A woman shopkeeper is standing on a plastic chair to avoid knee high swirling rainwater mixed with sewage. “I work with a women’s cooperative selling products made by Palestinian women in my shop. The sewage water has gone into the electric wires, so I have no electricity. Everything in the shop is destroyed. The metal door [that was] installed to protect the settlers prevents the water from flowing out into the main drain. . . . This means we suffer every time it rains. They [the settlers] want us to move from here. This is why they make our life hard,” she cries.
With the African Union celebrating the African Year of Human Rights at its 26th summit, at its headquarters in Addis, Ethiopia, the venue raises serious concerns about commitment to human rights.
In our work at Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute around access and control over natural resources, we face constant accusations of being anti-development or “Northern NGOs who care more for the trees”, despite working with communities around the world, from Cameroon, to China, to the Czech Republic.
The first years of the twenty-first century will be remembered for a global land rush of nearly unprecedented scale.
On the evening of Apr. 24, following a daylong rally against large-scale land investment deals in poor nations, the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan became the venue for a 30-minute light show against land grabs in Africa.
The biotech industry is using the increase in global hunger as a tool to win support for GM crops. Its tactics of "poor washing" (we must accept genetic engineering to increase production and improve livelihoods of farmers) and "green washing" (biotech is environmentally friendly and will help counter climate change) have won favor with the misguided philanthropic community as well.
Blaming high food prices on rising demand in fast-developing countries like China and India deflects scrutiny from structural causes - like the liberalisation of agricultural markets - and suggests incorrectly that market-friendly reforms have uplifted the poor and underprivileged, writes Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, a policy think tank working to increase public participation and to promote fair debate on critical social, economic, and environmental issues. In this analysis, the author writes that a closer examination of India disproves the latter assertion. In India the total number of the poor and vulnerable increased from 732 million to 836 million between 1993/1994 and 2004/2005. In an effort to move towards market-driven production of agricultural goods, India is shifting from coarse grains to high-value commodities for export and systematically pulling away from the long-respected post-Independence statute requiring self-reliance in agriculture. Consequently, there has been a considerable decline in the rate of growth of production, productivity, and the quantity of land planted and irrigated for the major crops. India\'s hunger and poverty amidst plenty is emblematic of hunger worldwide, which is the result of decades of neglect of agriculture in poor countries and ill-advised policies from the international financial institutions. Promoting agricultural development in poor nations would bolster their food self-sufficiency and help alleviate poverty.
Anuradha Mittal is an internationally renowned expert on trade, development, human rights and agriculture. In 2004, she founded the Oakland Institute, a policy think tank focused on social, economic and environmental issues.
Resentment against the international financial institutions is growing across the world, laying a foundation for an alternative economic vision in South America. The challenge is for it to be a true alternative, writes Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the California based Oakland Institute. This has laid the foundation for an alternative economic vision for the region with President Chávez's idea of creating an alternative fund - Banco del Sur or the Bank of the South - to free the region from the IFIs coming to fruition. With Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador already on board, Brazil too joined the Bank in April - significantly increasing the available resources. The goal of this Latin American controlled multilateral lender is to fund social and economic development in the region without the political conditions that come with the IMF loans. The intention of this alternative institution is to adhere to local needs than to dictates of the Western nations and Latin America appears to have taken a turn in an overwhelmingly positive economic direction. However, while breaking free from the international financial institutions is essential for formulating national policies that would address the needs of the overall population, much deeper structural changes are required some questions remain to ensure the fulfillment of aspirations behind this institution.
Persistent hunger in countries like Niger reflects the failure of the international community to understand the root causes of hunger, write Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, and Frederic Mousseau, a food security consultant who works with international humanitarian agencies. In this article, the authors argue that the delayed response in providing aid and the insistence of donor countries like the US on providing in-kind food aid do little to strengthen national economies and tackle hunger. The dumping of cheap subsidised food aid only benefits large agribusinesses while destroying markets and livelihoods of small farmers in recipient countries. Development policies that promote economic liberalisation and encourage specialisation, commercialisation of agriculture, and withdrawal of the state from regulating the market, are eroding ability of nations to feed their populations. Niger\'s experience shows that relying on the market to solve food shortages leaves the poorest people hungrier and drives small farmers into further poverty while large food traders gain monopoly power. The fight against hunger needs to shift away from the free-market ideology. No industrialised country has been capable of developing its agriculture without protective barriers, yet the poorest farmers and consumers in the developing world have been deprived of such protection. It is time to implement an unconditional and non-paternalistic \'\'Marshall Plan for Africa\'\', including 100 percent debt relief and a boost in Western assistance.
Evidence from the fields shows Monsanto\'s claims about its Bt cotton variety to be spurious, writes Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute (www.oaklandinstitute.org), a policy thinktank dedicated to creating a space for public participation and democratic debate on key social, economic, environmental and foreign policy issues. In this article, Mittal cites a new study by Cornell University researchers, the first to look at longer-term economic impact of Bt cotton. The study of 481 Chinese farmers in five major cotton-producing provinces found that after seven years of cultivation they had to spray up to 20 times in a growing season to deal with secondary insects, which resulted in a net average income of 8 percent less than conventional cotton farmers. Failure of Bt cotton crops in India resulted in the suicides of an estimated 700 farmers in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, between June 1, 2005 and August 9, 2006, to escape debt incurred by buying the expensive GM seed. As Bt cotton continues to jostle for public acceptance, Bt crops have been attacked by \'\'Lalya\'\' or \'\'reddening\'\' as well, a disease unseen before which affected Bt more than the non-Bt cotton crop, resulting in 60 percent of farmers in Maharashtra failing to recover costs from their first GM harvest. Genetic engineering and Bt cotton will neither revolutionise the countryside in the developing countries nor improve food security, but a new farm economy based on the principle of food sovereignty and farmers\' rights as the centrepiece of the country\'s economic development model will.
On June 6, 2006, the Canadian members of parliament from the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois met with their American and Mexican counterparts to declare that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a \'\'continental tragedy\'\', writes Anuradha Mittal, the founder and director of the Oakland Institute. In this article, Mittal writes that the ongoing debate on the fate of some 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US continues to ignore the structural issues that have forced millions to leave their homes. Free-trade agreements like NAFTA promised to bring more jobs, trade surpluses, and an increased standard of living to member countries, but the reality is altogether different. Far from providing a \'\'level playing field\'\', NAFTA has been a death warrant for small farmers, placing small Mexican farmers at a sharp disadvantage with respect to the US. No fence will be able to take the pressure off of the US border. The country must therefore address a number of simple questions: should the undocumented immigrants be criminalised and our borders walled off, or should we get rid of or renegotiate free-trade agreements? Should we blame the victims of free trade-agreements, or should we ensure that as long as capital and goods can move freely across borders, so can the hungry, the destitute, and the dispossessed?
International food aid, initiated in 1954, is the most publicised instrument put forward to fight hunger, especially in southern countries, where millions of tons of food are shipped each year. However, geared towards the dumping of cereal surpluses in developing countries, the aid system has promoted the trade and foreign policy interests of the donor countries at the expense of the hungry over the last fifty years, writes Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, a research and educational institute. The opening up of markets, along with food aid in kind, has deluged developing countries with agricultural commodities dumped by developed nations at below the cost of production. This has deepened the agrarian crisis in the developing countries, whose one billion-dollar food trade surplus of the 1970s became an 11 billion-dollar deficit by 2001, converting developing countries into major importers of food while destroying livelihoods of small family farmers. What the hungry really need is an enforcement mechanism that ensures the human right to food. This would require support for national policies that protect the livelihoods of small farmers and increase national food availability. Examples from hunger crises around the world clearly prove that policies that help countries develop their own agricultural sector and strengthen their small-scale farmers actually help feed more people in the long run.
A new report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) concludes that the last 40 years of international trade in agriculture have not benefited the developing countries, above all the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), write Frederic Mousseau, Senior Fellow at the Oakland Institute and internationally-renowned food security consultant, and Anuradha Mittal, the founder and director of the Oakland Institute. In this analysis, the authors write that according to the report, trade actually marginalises the poorest countries and their small farmers and mainly benefits large-scale producers and corporations from developed countries. In the last few decades, transnational corporations have increased control over production and trade in developing countries. While it denounces market distortions caused by developed countries, the report does not question the policies that harm agriculture in the developing countries and undermine the livelihoods of their farmers. Instead it recommends measures to make developing countries and their farmers more competitive in an open global economy, suggesting that the trade and market liberalisation are the only chances that poorest nations have to get out of poverty. The authors argue for the adoption of food sovereignty as a national policy for developing countries, including the right to protect their production and markets from an inequitable system.
The WTO talks underway in Geneva, aimed at reviving negotiations on lowering global trade barriers, are yet another demonstration of the crisis of inequity and hypocrisy that has afflicted the organisation from the very beginning, writes Anuradha Mittal, founder and director of the Oakland Institute, a non-partisan research, analysis, and advocacy group. In this article, the author writes that the draft agreement set before the 147 members on July 16 openly discriminates against developing nations by adopting a non-committal approach to the Special and Differential treatment needs, sensitive products, and special safe guard mechanisms, all of which it leaves to a \'\'post- framework stage\'\'. At the same time, the draft overlooks African countries\' demands that the Cotton Initiative be treated on a stand-alone, fast-track basis, instead adopting the US demand to consider this issue under the broader agriculture negotiations. The truth is that in the draft July package, the organisation is acting like a Robin Hood in reverse: trying to rob the world\'s poor to enrich American and European corporations. The WTO will remain deadlocked as long as it continues to fail the development needs of the poor.
Eruptions of armed aggression by the US should not distract us from the underlying logic of economic imperialism. America\'s \'\'war for freedom\'\' or \'\'war on terrorism\'\' is at one with its expansionary goals for the market: open invasion in some places, and open markets everywhere. In this article for IPS, the author writes that the plans for Iraq go beyond reconstruction. The intention is to create a dream economy -- completely privatised and foreign-owned. The war on Iraq was shadowed by a battle among American corporations to win reconstruction contracts. Resistance to the unilateral US strategy does not go over well. In March 2003, President Bush alluded to the possibility of reprisals if Mexico didn\'t vote America\'s way in the UN Security Council on the question of Iraq. In July 2003, the administration cut off military aid to 35 friendly countries in retaliation for their support of the International Criminal Court (ICC). And following the collapse of trade talks in Cancun, the US is threatening \'\'to take note\'\' of those countries that \'\'torpedoed\'\' the negotiations in Cancun. However, the US position as a solo superpower could be short-lived. Washington\'s desire to dominate affairs around the world has created a global resistance stoked by a combination of developing country resentments inflamed by US arrogance, a crippled economy, an expensive invasion and occupation of Iraq that has not gone well for the US, and reinvigorated civil society resistance to corporate driven globalisation.
The failure of the WTO Fifth Ministerial in Cancun is a severe blow not just for the WTO but also for regional agreements such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas, writes Anuradha Mittal, Co-Director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First. In this analysis for IPS, Mittal writes that the lack of attention to the legitimate concerns of the developing countries, the hunger of the US and the EU to capture world markets, and the mounting evidence that the free trade agreements have failed the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society, have alienated both the poor countries and civil society. Cancun offers an important lesson: strong arm tactics, which might have worked in the past for the US and the EU, will not work any more. There is clear agreement on one principle: No agreement is better than a bad agreement.
The Agreement on Agriculture signed under the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade talks has not produced the predicted results, but rather is the first step in making food production into a business monopolized by a few and driving small farmers off the land.