genocide and the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe) had fled to eastern Zaire and began refugees camps as a basis for incursion against Rwanda. These Hutu militia forces soon allied with the Zairian armed forces to launch a campaign against Congolese ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaire.

A coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies, led by Lawrence Kabila, then invaded Zaire to overthrow the government of Mobutu, launching the First Congo War. By May 1997, Kabila had made it to the capital Kinshasa, named himself president and changed the name of the country back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mobutu was forced to flee the country.

However, a few months later, President Kabila asked foreign military forces to return back to their countries because he was concerned that the Rwandan military officers who were running his army were plotting a coup against him. Consequently, Rwandan troops in DRC retreated to Goma and launched a new Tutsi led rebel military movement (the RCD) to fight against their former ally, President Kabila, while Uganda instigated the creation of another rebel movement called the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by the Congolese warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba. The two rebel movements, along with Rwandan and Ugandan troops, started the Second Congo War by attacking the DRC army in 1998. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia became involved militarily on the side of the government.

Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila, who organised multilateral peace talks which to the signing of a peace accord in which Kabila would share power with former rebels. By June 2003 all foreign armies except those of Rwanda had pulled out of Congo. On 30 July 2006 DRC held its first multi-party elections. Joseph Kabila took 45% of the votes and his opponent, Jean-Pierre Bemba took 20%. On 6 December 2006 Joseph Kabila was sworn in as President.

Contemporary Conflicts in the DRC (2003 – Present Day) – Numerous groups fighting over various things

Ethnic Conflict, Rwanda, learned violence.

There are a number of rebel groups still operating mostly in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is widely suspected that Rwanda is funding some of these rebel groups. A lot of the recent conflicts seem to go back to the Hutu-Tutsi conflict from Rwanda.

The FDLR -The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda- Consist almost entirely ethnic Hutus who wish to regain power in Rwanda. The FDLR contains some of the ‘original Hutu genociders’ who carried out the genocide in Rwanda and currently have about 7000 troops still in operation in the DRC. Some of the leaders of the FDLR are facing trial for crimes against humanity in the ICCJ

 

 The CNDP – In 2006, the Congolese military declared that it was stopping operations against the FDLR. This lead to some troops mutinying and the foundation of the CNDP, or  The National Congress for the Defence of the People,  mostly consisting of ethnic Tutsis, whose main aim continued to be the eradication of the Hutu FDLR. The CNDP consisted of approximately 8000 troops and was believed to be backed by Rwanda.

The M23 Rebels – In March 2009, The CNDP signed a peace treaty with the government, in which it agreed to become a political party and its soldiers integrated into the national army in exchange for the release of its imprisoned members. Its leader, Lawrence Nkunda was also arrested and is now facing trial at the United Nations Court for ‘Crimes against humanity’.

However (here we go again) in 2009 Bosco Ntaganda, and troops loyal to him mutinied from this new ‘integrated army’ and formed the rebel military March 23 Movement, claiming a violation of the treaty by the government. M23 claims that some CNDP troops have not received jobs in the military as promised by the government and also want some limited political reforms.

M23 is estimated to have around 1500 – 6000 troops and as recently as November 2012, M23 captured the city of Goma, with a population of over 1 million, and the provincial capital of the Kivu Province in Eastern DRC, with the aim of getting its political demands met.

Rwanda is widely suspected of funding this rebel group as well, although both Rwanda and M23 deny this.

Other Rebel Groups – In addition to the above there is on and off fighting amongst other rebel groups. For example, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army moved from their original bases in Uganda (where they have fought a 20-year rebellion) and South Sudan to DR Congo in 2005.