Pambazuka News 372: Seeing Zimbabwe in context
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
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CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Comment & analysis, 3. Pan-African Postcard, 4. Letters & Opinions
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Highlights from this issue
FEATURES: Grace Kwinjeh on the Zimbabwe and global capitalism
COMMENTS AND ANALYSIS:
- Mukelani Dimba on access to information as a social justice issue
- Celine Tan on the Paris Declaration
- AFRODAD calls for more financial and technical cooperation for development
- Ian Angus on alternatives to the food crisis
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: John Samuel on balancing technology in Africa
LETTERS: Readers' comments and announcements
Zimbabwe in context
Arguing that Mugabe has been "talking left" while "walking right" Grace Kwinjeh analyses Zimbabwe through regional, African and global capitalism.
The post election crisis in Zimbabwe and the SADC region is a manifestation of much deeper, complex issues to do with global capitalism and its vampire-like tendencies.
At the root of the problems is the failure of our nationalist governments to deal with these dimensions of the global crisis: food shortages and price hikes; oil speculation; financial meltdowns and higher interest rates. These manifest themselves as rising inequality and unemployment and competition between very poor people in places like Alexandra, Tembisa, Diepkloof and the Johannesburg inner city for scarce resources.
It is only by addressing these issues that we can meet the aspirations of the masses for freedom and decent lives.
Forces both local and global may seem to be worlds apart in the definition and context of the Zimbabwean struggle but we African citizens are all in an awkward position.
While we are fighting the Robert Mugabe dictatorship, we Zimbabweans have not been spared from the negative impact of global capitalism on our livelihoods especially in poor communities - as we are currently witnessing, in the current xenophobic attacks against us in South Africa.
The xenophobia exposes not only working-class people's fears of lower wages, higher crime and new cultural influences, as is the explanation at first blush. In addition, we can see in the attacks on non-nationals the duplicitous role our national elites play in pushing us further to the mercy of capitalist forces while they label us in the opposition – puppets of the West.
The attacks are being condemned by progressive forces in SA, including COSATU Secretary General, Zwelinzima Vavi, who said: "I want to send out this message: It is not the Zimbabweans (exiles) that cause the problems (of the poor)".
He cited the capitalist system as the problem and argued that South Africa should focus on building an economic system that could: "seriously eradicate poverty".
The same position reiterated by the Anti-Privatisation Forum:"Let us not forget that it is South African corporate capital – through the framework of NEPAD – that has, over the last decade, moved into other African countries, most often causing many local, smaller businesses to close down and thus contributing to a situation in which many poor people have lost their jobs."
THREE MILLION EXILES
There are over three million of us eking out a living outside Zimbabwe's borders, a result of the failure of our national leaders to deliver both politically and economically for us at home. The situation gets more ridiculous when looked at within the context of the aspirations spelt out in the reformed African Union, in the New Partnership for Africa's Development, and its dream of an African Renaissance.
These programmes are again full of empty rhetoric framed, more to attract international donor funds and less to deliver dignity to African citizens, negating our 'ubuntuness', which espouses values to do with compassion, value for human life, respect for each other and harmonious existence.
Even as Frantz Fanon prophesied back then on the dilemma of African Unity in post–colonial Africa: "Now the nationalist bourgeois, who in region after region hasten to make their own fortunes and to set up a national system of exploitation, do their utmost to put obstacles in the path of this 'Utopia'. The national bourgeoisies, who are quite clear as to what their objectives are, have decided to bar the way to that unity, to that coordinated effort on the part of two hundred and fifty million men to triumph over stupidity, hunger and inhumanity at one and the same time."
Fanon’s insight helps us understand the failures of Mugabe and his allies beyond their “leftist” rhetoric. They are forever trapped in the awkward “talk left – walk right” jive as they remain arguably the best custodians of capitalist/imperialist forces, in our countries.
Mugabe flirted with the US military for many years, and until 1998 was considered amongst the highest-performing of World Bank and International Monetary Fund puppets, earning a "highly satisfactory" rating from the Bretton Woods Institutions in 1995. Did he not use $205 million in hard currency in 2006 to repay the IMF for failed loans?
In Zimbabwe today those suffering under the yoke of Mugabe's oppression are us black citizens. We are the homeless, the jobless, the battered and the bruised.
MAJORITY NOT RESPECTED
We are in the majority of those whose vote is not respected, in a negation of that very national liberation struggle aspirations of 'one man one vote.'
At the moment, Zimbabweans are just as good as people who did not go out to vote. We remain at the mercy of the dictatorship, as Mugabe is determined at each turn to reverse our hard-earned victories.
The elections did not deliver change. Instead, the moment of triumph against Mugabe and his cohort soon turned into a nightmare. The opposition won against one of the most entrenched liberation movements on the African continent. We romped to victory with a narrow parliamentary majority, equal seats as Zanu PF in the Senate and a majority votes in the Presidential election count. It was a great achievement given the odds placed against any possible opposition electoral victory.
“One group grabbed a 79-year-old widow, yanked up her skirt, then lashed her bare buttocks with barbed-wire whips as two dozen terrified relatives looked on. The woman, Martha Mucheto, said she cried in pain and shame. ‘If none of you confesses, we will hit this granny until she's dead,’ Mucheto, a great-grandmother and former nurse's aide, recalled hearing. She spoke from a hospital bed in Harare.”
The story of Mugabe's retribution against innocent civilians gets more devastating each day – from abductions, torture to cold blooded gruesome murders.
Old grannies such as gogo Mucheto are not spared in this brutality. Young men are killed in cold blood. The latest case is of Better Chokururama who was shot once and stabbed four times around the chest area by Mugabe's thugs. Chokururama was buried on 17 May 2008, one of at least two dozen MDC members killed for their beliefs in recent weeks, and one of several hundred since 2000.
Most affected are the already-struggling and impoverished rural folks. Scores are being displaced our national leaders to deliver both politically and economically for us at home. The situation gets more ridiculous when looked at within the context of the aspirations spelt out in the reformed African Union, in the New Partnership for Africa's Development, and its dream of an African Renaissance.
MAJORITY NOT RESPECTED
We are in the majority of those whose vote is not respected, in a negation of that very national liberation struggle aspirations of 'one man one vote.'
At the moment, Zimbabweans are just as good as people who did not go out to vote. We remain at the mercy of the dictatorship, as Mugabe is determined at each turn to reverse our hard-earned victories.
The elections did not deliver change. Instead, the moment of triumph against Mugabe and his cohort soon turned into a nightmare. The opposition won in their own areas while others find their way to towns, many being victims of torture.
Zanu PF, the liberation movement that defeated the colonialists in a protracted struggle, somehow concluded that they should hold state power in perpetuity. The era of democratization has not yet arrived. The elites in Zimbabwe, like their despotic friends elsewhere in the world, disdain the notion that elections are the process through which people elect leaders of their choice.
Elections remain a privilege that is denied to the masses. As Zimbabwe prepares for a run-off on the 27th of June, we expect once again to be fed nauseating fascist propaganda on good citizenry and patriotism. Mugabe has declared war against the people of the world.
We have an obligation to organize ourselves and fight back. As Fanon advised: "…we must understand that African Unity can only be achieved through the upward thrust of the people, and under the leadership of the people, and that is to say, in defiance of the interests of the bourgeoisie."
The marches on 17 May 2008, led by COSATU, helped to strengthen people-to-people solidarity. The way our SATAWU comrades exposed and fought against the 'ship of shame' and stopped it from offloading its cargo of arms in Durban, is a show of solidarity that the people of Zimbabwe will forever remember.
Zimbabwe does not need arms. We are not at war. We want decent jobs, homes, schools and food.
*Grace Kwinjeh is an NEC member of the MDC and the Chairperson of the Global Zimbabwe Forum.
**Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Access to information as a tool for socio-economic justice
In this article Mukelani Dimba shows how freedom of information legislation can be used by citizens to pursue their socio-economic rights. He argues that it creates the conditions in which government decisions about resource allocation can be effectively challenged.
The third wave of democratisation in the developing world has created opportunities for development and reconstruction in many nations brought to their knees by past regimes that were oppressive, secretive and undemocratic. This has focused not only on infrastructure and the economy but also on a rethink of the relationship between those in power and those who voted them into power. In this reconfiguration we should recall the words of the American constitutionalist, Alexander Hamilton, who once said that ‘If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary… A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.’
These ‘auxiliary precautions’ referred to by Hamilton included not only the courts and other organs of state but also the constitutional legal framework established to support them. If men and women were angels, basic human freedoms, such as the right to vote and freedom of expression (which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information), would not need to be protected in national constitutions. Nor would there be any need for special constitutional provisions obliging governments to share the spoils of economic growth fairly among citizens by ensuring that even the most impoverished have access to the services needed to sustain life, protect dignity and enhance the prospects of future generations. Alas, men and women are not angels, and we therefore need these ‘auxiliary precautions’ to protect the democratic order for the material benefit of the poor. It is vital that national constitutions not only protect civil and political rights but also promote the realisation of social and economic rights.
By social and economic rights, I refer to what Professor Kader Asmal, the South African human rights scholar, activist and former government minister, once called ‘the red and green rights’, namely the rights to housing, health care, food, social security, social services, education, human dignity in conditions of detention, healthy environment, land and security of tenure.
The third wave of democracy has not, in most cases, led to the social and economic development of communities previously materially disadvantaged by discriminatory and undemocratic systems of government. I believe that this is largely because the focus has tended to be on the full constitutional protection of civil and political rights as the cornerstone of the democratic order, while neglecting or partially entrenching social and economic rights within the constitutional framework.
Some correctly argue that democracy is not a sufficient condition for development or for social and economic equality. Many scholars have argued ‘that democracy will remain a formality unless it also includes substantive social and economic equality’ (Jones and Stokke, 2005). Amartya Sen’s argument is that ‘democratic institutions are guarantors for public deliberation and effective responses to poverty and deprivation’ (Jones and Stoke, 2005). Sen (2000) goes on to argue that:
‘Freedoms are not only the primary ends of development, they are also among its primary means. Political freedoms (in the form of free speech and elections) help to promote economic security. Social opportunities (in the form of education and health facilities) facilitate economic participation. Economic facilities (in the form of opportunities for participation in trade and production) can help generate personal abundance as well as public resources for social facilities. Freedoms of different kinds can strengthen one another.’
Mumtaz Soysal, in his 1977 Nobel lecture, argued that:
‘When those deprived of their socio-economic rights cannot make their voices heard, they are even less likely to have their needs met. If a person is deprived of one right, his chance of securing the other rights is usually endangered. The right to education and the right to freedom of information and open debate on official policies are necessary to secure full public participation in the process of social and economic development. The freedom of the human mind and welfare of the human being are inextricably linked.’
In countries where citizens have been unjustly denied access to certain services and resources because of their race or other societal background, a constitution, as an ‘auxiliary precaution’, that protects socio-economic rights is vital to the process of redress, reconstruction and redistribution.
The protection of socio-economic rights by a country’s constitution and their progressive realisation partially justiciable by the courts is a departure from the norm, where the focus has tended to be on judicial protection of political and civil rights. Traditionally, freedom of information (FOI) has found its place among the body of these political and civil rights.
During the era when only a few Scandinavian countries and the USA had freedom of information legislation, these laws created an understanding of FOI as merely part of the right of freedom of expression, which in and of itself had come to be perceived as a right that affected only journalists and political activists. Earlier international legal instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, also enveloped FOI within the broader right to freedom of expression. The newer Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights follows a similar route, the major difference being its extension of FOI to privately held information.
I firmly believe that it is when freedom of information is used as a form of leverage to protect or promote other socio-economic rights that it finds its real meaning in a developing-country context. The well-known and remarkable work of the MKSS in Rajasthan in India, emulated by other organisations in South Africa and elsewhere, shows how FOI can be used to the benefit of local communities and governments by helping social organisations expose corruption that compromises the proper implementation of development projects and social security schemes. This supports the idea that one of the purposes of the tools of democracy, such as FOI, is ‘to advance poor people’s access to socio-economic resources and services’ (Barbeton, Davis and Sarkin, 2000). This is consistent with the United Nations Development Programme in its assertion that:
‘Effective anti-poverty programmes require accurate information on problems hindering development to be in the public domain. Meaningful debates also need to take place on the policies designed to tackle the problems of poverty. Information can empower poor communities to battle the circumstances in which they find themselves and help balance the unequal power dynamic that exists between people marginalised through poverty and their governments.’
In India, for example, the government runs a massive food subsidy scheme as a social security measure to promote the right to food. Food rations are in most instances distributed through shopkeepers in the private sector, called ration-dealers. A person takes their ration card and collects food parcels from their local ration-dealer. The dealer then claims payment from the government for the food he has distributed to the community. However, some ration-dealers have been reportedly manipulating the process for their own ends by telling people that they have run out of food subsidy stock, offering to sell them food from their ‘ordinary trading stock’ instead. In the ration-dealers' records these transactions are recorded as distributions related to the food subsidy scheme and money is claimed from the government. The ration-dealers therefore get paid twice, by the customer and by the government.
This practice was exposed in a number of villages in Rajasthan when these communities, assisted by the MKSS, used the state’s freedom of information law to access the claims submitted by the ration-dealers to the government. Massive discrepancies were discovered between what the ration-dealers claimed and what they had actually distributed, which was captured on individual ration cards kept by each member of the community. By accessing government documents these citizens were able to reconcile what was claimed on paper with the reality on the ground. This illustrates vividly the multi-dimensionality of freedom of information in the developing world, where it can be used as tool for accountability, to protect socio-economic rights, fight corruption and improve government efficiency.
In Thailand, children’s right to education and fair and equal treatment was protected when one parent used the country’s freedom of information law to challenge a public school’s decision denying their child’s enrolment in one of the country’s best public schools. In seeking access to the results of enrolment tests, the parent exposed the discrimination that had hitherto been part of the selection process, and which favoured children from rich and prominent families. This action prompted a countrywide overhaul of the system of selection and enrolment in public schools.
However, in countries where freedom of information legislation has not yet been passed, citizens cannot claim the protection it might provide. In an area near the Tanzanian capital of Dodoma, schools were built with donor support on condition that the donor and the government would provide match funding for the money paid by parents towards their running costs; the funds would be controlled by local authorities and school principals. However, inefficiency and some reported cases of corruption have left some of these schools in a state of disrepair. There is simply no accountability for the use of these funds. Local people have no recourse open to them, short of social mobilisation, which in itself require access to information. But Tanzania does not yet have a freedom of information law.
In neighbouring Kenya, citizens have complained about the mismanagement of constituency development funds (CDF), which are funds controlled by members of parliament to fight poverty at regional levels. CDFs are also used to run educational and bursary schemes and constitute about 7.5 per cent of the government’s revenue. However, in Kenya the CDFs are popularly called ‘corruption devolvement funds’. Kenyans have very little recourse to ensure that they receive the services to which they are entitled because Kenya does not yet have a freedom of information law.
Slightly more fortunate are a group of women in KwaZulu-Natal, one of South Africa’s poorest provinces. Villagers in the hamlet of Emkhandlwini noticed that those in neighbouring villages were receiving water from municipal tankers while they were not. Their water source was a dirty stream that they shared with their livestock. Luckily, some villagers were aware of their basic civil rights because they had had some training, but they did not know how to seek solutions to the water problem without relying on an unresponsive local government political representative who had until then failed to deal with the issue.
In 2004, and with the assistance of the Open Democracy Advice Centre, the villagers used South Africa’s freedom of information law, the Promotion of Access to Information Act, to ask for the minutes of the council meetings at which the municipality had decided on programmes of water provision. They also asked for the municipality’s integrated development plan and budget. It took a frustrating six months before the information was released, but it showed that while there were plans to provide water, no-one had thought of sharing these with the community. With these plans in hand the women started asking difficult questions of the authorities regarding the delivery of water. The media also covered the case, which may have created sufficient pressure to prompt the municipality to act. Almost a year after the initial FOI request, fixed water tanks, replenished a couple of times a week, were installed in the village and mobile water tankers began delivering water, while the municipality worked on a more permanent solution of laying down pipes.
This case demonstrates how socio-economic rights can be realised through the use of freedom of information and public pressure rather than through litigation. Public pressure to influence resource allocation can only be effectively applied if there is sufficient transparency in the process of resource allocation. Freedom of Information creates the conditions in which decisions about the allocation of resources can be challenged.
I strongly believe that in countries plagued by socio-economic imbalances inherited from undemocratic systems of government, it is crucial that the products of democratic transition, such as freedom of information legislation, must be used to address these imbalances. In the field of socio-economic rights, as the cases above show, FOI creates a basis for contestation and justification of government decisions on resource allocation. It creates a basis for a fair and reasonable manner of decision-making.
I wish to conclude this article by quoting South Africa’s leading legal academic on administrative law, the late Professor Etienne Mureinik, who once wrote:
‘If the new Constitution is a bridge away from a culture of authority, it is clear what it must be a bridge to. It must lead to a culture of justification – a culture in which every exercise of power is expected and justified, in which the leadership given by government rests on the cogency of the case offered in defence of its decisions, not the fear inspired by the force at its command. The new order must be a community built on persuasion, not coercion.’
*Mr Dimba is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Open Democracy Advice Center (ODAC), Cape Town. This essay was presented on behalf of the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) on the occasion of the international conference on Right to Public Information, organized by the Carter Centre, 26–29 February 2008, Atlanta, Georgia.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Paris Declaration undermines policy space through Aid
Celine Tan argues that "the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness may have the effect of circumscribing national sovereignty and country autonomy over development policies contrary to its stated principles of country ownership and mutual accountability."
Two recent studies have highlighted the propensity of new modalities of aid and aid harmonisation processes under the Paris Declaration framework to increase rather than reduce donor interventions in aid recipient countries and exacerbating the imbalances of power between donor and recipient countries.
The Paris Declaration was adopted in 2005 as a roadmap to increase the quality of aid, and development assistance is increasingly influenced by whether the recipient developing countries comply with the Declaration's principles.
In a report prepared for the UN Human Rights Council?s High-Level Task Force on the Implementation of the Right to Development released earlier this year, Roberto Bissio, executive director of the Third World Institute and Social Watch based in Montevideo, Uruguay, argued that the relatively minor gains in efficiency and reduction of some transaction costs in the aid process are often overridden by the asymmetrical conditions under which negotiations are taking place between donors and recipients within the Paris Declaration framework.
Meanwhile, the findings of a study by the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) released two weeks ago showed that donors have continued to undermine policy ownership in low-income developing countries by imposing their own priorities and policies on developing country governments through new aid instruments while marginalising the voice and participation by citizens and civil society groups in the process.
Taken together, these studies highlight the danger that the new architecture for negotiating and delivering concessional financing to developing countries under the rubric of the Paris Declaration may have the converse effect of reducing rather than improving the efficacy of development assistance.
They demonstrate that increased coordination of aid policies by developed countries can in practice work towards undermining rather than supporting global partnerships for development, including those under the Millennium Declaration, and create new forms of conditionalities on developing countries.
The Paris Declaration is a non-binding declaration that was endorsed by a group of developed and developing countries in 2005, following on from a series of high-level inter-governmental forums on aid effectiveness and harmonisation.
It has a total of 115 signatories to date and claims to lay down ?a roadmap to improve the quality of aid and its impact on development with 56 partnership commitments organised around the five key principles: ownership, alignment, harmonisation, managing for results, and mutual accountability.
Compliance with the principles of the Paris Declaration is measured using 12 different indicators and development financing is now increasingly channelled through countries? compliance with these indicators.
According to Bissio's extensive study of the Paris Declaration framework, the Declaration fails to provide the institutional mechanisms to address the asymmetries in power between donors and creditors on one hand and individual aid recipient countries on the other. He argues that institutional ownership of the Paris Declaration process remains vested with the OECDs Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and the World Bank where donors and creditors have exclusive or majority control, with little or no developing country voice or vote.
Bissio's report further points out that for recipient countries, the Paris Declaration creates a new level of supranational economic governance above the World Bank and the regional development banks, with the OECD?s DAC comprising of the same western governments who control the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and who contribute to the Bank?s concessional lending facility, the International Development Association (IDA).
At the country level this new international governance increases the asymmetry between the aid recipient country and its donors and creditors, which gather together as a single group in the new aid modalities ... While this is intended to save costs and make procedures easier for the recipient country (and thus make aid more efficient), the inherent risks of such an increased imbalance in negotiating power at the country level are not compensated in any way by the international mechanisms set in motion by the [Paris Declaration].
Although developing and developed countries are represented in equal numbers in the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness which has the responsibility for managing the operationalisation of the Paris Declaration principles, the presence of institutions controlled by OECD members tilts the balance in favour of the latter, said the report.
Further, in such an ad hoc new body, developing countries lack the tradition and expertise of their own negotiating groups that they have put together over the years in other international negotiating fora (such as the G77 in the UN or G20 and G33 and other regional groupings in the WTO).
Under the Paris Declaration framework, donors and recipients are not peers, as recipient countries are penalised if they do not implement conditions for assessing financing under the framework but they do not have a corresponding mechanism for penalising the donors and/or creditors, the report argues.
Bissio's study found that the complex set of assessment criteria and definition of indicators by which the Paris Declaration is reviewed, the associated new conditionality packages for disbursement of aid under new mechanisms such as direct budget support and sector-wide approaches (SWAPs) and criteria for evaluating recipient countries' governance systems as part of the new aid system are all ultimately decided upon by the DAC, in close working relation with the World Bank?.
These findings are complemented by results of the Eurodad study which showed that the Paris Declaration?s measure of country ownership is the presence of a good quality and operational national development strategy as determined by the World Bank.
The Eurodad report also argues that in spite of the Paris Declaration's rhetoric on mutual accountability, donors are rarely held accountable for the quality of their aid to developing countries.
Instead, it found that the focus of the Paris Declaration has been ?entirely on the recipient government?s responsibilities and fails to recognise the steps that donors must take to create space for recipient governments to fulfil these responsibilities.
At the same time, recipient governments rarely take the lead in determining aid policies and ?are only negotiating around the edges if at all when it comes to improving the quality of the resources on offer. Case studies from seven low-income countries showed that power imbalances and weak capacity continue to limit developing country governments? ability to negotiate with donors and creditors on the conditions of their financing. The high aid dependency of some recipient countries shifts the balance of power to the donors,? says Eurodad.
Both reports also highlight the undermining of national policy space which accompanies the new modalities of aid championed by the Paris Declaration, including those centred on the World Bank and IMF-led Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and PRSP-linked financing instruments, such as budget support whereby financing is channelled direct into a country?s budget in support of a general policy framework.
The Eurodad report shows that the complex array of structures which have grown up around the PRSP process where donors and recipient governments gather to discuss policies and programmes under the guise of policy coordination have increased donor interventions in country?s development strategies and economic policies.
As donors increase the amount of aid they give either through direct budget support or to sector (e. g. agriculture, health, education) ministries, they also want to have a say on government policy in that sector, says the report.
Not only do the donors' constant presence and increased discussions with governments on the minutiae of government policy place additional pressure on overburdened administrations in developing countries, they also enable donors to get increasingly involved in the details of national policymaking.?
The Eurodad report argues that the conditionalities accompanying new aid instruments such as budget support has therefore shrunk the political space that such an instrument was supposed to have provided.
It says: Budget support has come hand in hand with more intrusion by donors in government policy making through ever more detailed matrices of policy conditions and performance indicators ... usually laid out in the Performance Assessment Framework (PAF) - the conditionality matrix attached to budget support.
Conditionalities may also be attached through the Paris Declaration indicators themselves. For example, according to the Paris Declaration, donors are required to increase the use of country systems, including national procedures for public financial management and public procurement. However, recipient countries must in turn commit towards improving such systems in order for them to be considered reliable by donors.
Indicators for reviewing compliance with the Paris Declaration principles in these areas include adherence of developing countries to broadly accepted good practices or implementation of a reform programme to achieve such practices. These good practices in turn are based upon the OECDs indicators which include the opening up of national procurement systems to qualified foreign firms, according to Bissio's report.
This amounts to a controversial conditionality of liberalising public procurement system and undermining developing countries' right to use national procurement systems as a development tool, and one which goes against the developing countries demands against the Singapore issues in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), says Bissio.
In adopting some of the reports recommendations at its fourth session in January this year, the High-Level Task Force on the Right to Development called for greater efforts to promote untied aid aligned with national priorities, particularly in the fields of procurement and financial management in order to meet the ownership requirements under the Paris Declaration and to make use of opportunities to build on the congruence between the principles of aid effectiveness and the right to development?
*Celina Tan is a Senior Researcher at the Third World Network.
**The two reports referred here have come at a crucial time for the Paris Declaration in the run-up to the third High Level Conference on Aid Effectiveness to be held in Accra, Ghana in September 2008 which will review the operationalisation of the Paris Declaration framework. They can be downloaded at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/development/taskforce2008.htm and http://www.eurodad.org/whatsnew/articles.aspx?id=2168
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
More financial and technical cooperation for development!
Civil society organisations call upon the membership of the United Nations to encourage the building of development partnerships that increase the volume and maximize the poverty reduction impact of the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).
For the second year in a row, global ODA figures have fallen, and very few countries have met the target of 0.7% of GNP. Most donors have not made the substantial increases in ODA required to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the commitments from the Monterrey consensus. Much of the recent ODA has been due to debt relief, and to a lesser extent to emergency assistance and administrative costs of donors. In real terms, debt relief alone explains almost 70 percent of ODA between 2004 and 2005. ODA towards core development programs continue to remain subdued.
At the same time there is little progress towards the availing of long-term resources to the international financial system, coupled with democratic reform of the international financial institutions to ensure development effectiveness and increased resource flows to regional and sub - regional institutions and funds. These reforms and increased flows are needed to allow the regional and sub - regional institutions and funds to adequately support sustained economic and social development, technical assistance for capacity-building, and social and environmental protection schemes.
Improvements in aid effectiveness have been patchy and piecemeal both at the global and national levels. At the global level, there continues to be little effort to build mechanisms that enhance the overall effectiveness of national institutions, through increased country ownership, operations that raise productivity and yield measurable results in reducing poverty and inequality, and closer coordination with donors and the private sector. In the same vain unreformed supply-driven technical assistance is continuing to favour policy conditionality and undermine ownership.
Civil society organisations therefore call upon the membership of the United Nations to encourage the building of development partnerships that increase the volume and maximize the poverty reduction impact of ODA.
In particular we call upon donor and recipient countries to:
1. Intensify their efforts to enable effective partnerships among donors and country recipients, based on the recognition of national leadership and ownership by developing countries. The outcome document of the Doha conference should include a commitment to end all donor-imposed policy conditions. It should recognise that such conditions undermine democratic ownership.
2. Commit to give aid to eradicate poverty and inequalities and to promote human rights, gender equality, full employment and decent work and environmental sustainability as central development goals. The outcome of the Doha conference should interpret the terms of national country ownership as democratic ownership and elaborate on its implications in the context of countries' obligations to international Human Rights law, core labour standards, and international commitments on gender equality and sustainable development.
3. Commit to end the practice of using aid for their own foreign and economic policy interests and priorities, and military interventions. In addition, an effective and transparent international mechanism must urgently be put in place to improve aid allocation so it goes to those most in need.
4. Untie technical assistance from the disbursement of aid and reform technical assistance to be aligned to national strategies, which respond to national priorities and build capacity. The right of recipient countries to contract according to their needs should be respected. More effective South-South forms of technical assistance should also be promoted.
5. Commit to the highest standards of openness and transparency. This should include: timely and meaningful dissemination of information, particularly during aid negotiations and about aid disbursements; and the adoption of a policy for automatic and full disclosure of relevant information, in languages and forms that are appropriate to concerned stakeholders, with a strictly limited regime of exceptions. Southern governments must work with elected representatives and citizens’ organisations to set out open and transparent policies on how aid is to be sourced, spent, monitored and accounted for. This requires that government ministers and officials are accountable to their citizens, with effective mechanisms of answerability and enforceability, based on improved transparency of information
6. Mutually agreed transparent and binding contracts to govern aid relationships would make partnerships more effective. Aid terms must be fairly and transparently negotiated with participation from and accountability to people living in poverty and inequality. Donors and recipient governments should agree to base future aid relationships on transparent and binding agreements including clear commitments by donors on aid volumes and quality,
7. Develop multi-stakeholder mechanisms for holding governments to account for the use of aid in both partner and donor countries. The mechanisms should be open, transparent and structured, with room for citizens to hold their governments to account in their respective constituencies. As a universal and multilateral institution the UN, through a considerably strengthened ECOSOC Development Cooperation Forum should become a multi-stakeholder for democratic involvement in the design and monitoring of conceptual and operational aspects of the emerging aid architecture.
8. Adhere to the 2001 OECD/DAC agreement on untying aid to developing countries. Very little progress has been made in enhancing this mechanism. Donors should commit to expanding the agreement on untying aid to all countries and all aid modalities (including food aid and technical assistance).
9. Make disbursement of aid more predictable by freeing up administrative blockages at donor headquarters and agree to multi-year, predictable and guaranteed aid commitments based on clear and transparent criteria.
10. Reform the way aid is monitored to improve targeting, coordination and measurement of its impact. An independent monitoring and evaluation system for aid and its impact on development outcomes should be created at international, national and local levels. At the international level, new independent institutions will be needed to play this role, in order to hold donors to account for their overall performance. At the national and local levels monitoring and evaluation should involve a range of stakeholders – including CSOs, women’s organizations and trade unions. Monitoring and evaluation should also take much more account of the links between reforms in aid modalities and development outcomes and progress towards respect for human rights, core labour standards and gender equality.
11. Establish an equitable multilateral governance system for ODA in which to negotiate future agreements on the reform of aid. This should have clear and transparent negotiating mechanisms, equitable representation of donors and recipients, and openness to civil society.
12. Put the issue of international taxation for development, including the Currency Transaction Tax on the Doha Conference agenda. The outcome of the Conference should contain an agreement to introduce a Currency Transaction Tax or a Currency Transaction Development Levy at a low rate to gain experience in its implementation.
13. Donor and developing country governments must ensure direct funding and establish clear mechanisms for the participation of civil society, including trade unions, women’s rights organizations, in all the national development planning processes and aid planning, programming, management, monitoring and evaluation.
The World Bank and other regional development banks play a crucial role in channelling development finance to poor countries and setting the framework in which development aid is delivered. Thus, their development policies have a strong impact on other bilateral donors’ financial flows. Their initiatives towards greater democratic governance with voice and vote for developing counties should remain firmly on track, and development finance channelled through these institutions should fully respect the above-mentioned principles of aid effectiveness, with a particular emphasis on country ownership and leadership over national development strategies.
In this regard, it is of utmost importance that multilateral development banks put an end to their use of economic policy conditionality and systematically make ex-ante assessments of their development finance (such as Poverty and Social and Employment Impact Analysis). The World Bank, the IMF and other regional development banks should instead seek to promote local knowledge and capacities in their role of providers of policy advice and technical assistance.
*Organisations: AFRODAD EURODAD; UBUNTU Forum secretariat; New Rules Coalition; International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Alternatives to the food crisis
In last week's Pambazuka News, Ian Angus looked at the causes of the food crisis. This week, he argues that alternatives to the food crisis must by their very nature be informed by alternatives to global capitalism.
"Nowhere in the world, in no act of genocide, in no war, are so many people killed per minute, per hour and per day as those who are killed by hunger and poverty on our planet."
—Fidel Castro, 1998
When food riots broke out in Haiti last month, the first country to respond was Venezuela. Within days, planes were on their way from Caracas, carrying 364 tons of badly needed food.
The people of Haiti are "suffering from the attacks of the empire's global capitalism," Venezuelan president Hugo Chàvez said. "This calls for genuine and profound solidarity from all of us. It is the least we can do for Haiti."
Venezuela's action is in the finest tradition of human solidarity. When people are hungry, we should do our best to feed them. Venezuela's example should be applauded and emulated.
But aid, however necessary, is only a stopgap. To truly address the problem of world hunger, we must understand and then change the system that causes it.
NO SHORTAGE OF FOOD
The starting point for our analysis must be this: there is no shortage of food in the world today.
Contrary to the 18th century warnings of Thomas Malthus and his modern followers, study after study shows that global food production has consistently outstripped population growth, and that there is more than enough food to feed everyone. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, enough food is produced in the world to provide over 2800 calories a day to everyone — substantially more than the minimum required for good health, and about 18% more calories per person than in the 1960s, despite a significant increase in total population.
As the Food First Institute points out, "abundance, not scarcity, best describes the supply of food in the world today."
Despite that, the most commonly proposed solution to world hunger is new technology to increase food production.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, aims to develop "more productive and resilient varieties of Africa's major food crops ... to enable Africa's small-scale farmers to produce larger, more diverse and reliable harvests."
Similarly, the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute has initiated a public-private partnership "to increase rice production across Asia via the accelerated development and introduction of hybrid rice technologies."
And the president of the World Bank promises to help developing countries gain "access to technology and science to boost yields."
Scientific research is vitally important to the development of agriculture, but initiatives that assume in advance that new seeds and chemicals are needed are neither credible nor truly scientific. The fact that there is already enough food to feed the world shows that the food crisis is not a technical problem — it is a social and political problem.
Rather than asking how to increase production, our first question should be why, when so much food is available, are over 850 million people hungry and malnourished? Why do 18,000 children die of hunger every day?
WHY CAN'T THE GLOBAL FOOD INDUSTRY FEED THE HUNGRY?
The answer can be stated in one sentence. The global food industry is not organized to feed the hungry; it is organized to generate profits for corporate agribusiness.
The agribusiness giants are achieving that objective very well indeed. This year, agribusiness profits are soaring above last year's levels, while hungry people from Haiti to Egypt to Senegal were taking to the streets to protest rising food prices. These figures are for just three months at the beginning of 2008.
- Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). Gross profit: $1.15 billion, up 55% from last year
- Cargill: Net earnings: $1.03 billion, up 86%
- Bunge. Consolidated gross profit: $867 million, up 189%.
SEEDS & HERBICIDES
- Monsanto. Gross profit: $2.23 billion, up 54%.
- Dupont Agriculture and Nutrition. Pre-tax operating income: $786 million, up 21%
- Potash Corporation. Net income: $66 million, up 185.9%
- Mosaic. Net earnings: $520.8 million, up more than 1,200%
The companies listed above, plus a few more, are the monopoly or near-monopoly buyers and sellers of agricultural products around the world. Six companies control 85% of the world trade in grain; three control 83% of cocoa; three control 80% of the banana trade. ADM, Cargill and Bunge effectively control the world's corn, which means that they alone decide how much of each year's crop goes to make ethanol, sweeteners, animal feed or human food.
As the editors of Hungry for Profit write, "The enormous power exerted by the largest agribusiness/food corporations allows them essentially to control the cost of their raw materials purchased from farmers while at the same time keeping prices of food to the general public at high enough levels to ensure large profits."
Over the past three decades, transnational agribusiness companies have engineered a massive restructuring of global agriculture. Directly through their own market power and indirectly through governments and the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organization, they have changed the way food is grown and distributed around the world. The changes have had wonderful effects on their profits, while simultaneously making global hunger worse and food crises inevitable.
THE ASSAULT ON TRADITIONAL FARMING
Today's food crisis doesn't stand alone: it is a manifestation of a farm crisis that has been building for decades.
As we saw in Part One of this article The food crisis and the failure of capitalism over the past three decades the rich countries of the north have forced poor countries to open their markets, then flooded those markets with subsidized food, with devastating results for Third World farming.
But the restructuring of global agriculture to the advantage of agribusiness giants didn't stop there. In the same period, southern countries were convinced, cajoled and bullied into adopting agricultural policies that promote export crops rather than food for domestic consumption, and favour large-scale industrial agriculture that requires single-crop (monoculture) production, heavy use of water, and massive quantities of fertilizer and pesticides. Increasingly, traditional farming, organized by and for communities and families, has been pushed aside by industrial farming organized by and for agribusinesses.
That transformation is the principal obstacle to a rational agriculture that could eliminate hunger.
The focus on export agriculture has produced the absurd and tragic result that millions of people are starving in countries that export food. In India, for example, over one-fifth of the population is chronically hungry and 48% of children under five years old are malnourished. Nevertheless, India exported US$1.5 billion worth of milled rice and $322 million worth of wheat in 2004.
In other countries, farmland that used to grow food for domestic consumption now grows luxuries for the north. Colombia, where 13% of the population is malnourished, produces and exports 62% of all cut flowers sold in the United States.
In many cases the result of switching to export crops has produced results that would be laughable if they weren't so damaging. Kenya was self-sufficient in food until about 25 years ago. Today it imports 80% of its food — and 80% of its exports are other agricultural products.
The shift to industrial agriculture has driven millions of people off the land and into unemployment and poverty in the immense slums that now surround many of the world's cities.
The people who best know the land are being separated from it; their farms enclosed into gigantic outdoor factories that produce only for export. Hundreds of millions of people now must depend on food that's grown thousands of miles away because their homeland agriculture has been transformed to meet the needs of agribusiness corporations. As recent months have shown, the entire system is fragile: India's decision to rebuild its rice stocks made food unaffordable for millions half a world away.
If the purpose of agriculture is to feed people, the changes to global agriculture in the past 30 years make no sense. Industrial farming in the Third World has produced increasing amounts of food, but at the cost of driving millions off the land and into lives of chronic hunger — and at the cost of poisoning air and water, and steadily decreasing the ability of the soil to deliver the food we need.
Contrary to the claims of agribusiness, the latest agricultural research, including more than a decade of concrete experience in Cuba, proves that small and mid-sized farms using sustainable agroecological methods are much more productive and vastly less damaging to the environment than huge industrial farms.
Industrial farming continues not because it is more productive, but because it has been able, until now, to deliver uniform products in predictable quantities, bred specifically to resist damage during shipment to distant markets. That's where the profit is, and profit is what counts, no matter what the effect may be on earth, air, and water — or even on hungry people.
FIGHTING FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY
The changes imposed by transnational agribusiness and its agencies have not gone unchallenged. One of the most important developments in the past 15 years has been the emergence of La Vía Campesina (Peasant Way), an umbrella body that encompasses more than 120 small farmers' and peasants' organizations in 56 countries, ranging from the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil to the National Farmers Union in Canada.
La Vía Campesina initially advanced its program as a challenge to the "World Food Summit," a 1996 UN-organized conference on global hunger that was attended by official representatives of 185 countries. The participants in that meeting promised (and subsequently did nothing to achieve) the elimination of hunger and malnutrition by guaranteeing "sustainable food security for all people."
As is typical of such events, the working people who are actually affected were excluded from the discussions. Outside the doors, La Vía Campesina proposed food sovereignty as an alternative to food security. Simple access to food is not enough, they argued: what's needed is access to land, water, and resources, and the people affected must have the right to know and to decide about food policies. Food is too important to be left to the global market and the manipulations of agribusiness: world hunger can only be ended by re-establishing small and mid-sized family farms as the key elements of food production.
The central demand of the food sovereignty movement is that food should be treated primarily as a source of nutrition for the communities and countries where it is grown. In opposition to free-trade, agroexport policies, it urges a focus on domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency.
Contrary to the assertions of some critics, food sovereignty is not a call for economic isolationism or a return to an idealized rural past. Rather, it is a program for the defense and extension of human rights, for land reform, and for protection of the earth against capitalist ecocide. In addition to calling for food self-sufficiency and strengthening family farms, La Vía Campesina's original call for food sovereignty included these points:
- Guarantee everyone access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. * Give landless and farming people — especially women — ownership and control of the land they work and return territories to indigenous peoples.
- Ensure the care and use of natural resources, especially land, water and seeds. End dependence on chemical inputs, on cash-crop monocultures and intensive, industrialized production.
- Oppose WTO, World Bank and IMF policies that facilitate the control of multinational corporations over agriculture. Regulate and tax speculative capital and enforce a strict Code of Conduct on transnational corporations.
- End the use of food as a weapon. Stop the displacement, forced urbanization and repression of peasants.
- Guarantee peasants and small farmers, and rural women in particular, direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels.
La Vía Campesina's demand for food sovereignty constitutes a powerful agrarian program for the 21st century. Labour and left movements worldwide should give full support to it and to the campaigns of working farmers and peasants for land reform and against the industrialization and globalization of food and farming.
STOP THE WAR ON THIRD WORLD FARMERS
Within that framework, those in the global north can and must demand that our governments stop all activities that weaken or damage Third World farming.
Stop using food for fuel. La Vía Campesina has said it simply and clearly: "Industrial agrofuels are an economic, social and environmental nonsense. Their development should be halted and agricultural production should focus on food as a priority."
Cancel Third World debts. On April 30, Canada announced a special contribution of C$10 million for food relief to Haiti. That's positive - but during 2008 Haiti will pay five times that much in interest on its $1.5 billion foreign debt, much of which was incurred during the imperialist-supported Duvalier dictatorships.
Haiti's situation is not unique and it is not an extreme case. The total external debt of Third World countries in 2005 was $2.7 trillion, and their debt payments that year totalled $513 billion. Ending that cash drain, immediately and unconditionally, would provide essential resources to feed the hungry now and rebuild domestic farming over time.
Get the WTO out of agriculture. The regressive food policies that have been imposed on poor countries by the World Bank and IMF are codified and enforced by the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Agriculture. The AoA, as Afsar Jafri of Focus on the Global South writes, is "biased in favour of capital-intensive, corporate agribusiness-driven and export-oriented agriculture." That's not surprising, since the U.S. official who drafted and then negotiated it was a former vice-president of agribusiness giant Cargill.
AoA should be abolished, and Third World countries should have the right to unilaterally cancel liberalization policies imposed through the World Bank, IMF, and WTO, as well as through bilateral free trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA.
Self-Determination for the Global South. The current attempts by the U.S. to destabilize and overthrow the anti-imperialist governments of the ALBA group — Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Grenada — continue a long history of actions by northern countries to prevent Third World countries from asserting control over their own destinies. Organizing against such interventions "in the belly of the monster" is thus a key component of the fight to win food sovereignty around the world.
More than a century ago, Karl Marx wrote that despite its support for technical improvements, "the capitalist system works against a rational agriculture ... a rational agriculture is incompatible with the capitalist system."
Today's food and farm crises completely confirm that judgment. A system that puts profit ahead of human needs has driven millions of producers off the land, undermined the earth's productivity while poisoning its air and water, and condemned nearly a billion people to chronic hunger and malnutrition.
The food crisis and farm crisis are rooted in an irrational, anti-human system. To feed the world, urban and rural working people must join hands to sweep that system away.
*Ian Angus is editor of Climate and Capitalism. Part One of this article was published in Socialist Voice and in The Bullet (Socialist Project), on April 28, 2008.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
***For further notes, please visit:
 Frederic Mousseau, Food Aid or Food Sovereignty? Ending World Hunger in Our Time. Oakland Institute, 2005. http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/pdfs/fasr.pdf International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. Global Summary for Decision Makers. http://www.agassessment.org/docs/Global_SDM_210408_FINAL.pdf
 Francis Moore Lappe, Joseph Collins, Peter Rosset. World Hunger: Twelve Myths. (Grove Press, New York, 1998) p. 8
 "About the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa." http://www.agra-alliance.org/about/about_more.html
 IRRI Press Release, April 4, 2008. http://www.irri.org/media/press/press.asp?id=171
 "World Bank President Calls for Plan to Fight Hunger in Pre-Spring Meetings Address." News Release, April 2, 2008
 These figures are taken from the companies' most recent quarterly reports, found on their websites. Because they report the numbers in different ways, they can't be compared to each other, only to their own previous reports.
 Shawn Hattingh. "Liberalizing Food Trade to Death." MRzine, May 6, 2008. http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/hattingh060508.html
 Fred Magdoff, John Bellamy Foster and Frederick H. Buttel. Hungry for Profit: The Agribusiness Threat to Farmers, Food, and the Environment. Monthly Review Press, New York, 2000. p. 11
 UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Key Statistics Of Food And Agriculture External Trade. http://www.fao.org/es/ess/toptrade/trade.asp?lang=EN&dir=exp&country=100
 J. Madeley. Hungry for Trade: How the poor pay for free trade. Cited in Ibid
 Jahi Campbell, "Shattering Myths: Can sustainable agriculture feed the world?" and " Editorial. Lessons from the Green Revolution." Food First Institute. www.foodfirst.org
 World Food Summit. http://www.fao.org/wfs/index_en.htm
 La Vía Campesina. "Food Sovereignty: A Future Without Hunger." (1996) http://www.voiceoftheturtle.org/library/1996%20Declaration%20of%20Food%20Sovereignty.pdf
 Paraphrased and abridged from Ibid
 La Vía Campesina. "A response to the Global Food Prices Crisis: Sustainable family farming can feed the world." http://www.viacampesina.org/main_en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=483&Itemid=38
 By way of comparison, this year Canada will spend $1 billion on the illegal occupation of and war in Afghanistan
 Jubilee Debt Campaign. "The Basics About Debt." http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/?lid=98
 Afsar H. Jafri. "WTO: Agriculture at the Mercy of Rich Nations." Focus on the Global South, November 7, 2005. http://www.focusweb.org/india/content/view/733/30/
 Capital, Volume III. Karl Marx & Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 37, p. 123
Unhappy Highways: Economic growth, technology and alienation
John Samuel cautions Africa that technology should not come at the expense of Africa's "a shared sense of community, mutual support, trust and a culture of collective approach."
Growth and technological innovations are the two key drivers of change. Technology and economic growth feed in to each other. Access to economic growth and technology is supposed to make life more comfortable. But the key paradox of economic and technological growth is that both of them tend to increase comfort and decrease the level of happiness. While rapid economic growth can create access to income, it can also create the paradox of abundance - wherein quantity of money and comforts subvert and undermine the quality of time, life, living and environment.
When growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) does not produce a parallel growth in Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH), the purpose of economic growth and the use and misuse of technology are put into question. Economic growth is not a bad idea. But abundance can also create perpetual tension between the zest for freedoms and entrenched fears within and without. Such tensions can wake up the demons within the self and society - ceasing to trust each other, with increasing insecurity, paranoia and violence.
While embracing neo-liberal economic growth and new technologies, it is important for Africa to understand and appreciate the pros and cons of economic and technological growth. Africa's biggest resource, apart from its natural resources, is a shared sense of community, mutual support, trust and a culture of collective approach. However, bulldozing capitalism and economic growth of few elites superimposed on rather traditional societies can create new inequalities, individuation, paranoia and consequent violence. If only a minuscule minority get access to the fruits of economic growth and technology, it can indeed create an Economics of Violence. A shared sense of inequality and injustice become breeding grounds for alienation and reactionary violence. This is evident on the streets of Johannesburg to Nairobi.
Hence, it will be worthwhile to look at the experience of some of the fast growing economies in Asia. Most of the Asian countries too have a strong sense of community and collective ethics. But in the new flood of economic growth and technological invasion, new challenges are emerging.
Technology is both the beauty and the beast at the same time. Technology is a double edged sword. Every tool's validity depends on who uses it for what. Tool itself may not be political- but the use of tool is always an exercise of Power.
Technology has been the main protagonist in the drama of economic growth in the modern and post-modern times. Technology did make a difference to human condition, comforts and lives. Technology has almost acquired God-like- power to create, sustain and destruct; and at the same time a means for the search for perfection; conquering stars and cloning life. The ground zero in New York, the blazing guns and exploding young men on a busy street symbolize the frightening dance of technology.
It is the unequal and asymmetric access to technology that also propelled various kinds of dominations. In fact, technology, as means of domination- as means to travel great distance, communicate and as a means to confront an "enemy' with more "productive" killing power( weapons of mass destruction- played a very important role in all conquests. Those who had access to horse breeding, gun powder, steam energy, ship technology, missiles, space technology used all these to create muscle power to dominate. This power play and technology are still being played out across the world. The origin of this very technology- Internet- too is in the defense labs of the US.
There is a clear connection between patterns of conquests, colonialisation, technology and natural resources. Colony went where there was coal, timber, iron, and food. Hence, in the 18nth or 19th century the so called “middle east” did not exist in the imperialist scheme of things. Railway lines happened wherever there were some resources to be ripped off. The printing press created new politics of knowledge, and new rules for domination. Of course, printing press also unleashed a linguistic revolution- through hundreds of new grammar, new dictionaries, new Bibles and new books. Translations translated and transformed lives and times. Shipping technology helped us to cross the sea to hold hands as well as to capture lands. The moment technology shifted from Steam based mechanics to Oil one could see the shift in focus of imperialism. There is a direct connection between the discovery of oil in the early twentieth century and the shift of imperial interests to the so called “Middle East"(erstwhile Persia and Arabia).
In a metro-line in Tokyo, most of the young people are glued to their mobile, playing games, browsing Internet, chatting with someone on line and they hardly even notice the person sitting next. While people are connecting with some in the distance, they are alienated from the person sitting or living next door. The cyber world, social networking on the net etc creates different sort of virtual and imagined communities, while subverting and undermining human communities in real lives.
In counties like Japan, young people seem to be too busy to fall in or rise in love. Thirty thousand people commit suicide every year- one of the highest in the world. An aggressive economic growth and an invading technology seem to have created more people using Internet to find a "mate' to sleep with or to do "love- networking, and young people using technology to get a high kick to make "suicide- pact" on the net. When even love, passion and feeling get automated and orderly with sense of perfect routine, life becomes a boring burden: where life cease to give any excitement, people may search excitement in death! It has become a case of an economic society superimposed on a very traditional socio-cultural society , with pervading sense of new individuation and depoliticisation.
Everyone seems to be so pre-occupied with his or her own economic survival, at the cost of emotional security, resulting social/community disintegration. Every young person seems to be busy finding a job, proving his or her sense of self-worth as a "hardworking" professional with “sincerity" to the job. There is no time to hold hands, to walk in a park or to sing a song. When life is so automated and orderly without a possibility of anarchic thinking and life, creativity takes a back seat and productivity takes a front seat. Livelihood takes precedence over living and living takes precedence over life. Efficiency of our work goes up and the effectiveness of life gets discounted.
So when human beings cease to be social and creative and tend to be productive workforce, preoccupied with survival of the self, the seeds of alienation bloom in to a cancer of social disintegration and depolitisation. One ceases to be a part of a community but a loner in the midst of an anonymous crowd. This sense of erosion of aesthetics from human relations and society tend dehumanize the society and the world.
Sudden economic growth can induce more demands in some sectors, pushing up the cost of price and living. The increased income of a miniscule minority also propelled new consumerism with consequent increase in cost of living. In rapid growing economies of Asia, the sky rocketing real estate prices, smashed the housing dreams and rights of the majority of urban middle class. This in turn reduces the real purchasing capacity and increase the discontent of those who did not get much out of economic growth; making the recipe for an economics of violence.
Economic growth and technology may increase the access to comforts, but may also induce new individuation (transforming people from "social animal" to "economic animal" driven by economic compulsions), social disintegration, new paranoia and consequent loss of time or mindset for poetry, politics, love, companionship or community.
This paranoia, emotional insecurity and loss of community also create a new market for spiritualism and new adapted form of market-driven religious denominations. Brand new spiritual shops and “gurus” are thriving as a result of the market induced emotional and social insecurity among people who have becomes the villains and victims of the mega-markets!
*John Samuel is a social activist and the International Director of Actionaid.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Excellent Analysis by Femi Falana
Abdirahman Ahmed Ali
The Challenges of democratic transition in Africa is one of the best articles. This is reality and should be considered as it is very informative. Thanks to the author!
Afia Ansaa Ampene
Mawuli has just hit the nail on the head in his article Women and the 2008 Ghana Elections. I'm a TV talk show hostess billed to discuss women involvement in this year's elections on my talk shows, but I'm very heart broken. Heart broken because our men are just fighting to get the few women in parliament out. The parties are now on their primaries and eliminating those few women (about 22). How can we progress as a nation with this behaviour? God help our nation!
More than a few emails needed!
Regarding Urgent action: Stop forced closure of IDP camps in Kenya: please create a petition on one of the popular petition sites to facilitate a louder voice than a few emails; This issue applies to many civil war torn countries and should be made public to the widest public to get the support it deserves.
Salute to the SACP
It seems, SACP did not yet get corrupted by power, could resist stalinification and never got subjugated (Why South Africa will never be like Zimbabwe). Correct historical analysis (like this article) does not get supressed. The deputy general secretary of SAPC speakes out against ZANUfication of South Africa and pulls its hypocrite and powerfull protectors into focus. YCL and COSATU seem to be the South African hope for democracy and solidatity. I salute to all these people of sincerity and human dignity.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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