terça-feira, 14 de julho de 2009


Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Sholain Govender-Bateman

PRETORIA (IPS) - The World Food Programme (WFP) is urging G8 leaders to turn words into action and meet urgent hunger needs in Africa and other developing nations as they gather in Italy for the 2009 G8 Summit.

At a press briefing ahead of the start of the three-day summit, WFP spokesperson Gregory Barrow said the global economic downturn has followed on the heels of a year when the ranks of the hungry in Africa and elsewhere increased due to the impact of high food prices.

"The biggest impact of the global financial downturn on WFP's operations in Africa is an increase in the caseload of the hungry, particularly among urban populations that depend on remittances from abroad; populations who have lost jobs because of a fall in demand for commodities; and populations who depend on income from industries such as tourism that have been hit hard by the recent economic conditions."

The most recent figures released by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation show that over one billion people around the world are in desperate need of food.

This year's G8 summit takes place in L'Aquila, Italy from Jul. 8 to 10. Leaders of Canada, Russia, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, together with the European Union, are scheduled to hold a session on hunger issues on Friday.

They are expected to sign a joint declaration and launch an initiative aimed at securing funds for long-term agricultural development and short-term hunger needs.

WFP Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Amir Abdulla, and Nancy Roman, Director of Public Policy, Communications and Private Partnerships said the G8 summit's focus on the current global economic crisis and food security would help create a platform from which WFP could address the needs of the hungry in a two-fold manner.

Roman said that increasing agricultural production through the development of small-scale farmers and communities was critical to addressing long-term hunger problems of a growing population. She said the latest statistics project the population to rise from 6.8 billion people today to 9.1 billion by 2050.

Access to food was crucial to addressing short-term hunger as lack of infrastructure and security issues in many developing nations preventing food aid from reaching hungry people, she said.

Abdulla emphasised that access also included situations where supply had increased but local people who were in need of food did not get the produce.

"When food prices were at the highest in mid 2008 - there was actually quite a good harvest in South Africa. But that food was not being eaten by the hungriest and poorest people in Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

"A lot of that South African maize was being exported for animal feed to wealthier countries."

He said that aside from increasing supply it was important to ensure that hungry people were able to get that food.

WFP's current food programmes assist just over one hundred million people, with an operation level cost of $6.5 billion.

The current funding shortfall is $4.5 billion. "WFP is calling for this year's G8 Summit to turn words into action and provide the essential support required to meet urgent hunger needs as well as long term investment in agriculture in the developing world," said Barrow

??"Governments of G8 countries have found trillions of dollars to save financial institutions and to inject momentum into flagging economies. The amount required to support an agency like WFP that will provide vital food assistance to more than 100 million people this year is a tiny fraction of this amount."

sábado, 11 de julho de 2009


Friday, 10 July 2009

Sanjay Suri

L'AQUILA (IPS) - As numbers go, and as expectations went, 20 billion dollars would be a fair bit for the G8 to produce to fight the food crisis and bring down hunger. Certainly, it was more than most expected.

Many members of civil society would have been happy enough with 15 billion dollars over four years – if only because they have learnt over time to expect relatively little. As it stands the G8 spoke of 20 billion dollars in three years.

Spoke, that is. And carefully, too. The G8 leaders (and another five from major developing countries, and Egypt) said in their declaration at the end of their three-day summit that they "welcomed commitments" by the countries meeting in L'Aquila, Italy "towards a goal of mobilising 20 billion dollars over three years…" Not a joint pledge, but a welcome step towards an ideal.

After some years of promises made and not kept, the G8 (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada, Japan and the United States) would seem right to lose a little faith in themselves. At least the language is more careful. Remember the G8 at Gleneagles in Scotland when that nice round figure of 50 billion dollars of aid one way or another was doing the rounds. The precise fraction of that which was for real has never quite been worked out.

And so civil society is not celebrating yet. "What we could say is that it is a belated step in the right direction," Kumi Naidoo, global co-chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), told IPS. "However, we have to look at the details because the G8 are masters of spin."

For example, Naidoo said, among the more recent ones, "the commitment of 30 billion dollars of food aid made in June 2008 has not yet been realised. So we want to see who's putting up the money, when the money will be available, how the money will be available, before we can embrace it fully as a success."

Italy, the host country, he said, has thought nothing of cutting aid by 500 million dollars. So who will pay more and who will even cut down what aid they were giving is less than clear. "We would like to hear from the Italian government if there has been any shift in their thinking as a result of the G8." If that is in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's thoughts at all, that is.

But more fundamentally than amounts declared as goals and those fractions delivered, Naidoo says the G8 must go beyond the business of producing numbers and simply wiping off its hands as a job well done. The G8 must think differently, he says. And recent times dictate why it must.

"Food price rises, fuel price rises, the financial crisis, the ongoing poverty and the ongoing climate crisis…they have all come together," he said. "A good big crisis is a terrible thing to squander away - we should think of these crises as opportunity. The G8 is thinking of each of these as stand-alone problems rather than looking for ways to see how we can respond to these problems in an integrated, non-fragmented way."

That kind of thinking is still some miles beyond the horizon. Right now civil society will have to live with watching that number space. And to count how much less money will be forthcoming than what it seems, or what is said.

Because even if the entire 20 billion were to come and get to the right people at the right time – among the bigger 'even ifs' of the world – it would still not be enough.

The G8 note in their declaration that "the number of people suffering from hunger and poverty now exceeds one billion." And so 20 billion dollars, say for the moment all of it, still adds up to 20 dollars a hungry head over three years. That money does not buy a lot of food in any part of the world.

True, this is not an entirely fair numbers game either. The money could be used sensibly to promote agriculture rather than as traditional aid. But this is crisis money, and falls short of even the minimum demanded by the global meltdown.

"This money will not be sufficient to deal with the challenges of the food crisis across the world," Otive Igbuzor, international head of campaigns at ActionAid, told IPS. "The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has estimated that what is needed to deal with the challenges of the food crisis is 30 billion dollars every year."

And what, again, when the G8 takes away more than it can give. Hunger is on the rise because the EU and the U.S. want biofuels, Igbuzor said. "Production of agro-fuel is increasing because of EU and U.S. subsidies, and the EU target for fuel from agro sources. There must be a stoppage of subsidies and targets on agro-fuel." Twenty million hectares of fertile land in Africa, he said, has been given to corporations from Europe and the U.S., "and all of these are swelling the food crisis."

So it's not all quite adding up: not words with numbers, not claims with records, not aid with what is being taken.

quarta-feira, 1 de julho de 2009


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Sanjay Suri

LONDON (IPS) - The G8 leaders meeting early July must address a crisis resulting from a sharp decline in investment in agriculture, Oxfam demands in a new study.

More than a billion people are now hungry, and food prices have begun to rise again, threatening multitudes of poor people, the report points out.

"Total global investment, in bilateral and multilateral assistance, has declined 75 percent since the 1980s," Emily Alpert, author of the Oxfam report told IPS in an interview from Hong Kong.

The under-investment over decades has increased vulnerability of many to market and climatic shocks, she said. And the need to act is immediate, she said. "Investment in agriculture brings slow returns; it can have a long payoff time. Increasing investments today will not bring the desired results immediately."

The report, 'Investing in Poor Farmers Pays: Rethinking How to Invest in Agriculture' released Tuesday, says that two-thirds of the world's rural poor have been overlooked by what little investments have been made.

Oxfam is calling on leaders of the G8 (the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia) to raise agricultural development assistance back to at least 1980 levels of around 20 billion dollars a year, from the 5 billion dollars at present.

"National investment has followed suit, except in rich countries and in a handful of developing countries such as China, India and Brazil," Alpert told IPS.

Among the rich, the report notes that in 2007 alone, EU agricultural spending was 130 billion dollars, and in the U.S. 41 billion dollars.

"A substantial increase in long-term agriculture investments is loose change compared to ongoing investments in rich countries or the trillions of dollars spent globally this year on the financial bail-out," Alpert said in a statement earlier. "Strengthening the agricultural sectors of developing countries is a crucial part of the long-term solution to the world's food, financial and climate crises."

The Oxfam report urges donors, national governments and private sector investors to invest more and more wisely in developing country agriculture, targeting investments towards people, particularly women, to encourage and support social and knowledge capital and enabling them to adopt environmentally sustainable farming methods.

"Women are key to food security," Alpert said. "Investing equitably in women's needs and building their capacity to productively engage in agriculture must be at the forefront any solution to improve agricultural growth and reduce poverty."

Oxfam says donor funding must be predictable, transparent and untied. The agency also cautioned the use of any "one size approach", and said investments must be tailored to the conditions of specific locations, participatory and demand-driven.

Special attention must be paid to farmers and herders in marginalised land, who often work in harsh and remote environments with inadequate access to markets and services for extension, credit and farming inputs, and fewer off- farm sources of employment, the report says.

"Such farmers and herders shoulder the burden of conserving crop biodiversity and managing some of the world's most fragile soils and could be critical allies in the fight against climate change."

Alpert said that despite perceived low returns on investing in marginalised areas by donors and the private sector, investing in developing country agriculture pays for itself by reducing poverty. "A healthy agricultural sector acts as a multiplier in local economies, leading eventually to higher wages and vibrant rural markets where farmers and workers spend their earnings."

The crisis is here already, Alpert told IPS. "We are already seeing the impact of food price rise on poor people, which is at least in part due to lack of investment in agriculture. The more you increase productivity, the more food there will be for poor people, who spend 50 to 80 percent of their income on food." (END)

terça-feira, 30 de junho de 2009


Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Francis Kokutse

ACCRA (IPS) - There are conflicting signals about whether west African countries will sign an economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union, as the original deadline of Jun 30 has been postponed and stakeholders hold different views on the new deadline of end Oct. This may still allow Ghana to re-think its interim EPA.

At a Jun 22 meeting of the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria, a new deadline for the signing of the EPA was set for the end of Oct this year. But Cheikh Tidiane Dieye, a Senegalese trade activist, believes this new date is also likely to be missed.

Dieye told journalists at a workshop last week in Senegal that he was sure that negotiations would probably continue until Jan 2010 since both the European Union (EU) and ECOWAS have not agreed on the market percentages to be liberalised.

He said the contending issues between ECOWAS and EU was that west Africa is proposing 60 percent liberalisation of its markets while the EU wants 80 percent. "There are still a lot of issues to deal with. I do not see ECOWAS signing the EPA in October," he stressed, according to the Ghana News Agency.

Amadou Niang, Senegal's minister of commerce, called for a "social" approach to the EPA negotiations and that the talks should involve civil society, since the decisions taken in the agreement would have political, social and economic effects on people.

The extension of the ECOWAS-EU talks on the EPA has given Ghana, which has signed an interim EPA with the EU, an opportunity to reconsider. The government can now think through what some civil society groups claim is not in the national interest.

The agreement is a problem for the new government which had won an election and come to power after the interim EPA was signed.

The EU took to negotiate individual interim EPAs with Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire after resistance from the rest of the west African region.

Emmanuel Awuri, acting director of policy planning, evaluation and monitoring in the ministry of trade, told IPS in the capital of Accra that, "the government of Ghana can therefore hold on to ECOWAS's decision" while a decision is taken.

Awuri indicated that another option has opened up to Ghana under the present circumstances "to appeal to the EU" to give the government that inherited the agreement time to study it before deciding whether to accept it.

While the government think through what to do, civil society organisations led by Third World Network Africa (TWN Africa) insist that, "the interim agreement was at variance with the manifesto of the current government in power and therefore there is the need for a review of (the EPA)."

Tetteh Hormeku, TWN Africa's head of programmes, told IPS, "our understanding is that the agreement was just initialled and therefore did not have any legal binding until it was signed. Based on this, we drew the attention of the new government to take a closer look at the document." TWN Africa is the Ghana-based secretariat of TWN, an international non-governmental organisation doing research and promoting equitable distribution of world resources and ecologically sustainable development.

The EU has given directives to its customs department to allow countries that had initialled the interim agreement to import duty free and quota free. According to Awuri, this is a partial implementation of the terms under the agreement by the EU.

But scrapping import duties on goods from the EU "will substantially reduce the revenue that the government earns, resulting potentially in budget deficits and affecting resource allocation to social sectors such as education and health," Hormeku stated.

Awuri retorted that "there are other areas where the EU is to assist countries that signed the agreement. It is therefore not an all-lose affair."

But Hormeku disagreed: "The elimination of high duties will lead to the collapse of domestic infant industries which compete with cheap and heavily subsidised imports from the EU.

"Many authoritative studies, including those of the World Bank, concluded that a high level of liberalisation of trade with the EU made countries like Ghana stand the chance of destroying 60 percent of their local production."

Another area of the interim agreement that Hormeku finds damaging is the issue of the removal of export duties on scrap metal to the EU. Presently, there is an export tax to discourage the export of scrap in order to make it available to local manufacturers to produce simple farm implements for the poor in agriculture.

Already, there has been a sudden growth in the export of scrap metal to the disadvantage of local small-scale producers.

The TWN has also expressed misgivings on the rule of origin article in the interim EPA under which access to the EU market is only guaranteed if goods originate in Ghana.

Hormeku says, "a Ghanaian tuna producer cannot use fish from Togo that has been canned in Ghana for the EU market. This could create a difficulty not only for current production but for future economic development, especially for industrialisation prospects in cases where Ghana sources products for processing from its neighbours."

Finally, Awuri acknowledged that, "from a technical point, the government could go ahead with the signing of the interim agreement. However, there are political undercurrents, meaning that the government has to weigh different considerations in order to take a decision." (END)

segunda-feira, 29 de junho de 2009

G8: Itália suspende acordos de Schengen

A cimeira do G8 terá lugar no quartel da academia de polícia de AquilaO governo italiano anunciou a reposição dos controlos fronteiriços e a suspensão dos acordos de livre circulação de pessoas até dia 15 de Julho. Berlusconi quer impedir a entrada de manifestantes estrangeiros para a cimeira do G8, repetindo o que fez em 2001 na cimeira de Génova.

Desta vez, a cimeira do G8 decorre entre os dias 8 a 10 de Julho na cidade atingida pelo terramoto no início de Abril, que provocou 300 mortos. Berlusconi transferiu o local da reunião, inicialmente prevista para a Sardenha. Apesar dos receios sobre as condições oferecidas pela localidade para acolher os chefes dos Estados mais poderosos do mundo, o governo italiano garantiu que o quartel da academia de polícia estará preparado para a cimeira.

A polémica estalou igualmente quando Berlusconi afirmou não acreditar "que os antiglobalistas tenham coragem de organizar manifestações violentas nesta região afectada pelo terramoto". O conselho regional da Refundação Comunista respondeu ao primeiro-ministro italiano, dizendo que "os antiglobalistas chegaram à zona do desastre ao mesmo tempo que a Guarda Civil, e em muitos sítios chegaram antes", referindo-se às centenas de voluntários dos centros sociais, ONG's e da própria Refundação que organizaram a assistência aos desalojados. A cantina do campo de refugiados de San Bagio foi mesmo baptizada logo no primeiro dia de "cantina Carlo Giuliani", em homenagem ao activista morto pela polícia na cimeira de Génova em 2001.

Nos últimos meses, as reuniões sectoriais de ministros dos países do G8 sobre ambiente e agricultura, universidade e economia têm contado com a oposição de grupos ligados à esquerda política e centros sociais. Nas manifestações e acções de protesto, os organizadores alertaram para a construção de um clima mediático alarmista que parte do governo de Berlusconi, identificando os grupos antiglobalização como terroristas, à semelhança do que sucedeu em Génova e que serviu de justificação para a repressão e infiltração policial nos grupos de activistas.

A justiça italiana demorou sete anos para julgar os crimes cometidos em Génova, acabando por condenar treze polícias e guardas prisionais, junto com dois médicos por maus-tratos a pessoas detidas nas manifestações e levadas para um centro de detenção. Outros treze polícias acabaram condenados pelo raide policial ao centro de comunicações que funcionava numa escola em Génova, que provocou dezenas de ferido. Nenhum dos condenados cumpriu pena de prisão e muitos dos polícias acusados, entre os quais os oficiais superiores, foram absolvidos pelo tribunal, apesar do próprio responsável da polícia de Génova ter admitido que "plantou" os cocktails molotov para incriminar os activistas e justificar o assalto à escola. Pietro Troiani admitiu igualmente que o esfaqueamento de um polícia, que foi repetidamente transmitido pelos media, foi afinal uma simulação.

sexta-feira, 26 de junho de 2009


Friday, 26 June 2009

Thalif Deen

NEW YORK (IPS) - As the world's poorer nations warn about the gravity of the global financial crisis on their fragile economies, the United Nations has exposed the hypocrisy of Western donors who cry poverty even while they raise trillions of dollars to rescue their beleaguered financial institutions.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that the current financial meltdown should not be an excuse to slash development aid or marginalise developing nations, specifically the world's 49 least developed countries (LDCs) - ranging from Bhutan and Benin to Sierra Leone and Solomon Islands.

The United Nations Millennium Campaign, which is battling to help eradicate extreme poverty and hunger worldwide, points out that since the inception of overseas development assistance almost 50 years ago, donor countries have given some 2.0 trillion dollars in aid.

And yet over the past year, 18 trillion dollars has been found globally to bail out banks and other financial institutions.

"The stark contrast between the money dispersed to the world's desperately poor after 49 years of painstaking summits and negotiations and the staggering sums found virtually overnight to bail out the creators of the global economic crisis makes it impossible for governments to any longer claim that the world can't find the money to help the 50,000 people who are dying of extreme poverty every day", says Salil Shetty, director of the Millennium Campaign.

The amount of total aid over the past 49 years represents just 11.0 percent of the money found for financial institutions in one year, he added.

Addressing the three-day UN summit on the global financial crisis Wednesday, the secretary-general reinforced the same argument.

The annual aid to the crisis-stricken continent of Africa, he said, was at least 20 billion dollars below the promises made by the leaders of the industrial world in Gleneagles, Scotland back in 2005.

"Surely, if the world can mobilise more than 18 trillion dollars to keep the financial sector afloat, it can find more than 18 billion dollars to keep commitments to Africa," Ban said.

The challenge to the industrial world will come up once again at a summit meeting of the G8 countries - the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Canada and Russia - in L'Aquila, Italy Jul. 8-10.

"We need clear priorities," Ban told the UN summit. "That is why I have just sent a letter to G8 leaders urging concrete commitments and specific action to renew our resolve."

A 16-page outcome document, to be adopted by political leaders Friday, says the evolving crisis, which began within the world's major financial centres, has spread throughout the global economy, causing severe social, political and economic impacts.

"This crisis is negatively affecting all countries, particularly developing countries, and threatening the livelihoods, well-being and development opportunities of millions of people," the draft says.

The bottom line: millions of people all over the world are losing their jobs, their income, their savings and their homes.

The document specifically says that developing countries, "which did not cause the global economic and financial crisis, are nonetheless severely affected by it."

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says the economic meltdown has resulted in 100 million more people going hungry, with the total number of the world's starving population reaching over one billion this year.

The World Bank projects a finance gap of up to 700 billion dollars, desperately needed by developing nations, with the possibility of a "lost generation", resulting in added deaths of 1.5 to 2.8 million infants by 2015.

Asked why rich countries keep ignoring the pleas of the world's poorer nations while they bail out banks and other financial institutions, Shetty of the UN Millennium Campaign told IPS: "The leaders in rich countries don't face any short-term political consequences by not acting on the needs and aspirations of poor people living in poor countries."

He said the only long-term solution is to build public support through sustained public education on these issues in rich countries.

"The decision-makers in rich countries don't see the same self-interest and mutuality as they now see in climate change, swine flu/pandemics, the so-called war against terror and to a lesser extent in trade on which the need for multilateral action has become painfully clear," he added.

Shetty pointed out they did realise the possible consequences in the case of Eastern Europe, where they live physically next to poor countries.

"They forget that there is less than 10 miles of water separating Europe from Africa," he noted.

Asked if developing nations, who are now part of G20, have a role to play in convincing their rich partners to respond to the call, Shetty said: "Yes, like climate change the growing economic importance particularly of China has certainly rebalanced the highly asymmetric power relations between rich and poor countries."

The members of the G20 are the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, plus the European Union.

Shetty said: "The challenge we now face is to make sure that the BRICs (Brazil, India and China) themselves don't forget the 49 least developed countries (LDCs), as they bargain for a better deal for themselves with the richest countries."

"Otherwise, we could be back to the historic game of divide and rule," he stressed.

Shetty also said it is crucial that the emerging nations continue to place the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the forefront of their negotiations at the G8 in Italy in two weeks time and the G20 in September in the United States.

quinta-feira, 25 de junho de 2009

Managing World Wat

Picture Credit: Water Encyclopedia
A water crisis is threatening the world. Millions of people have no access to safe drinking water and suffer from water-born diseases. The author of this article criticizes the principal policy-making venue, the World Water Forum, with its pro-privatization stand. Privatization turns water into a commodity and abolishes water as a human right. Without public control, poor people will not have access to clean water and sanitation.

By Daniel Moss

June 3, 2009

With climate change deepening the water crisis, wonky discussions of how to manage our water systems are suddenly attracting increased public attention. "Unlike oil, there's no substitute for fresh water," says Maude Barlow, senior advisor on water to the president of the United Nations General Assembly. "We all need it."

This recognition of the indispensability of water has raised the profile of groups arguing for treating water as a common good. In recent years across Latin America and Africa, consumer, human rights, and environmental organizations have campaigned successfully on referenda for constitutional amendments and laws enshrining water as a human right. At the recent World Water Forum, 25 countries signed an alternative declaration affirming that right (the official declaration weakly suggested that it was simply a human need). Here in the United States, a bi-partisan group of Vermont legislators working with the citizen's group, Vermont Natural Resources Council, co-sponsored legislation to protect that state's groundwater. The 2008 law declares groundwater a public trust and requires industries to acquire permits for withdrawals of over 56,000 gallons a day.

Yet it remains an uphill battle to shift the narrative, policies, and laws to ensure that water is managed as a commons and a human right. This work is made more difficult by the fact that the principal forum for global water policy discussions is not the UN but the World Water Forum, a mostly pro-privatization, tri-annual gathering of government delegations, non-governmental organizations, international financial institutions, and private industry representatives. It is convened by the World Water Council, a French non-profit whose board of governors is dominated by water privateers.

Full Cost Recovery

At the latest World Water Forum meeting from March 16 to 22nd in Istanbul, neoliberal water-management prescriptions varied little. Whether discussing the Parisian water system or South African townships, the prescription was the same: full cost recovery. In other words, agencies that provide water must recover the full costs associated with delivering the service. Increasingly pro-water-privatization development agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), are insisting that consumers pay more for water.

Full cost recovery policy is immoral, claim organizers of the People's Water Forum - a parallel gathering advocating for water to be managed as a commons for all rather than a commodity for profit. Moreover, such a corporate strategy lacks creativity and is applied only selectively. That is, poor users who consume the least amount of water bear a disproportionate burden. Instead, progressive taxation programs could support public water systems just as they do public schools.

Consider the example of the Finnish company Botnia, operating in Uruguay. Its production of cellulose products consumes 80 million liters of water per day, using a large percentage of the daily output of Uruguay's public utilities at a low, subsidized price. Similar regressive anti-conservation subsidies are found throughout the world - especially in the United States - where irrigation water is priced far below cost, a boon for water intensive agribusinesses and a blow to family farmers. Unlike air, it costs money to deliver water, so we must put a price on its management while taking care not to turn the water itself into a commodity. But the largest users - and the wealthiest users - should pay their fair share and subsidize consumption for the world's poorest families.

For the average person simply concerned about getting water to those who need it, this polarization in water management strategies may well be confusing. How is one to judge which water policies are effective and which are wrong-headed? When two water conferences recently faced off in Istanbul - the industry-backed World Water Forum and the activist People's Water Forum - the debate highlighted these stark tensions. But the discussion, in identifying some common ground, also took hopeful steps forward.

Another Water World Is Possible

Around the world, both activists and government officials have challenged the way we think about water. In Bangladesh and Brazil and through public-public partnerships around the world, public water utilities are seeking out public loans rather than private equity to improve water delivery infrastruc­ture. These public utilities seek to learn together to overcome management, engineering, and financial obstacles. They are bucking the privatization trend, refusing development bank financ­ing when conditioned on the privatization of their utilities.

Such innovative financing approaches go hand in hand with new approaches to water management. Local authorities in Rajasthan, India, for instance, are organizing water governance around natural contours - the world's river basins. There, the citizens group Tarun Bharat Sangh constructs johads, earthen small-scale reservoirs that help to harvest rainwater and improve the recharge of groundwater resources. In Rajasthan, as well as newly enshrined in the Ecuadoran constitution, citizens view water not just as a human right but as a right of the earth.

Maude Barlow suggests 10 principles to create and manage a water commons. The principles are broad ranging, from applying human rights and public trust law to ensuring conservation and improved public delivery. She, too, sees privatization of water supplies as antithetical to this notion of the commons. She cites the case of Felton, California, which has taken back its public water system from a failed privatization experience. Further south, through trial and error, Cochabamba, Bolivia is experimenting with community-managed water utilities to deliver quality water at fair prices. In South Africa, communities have rejected pre-paid water meters and pricing schemes that undermine families' water security.

Adriana Marquisio, president of Uruguay's water workers union, insists that public water management must be improved but is equally adamant that water remain a public good. She calls for measuring efficiency not just in terms of liters per second but through public oversight over water fees and system improvements, public health indicators, innovations in community management, and the ecological health of groundwater reserves.

Flawed U.S. Policy

A principal U.S. policy tool for solving the world water crisis is the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009. This act builds on a similar law signed by President Bush in 2005. The bill seeks to provide "100 million of the worlds poorest with sustainable drinking water and sanitation by 2015." Operationally, the proposed law establishes an Office of Water within USAID, an agency that embodies the entrepreneurial and privatizing spirit associated with shrinking the public sector.

If passed, the Water for the World Act will further enable the role of private investment in public drinking and wastewater infrastructure in developing nations, according to Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch. "Water privatization has proven a commercial failure in most countries around the world because private companies have, time and again, proven incapable of meeting their obligations to both their customers and their shareholders," she argues. "Reinforcing the role of private investment in the water infrastructure systems of developing countries will only perpetuate the problems that this well-intended act is designed to solve. Instead, we must work with developing countries to implement sound water policies based on public management of this essential resource."

In reports to Congress, USAID largely measured its success in implementing the Simon water acts by the amount of dollars spent on water systems. Investments in extending service and repairing ailing infrastructure are certainly critical. In this time of financial crisis, these ought to be a core part of public spending programs to reactivate the global economy. However, it matters a great deal how the money is spent, with what oversight and based on what political agenda. Certainly, the recent damage caused by channeling public monies to poorly regulated mortgage companies ought to offer pause about a similar strategy for water. These funds must be channeled to local governments and public utilities (with no strings attached mandating privatization) and to non-governmental organizations working on community-led, commons-based water strategies.

The Obama administration's performance at the World Water Forum was lackluster. It did not sign the alternative declarations to declare water a human right or seek to move policy deliberations to the UN. Whether the administration's plate is too full to pay attention or it is intentionally, repeating the Bush administration's poor stewardship of the globe's natural resources is still unclear.

In his inaugural address, President Obama promised to the world's people "to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow." So there is hope that the administration has been too busy to give this important issue proper attention. But hope is a poor substitute for action. It is still early on in the new administration, time enough to press for change. That change will happen when citizens insist that water debates are public debates about how to best manage our common water resources.

segunda-feira, 22 de junho de 2009

IRAN: Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology

by Christopher Rhoads and Loretta Chao, Wall Street Journal
June 22nd, 2009

The Iranian regime has developed, with the assistance of European telecommunications companies, one of the world's most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet, allowing it to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale.

Interviews with technology experts in Iran and outside the country say Iranian efforts at monitoring Internet information go well beyond blocking access to Web sites or severing Internet connections.

Instead, in confronting the political turmoil that has consumed the country this past week, the Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes, according to these experts.

The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, in the second half of 2008, Ben Roome, a spokesman for the joint venture, confirmed.

The "monitoring center," installed within the government's telecom monopoly, was part of a larger contract with Iran that included mobile-phone networking technology, Mr. Roome said.

"If you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability to intercept any communication that runs over them," said Mr. Roome.

The sale of the equipment to Iran by the joint venture, called Nokia Siemens Networks, was previously reported last year by the editor of an Austrian information-technology Web site called Futurezone.

The Iranian government had experimented with the equipment for brief periods in recent months, but it had not been used extensively, and therefore its capabilities weren't fully displayed -- until during the recent unrest, the Internet experts interviewed said.

"We didn't know they could do this much," said a network engineer in Tehran. "Now we know they have powerful things that allow them to do very complex tracking on the network."

[Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology]

Deep packet inspection involves inserting equipment into a flow of online data, from emails and Internet phone calls to images and messages on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Every digitized packet of online data is deconstructed, examined for keywords and reconstructed within milliseconds. In Iran's case, this is done for the entire country at a single choke point, according to networking engineers familiar with the country's system. It couldn't be determined whether the equipment from Nokia Siemens Networks is used specifically for deep packet inspection.

All eyes have been on the Internet amid the crisis in Iran, and government attempts to crack down on information. The infiltration of Iranian online traffic could explain why the government has allowed the Internet to continue to function -- and also why it has been running at such slow speeds in the days since the results of the presidential vote spurred unrest.

Users in the country report the Internet having slowed to less than a tenth of normal speeds. Deep packet inspection delays the transmission of online data unless it is offset by a huge increase in processing power, according to Internet experts.

Iran is "now drilling into what the population is trying to say," said Bradley Anstis, director of technical strategy with Marshal8e6 Inc., an Internet security company in Orange, Calif. He and other experts interviewed have examined Internet traffic flows in and out of Iran that show characteristics of content inspection, among other measures. "This looks like a step beyond what any other country is doing, including China."

China's vaunted "Great Firewall," which is widely considered the most advanced and extensive Internet censoring in the world, is believed also to involve deep packet inspection. But China appears to be developing this capability in a more decentralized manner, at the level of its Internet service providers rather than through a single hub, according to experts. That suggests its implementation might not be as uniform as that in Iran, they said, as the arrangement depends on the cooperation of all the service providers.

Iran's government is a combination of democracy and Islamic theocracy. Take a look at the power structure.

The difference, at least in part, has to do with scale: China has about 300 million Internet users, the most of any country. Iran, which has an estimated 23 million users, can track all online communication through a single location called the Telecommunication Infrastructure Co., part of the government's telecom monopoly. All of the country's international links run through the company.

Separately, officials from the U.S. embassy in Beijing on Friday met with Chinese officials to express concerns about a new requirement that all PCs sold in the China starting July 1 be installed with Web-filtering software.

If a government wants to control the flow of information across its borders it's no longer enough to block access to Web sites hosted elsewhere. Now, as sharing online images and messages through social-networking sites has become easy and popular, repressive regimes are turning to technologies that allow them to scan such content from their own citizens, message by message.

Human-rights groups have criticized the selling of such equipment to Iran and other regimes considered repressive, because it can be used to crack down on dissent, as evidenced in the Iran crisis. Asked about selling such equipment to a government like Iran's, Mr. Roome of Nokia Siemens Networks said the company "does have a choice about whether to do business in any country. We believe providing people, wherever they are, with the ability to communicate is preferable to leaving them without the choice to be heard."

Countries with repressive governments aren't the only ones interested in such technology. Britain has a list of blocked sites, and the German government is considering similar measures. In the U.S., the National Security Agency has such capability, which was employed as part of the Bush administration's "Terrorist Surveillance Program." A White House official wouldn't comment on if or how this is being used under the Obama administration.

The Australian government is experimenting with Web-site filtering to protect its youth from online pornography, an undertaking that has triggered criticism that it amounts to government-backed censorship.

Content inspection and filtering technology are already common among corporations, schools and other institutions, as part of efforts to block spam and viruses, as well as to ensure that employees and students comply with computer-use guidelines. Families use filtering on their home computers to protect their children from undesirable sites, such as pornography and gambling.

Internet censoring in Iran was developed with the initial justification of blocking online pornography, among other material considered offensive by the regime, according to those who have studied the country's censoring.

Iran has been grappling with controlling the Internet since its use moved beyond universities and government agencies in the late 1990s. At times, the government has tried to limit the country's vibrant blogosphere -- for instance, requiring bloggers to obtain licenses from the government, a directive that has proved difficult to enforce, according to the OpenNet Initiative, a partnership of universities that study Internet filtering and surveillance. (The partners are Harvard University, the University of Toronto, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.)

Beginning in 2001, the government required Internet service providers to install filtering systems, and also that all international connections link to a single gateway controlled by the country's telecom monopoly, according to an OpenNet study.

Iran has since blocked Internet users in the country from more than five million sites in recent years, according to estimates from the press-freedom group Reporters Without Borders.

In the 2005 presidential election, the government shut down the Internet for hours, blaming it on a cyberattack from abroad, a claim that proved false, according to several Tehran engineers.

Several years ago, research by OpenNet discovered the government using filtering equipment from a U.S. company, Secure Computing Corp. Due to the U.S. trade embargo on Iran, in place since the 1979 Islamic revolution overthrew the U.S.-backed shah, that was illegal. Secure Computing, now owned by McAfee Inc., at the time denied any knowledge of the use of its products in Iran. McAfee said due diligence before the acquisition revealed no contract or support being provided in Iran.

Building online-content inspection on a national scale and coordinated at a single location requires hefty resources, including manpower, processing power and technical expertise, Internet experts said.

Nokia Siemens Networks provided equipment to Iran last year under the internationally recognized concept of "lawful intercept," said Mr. Roome. That relates to intercepting data for the purposes of combating terrorism, child pornography, drug trafficking and other criminal activities carried out online, a capability that most if not all telecom companies have, he said.

The monitoring center that Nokia Siemens Networks sold to Iran was described in a company brochure as allowing "the monitoring and interception of all types of voice and data communication on all networks." The joint venture exited the business that included the monitoring equipment, what it called "intelligence solutions," at the end of March, by selling it to Perusa Partners Fund 1 LP, a Munich-based investment firm, Mr. Roome said. He said the company determined it was no longer part of its core business.

sexta-feira, 19 de junho de 2009

Over 440 European Parliament candidates pledge to support Fair Trade

Over 440 European Parliament candidates pledge to support Fair Trade
05 June 2009
5 June 2009 (Brussels) – Over 440 candidates running for the European Parliament elections have made a pledge to support Fair Trade and to ensure that the needs of marginalised producers and workers in the South are reflected across all European Union policy areas, if elected.

Sergi Corbalán, Coordinator of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, a joint initiative of the four main Fair Trade networks WFTO, FLO, EFTA and NEWS!, stated: “We are pleased to see that over 440 candidates, irrespective of their political group and country, have made a pledge to support Fair Trade. We look forward to the candidates’ support in bridging the gap between EU policies and EU citizens´ support for Fair Trade and thank the candidates for their support. We would also like to thank all those Fair Trade organisations and individuals that have been approaching the political parties and candidates, engaging in debates and gaining support for Fair Trade”.

The objective of the Pledge for Fair Trade campaign was to raise awareness about the situation of marginalised producers and workers in the South and seek the political commitment to tackle the obstacles preventing marginalised producers and workers in the South to trade their way out of poverty.

The campaign was implemented with the active support of a large number of Fair Trade organisations and supportive individuals across Europe. Many activities at national and regional level took place in the context of the World Fair Trade Day, organized by the World Fair Trade Organization. The list of candidates having made the pledge, as well as photos and personal statements, are available at: www.fairtrade-advocacy.org/pledge

The text of the pledge reads: If elected as Member of the European Parliament (2009-2014):
I will strive to ensure that the European Parliament and other EU Institutions give, as far as possible, public support to Fair Trade. In particular, I will do my best to ensure that the needs of marginalised producers and poor workers in the South are reflected across all EU policy areas and adequate EU support is made available for Fair Trade projects that help them to trade their way out of poverty.

quarta-feira, 17 de junho de 2009

WFTOMarket.com, one stop Fair Trade shop

WFTOMarket.com, one stop Fair Trade shop
15 June 2009
sn202012.jpgPlanning to sell Fair Trade wares or needing more supplies? No need to google them or spend valuable time searching the web! There is a one stop shop of wide array of Fair Trade products – www.wftomarket.com.

Buyers and consumers are guaranteed you are buying Fair Trade products on the www.wftomarket.com. You can stop worrying now whether you are buying genuine Fair Trade product or not. The new online market assures the goods are authentic Fair Trade produced by WFTO members who are 100% committed to Fair Trade Principles.

WFTOMarket.com is a network market that promotes Fair Trade products of small-scale producers, farmers and artisans. It is an advertising platform that links you directly to the producers. It is easy to use with search panels for products, country of origin and price range.

This network market was offered to WFTO free of charge by PEOPLink, a US-based non-profit organisation helping grassroots artisans connect with buyers through the Internet and, thus improving their terms of trade. PEOPLink CEO Dan Salcedo said the goal is to “have all products of WFTO producers promoted in one or more searchable network markets where buyers can purchase them directly from certified Fair Trade producers.”

terça-feira, 16 de junho de 2009

How the Wall Street bankers bought Congres

Petrino DiLeo looks at how Wall Street has been able to block financial services reform, thanks to members of Congress who eagerly do the banks' bidding.

How the bankers bought Congress (Eric Ruder | SW)

YOU WOULD think that causing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression might have repercussions. You would think being a major factor in the destruction of around 40 percent of the world's wealth might get you in trouble. You would think being the cause of the worst housing crisis in history--with millions of people losing their homes because of you--might force a restructuring of how Wall Street does things.

You would think that. But you'd be wrong.

For Wall Street's lobbyists in Washington, it's business as usual. Since Barack Obama took office, the bankers have succeeded in pushing through bogus "stress tests" of financial institutions' solvency, escaping tougher government oversight, and steamrolling attempts to give working-class borrowers a break.

Even the much-hyped limits on CEO pay are being rolled back. In mid-June, Barack Obama lifted a five-month-old limit on executive compensation at financial firms that took federal bailout money. Apparently, only $500,000 a year in salaries and other perks was just too much of a sacrifice for the financial system to bear. Instead, Obama has established a "special master of compensation," who will decide on pay to top executives at banks still reliant on government money.

While having a "special master" oversee pay might sound like a big deal, the banks aren't sweating it. "Our people kind of thought it was a non-event," one unnamed executive of a large bank told the Washington Post. "I don't think there are worries about it on Wall Street." And, the executive added, "It's not like the horrible and unethical action from Congress, where they were putting artificial caps on pay or trying to steal back bonuses."

The sense of entitlement on display in comments like these is staggering--as if the "wizards" of Wall Street deserve the billions in compensation showered upon them in the past decade for producing what has proved to be fictitious wealth, while destabilizing the economy and destroying the lives of people across the U.S.

As for legislation aimed at stemming the kinds of predatory lending practices that helped exacerbate the housing bubble and ultimately triggered the financial crisis, Senate Banking Committee Chair Christopher Dodd recently said, "We've got a lot on our plate. We've got other things to do."

Apparently, however, one of those "other things to do" was not passing "cramdown" legislation--a measure that would have enabled bankruptcy court judges to lower the principal on existing mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure, thereby helping people to keep their homes. In that bill, defeated in early May, the Senate sided with banks over homeowners by a 51-45 margin.

Housing rights activists estimate the legislation could have staved off 1.7 million foreclosures and preserved $300 billion in home equity. Nevertheless, a dozen Democrats in Senate voted against it.

Complete article here

sexta-feira, 12 de junho de 2009

Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt

Political Charter of CADTM International

(Adopted in Belém in January 2009)

Preamble :

In 1989, “the Bastille appeal” was launched in Paris: it invites all popular forces throughout the world to unite for the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the so called “developing” countries. This crushing debt, along with the neo-liberal macro-economic reforms imposed on the South since the debt crisis of 1982, have created the explosion of inequalities, mass poverty, flagrant injustices and the destruction of the environment. In response to this appeal, and in order to fight against general degradation of living conditions of the majority of the population, the CADTM was created in 1990. Nowadays, CADTM international is a network made up of approximately 30 active organizations in over 25 countries in over 4 continents. Its main function focuses on the debt problem and it involves the creation of radical alternatives aimed at the emergence of a world based on sovereignty, solidarity and cooperation between peoples, respect for the environment, equality, social justice and peace.

Since the creation of the CADTM, the international context has changed. Regarding debt, a significant change needs to be taken into consideration: domestic public debt has dramatically increased. Globally, two main opposing trends are developing on an international scale. On the one hand, the neo-liberal capitalist offensive, mainly lead by the G7, the IMF, the WB and the WTO who work in the interests of multinationals and international financial capital, has become more widespread and entrenched. On the other hand, a counter-trend has been developing since the end of the 1990s: powerful social movements against the neo-liberal offensive, in particular in Latin America have emerged. There has been a strengthening of the international social movements which are fighting for “other possible worlds”. The election of leaders who advocate a break with neo-liberalism, apply initiatives on auditing of debt and the suspension of payments on public external debt, the beginning of total recovery of the State’s control over strategic sectors and on natural resources. There has been the failure of neo-liberal projects such as the ALCA and resistance to imperialism in Iraq, in Palestine and in Afghanistan. The evolution of the power relations between these two opposing trends will largely depend on popular reaction when faced with the international crisis which is multi-faceted (financial, social, political, food, energy, climate, environmental, cultural).

Entire charter here

quinta-feira, 11 de junho de 2009

The Numbers of the Third World's Debt

The Debt in Figures

3 November 2003

A necessary tool to understand the current global crisis, the data collected here by Damien Millet and Eric Toussaint (CADTM) should enable us to make sense of one of the basic reasons for the international situation, as seen from the viewpoint of the global South. From the 1960s to today’s global crisis, the international network of the CADTM has constantly kept a critical eye on the world economy and the mechanisms of domination that affect it. Analysing various statistics is essential to identify what is really at stake and to propose suitable alternatives.
Human mal-development, inequality, odious debt, financial transfers, the prices of raw materials, the World Bank and the IMF - all the figures included in this vade-mecum for 2009 are derived from reliable sources and have been carefully examined by the CADTM team.

Far from the long-winded ramblings of the dominant discourse, the CADTM’s handbook simply lays out the stark reality in figures. These are the facts we need to fuel reflection about how to lay the foundations of a radically different economic logic, both socially just and environmentally sustainable.

quarta-feira, 10 de junho de 2009

Wall Street’s Toxic Messag

When the current crisis is over, the reputation of American-style capitalism will have taken a beating—not least because of the gap between what Washington practices and what it preaches. Disillusioned developing nations may well turn their backs on the free market, warns Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, posing new threats to global stability and U.S. security.

By Joseph E. Stiglitz July 2009

Illustration by Edward Sorel

Illustration by Edward Sorel.

Every crisis comes to an end—and, bleak as things seem now, the current economic crisis too shall pass. But no crisis, especially one of this severity, recedes without leaving a legacy. And among this one’s legacies will be a worldwide battle over ideas—over what kind of economic system is likely to deliver the greatest benefit to the most people. Nowhere is that battle raging more hotly than in the Third World, among the 80 percent of the world’s population that lives in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, 1.4 billion of whom subsist on less than $1.25 a day. In America, calling someone a socialist may be nothing more than a cheap shot. In much of the world, however, the battle between capitalism and socialism—or at least something that many Americans would label as socialism—still rages. While there may be no winners in the current economic crisis, there are losers, and among the big losers is support for American-style capitalism. This has consequences we’ll be living with for a long time to come.

Joseph E. Stiglitz

Joseph E. Stiglitz on the economic crisis.

Capitalist Fools, January 2009

Reversal of Fortune, November 2008

The $3 Trillion War, April 2008 (with Linda J. Bilmes)

The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush, December 2007

The fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, marked the end of Communism as a viable idea. Yes, the problems with Communism had been manifest for decades. But after 1989 it was hard for anyone to say a word in its defense. For a while, it seemed that the defeat of Communism meant the sure victory of capitalism, particularly in its American form. Francis Fukuyama went as far as to proclaim “the end of history,” defining democratic market capitalism as the final stage of social development, and declaring that all humanity was now heading in this direction. In truth, historians will mark the 20 years since 1989 as the short period of American triumphalism. With the collapse of great banks and financial houses, and the ensuing economic turmoil and chaotic attempts at rescue, that period is over. So, too, is the debate over “market fundamentalism,” the notion that unfettered markets, all by themselves, can ensure economic prosperity and growth. Today only the deluded would argue that markets are self-correcting or that we can rely on the self-interested behavior of market participants to guarantee that everything works honestly and properly.

Complete article here

terça-feira, 9 de junho de 2009

The European Elections

The Partisans of Capitalism Have Lost All Credibility


The partisans of capitalism, and among them, prominently, the EU leaders, have lost all credibility. For years now they have trampled on the rights of peoples while not wavering when it came to making decisions directly opposed to their advertised principles in order to bail out major banks. European government parties could have acted differently and nationalised the banks, thus retrieving the cost of the bailout on the patrimony of major shareholders and CEOs. The public credit instrument that would have resulted could finance socially useful and environment-friendly projects while guaranteeing individual savings.

The crisis has brought back onto the agenda proposals that had been swept aside during the long neoliberal night such as a radical reduction of working time (with creation of jobs and no loss of pay) or indexation of wages and social benefits on the cost of living. Europe needs new financial discipline: company ledgers have to be opened to external and internal auditing (through the trade unions among others), all financial products must be regulated, and it must be forbidden for companies to have assets in any tax haven. Major means of production, trade, finance, communication and other services must be transferred to the public sphere and taken away from capitalists’ control. Access to public goods must be systematically promoted.

In a political perspective, European citizens must retrieve the political power that has been taken away from them. The populations who were able to have their say on the Constitutional Treaty turned it down, but leaders ignored their votes without a second thought. Meanwhile Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia show us the way. There, citizens elected a Constituant Assembly in order to draw up a new draft Constitution, which is to be discussed with social movements and sanctioned by referenda. In these three countries voters can now revoke any elected representative mid-mandate, whereas no European Constitution mentions any such highly democratic mechanism.

The countries of Europe must stop plundering the natural resources and know-how of the South. They must increase official development aid, which ought to be called ‘contribution to reparations’ by way of repairing the historical, social and environmental damage they brought about. Europe must cancel Third World Debt and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in all its dimensions, including article 13, the right to freedom of movement and residence. Europe must turn away from nuclear power and dismantle all nuclear weapons currently on its territory. Europe must leave NATO and withdraw its troops from all territories under military occupation. Europe must close down all US military bases on its territory. All EU member countries must grant complete independence to populations they still wield colonial power over (the ‘French’ and ‘Dutch’ Antilles, British overseas territories, New Caledonia, Reunion Island…). Europe must rescind all partnership agreements with Israel and see to it that the rights of the Palestinian people be at long last respected.

Capitalism has drawn humankind down into a deep multidimensional crisis: it affects the financial sector, the economy, the climate, food and energy supplies, not to mention wars and the arms race. The patriarchal system perpetuates the oppression of women in all areas of life. As asserted at the Women’s Assembly at the World Social Forum in Belem on 1 February 2009 : We are not interested in palliative answers based on market logic in response to these crises ; this can only lead to perpetuation of the same system. We need to move forward in building alternatives if we are to oppose the capitalist and patriarchal system that oppresses and exploits us. |1|

We also support the declaration of indigenous peoples adopted at Belem: The capitalist development model, a model that is Eurocentric, sexist and racist, is in absolute crisis, and is leading us to the greatest social and environmental crisis in the history of humankind. Structural unemployment is aggravated by the financial, economic, energy and production crisis, along with social exclusion, sexist and racist violence and religious fanaticism. That there should be so many simultaneous crises, and so deep, forebodes an authentic crisis of civilization, a crisis of “capitalist and modern development” that endangers all forms of life. But there are those who continue to dream of improving this model and refuse to acknowledge that what is in crisis is capitalism, Euro-centrism, with its model of a State destined for one culturally homogeneous nationality, western positive rights, developmentalism and the commodification of life. |2|

Capitalism, patriarchy, and all forms of oppression will not disappear of their own accord: only the conscious and deliberate actions of men and women can yield another system whose goals would be to guarantee indivisible human rights and to protect the environment. We must free our minds of the tragic Stalinist caricature of communism, do away with capitalism, and invent an ecologically viable, socialist and feminist project rooted in the realities of the 21st century.

Eric Toussaint, president of the Committee for the Cancellation of Third World Debt – Belgium www.cadtm.org , author of The World Bank: A Critical Primer, Pluto, London, 2008.

Damien Millet, mathematician, is spokeperson for CADTM France (Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt). Joint authors of 60 Questions 60 Réponses sur la dette, le FMI et la Banque Mondiale, CADTM-Syllepse, Liège-Paris, 2008. English version to be published in 2009.


|1| In the Declaration of the Women’s Assembly

|2| http://www.indigenousportal.com/

segunda-feira, 8 de junho de 2009

How the other 0.00000003 percent live

Adam Turl examines the lives of the 10 richest people in the U.S.--and uncovers a rogue's gallery of serial polluters, budget-slashers, CIA contractors, union-busters and right-wing nuts.

How the other 0.00000003 percent lives (Eric Ruder | SW)

BACK IN February--when even the mainstream media was convinced the capitalist economy was in full-blown meltdown mode--Newsweek magazine ran an article titled "Why there won't be a revolution."

Newsweek wanted to reassure the rich--and convince working people--that the masses weren't getting ready to dust off their pitchforks and head to the town square. "Americans might get angry sometimes," they wrote, "but we don't hate the rich. We prefer to laugh at them."

Newsweek couldn't be more wrong. The 10 percent of Americans who rely on food stamps, the 25 percent of Ohioans who are waiting in lines at food banks, the 500,000 people who lost their jobs last month and the millions more who can't find work--these people aren't laughing.

And plenty of Americans--rightly--hate the rich. While our homes go into foreclosure, while our credit card rates go up, while our jobs disappear and college tuition shoots up, the well-heeled "masters of the universe" on Wall Street are still making out like bandits, but now with hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money, courtesy of the Obama administration.

A lot more people would be even angrier if the mainstream media reported the truth about the rich and powerful in America--who they are and how they "made it" to the top. Consider the 10 richest people in the country as of last September, according to the annual Forbes magazine list.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Full article here

sexta-feira, 5 de junho de 2009

What is socialism?

ISR Issue 65, May–June 2009

What is socialism?


IN A matter of months, the global financial crisis has dramatically reshaped the economic and political landscape around the world. The high priests of global capitalism have scrapped decades of neoliberal orthodoxy, replacing their denunciations of government spending as harmful interference in the free market with calls for trillions in bailout bills and stimulus packages. “The goal is to get the engine of capitalism going as productively as possible,” Nancy Koehn, a historian at the Harvard Business School, told the New York Times. “Ideology is a luxury good in times of crisis.”

After decades of promoting the gospel of free markets globally and deregulation at home, the push for deregulation has been replaced—for all but the most ideologically blinkered—by the gospel of state intervention. In mid-February, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, a zealot of free markets, deregulation, and privatization over the past four decades, acknowledged that a nationalization of at least part of the banking sector might be necessary to address the insolvency of major American banks.2 This followed Greenspan’s admission in October that the crisis, in particular the catastrophic errors in judgment by U.S. banks that precipitated the crisis, revealed a “mistake” in free-market economic models. “[There is] a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works,” said Greenspan.3 The massive injections of capital into the banking system as well as proposals for hundreds of billions of dollars in economic stimulus spending have returned Keynesianism to a place of prestige in the debate about how to manage capitalism.

To illustrate the extent of the political transformation, it’s worth recalling that the response of many Republicans to the Bush administration’s rescue plan was to proclaim the imminent demise of American capitalism. “This massive bail-out is not the solution, it is financial socialism, it is un-American,” said Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) of the initial $700 billion plan to reassure holders of mortgage-backed debt and to get the credit markets working again. On another occasion, Bunning denounced then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for acting like China’s finance minister. “No company fails in communist China, because they’re all partly owned by the government,” he said. “I sincerely believe that Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke should resign. They have taken the free market out of the free market.”4

Perhaps even more compelling is the overnight conversion of Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) from free-marketeer to bailout booster. On September 29, McCotter compared the $700 billion bailout to the “horrors” of the Russian Revolution. “During the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, the slogan was ‘Peace, land, and bread,’” said McCotter. “Today you are being asked to choose between bread and freedom. I suggest that the people on Main Street have said they prefer their freedom, and I am with them.”5 But just a few weeks later on November 20, McCotter, whose district borders Detroit, showed up at a Capitol Hill hearing with auto executives to speak in favor of the bailout for Detroit’s Big Three auto manufacturers.6 It looks as if McCotter decided he’d prefer bread to freedom after all.

Full article here

quinta-feira, 4 de junho de 2009

Is Halliburton Forgiven and Forgotten?

Is Halliburton Forgiven and Forgotten? Or How to Stay Out of Sight While Profiting From the War in Iraq

by Pratap Chatterjee, TomDispatch.com
June 3rd, 2009

Originally published on May 31, 2009 at TomDispatch.com. Read the full TomGram.

The Houstonian Hotel is an elegant, secluded resort set on an 18-acre wooded oasis in the heart of downtown Houston. Two weeks ago, David Lesar, CEO of the once notorious energy services corporation Halliburton, spoke to some 100 shareholders and members of senior management gathered there at the company's annual meeting. All was remarkably staid as they celebrated Halliburton's $4 billion in operating profits in 2008, a striking 22% return at a time when many companies are announcing record losses. Analysts remain bullish on Halliburton's stock, reflecting a more general view that any company in the oil business is likely to have a profitable future in store.

There were no protesters outside the meeting this year, nor the kind of national media stakeouts commonplace when Lesar addressed the same crew at the posh Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston in May 2004. Then, dozens of mounted police faced off against 300 protestors in the streets outside, while a San Francisco group that dubbed itself the Ronald Reagan Home for the Criminally Insane fielded activists in Bush and Cheney masks, offering fake $100 bills to passers-by in a mock protest against war profiteering. And don't forget the 25-foot inflatable pig there to mock shareholders. Local TV crews swarmed, a national crew from NBC flew in from New York, and reporters from the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal eagerly scribbled notes.

Now the 25-foot pigs are gone and all is quiet on the western front. How did Halliburton, once branded the ugly stepchild of Dick Cheney -- the company's former CEO -- and a poster child of war profiteering, receive such absolution from anti-war activists and the media? Of course, the defeat of the Republicans in the 2008 U.S. election, the departure of the Bush administration, and a general apathy towards the ongoing, but lower-level war in Iraq are part of the answer. But don't ignore a potentially brilliant financial sleight of hand by Halliburton either. That move played a crucial role in the cleansing of the company.

Full article here

quarta-feira, 3 de junho de 2009

International Press Service

Globalisation and the South

Globalisation is undoubtedly one the hottest issues in the contemporary political and economic debate. But, what is globalisation? Is it good, or bad? Pundits say that globalisation is inevitable, and that being "against" globalisation is like being against the force of gravity. Is it really?

In an essay written for a joint FES–IPS publication, a prominent contemporary thinker, John Ralston Saul, had some really interesting words about the globalisation hype:

    "History is pretty clear. There are no philosophical or political inevitabilities. And as the theories of human evolution go, economics is a fairly minor field of speculation. As for globalization, it is perhaps the first broad economic theory to insist that civilization can only function through the prism of economics. [...]

    There lays our greatest difficulty in understanding the state of globalization. It is an approach to human relationships which is so utilitarian that it blocks us from the global reality of others. Here is a world theory which, curiously enough, encourages remarkably narrow fields of connection between humans. [...]

    I am not suggesting that nothing positive has come out of globalization. I am merely pointing out that a system declared to be inevitable and global is neither. And this is not a good sign, but nor is it a bad sign. It is certainly a sign of a troubled period with an uncertain outcome. [...] Globalization’s failure is that it no longer holds the promise of eventual success for those who feel they suffer from it (emphasis added) [...]." – John Ralston Saul, "Globalization really?", in Globalization Insights, a joint FES–IPS publication, Berlin, May 2005.

Globalization seems to offer humanity both threats and opportunities. Mainstream media has focused mainly on the opportunities, downplaying the threats. While opportunities ought to be recognised and exploited, threats must receive our full attention as well, since those marginalised by globalisation are often the least equipped to make their voices heard.

With roughly 70% of its journalists reporting directly from the countries of the South , IPS has been in a unique position to analyse the impact of globalisation from Southern points of view. Exclusion and exploitation are a big part of the story, but South–South cooperation is an opportunity we are covering too.

IPS editorial policy makes specific reference to ensuring that events and processes are globally contextualised to reach those marginalised by globalisation. A thematic news site Global Chaos / Global Order: Perspectives on an Inter–connected World pulls together the main stories on globalisation, and is complemented by our thematic sites about specific aspects like Economy, Finance and Trade and Migration.

In Africa, a continent often portrayed only as a helpless victim of the process of globalisation, IPS has sought to offer in–depth new perspectives through the Africa – A Globalising Continent thematic site. A three–year project focused on trade relations between Africa and Europe is another way in which the region has contributed to creating awareness about the benefits and risks of opening up the continent to more international trade.

Developing nations are among the fastest–growing, most dynamic economies in the world, with giants China and India leading the way. Growing South–South co–operation is changing the political, economic and diplomatic geography of the planet, and IPS news is tracking the phenomenon. The 2006 IPS Support Group in Rio focused on exactly this issue, and particularly on the IBSA alliance –– India, Brazil and South Africa – of the three biggest democracies of the South.

Brazil, India and South Africa are the first Southern Governments to attend the IPS Core Group meetings . IPS has been instrumental in positioning the issue of communication as a central dimension of the IBSA alliance.

IPS has longstanding relationships with the G77 (that has historically represented the Southern bloc of countries at the United Nations) and the Special Unit for South–South Cooperation of UNDP and has offered communication perspectives to many innovative cooperation efforts.

In 2008 IPS launched the South-South Executive Brief, the newest in the IPS TerraViva family of publications. A monthly print and PDF publication from the UN Bureau in New York, the South-South Executive Brief features news stories, analyses and high-level interviews focusing on increasing bilateral, trilateral, regional and inter-regional relations among developing countries. The newsletter circulates at the highest levels of the UN and among missions and ministries.