Latest Developments, November 27

 

In the latest news and analysis…

Fatal negligence
The New York Times reports that critics are partly blaming international clothing brands for over 100 deaths in a Bangladeshi garment factory fire:

“Activists say that global clothing brands like Tommy Hilfiger and the Gap and those sold by Walmart need to take responsibility for the working conditions in Bangladeshi factories that produce their clothes.
‘These brands have known for years that many of the factories they choose to work with are death traps,’ Ineke Zeldenrust, the international coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign, said in a statement. ‘Their failure to take action amounts to criminal negligence.’ ”

Double standard
Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs argues that international oil companies should face “the same standards for environmental cleanup” whether a spill occurs in a rich or poor country:

“In the colonial era, it was the official purpose of imperial power to extract wealth from the administered territories. In the post-colonial period, the methods are better disguised. When oil companies misbehave in Nigeria or elsewhere, they are protected by the power of their home countries. Don’t mess with the companies, they are told by the United States and Europe. Indeed, one of the largest bribes (a reputed $180 million) paid in recent times in Nigeria was by Halliburton, a company tightly intertwined with US political power. (Dick Cheney went from being Halliburton’s CEO to the US vice presidency.)

The world’s governments have recently agreed to move to a new framework for sustainable development, declaring their intention to adopt Sustainable Development Goals at the Rio+20 Summit in June. The SDGs offer a critical opportunity for the world to set clear, compelling standards for government and corporate behavior.”

After 2014
The New York Times also reports on the potential number of foreign troops that will remain in Afghanistan following NATO’s “handover” of the country to local authorities:

“Final decisions on the size of the American and NATO presence after 2014 and its precise configuration have not been made by the United States or its allies. But one option calls for about 10,000 American and several thousand non-American NATO troops.

A major challenge is that Afghanistan will not have an effective air force before 2017, if then. American officials said that NATO airpower would remain in Afghanistan after 2014 but will likely only be used on behalf of NATO and American troops and perhaps Afghan units that are accompanied by NATO advisers.”

Probe promised
The Tanzania Daily News reports that the country’s government has vowed to investigate allegations of serious human rights abuses being committed in areas surrounding mines:

“ ‘We have come across serious allegation that investors are harassing and even killing residents allegedly entering mining sites without permission. If the allegations are confirmed we will take action regardless of the status of an investor,’ [Energy and Minerals Deputy Minister Stephen Masele] said.

He was responding to complaints by residents who said the relationship between mining investors and local residents particularly in Geita was not good calling for the government to intervene before it was too late.”

Debt colonies
Cambridge University’s Ha-Joon Chang argues that indebted countries such as Greece and Argentina should have the right to declare bankruptcy the way corporations do:

“[Greek opposition leader Alexis] Tsipras was asking why most burdens of adjustment for bad loans have to fall on the debtor country and, within them, mostly on its weaker members. And he is right. As they say, it takes two to tango, so those who condemn Greece for imprudent borrowing should also condemn the imprudent lenders that made it possible.

Meanwhile, the absence of rules equivalent to the protection of wage claims in corporate bankruptcy law means that claims by weaker stakeholders – pensions, unemployment insurance, income supports – are the first to go. This creates social unrest, which then threatens recovery by discouraging investment.”

Destructive conferences
In a Q&A with Inter Press Service, the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Patrick Bond argues that international climate summits, such as the UN’s COP 18 which has just kicked off in Doha, simply legitimize the unsustainable behaviour of rich countries:

“It is beyond doubt now that any progress at the multilateral level will require two things: first, a further crash of the emissions trading experiment, so as to finally end the fiction that a market run by international bankers can solve a problem of planet-threatening pollution caused by unregulated markets; and second, a banning of delegations from Washington – the U.S. government and Bretton Woods Institutions – since that’s the city most influenced by climate denialists. Hence every move from the U.S. State Department amounts to sabotage.”

Brain drain numbers
The Financial Times looks at the findings in a new UN report, which explores the pros and cons of highly skilled people emigrating from the world’s poorest countries:

“[Least Developed Countries] not surprisingly suffer the highest rates of ‘brain drain’ in the world, at 18.4 per cent of the population – far above the 10 per cent rate for other developing countries, according to [the UN Conference on Trade and Development]. Six of the 48 LDCs have greater numbers of highly-skilled nationals living abroad than at home.
The total of university-educated ‘LDC emigrants’ stood at 1.3m in 2000 – up 58 per cent from 1990 – and by mid-2011 was estimated to have exceeded 2m, the report said. At these kind of levels, ‘the adverse effects on LDCs can outweigh the benefits from remittances – that is, the billions of dollars that these workers send home to their families every year,’ it says.”

EU subsidies
The Guardian’s George Monbiot attacks the EU’s €50bn-per-year farm subsidies on economic, social and environmental grounds:

“A European rule insists that to receive their main payment farmers must prevent ‘the encroachment of unwanted vegetation on agricultural land’. In other words, they must stop trees and bushes from growing. They don’t have to grow crops or keep animals on the land to get their money, but they do have to keep it mown. All over Europe essential wildlife habitats are destroyed – often on agriculturally worthless land – simply to expand the area eligible for subsidies.”

Latest Developments, March 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Systemic atrocity
Former US marine Ross Caputi wonders why Americans who are so outraged at the murder of 16 Afghan civilians by a rogue US soldier do not seem to notice when entire families are wiped out by US drones.
“It is believed in the west that some innocent death is excusable in war, as long as the deaths are not intended, and even if those deaths are foreseeable. But if civilian deaths are foreseeable in a course of action, and we take that action anyway, did we not intend them? I doubt Afghans would feel much consolation knowing that their family members were not directly targeted; rather, we just expected that our actions would kill a few people and it happened to be their family members – an unfortunate side-effect of war.

The consequentialist will argue that the good results outweigh the bad, that democracy, freedom and the liberation of Afghan women will improve the lives of Afghans so much that the deaths of a few are justified. This is an easy judgment for westerners to make from the comforts of their own homes; but it stinks of the same patriarchy and arrogance of the white man’s burden that justified colonialism for so many years. Has anyone consulted Afghans and asked them if they think the good that the west has promised will come of this occupation is worth the lives of their family members?”

Transparency flaws
The Tax Justice Network has released a new report in which it calls into question the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s mechanism for assessing the financial transparency of the world’s countries and territories.
“At the time of writing, for instance, the OECD is running a ‘black, white and grey’ list of jurisdictions, according to its internationally agreed tax standard. The blacklist is empty. The grey list consists of three jurisdictions – Nauru, Niue and Guatemala. On this measure, everyone else is clean! Including some of the world’s dirtiest secrecy jurisdictions, such as Panama, the British Virgin Islands and the UAE (Dubai.)”

GOP climate change
The Financial Times looks at the shifting climate-change positions of leading US Republicans.
“[Mitt] Romney and [Newt] Gingrich, along with many other Republicans, had previously supported both the scientific case for climate change and the need to address it, as did the party’s 2008 presidential candidate, John McCain.
Observers have attributed the party’s shift since the last election to a range of factors, including the rise of the anti-regulatory Tea Party and fears about unemployment. Others suggest the change is due to fossil fuel interests using so-called super PACs – the new generation of political action committees empowered by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling allowing businesses and unions to spend much more on political campaigns than previously permitted.”

Sovereignty issues
Former NATO secretary general Javier Solana argues the world must move beyond “certain antiquated ideas about sovereignty.”
“On a global scale, this complex and interdependent world needs an organization of states and structures of governance oriented towards responsible dialogue, the aim being to mitigate abuses of power and defend global public assets. Without such structures, the world risks a competitive and disorderly race to the bottom among states – as often occurs with taxation – together with a protectionist backlash. History has shown that such developments often lead to disastrous conflicts.

Indeed, the dynamics of interdependence have become well established – so much so that they cannot be reversed. To adhere to a narrow Westphalian concept of sovereignty in this world is an unwise anachronism at best, and a dangerous gamble at worst.”

Eternal pollution
Dow Jones Newswires reports that opponents of Newmont Mining’s controversial Minas Conga copper and gold project in Peru have released a paper detailing their environmental concerns.
“ ‘Effluents from the Conga waste rock piles and the tailings will need to be collected and treated forever,’ the report says. ‘Thus, the Conga site will require active maintenance of the remaining facilities and operation of active water treatment facilities, not simply for 50 or 100 years post-closure, but forever.’ ”

Owning workers
The Center for Global Development’s Michael Clemens takes exception to a recent New York Times piece that suggested health workers are being stolen from Africa.
“That article approvingly cites a horrific proposal to put recruiters of health workers on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity. This is breathtakingly misguided. Recruiters do not ‘steal’ people. They give information to people about jobs those people are qualified for. The professional ambitions of those people have equal value to yours and mine, and those ambitions cannot be realized without information. International recruiters allow African health workers the chance to earn ten to twenty times what they could make at home. In other words, recruiters allow them access to professional opportunities that people like me and Times journalist Matt McAllester take for granted by luck of birthright citizenship.”

Natural solutions
Smallholder farmers hold the key to sustainable food security if they practice “climate-smart agriculture” that often bears little resemblance to the Green Revolution of the 20th Century, according to Rwandan President Paul Kagame and International Fund for Agricultural Development head Kanayo Nwanze.
“On a larger scale, farmers across Rwanda are replacing greenhouse-gas-producing chemical fertilizers with manure. In some areas of the country, smallholders are also now terracing their land and using other natural techniques to improve the soil’s water-retention capacity and quality, as well as to increase their crop yields.
Using these approaches, Rwanda has quadrupled its agricultural production over the past five years. Indeed, thanks to such remarkable progress in such a short time, Rwanda is now a food-secure country.”

Wrong changes
In a Q&A with Al Jazeera, Pambazuka News editor Firoze Manji discusses the likely impacts of the controversial viral video Kony 2012.
“What meaningful change will this bring about, other than reinforcing prejudices about ‘the African savage’, someone who needs to be civilised by the white man?
What difference will it make to those villagers and farmers who have been locked up in protected villages? What meaningful change will this bring about to the grabbing of vast territories of land for oil exploitation by multinational corporations?
What this story will legitimise is the greater presence of US troops on African soil seemingly to deal with the [Lord’s Resistance Army], an already defeated entity.”

Latest Developments, March 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Kony 2012 reaction
In response to the controversy over a viral video calling for action against Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, This is Africa’s Angelo Opi-aiya Izama argues the sins of which the film has been accused are all too common.
“Critics of Invisible Children are also likely to be critics of foreign aid and by extension the place of Western charities in the mis-education of western publics about the realities of Africa. The real danger of the game-show type ‘pornography of violence’ that Invisible Children has made so appealing also has a dangerous hold on policy types in Washington DC whose access to information and profiles of issues is as limited.
Recent examples of the impact of evangelizing NGO’s can be seen from the distortions of the Save Darfur Coalition to a recent mining ban in the DRC under the guise of saving hapless Africans. The simplicity of the “good versus evil”, where good is inevitably white/western and bad is black or African, is also reminiscent of some of the worst excesses of the colonial era interventions. These campaigns don’t just lack scholarship or nuance. They are not bothered to seek it.”

The business of nuclear weapons
Inter Press Service reports on a new study that shines light on the financial world’s links to nuclear arms and calls for a “global campaign for nuclear weapons divestment.”
“In a foreword to the report, Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu Writes, ‘No one should be profiting from this terrible industry of death, which threatens us all.’
The South African peace activist has urged financial institutions to do the right thing and assist, rather than impede, efforts to eliminate the threat of radioactive incineration, pointing out that divestment was a vital part of the successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.
The same tactic can – and must – be employed to challenge man’s most evil creation: the nuclear bomb, he added.”

A different world
Intellectual Property Watch reports that a “collegium of scientists, philosophers and former heads of state” has issued an appeal for global governance.
“During a press conference, collegium representatives presenting the appeal described weakened international organisations unable to reach agreements or ‘imposing essential global regulations.’ They presented the concept of shared sovereignty, and called for redefined territorial jurisdictions to introduce a ‘justice system with global reach,’ and to strengthen the principle of international security, including ‘a duty toward future generations and the biosphere.’ ”

Playing with food
Wired Science reports on new evidence supporting claims that commodity speculation is driving up global food prices and increasing the risk of a dangerous bubble.
“In their ideal form, commodity markets should contain ‘70 percent commercial hedgers and 30 percent speculators. The speculators are there to provide liquidity. In the summer of 2008, it was discovered that it’s now 70 percent speculation and 30 percent commercial,’ said Michael Greenberger, former director of the [US Commodity Futures Trading Commission]’s Division of Trading and Markets. ‘Now reports are coming out that it’s 85 percent speculation and 15 percent commercial. You have markets dominated by people with no real interest in the economics of supply and demand, but who are taking advantage of bets authored by Wall Street that prices will go up.’ ”

Sarkozy’s right turn
The Guardian reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has declared there are “too many foreigners” in the country.
“The French president is already under attack by religious leaders and from within his own party for veering to the right and stoking anti-Muslim sentiment by forcing the marginal topic of halal meat into the centre of his campaign. He has now vowed to cut immigration by half and limit state benefits for legal migrants.
‘Our system of integration is working increasingly badly, because we have too many foreigners on our territory and we can no longer manage to find them accommodation, a job, a school,’ he said in a three-hour appearance on a TV politics debate show.”

Losing doctors
Time’s Matt McAllester writes that the funneling of doctors from poor countries to rich is not the only kind of  “brain drain” the former are facing.
“The medical brain drain from poor countries gets a fair amount of attention in international health circles, and initiatives both private and public are trying to resolve the shortage of doctors. The teaching hospital in Lusaka where Desai trained, for example, is one of 13 sub-Saharan medical schools receiving support from a United States-financed $130 million program to generate more and better graduates. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria provided money to Zambia’s ministry of health to recruit and retain doctors. Western aid agencies, many financed by donors like Bill and Melinda Gates, have also hired local doctors at higher salaries. But apparent solutions can create further problems; many of the doctors hired by aid agencies are doing research. They don’t see patients. Frustrated public health officials in Zambia and other developing countries call this the ‘internal brain drain.’ ”

Post-Cold War hubris
The seeds of “the social (and antisocial) grassroots demonstrations that are mushrooming in affluent Western societies” lay in the collapse of the USSR, according to Sergei Karaganov of Russia’s National Research University Higher School of Economics.
“First, social inequality has grown unabated in the West over the last quarter-century, owing in part to the disappearance of the Soviet Union and, with it, the threat of expansionist communism. The specter of revolution had forced Western elites to use the power of the state to redistribute wealth and nurture the growth of loyal middle classes. But, when communism collapsed in its Eurasian heartland, the West’s rich, believing that they had nothing more to fear, pressed to roll back the welfare state, causing inequality to rise rapidly. This was tolerable as long as the overall pie was expanding, but the global financial crisis in 2008 ended that.”

No going back
University of London PhD student Aaron Peters argues against a return to “statist capitalism” as a solution to the current economic crisis.
“[Andrew] Kliman’s concern is that the ‘left’ will over time adopt an underconsumptionist position. For those passionate about ecological sustainability and not simply reducing human beings to units capable of economic maximisation this is of grave concern.
Not only are high levels of growth an undesirable goal and an utterly insufficient rubric for assessing the ‘common wealth’, it is also simply not possible to return to the annualized GDP growth of the post-war ‘golden age’.”

Latest Developments, December 4

In the latest news and analysis…

Subsidizing Walmart
A new World Development Movement report alleges that so-called climate aid is being used to provide subsidized power to the world’s largest retailer.
“The report, ‘Power to the people?’, details how money taken from the UK aid budget has been used by the World Bank to finance wind farms in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, built without the consent of the indigenous people who own the land. The project produces enough electricity to power 160,000 homes, but is instead being sold at a discounted rate to Walmart. The project is 99 per cent controlled by French electricity giant EDF.”

Disagreement over cluster munitions
The Economist reports on the recent failure of US-led efforts to negotiate a new agreement on cluster munitions that would be less restrictive than the current ban that has been signed by 109 countries and, therefore, more acceptable to the countries that account for 85 percent of the world’s stocks of such weapons.
“The 50-plus countries that opposed the draft protocol, and the campaigners who egged them on, complained that the text still allowed the use of cluster munitions known to cause unacceptable harm. The International Committee of the Red Cross said the American proposal would simply stimulate the development of devices that met the new standards but might still be lethally unreliable; and backsliding from the Oslo rules would set a bad precedent.
The big countries were cross. America (which has argued that a total ban on cluster munitions would make life impossible for NATO) expressed “deep disappointment”. Russia grumbled that opponents were “irrational” and China said they would bear indirect responsibility for future cluster-bomb casualties.”

Outsourcing military missions
Researcher/journalist Jody Ray Bennett argues that the US State Deparment’s awarding of a contract to the controversial DynCorp private security company in the Democratic Republic of Congo is very much in keeping with recent American foreign policy.
“When asked why DynCorp had been awarded a contract back in 2004 to operate in the Sudan, an anonymous US government official told CorpWatch: ‘The answer is simple. We are not allowed to fund a political party or agenda under United States law, so by using private contractors, we can get around those provisions. Think of this as somewhere between a covert program run by the CIA and an overt program run by the United States Agency for International Development. It is a way to avoid oversight by Congress.’”

Blue Helmet mercenaries
Daivd Isenberg, author of Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq, looks into the pros and cons of using private military contractors for UN interventions and uses a Stephen Wittels quote to support his point that such troops are only as good as their contract.
“Because the State Department failed to build into Blackwater’s contract strong incentives to treat Iraqis respectfully, the company did not. Indeed, Blackwater had every reason to shoot first and ask questions later with regards to Iraqis since any civilian could, in theory, have been an assassin, and contractors were, for the first few years of the war, immune to prosecution. It should also come as no surprise that in this consequence-free environment, Blackwater employees adopted excessive aggression as their default disposition, even when it served no apparent purpose. Had their assignment and their conduct been properly engineered in their contract from the outset, a strong argument can be made that Blackwater would not today be known as a collection of ‘cowboys.’”

African leadership
Voice of America reports that African leaders are calling for changes in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
“African Union Social Affairs Commissioner Bience Gawanas says it is time the continent has a greater say in how the fight against sexually-transmitted diseases is fought. Gawanas told a World AIDS Day observance at AU headquarters that the continent most affected by the epidemic must take ownership of the battle to eradicate it.”

African generosity
Globe and Mail columnist Gerald Caplan writes about how much of the West’s wealth has come at the expense of Africa.
“There is not a single African nation that does not suffer from a dearth of trained teachers, health workers and public servants. Meanwhile there are hundreds of thousands of highly trained Africans now working in the West and more are coming as rich countries increasingly demand well-trained immigrants. Like that of other rich countries, the Canadian immigration model, as The Globe’s editorial puts it, “aims to attract the best and brightest from around the globe.” So while International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announces “new CIDA initiatives for Africa … focused on helping Africa fulfill its future potential,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is wooing Africans who could make Africa’s potential a reality.
Is this bureaucratic carelessness or rank hypocrisy? Canada’s case is typical of most rich countries. African governments spend preposterously large sums hiring foreign consultants on short costly contracts to perform the work that could have been done by their own lost experts. Is it necessary to point out that those sums often come out of the foreign aid that we, the so-called “donor” countries, provide? So a nice chunk of our aid goes to pay our own citizens to do work in Africa that Africans are doing in our own countries.”

Manifesto of the appalled economists
The Inter Press Service reports on the growing number of “appalled economists” who are calling on world leaders to change course in the current battle against sovereign debt.
“Although the ‘manifesto of the appalled economists’ was first intended to serve as a basis for debate amongst economists on European economic policies, it has rapidly become a manifesto for thousands who have signed it, not just in Europe, but also across continents and countries from Australia to Brazil. The manifesto is also being discussed in numerous forums.
In the paper, [André] Orléan and his co-authors complain that ‘the neoliberal paradigm is still the only one that is acknowledged as legitimate, despite its obvious failures.’”

Capitalism’s future
Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff asks if capitalism is sustainable and how it can be improved.
“It is ironic that modern capitalist societies engage in public campaigns to urge individuals to be more attentive to their health, while fostering an economic ecosystem that seduces many consumers into an extremely unhealthy diet. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, 34% of Americans are obese. Clearly, conventionally measured economic growth – which implies higher consumption – cannot be an end in itself.”

Latest Developments, October 11

In today’s latest news and analysis…

Playing footsie with tax havens
A new ActionAid report entitled Addicted to Tax Havens indicates that 98 of the UK’s FTSE 100 companies have subsidiaries (over 8,000 in all) based in tax havens.
“Corporate tax avoidance, which is one of the main reasons companies use tax havens, is having a massive impact on rich and poor countries alike. Developing countries currently lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year.”

SLAPP-happy mining companies
Candice Vallantin writes in the Walrus about a pair of lawsuits involving mining companies and the authors of a book critical of Canadian-owned overseas mining operations in order to highlight the issue of so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation (or SLAPPs) and their potential to make it impossible to criticize powerful entities.
“In December, the same week the Noir Canada lawyers filed their motion for the court to declare Barrick Gold’s case abusive, Pierre Noreau, a law professor at L’Université de Montréal, published an editorial in Le Devoir. Co-signed by more than two dozen law professors from around the country, it laid out the stakes. ‘Behind [this case] remains a fundamental question: Can we still be critical in our society? Should power (and money) always prevail over the right to know, or at least the right to question publicly?… The future of thought rests on this case.’”

Maintaining EU farm subsidies
The Guardian’s Mark Tran reports trade campaigners are unhappy with proposed reforms to the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP), arguing the changes would have little impact on the massive subsidies that make it virtually impossible for farmers in poor countries to compete.
“CAP reform comes against the background of the EU’s commitment to what it calls policy coherence for development, which seeks to ensure that all policies, not just development, promote growth in developing countries. The continuing high level of farm subsidies will make it hard for EU policymakers to square the circle.”

Grim food forecast
The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2011, a new UN report, foresees no let-up in high, volatile food prices, a scenario that could have wide, long-lasting economic consequences.
“Price volatility makes both smallholder farmers and poor consumers increasingly vulnerable to poverty while short-term price changes can have long-term impacts on development, the report found. Changes in income due to price swings that lead to decreased food consumption can reduce children’s intake of key nutrients during the first 1000 days of life from conception, leading to a permanent reduction of their future earning capacity and an increased likelihood of future poverty, with negative impacts on entire economies.”

Hooray for brain drain
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny argues everybody benefits when skilled professionals migrate from poor to rich countries.
“Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Development finds no evidence that medical brain drain from developing countries leads to shortages of medical staff back home, probably because the opportunity to migrate is one of the things that attracts people to medical school in the first place. For years, nurses have left the Philippines in huge numbers to work abroad, but the country still has more nurses per person than Britain.”

Breakthrough or setback?
Intellectual Property Watch’s William New reports the Medicines Patent Pool has negotiated a new deal for an Indian generics producer to manufacture cheap antiretrovirals, but it remains unclear whether the MPP has addressed concerns expressed over its first agreement signed in July.
“Meanwhile, a newly launched petition against the MPP-Gilead agreement is being led by the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, and is based on their assessment that the deal with Gilead represents a “setback” for people living with HIV, and that the process is not sufficiently transparent.
The petition…calls for a renegotiation of the voluntary licence agreement, and a moratorium on agreements by the Patent Pool with Indian generics producers until a model can be created. The petition followed a 2 October meeting between activists and the MPP, and has dozens of signatures of individuals and groups.”

Dissecting Millennium Villages
The Guardian’s Madeleine Bunting puts Columbia University economist/development industry superstar Jeffrey Sachs’s Millennium Villages Project under the microscope, asking if it really represents a replicable model for development.
“The nub of the issue was well put by Chris Blattman when he asked on his blog what the MVP will prove. That ‘a gazillion dollars in aid and lots of government attention produces good outcomes’? This is hardly surprising, says Blattman. The point, he adds, is how we test ‘the theory of the big push: that high levels of aid simultaneously attacking many sectors and bottlenecks are needed to spur development; that there are positive interactions and externalities from multiple interventions’.”

Development perks
Global Integrity’s Nathaniel Heller sounds off about the development industry’s self-importance (“Only in the Diplo-Development Universe™ does a trip to a boring industry conference in Toronto turn into a breathless, dramatic ‘mission.’”) and excessive per diems (“The fixed sum for each destination is calculated based on the following process: a large team of economists closely monitors a common basket of goods across geographies, calculates the cost of that basket in local currency, and then apparently multiplies the result by thirteen.”), arguing these seemingly minor flaws may be symptomatic of more serious problems.
“Habits like “going on mission” and fat per diems perpetuate a mindset of process trumping outcomes in international diplomacy and development. International travel becomes the whole point of some people’s jobs, especially in large international organizations and governmental agencies. Achieving actual outcomes (reducing poverty, reforming institutions, promoting peace) somehow gets swept aside in the frenzy to upgrade to business class…”