Archive for December, 2011

The survival of the fittest (The death of Gaddafi is it justified?)

December 4, 2011

The adage that ‘either you are with us or against us’ has gone to a different dimension where murder and brutality has become part of imperialism. The US and the NATO pretence of alleviating the people of Libya (Benghazi) from Gaddafi’s viciousness has been met with mixed feelings after the meticulous calculated assassination of Colonel Muamar Gaddafi on the 20th October 2011. There were several assassination attacks on the dictator prior to his death which led to the death of his younger son. There was a big conspiracy surrounding his death. At first, Libya’s new leaders claimed Gaddafi had died in ‘crossfire’, but they came under a barrage of international calls for an inquiry into the killing. Human Rights Watch has said the dictator was executed, and a post-mortem confirmed that he died from a gunshot to the head. This prompted Britain’s Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to say that the NTC reputation has been stained. Before I continue with this conspiracy I would like to clarify a shocking revelation that I came across on Gaddafi which some of them were evidently shown on the western media (Living in tent houses).
Libyans do not pay interest on loans they receive from banks as the banks are owned by the state, citizens use free electricity. Accommodation is believed to be citizenship right therefore every eligible person is liable to own a home- Gaddafi swore that not until every adult has been accommodated, he and his parents will continue to live in tent houses. Every newlywed received equivalent of US$50,000 to buy home to begin life with, before Gaddafi there were only 25% literates in Libya however todays figure claims that Libya population is 83% literate Libya, also medical treatment is free Should Libyans want to embark on farming career, they would receive farming land, a farm house, equipments, seeds and livestock free to begin with. If they cannot find the education and the medical facilities they need, the government sponsor them to go abroad to pursue it with $2,300 per month, car and accommodation grants. Having taken Gaddafi out of the picture, are the Libyans under the directives of the West going to get these benefits? With the mentioned opportunities Libyans enjoyed under Gadhafi, can the west justify their stance for taking part in killing Gaddafi by claiming that they were there to protect civilians?
If the commoner want to survive in the jungles of the fittest then the commoner has to please the powerful. You cannot challenge the Western capitalism to survive regardless of where you are


Promoting ownership through participation in local infrastructure development

December 4, 2011

The local infrastructure in developing countries are considered to be scarce however even the existing ones are often poorly conceived and managed (World Development Report 2001). For local infrastructure investments to be effective and sustainable requires that demand based approach be complemented by supply-side inputs through Involving the local population in planning and management which effectively facilitates ownership and sustainability since people would be motivated to make informed decisions and choices. Participatory decision making provides the “means” to involve the community to own the local infrastructure and this is a challenge in developing countries since key decisions are made by the central ministries on behalf of the local people and often communities learn of a project when they see the work kicking off and many communities have often fallen a victim of forced eviction. The local people also face the challenge of choice of the project since most of these projects are “take-it or leave-it”, and few communities are often willing to turn down a free or heavily subsidized investment.

Community ownership of infrastructure provides good operation and maintenance since it is very difficult to rely on the state to perform timely maintenance of the infrastructure. For instance, it is easier for the community to manage the use and operation of a borehole when they own it by forming a water management committee who are directly responsible for collecting the contribution from the people towards the maintenance and repair in case of breakdown but in a situation where local people are not involved in the process of establishment, few people are always willing to pay for the monthly subscription toward the maintenance of this borehole since they considers it to be for free. Involving the local people in the decision making helps in handling the priority especially of the poor and this also save the country’s budget especially in projects were community are encouraged to share the cost of investment and operation.

However to foster this ownership, we must put the first last (Chambers, 1997) meaning that those who are powerful have to step down, sit, listen and learn from and empower those who are weak and last. This practice also requires that all categories of people in the community be represented that is, male and female, those well represented and those in the minority group. Considering the fact that community comprises of existing social, ethnic, gender, and economic divisions, and unless we understand the question of who constitutes the community and addresses properly, men and local elites within community may dominate decision making and capture the project benefits thereby discouraging other disadvantaged categories from such local investments. This explains the reason why some infrastructure are always found at the home or near village leaders, political party representatives of the village, and the educated elites since they have the capacity to shut other disadvantage groups down. In Sub Saharan African village communities, the preference of men differs from that of women, for instance, men often ask for roads as a priority intervention while women mostly ask for water and this always turn out to be conflicting interests.

Ownership is considered as a function of institutional relationship between communities and service providers but in a situation where infrastructure benefits more than one community such as road linking many communities will rarely be demanded by individuals in the community even if they are needed and such infrastructure is better provided and managed by the state although in consultation with the communities as this avoid the tendency of rising conflict during the utilization and management by the community

Critical opinion on seeds patenting on

December 4, 2011

Seeds and farming came to be known to man all over the world since the beginning of farming age and after harvesting season, seeds are kept aside to be used in the communities. Farmers knew very well that even they do not have much to consume or sell, provision must be made to make sure that planting material is available for the next planting season.

The adoption of genetically modified crop (GM), or biotechnologically engineered crops, have very widely publicized and strongly recommended to farmers planting but the fact that they are not allowed to save part of their harvest for planting again subsequent crop growing season as legal action will be instituted against them renders farming to be controlled by the GM patent ownership remote farmers. Therefore the massive campaign in favour of GM planting material has just been a mere product-advertising drive. Planting material must be bought to every cultivation period. This means that farming activities actually depend on the patenting company.

Farmers buy the Biotechnological seed to grow for the market and consumption. Thus the desire for others to enter agricultural patenting industries is now far too great as the industry is becoming a highly profitable business. Care must be taken now as opponents to this might be gathering momentum and in future concerns in other operational areas of similar practices. If a farmer can buy and grow but can’t totally own what he grows on his farm and has to be directed on his farm and has to remotely directed on how used the harvest; then he is like taking care of the materials.

I hope this tragedy will not be extended to the IVS clinical services. Family pays to own a baby that in future, the off-springs of that baby may belong to the original provider of the IVS specimen and that only the first generation proceed belongs to the buyer and he no legitimate claim over subsequent generations. There have been court cases in this regard in the area of GM seeds.

Community participation and the commons…

December 4, 2011

In a frenzy to meet the deadline I’ve been scouring the net to identify community participation projects that demonstrate genuine commoning, then in dawned on me that was an active member in a grassroots organisation in Nigeria called ‘The Global Initiative for Peace, Love and Care’ (GIPLC).  Please, please do not be put off by the name or that they do not have any famous donors.  What I experienced and the fundraising activities that I took part in were phenomenal.  Moreover their resource mobilisation, innovation and unbreakable spirit sets them apart from glossy brochures and spreadsheets.  When I volunteered with GIPLC- we would collect monthly donations of food, material clothes, shoes and toys from the local community at a drop off point.  Then once we’d group the things (very crudely) into piles for local orphanages, we’d load up the cars and then visit each orphanage.  After speaking with staff, cuddling children and unloading stuff we’d move on.  It was exhausting.  Travelling in convoy on dirt roads in blazing heat was not for the faint hearted; neither was witnessing the difficult conditions experienced by orphans and their carers.

On one occasion I collaborated with the organisation to deliver a charity disco to fundraise for Polly water tanks to be installed into two orphanages.  It was a massive project for me to juggle- but we successfully engaged the international community and prominent Nigerians.  It was a blast and the real work started after our sore-heads and nursed hangovers subsided.  My point is- this type of Grassroots organisation has no credible accounting mechanisms, no fancy funding, no fancy building with HR departments and executives.  In-country large-scale international organisations like Unicef, Save the Children, Oxfam and the World Health Organisation should be using these folk to deliver. Similarly bilateral funding from UKAid, USAid and the Nigerian government’s development budgets could be used more effectively to drive improved delivery and sustainable changes.  Waste, mismanagement and corruption in the Third Sector still goes largely unchallenged.

In terms of scale- according to the DFID website theUKprovidedNigeriawith £114.2 million pounds between 2009-2010.

By the same token according the USAID accountability websiteNigeriareceived some $295,792,542 from theUnited Statesin 2010.

World bank figures suggest that Nigeria’s GDP in 2010 was $193,669 Billion.  Mind-blowing figures!

If money is not the issue- it beggars the question what is it?  Why does such disparity still exist between rich and poor? And in this day and age- why can’t people be assured of food security, clean water, effective health provisions and an education?  How much does it cost?  I saw firsthand the squalid twelfth century conditions that are the reality for so many inNigeria.  By contrast I’ve worked for DFID and I know too that the swimming pools, large homes, private schools, expenses and extensive flight packages cost lots of money to maintain.

I’m no fan of conspiracies- but it would seem the status quo suits too many in privileged, powerful positions.  It isn’t about money-clearly.  It seems to me that the concept of the ‘commons’ collective engagement, shared responsibility, community; individuals having a stake in the welfare of others could be a viable way of empowering the many.  Of course the sheer scales involved with huge populations will require prescribed methods of promoting development through projects/programmes etc. but the real stuff; the neat stuff is already being done at the grassroots. Grassroots organisations and community participants are the class acts in my opinion.


December 4, 2011

The NATO-led operation to ‘free the people of Libya’  hardly ended when the ‘real freedom’ (freedom to exploit Libya’s oil)  began to be more apparent to the global public.

Libya produces one of the finest crude oils around the globe and therefore in very high demand. Before the rebellion it exported about 1.3 million barrels a day! Just before the end of the war, western nations, especially the NATO countries, have literally expressed desire for the country’s oil. The Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, said on TV that Eni, Italy’s oil company, “will have a No. 1 role in the future”  in the North African oil rich nation. In addition to Italy, Libyan oil export contributed to at least 15% of Switzerland, Austria and France’s total oil imports. Already companies like BP and others which had contracts with the previous regime are expressing hopes that the current government will honour the contractual agreement the Gaddafi regime signed with them before his demise.

This is a blatant exposition of their intentions for the war which was realistically far removed from freeing the people of Libya. Their intention was to exploit the Libyan oil.  The previous non-pro-western government made it really difficult for western companies and now that the current regime is almost morally obliged, the west is going to have a field day in their exploitation spree.

Libya was said to be mining less than their average which could have been for environmental considerations by the Gaddafi regime, but this west-dependent regime would have little or no resistance against the west in their bid to plunder the country. This will be done through displacing people from their natural habitats thereby destroying their cultures and other social fabrics, all in a bid to maximise profit. Lands are going to be lost and environmental degradation heightened. Capitalism is all about profit maximisation and accumulation, with little or no consideration for sustainability or livelihoods. Future generation is never the consideration of capitalists.

So the fight was all about enclosing Libyan land and exploiting their oil and other resources!

Somali Pirates

December 4, 2011

I am sure that many of you are far more knowledgeable of this situation than me however I find the case of the Somali pirates and how the notion of commons is played out in this area incredibly interesting .

What makes this case so interesting is that Somalia challenges the Western notion of state sovereignty as it has been a collapsed state since 1991. The fear and misunderstanding that surrounds the Somali pirates centres on the fact that they are non-state actors, thus there is a lack of control that can be exerted on them.  Due to them operating on the seas instead of on land they demonstrate the limits of state sovereignty. The waters in this area are a poignant example of the use of a global common that is used and governed in haphazard manner due to the fact it is a common.

Somali pirates began claiming that they were authorised coast guards of the Somali waters whose role was to protect the local fishing resources. Many of them  were former fisherman dislodged from their traditional source of income often by transnational fishing conglomerates. This ‘coast guard’ levied a tax on unauthorised fishing boats that were fishing illegally in Somali waters.

They were not recognised or supported by the international community despite this trespass taking place. During the Somali Piracy Conference (comments by Shinn), hosted by National Maritime Intelligence Center and Office of Naval Intelligence, Somalia’s minister of fisheries stated that within one month alone an “estimated 220 foreign-owned vessels were engaged in unlicensed and illegal fishing in Somali waters”. The fisherman themselves appealed to the UN for assistance but no action was taken.

In addition to the problem of over-fishing there have been allegations of toxic waste dumping, oil spills and nuclear waste dumping. It has been said that it is due to these factors combined with a lack of international intervention that local fisherman attacked foreign fishing vessels to demand compensation. What began as a response to environmental exploitation by Somali fisherman slowly expanded after 2000 to any vessel that sailed within or close to Somali territorial waters. The lack of enforcement of the arms embargo permitted ready access to the arms and ammunition used by the pirates and driven in part to the growth of piracy in the area. Piracy in the region is flourishing as it is low risk high gain.

To define an international course of punishment for piracy on an international scale has several challenges as to some these are conceived as pirates but to others they are conceived as patriots. This is particularly the case where the local perspective renders the start of piracy as in reaction to international trespass and exploitation of Somali waters. Pirates often have a strangely hybrid status in law as they are not criminals or even recognised state actors thus not covered by the legal system or even deserve the protection of the laws of war as they are categorised as people who commit international terrorism. There is a difficulty in agreeing the most appropriate way to apprehend, detain or destroy nationals of another country on the high seas as it is an area that no country has jurisdiction.

The global community did act to some level on the issue. US Naval Forces Central Command established a ‘combined task force’ that’s sole purpose was to conduct anti-piracy operations in the area. AFRICOM’s   purpose was “not only to fight terrorism, or to secure oil resources… it is about helping Africans build greater capacity to assure their own security”. NATO launched two anti-piracy missions. And the European Union launched EU NAVFOR operation ATALANTA which stated that they would take the necessary measures including the use of force to end piracy. This response however has largely ignored Somali plight and responded only when global trade and global security are deemed to be at risk. Somali’s statelessness and thus non-presence in the alliances central to the policing of the water, the Somali voice has become a minority one in international policy.

Pirates cannot be caught and reprimanded if authorities charged with apprehending them remain disinclined to do so. This presents a difficulty with international bodies directing other countries to reprimand the pirates meaningfully. Passing responsibility over to a host country is also difficult in the Somali case as it is very difficult to deal with a law and order problem in a country in a state of lawlessness. Countries who then arrest the individuals do not then necessarily want the financial burden of putting them through their legal system and imprisoning them. An agreement was reached between the U.K and the U.S with Kenya that permitted them to hand  over to Kenyan authorities captured pirates for prosecution however Kenya emphasised that this should not constitute an open door for dumping pirates onto Kenyan soil which is a low cost and hands off solution for other countries to deal with pirates

The notion of commons is an important framework to look at this case. Somali pirates occupy a symbolic space in the minds of the international communities that justifies the military interventions but do not account for the wider structural reasons that contribute to why Somalis are carrying out acts of piracy. Are the Somali waters a common resource for all to dump waste, illegally overfish and use as a global throughway for legal and illegal trade or do these waters have specific rights for individual groups? And should these specific rights be upheld by the people of Somalia, the pirates that occupy this area or the international community at large? A lot of oil is transported through this area, which makes it a significant area of concern for many but who is concerned for the pirates that it could be argued are affected the most?


December 4, 2011

Up until our serious of lectures on the commons and the different discourses around them I wouldn’t say I was fully informed of the origin of ‘Tragedy of the commons’, its direct and indirect connotations and the magnitude of its influence in our world’s economic and environmental policies and the debates it stirred. However, since our classes and my further readings I have learned that there is a lot into it and with the growing wave of discontent of neoliberalism looming in our world today it may be the best time problematizing Hardin’s theory. I hereby share my insights.

A number of questions can be raised on Hardin’s argument and the evidence he used of the ‘pasture open to all is destined to ruin as each herdsman is compelled to increase his herd, each pursuing his own interest…’ and on his proposed best solution: enclosures/ privatisation of the commons.

There are a number of questions that may come to a critical mind:

• Is it really rational to argue commons should not exist because they will always be mismanaged? Does that mean humans are not trusted when they act in groups, in a community? Are shared resources in communities really free of regulations and therefore destined to ruin?

• Have Hardin’s suggested Enclosures rescued tragedy of the commons? Is privatization the only way to protect the commons? Can commons based solutions be considered?

Historical truth and Validity of Hardin’s theory:

During our lecture after hearing Hardin’s account the first thing I thought was it may be true within the English cultural context but you can’t generalize across all cultures that resources shared/used in common will inevitably be doomed. I am sure most of us can come up with empirical evidences from our respective countries of origin, if not other corners of the world, of communities that live or used to live on different commons such as fisheries, forest, grazing land etc. without ruining the resources they depended on.

Contrary to what Hardin’s argument may lead you to believe it was also true even in the context of England. I found it shocking really, to realize the practice of the English commoners in regard to their common land that Hardin used as evidence to substantiate his theory actually lacks historical truth.

In this regard anthropologist Arthur McEvoy, argues that the ‘Tragedy “misrepresents the way common lands were used in the archetypal case” (i.e. England before enclosure). Similarly, British historian E P Thompson criticizes Hardin’s theory as “historically uninformed” and that it fails to see that commoners were not without common-sense’. Indeed I tend to agree it is an insult on the intelligence and history of the peasant farmers. Moreover, it may also send a wrong message in believing English culture to be individualistic.

The English farmers had methods of governing livestock numbers on a common land known as “Stinting”.

Thus a common or pasture may be said to be ‘stinted’: each grazier holds a certain number of stints, and a formula adjusts their value for different livestock (e.g. one stint = one ewe with lamb, four stints = one horse, etc.). The stinting formulae vary between commons and pastures. Stinted common land or pasture was managed by a voluntary association known as Stint-holders’ association/committee.

As is evident with above English common pasture it is not always true to assume that commons will be open access and unregulated. They are governed by cultural values, norms, and standards that control where, when, and how much is used. These values impose serious sanctions on over-use of the commons which also makes them sustainable from an ecological and cultural point of view.

Enclosures or Commons based solutions ?

Have Hardin’s suggested enclosures done better in preventing the ruin of the commons or bringing social wellbeing?

Our world’s environmental perils including global warming tell us that not everything is better off under private ownership? ‘Economic market operates like a runaway truck. It has no internal mechanism telling it when to stop—it can’t stop depleting the commons that sustain it.’

Simon Fairlie in his article “A Short History of Enclosure in Britain” (Land Magazine Issue 7, 2009.): says, “Over the course of a few hundred years, much of Britain’s land has been privatized —currently, in our ‘property-owning democracy’, nearly half the country (Britain) is owned by 40,000 land millionaires or 0.06 per cent of the population…” which is an empirical fact that it may be more appropriate to talk about the tragedy of enclosures rather than the commons.

Is it at all logical to argue commons should not exist because they will always be mismanaged? Who would you trust better a community managing and sharing resources as a group or individuals managing it? If the later, would this not be a contradiction to the principle of true democracy?

I think today more than any time in history COMMONS-BASED SOLUTIONS which are characterized by ‘distinctive innovations and policies that remedy problems by helping people manage resources cooperatively and sustainably’ should be urged.

The DowOlympics- Has the Olympics sold its soul to the Devil?

December 4, 2011

It is very worrying that the London Olympics for all it stands for, will break bread with a company like Dow chemicals.  Its been 27 yrs and the people of Bhopal still live in misery  since one of the  world’s worst tragedies in human history struck its city.   The  1984 Bhopal gas leak  took the lives of more than 15,000 people and caused serious health problems for the people in the community then and till date. There is still no end to the sufferings of the victims and their families as the area still remains contaminated and the leak is causing birth defects and terrible health problems for the residents of Bhopal.

Dow chemical is the company sponsoring the 7 million pound wrap that will enclose the Olympic stadium. It is also one of the elite sponsors  enjoying a special status in exchange for paying about $100 million every four years. Amnesty International has condemned the Dow wrap deal together with several British politicians  who have campaigned to dump Dow from the games.

“What has given real offense to the people of Bhopal is that on this, the most sustainable games ever and lauded as such, that we should wrap the stadium, the big symbol of the games, in a skin that might as well be the skin of the families that died,” said London lawmaker Barry Gardiner.

The Olympics stands for hard work, patriotism, glory, pride and hounour. I am looking forward to the 2012 London Olympics, like I look forward to every Olympic game, with enthusiasm and pride , moreverso  because our country gets to host the Olympic games. Yet I fear having Dow Chemical on board might taint the image of the 2012 London Olympics and could spur unwanted events.

Hear the voice of the people Sebastian Coe (chairman of the London organizing committee) and rethink .  The games are an event by the people for the people.  At what cost do we sell our conscience?

Biopiracy- A threat to the genetic commons and the livelihood of the indegenous south.

December 4, 2011

Having just finished reading “Biopiracy, the Plunder of nature and Knowledge” by Vandana Shiva, it is appalling what the world has come to. Vandana Shiva is one of the world’s most dynamic and provocative thinkers on the environment, women’s rights and international rights. In years to come community farmers mostly in the developing world will have to pay to access or use information, specific seeds and plants that they developed. Biopiracy is on the rise and more has to be done to raise awareness to protect these commons.

The encroachment of corporate globalisation into every aspect of life and the environment must stop. In a world where natural resources are being overly exploited, corporations are attempting to convert every remaining nook and cranny of the natural world and human experience into commodified form.

One of the commons that few people ever thought could be subject to privatisation is the genetic commons.   The late David Brower of the Earth Institute once called the genetic commons “the last untapped wilderness on earth“. Genetic commons are gifts from the bounty of nature, knowledge that has been developed for years by indigenous communities, passed on from generation to generation, traditional native remedies, seeds developed over centuries by community farmers who shared them freely with one another are now at the risk of being commodified.

Life Science corporations now claim patents on genes, plants, animals and seeds. Major corporations like Monsanto, Novartis, Du Pont and Pioneer have jumped on the bandwagon with the support of the WTO.  The WTO TRIPs agreement (Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement) gives corporations like the above stated the ability to patent plant and seed varieties according to their genetic makeup.

The perversity of this practice and how it affects  and deprives the south is depicted in Vandana Shiva’s article  ” From Commons to Corporate Patents on Life.

  • Biopiracy creates false claims to inventions and novelty that were developed centuries ago
  • It diverts the use of scarce biological resources to multinational corporations, giving them monopoly control and depriving local communities and indigenous practitioners of resources that are a part of their community and way of life.
  • Biopiracy helps make rich companies like Monsato and excludes the original innovators from their rightful share of local, national and international market.

Most people in developing and mostly indigenous communities depend on free access to biodiversity for their livelihoods and sustainability.  Those affected by this perversity are the poor – a source of livelihood that was once free to them is now being commodified.  What next?

Occupy Wall Street Movement

December 4, 2011

I have been moved watching and reading on the Occupy street movement since it started September 17th.  OccupyWall Streer clearly shows what is achievable when the world is at its brink end and people are saying enough is enough.  It is a clear example of  how together we can bring about change or atleast raise awareness of an impeding doom.

Will like to get some feedback or views on the subject  matter