Tag Archives: Global Development

Website (blog) of the Week – The Guardian Poverty Matters Blog

gender (1)
but don't expect any financial assistance from the UN!

The Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog is my new no.1 RSS feed – which links into the broader website on Development issues at the Guardian

I thoroughly recommend students link up to this feed, for anyone teaching development, I’d say it’s essential. There’s about 2-3 post a day, and they are typically only a few hundred words long, and to the point.

Two of the latest blogs that will be relevant to the A2 development course include –

Madeleine Bunting talks about the lack of genuine commitment to improving gender empowerment ( Millennium Development Goal 3) in the developing world. Bunting points out that while there is near universal agreement on the importance of empowering women in developing countries as part of a broader strategy of social development – there is no money being spent on this.

The United Nations has only just got around to  establising a new agency – UN Women (11 years after the MDG were established) – she says ‘The World Bank has estimated it would cost $83bn to achieve millennium development goal three (promote gender equality and empower women). But very quickly the start up budget was set at around $500m’

In another blog David Smith reflects on the role of China in Africa’s conflicts

Here’s a nice summary that puts the scale of Africa’s conflicts into context –

“Saferworld has some sobering figures: Africa holds only 14% of the world’s population, but from 1990 to 2005 the continent accounted for half of the global number of deaths caused by conflict. It is estimated that during this period, conflict cost African countries almost $300bn – roughly the same amount as these countries received in aid during the same period.”

And both of these are from just one day…. RSS feed this excellent blog

Chevron thinks we’re stupid

You may have seen some of the new Chevron Ads – Here’s an example –

This advert and all of those in Chevron’s new ‘we care’ ad campaing should win an award – for the greatest distance between ad and underyling reality of all time.

CHEV_dan_1e_1

To counter such blatent lies, the yes men are running an ‘adbust’ campaign – or you can vote for your favourite alternative advert at this web site.

However, I would advise that you just stick to sitting on your back side doing nothing, and under no circumstances should you go and buy spray paints using cash from a non-local store and then, in teams of at least three to allow for adequate look outs, go and vandalise any of Chevron’s new ads if you see them around town -that would be illegal!

It is imperative that you allow this Corporation to use its money to lie to the general public and keep them ignorant.

The International State Crime Initiative

This is a good wb site for A2 students studying state crime as part of the A2 crime and deviance course

The International State Crime Initiative is an excellent resource for basic information about state crime – As well as providing a definition of ‘state crime’, the web site explains what some of the different types of state crime are – such as genocide and corruption and outlines some case studies of state crimes – including the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast and Civil War in Sierra Leonne – all are very clear and accessible.

Sociopops – Fortress Europe – Asian Dub Foundation

Clearly reflexive! –

Basically commenting on the hypocrisy of the west’s role in instigating wars abroad, adding to the problems of refugees and the amount of people in need of asylum, and then tightening boarder controls to prevent people getting into Britain – the song is a clear statement that asylum is a right – and comes from the perspective of those who identify with ‘global civil society’ rather than the British nation state.

A sample of some of the lyrics – check the full lyrics out on one of those free lyrics sites

“We’re the children of globalisation
No borders only true connection
Light the fuse of the insurrection
This generation has no nation

Break out of the detention centres
Cut the wires and tear up the vouchers
People get ready it’s time to wake up
Tear down the walls of Fortress Europe”

Stacey Dooley – Kids with Guns

550x350_staceyboysIn her latest journey abroad, Stacey visits the Democratic Republic of Congo to look at the process of demobilising child soldiers. Personally I love Stacey’s ‘what can I do to help right here and right now approach’, while at the same time being painfully aware of the fact that her efforts are a drop in the ocean compared to what needs to be done to resolve the underlying causes of conflict in Africa, if, indeed, we can ever really figure out what those underlying causes are with any level of certainty.

One of the blog comments below criticises Stacey and the programme for failing to report on the complexities of the crisis of the DRG. Stacey clearly isn’t an academic – but she is genuinly compassionate –  and I’m moving towards the idea that what the developing world really needs is less westerners researching and analysing its problems and potential solutions and more people actually going out there and just bloody well doing something.

A couple of comments on the programme –

One

I was just watching this program, and i think that Stacey Dooley is doing a absolutly a wonderful thing for those people in the program.
I would just like to say that while i was watching this i got a bit emotional, i really really felt for some of these children and what they have gone through.
I think what Stacey Dooley and the bbc are doing is amazing by making this issue more known.
I would love the chance to help people from situations like this.
🙂 xxx

 

Two – 

1. At 4:14pm on 07 Oct 2010, dakar110 wrote: This is now, what? …the fourth programme that Dooley has fronted exposing child labour/ abuse in conflict zones for the BBC?

While I wish her every success in her burgeoning broadcasting career (better than flogging perfume at Luton airport, which I understand was her previous occupation) I cannot help but wonder what kind of contribution these programmes are really making to the development debate.

I dont doubt Dooley’s passion and sense of injustice about what she has encountered, but is it really appropriate to send someone like her, with clearly such limited knowledge of the subject, to report from places like the DRC, Nepal and West Africa?

The fact is that Zaire/ Congo has been in a state of huge internal conflict/ full blown war since independence.
And, like most African nations, the country is NOT intrinsically poor. It’s home to one of the world’s biggest deposits of coltan, the mineral used in mobile phone production, as well as some of the continents biggest timber and rubber reserves. (The Belgians didnt go there for the climate)

But it’s suffered from the ruinous reign of a series of despots, most recently President Mobutu Sese Soko, one of Africa’s most corrupt and kleptocratic rulers.
He bankrolled the genocide in Rwanda, while at the same time ripping off vast inflows of international aid, the like of which Ms Dooley is already promoting here in her blog. (More charity from the West being the perpetual answer to Africa’s problems, of course.)

These situations are NEVER simple and more money is ALMOST never the answer.
Sorry Stacey, but we cant save these people – more to the point they dont really want us to.
It’s fifty years now since independence. Africa has to get it’s own house in order, and we have to let them.

 I think I might ask some students which of the above they would be more inclined to agree with.

This post – relevant to the ‘war and conflict’ section of the our Global Development Module.

The incredible immorality of corporate greed?

 or How Capitalism encourages individuals to be selfish

The next time you enjoy an ice cold coke, try to look beyond the cute Christmassy connotations, get beyond the warm reassuring notion that ‘there’s always coca cola’ and take some time out to discover the not so refreshing truth that lies behind the sickly sweet image of one the most enduring icons of the 21st century. Really discover the ‘real thing’.

It takes 2.72 litres of water to produce 1 litre of coca cola[1]. Now this may sound like a reasonable ratio for such a deliciously sweet beverage, but not if you happen to be a farmer living close by to Coca Cola’s Kaladera plant in Rajasthan, North East India. According to recent independent report, commissioned by coca cola, “[the factory’s] presence in this area would continue to be one of the contributors to a worsening water situation and a source of stress to the communities around,” concluding that the company should find alternative water supplies, relocate or shut down the plant.[2]

The result of coke’s presence in the water depleted region is that local farmers who have lived in the area for decades now have inadequate water supplies to keep their crops watered and there appears to be a clear link between the coca cola Corporation moving into the region and the destruction of the livelihood of the farmers living nearby. Coca Cola, which had an advertising budget of $2.6 billion[3] in 2006, is clearly in a position to compensate these farmers, or relocate to a more water rich area, but chooses not to. Coca Cola’s priority clearly lies in maintaining its sickly sweet image while generating famine and poverty for those living in proximity to its factory.[4][5]

The farmers of Rajasthan have it easy, however, compared to unionised workers at some of Coke’s bottling factories in Colombia. Campaigners have documented a ‘gruesome cycle of murders, kidnappings and torture of union leaders involved in a daily life and death struggle’ at these plants. The bosses at some of Coke’s factories in Colombia have contacts with right wing paramilitary forces, and use violence and intimidation to force unionised labour out of work, and then hire non unionised labour on worse contracts for half the pay. There have been more than 100 recorded disappearances of unionised labour at Coke’s factories.[6]

Now the Coca Cola Corporation is obviously not directly to blame for this, as Colombia is one of the more violent countries on the planet, and this culture of violence and intimidation is widespread. The company is, however, responsible for making the conscious decision to choose to invest in a region well known for such practices, and failing to either pull out or protect its workers.

Now, before you purchase your next coca cola (or related product), pause to reflect, and ask yourself:

  • In areas of water scarcity, should priority of use be given to farmers who have lived there for generations to meet their basic human needs such as for drinking, watering crops and washing, or should priority be given to a multinational to produce a sweet fizzy beverage that has little nutritious value for consumption by the world’s wealthiest nations.
  • Is it acceptable for a company to continue producing in a country where its local managers use violence to kill those members of a work force who have joined a union?

If your answer is no to the above questions, and you don’t like the idea of living in a world of poverty, misery, and violence, then don’t drink coke ever again, because if there is any truth in the notion of there ‘always [being] coca cola’ then there is also a good chance there will always be human misery and environmental disaster in the wake of its production because available evidence suggests that Coke’s profits are more important than basic human rights.

Coke is merely one example of one product produced by one company that harms people and the environment in its productive process. It really is just the red and white tip of one very large, very wealthy, and very powerful corporate iceberg, and that iceberg is unlikely to go into melt down any time soon. There are many other cases where the pursuit of Corporate Self Interest has lead to obvious harm of workers, the environment and local communities.

In addition to the increasingly well documented cases of companies such as Nike being involved in sweat shops labour[7], two other fairly widely known examples are those of Shell in Nigeria failing to clear up pollution of the tribal lands of the Ogoni people caused by it’s oil pipelines leaking[8]; and the Nestle Corporations policy of providing free samples of its baby milk formula to new mothers in developing countries which resulted in their breast milk drying up and their becoming dependent on this formula, having to pay after the first few weeks had been used up.[9]

Many commentators, even mainstream conservatives, have also pointed out that one of the root causes of the credit crunch was the greed and self interest of bankers who lent money to people who they knew could not afford to service the debt it in order to improve their profit margins. This created a massive debt bubble that eventually lead to economic decline and a massive tax payer bail out of financial institutions.[10] [11]

A further, softer, criticism of the morality of the corporate sector can be constructed by taking a critical look at the usefulness of the goods some corporations actually produce. There are dozens of corporations which the technological know how to produce useful products that could improve the lives of millions, but instead they plough their resources into producing goods that will benefit the rich, because selling to the wealthy generates more profit than producing socially useful goods. Pfizer, for example produces Viagra; and Oil corporations have persistently refused to invest in greener technologies all the time there are oil reserves they can tap into.[12]

Probably the most worrying example of extreme Corporate immorality is the recent growth of Corporations such as British Aerospace, Blackwater and Haliburton which derive a significant part of their revenue from providing services to the military sector, in the form of the development of weapons systems, the provision of private security forces (mercenaries), in addition to the provision of more mundane services such as rebuilding infrastructure and providing meals for the armed forces.  We thus have an expanding private sector that increasingly relies on wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan for a significant portion of their revenue.[13]

So to summarise so far, if we look at just a few examples of our not so cute and cuddly  corporations we know that, in the course of increasing profits, they deprive communities of the resources they need to survive (Coca Cola), pollute land through which their resources are transported (Shell), encourage dependency on their products (Nestle and Monsanto), choose to sell unnecessary goods to the wealthy rather than use their resources to help the needy (Pfizer, all oil and car corporations), and seam to have little compunction over profiting out of war (Halliburton and BAE).

 


[1] http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=4492835

[2] http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/business/uk-environment-group-accuses-coke-of-depleting-water-in-rajasthan-2_10013709.html

[3] http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/contactus/faq/advertising.html

[4] http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=kqE40Oc1CXo&feature=related

[5] See Mark Thomas’s book (2008) Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola

[6] http://www.killercoke.org/pdf/KCBroch.pdf

[7] http://www.nosweat.org.uk/

[8] http://www.ratical.org/corporations/OgoniFactS.html

[9] http://www.thecorporation.com/ gives details on the documentary ‘The Corporation’.

[10] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7525724.stm

[11] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news-old/columnists/reade/2008/10/09/make-greedy-bankers-feel-the-pain-of-the-credit-crunch-115875-20787539/

[12] www.monbiot.com ‘The Other Bail-Out, 7th October ‘08

[13] See Naomi Klein’s book (2008) The Shock Doctrine

23 things they don’t tell you about Capitalism

A brief summary of some of the key themes in a talk by Ha-Joon Chang based on his book ’23 things they don’t tell you about Capitalism’ – relevant to the A2 Module on Global Development – He is basically critiquing neo-liberalism.

He claims that 95% of economics is common sense deliberately made complicated and that ordinary people can understand most of economics fairly easily. He wants to help ordinary people engage in ‘active economic citizenship’ and demand the right decisions from their leaders…. I imagine he would say a big fat ‘NO’ to the Tory cuts!

This is very much along the same lines as Joseph Stiglitz and David Harvey btw…!

His basic point seams to be that Capitalism is the best economic system in world history, yet our present form of Western Capitalism (there are many types) – ie neo-liberalism – has served us very badly. We have been told that things have been going very well – what with post-industrialism and the new knowledge economy – but things have not been going well since the 1970s. Neo-Liberal policies have been very bad at generating economic growth – the world economy has slowed down massively over the last three decades. What has also happened is that the rich have got richer and many economies have become less stable.

He also points out that in those countries where neo-liberal policies have been applied the most rigourously have often seen the lowest levels of growth – such as in much of sub-sharahan Africa. Those countries that have grown the quickest – China and India did not apply neo-liberal policies to the extent that countries in Africa did.  

Anyway – just some of the points he makes – some of the things neo-liberal idealogues do not tell us about Capitalism are as follows (he is destroying the myths of free market, neo-liberal ideology)….

1. There is no such thing as a ‘free market’ – ‘freedom of the market is in the eyes of the beholder. The very definition of the ‘free market’ – who can participate, what can be bought and sold for example – is political.

2. Under neo-liberalism… Companies are not run in the interests of the owners – these days companies are owned by free floating shareholders who are primarily interested in short term profit (high dividends) which can harm the long term interests of the company – which requires investment in infrastructure and training of the workers. The shareholders can always move onto another company.

3. The market is not just – he gives two examples of two bus drivers – one in India who gets paid less than one in Germany – the chances are that the driver in India is more skilled as he drives on more dangerous roads….

4. We are still living in planned economies, despite the collapse of communism

5. Making rich people richer does not make the rest of us rich

7. People in poor countries are more entrepeneurial than people in wealthier companies…

 

NB – DEFINITION – Neo- liberalism is an economic and political ideology that believes state control over the economy is undesirable and seeks to transfer control of the economy from the state to the private sector. It gained popularity amongst politicians and influential economists following the economic crisis of the late 1970s. It involves three main policies –

 

  • Deregulation – Nation States placing less restraint on private industry. In practise this means fewer laws that restrict companies making a profit – making it easier for companies to fire workers, pay them less, and allowing them to pollute.
  • Privatisation – where possible public services such as transport and education should be handed over to private interests for them to run for a profit.
  • Cut backs in public spending – taxes should be low and so investment in public services would be cut back.

Criticisms of Transnational Corporations 2 – damage to the environment

All of this material is relevant to the global development module – this can be used in an essay that asks you to ‘assess the role of TNCs’ or in any essay that asks you to criticise neo-liberal approaches to development, because TNCs are one of the primary agents of the neo-liberal project. You should read this in conjuction with the previous blog in this thread – I-Nightmares, Killer Coke and Sweatshops – http://realsociology.edublogs.org/2010/08/02/93/

Corporations damaging the environment

images3One of the worst cases of both environmental and social harm is that of Union Carbide in Bhopal. In December 1984 when an explosion at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India caused toxic gas to leak into the local area. 3000 people died immediately, a further 20 000 people have died and 120 000 suffered illness as a direct result of the toxic pollution that even to this day, 25 years, later, is still seeping into the ground water which the local people have to drink. Union Carbide is now owned by Dow Chemicals, which should have take on liability for this, but failed to adequately clear up the pollution or compensate the victims of this tragedy. (7) (8)

A second example is the failure of Shell and Exxon Mobile to clear up the pollution of the Niger Delta – Shell in particular has been460_0___30_0_0_0_0_0_shell_skull_colour the target of sustained criticism for failing to clear up pollution of the tribal lands of the Ogoni people caused by its oil pipelines leaking – this particular case being documented in the recent film documentary ‘I’m with stupid’. (9a) (10)

The total harm done in this remote region is far in excess of the recent BP disaster off the coast of America, one recent newspaper article (12) reports that –

‘With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations. Locals blame the oil that pollutes their land and can scarcely believe the contrast with the steps taken by BP and the US government to try to stop the Gulf oil leak and to protect the Louisiana shoreline from daily. The situation is now worse than it was 30 years ago. Nothing is changing.’

94300Shell claims that most of the oil spills are due to Vandalism by radical, armed militias, but the local communities claim it is because of rusting and decaying pipes. On this point, it is worth seeing the 2010 documentary film ‘Sweet Crude’ (13) – which actually follows the development of the armed militias mentioned by Shell – it turns out that protests over the combination of pollution and lack of social development following oil extraction used to be peaceful groups but following years of nothing happening, some protestors have turned to more violent tactics. The sad thing is – all they are asking for is their fare share (14)

In fairness to shell – they have provided money to the Nigerian Government which was intended to develop local areas, but given that Nigeria has one of the most corrupt governments on the planet, it is no surprise that most of this money has disappeared.

To go back to the Corporation (1), the argument is made that one of the root causes of pollution in developing countries is because TNCs are ‘externalising machines’ – In order to maintain profitability they try to externalise as many costs as they can get away with, and pollution is one obvious example of an externality. All of the above companies have been happy to let local communities bear the costs of their pollution, rather than paying for the cleanup.

 

(1)  http://www.bhopal.org – a link to the homepage of the Bhopal Medical Appeal.

 

(2)  – A link to my blog on ‘Bhopal’ – the worst industrial accident in history – check out the links to the ‘yes men’ material – inspiring stuff! (coming soon!)

 

(3)  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Belching-Out-Devil-Adventures-Coca-Cola/dp/0091922933 – A link to ‘Belching Out the Devil – Global Adventures with Cocacola by Mark Thomas, 2008

 

(4)  http://www.ratical.org/corporations/OgoniFactS.html – a fact sheet outlining the history of Shell in Nigeria

 

(5)  http://www.ageofstupid.net/ – web site of the DVD the age of stupid – a film about humanity polluting the planet – one chapter of which is devoted to Shell’s pollution of the Niger Delta

 

(6)  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/oil-spills-nigeria-niger-delta-shell – news article outlining how oil pollution in Nigeria is far worse than that caused by the BP spill off the coast of America.

 

(7)  http://www.sweetcrudemovie.com/ – web site for the 2010 movie Sweet Crude.

 

(8)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQTcSC79YYE – a clip of local Nigerians protesting about their oil being taken and them getting nothing in return.

The Institutions of Economic Globalisation

The institutions of Economic Globalisation

Economic globalization refers to increasing economic interdependence of national economies across the world through a rapid increase in cross-border movement of goods, services, technology and capital

Most social scientists would point to four ‘institutions’ that oversee international trade and investment, and that attempt to steer the global economy on a path of continued economic growth. It is important for students to understand something about these institutions because all supporters and critics of economic globalisation refer to these institutions (Hyper globalists are the supporters, Marxists and the broader anti-capitalist movement the critics).

You should read this through once when directed and refer back to it when we look at material that either supports or criticises the spread of global capitalism

The four institutions that make up economic globalisation are The World Trade Organisation, The International Monetary Fund and World Bank, The G8 and Transnational Corporations.

1. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) – was founded in 1949, has 149 member states and 149 states are WTO members, constituting over 90% of all world trade with a further 31 in the process of joining.

 The WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.” [1]

The WTO functions through a number of meetings involving high- up officials from Nation States often referred to as a trade ‘round’ where they agree on the future terms of trade (for example how much to tax import and exports of goods and services)

2. The International Monetary Fund and The World Bank

 The IMF has 187 members. It monitors the world’s economies, lends to members in economic difficulty, and provides technical assistance ([2]). The IMFs mission is to facilitate international trade, promote high employment, achieve sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world. If a country gets into too much debt and can’t pay it off, it is the IMF that lends the country, setting conditions the country must abide by in order to receive that loan.

The World Bank was established in 1944, is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has more than 10,000 employees in more than 100 offices worldwide. Like the IMF it has 187 member states  

The World Bank works closely with IMF. It provides low-interest loans to developing countries for a wide array of purposes that include investments in education, health, infrastructure, and natural resource management. ’It says that is mission is to ‘fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results and to help people help themselves and their environment by providing resources, sharing knowledge, building capacity and forging partnerships in the public and private sectors.’ The World Bank is thus the largest single organisation responsible for bringing undeveloped countries whose populations make up at least 2/3rds of the world’s population into the global economy.

The World Bank believes that economic growth through industrialization and free trade are essential for countries to develop. They argue that there are sees the five key factors necessary for economic growth: 

3. The Group of Eight (G-8) is a forum for the leaders of eight of the world’s most industrialized nations, aimed at finding common ground on key topics and solutions to global issues. The G-8 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. While the leaders of these countries are in regular contact, they meet in summit format as the G-8 once a year.[3] ALSO [4]

4.    Transnational Corporations

 Transnational Corporations are some of the largest include Shell, ICI and Microsoft. Since world war two these have expanded massively.

 Held and Mcgrew point out that Transnational Corporations account for more than 25 percent of world production, 80% of world industrial output, approximately 40% of world merchandise trade and 10 percent of world GDP. They also suggest that they have become powerful in determining where in the world production takes place and have played a major role in reordering the productive relationships between nation states[5]

Transnational Corporations have benefited hugely from the trade rules established by the WTO. Ellwood (2000) argues that these are now the driving force behind economic globalisation, wielding more power than many nation states. Today, 51 of the 100 largest economies in the world are run by TNCs rather than Nation States.

 


 

[1] http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/whatis_e.htm

[2] http://www.imf.org/external/about.htm

[3] http://g8.gc.ca/about/

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/g8

[5] Held D and Mcgew, A (2007) – Globalisation/ Anti Globalisation: beyond the great divide – Polity.