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1. Highlights from this issue
Featured in this issue
STOP PRESS: Pambazuka News has won the non-profit category of the sixth annual Highway Africa awards for the innovative use of new media. The awards are given annually at the Highway Africa conference in Grahamstown, South Africa, to recognize and promote the creative, innovative and appropriate use of new media technology in Africa. In the individual and non-profit category recognition is given to communications which find innovative ways to overcome the limitations of the existing African infrastructure.
* EDITORIAL: Two months after the G8 summit and as the millennium summit kicks off in New York, Charles Abugre cuts through the poverty promises
- Partnership in whose interest and for what? Henning Melber critiques Economic Partnership Agreements
- Mukoma Wa Ngugi is disappointed that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Americans can't stop filtering poverty through the "Third World"
- Nicola Bullard on UN reform and social movements
* LETTERS: Aid dependence and the MDGs
* BLOGGING AFRICA: Bloggers on the Helsinki Conference 2005 for Global Voices and the Egyptian elections
* GLOBAL TO ACTION AGAINST POVERTY: All the news from White Band Day 2
* CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: No peace in Darfur without international resolve
* HUMAN RIGHTS: ICC must remain in UN reform document, NGOs urge
* WOMEN&GENDER: Advocacy coalition hails 13th ratification of women's rights protocol
* ELECTIONS&GOVERNANCE: What Happened In The Egyptian Presidential Elections 2005?
* DEVELOPMENT: Engaging the new Pan-Africanism
* HEALTH&HIV/AIDS: Wealthy and educated women are the most vulnerable to HIV infection in Cameroon
* ENVIRONMENT: The socio-economic impact of mining in Ghana
* MEDIA&FXI: Report released on election media coverage in Egypt
* ADVOCACY&CAMPAIGNS: Help save Ghana's water
Internet&Technology; e-newsletters; Fundraising, Courses, Jobs, Books&Art
The 2005 G8: Business as usual the morning after?
Two months ago, celebrity campaigner Bob Geldof declared the 2005 G8 Gleneagles summit as a "qualified triumph" in the fight to end poverty. Charles Abugre assesses promises made on debt, aid and trade, in the process questioning the myths that surround much of the development discourse. He concludes that G8 promises are unlikely to translate into delivery and questions whether progressive civil society should legitimise a fundamentally unaccountable global governance arrangement.
It is barely 2 months since the Gleneagles G8 summit - declared by its host, the British Minister, as the "beginning of the end of extreme poverty in our world" and that Bob Geldof pronounced as a "qualified triumph" - and there are ominous signs that once again promises and delivery can be worlds apart.
The Japanese government is reported to have retracted from the promise of substantial new money for aid, the German government is yet to decide where it will get the money from, the French contribution is largely absorbed in past debt relief promises to its former colonies whilst the Bush administration stands little chance of selling a bigger aid budget to its Republican-dominated law makers.
The IMF and World Bank have thrown cold water over the magnitude and pace of debt cancellation expectations. The World Bank claims that only a small portion of the promised debt write off has so far been committed, whilst the "unconditional" aspect of the debt deal is being challenged by some key rich countries. Rather than a triumph, this may well turn out to be the "vastly disappointing result which will not make poverty history", in Christian Aid's assessment of the summit's outcome.
1.0 The G8's Promises
The G8 promised a doubling of aid to Africa, as part of an overall increase of $48 billion for all developing countries by 2010 (compared to 2004 levels), "which will start to flow immediately" (according to Tony Blair). The European Union promised to increase its aid by an extra $38 billion. Canada promised to double the overall volumes of its aid by 2010 and aid to Africa by 2008/09 compared to the 2003/4 levels. The United States of America promised to double aid to Africa by 2010 whilst Japan pledged an additional $10 billion over the next five years. If the Japanese deliver, this will halt an embarrassing 5-year decline in the volume of Japanese aid. In addition, Germany, Italy, France and the UK confirmed time tables for reaching the much heralded 0.7% of GDP commitment. In contrast, Japan, the United States and Canada remain unwilling to commit to a timetable to reach the 0.7% target. In terms of conditionality, the communiqué contained language to the effect of allowing developing countries to "decide, plan and sequence their economic policies".
In terms of debt, the G8 announced a 100% cancellation of the multilateral debts of some Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) calculated to amount to a total of $55 billion of relief, "$40bn dollars immediately" according to Gordon Brown in a speech to UNICEF and "without conditions" in a speech to his Treasury Select Committee. This debt deal is expected to benefit 18 HIPC countries who have successfully completed their HIPC programmes with the IMF with another 20 countries possibly benefiting with time. In addition, Nigeria stitched a deal estimated to be worth $17bn of debt cancellation including debt stock, described by Nigeria's finance minister and former World Bank employee as "unprecedented".
On trade, the G8 agreed to "establish a credible end date for agricultural export subsidies", "measures to build Africa's capacity to trade" and recognised poor countries' need to determine their own economic and trade policies, i.e. to "decide, plan, and sequence their economic reforms". This statement is interpreted by some to imply an imminent end to economic conditionality and a potential expansion of the policy space for developing countries, if implemented.
2.0 How Much Progress?
Do these promises constitute a vastly disappointing outcome or a qualified triumph? The answer of course is, it depends on what the standard of comparison is. Compared against the demands of the Make Poverty History Movement which called for more and better aid, debt cancellation for the poorest countries and trade justice in the form of non-reciprocal market access, the end of export subsidies and an end to "forced liberalisation", the Gleneagles Summit undoubtedly delivered a significant part of this agenda. It is also fair to say that compared to other G8 events the Gleneagles agenda undoubtedly covered the most comprehensive set of issues central to international development - debt, aid and trade - but also conflicts and conflict management in Africa.
If what was asked for was at least substantially delivered, why were the aid agencies generally unhappy? Well, for a start, they were not disappointed to the same degree. Clearly it is hard to say that Comic Relief (whose director, Richard Curtis was the key to the celebrity mobilisation and media imagery) was unhappy to the same degree as War on Want or the World Development Movement when the celebrity star player declared the outcome as a "qualified triumph". Nor were they disappointed for the same reasons, given that agencies placed different weights on different bits of the MPH agenda. It is not surprising that Bob Geldof declared the summit a triumph and Christian Aid a vastly disappointing result largely because they placed different weights on what was offered. The debt deal may well have delighted some in the MPH coalition who placed much emphasis on the poorest countries, compared to the Jubilee South movement who tends to approach the debt problem as a product of systemic injustice suffered by developing countries.
2.1 The game of numbers
Assessing the adequacy of the aid and debt deals is always a game of numbers. Aid targets being bundled around vary according to whether the estimates relate to resources needed to achieve the minimalist MDGs or more broadly to promote development. They vary according to whether they relate to least developed countries (LDCs) or developing countries generally and the magnitude varies with what is counted as aid and what the cut-off point is. In many cases, the targets and promises are decidedly vague and confusing. The G8 deal for example was vague about how the $48bn global number translates into actual flows year on year up to the 2010 target. The promise of $48bn of additional aid by 2010 may have satisfied the expectation of the Africa Commission Report but falls far short of the expectations of the Millennium Project Report which estimates the additional aid requirements to be in the magnitude of $90bn by 2010. This figure also pales if compared with the $170bn or so equivalence of the 0.7% GDP that rich countries should be providing, and even smaller compared to what developing countries actually need to finance their transition from underdevelopment.
There is an issue of what the actual resource additionality is in the $48bn dollar pledge. First, if the $20bn dollars pledged for HIV/AIDS by 2010 is taken out, only $28bn remains for all other development needs. Second, according to MPH analysis, only about $16bn is new money. The rest are old promises. $16bn, over 10 years, therefore represents "Bob Geldolf's triumph". It should also be noted that the $48bn pledge includes the amount required to write off the multilateral debt, according to Gordon Brown, who confirmed this to a Treasury Select Committee.
2.2 The delivery track record
Scale and additionality apart, there is the gap between pledges and delivery. The track record of delivering promises has been singularly appalling. Recall the Millennium Challenge Account announced by the United States in 2002 to provide $5billion dollars to support Africa's development. Three years later, the United States managed to deliver only $17 million dollars to Madagascar bizarrely in support of land privatisation and the introduction of a cheque-account system in commercial banks. Mr. Applegarth, the man Bush appointed to run the MCA, recently resigned out of frustration and, some say, inefficiency. Post-G8 reports coming out of Japan raise doubts about whether Koizumi's $10bn additional aid pledge will be delivered. The Japan Network on Debt and Poverty report that following the G8 meeting the Japanese government has subsequently decided that the $10bn promised by Koizumi will not be additional money for international development but will be devoted to fulfilling Japan's commitments to the cancellation of Iraq debt and debt owed by Tsunami affected countries. Whilst Japanese aid to Africa is expected to increase by $1.6bn for the coming 3 years, this will be achieved through diverting resources from other parts of the existing aid budget.
In truth, the $48bn promise is yet to be fully financed. Germany and France are still exploring the possibility of raising money from aviation taxation and some limited form of Bond transactions along the lines of Gordon Brown's International Finance Facility. Italy is reported to be signalling that budgetary constraints may adversely affect their ability to fulfil their 0,7% targets. Therefore even the limited additional $16bn dollars - the Geldof triumph - may not be fully forthcoming. The subtle impression created in various announcements that massive new funds will be injected into poverty reduction is in the least disingenuous.
2.3 Aid quality
There is also the issue of quality. The one issue that UK NGOs are united in their excitement about is the statement that throws some cold water over overt conditionality. Is this the beginning of the end of conditionality? Unlikely, for several reasons. First, much of US aid, especially the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), is conditional upon access by US firms to recipient country markets and on liberalisation generally. It is highly unlikely that the US will change the terms of the MCA based on UK government preference. The rest of US aid is either concentrated in a few countries in pursuit of military and geopolitical interests or provided in the form of food aid. Secondly, although the communiqué says little about how the additional resources will be disbursed, it is reasonable to suppose that the much of it will be channelled through the IFIs.
Indeed, the Communiqué intimated that the judgement of the IFIs will be crucial to deciding whether a country's policies are growth oriented, pro-poor and support good governance. Given that no specific reform measures were proposed for the IFIs, a business as usual approach will be the norm. Business as usual for the IMF is a continued insistence on a macroeconomic framework grounded on neoliberalism. For the World Bank, this will be an affirmation of the current shift from overt to covert conditionality which they currently enforce through various selectivity mechanisms such as prior actions and the use of rating systems biased in favour of liberalisation for the allocation of badly needed resources to poor countries. Without substantial reform of the core purpose of these institutions and diluting their power, poor countries will continue to be "forced" by aid dependency to liberalise through skewed incentive frameworks. The on-going review of the World Bank's conditionality framework makes this clear. Whilst overt conditions will reduce in numbers, covert ones will take their place.
But the use of conditionality is not the preserve of the IFIs. Indeed the conditionality approach, including specific instruments used by the IFIs, and their various mutations, have their roots in the OECD-DAC. Some specific conditionalities are "forced" on the IFIs by powerful members in the G7 in pursuit of their domestic interests. An example is the privatization of public infrastructure and basic services which the World Bank enforces through its lending programmes and written into their Private Sector Development Strategy which is believed to have been pushed by the United States against opposition of some senior Bank staff. Procurement is the newest area of battle. Reuters reported that on May 25th, 11 business organisations, including the US Council for International Business, Computing Technology association and US Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to the World Bank protesting against the Bank's proposed revision of its procurement rules to permit developing countries to use their own budding rules to award World Bank funded contracts in order to promote their own businesses, and seeking to open up all government procurements to international competitive bidding. Republican Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the influential Committee on Foreign Relations, raised similar issues in a letter to Paul Wolfowitz, former Pentagon No.2, now World Bank President. This is irrespective of the fact that developing countries have rejected the liberalisation of domestic procurement in the WTO multilateral trade talks. Under these circumstances it will be naïve to believe that economic conditionality is about to come to an end.
2.4 The debt deal
The debt deal has been controversial almost as soon as Gordon Brown announced it following the G7 Finance Minister's meeting in June. One issue is presentation. Gordon Brown has tended to speak about the deal in language that suggests a 100%, immediate and unconditional debt cancellation for the poorest countries. Brown said to a Unicef meeting that "together and for years we have fought for debt relief, and this year we are finally delivering 100% relief to the poorest countries in the world: a $55bn write off of multilateral debt, $40bn immediately". In truth, it is a proposal to the Boards of the IMF, the World Bank and the African development Bank to consider cancelling debt owed to them by 18 countries that have completed their HIPC programmes, with the possibility of more countries benefiting from the same arrangement in the future. It is not a 100% debt cancellation as the deal does not affect other categories of debt and is silent on debt owed by the eligible Latin American countries to the Inter-American Development Bank.
Some will argue that even this limited offer is not entirely altruistic but self-serving to a degree - a means to extend the life of a debt management arrangement that has singularly failed to resolve the debt crisis but has served the creditors well. By dangling a new carrot - the prospect of the cancellation of the debt stock owed to the IFIs - the 62 or so low income countries will be encouraged to continue to make good their debt obligations, thereby ensuring that creditors make as much money back as they possibly can on dodgy debts that would otherwise have been defaulted. This strategy has been used for 20 years to minimize disaster rather than solve the debt crisis.
Even this modest, not-so-altruistic debt relief proposal has hit a snag. First, the proposed cancellation of debt owed to the World Bank and the African Development Bank is limited by the caveat that the cancellation will be fully paid for so that these countries will not suffer revenue losses. Yet, the G8 did not commit the full resources needed to achieve this. The World Bank says that the G8 has committed to covering $1.4bn of reflows over 3 years and that this did not "cover all of IDA's true costs", meaning it will come at the cost of reduced IDA lending. Geoff Lamb of the World Bank also made it clear that the cancellation will be a drip-feed affair over 40years which he estimates will cost an extra $24bn today (if the debt were to written off today in one swoop), which is the equivalent of a quarter of all global aid flows in 2004. Without full donor financing of the debt relief initiative, "IDA countries will not benefit from the relief, he said. This non-commitment of the full resources for debt cancellation has generated much confusion as whether the deal represents a one-off debt cancellation for the illegible countries or a drip-feed arrangement which will continue for as long as someone commits to the needed resources in the future.
The IMF on the other hand question the "unconditional" principle, arguing alongside some non-G8 key countries like Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands that conditionality is central to ensuring the enforcement of the appropriate economic policies. Instead of immediate and unconditional debt cancellation, these countries argue for a compensation framework where countries first pay up and then have the money returned to them in exchange for policy leverage. The conditionality issue is therefore entirely up for grabs at the autumn meeting of the IMF and the World Bank. Besides, the issue of how the IMF debt cancellation will be financed also remains to be resolved. But even if the HIPC debts were fully financed in one way or the other that will leave Africa for example still $200bn in debt and the developing world's debt in general largely untouched. It leaves developing countries still paying to the rich world over $100mn daily. The choice of only some of the poorest countries for some debt relief is arbitrary (e.g why Uganda and not Kenya, Bangladesh or Ecuador or Haiti) and expedient for rich countries - a humanitarian gesture which goes no distance in tackling poverty and inequality let alone the injustice of the global debt management framework. Most of the poorest people live in the countries by-passed by HIPC debt relief initiatives
2.5 The trade deal
For trade, the G8 agreed to commit nothing. They agreed to agree some time soon on a time table to end export subsidies. Tony Blair hints that a timetable is possible and that a 2010 date is what he has in mind. Trade campaigners jumped at the language to the effect that poor countries be given the space to determine their pace of trade reforms. This language can be interpreted to mean different things, including that they expect poor countries to continue to open up their markets but will accept a slower opening. This undermines the MPH coalition's implicit demand that there should be explicit recognition that poor countries may have gone too far already in opening their markets and should sensibly reverse gear when necessary. The MPH demand in the WTO negotiations is a principle of non-reciprocity where the rich countries should be expected to open up their markets without requiring poor countries to reciprocate if even less steeply. They got no such signal in the communiqué. There was also no explicit language addressed to the IMF and the World Bank to end the use of debt relief and loans as instruments for promoting unilateral market opening. Given the crisis of production facing African countries in particular, the refusal to reform the unjust trade rules is clearest signal of the double standards of the G8.
3.0 Beyond the MPH's Agenda.
It is not sufficient to merely assess the extent to which the promises made will be delivered. The bigger issue is how fundamentally the MPH-type agenda tackles the obstacles developing countries face in mobilising resources for development. This cannot be adequately done without questioning various myths and holy grails.
3.1 Rethinking Aid
Aid is one such Holy Grail. The development community tends to ask for more of it largely on the assumption that it does more good than harm. The MPH demand for "better aid" is based on the understanding that aid can do harm if not provided appropriately, with conditionality being the main villain. What remains to be recognised is that even with reformed conditionalities more aid is not necessarily good and there is a point where aid necessarily does more harm than good.
A recent IMF report argues that aid can lead to lower growth if it distorts wages and exchange rates which in turn reduces competitiveness. Some argue that it is the size that matters. When aid exceeds 15% of GDP, it is more likely to do more harm than good because it exerts a negative pressure on absorptive capacity. But there is also political explanation why aid dependency hurts. Higher levels of aid tend to be associated with higher corruption and the erosion of the quality of the bureaucracy. It undermines accountability by prioritising accountability of bureaucracies and the political elite to aid arrangements rather than citizens groups. Aid tends to reinforce the power of the executive over the legislature thereby weakening political checks and balances central to democratic governance. Aid destroys democracy even more when ruling parties see their chance of continued rule in receiving and disbursing aid to buy patronage.
Aid and independence move in different directions Aid is a source and instrument of power - both coercive and discursive. Aid cannot be separated from the ideas it conveys about how societies should be managed. When those ideas are conveyed under conditions where a fair competition of ideas cannot take place or worst still where healthy skeptism cannot be exercised, then aid becomes an instrument of control through ideas. The power exercised through the monopoly of knowledge is discursive power, as opposed to the coercive power conveyed through overt conditionality. Development is impossible with double dependency - on other people's empathy and on other people's ideas. It is not surprising that governments in aid-dependent countries tend to sound and act more neoliberal than the godfathers of neoliberalism, parroting the extreme versions of IMF and World Bank ideologies and selling the interest of their people down the tube without noticing. The political and developmental implications of aid and knowledge dependency are issues that aid agencies are yet to address in a serious way.
3.2 Plug the leaks
A progressive agenda will look beyond aid to other ways to finance development that are more empowering. They are several, including taxation which has served developed countries well as a means of redistribution and source of investment capital but which has been undermined through the enforced deregulation which has promoted tax competition, tax avoidance and tax havens. As a result, whereas government revenue from taxation in developed countries average 30% of GDP between 1990 and 2000, in sub-Saharan Africa it averages 17.9% of GDP and is even lower in South Asia, of about 10.54% of GDP. Losses from tax competition have largely benefited multinational corporations whilst the tax burden has been transferred to wage earners and small businesses. The transfer of revenues to tax havens by these corporations and rich individuals further exacerbates the revenue loss. It is estimated that at least $11.5 trillion is currently held in about 74 tax havens - lost to tax authorities - by wealthy individuals. This does not include laundered profits of businesses which operate through tax havens to avoid tax.
Developing countries also bleed from general capital flight. Over the past 30 years Africa has been a net capital exporter (creditor) - transferring several times more capital abroad than they received in aid loans and foreign direct investment. Some estimates suggest that Africa's accumulated stock of capital transferred abroad between 1970 and 2000 amounted to over $280 bn through balance of payment financing, debt servicing, official reserves held abroad and trade mis-invoicing. Add cumulative losses due to terms of trade of non-oil producing Sub-Saharan African countries estimated by the World Bank to be in the area of $400bn or 120% of combined GDP. Add also losses that African countries have incurred simply by opening up their markets. Africa was made to reduce their rates of protection at a pace 3 times as fast the countries of the OECD. This has left the continent ridiculously open relative to its stage of development. Christian Aid recently calculated that over the past 2 decades, Africa lost in income terms the equivalent of over $270bn from the negative growth effects alone of trade liberalization. This amount alone more than matches the accumulated value of grants, loans and net FDI channelled into the continent. A progressive financing strategy will first seek to plug these leaks.
3.3 Explode the FDI myth
A major reason why developing country governments tacitly or aggressively promote policies that bleed their countries is in expectation of foreign investment - the one magical antidote to underdevelopment. At the heart of the policy of fiscal prudence (pursued at the cost of undermining health and education systems), strict adherence to debt servicing obligations (even when they simply can't afford it)' tax holidays and tax concessions (which deny them critical and liberating sources of finance), trade liberalisation and privatization of public assets including services, is the expectation that these create the environment for foreign direct investment - another holy grail for development which has assumed mythical dimensions. Political and business leaders in developing countries are imbued with the myth that they cannot develop without FDI leading the process and that massive incentives serve to invite FDI. This myth was recently exploded by empirical work, which examined FDI in Brazil, China, India and Mexico and concluded that incentives such as tax holidays, free land and subsidised financing of foreign interests only serve to detract value from those investments (The McKinsey Quarterly 2004). Without a fundamental reassessment of this myth, developing countries are unlikely to pay greater attention to the challenges of domestic resource mobilisation and retention critical to their investments needs.
3.4 Developing Countries have unexercised power. Help them to use it
A progressive agenda will approach the issue of debt and trade justice from the view that even poor countries have the ability to force change not simply act as beggars and compliant recipients of empathy and goodwill. The evidence suggests that poor countries get more fundamental change in their favour when they act or threaten to act against the interest of the powerful. Because of the risk of reprisal, poor countries are more likely to be successful when acting together or when acting from a point of economic or moral strength.
Compare the G8 debt deal with the Nigeria debt deal. Nigeria after all got a much better deal (although with significant limitations) because the lower house of the Nigerian Parliament threatened the Paris Club that they would repudiate if after a defined time, the Paris Club did not offer an acceptable deal. Argentina got an even better deal because they unilaterally discounted their debt by close to 70%. The task of progressive civil society is to persuade and support finance ministers to develop the courage that the trade ministers found in Seattle and Doha to lead the walk out that has since fundamentally changed the WTO negotiating dynamics. Beyond repudiation, the real challenge, according to the veteran intellectual and fighter, Samir Amin, is to fight for an international law regulating international debt necessary to regulate both debtors and creditors. But for now, it will be a grave mistake for anyone to rejoice over the poisoned crumbs thrown to a few poor countries.
4.0 So what about the Gleneagles G8?
Was the G8 a success? Yes, if understood as an opportune moment for the MPH's mobilisation effort. Will the promises, if delivered, Make Poverty History? No. In the first place it is unlikely to deliver much of the little it promised. Yet, it may have provided sufficient bait to buy an extended period of compliance and dependency, especially of African leaders. In any case should progressive civil society be legitimising a fundamentally unaccountable global governance arrangement? A question for another time.
* Charles Abugre is currently the head of policy and advocacy at Christian Aid. He has been a development activist in Ghana and many parts of Africa and Asia
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Comment and Analysis
The European Union's Economic Partnership Agreements: Partnership in whose interest and for what?
Concerns over the impact of current Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations between African countries and the European Union are mounting. Henning Melber warns the EU trade bureaucracy not to dismiss these concerns lightly, lest they be conceived as "an integral and active part of a new scramble for Africa, in which the EU competes with the US and China to gain access to and/or secure control over markets and resources primarily for their own interests."
This commentary summarises some recent concerns that current trends in the EU trade policy towards African countries with special reference to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) could do more harm than good and undermine future efforts towards regional collaboration. An earlier intervention of a similar nature (published in "Development & Cooperation"/D+C, no. 3/2005; see also for a related argument the commentary in "Pambazuka News" no. 197) had provoked the public disapproval of the former Director-General for Development at the EU Commission. In a reader's letter to the journal, Dieter Frisch "had a bone to pick" with the author and did "not at all like the way that Melber calls the EU's development-friendly and contractually negotiated EPA policy 'anything but helpful'" (D+C, no. 7/2005). It is indeed necessary to discuss the substance and relevance of such arguments and concerns further.
Hence follows another effort to present a critical overview, which simply compiles and articulates in a hopefully concise way the reservations expressed by agencies and stakeholders in the current process, who tend to disagree with the view and approach of the trade department in Brussels. They reflect that despite the former EU official's expressed trust in the "development-friendly and contractually negotiated EPA policy" others involved in the process draw markedly different conclusions. These deserve to be taken as seriously as the affirmative views - also and in particular by those who consider and advocate (if not even propagate) the current EU initiative as a step in the right direction.
Under the paradigm of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) a newly structured economic reality gains momentum. It organises trade relations in a way which requires questioning. This is the simple purpose of this overview, which continues to challenge the likely effects of the currently designed and pursued EPAs as anything but supportive (or helpful, for that matter) to the interests of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) member states.
EUs New Role: WTO, EPAs and regional integration
The EPAs negotiated between the ACP states and the EU not only seek to modify the Cotonou Agreement entered into with all ACP countries as a collective entity by means of separate sub-regional negotiations (which would even allow for bilateral agreements with individual countries instead) but also aim towards compatibility between EU-ACP trade relations and the WTO. But while the Cotonou Agreement, which was ratified in April 2003 and replaced the Lomé Convention, allows for negotiating alternatives to the EPAs, the EU Commission continues to pursue the one-track avenue EPAs stand for.
It might be worthwhile to recall the original objectives for EPAs from article 1 of the Cotonou Agreement, namely to honour that cooperation should "be centred on the objective of reducing and eventually eradicating poverty consistent with the objectives of sustainable development and the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy". But as a team of the German Development Institute (GDI) in a report on the prospects of the EPA negotiations for Tanzania at an early stage of the negotiations pointed out: "Trade liberalisation does not translate automatically into benefits -especially not in least developed countries, let alone for the poor - if this is not actively supported by and embedded in a whole range of other policy matters. How trade liberalisation can be made pro-poor is not outlined in the 'EPA concept'."
The EU uses the EPA negotiations to push through agreements on a number of sensitive matters (such as investment, procurement and competition policy) that were rejected by developing countries at the WTO negotiations during 2003. EPAs are about much more than only the suggested reciprocity within a narrowly defined WTO compliance: non-tariff barriers, such as environmental standards or sanitary and other provisions related to an EU consumer protection policy are crucial issues in the negotiations. This is enough reason to provoke fear that such agreements would reduce the policy space for African governments. It does not help to counteract such suspicions as long as even a high-ranking EU official such as Karl Friedrich Falkenberg (European Commission Director/Trade Directory General, Directorate C - Free trade agreements, Agricultural trade questions, ACP, Bilateral trade relations II) recognises in a briefing paper ("Trade Negotiations Insights", vol. 3, no. 4/2004) "the right of countries, or rather regions, to regulate economic activity in their territory" and accepts the "idea of a preference in favour of local competition", when he adds at the same time "provided it is not to be a discretionary one".
The negotiations on future EPAs introduce serious implementation problems and a negative impact on regionalism within the ACP group and its African member states. Regional organizations within Africa are likely to have capacity problems when entering the negotiations. The matter is complicated further by the fact that all these regions present a mix of LDCs and non-LDCs. A likely result is the further fragmentation of the process of regional integration and a further side-lining of LDCs. Even at a high level Conference on European Development Cooperation at The Hague in September 2004, which discussed extensively the EU links to the South, concern surfaced about the EU position on trade liberalisation. As the summary report stated: "Everybody supported the call for a high level of flexibility in the EPA negotiations. Room should be created for asymmetrical trade relations, meaning that developing countries should be allowed to protect their markets against foreign competition on a temporary basis." But as experience so far suggest, the EU trade commission seems determined to pursue its much stricter and less compromising course further.
EU Policy, EPAs and SADC
The negotiations by the EU aim at separate accords with each region, and no country may negotiate in more than one bloc. As such, SADC is reduced to seven countries (half of the member states) under the EPA negotiations. It is not far-fetched to see that there is an inbuilt conflict between regionalism as it exists and the negotiations of new multilateral processes. Countries might differ over the advantages between benefits from the continued protection of regional arrangements or the creation of individual preferential access within other trade agreements, but if regionalism is considered as a problem or obstacle towards further global harmonisation under the WTO, it stands little chance of being a viable point of departure for strengthening the South within the global trade arrangements.
The EU-SA free trade agreement, negotiated during the second half of the 1990s, has already had a highly divisive effect on the Southern African region. It entered into a preferential trade relationship with one country and thereby enhanced differences resulting from existing conflicts of interest among the national economies within the region. The fact that this affected directly the "satellite states" in the customs union (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland) was initially overlooked and understandably so the initial non-consultation of these countries was anything but a confidence building measure. South Africa herself, the monetary zone, the South African Customs Union (SACU) and SADC are already not in harmony at any time and less so given the effects of the free trade agreement on regional economic matters.
Hence the EU intervention adds more friction and the beneficiary effects of the FTA for South Africa cannot be used as a convincing argument in favour of more free trade policy with other - less industrialised - countries. South African interests and benefits are not identical with regional ones. Regional integration would have to include the interests of the junior partners in the neighbourhood. The political economy of such regionalism is a constantly negotiated arrangement, with shifting boundaries and changing coalitions of interests. But it clearly has to aim beyond the immediate gains of the sub-imperialist centre, as which South Africa is not only perceived but as which it is at least economically indeed acting under an aggressive expansion into African markets.
The EPA process does not seem to strengthen an alternative route, re-focussing on regional consolidation as a first step. SADC members had to make a choice to negotiate either within the East and Southern African (ESA) bloc or as a SADC Group. Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Tanzania opted to negotiate with the EC under the SADC configuration. It is revealing that the recommendations by the GDI study referred to above were then based on the assumption that Tanzania would negotiate in the East African bloc along side Kenya and Uganda. Meanwhile, Tanzania ultimately decided to join the SADC configuration.
SADC - EC EPA negotiations were officially launched on 8 July 2004 in Windhoek in the presence of EC Commissioners Danuta Hübner and Poul Nielson. Botswana's Trade Minister acted as SADC coordinator. South Africa - which as mentioned had entered the FTA with the EU in 1999 as Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement, since it was not considered as an ACP member country due to its more advanced economic status - participated in an observatory and supportive capacity. A Joint Roadmap was adopted, but criticism of the divisive EC approach (subdividing the countries of the sub-region into different SADC and ESA blocs) and the efforts to eliminate preferential trade clauses, which exist under the Cotonou Agreement for the LDCs, was increasingly articulated since then.
A Working Paper by The Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit (NEPRU) in Windhoek warned in mid-2004 that implementing EPAs as currently designed "violates the originally formulated requirements of the EU according to which ACP countries should have been treated depending on their different development status. This principle was already disregarded when negotiating the EU-South Africa FTA, where the EU locked-in BLNS countries in the same tariff structure as South Africa, without granting them improved market access." The author sees the risk that EPAs imply a loss for LDCs "when opening their markets without receiving anything substantial in return". Interesting enough, even South Africa's Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel - known as a strong key player within the current trade liberalisation schemes - summarised the scepticism among Southern African countries in a lecture at the University of Sussex on 2 December 2004, when he stated: "Greater transparency of intentions would also be helpful - the EU's request for Africa to divide into groups to negotiate does little to help Africa coordinate its trade policies - thereby reinforcing the legacy of our colonial economic relationships."
EPAs and Policy Coherence
Paul Goodison and Colin Stoneman have in an article in the "Review of African Political Economy" (vol. 31, no. 102) maintained "it would be an act of foolish optimism to expect integrity or honesty in the EU's trade policy towards southern Africa and the wider ACP group". Instead, as Cosmas Ochieng and Tom Sharman summarise in their report "Trade traps", published with the London based advocacy group Actionaid International, the EPA initiative during its initial negotiations "has created new regional groupings that are inconsistent with, and undermine, existing African economic and political blocs. Reducing regional integration to trade liberalisation undermines the broader socio-economic and political objectives of existing bodies."
For many, the outcome of the wider trade offensive, as represented in a combination of NEPAD, the EPAs and the US-American Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is not encouraging. Referring to the likely effects for African economies, Margaret Lee warns in an article to the "News from the Nordic Africa Institute" (no. 3, 2004): "Anticipated costs include revenue losses, possibly resulting in the worsening of the regional debt situation; de-industrialization; increased unemployment; increased poverty; fragmentation of export and tariff regimes; loss of export competitiveness; undermining of local agriculture and industrial production arising from US and EU dumping; more trade diversion than trade creation; and undermining existing regional economic integration strategies." And an IDS briefing paper by Christopher Stevens and Jane Kennan in mid-2005 comments upon the argument that EPAs will foster regional integration: "that there will be a significant effect - but a negative one".
The report tabled by Actionaid International diagnoses that: "EPAs threaten African fiscal stability and public spending. They introduce investment agreements that would undermine African policy choices. EPAs threaten African regional integration and lack an independent dispute settlement mechanism."
Ochieng/Sharman therefore appeal that "European Union member states must revise the European Commission's EPA negotiating mandate to withdraw the demand for reciprocal trade liberalisation" and stop "negotiations on investment, competition policy and public procurement". They furthermore urge the European Parliament to "launch an investigation into the European Commission's approach to the EPA negotiations and to exercise effective oversight over the Commission's negotiating mandate, tactics and processes" while beginning "to immediately examine all possible alternatives to EPAs".
It might be considered as "anything but helpful" to question "the EU's development-friendly and contractually negotiated EPA policy", as Dieter Frisch had put it in his letter. But it reflects the view of a variety of stakeholders in and observers to the current process, who would not agree with the label "development friendly" without further convincing evidence and results pointing in that direction. Instead, they wonder like Paul Goodison (in the "Review of African Political Economy", vol. 32, no. 103) if the EU trade commission under Peter Mandelson offers a "new start or old spin" - and tend for the moment to conclude the latter.
The leaked documents from the Brussels headquarters of the EU trade department (and disclosed among others by an article in "The Guardian" on 19th May 2005), which showed that Peter Mandelson had initiated a public relations campaign in response to the British government's critical position on the current format of the EPAs with the aim to counteract the "major and unwelcome shift" in the UK approach, did anything but eliminate such reservations.
As a recent assessment by the British advocacy group Christian Aid summarised: "for more than 20 years, ACP countries have been forced to liberalise their markets to such an extent that many now have economies that are more open than Europe's. They are already integrated - often harmfully - into the world market. So any new trade agreement between ACP countries and Europe must both help them to improve and diversify what they produce and export, and allow them to protect themselves from imports. In the meantime, EPAs in their current form will do neither."
The EU trade bureaucracy and its representatives would be well advised not to dismiss such concerns lightly. After all, they would not like to be conceived as an integral and active part of a new scramble for Africa, in which the EU competes with the US and China to gain access to and/or secure control over markets and resources primarily for their own interests, while the partnership talk serves as the necessary cosmetics and lip service. The EU-ACP process unfolding with the EPA negotiations is in its current format unable to meet the criteria for coherence with other fundamental principles of development paradigms and policies of the EU and its member countries, such as support to regional integration as a priority. In times of an intensified rivalry between the haves among the countries in this world to consolidate their particular interests within the regions of the have-nots, EU policy risks a loss of the positive image established and consolidated during various rounds of Lomé treaties earlier on.
To illustrate the case, one only needs to take note of the speech the Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa delivered on 31st August 2005 at the headquarters of the African Union, in which he explicitly took EU policies to task and warned of the devastating consequences of further globalisation. As he added: "I urge African leaders to think afresh about the place of our continent in a rapidly globalising world". Governments and officials of EU member countries sharing responsibility for "the economics of failure" (Christian Aid) as it currently unfolds under the label of EPAs pursued by the trade directorate in Brussels ought to do the same.
* Dr. Henning Melber is Research Director at The Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala/Sweden. This text is a short version of an input paper presented to the Second Expert Workshop "From Individual Action to a Common Strategy? EU policy on sub-Saharan Africa", organised by the Development and Peace Foundation, 20/21 September 2005 in Bonn.
* Please send comments to email@example.com
The "Third World" and New Orleans
Mukoma Wa Ngugi
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mukoma Wa Ngugi is disheartened by the constant comparison of New Orleans to the "Third World". The main thing, he argues, is that Americans cannot take full responsibility for poor black people and the policies that turned them into victims if they keep filtering poverty through the "Third World".
The devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina is being compared to disasters in the "Third World" but with no specific countries or disasters named. And if not compared to this black hole or repository of disaster that is the "Third World," a comparison to Africa is as specific as it gets. "New Orleans is a scene from the Third World", "like the Third World", "US Handles the crisis like a third world country", "bodies floating on water reminiscent of Africa" etc. This has been a constant with news commentators, analysts, members of the senate and congress and other sections of America commenting on New Orleans. The accompanying statements to this have been "I cannot believe this is America" or "This is not supposed to happen in America". It is supposed to and can only happen somewhere else. Attending a food festival event in Madison, Wisconsin I overheard a joke - "Where is New Orleans again? New Orleans is next to Somalia".
What role is the "Third World" playing in how Americans are dealing with the disaster? Where does the "Third World" fit in the imagination of the American people? What does it mean to say that this is not supposed to happen in the United States? To me, it is almost as if by displacing disasters and human suffering to the "Third World," the New Orleans disaster is not really happening in the United States. New Orleans is "out there" and everyone else is safe and American - the crisis in New Orleans is happening in a "Third World" outpost and the United States remains rich, strong and invulnerable.
The American citizen has been stewing in nationalism, manifest destiny and the myth of the democratic society that errs but never oppresses or marginalizes for so long that even a natural disaster cannot be seen and understood outside this lens. And the fact that most of the victims are predominantly poor and African American is not being understood as a creation of very specific domestic policies and conservative ideologies; it has to be filtered through the "Third World".
It is interesting therefore to look at President Bush's remarks after touring New Orleans on September 2nd after four days of inaction. His first sentence was "I've just completed a tour of some devastated country". This is a detached statement but it gets worse - a little later he says: "I know the people of this part of the world are suffering " and he goes on to talk about how progress is being made. Then he says: " The people in this part of the world have got to understand " Shortly after this, he says: "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute, but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." He then again refers to his constituents as "good folks of this part of the world". It is almost as if he is in a different country consoling its citizenry. He himself is so detached about what is happening in the very country he leads that he refers to it as "this part of the world". As far as I know, no one in the mainstream media picked this up, they too are reporting on that "part of the world".
Believing that humor is the best medicine, in the same speech he also makes a rather tasteless joke: "I believe the town where I used to come [to] from Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself, occasionally too much, will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to." Now, this is a President who up to this point has not visited New Orleans, a disaster area that is being acknowledged as probably the worst in recent US history, yet, speaking to an evacuated, wounded and dying constituency, he refers to their drowned city that was their whole life as his old party ground. All in all President Bush gives the kind of speech a visiting leader would make during a hurriedly prepared press conference after being caught unawares by a natural disaster. It captures his inability to empathize, to really be one with the victims.
The Myth and the "Third World"
An American dying in a natural disaster will look like a human being dying in any natural disaster and not necessarily like an African. A homeless American looks like any homeless human being and not always like an African. And a natural disaster should not be seen as somebody else's natural disaster but as one that afflicts all humanity. We are of a common humanity. It is the myth that only other nations torture that led to Abu Ghraib. It is the myth that only other countries have political prisoners that keeps political activists like Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier in American jails for fighting American marginalization. It is the belief that only other countries exile those that oppose their policies that has led to the bounty on Assata Shakur - exiled in Cuba for fighting for African American rights - being raised to one million dollars. And it is the myth that only other countries ignore and exploit their poor that led to the disaster in New Orleans.
But there are ways in which America is like the "Third World". Privatization, which in "Third World" Countries becomes structural adjustment programs, has been happening in the United States since the Reagan years of small government, through the Clinton years that saw a full assault on welfare and affirmative action originally designed to buoy the marginalized, and through the Bush years that have been rewarding the rich while taking away from the poor through Federal and Supreme Court nominations that support big business and reduce the power of labor unions, among other things.
These have been the years of 'blaming the victim' while preying on them. They are poor because they are lazy - enter the "welfare queen". While the mainstream United States was busy trying to convince itself that poverty and racism were things of the past or happened only to other nations, the marginalized were becoming even more vulnerable. Just like in the "Third World" in times of natural disasters and wars, it is the most victimized in New Orleans that are doing most of the dying.
The reasons why the poor couldn't leave the city are quite easy to understand. They couldn't afford it. They simply did not have cars or money for transportation, are jobless, or live pay-check to pay-check and couldn't have had any money saved up for relocation. Where poor people owned houses to which they had mortgaged their lives, where their homes had become the marker of their humanity and achievement, staying put and essentially fighting for their lives was the only option.
Like the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, or the ongoing genocide in Darfur, this particular disaster had been telegraphed - we all knew it was going to happen, and more political and economic will, including a more comprehensive effort to evacuate the city of New Orleans, could have minimized human suffering. What makes it even worse is that the millions being pledged now by private citizens and corporations and the 10.5 billion initially pledged by the government could have saved New Orleans ten times over through improvement of infrastructure. Because of the federal government's push for privatization which translates into public services being slashed or sold to private companies, perhaps the government simply no longer has structures in place to handle disasters. This could explain why Bush ended his speech with: "If you want to help, if you're listening to this broadcast, contribute cash to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross." Each death in New Orleans was preventable. But money is not made in prevention but in reconstruction. Soon, like in Iraq, the big contracts for reconstruction will be on their way - some corporations will make a killing. Let the bidding begin.
Also, it is with a sense of irony that one reads of corporations like Wal-Mart contributing millions of dollars to the relief efforts. Yet were their employees in New Orleans working in better conditions and with better pay, some of those who couldn't afford to evacuate would have been able to do so. These corporations are responsible for the loss of jobs through outside contracting to sweatshops in "Third World" countries where in turn occasional fires break out leading to hundreds of deaths. In "Third World" countries, they no longer pay government taxes in the tax free trade zones, leading to further destruction of already fragile and poor economies. Where these corporations have remained in the United States as retailers and manufacturers, they have seen to wages being cut. They are rabidly against unions and essentially use the community the same way colonial companies used colonized communities - for cheap labor, extraction of raw materials and of course as buyers of products whose production is finished elsewhere.
Thus coupled with a government that has engineered its own version of structural adjustment to maximize profit, and corporations that economically and politically colonize a community, the vulnerability - which in real terms is the result of victimization - seen in New Orleans is not a surprise. Rather, it is the culmination of well planned and orchestrated policies that consolidate wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the poor. Globalization is not resulting in a world that becomes better as it gets smaller, but rather in a world where poverty becomes more prevalent and more apparent. This globalization of poverty makes New Orleans a village in everybody's backyard. Instead of outsourcing disaster to an unnamed "Third World" it seems to me that citizens of the United States should be placing the responsibility for the preventable deaths and suffering in New Orleans on their government and corporate board rooms.
* Mukoma Wa Ngugi is the author of Conversing with Africa: Politics of Change and the forthcoming, Looking at America: Politics of Change.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Why UN reform is not a priority
The 60th anniversary of the United Nations in September this year has re-ignited debate over reform of the organisation. But, asks Nicola Bullard, is reform of the organisation really a priority? Bullard debates the issue of the UN's relevance for social movements, arguing that perhaps the issue is not about reform, but about joining with social movements and communities to build the political and institutional tools so that "we the peoples" can be transformed into an active part of global democracy.
"Ask not what you can do for the United Nations but what the UN can do for you," with apologies to John F Kennedy.
When US president George W. Bush announced that he would invade Iraq, with or without the support of the United Nations Security Council, he repeatedly drew attention to the weaknesses and failings of the United Nations. In effect, he threw down the gauntlet to the UN and, in so doing, inadvertently revived debate about the role of the UN and especially the need to reform and "strengthen" the UN as a foil to US unilateralism.
This debate has become even more alive in the lead up to the UN's 60th anniversary in September this year. It has been fuelled by scandals over the oil for food programme, allegations of nepotism and corruption, release of the high-level report on global security and jockeying for seats in the proposed expanded Security Council. Throughout, the US has maintained an attitude of belligerence and self interest: an attitude underscored in a recent report "American Interests and UN Reform" which confirms the US' lack of vision when it comes to the UN. President Bush's decision to appoint John Bolton as his ambassador to the UN, despite failing to get approval from the Senate, indicates that this posture will continue.
The UN has been in need of reform from the day it was founded because of its "fatal flaw": that the Security Council institutionalises the post-World War 2 balance of power. Throughout the Cold War era, East-West politics were played out in the UN, and were particularly evident in the functioning of the Security Council. Along with its veto power in the Security Council, the US has always used its financial leverage to serve its interests inside the UN. Nonetheless, despite the power plays, stand-offs and bureaucratic sclerosis, there remains a considerable degree of support for the UN amongst some governments, especially those for whom "one country one vote" in the General Assembly is the rare opportunity to be heard on the international stage.
The UN also has many supporters amongst NGOs and some sectors of civil society who believe it has the potential to curb excesses of power, redress injustices and to form the basis of democratic global governance. Some support it simply because their own existence is tied to the fate of the UN.
The prospect of a reformed, democratic and powerful UN is, of course, very tempting: not only as a means of reining in the US but because the global problems of violence, war, inequality, environmental degradation, exploitation and insecurity, desperately need concerted, international action.
Four reasons why UN reform is not the priority
But before we jump on the "save the UN" bandwagon, we should ask the simple question: is the UN worth saving? Whose interests does it serve? Would a "reformed" UN have the capacity to deal with pressing global concerns? Where is the potential for democratising the global system when the main sources of the "democracy deficit"- the market and militarised, globalised capitalism - are outside the UN system? Is it realistic to imagine that the UN could "control" the market and curtail the world's superpower? And, most importantly here, what sort of reforms, if any, would address the concerns of peoples' organisations and social movements, especially those struggling for basic rights such as land, water, work, housing, health and education?
Given the enormity of the power imbalances in the global system, I do not believe that reform of the United Nations is where we should be focusing our efforts. This conclusion is based on an assessment of the present situation, of which there are four important characteristics.
First, the inter-state system on which the United Nations was founded has changed radically in the past 15 years resulting from the processes of economic integration and globalisation in the post-Cold War era, and where US hegemony has no challenger. The consequences of this for UN reform are significant given that states themselves have unequal economic and political power and, as economic integration deepens, fewer and fewer possibilities to shape their own economic and political destinies.
Second, states are no longer the main interface between their citizens and the world beyond their borders. This function is now shared by transnational corporations and financial markets, the Internet and the media, all of which contribute to transforming the consciousness of citizens about their location in a global system. The borders of the nation state no longer exclusively define our physical, political, economic and psychological horizons.
Third, many of the proposed reforms of the United Nations system, such as an expansion of the Security Council or establishing an Economic Security Council, do not address the underlying balance-of-power dynamic that shapes all decisions of the UN -- that is, the balance of power between the US and the rest of the world, and between the globalised capitalism and citizens. Until these fundamental imbalances are resolved, the United Nations will be nothing more than the ineffective "conscience" of the world.
Fourth, the foundations of the United Nations - the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the derivative human rights conventions - are potentially powerful tools for emancipation. However, while the UN has been exemplary in establishing norms, it has failed, almost without exception, to develop effective instruments to monitor and prosecute states, institutions, individuals and corporations that fail to meet their obligations to uphold individual and collective rights. (1)
Finally, it is impossible to build the superstructure of international democratic governance when the basic conditions for peoples' democracy are so lacking. Creating new means for social movements (2) to defend their rights within an international and universal framework would provide a more solid foundation for the long-term project of global democracy.
Therefore, I suggest that the starting point for democratising the international system is not reform of the UN but instead to find innovative and effective ways to guarantee that social movements have the means available to them at the local, national and international level to defend and protect their rights. That is, rather than using our time and creative energies on cosmetic reforms, we need to find the means by which social movements can use human rights as a tool in their daily struggles and, by doing this, build democracy from the bottom up.
What's wrong with the UN?
The extent to which the United Nations is now lumped together with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as apologists for neo-liberal globalisation and United States imperialism should not be underestimated. Nor should the validity of the experience that leads many social movements and activists to that conclusion.
Since the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the founding of the UN, many Third World countries have seen their sovereignty subverted by Cold War rivalries, often played out in the global political space of the Security Council and the United Nations, and their economies gutted by structural adjustment programmes imposed by the IMF and the World Bank.
In the early 1990s, the UN tried to capture the goodwill unleashed by the end of the Cold War to build a new international agenda of cooperation and common values. Throughout the decade, the UN sponsored a series of summits, dealing with everything from the environment to racism. (3)
The agreements reached in these unwieldy and frequently contentious conferences established a new set of international norms, based on the human rights declarations but elaborated and expanded to include key concerns, such as gender, environment, development and indigenous rights. Each of these summits has been followed-up with five-yearly reviews, often revealing the weakness of government implementation and even resulting in a dilution of previously agreed commitments. (4)
As the 1990s rolled into the 21st century, many of the previously agreed values that underpinned the United Nations -- such as multilateralism and the universality and indivisibility of rights -- were systematically attacked and undermined by right-wing governments and ideologues, as well as by corporations and the financial markets. Indeed, as the speed of global economic integration accelerates and as transnational corporations and finance capital seek to conquer every aspect of human activity, the possibility of achieving human rights, let alone the right to development or peoples' democracy, became an even more distant hope.
To make matters worse, the United Nations propagates the view that it is possible to give "globalisation a human face" by mitigating the worst excesses of market failure without addressing the causes of these excesses.
The scepticism about the UN is deep and justified. For, so long as the Food and Agriculture Organisation advocates genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under pressure from agri-business; so long as the UNDP promotes public private partnerships in basic services such as health and water under pressure from services industry; so long as the UN fails to sanction Israel for repeatedly abusing General Assembly resolutions; and so long as the United States is able to stand outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the UN (and indeed all international institutions) will be seen as simply another arm of US and corporate domination.
Should the UN be fixed?
Efforts by the UN to present itself as the only thing standing between US unilateralism and chaos are at least partly motivated by organisational self-interest. The fact is that we already have "chaos" (if by this we mean war, poverty, and amoral economic and political systems) and we already have US unilateralism (although this is nothing new - the opportunistic use of unilateralism and multi-lateralism is a long tradition of US foreign policy).
There is no reason to believe that either a "strengthened" or a "reformed" United Nations would make any difference given that any reforms or increased powers will be subject to what is effectively a US veto (by one means or another). From the viewpoint of the UN however, reforms are necessary simply to hold on to what they have. Or, as the Prince reflects in Guiseppe di Lampedusa's Il Gattopardi "If we want things to stay the same, they are going to have to change." (5)
Faced with this record of failure, why should social movements - who are already over-stretched with their own struggles for land, water, food, shelter, work, social security, freedom from oppression and self-determination - spend their time "saving" the UN?
Reform to do what?
However, rather than be accused of throwing out the emancipatory baby with the reformist bathwater, it might be useful to ask whether a "reformed" UN would be useful for social movements.
This raises two questions: (i) what is the basis and character of the relationship between social movements and the United Nations and (ii) how could the UN be used to advance the interests and demands of the impoverished and marginalized who comprise the vast majority of "we the peoples."
To start answering these questions in a very tentative way, let's consider what "we the peoples" means 60 years after the words were first written. (6)
In 1945, "the people" were exclusively the subjects of the state, and all the ensuing institutional and legal constructions were based on a monogamous relationship between the state and its citizens.
These days, we are all "global" citizens in so far as global processes, such as the all-encompassing market, effect us all. However, we are far from being global citizens in terms of rights, either at the national level or at the international level, not least because the market effectively obliterates or subordinates any notion of universal rights by placing everything - whether it's water or knowledge - in the economic realm.
Nonetheless, as mentioned above, we are living in a time when our collective consciousness of being global citizens has never been greater. The global social justice, anti-war and alter-mondialist movements tap into and reinforce this consciousness, and it is here that we should look to build the foundations of global democratic governance.
"We the peoples" in the 21st century is a powerful idea because it is a self-definition that arises out of this consciousness, one which is generated and reinforced by collective action and solidarity. The elegant opening words of the UN Charter have become alive and manifest in the diversity of social movements and NGOs that constitute the "movement of movements." (7)
The "movement or movements" includes the global justice, anti-war, anti-globalisation, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movements. It includes workers and women and migrants and peasants and young people and indigenous peoples and all who are struggling for peace and justice. It defies a single category or morphology and encompasses the local and the global, the vertical and the horizontal. It displays a tremendous capacity to create its own organisational forms and processes based on an ever-widening commitment to pluralism and democracy.
What, then, does this have to do with the UN?
Or, to put the question another way, what is the relationship between the emerging (potentially democratic) political and social "culture" of, say, the World Social Forum (as the most visible representation of the "movement of movements") and the declining (and increasingly undemocratic) culture of inter-state elite diplomacy represented by the United Nations.
Or, to put it yet another way, is the 1950s inter-state model of the General Assembly where everyone wears a suit and diplomats rule, relevant to the multi-coloured "assemblias" of the multitude?
Or, more concretely and positively: Does the essence of the United Nations and the universalism of the Declaration of Human Rights, speak to us in new ways?
The question is potent for social movements, which are, by definition, engaged in the struggle for rights. Whether farmers defending their right to seeds, women demanding control of their own bodies, landless claiming land, or unemployed marching for work and a living wage, social movements exist because people organise and mobilise to defend or demand their rights.
In most cases, achieving their demands is only one aspect of the organising and mobilising effort. Social movements also give identity and voice to sectors of society that are marginalized, silenced and forgotten. This is as true of the dalits in India as it is of the homeless in Europe. Transformation of social, and hence power, relations is inherent in the mere act of organising those parts of society that "polite" society (and that, almost by definition, is the part of society that runs the UN) would sooner forget.
In their day-to-day struggles, social movements use the language of rights and responsibilities to pursue their demands, often borrowing from the UN declarations to provide a legal (as well as a moral) base for their claims. The common language of rights also cuts across and (potentially) unites the masses or multitudes. However, in terms of translating the language of rights into actions and results, there are profound weaknesses. While the UN is exemplary at establishing norms in all areas, from the right to development to gender equality, it is particularly weak when it comes to establishing the means for their implementation.
The power for this resides exclusively with the state, yet the state itself is subordinated to the market. The political will and the economic means to "progressively realise" human rights have been decimated by the market, the "economisation" of social policy and the commodification of public goods and services. In a market economy, rights exist only for those who have the means.
Therefore, social movements struggling for their rights find themselves confronted not only with the failings of the state, but also with the formidable task of overcoming the power of the market and global capital.
Clearly, both the state and the United Nations are out of kilter with the realities of a globalising world where power operates through diffuse and unaccountable processes such as the financial markets, transnational corporations, and the media. State power in the Hobbesian sense still exists, but in the age of globalised capitalism hegemony can be exercised through many channels and often with profoundly undemocratic effects. (8)
Hardt and Negri argue that we should learn from the past. "Just as it was illusory in the eighteenth century to repropose the Athenian model on a national scale, so too today it is equally illusionary to repropose national models of democracy and representative institutions at an international scale." (9) They suggest that rather than generating reform proposals, we must develop "experiments for addressing our global situation." (10)
Much of the discussion about reforming the UN system misses the point about the current construction of power and, more importantly, how social movements themselves are attempting to restructure and redefine power. It is not the task of the social movements to build international institutions, no matter how "democratic" they might be. The work of the social movements is to shift power or - as the Zapatistas would have it - to redefine power.
The universal rights scripted within the UN system provide an invaluable tool for social movements as they confront the market, the state, landowners, the militia, international financial institutions and corporations. In Bolivia, for example, the language of "rights" - such as the right to water, the right to self-determination, and sovereignty over resources - are powerful mobilizing tools that have been used to great effect by the farmers, indigenous, workers and urban poor to redress wrongs and reclaim rights. And it is powerful because it taps into deeply held beliefs and emotions.
It is difficult to imagine what sort of institutional reforms would be useful in this struggle. What use would be an expanded Security Council to the coca farmers of Bolivia? Would an Economic Security Council defend the peoples' resources against the multi-nationals? It seems most unlikely. However, the still potent and universalising morality of the human rights discourse is one aspect of the United Nations that must be defended because it can be a genuinely powerful tool (albeit largely rhetorical) for social movements in their struggles.
Experiments for addressing our global situation - some suggestions
We have the elements of a common global agenda amongst social movements, regardless of their sectoral or geographic concerns. This agenda includes rolling back the powers of the corporations and the financial markets, reasserting public services and community control of water, forests, land and natural resources, eliminating debt and expanding economic and social policy space at the national and local level. In the framework of "deglobalisation" (11) this is seen as "deconstructing" the power of the markets and the institutions of neo-liberalism and "reconstructing" communities and livelihoods, local economies, nature and culture. In an attempt to manage this huge agenda, human rights could be an entry point.
But first, the responsibility for protecting and promoting human rights must be extended beyond the states to include corporations, business entities, financial markets, militias, and the international financial institutions. This is not based on a belief that these entities are "reformable" or that they can be "socially responsible" but simply because we need legal mechanisms with binding rules and enforceable penalties to curb the power of those who are presently virtually unaccountable.
As a starting point, the initiative to create the "Norms on the responsibilities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights" through the Commission on Human Rights deserves our support, but the campaign also needs to be greatly strengthened to counter the current attempts to weaken or destroy it. Kofi Anan's appointment of John Ruggie as Special Representative on "human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises" is an ominous sign given that Ruggie's main claim on the job is his experience as architect of the Global Compact, the UN's non-binding and non-enforceable "code of conduct" which is widely regarded as a corporate "bluewash".
Although it would be politically and, one would hope, legally useful to expand the ambit of human rights to include corporations, approaches based in international law are just one element of a larger strategy that must be based in building movements and campaigns at every level to resist power and to regulate and roll-back financial markets and corporations. However, doing this in the framework of rights can potentially build a unity that is not possible in campaigns based on defending sectoral interests (for example workers or peasants) or ideological positions.
Similarly, elements of the Universal Declaration provide the "language" to defend and "de-commodify" human rights such as food, water, health and education. Indeed, work being done in the Commission on Human Rights (should it survive the swingeing reforms proposed by the Bush administration) by the special rapporteur on the right to food provides a powerful case for a complete transformation and de-commodification of agriculture and food production. (12)
The Commission's work on human rights and trade, debt, intellectual property, health and housing, amongst others, is equally useful.
However, the challenge of bringing those who operate comfortably in the quasi-legal world of international human rights together with the social movements remains. Indeed, as professor of international law Yash Ghai observed "a major weakness of the human rights movement has been the inability to involve the masses as subjects rather than objects of rights."(13)
Therefore, the task is not to "reform" the United Nations but to join arm in arm with the social movements and communities to build the political and institutional tools so that "we the peoples" can, ourselves, fulfil the promises made by the UN 60 years ago. Our work is to transform "we the peoples" from being the objects of an imaginary benevolent state to "we the peoples" who are the active subjects in building global democracy.
How to do this could be one of the common agendas for discussion at the World Social Forum and in the many local and national forums that are blossoming across the world. It is not an abstract proposition, but one that can and must be based in concrete campaigns and struggles. It would be a lot more interesting and useful that (yet) another session on the Millennium Development Goals, and almost certainly a more effective way to achieve them.
* Nicola Bullard is a senior associate with Focus on the Global South.
* A short version of this paper was published in "ONU: droits pour tous ou loi du plus fort? Regards militants sur les Nations Unies," CETIM, Geneva, 2005. Contact Julie Duchatel for more information email@example.com or visit their website http://www.cetim.ch/fr/publications_details.p hp?pid=115
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. The International Criminal Court may prove to be an exception, however the fact the United States refuses to recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC is evidence of the US' willingness to put narrowly defined national interests ahead of all else. Unsurprisingly, the recent report "American Interests and UN Reform" refers continually to the need to prosecute war criminals but makes no reference to the ICC.
2. In this paper, the term "social movements" is used in a descriptive and non-theoretical way to denote groups that are organised to defend and claim their rights, in particular social, economic and cultural rights. The list is long, but includes women, indigenous, "sans papiers" and migrants, landless, communities, workers and unemployed, and so on.
3. The list is long: World Summit for Children (1990), the World Conference for Education (1990), the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992), the World Conference on Human Rights (1993), the International Conference on Population and Development (1994), the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995), the World Summit for Social Development (1995), the UN Conference on Human Settlements (1996), the World Food Summit (1996), the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (2001) plus a string of "+5" and "+10" follow-up conferences. See Alison van Rooy, "The Global Legitimacy Game: Civil Society, Globalisation and Protest,' Palgrave, London, 2004, page 20.
4. For example, at the WSSD +10 in Johannesburg in 2002 there was significant "backsliding" with corporations making major inroads into the sustainable development agenda by pushing for the adoption of "solutions" such as "public private partnerships." Similarly in the women's and population review conferences, a great deal of political energy was spent simply maintaining a minimal line on reproductive choice in the face of the reactionary onslaught from the US and the Vatican.
5. Guiseppe di Lampedusa, "Il Gattopardo,"1958, quoted by Jose Saramago in "The Least Bad System is in Need of a Change," Le Monde Diplomatique, August 2004.
6. The opening lines of the Charter of the United Nations says: "We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourges of war, which twice in our lifetime have brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and the worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small and, to establish conditions under which respect for justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom."
7. Notwithstanding the need to update the Charter to incorporate gender, environmental sensibilities.
8. For example, the financial markets were able to force Brazil's popular, but as yet unelected, presidential candidate Lula de Silva to adopt market friendly economic policies even before the election was contested.
9. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, "Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire," The Penguin Press, New York, 2004, page 307
10. Ibid, page 305
11. What is deglobalisation?
12. "The Right to Food: Report submitted by the special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Zeigler, in accordance with the humans rights resolution 2003/25," Commission on Human Rights, E/CN.4/2004/10, 9 February 2004
13. Yash Ghai, "Human Rights and Social Development," Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Programme Paper Number 5, UNRISD, Geneva, October 2001, page 43.
Aid dependence and the Millennium Development Goals
Last week's editorial by Demba Moussa Dembele on aid dependence and the MDGs was posted on the Afro-nets discussion list (http://list.healthnet.org/mailman/listinfo/a fro-nets) and provoked the following responses:
Kris Dev wrote: At the cost of sounding cynical, I would like to call upon all Africa and Asia to stop this business of aid and doles.
If people have to die, let them die of poverty. Let the rest live in plenty. After all are not thousands dying in inter ethnic clashes, violence and terrorism?
It is honourable to die poor than to die as a beggar. Let there be no opportunity for the political leaders of Africa and Asia to rape their nations aided by the rich nations, at the cost of their poor and downtrodden, whom they are expected to protect, but end up fleecing and bleeding to death.
There should be no currency circulation and all transactions must be transparent to the public to question leaders, trace and reverse the wrong doings on real time basis. No Swiss accounts or stashed money in No Man's Island (a tax haven!!)
Patrick Mbindyo replied: Are you talking about "political leaders" or "predatory leaders"? If they are political and leaders, that is one thing. What we mostly see are predatory leaders who believe in death while rich or death while trying (to paraphrase a popular rap artist). The ones I know got into parliament and immediately increased their salaries and allowances. When the civil servants agitated for an increase, they gave them some paltry sums (after firing some and threatening the rest with dire consequences!) compared to what they gave themselves. What happens when the problem is not the west?
Lengthy and verbose
Your publication does tend to be a bit lengthy and verbose. As a person with limited time, I can rarely plough through the full version of your newsletter - even the new 'split-level' one - in its entirety.
I have 2 points.
1. When skimming through to look for specific items, it would be easier if the demarcations between items were clearer.
2. It would be helpful to have a succinct summary of the principal items, including the main points and conclusion of each.
Pambazuka News replies: Yes, the newsletter is long, but people also tend to go to sections that interest them, so if we start cutting sections to make the newsletter shorter then we do some readers a disservice.
We have for some time had a highlights section at the top of the newsletter that attempts to pull out stories from the newsletter as a whole.
Waheda Mungly, Mauritius
Your newsletter is very interesting and informative. As I am a press reporter, this will help me a lot. I congratulate the team of Pambazuka for their efforts.
Raised Voices: Call to filmakers
Raised Voices: views from the South Call out for filmmakers to send testimonies from the global South on climate change
We are currently collecting short testimonies from Southern peoples on issues related to climate change for the upcoming UN climate talks in Canada in December 2005. The project seeks to push open political space for the views of those most affected who do not have a voice at the talks. Raised Voices has already collected testimonies on the G8 in 2005 which created a vital space where those affected by G8 policies could express themselves - unmediated and uncensored. The testimonies will be screened in progressive spaces during the talks in Montreal and be available for people to screen locally. The clips will also be on the website http://www.raisedvoices.net where transcript, image and audio are also available.
So if you have access to a camera and can interview people from the South (including Indigenous peoples in the global North and people from Central and Eastern Europe) then please get in touch with Heidi at email@example.com
*We do not have funding for this project but may be able to contribute to costs if necessary.
Raised Voices is coordinated by the Transnational Institute (http://www.tni.org)
5. Blogging Africa
Africa Blog Roundup
Ndesanjo Macha Duniani of Digital Africa - Digital Africa (http://digitalafrica.blogspot.com/) has been reporting from the Helsinki Conference 2005 for Global Voices (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/globalvoices/).
The conference is a joint initiative between the governments of Tanzania and Finland addressing issues of democracy and globalization. Some of the topics under discussion have been "Why are Africans so Poor?" The chairperson of the Tanzania Association of NGOs asked: "If we are so poor why are western multinationals so busy investing on the continent? If we are so poor that we cannot even pay back our debt, why do western nations and banking institutions keep on lending us?" An excellent question. She went on to ask participants to redefine the term "poverty".
Tanzanian Blogger Ndesanjo Macha Duniani also gives us a brief insight into Finnish history and society and two fellow Tanzanians blogging. The Tanzanian blogosphere is quite an interesting one as it is one of the few African countries blogging in an African language as well as English.
For those readers that speak Swahili, Tanzania photographer Muhiddin Issa Michuzi, Michuzi (http://issamichuzi.blogspot.com/) is one of those blogging in Swahili and you can find some photos taken from the conference on his blog.
Ethiopian Paradox - Ethiopian Paradox (http://hahuhi.blogspot.com/) has a poem "The People United Will Never Be Defeated" which is dedicated to "terror prime misery, Meles Zenawi".
"Meles, man of power, is he really human? He wants to rule this age and hour,
until we stand together, and stop his horror, so that we may end the innocents plight, so, we, united will never be defeated, once again we ask, whose Ethiopia is it anyway? for judgment day, only truth will give way".
Nigerian Blogger, Emeka Okafor of Timbuktu Chronicles - Timbuktu Chronicles (http://timbuktuchronicles.blogspot.com/) has a short piece on EPOPA (Export Promotion of Organic Products from Africa) aims to aid development through organic trade. EPOPA " aims to give African smallholder farmers a better livelihood through developing local and international organic markets. The increase in agricultural production benefits rural communities, thus the farmers."
Finally this week Egyptian blogger -
The Big Pharaoh (http://bigpharaoh.blogspot.com/ ) The Big Pharaoh gives us his take on the recent (no surprise) re-election of President Mubarak in which turn out was an appallingly low 23%!!
Fraud, forgery, and dirty political maneuvers are an integral part of Egyptian politics. Yesterday's elections were not different. I believe that even if Ayman Noor came in second, the state will still put him third. The government cannot accept a young mischievous member of parliament to be right under Mubarak in the second seat. They can accept Nomaan Gomaa, the leader of a well known party, but definitely not Ayman Noor, definitely not this "kid" so to speak. Some say that Gomaa decided to run for president only to "break" Ayman Noor who was once a member of Gomaa's party.
Despite the predictable according to TBP there are two surprises:
First, Mubarak's share of the votes. Second, the rise of Ayman Noor who came in second, beating the leader of a well established party.
6. Global Call to Action Against Poverty
Africa: African campaigners convene last minute dialogue with African leaders
With only 24 hours left before the United Nations World Summit, African Campaigners organised a last minute meeting with African leaders on the African position. African grassroots campaigners and civil society play an important role in the Global Call to Action against Poverty (G-CAP). This movement represents the biggest anti-poverty campaign in the world. The consultation will discuss the importance of securing commitments on trade, wider debt cancellation, increased and better financing for development. Other issues to be tabled include better quality education, health, water and other public services and protection of people from genocide, crimes against humanity and promote gender equality and women's empowerment. The consultation which will be moderated by Brian Kagoro (Africa Region Action Aid -Policy Advisor) will also focus on the last minute negotiations and the review of the Millennium Declaration.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29484
Africa: GCAP/White Band 2 Events
Events were held across the globe to mark White Band Day II. In preparation for the UN Summit, activists gathered in New York, and in Africa, and celebrations and meetings marked calls to end poverty.
GCAP campaigners sent a message loud and clear to world leaders to wake up to poverty in front of the UN in New York. To ensure that the official delegations know the world is watching them, four Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) campaigners representing world leaders wearing pajamas and sleeping masks climbed into a giant bed on Friday, 9 September. As the oversized alarm clock counted down the years from 2000 to 2015, "the leaders" ignored both the loud buzzer and the campaigners who were shaking the bed vigorously. They were oblivious to the fact that they were off target to meet the goals.
South Africa: SANGOCO is part of a national platform that will be supporting the Global Call to Action against Poverty
In South Africa on Thursday September 8 NGOs, trade unions and faith groups united to assess the South African governments progress on meeting the MDGs. A consultation was held to critique the government's progress report on the MDGs, with participation from diverse groups across South Africa. In collaboration with the People's Budget Campaign, the outcome of this consultation will be published in a Civil Society Report by GCAP South Africa early next week. The participants in the consultation welcomed the positive steps taken by the government toward the achievement of the MDGs but also felt there were many areas that were not fully addressed in the South African government report. Hassen Logat, from SANGOCO, and coordinator of GCAP South Africa summarised the consultations findings: "The consultation strongly supported the need for a reformed UN system, where the African continent has full representation on the security council, and this representation is accountable to the whole of the African continent. We also challenged the HIV/AIDs figures in the MDG report, feeling that they grossly understated the true picture in our country".
Campaigners in Uganda meet with leaders
Uganda started their campaigning for White Band Day 2 with a strong lobby meeting. The coalition organized a High Level Breakfast meeting, which drew over 60 participants, including Parliamentarians, a Government Minister, the Academia, Donor Community and Civil Society. At this meeting the coalition launched their report to endure that these 60 influential people and decision makers 'wake up' to their demands before they send a delegation to the UN Summit.
Mozambique protests with music
In the heart of Maputo on September 3rd, the Mozambique GCAP coalition held a music concert with more than 15 000 people attending. Twelve acts took to the stage to support the campaign bringing a variety of music including the local 'Marrabenta' style, and key spokespeople such as the Pastor Rev. Dinis Matsolo, the General Secretary of the National Church in Mozambique also addressed the crowds gathered. Together they spoke out on the messages to the crowd, the media and also the Mozambique delegation to the UN Summit.
Global: Campaigners fear UN Summit will fail the world's poor
The MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY coalition expressed dismay at the prospect of the 2005 World Summit failing to honour commitments to tackle global poverty. The Summit takes place in New York from 14 to 16 September. The meeting was scheduled five years ago at the Millennium Summit with the purpose of assessing progress on the promises they made to tackle global poverty and to decide on further steps. The current agenda, however, indicates that progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will not be examined; and now even mention of the goals is being put at risk.
Global: The World Summit : UN reform will mean little unless poverty eradication tops the agenda
Citizens beware! The UN Word Summit, formerly known as the 'Millennium+ 5 High-Level Meeting', scheduled to convene in New York next week, is in grave danger of failing to adequately address the world's most pressing challenge and it's greatest injustice - global poverty. Only an unprecedented show of human solidarity on a global scale could favorably tip the outcome of the Summit. The Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) had some limited success in achieving this during the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland in July. Building on this limited but positive result, countless millions of concerned citizens are now playing a critical part in a much greater challenge - ensuring that the UN World Summit keeps its focus on poverty eradication.
7. Conflict and Emergencies
Burundi: Burundi rebels reject peace talks
Burundi's last remaining rebel group, the National Liberation Forces (FNL), has rejected an offer of peace talks with the new government. The government took office last month under a UN-backed peace process aimed at ending a war between Hutu rebels and an army led by the Tutsi minority. The FNL was the only rebel group to remain outside the peace process. A five-year interim constitution guarantees a balance of power between Burundi's Hutu and Tutsi people.
Darfur: No Peace Without International Resolve
Darfur Relief And Documentation Centre Press Release
The armed conflict in Darfur has entered a new phase. Violence, insecurity, banditry activities and the commission of serious crimes are increasing. The conflict progressively transforms into low-intensity war and evolves into a situation of perpetual instability and lawlessness. All parties to the conflict bear responsibility for the current situation.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29490
Mozambique: Aid urgently needed, says WFP
Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in Mozambique will go hungry unless the international community provides urgent funding for aid programmes, the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned. "We urgently need US $19 million to keep essential feeding programmes going for 430,000 people in Mozambique, but we need the assistance now," WFP's Regional Director for Southern Africa, Mike Sackett, said in a statement.
Niger: Food aid is 'misdirected'
Large numbers of children have died as a result of the food crisis in Niger which began early this year, an aid agency estimates. France's Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the death rate is several times over the international emergency level. On average more than 40 young children have been dying a day in one area surveyed in the east of the country.
Nigeria: Police arrest 45 people in violent southeast secessionist protests
Anti-riot police arrested 45 protestors in the southeast Nigerian town of Onitsha during region-wide demonstrations called by a banned secessionist group, police officials and witnesses said last Thursday. The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) said it called protests held in several southeastern cities on Wednesday to protest alleged harassment of its members by the security forces and to intensify its demand for secession.
Somalia: UN official urges restraint amid rising tension
The UN Secretary-General's special envoy for Somalia urged members of the split transitional government to exercise restraint last Thursday amid reports of militia movement in the town of Jowhar, where the president and the prime minister are based.
"I am concerned at the escalation of tensions in Jowhar and Mogadishu, and appeal for restraint from all parties whatever their differences," Francois Lonseny Fall, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Somalia, said in a statement.
Sudan: The Effects of Conflict on the Health and Well-being of Women and Girls in Darfur
A Unicef and UNFPA report that provides an overview of community perceptions about the risks women and girls currently face in Darfur as a result of the conflict, expresses concerns for their physical and mental recovery, traditional coping strategies and the gaps in services and opportunities which are discerned by community members. The situational analysis is a community-based investigation, meant to provide some insight as to how the international community can better shape its response through recognition and respect for these perceptions and preferences and the resources that are needed to improve women and girls' health and well-being.
Uganda: Relief agency renews call for international interventions in the North
The international community and the Ugandan government should take urgent action for an immediate and peaceful resolution of the war in the north in order to stop a "grave humanitarian crisis", an international humanitarian agency announced on Monday. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) reported that as many as 1,000 people in northern Uganda are dying each week from violence and war-related problems.
8. Human Rights
Africa/Global: International Criminal Court Must Remain in Final UN Reform Document
ICC Press Release
"The Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), a global network of more than 2,000 non-governmental and civil society organizations that support a fair, effective and independent International Criminal Court (ICC), calls on UN Member States currently in the final round of negotiations on the General Assembly President's Draft Negotiating Document on UN Reform to ensure that key language relating to the ICC remain in the final UN Reform document."
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29459
DRC: World Bank support for extractives fuels conflict and undermines human rights protection
Bank-supported projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guatemala and Chad poignantly illustrate how natural resource exploitation can contribute to a deteriorating cycle of human rights abuses, civil conflict and corruption, says the Bretton Woods Project. As the social and environmental consequences of World Bank activities come under increased scrutiny, its avoidance tactics to adequately and explicitly address universal human rights and in its policies is becoming untenable.
Eritrea: New NGO law threatens the existence of civil society
CIVICUS is deeply concerned about the effects of a new law in Eritrea which severely restricts the existence and operation of local and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Introduced in May, the NGO Administration Proclamation No145/2005 imposes taxes on aid, restricts NGOs to relief and rehabilitation work, increases reporting requirements for foreign and local organisations, and limits international agencies from directly funding local NGOs.
Nigeria: Nigerian Court Set to Rule on Challenge to Charles Taylor's Asylum
Nigeria's Federal High Court will on Tuesday, 13 September 2005, announce a ruling in a petition by two Nigerian businessmen amputated by Charles Taylor-backed militias in Sierra Leone in 1999 challenging President Olusegun Obasanjo's decision to grant asylum to fugitive former Liberian President, Mr. Charles Taylor. In their petition initiated on 13 May 2004, the two businessmen, David Anyaele and Emmanuel Egbuna, claim that President Obasanjo's decision to grant asylum to Mr. Taylor was contrary to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and the African Union's Refugee Convention of 1969 and unlawfully usurped the powers of Nigeria's National Refugee Commission.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29443
Rwanda: spectacular arrests
On 6 September, whilst his plane was in transit at Kigali airport, the Catholic missionary Guy Theunis who worked in Rwanda from 1970 to 1994, was arrested and taken into custody by the Rwandan authorities. The Rwandan prosecutor Emmanuel Rukangira told AFP that the 60-year-old priest was accused of "incitement to genocide and of genocide denial", particularly in the Christian publication Dialogue. However, in an interview with Flemish television, the Rwandan specialist Filip Reyntjens said: "From a legal point of view, I don't think the charges stand up. I fear that father Theunis may be the victim of his notorious opposition to the current regime."
Tunisia: NGOs protest deterioration of rights in Tunisia two months ahead of World Summit
International and Tunisian non-governmental organisations have expressed their outrage at the rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in Tunisia just two months prior to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), to be held in Tunis, November 15-18, 2005. After prohibiting the founding congress of the Tunisian Journalists' Union (SJT) on September 7, authorities prevented the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) from holding its 6th Congress.
Zimbabwe: Government Delays Provision of U.N. Humanitarian Assistance
In its policy of forced evictions and mass displacement, the Zimbabwean government has violated the human rights of hundreds of thousands of its citizens, Human Rights Watch said in a report released this week. Over the past two weeks, the Zimbabwean authorities have compounded the suffering by refusing to fully cooperate with United Nations agencies and humanitarian groups working to assist the evicted population. On August 26, President Robert Mugabe's government rejected the terms of a draft U.N. emergency appeal that would have helped hundreds of thousands of those hardest hit by the evictions.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29421
9. Women and Gender
Africa: Advocacy coalition hails 13th ratification of women's rights protocol
Solidarity For African Women's Rights Press Release
Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR), a coalition of groups across Africa campaigning for the popularization, ratification and domestication of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, welcomes the Republic of The Gambia's ratification of the Protocol. While pleased with the addition of the 13th country to the ratification process, SOAWR still urges the remaining 40 countries that have yet to fully endorse the Protocol to do so immediately and without reservation.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29460
Global: Microfinance interest rates attract mega-banks
Microfinance has gone far beyond a few small loans to struggling female entrepreneurs. These days it adds up to 10,000 lending institutions, at least 50 million customers and nagging questions about high interest rates. Microfinance may be all about small loans to women running tiny enterprises such as selling fruits and vegetables off a cart. But for the world of finance it's also become a big business. After growing by between 20 percent and 40 percent a year for the last decade, microfinance now involves about 10,000 lenders and at least 50 million borrowers. With loans averaging around $530, billions of dollars are reaching struggling entrepreneurs around the world whose incomes are too low to qualify them for traditional bank loans. With some 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day, the client base of people too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans has plenty of room to grow, say industry participants.
Nigeria: Nigerian police hit by sex scandal
Nigeria is withdrawing its 120-strong police contingent serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, Kinshasa. The UN launched an investigation into sexual harassment allegations three weeks ago and the entire unit were withdrawn from their duties. Nigerian police spokesman Haz Iwendi said 10 officers were accused of sexually harassing local women. "When one is contaminated, the whole bunch is contaminated," he said. Speaking from Nigeria, he said a senior police officer had already been sent to DR Congo to bring them home.
Rwanda: Rwandan women's leadership spreads to villages
Mayor Marie Izabilza sat quietly in the back of the dirt floor concrete room in an impoverished province on the outskirts of Kigali. Her round face was furrowed in thought. Before her, a dozen young Rwandan war orphans fired off their concerns. Izabilza nodded as each one took a turn to voice a request to go to secondary school, find a job, buy food or visit a health clinic. A recently elected mayor for this province of several thousand, Izabilza and other women like her are part of a new band of female politicians working at local levels in Rwanda, which is struggling to rebuild a decade after a genocide left more than 800,000 dead in 100 days and this small Central African nation devastated.
South Africa: Community activist to attend leadership conference
A local community activist has been selected as one of the 24 women to represent South Africa at a conference aimed at improving standards of women leaders in civil society. Ms Beauty Sekethe of Grange Township in Pietermaritzburg - who has worked tirelessly for her community will participate in the Interaction Programme for a New Generation of African Leaders organised by the British Council. The conference will look at areas of rural development, women empowerment and will sharpen the leadership skills of the delegates through a number of presentations and workshops.
Sudan: More women needed at peace talks, and in government
A meeting in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi has highlighted the importance of giving Sudanese women a greater voice in their country's political affairs, if Sudan is to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While a peace agreement was signed in January bringing an end to more than two decades of civil war in southern Sudan, the western region of Darfur continues to be plagued by conflict between government and rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). African Union-sponsored peace talks for Darfur are scheduled to resume Sep. 15 in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
10. Elections and Governance
DRC: Making Order Out of Chaos for the 2006 Election
Over recent days, thousands of people have queued at voter registration centres in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to ensure they can participate in a landmark poll scheduled to take place by Jun. 30 next year. The Central African country is also due to hold a referendum on its proposed constitution in November.
Egypt: Mubarak wins presidential election
Hosni Mubarak has won 88.6 percent of votes cast in Egypt's first contested presidential polls, the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) announced on Friday. Mubarak has been in power for 24 years. The result of Wednesday's elections gives him another six-year term as president of Egypt. The elections were, however, marked by a low turnout with only 23 percent of the 32 million registered voters casting their ballots.
Egypt: What Happened In The Egyptian Presidential Elections 2005?
Land Centre For Human Rights Press Release
Were the Egyptian presidential elections on 7/9/2005 just a rehearsal to satisfy America? Did the Egyptian government do it properly? Will that effect the status of human rights and the possible democracy transformation (change)? Were there any violations? These are questions which the LCHR will try to answer in its report about the elections.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29491
Guinea: Opposition calls for president's resignation
In a strong show of unity, Guinea's opposition has called on ailing President Lansana Conte to step aside in favour of a government of national unity. At a press conference held on Saturday, leaders of the opposition coalition Republican Front for Democratic Change (FRAD) claimed the president's immediate departure was necessary to stem the country's feared slide into chaos.
Ivory Coast: October elections "not possible", Annan
In a new blow to hopes for an imminent peace in Cote d'Ivoire, UN chief Kofi Annan has said that key elections slated to heal the nation's strife cannot technically take place as scheduled on 30 October. Annan blamed all sides for the latest hitch in the three year stand-off sparked by a failed coup in September 2002, in an interview with Radio France International last Thursday which is to be aired this weekend.
Nigeria: Foreign monitors may be barred from elections
Centre For Democracy And Development Statement
"The Centre for Democracy and Development would like to express its concerns at the 7 September statement by Professor Maurice Iwu, Chair of Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission in which he seemed to indicate that foreign election monitors will be barred from the crucial 2007 presidential, legislative and gubernatorial elections in the country."
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29493
South Africa: Ruling party moves to end rift
http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=49016 &SelectRegion=Southern_Africa&SelectCountry=S OUTH_AFRICA
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is taking steps to end the standoff between former deputy president Jacob Zuma, who faces charges of corruption, and President Thabo Mbeki. Zuma's supporters - among them the vocal leadership of the ANC Youth League and the ANC Women's League, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) - have alleged that Zuma was the victim of a political conspiracy and that state institutions were being used to block his bid to succeed Mbeki.
Tanzania: Zanzibar party to defy rally ban
Zanzibar's main opposition party is planning to hold a rally in defiance of new regulations published over the weekend ahead of next month's polls. Zanzibar's authorities said rallies could only be held in one place, without giving any reason. Civic United Front (CUF) leader Seif Shariff Hamad said the ruling defeated the whole purpose of elections, which were the time when politicians should go out to meet the people.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe cannot take two more years with Mugabe say analysts
Only immediate and drastic political and economic reforms, including President Robert Mugabe leaving power - now and not after two years - could pull Zimbabwe from the brink, analysts said on Monday. Reacting to comments by Mugabe in an interview on Sky news at the weekend that he would step down to rest when his term expires in 2008, the analysts said an earlier departure by the veteran leader would more than lift crisis-sapped Zimbabwe's fortunes.
Africa: Commitment to Development Index report launched
Now in its third year, the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) annually rates 21 of the world's richest countries on their dedication to policies that benefit the five billion people living in poorer nations. The CDI rates countries on: Quantity and Quality of foreign aid; Openness to developing-country exports; Policies that influence investment; Migration policies; Environmental policies; and Security policies.
Africa: Engaging the new Pan-Africanism
A new guide for civil society organisations is aimed at empowering non-state actors to effectively develop strategies for influencing inter-state institutions and programmes in Africa. The manual seeks to inform civil society organisations and social partners in Africa on the most important aspects of the new Pan-Africanism and new African agenda. The introduction of the report begins: "The past decade witnessed many efforts to give new meaning and substance to Pan-Africanism. This new Pan-Africanism remains as committed to African unity and solidarity as previous attempts. But it also goes further; it links issues of development with issues of peace and security, democratic governance, co-operation, and economic integration. For Africans therefore there is no choice between development, peace and security, and democracy. These three elements are inextricably intertwined. All actors engaging this new Pan-Africanism should take this challenge on board. They therefore need new innovative tools and strategies to influence political, economic, and social devlopments in Africa."
Africa: G8 communique: More and Better Aid?
A much awaited G8 communiqué must be commended for responding to public demands and putting development firmly on the geo-political map, says a Eurodad briefing. But, many of its policies are either too thin on detail (like just what conditions will be attached to potential new aid flows) or lack robust enforcement mechanisms (pledges on aid increases and enhancing aid effectiveness have no real enforcement mechanism to ensure they will happen) leaving one to question just how much will actually be put into practice. Sadly, if past political pledges of action on development are anything to go by, then genuine praise on the commitments contained in the communiqué will have to wait until we see evidence of real action on the ground.
Africa: Poverty Fight May Be Subverted at U.N. Summit
The UN summit, billed as one of the largest single gatherings of world leaders, will prove to be an exercise in futility if its primary focus on poverty and hunger eradication is subverted by other extraneous political issues, according to development experts, senior U.N. officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The original objective of the summit, which runs Wednesday through Friday, was to review progress made by the world's poorer nations on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set in 2000. A pledge to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 was a high priority on the agenda. But this objective seems to have been overtaken by other political priorities.
Africa: The social forum alternative in Zimbabwe, and Africa perhaps
Based on the values and principles of the social forum(s) one is encouraged with their emphasis on participation, popular initiatives and democratic, people centred social and economic processes that fulfil Shivji's assertion for "popular livelihoods, popular participation and popular power" (Shivji 2004). In challenging anti-democratic forces and extending participation to people the possibility of social emancipation becomes obvious and the chains of nationalist authoritarianism and global apartheid can be broken.
Ghana: The effects of market reforms in the cocoa industry
Cocoa is Ghana's most important agricultural export commodity and the major source of income for nearly 700,000 small farmers. During the 1990s Ghana started to liberalise its economy by removing input subsidies and introducing licenses that allowed companies to buy produce directly from farmers. Generally, the increase in cocoa production over the last decade is seen as a result of these market reforms. But did poor farmers lose out in this process? Research from the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford, UK studied changes in the cocoa sector in Ghana since the early 1990s to identify who gained from the reforms. It found that the overall increase in production levels does not reflect the fact that poor farming households are not better off. While large farmers could improve production due to the use of pesticides or fertilisers, higher production costs constrained many poor farmers.
Ghana: No benefits from zero-tolerance of corruption
The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) has said despite the government's declared intention to pursue zero tolerance for corruption, not much was seen in terms of reaping the benefits that could accrue from systematic policies that are capable of delivering the dividends of good governance. It noted that based on its studies on corruption and good governance in the country, there was the need for more proactive and concrete action by all stakeholders to stem the growing tide of corruption, or perceived corruption.
Kenya: Minister says voters being bribed with looted money
Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama has said "a lot of looted money" was being used to bribe support for a proposed constitution. He urged President Kibaki to give Kenyans more time to study the constitution. Ntimama, a minister in the Office of the President, said looted money was being used to confuse people ahead of the referendum slated for November 21. He said Kenyans were being "lured" into voting for a document they do not understand yet it could affect them for more than 100 years.
Liberia: Donors spell out harsh consequences if anti-graft plan not agreed
Liberia stands to lose millions of dollars of aid and billions of dollars of debt relief if it does not sign up to a plan to wipe out rampant corruption in the war-scarred West African nation, donors warned on Thursday. Authorities have been haggling with the international community for months over the so-called Governance and Economic Management Assistance Programme (GEMAP), designed to ensure funds do not end up in the pockets of politicians but go towards approving the lot of Liberia's three million population who suffered 14 years of civil war.
Namibia: Bringing Namibia back from the brink
It is very important that Namibia be seen to be tackling corruption, even in the absence of an Anti-Corruption Commission, which, according to Prime Minister Nahas Angula, is unlikely to see the light of day before the end of 2005 at least. The Prime Minister said in an interview this week that the Commission could not be constituted before appointees had been approved, and although we understand there is a shortlist, we cannot say whether the right candidate can or has been found, says this commentary.
Zambia: State counsel advises Chiluba to accept British court
Prominant Lusaka state counsel Dr Rodger Chongwe has advised former president Frederick Chiluba to submit himself to the London High Court. Commenting on former president Frederick Chiluba's refusal to be tried by the London High Court which has been allowed by the Zambian government to sit in Zambia, Dr Chongwe said Chiluba was the defender of the frozen properties and the court was allowing him to exercise his right to be heard because the tribunal did not want to come to a decision before it heard his side.
13. Health and HIV/AIDS
Cameroon: Wealthy and educated women are the most vulnerable to HIV infection in Cameroon
Seven percent of women in Cameroon are infected with HIV, compared with 4% among men, according to the latest Demographic and Health Survey (CDHS), conducted from February to August of 2004, the third DHS of its kind in this country. HIV-infected women are more likely to be educated than not: 8.2% of women with a secondary school education or higher are infected, compared with 3.4% of women with no education; as for the men, the results are respectively 4.3% and 2.7%. The prevalence increases also with the socio-economic level: among women and men living in relatively wealthy households, the risk of HIV infection is more than three times higher than among those living in the poorest households.
Global: Urgent international appeal for full funding of the global fund
The Global Fund is a critical mechanism in international efforts to eradicate disease and poverty. Donor governments will hold a Replenishment Meeting in London on 5-6 September 2005 to raise the Global Fund's stated needs: $2.9 billion in 2006 (plus a further $0.7 billion to meet the anticipated 2005 funding gap), and $4.2 billion in 2007, for a total of $7.8 billion. If the Global Fund does not have enough resources, implementing the G8's recent promise to achieve universal access to HIV treatment by 2010 will be impossible.
South Africa: Lack of staff threatens ARV plan
The ARV treatment plan is drawing health staff away from other services, while at the same time it desperately needs more staff to expand, according to the SA Health Review. The biggest obstacle to getting more HIV positive people on antiretroviral treatment is the lack of health staff. Over the next five years, government's HIV/AIDS care, support and treatment plan will need about 13 800 more staff if it is to be implemented properly. Approximately 3 200 doctors, 2 400 nurses, 765 social workers, 765 dieticians, 112 pharmacists and 2000 data capturers will be needed by 2009 to implement the full roll out of the antiretroviral component of the plan.
Swaziland: HIV-positive children more vulnerable to chickenpox
http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=48971 &SelectRegion=Southern_Africa&SelectCountry=S WAZILAND
An upsurge in chickenpox among Swazi children and adults is being blamed on a rise in HIV/AIDS in a country with one of the world's highest HIV infection rates. "Chickenpox is a relatively mild childhood disease, but once contracted it will remain with the child for the rest of his or her life. If the child is HIV-positive, it becomes more serious," said Ministry of Health worker Julie Dlamini. "What is worrisome about the disease for people of all ages is that, unlike AIDS, which can be contracted only through sexual intercourse with an infected person or the sharing of bodily fluids, chickenpox can be caught merely through close contact with an infected person," Dlamini explained.
Zimbabwe: 'Slum clearance' disrupts AIDS programmes
Zimbabwe's controversial slum clearance campaign has disrupted programmes aimed at treating HIV/Aids in the country, says New York-based Human Rights Watch. The disruption to treatment programmes could also spread resistance to drugs and lead to more infections, it says. The group say the demolitions have also exacerbated food shortages by making it harder for aid agencies to help.
Africa: Governments urged to prioritise pre-schooling
African governments have been asked to put in place programmes that promote holistic growth of children, especially the vulnerable. They should give priority to early childhood development (ECD) in all development policies and strategies such as the National Education For All (EFA) and Poverty Reduction Strategy Plans (PRSPs). Similarly, governments need to provide quality basic services, including health and education, that protect children from infections and exploitation and ensure that they lead a happy life.
Africa: Universities 'can held offset brain drain from South'
Universities in developed nations could help offset the 'brain drain' of skilled workers from poorer countries, says a report published on 1 September. It says universities could transfer resources, technology and knowledge to developing nations through exchanges of staff and students, research collaborations, and 'twinning' with institutions there. The report, which focuses on Africa, notes that developing countries see some benefits from the brain drain because migrant workers send money home and might also transfer knowledge back to their countries of origin.
Burundi: President pledges to provide free primary schooling for all children
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has applauded Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza's pledge to provide free primary education for every child as the country emerges from years of civil war. "This is an incredible opportunity for Burundi to be engaged in meeting the Millennium Development Goals - to meet the objective of universal primary education for all children," UNICEF Representative in Burundi Catherine Mbengue said. The primary school enrolment ratio for Burundian children is estimated at 59 per cent for boys and 48 per cent for girls, according to UNICEF estimates.
Global: World leaders told universal education key to stopping AIDS
On 13 September, one million paper cut-out figures will embark on the final stage of a global journey that has taken them from schools in 170 countries, via the G8 Summit in Scotland, to the 2005 World Summit in New York, being held at the United Nations Headquarters from 14-16 September. These figures represent the more than 100 million children who are not in school. They have been made and sent by children from all over the world in a plea to world leaders to speed up action to "send my friend to school." The campaign has been organized by the Global Campaign for Education in partnership with the UNAIDS-led Global Coalition on Women and AIDS.
Namibia: Teachers plan mass demonstration
Teachers countrywide are poised to hold nationwide demonstrations to protest against Government's failure to implement salary increases and benefits. "We want to register our maximum anger and disappointment and thus put pressure on the Government to implement the Revised Salary Structure for Teachers without any further delay," the Namibia National Teachers' Union (Nantu) said in a statement at the weekend.
Somalia: Access to education remains a major challenge - EC
http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=48960 &SelectRegion=Horn_of_Africa&SelectCountry=SO MALIA
The European Commission (EC) said on Thursday that access to basic education remained a major challenge in Somalia despite tremendous gains in literacy in recent years. "Much remains to be done to ensure that Somalis, especially the poor, have access to basic education and lifelong learning opportunities," the EC delegation in Kenya, which also handles Somalia operations, said in a statement on the occasion of the international literacy day.
South Africa: Mini labs take science to rural schools
Rural high school pupils in Mpumalanga will now have access to well-equipped mini science laboratories. The mini laboratories are small, compact, durable boxes that weigh no more than 15kg and do not need electricity. They also come with printed and electronic manuals, as well as equipment and chemicals for the Grade 8 and 9 Natural Science curricula. "The mini labs are designed to bridge the gap between secondary and tertiary education by stimulating an interest in science," said provincial education spokesperson Thomas Msiza.
Ghana: The socio-economic impact of mining
The Third World Network-Africa has conducted research on the environmental and socio-economic impacts of mining on Obuasi and its satellite communities. As part of the process of validating the findings of the research, TWN-Africa organised a two-day workshop for communities who participated in the workshop. The statement that follows is part of an outcome of the workshop. "We, 18 communities affected by mining from Obuasi, Kenyasi, Bibiani, Himan-Prestea, Hia, Anyinam, Tarkwa, Oseikrom/Twinsaaso, New Bidiem, Ankaako, Ntonsu, Ayankyerem, Kwaberefoso, Jimiso, Ewiase, Dokyiwaa, and Fenaso-Fawoman participating in a two-day workshop in Kumasi, Ghana, from August 24th to 25th, 2005 to validate a research conducted on the environmental and socio-economic impact of mining (Anglo-gold-Ashanti Obuasi Mines) in Obuasi and surrounding communities, and also the potential effects of the mining bill, have come to a number of conclusions." Please follow the link to read the report in its entirety.
Global: Global seed industry concentration - 2005
2004-2005 saw an upsurge in seed industry takeovers and a shake-up in rankings. Today, the top 10 companies control half of the world's commercial seed sales. With a total worldwide market of approximately US $21 000 (21 billion) per annum, the commercial seed industry is relatively small compared to the global pesticide market ($35 400 million), and it's positively puny compared to pharmaceutical sales ($466 000 million). But corporate control and ownership of seeds - the first link in the food chain - has far reaching implications for global food security. This Communique examines seed industry consolidation and other recent trends in the commercial seed industry.
Global: The Water Crisis
The recently released Social Watch Report 2005, argues that water needs the protection of international law. Since the second half of the 1970s, and in particular since the first major world conference on water (organized in 1977 by the United Nations at Mar del Plata, Argentina), world leaders have been aware of the scale of the problems concerning access to water of sufficient quantity and quality, and of the risks associated with growing shortages and degradation of the supply. The Mar del Plata conference set out the basic facts and made water one of the top issues on the international political agenda. And yet the 'water crisis' has continued to worsen. Follow the link to read the article and download the report.
Kenya: New alarm of wheat disease outbreak
Scientists have announced an outbreak of a devastating wheat disease that could wipe out the entire crop in Kenya. The stem rust disease has affected farms in Njoro and was spreading fast, raising fears of a food shortage. A panel of experts working under the Global Rust Initiative sounded the alarm after a study to evaluate the threat of the disease first detected in Uganda in 1999. The initiative, which includes the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, said the disease had the potential of spreading worldwide, causing a global catastrophe.
Nigeria: Government approves establishment of forestry trust fund
Imo State government has approved the establishment of a Forestry Trust Fund (FTF) in the state. Flagging off this year's tree planting campaign in Owerri, Governor Achike Udenwa, also directed local council administrations to encourage the people to plant economic trees. "In recognition of the role trees and forests can play in realising our tripod vision, my administration approved the establishment of a Forestry Trust Fund in Imo State," Udenwa disclosed.
16. Media and Freedom of Expression
Chad: Ngaradoumbé freed pending appeal hearing in "encouraging" development
Reporters Without Borders has welcomed the N'Djaména appeal court's decision to provisionally release Samory Ngaradoumbé, the editorial coordinator of the privately-owned weekly L'Observateur, pending an appeal hearing on 22 September. He had been serving a three-month prison sentence since 18 July. "It is an encouraging sign to see Samory Ngaradoumbé walk out of prison, even if we have had to wait nearly two months for it," the press freedom organisation said. "The court granted him the right to remain free until his appeal hearing, a right that should be accorded to all of the journalists imprisoned in Chad."
DRC: Jed secures legal assistance for journalists
In Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), journalists who face legal harassment because of their reporting will now have the support of legal advocates, thanks to the efforts of Journaliste en danger (JED). The IFEX member has signed a partnership with a local law firm, MBuy-Mbiye, that will provide legal assistance to media outlets and journalists who otherwise lack the resources to defend themselves in court. The initiative is supported by UNESCO.
Egypt: Report released on election media coverage
A Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) report on the Egyptian elections held last week, says the mass media was generally biased toward the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) candidate. The performance of audio and visual mass media was different from state-owned and private mass media. State-owned newspapers, in particular dailies, continued to be flagrantly biased toward the ruling party's candidate, as they were during the first week of the campaign.
* Related Link
Press freedom recommendations for President Mubarak's fifth term
Uganda: Move to abolish law of sedition
The Daily Monitor's Political Editor, Mr Andrew Mwenda, on Thursday petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare the law of sedition null and void. In a petition filed through the Monitor Publications Limited's lawyers of Nangwala, Rezida and Co. &Advocates, Mwenda claims his criminal prosecution under Section 39 and 40 of the Penal Code Act (PCA) is inconsistence with Article 29 and 43 of the Constitution which prescribes the right to freedom of expression and press.
17. Advocacy and Campaigns
Call for International Actions against GATS
Experiences across South countries show that the basic rights of people, especially the poor and the marginalized, are being progressively eroded by governments surrendering such critical services sectors as health, water, power, housing and education to private big business. Many countries in the South have suffered outbreaks of cholera and other gastro-intestinal diseases because safe water and basic health care are increasingly being made accessible only to those with the capacity to pay.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29395
Last Chance to Save Ghana's Water!
With your help the Ghana National Coalition against the Privatisation of Water (NCAP) has successfully forced several water companies to withdraw their bids on the Ghana water privatization project and stalled the project for four years. Now, we are calling on you again to take one more action to stop the remaining bidding companies from taking over Ghana's water.
18. Internet and Technology
Botswana: Can ICT help achieve education for all?
Last week's IFIP World Information Technology Forum (WITFOR) addressed 12 major goals within the framework of the UN's Millennium Development Goals. One of these was to develop ICT-based alternative educational delivery systems to achieve Education for All targets. "We recognise the importance of teachers in the dissemination of ICT knowledge and propose enhancing the ICT competence of teachers in the developing world through establishing innovative learning and knowledge communities of teachers and defining a professional development model to enhance ICT competence of teachers in order for them to utilise ICT in pedagogically meaningful ways. The project has two objectives. The first is to establish innovative learning and knowledge communities of teachers. The second is to establish a professional development model to enhance ICT competence of teachers in the SADC region in order for them to utilise ICT in pedagogically meaningful ways in schools and other educational institutions," says this article.
Cote D'Ivoire: Cote D'Ivoire Telecom goes large with ADSL Offer
"Côte d'Ivoire Telecom wants to make the Internet accessible to everyone. The objective of our latest action is to allow the internet user to connect without fear. Whatever time they spend connected, from now on they will pay less," according to Bruno Koné, the company's D-G. This follows from the launch of ADSL Extra Large on 24 August. This service is currently available in the capital Abidjan but this month will become available in San Pédro et Yamoussoukro. In a usual uncompetitive twist, Koné said that this new service was incompatible with the service provided by Fidelis de Côte d'Ivoire, no doubt seeking to put off potential consumers from any offer that company might make.
Ethiopia: Survey of the Ethiopian telecommunications sector
This paper provides a brief overview of the Ethiopian telecommunications sector performance and findings of a e-usage study that analysed user demands for communication services. Adequate penetration of mobile phones, fixed lines and Internet or reduction in the gender gap cannot be achieved unless communication becomes cheaply and widely available throughout the country. The survey findings demonstrated low level of earnings that do not correspond to the current pricing of communication services, particularly for accessing to the Internet.
PrepCom 3 Tunis Phase of the World Summit on the Information Society
Highway Africa Conference Statement
"African journalists also expect from all WSIS stakeholders, active participation in the implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action, including paragraph 24 related to Media. This involves acting to create conditions conducive to increasing the availability and effective mobilisation of the necessary resources to finance the implementation of this specific part of the Plan of Action. This is of crucial need for the rapid and full integration of African media into the Information Society and the international media landscape."
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29492
South Africa: Rural schools in South Africa receive multimedia centers
MTN and Thinta Thinta Telecoms (T3) have launched multimedia centres in two schools in the Ugu region in KwaZulu-Natal as part of the MTN Foundation's Schools Connectivity Programme. The programme aims to improve the quality of education and increase access to ICT in rural schools. The companies contributed R400 000 for the installation of 10 PCs, a three-in-one printer, scanner and copier, a GPRS modem, a video machine and satellite decoder and dish at both Inkosi Umdibaniso Comprehensive School and Bheki High School. Two teachers from each school were given IT training before the installation of the centres.
19. eNewsletters and Mailing Lists
The latest Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) newsletter contains stories about the oil crisis, the famine in Niger, and information about training initiatives. To subscribe to the newsletter, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.uneca.org
20. Fundraising and Useful Resources
HIV Research Trust scholarship
A new scholarship programme is being run by the International AIDS Society on behalf of the HIV Research Trust. The Scholarship scheme aims to support a broad mix of disciplines while enabling physicians, nurses, scientists, and other health care professionals in resource poor settings to acquire skills relevant to treatment-related research; in order to develop their careers and increase the capacity of their units to carry out research related to treatment and prevention.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29398
ILRIG is an NGO providing education, publications and research for the labour and social movements in South and Southern Africa. ILRIG have a new and informative website that contains news about events, publications and articles.
SciDev.Net newsfeed service
In addition to a weekly email alert, SciDev.Net now offer another free service that allows you to receive the latest SciDev.Net news on your computer desktop. If you want to attract users to your website, keep your site fresh and dynamic, and provide a valuable science and technology information service, a SciDev.Net newsfeed could be the answer. Go to http://www.scidev.net/index.cfm?fuseaction=su bpages&root=aboutthissite&page=17 to find out more.
UN website on MDG summit
The UN Non Governmental Service has developed a special webpage showcasing civil society statements and position papers commenting on the UN World Summit and its Outcome Document.
21. Courses, Seminars, and Workshops
2nd edition of the Southern African Social Forum 2005
Zimbabwe will be hosting the 2nd edition of the Southern Africa Social Forum 2005 in Harare, from 13-15 October 2005. This year's SASF is expected to bring together thousands of participants from community-based groups, social movements and civil society organizations from SADC under the theme, 'People's Resistance to Neo-Liberalism'.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29390
Gender Alternatives in African Development: Theories, Methods and Evidence
In the period since the beginning of the 1990s, CODESRIA has been at the forefront of the quest to harness the efforts of African scholars in both extending the frontiers of knowledge production around issues of gender, and doing so in a manner that ensures that for as many scholars as are active in its networks and at other African sites of scholarly work, gender is integrated into their frames of analyses. The Symposium will be held in Cairo, Egypt, from 27-29 October 2005.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29399
The 10th AWID International Forum on Women's Rights and Development
October 27-30, 2005, Bangkok, Thailand
From October 27-30, up to two thousand women's rights activists, academics, policy makers and students will converge upon Bangkok for the most highly anticipated international meeting for women's rights of the year. After Beijing +10, the G8 Summit and the UN World Summit, the AWID Forum is a chance for activists to finally gather together on OUR terms, to set our own agenda, and to be push forward on our global movement towards change. Registration is still open, although spaces are filling up fast. To register, visit our website atwww.awid.org/forum/register_for_forum.htm.
Africa regional HIV/AIDS policy and advocacy officer
ActionAid International is looking for a committed and focused individual for the Regional HIV&AIDS Policy and Advocacy Officer position. ActionAid International's Global Strategy has HIV&AIDS as one of our Thematic priorities.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29400
Capacity Building Coordinator
This post offers an exciting opportunity to develop a new programme working alongside Yemeni non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society groups. Working specifically with local NGOs in Hodeidah you will provide training and capacity building support in organisational development, advocacy and assist LNGOs to coordinate and network with a range of stakeholders.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29389
West African Civil Society Forum
Reporting to the General Secretary, the Finance Officer (FO) is responsible for assisting the General Secretary (GS) in the prioritization and management of the many financial issues and processes related to the support of the WACSOF Regional Secretariat in Abuja, Nigeria and providing support services to the national WACSOF Chapters/focal points at the national level in ECOWAS member states.
Further details: http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29397
ICT Advocacy Coordinator
SANGONeT is a dynamic NGO providing a wide range of information communication technology (ICT) services to people and organisations promoting social and economic development in the Southern African region. In the past two years SANGONeT has expanded the focus and scope of its ICT advocacy activities. These include the introduction of Thetha: The SANGONeT ICT Discussion Forum and SANGONeT's Annual "ICTs for Civil Society" Conference and Exhibition. Both these initiatives will henceforth focus on Southern African ICT advocacy issues.
The candidate, instructed by the Chief Prosecutor, the Deputy Prosecutor or the Head of the Operational Support Section, will be responsible to be in contact and cooperate with IGO/NGO information and analysis centres; and responsible for the active identification, location, collection, analysis and dissemination of relevant IGO/NGO information and intelligence.
23. Books and Arts
Vol.35, No. 1 (2005)
This issue includes:
* Mauritius: An Exemplar of Democracy, Development and Peace for the Southern African Development Community?
* Internet Adoption among Ghana's SME Non-Traditional Exporters
* Of Visions, Development Plans and Resource Mobilisation in Africa: The Case of Ghana Vision 2020
African Compass New writing from southern Africa 2005
African Compass - New writing from southern Africa 2005 is the first book in a three-year series of the US $10 000 HSBC/SA PEN Literary Award. The award is targeted at young writers who are citizens of any country in the SADC (Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). The chosen genre for the series is a short story and this volume contains a selection of the best from 373 entries.
Access to oil and natural gas, and their prices, are hugely important axes of geo-political strategy and global economic prospects and have been for a century. This book, written by a Financial Times journalist who has long covered the energy sector, provides readers with the essential information they need for understanding the shifting structure of the global oil and gas economy - where the reserves lie, who produces what, trade patterns, consumption trends, prices.
The Night of Truth
The Night of Truth, a film set in an unnamed African country, dramatises the process of truth and reconciliation, echoing the recent histories of South Africa, Sierra Leone and Rwanda, and highlights not only the female perspective but also the subtleties and complexities of learning to live together again in trust and respect. The Night of Truth received its UK premiere at the Cambridge Film Festival in July, with director Fanta Régina Nacro attending, and screens in the Black World Mama Africa season at the UK National Film Theatre, from 1 - 26 September.
UK premiere screening of 'Ladies First', a film of African regeneration led by women
This film documents how Rwandan women, traditionally denied any rights, have become business leaders and form 48% of the Parliament. Reaching for a wholly different future for their country, they represent the vanguard of a cultural shift with implications for society throughout Africa ..and beyond. Q&A with Rwandan journalist, Sheena Kaliisa. Tuesday 20 September, 7pm at Enlightennext, 13 Windsor Street, London N1 (Angel tube). Phone: 020 7288 7000; email: email@example.com
Unexpected Joy at Dawn
This book received a commendation in the Best First Book Prize, Africa Region, of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. This story of migration, identities and lives undermined by cynical and xenophobic politics pushed to its logical and terrible conclusion pertains to the Ghanaian orders of 'alien compliance' issued in 1970-1971, which was designed to force all non-ethnic Ghanaians, so called illegal immigrants, to return to their - so stipulated - 'home'.
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Editorial advisor: Rotimi Sankore
Blog reviewer: Sokari Ekine
Our thanks to the following: Christina Clark (Fahamu), Karoline Kemp (Fahamu) Elizabeth Onyango (Rwanda).
Pambazuka News currently receives support from Christian Aid, Fahamu Trust, Ford Foundation, New Field Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, Oxfam GB, and TrustAfrica and many indidividual donors.
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