Latest Developments, June 22

 

In the latest news and analysis…

Epic fail
The Guardian reports that major NGOs are slamming world leaders for their unwillingness to make firm commitments at the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development:

“ ‘They say they can’t put money on the table because of the economic crisis, but they spend money on greedy banks and on saving those who caused the crisis. They spend $1 trillion a year on subsidies for fossil fuels and then tell us they don’t have any money to give to sustainable development,’ [said Greenpeace’s Daniel Mittler]”

ACTA rejected
Reuters reports that the European Parliament’s trade committee has voted down the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which enjoyed the support of the European Commission but faced widespread public opposition:

“The cross-party vote is a signal the legislature will reject ACTA in a final vote on July 4, the first time the European Parliament would write off an international trade agreement since an increase in its powers in 2008.
[British MEP David] Martin said the European Parliament has the authority to ratify commercial treaties, meaning that rejection would preclude any EU member state from signing up on its own.”

Refugee drownings
The Associated Press reports that “scores” of people thought to be asylum seekers may have drowned after a ship capsized between Indonesia and Australia:

“Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, is closer to Indonesia than the Australian mainland. It is a popular target for a growing number of asylum seekers, many from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, who attempt to reach Australia on overcrowded fishing boats from Indonesia – sometimes with deadly consequences.”

Renditions Inc.
Reprieve has released the first in a series of investigations outing companies alleged to have benefited from the CIA practice of sending suspected terrorists to “black sites,” in this case, a secret prison in Poland:

“The documents show how:
- Private military contractor DynCorp Systems and Solutions arranged the trip for the US Government at a cost of over $330,000
- A Gulfstream jet, identified as N63MU and operated by First Flight / Airborne Inc. carried out the mission
- The round trip from Washington DC passed through Anchorage and Osaka, picked up the prisoners in Bangkok, and transported them via Dubai to the remote Szymany airfield in Poland, before returning via London Luton
- Trip planners Universal Weather and Aviation arranged logistics for the trip”

New pharma plan
Intellectual Property Watch reports that a new pharmaceutical industry initiative, the HIV Medicines Alliance, ostensibly aimed at facilitating access to HIV treatments for poor people, is raising questions about whether it represents a “good-faith effort”:

“Looking at the draft charter from early June, the initiative aims to encourage companies to share in-kind support and patented products royalty-free to least-developed countries under arrangements with generics companies, and demonstrates flexibility on industry’s part.
But it could stop short of a firm commitment to lower prices and availability. For instance, the draft language states that it would ‘work to enable the availability of medicines developed through this Alliance at the lowest possible prices,’ which is perhaps different than stating that the medicines will be available and at prices poor populations can afford.
The new initiative, organised by the Wellcome Trust, reportedly involves Johnson & Johnson and Merck, two companies that have declined to enter negotiations with the [Medicines] Patent Pool.”

Robin Hood in America
Inter Press Service reports that 52 financial sector professionals have signed a letter calling on the US Congress to adopt a financial transaction tax:

“The tax would cover stock trading, derivatives and other financial instruments, but, proponents say, would have a significant impact only on so-called high-frequency trades, in which computer-driven speculators typically hold stocks for mere milliseconds.
‘These taxes will rebalance financial markets away from a short-term trading mentality that has contributed to instability in our financial markets,’ the letter stated. ‘The primary role of financial markets is to raise investment, allocate resources efficiently, and mitigate risk. However, much of today’s financial activity does not contribute to these goals.’ ”

Secret talks
The Globe and Mail’s Gary Mason expresses surprise at the apparent lack of public concern over the “clandestine nature” of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations:

“According to Public Citizen, the trade deal would limit the extent to which signatory countries could regulate foreign firms operating within their boundaries, effectively giving them greater freedoms than domestic firms.
It also reveals that all of the countries except Australia have agreed to terms around the operation of foreign tribunals, which would arbitrate disputes. The tribunals would be staffed by private-sector lawyers who would rotate between acting as judges and acting as advocates for the investors who might be suing a particular government over a TPP-related matter. Talk about a potential conflict of interest.”

Green recession
The Land Institute’s Stan Cox argues that the fixation “at the top of the global economy” on perpetual growth and ever greater profits makes it impossible to achieve environmental sustainability:

“If we regard limitless growth of the human economy as being essential, then we are asking for the impossible. We’ll burst through all nine of those [planetary] boundaries (and others), ecosystems worldwide will crash, and that will succeed in doing what we failed to do: to put a permanent stop to economic growth.
Reversal of growth could instead be achieved preemptively, to ward off such a collapse. The burden of that intentional contraction, however, must be borne by the rich corporations, governments, and populations of the global North, because that’s where the sheer volume of growth has been greatest, with a corresponding impact on the ecosphere. Impoverished nations, on the other hand, have contributed far less to global breakdown and must be permitted some headroom for the growth required to meet people’s basic needs.”

Latest Developments, June 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Business as usual
Forum for the Future’s Jonathon Porritt argues the fact that Unilever is part of the UK’s delegation to the Rio+20 conference while British Prime Minister David Cameron is not, is “a sign of our unsustainable times”:

“Twenty years on from the 1992 Earth Summit, it seems to be almost universally accepted that governments have less scope and less appetite for governing, and that much more influence (if not power) has flowed over to big business and capital markets.
That’s not necessarily seen as a good thing by most people in the NGO community. In their eyes, no amount of ‘corporate responsibility’ can possibly compensate for the damage done in the name of profit maximisation.”

Dodgy draft
Former Bolivian climate negotiator Nele Marien expresses disappointment at the draft text agreed to in the run-up to Rio+20:

“It is nothing new to state that we are living in a limited world with limited recourses, and that we are at the edge of surpassing some critical tipping points for Mother Earth. To keep on growing economically in this setting is just a logical impossibility. Nevertheless, the RIO+20 text never considers these aspects of the environmental problem – in fact doesn’t make any assessment of the critical situation of nature at all- but on the contrary mentions ‘sustained economic growth’ about 23 times, as an objective in itself, and as a solution to the multiple crisis that the world faces today.”

Uruguay to legalize it
Al Jazeera reports that Uruguay plans to legalize the production and sale of marijuana in an effort to fight crime:

“The government will also urge that marijuana sales be legalised worldwide, Huidobro said, adding the measure could discourage the use of so-called hard drugs.
Marijuana consumption is already legal in Uruguay.
‘We want to fight against two different things: one is drug consumption and the other is drug trafficking. We think the ban on certain drugs is creating more problems in society than the drug itself,’ [Defence Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro] told a news conference.”

The state of corporate accountability
The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has released its first annual briefing on corporate legal accountability, in which it covers human rights lawsuits against companies around the world:

“A few countries, including UK, USA, France, Germany and Netherlands, have heard some lawsuits against companies for alleged abuses occurring in other countries. But even in these countries, such lawsuits are rare.

‘Home’ governments (where companies are headquartered) fail to make extraterritorial remedies available for multiple reasons. In part, they simply do not wish to constrain their companies in their operations abroad. There are rarely strong constituencies pushing them to hold their companies accountable. And these measures are often opposed by host states as an infringement on sovereignty.”

Mining violence
The Georgia Straight reports that activists are calling on a pair of Canadian mining companies to “publicly order an absolute halt to all violence” against their opponents in Mexico and Guatemala:

“One of these cases involved the shooting of Yolanda Oquely Veliz on June 13. The 33-year-old Veliz was shot by men on a motorcycle after she left a blockade near the entrance to Radius Gold’s mine in San José del Golfo, Guatemala. She survived the attack but remains in serious condition.
They also cited the shooting of Bertín Vásquez Ruiz and Guadalupe Vásquez Ruiz on June 16. The two opponents of Fortuna Silver’s operations in Mexico were wounded.”

Dead man washing
The Wall Street Journal reports on the ease with which international crime syndicates can launder money in the UK:

“According to a new report from non-profit Global Witness, a U.K.-registered company saw about $700 million flow through its account at a Kyrgyzstan bank despite the fact that its identified owner, a Russian from a remote area, had died three years before the company was registered. Moreover, records cited by Global Witness said he attended a company meeting in London after his death.”

Drone math
ProPublica looks into seemingly conflicting US estimates of the number of civilians killed by drones in Pakistan:

“It’s possible that all these claims are true. But if they are, it implies that the government believes there were zero or almost zero civilian deaths between the beginning of 2008 and August 2009, and then again zero deaths between August 2010 and July 2011. Those periods comprise a total of 182 strikes.”

Green grabbing
The ESRC STEPS Centre’s Melissa Leach argues there is a “dark side” to attempts at building a so-called green economy:

“Green grabbing builds on well-known histories of colonial and neo-colonial resource alienation in the name of the environment – whether for parks, forest reserves or to halt assumed destructive local practices. Yet it involves novel forms of valuation, commodification and markets for pieces and aspects of nature, and an extraordinary new range of actors and alliances. Pension funds and venture capitalists, commodity traders and consultants, GIS service providers and business entrepreneurs, ecotourism companies and the military, green activists and anxious consumers among others find once-unlikely common interests. ”

The right kind of investment
The Financial Times reports that foreign investment is not always a good thing, especially when it involves agricultural land, as was the case in Africa when global food prices soared in 2008:

“Experts say that, ultimately, many of the plans of 2008-09 failed to materialise as the food crisis abated and investors became more aware of the political risks and huge logistic difficulties. But as populations grow and consumption habits change, the trend of foreign investor interest in Africa’s soils is expected to continue.”

Multilateral blues
In the wake of the G20’s latest summit in Mexico and as the UN’s Rio+20 conference kicks off, Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf discusses what the recent “depressing panoply of multilateral misfires” will mean for the future of global governance:

“What we are seeing today is the kind of failure of leadership likely to produce consequences so disturbing that ultimately they will help move us past the multilateral rhetoric of idealists to the urgency that comes of clear-eyed realism about what works, what doesn’t, and what we really need.  Multilateralism will ultimately flourish not because it is more equitable but because we cannot solve global problems without it. Today’s leaders — through their inaction and missteps — may inadvertently be doing more to ensure cooperation among their successors than they did when they actually seemed to care about such issues earlier in their careers.”

Latest Developments, June 14

In the latest news and analysis…

US bases in Africa
The Washington Post reports on America’s growing network of military bases in Africa:

“About a dozen air bases have been established in Africa since 2007, according to a former senior U.S. commander involved in setting up the network. Most are small operations run out of secluded hangars at African military bases or civilian airports.

The operations have intensified in recent months, part of a growing shadow war against al-Qaeda affiliates and other militant groups. The surveillance is overseen by U.S. Special Operations forces but relies heavily on private military contractors and support from African troops.”

Enemy’s enemy
Sahel Blog’s Alex Thurston points to a common feature among many of the African countries where the US has established military bases:

“In my view having bases in a country involves the US in (or exposes the US to, if you prefer) local politics, one way or another. US military involvement in local politics, including in Africa, is nothing new. But it is worth pointing out, time and again, that most of the key partner countries for the military in Africa are run by presidents/prime-ministers-for-life: Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi (in power since 1995), Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore (in power since 1987), Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni (in power since 1986), Djibouti’s Ismael Omar Guellah (in power since 1999), etc. The contradictions between such partnerships and stated US ideals of democracy promotion are now so familiar as to be hardly worth mentioning. A more pragmatic point may be that the stability won through decades of rule by one person or clique can often prove quite brittle when put to the test.”

America’s Africa strategy
But in the foreword to the “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa,” US President Barack Obama stresses America’s unwavering commitment to African democracy, the strengthening of which is one of the “four pillars” laid out in the new document:

“Our message to those who would derail the democratic process is clear and unequivocal: the United States will not stand idly by when actors threaten legitimately elected governments or manipulate the fairness and integrity of democratic processes, and we will stand in steady partnership with those who are committed to the principles of equality, justice, and the rule of law.”

Selective memory
Vanderbilt University’s Peter James Hudson argues that the “story of achievement, progress and world-uniting vision” being presented by Citigroup as it marks its 200th anniversary does not fit with the role played in Haiti by the banking giant back when it was called the National City Bank of New York:

“In 1914, [National City’s Roger Leslie] Farnham, who once described the Haitian people as ‘nothing but grownup children,’ drafted a memorandum for William Jennings Bryan — then U.S. secretary of state — arguing for military intervention as a way of protecting American interests in Haiti. Sending troops, Farnham insisted, would not only stabilize the country, but be welcomed by most Haitians.

For National City, the occupation provided ideal conditions for business, offering the bank the authority to reorganize Haitian finances just as Vanderlip had envisioned in 1909. By 1922, National City had secured complete control of Banque Nationale and floated a $16 million loan refinancing Haiti’s internal and external debts. Amortization payments were effectively guaranteed from Haiti’s customs revenue, and the loan contract was backed up by the U.S. State Department.”

Nature’s price
The World Bank’s Rachel Kyte writes about the growing enthusiasm for “natural capital accounting”:

“Many countries are looking beyond GDP to help them address the challenges undervaluing natural capital has created. What they need is a measure of a country’s wealth that includes all of its capital — produced, social, human, and natural capital.
In Botswana at the Summit for Sustainability in Africa this afternoon, 10 African countries endorsed the need to move toward factoring natural capital into systems of national accounting. By Rio +20, the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development, we hope to see 50 countries and 50 private corporations join this effort.”

Green capitalism
Inter Press Service reports on concerns that corporate lobbyists will co-opt sustainability discussions at the upcoming G20 summit in Mexico:

“It’s an agenda for investors,” Diana Aguiar, representative of the Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples (REBRIP), told IPS. “The idea is that natural resources won’t be preserved if no monetary value is put on them. This is a very mistaken premise. They see it as a business.

Fomenting free movement of green or sustainable products is one of the recommendations that Business 20 (B20) – which represents companies in the G20 bloc – set forth to the governments. The issue is to be discussed at the summit.
In a 102-page report on recommendations of the B20 task force, to which IPS had access, the business executives laid out suggestions on food security, green growth, employment, trade, investment, technology and innovation, and financing for growth and development.”

Trees as luxury goods
In a Q&A with Colorlines, environmental journalist Tim De Chant discusses his ‘income inequality, seen from space’ project:

“I had stumbled across a paper that spoke on how different income groups and neighborhoods showed what economists call ‘demand for trees.’ Wealthy people demand more trees, and have money to pay for them and the land needed. They found that for every one percent increase in income, the demand for trees increased by 1.76 percent. According to economists, this correlation reflects a luxury good. This was pretty disheartening. I don’t think trees should be a benefit reserved for the wealthy.”

Sustainable rights
In an interview with Inter Press Service, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay stresses the importance of factoring human rights into sustainable development strategies:

“For example, in recent years, we have seen that technocratic efforts towards sustainable development have excluded many communities from the process of decision-making, causing economic and social inequalities to be exacerbated and human rights to be sidelined.
Indigenous peoples have seen threats to their lands and livelihoods from some emission reduction schemes, scarce food-growing lands have sometimes been diverted for the production of biofuels, and massive infrastructure projects have resulted in the forced eviction and relocation of entire communities.”

Latest Developments, June 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Last words
Elinor Ostrom, the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in economics, has died but not before warning against attempts to forge “a single international agreement” at this month’s Rio+20 conference:

“We have never had to deal with problems of the scale facing today’s globally interconnected society. No one knows for sure what will work, so it is important to build a system that can evolve and adapt rapidly.

The goal now must be to build sustainability into the DNA of our globally interconnected society. Time is the natural resource in shortest supply, which is why the Rio summit must galvanize the world. What we need are universal sustainable development goals on issues such as energy, food security, sanitation, urban planning, and poverty eradication, while reducing inequality within the planet’s limits.”

Measuring peace
The Institute for Economics and Peace has released its latest Global Peace Index, which concludes that the world has become “slightly more peaceful” as countries focus more on projecting economic rather than military power:

“Improvements in the Political Terror Scale and gains in several indicators of militarization arising from austerity-driven defence cuts were the two leading factors making the world more peaceful in 2012, according to the latest Global Peace Index (GPI) released today. This reverses two consecutive years where the GPI has shown a decline in global peace. If the world had been completely peaceful, the economic benefit to the global economy would have been an estimated US$9 trillion in the past year (equal to the size of the German and Japanese economies combined.)”

GPI critique
Dart-Throwing Chimp’s Jay Ulfelder says he wants to like the Global Peace Index but fears it “obscures as much as it clarifies”:

“The index includes so many things, we are told, because it aims to get simultaneously at two distinct ideas: not just ‘negative peace,’ meaning the absence of violence, but also ‘positive peace,’ meaning the presence of structures and institutions that create and sustain the absence of violence.

International relations scholars would tell you that countries can sometimes avoid wars by preparing for them; rival states are less likely to pick fights with armies they can’t easily beat. Most people would probably think of the avoidance of war as a peaceful outcome, but the GPI casts the preparations that sometimes help to produce that outcome as a diminution of peace. In an ideal world, disarmament and peace would always go together; in the real world, they don’t, but the index’s attempt to combine measures of negative and positive peace muddles that complexity.”

World Bank complaint
Mining Watch Canada reports that civil society organizations have filed a complaint concerning World Bank financing of a Canadian-owned mining project in Colombia:

“The complaint cites, among ten main concerns, the [International Finance Corporation]’s failure to evaluate the potentially severe and irreversible social and environmental impacts of the project, a large-scale gold mine located in a fragile, high-altitude wetland, called the Santurbán páramo, which provides water to over 2.2 million Colombians.
The Committee for the Defence of Water and the Santurbán Páramo, a coalition of nearly 40 groups living downstream of the project in Bucaramanga, asserts that the IFC, the World Bank’s private-sector lending arm, ignored its own policies before investing US$11.79 million in Greystar Resources – now Eco Oro Minerals Corp. – in 2009. The IFC bought shares before the company had completed required environmental and social impact assessments.”

Letter to Walmart
Two senior Democratic members of the US House of Representatives have sent a letter to Walmart CEO Mike Duke, accusing the company of hampering an investigation into allegations it paid millions in bribes to Mexican officials:

“Although you stated during a recent shareholders meeting that Wal-Mart is ‘doing everything we can to get to the bottom of the matter,’ you have not provided us with the information we requested. Specifically, you have provided us with no documents, you have declined to allow any Wal-Mart employees to brief our staffs about the allegations, and you have failed to respond to our request to speak with Maritza Munich, a key figure in the investigation. Wal-Mart’s actions to date significantly inhibit our ability to investigate these allegations.”

Ethnic cleansing
The Jewish Week’s Eric Herschthal condemns the “conservative ethnic tribalism” behind Israel’s planned mass deportation of African migrants:

“The worry of guys like [Israeli interior minister Eli] Yishai is that the Africans will dilute Israel’s Jewish character. I find that idea deeply offensive, even though I fully understand the broader issue of wanting Israel to retain a strong Jewish majority (though I take issue with it still).  But what this whole African issue really underscores is just how problematic Israel’s strict ethnic definition of a ‘Jewish state’ is: to remain in control of their own affairs, Israel will have to effectively get in the business of ethnic cleansing.  One hopes this ethnic cleansing never turns into the bloody affair it has in so many other countries—but all we can do is hope.”

Chain reaction
Jeune Afrique reports on how mining and agribusiness companies are changing the geography of southern DR Congo:

“In the highly urbanized mining belt of southern Katanga, where the demand for agricultural products is high, access to land is becoming difficult for small-scale farmers. With urban sprawl, increasing mining activity and the arrival of agribusiness companies – such as Terra, which owns 10,000 hectares –, available space is shrinking and land prices have skyrocketed. Even if the granting of concessions to mining companies includes compensation, it represents a source of insecurity for local farmers, who have been forced to give up their lands and go elsewhere. The granting of new mining concessions and vast areas to agropastoral companies could further fuel the trend, with the risk of accelerating the rural exodus or transforming smallholder farmers into day labourers.” (Translated from the French.)

Underdeveloping Africa
Hamilton College’s Nigel Westmaas marks the 40th anniversary of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and concludes much of the analysis continues to hold true:

“The overt fangs that slave traders and corporate giants like Barclays, Unilever and Firestone openly displayed in early profiteering and exploitation of the continent have been replaced by charming corporate public relations smiles and handouts. Yet the profits sequestered from Africa over several centuries, as effectively argued by Rodney, still stand as a foremost if not exclusive source and substance of Africa’s underdevelopment.”

Latest Developments, May 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Creative accounting
The New York Times reports on the Obama administration’s controversial approach to labelling drone strike casualties.
“It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year [John] Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the ‘single digits’ — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.
But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low.”

Lagarde’s taxes
The Guardian reports that IMF head Christine Lagarde, who recently stirred controversy by bluntly suggesting that Greeks ought to pay their taxes, does not pay taxes.
“As an official of an international institution, her salary of $467,940 (£298,675) a year plus $83,760 additional allowance a year is not subject to any taxes.

According to Lagarde’s contract she is also entitled to a pay rise on 1 July every year during her five-year contract.”

Rules needed
Reuters reports that Oxfam is stepping up its calls for “legally binding global rules on weapon and ammunition sales” in the run-up to a UN conference aimed at establishing an international arms trade treaty.
“There are no internationally agreed rules governing global conventional weapons sales, the United Nations says, and Oxfam says there are more regulations applicable to the banana trade than to weapons.
The aid agency also said the estimated $4.3 billion annual global trade in ammunition is growing at a faster rate than the trade in guns and must be included in any arms treaty.

The United States, Syria and Egypt are among countries that have objected to the inclusion of ammunition controls in any global arms treaty, according to Oxfam.”

Avaaz ethics
The New Republic raises questions about NGO competition and self-promotion with an investigation of claims made by human rights group Avaaz about its role in Syria’s conflict.
“On the morning of February 28, the activist organization Avaaz reported that it had coordinated [photojournalist Paul] Conroy’s escape to Lebanon and that 13 activists within its network had been killed in the effort. ‘This operation was carried by Syrians with the help of Avaaz,’ read the press release. ‘No other agency was involved.’

A week after his escape, I called Conroy, who was recovering in a London hospital, to ask him about Avaaz’s role. ‘I can sum it up in one word,’ he said. ‘Bollocks.’ ”

Place premium
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny writes about the impact of the country where one lives on one’s earning power.
“So the overwhelming explanation for who is rich and who is poor on a global scale isn’t about who you are; it’s about where you are. The same applies to quality-of-life measures from health to education. And that suggests something about international development efforts: If there’s one simple answer to the challenge of global poverty, it isn’t more aid or removing trade and investment barriers (though those can all help). It’s removing barriers to migration.

Unfortunately, politicians don’t seem to care about whether people born on the wrong side of the tracks have the motivation to cross over, or how much the planet benefits when they do. Instead we’ve erected a huge electrified fence to keep people out. The evidence on the place premium suggests immigration restrictions are probably the greatest preventable cause of global suffering known to man.”

State capture
Queen’s University’s Toby Moorsom writes about the danger Africa’s mining boom poses to the continent’s fragile states.
“Capital is not withdrawing from Africa, but instead, the processes of extraction are becoming more obvious as the economic basis of societies are under severe strain.

The reason we need to worry about these mining investments is not simply because of the human rights violations, the displacement of populations and the pollution of land that accompany them. More than that, we need to be aware of the fact that mining increases the rewards for those forces able to capture the state – regardless of how they go about accomplishing it. Warlords have little need to control the productive activities; they just need to have some control over the proceeds – or at least portions of them.”

With friends like these
Jubilee Debt Campaign’s Nick Dearden argues the World Bank and IMF have played a significant role in the famine and malnutrition that periodically drag Niger into the international media spotlight.
“After many years, debt cancellation for Niger was seen, even by the IMF, as unavoidable. Debt relief allowed Niger to improve education and increase access to safe drinking water. But it came with strings. A 19% sales tax on basic foods and rapidly rising prices put food further out of the reach of ordinary people. The sale of emergency grain reserves, a policy that has already caused famine in Malawi in 2002, did further damage to the population’s vulnerability.
These policies fed into the 2005 famine, a crisis caused not primarily by natural catastrophe – food was available but unaffordable – but by an appalling set of policy decisions. Even during a crisis there was no let-up in economic dogma. The IMF told the Niger government not to distribute free food to those most in need.”

North-South divide
In an Inter Press Service Q&A, former Brundtland Commission staffer Branislav Gosovic says the traditional divide between rich and poor countries remains “deep and intense” on the eve of the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development, which he prefers to call Stockholm+40.
“It should not be surprising that developing countries are rather suspicious of the ultimate motivations and practical implications of the recently launched concept of ‘green economy’ and of the institutional moves to create a specialised agency on environment.

The other conflict, less visible to the eye, has to do with the nature of the dominant socioeconomic order, or paradigm, which is challenged globally as non-sustainable socially and environmentally. This conflict is present within the North and within the South. There has been little progress in practice on fundamental issues of this kind.”