Pambazuka News 556: G20 summit: Under the shadow of Occupy Wall Street movement
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Highlights from this issue
Please accept our apologies for technical hitches with last week's special issue on the Durban climate change conference, which meant readers of our newsletter missed out on three articles.
We've included these today - Brian Muphy's 'Environmental justice: Putting the poor first' (in Features), a statement from African CSOs 'Stand up for Africa! Stand up for climate justice!' and a rallying cry for the 'Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice' (both of which you'll find in Advocacy and Campaigns).
G20 summit: Under the shadow of the Occupy Wall Street movement
Can China save decrepit capitalism in Europe?
WHO IS THE DECIDER? CHINA OR THE OCCUPY WALL STREET MOVEMENT?
"We will fight to defend Europe and the euro," Nicolas Sarkozy, November 4, 2011
With these words of fighting, President Nicholas Sarkozy gave notice to the world that the European leaders from the right will militarize the planet in order to save the European project. After the meeting of the G20 ended in disarray in Cannes, France with no real agreement on how to develop global rules to rein in the ‘vampire squids,’ the debacle of the creeping coup in Greece was overtaken by the reality of the more precipitous and calamitous state of the Italian economy. Newspapers such as the UK’s Guardian declared that the G20 meeting ended in disarray.
There could be no agreement on global rules at the recent G20 summit when the question of the accountability of bankers was off the table. The assembled leaders issued a contradictory communiqué which in one line called for China and other countries ‘with strong public finances to take steps to boost domestic demand,’ while in another line continued the western chorus on undervalued currency with the call, for countries to move ‘more rapidly’ towards greater exchange rate flexibility, without specifically mentioning China. There was the usual bland statement from the summit on ‘the need reinvigorate economic growth’. Other non binding formulations came from the final communiqué:
- To support the IMF and give it more money if necessary
- Welcomes Italy's invitation to the IMF to monitor its economic reforms
- Welcomes the eurozone's plans to restore confidence and financial stability
- Sets up a task force on youth employment
In the week prior to this G20 summit, the political crisis inside Europe over the future form of this EU had been focused on the imposition of harsh measures on the workers of Greece. In that week, there had been another putting off of the day of reckoning with the European leaders leaning heavily on China after their acrimonious meeting in Brussels. The meeting of the leaders of Europe was barely over on Thursday 27 October when Klaus Regling the chief executive of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), jumped on the plane to fly to Beijing to seek over €60 billion investment from the government of the People’s Republic of China. Even before Klaus Regling landed in Beijing, the same Nicolas Sarkozy was on the phone to President Hu Jintao pleading for the government of the PRC to make a clear declaration of support for the decisions of the leaders of Europe to resolve the Eurozone crisis. European leaders such as Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy wanted the people of China to throw their money at a political crisis when the real question was the contradictions between the goals of the European project of having a monetary union without a political and fiscal union backed up by a single state called the European Union. The loose formation of leaders who were in a notional EU while trying to save old style national capitalism had deluded themselves that they had a plan and presented to the world a three pronged strategy to save the present arrangements that favor bankers and speculators. Greece had taken a front place in the stage of the drama. Thus that communiqué had narrowly focused on Greece with the following declaration:
a) Private banks holding Greek debt would accept a write-off of 50% of their returns
b) The main euro bailout fund – known as the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) – was to be boosted from the €440 billion set up earlier this year to €1 trillion, and
c) European banks would be required to raise about €106 billion in new capital by June 2012.
What was implicit in the third component of this bailout package was that the leaders of Europe were planning to pressure ‘emerging’ nations with large foreign reserves to rescue the Euro, because domestically, it will be very difficult for the European banks to recapitalise and find the billions needed to remain solvent. Overall, the EU rescue plan had hoped to maintain the status quo of the European Banks not having to accept losses, by forcing citizens of European nations like Greece, (with demonstrative effects for Ireland, Italy and Portugal) to pay for their losses with IMF like structural adjustment based austerity measures. Even the ‘successful’ bailed out countries like Ireland saw their real economy in ruins and their people suffering. The so-called rescue plan was simply postponing the day of the final crash of the present configuration of capitalism in Europe.
Chauvinism and hierarchy surged as Sarkozy openly declared that Greece should not have been admitted in the Eurozone in the first place. Within the period of over a week between the Brussels summit and the end of the G20 summit the decision of the Greek government to call a referendum on the package brought home the reality that confused strategies and political scuffles in Europe were all part of the political drama of a region in decline. The amount of the debt relief to Greece is only a small fraction of the total debt Greece owes to foreign creditors. Thus the ‘deal’ was insufficient to actually help Greece to get out of its debt crisis.
At the Cannes, summit all eyes were on China as the assembled leaders looked to Chinese resources to calm the ‘international markets.’ However, the government of China which had been a strategic partner with European capitalist was trapped. As a major exporter to Europe, it had built up large foreign exchange reserves, yet if the Euro crashed; China would be losing some of the $US800-1,000 billion invested in Euros and European government bonds. The so called ‘Eurozone Crisis’ or the ‘European Debt Crisis’ is both another symptom of a crisis in global capitalism, because it again reflects that Europe’s banks were just as much in trouble as the American banks were in 2007/2008 but simply in a different way.
Europe is China’s biggest trading partner so under the current model of the international division of labour, it would be in the interests of the current Chinese policymakers to ensure that the ‘notional’ European Union does not fall apart with a breakup of the Euro. But the Euro was comatose and only a new direction of democratic control could save the idea of a united Western Europe.
Trade wars, currency wars (disguised as quantitative easing) and populist anger directed against the RMB were emerging as components of this capitalist depression. There is now a fundamental shift in the axis of the international political economy with the centre of gravity moving to Africa, Asia and Latin America. For that section of the Chinese political leadership that had been fixated on the United States model of economic management, the capitalist crisis has now weakened that faction of the Communist Party. Those in the Communist Party who were calling for transformation of the conditions of the lives of 800 million poor had been struggling to be heard. Now this side is winning the argument that transformation of the world economy must begin with transformations inside of China.
At the same time as this debate was bubbling inside of China there was the emergence of a worldwide movement of workers mobilising to oppose unemployment and the one per cent that dominated the global economy. There was a new super power in the world, that of the oppressed majority who comprise the 99 per cent of the 7 billion citizens on the planet. The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests that started on 17 September in the United States had cascaded into a worldwide inclusive movement for social justice and world peace. While the media sought to portray the OWS as an event associated with a demonstration or a strike, the maturation of this grassroots mobilisation demonstrated that it was serious about basic rights for humans.
This movement had grown so fast internationally that the Vatican in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury in London were issuing statements calling for a Financial Transaction Tax. By the time the Vatican had issued their call for an overhaul of the international financial system, the political crisis in Greece brought home the fact that the military option was now on the table against the workers of Europe. After the military intervention of regime change in Libya, the military planners in NATO were scheming. With a whiff of this scheme, the Greek Prime Minister Papandreou dismissed his chief of national defense, the Greek Army general staff chief, the heads of the Air Force and the Navy, along with 12 other senior officers. This may not be the end of that story because the citizens of Greece are slowly finding out that their pensions have been cut in half and that the austerity measures will intensify the suffering of the people. ‘Austerity measures’ of the sort that are being imposed can only be implemented by anti-democratic and authoritarian regimes. Papandreou himself was consumed by the political upheaval and had to step aside.
A new realisation is coming in all parts of the world that this is not simply a financial crisis, but one that could be remedied if the mass of the people of the world mobilised to break the political power of the corporate plutocrats. Bill Gates of Microsoft also appeared on the stage joining the Vatican and issued his report on Innovation with Impact: Financing 21st Century Development.
This report was too late; the Occupy Wall Street Movement had now shone light on the fact that Ubuntu was a superior idea to private property rights. That the Vatican has caught on to this reality is in no small measure due to the massive movement that has grown to be a world force. We know that with political will there are enough resources to transform the present economic arrangements and give a new sense to the meaning of work in the 21st century. The Occupy movement in all parts of the world has demonstrated that it is a political force in this moment and that it is serious about restoring decency and justice to those who have been oppressed and manipulated by the one per cent. The major victory of this Occupy movement lay in the fact that in the highest reaches of governments all over the world, including China there is fear as to the long-term implications of a worldwide movement of the majority of the citizens of the world. In this global struggle, the Occupy Wall Street and occupy movement will be tested because the long history of racism, chauvinism and religious intolerance is being brewed by the discredited rulers in Europe as the right-wing parties seek to benefit from the frustration of the workers in Europe
CAN THE G20 BE THE NEW GLOBAL STEERING COMMITTEE FOR CAPITAL TO SAVE EUROPE?
The answer to this question is no.
When the leaders of the G20 countries met in Cannes, France, they were prolonging the indecision of those who dithered about tinkering around the edges of the Washington Consensus and those who understood that it was necessary or establish new international regulations to rein in the ‘financial instruments of mass destruction.’
Since the full-blown nature of the capitalist crisis and its political derivatives spread throughout the world on 15 September 2008, the G20 meetings had become a kind of safety valve for the international system. In 2009, the leaders of the G20 failed to break with the neoliberal ideas about ‘Shared Growth’ and simply sought to save the dollar-based system by promising an increase in the resources of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and embarking on stimulus packages to prevent absolute collapse. With the memory of the consequences of the depression of the 1930s, the G20 summits since 2008 had discussed how to avoid protectionism, increasing the voting rights of the ‘emerging nations’ and establishing financial safety nets working through regional financial arrangements. But, in the face of the inability of European and US leaders to challenge the power of the bond-holders, the G20 summit of 2011 was held under the shadow of the rising power of the mass of oppressed who are organising under a new sense of international solidarity.
France, the host of this G20 summit was faced with the real challenge of which direction the society will go; Nicolas Sarkozy in his closing press conference offered one roadmap that was based on the continued militarisation of Africa to save Europe. Africans were not surprised by the fighting words of Sarkozy that France is willing to fight to save the Euro and Europe. When the dictator Ben Ali of Tunisia was falling, France had offered to send military help and in 2011 France has been the most vigorous in advancing the militarisation of Africa to save European financial and corporate forces. France was being challenged in Africa by Turkey whose leaders were dreaming of a new Ottoman empire in the 21st century. At the end of 2010 the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Dawud indicated that Turkey will be challenging Europe in Africa. On 24 November 2010 Dawud Oglo stated that:
‘I have given my orders to the Turkish foreign ministry that [French Prime Minister Nicolas] Sarkozy, whenever he raises his head in Africa, sees a Turkish embassy with a Turkish flag.’
French banks and oil companies shudder when they heard these challenges. French banks are exposed and the collapse of the Belgian bank Dexia is an indication of more bank failures to come. The ‘crisis’ of capitalism in Europe is that Europe’s biggest banks in Germany, France, Britain and some US financial institutions (like big US banks and the financial firm of John Corzine – MF Global Holdings – which just filed for bankruptcy) are holding the sovereign and private debts of several European nations and those nations (governments and businesses) do not have the money to repay the debts.
These banks lent money to the other nations, as an element of the structure of the EU model where Germany/France were the exporters in the EU and the other nations were the importers/consumers of the EU. This structure reached its limits years ago, but financialisation allowed it to be extended via credit and debt, just as we saw in America where credit and debt extended the life of the consumption-based economic model, even though it had reached its limits decades ago, when the wages and incomes of the 99 per cent stopped rising in America, even as productivity and profits continued to rise with the one per cent capturing most of the gains in income.
As French banks (such as Société Générale, Crédit Agricole and BNP Paribas) are downgraded or put under review by credit rating agencies, French workers know that their medicine of ‘austerity’ is not far away. What has compounded the political elements of this quagmire for capital is that the German, French, British and American banks ‘refuse’ to take losses, because it could potentially put some of these bankers out of business. Conservative leaders such as Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are insisting on passing the costs onto the shoulders of workers all over the world. Simultaneously, these conservative leaders are providing the political space for the far right chauvinists in Europe. In France, Marie Le Pen is waiting to present a feminine touch to the neo-fascist right ring forces in France. Racism, religious intolerance and arrogance fuel confusion in the ranks of the workers. Unsurprisingly, a new report by UK thinktank Demos documents the rapid of the right wing nationalist forces in Europe.
With the old trade union left compromised by their support for national capitalism, it required a new international force such as the Occupy Wall Street movement to give solidarity to workers. While right-wing politicians manage the old machinery of representative politics in societies such as Spain and Portugal, extra parliamentary forces were calling themselves the ‘indignants.’ It is this new political force that is calling for accountability and transparency in the financial services industry. The governments of Britain, France and Germany are forcing the other European governments to punish their own citizens by making the debts sovereign, and repaying the banks in Germany, France, England and the US with money they are ‘borrowing’ and which they will repay by imposing austerity on their own societies.
Both the leaders of France and Germany want to follow the model of the United States of 2008 where the banks were bailed out. After the fall of Lehman Brothers and the collapse of the financial institutions the government of the United States took the tax dollars of the citizens (plus changed the accounting rules and provided trillions in loans and loan guarantees) to ‘bailout’ the banks so that they would not have to admit losses on their various home mortgage loans and trading of investment products.
What compounds this crisis is that such actions increased the public debt (which now become a rationale for imposing austerity on the 99 per cent because reducing defence spending is not an option) and by saving the banks without any conditions, the banks used the help to enrich themselves and their ‘investors’ again without even ‘lending’ money to the real economy, because in the financialisation of capitalism era financial services institutions make a larger share of their profits by ‘trading’ financial instruments as opposed to lending money to support the real economy.
G20 SUCKED INTO FINANCIALISATION
What makes both situations of European and Unites States financial health a true reflection of a fundamental turning point is that the one per cent are basically saying that the 99 per cent must pay for the losses of wealth by the one per cent, even if it costs the entire capitalist system (which is supposed to be the best system at producing the best quality of life for human beings). In a sense, for the status quo of the one per cent to be maintained, the current unequal distribution of wealth which characterises the current system itself, must be made even more unequal even ii that means imposing new political, economic, human and environmental consequences and costs on the 99 per cent. This includes subsidising the military costs of repressing the 99 per cent. The G20 was being called upon to endorse this politico/military arrangement at the global level.
The political leaders of the societies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are being forced to decide whether their integration into this global steering committee for the international system will predispose them to save the bankers or to work for a new international financial architecture that serves humans. For the decade of the nineties, the leaders of the United States unleashed the rules of Wall Street on the world. Even during and after the Asian financial crisis the same barons of finance intensified the push to dismantle the regulations that had been in place since the 1930s to separate investment banking from commercial banking. Under this financialisation, the speculators worked with former manufacturers to push through new rules that created an international imbalance where manufacturing took place in low wage economies that sent back surpluses to the financial wizards. China, Mexico, Indonesia and India became bases for transnational corporations where factories operated with low wages, sub standard health and safety records. There was ‘economic growth’ for some of the emerging countries under this model, but this system of international capital could not be sustained indefinitely.
Sections of the newly emerging economies became tacit allies and subordinates of the financial oligarchs of the West. Although the G20 was formed in 1999, by 2008, the international financial barons had integrated the capitalists in India, Brazil and China into the system so that there was no fear that expanding the G8 to G20 would challenge the Washington Consensus. The importance of the G20 grouping re-emerged after the crash of September 2008. As allies of the financial oligarchs, the leaders of the G20 were supposed to accept institutionalised neoliberalism at the global level.
CHINA, G20 AND THE NEW CAPITALIST CLASSES
In the past I have written on the slow death of the IMF and it is not necessary to revisit the relationships between the IMF, the US dollar and the US military here.
Suffice to say that when the communiqué of the G20 call for more money to the IMF, the G20 is in principle seeking to give resources to a dying institution. Moreover, the G20 was being called on to support the old neoliberal ideas that dominated the IMF since Ronald Reagan. Essentially for 60 years, this body has been a tool of Anglo-American imperial financial order. Even though Alan Greenspan admitted in 2008 that he found a flaw in his libertarian views on free markets, this did not deter the US oligarchs from returning to the practices that brought about the crash. The IMF had been international police to impose structural adjustment packages in order to force changes in economic policies in the Third World. The Barack Obama administration had campaigned on the basis of ‘change’ but once in the White House, the barons of high finance flexed their muscle and Obama was too timid to challenge these oligarchs. Hence, the Obama administration became a tool for these forces and the administration could not even call to account the fraudsters who had stolen billions.
After throwing trillions at Wall Street, these forces were emboldened and demanded even more power. Wall Street as the global power with control over the US government wanted the same control over the Chinese government. In Europe, Wall Street dominated the governmental apparatus and when former Goldman Sachs operative Mario Draghi assumed the European Central Bank (ECB) presidency last week, the international power of the bankers was more open.
China had escaped the long arm of Goldman Sachs into the politburo of the Communist Party. Despite the obvious intellectual influence of Wall Street in the business schools across China, the society continued to escape the structural adjustment measures by organising a command economy following the socialist revolution of 1949. Despite escaping the destructive effects of liberalisation and privatisation, under a programme of ‘reform’ that had been adopted in the 1980s, foreign capital played a huge role in the Chinese economy, especially in the manufacturing industry. In the face of demands by workers in the USA for better living standards, the capitalists outsourced jobs from the USA and turned US citizens into consumers laden with debt. The same capitalists in North America working with local allies in China transformed China into an export driven economy, with the ratio of exports to GDP climbing from 16 per cent in 1990 to over 40 per cent in 2006. Additionally, the share of foreign produced exports also grew from 2 per cent in 1985 to 58 per cent in 2005. Throughout the process of China’s reforms over the 1990s, Chinese accumulation dynamics became increasingly dependent on transnational corporate investment and export activity. As a result, the Chinese economy became increasingly embedded in the broader process of global accumulation – one that was built on cheap labour without the backward and forward linkages inside the economy that was supposed to characterise a transformed society. The Chinese branch of global capital with its low wage system reproduced a disarticulated economic system for China so that the surpluses were sent back to North America and Western Europe with China accumulating more than US$3 trillion in foreign currency reserves, far more than any other nation. While this model was disarticulated for China it was consistent with the new international finance that had no national loyalties.
This model of accumulation slowly supported the expansion of a well-heeled capitalist cadre inside of China itself so that by 2005, in a society ruled by a Communist party, China had 250,000 US dollar millionaire households. Although this group made up only 0.4 per cent of China’s total households, it held 70 per cent of the country’s wealth. According to the China Daily newspaper, by September 2011, the number of US dollar millionaires in China had grown to 960,000 persons. In the same month it was reported that China had counted 271 dollar billionaires, up from 130 in 2009. China was the second largest economy in the world China after the United States and boasted the second most billionaires in the world, after the United States with more than 400.
This class differentiation was leading to a situation where global capitalists had firm allies within the Chinese society with implications for the political process. These millionaires in China sent their children to schools in North America and Western Europe and became intellectually and ideologically submissive to the consumption model of North America. Nicolas Sarkozy had been wooing this stratum even though four years earlier he had been the champion of the call for human rights in China. It was allies such as Sarkozy that accepted the western argument that the economic depression was not severe but simply a reflection of a cyclical phase of capitalism. Hiding behind the power of the state to accumulate wealth, these social forces argued that China was immune to the crisis because of the years of economic growth of over nine per cent. These allies of international capital accepted the rosy picture of those in Wall Street who wrote about ‘Green shoots’ and argued that, ‘Everything is cyclical, this too shall pass.’ These Chinese social forces were building alliances within the newly emerging societies of Brazil, Russia India and South Africa. This was a transitional arrangement because within China there were those in the leadership who aspire towards an interdependent and multi-polar world and there are those in China with dreams of China replacing the United States as the world’s only superpower.
Currently in this transition period, the leaders of the People’s Republic of China enter into barter arrangements and other novel forms of trade settlements with other members of BRICS and do not see it in their strategic interest for the RMB to become an alternative fully fledged globally traded currency. Such a move would require additional changes in domestic and international economic policy that China has not yet developed. This includes the full human and institutional capabilities to effectively make the currency an international reserve currency. When the US credit rating was downgraded in July 2011, the real implications of the devaluation of the US dollar were speeding up the question of the internationalisation of the RMB and the issue went beyond the cautious planning of Beijing. Moreover, the opening up of offshore markets for the RMB in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan gave these more sophisticated capitalists the leverage to increase their influence with those who in China were calling for liberalised financial markets.
G20 SUMMIT 2011 ENDS IN DISARRAY
The fact that the most recent G20 meeting in France ended in disarray was one more indication that the G20 cannot save a system that has been delegitimised. There is a shift of power from Europe and the USA to Asia. The social, economic, demographic and environmental aspects of this depression demanded comprehensive answers not simply discussions about financial rules and regulating banks. Floods in Thailand that threatened Bangkok as a result of short-sightedness, greed and profit called out for global attention competing with the Tsunami, earthquake and nuclear meltdown in Japan. These were warnings that environmental questions of global warming were far more important than ‘modernisation and industrial growth.’
It is the disarray in Cannes that points to the continuity in the failure of the G20 meetings since 2009. At the end of the G20 summit held in London in April 2009, the assembled leaders issued a communiqué declaring inter alia:
‘We face the greatest challenge to the world economy in modern times; a crisis which has deepened since we last met, which affects the lives of women, men, and children in every country, and which all countries must join together to resolve. A global crisis requires a global solution’.
There could be no global solution because the resolutions of the G20 were not binding on any of the major international bodies such as the Security Council of the United Nations or the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Despite pledges to restore confidence, growth, and jobs; repair the financial system to restore lending; strengthen financial regulation to rebuild trust; fund and reform our international financial institutions to overcome this crisis and prevent future ones; promote global trade and investment and reject protectionism, to underpin prosperity; and build an inclusive, green, and sustainable recovery, there was no political and international mechanism to give teeth to these resolutions.
In reading through the Cannes Action plan for growth and jobs there was a repetition of the same old ideas of growth under long winded statements on ‘Building our common future: Renewed Collective Action for the benefit of All’.
A false sense of recovery had been promoted the G20 meetings in 2009 but with the clear and present danger of the global meltdown, there was gloom in all the financial papers. One British member of the House of Lords warned that the current Eurozone crisis can ‘trigger events way beyond the borders of Greece or even Europe.’ President Obama said of the situation in Europe: ‘Put simply, the world faces challenges that put our economic recovery at risk.’
David Cameron, the conservative Prime Minister of Britain issued a warning about the failure of the meeting saying that:
‘Every day that the Eurozone crisis continues and every day it is not resolved is a day that it has a chilling effect on the rest of the world economy, including the British economy. I am not going to pretend all the problems in the Eurozone have been fixed. They have not. The task for the Eurozone is the same as going into this summit. The world can't wait for the Eurozone to through endless questions and changes about this…
‘We like the rest of the world need the Eurozone to sort out its problems. We need more to happen in terms of detail on the European firewall.’
Without using the militaristic language of Sarkozy, Cameron referred to the long-term consequences, describing this as only ‘a stage of the global crisis.’ The Financial Times newspaper went to the heart of the political and military consequences and editorialised:
‘From the economic point of view, the Eurozone has what it takes to solve its crisis without any external help. It must do so. The 20th century started with a small Balkan state blowing up the world. History must not be allowed to repeat itself in the 21st. There is something deeply wrong with the global economy if a small country like Greece can become such a big threat.’
The panic in Europe led to calls for the leaders of BRICS to let their voices be heard, but the voice the European capitalists wanted to hear was that the countries such as China and Saudi Arabia would bail out the EFSF. It was the calculation of Nicolas Sarkozy that his relationship with China would influence the Chinese government to work through the G20 agree to increase IMF resources by as much as US$250 billion (£156 billion) to more than US$1 trillion. Disagreements about the wisdom, structure and size of the boost to the fund and over who would contribute meant the decision was left to a meeting of G20 finance ministers next February. More importantly, the IMF managing director Christine Lagarde made it clear that the IMF ‘lends money to countries, not to legal entities.’ The EFSF was not a legal entity and the Germans were being forced to rethink their version of influencing world politics.
In desperation, Sarkozy and other Europeans sought to persuade China and Brazil to establish a special investment vehicle that was to prop up the EFSF.
All of these superficial efforts came to nought because these discussions on the future of the EFSF were overshadowed by the awareness that the Italian dimensions of the crisis were more profound. ‘Italy faces new tests in further auctions of its debt this month – it has to raise €30.5bn in November, and a further 22.5bn in December.’ The impending financial collapse of the Italian economy threatened the future of the single currency in the Eurozone.
WILL CHINA SAVE EUROPEAN BANKERS AND SPECULATORS?
Since 2008, the day of reckoning between the people and the bankers had been pushed down the road. But the crisis could not be papered over and the ‘debt’ crises in Iceland, Latvia, Ireland, Portugal and Greece kept the matter of the financial crisis on the front pages of the news. The Eurozone debt crisis clarified the reality that the financial crisis was only one symptom of a larger systemic crisis that had spun out of control and lurched toward a full-scale political and economic conflagration. Yet, in the midst of the deteriorating global environment with the real experience of high unemployment and social dislocation, the paralysis created by neoliberal thinking had been compounded by the refusal to see this depression for what it is, a full-scale meltdown of the capitalist mode of production. In the effort to calm ‘markets’ vague and meaningless formulations are issued calling for policies ‘supporting growth, implementing credible fiscal consolidation plans, and ensuring strong sustainable growth.’ Some commentators within Europe such as William Hutton have gone beyond the usual discourse on recession and have stated starkly that, ‘The ailing euro is part of a wider crisis’, ‘Our capitalist system is near meltdown’, ‘A 1930s-style crash threatens us and our financial partners. Collective action is the only solution.’ What commentators such as William Hutton and George Soros wanted were ‘reforms’ to maintain the dominance of the Atlantic powers.
In the case of China, the political leadership of the People’s Republic of China were bombarded with daily emissaries to Beijing seeking ‘bailout funds for the European banks.’ These emissaries were aware of the class divisions inside of China and were massaging the egos of those sections of the political leadership that had embarked on a ’strategic partnership’ with Europe at the start of the war against Iraq. But the request for bail-out funds represented an act of desperation because the political leaders of Western Europe had no clear strategy other than to continue the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.
Conscious of the social divisions within China, there was a private and public discourse over bailing out Europe. In the public discourse, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in September 2011 speaking at the World Economic Forum in Dalian stated that China is willing to help European nations, but wants them to recognise the mainland as a ‘full market economy’ at the WTO. Wen Jiabao also told Europe and the United States ‘to get their house in order.’ Details of the private discourse is not known but newspapers in Europe were reporting on behind-the-scenes negotiations over ‘human rights’ and that China‘s ‘economic weight be properly reflected at the leading international financial institutions.’
Leaders of France and Germany retorted that Chinese bailout was necessary for Europe to get its house in order. However, jealous of their new-found clout, the Chinese political leaders were cautious, insisting that the Europeans clearly define the future of the European project. The European rulers, with their deep and ingrained arrogance, wanted assistance from China while scheming to intensify the currency war by inserting in the communiqué the call for China to move ‘towards greater exchange rate flexibility.’ This was an extension of the continued attack on the Chinese which had reached the point where the US Senate passed a bill accusing the Chinese of Currency manipulation. Under this bill, The Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 201, there would be high tariffs on Chinese goods because the US considered currency manipulation as a foreign subsidy.
CHINA CANNOT SAVE EUROPE
There is one body of opinion inside the intelligentsia in China who understand that as the austerity measures take root in Europe, demand will drop and unemployed European citizens will not have money to purchase China’s exports. These forces understand that the old model of an export-led economy is coming to an end. If China were truly pursuing its national economic interests and decided to ‘bail out’ the European Union by helping to recapitalise some of Europe’s banks for strategic reasons to both save capitalism and to maintain the Euro as a viable alternative to the US dollar, its first/best option would be to bail out European banks under the condition that the banks write down by 50 per cent or outright eliminate all of the sovereign debts they hold by the governments, so that the European governments would not have to implement austerity measures which hurt the growth of their real economies and cut the incomes of their people and thus their ability to consume imported goods from China.
This condition would be far more beneficial for China than either the public or private conditions discussed in relation to China providing the EU with a financial bailout. With further open debate it would become obvious that an even superior condition would be to bail out the EU under the condition that a new international financial architecture be pursued based on the premise of global capital being subordinated to a role of financing ‘developing’ in the poorest societies of the world, especially Africa and Latin America. This would include stringent regulations to curb capital flight from poor nations to the rich and supporting the Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative. Offshore banks and money laundering syndicates would be brought under international control so that the G20 communiqué on ‘our fight against corruption’ would have meaning.
Suborned by ideas of ‘modernisation,’ some of the leaders of China and India could not take the lead to renew the call for a new international economic order. It is against this background of internal class and political differences in China that predisposed the Chinese President to respond with a non-committal statement issued through the media in China that said, ‘China hopes all these measures will help stabilize the European financial market and conquer the current difficulties and promote economic recovery and development’.
Hu Jintao was also looking internally in the face of those sections of the population who had been critical of past bad investment calls that were made in 2008.
Through the lobbying efforts of the international supporters of Wall Street, the leaders of Western Europe had been calling for other countries of BRICS to bail out Western Europe. Probably the most laughable of this call for bail out from BRICS came from the Finance Minister of South Africa who after the recent IMF meetings in Washington argued that as a member of BRICS, it was part of the responsibility of South Africa to pitch in to bail out the bankers in Europe. A spirited exchange between the Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa and the Finance Minister brought this discussion of South Africa assisting the bailing out Europe out in the open. South African workers were not quiet, there were protests as the streets of Johannesburg and Durban became part of the 900 cities worldwide that had been inspired by the will to resist the one per cent that dominate the international system.
OCCUPY WALL STREET MAKES A CLEAR IMPACT
It is in the midst of the dead end alternatives offered by both the Obama administration and the leaders of Europe when the oppressed found a new form of politics in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. In less than two months the ideas and forms of organisation of this force opposing the concentration and centralisation of power in the world had grown to change the political calculus globally. This movement has moved to new levels of organising to the point that war veterans and members of the military are now openly supporting this mass movement of 99 per cent. A general strike in Oakland, California echoed across the United States with General Assemblies of the peoples debating how to extend the liberated spaces in order to expand the movement for real political change. A National Bank Transfer Day in the United States registered another front and demonstrated that the Occupation movement is not simply about massing and occupying public spaces.
In the past, the corporate barons and their thinktanks dominated the political discourse and turned teachers into parrots repeating the standard lines of the linkages between free markets and prosperity. However, people were seeing economic deterioration and regression before their eyes and the tenacious and pedantic work of this Occupy Wall Street movement now engaged the reality of the dominance of the one per cent oligarchy. It was this change along with the police repression that gave more visibility to the movement. Bill Gates of Microsoft had been recruited by Sarkozy to give legitimacy to the call for the FTT and Gates prepared a report Innovation with ‘Impact: Financing 21st Century Development’. But the crisis had gone beyond taxes and Gates was ignored while militarism hung over Greece.
The statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England said:
‘There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers; of impatience with a return to 'business as usual’ – represented by still-soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices. The best outcome from the unhappy controversies at St Paul’s will be if the issues raised… can focus a concerted effort to move the debate on and effect credible change in the financial world.’
The Occupy Movement had reached the City of London and religious leaders were being forced to take a stand on the evil spirits of greed and fraud. However, by the time the Vatican and the Church of England caught on to the power of this movement, the depth of the contagion had moved so fast that it was not only the workers with Greece who were at a crossroads, but workers in Spain, Portugal and especially Italy. In the midst of this bad news of the spread of the depression, the International Labour Organization in Geneva published its report on the World of Work that three years after the crash of 2008, ‘economic growth in major advanced economies has come to a halt and some countries have re-entered recession, notably in Europe,’ The ILO noted. ‘Growth has also slowed down in large emerging and developing countries.’ In order to deflect from this ILO report the final communiqué of the G20 summit dishonestly stated, ‘we commit to promote and ensure full respect of the fundamental principles and rights at work.’
Such declarations contradicted the essence of the push for ‘austerity.’ Bad news from the ILO on the state of the World economy came after the news from the Congressional Budget Office of the United States that the richest one per cent of US households saw a 275 per cent increase in their income between 1979 and 2007 and more than doubled their share of the national income. While the income of this layer nearly tripled, the income of the middle 60 per cent of the population rose only 40 per cent over 28 years, and the income of the poorest 20 per cent rose by only 18 per cent.
These figures from the International labor Organization and the Congressional Budget Office validated the slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement that the system favoured a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. In every area of social life, whether health care, access to housing, employment, environmental protection, police brutality, education, student loans and the escalating costs of higher education or the prison industrial complex, the demands of the occupy Wall Street movement were clear but the corporate media attempted to dismiss this new global force for change. These OWS forces were learning that usual political engagement through established political parties was not having an impact and daily became creative to build a new politics. It is this political movement that is using extra-parliamentary forms of expression to move the goal post of what is necessary to bring social justice.
Suddenly, it was in the public domain that the monies held in Swiss bank accounts and other offshore accounts could be taxed to ensure that no more austerity measures were unleashed against European workers. Germany, as an industrial society that remained connected to a ‘real economy’ supported the Tobin Tax, but the United States and Britain whose economies were dominated by the financial services sector opposed taxing the bankers.
China, Brazil and South Africa were being forced to take a clear position to go back to the call for stronger regulation of international system because the crisis had gone beyond a matter of regulation. In the particular case of the Chinese government, the class orientation of the new millionaires had privileged liberalism over the ideas of socialism, but the seriousness of the crisis and the new social movement created cause for pause in China. After initially noting the rise of the Occupy Wall Street Movement there is now fear of the long-term consequences internationally if this movement were to take root and affect policy making in all institutions.
The Chinese leadership is always looking over its shoulders because its legitimacy rests on a contract with the Chinese people to transform China from a poor underdeveloped society to one with a better standard of living for the majority. Social transformation in China with outreach to the oppressed of the Afro-Asian bloc will enhance the turn away from the old imperial financial dominance.
Africans and oppressed peoples everywhere are paying close attention to the calls for bailout funds from China. These forces in Africa and Latin America are aware that the calls are really part of a push to deepen the political alliance between the Chinese millionaires and their allies in Europe. This alliance would mean that Chinese capital would follow the path of Europe in its relations with Africa. In this way the Chinese would cooperate with leaders such as Sarkozy to support his fight to save the European Union and the Euro.
I will end with the challenge raised by Samir Amin on the future of China more than a decade ago.
‘My central question is this: is China evolving toward a stabilized form of capitalism? Or is China's perspective still one of a possible transition to socialism?
‘Under what conditions the capitalist approach triumph can and what form of more or less stabilized capitalism could it produce? Under what conditions could the current moment be deflected in directions that would become a (long) stage in the (even longer) transition to socialism?’
Samir Amin further argued that:
‘The Chinese ruling class has chosen to take a capitalist approach, if not since Deng, at least after him. Yet it does not acknowledge this. The reason is that its legitimacy is rooted in the revolution, which it cannot renounce without committing suicide.
‘The real plan of the Chinese ruling class is capitalist in nature and "market socialism" becomes a shortcut whereby it is possible to gradually put in place the basic structures and institutions of capitalism while minimizing friction and difficulties during the course of the transition to capitalism.’
With the unfolding of the depth of the crisis, those sections of the Chinese leadership who want to avoid the mistakes of Stalin in the last depression need to reflect on what kind of international system can minimise war and break the power of the top one per cent.
In this way the leaders of China will see the Occupy Wall Street movement not as a challenge, but as an asset in the fight for social justice and democracy internationally.
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* Horace Campbell is professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’ and a contributing author to ‘African Awakening: The Emerging Revolutions’. He is currently a visiting professor in the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
After the Tunisian election what next?
The Constituent Assembly that resulted from the elections in Tunisia at the end of October will be dominated by a right-wing block that brings together the Islamist party An-Nahda and the numerous reactionary groups that until very recently were associated with deposed President Ben Ali’s regime. These are still around and, known as ‘Bourguibists’, have infiltrated the ‘new parties’! They all buy in unconditionally to the market economy, such as it is in Tunisia; in other words a dependant and inferior capitalist system that is part of the imperialist globalisation dominated by European and US monopolies. The imperialist powers-that-be, in particular France and the US, are only too happy for everything to be changed ‘so that it all stays the same’.
Nevertheless, there are two changes on the agenda. On the positive side, a political - but not social and therefore weak - democracy will tolerate diverse opinions, have greater respect for human rights and put an end to the police brutality suffered under the former regime. On the other hand, women’s rights are likely to be fragile. In other words, there could be a return to a multi-party ‘Bourguibism’ tinted with Islamism. The plan of the western powers, based on the power of the reactionary consumer block, will put an end to what people hoped would be a ‘short’ transition - the movement accepted this without considering the consequences - not leaving enough time for the social struggles to be sorted out. It will allow its exclusive ‘legitimacy’ to take hold by means of ‘proper’ elections. The Tunisian uprising was generally unconcerned with the economic policy of the ousted regime, concentrating its criticisms on the corruption of the president and his family. Many of the protesters, even the left-wingers, did not question the basic development orientations implemented by Bourguiba and Ben Ali.
This outcome was foreseeable. Many (probably the majority) of the people who rose up were only very slightly aware of what really was at stake. Moreover, like causes sometimes produce the same effects. What will the popular classes think and do when they see their social conditions inexorably deteriorating, with all the accompanying unemployment and insecurity? They are probably not reckoning with the other downward trends in their conditions that have been intensified by the general crisis in capitalist globalisation.
It is too early to say, but we cannot continue to blind ourselves to the fact that only the rapid crystallisation of a radical left wing, going well beyond the demand for proper elections, can allow the resumption of a struggle for a change worthy of its name. It is the duty of this radical left wing to: (i) be able to formulate a strategy for democratising society that will involve much more that merely holding proper elections, (ii) link this democratisation with social progress, which implies abandoning the current development model and (iii) strengthen its initiatives by its international, independent and clearly anti-imperialist stance.
It will not be the imperialist monopolies and their international lackeys (the World Bank, IMF and WTO) that help Tunisia to make a fresh start; this new beginning will be less difficult if the country turns towards new partners in the South.
None of these fundamental questions seem to occupy the minds of the main political actors. Everything that is happening would make you think that the ultimate aim of their ‘revolution’ had been to have speedy elections. It is as if the one and only source of legitimate power is the polling booth. There is, however, another, superior, legitimacy – that of the struggles! By uncritically adopting the whole recipe for ‘representative electoral democracy’, as widely proposed, most Tunisians risk being disappointed by the outcomes. To whose advantage will this disappointment be? To a radical left wing that is still marginal? If not, the worst is yet to come: the capitalisation by political Islam of the inevitable disappointments to come and the loss of the legitimacy of democracy.
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* Samir Amin is the director of the Third World Forum.
* Article translated from French by Anne Rutter
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Understanding Tunisia’s elections results
In early 1994, a small Islamic think tank affiliated with the University of South Florida (USF) planned an academic forum to host Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the main opposition party in Tunisia, Ennahdha. The objective of this annual event was to give Western academics and intellectuals a rare opportunity to engage an Islamically-oriented intellectual or political leader at a time when the political discourse was dominated by Samuel Huntington’s much hyped clash of civilizations thesis.
Shortly after the public announcement of the event, pro-Israeli groups and advocates led by Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes, Steven Emerson, the head of the local B’nai B’rith, and a small-time journalist for the local rightwing newspaper began a coordinated campaign to discredit the event and scare the university.
According to Arthur Lowrie, a former state department official who was an adjunct professor at USF at the time, AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups exerted enormous pressure on the state department to rescind its visa to Ghannouchi two weeks after it was issued in London.
Consequently the university had to cancel the event, despite the strong protests by more than two-dozen scholars and academics. As a result, a valuable encounter between western intellectuals and opinion makers on the one hand, and a major figure in the Islamic world on the other, was obstructed because of the agenda of a small but powerful interest group. This episode foreshadowed the anti-intellectual movement in subsequent years that sought to limit the ability of Islamic groups and figures to contribute to the national dialogue, especially after 9/11.
Since that day in 1994, Ghannouchi has never been issued a visa to enter the United States, although he had been to the country several times in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the time, he was living in the United Kingdom after being granted political asylum and cleared by the British authorities of any links to violence. He had also won a defamation lawsuit in the UK against detractors and regime loyalists who accused him of fomenting violence and strife inside Tunisia.
Seventeen years later, Ghannouchi’s Islamically-oriented Ennahdha movement has won the elections in Tunisia with a commanding 42 per cent of the vote. In effect, it received three times as many seats as the next highest party. These elections were largely praised by all relevant parties and international observers as democratic, free, fair, and transparent.
But these free and fair elections could not have taken place without the popular revolution that erupted last December in Sidi Bouzid following decades of repression and rampant corruption. It quickly spread throughout the country, ultimately culminating on 14 January when the long-time dictator Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali and his family fled to Saudi Arabia.
Since Tunisia’s independence from France in 1956, the country has been ruled by a one-party system that imposed its autocratic version of strict secularism. But when Ben Ali took power in a bloodless coup in 1987, he treated the country to a brief period of political openness until the security apparatus cracked down on all political opposition, particularly Ennahdha and other pro-democracy and human rights groups.
So who were the major contenders in these elections? What was the main platform of each party? How did each one fair in the end? What do the results mean for Tunisia? And what happens next?
On 23 October, Tunisians went to the polls for the first time since their revolution to elect a Constituent National Assembly (CNA) consisting of 217 seats, including 18 representing more than one million expatriates living abroad, out of 11 million Tunisians. The main role of the CNA is to write a new constitution for Tunisia that embodies the democratic aspirations of the popular revolution.
There were about 91 party lists as well as independents distributed over 27 geographical districts around the country and six districts abroad, mainly in Europe. According to the Tunisian Independent Elections Commission, the voter turnout exceeded all estimates, as nearly 90 per cent of all registered voters participated, with some waiting as long as four hours to cast their votes.
Amidst the dozens of lists, there were actually four major contenders. But a win of nine per cent of the votes by a newly formed party with questionable leadership was a major surprise to all political observers in Tunisia. Here is a list of the elections’ major winners and losers.
1) Ennahdha Party was the successor to the Tunisian Islamic Trend Movement that was once affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1960s and has been led by Ghannouchi, 70, since the mid 1970s. In 1989 it changed its name to Ennahdha or Renaissance Party and declared its commitment to democracy and pluralism. The movement considers itself a moderate Islamic party concerned with the preservation of Tunisia’s identity as an Arab and Islamic nation. For much of the past decade it has called for a political model similar to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayeb Erdogan in Turkey. More recently, it has advocated the accommodation of liberal and secular-humanist values with Islamic principles, especially in social and economic spheres. It also favors a parliamentary system of government.
After almost gaining a fifth of the vote in the 1989 elections, Ben Ali banned the movement and cracked down on its institutions, imprisoning around 30,000 of its members over the span of two decades. As the main opposition group in the past three decades, Ennahdha was well organised and known throughout the country. Its leaders were respected and admired not only in urban centers but also in rural areas. Consequently, in this election it won overwhelmingly in all districts but one, gaining 90 seats, including half the seats abroad.
2) Congress for the Republic (CFR). Established in 2001, it has been led by Moncef Marzouki, 66, a charismatic physician and human rights advocate. The CFR is considered a leftist party that emphasises Arab nationalism and identity as well as mainly secular values. Moreover, it calls for public accommodation of moderate Islamic principles and groups. It also advocates for a presidential system with strong parliamentary powers. Marzouki is well known for his fierce advocacy of human rights, democracy and transparency. CFR came in second in voting, receiving 30 seats across the country.
3) Block (Takattol) for Labour and Liberties. Established in 1994 by progressive and leftist activists and professionals, Takattol rejected dictatorship and advocated for socialist and nationalist policies. Its leader is Mustafa Bin Jaafar, 71, who was named health minister in the cabinet appointed shortly after the revolution. Although very secular in its policies, it recognises the importance of Islam in society and has a moderate and accommodating view on the inclusion of political Islam in public life. It gained 21 seats in the elections.
4) The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP). Established in 1998, PDP was considered the main opposition party challenging the corrupt ruling party during the reign of Ben Ali. It advocated strict secular principles and was regarded as the main ideological nemesis of Ennahdha. Its historical leader was Ahmad Nejib Chabbi, 67, a well-known attorney, and leftist politician. Since 2006, it has been led by Maya Jribi, 51, a biologist, human rights activist, and a feminist with enormous political skills. During the campaign PDP leaders challenged Ennahdha and pledged to come first. However, it was crushed in the elections, receiving only 17 seats. After the elections it conceded defeat and congratulated Ennahdha, but vowed not to join any governing coalition and to remain in the opposition.
5) Popular List (Al-Aridha Chabiyya). The elections result of this list was a complete surprise to all observers. This list, which has only existed for a few months, was led by Al-Hashmi Al-Hamdi, the owner of a TV satellite channel based in London and a former Ennahdha member who broke with the group in the mid 1990s. Since then he has openly attacked Ennahdha and worked closely with Ben Ali’s regime. His group gained 19 seats in the elections.
Many political observers charge that this party was financed and supported by the remnants of the old regime and Ben Ali’s banned Constitutional Party. After announcing the results, the Elections Commission invalidated the seats of the Popular List in six districts, charging the party with elections violations, including bribery.
The remaining seats were distributed over 20 other parties including tribal, liberal, communist, and other far-left parties. But most significantly the main loser was the coalition of 11 rigidly anti-Islamic secular parties and former communists under the name the Democratic Modernist Pole (DMP). Throughout the country DMP could not garner more than five seats.
The huge win by Ennahdha, followed by CFR, represents a total break from the parties and political movements of the corrupt and repressive era of Ben Ali. The collective will of the Tunisian people as embodied by the results of this election was to empower the main groups that associated strongly with moderate Islamic principles and Arab-Islamic identity.
By choosing moderate political groups that were not corrupt or part of the old archaic political structure, the Tunisian people sent an unambiguous message that they want moderate Islamists and secularists to work together in establishing democratic governance and building a just socio-economic system, while preserving hard-won freedoms and liberties, as well as respecting human rights and the Arab-Islamic identity of Tunisia.
Upon winning the elections in convincing fashion, Ennahdha gave assurances that it will not impose Islamic social and moral edicts on society, but rather intends to preserve the legal rights given to women with regards to personal status law. It also announced that it would not ban alcohol or bathing suits as its opponents had charged. The day after announcing the election results Ghannouchi himself met with the leaders of Tunisia’s stock market to assure them of his party’s strong support for vigorous economic growth, especially in the tourism sector. His party’s platform calls for a robust annual economic growth of eight per cent.
Ennahdha announced that its secretary general Hamadi Jebali, 62, a former journalist and engineer by training, would be its candidate for prime minister. He pledged to form a national unity government within a month that will include as many of the elected parties as possible. At minimum, the three major winners with a commanding majority of 141 seats have pledged to work together for the future of Tunisia. Furthermore, in a spirit of reconciliation Jebali announced that Ennahdha’s candidate for interim president would be either Marzouki of CFR or Bin Jaafar of Takattol.
But the major challenges facing the next government are three-fold. Not only should Ennahdha be able to form a unity government, but an effective government that will be able to deliver to the common man and woman in the street physical and economic security as well public services at a moment of tremendous political turmoil and social change. Luckily for the new government the economic challenge was softened this week when Qatar - as a state that has been at the forefront of supporting the Arab Spring - has pledged an immediate economic assistance package of $500 million.
Simultaneously, the elected assembly must write the new constitution for Tunisia’s second republic within one year. Although the will of the Tunisian people was determined in this election by favouring a moderate Islamic movement and other moderate secular parties, how this might translate into a constitution that will yield a national consensus is a major undertaking and cannot be underestimated.
But perhaps the major immediate challenge facing the new government will be the reaction of the foreign powers, especially in the West, that for decades have been warning against the days where ‘Islamists’ will be empowered.
The memory of the siege and boycott of Hamas following its victory in the Palestinian elections in 2006 is still very vivid. So far, the US administration and its European allies have had a wait and see attitude, despite the noise coming from neo-conservative, Zionist, and right-wing circles. In a span of two weeks, Israeli leaders Bibi Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres, and Tzipi Livni were warning the West against the upcoming ‘radical Islamic groups’ taking charge throughout the Middle East and threatening Israel and Western interests.
The same old Islamophobic voices, that raised false alarms echoing Israeli hyped fears over 20 years ago and poisoned the atmosphere between the West and moderate Islamic groups, are back at it again. The real question now is: Have Western political leaders learned anything during this time or are we about to initiate a predictable sequel to the clash of civilizations?
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* Esam Al-Amin is a regular contributor to a number of websites.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
All occupiers are equal, but some occupiers are more equal than others
Critical reflections on #OccupyCapeTown
Approximately 200 Cape Town residents participated in the call for a World Revolution Day on 15 October, inspired by the growing worldwide Occupy Movement. We arrived at Company Gardens next to parliament in typical Capetonian fashion: mostly late, disjointed, and with a huge array of goals and personal agendas to complete on the first day.
In fact, the majority of 'occupiers' arrived so late for the revolution that the clean-shaven undercover security operative (sporting an earpiece and touristy camera) had already deemed the protest to be non-threatening and was long gone. The police barely noticed the relaxed picnic atmosphere that was apparent once the crowd grew to more than 70.
Yet despite the beginnings of #OccupyCapeTown, the day did have #OccupyWallSt potential. Cape Town being one of the most unequal, segregated, and racist cities in the world has hundreds of thousands of angry (though demoralised) youth waiting for real change. The townships are a ticking time bomb anticipating the intersection between screams of Sekwanele! and sparks of hope that a mass-based social movement can provide. Would the 99 per cent actually show up? In the end, those that arrived, with the exception of an entourage from Communities for Social Change, were predominantly in the top 19 percentile of the 99. And yet, there was still potential in this space of mostly white privileged activists. Some were acutely aware how their privilege posed problems for the bottom 80 per cent. Seeking to engage directly with issues of white supremacy, class and patriarchy within the 99 per cent, they tried to create a space of solidarity with poor communities without speaking for them or co-opting their struggles. To these few activists, Occupy Cape Town was an exciting experiment in building radical equality that is actively asserted, not merely assumed.
As the day progressed however, many of us were disheartened by the most vocal of the 19 per cent. Our four general assemblies seemed to be dominated by well-read internet activists who came with all the answers. Paraphrased crudely:
- The solution is for the poor to buy solar panels for their houses.
- We must all just stop buying things so the system falls apart.
- We should start an internet café for the poor to participate in our internet revolution.
- We must recycle!
- There's another way to occupy, its by our actions...eat baked beans on toast and close bank accounts.
- Machines should take the place of human labour to end wage slavery.
Yet when people critically reflected on the racial make-up of the meeting, there were demands from a barrage of 'colour-blind' activists to stop ‘making this about race’. When class was brought up in the assembly, it was countered with calls not to divide the movement. ‘We are the 99%,’ they cheered. When women spoke (and few did speak in this male-dominated space), it seemed that their points were often ignored. So how did the ideals of an occupation for the immediate assertion of equality get perverted so quickly?
The US radical Malcolm X once said: ‘If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it out three inches, that is not progress.’ Many say that the post-1994 era was just that: the knife of white supremacy is still present while oppression is now couched in terms of ideals of a liberal non-racial democracy. Radical groups like Blackwash use much more direct language when they say: ‘Fuck the rainbow nation. Coz 1994 changed fokol!’ Groups like Blackwash and Abahlali baseMjondolo are saying that, while there are no more pass laws nor legal racism, poor and black people (especially black women) are still oppressed by essentially the same system that gave birth to Apartheid.
And if ‘oppression’, as John Holloway puts it, ‘always implies the invisibility of the oppressed’, one can begin to understand that a huge theoretical gulf exists between the lived experience of those whose voices are invisible and the liberal white activists who proclaim that we are all, in fact, the same.
Yet, the most telling experience of the day was the debate that took place before Occupy Cape Town marched up Long Street to the offices of ETV. During the general assembly that preceded the march, someone expressed their concern that a placard proclaiming ‘FUCK the Rich’ would be used against us when filmed by ETV. Others agreed saying that it was a violent statement, released negative energy, and was not in line of the peaceful purpose of the occupation. Attempting to use the democratic procedure of the general assembly, a number of white liberal activists agreed, saying that there should be consensus with regards to the slogans we use on our placards and banners. Nothing seemingly violent or racist was acceptable. While the group of poor black protesters from Mannenberg who had written the placard reluctantly agreed to leave it behind, this decision was resisted by an independently-minded person within the group and that same placard eventually did find its way onto the news.
If its true as radical feminist bell hooks explains that ‘patriarchy rewards men for being out of touch with their feelings’, then a relevant corollary could be that, in a white supremacist patriarchal capitalist society, white men are not only out of touch with their own feelings and that of others, they are also out of touch with the modes by which they belittle and oppress others. This is not any less true during a radically democratic occupation than within the oppressive institutions of society itself. Thus, it was only logical that the dominance of liberal whites who mostly desired the tweaking of capitalism or the creation of idealistic utopias by withdrawing from the system (rather than overthrowing it), would attempt to build some sort of ideological hegemony based on their own privileged Western orientation.
If some occupiers are more equal than others, it is about time that white male activists who sincerely want to dismantle oppression, begin to take seriously the voices of the oppressed from within the 99 per cent. Some places to start might be the writings of well-known radical theorists like Franz Fanon, bell hooks and Bantu Biko. Yet, we may also want to grapple with the self-written works of shackdwellers like the Symphony Way Pavement Dwellers and Abahlali baseMjondolo.
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* Jared Sacks is a Cape Town-based activist working with community-based social movements and the Occupy Cape Town movement.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Egypt: Organising for no military trials for civilians
Interview with Egyptian activist Shahira Abouellail
Since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) assumed interim governance of Egypt on 28 January 2011, at least twelve thousand civilians have been subjected to speedy military trials, often without any access to lawyers, witnesses, or evidence. SCAF is using military trials as a means to stifle dissent and create a climate of fear in Egypt. Ragia Omran, an attorney and co-founder of the civic group, No Military Trials for Civilians, says that during the first months of its governance, SCAF justified use of military trials due to the lack of police presence. Despite the intervening ten months, SCAF continue to use military trials under the authority of military law that penalizes attacks on military personnel and premises. Omran says that when people are at demonstrations, “there are military personnel present, so protesters are charged with attacking military personnel and based on that they are transferred to military court.”
In recent weeks, the military courts have sparked renewed controversy. On 27 October 2011, Essam Atta, who was serving a two-year sentence at the infamous Tora prison, died after being tortured by prison guards inspiring comparisons to the torture and death of Khaled Said by police officers in Alexandria, one of the catalysts of the Egyptian Revolution. Ironically, just the day before, on 26 October 2011, the Alexandria Criminal Court sentenced the police officers who murdered Khaled Said to seven years each, causing anger and disbelief among Egyptians, especially after witnessing military courts dole out much longer sentences to ordinary citizens for unsubstantiated charges. Renowned revolutionary and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah, who is awaiting his first child in three weeks, was summoned to a military trial while at a conference in the United States. The military accused him of “inciting violence against the army" during the 9 October 2011 Maspero demonstration, at which the military attacked protesters, resulting in the death of at least 28 people. On 30 October 2011, Abd El Fattah appeared at Cairo's notorious C28 military prosecution headquarters where police arrested and detained him for refusing to answer the interrogators' questions. His administrative detention, which could be arbitrarily extended at the military's will, caused an uproar in Egypt marked by demonstrations and protests. The military refused to release him at an appeal hearing on 3 November 2011, and he is currently still detained at Tora Investigative Prison. Abd el Fattah's mother, Dr. Laila Souief, went on a hunger strike on 6 November 2011, saying she will continue her strike until her son is released. Separately, SCAF announced the pardon of 334 civilians who were sentenced in military trials due to internal and international pressure.
Activists formed No Military Trials for Civilians to resist and condemn SCAF's use of military trials and violations against civilians. They have called for a global day of action on 12 November 2011. Shahira Abouellail is an Egyptian activist and one of the group’s founders. Lillian Boctor spoke to her by phone about the recent events in Egypt.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: What has the Egyptian public’s reaction been to the sentencing of the police involved in the death of Khaled Said?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: The vast majority of the Egyptian public was very outraged with the sentencing of the people who killed Khaled Said. They got seven years for torturing and murdering a human while in uniform. To add insult to injury, their job was to protect and what they did was completely abuse their power and torture and kill a human being and an Egyptian citizen. So, people are very outraged. People become further outraged when they find out that innocent people are being picked up off the street, subjected to military trials and getting 10, 20, 25 years in prison and then people who have actually committed heinous crimes get seven years and can be out on good behavior after three or four years.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: On 27 October, a young man in Egypt, Essam Atta, died after having been in military detention. What happened to Essam Atta?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: There was a young man who had already fallen victim to military tribunals. He was arrested with a group of people for basically bogus charges and of course, in military tribunals, they get no defense. It’s basically a sham trial, and he was imprisoned. His mother smuggled him a SIM card so that she could try to communicate with him and we were actively trying to help this young man get out of prison. So when he was caught with a SIM card they started systematically and methodically torturing him. Among other things they used a water hose in his mouth and in his rectum. And they penetrated him with very high-pressure water. This happened over a span of two days. And his body just let in. He passed away. After having been convicted, Essam Atta, the victim of torture that passed away, said, ‘I’m in prison for being poor, but I know that God will not leave me and I know he will be kinder to me that humankind has been. ‘ So there was a lot of outrage, especially in the activist community, but also in the public sphere, and a lot of people went to the morgue. And after they did an examination, they took his body in a coffin and walked it over to Tahrir Square in a march and people ended up in Tahrir Square, and their number one demand is that SCAF, or the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, the military council, relinquish power to a civilian government and that we want a timetable, a clear timetable of when this will happen.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: Does the military regularly use violence against civilians, and how many people are actually affected by the military trials?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: Oh absolutely. We’ve heard horror stories. I have personally been beaten on my head and on my back and I’ve had bruises and other members of my group have been attacked. There have been a lot of horror stories with SCAF since they’ve taken over power. Regarding military trials, we have about 12,000 people that have been subjected to military trials. Very brutally unjust military trials where they try people collectively. [The military] will maybe pick up 40 demonstrators from somewhere and they put them in a military trial. And they try them collectively and they sentence them collectively for bogus charges. And there is no defense. Most of the time the family members don’t even know they’ve been arrested. And they’re sentenced usually without being in the courtroom, if you can call it a courtroom. It’s not really a courtroom; it’s just a room. They don’t even pronounce the sentencing in front of them. So it has absolutely no legality whatsoever. Among the 12,000, there are about maybe 8,000 that are still in prison. A few thousand that have gotten suspended sentences because of a lot of pressure from groups like ours and other groups. And maybe less than 2,000 have been exonerated. Some people have gotten an innocent verdict. Not very many, but usually they are either people who are prominent, or just not very poor, cases that have been in the public eye, cases where the people were very, very clearly innocent. Some of these cases are demonstrators and they were videotaped and you can see literally that they were just peaceful demonstrators, but these are very, very few of the cases.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: Who are these thousands of people that are being targeted by SCAF for the military tribunals and then incarceration?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: Well we have seen a very, very clear targeting of people of a lower socio-economic status. They have been the number one targets. It’s very clear that they want to terrorize this group of people, this faction of society, because they’re the most dangerous faction [to SCAF], because they are the largest faction of society and because they have the most to be outraged about, they have the most to revolt about. [The military] want to put the fear of God in them by making them live with this sense of fear that at any moment they can be taken without due process and without having committed a crime and get thrown in prison, some for ten years, some for twenty years and we’ve seen very harsh sentencing. And I think this is a way to terrorize people and put them back in their containers so that they don’t even think about the possibility of demonstrating or protesting or anything like that.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: How does your group, No Military Trials for Civilians, actually organize against these tribunals in Egypt and what are you planning to do in the case of Essam Atta?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: First and foremost we try to disseminate information. The other thing we are always doing is talking to the media. We also subsidize legally. So we have lawyers that we work with and we’re always talking to lawyers, we’re always recruiting lawyers that can help provide legal support to these families since most of them are very poor and don’t know who to turn to for help. So that we will continue on, but when there is a case such as this one, [Essam Atta], what we usually do is we try and disseminate information about it. We are discussing having a lawsuit against the people responsible, and we are trying to press for a transparent investigation [into this case.]
LILLIAN BOCTOR: Alaa Abd El Fattah is one of the most well known bloggers and revolutionaries in Egypt. He is now in military detention. Can you tell me what happened?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: Well, Alaa was summoned by SCAF and he was accused of inciting violence on the day of the Maspero slaughter. When he was being questioned he refused to answer any questions, due to the fact that he does not recognize the legitimacy of a military tribunal or any kind of military questioning as a legal institution.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: What makes this specific detention significant?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: Well this specific detention is significant, because Alaa has been, first of all, a victim of detention before, back in 2006. He is a very well known blogger, he is a revolutionary. He really, to a lot of people, represents the revolution. He is one of the people that laid the foundation for this revolution to happen. And he is an advocate of democracy and he’s been against military trials for a long time. It’s very ironic for someone so outspoken about military trials to be subjected to a military trial. He is a celebrity in his own right, within the activist community and within the public sphere. Many, many people know who he is because he’s been in the media, and he’s been on the streets and he’s been blogging for a long time and talking to people for a long time as an opposition figure.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: What has been the public reaction in Egypt to Alaa’s detention?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: A lot of the people that have heard of this, which is many, many people, are completely outraged at his detention and there have been marches, there have been demonstrations in front of where he is being held. People went and they were singing songs to him while he was in prison. People feel like they are being duped. People feel like that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is singing one song but their actions are completely contrary to their rhetoric.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: Why do you think SCAF is going on a rampage now? They have been non-stop in the past few weeks, in terms of stifling dissent. What is going on at this specific moment?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: Well SCAF, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, is trying to impose itself on this country. They know that they are unwanted guest here. They know that they have no real legitimacy. They are trying to get legitimacy by oppressing people and by oppressing dissent. So, military trials are a mechanism, they are a tool to hold on to power as long as they can, preferably to them, forever. So this is why they keep saying that they’re going to end military trials, and yet they don’t end them. These are not trials; you can’t call them trials, they are a total sham. It’s unacceptable to call them military trials, it’s unacceptable to call the, anything else than what they really are: an oppressive tool, the most important tool they are using, to scare people and to terrorize people. The crimes that are being committed by the army right now, I would say fall under high treason. They are making this country susceptible to total and utter destruction because they are polarizing the country, they are accusing people of being spies, they are making Christians and Muslims hate each other, and they are murdering people, and they are killing people, they are running people over with tanks, conducting virginity tests…
LILLIAN BOCTOR: How is the military reacting when people are calling them out on their acts?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: Well their reaction is they say things that are untrue. They say things like we are investigating, [they are] investigating themselves. So, [regarding] Maspero, the investigative committee is a committee from the army that is investigating what the army did at Maspero. So, [SCAF] uses this technique of doublespeak, so they will say what they think the public wants to hear. It’s downright lies and nobody is able to stop them. All we can do is call them on their lies and their deception. That’s all we’ve able to do and mobilize people to oppose them.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: This must be a really hard time for all of you. Alaa is the brother of Mona Seif, one of the other co-founders of No Military Trials for Civilians. How are all of you dealing with this right now and what are your next steps?
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: Well, this is a really difficult time for us because Alaa is a good friend, he is a partner in this revolution and yes, his sister is one the founders of No Military Trials movement. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to put all our force behind him and trying to support him legally and trying to do a media campaign for him, although we didn’t really need to, because he is a public figure, so the media was interested anyway. He sacrificed himself, he refused to be questioned by SCAF so that we can use that, so we can use this momentum to wake people up and to make this into a bigger cause than it already was.
LILLIAN BOCTOR: Thank you so much.
SHAHIRA ABOUELLAIL: You’re welcome.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article was updated at 11:45 GMT on 9 November 2011.
* This interview first appeared on Jadaliyya.
* Egyptian Activist Shahira Abouellail is one of the founders of No Military Trials for Civilians.
* Lillian Boctor is a freelance journalist based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She is a reporter for Free Speech Radio News and has worked as a journalist, associate producer and researcher at the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) and Radio Canada International (RCI).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.]
From Kabul in October 2001 to Tripoli in October 2011, a decade of unremitting planetary warfare has seen countries devastated and capitals occupied over a vast swathe of territory from the Hindu Kush to the northern end of Africa's Mediterranean coast. Within the Arab world, this ultra-imperialist offensive of Euro-American predators may yet move on to Syria as well – and beyond that to Iran at some future date. For now, in any case, the occupation of Libya by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO) clients and corporations marks the vanquishing of the spirit of rebellion that was ignited in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year and has been under attack ever since. For much of Africa, though, this may yet be merely a beginning of a new conquest by the Euro-American consortium that may ravage the continent even more ferociously than did the famous “Scramble for Africa” that was sanctified in Berlin at the end of the 19th century.
Afghanistan was invaded in the name of “War on Terror” plus human rights. Iraq was invaded in the name of “War on Terror” plus nuclear non-proliferation plus human rights. Libya is the first country that has been invaded almost exclusively in the name of human rights. In the very early days of hostilities in Libya, President Barack Obama said dramatically that if NATO had waited “one more day, Benghazi could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world”. His senior aides claimed that the imminent “massacre” could have led to the death of one lakh people, and this is what got repeated ad nauseum on U.S. television channels as well as in all the halls of power where the option of human rights interventionism got discussed with a view to obtaining a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution. This was a bare-faced lie, very much in the mould of the lie about Iraq's purported nuclear weapons that was brandished around by Obama's predecessor, President George Bush Jr. It was on the basis of such disinformation that Resolutions 1970 and 1973 were passed in the Security Council, invoking the dubious principle of the “responsibility to protect”, which was inserted into the duties of the U.N. as late as 2005, after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were already afoot.
This was the time when the Bush administration was openly claiming in international fora, including at the U.N. itself, that (a) in this Age of Terror the U.S. reserved the right of pre-emptive military attack against any state that the U.S. considered a threat to its national security, and that (b) in the conditions of the “War on Terror” many aspects of the Geneva Conventions were no longer applicable. This discourse of the right to pre-emptive invasion was then supplemented by the discourse of the benign nature of the empire itself, in the shape of human rights interventionism. The claim now was that the “international community” – as defined by Euro-American powers – had the right to intervene in the internal affairs of any sovereign country if “massacre” or “genocide” was imminent. The NATO bombings in Libya that began in the third week of March were the first that had ever been authorised by the Security Council in its entire history on this dubious principle of human rights interventionism. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, was in his own way quite right when he asserted in the early hours of March 25: “It's a historic moment… what is happening in Libya is creating jurisprudence… it is a major turning point in the foreign policy of France, Europe, and the world” (emphasis added).
No credible evidence has ever emerged to support Obama's claim that a massacre (of up to 100,000) was imminent in Benghazi, and no massacres ensued in the rebellious cities and towns that Qaddafi's troops did occupy in the earlier stages of the fighting. On the contrary, there is incontrovertible evidence of massacres at the hands of NATO's mercenaries. Neighbouring countries, such as Niger, Mali and Chad, have reported the eviction of some three lakh black African residents from Libya as NATO's local allies and clients rolled on towards Tripoli under the devastating shield of NATO's own 40,000-plus bombings over large parts of Libya. Together with these mass evictions of workers and refugees from neighbouring countries – whom the Qaddafi regime had welcomed to make up for labour shortages in an expanding economy – there are also credible reports of lynchings and massacres of black Libyans themselves. The scale of these depredations is yet undetermined but it is already clear that upwards of 50,000 have died as a result of the war unleashed by NATO with the collusion of the Security Council, and half a million or more have been rendered homeless, mostly at the hands of NATO-armed “rebels” who have now been appointed as the new government of the country. Neither the Security Council nor NATO commanders nor, indeed, President Obama – the first black President in the history of the U.S. and himself the son of a Kenyan father – has seen it fit to take up the “responsibility to protect” these hapless people, most of them black Africans, even though several heads of African states have protested, including the very pro-U.S. President of Nigeria.
One of the most pernicious aspects of the liberal discourse of human rights in our time is that this doctrine is utilised in country after country to justify imperialist interventionism in the affairs of the sovereign countries of the tricontinent in direct violation not only of the United Nations Charter and the Westphalian order of nation-states as such but, even more fundamentally, of the very spirit and practices of the anti-colonial movements that fought to dismantle the colonial empires of yesteryear. The right to independent nationhood is inseparable from the right to choose one's own government without foreign interference. In virtually every country of Latin America over the past half a century, peoples have fought against the most brutal kinds of dictatorship but without ever asking for a foreign intervention. For three simple reasons: (1) it is only the people themselves, in their collectivity, who have the right to change their government; (2) it would be hard to find a dictator, including Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein, who has not colluded with imperialism at one point or another; and (3) a military intervention is always, without exception, the intervention of the strong against the weak – always, without exception, in pursuit of the interests of those who intervene.
Given this basic principle, the issue of Qaddafi's dictatorial rule is just as irrelevant today as was the nature of Saddam Hussein's rule in the past; and as irrelevant as would be the dictatorial temper of Bashar al-Asad in Syria or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in Iran in case of invasions yet to come. We shall come to the paradoxical character of the Qaddafi regime, and it cannot be anyone's case that Qaddafi was some sort of liberal democrat. It needs to be said, though, that he was no more dictatorial than most rulers of Africa and the Arab world, most notably the friends of the West in Saudi Arabia and the whole complex of various emirates in the Gulf. His authoritarianism was indeed ferocious. However, if matters are viewed from the perspective of the well-being of the Libyan people, we shall also have to concede that Qaddafi built the most advanced welfare state in Africa – just as Iraq was the most advanced welfare state in the Arab East, Saddam's authoritarianism notwithstanding. Dismantling of the welfare state – and privatisation and corporatisation of the national assets – is in fact the filthy underbelly of this human rights imperialism. If human rights were even remotely the issue in such interventionism, Saudi Arabia would be the logical first target. And, why should there not be a NATO occupation of Israel, immediately, for protecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and the implementation of numerous Security Council resolutions?
In reality, the great crusade for human rights and democracy in Libya was conducted by NATO with the aid of, among others, personnel from Qatar and the Emirates, just as NATO's own Islamists in Turkey have joined hands with Saudi Arabia in providing weapons to the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies in Syria against the Assad regime in the name of democracy and human rights.
EMPIRE GOES WHERE OIL IS
The Security Council resolution that authorised NATO's “humanitarian intervention” in Libya was well reflected in a secret proposal to the French government by the National Transitional Council (NTC) in the early days of the “rebellion”, which offered to France 35 per cent of Libya's gross national oil production “in exchange”, in the words of the proposal, for “total and permanent” French support for the NTC. The French government, of course, denied it when the French newspaper Liberation published the communication. This coyness of the conspirators was not to last long. On October 21, less than 24 hours after the announcement of Qaddafi's assassination, Britain's new Defence Minister, Philip Hammond, announced that the United Kingdom had presented to the NTC a “request” for a licence to drill for oil. He then added:
“Libya is a relatively wealthy country with oil reserves, and I expect there will be opportunities for British and other companies to get involved in the reconstruction of Libya…. I would expect British companies, even British sales directors, [to be] packing their suitcases and looking to get out to Libya and take part in the reconstruction of that country as soon as they can.”
As the U.S. Ambassador, Gene Cretz, unfurled the flag over the American Embassy in Tripoli, at its reopening ceremony on September 22, he was equally upbeat:
“We know that oil is the jewel in the crown of Libyan natural resources, but even in Qaddafi's time they were starting from A to Z in terms of building infrastructure and other things. If we can get American companies here on a fairly big scale, which we will try to do everything we can to do that, then this will redound to improve the situation in the United States with respect to our own jobs.”
Referring to the Italian oil company, the Foreign Minister of Italy, Franco Frattini, added his own gleeful chime to this triumphalist chorus: “Eni will play a No.1 role in the future.” Qatar, whose overt and covert contribution to the NATO offensive was very considerable indeed, is already handing oil sales in eastern Libya and will also be entering the distribution of the spoils of war from a position of strength. The New York Times noted: “Libya's provisional government has already said it is eager to welcome Western businesses (and)… would even give its Western backers some ‘priority' in access to Libyan business.” That was accurate. “We don't have a problem with Western countries like Italians, French and U.K. companies,” Abdeljalil Mayouf, a spokesman for the NTC-controlled oil company, Agogco, was quoted by Reuters as saying, “but we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.”
Libya's 46 billion barrels of oil make it home to Africa's largest proven deposit of conventional crude, though Nigeria and Angola dispute this Libyan pre-eminence. Before the civil war began in earnest in February, Libya was pumping about 1.6 million barrels a day, most of which went to southern Europe, whose refineries were tailored to refine Libya's light, high-quality crude. By contrast, Saudi crude is heavier and unsuitable for many of those refineries, while Libya's geographical proximity also makes it much more attractive. Almost 70 per cent of Libya's oil went to four countries, Spain, Germany, France and Italy, even before the NATO war, and oil-producing regions were of course the first to be secured as NATO started bombing its way to victory. The oil industry's biggest players, meanwhile, are ready to reclaim their old concessions and get new ones. The vast Ghadames and Sirte basins, largely off limits to foreign oil companies since Qaddafi came to power 42 years ago, are now expected to be privatised and opened to foreign corporations. The same applies to Libya's offshore oil and gas resources.
The loss of political sovereignty thus leads necessarily to great curtailment of economic sovereignty as well.
AFRICAN UNION VS “THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY”
At a meeting between the two parties on June 15 this year, some three months after NATO initiated its aerial bombings of Libya, the High Level Ad hoc Committee of the African Union (A.U.) handed over to the Security Council a letter spelling out the A.U. position on the Libyan crisis. Now, even after the fall of Tripoli and the assassination of Qaddafi, the contents of that communication are worth re-visiting if we wish to assess the great gap of perceptions and prescriptions, on issues of interventionism, between nation-states of the tricontinent on the one hand, and, on the other hand, those institutions of “the international community” whose task it is to justify Euro-American interventionism. We shall first offer a series of quotations from that key document:
1. “Whatever the genesis of the intervention by NATO in Libya, the A.U. called for dialogue before the U.N. Resolutions 1970 and 1973 and after those resolutions. Ignoring the A.U. for three months and going on with the bombings of the sacred land of Africa has been high-handed, arrogant and provocative.”
2. “An attack on Libya or any other member of the African Union without express agreement by the A.U. is a dangerous provocation… sovereignty has been a tool of emancipation of the peoples of Africa who are beginning to chart transformational paths for most of the African countries after centuries of predation by the slave trade, colonialism and neocolonialism. Careless assaults on the sovereignty of African countries are, therefore, tantamount to inflicting fresh wounds on the destiny of the African peoples.”
3. “Fighting between government troops and armed insurrectionists is not genocide. It is civil war…. It is wrong to characterise every violence as genocide or imminent genocide so as to use it as a pretext for the undermining of the sovereignty of states.”
4. “The U.N. should not take sides in a civil war. The U.N. should promote dialogue…. The demand by some countries that Col. Muammar Qaddafi must go first before the dialogue is incorrect. Whether Qaddafi goes or stays is a matter for the Libyan people to decide. It is particularly wrong when the demand for Gaddafi's departure is made by outsiders…. Qaddafi accepted dialogue when the A.U. mediation committee visited Tripoli on April 10, 2011. Any war activities after that have been provocation for Africa. It is an unnecessary war. It must stop…. The story that the rebels cannot engage in dialogue unless Qaddafi goes away does not convince us. If they do not want dialogue, then, let them fight their war with Qaddafi without NATO bombing…. The externally sponsored groups neglect dialogue and building internal consensus and, instead, concentrate on winning external patrons.”
It goes without saying that the A.U. is by no means a conglomeration of radicals; it is a conservative grouping of state governments, most of whom are, in one way or another, allied with the West; many of the heads of states participating in A.U. proceedings at any given time are venal, corrupt, authoritarian or worse. That is, however, no more relevant than the personal venality of Sarkozy or Silvio Berlusconi or any other Western leader. The point, rather, is that the A.U.'s is the only united voice through which African states speak and that the principles and points of fact raised here are unexceptionable.
The very first point is that the Security Council, NATO or any other conglomeration of states and institutions simply have no right to represent themselves as “the international community” when what they say and do is opposed by the united voice of the African state system. The second point is that the issue of state sovereignty is posed in Africa and Asia not only in European, Westphalian terms, but, far more sensitively and explosively, in the perspective of the recently won and still very fragile independence of states after a long history of colonial predation. Further, the A.U. letter rejects the position – enunciated by Obama, his NATO allies and the Security Council – that there was any genocide or imminent genocide in Libya. Rather, it speaks strictly of a “civil war” between “government troops and armed insurrectionists”, calls upon the U.N. not to take sides in the “civil war” and goes on then to contemptuously dismiss the “externally sponsored groups” and their “demands” that are designed for “winning external patrons”.
The most important practical point in any case is that Qaddafi had accepted the principle of negotiation and arbitration by the A.U. as early as April 10, after which the A.U. quite rightly demanded that NATO stop its military mission and the U.N. concentrate on facilitating negotiations under A.U. auspices. A significant section of the letter laid out an elaborate plan for negotiations, for policing of violence inside Libya by an A.U. brigade as had been done in Burundi, and for conflict resolution processes using the principles of “provisional immunity” during the peace negotiations, and for the establishment of truth and reconciliation bodies for reconciliation after peace has been re-established.
None of it was heeded, precisely because the voice of reason had come from the weak, while the will for intervention and regime change had come from self-appointed masters of the universe.
CIVILISATION AND THE ECSTASY OF CONQUEST
In the moment of victory, President Obama was relatively more measured in his words than many other Western leaders. The fall of Libya to 40,000-plus NATO bombings was proof, he said, that “we are seeing the strength of the American leadership across the world”. And he was not entirely mistaken in taking the credit. The Security Council resolution that authorised NATO operations would have been inconceivable without the coercive powers of the U.S. Obama's cavalier condoning of assassination and extra-judicial execution, as displayed to the world in the cases of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki among others, was part of the implicit licence to kill the unarmed Qaddafi as well. Less than 48 hours before Qaddafi was actually assassinated, Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, was on a triumphant visit to Tripoli, the Libyan capital now occupied by NATO and its local clients, and said unambiguously: “We hope he [Qaddafi] can be captured or killed soon.” Incitement to murder could hardly be couched in words more stark.
This issue of an authorised assassination should detain us somewhat, for it does impinge upon the imperial duplicity of the human rights discourse. Details of Qaddafi's death and burial are still unclear. We do know that the town of Sirte, to which he had retreated during the siege of Tripoli, was devastated by hundreds of aerial bombings by NATO with the single-minded intent to kill him and those close to him. We also know that he was leaving Sirte in a convoy when the convoy too was bombed; the French claimed that it was their Rafale fighter jet that disabled his vehicle; the Americans claimed that it was the work of one of their Predators. The main point is that he was captured alive and unarmed by NATO's mercenaries on the ground, kicked around, beaten and killed. Considering how many American, French, British, Qatari and other special forces have been there, commanding the Libyan “rebels”, it is significant that the body of the dead man was never taken away from the milling “rebels”. Christof Heyns, the U.N. Special Rapporteur, seems to be clear on this point: “The Geneva Conventions are very clear that when prisoners are taken they may not be executed wilfully and if that was the case then we are dealing with a war crime, something that should be tried.”
The complication, however, is that the Western alliance had previously announced an award of $20 million to anyone who kills (or helps kill/capture) Qaddafi. So, here is a test for Western values: should the man who killed Qaddafi be tried in a court of law? Should he be awarded $20 million and celebrated as a hero? Or should he be allowed to slip out of the grip of the law, history and public memory – and settled, with a handsome settlement, in Miami, southern California or a villa on the Rhine?
Qaddafi's own tribe issued this statement: “We call on the U.N., the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and Amnesty International to force the [National] Transitional Council to hand over the martyrs' bodies to our tribe in Sirte and to allow them to perform their burial ceremony in accordance with Islamic customs and rules.” But there was no such luck! NATO's mercenaries displayed Qaddafi's body, along with that of his son Mutassim, naked to the waist, in freezers in a meat store in Misrata, inviting souvenir photographs.
Human rights imperialism seems to be inventing a brand new entertainment industry: that of necrophilic tourism.
Be that as it may. President Obama is right in claiming that the event proved “the strength of American leadership”. U.S. Special Forces and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) teams were on the ground since before the beginning of the rebellion and made sure that those who were destined to be NATO's mercenary army on the ground were armed from the start; they were then joined by their French and British counterparts and backed by armed groups from Qatar, the Emirates and the like. Bombings were left largely to the Franco-British component of NATO but much of the high electronics and infrastructural nitty-gritty was handled by the U.S. forces: collecting electronic intelligence and smashing the Libyan anti-aircraft systems, for example, and blockading the coast. NATO warplanes used U.S. bases for refuelling and these bases supplied munitions when their European counterparts ran low. In an important sense, the military operation in Libya was a highly successful experiment in an assault coordinated between AFRICOM – the U.S. Command for the control of Africa – and its European partners.
If President Obama was cryptic, his icy Vice President, Joe Biden, was precise: “In this case, America spent $2 billion and didn't lose a single life. This is more of the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward than it has been in the past.” By “life”, Biden obviously means American life, considering that even the most conservative estimates suggest that the war in Libya has led to the loss of at least 50,000 lives, mostly at the hands of NATO bombers and their local allies.
More broadly, what is at issue is a U.S. objective, first conceived during the Vietnam War, to develop an “automated battlefield” with technologies so advanced that wars may be won and entire countries conquered without any significant ground deployment. Across the Atlantic, that same idea was invoked by people like Paddy Ashdown, who once served for four years as E.U. High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who said that from now on the West should adopt the “Libyan model” of intervention rather than the “Iraqi model” of massive invasion.
This kind of hard-boiled Anglo-Saxon pragmatism can easily be translated by an ambitious politician like Nicolas Sarkozy, the current French President, into the sophistries of a high-minded Gallic discourse on history and civilisation. Pierre Lévy, a former editor of L'Humanité, recently recalled a passage from a speech Sarkozy delivered in 2007 in which he glorified “the shattered dream of Charlemagne and of the Holy Roman Empire, the Crusades, the great schism between Eastern and Western Christianity, the fallen glory of Louis XIV and Napoleon…” and then went on to declare that “Europe is today the only force capable of carrying forward a project of civilisation.” This claim to a unique civilisational mission then led quickly to an ambition to conquer: “I want to be the President of a France which will bring the Mediterranean into the process of its reunification after 12 centuries of division and painful conflicts…. America and China have already begun the conquest of Africa. How long will Europe wait to build the Africa of tomorrow? While Europe hesitates, others advance.”
Lévy then goes on to quote Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a senior leader of the Socialist Party (much in the news recently for alleged sexual misdemeanours), who matched Sarkozy's bombast with his own desire for a Europe stretching “from the cold ice of the Arctic in the North to the hot sands of the Sahara in the South (…) and that Europe, I believe, if it continues to exist, will have reconstituted the Mediterranean as an internal sea, and will have re-conquered the space that the Romans, or Napoleon more recently, attempted to consolidate.”
In this world view, then, NATO is seen as having inherited a mission from the Roman Empire and the Napoleonic conquests, which then involves the “re-conquest” of North Africa. It was, after all, only about 50 years ago that France finally relinquished its claim that Algeria was not a foreign colony but an “outlying province” of France itself. What is very striking in any case is how closely the rhetoric of “civilisation” is woven into the rhetoric of “conquest” and even “re-conquest.”
OBAMA, AFRICA AND THE IMPERIAL PROJECT
Poor little “Olde Europe”! Even in its wildest civilisational ravings, all it can imagine is the re-conquest of its colonial empire in North Africa. By contrast, the U.S. knows how to get directly to the point. In the second week of October, when the war against Libya had been won but Qaddafi yet not assassinated, President Obama announced: “I have authorised a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces…. On October 12, the initial team of U.S. military personnel with appropriate combat equipment deployed to Uganda. During the next month, additional forces will deploy…. These forces will act as advisers to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA [Lord's Resistance Army]…. Subject to the approval of each respective host nation, elements of these U.S. forces will deploy into Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
So, in the wake of the Libyan conquest, U.S. troops are to be immediately deployed to countries across the middle of Africa, in four countries and in cooperation with regimes that have hideous records of dictatorship and human rights abuses, not the least on the part of Uganda's “President-for-life”, Yoweri Museveni. Obama justified this newly minted “humanitarian mission” in Uganda in the name of eliminating the LRA. This is odd. The LRA has actually been around for almost a quarter century and has never been weaker than it is today. Why, suddenly, such an operation across a huge part of Africa? Paul Craig Roberts, a former Under Secretary of State for Treasury under President Ronald Reagan (and thus not a left-winger by a long shot), put the matter succinctly: “With Libya conquered, AFRICOM will start on the other African countries where China has energy and mineral investments…. Whereas China brings Africa investment and gifts of infrastructure, Washington sends troops, bombs and military bases.”
Even this recent deployment may be just the tip of an oncoming iceberg. For many years now, the U.S. has been building up a special Command for Africa, the AFRICOM, in tandem with CENTCOM that is responsible for operations in the Middle East (West Asia). As part of this imperial mission in Africa, the U.S. is actively engaged in training the militaries of Mali, Chad, Niger, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Gabon, Zambia, Uganda, Senegal, Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi and Mauritania. Together with other NATO countries, the U.S. has staged numerous military exercises in Africa with the ostensible purpose of preparing contingency plans for “protecting energy supplies” in the Niger delta and the Gulf of Guinea. Aside from Libya, major oil producers in the region include Angola, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Mauritania. All these, and many others besides, are to be “protected” – pretty much on the “Libyan model” if need be.
This is not the place to go into details. Suffice it to say that the fall of Libya is likely to serve as the first major step in the offensive to capture Africa's plentiful natural resources. In the fullness of time, as multiple insurgencies and bloodlettings are let loose across the continent, we are likely to see the erection of many new bases for the AFRICOM-NATO combine, very much on the model of Iraq and Afghanistan. The objective is not only to reserve African resources for the Euro-American imperium as much as possible but also to deny those resources to China, which gets about one third of its oil from Africa – Angola and Sudan in particular – in addition to important materials like platinum, copper, timber and iron ore. Some 75 Chinese companies were working in Libya with 36,000 personnel, not so much in the oil sector as in infrastructural development projects; and China accounted for about 11 per cent of Libya's pre-war exports. It evacuated its personnel and complained that NATO had unilaterally changed the U.N. resolution from protecting civilians to regime change.
The U.S. would like to see this eviction of China from Libya to become permanent and for such evictions to be repeated across Africa. Will that happen? Too soon to tell. The U.S. has the military might and the impatient arrogance of a declining superpower, but China is the one that has the cash and the almost glacial patience of a rising economic power. A confrontation is on, and it will take decades to settle.
Major issues pertaining to the significance of the Libya war have not been addressed here: the meaning of all this for the so-called “Arab Spring”; the nature of the fallen Qaddafi regime; the likely composition of the emerging dispensation; the social disintegration and multiple internal conflicts that are now likely to ensue; the destabilisation and the prospect of multiple civil wars across the Sahel region caused by the war on Libya; and so on. Other contributors to this issue of Frontline may clarify these issues, or this author may return to them in a future contribution.
So, let me conclude this piece by noting that Qaddafi did leave a brief will, and it is important that we recall some of his last words:
“Let the free people of the world know that we could have bargained over and sold out our cause in return for a personally secure and stable life. We received many offers to this effect but we chose to be at the vanguard of the confrontation as a badge of duty and honour. Even if we do not win immediately, we will give a lesson to future generations that choosing to protect the nation is an honour and selling it out is the greatest betrayal that history will remember forever despite the attempts of the others to tell you otherwise.”
That is true. Friendly African countries had offered him safe sanctuaries, while some European countries would have preferred to have him as a neutralised client rather than a celebrated martyr in (at least parts of) Libya. Offers were indeed made. Given the choices, he preferred to die. In that brief will, he also expressed a simple wish:
“Should I be killed, I would like to be buried, according to Muslim rituals, in the clothes I was wearing at the time of my death and my body unwashed, in the cemetery of Sirte, next to my family and relatives. I would like that my family, especially women and children, be treated well after my death.”
In Islamic custom, the stipulation that the body be washed and wrapped in a fresh shroud is lifted in the case of martyrs. Right or wrong, Qaddafi did think of his own impending death as martyrdom. We may not think so, but many others probably will. Qaddafi was quite largely a buffoon, in many ways brutish, more so as he grew older and more egomaniacal, but not everyone is going to forget that he also had a visionary side to him and built for his people the most advanced welfare state on the continent. His is a contradictory legacy. We have described earlier in this piece what the winners did to his corpse. Not just the members of his own family or his tribesmen, but many, many others might not so easily forget all that.
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* This article first appeared in FRONTLINE.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
North Africa: Uprisings, usurpers and imperial adventures
Walter Turner speaks with Firoze Manji and Ibrahim Abdullah
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* Walter Turner is professor of History and Chairperson of the Social Sciences Department at the College of Marin in Kentfield, California.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pan-Africanists must stop the second Berlin rape of Africa
From its inception on 6 April 1959, the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) in South Africa, whose first President was Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, agreed with Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah that, ‘The longer we wait the stronger will be the hold on Africa by neo-colonialism and imperialism.’ That, ‘If Africa was united, no major bloc would attempt to subdue her by limited war because, from the very nature of limited war, what can be achieved by it, is itself limited. It is only where small states exist that it is possible, by lending a few thousand marines or by financing a mercenary force that they can secure a decisive result.’
Nkrumah emphasised this important point for Africans when addressing the African heads of state and government on 24 May 1963. He declared that, ‘No sporadic act nor pious resolutions can resolve our present problems...As a continent we have emerged into independence in a difficult age, with imperialism grown stronger, more ruthless and experienced, and more dangerous in its international associations. Our economic advancement demands the end of colonialist and neo-colonialist domination of Africa.’
What has now happened to Libya under Muammar Gaddafi must drive home forcefully what the pan-Africanists have been hammering on all these years. Imperialism is not dead, despite its perfidious rhetoric. NATO and United States of America invaded Libya in February 2O11 to have access and control of the oil wealth of Libyans under the pretext of ‘protecting civilians.’ Libya is the most bombed country in Africa by NATO and America this century, killing thousands of civilians they purported to protect.
The imperialist invasion of this part of Africa has now been falsely called ‘Libyan revolution.’ This beginning of the second Berlin rape of Africa is not about violation of human rights in Africa. It is about accessing Africa’s riches for the benefit of Europe and America. This is to perpetuate Africa’s poverty and her dependency on ‘foreign aid.’
It is, therefore, a suffocating stink on the history of the ‘Freedom Charter’ of the ANC government that it voted for the NATO illegal bombing of Libya with imperialist countries in the United Nations Security Council such as the USA, Britain and France. At least China and Russia abstained, although outright opposition would have saved many lives and stopped the destruction of Libya’s infrastructure.
Even Germany could not vote for this perilous Security Council Resolution 1973/2011 that authorised terrorist attacks on Libya. How is this ANC government vote different from the way the apartheid colonialist regime voted when it was in the United Nations?
The United Nations resolution resulted in NATO and USA soldiers secretly fighting side by side with anti-Gaddafi rebels in the same manner the USA and Britain did in Iraq against Saddam Hussein. The USA and British allies consistently peddled the false accusation that Hussein possessed nuclear weapons. In Libya it is NATO planes of aggression inside Libya that attacked Muammar Gaddafi at Sirte, his home town and killed him. In 1961 Patrice Lumumba died at the hands of the United Nations that was manipulated by the same Western imperialist countries to protect their continued looting of Congo’s resources. The geo-historical parallels must be examined and constantly interrogated.
Rumblings which the ANC government made after the brutal murder and death of Colonel Gaddafi are tantamount to crocodile tears, a continuum in their traditional culture of hunting with the dogs and running with the hare. What the imperialist countries did to Patrice Lumumba using the United Nations in 196O is a clear lesson of the extent to which they are barbarously committed to achieving their nefarious schemes. The ANC should have learned this lesson hard and fast. A government under leaders like Robert Sobukwe, Zephania Mothopeng , Steve Biko and other pan Africanists such as Kwame Nkrumah and Ahmed Sekou Toure would never have voted for the overthrow of an African government by imperialists under the perfidious cover of ‘protecting civilians.’
NATO and America flew their war planes to Libya not to ‘protect civilians’ but to replace an anti-imperialist government with a puppet regime. This is what they mean by ‘regime change.’ Once they had killed Gaddafi, they announced that their ‘mission is accomplished’ and there was more euphoric celebration in the imperialist capitals of the world than in Libya.
The overthrow of brutal governments is the work and responsibility of the oppressed masses not malevolent external forces. Imperialists are oppressors and oppressors cannot liberate the oppressed. Imperialists intervene in territories over which they have no jurisdiction or invitation in order to protect their own interests and install puppet regimes. The political history of Africa is replete with illustrations that confirm this. The United Nations General Assembly should in fact dismantle the Security Council veto which is primarily controlled by imperialist countries that are the principal war criminals in the world today and the root cause of global instability.
If the United Nations delays reform of the Security Council, it will inevitably cause the UN’s demise in the same way as its predecessor, the League of Nations. The International Criminal Court has shown signs of being a tool of imperialism; hence George Bush of America and Tony Blair of Britain have never been summoned before this court for their crimes against humanity, especially in Iraq.
This court has charged only African leaders and is hunting for some more. The African Union must find its own court to charge African leaders who have propensity for tyranny. The United States of America has not even signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. African leaders must stop subjecting Africa to racists and incorrigible former practitioners of slave trade and colonialism for which they have yet to pay trillions of dollars as reparations to Africa.
Leading NATO countries such as Britain, France and Italy are reported to be in huge debt. The United States of America alone has a reported debt of $114 trillion. Africa has riches. Like during the enslavement of Africans and the colonisation of their countries, the bankrupt Western countries hope once again to salvage their crumbling economies by turning Africa into their looting ground once again through barbaric terrorist militarism. How different are they from armed bank robbers or from the armed ‘terrorists’ they claim to be fighting?
Africa has resources. They are for Africans. God meant them to be for the benefit of the children of Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) alone, when developed, can feed and provide electricity to the rest of Africa. DRC is 905,355 square miles. It is the size of the following twelve European countries combined: Britain, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Amernia and Albania. The untapped wealth of Congo is about more than $24 trillion. This is equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product of Europe and United States of America put together.
Only pan-Africanism can secure the interests of Africa. Only a united Africa protecting and defending the interests of her own people collectively can defeat these imperialist bloodsuckers.
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* Dr. Pheko is former Representative of the victims of apartheid and colonialism at the United Nations in New York well as at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. He is also the former President of the Pan Africanist Congress and former Member of the South African Parliament. He is one of the most prolific African writers. He writes on history, politics, law and theology. This article is an extract from one of his latest books HOW FREEDOM CHARTER BETRAYED THE DISPOSSESSED.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The falling Kenyan shilling: What is behind it?
The feel good factor arising from the adoption of the 2010 Kenyan constitution and the promise it holds for reducing poverty and creating an equitable and harmonious society may be rapidly eroding as the Kenyan economy and society are battered by negative factors.
Whilst the steep decline in the value of the shilling (the steepest for decades) is the focus of the public debate and public policy responses, the shilling’s fall is happening side by side with one of the steepest rises in inflation (especially in the prices of those goods and services consumed by the poor) for over a decade, a steep decline in stock market value, wiping billions off the value of assets and making the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) one of the worst performing in the world at the moment, and a concomitant decline in the real estate sector, the main absorber of liquidity. The already anaemic size of Kenya’s reserves (averaging less than three months of imports since 2004) is further depleted and the chronic deficits in the trade and fiscal accounts are worsening. Public indebtedness is escalating and is increasingly dominated by short-term debt.
On top of this, Kenyans are suffering from one of the worst episodes of hunger for years , and the country is engaged in full-scale military hostilities in Somalia. These factors can worsen the already dire poverty and inequality situation, and roll- the modest gains made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) if not properly handled.
A proper handling would begin with the diagnoses of the immediate and underlying causes of these converging problems. The pronouncements and measures taken by the managers of the economy, leave a sense of short-termism, the cost of which is likely to be borne disproportionately by the poor, whilst leaving the underlying vulnerabilities and fragilities largely untouched. This paper argues that four main factors fundamentally underpin these fragilities:
1) The way capital flows are managed and the level of deregulation of the financial sector
2) The underlying structure of the economy, mainly excessive importation and dependence on primary commodities exports, as well as a bulging underground economy
3) Underlying inequalities and poverty and inadequate steps to address them
4) Regulatory problems due, in particular, to conflict of interest.
OFFICIAL EXPLANATION OF THE CAUSES OF THE DECLINING SHILLING, RISING INFLATION AND FALLING STOCK MARKET
We are told that the weakening of the shilling is not driven by weak economic fundamentals as ‘the economy remains sound’. Rather, the decline is mainly due to external shocks which have caused the demand and supply of foreign exchange to misalign. These shocks include: Drought that has affected the food supply, thus necessitating higher imports and exerting pressure on inflation; and, the sovereign debt crisis in Southern Europe which has led to the strengthening of the dollar, making the dollar relatively more expensive. Monetary policy played a role through the injection of cheap credit by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) into the banking system, both in terms of short-term and longer term lending. This created a scenario of too many shillings chasing after too few dollars as well as goods and services. The Central Bank governor’s position that the sharp collapse may also be attributed to speculation and the hoarding of dollars for speculative purposes was dismissed out of hand. The surge in global energy prices is also a significant external contribution to domestic inflation. The falling stock market is attributed to investors playing safe by selling their securities to buy government bonds which are considered a safer haven.
The policy responses arising from such an analysis are predictable and short-sighted. All that is necessary, we are told, is to take modest steps to put more dollars in the market e.g. by reducing the amount of foreign exchange banks are allowed to hold as part of their capital requirements; additional borrowing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to shore up reserves; tightening credit in the economy by raising the interest rates; cutting down government expenditure to reduce inflation; and mopping up extra liquidity through CBK sale of short-term securities. Structural measures are in the form of encouraging better cooperation between the CBK, commercial banks and currency dealers.
Unfortunately, these measures will not only do little to address the underlying fragilities and minimise future crisis, but they also risk deepening poverty by shrinking growth and reducing investments in basic services. These can in turn feed into worsening trade and fiscal imbalances through reduced exports and government revenues. Essentially the proffered responses are ‘pro-cyclical’ in nature i.e. they will squeeze economic growth in order to achieve short-term stability.
FREEDOM OF CAPITAL TO MOVE IN AND OUT AND CORE ISSUE UNDERLYING FRAGILITIES
I will argue that what Kenya is experiencing is a combination of currency, balance of payments and financial crisis which is represented by high and rising interest rates, inflation and deteriorating asset portfolios (increasing share of bad loans in total lending). These suggest firstly, that there are significant credit, assets and investment bubbles in the economy. Secondly, external liabilities relative to reserves (debt obligations) are perceived as unsustainable especially when the current account is chronically in deficit and rising against a rising short-term debt. Thirdly, liabilities are highly liquid, meaning that non-residents can freely move their capital round from bond-markets, to equities to government securities. Fourthly, vulnerabilities arising from the latter point are higher the more extensive the nature of foreign participation is in local financial markets. This increases market volatility and raises exposure to spill-over from financial instabilities abroad. Finally, rather than insure itself against capital reversals, Kenya has started to routinely depend on the IMF’s financial help and policy advice.
What underlies the bubbles in the economy? It would seem that the boom year of 2010 was not driven by productivity growth but by ample liquidity pumped into the system by the CBK; low interest rates that fuelled speculative lending to unproductive sectors such as high-end real estate and car loans. The real estate market got a further boost through an ample injection of short-term portfolio capital seeking short-term gains through anticipated interest rate rises, equity market gains and gains from the over-valued Shilling at the time.
Short-term portfolio capital (flows of foreign capital into equities and bond markets) constituted the bulk of external capital inflows into Kenya in 2009 and 2010. These inflows into equity markets, together with the attendant liquidly it injects may have been both the cause and effect of the sharp increases in the stock prices in 2010. Its withdrawal equally accounts for the sharp drop in equities in the NSE. The sharp increases in the earnings rate of equities reflect bubbles in the asset market (mainly real estate) rather than economic fundamentals. One manifestation of these bubbles is the fact that housing loans have expanded faster than other types of lending and is a major source of household indebtedness.
Rising inequalities contribute to crisis in many ways. Inequalities concentrate the effective demand in the luxury sector, such as high-end real estate. This contributes to the bubble, amplifying the potential for financial crisis and social instability whilst denying investments to the productive sector and small and medium economies where the most jobs can be created and incomes distributed or investment in health and education to create opportunities for future employment. The literature is converging on the conclusion that more inequalities are associated with less sustained growth. Inequality may also make it harder for governments to regulate the economy to benefit the population if the wealthy have disproportionate influence on political choice. Financial liberalisation on the other hand can contribute to higher inequality and poverty through skewed allocation of resources, household indebtedness, and by facilitating tax evasion and avoidance and illicit capital flight. A 2009 World Bank study shows that inequalities are steep and rising and disparities among geographic regions are wide.
The core issue here is the liberalisation of the capital account and financial deregulation which allows for hot money to flow freely into the economy and around financial markets and out again. Capital Account Liberalisation (CAL) entails allowing not only foreign direct investment (FDI) but also capital inflows to bond and equity markets and to the banking sector. Financial deregulation includes CAL and involves the changes in the freedoms of domestic banks to engage in foreign transactions and foreign banks to enter the domestic market. Kenya’s official policy favours full financial liberalisation. To complete its liberalisation process, Kenya is working towards making Nairobi an international financial centre.
If these are the underlying factors that have driven the boom and burst in the real estate and financial markets, what accounts for the nose dive in the value of the shilling?
There is a demand and supply problem – Kenya is simply not earning enough foreign exchange to match the high extent of her imports. The country simply lacks sufficient reserves to defend its currency when under attack or in adverse times. Moreover, currency is significantly more exposed when the financial sector is excessively liberalised as is the case in Kenya. In liberalised financial markets and capital account regimes (with high freedom of capital to move in and out and into various markets), the main source of volatility is not the current account (trade imbalances) but the capital account. In these regimes, the adequacy of the reserves is determined not only by import needs, but also debt servicing as well as inflationary expectations and political factors. Kenya’s economy is suffering a combination of these factors. Perceptions of political instability facilitate capital exit. It is suggested that the spike in the shilling’s fall some time in April/May 2011 may have resulted from politically exposed wealthy persons transferring foreign currency abroad. In addition to food and fuel import pressure, Kenya is also facing significant debt servicing pressures since most of the debt – public and private – is increasingly short-term in nature having been raised from bond markets. This exposes the Shilling to speculative attacks and capital flight.
Other factors that drive speculative attacks include:
1) An ability to engage in international electronic trading in currencies
2) Current account deficits above three per cent of GDP
3) Eliminating conditions and restraints for the purchase and transfer abroad of foreign currencies by residents
4) Permitting financial institutions to conduct offshore business in foreign currencies without establishing business in the country
5) Eliminating conditions mandating the identification of natural persons behind numbered accounts and corporate entities.
These factors facilitate the rapid transfer of foreign currencies abroad for varied purposes such as risk mitigation, speculation or wealth concealment for tax avoidance and illicit wealth transfer. Illicit capital flight is rampant in Kenya and recent estimates suggest that as much as US$3 billion may have been illicitly transferred abroad by wealthy individuals and companies seeking protective havens for their wealth or in order to avoid, evade or minimise their tax obligations.
Currency speculation is a recognised lucrative business in Kenya, made possible by the deregulation of finance, including capital account liberalisation and the freedom to engage in international electronic trading. The CBK Governor could not have been engaging in idle talk when he accused (without revealing) some commercial banks of hoarding dollars for speculative purposes or to drive down the value of the shilling in order to make a quick killing.
Kenya’s speculative trade also thrives through the so-called ‘underground economy’. Variously defined, this economy involves the small jua kali sector as well as the big time criminals engaged in narcotics and arms trade, money laundering and the piracy industry. Some estimates suggest that the size of this economy may be as big as 25 per cent of Kenya’s GDP. If income distribution in this sector is as skewed as the national picture, then perhaps as few as 10 per cent of the players in this economy may well command as much as 15 per cent of GDP of cash outside the formal economy. This means large volumes of cash – shillings and foreign exchange – including counterfeit notes are floating around the country. Banking industry players speak of people visiting their banks in East Leigh with sack loads of currency. Such players have a capability to influence the volume of foreign exchange traded.
Some analysts also suggest that there is a convergence of three economies: The formal financial, the illegal financial and the political/financial ones. If there is some truth to this assertion, it is hard to see how the financial sector can be effectively regulated through conventional tools of monetary policy, reserves policy and regulating the inter-bank trading of foreign exchange. It is hard to curtail the flow of criminal money if it is relatively easy to move it around, clean it up and ship it abroad and back in.
In all these cases, at the heart of the instability is the excessively liberalised financial markets and capital account regime. Kenya’s experience closely mirrors Thailand’s policy environment in period leading to the 1997 financial crisis. Therefore, Kenya could be sleep walking into a disaster worse than Thailand as it apes all that Thailand and South-East Asia have learnt and largely reformed. For example, nothing could be more disastrous than the planned International Financial Centre modelled alongside the Thai one which is partly blamed for the crisis but also for facilitating corruption, tax evasion and money laundering.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The Thailand case also has resonance in terms of political regimes. In Thailand just as in Kenya, there is a conflict of roles and interests. Those with the political responsibility to regulate the financial system for efficiency and equitable growth also have interests in the banking sector and personally benefit from the freedom to move capital in and out. Stringent regulation would be tantamount to attacking their own interests. In Thailand, dubious involvement of politicians in certain financial institutions and shady deals for personal gain set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to a fall in confidence in the Central Bank and its regulatory integrity. Watching the Kenyan scene one cannot but feel a sense of pity for the Central Bank governor as he battles to bring some order to the financial markets and the currency, whilst being contradicted.
In conclusion, the degree of capital account liberalisation and financial deregulation of the Kenyan economy has something to do with the declining shilling and asset and stock markets. The liberalisation has succeeded in sucking in hot money (not foreign direct investment) seeking quick profits. This hot money went into the housing sector and banking stocks, in search of interest rate differentials. It also found its way into government bonds, making a few rich, and leaving the majority behind and the government more indebted. It created growth without distribution or productive capacity, thereby increasing inequality. The bubbles burst when inflationary expectations, increased perception of risk occasioned by increased debt servicing burden, declining reserves and political factors led the hot money to flee along side illicit capital flight and speculation on the shilling or simply hoarding of the dollar. This led to a combined collapse in the shilling, stocks and real estate. The core of the crisis lies in the rules governing the management of capital flows and not just demand and supply.
Sadly, the need to rethink the rules governing the capital account appears to have been ruled out. However, at the very least, the issue should be debated as is required by the constitution. This is because financial liberalisation not only brings benefits but as we have shown in the above analysis does occasion also, significant costs in the form of volatilities, deepening inequalities and poverty.
The long run stabilisation of the shilling and inflation requires that Kenya produces more of what it needs (especially food), sells more of those goods that add value significantly; separates the private and public domains and addresses poverty and inequality. To do so, implementing the constitution in word and spirit is critical.
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* Charles Abugre is the regional director of the UN Millennium Campaign. This article does not represent the views of the UN Millennium Campaign or the United Nations.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
UN in Haiti: Keeping the peace or conspiring against it?
‘Nou dwe sèl mèt bout tè sa a: We should be the only owners of this land.’ This was Haitian protesters’ message at a demonstration last month against the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti, known by its French acronym, MINUSTAH.
October marks an upswing in press coverage and anti-MINUSTAH activity in Haiti in anticipation of the UN Security Council meeting, during which officials will vote on renewing the mission’s term for another year. Protests against the seven-year-old force have intensified since fall 2010, with heightened mobilization by grassroots groups calling for the withdrawal of the foreign troops from Haiti. Meanwhile, Brazil’s foreign minister, representing the country that contributes the largest troop contingent to MINUSTAH, has publicly announced a reduction in the number of troops amid mounting discussion in diplomatic circles about downsizing the force.
What is behind the building grassroots opposition to the UN mission? In the eyes of many Haitians, MINUSTAH’s impact in the country plays out very differently from its stated objectives of ensuring a secure and stable environment, supporting fair electoral processes and protecting human rights. Fuelling much of the recent criticism is MINUSTAH’s introduction of cholera into Haiti in October 2010, starting an outbreak that has now killed more than 6,000 people and led to almost half a million documented cases of illness from the disease.
The negligence that led to this outbreak and the UN’s failure to assume responsibility for it were the latest affronts in a string of problems with MINUSTAH’s presence in the country. These include documented human rights violations. MINUSTAH has been ineffective in protecting Haitians from day-to-day insecurity, gender-based violence and forced evictions from displacement camps. Furthermore, its troops have been active perpetrators of human rights offenses. Sexual exploitation and rape of Haitians, violent retaliations against peaceful popular protest and failure to investigate charges of murder by its own members have tainted the force’s record. Crackdowns on demonstrations, besides violating protesters’ rights, serve to suppress the grassroots and civil society groups that are struggling to make their voices and vision a part of national dialogue on rebuilding. And MINUSTAH’s public statements of support for recent fraudulent elections – in which the majority of the electorate did not participate – further erode the democratic process.
A white paper co-authored by Other Worlds staff Deepa Panchang and released by HealthRoots Student Organization at the Harvard School of Public Health on October 4, ‘MINUSTAH: Keeping the peace, or conspiring against it?’ enumerates in detail MINUSTAH’s post-earthquake human rights record. It also explains the political context behind the force’s presence in Haiti. Excerpts from the white paper’s executive summary follow:
In the year-and-half since the earthquake in Haiti, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has expanded its role in the name of security, stability and relief. However, since its establishment in 2004, multiple independent human rights organizations have documented myriad violations of the human rights of Haitians. These transgressions have continued unchecked since the earthquake, positioning MINUSTAH as a threat to Haitian stability and security instead of a safeguard. Accompanying these abuses are domestic and international voices of protest, bolstered by human rights reports and leaked documents and cables demonstrating that the motivations of MINUSTAH and its members are not focused on Haiti. Further, permission for MINUSTAH’s presence was granted by an unconstitutional, unelected government after the democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from office in an internationally-backed coup. When MINUSTAH is understood as part of a geopolitical strategy rather than a humanitarian peace mission, it is clear why such an unsuccessful and unpopular operation continues to be renewed year after year.
Less than a year after the first soldiers landed on Haitian soil, independent humanitarian organizations documented cases of robbery, murder, assault, rape, and sexual exploitation of minors. Evidence grew that MINUSTAH ignored extrajudicial, paramilitary killings of civilian groups mobilizing to protect their communities. Worse, it sometimes acted as the guerrillas’ personal security force. These missions often cost innocent lives, as entire neighbourhoods were assaulted by military strikes involving tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, bombs, and armoured vehicles. These offensives, conducted by an occupying military force in a peacetime sovereign nation, violate MINUSTAH’s charter and international law. Nevertheless, MINUSTAH’s mandate allows for judicial immunity from Haitian law for its soldiers. Since its inception, hundreds of soldiers implicated in crimes have escaped prosecution because of this clause. 
Since the earthquake, these problems have worsened. MINUSTAH fails to effectively monitor internally displaced people (IDP) camps, often only patrolling outside them. In any case, the forces do not speak the language, and often have not arranged for sufficient translation capacity, despite UN presence in Haiti for almost 20 years. MINUSTAH also fails to engage the many grassroots organizations dedicated to IDPs, gender-based violence or protection against forced eviction. Hundreds of cases of sexual assault, rape and gender-based violence by MINUSTAH soldiers were reported in pre-earthquake Haiti. After the earthquake, such abuses, often of children, continue. 
Ten months after the earthquake, MINUSTAH troops, failing to take basic sanitation precautions by dumping human feaces into a nearby river used for drinking, started a cholera epidemic that, to date, has killed more 6,000 people and crossed into the Dominican Republic. Despite eyewitness reports, and epidemiological and genetic studies proving that MINUSTAH was the source, the UN failed to take responsibility for nearly a year.
In August of 2010, Gérard Jean-Gilles, a 16-year-old boy, was found hanging on a base in Cap Haïtien. Despite a post-mortem examination suggesting that he was murdered, and witness accounts suggesting that he was attacked before his death, MINUSTAH has refused to investigate.
Contrary to its mandate to assist in free and fair elections, MINUSTAH played a role in an illegitimate presidential election in fall of 2010 that saw the exclusion of numerous political parties — including one of Haiti’s largest — and a large part of the population.
MINUSTAH’s continued presence is justified by the levels of unrest, or potential for unrest, in Haiti. In fact, the member countries involved in the mission, such as Brazil, have up to more than triple the murders per capita than Haiti. Since the earthquake, the only significant civil discord in the country has targeted MINUSTAH for introducing cholera or failing to respond to IDP camps conditions, or expressed anger over fraudulent elections. MINUSTAH responded to these peaceful protests with violence, including tear-gassing students and IDPs, assaulting international journalists, shooting at children and even killing peaceful protestors. 
MINUSTAH has been destabilizing Haiti and violating human rights since its arrival, and has continued this trend after the earthquake. In addition to violent abuses, MINUSTAH’s introduction of cholera and failure to accept responsibility for it demonstrate a systemic problem with the entire mission and the way it interacts with Haiti. Just like the earthquake and the subsequent cholera outbreak, MINUSTAH, as a disaster with widespread adverse effects, has brought Haitians together in nonviolent yet persistent solidarity against it. But these outcries are repeatedly violently silenced by MINUSTAH.
MINUSTAH acts against Haitian interests in order to meet the geopolitical or economic needs of foreign nations or those seeking to ingratiate themselves to those nations. Rather than the instability and violence MINUSTAH uses to justify its existence—which has failed to rear its head since the earthquake—it is MINUSTAH itself that threatens security and advancement.
At such a crucial point in Haiti’s history, and with years of failures, inaction, repression, and human rights violations documented, it is time that MINUSTAH respect the Haitian people’s wishes, and the wishes of many of its members’ citizens, and withdraw from Haiti. Arguments of greater instability cannot justify the current abuse and violence against Haitians. Just as no concern of post-MINUSTAH instability can justify a single violation of a Haitian’s rights by an occupying force; no solution to Haiti’s problems can include foreign armed military on its soil. If the UN and its members want to support Haiti, MINUSTAH’s nearly $1 billion yearly budget should be put toward sanitation, shelter, health, infrastructure, and education, not arms and soldiers that result in death, sexual assault, and the subversion of democracy.
 Pooja Bhatia and Benjamin S. Litman, ‘Keeping the Peace in Haiti? An Assessment of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti Using Compliance with its Prescribed Mandate as a Barometer for Success’, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Law Student Advocates for Human Rights, 2005).
 Bhatia and Litman, ‘Keeping the Peace in Haiti?’.
 Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye et al., ‘Haiti’s Renewal of MINUSTAH’s Mandate in Violation of the Human Rights of the Haitian People’; March 24, 2011, submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Twelfth Session of the Working Group on the UPR Human Rights Council, October 3rd - October 13th, 2011.
 ‘Denuncian a Militaires Uruguayos en Haiti’, El Pais, August 14, 2010, Denuncian a Militaires Uruguayos en Haiti. Ansel Herz, Matthew Mosk, and Rym Momtaz, ABC News, September 2, 2011 [http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/peacekeepers-accused-sexually-assaulting-haitian-teen/story?id=14437122]‘UN Peacekeepers Accused of Sexually Assaulting Haitian Teen’[/url]
 Thalles Gomes, ‘Morte de jovem haitiano gera novos protestos contra a Minustah,’ September 24, 2010, Brasil de Fato
 Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), September 24th, 2010, ‘What Happened to Gerard Jean Gilles?’
 Kim Ives, ‘As MINUSTAH Gasses Students, CEP Sets New Elections for November 28th,’ Haiti Liberte, May 26, 2010. CEPR, October 18, 2010, ‘MINUSTAH: Securing Stability and Democracy from Journalists, Children and Other Threats’. Al-Jazeera, November 16, 2010, ‘Haiti Cholera Protest Turns Violent’
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* Deepa Panchang is the Another Haiti is Possible Co-Coordinator for Other Worlds. She has engaged in advocacy for human rights in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. You can access all of Other Worlds’ past articles regarding post-earthquake Haiti here.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Africa and the poverty in knowledge production
The 20th century was one of the bloodiest periods in recent history. As the world moved on into the 21st century, violence continues to preoccupy the best of minds alongside its twin, an increasing poverty on a global scale. Violence and poverty have come to define how the world relates to Africa. There is a reason for the focus on violence when one takes into consideration the reality on the continent. Africa has experienced 80 successful coups d’état, 108 failed coup attempts, and 139 reported coup plots between 1956 and 2001 as noted by McGowan.
According to the 2011 Global Peace Index (GPI), published by The Institute for Economics and Peace, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region least at peace and 40 per cent of the world’s least peaceful countries are in Africa. In 2011 the world witnessed a contested election that ended in a military intervention to oust President Laurent Gbagbo in Côte d'Ivoire. North Africa went through what was called ‘The Arab Spring’ that toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and lastly US/NATO intervention to overthrow Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In July of this same year, Africa’s largest country split into two (Republic of Sudan and Republic of South Sudan), effectively ending Africa’s longest civil war. This essay sets to argue that despite the urgency to end violence and reduce poverty; a different kind of poverty holds the key to both the problem of violence, poverty, and the many other problems that the continent is facing today. The common denominator for Africa’s failing in the global system is its intellectual poverty. I will illustrate this by looking at a study published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
A look at Table 1 shows Africa’s net intellectual output as measured by its world share in publication and its expenditures in research and development (R&D). Africa ranks last among the world’s continents. Its world share of publications stood at 1.4 per cent in 1990 and 1.4 per cent in 2000 while its world share in R&D expenditure went from 1.3 per cent in 1990 to 0.8 per cent in 2000. Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia had a steady increase in the same period while Europe and North America experienced a decrease in R&D expenditures but Europe increased its output in publication between 1990 and 2000 while North America experienced a decline in world output in publications. Oceania posted increases in both categories by moving from 2.8 per cent to 3.3 per cent in publication share and increased its R&D expenditures from 1 per cent in 1990 to 1.1 per cent in 2000. To understand Africa’s failing that manifests in such a low output, one has to turn to the role of higher education in Africa.
Africa was the last continent to be colonialised by European powers. Britain, the most successful of the powers, learned a lesson in the aftermath of the Sepoy Mutiny in India in 1857 that it incorporated into its colonial projects in Africa. British colonial administrators attributed the uprising in India to an educated class of Indian nationalists. ‘Lord Lugard, Britain’s leading colonial administrator in Africa, used to say that Britain must avoid the Indian disease in Africa. The Indian Disease referred to the development of an educated middle class, a group most likely to carry the virus of nationalism.’ The development of higher education was a post-colonial project in Africa. At independence in the 1960’s, ‘there were nine Congolese educated to university level in the Belgian Congo. After 30 years of Mobutu’s regime – one of the vilest regimes ever – this figure grew to hundreds of thousands. In other words, the worst African regime was 3,000, 5,000 times better that the wonderful Belgian colonisation.’ Another example comes from Nigeria’s higher education that illustrates the dilemma of Africa’s higher education. At independence Nigeria had one university with 1,000 students. In 1991, it had 41 universities with 131,000 students.
As Africa began to gain a foothold and stand on its own at the end of the 1970s, Structural Adjustment was imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The logic of Structural Adjustment focused on elementary education while adopting a hostile attitude toward the development of higher education. The market-oriented system which came to dominate the decades from 1980 through 2000 dismantled the little educational infrastructure that was the outcome of nationalist projects and subordinated universities to market forces. The market-orientation focused on finding answers to problems rather than understanding and formulating original problems. From this perspective, research was all about finding answers and not formulating problems. It was thus two models immerged in Africa’s higher education: one that was state driven and the second market driven.
State driven models tended to create historically-informed, interdisciplinary curriculum while market-driven models tended to introduce market-driven curriculum. If the former tended to undermine academic freedom by turning universities into parastatals, then the latter with its emphasis on privatisation bred a culture of consultancy. Both models failed collectively to develop a sustainable graduate program across Africa. Without a solid graduate program that could produce quality knowledge to meet the continent’s many needs and lead Africa’s Renaissance, Africa took one step forward and 10 steps backward while its dependency on external forces deepened its internal crises. Without a vanguard of its own, Africa remains the weakest part of the global system.
Today Africa has the fastest growing population in the world. From 2007-2009 the population on the continent went from 987 million to 1 billion. Youth aged 30 and under constitute over 70 per cent of the continent’s total population. Africa also has the fastest growing labour force in the world. Sahara Africa is the only region that has experienced a continuous increase in the number of working-poor youth and the only region where the percentage of youth who are unemployed continuously increases year after year. These demographic trends will only increase in the decades ahead and if nothing is done to address the root causes of Africa’s failing; one can expect dark days ahead for Africa and its people.
CHALLENGE AND WAY FORWARD
As Africa looks ahead it must not only learn from the past but it must also make sure that it is learning the right lessons of history. A good starting position in any situation is to first devote resources to understanding the problem. Failure to understand the problem renders any prescription useless given that the problem has not been properly diagnosed. Mamdani summarised this problem in his analysis of how commercialisation was destroying Makerere University in Uganda by noting that ‘90 per cent of the solution lies in the problem. You cannot import a solution.’ For a solution to be durable it must be home grown. From this vantage point, Africa must prioritise the process over the outcome, diagnosis over prescription. In the field of education a new emphasis on research must be born if the continent is going to pull itself out of the current quagmire.
As Mamdani has pointed out in his speech on the importance of research in a university, this new model must look for answers within the parameters of the problem. One can rightly ask the question that eludes most: How can one aspire to craft knowledge for a given social context when one remains a prisoner, trapped by paradigms constructed in a different historical period as a result to a different social reality?
Historically, discourse on or about Africa has not been one where Africans have been part of the formulation of the problem. Here Africa performs the function of raw material provider, very similar to the function it plays in the global economic system. Except in the process of knowledge production, raw material is called data. Paradigms, theories and problems are formulated outside of Africa and exported back to the continent. Africans might chase answers developed by others but if the problem is formulated outside of Africa the answers will continue to be illusive and the results will persistently disappoint because the understanding of the problem is not rooted at home but imported from outside.
According to the leading Beninese philosopher, Hountondji, Africa can learn a great deal from the experience of Germany. In virtually all fields of inquiry, discourse in Germany was designed for a German audience and employed a language that was accessible to all, German. The debate in Germany historically was horizontal, in that it was a discussion among German-speaking people and addressed problems relevant for the German society at large. The process in Germany was first and foremost:
‘An internal debate within Germany and German-speaking countries, including Austria and part of Switzerland, where scholars question one another, respond to and discuss with one another. The debated issues are significant for, and largely shared by, the German-speaking academic community – which allows the development of a horizontal and self-sustained debate.’
The challenge for Africa is that it must first take hold of the intellectual battle before it can wage a physical battle against violence and poverty and all other problems that it is currently facing. The battle against violence, underdevelopment, poverty, does not begins by looking to the outside, it begins with a sustained debate on the inside. Without winning the intellectual battle, Africa cannot pull itself out of its current morass. Africa’s success hinges precisely on its ability to take hold of the field of inquiries by formulating original “problematics,” that respond to issues that are first and foremost important to Africans and rooted in their own experience. Exporting these important questions abroad and expecting good answers and solutions to resolve Africa’s problems has not only proved disastrous but will only deepen Africa’s misery in the decades ahead less Africa take hold of the process and start producing quality knowledge of its own.
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* Christopher Zambakari is a candidate for a Law and Policy Doctorate (LPD) at the College of Professional Studies, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Patrick J. McGowan, "African Military Coups D’état,1956-2001: Frequency, Trends and Distribution," The Journal of Modern African Studies 41, no. 03 (2003): 339.
 The Institute for Economics and Peace, "2011 Methodology, Results & Findings," (Sydney, Australia: Institute for Economics and Peace, 2011), 14.
 Asia, Europe and North America represent 95 per cent of world researchers whereas the other 5 per cent is represented by Latin America and Caribbean, Oceania and Africa.
 Mahmood Mamdani, "The Importance of Research in a University: Keynote Address" (paper presented at the Makerere University Research and Innovations Dissemination Conference, Kampala, Uganda, April 11th – 12th, 2011 2011), 2-4.
 Samir Amin, "Africa’s Failings and the Global System," Pambazuka, no. 509 (2010).
 Mamdani, "The Importance of Research in a University: Keynote Address", 3.
 Ibid., 4.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid., 4.
 UNECA, " Economic Report on Africa 2010," (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: UN Economic Commission for Africa, 2010), 65.
 United Nations, "Young People’s Transition to Adulthood: Progress and Challenges," in World Youth Report 2007 (New York, NY: United Nations, 2007), 9-10.
 Mahmood Mamdani, "Commercialisation Is Killing Makerere University," Pambazuka News, no. 495 (2011).
 Ibid. Mamdani notes: “Last year, a team of scientists from Gabon and France found that malaria too has a wild host – monkeys – which means you cannot eradicate it. To learn to live with it calls for an entirely different solution. Eradication calls for a laboratory-based strategy. You look for isolated human communities, like islands with small populations and invest all your resources in it – which is what the Gates Foundation and WHO did.”
 Paulin Hountondji, "Knowledge of Africa, Knowledge by Africans: Two Perspectives on African Studies," RCCS Annual Review 1, no. September 2009: African Centre for Advanced Studies, Porto-Novo (2009): 7-9.
Amin, Samir. "Africa’s Failings and the Global System." Pambazuka, no. 509 (2010).
Hountondji, Paulin. "Knowledge of Africa, Knowledge by Africans: Two Perspectives on African Studies." RCCS Annual Review 1, no. September 2009: African Centre for Advanced Studies, Porto-Novo (2009).
Mamdani, Mahmood. "Commercialisation Is Killing Makerere University." Pambazuka News, no. 495 (2011).
Mamdani, Mahmood. "The Importance of Research in a University: Keynote Address." Paper presented at the Makerere University Research and Innovations Dissemination Conference, Kampala, Uganda, April 11th – 12th, 2011 2011.
McGowan, Patrick J. "African Military Coups D’état,1956-2001: Frequency, Trends and Distribution." The Journal of Modern African Studies 41, no. 03 (2003): 339-70.
The Institute for Economics and Peace. "2011 Methodology, Results & Findings." Sydney, Australia: Institute for Economics and Peace, 2011.
UNECA. " Economic Report on Africa 2010." 192. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: UN Economic Commission for Africa, 2010.
———. "Investing in the Future: R & D Expenditure in Africa." In Science with Africa Conference. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 2008.
United Nations. "Young People’s Transition to Adulthood: Progress and Challenges." In World Youth Report 2007. New York, NY: United Nations, 2007.
Change a bulb, plant a tree… not enough
For deconscientised Durban, a month until climate wake-up call
You can sympathise with our city’s community, environmental, labour and faith leaders who in preparing for the world climate summit here in one month’s time, must wake their sleepy flocks to the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.
Their challenge is to fill the ‘We Have Faith!’ prayer meeting next to Mabhida Stadium on 27 November, to attend public teach-ins and exhibits at the Durban University of Technology’s ‘People’s Space’ alternative summit from 25 November to 9 December, and to get thousands of us to join the 3 December non-violent protest. That march will weave past the US Consulate, City Hall, and the International Convention Centre all the way to the beach for the ‘Going away party’ – a farewell to one of South Africa’s most democratic spaces, because the seawater is rising by a meter or more this century.
The last poll I have seen comparing climate awareness amongst major countries puts South Africans next to last, slightly ahead of the Chinese, when the question posed was, ‘Is climate change a serious problem?’ Only 45 percent answered yes, whereas at least 70 percent said yes in Brazil, Germany and Japan, according to GlobalScan pollsters a few years ago.
Creative consciousness-raising antidotes are coming: a mock Noah’s Ark near North Beach, the ‘Blue Line’ that in parts of central Durban will ink out the rising high-water mark – far higher than the elite Vetch’s Beach development near uShaka, incidentally – or the Climate Train from Cape Town via Jo’burg. And a series of caravans from East and Southern Africa will make stops along the way so Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance members can recruit our neighbours to the cause.
But people are also realising systematic duplicity by governments from Pretoria to Thekwini City Hall. For example, last week’s national Climate White Paper consultation process was far too short. Although some in civil society observed an improvement over the Green Paper because there’s no mention of nuclear energy, a draft R1 trillion nuke tender is circulating, starting in Jeffrey’s Bay where even apolitical surfers awoke to the threat and protested vibrantly in July. Who do the White Paper authors think they are fooling, leaving out nukes?
Pretoria is also sly when it comes to emissions targets, as Cape Town researcher Eugene Cairncross pointed out: ‘The White Paper unfortunately does not include a reasonably up-to-date emissions inventory for South Africa,’ a crucial omission because ‘Eskom remains absolutely committed to building new coal fired power stations, at a cost of about R500 billion for Medupi and Kusile.’ And Sasol has the world’s single worst CO2 emissions site, at Secunda.
Cairncross also complains the White Paper’s benchmark CO2-equivalent emissions range is so wide that it allows ‘an increase of emissions from the current 500 to 540 million tons per year to 614 million tons per year in 2035. That is, the benchmark accepts a further 20 percent increase in GHG emissions over the next 25 years, during a period when the global climate change crisis demands a decrease in emissions!’
Brainwashing us won’t work, when Pretoria offers this monotone ministerial pronouncement: ‘Working Together: Saving Tomorrow Today’ – better translated into the reality, ‘Warming Together: Stealing Tomorrow Today.’
The minister in question, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, will chair the climate summit. She is best known for refusing a first-class Norway-Bulgaria plane journey last month because airport authorities insisted that, like all others (aside from royalty and heads of state), she put her handbag through the x-ray machine. Refusing, she instead landed SA taxpayers with a R235 000 bill to hire an executive jet.
A month later, the Dalai Lama visa-delay fiasco called into question Nkoana-Mashabane’s capacity to act independently when she presides over the climate summit. Will she be an agent of Beijing – or instead, like Jacob Zuma in Copenhagen two years ago, of Washington? She certainly isn’t going to protect the interests of the planet or people, judging by national and municipal climate malgovernance.
For example, City Hall’s decades-old bias towards a ‘climate-dumb Durban’ – that is, the officials’ nudge-nudge wink-wink posture when in the presence of massive polluters – was evident again on October 10 at Merebank’s Settlers Primary School. It is a reflection of city health management and the provincial education department that a decade ago, Settlers was found to have a 52 percent asthma rate, the world’s highest, and that the neighbourhood’s main carbon polluters carry on with noxious emissions, periodic explosions and lethal fires.
As The Mercury reported, ‘More than 100 primary school children were taken to hospital – some struggling for breath, others with itchy skin and eyes – after being splattered by air-borne droplets of crude oil and a cloud of smoke and soot from another fire at the Engen fuel refinery in South Durban.’ Engen’s Herb Payne replied to The Witness, “It wasn’t serious and we managed to contain the fire with internal firefighters.” Engen handed out a few hundred new school uniforms and R30 car-wash vouchers.
Reading from Payne’s script, climate-dumb Durban’s municipal officials also show a consistent lack of seriousness. Climate change will intensify extreme weather events and floods that could devastate our cracking stormwater drainage system. When in 2008 Durban’s Blue Flag beach status was decertified due to high E.coli counts, it should have immediately generated a sanitation construction boom. But go to any of Durban’s more than 100 major shack settlements and try finding a ratio of decent, working toilets that is higher than one per 1000 people.
Without decent sanitation, worsening rainstorms coursing through low-income areas will gather E.coli in amounts far higher than the recommended 130/100ml for recreational river use. As a recent State of the South African Rivers Report found, on the ‘uMngeni River at Kennedy Road, E.coli up to 1,080,000. (Cause: Informal Community on the banks of the Palmiet River.)’
Another climate-dumb Durban strategy is to cut poor people’s electricity – often illegally connected due to the municipal policy of not supplying most settlements, and often due to the price hikes Eskom imposes to pay for Medupi and Kusile – resulting in an upsurge of violent service delivery protests. Those which got recent media attention in Kennedy Road, Sea Cow Lake and Chatsworth are joined by thousands of others across South Africa each year.
We desperately need to connect the dots between genuine local grievances and insensitive government climate politics, so as to solve these problems from both below, in the wretched townships, and above, by regulating those infernal smokestacks.
On Friday at 5pm, the Community Climate Summit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Memorial Tower Building is one place to begin, for so many of us vaguely aware of the UN climate negotiations – for which we in Durban are told by the government and allied NGOs to just go plant a tree or replace a light bulb, instead of addressing this crisis from the standpoint of justice.
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* This article was first published in The Mercury, 25 October 2011
* Patrick Bond’s book Politics of Climate Justice is out next month from UKZN Press.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Contesting a ‘just transition to a low carbon economy’
Recently, the South African labour federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), has expressed its commitment to a ‘just transition to a low carbon economy.’ However, at this moment the content of that commitment is unclear. Members of Cosatu affiliates could have very different understandings of the scale and nature of the changes involved. A ‘just transition’ could involve demands for shallow change focused on protecting vulnerable workers, or it could involve deep change rooted in a vision of dramatically different forms of production and consumption. In this sense, the ecological crisis represents an opportunity to not only address the unemployment crisis in our society, but to demand the redistribution of power and resources, to challenge the conventional understanding of economic growth and to mobilise for an alternative development path.
It could also generate a new kind of transnational solidarity, larger, deeper and more powerful than anything we have yet seen. Moving beyond solidarities based on interests or identities, Hyman emphasises that ‘the challenge is to reconceptualise solidarity in ways which encompass the local, the national, the European and the global. For unions to survive and thrive, the principle of solidarity must not only be redefined and reinvented: workers on the ground must be active participants in this redefinition and reinvention’ (Hyman, 2011). Most clearly in its warnings of the threat to human survival, the discourse of climate change could be contributing to such a process.
Obviously, the transition to a low carbon or green economy has massive implications for labour. Historically, the labour movement in South Africa has neglected environmental issues. This is largely because of a widespread understanding that environmental protection threatened jobs (Cock, 2007). For example, while the contamination of the local air and groundwater by the steel corporation Arcelor Mittal was known, workers’ participation in the struggle for environmental justice was blunted by the fear of job losses. Ironically, what is now driving trade unions into a concern with climate change is the indirect threat posed to existing energy intensive jobs and the possibility of new ‘green’ jobs. However, the labour movement still has to resolve a key question: ‘are green jobs one component of a new green capitalism, which is turning the climate crisis into an opportunity for accumulation? Or, are green jobs part of a ‘green economy’ which - “based on rights, sustainability principles and decent work” - can meet the challenge of a just transition’? (Sustainlabour, 2011). To complicate the question, while reference to the green economy appears in many official policy documents, it is often either undefined, or defined in a very narrow, technicist sense of being viewed as something separate, as an ‘add on’ to the ‘real economy. This last approach is evident in the National Climate Response White Paper issued by the South African government.
THE INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION RESPONSE
Trade unions have participated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since its inception, under the umbrella of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents 170 million workers through its affiliated organisations in 157 countries. The ITUC report (2009) entitled Equity, Justice and solidarity in the fight against climate change stresses the need “to create green and decent jobs, transform and improve traditional ones, and include democracy and social justice in environmental decision-making processes”. A Just Transition is described as “a tool the trade union movement shares with the international community, aimed at smoothing the shift towards a more sustainable society and providing hope for the capacity of a ‘green economy’ to sustain decent jobs and livelihoods for all”. (ITUC, 2009)
THE CONGRESS OF SOUTH AFRICAN TRADE UNIONS (COSATU) RESPONSE
In recent years, Cosatu, a trade union federation with 2 million members and 20 affiliate unions, has started to recognise climate change as a developmental and social issue. In September 2011, the central executive committee endorsed a policy framework on climate change, based on fifteen principles including the following: Capital accumulation has been the underlying cause of excessive greenhouse gas emissions and therefore global warming and climate change. As such, a new low carbon development path is needed which addresses the need for decent jobs and the elimination of unemployment. The issue of food security must be urgently addressed and all South Africans should have the right to clean, safe and affordable energy. Cosatu rejects market mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions and contends that developed countries must pay their climate debt and the Green Climate fund must be accountable. Finally, a ‘just transition’ towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient society is required.
DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDINGS OF A ‘JUST TRANSITION TO A LOW CARBON ECONOMY: ‘PARADIGM SHIFT’ OR ‘REGIME CHANGE’?
While capital’s discourse of a low carbon economy emphasises growth, competitiveness and efficiency, the labour movement agrees on this notion of a ‘just transition’. However, a point of contention among unionists involves the substantive content in the notion of a ‘just transition’. Whereas the ITUC speaks of a ‘paradigm shift’, some activists from the Cosatu affiliate the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) speak of ‘regime change’. While a ‘paradigm shift’ simply involves a change in ways of thinking about the issue, which could be ‘thin’ or minimalist, a ‘regime change’ implies a fundamental transformation in the way power and resources are distributed, and economic activities are regulated and controlled.
Two broad approaches to this notion of a ‘just transition’ may be identified:
(i) The minimalist position emphasises shallow, reformist change with green jobs, social protection, retraining and consultation. The emphasis is defensive and shows a preoccupation with protecting the interest of vulnerable workers.
(ii) An alternative notion of a just transition involves transformative change; an alternative growth path and new ways of producing and consuming.
The difference is clear in comparing two statements: first, let us observe the position of the ‘Cancun agreements’, formulated at the Conference of Parties (COP 16 in 2010), which states that a just transition means ensuring “…the importance of avoiding or minimising negative impacts of response measures on social and economic sectors, promoting a just transition of the workforce, creating decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities and strategies and contributing to building new capacity for both production and service related jobs in all sectors, promoting economic growth and sustainable development.”
In contrast, the Cosatu affiliate Samwu’s language differs quite dramatically, as seen in its response to the South African government’s National Climate Change Response Green Paper, drafted in February 2011, which states that “tackling greenhouse gas emissions is not just a technical or technological problem. It requires a fundamental economic and social transformation to substantially change current patterns of production and consumption.”
In the Cosatu policy framework, the explanation of a just transition reads, “The evidence suggests that the transition to a low carbon economy will potentially create more jobs than it will lose. But we have to campaign for protection and support for workers whose jobs or livelihoods might be threatened by the transition. If we do not do that, then these workers will resist the transition. We also have to ensure that the development of new, green industries does not become an excuse for lowering wages and social benefits. New environmentally-friendly jobs provide an opportunity to redress many of the gender imbalances in employment and skills. The combination of these interventions is what we mean by a just transition.”
The Policy Framework goes on to say, “The Just Transition is a concept that COSATU has supported in the global engagements on climate change that have been led by the ITUC. The basic demands of a Just Transition are:
- Investment in environmentally friendly activities that create decent jobs that are paid at living wages, that meet standards of health and safety, that promote gender equity and that are secure
- The putting in place of comprehensive social protections (pensions, unemployment insurance etc.) in order to protect the most vulnerable
- The conducting of research into the impacts of climate change on employment and livelihoods in order to better inform social policies
- Skills development and retraining of workers to ensure that they can be part of the new low-carbon development model.
The question is: are these necessary but sufficient conditions for a just transition? COSATU affiliates are going to interpret the concept very differently with perhaps the National Union of Mineworkers feeling the most threatened by the changes implied.
No serious observer now denies the severity of the environmental crisis, ‘but it is still not widely recognised as a capitalist crisis, that is, a crisis arising from and perpetuated by the rule of capital, and hence incapable of resolution within the capitalist framework’ (Wallis, 2010). In this sense the climate crisis represents an opportunity for labour to promote a transformative understanding of a ‘just transition to a low carbon economy’ and to mobilise for an alternative development path.
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* This article first appeared in the Global Labour Column.
* Jacklyn Cock is a professor emeritus in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand and an honorary research associate of the Society, Work and Development (SWOP) Institute. She has written extensively on militarisation, gender and environmentalism in Southern Africa. Her latest book is The War Against Ourselves. Nature, Power and Justice. (Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2007).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Cock, J. (2007). ‘Sustainable Development or Environmental Justice: questions for the South African labour movement from the Steel Valley Struggle’, Labour, Capital and Society. Vol. 40, Nos. 1 and 2
Hyman, R. 2011. ‘Trade unions, global competition and options for solidarity’, in Bieler, A. and Lindberg, I., (eds.). Global restructuring, labour and the challenges for transnational solidarity. Rethinking globalizations.pp16 - 29
Sweeney, S. 2011. ‘How unions can help secure a binding global climate agreement in 2011’, http://www.sustainlabor
Sustainlabour, UNEP (2008). Climate Change, its Consequences on Employment and Trade Union Action. A training Manual for Workers and Trade Unions. Madrid, sustainlabour
Wallis, V. (2010). ‘Beyond green capitalism’, Monthly Review. February
Environmental justice: Putting the poor first
Brian K. Murphy
‘The forces shaping many of the socio-economic and health inequalities between poor and rich countries are also driving climate change.’ – Global Health Watch
‘…the use of calamity to reinforce wealth and privilege is exactly what we do not need if we are to overcome the crisis of climate change.’ – Christian Parenti
As the global climate movement takes stock of its efforts, there are certainly significant gains to celebrate. Climate change is clearly, and indelibly, on the agenda. ‘Green’ values adorn even the most mainstream political platforms, and frame at least part of popular consciousness around the world. Even the ‘market’ has seen the light, as corporations and businesses everywhere refine their image to emphasise ecological values and environmental responsibility – even while many clamber to invent a plethora of ways to make a killing on air pollution through the burgeoning global carbon emissions exchange and other schemes.
At the same time, behind the public face of the climate action campaigns there is a deep malaise and debate within civil society circles about the profound and intractable absence of political will at the national and multilateral level to begin to address climate issues in a material and substantive way.
As these strategic debates proceed, it is increasingly important to bring nuance to the environmental discourse within social justice movements. We need to ensure that the way we talk about these matters, and the political deals we make, do not obscure other critical issues or provide an excuse to surrender on fronts where not too long ago we still hoped to make some gains – most particularly the struggle for economic equity and the eradication of global poverty.
The majority of people on the planet do not experience climate change as their most immediate issue of daily life and survival. For far too many, the issues they experience daily are lack of adequate livelihood and income; squalid living conditions; malnutrition and hunger; and debilitating health deficiencies and chronic disease. For others, survival means enduring social and political alienation, repression, persistent war and other forms of violence. Many others face dislocation from hearth and home, community and country. Those millions who do experience environmental concerns are most likely struggling with scarce water above all, and with dirty and dangerous water where water exists. They are struggling with foul and poisonous air, and with rotting homes and streets. And as their landscape is degraded – or stolen from them in the burgeoning ‘land-grab’, a proportion of which is actually subsidised by multilateral green mechanisms – they confront increasingly scarce productive land on which to grow food and nurture their herds.
Regardless of other facts, this is the reality experienced daily by the most abject poor, whose numbers exceed two billion by the most conservative estimates, as well as by two billion more ‘working poor’ whose lives remain a struggle on the margins of progress. This is the reality today, was the reality yesterday, and for decades before that, and will continue to be the reality until the world acts to change it, regardless of the calculus of climate change. Current mainstream proposals for acting on climate change will not significantly change these realities for the poor, not in a hundred years, or a thousand.
On the other hand, serious action to transform the reality of pervasive poverty and squalor would, of necessity, make tremendous headway in turning around global economic and political systems in a way that would allow human society to begin to regain equilibrium with the planet and its complex climatic dynamics. In fact if we do not meet this challenge, it will not be possible to meet the even the minimal goals outlined in reports such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
It is the poor, the powerless, the excluded, the most marginal on the planet who are most immediately vulnerable to the hazards of environmental pollution, devastated physical and cultural landscapes and climatic shifts, just as they are most vulnerable to the devastation that free-market globalisation has brought to local economies, and the epidemics that are nurtured, along with a host of other blights, in squalid neighbourhoods. Even within global centres of power it is now acknowledged – albeit, only reluctantly – that strategies to address planetary environmental issues will be successful only in concert with serious efforts to end global poverty and assure justice and dignity for all, including respect for traditional ways and ecological wisdom.
The historic inequities within and among nations have persisted in the world in spite of successive ‘development decades’ promoted by the United Nations and the donor countries within the OECD, along with the burgeoning community of national and international NGOs. These inequities have deepened with the hegemony of a globalised free market economy that advertises prosperity for all, but delivers only increasing concentrations of wealth for a minority.
The central reality that is brought into focus by current attention to the global environment and, in particular, climate change, is that these inequities and their associated calamity for billions upon billions of people over these decades will only deepen and become worse in the coming years, due to conditions that already exist and cannot be reversed quickly. Transforming this fatal reality of the poor requires action that gives clear priority to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in ways that are sustainable and recuperative of people, their communities, the ecology of which they are part, and the planet as a whole. Most of the measures that are required are social, economic and political, not technological.
Some years ago I met a laconic, frayed-at-the-edges Italian priest who had spent years ministering in the sprawling marginal communities of internally displaced people in the Colombian border town of Cucuta.
He said to me, ‘It is an indignity to announce the apocalypse to those already living at the end of the world’. Indeed.
If we are to create the will to take the radical measures necessary, we must openly emphasise the reality that even as we start to act in the concerted and uncompromising manner that is required, countless people will continue to suffer year-after-year in the global South due to the structures of inequity built into national and global systems, and due to their commensurate vulnerability to man-made and natural disaster. Between today and the original – and now impossible – 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals tens of millions of people will die of avoidable causes, and in deplorable circumstances.
To act into the future, it is necessary to acknowledge and take responsibility for the consequences of past and present action and inaction. The focus on climate and the environment cannot be isolated from other critical issues of global justice. Intrinsic to the issues of the environment is the way the planet is run and in whose interest. Environmental justice cannot be simply about preventing what may happen in the future. Environmental justice implies transforming what has been happening for decades, is happening today, and can only worsen in the immediate future as a result of past actions. It implies stopping what we are doing; repairing the effects of what we have done wrong; and creating new ways to do things. It is inevitably also about economic justice, locally and globally; about universal human dignity; and about authentic and inclusive democracy that ensures all people a voice in the choices and decisions about the future they will inhabit.
In the calculus of global climate change the differential and unequal effect on human societies is as important as the effects themselves. As Tom Athanasiou states:
‘But the critical issue here, please note, is not scientific uncertainty. More to the point is that climate dangers depend greatly on both wealth and whereabouts. They can’t be averaged across national populations, for these populations are themselves divided, most fundamentally by money. The rich, by and large, will be able to insulate themselves from the suffering and the sorrow, at least most of them, at least for a while. The poor, though largely innocent of responsibility for the warming, will bear the brunt of its “impacts.”’
To take seriously the cause of the environment, including the issue of climate change, requires that we first take seriously the cause of justice itself. Only if we are able to do that will we have some cause for hope that the other challenges that lie ahead for humanity and the planet, including climate change, can also be met.
© Brian K. Murphy, October 2011
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* Brian K Murphy is a policy analyst and organiser and former member of the staff team of Canadian international social justice organisation, Inter Pares. He is the author of ‘Transforming Ourselves, Transforming the World: An Open Conspiracy for Social Change’ (Zed Books, London, 1999).
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 From Global Health Watch Report, 2005-06, Section D1 “Climate Change”, p. 201, available at http://bit.ly/ukrjDi The Global Health Watch is co-ordinated by the People's Health Movement (PHM), Medact, the Global Equity Gauge Alliance (GEGA), and El Centro de estudios y asesoria en salud (CEAS).
 Christian Parenti, in “The Bad Future: Climate change vs. civilization”, The Walrus, November 2006, available at http://bit.ly/u0KiMZ Parenti is paraphrasing the conclusion of Eugene Linden in The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations, Simon & Schuster, 2006.
 See: Feffer, John, The Climate Industrial Complex, May 18, 2008, FPIF, available at http://bit.ly/ueh9QM; Leahy, Stephen, Carbon Markets Are Not Cooling the Planet, Inter Press, June 22, 2011, available at http://bit.ly/sMHAew; Lancaster, John, “Warmer, Warmer”, in London Review of Books, Vol. 29, No. 6, 22 March 2007, available at: http://bit.ly/ueJCBP; MacKenzie, Donald, “The Political Economy of Carbon Trading”, in London Review of Books, Vol. 29 No. 7, 5 April 2007, available at http://bit.ly/rG1WJU Also the analysis of the Durban Group for Climate Justice, Climate Justice Now! The Durban Declaration on Carbon Trading: http://www.carbontradewatch.org/durban/durbandec.html
 See for example: Athanasiou, Tom, After Copenhagen: On being sadder but wiser, China, and justice as the way forward; available at: http://bit.ly/rq38EL; Unmüßig, Barbara, NGOs in the Climate Crisis, Processes of Fragmentation, Lines of Conflict, and Strategic Approaches, available at http://boell.org.za/web/cop17-755.html Ms. Unmüßig is a member of the executive board of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
 See, Jun Borras, Jun, Ian Scoones, and David Hughes, “Small-scale farmers increasingly at risk from 'global land grabbing': New research on the global rush for agricultural land shows that small-scale farmers will increasingly lose out to major corporations as land deals ignore local tenure rights”, Guardian-UK, April 2011; available at:
Borras, Jun and Jennifer Franco, Towards a Broader View of the Politics of Global Land-grabbing: Rethinking Land Issues, Reframing Resistance, Transnational Institute-TNI, June 2010; available at: http://www.tni.org/paper/towards-broader-view-politics-global-land-grabbing ; GRAIN, World Bank report on land grabbing: beyond the smoke and mirrors, September 2010; available at: http://bit.ly/uNsNJT
 See Conant, Jeff, Massive UN-Supported African Palm plantations leading to oppression, kidnapping and murder; AlterNet, February 4, 2011; http://bit.ly/udhCoc; and, Bird, Annie, Biofuels, Mass Evictions and Violence Build on the Legacy of the 1978 Panzos Massacre in Guatemala, Rights Action [http://www.rightsaction.org/], Wednesday, 23 March 2011; available at:
 see Ho, Mae-Wan, “Land Rush as Threats to Food Security intensify: Biofuels policies and the 2008 financial and food crisis ignited a worldwide ‘land rush’ that’s increasing world hunger without addressing the underlying long term threats to world food security”, in ISIS Report 28/04/10, Institute for Science and Society; available at: http://bit.ly/vMqP20
 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at http://www.ipcc.ch/
 See for example the reports from IPCC, and the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (October 2006) conducted for the British Ministry for the Treasury at http://bit.ly/uTcRer
 See, for example, Mathers, Colin D. and Dejan Loncar, “Projections of Global Mortality and Burden of Disease from 2002 to 2030”, PLoS Medicine, Vol. 3, No. 11, November 2006, e442 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030442, Public Library of Medicine, available at http://bit.ly/uG0r0R
 Athanasiou, Tom, The Inconvenient Truth, Part II, An EcoEquity discussion paper, January 2007, available at http://bit.ly/rO6N9h See also Greenhouse Development Rights: An approach to the global climate regime that takes climate protection seriously while also preserving the right to human development, by Tom Athanasiou, Paul Baer (EcoEquity) and Sivan Kartha (Stockholm Environment Institute), EcoEquity and Christian Aid, November 2006, available at www.ecoequity.org/GDRs
World Bank partners with Nestlé to ‘transform water sector’
New venture aims to privatise water country by country
Corporate Accountability International
The World Bank has launched a new partnership with global corporations including Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Veolia. Housed at the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), the new venture aspires to “transform the water sector” by inserting the corporate sector into what has historically been a public service. The new partnership is part of a broader trend of industry collusion to influence global water policy.
The venture — called the 2030 Water Resources Group Phase 2 Entity — aligns global corporations that have major financial stakes in water governance with the World Bank, one of the world’s leading development institutions. Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe has been appointed to chair the Water Resources Group, which has already received $1.5 million in IFC funding. Nestlé is the world’s largest water bottling corporation.
Advocates for people’s access to water point to this as the latest example of water corporations’ efforts to interfere in legitimate, democratic water governance. The Water Resources Group presents a conflict of interest to the World Bank's goal of poverty alleviation. It also advances an approach to water governance that is in incompatible with the U.N. recognized human right to water.
‘This is an unmistakably activist campaign by the private water industry to gain funding and credibility for a radical power grab, with the help of the World Bank,’ said Corporate Accountability International’s Senior Organizer Shayda Edwards Naficy. ‘According to the World Bank, 34 percent of private water contracts are in distress or terminated before maturity. Last April, the IFC’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman reported that an astounding 40 percent of complaints received from all regions and sectors were water-related. This is evidence that water privatization has been fraught with a range of problems, including broken promises for expanded service, wasted public funds and threats to human rights, especially for the lowest income families. For the Bank to sanction this approach despite a track record of failure points to compromised decision-making at the Bank due to pervasive partnerships with and financial stakes in corporations.’
Currently, 90 percent of the world’s water-users access water through public delivery. Turning these systems over to private corporations would result in rate hikes, cutoffs and significant layoffs of water sector employees. Focusing on the private sector also distracts from the need to support governments in protecting human rights.
The Water Resources Group aims to ‘develop new normative approaches to water management,’ paving the way for an expanded private sector role into best and common practices, worldwide. In order to be eligible for support from this new fund, all projects must “provide for at least one partner from the private sector,” not simply as a charitable funder, but ‘as part of its operations.’ The group’s strategy is to insert the private sector into water management one country at a time, through a combination of industry-funded research and direct partnerships with government agencies. Currently, the Water Resources Group is formally working with the governments of Jordan, Mexico, and the Indian state of Karnataka, and discussions are ongoing with the governments of South Africa, China and several other countries slated for participation in the next phase.
‘Corporate Accountability International has consistently demonstrated the World Bank’s inherent conflicts of interest, acting as an investor, a government advisor, an arbitrator and a public relations vehicle in support of profiteering in the water sector,’ said Naficy. ‘Global water corporations must not be allowed to tap into public ‘development funds’ to promote their private agenda because case after case shows that profitability and fulfillment of human rights in the water sector are at odds.’
Corporate Accountability International (formerly Infact) is a membership organization that has, for the last 34 years, successfully advanced campaigns protecting health, the environment and human rights. Through its Campaign Challenging Corporate Control of Water, Corporate Accountability International is playing a leadership role in the global movement to secure the human right to water, and people’s access to water; prevent corporate control of water; preserve and protect water resources and systems for the public good; and preserve water resources as an ecological trust.
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* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Zimbabwean diamond workers treated no different to prisoners
In his book ‘Discipline and Punish’, French philosopher Michel Foucault describes how the carceral system - the architecture of the prison - is similarly replicated in society and, we might argue, contrived recreation and professional areas, whether ‘spontaneous’ such as tourist resorts, or even areas like gyms, as well as universities and schools.
His book, identifying how and why this penetration is pervasive, articulates that the mechanisms of classification, utilisation and control flows as a working of power through these institutions. We might logically extend this regulated system as a framing for the use of bodies as useful labour and ‘docile bodies’ whose gestures and activities are controlled by disciplinary power, particularly at mines.
Internal documents of the minutes between Zimbabwe’s Diamond Mining Corporation and Zimbabwe’s National Union of Mines, Quarrying Iron and Steel Workers, have disclosed the regulated system of Zimbabwean miners working for foreign corporations. Their normalised routine is determined by a ‘quasi-military force’ treating them as loathed prisoners deserving of punishment.
‘Security guards are being trained under a quasi-military approach as if they are part of a private military arm…Furthermore these security guards are made to perform their duties under a standing order as if they are still part of the army or police force.’
The wages of labourers, in spite of the harsh conditions, were revealed to be $100-$250 per month, excluding the costs of travel. Their contracts also did not take into account overtime, housing, night or bush allowances, nor were they protected from being unlawfully dismissed. Employees were pressured to sign short multi-week contracts in addition to the three month probation contracts enabling management to disadvantage miners if they opted for dismissal.
The Union claimed that employees were referred to as dogs and that the primary source of food available was rotten sausages or ‘degrading food such as chicken necks and porridge’ which was making them ‘very ill’. The dormitories, ‘which are squashed and easily susceptible to the hot weather conditions’ and had no electricity at night, also had no ventilation. Meanwhile, employees at the diamond sorting plant, exposed to large volumes of dust, were provided with no protective masks. In contrast, the Union noted that Arab and Indian employees enjoyed food and housing of a far better quality. In particular, the Union claimed that physical and verbal assault was common.
Going by Foucault’s logic, the difference between the treatment of prisoners and that of mine workers in Zimbabwe, we might conclude, is one of degree only.
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* Khadija Sharife is southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report, a contributing researcher for the Tax Justice Network and visiting scholar at the UKZN Center for Civil Society.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice
We are movements and organizations engaged in many struggles for a new world – a world in which the needs, interests, rights and aspirations of peoples everywhere have priority over the profit of corporations and the excess of elites. In the year ahead, our solidarity and collective action is extremely crucial. Climate change is already having devastating impacts globally and is accelerating. The window for preventing the breach of tipping points and stopping climate catastrophe is rapidly closing.
Climate change is more than multiplying the sufferings of people already burdened by the global injustices of hunger, dispossession and violation of human rights. It is a crisis that also threatens to wipe out vast populations and profoundly change life on Earth. We must act with clarity, cohesion and courage if we are to stabilize the Earth’s climate system and secure a just and sustainable world.
Like other global crises, climate change arises principally from historically unequal economic and social structures, from practices and policies promoted by rich, industrialized countries, and from systems of production and consumption that sacrifice the needs of the many to the interests of a few. The affected peoples of the world bear little responsibility for the climate crisis yet suffer its worst effects and are deprived of the means to respond.
Addressing these challenges requires profound social transformation in all countries and at all levels – local, national and global. It requires a rapid shift to systems and methods of production and consumption that are compatible with the limits of the planet and are aimed at meeting the needs of peoples rather than the relentless pursuit of profit.
Part of the process of profound social transformation is fighting for and achieving immediate concrete results in terms of drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and enabling people to deal with the impacts of the climate crisis.
It is in this light that we are engaged in the fight for an international climate architecture that is rooted in science, equity and justice. Governments meeting at this year’s UN Climate Conference in Durban must end years of delay and meet their moral, historical and legal obligations.
Rather than honoring their historical responsibilities and legal commitments, governments of rich industrialized countries have been trying to reverse Climate Convention principles and dismantle existing agreements. This effort started with the so-called Copenhagen Accord , was advanced by the Cancun outcomes, and may reach culmination in Durban. Among other things, they are seeking to impose a domestic “pledge and review” system, deregulate multilateral climate rules and promote false solutions such as the expansion of carbon markets. Their efforts must be met with intensified resistance.
As part of a broader struggle to achieve climate justice, reparations for climate debt and a profound global transformation - we demand from all governments that if the international negotiations are to mean anything, they must deliver outcomes that will:
- PREVENT CATASTROPHIC CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENSURE JUST AND FAIR SHARING OF DRASTIC EMISSION REDUCTIONS. Limit temperature rise to well below 1.5º C and bring it down to 1º C as fast as possible. Rich industrialized countries to fulfill their existing legally binding commitments and undertake drastic emissions cuts without offsets in line with their fair share of the global carbon budget that takes into account historical per capita emissions. Offsets and other loopholes must be removed. The US must commit to comparable targets, based on its historical responsibility;
- STOP FALSE SOLUTIONS. Stop the implementation and pursuit of false solutions such as carbon trading, market-based approaches to forests, soil and water, large-scale geo-engineering and techno-fixes, nuclear energy, mega hydro dams, agro-fuels, and clean coal; and
- ENSURE ADEQUATE AND APPROPRIATE FINANCE ON THE BASIS OF COUNTRIES’ RESPONSIBILITY FOR CLIMATE DEBT AND OBLIGATION TO MAKE REPARATIONS TO ALL AFFECTED PEOPLES. Rich, industrialized countries to cover the full costs of enabling peoples of developing countries and other affected communities to deal with the impacts of climate change (including past, present and future losses), as well as the costs of enabling developing countries to shift to equitable, post carbon sustainable systems. Climate finance must not be in the form of debt-creating instruments and should be channeled through a democratic and accountable global fund that is independent of other international financial institutions and upholds the principles of direct access and country-determined, participatory decisions on the use of funds
- ENSURE APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY TRANSFERS WITHOUT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY BARRIERS. Developed countries must ensure free sharing of safe, appropriate and ecologically and socially sound technologies.
- ADVANCE THE TRANSFORMATION TO EQUITABLE, DEMOCRATIC POST CARBON SYSTEMS. Take decisive steps towards the profound transformation of the system based on equity, science and the rights of peoples to live well in harmony with and respect for Mother Earth. Transform social and economic structures and technologies and re-orient policies to move away from profit-driven, growth oriented, high-carbon, elite-dominated exploitative systems and instead ensure a just transition to people-driven, equitable, democratic, post carbon sustainable development.
We urge all movements, peoples’ organizations, civil society groups and all concerned citizens to come together in a Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. Let us kick off this campaign together with coordinated mobilizations in a Week of Global Actions for Climate Justice on November 20 to 26!
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* This special issue is jointly produced by Pambazuka News and African Agenda, a publication of Third World Network-Africa.
Stand up for Africa! Stand up for climate justice!
We the undersigned groups and people, representing African trade unions, farmers, women and faith-based groups, as well as key African non-governmental organisations and networks concerned with the climate change crisis are deeply concerned by the threats posed to the peoples of Africa and the world over by climate change, as well as the continuing inaction by governments in the face of these threats, and we call on our leaders and on all people world-wide ensure outcomes from the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, that help to keep Africans and all peoples safe from the growing threat posed by the climate crisis.
This year and the next few years ahead are critical for the survival of humanity on Earth, and for our ability to live in conditions that meet our material, spiritual and cultural needs and aspirations. There is increasingly little time left to take the action required to avert further catastrophic effects of climate change, in a manner that is consistent with the developmental needs of the overwhelming majority of people who live in poverty and deprivation. For Africa and its peoples in particular, governments meeting at this year’s United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Durban must end years of unacceptable vacillation, and meet their moral, historical and legal obligations and commitments for action on climate change, in accordance with the requirements of science and the principles of equity.
Like the other major crises ravaging the world, the crisis of climate change arises principally from policies and practices of the advanced industrial countries over a long period of time, and the related systems of production and consumption by which the needs of the vast majority of people are sacrificed for the comfort of an elite few. The peoples of Africa and other developing countries bear little responsibility for the climate change and other crises, yet they are suffering its worst effects, and lack the means for countering them.
CLIMATE CHANGE: CHALLENGES AND THREATS TO AFRICA
Africa stands on the front-line of climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Africa’s land mass and other geo-physical characteristics means that it will warm one and a half times more than the global average. The consequences of global warming are likely to be more severe in Africa. Indeed, the World Meteorological Organisation has recently reaffirmed that African countries are already suffering major levels of warming and effects in terms of drought and other extreme weather events.
Extreme weather events are already disrupting Africa’s agricultural and other livelihood systems, which are more dependent on natural cycles. These effects will worsen unless global warming is reversed in time. However, the impacts of climate change, as well as the capacity of African nations to cope, are further complicated by the essentially primary commodity export-dependent economic structures inherited from colonialism and perpetuated since. This has resulted in a neglect of the economic and social needs of the rural and agricultural majority, limited domestic development of national and regional industry, and, above all, extreme weaknesses in overall productive capabilities.
Transforming these structures is essential to Africa’s ultimate response to the challenge of climate change. Such transformation encompasses building more resilient and people-centred agriculture systems; industrialisation and creation of decent work; addressing the immediate and systemic livelihood and social needs and challenges of women; conserving and using natural resources for local, national and regional needs; and other measures – all as part of a just transition to systems and methods of production and consumption that are compatible with the needs of the planet, as well as societies that place the needs of people above the narrow pursuit of profit.
A SCIENCE- AND EQUITY-BASED RESPONSE
An international regime on climate change that supports these needs and circumstances of Africa requires not only a global temperature goal that keeps Africans and other vulnerable communities safe, protects ecosystems and food production, and promotes sustainable development. It requires a corresponding limit on global emissions. It requires equitable distribution of the Earth’s atmospheric space through ambitious emission reductions by the developed countries. And it requires adequate transfers of finance, technology and capacity to Africa and other developing countries to enable adaptation to rising temperatures and implementing mitigation actions. It requires, in sum, a package of measures that “adds up” to curb warming, provide space and support for the sustainable development of all countries and peoples, and ensure effective compliance with commitments.
The foundation and essential elements of this regime exist already in the UN Climate Convention and the Protocol and decisions implementing it. At the Bali Conference on Climate Change in 2007, governments agreed to renew their efforts to implement and strengthen this system through a second phase of legally binding mitigation commitments for developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol, as well as through a comprehensive process to implement their commitments under the Convention relating to mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology transfer, in line with a shared vision and temperature goal.
RISKS OF AN INAPPROPRIATE RESPONSE
However, instead of working towards the effective realisation of such a regime, the advanced industrialised countries that are historically responsible for the climate crisis have embarked on its destruction. Instead of honouring their obligations, these countries are now seeking to impose a voluntary “pledge and review” system in which countries only take actions that are consistent with their own national circumstances and prescriptions, instead of scientific requirements and equitable principles. This will enable developed countries to escape their historical, moral and legal responsibilities, and provide only token support to developing countries to meet the challenges of climate change, leaving developing countries with the greater burden.
This attempt, which runs against the entire history of the global understanding and efforts to address climate change based on “common but differentiated responsibilities”, gained prominence with the Copenhagen Accord, an extra-legal agreement cooked up by a small group of countries outside normal UN practices and principles at the climate meetings in Copenhagen in 2009. Although vigorously contested all throughout the following year, it was further embedded in the Cancun decisions adopted in December 2010.
If implemented, the agenda of a pledge-based climate regime has serious consequences. A recent UN report concludes that under current pledges, the world risks global warming of 2.5 to 5°C before the end of this century, and much higher levels in Africa. Many scientists and over 100 governments believe that the safe limit is below 1 or 1.5°C. Warming at higher levels threatens hundreds of millions of people to inhumane conditions and serious violations of their human rights, and risks destabilizing the Earth’s climate system.
DEMANDS FOR DURBAN
The gradual erosion of the science, equity, and pro-development based climate change regime in order to advance the narrow economic interests of a small elite in the industrialized countries cannot be allowed to progress further in Durban. On the contrary, in the interests of Africa’s peoples, of the world’s majority of poor, marginalised and vulnerable, and of all humanity, it must be reversed. To this end, the climate change negotiations must deliver on the following:
- As part of the shared vision, the call of over 100 countries and many civil society groups and movements for warming to be kept well below 1 or 1.5°C must be acted upon; developed countries must peak their domestic emissions in the shortest possible time and become carbon neutral well before 2050; developing countries must have equitable access to global atmospheric space.
- The principle of just transition adopted in Cancun as part of the shared vision must be strengthened and operationalised through, among other things, the adoption of concrete measures in all fundamental elements of the international regime on climate change that support structural economic transformation in Africa and ensure a socially just and equitable global response to climate change. In this regard, we support the call for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to be given the mandate to oversee the operationalisation of just transition and report on progress at all Conferences of the Parties.
- Developed countries must halve their emissions by 2017 through all available domestic measures. These must be undertaken in accordance with their legally binding obligation to adopt a second commitment period starting in 2013 under the Kyoto Protocol. The United States, which has been outside the Kyoto Protocol, must adopt “comparable” efforts in scale, legal form and compliance under the Convention. Developed countries must close all accounting loopholes relating to market mechanisms, land-use, surplus allowances and marine and aviation transport, which threaten to undermine their contribution by demonstrating reductions “on paper” without delivering them in practice.
- Developing countries should undertake ambitious nationally appropriate mitigation actions to the extent they are enabled and supported by finance, technology and capacity as legally required from developed countries. Oversight and review of developing country mitigation actions must reflect their responsibilities and capabilities and thus be substantially less onerous than for developed countries.
- Existing carbon market mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol as well as proposals to create new carbon market mechanisms under the Convention, both generally and in relation to forests management (REDD) must be discontinued, and the use of market mechanisms ultimately eliminated. Financial resources under the Convention must come from public sources and should not provide a means by which developed countries shift the burden of mitigation further to developing countries, thereby appropriating an even greater share of the Earth’s limited remaining atmospheric space.
- Climate change presents a fundamental threat to agriculture in Africa and elsewhere. Developed countries must not be allowed to shift attention from emission reductions in their own highly industrialized, subsidized and polluting agriculture sector towards mitigation in developing countries. Efforts to connect soil carbon to carbon markets must not be allowed as they threaten to transfer rights over the soil of the poorest farmers in developing countries to the richest financial institutions and most polluting corporations in developed countries, to enable those countries to continue emitting the climate pollution that threatens food security in Africa. Addressing agriculture and climate change in developing countries must emphasize food security and sovereignty, farmers’ rights and rural livelihoods, and focus on adaptation, public finance and the transfer of appropriate technologies.
- The effect of response measures taken by developed countries must be evaluated for their economic, social and environmental consequences on all developing countries. Climate measures must not be used as a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable trade discrimination. The spill-over effects of developed countries’ policies must be minimized and fully compensated, while also addressing other fundamental challenges relating to a just transition, the elimination of poverty and sustainable development.
- Adaptation is a central priority for Africa and for all developing countries. The people of Africa – including workers, farmers, women, indigenous peoples, and other affected groups - must be fully compensated for the adverse impacts of climate change, for the costs of avoiding impacts wherever possible, and for lost opportunities for development. Mechanisms to address loss and damage must address adverse impacts to agriculture and other sectors in Africa. Developed countries must pay their adaptation debts, while “adapting” their own lifestyles to reduce climate pollution and minimize future impacts on Africa. There must be an Adaptation Committee that is fully supportive of, and responsive to the needs of, African and other developing countries.
- The technology mechanism established in Cancun, including an executive committee, centres and network, must be forged into an effective constellation of institutions, including technology centres in each country, with clear reporting and accountability to Convention Parties. Patents and other intellectual property rights that inhibit the transfer of accessible, affordable, sound and adaptable technologies to developing countries must be removed, and domestic capacities and technologies in developing countries enhanced.
- Developed countries must provide financial resources to address their climate debts and implement their commitments under the Convention. The $30 billion pledged as “fast start” finance has emerged as neither new nor additional, but as largely repackaged official development assistance. The $100 billion pledged to be mobilized offers a start, but as an ultimate level of financing for 2020 is arbitrary, inadequate and inconsistent with the requirements of the Convention. We therefore support the African Group’s call in Copenhagen for immediate funding of $150 billion in Special Drawing Rights, $400 billion in short-term finance, and 5% of Annex I GNP in longer-term finance. In addition, mechanisms must be established to evaluate the necessary scale of finance; clarity provided over the sources of funds; “innovative sources” evaluated for their incidence on developing countries; and the Green Climate Fund and Standing Committee established in Cancun must be fully operationalized. The role of the World Bank as interim trustee of the Green Climate Fund must be narrowly defined, and it must have no further role in the Convention’s financial architecture.
- Finally, the system of binding emission reductions for developed countries must be continued and extended. The United States and other wealthy countries must not be allowed to replace the agreed science-, equity- and rules-based system being negotiated under the Kyoto Protocol with a weak system of domestic pledges that are not negotiated, not binding in international law and not subject to robust oversight and compliance.
To enable the above, African governments must strengthen their collective positions and action. In particular, the South African government must support the interests of all 53 African states and their peoples; ensure the Durban process adheres rigorously to UN practices and principles (including on consensus); avoid the undemocratic and untransparent processes of Copenhagen and Cancun; and guarantee effective civil society participation.
All African institutions – particularly the African Union and the Conference of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) – must respect the sovereignty of all African countries in the formulation and negotiation of climate policies. African climate policy must remain “bottom up” to ensure our Heads of State are informed by their people and experts and not merely by a small group of technicians that are not directly accountable to the people.
OUR COMMITMENT TO STRUGGLE AND GLOBAL CIVIL SOCIETY SOLIDARITY
As civil society organisations we commit ourselves to continued struggle for the realization of these demands, and call on other organizations and citizens groups across Africa to join us in this effort. We express solidarity with the global movement and efforts in the cause of climate justice, and with the spirit and commitment to climate justice expressed at the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
As we approach Durban, we call for the support of other global civil society movements as part of a common platform for solidarity and action with a view to ensuring that the Durban Climate Conference is the turning point for climate justice – a major stepping-stone on the journey towards stabilizing the climate system, securing a just transition and ensuring a future in which the rights and aspirations of all peoples can be realized.
Africa Trade Network (ATN)
International Trade Union Confederation-Africa (ITUC-Africa)
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)
ABANTU for Development (ABANTU), Ghana
ACIDH, Democratic Republic of Congo
Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC), South Africa
Association Citoyenne de Défense des Intérêts Collectifs (ACDIC), Cameroun.
Association of African Women for Research and Development (AAWORD/AFAARD), Senegal
Association pour le Marketing Social au Tchad (AMASOT), Chad
Bench Marks Foundation,South Africa
Centre for Alternative Research and Studies (CARES), Mauritius
Centre for Trade Policy Development (CTPD), Zambia
Centre de Commerce Internationale, Development et Environement (CECIDE), Guinea
Center for Research and Development, Zimbabwe
Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE), Zambia
Civic Response, Ghana
Civic Response on Governance and Development, Uganda
CSRI Group, Zimbabwe
Economic Justice Network (EJN) of FOCCISA, South Africa
ENDA- Syspro, Senegal
Endorois Welfare Council (EWC), Kenya
Énergie, Environnement, Développement (ENDA-Energy), Senegal
Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria
Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA), Togo
Gender Action on Climate Change for Equality and Sustainability (GACCES)
General Agricultural Workers Union of the Trades Union Congress of Ghana, Ghana
Global Network Africa (GNA), South Africa
Green Ghana Initiative, Ghana
Laboratoire Genre et Recherche Scientifique de l'IFAN
Le Echos, Republic of Mali
Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), Malawi
National Coalition on Mining, Ghana
National Labour Economic and Development Institute (NALEDI), South Africa
National Workers' Union of Mali (UNTM), Mali
Network for Women’s Rights (NETRIGHT), Ghana
Network Movement for Justice and Development, Sierra Leone
Organisation pour le Renforcement des Capacités de Développement (ORCADE), Burkina Faso
Pambazuka News, Kenya
Participatory, Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM), Lesotho
Public Service Association, Zimbabwe
Poverty Action Network in Ethiopia (PANE), Ethiopia
Resistance & Alternatives, Mauritius
Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative (RWARRI), Rwanda
StreetWise Mutoko Project, Zimbabwe
South Africa Municipal Workers Union, South Africa
South African Non-government Organisations Coalition (SANGOCO), South Africa
South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), South Africa
Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), Uganda
Student Worker Solidarity Society, Ghana
Tax Justice Network – Africa, Kenya
Third World Network-Africa (TWN-Af), Ghana
Trade Strategy Group (TSG), South Africa
Working Group on Climate Change, Cameroon
World View, The Gambia
Zambia Climate Change Network, Zambia
Zasilari Ecological Farms Projects (ZEFP), Ghana
Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA), Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), Zimbabwe
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS AND AFRICAN AGENDA
* This special issue is jointly produced by Pambazuka News and African Agenda, a publication of Third World Network-Africa.
Stop imminent land grab that threatens over 162,000 people
Thanks to friends at Grassroots International, GRAIN, International Forum on Globalization, ONE, Polaris Institute, Third World Network, and many partner groups around the world, thousands of letters have been delivered to AgriSol Energy and the Government of Tanzania. But we need to keep the pressure up!
Join this Growing International Effort to Stop the Land Grab
Iowa-based investor Bruce Rastetter and fellow investors in the industrial agricultural corporation AgriSol Energy have their sights on 800,000 acres (325,000 hectares) of land in Tanzania that is home to 162,000 people. The proposed site is inhabited by former refugees from neighboring Burundi. Most of the residents--several generations of families who have successfully re-established their lives by developing and farming the land over the last 40 years--will be displaced against their will. They will lose their livelihoods and their community. Once they are gone, Agrisol Energy will move in.
And Now, on Behalf of its More Than ONE MILLION Supporters in the U.S. and Canada,
Sierra Club is Urging AgriSol Energy and the Tanzanian Government to Step Away from the Ill-Advised Project
Despite this growing international pressure, the Tanzanian Government is defending its plans, claiming AgriSol will transform Tanzania into a "regional agricultural powerhouse" by combining the country's abundant agricultural natural resources with "modern" farming practices, including the use of genetically modified crops. Unfortunately, AgriSol's plans--which include seeking Strategic Investor Status from the Tanzanian government that would grant them tax holidays and other critical investment incentives (including waiver of duties on agricultural and industrial equipment supplies, export guarantees, and certainty for use of GMO and Biotech and production of biofuels), while generating tremendous profit for the investors--will do little, if anything, for Tanzanians.
Speaking in the Parliament on Monday, October 24, 2011, the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Food Security, and Cooperatives, Meshack Opulukwa, (CHADEMA) said that the American firm AgriSol Energy's acquisition of the land in Rukwa will displace 162,000 local farmers.
‘The opposition's position that the investor is an important element in food production or that he will create employment. This is no justification in taking away land from villagers.’ Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Meshack Opulukwa Daily News
Please Send a Message to Bruce Rastetter, Other Principle Investors, and the Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania
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Caribbean People’s Resolution on the Crimes Committed against Libya
At the end of World War II - perhaps the most devastating war in the history of mankind - the nations of the world came together and created the United Nations organisation and a system of international legal principles that were designed to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" and to "reaffirm faith in..... the equal rights ...... of nations large and small".
This system of international legal principles is the only mechanism that the smaller and less materially powerful nations of the world possess to protect them against the predatory intentions of large and powerful nations, and from the evil doctrine that "might makes right".
And so, it is now incumbent on all of the smaller nations of the world, and indeed, on all governments and persons that believe in the concepts of international law and morality, to forcibly register a strong and profound protest against the manner in which the operative principles of the United Nations and the fundamental precepts of international law were flouted and desecrated by the powerful nations of France, Britain and the United States of America (and their NATO allies) in their actions against the people, government and nation of Libya, and against Libya’s political leader, the late Muammar Qaddafi, over the period of February to October 2011!
On the 17th of March 2011, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution - Resolution 1973 - in which the Council authorised member states of the UN to "take all necessary measures" to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory". The Council also imposed an arms embargo on Libya, banned all flights in the airspace of Libya, and authorised member states to "take all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban on flights."
This Security Council resolution was conceived and passed against the background of Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter, which establishes that - "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations".
It was also conceived and passed against the background of the ‘Declaration On Principles Of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations And Co-operation Among States In Accordance With The Charter Of The United Nations’, that was unanimously enunciated by the United Nations General Assembly on 24th October 1970 - Resolution 2625.
The ‘Declaration On Principles’ provides that - "every State has the duty to refrain from organising, instigating, assisting or participating in acts of civil strife or terrorist acts in another State......", and that "no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another state or interfere in civil strife in another State".
The ‘Declaration’ also makes it clear that "a war of aggression constitutes a crime against the peace, for which there is responsibility under international law", and that "States have the duty to refrain from propaganda for wars of aggression". Furthermore, the ‘Declaration’ goes on the stipulate that - "Every State shall refrain from any action aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity... of any other State", and reaffirms that the "subjection of peoples to alien... domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, and is contrary to the Charter".
In light of these international legal principles, and the clear words of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, the peoples of the world, and the member states of the international community of nations must unequivocally and forcibly deplore, reject, and denounce the following actions of France, Britain, the USA and their NATO allies:-
* With Western agents already on the ground in Libya, these countries moved with immediacy in February 2011 to exploit and hijack anti-Qaddafi demonstrations in Benghazi and to foment an armed conflict;
* They mobilised an intense untruthful international propaganda campaign that demonised Colonel Qaddafi as a "mad dog", and a vicious dictator who was on the verge of laying siege to the town of Benghazi for the purpose of massacring his opponents;
* They rejected and deliberately stifled all efforts made to bring about a negotiated peaceful resolution of the conflict in Libya by the African Union (AU);
* British, French and US military and intelligence personnel were spirited into Libya for the purpose of organising and training the rebels; funneling weapons and other military supplies to the rebels; and fighting alongside the rebels;
* In March 2011, they commenced an intense NATO bombing campaign against Libya in which they systematically targeted the state apparatus, and rained down thousands of cruise missiles and bombs on vast areas of Libyan territory, including the densely populated capital city of Tripoli;
* The political leaders of France, Britain and the United States openly declared that their intention was to effect "regime change" in Libya, and to drive the Qaddafi-led government from power and out of Libya;
* They set out on a campaign to assassinate Qaddafi, targeting his family compounds with missiles and bombs; stalking him with un-manned drones and so-called special operations troops (assassins); resulting in the deaths of many members of Qaddafi’s family;
* They froze and confiscated Libya’s state revenue to the tune of a hundred billion dollars;
* Having accused Qaddafi of planning to lay siege to Bengahazi, they imposed a month long siege on Qaddafi’s home town of Sirte, and bombed the entire city to the ground, causing immense suffering and loss of life;
* They supported and armed rebel forces who have engaged in a racist genocidal repression of dark skinned Libyans and Sub-Saharan Africans resident in Libya;
* On 18th October 2011 the Secretary of State of the USA, Hilary Clinton, openly demanded the death of Qaddafi";
* They are complicit in the October 21, 2011 capture and cold blooded murder of Muammar Qaddafi;
* They caused the deaths of an untold, but massive, number of Libyans, and have destroyed much of the physical infrastructure of the country; and
* Their state officials and private sector corporations have publicly made it clear that they now intend to profit massively from the exploitation of business opportunities in and the resources of Libya.
It is clear - beyond the shadow of a doubt - that all of the above-mentioned actions constitute egregious breaches of the UN Charter and of the Declaration On Principles of International Law. Furthermore, several of the actions also constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and a war of aggression!
IN LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING, WE, THE CITIZENS OF THE CARIBBEAN AND OF THE WORLD who have signed our names hereunder denounce these international criminal outrages and demand:
(1) That all governments that possess respect and regard for international law issue official public statements denouncing these grievous and fundamental breaches of the principles of international law; and
(2) That the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) immediately institute investigations and prosecutions against all persons implicated in these international crimes.
Name in Print:
to sell his
just harvested greens
to earn money
with a humble
but not humbled
because he could not
find another way
he made of himself
a blazing fire
of his burning flesh
braids through the winds
of our days
as more and more
seas and continents
women, no less than men
join with children and elders
veiled stand with loose haired
schooled with peasant
strident with quiet
horses and tanks
guns and muzzles
some are wounded
others are killed
climb and reach
Mohammed’s flames reach
beyond his cooled ashes
the people continue
and raise our voices
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* devorah major served as Poet Laureate of San Francisco 2002-2006.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Global: The Occupy Movement and hypocrisy of the US government
This video is a collage of comments made by US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on protests in Libya, Egypt and Syria. Meanwhile, footage of police action against protestors in New York City is edited into the collage with the intention of showing the hypocrisy of the US administration.
South Africa: South Africa hosts Russell Tribunal on Palestine
This PressTV video is a news feature on the Russell Tribunal on Palestine that took place recently in Cape Town. It features interviews with Desmond Tutu and Cynthia McKinney. The tribunal is an international people's forum created by a large group of citizens involved in the promotion of peace and justice in the Middle East and is a public awareness campaign.
Zimbabwe: An overview of the Marange diamond fields
The discovery of massive diamond deposits in Zimbabwe has led to hundreds of media reports exploring the abuse of human rights and grandscale corruption. It can be difficult to keep up to date with events as they unfold, or to tease out the key story as it unfolds. Activist group Sokwanele has produced a full report that aims to synthesise this glut information into a single report providing an accessible and wide ranging overview of events, meetings, human rights abuses, environmental degradation, and the network of the people involved in the story.
Zimbabwe: Draft constitution expected in December
The team drafting the constitution, the Constitution Select Committee (Copac) has said that the final phase of the drafting process will start next month. Copac co-chairperson Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana said that the document would be put to a referendum early next year, paving the way for harmonised elections.
Zimbabwe: Marange diamonds cleared despite ongoing abuses
The global diamonds watchdog, the Kimberley Process, has cleared Zimbabwe to sell alluvial diamonds from the controversial Marange fields, despite documented evidence that top military and political chefs are involved in massive looting and that human rights abuses continue.
Zimbabwe: Mugabe supporters stone Zimbabwe PM's rally
Young supporters of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe stoned and beat backers of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Sunday, blocking a planned rally of his Movement for Democratic Change party. 'Unfortunately we are unable to do this rally because of incredible acts of wanton violence, malicious violence that we have suffered at the hands of ZANU-PF this morning,' Tendai Biti, MDC secretary general, told a news conference. Biti said seven MDC activists were admitted to hospital, while five party vehicles were damaged.
Zimbabwe: Police tear gas PM's party base
Zimbabwe police Tuesday 01 November raided Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party headquarters, fired tear gas at staff and beat up people in the central business district, witnesses said. Police 'blocked Harvest House (MDC headquarters) staff from leaving, but also threw tear gas at them. This is a deliberate attempt by the police to harass and decimate the MDC,' Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told AFP.
Zimbabwe: Torture survivor compensated
On Wednesday 26 October 2011, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum’s Public Interest Unit (PIU) successfully applied for a default judgment on behalf of its client, Mr. Weston Katiyo. Mr. Katiyo is a victim of Organised Violence and Torture (OVT). He was awarded compensatory damages for shock, pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life, unlawful detention, loss of property and contumelia in the sum of US$12,168.00 by the High Court of Zimbabwe.
Ghana: No pensions for elderly women
On the grubby edge of Old Fadama, Accra’s infamous illegal slum settlement, 67-year-old Mariana Sayitou sits under a parasol and tends to her livelihood – selling several dozen kola nuts and a few piles of bagged beans to passers-by. Untouched by Ghana’s meager social support system and beyond the reach of its tatty pension scheme, she is a composite of this West African country’s elderly women: poor, struggling, and often forgotten. Gender activists say the situation of women like Sayitou is caused by a confluence of factors, from low rates of female education to increasingly nuclear family structures, and from social policy vacuums to cultural discrimination.
Global: Where is the money for women's rights?
AWID has just launched its 4th global survey 'Where is the Money for Women’s Rights?' (WITM) This one of a kind survey aims to collect data on the trends, amount, and sustainability of funding available for women’s initiatives and organizations globally. AWID is asking for help in collecting this important information by filling out the survey and by spreading the word. 'Your participation is crucial if we are to develop our collective analysis of funding currently available for women’s rights organizing and in order to grow the resource pool available to women’s movements in the future.'
Rwanda: Women's land rights gains in Rwanda eroded by cultural practices
A two-year (2009–2010) action research study entitled 'Experiences of Women in Asserting their Land Rights: the case of Bugesera District, Rwanda', was carried out by Rwanda Women Network (RWN) in collaboration with the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR). The study shows that gains for women’s struggle on land rights in statutory law are undermined on the ground by the continuation of discriminatory practices, which are prejudicial to women and due to the negative attitudes towards women’s land rights in Rwanda.
Tanzania: CSO communique on sexual and gender-based violence
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) met in Arusha, Tanzania from 30 - 31 October 2011 under
the theme, 'United to Prevent, End Impunity and Provide Support to the Survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence in the Great Lakes Region'. In a communique, they highlighted inadequate leadership and accountability for prosecuting crimes of SGBV at all levels and inadequate resourcing of the relevant government institutions responsible for SGBV prevention,
response, prosecution, and support to survivors.
Zimbabwe: Customary inheritance laws haunt women
Women say that ceremonies among ethnic groups to bring the spirits of the dead back to the family and settle their estates block them from inheriting property. Lawyers say that federal laws enable girls and women to inherit property, but that the number of them denied it is on the rise. Witnesses say that relatives use customary practices as an excuse to steal property because of high levels of poverty. Law organizations have launched awareness campaigns as well as offer legal services to women to help them receive the property they're entitled to.
Africa: Britain, we are guilty
The latest cover story of the New African examines the fight for reparations for the transatlantic slave trade, featuring old and rare official records of British parliamentary debates in June 1806 in which both Houses of Parliament accepted that the UK, as a nation, had sanctioned and encouraged the slave trade and therefore it had responsibility to not only abolish it, but also 'atone' for it.
Global: Alarming rise in use of mercenaries
The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries has warned of an alarming resurgence of the use of mercenaries in armed conflict –'often in new and novel ways'. The expert panel also noted in a report to the UN General Assembly that the growing activities of private military and security companies raise numerous human rights challenges, and called for international regulation. 'Recent events in Africa clearly demonstrate that the problems posed by mercenaries are still a live issue,' said Ms. Faiza Patel, who currently heads the Working Group. 'Mercenaries pose a threat not only to security, but also to human rights and potentially to the right of peoples to self determination. It is crucial that States cooperate to eliminate this phenomenon.'
Global: US cuts off Unesco funding after Palestinian vote
The United States said on Monday 31 October it had stopped funding Unesco, the United Nations' cultural agency, following its vote to grant the Palestinians full membership. US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters the US had no choice but to halt funding because of longstanding US law, saying Washington would not make a planned $60-million transfer that was due in November. The United States provides about 22 per cent of Unesco's funding.
South Africa: Goldstone a ‘liar’, says Gaza lawyer
Prominent Gaza human rights lawyer Raji Sourani has called South African judge Richard Goldstone a liar, following recent comments he made in the New York Times regarding apartheid in Israel. Speaking at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign event, the founder of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza lashed out at Goldstone for saying apartheid did not exist in Israel. Last month, Goldstone criticised the Russell Tribunal in an opinion piece in the New York Times, entitled 'Israel and the apartheid slander'. He wrote that there was no apartheid in Israel, and called the suggestion a 'particularly pernicious and enduring canard'.
Uganda: FDC’s Turinawe, Besigye aides further remanded
Three members of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change who were last week charged with treason in connection with walk to work have been further remanded to Luzira Maximum Security Prison. The FDC women leader Ms Ingrid Kamateneti Turinawe along with Sam Mugumya, the political assistant to Dr Kizza Besigye and Mr Francis Mwijukye who heads the FDC youth wing appeared Monday 31 October at Nakawa Chief Magistrates Court before Mr Charles Sserubuga. The trio were produced in court for mention of their case but court remanded them until 14 November.
Uganda: Government-backed harassment and repression of critics increasing
The Ugandan government and public officials are increasingly placing illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to silence critical voices, Amnesty International said in a new report. 'Stifling Dissent: Restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Uganda' describes how journalists, opposition politicians and activists face arbitrary arrest, intimidation, threats and politically motivated criminal charges for expressing views deemed critical of the authorities.
Angola: 18-year-old in Holland since 2003 faces deportation
The 18-year-old Angolan youth who faces deportation despite having lived in the Netherlands since 2003, has made an emotional appeal to MPs to be allowed to stay. MPs will vote on whether Mauro Manuel, who has lived with the same foster family in Limburg since arriving as an unaccompanied refugee aged 10, can stay. The Christian Democratic party, which first supported Mauro and later changed its mind following pressure from immigration minister Gerd Leers, holds the key to his future.
DRC: UN begins return of Angolan refugees from DRC
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has resumed a voluntary repatriation programme for tens of thousands of Angolan refugees after their displacement into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during the civil war that ended in 2002. On Friday, 252 refugees were transported in the first convoy of the repatriation programme jointly organised by the UNHCR, host countries and the Angolan government. The UN agency estimates that 113,000 Angolans remain in exile as a result of 27-year conflict.
Global: The citizens of nowhere
At a recent conference on statelessness and gender discrimination organised by Refugees International (RI) at the US Institute of Peace (USIP), international human rights advocates urged countries around the world to take action on issues of statelessness, a legally invisible status that United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Antonia Guterres, said is 'probably the most forgotten global human rights problem in today's international agenda'. According to RI, about 12 million people worldwide lack effective citizenship, a status that deprives them of rights such as legal representation, identity documents, and access to public schools. And in many countries, discrimination against women in nationality laws aggravate or actively create statelessness.
Global: Jobs crisis threatens global wave of social unrest, warns ILO
The International Labour Organisation has warned that a jobs crisis caused by the slowdown in the global economy threatens a wave of widespread social unrest engulfing both rich and poor countries. 'We have reached the moment of truth,' said Raymond Torres, director of the ILO International Institute for Labour Studies to mark the publication of the organisation's World of Work report. In a new 'social unrest' index, the ILO said there was growing unhappiness over the lack of jobs and anger over perceptions that the burden of the crisis is not being shared fairly. It noted that in over 45 of the 118 countries examined, the risk of social unrest is rising, with particular signs of tension in the EU, the Arab region and to a lesser extent Asia.
Zambia: Report charges abuse in Chinese copper mines
Chinese-run copper mining companies in Zambia routinely flout labour laws and regulations designed to protect workers’ safety and the right to organise, Human Rights Watch says in a new report. The 122-page report, '"You’ll Be Fired If You Refuse"': Labor Abuses in Zambia’s Chinese State-owned Copper Mines,' details the persistent abuses in Chinese-run mines, including poor health and safety conditions, regular 12-hour and even 18-hour shifts involving arduous labour, and anti-union activities, all in violation of Zambia’s national laws or international labour standards.
Latest edition: emerging powers news roundup
In this week's edition of the Emerging Powers News Round-Up, read a comprehensive list of news stories and opinion pieces related to China, India and other emerging powers...
1. China in Africa
Chinese firms abusing Zambian miners - rights group
Chinese mining companies in Zambia, Africa's biggest copper producer, are routinely flouting laws designed to protect workers' safety and the right to organise, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday. In a report likely to pile more pressure on Chinese firms to clean up their labour practices, the New York-based body urged newly elected president Michael Sata to follow through on campaign promises to stamp out abuse of workers in the sector.
Chinese investment positive for Africa, US senate was told
Chinese investment in Africa has had a positive impact on Africa in the long run, a US senate committee was told on Tuesday. "In terms of China's long-term investment in the continent, and its impact in the long term, I think I am going to basically give a positive response to that," David Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, testified at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. "If the African countries don't have much-improved infrastructure, they are never going to improve their economies. They cannot continue at the level of what they were ten years ago in terms of infrastructure," he said.
2. In Other Emerging Powers News
Brazil and Gates Foundation to improve agriculture in Africa, Asia
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Tuesday announced a partnership with the government of Brazil aimed at improving agricultural productivity among small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The Memorandum of Understanding with the Brazilian Agency for Cooperation (ABC) will lead to collaboration on a number of potential projects ranging from developing more productive and nutritious staple crops, improving soil and water management techniques as well as reducing crop loss after harvest, according to a statement received in Accra from the Foundation.
South Africa-Politics: Agriculture minister attends second BRICS meeting
The South African Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, attended the second meeting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Ministers of Agriculture and Agrarian Development which reviewed progress made in the implementation of the Moscow Declaration themed "Making Joint Efforts for World Food Security". The Moscow declaration was signed in 2010 at the first meeting of BRIC Ministers of Agriculture and Agrarian Development. The BRICS Ministers of Agriculture and Agrarian Development who participated in the meeting are from Brazil, Russia, India, the People's Republic of China and South Africa.
BASIC countries show united front ahead of Durban meet
India, China, Brazil and South Africa – the BASIC group of developing countries – on Tuesday sought to bridge their differences and strike a common position ahead of this month’s climate change conference in Durban, calling on the West to ensure the extension of the Kyoto Protocol as well as step up financial and technological assistance to developing countries. The Durban conference, they said in a joint statement, “should achieve a comprehensive, fair and balanced outcome” and “clearly establish the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol,” which the statement described as “the cornerstone of the climate regime” and “the essential priority” for the summit’s success.
BASIC nod to India's stand on climate talks
Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan notched a victory at the BASIC talks in Beijing with China and other countries cutting across groups strongly backing India's demand for centre-staging discussions on equity, IPR and trade in UN climate change negotiations on Tuesday. While noting that the emerging economies, along with other developing countries, had committed more to fight climate change than the rich countries, India's restored stance on climate change also found support from China and Brazil.
3. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
Chinese firms build bridges with communities in Africa
Bernard Ogalola, 52, joined China Road-Bridge Co (CRBC) in Kenya in 1986 and has been working for the company ever since, witnessing its change and growth in his country. Whereas some Chinese employers in Africa have been criticized for their failure to transfer skills or provide many job opportunities to local people, Chinese companies in Africa have made progress in recent years by improving labor relations and shouldering more social responsibilities. Ogalola said his first impression of the company was its large number of Chinese employees and supervisors who couldn't speak English, which led to misunderstanding and even conflicts.
Don't Bet on the BRICs
In their Oct. 26 plan to resolve the Continent’s debt crisis, European leaders pledged to increase the size of the euro zone’s bailout fund from €440 billion ($604 billion) to €1 trillion. The money won’t come entirely from Europeans themselves. Responding to Western requests, Chinese officials are considering whether to contribute some of their $3.2 trillion in foreign currency reserves to the European Financial Stability Facility or possibly a new bailout mechanism set up by the International Monetary Fund. China also has signaled interest in investing in Greek infrastructure and buying up some of Athens’s debt. As Theodoros Pangalos, Greece’s Deputy Prime Minister, told reporters, “The Chinese deal in real things, in merchandise. And they will help the real economy in Greece.”
Egypt: A guide to Egypt’s first post-revolution elections
Millions of Egyptians will head to the polls on 28 November in the first parliamentary vote after a popular uprising ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. But few Egyptians understand the complex election system or know what the parties represent. 'The election system is really confusing,' Saed Abdel Hafez, chairman of the local NGO, Forum for Development and Human Rights Dialogue, told IRIN. 'Because people do not understand the system, they will most likely vote for the people or the powers they used to vote for in the past. This means that the next parliament will not reflect the new political realities created by the revolution.'
Liberia: Ecowas condemns opposition's call to boycott run-off
The West African economic and political grouping Ecowas has described as 'unfortunate' the decision by Liberia’s main opposition to boycott the 8 November presidential runoff and urged Liberians to go to the polls. In a statement, the Economic Community of West Africa States cautioned the country's political leaders against inciting their supporters to violence and vowed to endorse any result that would emanate from a poll that would be certified by international observers.
Nigeria: Bid to nullify poll fails
A tribunal in Nigeria has rejected an attempt by the opposition to declare President Goodluck Jonathan's victory in April's election fraudulent. The result triggered violence in northern strongholds of defeated opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari after he rejected the result. But the judge said Mr Jonathan won the election lawfully. Mr Jonathan, a southerner, obtained 59 per cent of the vote, while Mr Buhari got 32 per cent.
South Africa: Citizens have a right to local government information
Access to information from any local government should not require appeals to the Mayor and/or the courts, write Zackie Achmat and Fritz Jooste in this article about the difficulties of the Social Justice Coalition in accessing City of Cape Town service agreements with companies responsible for municipal waste disposal in impoverished townships. 'Local government secrecy is unlawful because it is dangerous to democracy; it can allow influence peddling by the wealthy and connected, and often harms the health and wellbeing of working-class and poor communities.'
Swaziland: Government blocks strike
Trade unions in Swaziland said on Monday 31 October they had been forced to call off mass demonstrations planned for the week after the government obtained a court order blocking them. Unions had called the strike to draw attention to a three-month paralysis of the country's courts, which lawyers have been boycotting in protest at the dismissal of a top judge accused of insulting King Mswati III.
Uganda: Opposition leader freed
Ugandan police released opposition leader Kizza Besigye on Monday 31 October, hours after detaining him for the second time in a month, but warned they would keep seizing him if he tried again to take part in protests against surging prices. Besigye was mobbed by supporters after he walked free from the Kasangati police station on the outskirts of the capital, Kampala, and drove off in his car, a Reuters witness said.
Zambia: President threatens to dissolve new Parliament
Zambia’s President Michael Sata has threatened to dissolve the newly-elected Parliament and call fresh general elections if opposition MPs continue shooting down his government’s motions. This was after opposition MPs voted against the new government’s nominees to sit on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Zambia has a hung Parliament, where two major political parties neither have absolute majority seats. President Sata’s governing Patriotic Front (PF) has 60 elected and eight nominated legislators totalling 68 - short of a two-thirds majority - in a 158-member National Assembly, which still has three vacant seats.
DRC: Mining transparency site launched
A website has been launched to promote transparency in the Democratic Republic of Congo's mining sector, which is plagued by conflict and corruption. The Carter Center said it helped launch congomines.org to give people more information about the mining sector, including contracts and payments. Hundreds of mining documents and maps will be published on the site, it said.
Global: Promised transparency measures must be enforced to have real impact, says Transparency
The Group of 20 leading economies (G20) have called on 11 secrecy jurisdictions to substantially increase their cooperation on tackling tax evasion, but failed to address the main users of tax havens by not committing to mandatory country-by-country reporting by multinational companies, says Transparency International. 'Non-cooperative jurisdictions offer safe havens for the proceeds of corruption, tax evasion and organised crime. Greater transparency in the activities of multinational companies (in every country they operate in) would reduce opportunities for hiding the proceeds of illegal activity that ends up in tax havens.'
Nigeria: 'Companies from emerging giants China and Russia most likely to bribe abroad'
Bribing public officials when doing business abroad is a regular occurrence, and companies from Russia and China, which invested US$120 billion overseas in 2010, are seen as most likely to pay bribes abroad, according to Transparency International’s 2011 Bribe Payers Index. The index, which involves a survey of 3,000 business executives from developed and developing countries, also shows that companies from the Netherlands and Switzerland are seen as least likely to bribe.
Africa: Investors create $25m fund for African agriculture
A bunch of the world’s leading impact investors have joined forces with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to invest $25m in a new growth fund to support African agriculture. Over the next five years, Pearl Capital Partners (PCP), a specialised African agricultural investment fund manager based in Kampala, Uganda, will invest the AACF’s $25 million in at least 20 agriculture-related businesses in East Africa. The fund is supported by $17 million in equity investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Africa: Is planned free-trade zone pie in the sky?
African heads of state have ambitious plans to create a free trade zone, encompassing 26 countries and more than 600 million people on the continent. But economic experts warn the project is a bold step that comes with a plethora of legal, administrative and political hurdles. Others suggest the plan might be a pie in the sky. 'The free trade agreement is an incredibly complex undertaking by any measure,' warned Liepollo Pheko, international trade expert and managing director of economic consultancy Four Rivers in Johannesburg. Earlier this year, African heads of state had announced plans for a one trillion dollar free trade area (FTA) across three existing regional economic communities, namely the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Africa: Occupy Africa
Senegalese musician Baaba Maal has put his voice behind the 99 per cent figure cited as demanding justice in the Occupy Movement. But, the post notes, 'BTW, Maal could have added that Africans have been going on about global Apartheid for a while. If you take the anti-privatization social movements of the early 2000s in South Africa, the role of activists like Dennis Brutus, the various World Social Forum meetings held in Dakar last year and Nairobi before that, the AIDS movement, the films of Abdourahmane Sissako (‘Bamako‘) or the protests against Shell in Nigeria, etcetera.'
Egypt: Government wooed with loan packages
The African Development Bank (ADB) has proposed Egypt with a loan valued at US$1.4 billion dollars. US$550 million of the US $1.4 billion loan has already been allocated to the Steam Power Station of the Suez for the purposes of an electrical production project. The project is one of 12 projects that will be discussed by Karebuka during his three-day visit with Egyptian officials. The loan offer comes at a time in which the post-revolutionary Egyptian economy is strife with turmoil.
Global: Human Development Report 2011 launched
The 2011 Human Development Report argues that the urgent global challenges of sustainability and equity must be addressed together - and identifies policies on the national and global level that could spur mutually reinforcing progress towards these interlinked goals. Past reports have shown that living standards in most countries have been rising - and converging - for several decades now. Yet the 2011 report projects a disturbing reversal of those trends if environmental deterioration and social inequalities continue to intensify, with the least developed countries diverging downwards from global patterns of progress by 2050.
Global: US cut to UNESCO funding weakens free and open societies
'Statement by the Director-General of UNESCO on withholding of funds by the United States'
'The announced withholding of US dues owed for 2011 will immediately affect our ability to deliver programmes in critical areas: achieving universal education, supporting new democracies and fighting extremism. So I call on the US administration, Congress and the American people to find a way forward and continue support for UNESCO in these turbulent times.'
Statement by the Director-General of UNESCO on withholding of funds by the United States
In this time of economic crisis and social transformation, I believe that UNESCO’s vital work to promote global stability and democratic values is in America’s core interests.
The United States is a critical partner in UNESCO’s work. The withholding of US dues and other financial contributions – required by US law - will weaken UNESCO’s effectiveness and undermine its ability to build free and open societies.
US funding helps UNESCO to develop and sustain free and competitive media in Iraq, Tunisia and Egypt. In Afghanistan, US support is helping UNESCO to teach thousands of police officers to read and write. UNESCO literacy programmes in other areas of conflict give people the critical thinking skills and confidence they need to fight violent extremism. To sustain the democratic spirit of the Arab Spring, UNESCO is training journalists to cover elections objectively.
Across the world, we stand up for each journalist who is attacked or killed, because we are the UN agency with the mandate to protect freedom of expression. In Washington, earlier this year, I awarded the UNESCO Press Freedom Prize to an imprisoned Iranian journalist, Ahmad Zeidabadi.
UNESCO is the only UN Agency with a mandate to promote Holocaust Education worldwide. Using funding provided by the United States and Israel, UNESCO is developing curricula to ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten. Last February I led a historic visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp with more than 150 political and religious leaders, mostly from Arab and Muslim countries. I still recall the words of Dr. Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia, who said: 'We must teach our young people in mosques, churches and synagogues what happened here.'
With US support we put science at the service of people. UNESCO is leading a global effort to expand an ocean-based tsunami warning system. In January, this system saved tens of thousands of lives when a tsunami hit Japan. In the Middle East, UNESCO’s Sesame Programme enables world-class research and builds scientific and cultural bridges between neighbouring countries, including Israel and Egypt.
The US Government recognizes the value of all this work. To quote the State Department: 'U.S. engagement with UNESCO serves a wide range of our national interests on education, science, culture and communications issues…we will work with Congress to ensure that US interests and influence are preserved.'
UNESCO is encouraged that the United States will maintain its membership in the Organisation and hopes that a resolution to the funding issue will ultimately be identified. Until that happens, it will be impossible for us to maintain our current level of activity.
The announced withholding of US dues owed for 2011 will immediately affect our ability to deliver programmes in critical areas: achieving universal education, supporting new democracies and fighting extremism. So I call on the US administration, Congress and the American people to find a way forward and continue support for UNESCO in these turbulent times.
2 November 2011
Swaziland: No more subsidized agricultural inputs
Swaziland’s economic crisis has forced the government to put on ice the agricultural input scheme that has made the survival of many subsistence farmers and their families less precarious on communal Swazi Nation Land, where 70 per cent of the 1.1 million population live. 'There is no seed subsidizing now. We used to do it, and we are talking about reviving the programme,' Xoxile Nxumalo, of the agriculture ministry, told IRIN. Under the Swazi Agricultural Development Programme, seeds were sold at a discount or provided free of charge to subsistence farmers working on communal land.
Uganda: Tougher economic times ahead
Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka has said 'tougher times were still ahead' for Uganda. Her statement comes on the back of rising inflation which currently stands at 30.5 per cent up from 28.3 per cent in September. The high inflation trend has reduced real incomes and increased the costs of living and doing businesses in Uganda.
Egypt: AIDS and the revolution
The number of people living with HIV in Egypt is estimated to be 11,000 people, but some say the number must be much higher. 'The stigma around the disease causes fear and mistrust, so people don’t end up getting proper info or receiving already available services such as testing and counseling,' writes Ahmed Awadalla on the blog www.conversationsforabetterworld.com He refers to a report that shows stigma and discrimination is rife in different sectors. 'It comes from healthcare providers, the government, the media, the workplace, religious leaders, and sadly family and friends.'
Global: Calls for Zuma to push for Robin Hood tax at G20
Activists are calling on South Africa to take the lead in moves for a 'Robin Hood' tax for health. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) have pointed out that as the only African country in the G20, South Africa had a role to play in ensuring that a portion of the FTT went to health and not bailing out banks. The FTT is not another tax on working people, but on financial institutions only – it could cover any financial transaction between banks or be more specific and cover currency exchanges between banks.
Global: Major patent pool opens up research on neglected disease
Research on drug development for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), tuberculosis and malaria will receive a boost from a major initiative launched by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). 'Re:Search' will provide free access to research on medicines, vaccines and diagnostics, based on patents and research held by a consortium of eight major global pharmaceutical companies, the US National Institutes of Health and other organisations. But only the 49 least developed countries will be able to get a free licence to develop products based on the initiative, a limitation which has been criticised by key organisations in the field such as the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) and the aid organisation Doctors Without Borders.
Global: Pretrial detention and health
Pretrial holding facilities in countries with developing and transitional economies often force detainees to live in filthy, over-crowded conditions, where they lack adequate health services. In the worst cases, detainees die; some centres are so bad that innocent people plead guilty just to be transferred to prisons where the conditions might be better. For many pretrial detainees, being locked away in detention centers where tuberculosis, hepatitis C, and HIV are easily contracted can be a death sentence. This paper, aimed at health professionals, presents a review of literature on health conditions and health services in pretrial detention in developing and transitional countries.
South Africa: HIV, food security and local governance
This paper from the Governance and Aids Programme at Idasa examines the role that local government might play in promoting food security for people living with HIV in a democratic governance context. It examines local government's role in food security through interviews with local councillors in the Tshwane area.
Zimbabwe: Health fund launched
A $430-million fund which will give Zimbabwean children and pregnant women free medical care at public hospitals was launched on Monday with the help of the European Union and Unicef. 'The issue of user fees is one of the biggest barriers to poor women and children's access to life-saving and critical health care in Zimbabwe,' said Peter Salama, the Unicef country representative. The Zimbabwe health care system, which has collapsed from years of economic crisis, requires $436-million over the next five years to improve capacity, particularly the delivery of maternal care, according to Unicef.
Côte d’Ivoire: Pupils go back to school, slowly
The new school year began at the end of October in Côte d’Ivoire but is getting off to slow start as students struggle to return to study after post-election violence disrupted education in many schools for months. In the west of the country along the Liberian border, schools between the villages Blolequin and Toulepleu are still closed, and many children have still not returned home after fleeing to Liberia or other parts of Côte d’Ivoire with their families, said Paul Yao-Yao, coordinator of Save the Children’s education programme in Abidjan.
Tanzania: Whose business is development of education?
Education is priority number one in Tanzania: the education budget has grown, primary school enrolment is close to universal, and secondary school enrolment is expanding fast. But, writes Rakesh Rajani, head of Twaweza, a ten-year initiative to promote citizen agency and improved service delivery in East Africa, millions of children are not learning. 'According to the large-scale and independent Uwezo Survey, 7 out of every 10 children in Grade 3 cannot read Swahili at their level, 8 out of 10 cannot do math and 9 out of 10 cannot read English. Even after seven years, when they have completed primary schooling, half the children cannot read Grade 2-level English.' So, after 50-odd years of advice and studies and reforms and programmes, why have the experts not managed to deliver a system where children are learning?
Zambia: Three new universities, job creation planned
Zambia's newly elected President Michael Sata has outlined plans to review the higher education sector as well as establish three new universities, to fulfil his election manifesto. Job creation for higher education graduates would also be prioritised. Sata, who came to power last month after defeating former president Rupiah Banda, said he also had plans for the establishment of universities and technical colleges in each of the country's nine provinces and intended rehabilitating existing institutions. Staff recruitment would be scaled up to meet demand in these institutions.
Zimbabwe: Parents struggle to pay teacher incentives
As concerns deepen about the quality of education in Zimbabwe, parents can expect an indefinite extension of subsidising teacher salaries as the cash- strapped government struggles to meet the bloated civil service wage bill. Teacher incentives - a stipulated amount of usually between two to five dollars, which is paid by parents directly to teachers on a monthly basis - were introduced two years ago by the government to supplement teacher salaries. But many parents say the situation has become untenable and that they can no longer afford to contribute to teachers' salaries.
Botswana: Former president calls for legalisation of homosexuality
Botswana should decriminalise homosexuality and prostitution to prevent the spread of HIV, ex-President Festus Mogae has told the BBC. Mogae, who heads the Botswana government-backed Aids Council, said it was difficult to promote safe sex when the two practices were illegal. A government spokesman on HIV/Aids told the BBC homosexuality and prostitution would remain illlegal until the government concluded wide-ranging consultations to see whether there was a need to change the law.
Ghana: Seafood restaurant denies 'whites only' policy
An Italian worker at a restaurant in Ghana under investigation for allegedly operating a 'whites only' policy has told the BBC it was a misunderstanding. Marco Ranaldi said he made 'a joke' about the racial profile of members of the Atlantic Lobsters and Dolphins. A Ghanaian woman started an online protest after visiting the restaurant a week ago and allegedly being told that it was 'only for white people'.
Ghana: Toxic electronic waste causes contamination
Mountains of hazardous waste grow by about 40 million tons every year. This waste, mostly from Europe and North America, is burned in developing countries like Ghana in a hazardous effort to recover valuable metals. A children's school in Accra, Ghana's capital, was recently found to be contaminated by lead, cadmium and other health-threatening pollutants at levels over 50 times higher than risk-free levels. The school is located directly beside an informal electronic waste salvage site.
Global: Carbon dioxide output soaring
The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the US department of energy has calculated, in a sign of how weak the world's efforts have been at slowing man-made global warming. The new figures for 2010 mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago. But the developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limiting treaty have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about eight per cent below 1990 levels. The US did not ratify the agreement.
Global: International Food Sovereignty Day to Cool Down the Earth
5 December, Durban, South Africa
'We call on all farmers, workers and the landless and all social movements to join us in Durban and everywhere in the world on the 5th of December 2011 to demand a change of the entire capitalist system. The fight against climate change is a fight against neoliberal capitalism, landlessness, dispossession, hunger, poverty and inequality. The crisis of the planet requires that we take direct action. During the agro-ecology and food sovereignty day we will have public protest marches to the conference of the polluters, actions against multinational corporations like Monsanto undermining our seed sovereignty, which will cuminate in a massive Assembly of the Oppressed to discuss ways of ending this unjust system.'
Global: Why #occupy is an environmental issue
The occupy movement is spreading, and in more ways than one, says this article from www.climatechangesocialchange.wordpress.com, which notes that environmentalists and climate campaigners have linked up with Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. 'The coming together of the two movements is a good sign because there is no way out of our ecological crises as long as the world’s richest 1 per cent keep control over the economy and our political systems.'
Lesotho: New project to harness wind, water power
The tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho is to harness the power of wind and water in a $15-billion green energy project, the biggest of its kind in Africa. The Lesotho highlands power project (LHPP) will generate 6,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power and 4,000MW of hydropower, equivalent to about 5 per cent of South Africa's electricity needs.
Libya: Tuna fished 'illegally' during Libya conflict
Evidence is emerging of unregulated and probably illegal tuna fishing in Libyan waters during this year's conflict. Signals recorded from boats' electronic 'black boxes' show a large presence inside Libyan waters, a major spawning ground for the endangered bluefin tuna. Several strands of evidence, including a letter from a former industry source, suggest the involvement of EU boats.
Niger: Niger River under pressure from dams
Several major new dams are being constructed on the Niger River. The new dams not only raise ecological concerns, but are also provoking difficult negotiations over equitably sharing the resources of a river basin that extends over two million square kilometres. 'There are nine countries in the Niger basin, but their interests are divergent. There are certain countries - such as Mali and Niger - which don't want any dams constructed upstream,' said Bi Tozan N'Guessan, an expert at the Côte d'Ivoire Water Ministry.
Nigeria: Women protest against Shell
JK4, otherwise known as Edagberi/Betterland community is a community in Ahaoda West local government area of Rivers State, Nigeria. It is located along the Taylor Creek, sharing boundaries with Biseni and Ikarama communities in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State. Over forty oil wells operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), several crude oil pipelines and Shell’s Adibawa Flow Station are located within the community. Community leaders have complained in the past that Shell has not been fair to the community in terms of amenities, even though so much wealth is pumped out from the community soil daily. Without pipe borne water the people have been drinking from the Taylor Creek that has often been polluted by crude oil spills. Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria heard of a protest by women in the community (10 October 2011) and promptly visited the community to compile the reports available at this link.
South Africa: Community groups slam government response on refinery hazard
The Engen refinery in Durban was given 15 days recently to produce a report on a fire that took place at the refinery, come up with a plan to replace old machinery and also a plan to stop future fires, or face criminal charges. But South Durban Community and Environmental Alliance co-ordinator Desmond D’Sa
said it was 'a complete charade' ahead of the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17), to be hosted by Durban. 'People have had respiratory problems and contracted many other diseases, such as asthma and different cancers, because of the high levels of pollution,' he said.
South Africa: Greenpeace lays siege to coal plant site
Environmental activists on Monday began a protest at the site in Mpumalanga where the Kusile coal-fired power station is being constructed. Greenpeace spokesperson Fiona Musana said the protest started in the early hours of the morning with activists locking the gates of the construction site. Six activists unfurled a giant banner declaring 'Kusile: climate killer' from the top of a crane, then climbed pillars at the site, and planned to spend the night on the pillars, she said.
South Africa: Lifeline or death at the climate summit in Durban?
'We don’t want South Africa to be the death of Kyoto Protocol,' Minister of Environment, Edwina Molewa said recently, referring to the outcomes aspired to by the incoming South African COP17 Presidency from 28 November to 9 December 2011. But what are the real chances of life for the Kyoto and what are the stakes if we lose it? The best bet, Molewa concedes is to take key elements of the Protocol and build it into a single new agreement, with a comprehensive united approach. The key issue will be whether the positive or flawed elements of Kyoto will be retained.
South Africa: World Bank approves $250m for Eskom
The World Bank has approved $250 million in funding for South African power utility Eskom to develop a wind and solar plant as part of a push to boost sources of clean energy. The World Bank said the funding through its Clean Technology Fund will finance a 100-megawatt solar power plant in Upington in the Northern Cape province and a 100-megawatt wind power project at Sere, north of Cape Town. 'The loan will help Eskom to implement two of the largest renewable energy projects ever attempted on the African continent,' the bank said in a statement.
Africa: Agreement on land grab regulation postponed
The adoption of international guidelines to regulate so-called land grabs has been pushed to next year after negotiators failed to agree on conditions for large-scale land investments and enforcement. The guidelines, in the making for several years, were sparked by fears that a 'land rush' is leading to hunger, conflict and human rights abuses. More and more investors have flocked to the developing world over the past decade, snapping up huge tracts of farmland. Investment has intensified since the 2008 food and fuel price crisis. Once in place, the United Nations’s Committee on World Food Security guidelines are meant to protect people, mainly in poor countries such as Sierra Leone, from 'land grabbing'.
Mali: International Peasant Conference - stop the land grab
The first international farmers’ conference, whose objective is to strengthen the fight against land grabs in Africa and other parts of the world, will be held in Sélingué from 17 to 19 November 2011, and will bring together almost 200 farmers affected by land grabs as well as numerous other participants, including researchers, political figures, and NGOs resisting the unprecedented land-grab offensive by large businesses and hedge funds, among others, that compromises the ability of people to feed themselves.
South Sudan: The Southern Sudan pie
The Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) commissioned investigations on the 'land grab' in South Sudan which culminated into a 48-page dossier dubbed 'The New Frontier'. The dossier reveals that in the period 2007 to 2010 'foreign interests sought or acquired a total of 2.64 million hectares of land (6.52 million acres) in the agriculture, forestry and biofuel sectors alone'. According to the report’s author David Kuol Mading: 'That is a larger land area than the entire country of Rwanda,' said the report’s author, David Kuol Mading.
Angola: Armed men threaten journalist in Cabinda
Authorities in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda should take all steps necessary to ensure the safety of independent journalist José Manuel Gimbi, the Committee to Protect Journalists said following reports that unidentified armed men raided Gimbi's residence and threatened to harm him. Gimbi, a local correspondent for US Government-funded international broadcaster Voice of America, is one of only two independent journalists based in Cabinda, a region holding most of Angola's oil wealth which is contested by armed separatists and the government.
DRC: Attacks on journalists increase as election looms
Just over three weeks before the presidential election on 28 November, Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger (JED), its partner organisation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, have written to Adolphe Lumanu Mulenda Bwana N’Sefu, the deputy prime minister and interior minister. The two organisations, concerned about the increase in violence against media workers since the start of the election campaign, are asking him to do all he can to ensure journalists are able to carry out their work without being targeted.
Egypt: Thousands show solidarity with jailed blogger
A few thousand Egyptians marched through the streets of downtown Cairo in a protest against military tribunals and solidarity for a jailed blogger on 31 October. The march started at Talaat Harb Square and went through busy streets all the way to the prison where prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah is being held for 15 days under investigation.
Global: Civil society organisations ask UN to link access to info and the environment
In an initiative led by ARTICLE 19, 77 civil society organisations which are members of IFEX and the Freedom of Information Advocates (FOIA) Network are calling on the United Nations to champion access to information laws, transparency and free media as key requirements to environmental and human sustainability. The UN is holding a summit of world leaders in Rio in June 2012 (Rio+20) to discuss the environment and sustainable development goals. 'The right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas related to development and the environment are fundamental to ensuring sustainable development and environmental protection,' the 77 signatories said in a submission sent to the secretariat of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) on 31 October. The aim is for the recommendations in the submission to be included in the Rio+20 summit declaration.
US: Occupy Wall Street: emotions run high after Oakland protests
Emotions ran high as Occupy Wall Street supporters and public officials dealt with the aftermath of protests that shut down the nation's fifth-busiest port before spiraling into chaos near the movement's downtown encampment. The movement challenging the world's economic systems and distribution of wealth has gained momentum in recent weeks, with Oakland becoming a rallying point after an Iraq War veteran was injured in clashes with police last week. The comments section of this post contains extensive links to news reports, photographs and videos of the protests.
Kenya: Kenya-Eritrea row over arms to Somalia grows
Eritrea has rejected Kenyan suspicions that it may be arming Islamist al Shabaab rebels in Somalia, as a diplomatic row between the two countries intensifies. Kenya's Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said he had summoned the Eritrean ambassador and 'raised concerns about intelligence that we have and information available that there is a possibility that arms supplies are flowing from his country to al Shabaab'. The Government of Eritrea rejected the allegations.
Kenya: More countries pledge support for Somali action
Kenya’s war against the Al-Shabaab militia has received support from the European Union, the US, Canada, Turkey, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Gulf Cooperation, who met Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his Somali counterpart Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and expressed their support for the military operation.
Nigeria: Group threatens more deadly attacks
Nigeria's Boko Haram has threatened to carry out more attacks, a day after a series of blasts and gun battles claimed by the group killed more than 100 people in the country's northeast, the Nigerian Red Cross has said. Ibrahim Bulama, an official from the humanitarian organisation, said on Sunday that the death toll is expected to rise as local clinics and hospitals tabulate the casualty figures from Friday's attacks in Damaturu, the capital of rural Yobe state.
Somalia: Kenya air raid in Somalia Jilib town 'kills civilians'
At least five people, including three children, have died after a refugee camp in southern Somalia was bombed, the MSF charity says. Kenya's army denied bombing the camp, saying it had been attacked by the militant Islamist group, al-Shabab. A Kenya fighter jet only hit al-Shabab positions in Jilib, killing 10 of its fighters, an army spokesman said.
Sudan: 'Hundreds' killed in clashes
Hundreds of SPLM-North fighters were killed in clashes with the Sudanese army in South Kordofan state, local governor Ahmed Haroun said. 'Several hundred members of the movement were killed this day in an assault on the city of Teludi that was repelled by the armed forces,' the governor of South Kordofan, an oil-producing state and scene of frequent clashes, said. An army spokesman, Sawarmi Khaled Saad, said 'this morning more than 700 rebel fighters together with 12 officers tried to attack Teludi (east of the provincial capital Kadugli) to occupy it'.
Africa: Bids open for '.africa' Internet domain name
The international organisation that governs top-level Internet domain names is taking bids on the creation of '.africa'. Supporters say it will promote African businesses better than individual country names such as ‘dot-ke’ for Kenya or 'dot-za' for South Africa. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - or ICANN - is in a period of change following the announcement six months ago that Internet domains currently dominated by dot-coms will be opened up to dot-anything. That means there could soon be a continent-wide dot-africa domain.
Uganda: First electric car is plugged in
'The car is ready,' exclaimed Mr Paul Isaac Musasizi, the project manager of the Vehicle Design Mission at Makerere University, which has produced Uganda’s first electric car. The Kiira EV was tested for road and drive performance, ability to climb steep areas and ability to pick up speed, among other parameters. The making of Kiira EV started in August 2009 with a handful of students at the College of Engineering Art and Design, formerly the Faculty of Technology.
Global: Prison radio e-newsletters
Prison Radio’s mission is to challenge unjust police and prosecutorial practices which result in mass incarceration, racism, and gender discrimination by airing the voices of men and women victimized by an unjust criminal justice system. Sign up for Prison Radio's email newsletter to receive regular updates including links to Mumia Abu-Jamal's latest essays, upcoming events, and breaking news about the case.
African Sexualities: A Reader
18 November sees a discussion on the intersections between sex, power, masculinity, and femininity with human rights activists and scholar, Dr. Sylvia Tamale, as she signs her new book. This groundbreaking volume 'African Sexualities: A Reader', the first of its kind written by African activists themselves, aims to inspire a new generation of students and teachers to study, reflect and gain fresh and critical insights into the complex issues of gender and sexuality. It opens a space - particularly for young people – to think about African sexualities in different ways.
The Politics of Homosexuality in Africa
A talk by Dr. Sylvia Tamale at the Berman Hall in the Fromm Building, University of San Francisco
Using homosexuality as a focus, Dr. Tamale will on 21 November discuss how political and religious leaders in both Africa and the West instrumentalise sexuality to achieve their political ends, and provide an analysis of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
University of Oxford: Part-time Masters in International Human Rights Law
Admissions open for five scholarships for candidates from African Commonwealth countries
The Department for Continuing Education and the Faculty of Law at Oxford University are very pleased to announce that admissions are now open for five scholarships for candidates from African Commonwealth countries to study for the part-time Masters in International Human Rights Law at the
University of Oxford, starting September 2012. The course website can be found at http://bit.ly/s37dHr and details about the scholarships, including eligibility criteria and how to apply, can be found on the Fees and Funding pages at http://bit.ly/ugKcPf
From Citizen to Refugee
Uganda Asians come to Britain
This gripping and highly readable story of the Asians’ last days in Uganda interweaves the stories of Mahmood Mamdani’s friends and family with an examination of Uganda’s colonial history and the subsequent evolution of post-independence politics. The British colonial policy of divide and rule ensured that race coincided with class, effectively politicising the category of race.
Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts
Call for Papers: Grassroots Politics in the Postcolony
Submissions are invited to explore the politics of contention and social movements in the postcolonial world (Africa, Asia, and Latin America), with particular regard to the ways in which race and ethnicity relate to identities and claims revolving around class, gender, nationality, and religion. Comparative discussions of social contestation in different societies are welcome.
Programme Director – Campaigns
Amnesty International (AI)
One year fixed term contract
For 50 years, Amnesty International (AI) has been at the forefront of human rights campaigning. Mobilising millions of people and making our shared views heard on issues as wide-ranging as they are important, our campaigns are worldwide movements. Your challenge will be to pull them all together.
About the role
This vitally important role will see you lead the development and delivery of a variety of diverse global campaigns. Working at a strategic level, you’ll make sure our key messages have the biggest possible impact. That means guaranteeing that our materials engage the right people and that our supporters and staff all speak with one voice. It also means creating campaign opportunities in response to external events and reacting quickly to crisis situations to keep our campaigns in the spotlight. Doing it well across such a broad spectrum takes in-depth impact evaluations, thorough risk assessment and risk management strategies and the expert management of people, budgets and expectations. More than that, it takes coordination and communication on a global scale. It’s not an easy job. But it is rewarding – ultimately, the decisions you make will help put a stop to injustice, inequality and the violation of the most basic freedoms.
Thanks to an impressive history of developing and delivering global campaigns, you’ll have honed your ability to make strategic decisions plus developed your staff, budget and stakeholder management skills. You’ll therefore know how to build relationships, put forward convincing arguments and influence people at every level of an organisation. More than that, you’ll bring us polished and adaptable presentation skills along with a talent for engaging a variety of audiences and media. You’ll also show sound judgement and be confident analysing the political landscape in terms of both short- and long-term campaigning opportunities. And, naturally, we’ll expect you to have an extensive, in-depth understanding of human rights issues.
Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.
For more information and to apply, please visit http://www.ai-isleadership.com
Closing date: 29th November 2011
Research and Campaigns Assistant: East Africa, based in London
Amnesty International (AI)
£30,444 per annum
About the role
We are looking a committed Research and Campaigns Assistant to work as part of the Eastern Africa team in the International Secretariat. The Eastern Africa team covers Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and Sudan. Responsible for managing efficient and effective administrative systems, you will monitor and gather information, be the first point of contact for handling enquiries and ensure that relevant developments in the region are brought to the attention of the right people. You will also assist in the production and distribution of research and campaign materials.
You will need proven administrative skills, specifically maintaining filing and retrieval systems and an ability to deal with large volumes of information including maintaining manual and computerized databases. You will also need to have good general knowledge of Eastern Africa, fluency in written and spoken English and a strong commitment to our aims. You’re an enthusiastic, lively team member, highly organised and comfortable with deadlines and creating strong lines of communication and robust administration systems for a team.
Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, fairness, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of almost three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.
For further information about this and our other current vacancies, and to apply online, please visit our website www.amnesty.org/jobs
Closing date: 13th November 2011.
CVs will not be accepted.
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