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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”