Saturday, May 23, 2015

NGOs - White Dominance and Lack of Ethnic Diversity

This year's ranking of NGOs shows that most are based in the West although they carry out their activities in the Global South; are disproportionately headed by white men, and many continue to display stereotypical and patronising images of Africans as poor and needy victims. Teju Cole wrote that a white saviour is someone who, “supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening”.
Global_Geneva recently released the third annual Top NGO ranking, and unfortunately, it’s more of the same. In 2013, I reviewed the Board profiles of the previous ranking, focusing on their gender balance and diversity, and links to the tobacco, weapons and finance industries. The findings were troubling. Many of the listed NGOs were not adequately diverse or representative, and over half had links to the above industries.

This year’s ranking reveals similarly disturbing trends. Though 78% of the activities of the NGOs listed take place in the majority world, the ranking remains skewed towards NGOs headquartered in the West (64%). This once again sends signals about who has value and expertise, and reinforces the fallacy that citizens of Western countries are best equipped to change the world. 

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Diversity continues to lag. Women and men of European origin are still over-represented in leadership positions (over 60% overall and by gender). The representation of women is still relatively low (40%, of whom 63% are of European origin). More disturbing, however, is the lack of ethnic diversity. 

c c PZ


 The statistics on Africa[1] and Africans (including the diaspora) are once again particularly disconcerting.
• Only 5% (26) of the 500 NGOs listed have their headquarters in Africa, yet 33% of activity takes place in that region. Of those 26, only 7 are in the top 100 and most (9) are found in the last tier (401-500).
• Only 4% of CEOs are of African descent.
• People of African descent are the only group in which there are fewer male than female CEOs. This implies an institutional bias against black men.
• In the regional rankings, only 25 NGOs have been selected for the top African ranking compared to 100 each in Europe, North America and Asia/Australasia. Moreover, of the 25, 8 are outside the African continent (2 in Bahrain, 3 in Israel, 3 in Jordan).
• Many NGOs continue to display stereotypical and patronising images and videos that portray Africans in particular as poor and needy victims devoid of agency.

In addition, a large proportion of the ‘top’ NGOs continue to appoint leaders who are not representative of the communities and groups they claim to serve, and retain links to corporate interests that appear to be inconsistent with their mandate or public identity.


As with the previous ranking, a number have Board members as well as funders with links to the tobacco, finance and weapons industries. Some, such as Room to Read for instance, pride themselves in such links: ‘Our leadership team is comprised of veterans of such venerable corporations as Goldman Sachs…’.
Others are partnered with corporations that have been accused of human rights and environmental violations: for example, Akshaya Patra with Monsanto to provide food for children, Care with Cargill to combat poverty, Vital Voices with Walmart to increase economic opportunities for women, Injaz-al-Arab with ExxonMobil to mentor Arab youth. The International Crisis Group receives support from corporate members of its International Advisory Council, including Shell and Chevron.

Some also have affiliations with individuals whose political or professional record is arguably inconsistent with the mandates of the NGOs they serve: examples include the International Rescue Committee (Henry A. Kissinger, Condoleeza Rice and Madeleine Albright, Overseers), the International Crisis Group and ONE Campaign (Lawrence Summers, Board member), and Operation Blessing (M. G. ‘Pat’ Robertson, Board member).


The rather broad failure of many of the listed NGOs to have representative leaderships is reflected in some of their publicity statements and attitudes. Some exhibit slogans that offer absurdly simplistic solutions (‘You can cure starvation’ – Concern Worldwide; ‘Change the World in 4 clicks’ – Ufeed). Others display hubristic attitudes (S.O.U.L. Foundation says that its President represents ‘a new generation of young American activists who are quickly growing into a group of enthusiastic non-profit entrepreneurs and leaders who are choosing a piece of the world and changing it’; GreenHouse’s ambition is ‘trying to save the world by developing new models of social change to better people’s lives’). FAME World even adopts a disturbingly traditional missionary approach: it takes ‘Christ to the unreached and underserved’ but provides no assistance to non-Christian organisations.

We are all incoherent. Recognising this, where is the line between incoherence and deceit?
As individuals, we can easily deceive ourselves into believing that we do not perpetuate global inequities and discriminatory attitudes we claim to oppose. Organisations are no different. When NGOs are challenged to meet standards of integrity and fail to do so, they start to fit Teju Cole’s definition of white saviours.

International aid and advocacy is a multi-billion dollar industry and the corporate structures of the largest NGOs increasingly resemble those of large businesses. At the same time, NGO appeals for public support and public money rely heavily and distinctively on their claim to moral authority. Given this, it is entirely reasonable to expect NGOs to demonstrate their institutional integrity, including accountability to those they claim to serve. Unfortunately, Global_Geneva takes neither of these criteria into account. By choosing to rank so many NGOs in the manner it does, Global_Geneva and those who support it reinforce paternalist models of decision-making and governance that should be challenged rather than lauded.

from here

The Burundi Debacle

Burundi is facing its worst turmoil since the 12-year civil war ended in 2005. Over 100,000 have left Burundi in recent weeks, escaping violence sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term. The biggest concern now is that the decade of peace Burundi has enjoyed could unravel, prompting fresh waves of refugees and spreading conflict to neighbouring countries. “The stakes for Burundi but also for the wider region are high,” Sarah Jackson, deputy regional director of Amnesty International, told the seminar.

Cholera has infected about 3,000 people in Tanzania, the UN has said, where many Burundians have fled seeking refuge from their country's unrest. Up to 400 new cases are being seen each day, the UN's refugee agency said. The epidemic has killed 31 people - two locals and 29 Burundian refugees, the UN's statement said.
A UN spokesman called the cholera outbreak a "new, worrying, and growing additional complication".

The UN described the cramped, dirty conditions in Tanzania's lakeside Kagunga area, where many of the migrants are staying, as "dire". It is trying to evacuate refugees from the region but warns the situation may get worse before it gets better. 20,000 are waiting on the Tanzanian island of Kagunga for transport across Lake Tanganyika to a camp at Nyarangusu. Conditions on the island are deplorable, “with village leaders expressing concerns regarding increasing tension and potential friction between the local population and asylum-seekers, according to UNHCR. The majority of those fleeing Burundi are women and children, including a large number of unaccompanied children, spokesman Adrian Edwards said. The refugee agency predicts that the number of people fleeing Burundi could double in the next six months. UNHCR is now contemplating a worst-case scenario that could see 300,000 flee. Tanzania has played host to vast numbers of refugees for decades and recently granted many citizenship. But recent years have seen its welcoming stance wane. In 2012, it ended the refugee status of almost 40,000 Burundians – on the grounds that their country was peaceful – and obliged them to return.

Rwanda’s president has asserted that fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu rebel group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have crossed into Burundi “and might get involved directly” in the unrest there. Remarks by Kagame critical of his Burundian counterpart’s handling of the situation have been interpreted as a veiled threat to send troops across the border.
“The last thing we want to see is for the Burundi crisis to develop to the point where the Rwandan government feels it has the need or the legitimacy to intervene,” said Jolanda Bouka, an analyst at Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

Writing in Kenya’s Nation newspaper, Nic Cheeseman, a specialist in sub-Saharan African politics at Oxford University, warned that “the memory of civil war and how to mount effective rebellions against the state is still fresh. This combination is a recipe for political disorder and, worse, a resumption of civil conflict."

The New York-based think tank Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect said the situation in Burundi remained very volatile and spoke of “catastrophic consequences” if the power vacuum wasn’t resolved soon.
“Paramount among these is the risk that any further escalation or militarisation of the current crisis could result in the commission of mass atrocity crimes against vulnerable civilians. Immediate steps must therefore be taken by all sides to de-escalate tensions, stabilise the country and protect the gains of more than a decade of peacebuilding,” it said.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rich and Poor in Angola

Angola, Africa’s second-largest crude exporter, which relies on oil sales for 95% of foreign-exchange revenue, slashed a third off its budget after a glut in global production caused a halving of oil prices last year. President Eduardo dos Santos ended petrol subsidies last month, a move supported by economists but resented by the poor, who felt the effects of a 30% rise in fuel prices. The central bank also restricted dollar sales as foreign-exchange supplies dried up, prompting a sharp fall in the kwanza, ramping up costs in a country that relies on imports for 80% of consumer goods. The kwanza is trading at 170/$ on the street, against 109/$ officially.

Those who have benefited from the country’s $50bn a year in oil sales are unlikely to support any dissent. "We’ve actually had more customers since the kwanza crashed. They can’t get dollars so they buy luxuries," says Louis Mendes, who runs a jewellery shop in Bela’s Shopping, a mall named for its owner, Isabel dos Santos. "There is an incredible disparity between super rich and super poor. No middle ground."

"The government treats us like dogs," says Claude Ambrosio, at a rundown market in Vianna, one of Luanda’s poorest suburbs. "The price of everything went up but we get no help. There are no schools, no hospitals and you can see how we live," she says, pointing to crumbling shacks and piles of rotting rubbish.

A series of protests in the capital, Luanda, were cancelled last month after warnings of a police crackdown, human rights activists told Reuters. Pres. dos Santos’s opponents say he uses the powerful military, which takes the biggest slice of the budget, to maintain power. They also accuse him of using oil funds to enrich friends and family. His billionaire investor daughter, Isabel, is Africa’s wealthiest woman and his son, Jose, was made head of a $5bn sovereign wealth fund in 2013.

Angola provides one of the starkest examples of inequality in Africa: the Gini coefficient, a World Bank measure of inequality, puts Angola at 169th out of 175 countries. Most Angolans in Luanda live on less than $2 a day but foreign oil workers and the Angolan elite pay more for a hotel room, dinner out or a bottle of milk than they would in Paris, Singapore or New York.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Farming In Mozambique - Whose Model?

Government of Mozambique is expected to approve Prosavana project this year The master plan of Prosavana, a large agricultural project to be implemented in three northern provinces of Mozambique, is due to be approved by the government by the end of 2015, the project’s coordinator said in Maputo. António Limbau also told Portuguese news agency Lusa that the master plan for Prosavana, to be conducted in partnership with the governments of Brazil and Japan, has already been through the stages of public consultation at district and provincial levels and now requires consultations on a national level, to be held in Maputo. This project has led to fears that the communities in the programme would lose their land and prompted protests from inhabitants of the Nacala corridor and by several non-governmental organisations, who questioned the results of a similar experience in Brazil. According to the programme’s coordinator, the main concerns raised by farmers during the public consultation meetings were related to the fear of land loss, despite government assurances that this would not happen in Mozambique and that joining the programme is not compulsory . The biggest steps “have been taken,” the programme coordinator said, who, after the approval of the master plan, expects to see Prosavana launched in 2016. Prosavana is intended to improve the living conditions of the Nacala corridor’s population, modernise agriculture, increase productivity and create new models of agricultural development, currently based on family subsistence production, and to guide them to the market.

Resistance to Prosavana in Mozambique

PROSAVANA is a cooperation program between Mozambique, Brazil and Japan, which aims to create new models of sustainable agricultural development in Mozambique's savanna region, taking into consideration the conservation of the environment; searching for agrarian development; and oriented to the rural/regional competitive markets. This presentation looks at who is behind the project, the aims of the project and the resistance to the project. The resistance stems from the fact that PROSAVANA aims to integrate peasants in the production process which is exclusively controlled by large TNCs and multilateral financing institutions; there is manipulation of information and intimidation of communities and CSOs opposed to PROSAVANA; there are imminent land grabbing processes in local communities by Brazilian, Japanese and national (as well as other nations) corporations and governments. The presentation argues that with PROSAVANA, the Mozambican government is in fact importing the internal contradictions of the Brazilian agrarian development model.


Not Just South Africa

Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has attracted millions of migrants fleeing political and economic turmoil in their own countries. Zimbabweans account for the largest population of migrants in South Africa, with some analysts estimating they make up 23% of the whole workforce. With a youth unemployment rate of over 50% and a slowing economy, cheap foreign labour is a hot political issue, with locals accusing foreign nationals of stealing their jobs. But while South Africa has borne the brunt of the harsh international spotlight, other similar African government operations, are flying under the radar.

The Republic of Congo last week launched the second phase of its operation “Mbata ya bakolo,” which in the local Lingala language means “the slap of the elders”. Some 600 foreigners were arrested over only two days. The first phase, carried out in April 2014 in the economic hub of Pointe-Noire, forced back an estimated 250,000 workers from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo in only a few weeks. Churches and local charities say the operation was now a “full-blown manhunt” and employed violence and degrading treatment. The conflict-ridden DR Congo ranks last on the UN development index, and over the years tens of thousands of its nationals have found menial jobs in neighbouring Congo, where living conditions are slightly better. Official figures from Kinshasa in April showed around four million residents in Congo, equivalent to around one in 10 of the population, hailed from DR Congo. Realising targeting economic migrants attracts international backlash, governments now increasingly cite insecurity as a reason for targeting foreign nationals.

West African borders tend to be most porous, with emergent economies such as Ghana and Ivory Coast particularly popular with immigrants.

Nigeria has in recent years deported thousands of foreign immigrants, citing concerns of infiltration by Islamic extremists - though it protested the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The country’s porous borders and lenient immigration officers have seen thousands of foreign workers easily move in, especially from Niger in the north, but also from Ghana, Chad, Benin and Cameroon, seeking to earn a better living. Immigrants now make up a significant part of the menial labour workforce in Lagos. But the country’s battle with terrorism has seen them targeted by authorities, with some 22,000 deported in 2013, while a crackdown was also carried out ahead of its March election.

Niger early this month deported more than 3,000 Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram, with refugees saying they were forced to walk back over three days after the insurgents attacked an island in Lake Chad. Niger is home to more than 100,000 other Nigerian refugees fleeing the militants.

Kenya has been a preferred destination from Somalis and South Sudanese fleeing conflict, but this year threatened to close the world’s largest refugee complex after deadly terror attacks by Somali militant group Al-Shabaab. But there have also been reports of friction with locals over the high visibility of Somalis in key areas of the economy, such as retail and real estate, a perception of illegality that peaked during the surge in piracy in the Indian Ocean.

The Chinese Pirates

Number of Chinese fishing boats operating in Africa soared from 13 in 1985 to 462 in 2013, say Greenpeace, the environmental group, with ships ‘taking advantage of weak enforcement and supervision.’ Chinese companies have been illegally fishing off the coast of west Africa, at times sending incorrect location data suggesting they are as far away as Mexico or even on land. 

A two-year investigation by the environmental group found that four Chinese fishing companies, including state-owned China National Fisheries Corporation, carried out persistent “illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities and gross tonnage fraud” in west Africa.

“While China extended a hand in friendship during the Ebola outbreak, rogue Chinese companies were unlawfully exploiting west Africa’s marine environment,” said Rashid Kang, head of Greenpeace East Asia’s China Ocean Campaign.

“If China wants to be a genuine friend of Africa, it should follow the path of the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy, which is slowly rectifying the EU’s own history of irresponsible fishing in the region,” said Ahmed Diame, Greenpeace Africa Ocean Campaigner.

As well as fishing in prohibited areas, Chinese fishing companies systematically under-declare the gross tonnage of their vessels, allowing them to evade licensing fees and operate in areas where large boats are forbidden. The majority of these boats are bottom trawlers, which use one of the most destructive fishing techniques. Ironically, China is taking steps to eliminate some of the most environmentally damaging fishing practices in its own waters. Faced with more competition and stricter rules at home, Chinese fishing companies are looking further afield. The lack of rigorous fisheries management and enforcement in west Africa has made it an attractive destination for large Chinese companies with the resources to send boats to distant waters.

Comparisons with Colonial Days

The Cato Institute-backed HumanProgress website recently tweeted a claim by Princeton Professor Angus Deaton that “Today, children in sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to survive to age 5 than were English children born in 1918.” Before addressing the intrinsic dishonesty of such comparisons in general it is worth noting the absurdity of this comparison in particular. 1918 was the final year of the First World War and the first year of the Spanish influenza. Decimated by war, England struggled to combat “one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history” as the flu killed 228,000 people during the summer of 1918. Of course, if your criterion for “progress” is that you aren’t currently being devastated by world war and “the mother of all pandemics” then the entire world has been progressing for all of human history and the socialist world was a veritable utopia. No matter, three cheers for Africa and capitalism.

Libertarians’ assumption is that if sub-Saharan Africa is poorer than the Global North today it is merely because the former hasn’t yet “caught up” to the latter. But is this how capitalism developed and functions? Revealingly, HumanProgress measures progress in large part through income, which puts it in the uncomfortable position of defending colonialism. Their website notes, “Between the time of the European colonization in 1870 and African independence in 1960, a typical inhabitant of the African continent saw his or her income rise by 63 percent.” The fact that income rose during colonialism and the “Scramble for Africa” – in which the Belgians murdered 10 million Congolese among countless other European atrocities – might alert us to the fact that income hardly correlates to quality of life. Africans who were terrorized into wage labor had little initial need for income, and for the vast majority of human history people have survived without needing to sell their labor time for wages. But given that wage labor is the source of capitalist profit, colonial governments systematically undermined the indigenous population’s ability to support itself, destroying native economies and enclosing the lands on which people subsisted. This process, in which the North is enriched precisely through the impoverishment of the Global South, continues today.

Libertarian cheerleaders for the status quo want us to stay asleep.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sickle cell V Cystic fibrosis

Sickle-cell disease – a common life-shortening genetic disease -  funding for research, drug development, and patient advocacy $66 million in America

Cystic fibrosis, another condition life-shortening condition - funding for research, drug development, and patient advocacy - $254 million— nearly four times the $66 million spent on sickle cell, even though the latter affects three times as many people.

The National Institutes of Health spends nearly four times as much per patient on cystic fibrosis research as it does on sickle cell. From 2009 to 2011, researchers published twice as many papers on cystic fibrosis as they did on sickle cell.

One disease inflicts mostly people of color. The other mostly white people.

You choose which is which

The original 'lebenstraum'

Namibia, once known as South-West Africa, became a German colony in 1884 under the rule of Otto von Bismarck and was lost to the British during the First World War.

In 1904 the Herero and Nama people launched a rebellion against German colonial rule, over the specific issue of land rights. After around 150 Germans were killed in the uprising, Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha was appointed Supreme Commander of South-West Africa and landed with 14,000 reinforcement troops. The fighting had subsided and the Herero and Nama people were ready to start negotiations.

But to von Trotha, the idea of negotiating went against German and Prussian honour and military tradition. He was determined to crush the rebellion fully. After the Germans had defeated the Herero combatants at the Battle of Waterberg in August 1904, any survivors were either brutally slaughtered or driven into the Kalahari Desert. Von Trotha then built a 200 mile fence to seal off the desert and leave the Herero and Nama to die of thirst and starvation.

In a proclamation to his troops, Trotha clearly outlined the definition of genocide:

"Any Herero found inside the German frontier, with or without a gun or cattle, will be executed. I shall spare neither women nor children. I shall give the order to drive them away and fire on them."

"I believe that the nation as such should be annihilated, or, if this was not possible by tactical measures, should be expelled from the country."

When news of the atrocities reached Germany there was national outcry, but Kaiser Willhelm I refused to withdraw the Vernichtungsbefehl (extermination order). Only after two more months of hunting down and slaughtering them did von Trotha receive orders to accept the surrender of the Herero people. Any survivors, most of them women and children, were herded into concentration camps for slave labour and medical experiments.

The genocide cost the lives of an estimated 90,000 to 100,000 people, or 80 percent of the Herero population. German attitudes at the time foreshadow those used by the Nazis to justify their ambitions for territorial expansion and the Holocaust, such as the crusade for so-called 'Lebensraum' - or living space.

A young soldier Franz von Epp wrote in a letter home: "This world is being redistributed. With time we will inevitably need more space and only by the sword will we be able to get it".
Later on in his career, Epp became a senior Nazi and was appointed Reichskomissar for Bavaria.

Kick Christianity and Islam out of Africa

HP: Why do you think it is important to kick Christianity and Islam out of Africa?

Jd Otit (The administrator of World Atheists: Lets Kick Islam and Christianity out of Africa): Africa definitely would be a great place without foreign religion. We might not be able to eradicate the worship of African deities by Africans, however, the worship of African Gods is less problematic than the evils and atrocities associated with these two foreign doctrines Islam and Christianity.
Africa will fare better as one people. Islam and Christianity has divided us; it has torn the fabric of brotherhood that held us together; we see ourselves as Muslims or Christians; we do not recognize what bound us together anymore - our color, our Africaness, our common adversities as a people - we rejoice at the peril of Muslims or Christians because we do not think any more as “African” but rather we label ourselves according to some Middle Eastern idiocy introduced to us through slavery.
My experience of religious Africa is of people who are stupidly passive and numb due to faith and expectations of a greater reward in some paradise. African people have left the fight to “god” - Jewish and Arab Gods are now their escape route, due to fear and cowardice.

HP: Do you think Africa would be more prosperous without religion?

Jd Otit: Africa would prosper greatly without religion. People would not leave situations that require revolutions or human interventions to some invisible sky being, hence manufacturing the slave chains that will hold their next generations in captivity.
Today the people on top are enjoying the disunity and chaos amongst the ordinary people, these are distractions that is working very well for the African elite, “blame the devil, blame yourselves, pray to God , but never blame us, it’s always the devil’s work. “ That is the mantra of the African elite.

HP: Would Africa be less violent without religion?

Jd Otit: Africa would definitely be less violent, there would be less hatred amongst Africans due to different belief system.

HP: We are concerned about over-population in Africa, which has the world’s highest fertility rate.

Jd Otit: Africa is not overpopulated, we have more than enough for our needs, Africa is suffering not because of lack of resources to sustain its people, Africa is suffering due to the greed of the top few, Africa is facing hardship due to mismanagement that is encouraged by western powers. Everyone knows the richness within the African continent; sadly exploitation and encouragement of corruption by the West has impoverished the ordinary African. Overpopulation is not what we should be addressing, but rather corruption and confronting those who are benefiting from the African chaos.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When The War Came Back - South Sudan

KANDAK, South Sudan, 18 May 2015 (IRIN) 

Kandak, a small village in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, eight days walk from the Ethiopian border, has paid a high price for its unfortunate location in the midst of Sudan’s civil wars.
In the early 1990s, as southern Sudanese rebels battled Khartoum’s forces, the war brought starvation to Kandak and the surrounding area. Heavy fighting prevented much humanitarian aid getting in and thousands of people died.

Now, nearly four years after South Sudan gained independence, the people of Kandak yet again find themselves bearing the harsh consequences of nearby conflict. 
Since civil war broke out in South Sudan at the end of 2013, Kandak has received thousands of people displaced by the fighting. 
The latest influx has hit Kandak hard. Resources were already scarce. A lack of clean water forces the population to drink from muddy pools. Rising malnutrition combined with insufficient health care and the risk of water-borne disease make this a very vulnerable community.

With ongoing fighting in the area and no peace in sight, the humanitarian situation is predicted to deteriorate. Few aid agencies can make it here, to one of the most dangerous and remote parts of South Sudan. It is all a chilly reminder of what led to the devastating famine almost 25 years ago.

from here

The Real Black Economy

A Global Financial Integrity report conservatively estimates that between 2003 and 2012 $529 billion left Sub-Saharan Africa through illicit flows, growing an average 13.2 percent each year. If $529 billion seems hard to grasp, it's almost twice what Sub-Saharan Africa received in foreign direct investment and one-and-a-half times what it got in official development assistance in the same period. So for every $1 of foreign investment and aid, 84 cents leaves illegally. The system's like a sieve with billions of dollars falling through the cracks.

The lost billions are tied to expanding basic human rights and turning the continent's successful economic growth into things like jobs, service delivery, education and health. A leader of the World Bank has called illicit financial outflows a global priority, the White House has recognised the problem, the United Nations has a team on it and so does the African Union. On Monday, Global Financial Integrity president Raymond Baker said, “This is the ugliest chapter in global economic affairs since slavery.”

The Thabo Mbeki foundation traces the origins of illicit financial flows from Africa back to the 1960s, when elites in newly-independent governments were uncertain about stability and sought to stash money away in Western institutions. At the same time large corporations were globalising and looking to minimise corporate taxes. Essentially, the practice is the illegal transfer of money from one country to another, when funds are illegally earned, transferred or used. Think of tax havens and shell companies, a politician transferring dirty money offshore, criminal organisations laundering their cash through trade, terrorists doing wire transfers, or traffickers carrying suitcases of cash across borders.

Most importantly, think of multinational companies. According to Global Financial Integrity, corruption accounts for about five percent of illicit flows, criminal activity like drug trafficking and smuggling 30 to 35 percent, and transactions from multinational companies 60 to 65 percent. Addressing the African Union this year, Mbeki, chair of the high level panel on illicit financial flows, agreed “that large corporations are by far the biggest culprits responsible for illicit outflows, especially given their ability to retain the best available professional legal, accountancy, banking and other expertise”. They do it mostly through mis-invoicing, or lying about the commercial value of a transaction on invoices submitted to customs. It's often easy, because trading partners write their own invoices. Companies can evade taxes, claim certain tax incentives, and shift money into tax havens and secret accounts.

It's estimated that at least $122 billion was illegally transferred out of South Africa between 2003 and 2012, recording the tenth highest illicit outflows in the world (Nigeria was ninth). Ceasing illicit transactions does not mean the money would be available directly to spend on services, but to put it into perspective, the $29 billion estimated to have illegally left the country in 2012 exceeds the total 2015 education budget. It's something like 1,300 Nkandla upgrades. Curbing illicit financial flows would significantly boost tax collections in developing countries. Currently, these countries struggle to collect taxes from much of the population and those who can afford to pay, wealthy citizens and international companies operating in the area, are doing all they can to avoid paying, leaving governments with fewer resources to improve the lives of citizens. “Clearly, massive reductions in existing human rights deficits could be achieved by allowing poor countries to collect reasonable taxes from multinational corporations and from their own most affluent nationals, assuming the resulting revenues were appropriately spent,” said Yale University's Professor Thomas Pogge

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Libya and Mali Land Deal

In one of Africa's largest and most secretive foreign agricultural investment deals, oil-rich Libya, under the leadership of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, signed a 50-year, renewable lease for the land with Mali's government in 2008. Plans for the land deal were reportedly hatched in direct negotiations between two leaders who have since been deposed - exiled Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure and Libya's Gaddafi, who was captured and killed after being toppled from power.

Malian farmer Balima Coulibaly and his fellow villagers watched with dread as 100,000 hectares of fertile land they have farmed for generations were handed to Libyan investors with no discussion about the impact on their impoverished communities. Villages in the area remain without paved roads, phone lines or water pipes.

The land in the Office of Niger, the agricultural heart of the West African country, was provided rent free, with water rights included, on the condition that Libya build canals and roads to cultivate rice and cattle there. But seven years on, with Libya in chaos following Gaddafi's ouster and drought-hit Mali grappling with an insurgency, the project has stalled. Mali's government admits it's unsure what will happen with the deal since the collapse of Libya's government. Tens of thousands of poor families living and growing crops on the land say they remain uncertain what their future holds.

“We don't know what will happen to us," said Coulibaly,an aging local leader, "We have a big hunger problem. At the moment, we are just trying to survive." More than half of the country's 15 million people live below the official poverty line and nearly two million are hungry, says the U.N.'s World Food Programme. Coulibaly believes his village, where many are illiterate, doesn't have a lot of barganing power in international business deals. "We worry that we won't be allowed back if the project starts again," said Balima. "We invested a lot in these lands, planting trees and building things - but one day they could come and take it all away."

An estimated 60,000 small farmers reside within the area, each farming less than half a hectare. Sangha and Finn residents do not have formal title to the land they farm, although Malian law recognises customary tenure. They say they were not consulted ahead of the Libyan deal and have no idea what is happening now or could happen next. A 40 km (25 mile) canal was built to irrigate rice fields on the Libyan land but local people aren't allowed to use the water. Authorities have ignored their requests for water access and pipes.

Backers of land deals say they bring much-needed investment to Africa, and can provide jobs and improve the productivity of the land. But rights activists say local people are rarely well compensated for their losses and handing over land could exacerbate local food shortages. At the time, terms of the deal weren't publicly released but it was rumoured all rice grown there would be exported. Many large-scale foreign land investment deals in Africa are designed to shore up food security in the country acquiring the land or on international markets, not in local ones, experts say.

Chantal Jacovetti, a researcher with Mali's Coordination of National Farmers' Organisations, a rights group, said foreign investors often want land, but not the farmers on it. Jacovetti said small-scale farmers in the Office du Niger could triple their food production if they had government support to build infrastructure and, crucially, access to formal land tenure.
"Some communities have been on that land for 800 years," Jacovetti said. "But now they are totally precarious. Companies want to grab this land and get rid of the peasants."

Moussa Djire, a University of Bamako legal scholar who analysed the Malibya investment, said secrecy over the agreement led some to suspect shady dealings but personality politics probably played a bigger role in creating the project than illicit cash. An undated copy of the contract obtained by the Thomson Reuters Foundation showed the deal granted Malibya, a subsidiary of Libyan sovereign wealth fund Libyan African Investment Portfolio, land for 50 years with no mention of exports. Despite Mali facing three droughts in the past decade, the contract gave investors water "without restrictions" from June to December with some limits in drier months.

"How can they guarantee water for foreigners and not us Malian people?" fumed Binan Coulibaly, a local farmer. "It's already difficult for us to survive."

The Office du Niger, with green trees and healthy herds of cattle grazing by the roadsides, contrasts with Mali's desert north where almost nothing grows. Irrigated by a dam built by French colonialists in the 1930s, the agricultural area operates as a separate administrative unit from other parts of Mali's government and is responsible for much of the country's food. It could produce more if better managed, experts say. "We have the potential to be the great bread basket of Mali," said Sinaly Thiero, deputy director of Office du Niger, who coordinated the Malibya project on the government side. With no-one from Libya visiting the site since civil war erupted there in 2011, Thiero is uncertain about the project's future. The concession could be revoked unless food production and infrastructure investment goes ahead, he said, but he refused to give a deadline. "Whether the Libyans keep the concession depends on the Libyan government," Djire said. There are deadlines for developing the assets but Malian law allows for extensions under certain circumstances, he said. The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), which financed the Malibya project, refused to comment on its African land deals through its London-based public relations firm, Consulum Strategic Communications.

Family farmers - including those in rich countries - produce about 80 percent of the world's food, according to the U.N's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). A study by Sweden's Lund University found more than 32 million hectares of land globally - an area larger than Poland - has changed hands in similar land deals up to 2012, but often the bankers, speculators and sovereign wealth funds behind these deals don't have much expertise in farming. Farmers' rights advocates said several similar large land deals from Mali to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan have not met the desired results for anyone involved.

Child Soldiers In South Sudan

President Obama couldn’t have been more eloquent.  Addressing the Clinton Global Initiative, for instance, he said:
 “When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed -- that’s slavery.” 

Denouncing Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, and offering aid to Uganda and its neighbors in tracking Kony down, he said,
 “It's part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family, and no girl is raped, and no boy is turned into a child soldier.” 

In support of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he has lauded as “not only a great champion of democracy but a fierce advocate against the use of forced labor and child soldiers,” he’s kept her country on a list of nations the U.S. sanctions for using child soldiers in its military.  And his ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, has spoken movingly in condemnation of the use of child soldiers, which she’s termed a “scourge,” from Syria and the Central African Republic to South Sudan. 

Only one small problem, as Nick Turse, author of Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, points out in his latest reportage:
 the young, desperately divided nation of South Sudan is something of an American-sponsored creation, its military heavily supported by Washington, and so its child soldiers -- and it has plenty of them -- turn out not to be quite the same sort of scourge they are in Burma, Syria, or elsewhere.  Somehow, they’ve proved to be in the American “national interest” and so, shockingly enough, as Turse reveals today, were the subjects of a presidential “waiver” that sets aside Congress’s 2008 Child Soldiers Protection Act.  

The willingness of a president to sideline a subject he’s otherwise denounced in no uncertain terms is worthy of a riddle that might go something like: when is slavery not slavery?  And the answer would be, when it gets in the way of U.S. policy.  With that in mind, let Turse take you deep into South Sudan, where children tote AK-47s and the sky is not cloudy all day. 

read on here

Blaming the victims

1,650 immigrants — have been arrested in South Africa during a controversial police crackdown after April’s deadly xenophobic violence, authorities said. The crackdown came after at least seven people were killed as mobs hunted down migrant workers from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and other African countries, forcing hundreds of terrified families to abandon their homes. The arrests of immigrants has prompted charges that the government was fanning xenophobic sentiment. 

The government statement added. South African authorities are also going to continue with expulsions of foreigners. More than 400 Mozambicans were expelled Friday and 427 others in South Africa are slated to be kicked out in the coming days. Oldemiro Baloi, Mozambique's foreign and cooperation minister, said his government was surprised by the deportations. "We expected to hold talks with the South Africans to discuss the problem, but we just saw people being arrested," Baloi said

Zimbabwean activist Elinor Sisulu described the operation as a kind of "ethnic cleansing".
"Any state operation which was the image of cleaning or cleansing I find very disturbing, and I think the timing of it is absolutely unfortunate. Even if there was any merit in the operation, the timing [of Operation Fiela] is completely wrong," Sisulu told IOL media. "There's been ethnic cleansing. In Rwanda, there was talk of cleaning out 'cockroaches' and I've actually heard people talking about cleaning out here."

Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has attracted millions of migrants fleeing political and economic turmoil in their own countries.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

SEEDS: The Source Of Sustenance

“My mother gave me some seeds to plant. And I’m also giving those seeds to my children to plant. So that is ongoing, every time we transfer to our children.  And that is how all the women are doing it. We don’t buy, we produce it ourselves.” 

Sitting together in the heat of the Ghanaian sun, Esther Boakye Yiadom explained to me the importance of seeds in her family and the transfer of knowledge between the different generations of women.
Esther continues to explain the role of the community in sharing and preserving seeds: “I am having tomatoes and I don’t have okro. And another woman has okro. I’ll go to her and then beg for some of her okro seeds to plant. And then if another person also needs tomatoes from me and I have it, I’ll have to give to the person. Because you know every season changes, because maybe mine will not do well. But that person’s will do well. So next season we can get to plant. That’s why we [ex]change them.”

The ability to save and exchange seeds, after each growing season is an age-old practice that ensures that small scale farmers have seeds to sow the following year. The seeds are free for the farmer and they have the knowledge of what seed is required, for what conditions and the different tastes that complement the food they cook. Where they do not have a particular seed, they can ask other farmers in the community to share seeds.

This ‘freedom’ is essential for sustainable livelihoods as well as ensuring communities have access to nutritious and culturally relevant food. But this is all under threat by a proposed bill – dubbed the ‘Monsanto Law’ - in Ghana that would bolster the power of multinational seed companies whilst restrict the rights of small farmers to keep and swap their seeds. 

This attack on the way of life to so many farmers in Ghana is one of the commitments that the Ghanaian government has made to be part of the G7’s New Alliance. At the end of last year we exposed the role of the UK government in the New Alliance and their complicity in this attack which led to a series of questions in our parliament as well as a parliamentary petition (Early Day Motion).

As I travelled around Ghana this last couple of weeks, I met many farmers and communities who echoed Esther’s sentiments around seeds and the paramount role that seeds play for farmers and their communities.
When I met Patricia Dianon, president of the for Rural Women's Farmers Association of Ghana, she also articulated some of the spiritual and cultural aspects of seeds: "We use them when we have funerals, we put the seeds around the funeral sites, that is the last respect for the dead". She explained to me how you send off your loved ones with seeds so that they have them for the afterlife – underscoring the importance of seeds being the source of sustenance.
Yet the corporate agenda for seeds, as pushed through by the New Alliance, is one where farmers are treated as passive consumers of corporate-controlled seed. Ignoring the cultural importance of seeds and the economic impact on small rural farmers who have to spend money on purchasing seeds year after year and instead of enjoying a wide variety of seeds free of charge, becoming dependent on big seed companies.

This agenda is being challenged in Ghana and on my trip I also met different civil society groups, unions and farmers networks that are actively fighting to protect the rights to their own seeds and the freedom to protect their way of life. Their relentless organising, protesting and petitions led to a halt on the legislation. But it’s not over yet and any day the bill could come back on the agenda of the Ghanaian parliament, so the movement remains vigilant. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the food sovereignty movement in Ghana and challenge the complicity of the UK government.

 from here

Violation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Ethiopia

Statement by the Arid Lands Institute given out and read at the 56th regular session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Banjul, Gambia, on April 26, 2015

If the economic and human rights situation in Ethiopia is really as rosy as it is painted by the EPRDF government, how come hundreds of thousands of its youthful population are risking their lives to flee the country and die in the deserts of the Sahara, Sinai and Arabia, beheaded by fundamentalist lunatics in Libya and killed in South Africa?

Poverty is today defined not just in terms of material or food deprivation but also deprivation at the level of freedom, social and cultural rights. The UN came out with its HDI indicators; and according the globally respected institution, The Oxford University, the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative Global multi-dimensional Poverty Index Databank has categorized Ethiopia as the second most impoverished country in the world for two years in a row, 2013 and 2014. Will that surprise us? Not the least.
If the economic and human rights situation in Ethiopia is really as rosy as it is painted to us by the periodic report (by the EPRDF government at the 56th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights), how come hundreds of thousands of its youthful population are risking their lives to flee the country and die in the deserts of the Sahara, Sinai and Arabia, beheaded by fundamentalist lunatics in Libya and killed in South Africa? Why? This only indicates that life in Ethiopia is absolutely horrible that its youth sees no bright future at all. It all looks doom and dark.

Madame chair,

The right to development as a universal principle was all about those whose livelihood system is not within the bounds of the so-called modern sector of the economy such as those of pastoralists. In Ethiopia, the pastoralist livestock production system is not considered as a viable economic activity and is subject to wither away. Thus the land they occupy is also considered idle, a construct borrowed from colonization, and is subject to grabbing. In recent years the government in Ethiopia has dished out a huge tract of land more than the size of Belgium to mainly foreign investors and evicted pastoralists and other farmers. Forests and vegetation have been cleared and an alarming rate of environmental destruction has taken place. In all these, there is no sizable dividend for the country or for the evicted community as all the produce is destined to abroad. As if inserting a stick in the wound, one of these foreign companies by the name Karuturi of India, went bankrupt after all these environmental destruction. That much for the strategy of transformation and the claims of double digit GDP growth.

Madame chair,

Despite the claims of federalism, in Ethiopia, political and economic power is dominated by one political party of one ethnic group, the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF). Key political, economic, military and security positions are all occupied by party members of TPLF. This is a dangerous exercise as it can backfire into negative ethnicity which can be dangerous in the future.

Political, economic, social and cultural lives are suffocated due to repression and excessive control that people do not see any bright future for their children and that is why the youth is desperate to flee the country to define its future. As such, the people of Ethiopia are now living through their darkest ages.

from here

More on the vagaries of the market

While Africa is home to oil powers such as Nigeria and Angola, much of the continent is reliant on energy imports, and even producing nations often import gasoline and other fuels. Several African countries are suffering this year from a double-whammy of higher oil prices and weakening currencies. One of the worst hit is Ghana, which is just establishing itself as an oil exporter. Its cedi currency has tumbled almost 20% since the start of the year, meaning oil priced in cedi has soared 43%. Facing a 17% inflation rate and more pressure on the cedi, Ghana raised interest rates by 100 basis points this week to 22%, one of the highest in the world.

For African oil importers, last year’s crude price drop tempered the damage inflicted by a stronger dollar. But now, many are grappling with rising oil prices along with a depreciation of their own currencies versus the dollar. As a result, for much of Africa, the cost of oil has risen far more in local currency terms than in dollars, as this graphic shows:

While the dollar has eased recently, it is up 17% in the past 12 months, contrasting with a 40% oil price drop. Yet since January, both are up – the greenback has risen almost 4% while crude has gained 16%.

“The longer you have that double-whammy of rising oil prices and weakening currencies, the more pressure there is,” said Angus Downie, head of Economic Research at Ecobank  “It all comes down to who manages the exchange rate the best, and what level of foreign exchange reserves they have.”

Oil importers across eastern Africa are also being hit.
“The biggest impact will be in east Africa,” said Cavan Osborne, portfolio manager at Old Mutual Global Investors, citing Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya where currencies have depreciated between 6 and 13% in 2015. “We will see some slower economic growth out of that region because the oil price is rising again.”

Exporters are not being spared. Nigeria has seen crude prices rise by 27% in naira terms. This puts the squeeze on the continent’s largest economy which imports 80 percent of what it consumes, including fuel. With crude revenues tumbling, Nigeria’s hard currency reserves are down by a fifth over the past year – lower than most other big emerging economies.

The caprice of the capitalist market

On the back of the start of iron exports in 2011, Sierra Leone became one of Africa's fastest growing economies. Growth soared from 6 percent in 2011 to over 20 percent by 2013.   The government hoped that rising tax returns from mining would give it resources to tackle high unemployment and rebuild infrastructure devastated by Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war. Instead, the economy will contract by 12.8 percent this year as mining revenues dry up, according to the International Monetary Fund. Iron ore exports have plummeted from 4.1 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2014 to 1.8 million in the same period this year, according to the International Steel Statistics Bureau. London Mining, which operated Sierra Leone's Marampa mine, went into administration in October, citing debt, high costs, low iron ore prices and an outbreak of Ebola.

"Life has never been the same for me since I was laid off," says Abdul Kanu who said he was a casUal labourer at one mine. "We just went to work in November and we were told to go home! I've still not recovered from the shock". 

A 60 percent slump in iron ore prices over the past year, amid a slowdown in Chinese consumption, has brought a bonanza that had been expected to last 60 years to a screeching halt. Piles of iron ore and rusting railway wagons in the deserted stockyard at the port of Pepel bear silent witness to a crisis engulfing Sierra Leone's mining industry and threatening others across West Africa. Across the region, dozens of mining projects that attracted investors when iron ore hit $190 per tonne in 2011, have either stalled or been abandoned as prices hover around $60 With analysts saying prices may stay low for years, it could sound a death knell for West Africa's iron ore industry.

At the height of the commodities boom last decade, West African countries became magnets for miners seeking untapped iron ore, diamonds, gold, bauxite and other minerals. In Pepel, locals anticipated an economic surge for their civil war-ravaged country when London-listed firm African Minerals started shipping ore four years ago from its Tonkolili mine. Discovered in 2008 and lying some 200 km (124 miles) to the northeast, Tonkolili is one of the world's largest iron ore deposits. The iron ore slump hit debt-strapped African Minerals hard. Prices fell below its high costs, forcing it to shut operations in November, and it went into administration in March after failing to repay its partner, China's Shandong Iron and Steel Group.

BHP, the world's largest mining company, and rival Rio Tinto are locked in a battle to become the lowest-cost iron producer, cranking up output from mines in Australia as they seek to squeeze competitors out of the market. Paul Gray, iron ore analyst at research firm Wood Mackenzie, said supply from West Africa could fall from 25 million tonnes this year to zero by 2017 if the market conditions persist. Most West African projects require a long-term price well above $100 per tonne to achieve an acceptable return, he said. BHP and Rio have average iron ore costs of around $20 a tonne in Western Australia and are cutting that further.

In current market conditions, it looked unlikely that Australian firm Sundance Resources' Mbalam mine in Cameroon would get developed or even the massive Simandou project in Guinea, in which Rio Tinto holds a stake, Gray said. "It is not looking good, it is looking worse by the day," Gray said. "Those projects which were looking shaky beforehand are now well and truly dead."

Hunter Hillcoat, analyst at bank and asset manager Investec, said there was scant incentive for Western companies to risk capital developing expensive and risky projects in West Africa given that the iron ore market remained in oversupply. "I think it's is dead until the next decade or even longer," Hillcoat said, saying projects in Congo Republic, Cameroon and Gabon were likely to remain frozen. "There was a lot of potential in the area, just there wasn't the right infrastructure."

Colin Hamilton, head of commodity research at Macquarie, explained, "In a world where Chinese steel production growth has slowed to low single digits there is no need for new iron ore supply."


 Despite being blessed with huge natural resources, the African continent is struggling with hunger and poverty. Ironically, 40 percent of the unused agricultural lands of the world are in Africa and the peoples of the continent, who cannot produce their own crops, are not able to benefit from their underground resources or their lands. This situation has opened the doors to a world of exploitation.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), food prices will surge by 40 percent in the next 10 years and will result in an acute food crisis worldwide. The report says the food expenditure per household is expected to rise by 30 percent. One factor contributing to this situation is the rapid urbanization of developed countries replacing arable lands with industrial zones. Developing countries appear to be oblivious of this fact and are destroying farmable lands. Such practices that lead to the devastation of world’s valuable natural resources at the hands of the former colonial powers are described as “agro-imperialism.”

When the dangers of food crisis became apparent, countries looking for quick fixes began buying or renting agricultural lands in various African countries. It is estimated that some 47-56 million hectares of cultivable land have already changed owners through this method. Congo has reportedly rented 8.1 million hectares, corresponding to one-fourth of its entire lands. While the area of farmable lands rented by Great Britain in Africa is equal to the size of Denmark; US, China and Switzerland combined, purchased lands as big as Moldova.

This practice might at first look like a good idea for Africa, which needs new revenue sources. But in practice, things are different. Investor countries rent those areas not for a few years but for much longer duration like 90 years. They are being exempted from taxes for a long time and the produce is mostly exported. The portion they set aside for the domestic market causes a disadvantage in the competition for the African people who cannot carry out real agriculture and are having difficulty marketing their produce. In the domestic market, only the investor countries make money while the value of domestic products dips. For this reason, this practice does nothing but make the imperialist powers richer, as the Africans get poorer.

Some African countries have laws in place that protect exploitation of their respective agricultural sectors. For example in Ghana, the national parliament provides full support to those laws that restrict the farmers’ abilities to stock and swap seeds. This entails the farmers destroying seeds of their local products, and being forced to purchase the genetically-modified seeds provided by western suppliers. It is a known fact that countries that do not follow this path are pressured to accept it by western governments through various means.

Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), stated that: “If we set our sights only on improving productivity, there is a very real danger that we will grow more food in Africa without feeding more people.”

Mercia Andrews, of the Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) in South Africa, sees this as “another phase of colonialism” and adds “what we need is … People to people solidarity, not corporate takeover.

The only reason why the world’s resources are not sufficient although there are enough to feed twice the world population today is capitalism. If the future policies are based on principles of profit in favor over human life, global disasters will continue to strike mankind. The only way to avoid such disasters is to ensure that the spirit of socialist solidarity prevails. When that happens, the developed countries will work to ensure development both for themselves and for the countries they are using the lands of. They will choose to create opportunities to get prosperous together, instead of trying to further exploit an already impoverished country. They will teach industry, technology and agriculture to them, use the resources together and improve the existing conditions through cooperation. In order for this to emerge, people need to make their voices stronger. Let’s remind one more time something we have mentioned so many times before: Civilizations will get stronger not through divisive rivalry and oppression but through sharing.

Adapted from here