Tag Archives: Global Development

The Island of Nauru – Our Collective Ecological Future?

The case study of Nauru illustrates the potential catastrophic consequences of pursuing economic growth without considering the ecological consequences. It may only be one island but Klein argues that the logic which hollowed out Nauru is the same logic which has driven the global economy for the last 400 years. 

The extract below is taken from Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ (2014: Chapter Five  Beyond Extractivism

Few places on earth embody the suicidal results of building our economies on polluting extraction more graphically than Nauru. Thanks to its mining of phosphate, Nauru has spent the last century disappearing from the inside out; now, thanks to our collective mining of fossil fuels, it is disappearing from the outside in.

For decades, the tiny South Pacific Island of Nauru, home to only 10 000 people, seemed to be an example of a developing country which was doing everything right.

During the 1970s and 80s, the island was periodically featured in press reports, as a place of almost obscene riches, much as Dubai is invoked today, and in the mid-80s Nauru was reported as having the highest GDP capita in the world.

All of this was due to the fact that Nauru was made up almost pure phosphate, a valuable fertiliser, which the Nauruans had been shipping to mainly Australia since they gained their independence in 1968.

Extraction had been going on long before, since 1900, carried out by a series of colonial rulers, who had a simple plan for Nauru once all the phosphate had been extracted – simply ship the islanders to another island. In other words, Nauru was developed in order to disappear – an acceptable (and largely invisible) sacrifice to make for the advancement of industrial agriculture.

When the Nauruans themselves took control of their country in 1968, they had hopes of reversing the hollowing out of their island. They put large chunks of their mining revenue into a trust fund, with the intention of winding down the mining operation and rehabilitating their island’s ecology. However, this long term plan failed as Nauru’s government received catastrophically bad investment advice and the countries mining wealth was squandered.

As a result, rather than being wound-down throughout the 70s and 80s the mining continued unabated and Nauruans benefited from the royalties which rolled in – one consequence was a radical change in diet as islanders came to eat large amounts of processed food (as one resident recalls – ‘during the golden era we didn’t cook, we at in restaurants) which resulted in Nauru becoming the fattest place on earth (today it has the highest levels of obesity and the highest levels of diabetes in the world). Another consequence of high levels of cash was high levels of corruption amongst public officials.

Another consequence was, of course, the hollowing out of the island – in the 1960s Nauru could still have passed as a pleasant tropical island, but the 1990s it was a hollow shell with a small strip around the edge where people lived.

Now the island faces a double bankruptcy – with 90% of the island depleted from mining it faces ecological bankruptcy and with a debt of at least $800 million it faces financial bankruptcy as well.

But this is not the end of Nauru’s problems – it now also faces rising sea levels and inland water shortages because of climate change.

This isn’t the end of the misery of Nauru – because in the past decade the island has become a dumping ground of another sort – In an effort to raise much needed revenue it has agreed to house an offshore detention centre for the government of Australia, in what has become known as ‘the Pacific Solution’. Australian navy and customs ships intercept boats of migrants, most from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, and immediately fly them to Nauru where they languish in a detention centre, unsure of their status, sometimes up to five years.

Amnesty International has called the camp ‘cruel’ and ‘degrading’ and one journalist has likened it to a death factory because conditions are so bad that people have been driven to attempt suicide.

Unfortunately for us, the logic which has led to such devastation and cruetly on Nauru is the same logic which has underpinned the last 400 years of ‘development’. This logic is the logic of ‘extractivism’ – a non-reciprocal, dominance based relationship with the earth, one of purely taking. The opposite is stewardship, which involves taking but also taking care that regeneration and future life continues.

Extractivism is also directly connected to the notion of sacrifice zones – places that, to the extractors, somehow don’t count and therefore can be poisoned, drained, or otherwise destroyed, for the supposed greater good of economic progress.

This extractivist thinking, unfortunately, lies behind not only the whole history of modernity and colonialism, and obviously neoliberalism, but also behind Socialism, including most of the recent leftist movements in Latin America, because despite their advances in bringing greater equality, national income is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Even the mainstream in the Green Movement are failing to challenge the extrativist model because they have come under the thrall of large-scale, big tech solutions to climate-change, rather than accepting as necessity that the earth requires us to consume less.

Pretty much the only ray of hope for a sustainable future according to Klein lies in the Scandinavian social-democratic models, which are going to take a globalised grass-roots movement to realise on an  international level.

How Corporate Charitable Foundations Influence Economic Policy in Developing Countries

What’s below is again summarised from Arundhati Roy’s ‘Capitalism: A Ghost Story’ (2014). It could be used in the Global Development topics on ‘Organisations in Development’ or ‘the role of Private Aid in Development’

A flow chart of what’s below would run something like this…

TNCs (pump their profits into their) – Charitable Foundations (who established) – The Council of Foreign Relations (which influences) – The World Bank (which sets the economic policies of) – Developing Countries

Basically Roy argues that in the early 20th century, three of the largest corporations in the world (one of which was Ford) set up Philanthropic (charitable) organisations – In the middle of the 20th century, after World War Two, these organisations were key to establishing the Council of Foreign Relations, the World Bank, the United Nations and the CIA. Essentially, Roy is arguing that US Corporations run the biggest international organisations in the world, which in turn coerce Developing countries into doing what these Corporations want.

The enthralling history of ‘philanthropic foundations’ began in the United States in the early 20th century. Among the the first was the Rockefeller Foundation, endowed in 1914 by J.D Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Company.

Rockefeller was America’s first billionaire and the world’s richest man. He believed his money was given to him by God. Among the institutions financed with Rockefeller’s money are the United Nations, the CIA, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Philanthropic Foundations are non tax-paying legal entities with massive resources with an almost unlimited brief. They are wholly unaccountable, wholly non transparent, and are basically about translating economic power into social, political and cultural capital.

They emerged in the 1920s because it was then that US Capitalism began to look outward for raw materials and overseas markets. Foundations began to formulate the idea of global corporate governance. In 1924 the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations formed the Council on Foreign Relations (the CFR), also funded by the Ford Foundation as well. By 1947 the CIA was working closely with the CFR and over the years the CFR’s membership has included 22 secretaries of state, and all eleven of the World Bank’s presidents have been members of the the CFR. The CFR also contributed a grant of £8.5 million to pay for the land in New York on which the United Nations building now stands.

Given that the World Bank has more or less directed the economic policies of the Third World, coercing them to open up their markets in return for loans and aid, and given that the World Bank is steered by the Council of Foreign Relations, which in turn is steered by Transnational Corporations, it seems to follow that it’s TNCs which really have really determined the foreign policies of third world countries over the past few decades.

By the 1950s the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations were funding international educational institutions began to work as quasi-extensions of the US government, which was at the time toppling democratically elected governments in Latin America, Iran and Indonesia.

The Ford Foundation established a US style economics course in Indonesia at the Indonesian University. Elite Indonesian students, trained in counterinsurgency by US army officers, played a crucial part in the 1965 CIA backed coup in Indonesia which bought General Suharto to power. He repaid his mentors by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of communist rebels.

Twenty years later, young Chilean students who came to be known as the Chicago Boys were taken to the US to be trained in neoliberal economics by Milton Friedman and the University of Chicago (endowed by J.D Rockefeller), in preparation for the 1973 CIA backed coup that killed Salvador Allende and brought General Pinochet and a reign of death squads, disappearances and terror that lasted for seventeen years. Allende’s crime was being a democratically elected socialist and nationalising Chile’s mines.

Like all good Imperialists, the Philanthropoids set themselves the task of creating and training an international cadre that believed that Capitalism and by extension the hegemony of the United States was in their own interests.

Corporate foundations also provide scholarships at universities for courses in development studies – and many of these are for people from the middle classes in the developing world – these are the future finance ministers, corporate lawyers and bankers of the developing world. Of course the courses funded are the ones which sing the virtues of neoliberal economic policy, rather than the ones which are critical of neoliberalism.

According to Roy, not only do Philanthropic Foundations control the agendas of International Economic Organisations, governments and education systems, they also control the media and social movements which emerge to protest neoliberal policies – she gives a few examples of how, but probably the best piece of supporting evidence for this point of view is that we don’t question the role of philanthropic foundations in society. When Corporate funded philanthropic foundations first appeared in the United States, there were debates about their accountability, and people suggested that if they had so much money they should maybe raise the wages of their workers instead, nowadays we just don’t question them.

In summary, Roy argues that Philanthropic Foundations are simply a way of using a minuscule percentage of profits to run the world.

A Question to Consider….

The largest philanthropic foundation on earth today is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Roy points out that it’s odd that Bill Gates*, who admittedly knows a thing or two about computers, is now designing education, health, and agriculture policies, not just for US governments but for governments all over the world.

The question that Roy makes us ask is this – Is Bill Gates really trying to help people through his organisation, or is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation really a just a way for Gates to translate his economic capital into global political power, and to make sure that government policies the world over benefit Microsoft?

*Or to refer to him by his full name – ‘The Man Child Bill Gates’.

Does Aid Work? The Aid Audit

Does Aid Work? The Aid Audit:

Below is a summary of this World Service Podcast from 2015

Intro

‘Fifteen years ago, German journalist, Ulli Schauen helped compile a book of the top 500 global aid programmes… they ranged from schools for Maasai nomads to support for organic farming to training for volunteer sexual health workers.

The question is did they succeed or fail? Ulli travels to Kenya to see how the projects in that country fared. Ulli sets out to find if Aid really does make a difference.’

(These projects were all related to the original Millennium Development Goals and the folllow ups are here – one author’s blog – The Aid Audit: Development Projects Revisited After Fifteen Years

International Aid money has helped all of the projects below….

Kenya
Kenya

Project One – OSIGILI

in 1995 the Laikipiak Maasai formed an organization called OSILIGI (which means ‘Hope’.)

In one of the first projects OSILIGI organized reading and writing courses geared to the nomadic life. In April, August and December, when the nomadic herdsmen are settled, a teacher comes to the village. During these weeks children have concentrated lessons. This made-to-measure education is considerably cheaper than state elementary school. In 4 years, OSILIGI has reached 380 children with this programme, mainly from poor families.

Eco-Tourism - Marginalising the Maasai?
Eco-Tourism – Marginalising the Maasai?

However, the broader issue OSILIGI campaigns for is to establish land rights – to pasture and watering holes, and here they appear to have lost. The Maasai still have no formal rights and their land, and thus way of life, is under threat from agribusinesses and eco-tourism and in the programme we discover that the Maasai live amongst miles and miles of fences – which fence off private farms – one farm being as large as the island of Malta, which houses shipped-in Rhinos for eco-tourism, but this leaves little room for the Maasai.

Osigili seems now to be focussing on the education aspect, but the land rights issue has been taken up by another organisation – IMPACT. It is possible that more progress will be made in this area in the future.

Project Two – A Voucher System for Health Care

In the far West of Kenya the German Government Trained volunteer health advisers – 20 000 community health workers for 10 years. Unfortunately this terminated in 2006 and so no evaluation or final report can be found, the argument here, however, is that a lasting legacy

The German government now funds a voucher programme for the poor where they can use vouchers to receive free or subsidised contraception, maternal health services and HIV treatment.

Through the voucher programme local (privately run) hospitals receive $50 for maternal treatments and $12 for AIDs screenings (from the German Aid fund, they don’t get state funding) – 3/4s of the money goes on medicine and food, but the rest is available to allow for hospital expansion.

To give an example of how it works – one woman is interviewed who is HIV positive, and giving birth in the hospital meant that the infection was not passed on to her two children.

Despite the above, Kenya still failed to reach two of its MDGs -reducing infant mortality and improving maternal health.

But German Government trying to influence Kenyan health policy into the bargain. Germans wand to promote health insurance, Americans want to promote other issues – donors don’t co-ordinate their programmes.

Project Three – The Matinyani Business Cooperative

mat

This is a cooperative of 4000 women, who initially set up a library, primary school and a health centre. They also established a range of small businesses devoted to weaving, water, candlemaking, bakery.

However, all of this stopped working years ago… 75% of the initial money went into other people’s pockets – so they couldn’t pay workers or for materials to keep the projects going.

However, what these women learnt in the early days of this project allowed them to establish their own businesses, many of which are today successful and export to other countries.

Project Four – Environmental Protection on Lake Victoria

darwins-nightmare1

Lake Victoria is heavily overfished and polluted.

This projects aims were to build water treatment plants and limiting the spread of the water hyacinth. There are laws in place about catch size (enforced by the mesh size of nets). However, it seems that everyone is happy about breaking the law and the aid-funded environmental organisation doesn’t seem to be enforcing the rules.

The World Bank Project labelled this one as unsatisfactory.

Project Five – A Foot Pump for Water

An Australian company called Kick Start (originally known as Aprotec ) which focussed on developing just one product – a small, foot operated water pump, claims to have lifted almost one million people out of poverty. Aid has been essential in this. The CEO says that it is not profitable to develop such products for people – it’s high risk, low return, and high cost – so it’s a market failure – thus subsidies in the form of International Aid, with this money going mainly into Research and Development and marketing (radio ads).

The pumps themselves are sold for $130 – and they have sold 250 000, which means about 900 000 will have been lifted out of poverty. We visit a tree nursery to see how this works – where an employee is using the foot pump (like a step machine) to pump water to water the young trees – this has allowed the company to grow a lot more trees and it is now much bigger than it used to be.

Question – Has development aid worked in the above five cases?

The programme finishes off by noting that we see all of the classic problems associated with Aid in the above examples, but it is the positive impacts which stick in his mind, especially the fact that when official projects collapse, the people who have gained skills carry on campaigning in different ways.

Find Out More…. There are another two episodes in the series if you wish to listen further!

How to End Poverty in 15 Years

I’ve moved this post to my other site – revisesociology.com – which is more dedicated to A level Sociology material. This blog remains more eclectic.

Additional…

In the Infographic below (nowhere near as impressive as Hans’) I’ve selected four African countries, and there’s a clear historical link between child mortality coming down first and then the economy growing (since 1960).

Interestingly, Malawi have recently got their child mortality rate down to 10%, but they are waiting for economic growth.

 

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.