Archive for November, 2016

Leadership for the Africa We Want: Sustainable development

November 30, 2016

Often the developed countries, International bodies such as IMF and World Bank, and sometimes development professional tend to reflect the notion that they ‘know’ what Africa (or developing countries)need to be able to push forward with development. This article raises some interesting issues concerning African countries’ development.

At the 2014 African Development Bank Annual Meeting, attended by African Statesmen (past and present), as well as Civic Society, South Africa’s former President, Thabo Mbeki, pointed out that what Africa wanted was:
1. Africa free of violent conflict and war
2. Africa free of poverty
3. Africa free from corruption
4. Africa driven by women emancipation
5. Self-assessment of performance by the African leaders

Former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa added that Africa wanted:
1. Equality of gender
2. Equality of opportunity
3. A promise of good, healthy life
4. Good education
5. Unselfish leadership

Both leaders and the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, agreed that African leaders were selfish, with some attaining power for the sake of enriching themselves. However, although there is existence an African Peer Review mechanism, the leaders concur that there is a culture of fear of rebuking each other and telling them where they were going wrong. As a result of these weaknesses, (according to them), the continent which is the richest in natural resources continues to be exploited by the developed countries for their own benefit.

It follows that African leaders know what they ‘want’ and not necessarily what we think they ‘need’. The question is “How can they be helped to achieve their objectives?”

 

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Aid reforms push for private sector subsidies – what about the commons

November 30, 2016

Development Aid policy is under drastic change. Governments are now aiming to use aid in forms of private sector subsidies. This raises an ethical question; should taxpayers money go to funding private businesses? Where do we draw the line?

According to a leaked official document seen by the Guardian, proposed reforms to official aid would allow a wide variety of “private-sector instruments” to be used as vehicles for development, meaning that aid could be used to invest in, or give loans to, private companies, or to underwrite those companies’ activities through guarantees (Guardian).

One side of the debate – the neoliberal perspective – believes that investment in the private sector will bring economic growth thus creating prosperity for the people, creating jobs which then provides financing of social programs.  

And the other side – aid is meant for expanding social services like healthcare and education through sustainable measures and should be reaching the poorest people.

What seems to be most problematic is – middle-income countries received the largest share of finance, primarily in the energy, industry and banking sectors (Guardian). Because aid agencies are looking for returns and “smart” investments they are focused on middle income countries rather than helping the poorest who need the aid most.

This leaves me wondering what about the commons. Why are aid agencies not looking for alternatives and identifying ways in which communities can be prosperous and self sufficient in other forms. We continue to see mass amounts of money going into the hands of the wealthy and is that really going to help eliminate poverty?

profit

poverty

Cattle Grazing Becomes Problematic in Nigeria (Tragedy of the Commons)

November 30, 2016

The total land mass of the inhabited world is about 30% while the rest is water. It is on this piece of land that mankind live, grow and develop. We share together a pool of common natural resources like water, land, clean air, sea and ocean; and other environmental elements that human kind relate with.

With human population of over 7 billion, there is an increasing strain on the ‘commons’ and this endangers sustainability. In Nigeria, for the past two decades, there had been conflicts between the Fulanis herdsmen who are from the Northern part of Nigeria and the farming communities in the Southern Nigeria. This conflicts have claimed thousands of lives according to Global Terrorism Index. The Fulanis spend most of their life times in the busy following forage and waterways

The effect of Climate Change on grazing lands coupled with increase in numbers of cattle owned by the Fulanis over many years and human population have pushed the herdsmen  further South in search of grazing land. The disagreement between herders and Southern farmers frequently happen over the use of natural common resources such as water, farmland and grazing areas. The farmers always complained about the activities of the herders, damaging their crops, polluting the water and letting loose their  herd of cattle which threaten their lives in their own land. the Fulani herders usually carry weapons like guns, matches, knives, bow and arrows, swords and so on, to protect themselves, and they are very mindful of their livestock, they are ready to kill if the lives of their livestock are in danger.

Furthermore, increase in population in the South (Urbanisation) has left the farmers with a limited space to cultivate their crops. The typical climate of the Southern part of Nigeria is tropical with rain forest and green pastures in about nine (9) months of the year while the Northern part is arid, that is, desert with less than 26centimeters of rainfall in a year, the reason why irrigation system is commonly used in the Northern Nigeria for farming. More people settle in the South which makes it densely populated. As farming has become a major occupation of many in Nigeria, both small and large scales make land space more competitive in terms of usage. Hence, Southern Nigeria witness more social development than the North.

The carrying capacity of the available land has now reduced in the South, creating a tension between the Fulani herdsmen from the North and the farming communities in the South. The clash usually result in loss of lives in thousands and destruction of properties and valuables at a time, and this may continue in different areas in a period of time. The major concern is about security of lives and properties, this makes the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari who is also a Fulani to detail the Armed Forces to be on guard 24/7 but he has not come up with any tangible solution, neither for the sustainability of the commons nor the conflict. The question is ‘how can we govern and sustain the commons?’ for the future generations and defeat the myth that “private property is the only means of protecting finite resources from ruin and depletion” (Walljasper, 2013).

Education as a commons: Schooling for children in a developing country

November 30, 2016

It is everyone’s obligation to get these children educated in a better and conducive environment, they are the future of this world where-ever they find themselves. Help in anyway constitute a joint effort especially to make the world a better place for everyone to live. In developing countries, education at least suppose to be free at all levels but opposite is the case, parents have to struggle to educate their children by all means. In the 60s when white collar jobs were becoming popular, parents – usually peasant farmers, fishermen, market women, bricklayers, labourers and so on were encouraged by propaganda to educate their children for a better future. Between 60s and the present in developing countries, education has been commodified because of the infiltration of private schools, whose fees are unaffordable for an average low or middle class parents. This current paradigmatic shift creates a false competition of enclosure to our educational system and robbed the children of their rights to be educated. It was discovered recently by an independent research organisation that only 10% of Nigerian private schools were confident of good grades in the qualifying examinations.

What is education?

According to Google online, it is ‘the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university’ this could be interpreted as enlightening, pedagogy, teaching, training and, so on.

Mark Smith on infed, defined education for a starter as ‘a wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share in life’ but in the real sense, it a process and an outcome.

Predatory capitalism: A state and market love affair.

November 29, 2016

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Present day capitalism has been referred to by some as predatory or crony capitalism. Even devout believers of the capitalist system reject the current form capitalism has taken. The form in which success in business depends greatly on an unhealthy relationship between business (people) and state officials.

Proponent of pure capitalism or what some might call genuine capitalism are fundamentally opposed to predatory capitalism. The unholy matrimony of the state and businesses has resulted in a political economy which operates around finance capital and is based on a savage form of free market (or corrupted form of capitalism) processes. It has produced global economic oligarchies that have the undue influence to shape policy making on a global scale.

On the other hand, it is debatable who hold the power in this relationship. Does the buying of policy makers means the market holds the power or the states (policy makers) hold the power that can only be purchased by the market to gain favours. Over the years, the public at large has been fed the narrative that, the day to day problems they face in cases of jobs, rising prices corruption and government inability to perform are as a result of capitalism. The questions is, is that the case?

Modern so called advanced capitalist societies are plagued with issues such as wealth and income inequality, mass unemployment, under-employment, crumbling infrastructure, increase poverty rates and a shrinking social welfare. At the same time, we can observe the state (public office) actively enabling and supporting the efforts of few multinational corporation and financial elites move (attack) on public goods and services provision and the attempt to convert them to private goods and services provision.

According to Noam Chomsky, the irregular partnership needs to be sustained by a few businesses, state official and elite. The video below, Chomsky gives his perspective about predatory capitalism which is a very interesting observation and summary. He also states that, he does not think those that advocate for this form of capitalism even understand what they are advocating for and the impact on their lives.

So, after reading into predatory capitalism, a lot of questions spring to mind.

1) How does this affect the commons and are the current evaluation of the impact of predatory capitalism underestimated?

2) Does the commons have a fighting chance in countering predatory capitalism?

3) Is the commons (people) immune to the influence and power of predatory capitalism?

4) How can the commons win back the power of the state and turn it into a force that works for them?

5) As predatory capitalism spreads, how can developing countries in the global south protect themselves from its destructive claws?

6) Is predatory capitalism nature or nurture?

Noam Chomsky – Predatory Capitalism

Community Participation in Refugee & IDP Camps

November 25, 2016

community-participation

It is worth mentioning at the outset that in camps and camp-like settings (collective centers), the management methods and principles positively or negatively influence the well-being of residents whether refugees or internally displaced people (IDPs). One aspect of camp management is the level of community participation which is a fundamental human right as confirmed in article 27/1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Participation should efficiently be incarnated in the camp population for a strengthened and well-balanced functionality with an ultimate goal of developing a sense of ownership. It is crucial for residents, including men, women and children, to speak out and be heard by the various actors (state, NGOs, UN) and other service providers to maximize optimal results and ensure equitable access. The methodology and approaches of such involvement is defined and articulated by diverse factors (social, religious, ethnical, political and economic) including, but not limited to, convections, values, cultures, affiliations and power relations.

Definition and Elucidations of Participation and Community Involvement

“Community participation is a planned process whereby individuals and groups from among the displaced community identify and express their own views and needs, and where collective action is taken to reflect those views and meet those needs” (Norwegian Refugee Council 2008).

Participation is a key and critical building block to the Camp Management House, whereby protection and assistance services and activities are delivered in partnership with refugees/IDPs for a robust and effective response.

It is essential to ensure the involvement and equal participation of all social groups within camps and camp-like settings including women, elderly, people with disabilities and other vulnerable and marginalized groups usually ignored along the decision-making process. It is also important to take cross-cutting elements, such as gender, age and psychosocial issues, into account.

Participation may take various degrees and forms through diverse involvement methods and mechanisms along the camp-life cycle (planning, setting up and closing) with dynamic integration in all services, activities and projects. It starts with passive participation, in which residents are not engaged in the process and result of decisions and actions, and concludes with the level of ownership at which the decision-making process is carried out by the camp population.

It is important to assess the existing social structures at the camp setting since the population is hardly homogeneous; people may come from different territories, languages, cultures, manners and other backgrounds. Hence, in order to ensure optimum engagement, variable participatory structures and inclusive representation forms may be wielded. This includes community groups, focus groups, project groups and camp committees in addition to paid and unpaid employment of residents.

Elaborating these representation entities and procedures is indispensable to promote ownership, dignity and accountability and decrease dependency, indifference and vulnerability. Yet, it will unequivocally involve critical challenges and entail significant efforts and resources. Besides, potential abuse and misuse of power must be monitored and tackled adequately; they may occur in diverse forms such as nepotism, moral depravation and opportunism.

Conclusion

It is substantial to plug the gaps naturally existing between camp managers and staff on one hand and camp population on the other one. This can be achieved by means of incremental processes and procedures through which Awareness Raising and Capacity Building form a substrate for effective and productive community participation.

At 92: seeking another term in office ?

November 24, 2016

This is a rather strange situation that after 36 years, independent  Zimbabwe`s only known president is seeking to contest elections in 2018.He will be 94 then,how bizarre is that, I fail to understand.At 92 years old, everything slows down, physically, mentally and socially. Is the 50 year old wife pushing for the president to continue working? if so why ,? when they have all the luxuries in the world. when is he going to retire? if ever he is going to retire, will he enjoy all that he has worked for? The answer is NO.

Health wise, the guy was recently warned to hand over power to a successor. He travels across the Indian ocean to the far East for medical check ups and treatment every two weeks. Each trip sucks in over two million dollars which realistically can build a small clinic and get well equipped from the same amount he spends on one trip.

The reason for the far East treatment means there is no adequate health infrastructure in Zimbabwe, hence the president`s daughter frequenting Malaysia for maternity check ups and delivery.

A recent disturbing development has seen the president`s son-in-law being handed a top job in the ailing airline as executive officer.Zimbabwe has no international aircraft, apart from the regional and local trips.A few years ago ,the only one boeing 707 which used to do Gatwick and Harare, accrued a large amount of debt in terminal fees, failed to pay and was banned from operating the route.

Each time I travel to Zimbabwe , I have to either use Kenya, Ethiopian or South African Airways.This makes the trips so long because we have to stop over in the respective countries for hours before proceeding.This situation is so inconveniencing and one cannot make frequent trips home. I find that this is an enclosure to my freedom to travel and having to put up with other countries`s airlines.How ever I must hasten to applaud these countries for providing a service which Zimbabwe is failing to provide because of the miss management and poor governance through a 92 year old clueless President who only now works 30 minutes per day and spends the bulk of the working time sleeping.

Love as an enclosure

November 22, 2016

This is my friend`s true experience. Happily married in the 1980s with three children and a good job, Tanya was totally in an enclosure because she was head over heels in love with John. Little did Tanya suspect that John was hoping from one house maid to another in her absence. When neighbours tried to warn her about John`s misdemeanures, Tanya was so quick to defend him. Tanya had no clue that the affairs were indeed true.

John then got an invitation from his brother who lived in England to come and try out a new life. After a discussion with Tanya , his mother and other close relatives, John prepared his ever first trip abroad on an air craft. Tanya was hurt at John living her and the children but a quick realisation that John`s going to England was infact a blessing in disguise and that they would soon be crossing over from middle class to top class.

A list of all that which needed done was well drawn according to priority; a big house was top on the list followed by sending the children to private schools.

After only one year, John had worked, saved enough and invited Tanya to join him in England. A few months after, Tanya started suspecting that John was having an affair. Tanya was divastated and distraught as she had always trusted John and had totally  been engulfed by love.

Tanya, in her anguish and hurt, was traumatised, emotionallly abused to
the extend of losing ten kilograms in a month, had her menstrual cycle continuously for two months and she also lost her sense of smell.Despite all the evidence, John denied ever having an affair, being a foreign land Tanya had no one to turn to and found herself in an enclosure of LOVE

Water as a human right

November 21, 2016

slovenia-lake This past week, Slovenia amended its constitution to include access to water as a right of it’s citizens and stopping the commercialization of the vital resource. The water will remain a public good under the jurisdiction of the state and separate from the market economy. Around the world, the trend is for public goods to be privatized which creates enclosures for thousands of vulnerable people. By keeping water a common, Slovenia is ensuring the rights of its’ citizens to access a life giving resource without being exploited by large corporations. Being the first EU nation to include the right to water in the constitution, Slovenia is taking a strong stance for environmental justice during a time where the future of environmental sustainability seems uncertain.

How Enclosures Contributed to the Escalation of Social Unrest in Syria

November 18, 2016

This blog seeks to tackle the problematizing issue of enclosures and land grabs in Syria and how they contributed to the escalation of violence and tension among various religiously and ethnically diverse communities and conflicting parties. The information stated is based on direct observations, reports and media sources away from political or religious prejudice and bias.

Starting from the 1970s when the current regime led by Al Assad family took over, enormous tracts of farmlands and properties were coercively expropriated, by the ruling government, from Sunni owners; later turned into residential areas and military bases. This occurred in different Syrian governorates particularly the capital city of Damascus and its countryside. Examples of those residential areas are Ish Alwarwar (segregated from Barzeh area north-eastern Damascus), Yusef Alazmeh (detached from Al Moadamyeh area west of Damascus) and many others. Noticeably, those confiscated areas are located in different sides of Damascus city, whether intentionally or coincidentally. The majority of the inhabitants were of the Alawi sect (Alawites) with which, Al Assad family affiliated. For the past 50 years, an implicit, or even oppressed, tension and enmity between the indigenous inhabitants and the new ones arose. Yet, no explicit offenses, assaults or violations were recorded, most probably due to the so-called iron grip of the security and intelligence agencies in the country.

Following the outbreak of the social unrest in Syria, demonstrations against the ruling regime erupted in different governorates involving mainly Sunni protesters among others. Consequently, for variable reasons, the vast majority of Alawi people defended the regime regardless of their individual perspective of the president and his governance.

In that regard, the Alawi men, residing in the aforementioned expropriated areas, were stimulated to join the diverse security and military departments and formations; some of which were newly established such as the National Defense Force consisting of armed men whose tasks included checkpoints, security patrols and community control through intimidation. Simultaneously, Sunni men who are eligible to join the army for their compulsory or reserve services anxiously fled the country through legal and illegal ways; millions of which are now residing in the neighboring countries as well as in Europe.

In the same context, those expropriated areas were sealed and almost turned into military zones. No inhabitants, other than Alawis, were allowed to accommodate, possess or rent properties. The male residents, armed by the government, took effective part in the suppression of the demonstrations. Later, when the protests turned into armed conflicts, those so-called regime proponents fought at the battlefront against the local armed groups (known as the Syrian Free Army by their supporters and as terrorists by the government) in the very neighboring areas. This exacerbated the hostility and animosity between the neighboring communities and intensified segregation of lands and properties.

For the local armed groups, the fight had two dimensions: on one hand, they believed they were fighting against a tyrant, corrupted, unjust dictator and his supporting groups. On the other hands, they were reclaiming the ownership of their lands which were seized and inhabited by the Alawi people. They believed they were fighting, also sacrificing their lives, for the sake of their rightful properties and lands forcibly taken away by the government years ago. What also added to the escalation of tension is the kidnapping, sometimes ended in killing, of men, women and children, by both conflicting parties in addition to fatal attacks with explosives leading to massive causalities from both sides.

Another form of land grabs is the recent expropriation of territories and houses by the Lebanese Shia militias of Hezbollah in most Sunni areas along the Syrian-Lebanese border. Examples of those areas, all witnessed protests, demonstrations and armed conflicts against the ruling regime, are Bloudan, Qarah and Al Qusayer; the latest witnessed a military parade, hosted by Hezbollah on November 11th, 2016.

The confiscated houses and lands are now inhabited by Hezbollah militants and their families (wives and children). On the other side, the original local owners were obliged to search for alternative housing elsewhere. The land concession made by the Syrian government was a reward for Hezbollah’s intervention in favor of the Syrian regime against the rebels.

It should perhaps be noted that Hezbollah militants and their families are not obviously interfering or communicating with the indigenous people. Yet, the tragic turn of events and the excessive use of violence against the locals would not probably pass without consequences in the near or far future.

A final form of enclosures is practiced by the Kurdish people’s protection units (YPG) and its political arm, the Democratic Union Party (PYD). A 38-page report by Amnesty International alleged that thousands of non-Kurdish people (Arabs and Turkmen) were forced out their regions by Kurdish militias fighting against ISIL. It was disclosed, by a fact-finding mission to northern Syria, that huge influxes of indigenous citizens were displaced and housing territories demolished – amounting to war crimes- by the Syrian Kurdish units controlling vast areas in the north of the country. Such allegations were declared untrue and “completely inaccurate” by an YPG spokesman. The overriding concern is that, if those claims are validated, potential unease, aggression and actions of vengeance would probably exist between the Kurds on one side and the other ethnical groups on the other one.

  • Photos by Amnesty International
june-2014

June 2014

 

june-2015

June 2015

Conclusion

Taking all the above mentioned forms of enclosures, their circumstances, immediate and prolonged impacts into account, the aspirations and efforts to accomplish social cohesion, community resilience and conviviality will unequivocally face serious challenges and complexities; there is a light at the end of the tunnel though. This posits an ethical question for which all local, regional and international players have to provide an answer.