Latest Developments, January 18


In the latest news and analysis…

H-2 eligibility
The Associated Press reports that the US government has decided for the first time to include Haiti in a program that would allow some low-skilled workers to obtain temporary visas.
“U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services announced Tuesday that Haiti was among more than 55 countries eligible for the H-2A and H-2B visas.
Both Florida senators and six U.S. representatives from the state last month asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to extend the visas to Haiti. The Florida delegation said money sent home by Haitians with those visas was vital to the Caribbean country’s ongoing efforts to recover from a catastrophic earthquake in 2010.”

The C word
The Guardian reports on the escalating tensions between London and Buenos Aires that saw British Prime Minister David Cameron accuse Argentina of holding a “colonialist attitude” toward the Falkland Islands, a longtime British colony.
“Hector Timerman, [Argentina’s] foreign minister, described Britain as ‘a synonym for colonialism.’ He was quoted by Reuters as saying: ‘Evidently at a time when only scraps of colonialism linger, Great Britain … has decided to rewrite history.’ ”

The war within
Former US secretary of labour Robert Reich argues the current “crisis of capitalism” is the result of a lopsided conflict between consumers and investors on the one hand, and workers and citizens on the other.
“And since most of us occupy all four roles, the real crisis centres on the increasing efficiency by which we as consumers and investors can get great deals, and our declining capacity to be heard as workers and citizens.

As a result, consumers and investors are doing increasingly well but job insecurity is on the rise, inequality is widening, communities are becoming less stable and climate change is worsening. None of this is sustainable over the long term but no one has yet figured out a way to get capitalism back into balance. Blame global finance and worldwide corporations all you want. But save some of your blame for the insatiable consumers and investors inhabiting almost every one of us, who are entirely complicit.”

Irreconcilable differences
The Overseas Development Institute’s Claire Melamed argues the current consensus over bringing development and environment agendas closer together may be short-lived.
“But there is a danger to this approach – exemplified in the call for SDGs to also tackle ‘sustainable consumption and production patterns’.  This gets to the heart of what makes the whole issue of sustainability so politically toxic.  Sustainable consumption patterns would almost certainly mean some people on the planet consuming less so others could consume more.  Similarly on production – if developing countries are going to grow, and if technology doesn’t ride to the rescue, it’s at least possible that ‘sustainable’ might mean the rich world producing less.”

Immoral economy
Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs argues there are four ways in which self-interest, which is the very foundation of capitalism, “fails to support the common good.”
“Second, it can easily turn into unacceptable inequality. The reasons are legion: luck; aptitude; inheritance; winner-takes-all-markets; fraud; and perhaps most insidiously, the conversion of wealth into power, in order to gain even greater wealth.
Third, self-interest leaves future generations at the mercy of today’s generation. Environmental unsustainability is a gross inequality of wellbeing across generations rather than across social classes.”

Misguided journey
The University of Ottawa’s Nipa Banerjee gives a harsh assessment of the state of the international development industry in the wake of last month’s summit in Busan.
“The pre-Busan evaluations and Busan discussions clearly reflect a misguided journey of the Western-centric donors who are running the wheels of a self-serving aid industry. While some of the non-traditional non-Eurocentric donors, such as China, Brazil, and India, represented themselves in Busan, they took rather low-profile positions, with none officially joining the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, in endorsement of the self-reproducing development support industries. Most of these new donors had once been roped into a monstrous global aid industry and well experienced the fruitlessness of spending time in delving into reams of paperwork, policy papers, development programming, and evaluations, nursing the illusions of effective aid.”

Multilateral failures
Writer James Denselow reviews a pair of new books on global revolution, including the latest by Carne Ross whom he describes as a former diplomat “transformed into a thinking man’s neo-anarchist.”
“The nation-state represents an archaic and ill-fitting answer to multifaceted non-localized issues, brought on by the pressures of globalisation and climate change. From flu-epidemics, to the spread of rioting, he carefully plots the ways in which our interconnectedness has led to problems which require global cooperation to solve. Yet the best efforts at multilateral cooperation have yet to deliver the answers. Ross parallels the enormous rhetoric of the 2005 G8’s promise to ‘make poverty history’ with the reality of its ‘utter failure’ to do so with a shortfall in pledges of $20 billion.”

Blue helmet blues
The Inter Press Service speaks to a number of experts about the evolving role of UN peacekeeping and the reputational hits such missions have taken in recent years.
“ ‘In the Congo, the U.N. is not exactly neutral, going after militias on behalf of the government,’ says Sean Maloney, a professor at the Royal Military College in Kingston Ontario.

Maloney told IPS the impartial style of peacekeeping as represented by Canadians serving as U.N. soldiers and keeping armed Greek and Turkish-speaking people at bay in Cyprus in the 1970s was rendered ‘obsolete’ starting in the 1990s.
‘We are going to see more interventions. They will be more coercion-style interventions (like the NATO mission in Afghanistan where Canada had upwards of 3,000 soldiers) that will be siding with one side or another,’ adds Maloney, describing himself as pro-military and ‘libertarian’.”

Latest Developments, November 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Aid’s latest agenda
The Busan aid effectiveness summit has produced the final version of its outcome document which is chock-full of general promises on the future of “development co-operation.”
“We can and must improve and accelerate our efforts. We commit to modernise, deepen and broaden our co‐operation, involving state and non‐state actors that wish to shape an agenda that has until recently been dominated by a narrower group of development actors. In Busan, we forge a new global development partnership that embraces diversity and recognises the distinct roles that all stakeholders in co‐operation can play to support development.”

Perceived corruption
Transparency International has released the 2011 edition of its Corruption Perceptions Index, a ranking of 183 country/territory public sectors which places New Zealand at the top and Somalia and North Korea tied at the bottom.
“This year we have seen corruption on protestors’ banners be they rich or poor. Whether in a Europe hit by debt crisis or an Arab world starting a new political era, leaders must heed the demands for better government,” according to Transparency International’s Huguette Labelle.

Justice over reconciliation
Al Jazeera reports the International Criminal Court’s planned prosecution of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo is doing little to promote reconciliation in the troubled West African nation.
“As both camps [in Cote d’Ivoire’s recent conflict] traded blame, global human rights groups have warned that any prosecution focused solely on Gbagbo and not those of his rival, Ouattara, could threaten national stability.
Francis Dako, the African co-ordinator at the Coalition for the ICC, urged the court to prosecute both.
‘A decision to go after the defeated president alone at this point is likely to be explosive on the ground,’ he said.”

Development priorities
Bloomberg reports that US-based Newmont Mining has halted construction at a Peruvian gold deposit in response to violence between police and farmers worried the project will threaten their water supply.
“‘We can’t allow Peruvians to be taken hostage by groups that just preach violence,’ Pedro Martinez, president of the National Society of Mining, Petroleum & Energy, told reporters in Lima today. ‘Without peace there will be no development.’
Deputy Environment Minister Jose de Echave resigned yesterday to protest the government’s backing for the project, which seeks to produce 680,000 ounces of gold and 235 million pounds of copper annually.”

Bad faith
The Wall Street Journal reports on a UK parliamentary committee’s condemnation of defense contractor BAE Systems for its behaviour following a $400 million settlement reached over foreign bribery charges.
“BAE settled with the [UK’s Serious Fraud Office] in February 2010 over allegations that it concealed bribes paid in connection with a contract for an air-traffic control system in Tanzania. The defense contractor agreed to give GBP29.5 million back to the Tanzanian people as a part of the settlement, but failed to make payments to the country months after the deal was finalized. The delay prompted the hearing.

‘The way that BAE has handled this whole process has been quite shoddy,’ Committee Chairman Malcolm Bruce said in a news release. ‘Dragging it out this way has needlessly created the impression that BAE was acting in bad faith. The company should have paid up much sooner.’”

Inter-generational thinking
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu and former Irish president Mary Robinson call on international leaders to begin negotiating a legal agreement on climate change that would go further than the soon-to-be-expired Kyoto Protocol.
“Climate change is a matter of justice. The richest countries caused the problem, but it is the world’s poorest who are already suffering from its effects. In Durban, the international community must commit to righting that wrong.
Political leaders must think inter-generationally. They need to imagine the world of 2050, with its nine billion people, and take the right decisions now to ensure that our children and grandchildren inherit a liveable world.”

Aid power
The International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development’s Don Marut writes about aid dependence and lists some of the pressures he believes underlie its perpetuation in Southeast Asia’s most populous country.
“Second, foreign aid is a way and tool for the developed countries and international financial institutions to control the recipient countries. The House of Representatives heard that there were 63 laws that had been drafted by foreign consultants.
These works are part of foreign aid in the form of technical cooperation or program support, whether they are in the form of loans or grants.
Indonesia is a country with an abundance of natural resources and has a strategic position in terms of global geopolitics.
Developed countries cannot just allow Indonesia to freely use up its resources. Aid is a soft way of controlling the policies of recipient countries, including Indonesia. The more the aid flows, the greater the control the foreign power has.”

Fighting fair
Embassy magazine’s Scott Taylor argues there is a point at which technological inequality in a military context becomes a question of morality.
“Responding to the question of whether NATO could be implicated for potential war crimes in Libya, [Lt.-Gen. Charles] Bouchard insisted his pilots had taken all possible precautions to avoid hitting civilians.
The example he provided was an incident whereby two NATO warplanes circled a Gaddafi loyalist anti-aircraft site for two hours, waiting for a nearby soccer game to end before they attacked.
If your technological advantage over the enemy allows you to hover for two hours with impunity over an air defence system before destroying it at your leisure, that is not really war, it’s murder. If a world champion boxer climbed into the ring against a blind paraplegic in a wheelchair and proceeded to pound the hapless victim to death, we would not consider it a sport.”

The Aid Distraction

The focus of Beyond Aid has, from the outset, been the ideas and actions of others. But this week is a special one, at least for high-level international talks, as both the Busan aid effectiveness summit and the Durban climate change conference kick off. So to mark these dual events (and because I am a little under the weather), here is an analysis piece I wrote for the Broker Online in early October. It was written with Busan in mind, but I believe its point regarding global democracy applies equally to Durban.

Talk is cheap. Results are what matter. That is the apparent consensus ahead of next month’s aid effectiveness summit in Busan, whose organizers promise “a clear focus on development results,”  while sceptics worry about a lot of rhetoric and little concrete follow-through.

Unfortunately, the most important and most difficult conversation has barely begun.

There are certainly some positive noises in the lead-up to Busan: recognition that aid is just one aspect of development, talk of mutual accountability and commitment to sustainable development. But if these promises are to become more than talking points, greater efficiency and more reliable data will not be enough. In order to create the kind of massive global change they profess to desire, the leaders of the world’s wealthy countries will have to follow their rhetoric to its logical conclusion.

To say that development is more than aid is an understatement. Donors should begin by acknowledging that aid is a potentially useful but relatively insignificant component of development. As things stand, member states of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee – the driving force behind Busan – contribute just over 0.3 percent of their combined gross national income to development assistance. Even if they all made good on their decades-old promise to increase that amount to 0.7 percent and on their more recent pledge to give recipient countries ownership of the development process, 99.3 percent of their wealth would still be devoted to economic activities that sometimes clash with the interests of the world’s poor.

The mutual accountability being promised must demand more from donor countries than ODA transparency (though that would be nice too); it has to mean a serious analysis of the impacts their self-interest has on those who do not belong to their electorate. Yale philosopher Thomas Pogge argues citizens of wealthy countries, as well as elites around the world, benefit from “a transnational scheme of social institutions under which some persons are regularly, predictably and avoidably denied secure access to the objects of their human rights.” (Thomas Pogge (2002) World Poverty and Human Rights, Polity Press, Cambridge, p. 227.) In his view, these privileged people have a negative duty not to harm the world’s poor that is greater than the positive duty to provide them with aid. Certainly, such thinking is in line with legal codes around the world that punish crimes but do not reward good deeds. Moreover, Pogge believes the time is right for a rethink of the global system, with the financial crisis providing “a great opportunity to showcase and propagate both causal and moral institutional analysis.”

Transfer pricing by OECD-based transnational corporations costing poor countries billions in lost tax revenues each year; the Canadian government refusing to investigate (or withdraw financial and diplomatic support from) Canadian mining companies accused of serious rights abuses overseas; European and American trade negotiators lobbying hard to prevent loosening of intellectual property rules that impede the fight against non-communicable diseases in poor countries… The list is long and there is a whiff of blaming the victim to the claim that poor countries are responsible for their own development. Certainly, their agency is essential; improved conditions are unlikely without sound local and national policies, which have often been lacking in the past. At the same time, poor countries neither have the jurisdiction nor the political influence to rein in transfer pricing or change the international intellectual property regime. As for the role or indifference of host-country governments regarding extractive industry abuses, factors may include asymmetrical diplomatic relations and incentives built into international rules that grant ownership of natural resources to countries, even though a better case could probably be made for local or global ownership.

The point here is not that poor countries are good and rich ones are bad. But foreign policy accountable only to the voters of the home country has extremely limited democratic legitimacy, and the current global system – one that over the last few centuries has been determined to a great extent by countries that today are OECD members – is in many ways bad for those who are poor. While micro-lending or support for institution building may help, they cannot address bigger systemic problems. And yet, the vast majority of the intellectual and practical effort expended on development over the last 60+ years has focused on changing the way people – from farmers to presidents – in poor countries behave and think.

It is time to look at the second half of the equation without losing sight of the first half. It is time for the established, wealthy countries to accept their share of responsibility for poverty in distant lands and to begin handing over their global control. Not to China, India and Brazil but to the 7 billion people of the world.

Of course, ushering in an era of global democracy would be a lengthy undertaking, far exceeding the scope of a three-day summit, however high-level it might be. But Busan does have the power to significantly change development thinking, and the recognition of negative duties would be a huge step in questioning a global order that leaves billions with virtually no voice.

Sound unrealistic? Maybe. Surely though, it is no more so than suggesting competing entities, whether they be corporations or national governments, will spontaneously prioritize cooperation over their own short-term interests. Or maintaining that by giving away a tiny fraction of their wealth, they can counteract the negative impacts of their core activities and a global system designed to further their goals.

Depressingly, sustainable development would be even tougher to achieve than global democracy, as it would also require counteracting generational selfishness. Is it possible to extend democracy in time as well as space?

Difficult, no doubt. And unless we shift the conversation, impossible.