A bad year for bad guys

2011 was a year of extraordinary people-powered resistance, starting with the ‘Arab Spring’ and spreading across many parts of the world. How did this resistance work so well? In this 11 minute piece, Srdja Popovic (who led the nonviolent movement that took down Milosevic in Serbia in 2000) analyses the plans, skills and tools each movement needs – from nonviolent tactics to a sense of humour.  Another talk from the TED stable!

Two other talks worth a view include:

Being young and making an impact http://www.ted.com/talks/natalie_warne_being_young_and_making_an_impact.html

What happens when an NGO admits failure – http://www.ted.com/talks/david_damberger_what_happens_when_an_ngo_admits_failure.html

Time Person of the Year: The Protestor

No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent. In 2011, protestors didn’t just voice their complaints; they changed the world.

Read more on the Time Person of the Year


Paying the bills and taking from their tills: pitching development in an age of austerity

21st Century Development animation that accompanied Bill Gate’s speech
By Gentleman Scholar and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Last month Bill Gates delivered a timely, long awaited speech to G20 leaders on international development, titled 21st Century Development: Innovation with Impact.  Thinking that Mr Gates could cover everything that we would want him to cover in the designated spot light time of 1 minute 44 seconds was always going to be an optimistic gambit.

Essentially, Gates’ task was to sell the importance of technology, transparency and finance for the future of global development to the group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies. It is a positive shopping list of financing options for development, such as a financial transaction tax to help fight poverty, known popularly as a Robin Hood tax and spreading more south-south style development cooperation, such as the partnership between Brazil, Japan and Mozambique that aims to help Mozambique adapt soybeans, rice and other crops to Mozambique’s savanna, which has a climate and soils similar to Brazil’s “Cerrado.”

A glaring omission from his report is the issue of capital flight from Third World countries. Jonathan Glennie remarks:

Development finance can be easily understood with this simple equation: money available for development = domestic resources+inflows-outflows. But Gates omitted the last part of the equation. According to most analyses, capital flight is responsible for billions of dollars being lost to developing countries every year, far more than most of his ideas for increased capital inflows.

Glennie’s comments on Gates’ speech from the Poverty Matters Blog (on Global Development section of The Guardian) are well worth reading. The flight of capital from the least able to pay countries to the wealthiest ones is an structural problem at the heart of the global economic system that is not going to go away anytime soon – especially in an era of rising debt and austerity measures. What was once an unquantifiable situation is no longer a hidden issue.

How this inescapably big issue will be challenged – through new campaigns, occupation actions and policy debates – has yet to mobilise enough popular support to halt or change the grossly unequal market relationships that drive global economic behaviour. The rise of the We are the 99% movement, the global occupation protests and the ‘Arab Spring’ Middle East protests this year speak to this equation of inequality and debt. Silence is no longer an option for world leaders. Not anymore.


Explore more on developmenteducation.ie and elsewhere

Making sense of ‘developmentspeak’

Macroprudential regulation is supposed to deal with two major issues: the procyclicality of the financial system, and systemic risk and moral hazard caused by systemically important financial institutions that are considered “too big to fail”. To address procyclicality, the Basel Committee has proposed, beginning with large and connected financial firms, building up additional countercyclical buffers through a combination of countercyclical capital charges, forward-looking provisioning and capital conservation measures. These buffers should be built up in good times and run down in bad, allowing the financial system to absorb emerging strains more easily and dampen amplification mechanisms.*

*An example of developmentspeak taken from UN Secretary General’s Report to the General Assembly on international financial system and development 2010

The language behind international development discussion and debate is notoriously full of jargon.  To assist the process, the BBC World Service Trust has compiled a brief clickable index of terms that appear frequently at all levels – local, national and international.

Check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/specials/916_dev_speak/index.shtml

The terms in Guide to Development Speak are listed alphabetically, so just click on any letter for an explanation.

There are also guides on climate change at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1015162.stm and on migration at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/3527123.stm

Human Rights Day 2011, and the rest

It was Human Rights Day on Saturday! Does that mean every other day of the year is a human rights abuse day or, more accurately, a human wrongs day?

In other news, this year saw the adoption of a historic resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in June.   This was the first time that a United Nations Resolution explicitly acknowledged human rights protection as covering sexual orientation.

There was also the recognition of access to the internet as a human right in freedom of expression. Syrian and Egyptian  protesters, Chinese villagers, and Turkish youtube’rs are understandably happy about this – not forgetting those concerned about France’s recent attempts at introducing a three strikes rule as an anti-piracy piracy measure (leading to a user being disconnected from the net).

For more information here’s a decent introduction surveying access to the internet and global censorship, by Barney Warf from the University of Kansas:


Cartoon source: By Martyn Turner, from The Thin Black Lines Rides Again – Political Cartoons and Development Education

Nando’s ‘chicken’ out of spoof Last Dictator Standing advert

If you were Nando’s and you were receiving threats from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF loyalists, would you have pulled your viral advert from television? South Africa did. Update: Nando’s refuses to apologise to Mugabe More resources: The Zimbabwean (UK) Food for thought – Nando’s and dictators – by Justice Malala, 8 December, 2011

VOANews.com Nando’s Pulls Ad Lampooning Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, Cites Threats to Staff – by Ntungamili Nkomo & Gibbs Dube, 1 December, 2011

VOANews.com Nando’s Pulls Ad Lampooning Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, Cites Threats to Staff – by Ntungamili Nkomo & Gibbs Dube, 1 December, 2011

How to Write About Africa

First appearing in 2005 in issue 92, Granta magazine published ‘The View from Africa’ – a collection of memoir and reportage that sought to challenge the all too typical labelling and mono-symbolism drenched on the continent of Africa as a single homogenous place where everybody is the same. It may evoke, for example, images of starving babies, the ‘heart of darkness’, endless poverty, exotic wildlife and corrupt politicians.

Africa is too large and diverse for such generalizations. It has fifty-four nations, five time zones, at least seven climates, more than 800 million people and, according to the latest diligent research, maybe fourteen million proverbs. South Africa and Burkina Faso have as much in common as Spain and Uzbekistan.

Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina contributed a wonderfully satirical article in issue 92 that has since gained notoriety as a challenging yet amusing quick-stop beginner’s guide to Africa. A hard hitting fictional polemical on how we view Africa, Africans and how they might see themselves, we think that it is well worth returning to to share in groups, at work or even between with friends.

How to Write About Africa
By Binyavanga Wainaina

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African’s cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it—because you care.

Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.

Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.

Your African characters may include naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers, ancient wise men living in hermitic splendour. Or corrupt politicians, inept polygamous travel-guides, and prostitutes you have slept with. The Loyal Servant always behaves like a seven-year-old and needs a firm hand; he is scared of snakes, good with children, and always involving you in his complex domestic dramas. The Ancient Wise Man always comes from a noble tribe (not the money-grubbing tribes like the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona). He has rheumy eyes and is close to the Earth. The Modern African is a fat man who steals and works in the visa office, refusing to give work permits to qualified Westerners who really care about Africa. He is an enemy of development, always using his government job to make it difficult for pragmatic and good-hearted expats to set up NGOs or Legal Conservation Areas. Or he is an Oxford-educated intellectual turned serial-killing politician in a Savile Row suit. He is a cannibal who likes Cristal champagne, and his mother is a rich witch-doctor who really runs the country.

Among your characters you must always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the West. Her children have flies on their eyelids and pot bellies, and her breasts are flat and empty. She must look utterly helpless. She can have no past, no history; such diversions ruin the dramatic moment. Moans are good. She must never say anything about herself in the dialogue except to speak of her (unspeakable) suffering. Also be sure to include a warm and motherly woman who has a rolling laugh and who is concerned for your well-being. Just call her Mama. Her children are all delinquent. These characters should buzz around your main hero, making him look good. Your hero can teach them, bathe them, feed them; he carries lots of babies and has seen Death. Your hero is you (if reportage), or a beautiful, tragic international celebrity/aristocrat who now cares for animals (if fiction).

Bad Western characters may include children of Tory cabinet ministers, Afrikaners, employees of the World Bank. When talking about exploitation by foreigners mention the Chinese and Indian traders. Blame the West for Africa’s situation. But do not be too specific.

Broad brushstrokes throughout are good. Avoid having the African characters laugh, or struggle to educate their kids, or just make do in mundane circumstances. Have them illuminate something about Europe or America in Africa. African characters should be colourful, exotic, larger than life—but empty inside, with no dialogue, no conflicts or resolutions in their stories, no depth or quirks to confuse the cause.

Describe, in detail, naked breasts (young, old, conservative, recently raped, big, small) or mutilated genitals, or enhanced genitals. Or any kind of genitals. And dead bodies. Or, better, naked dead bodies. And especially rotting naked dead bodies. Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as the ‘real Africa’, and you want that on your dust jacket. Do not feel queasy about this: you are trying to help them to get aid from the West. The biggest taboo in writing about Africa is to describe or show dead or suffering white people.

Animals, on the other hand, must be treated as well rounded, complex characters. They speak (or grunt while tossing their manes proudly) and have names, ambitions and desires. They also have family values: see how lions teach their children? Elephants are caring, and are good feminists or dignified patriarchs. So are gorillas. Never, ever say anything negative about an elephant or a gorilla. Elephants may attack people’s property, destroy their crops, and even kill them. Always take the side of the elephant. Big cats have public-school accents. Hyenas are fair game and have vaguely Middle Eastern accents. Any short Africans who live in the jungle or desert may be portrayed with good humour (unless they are in conflict with an elephant or chimpanzee or gorilla, in which case they are pure evil).

After celebrity activists and aid workers, conservationists are Africa’s most important people. Do not offend them. You need them to invite you to their 30,000-acre game ranch or ‘conservation area’, and this is the only way you will get to interview the celebrity activist. Often a book cover with a heroic-looking conservationist on it works magic for sales. Anybody white, tanned and wearing khaki who once had a pet antelope or a farm is a conservationist, one who is preserving Africa’s rich heritage. When interviewing him or her, do not ask how much funding they have; do not ask how much money they make off their game. Never ask how much they pay their employees.

Readers will be put off if you don’t mention the light in Africa. And sunsets, the African sunset is a must. It is always big and red. There is always a big sky. Wide empty spaces and game are critical—Africa is the Land of Wide Empty Spaces. When writing about the plight of flora and fauna, make sure you mention that Africa is overpopulated. When your main character is in a desert or jungle living with indigenous peoples (anybody short) it is okay to mention that Africa has been severely depopulated by Aids and War (use caps).

You’ll also need a nightclub called Tropicana, where mercenaries, evil nouveau riche Africans and prostitutes and guerrillas and expats hang out.

Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.

Source: Granta 92: How to Write About Africa

Photo credit: http://www.poorchilds.com

Current and future costs: COP17

The cost for South Africa of hosting COP 17 will, it is estimated, amount to some 400 million rand (approx. €40 million).  The funds will be used to provide meals, transport, security, conference facilities and accommodation for the expected 20,000 delegates over the 12 days of the conference.

Alongside this, expectations of a clear and positive result from the conference remain low as the ongoing standoff between rich and poor countries over signing up to a second Kyoto agreement before 2020 (an effective deferral of the agreement – something developing countries are against).  Environmental observers and analysts along with activist NGOs say such a delay could prove fatal for climate change.

The debates in Durban during the conference follow the publication of two recent reports – one from the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (warning of increased temperatures leading to increased extreme weather events) and the other by the UN World Meteorological Organisation (whose annual greenhouse gas bulletin recorded the highest level of greenhouse gases sine pre-industrial times).

More resources:

  1. For a South African view on COP17 see the Mail&Guardian (SA) newspaper special feature at http://mg.co.za/specialreport/cop17-durban-2011
  2. IPCC and rise in extreme weather events (the Guardian, 18 November 2011 ) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/18/extreme-weather-climate-change-ipcc
  3. The Climate Change Conference 2011 website and online resources http://www.cop17-cmp7durban.com/

HIV & AIDS, 30 years on…

Today is World AIDS Day. It has been almost 30 years since HIV and AIDS was first recognised and diagnosed. HIV and AIDS has since spread at an alarming rate globally and now affects most countries in the world (where the information is available). Although there have been major breakthroughs in terms of treatments, prevention methods and support for people living with HIV and AIDS, these responses are still inadequate in terms of stopping its spread and easing its impact. Millions of people continue to be infected with millions more still dying.

Internationally renowned expert and activist on HIV and AIDS, Michael Kelly SJ, argues that HIV and AIDS is driven by poverty, gender disparities and power structures, stigma and discrimination and exploitative global socio-economic structures and practices. He believes that:

‘the more these thrive, the more HIV and AIDS will flourish. Equally, the more HIV and AIDS prosper, the greater the likelihood that poverty, gender disparities and power structures, stigma and discrimination, and disruptive socio-economic structures and practices will flourish and ensure the continuation of the epidemic’ (2006).

HIV and AIDS has claimed more than 27 million lives since it was first diagnosed in 1981. It is estimated that 2 million people die every year from HIV related illnesses and AIDS. 33.3 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV.

HIV and AIDS related stigma refers to the prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse and mistreatment of people living with HIV and AIDS. There are a number of reasons why people living with HIV and AIDS are stigmatised including fear of death and disease (especially because HIV and AIDS are relatively new diseases), lack of knowledge about HIV and AIDS, dominant sexual beliefs and values (such as the belief that you can only become infected if you are promiscuous or have homosexual sex, which are already stigmatised in a number of societies) and on-going myths and misunderstandings about HIV and AIDS. The lack of effective recognition of stigma and its results often perpetuates the situation and, in fact, makes it worse. It demeans people living with HIV and AIDS and can make it more difficult for them to live with the disease.

From India to Kenya, Tajikistan to Bolivia, the daily difficulties people living with HIV face are often the same, no matter what country they live in, and no matter how many thousands of miles they are apart. In Stigma Under the Lens the charity Christian Aid worked with Magnum photos, an international co-operative of photographers, to document personal perspectives of the disease. Here, you can also take a glimpse at the lives of four people living with HIV.

For more information on personal stories, take a look at the online version of This is What Has Happened at http://www.developmenteducation.ie/issues-and-topics/tiwhh/, a recent publication from 80:20 Educating and Acting for a Better World on Zambian women’s vulnerability to HIV and AIDS. Also, take a look at developmenteducation.ie’s recently updated section on HIV and AIDS for information on the virus, its history, statistics and more.

Photo credit: I G via Flickr