Famine, food and fertilizer

December 3, 2007


When Malawi chose to subsidize fertilizers for impoverished farmers dependent on international aid to stave off chronic famine, they were openly defying the free-market-friendly-policies of the World Bank that insisted on elimination of heavy subsidies for fertilizer. World Bank policy makers are from countries such as the United States and Europe where farmers are extensively subsidized. World Bank policy makers push for free market efficiency over social justice by discouraging fertilizer subsidies to endangered farmers in Africa. “Malawi hovered for years at the brink of famine. After a disastrous corn harvest in 2005, almost five million of its 13 million people needed emergency food aid. [. . .] Since the 1980s Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this small, landlocked country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers. But after the 2005 harvest, the worst in a decade, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached (Dugger 2007).”

Malawi: from famine relief to sharing surplus: How World Bank free-market-friendly policies contribute to famine and starvation

1947 Economic pressures in post WWII Europe propelled nations towards union. The US was agressively pushing for an economic environment where US economic development would be fostered. The imposition of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947, the creation of the Bretton Woods Agreement, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank all fostered US economic development. See Rifkin (2004).
1951 “The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) formed as a first step towards the formation of the European Union. Jean Monnet proposed the merger of coal and steel production of Germany and France. German and French long-standing economic rivalry ignited wars that periodically engulfed all of Europe. With their two nations united economically and bound to a higher supernational authority, this set the stage for a broader union which came about in 1957 (Rifkin 2004).”
1967 Andre Gunder Frank published Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America proposing a Neo-Marxist theory that adapted Lenin’s theory of imperialism to geopolitical regions that were not colonialised but were underdeveloped and suffered with lack of health care, inequality. See also modernization and dependency theories. His dependency theory was widely adopted in the social sciences. Frank’s dependency theory was incorporated into the theology of liberation (Frank 1967)
1973 The oil crisis propelled European nations towards further integration leading to a more unified European Union.
1977 PBS broadcasts two viewpoints about economics: Milton Friedman’s (1977) “Free to Choose” and Galbraith’s (1977) “Age of Uncertainty.” Friedman’s is funded by the Olin Foundation.
1979-81 Iran held 52 Americans hostage (Wallechinsky).
1979 Iranian Revolution sparked sharp increases in oil prices, put pressures on the economies of Third World countries and partly contributed to the debt crisis of the international system.

1979 The oil crisis caused by Arab-Israeli War and Iranian Revolution deeply affected lender policies and made it extremely difficult for Third World countries to repay debts.

1979 “In the l950s, most emerging nations were so anxious to sign up to the modernising project that they ratified international human rights treaties in somewhat the same way that they sought to have their own airlines: as part of a general wager on modernisation. But when modernisation and state building ran into difficulties, a cultural backlash against the individualist bias of human rights language began. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 provided the focus and the leadership for this revolt (Ignatieff).”

1979 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the Iranian Revolution which pitted anti-western and Islamic nationalists against the pro-western Shah. The Islamic Republic of Iran became a model for other Islamic nations (Walsh 2001).

1979 The Chinese Democracy Wall Movement.

1979 Rising cost of the Welfare State becoming burdensome. New Right argues against welfare costs.

1980s United States raised interest rates on national and foreign debt to protect its own economy. The US economy had supposedly suffered because of instabilities in the price of oil. Countries —like Brazil — that were heavily indebted, found themselves constrained by unmanageable payments of raised interest rates. Brazil was forced to go to the International Monetary Fund for emergency funds. The IMF insisted on deep, drastic cuts into basic social services, such as health and education, as a condition of the emergency loans. Structural adjustment programmes (SAPS): “Structural adjustment is a process of restructuring often characterized by an increased reliance on market forces and a reduced role for the State in economic management. This approach to restructuring started by shaping industry, investment and technology, and was then extended to the organization of manpower and labour. Initiated in the industrial countries, it was then applied to developing countries. Structural adjustment programmes incorporate more market-based approaches to the organization and delivery of public services, including the contracting out of public services, and coincide with or form an integral part of overall government policies on deregulation, privatization and trade liberalization. Unfortunately, SAPs, by their nature, lead to labour displacement and have a direct impact on employment, conditions of work and labour relations in the public sector. For these reasons, SAPs have encountered growing problems of implementation, not least because they have either ignored or failed to adequately address the social dimension of adjustment and the adverse impact on the workforce (Sarfati 1995 cited in Leary 1998:270).”

1980 Margaret Thatcher and conservative Republican Ronald Reagan championed neo-liberal market-oriented backlash.

1989 “Gorbachev renounces the Brezhnev Doctrine which pledged to use Soviet force to protect its interests in Eastern Europe. On September 10, Hungary opens its border with Austria, allowing East Germans t o flee to the West. After massive public demonstrations in East Germany and Eastern Europe, the Berlin Wall falls on November 9.” CNN Interactive: The Cold War. “The Eastern European revolutions that seemed to arise out of concern for global democratic values quickly deteriorated into a stampede in the general. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Cold War pushed the European community to greater union. direction of free markets and their ubiquitous, television-promoted shopping malls (Barber 1992).”

1989 “East Germany’s Neues Forum, that courageous gathering of intellectuals, students, and workers which overturned the Stalinist-like regime in Berlin in 1989, lasted only six months in Germany’s mini-version of McWorld. Then it gave way to money and markets and monopolies from the West. By the time of the first all-German elections, it could scarcely manage to secure three percent of the vote. Elsewhere there is growing evidence that glasnost will go and perestroika — defined as privatization and an opening of markets to Western bidders — will stay (Barber 1992).”
1989 International politics moved out of its western dominated phase (Ostergaard 1994).
1989 Fukuyama published 1989 “The End of History and the Last Man” in which he declared an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism and the ultimate triumph of the West and Western liberal democracy over all other regimes (Fukuyama 1989).
1989 The end of the cold war, ideological passivity of China, spread of market liberalism set the stage for a new period in human rights. The new western political ideology claims that only democratic forms of governance are legitimate and promote human rights (Falk 2000b:47).
1989 China cracked down on pro-democracy activists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. This was denounced by Clinton when he was campaigning for the US Presidency.

1991 ‘Joseph Stiglitz, chief economist at the World Bank addressed a conference in Prague on theme of ‘Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?’ (Who guards the guards themselves?’) in a situation of rapid privatization. He acknowledged that there were major disagreements between economists. Stiglitz was opposed by Jeffrey Sachs, a Harvard economics professor, and Lawrence Summers, a colleague of Sachs and now the Treasury Secretary. ”They thought you needed to pursue privatization rapidly and that infrastructure would follow,” Stiglitz says. ”It was a divide then (Lloyd 1999).”

1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio de Janeiro. “At this conference it was recognized that extreme poverty and social exclusion of vulnerable groups persisted and inequalities had become increasingly dramatic in spite of economic development. At this conference the term sustainable development referred to “economic development, social development and environmental protection as interdependent and mutually reinforcing components (Symonides 1998:3).”

1992 The Maastricht Treaty transformed the European Economic Community into the European Union.

1993 Vienna Human Rights Conference revealed the ideological schism between the Western bloc of liberal democracies embodied in European and North American countries and diverse ideologies of fifty non-Western countries including Communist Cuba, Buddhist Myanmar, Confucian Singapore, Vietnam, North Korea, China, Muslim Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Libya which the West lumped together as Asian-Islamic.
1993 The final document of the World Conference of Human Rights stressed the importance of human rights education, training and public information (Symonides 1998 : xi).

1993 UN Security Council establishes the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

1993 United Nations establishes the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

1994 The response of the Mexican government to the Chiapas rebellion may have been more moderate because of the Zapatistas’ use of the Internet to communicate with their sympathizers world wide (Hackett and Zhao 1998:191).

1994 Cairo Population Conference

1994 President Clinton encouraged trade with mainland China in spite of human rights abuses. “Let me ask you the same question I have asked myself,” he said, “Will we do more to advance the cause of human rights if China is isolated?” “Clinton in his presidential campaign had sharply attacked Bush for extending trade privileges to China in the years following the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, accusing him of “coddling criminals (Devroy 1994).”
1994 UN Security Council establishes the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Rwandan 1994 genocide

1994 United States opposed a strong UN effort to curtail genocide of the Tutsi population by the Hutus in Rwanda. This too weakened the UN efforts to help victims of gross human rights abuse. It is also an indication of the intertwined relationship between advancement, human rights, media, environment and the girl child.

1994 United States retreated from Somalia. This weakened the UN efforts to help victims of gross human rights abuse. 1992 – 1994 UN/US intervention in Somalia was a failure. “”The lesson of Mogadishu” established the Mogadishu line, the line over which the US military could not pass. Once that number of US soldiers were killed, Americans would refuse to support the war (Falk 2000b:45).

1995–6 Unprecedented multi-billion-dollar-mergers in North American media.

1995 The World Summit for Social Development was held in Copenhagen. The Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action was adopted. The Copenhagen stressed the urgent need for countries to deal with social problems such as poverty, unemployment and social exclusion (Symonides 1998). This was the largest gathering ever of world leaders. The declarations, programmes included a pledge to put people at the centre of development, to conquer poverty, to ensure full employment, to foster social integration (Development 1995).

1995 United States led the UN effort to preserve the democratic process in Haiti and protect Haitians against the brutalities of the military junta. The United States was concerned about the number of Haitian refugees attempting to enter the US illegally (Falk 2000b:44).
1997 The Universal Declaration of Democracy was adopted by the Parliamentary Union in Cairo. Elements of democracy include ensuring that every citizen has an effective voice in public affairs and popular control over government (Symonided 1998:3).
1997 Substantial numbers of countries experienced financial crisis. Bail out relief programs structure adjustments that produce political turmoil and massive impoverishment. Ex Indonesia (Falk 2000a:28).

1998 The former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was in Britain for medical treatment. A Spanish court requested Pinochet’s extradition to face charges relating to crimes of state involving Spaniards who were in Chile during Pinochet’s rule. The English House of Lords voted in favour of the extradition so that Pinochet’s alleged responsibility for crimes against humanity could be prosecuted in Spain. A second court ruled Pinochet was too old to stand trial. Anti-Pinochet factions were pitted against Chile’s pro-Pinochet ruling party. The tension here is between peace — covering up old wrongs — and justice — making dictators accountable for their crimes. There is also a tension between respecting the state’s claim to protect it’s former ruler and the international community’s claim for justice (Falk 2000a:26).”

1998 “In 1998 the Diplomatic Conference in Rome adopted the Statute for the International Criminal Court. Once entered into force, the Court may exercise its jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The Statute contains elaborate definitions of these crimes, often referred to as “gross human rights violations” or “violations of international humanitarian law (Boot 2002).”

1999 Seattle showdown pitting loosely-connected NGOs against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

2000 Filipono activist Bello director of Focus on the Global South summarized the historic September 2000 Prague Castle debate between activist representatives from civil society and the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund directors James Wolfensohn and Horst Kohler. The encounter was hosted by Czech president Vaclav Havel and chaired by Mary Robinson, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner and former President of Ireland (Bello 2000).

2001 United Nations General Assembly designated the Year 2001 as “the Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations”.

2001 In Teheran nationalist riots led often by the swelling numbers of unemployed youth defy the Iranian government calling for more religious and social reforms. Iran’s ruling power is divided between the more liberal President and clerical power of Khomeini who has, in effect become the Shah.

2001 “A world conference against racism was convened in South Africa in late August by the United Nations to bring states together to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance. As history has shown time and again, this is a daunting challenge.” A World Conference against Racism held in Durban, South Africa. Racism includes acts of discrimination based on race from xenophobia to acts of intolerance. But is also includes acts of discrimination based on religion, national or ethnic origin, or language. The latter were not adequately included in the discussions. Parallel meetings of national human rights institutions led to a consensus action plan. “The National Institutions’ Declaration, with negotiations chaired by the Canadian Commission, was adopted by consensus. It set out a range of areas for concrete action and cooperation, including on issues such as human rights education and promotion, racism in the media, conducting public inquiries, and sharing best practices among national human rights institutions in how to investigate, mediate, and adjudicate complaints of racism.”((CHRC) 2002e)

2004 Jeremy Rifkin wrote The European Dream: How Europe’s vision of the future is quietly eclipsing the American dream in which he distinguished between

belonging vs belongings.

Dugger, Celia W. 2007. “Ending Famine, Simply by Ignoring the Experts.” New York Times. December 2.

Falk, Richard A. 2000a. “Framing Global Justice.” in Human Rights Horizons: The Pursuit of Justice in a Globalizing World. New York: Routledge.

Falk, Richard A. 2000b. Human Rights Horizons: The Pursuit of Justice in a Globalizing World. New York: Routledge.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2004. “A Multi-Civilizational Timeline of Human Rights: Sub-themes include selected events in the histories of major religions, indigenous peoples, Nunavut, Canada, women, the media, democracy and labour.” Last Update March 2004 http://http-server.carleton.ca/~mflynnbu/human_rights/MultiCivilizationalTimelineHumanRights.pdf

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2004. “Overview of the Context, Content, Conceptual Framework and Outcomes of Designing and Teaching a Human Rights Course in Iqaluit, Nunavut.” Comprehensive in Partial Requirement for PhD in Sociology at Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario. Submitted to Professors Rob Shields, Phillip Thurtle and Donna Patrick. Submitted May 21, 2004. Passed with distinction. >> thinkfree http://www.thinkfree.com/fileview.tfo?method=callFileView&filemasterno=1170120

Frank, Andre Gunder. 1967. Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America. New York: Monthly Review Press. http://csf.colorado.edu/agfrank/research.html

Rifkin, Jeremy. 2004. The European Dream: How Europe’s vision of the future is quietly eclipsing the American dream. New York:Tarcher/Penguin.

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