“Africa: No Butter, But Lots of Guns
By Conn Hallinan
The developed world has a message for Africa: ‘Sorry, but we are reneging on our aid pledges made at the G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland back in 2005, but we do have something for you—lots and lots of expensive things that go ‘bang’ and kill people.’
And that was indeed the message that came out of the G8-G20 meetings in Canada last month. The promise to add an extra $25 billion to a $50 billion aid package for the continent went a glimmering. Instead, the G8 will cut the $25 billion to $11 billion and the $50 billion to $38 billion. And don’t hold your breath that Africa will get even that much.
The G8 consists of Britain, the U.S., Germany, France, Italy, Japan, France, and Russia, although Moscow is not part of the aid pledge.
Canada’s Muskoka summit hailed ‘significant progress toward the millennium development goals’—the United Nations’ target of reducing poverty by 2015—but when it came time to ante up, everyone but the United Kingdom bailed. The Gleneagles pledge was to direct 0.51 percent of the G8’s gross national income to aid programs by 2010. The UK came up to 0.56 percent, but the U.S. is at 0.2, Italy at 0.16, Canada at 0.3, Germany at 0.35, and France at 0.47. Rumor has it that France and Italy led the charge to water down the 2005 goals.
The shortfall, says Oxfam spokesman Mark Fried, is not just a matter of ‘numbers.’ The aid figures ‘represent vital medicines, kids in school, help for women living in poverty and food for the hungry.’
AIDS activists are particularly incensed. ‘I see no point in beating around the bush,’ said AIDS-Free World spokesman Stephen Lewis at a Toronto press conference. He charged that Obama Administration’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief ‘is being flat-lined for at least the next two years.’ Lewis said AIDS groups were treating five million patients, but that another nine million needed to be in programs. ‘There are AIDS projects, run by other NGOs [non-governmental organizations], where new patients cannot be enrolled unless someone dies.’
But if the poor, sick, and hungry are going begging, not so Africa’s militaries.
According to Daniel Volman, director of the African Security Research Project, the White House is following the same policies as the Bush Administration vis-à-vis Africa. ‘Indeed, the Obama Administration is seeking to expand U.S. military activities on the continent even further,’ says Volman.
In its 2011 budget, the White House asked for over $80 million in military programs for Africa, while freezing or reducing aid packages aimed at civilians.
The major vehicle for this is the U.S.’s African Command (AFRICOM) founded in 2008. Through the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative, AFRICOM is training troops from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Chad. The supposed target of all this is the group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Meghreb (AQIM), but while AQIM is certainly troublesome—it sets off bombs and kidnaps people— it is small, scattered, and doesn’t pose a serious threat to any of the countries involved.
The worry is that the various militaries being trained by AFRICOM could end up being used against internal dissidents. Tuaregs, for instance, are engaged in a long-running, low-level insurgency against the Mali government, which is backing a French plan to mine uranium in the Sahara. Might Morocco use the training to attack the Polisario Front in the disputed Western Sahara? Mauritanians complain that the ‘terrorist’ label has been used to jail political opponents of the government.
In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said the U.S. was seeking to bolster Nigeria’s ‘ability to combat violent extremism within its borders.’ That might put AFRICOM in the middle of a civil war between ruling elites in Lagos and their transnational oil company allies, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Delta, which is demanding an end to massive pollution and a fair cut of oil revenues.
The National Energy Policy Development Groups estimates that by 2015 as much as 25 percent of U.S. oil imports will come from Africa.
So far, AFRICOM’s track record has been one disaster after another. It supported Ethiopia’s intervention in the Somalia civil war, and helped to overthrow the moderate Islamic Courts Union. It is now fighting a desperate rear-guard action against a far more extremist grouping, the al-Shabaab. AFRICOM also helped coordinate a Ugandan Army attack on the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—Operation Lightning Thunder— that ended up killing thousands of civilians.
The U.S. has been careful to keep a low profile in all this. ‘We don’t want to see our guys going in and getting whacked,’ Volman quotes one U.S. AFRICOM officer. ‘We want Africans to go in.’
And presumably get ‘whacked.’
AFRICOM’s Operation Flintlock 2010, which ran from May 3-22, was based in Burkina Faso. Besides the militaries of 10 African nations, it included 600 U.S. Special Forces and elite units from France, the Netherlands, and Spain. Yes, there are other arms pushers out there, and the list reads like an economic who’s who: France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, Sweden, and Israel. Some 70 percent of the world’s arms trade is aimed at developing countries.
So, is AFRICOM about fighting terrorism, or oil, gas and uranium? Nicole Lee, the executive director of Trans Africa, the leading African American organization focusing on Africa has no doubts: ‘This [AFRICOM] is nothing short of a sovereignty and resource grab.’
And who actually benefits from this militarization of the continent? As Nigerian journalist Dulue Mbachu warns, ‘Increased U.S. military presence in Africa may simply serve to protect unpopular regimes that are friendly to its interests, as was the case during the Cold War, while Africa slips further into poverty.’”
(Quelle: Tags: AFRICOM, Afrika, Al Qaida, Al-Shabab, AQIM, Äthiopien, Burkina Faso, China, Demokratische Republik Kongo, Erdgas, Frankreich, G20, G8, Grossbritannien, Israel, Krieg gegen den Terror, Lords Resistance Army, Mali, Mauretanien, Niederlande, Niger, Nigeria, Polisario, Russland, Schweden, Senegal, Somalia, Spanien, Tschad, Tuareg, Tunesien, Uganda, Uran, USA, Westsahara
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Mittwoch, Juni 9th, 2010
Who is deciding what we eat?
By Esther Vivas
The increasing conversion of agriculture into a commodity industry is an undeniable reality today. The privatisation of natural resources, the policies of structural adjustment, the gradual disappearance of the peasantry and the industrialisation of food systems have driven us to the current food crisis situation.
In this context, who is deciding what we eat? The answer is clear: a handful of multinationals of the agro-food industry, with the blessing of governments and international institutions, end up imposing their private interest above collective needs. Due to this situation, our food security is seriously threatened.
The supposed concern of governments and institutions such as the G8, the G20, the World Trade Organization, etc., regarding the rise of the price of basic food and its impact on the more disadvantaged peoples, as they showed in the course of 2008 in international summits, has only shown their deep hypocrisy. They take significant economic profits from the current food and agricultural model, using it as an imperialist instrument for political, economic and social control, towards the countries of the global South.
As pointed out by the international movement of La Vía Campesina, at the end of the FAO meeting in Rome in November 2009: “The absence of the heads of state of the G8 countries has been one of the key causes of the dismal failure of this summit. Concrete measures were not taken to eradicate hunger, to stop the speculation on food or to hold back the expansion of agrofuels”. Likewise, commitments such as those of the Global Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security and the Food Security Trust Fund of the World Bank, which have the explicit support of the G8 and the G20, also point this out, leaving our food supply, once again, in the hands of the market.
Yet the reform of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) of the FAO is, according to La Vía Campesina, a step forward towards democratizing the decision-making processes over agriculture and environment: “At least this workspace respects the basic rule of democracy, which is the principle of “one country, one vote”, and it gives a new opportunity to civil society”. However, we will still have to check the real impact of the CFS.
The agro-food chain is subjected, in its whole route, to a high business concentration. Starting with the first stretch, seeds, we can observe that ten of the biggest companies (such as Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Bayer…), according to data from the ETC Group, control one half of sales. Copyright laws, which give exclusive rights on seeds to these companies, have further stimulated the business concentration of the sector and have eroded the peasant right to the maintenance of indigenous seeds and biodiversity.
The seed industry is intimately linked to that of pesticides. The biggest seed companies also dominate this other sector and very frequently the development and marketing of both products are done together. Moreover, in the pesticide industry, the monopoly is even greater and the ten biggest multinationals control 84% of the global market. This same dynamic is observed in the sector of food distribution and in that of the processing of drinks and foods. It is all about strategy, and it is bound to increase.
Big-scale retailing, just like other sectors, registers a high business concentration. In Europe, between 1987 and 2005, the market share of the ten biggest multinationals of big-scale retailing was 45% of the total and the chances are that they will reach 75% in the next 10-15 years. In countries such as a Sweden, three supermarket chains control around 95.1% of the market share; and in countries such as Denmark, Belgium, the Spanish State, France, Netherlands, Great Britain and Argentina, a handful of companies control between 60% and 45% of the market. Mega fusions are the usual dynamic. This monopoly and concentration enables them to wield huge power to determine what we buy, the price of products, their origin, and how they have been elaborated.
Making a profit from hunger
In the middle of the food crisis, the main multinational companies of the agro-food industry announced record profit figures. Monsanto and Dupont, the main seed companies, declared a rise of their profits of 44% and 19% respectively in 2007 in relation to the previous year. The data of fertilizer companies pointed out the same: Potash Corp, Yara and Sinochem, saw their profits rise by 72%, 44% and 95% respectively between 2007 and 2006. Food processors such as Nestlé also experienced a rise of their economic gains, as well as supermarkets such as Tesco, Carrefour and Wal-Mart, while millions of people in the world did not have access to food.
– Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. She is co-coordinator of the books in Spanish “Supermarkets, No Thanks” and “Where is Fair Trade headed?”. She is also a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur (www.vientosur.info).
(Article published in Diagonal, nº115.)
(Quelle: Radio Chango.)
Freitag, Mai 28th, 2010
“G8/G20 security bill to hit $833 million
By CTV.ca News Staff
Ottawa expects to spend at least $833 million on security for next month’s G8 and G20 summits, according to government documents released Tuesday.
In March, the federal government had allocated $179 million for its security budget. But under new estimates, these costs should increase by $654 million to a total of $833 million.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told CTV’s Power Play Tuesday evening that costs could rise by another $100 million, and so the government has budgeted up to $930 million on a “medium-threat basis.”
“When I first looked at it I think the reaction would have been the same as any ordinary Canadian looking at those costs,” Toews said. “You say, ‘How much money is this costing us?’ But I’m satisfied that the experts have been very careful in their assessment.”
“We don’t want to have a security incident,” Toews added. “Security is the biggest concern that we have in putting these summits on.”
Toews said the government won’t know the total security costs until after the completion of the summits.
The new costs are included in the Supplementary Estimates (A), 2010-11 — the first of several documents used to inform Parliament about spending requirements that are not included in the Main Estimates of the annual budget.
According to a copy of the Supplementary Estimates (A), 2010-11, that has been posted to the Treasury Board of Canada website, the additional $654 million will be split among the following departments:
● Royal Canadian Mounted Police — $321.5 million
● Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness — $262.6 million
● National Defence — $63.1 million
● Others – $6.7 million
The document says the additional funding will be used to:
● design, plan, coordinate and implement security operations for the summits
● provide the RCMP and its security partners with accommodation facilities for the G8 and G20 Summits
● procure information technology and portable communication assets
● work with federal, provincial and municipal security partners responsible for providing Summit security
● ensure the safekeeping of all International Protected Persons attending the summits
The G8 will be held in Huntsville, Ont., from June 25-26.
The G20 will take place in Toronto, from June 26-27.
CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife said the cost of holding G8 and G20 events has increased over time, and as such meetings have become more and more security conscious.
“That’s the way these summits are now,” he told CTV News Channel on Tuesday afternoon. “They never ever actually see anybody in the public any more, they are behind very secure barriers and there is very, very tight security.”
Toews said the two summits had to be held in Toronto and Huntsville, rather than in a more remote location that may have saved security costs, because hotel space is needed for the attendees.
Toews also pointed out that while holding the two summits back-to-back is “unprecedented,” piggybacking them together “in fact saved the taxpayers some money.”
With files from The Canadian Press“
(Quelle: CTV News.)
● Toronto police get ‘sound cannons’ for G20