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Summary, Overview & Development Report 3.1

Heart of Darkness: Globalisation & Racism

Summary, Overview & Development Report 3.1
The Case for United Nations LDC3: September 2001
By Emmanuel.K.Bensah, ICDA Secretariat

September's Impact List with respect to UNLDC3 addressed some structurally fundamental questions principally on Globalisation and the United Nations' World Conference Against Racism (WCAR).

They sing, sing, sing...
Perhaps one of the most glaring indictments of the world trading system is that of its adverse effect on the plight of Africans. Free Trade proponents would have us believe that the Third World is not sufficiently equipped to face the rapidly advancing and increasingly technological world. Among the free trade and across-the-board trade liberalisation mantra, they will sing, sing, sing privatisation and market-liberalisation like their lives depended on it. But, it would not be love they would bring, but more pain and despair, which has been the leitmotiv of the average LDC.

...but the West's love don't mean a thing
The first article to bring this sorry yarn closer to home was the article featured in Monday 3 September's Impact List, entitled: "Blacks Suffer Worst under Globalisation". The title speaks volumes of the inherently problematic nature of this much-touted globalisation.

The author touched some very raw nerves that most of the West would prefer not to be broached - and that is the legacy of racism, which has perhaps affected the most, and remains a veritable cancer at the heart of South African society. I do not think that we can honestly kid ourselves into believing that partnerships, such as AGOA or the Cotonou Agreement, help bridge the racial divide. Rather it helps consign DCs and LDCs into the same fundamental image of beggars, who cannot be choosers of their fate, without the dependency of the West.

In the same way that the UNESCO Charter opens that "it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed", so it holds that the breakdown of stereotypes, plus the visceral removal of racism should start with us. Gamal Nkrumah , writing in Al-Ahram weekly writes: "internationally, the legacy of slavery and colonialism continues to thrive, defining the economic and political relations between countries and continents."("Cynical Dynamic", WTOIL 3 September). He maintains that "rich Western powers built much of their wealth on the brutal conquest and subjugation of Third World peoples; the enslavement of Africans; the savage and systematic extermination of indigenous peoples; and the ruthless exploitation of the colonised world's resources." Not to mention, of course, the fact that imbalances in the trading system has led to considerably many more delegated to 1 dollar a day statistics.

That said, Professor Russel Stannard, speaking on the BBC's Radio Four quasi-religious slot, Thought For the Day, in October, spoke of how "Mark Twain famously declared that there are lies, damn lies and statistics." Statistics, he contended, can certainly be misapplied, but they do have their uses. How right he is, for what would ICDA's SOD Reports be without them?

On the flip side, statistics often mask a more grim reality - one that was perhaps better enunciated by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as he explained the rationale behind the WCAR: "we want to reinvigorate the fight against intolerance with legal measures, with education...economic and social development."(WTOIL 3 September). Also, a breath of fresh air came from a surprising corner - German minister of Development Co-operation Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeal(?), who argued that "accepting the responsibility of colonialism for many of the structural problems which exist in developing countries was sheer normality".

Sheer normality, however, can hardly be the terms used to describe life in a LDC. If only the West could see this, perhaps it could go some way to truly addressing the fundamentally structural concerns that are part and parcel of the cruel package coming with the tag "LDC".

The usually-touted mantra that globalisation is good for developing countries - as enunciated by the UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw ("Globalisation is Good For Us", WTOIL 10 September) remains as casuistic as the tune free trade peddlers dance to.

Three things that I pointed to in WTOIL 10 September regarding Straw's article was on his first proposition that free trade is the panacea for sub-Saharan Africa: "one of the best ways to reduce poverty in Africa and elsewhere is not to call a halt to globalisation, but increase trade." Already, implicit in this argument is the idea that globalisation is synonymous with trade (liberalisation). Remember Jack admitted it here first!

Secondly, his qualification of Oxfam as a "serious" NGO is an explicit indication that many others, for him, are not, which would be fine privately, but publicly, what is he inferring here? He should perhaps spend some time at the average NGO and then let us know how much of a spin they put on the actual work they do. His subsequent pronouncements reminds me of what my history professor drilled into us regarding statesmen - their motivations are predicated not on complexity, but simplicity.

No where is this clearer than in Straw's contention that "the way to redress imbalances is to launch a new trade round." It also looks like along the way, he confused the theory of comparative advantage in favour of developing countries for reality. Once reality starts blurring, you know it's time to change tack and get those glasses checked, Jack.

Finally, his exhortation to allow "agriculture to do for Africa what textiles and microchips have done for Asia" is a hollow argument. At best, it is an indictment of his sincerity towards tackling the real problem, which is, for starters, the absence of a scheme like the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for Africa. Whether Western governments at crunch time, in Doha, will make use of political will, remains the biggest question mark at the beginning of this so-called New World post September 11.

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