Latest Developments, September 5

In the latest news and analysis…

G20 friction
As the G20 summit kicked off in Russia, Reuters reports that US President Barack Obama encountered “growing pressure” from world leaders not to attack Syria:

The first round at the summit went to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, as China, the European Union, the BRICS emerging economies and a letter from Pope Francis all warned of the dangers of military intervention in Syria without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

Putin was isolated on Syria at a Group of Eight meeting in June, the last big summit of world powers, but could now turn the tables on Obama, who recently likened him to a ‘bored kid in the back of the classroom’ who slouches at meetings.
Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, portrayed the ‘camp of supporters of a strike on Syria’ as divided, and said: ‘It is impossible to say that very many states support the idea of a military operation.’ ”

What’s missing
The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is talking for the first time about air strikes against Syria, while a range of alternative scenarios are being floated:

“The latest is from Senator Joe Manchin III, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia who proposes giving Mr. Assad 45 days to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention and begin securing and ridding the country of its weapons stockpiles. Only if Mr. Assad refuses would the president be authorized to take military action.
‘We need some options out there that does something about the chemical weapons,’ Mr. Manchin said. ‘That’s what’s missing right now.’
The concept is already being debated by some government officials and foreign diplomats, though the White House has not weighed in.”

Rome pullout
Al Jazeera reports that Kenya’s parliament has voted to sever “any links, cooperation and assistance” with the International Criminal Court, which is set to try the country’s new president and his deputy:

“Many Kenyan politicians have branded the ICC a ‘neo-colonialist’ institution that only targets Africans, prompting the debate on a possible departure from the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi, said that Kenya had the support of African Union in this matter, and that other African countries could now follow suit.”

Open-pit protests
The Guardian reports on “the symbolic fight of our generation” against a Canadian-owned gold mining project in Romania that, if given the green light, would be Europe’s biggest:

“Thousands of citizens first took to the streets on Sunday, in cities across the country, spurred by the Romanian government’s recent draft bill to allow Canadian company, Gabriel Resources, to mine gold and silver at the Carpathian town, Rosia Montana.
Campaigners have criticised the “special national interest” status the bill would give the mine, which would allow the Romanian branch of Gabriel Resources, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, to move the few remaining landowners off the site through compulsory purchase orders.”

No teeth
Care International’s Gerry Boyle dismisses the UK government’s newly launched Action Plan on Business and Human Rights as relying almost entirely on “encouragement and exhortation”:

“As a society, we all bear responsibility for the actions of the businesses that build our wealth and deliver the products we consume, and so we have an obligation to ensure that companies operating in the UK uphold these basic standards.

So how can the guiding principles be enforced? The question of whether breaches should be a criminal offence is a complex one that requires more work, especially on how this would be enforced. It is however, a reasonable request that the Companies Act should give rise to a civil remedy that could be pursued by victims, shareholders, or indeed by the company’s own directors seeking to pursue redress where human rights abuses have occurred.”

Corporate shield
Harvard University’s John Ruggie calls on rich-country governments to do much more to ensure corporations do not violate people’s human rights with impunity:

“Exceptional legal measures may be needed where the human rights regime cannot possibly be expected to function as intended, as for example in conflict zones; and where it concerns business involvement in the worst human rights abuses. The international community no longer regards sovereignty as a legitimate shield behind which egregious human rights violations can take place with impunity; surely the same must be true of the corporate form. Greater clarity on this critical point would benefit all stakeholders.”

Two kinds of countries
In a Q&A with the Washington Post, author Teju Cole discusses his series of tongue-in-cheek tweets on whether the UK should be bombed for selling chemicals to Syria:

“It seems to me that, without quite thinking it through, we’ve divided the world into two: countries we can imagine bombing and countries we can’t imagine bombing. It’s a question of imagination. The idea that the US would launch missiles into London in 2013 is beyond absurd. But the tragedy is that it’s all too easy to imagine the U.S. launching missiles into other cities in other places in the world. I wanted to bridge that gap, in the little drive-by way of troublemaking that Twitter allows.

All that said, U.K.’s issuance of a license for the export of chemicals or holding arms trade fairs for whomever has the money does not not make Cameron a butcher like Assad. That’s one indelible truth. The fact that Cameron and Obama preside over needlessly vicious war machines is yet another. We can hold both thoughts in our heads at the same time.”

Unhealthy priorities
The Center for Global Development’s Amanda Glassman slams a recent US trade proposal concerning tobacco in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations:

“The proposal put forward by the US Trade Representative (USTR) last week in Brunei would reduce prices for US tobacco in low- and middle-income countries and make it more difficult for these countries to enforce anti-tobacco policies like package warnings and advertising and marketing restrictions.

A ‘carve-out’ for tobacco – where tobacco would simply be excluded from the terms of the TPP agreement – was proposed by Malaysia and makes sense. But the USTR worries that a carve-out would set a precedent that could be used to block a variety of other US exports on health grounds.”

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Latest Developments, May 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Business as usual
Inter Press Service reports that UN experts have found that American corporations show “little appreciation” of human rights in their operations both at home and abroad:

“ ‘The U.S. government has committed to the [UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights], and established a number of key initiatives in this regard,’ the Working Group’s Michael Addo stated Wednesday, when he and [Puvan] Selvanathan unveiled their early observations here in Washington.
‘[But] it is now facing the challenge of putting them into practice, across all departments, ensuring that this is done in a coherent and effective way, and in a way that makes a real difference to people on the ground.’ ”

Mining diplomacy
The Toronto Star reports that the Canadian government is being accused of providing “active and unquestioning support” to a mining company linked to the murder of an activist in Mexico:

“The study, made available by [MiningWatch Canada] to the Star and La Presse, is based on 900 pages of documents obtained through Access to Information from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade about its dealings with Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration.

‘It’s not that we’re saying that the embassy doesn’t have a mandate to support Canadian economic interests,’ said Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch and a co-author of the report. ‘In part, that is what they are supposed to do.
‘But Canadian embassies around the world are supposed to ensure the protection of individual and collective human rights—and that is just as important to us as Canadians.’”

No change of heart
The Tax Justice Network argues reports that Swiss banks have agreed to increased openness are greatly exaggerated:

“And we know this from a short sentence in the [Reuters] story, citing Patrick Odier, head of the Swiss Bankers’ Association:
‘We should no longer categorically reject an automatic exchange of information,’ he said. ‘But it should be introduced globally.’
It’s that bit in bold that is the give-away. In other words, we won’t do anything until everyone else has. Which, snigger snigger, will never happen. This is the classic ‘level playing field argument’ that we at TJN have seen time and time again, as justification for inaction.”

Printed weapons
The BBC reports that a gun made with 3D printer technology has been fired in the US for the first time:

“The controversial group which created the firearm, Defense Distributed, plans to make the blueprints available online.
The group has spent a year trying to create the firearm, which was successfully tested on Saturday at a firing range south of Austin, Texas.
Anti-gun campaigners have criticised the project.
Europe’s law enforcement agency said it was monitoring developments.”

Imperial aid
The University of Amsterdam’s Antonio Carmona Báez argues that understanding Bolivia’s expulsion of the US Agency for International Development requires a “de-colonial reading of development”:

“USAID belongs to the host of organs that were initiated by US president Harry Truman’s post-war Point Four Programme. The agency responds directly to the US Secretary of State and is closely monitored by the Department of Defence. While much of the discourse around USAID action highlights the terms sustainable development, elimination of poverty and international cooperation, military intervention and imposed foreign policy has marked the history of US foreign aid since the Cold War in Bolivia and throughout the Global South generally. USAID Office of Military Affairs and its Civic-Military Programme have been responsible for the funding of counter-insurgency practices in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and continuing the ‘global war on terrorism’ introduced by George W. Bush and sustained by current president Barak Obama. Recently, the Associated Press has revealed the agency’s meddling in Bolivia’s internal political affairs by providing ‘building democracy grants’ to groups that oppose the Morales government.”

Rocky relations
The Washington Post reports that even those Mongolians who are seeing some benefits from a massive Rio Tinto copper and gold project have concerns about the Anglo-Australian mining giant’s activities in their country:

“Puntsag Tsagaan, the president’s chief of staff, says he doesn’t want to see his country turned into Minegolia. Mineral wealth should be exploited cautiously and benefit the people, he says: ‘It does not have to be unlocked in a generation.’

In addition to the complaint about a cost blowout, the government says the company should have paid taxes last year and needs greater financial transparency.
In his speech to parliament on Feb. 1, [President Tsakhia] Elbegdorj wasn’t just bluffing. A few days later, his government briefly froze Rio Tinto’s bank accounts.

[Aimtan] Ulam-Badrakh says that he is glad Oyu Tolgoi is being developed but that he also has reservations. ‘Foreigners cannot just dig up the land, take away our wealth and leave us with a big hole in the ground,’ he says. ‘It has to be beneficial for foreigners and the Mongolian people.’ ”

Misplaced priorities
Humanosphere reports that Médecins Sans Frontières believes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s promotion of vaccines prioritizes drug industry profits over saving lives:

[MSF’s Kate] Elder said the problem is we don’t know how much money [pharmaceutical companies] are making since industry refuses to open its books. MSF, which is a member of the GAVI alliance, had asked drug industry partners to show the actual costs of drug development and production so the consortium can see that the profits are modest. Industry, and the GAVI leadership, Elder said, refused to incorporate this into the Global Vaccine Action Plan – an over-arching strategy led by a group convened by the Gates Foundation called the Decades of Vaccine Collaboration.
‘We’d like to see more of this information made public,’ said Elder, referring to both the price calculations as well as the development of global vaccine policy.”

Latest Developments, May 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Subsidiary immunity
The Associated Press reports that a Canadian judge has dismissed an attempt by Ecuadorian plaintiffs to have a $19 billion judgment enforced against US oil giant Chevron:

“Justice David Brown ruled Wednesday that the Canadian courts have no jurisdiction to enforce the controversial award handed down by an Ecuadorian court against Chevron.
The award to the villagers was made in Ecuador for black sludge contamination of a rainforest between 1972 and 1990 by Texaco, which Chevron Corp. bought in 2001.

Brown concluded the judgment was levied against Chevron Corp., and not Chevron Canada, therefore the subsidiary’s assets do not belong to the U.S. parent company

Alan Lenczner, the Toronto lawyer for the Ecuadorians, said they would appeal.
‘It cannot be right that a multinational company that operates entirely through subsidiaries is immune from the enforcement of a judgment in Canada, particularly where the subsidiary is 100% owned,’ Lenczner said in a statement.”

Unwanted aid
Al Jazeera reports that Bolivia has expelled the US Agency for International Development over “alleged political interference”:

“ ‘Never again, never again USAID, who manipulate and use our leaders, our colleagues with hand-outs,’ [Bolivian president Evo] Morales said in announcing the expulsion.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Philip Brenner, an international relations professor at the American University in Washington DC, said USAID became a target after its suspected role in encouraging secession in Santa Cruz, ‘a very wealthy part’ of Bolivia.”

Timber laundering
Global Witness reports that “shadow permits” are keeping the illicit logging trade flowing from Africa to the EU which imported up to to €12.4 billion worth of illegal timber in 2011:

Meanwhile, the EU has been developing Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with timber-exporting countries, which involve comprehensive forest governance reforms aimed at stamping out the illegal trade. Neither the EU Timber Regulation nor the VPAs take account of the widespread use of shadow permits, however. This means they could end up laundering the type of wood products they were designed to exclude.
‘Unless European and African policy-makers take urgent action, shadow permits could become the Trojan horse by which illegal timber is brought into the EU and passed off as legitimate. Timber importers must do proper checks right the way along their supply chains to make sure they know exactly where their timber came from and whether the permit used to get it was legal,’ said [Global Witness’s Alexandra] Pardal.

Illegal resource extraction
Reuters reports that nearly all of Liberia’s resource deals since 2009 have violated national laws:

“Liberian law sets rules for foreign investment projects including on competitive tendering, tax rates and equity stakes to be held by the government.
While some failures to comply with the law are relatively minor, the Moore Stephens draft shows the government granted vast swathes of land to firms including Golden Agri’s Golden Veroleum and Sime Darby without competitive bidding, and otherwise skipped contract steps meant to ensure a fair deal for Liberians.
Other companies with contracts found to be flawed include U.S. oil firm Chevron Petroleum and mining giant BHP, according to the report, which also accused Liberian authorities of having tried to stonewall the audit process since late last year by failing to hand over information promptly.”

No more executions
The Associated Press reports that Maryland has become the 18th US state and the first south of the Mason-Dixon line to abolish the death penalty:

“[National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] President and CEO Ben Jealous, who worked to get the repeal bill passed, noted the significance of a Democratic governor south of the Mason-Dixon line with presidential aspirations leading an effort to ban capital punishment. Jealous noted that in 1992, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton left the presidential campaign trail to oversee the execution of a man who had killed a police officer, a move widely viewed as an effort to shed the Democratic Party’s image as soft on crime.
‘Our governor has also just redefined what it means to have a political future in this country,’ Jealous said”

Fighting biopiracy
EurActiv reports that the EU is debating new measures that would require companies to compensate indigenous people for the commercial use of their knowledge:

“Under the law – based on the international convention on access to biodiversity, the Nagoya protocol – the pharmaceuticals industry would need the written consent of local or indigenous people before exploring their region’s genetic resources or making use of their traditional knowhow.
Relevant authorities would have the power to sanction companies that fail to comply, protecting local interests from the predatory attitude of big European companies.

But obstacles remain due to vested interests, particularly in the European pharmaceuticals industry. ‘90% of genetic resources are in the south and 90% of the patents are in the north,’ [Green MEP Sandrine] Bélier told EurActiv.”

Free trade racket
The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Dean Baker argues that international trade agreements, such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, have more to do with “securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests” than free trade:

“All the arguments that trade economists make against tariffs and quotas apply to patent and copyright protection. The main difference is the order of magnitude. Tariffs and quotas might raise the price of various items by 20 or 30 percent. By contrast, patent and copyright protection is likely to raise the price of protected items 2,000 percent or even 20,000 percent above the free market price. Drugs that would sell for a few dollars per prescription in a free market would sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars when the government gives a drug company a patent monopoly.
In the case of drug patents, the costs go beyond just dollars and cents. Higher drug prices will have a direct impact on the public’s health, especially in some of the poorer countries that might end up being parties to these agreements.”

Pharma power
This is Africa’s Adam Robert Green discusses concerns that pharmaceutical companies may be “shaping the public health agenda” in poor countries:

“One example is the HPV vaccination programme for cervical cancer in Rwanda, enabled by a donation from Merck. After three years, the freebies expire, but Merck promised to provide Rwanda with a discounted access price to the vaccine. Assuming donors and governments pick up the bill, the donations could be interpreted as market-priming – creating the conditions for adoption – rather than corporate citizenship.”

Latest Developments, April 16

In the latest news and analysis…

MINUSMA
Inner City Press’s Matthew Russell Lee writes that France has drafted “its own blank check” for the UN peacekeeping mission – to be called MINUSMA – it hopes to have on the ground in Mali by July 1:

“To some it seems strange that France would be the country to draft the Security Council’s resolution on Mali, and that its draft would have the Council ‘welcoming the action of the French forces.’
But the French draft, which Inner City Press has put online here, would also authorize French forces to use ‘all necessary means’ to intervene.

Having a [UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations] chief independent from France would be one way to counter-act the danger of letting France drafts its own mandate in Mali.” [Editor’s note: The last four heads of UN peacekeeping have all been French citizens.]

Hungry for dignity
Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a Guantanamo Bay detainee since 2002, discusses his participation in the widespread hunger strike underway the US military prison:

“One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.
I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

When they come to force me into the chair [for forced feedings], if I refuse to be tied up, they call the [Extreme Reaction Force] team. So I have a choice. Either I can exercise my right to protest my detention, and be beaten up, or I can submit to painful force-feeding.
The only reason I am still here is that President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen. This makes no sense. I am a human being, not a passport, and I deserve to be treated like one.”

The truth about global poverty
Jason Hickel of the London School of Economics argues that discussions about aid draw attention away from the international economic policies that cost poor countries $500 billion a year:

“The point here is that corporate power regularly transcends national sovereignty. We have to face the fact that the democratic institutions we worked so hard to shore up during the 20th century are no longer sufficient to protect us in this brave new world.
We need to change the rules, and we need to do it quickly. Given that real power is now routinely wielded at the supra-national level, we need to start building global democratic capacity that can keep rampant greed and profiteering in check.
This might mean a global corporate minimum tax that will put an end to trade mispricing and tax havens. It might mean a global minimum wage that will put a floor on the ‘race to the bottom’ for labour. It will certainly mean wresting control of international trade laws from the hands of IMF bankers and WTO technocrats and placing it under new institutions that are transparent and democratic.
If we are going to have a global economy, we need to have global democratic oversight.”

Outsourcing pollution
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues that the UK’s much touted reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is “an artefact of accountancy”:

“When nations negotiate global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they are held responsible only for the gases produced within their own borders. Partly as a result of this convention, these tend to be the only ones that countries count. When these ‘territorial emissions’ fall, they congratulate themselves on reducing their carbon footprints. But as markets of all kinds have been globalised, and as manufacturing migrates from rich nations to poorer ones, territorial accounting bears ever less relationship to our real impacts.

When our ‘consumption emissions’, rather than territorial emissions, are taken into account, our proud record turns into a story of dismal failure.

By considering only our territorial emissions, we make the impacts of our escalating consumption disappear in a puff of black smoke: we have offshored the problem, and our perceptions of it.”

War machine
The Transnational Institute’s Frank Slijper argues that European countries are under pressure to maintain military spending that contributed substantially to the region’s debt crisis:

“While countries like Germany have insisted on the harshest cuts of social budgets by crisis countries to pay back debts, they have been much less supportive of cuts in military spending that would threaten arms sales. France and Germany have pressured the Greek government not to reduce defence spending. France is currently arranging a lease deal with Greece for two of Europe’s most expensive frigates; the surprising move is said to be largely ‘driven by political considerations, rather than an initiative of the armed forces’. In 2010 the Dutch government granted export licences worth €53 million to equip the Greek navy.
As an aide to former Greek prime minister Papandreou noted: ‘No one is saying “Buy our warships or we won’t bail you out.” But the clear implication is that they will be more supportive if we do’.”

Corporate personhood
Rutgers University’s James Livingston suggests that, since US corporations have been granted the right to free speech, they should also pay taxes like “natural persons”:

“The now-familiar objection to a tax increase on corporate profits is that it will discourage private investment and thus dampen job creation. The retort is just as obvious: since when have tax cuts on corporate profits led to increased investment, faster job creation and higher per capita consumption out of rising real wages? It didn’t happen after the Reagan Revolution, it didn’t happen during the Clinton boom of the 1990s, and it sure didn’t happen under George W. Bush.

The other well-worn objection to an increase of corporate income taxes is that it would encourage companies to invest and hire overseas, where tax rates are presumably lower. Here, too, the retort is obvious: the tax code already works exactly this way by postponing taxes until profits from investment overseas are repatriated. American companies routinely avoid taxation by moving their idle cash offshore.”

Selective images
Author Binyavanga Wainaina tells Al Jazeera that Western governments promote self-serving and ultimately damaging depictions of Africa and their involvement in the continent’s affairs:

“ ‘If you look at the website in Kenya of any western embassy, they talk about partnership for development and then you see a lot of school children suffering and then being helped by the ambassador. But they don’t list the companies that are operating here. So it is the question of: What is the full picture?’ Wainaina says.”

Latest Developments, January 16

In the latest news and analysis…

“Neocolonialist” war
Le Monde reports that former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing has urged his country to stick to a supporting role for African troops in Mali’s conflict:

“I want to warn against allowing the French action in Mali to turn into a neocolonialist undertaking.

Air strikes in the country’s north and east would hit civilian populations and would replicate the pointless destruction of the war in Afghanistan. They would no doubt have the same political results.” [Translated from the French.]

Give peace a chance
Agence France-Presse reports that the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation has called for a ceasefire in Mali, which is one of the world body’s 57 member states:

“OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said the military offensive is ‘premature’ and called for ‘an immediate ceasefire in Mali and for all parties to go back to the negotiations which were led by Burkina Faso’ in December, in a statement.
Ihsanoglu, who ‘expressed his deep concern over the military escalation’ also called for ‘maximum self-restraint from all parties at this critical time in order to reach a peaceful solution to this conflict,’ the statement said.”

Arms fit for a king
Pro Publica reveals “the fullest picture yet” of US arms sales to the Kingdom of Bahrain during the Gulf state’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations:

“The list includes ammunition, combat vehicle parts, communications equipment, Blackhawk helicopters, and an unidentified missile system.

The U.S. has long sold weapons to Bahrain, totaling $1.4 billion since 2000, according to the State Department. The sales didn’t come under scrutiny until security forces killed at least 19 people in the early months of the crackdown in 2011. (Dozens have died since then.)
The administration put a hold on one proposed sale of Humvees and missiles in Fall 2011 following congressional criticism. But Foreign Policy reported that other unspecified equipment was still being sold without any public notification.”

Siemens suit
Reuters reports that a former Siemens employee is suing the German electronics giant, which he says fired him for trying to expose “a kickback scheme” on sales of medical equipment to hospitals in China:

“Siemens agreed to pay $1.6 billion in 2008 to resolve U.S. and German charges that it violated foreign anti-bribery laws through its business in countries that ranged from Argentina and Venezuela to Bangladesh.
As part of that settlement, the company also agreed to implement and maintain a robust program to comply with [the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] and retain an independent consultant to monitor that program and report on its development to the U.S. Justice Department.
Liu said the evidence he uncovered showed that the company intentionally evaded the due diligence policies put in place to comply with its 2008 plea agreement.”

Tax advice
A new report by the European Network on Debt and Development offers suggestions for ways the EU can take on the “acute challenge” of illicit financial flows from poor countries:

“A first step is to implement a robust interpretation of the Financial Action Task Force’s set of recommendations from February 2012. In Europe, the review of the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) in 2013 will be one of the biggest opportunities. The report recommends that this political opportunity is used to:
• Create publically available government registers of the real owners and controllers of companies, trusts and other such legal structures.
• Make all tax evasion a predicate offence of money laundering
• Improve compliance with and enforcement of anti-money laundering rules and introduce credible sanctions.”

Superfood concerns
The Guardian reports that the rapid growth in demand for quinoa on the international market is causing problems in the Andean communities that grow the plant:

“That global demand means less quinoa is being eaten in Bolivia and Peru, the countries of origin, as the price has tripled. There are concerns this could cause malnutrition as producers, who have long relied on the superfood to supplement their meagre diets, would rather sell their entire crop than eat it. The rocketing international price is also creating land disputes.

Bitter battles are being fought over prime quinoa-growing land. Last February dozens of people were hurt when farmers fought with slings and sticks of dynamite over what was once abandoned land.”

Knowable unknowns
OpenOil’s Johnny West asks how much of the abundant literature on Nigeria’s Niger Delta are based on “ground up, not top down” research:

“Forty years on, what we know about the peoples and societies of the Delta is scant at best. Just as Michael Herr said for American grunts Vietnam was not a country but a war, the Niger Delta is not a place and group of people but an issue – a multi-billion dollar headache or a contention in ongoing ideological debates, depending on where you stand.
Now [the Max Planck Institute’s Olumide Abimbola] is setting out to fill that gap by compiling a complete bibliography of ground level research, and then gearing up Nigeria’s social science faculties to start filling the void. But the fact we’ve got this far without this is mind-boggling and begs the question: what do we know about the people of southern Iraq, the Yusuni native Ecuadoreans, or the peoples of West Papua – apart from their relationship to the Black Stuff?”

Non-European thinking
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi writes that the act of “thinking and acting in terms at once domestic to their immediate geography and yet global in its consequences” is increasingly not just a European prerogative:

“The question is rather the manner in which non-European thinking can reach self-consciousness and evident universality, not at the cost of whatever European philosophers may think of themselves for the world at large, but for the purpose of offering alternative (complementary or contradictory) visions of reality more rooted in the lived experiences of people in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America – counties and climes once under the spell of the thing that calls itself ‘the West’ but happily no more.

Reduced to its own fair share of the humanity at large, and like all other continents and climes, Europe has much to teach the world, but now on a far more leveled and democratic playing field, where its philosophy is European philosophy not ‘Philosophy’, its music European music not ‘Music’, and no infomercial would be necessary to sell its public intellectuals as ‘Public Intellectuals’.”