Multinational corporations: Corporate crimes & transnational accountability

Join us in the fight for economic justice and an end to global poverty.

Multinational corporations

Syndicate content

This August the World Development Movement will be going to Reclaim the Power in Blackpool and the Attac’s European Summer University in Paris to link up with activists from across the UK and Europe fighting against the corporate takeover of our democracy, our energy, and our food.


Attac’s European Summer University
The European Summer University for Social Movements is a gathering of activists fighting corporate power from across Europe. You can read more about it in James’ blog post.

More blog posts from #esu2014:
In the city of revolutions
Rekindling European food sovereignty links
WDM activists learn from European struggles

Reclaim the Power
...

Campaigners warned today that Britain would open the floodgates to a string of legal challenges by big business if it ratified the upcoming EU-US trade deal.

As Philip Morris threatens to sue the UK for £11 billion over plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes, the World Development Movement said the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would make such cases more common and less open to public scrutiny.

Photo: Matthias Weinberger/Flickr

The World Development Movement claimed today that if TTIP, currently being negotiated between the EU and the US, is agreed there could be a massive increase in legal cases brought by companies against the UK government.

The TTIP deal contains provisions to establish an ‘Investor-State Dispute Mechanism’ (ISDS) to allow multinational companies to sue governments over decisions they think might harm their profits. Under special ISDS courts, companies would be able to bypass national courts, settling cases in a system run by corporate lawyers, regardless of whether the decisions under dispute are made in the public interest.

Philip Morris is currently...

Humanity cannot afford the greed of Goldman Sachs. Steve Rushton from Occupy.com reveals how the investment bank reaps profit on exploiting London cleaners and speculating on food.

Humanity cannot afford the greed of Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs is a global leader in crisis capitalism, a key player in global tax evasion, food speculation and corrupting democracy. The investment bank is an engine of injustice.

However, the ‘vampire squid’ has its tentacles in one of Britain’s most progressive universities: SOAS, University of London. Even though SOAS staff and students often imagine a world where workers’ rights are more important can corporations, it makes profits for Goldman Sachs by outsourcing a vital part of its labour force.

Justice for Cleaners SOAS
The Justice for Cleaners campaign asserts that all workers should be treated equally: with respect and dignity.
In their long running campaign, they have recently secured improved conditions for holiday, sick pay and pension provisions. These were gained through strike action taken throughout this spring. Running since 2006, the campaign has already secured the cleaners...

It was recently revealed that the 85 richest people now own as much as the poorest half of the world combined. Statements from the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos suggest that the arrogance of the economic elite grows as quickly as their wealth.

Last week Davos turned into a global “Parasite Street” as representatives of the increasingly rich economic elite met in a lush Swiss ski resort wrapped in security and media hype. The annual World Economic Forum once again saw a group, consisting predominantly of rich old men, plotting the next steps of global exploitation.



With their newly published Global Risk Report, the WEF readily hand out advice on everything from global poverty to social media. The report provides an interesting insight into the growing arrogance of the economic elite.

According to the WEF, one major ‘risk’ of 2014 is rising economic inequality. A bit of a cocky statement considering the overlap between the richest people in the world and the membership of the WEF. To put it...

“…the sheer market power of the energy utility… and a dominant market position in Africa… together with the realisation that energy utility makes every effort to suspend or postpone the implementation of legally binding emission standards, offers good reasons to single out [Eskom].” 

This is the Public Eye Award’s assessment team’s response to GroundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and Greenpeace Africa’s nomination for the worst corporation in the international Public Eye Awards 2013. In the year ending March 2013, the company made 128.8 billion South African rands, testament to the fact that it holds a 95% monopoly of energy production in the country and about 45% on the continent. Approximately, 90% of the country’s electricity is generated through coal-fired power stations, an energy source whose entire life-cycle has serious impacts on people’s health and is known as one of the largest contributors to climate change. 

Enshrined in Section 24 of the South African Constitution (1994), people are given the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being. The three environmental justice organisations nominated the company on the basis that while many of its 18 coal-fired power stations are in areas already out of...

On Saturday 11th January the Ministry of Environment and Forests finally gave its statement formally rejecting permission for Vedanta’s Niyamgiri mine. In late December another major disaster hit the company when low share prices got them officially demoted from the FTSE 100 to the FTSE 250, removing their ‘blue chip’ status.

The failure of the Niyamgiri bauxite mining project is estimated by some to have cost Vedanta $10 billion in lost investments. Vedanta boss Anil Agarwal had built the Lanjigarh refinery at the foot of Niyamgiri mountain, and even expanded it sixfold, so sure was he that he would gain permission to mine despite the local inhabitants’ dissent. In November 2004 he even used a Financial Times article to mislead investors and create confidence, by claiming that he already had permission to mine the mountain.



Agarwal is now trying to keep his investors happy by claiming he will get bauxite to keep his refinery alive...

 

A guest blog from Platform's Sarah Shoraka.

It’s the middle of the night but I can’t sleep. It’s quiet apart from the dull hum of the aeroplane engine and the erratic, staccato snoring of the man next to me. There’s no need to put on one of the films. It’s the pictures in my mind that are keeping me awake. I see a bus packed impossibly tight with people, its doors open practically spewing with bodies, its horns blaring, as it rides at top speed as if possessed, through throngs of people in the hot Port Harcourt night. I see the fires blazing in the streets, the dancing and the view as I turned to look back from the procession we led. I couldn’t tell where the people ended and the sky began. I try to make sense of it in my head as we fly over Africa, bound for London. 

This November 10th marked the 18th anniversary of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the rest of the Ogoni 9’s execution for standing up to Shell in the Niger Delta. It could not have been more appropriate that this day was also a day of action against oil as part of the...

You couldn’t make it up. Three years ago (conveniently just as we launched our food speculation campaign), hedge fund Armajaro caused a massive spike in cocoa prices

In an event that has become the poster child of the excessive and profiteering food speculation we’ve been challenging with our campaign, the trader took control of virtually the entire European cocoa market by buying up the majority of the cocoa futures contracts on the London exchange. With chocolate makers and the like still needing a supply of the beans, prices hit a 33-year high and other traders threatened to leave the market if it wasn’t better regulated.

Cocoa beans

Cocoa beans. Credit: flickr.com/carsten_tb

The incident not only exposed how speculators can push up prices, causing major problems for everyone else, but also how existing ‘regulation’ of the commodity markets was a total joke: in theory, the exchange should have intervened to prevent trades of this size taking place, but in practice they did...

Nature is up for sale! If you’re quick you might just get a good price on a piece of Scottish wilderness, as the World Development has listed Loch Ness for sale on the auction site eBay. We also tried to sell Ben Nevis, but for some reason eBay removed the listing. If you miss the auction, not to worry, just head down to the World Forum on Natural Capital taking place this week in Edinburgh. At this UN-hosted conference, governments, corporations and some conservationists are continuing their discussions on putting a price on nature.

With twin global crises – environmental and economic – there is fierce debate over how to tackle both these problems. The approach being pushed by this conference will contribute to deepening the environmental and economic crises.

Let’s take these in turn. First, the environment - the life source that we all depend upon for our existence, and that we should have equal rights to and responsibilities over – is in crisis. We have witnessed this in a horrifying way with the extreme weather in the Philippines this month, and we see it on a daily basis as more...

Live coverage from the World Forum on Natural Capital in Edinburgh

Today Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will address a climate conference like none before in Warsaw.

The delegates won’t come from countries like Bangladesh, 16 per cent of whose territory could be underwater as a result of rising sea levels, nor from countries like Kiribati, which may completely be wiped off the map. 

Instead, as Figueres surveys her audience, she will be looking at some of the world’s most destructive companies, because the delegations at the International Coal and Climate Conference will be from the world’s biggest coal firms. Anglo American, Eskom, Glencore-Xstrata, BHP Billiton and many others will be attending to extoll the benefits of the ‘clean coal’ that is condemning millions across the global south to the devastating effects of climate change.

 

                                                                   
...

Picture this. You’re standing on the north side of the Millennium Bridge (the ‘wobbly’ footbridge) in London, looking south.  To your left towers the Shard, in front of you is the Tate, to your right are the Houses of Parliament and the Shell Centre and behind you is the City of London.  

And then, the stories begin. Traditional tales of the people of the arctic from Siberia to Canada, from Alaska to Greenland, tales of polar bears and narwhals, caribou and whales, elks and geese. There are tales of animals helping people, people turning into animals, women marrying animals, people learning to live in balance with nature. 

And other stories too. Stories of the ways in which the City of London is driving climate change through providing finance for fossil fuel companies, stories of fossil fuel funding of the arts and stories of resistance and protest- be it the Greenpeace activists climbing the Shard to protest against arctic drilling, the Reclaim Tate actions against BP’s sponsorship of the Tate gallery, the Occupy London camp of 2011 or the Climate Camp occupation of Bishopsgate when the G20 was in town.

I am a storyteller with Gearshift Theatre and climate activist and will be joining others – including Richard Solly, Co-ordinator of the...

I work with social movements and organisations empowering communities impacted by oil extraction in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. For over 50 years, billions of dollars of oil revenues have been extracted from the Niger Delta, yet local people live in abject poverty. Oil spills are a daily occurrence, ravaging farmland and killing fish that village communities depend on for their survival. Toxic gas-flaring occurs with impunity. 

Shell is the most active oil major in the region, contributing to this legacy of human rights violations, environmental devastation and social conflict.  2 years ago, a detailed UNEP report concluded that...

Last week I was delighted to hear that the European Development Bank is to stop financing coal fired power stations, in order to help Europe reduce pollution and meet its climate targets.  The decision followed an earlier statement from the World Bank that in the future it will fund new coal plants only “in rare circumstances”.

Concern about climate change and the need for alternative energy sources has caused these two global banking institutions to think twice about funding coal, which is the dirtiest of all the so–called ‘conventional’ fossil fuels. Could our own high street banks and pension funds follow their lead and pull out of investment in coal?

Longannet coal fired power station in Scotland

When I first joined the World Development Movement four years ago, we were campaigning to stop the ‘new coal rush’ of planned coal-fired power stations across Britain. After a gap of 20 years, the UK governments wanted to build new coal plants – and to hell with any climate targets...

African farmers’ movements and civil society groups have rejected the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition as part of a “new wave of colonialism” targeting their food systems for corporate profit.

The warning comes in a statement sent to G8 leaders today (3 June 2013) in advance of the ‘hunger summit’ to be hosted by David Cameron in London on 8 June, which will include a meeting of the New Alliance.

United Nations Photo

The New Alliance was launched by the G8 in May 2012 as a private sector investment platform for multinational corporations seeking to penetrate agricultural markets in Africa. Six African governments have already signed up to the initiative, with four more expected to join at the London hunger summit this week.

The African civil society statement notes: “Africa is seen as a possible new frontier to make profits, with an eye on land, food and biofuels in particular.” It notes that “blatant land grabs” backed by G8 powers such as the...

The World Development Movement recently hosted Tatiana Roa Avendaño, an activist resisting the Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia. Watch the video below to see what she said about Cerrejón when she visited Anglo American's headquarters.

Cerrejón is a giant open-pit coal mine in La Guajira, northern Colombia. The mine is jointly owned by three of the world's largest mining companies; London-listed Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata. Tatiana told us about how the Colombian government has presented Cerrejón as an example of responsible mining. However this is far from the truth. The Cerrejón mine is located in Wayúu indigenous territory and when mining began 30 years ago local people were not consulted. Instead their lands were seized and communities were forcibly displaced, violating their constitutional land rights. The Colombian government has failed to adequately compensate any of the affected communities.

Pollution and dust from the coal mine has caused the contamination of...

I can bet that a trip into the depths of the financial heartland of the UK is not on most people’s plans this weekend. Come Saturday morning the square mile is eerily deserted, void of the men in suits shuffling between mysterious glistening buildings. This murky establishment has dominated the capital for hundreds of years, yet the actions and history of the City of London remain largely unearthed in the public consciousness. But with the coalition’s cuts biting into yet another chunk of welfare spending, the link between this institution and the financial crisis is becoming more and more important to explain. This Saturday 6 April, you have the perfect opportunity to find out more!


Outside Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London. Photo courtesy of http://www.MaxColson.com

In a highly commended venture of popular education, a group of ordinary people have set up an educational walking tour in an attempt to open up this secret institution to the full glare of the public. The tour’s main purpose is teach people more about the City of London’s links to the financial crisis in 2008, but also to...

I have spent this week at the World Social Forum in Tunis. It’s been a slightly chaotic week of overrunning schedules, last minute room changes and broken translated equipment, but in spite of some frustrations, it is undeniably an incredible feat of organisation.

Run by a group of activists, with no office or paid staff, the World Social Forum has still succeeded in brining together thousands of activists – some reports say as many as 70,000 – together from around the world to discuss where we’re at in the quest for real solutions to the poverty, inequality and injustice we see in the world today.

The main slogan of the World Social Forum ‘Another World is Possible’ – a slogan made real by movements from the host country Tunisia who overthrew a dictatorship two years ago. People have travelled from across the world to discuss what that looks like, and how to work towards it.

Lidy speaking at Demand Climate Justice campaign assembly at the World Social forum in Tunis
One of the key questions I’ve been focusing on here is around how we should move forward in the struggle with climate justice, given the deepening...

When the Independent referred to FTSE 100 company Vedanta Resources as the world’s most hated company, it wasn’t joking. Two and half years and later, the mining company is still sparking protests on several continents over its human rights abuses and environmentally destructive operations.

Vedanta's mine would destroy the home of the Dongria Kondh. © Lewis Davids/Survival

Most infamously, Vedanta wants to mine for bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills in the Indian state of Odisha, despite the determined resistance of the Dongria Kondh indigenous people who live in the hills. The Dongria, for whom Niyamgiri is sacred, say the mine would destroy their forests and rivers and their way of life.

Vedanta has already built a bauxite refinery at the foot of the Niyamgiri Hills, causing pollution and disease, and taking away the homes of more than one hundred families.

Last week saw anti-Vedanta protests by indigenous people and farmers in Odisha mirrored by demonstrations...

The UK government is yet again undermining grassroots poverty alleviation by channelling UK aid towards huge agribusiness. The Hunger Games, a report recently published by War on Want, criticises the Department for International Development (DfID) for working with the ‘who’s who’ of agrochemical and GM seed companies including Monsanto, Unilever and Syngenta.

In coalition with these companies, DfID is funding dodgy agricultural initiatives such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). This initiative in particular seeks to “trigger a uniquely African green revolution” by promoting networks of GM seed and agrochemical providers to small farmers.

The companies working beneath this banner, posing under a guise of African development, are seeking to extend their reach over emerging markets in countries like Malawi. Monsanto, a company that originally made its money from making chemical weapons but has now switched to agrochemicals, has openly declared its intention to control all of Malawi’s 30,000 tonne seed market. This transition, if it was allowed to happen, would decimate traditional seed markets, and lock local farmers further into a dependency on foreign inputs....

If you overdid it a bit on sweet treats over the festive period, you might have decided to go easy on them for a while. But campaigners in Cambodia are calling for more decisive action as land grabbing for industrial sugarcane plantations has been robbing communities of their land, homes and livelihoods.

Two million hectares - 12 per cent of the country’s landmass – have now been granted to private companies for industrial agriculture, with sugarcane one of the leading crops. At least 75,000 hectares of land have granted to private companies for industrial sugarcane production, with over 12,000 people estimated to have been affected by human rights abuses and environmental damage caused by the companies involved.

When the companies involved have arrived, local people’s homes and harvests have been burned down. The majority of people affected have land-based livelihoods, so the loss of land has pushed families into poverty, leaving them unable to afford school costs or hospital births for their children. The land that has...

… No, not for its white sandy beaches and clear blue water, but for stashing millions in its growing offshore sector.

ShawWellPete/Flickr/WDM

Tax avoidance is a serious problem that is costing governments trillions, with benefits going largely to private companies. These countries, like Mauritius whose tax rate is a negligible 3 per cent, enable multinational companies to siphon profits out of developing countries. According to Nicholas Shaxton, the author of Treasure Islands “tax havens aren’t just about tax; They are about escape – escape from criminal laws, escape from creditors, escape from tax, escape from prudent financial regulation – above all, escape from democratic scrutiny and accountability”.

The campaigning group Global Financial Integrity estimated the "total illicit outflows from the continent across the 39 years at some $1.8 trillion", while...

Last week, WDM climate campaigner Sarah Reader donned a Nick Clegg mask and interrupted the deputy prime minister’s speech to the ‘natural capital summit’ on the sidelines of Rio+20.

Clegg was there to support to the ‘natural capital declaration’, a document drawn up by 37 big financial sector companies to call for the financial valuation of nature and the internalisation of environmental ‘externalities’ (i.e. bringing them into the market).

It seems that Sarah has raised some hackles at the World Bank. On Thursday, the World Bank’s vice president for sustainable development, Rachel Kyte, posted a blog criticising WDM for ‘missing the point’ about valuing nature:

The event had its share of unexpected excitement when a protester, wearing a Clegg mask, interrupted the UK deputy prime minister. She was from World Development Movement. Reading their blog later, I think they are missing the point. We are not talking about "pricing" nature but "valuing" it. By valuing it, you are enabling better economic decisions. For example, if you're a water-scarce country and you...

Guest blog post by Oscar Reyes, writer and activist on climate and energy finance, and associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies

Given how backwards the Rio Summit’s priorities were, it's hardly surprising that negotiations ended before they began. But a slow swarm of black ministerial limousines has crawled across Rio regardless, with Ministers, Presidents and Prime Ministers queuing up to talk the language of sustainability, while mostly advancing corporate interests. It came to a close yesterday with the adoption of a final  declaration called, without hint of irony, "The Future We Want."
The Rio declaration contains 283 paragraphs of blank prose that "reaffirms," "notes," and "acknowledges" a long shopping list of activities, but "commits" to virtually nothing. There is no program of action, figures, dates, targets, nothing at all that locks countries into taking action. It is a political non-event that turgidly regurgitates some of the sustainability-speak of the original Rio conference 20 years ago, with none of its ambition.

Despite that, there are a few straws for optimists to clutch at. The most significant-sounding, from an...

As I write, things inside Rio Centro, where the Rio+20 talks are taking place look bleak. Last Friday, after three long days of ‘preparatory committee’ meetings countries were unable to agree little more than a third of the draft outcome text. The decision was made for the UN to hand responsibility for drafting of a new version of the text to Brazil, as the host country, in the hope of finding a common pathway forward.

On Saturday night, just before midnight, a new Brazilian text was circulated. In an attempt to break the stalemate in the negotiations, and close the gulf between developed countries and the G77 group of 130 developing countries, this text had been dramatically weakened.

Pledges on increasing access to water end energy were watered down, and across the text, any meaningful language had been removed. Words such as “commit” has been largely stripped away and replaced with terms like “voluntary” and “as appropriate” – essentially enabling the statement to sound positive whilst in reality, amounting to little obligation for countries to do anything in terms of real action.

On the positive side, this new text has the potential to prevent a massive backtrack on some of the more positive principals of Rio that were agreed twenty years ago. Yet...

I arrived into Rio late last night, and headed straight to the small apartment that is to be home for the next ten days. Sarah, fellow WDMer had landed a few hours before, and already orientated herself around the city and had plenty of information to share. Whilst we are here, Sarah will be spending her days at the People’s Summit coordinating with social movements, participating in actions and discussing alternatives to the false solutions that are being proposed at the official summit, and I will be following what’s going on inside the Rio+20 conference (officially known as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development).

Today, I headed on the long journey to the Rio Centro, where the official summit will take place – typically this is over an hour’s drive from the city centre, a space far from the world of real people of Rio, which can be easily monitored and policed. Arriving at a UN summit is always a dizzying process. Working out the bus routes, negotiating the registration process, and orientating yourself around a massive, overbearing and stuffy conference space – in this case a huge airport-style hanger designed for 15,000 people – approximately the same population of the town where I...

Ahead of the Rio+20 summit, Asian social movements have put together this statement on the fake Green Economy being pushed at the talks. It also outlines what they will be calling for at the summit.


Fight for Our Future! No Price on Nature!
 
We are movements and organizations from Asia, waging struggles on various fronts and arenas to defend our rights, resist policies and projects that cause harm and destruction, and to fight for immediate priorities and demands, as well as profound transformation of our societies.
 
We envision a social and economic system:

  • that is aimed at providing for the needs of people and aspirations for a humane, empowering and liberating life in a manner that respects the earth’s capacity to regenerate, and to sustain life based on the integrity of natural systems;
  • that is based on and promotes equity, parity, solidarity and mutual respect among people and nations regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, culture, capabilities and class;
  • that promotes sharing of land, water, forests, atmosphere, eco-systems and territories  based on the principles of stewardship and not private ownership, and the rights of all people to equitable and responsible...

In yesterday’s Scottish Parliament debate on Rio+20, WDM’s call for a ‘real green economy not a Trojan horse for bankers’ was reiterated by Green MSP Alison Johnstone.  Here, in her blog, she includes some extracts from her speech in the chamber.

Alison says:  In a few weeks’ time the Rio earth summit on sustainable development takes place with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups coming together to tackle poverty, inequality and environmental protection.

During yesterday's debate on Rio+20 in the Scottish Parliament, I summed up my thoughts and the Scottish Green's perspective on the summit:

Alison Johnstone MSP"The first Rio earth summit was a milestone in global environmental talks. In comparison with recent climate talks, the agreements made at Rio were extensive. Rio established the term “sustainable development” in the political vocabulary. The Rio declaration defined the polluter-pays principle and the precautionary principle, and recognised that women and indigenous peoples have vital roles to play in creating solutions to...

Author Tim Gee will be speaking at our Scottish campaigner convention on the 19th May. Here he talks to WDM Scotland about his new book on the history of social movements across the globe - Counterpower: Making Change Happen - and how history has shaped his own global justice campaigning.

WDM: Your book ‘Counterpower’ looks at how social justice movements across the world and across history have won change using ‘people power’. As global justice campaigners, what can we learn from history?

TG: I find history most useful for myth-busting. Specifically it shows us that policy-making is not a process whereby wise elites find the best solution for the most people. On the whole government policy is a reflection of the balance of power in society. From that we can learn that simply designing good ideas and communicating them to those in power isn’t enough. Real transformational change comes when the interests of elites are challenged, and when the movement has the capability to remove the power of regimes altogether.

WDM: What are the...

Guest blog by Teresa Anderson, the Gaia Foundation

The issue of land grabbing has itself grabbed headlines recently.  Biofuels, so-called agricultural investors, and commodity speculators buying up land have all been criticised for driving a wave of land grabbing and ecosystem destruction in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The resulting rise in food prices, and the reduced access to land, livelihood and home, means that the world’s poorest are hardest hit.

But in addition to these recognised trends, the Gaia Foundation is calling the alert on another major cause of global land grabbing: mining. Our recent report “Opening Pandora’s Box” signals a wake-up call that the scale, expansion and acceleration of the mining industry today are far greater than most of us realise. We are no longer talking about isolated pockets of destruction and pollution. New lands and communities, new ecosystems and virgin territories, new depths of earth and sea: all are now fair game for the expanding mining industry.

The extractive industries have grown significantly in the last 10 years, due to changes in consumption patterns, and a throwaway culture where regular technology...

Whilst rich countries are responsible for most of the emissions pumped into the atmosphere it is the poorest communities in the world that are being hit the hardest by climate change. But rather than providing compensation for causing climate change rich countries are using it to trap the world’s poor into new and dangerous climate debt. WDM is campaigning for climate justice for developing countries.

What is WDM doing?

Change the politics, not the climateWe want to ensure that the UK pays its climate debt instead of locking poor countries into further unjust debt by providing loans to help deal with climate change.

Read more

UPDATE: Bettina has now been released. However, she still faces the charges. We have updated the information below, so please write to the contacts listed below challenging these charges. We have suggested some points you could make.

I have just heard news through friends in Mexico that Bettina Cruz Velázquez, an indigenous Mexican activist who WDM has been campaigning with, has been arrested. The information available suggests that she is the target of unfounded charges and detention as a way to deter her from her campaigning to defend the rights of indigenous people over the interests of multinational corporations. Please read on to find out what has happened, and how you can take action to support Bettina.

 

...

The Tax Justice Network has launched a new 15 minute monthly podcast service with the latest news, research and analysis of events in tax evasion, tax avoidance and the shadow banking system. TAXCAST producer Naomi Fowler explains why it's so important.

Despite plain evidence to the contrary, there's a disturbing consensus among our politicians that austerity is the only way to go. And that 'austerity-or-broke' agenda has been comprehensively absorbed and regurgitated by the mainstream media, with a few honourable exceptions. Since opposition to this 'Austerity Age' comes largely from outside the Westminster bubble, it gets the occasional brief mention and it's framed as quirky, naive and purely anti-capitalist in nature.

I'm pretty sure research would show that the BBC rarely uses the words 'Occupy movement' without prefacing it with 'anti-capitalist.' Some in Occupy are indeed anti-capitalist but there's also a strong body of opinion within Occupy that wants to reform a financial system that's clearly broken and clearly corrupt. As the recent Occupy Economics Working Group article in the Financial Times shows,...

Guest post by Yann Louvel, Climate and Energy Campaigner, BankTrack.

Private banks are the first to claim to fight climate change - but do they put their money where their mouth is? That’s exactly what we, a group of NGOs (the german Urgewald, the South African's Groundwork, Earth Life and the international network BankTrack decided to look for last year, analyzing the investments of the world’s largest banks in the coal industry, the major culprit in the drama of climate change. And the answer to that question is… NO.

The report which presents the results of the study, Bankrolling Climate Change : A look into the Portfolios of the World’s Largest Banks, was launched last November in Durban during the UN climate negotiations, and the results are outstanding. We examined the portfolios of 93 of the world’s leading banks and looked into their support for 31 major coal-mining companies and 40 producers of coal-fired electricity, the biggest source of man-made CO2 emissions. And...

Yesterday David Cameron took the stage in Davos yesterday to push his outdated agenda of deregulation, liberalisation and slashing of workers right as the solution to the world’s problems, to the applause of the gathered representatives of the world’s 1 per cent. Meanwhile, the Transnational Institute published a set of infographics that tell a completely different story. 

They show extreme wealth and income disparities with 0.001% of the world’s population, or just 10.9 million individuals, controlling two-thirds of the worlds GDP, while 2.5 billion people survive on less than $2 a day. The wealth they control, $47.2 trillion, could pay for climate change adaptation costs for the next 190 years or clean water for the world’s people for the next 1,423 years. 

They show the close ties between the corporate and political elites, with the architects of neoliberal globalisation like Alan Greenspan, Tony Blair, Dick Cheney and Larry Summers sitting on the boards of giant corporations such as JP Morgan, Deutshe Bank and Haliburton. And they show that tax evasion costs 145 countries $3.1 trillion annually, enough to fund full immunisations for 120 million children. 

These facts...

Guest post by James Angel, used to be campaigns intern

Because of its role as Britain’s biggest player in food speculation, Barclays has earned itself a place in the shortlist for the 2012 Public Eye ‘shame award’. Barclays makes up to an estimated £340 million a year from betting on food prices. In doing so, it is profiting from hunger and poverty. Research by WDM has exposed the role of financial speculation on food futures markets in pushing up food prices, leaving the world’s poorest people unable to afford to eat.

But despite Barclays’ clear irresponsibility, it will have its work cut out in reaching the top spot in the ‘shame awards’ as it faces very tough competition. Barclays is one of six shortlisted corporations and a good case can be made in favour of any of these taking home the award, which will be given by an expert jury to the corporation with the most deplorable practices.

Barclays’ rivals include:

Freeport, a US mining corporation that has, for 45 years,...

Alongside the UN climate talks that took place earlier this month, Durban’s KZN university hosted a ‘people’s space’: an alternative space where people could come together to talk about the struggle for climate justice. Bringing together activists from across the world, the space saw some fascinating exchanges, where people shared what climate justice means in the context of their own lives, and the complicated web of systemic issues that need to be tackled on the pathway for climate justice.

Whilst the mantra for many concerned citizens in the UK is to reduce energy consumption, a key demand for activists is for their right to energy access to
be met. This was one of the key issues under discussion at the people's space.

In South Africa, and across the continent, energy access is a
vital part of the struggle for climate justice. The statistics remain shocking: in Durban, nearly three-quarters of the population have no access to energy. In rural Africa, that figure is a phenomenal ninety-four percent of people who have no access to the energy they need to drill for water, power hospitals, and cook food. Yet, in a twisted misfortune of geography, Africa is warming faster than the rest of the planet, and its people are already experiencing more crop...

At 3pm today, on the final day of the UN climate talks, I joined hundreds of people to occupy the conference centre where the final plenary talks were taking place.

Here are some videos telling the story of what happened.

People sang together as they moved towards the entrance of the plenary:

...


Kirsty Wright, Climate justice campaigner writes from Durban

Alongside the UN climate talks, over the past two weeks, Durban’ KZN university has hosted a ‘people’s space’, an alternative space where people could come together to talk about the struggle for climate justice. Bringing together activists from across the world, the space has seen some fascinating exchanges, where people have shared what climate justice means in the context of their own lives, and to take on the complicated web of systemic issues that need to be tackled on the pathway for climate justice.

Whilst the mantra for many concerned citizens in the UK is to reduce energy consumption, a key demand for activists is for their right to energy access to be met. Here in South Africa, and across the continent, energy access is a vital part of struggle for climate justice. The statistics remain shocking: in urban Africa nearly three-quarters of the population have no access to energy. In rural Africa, that figure is a phenomenal ninety-four percent of people who have no access to the energy they need to drill for water, power hospitals, and cook food. Yet, in a twisted misfortune of geography, Africa is warming faster than the rest of the planet, and its people are already experiencing...

On, the penultimate day of the Durban climate talks, I joined other climate justice allies at what became one of COP17’s most theatrical press conferences yet. Organised by the Climate Justice Now coalition, allies from across the world took this opportunity to give their analysis of the conference so far, making it clear they felt ignored by the governments who are supposed to represent them. Des D’Sa from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance gave a damning description of how the talks have failed the people of the world: “There have been discussions taking place in closed doors by those in power, who have colleagues in the corporate world and the decisions are not in the interests of mankind.”

...

Guest post by Innocent Sithole, used to be web intern

Our new report, Power to the people? reveals how the World Bank is diverting climate funds from communities to multinational corporations. Instead of giving energy poor people access to much needed electricity in Mexico, the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund (CTF) is powering big business and potentially adding to the country’s energy inequalities.

The CTF’s flagship project in Mexico, the La Mata and La Ventosa Wind Park in the state of Oaxaca, is set to produce 67.5 MW per year, enough to power 160,000 homes in a state where around 7 per cent of the population lack access to electricity. But in an arrangement that exposes the project’s unfair focus on big business rather than poor people, none of this electricity will power homes of local people. Instead it will be sold at a discounted rate to Walmart, the world’s largest corporation.

The wind park is 99 per cent controlled by a subsidiary of the French energy giant EDF. However, by owning a tiny stake in the wind park, Walmart has been able to circumvent Mexico’s energy laws and officially claim that it has produced the...

A new climate change finance package, announced today by Chris Huhne, will push up developing countries’ debt, say campaigners from the World Development Movement.

At least £235 million of the money announced today by UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne will be in the form of loans rather than grants, going through World Bank climate lending programmes that have already pushed some of the world’s poorest countries deeper into debt. 

£150 million, the largest part of today’s announcement, will go to the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund. UK money previously given to this fund helped finance private sector projects including a wind farm in Mexico which violates the rights of indigenous people and does not increase energy access, instead selling all of its electricity at a discounted rate to US multinational Walmart.

But campaigners welcomed the announcement that £10 million would be given to the UN Adaptation Fund, to directly help people in developing countries cope with the effects of climate change. The UK has until now given no money to the UN fund, which is threatened with closure if contributions from developed countries do not increase...

As campaigners focusing on climate justice, we tend to think wind energy is a good thing. And so it can be – but not when it robs indigenous people of their land. 

Last year, the World Development Movement’s climate campaigner Kirsty Wright went to the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, and met indigenous activist Bettina Cruz Velazquez. Bettina told Kirsty how wind farms run by multinational corporations are being built without the consent of the indigenous people who own the land.

In October, Bettina and others were attacked and received death threats during a protest against one of the wind farms. Amnesty is concerned that the death of a man in unclear circumstances during the protest is being used to ‘unfairly prosecute protestors and to deter future protests,’ and it is asking people to write to the Mexican authorities expressing their concern.

Incredibly, one of the other wind farms in the area, also being opposed by local people, is being part financed from the UK’s overseas aid budget. It produces enough electricity to power 160,000 homes. So at the very least, it must be providing energy for the people of Oaxaca, seven...

A report launched today by the World Development Movement reveals that UK climate aid is being used to produce cheap electricity for the US multinational Walmart, through a project that violates the rights of indigenous people in Mexico.

The report, ‘Power to the people?’, details how money taken from the UK aid budget has been used by the World Bank to finance wind farms in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, built without the consent of the indigenous people who own the land. The project produces enough electricity to power 160,000 homes, but is instead being sold at a discounted rate to Walmart. The project is 99 per cent controlled by French electricity giant EDF.

The La Mata and La Ventosa wind park is part funded the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund, which receives 14 per cent of its money - or £385 million – from the UK overseas aid budget. The fund’s objectives include poverty reduction, but the wind park has done nothing to increase energy access among the seven per cent of Oaxaca’s population who have no electricity.

Local indigenous woman Bettina Cruz Velazquez told the World Development Movement:

With the pretext of advancing renewable energy, big corporations are occupying our...

It is the eve of the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa. Two years on from the catastrophic talks that took place in Copenhagen; there has been little progress on a global deal on climate change. In fact, as the science demands ever stronger action, with people’s lives becoming increasingly impacted by extreme weather events, disease, failing crops and reduced water supplies as a result of climate change, the same rich industrialised countries that grew wealthy by causing the crisis have only lowered ambition.
 
Inside the talks, the picture looks bleak. Rich industrialised countries are doing their best to destroy the only legally binding framework on emissions reductions that exists, aiming instead to replace it with a voluntary ‘pledge and review’ system which current figures suggest would lead to disastrous global temperature rises of over five degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. Furthermore, there is a strong push to do away with any notion of historical responsibility for the big polluters, now reluctant to either reduce their emissions or pay compensation, as they agreed when the signed up to the UN convention on climate change....

Jubilee Debt Campaign and the World Development Movement will hold a join conference in March 2012 on economic justice.

Click here for the proposed outline of the day.

 

 

WDM campaigned to clean up the bailed-out banks between 2009 and 2011.

Terms and conditions of the bailed out banks

Background

Following the financial crisis of 2008, the UK government used a staggering £45.5 billion of UK taxpayers’ money – the GDP of Kenya and Tanzania combined – to prop up the Royal Bank of Scotland.

RBS used that public money to finance projects and companies that threaten the climate and human rights, such as tar sands extraction in Madagascar and Canada.

WDM campaigned to get the government to rein in the power of RBS and the other bailed-out banks and force them to keep to the highest environmental and human rights standards when investing our money.

Successes

  • After sustained campaigning by WDM, including meetings with RBS group chairman Sir Philip Hampton and other board members, RBS’s 2010 and 2011 sustainability reports for the first time highlighted the issue of tar sands mining. Significantly, they also committed RBS to developing external environmental, social and ethical risk statements and internally implementing similar policies for oil and gas, mining and metals...

Food speculation - banks betting on food prices in financial markets - is a massive issue facing the world today. In the last few years, we have seen two major food price spikes, pushing millions of people into poverty. These food spikes were caused by speculation and could have been prevented through effective regulation. 

At the World Development Movement we are campaigning to stop banks betting on food and causing hunger. To explain the issue we have produced this infographic. Hope you like it. Please let us know what you think in the comments. 

For more information about how financial speculation impacts on food prices, see our Broken markets report

[Click on the image to enlarge it]

Infographic showing how banks cause hunger 

Update 5 October 2011: We have corrected the aid figures and their size relative to banks’ profits from food speculation; they now reflect the latest information.

Gordon Peters, WDM Edinburgh group

Sustainability has become a rather slippery term. In fact looking at donor aid agency agendas it seems as if sustainability is the nice, ecologically well-meaning dressing up of policies which continue to accelerate market penetration of southern livelihoods. They spend more underscoring the capacities of big corporate entities, from Cargill to Cadbury Schweppes and Monsanto, to dictate basic necessities of life from land use and seed provision to indebtedness and consumption. WDM has indeed had some success in trying to get at least one donor - DFID - to think again on water privatisation, but the determination to commodify the very sources of life across the globe, to take away common rights to land, water and even air keeps rolling on.

In the past two to three years I have been in two very different countries, about both of which one hears very little in the discourses of development. One is Paraguay, now governed by a reformist, 'liberation theologist' president, Lugo, whose adminstration is seeking to establish land reform and the means of self-sustainability for the peasant and landless population while the oligarchy which has always [since the Spanish conquest]...

Patrick Bond, director of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society

Judging by what transpired at last week's global climate negotiations in the former West German capital, Bonn, it appears certain that in just over five months time, the South African port city of Durban will host a conference of procrastinators, the 'COP 17' (Conference of Parties), dooming the earth to the frying pan. Further inaction on climate change will leave our city's name as infamous for elite incompetence and political betrayal as is Oslo's in the Middle East.

It also appears certain that Pretoria's alliance with Washington, Beijing, New Delhi and Brasilia, witnessed in the shameful 2009 Copenhagen Accord, will be extended to other saboteurs of the Kyoto Protocol, especially from Ottawa, Tokyo and Moscow, along with Brussels and London carbon traders.

What everyone now predicts is a conference of paralysis. Not only will the Kyoto Protocol be allowed to expire at the end of its first commitment period (2012). Far worse, Durban will primarily be a conference of profiteers, as carbon trading - the privatization of the air, giving rich states and companies the property-right to pollute – is cemented as the foundation of the next decade's...

Adebisi Alimi has been involved in LGBT advocacy in Nigeria for over a decade and started 'The Independent Project', now the strongest gay group in Nigeria. He had to flee his home in Nigeria after a BBC World Service interview meant his life was threatened and now works with Naz project in London as the African MSM sexual health worker.

Horace G. Campbell is professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University where he directs the Africa Initiative. Concerned with issues of conflict resolution, he has been an activist and a scholar for over forty years. His most recent book is Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA.

Jali Fily Cissokho, vocalist and kora player, is regarded as one of the great Senegal griots. His UK appearances have included WOMAD, Glastonbury and Larmer Tree and he has recently worked with A R Rahman, composer of the score for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.

Deborah Doane is director of the World Development Movement an organisation campaigning UK-wide for global justice. She’s on the board of the Fairtrade Foundation and has a long history of campaigning for corporate accountability.

Dele Fatunla...

Download the full timetable here 

Africa from exploitation to resistance

The perception of Africa that many people in the UK have is dominated by starvation, corruption and tribalism. But while Africa is at the sharp end of corporate exploitation, the story of ordinary Africans organising against injustice remains largely untold. This session will explore the African social movements who are writing their own history across the continent.

  • Njoki Njoroge Njehu, Africa Jubilee South
  • Firoze Manji, editor in chief, Pambazuka News
  • Horace Campbell, director of the Africa Initiative, Syracuse University

Africa beyond aid

Most African countries receive more than 10 per cent of their GDP in aid. This creates huge problems, including making governments more accountable to donors than to voters. Would cutting aid make things worse or better? Some big charities are currently campaigning to defend aid spending. This session will consider whether that’s the right priority, and what else we should be doing.

  • Yash Tandon, Ugandan author of Ending Aid Dependence
  • Jonathan...

‘It’s very hard,’ Holly Rakotondralambo told me before the start of last night’s public meeting in London about tar sands mining in Madagascar and Canada. ‘We only have seven people in our organisation. We are like a family.’

Holly in front of a tree

Holly and her little ‘family’ have their work cut out. They’re trying to stop French oil company Total destroying the land and stealing the water supplies of hundreds of thousands of people in Melaky, one of the poorest regions of Madagascar.

As she told the audience last night, Total is already test mining in the area. Yet neither Total nor the government of Madagascar have consulted the local people on whose land the company wants to mine.

Total is receiving corporate finance from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Holly will carry home to Madagascar the words of Sue Deranger, from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Canada, who also spoke at last night’s event. Sue’s community is 252 kilometres downstream from the tar sands mine in Alberta – the largest industrial project on earth. Her people have been devastated by pollution from the tar sands far...

Jeremy Williams, blogger from MakeWealthHistory.org

As a child growing up in Madagascar, I remember the fleet of distinctive cars driven by the American oil workers. They had their own school for the children of AMOCO families. They even had their own supermarket, which we only found out about when the company pulled out. Like the rest of the expatriate community we descended like hawks on the closing down sale, and came home with armfuls of exotic US goods - bacon bits, tubes of cheese and dried French onions.

AMOCO packed up and left Madagascar in 1987 for the same reason that Chevron and Elf left in the 70s. Madagascar's oil just wasn't profitable enough to extract. It was dirty and far away, in a less than stable country with little infrastructure. Oil was selling for $20 a barrel in 1987, and at that price it was uneconomic.

Fast forward 25 years and it's a very different picture. Soaring global demand has pushed the oil price to new highs, and suddenly those marginal oil fields in difficult places look viable. The deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the push for Arctic oil are part of the same phenomenon. We've drunk the good stuff, and now we're fumbling around at...

Since we launched our campaign against food speculation nearly a year ago – then virtually an unknown issue – momentum has been steadily building towards regulation. We’ve had wide-ranging support, including from the British mainstream media, leading academics, former hedge fund managers, the UN special rapporteur on the right of food and the head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. In January over 3,000 people made submissions to a European Commission consultation on the issue. Food speculation and the impact...

Iain Thom, oil-addicted RBS banker

Inside the RBS AGM today members of three Canadian First Nations spoke out against UK public money helping RBS invest in the companies extracting tar sands in Alberta.

A group of campaigners dressed as oil-addicted bankers meanwhile staggered around outside drinking from oil cans and calling on the Government to cure RBS of its oil fossil fuel addiction.

The Canadians successfully went inside to the AGM to ask questions directly to the RBS board to put them under pressure for their investments in tar sands and the devastating effect the industry has on First Nation land. Since the 2008 bailout RBS has raised £5.6 billion in corporate financing to companies involved in Alberta’s tar sands extraction and pipeline development. And there is no let up, in the last year alone RBS have provided finance worth £2.2 billion according to new figures released yesterday by the Rainforest Action Network.

The pressure seems to be getting through. During the AGM the RBS chairman agreed to meet with Jasmine Thomas, Melina Laboucan-Massimo and Clayton Thomas-Muller who...

Press release, 19th April 2011

  • Canadian First Nations representatives to voice opposition in person at RBS AGM
  • New research shows that, since public bail-out in 2008, RBS has raised more than £5.6 billion for companies involved in controversial Canadian tar sands projects, £2.2 billion of which was in the last twelve months

Representatives from some of Canada’s First Nations are today preparing to demand in person that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) stops financing the controversial tar sands industry in Alberta, Canada, at the bank’s AGM today. [1]

The protest comes as new research, published by a coalition of UK and North American NGOs, shows that since being bailed out with public money in 2008, RBS has raised £5.6 billion in corporate financing to companies involved in Alberta’s tar sands extraction and pipeline development, £2.2 billion of which was in the last twelve months. [2]

The First Nations representatives are expected to arrive at the AGM at RBS’s global head quarters in Gogarburn, Edinburgh, at 1pm. They will take into the AGM a photo petition and motions from UK taxpayers angry that the bank is investing their money in tar sands extraction and use the meeting to call on the board to cease financing tar sands...

Following the government bail-out of the banks, public money amounting to billions of pounds has been used to support companies and projects linked to climate change and human rights abuses. For the RBS AGM 2011 we produced a leaflet spoofing their corporate branding with information on RBS investments in tar sands, oil and coal.

Hilary Aked

Why did WDM join the demonstration opposing the government’s sweeping cuts last Saturday? Why should a group which campaigns against global poverty be concerned with the domestic economy, especially when the oversees aid budget has supposedly been ring-fenced?

The fact that the current government is channelling the 0.7% GDP that goes towards oversees aid into counter-terrorism initiatives in only a handful of countries, rather than supporting those most in need might be cause enough to take to the streets.

But the main reason is that we really are ‘all in this together’ – though not in the way Cameron and Osborne mean. Across the world people are fighting against the same economic policies advocated by global elites everywhere, and have been doing so for a long time. It’s vital to make the links between the neoliberal agenda currently being pushed in this country, and the free-market policies which have been forced on the global south for decades.

The same austerity measures which will decimate UK public services in the name of ‘efficiency’ have devastated the lives of the poorest sectors of society in countries around the world. Meanwhile huge multinationals make massive profits as a result of privatisation, deregulation and the...

Iain Thom, Scottish campaigns assistant

Would you let an arms company sponsor National Peace Week? How about the BNP sponsoring International Refugee Day, or Lambert & Butler logos all over a cancer charity fundraising event? These (imaginary) examples seem far-fetched, but they’re no less strange than a climate action week sponsored by a coal-burning energy corporation, an oil-hungry supermarket giant and the UK’s biggest financier of fossil fuel projects. Welcome to the strange, topsy-turvy world of Climate Week."

 - Danny Chivers author of the 'No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change' writing for The Ecologist.

You might have noticed this week is Climate Week, a showcase of Britain’s ambition and confidence to...

On the front page of the Sunday Times this morning you will see the headline ‘Euro MPs exposed in ‘cash-for-laws’ scandal’ (£). Journalists from the respected Insight investigative team have posed as financial lobbyists and have approached MEPs offering them large sums of money in return for watering down banking reform legislation.

Three MEPs took the bait and were employed by the fake lobbying company on a yearly salary of €100,000. One of those was 56 year old former Romanian deputy prime minister, Adrian Severin, who apparently emailed the journalists posing as lobbyists writing “Just to let you know that the amendment desired by you has been tabled in due time”. He then sent an invoice for €12,000.

The other two MEPs caught up in the scandal were Slovenian foreign minister Zoran Thaler, and former Austrian interior minister Ernst Strasser. It is said that Ernst additionally boasted about serving at least five commercial clients who each paid him €100,000 per year.

These are pretty shocking revelations. But the most telling quote in the Sunday Times expose comes from Adrian Severin, “I didn’t do anything that was, let’s say, illegal or against any normal...

Zahra Moloo

Listen to Zahra's interviews over at the Pambazuka News website 

The mood at the closing of the World Social Forum at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar was euphoric as speakers paid tribute to the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and held a moment of silence for those killed in the demonstrations. But the World Social Forum, a convergence of an estimated 75 000 activists, journalists, academics, trade unionists and NGOs, now in its 11th year, has left many participants speculating on what was achieved in the 5 chaotic days of workshops and meetings in Dakar. 

Does the World Social Forum, an initiative born of the alter-globalization movement and proclaiming to be a dynamic, non-governmental and non-partisan forum engaged in working towards a more democratic and fair world, actually achieve much in concrete terms? In the last decade of social forums, have real alternatives been articulated and acted upon and do we have a set of solutions to the continued destruction and expropriation of life brought about by neoliberal globalization? Did this forum in Dakar provide strategies to continue the fight against capitalism, epitomized by its rival conference,...

Sharon Jordan

Tony Benn and Michael Moore in one day! What a treat (well for me anyway), and what better way to celebrate my birthday!

It was the screening of Michael Moore's 'Capitalism: a love story' with a discussion led by Tony Benn afterwards. I'm sure we're all familiar with Moore's message about the disastrous impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans as democratic processes are sidelined. As we are always told, Britain is about 10 years behind America so it was sobering to watch the effects of America's equivalent of the ‘Big Society' in full bloom as we see, what comparatively look like the first buds appearing in the UK as the government pushes through its cuts agenda. Even more sobering to think how much more of an impact the neo-liberal agenda driving the cuts has on people when the west forces it on poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The fact that since that film was made there has been a change in government is remarkable considering the stranglehold the old boys network has over the US. Yes there are still problems, but to have a president in power that talks about fighting, rather than going to bed with the banks shows just how far things have changed from just a few years ago when Goldman Sachs...

Catherine Negus, used to be Campaigns Assistant

Today marks the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight 2011, a celebration of the most widely-recognised ethical label. Fairtrade sales broke the £1 billion mark last year, showing that even during a recession, many consumers still consider the impact of their buying decisions.

However, there’s a very long way to go before all trade is fair, and it’s unlikely that schemes like Fairtrade can bring this about by themselves. Part of their strength is that by using market solutions and focusing on changing public attitudes, they do not alienate anyone. But this approach is also a weakness. The need for Fairtrade schemes is a clear sign that the current global economic system only makes the rich richer.

Commercial giants

The monopolies of huge companies like Cargill, ConAgra and Unilever and of the supermarkets keep selling prices low at the expense of producers. This keeps farmers in the global south working for survival, with little chance of building up their own economies. Often small farmers, who can be very efficient at producing food and protecting the environment, cannot survive.

Fairtrade supports the income of its producers in the global south, and, says Deborah Doane, WDM’...

Eddy Richards, Global Connect Project Officer

In an online debate in July last year a respected economist, Mr Homi Kharas, rebuts claims that because most small farmers in the developing world are net buyers of food they will lose from higher prices. "That is a static argument. It does not incorporate the supply response that would surely follow."

Now I don't propose to look at this particular issue, interesting and important as it is. What I am concerned about is the underlying attitude economists often seem to display in this type of debate. They look at the (theoretical ) economic response - in this case that growing more food is incentivised - as if that is the be all and end all, without apparently considering what happens in between times. Maybe an analogy would help.

When you get into a bath the water level will rise, depending on your mass and volume. However, if you lower yourself in gradually the change is slow and smooth; whereas if you leap in, the water splashes around, your rubber ducks are...

Several civil society organizations focused on climate justice have compiled a set of briefing papers to help government delegates, advocates, journalists and members of the public understand various topics being discussed at the climate change negotiations and their real world impacts.

The goal of the briefs is to connect some of the ideas and energy of the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia (April 2010) with issues on the table at the UN climate talks. Please feel free to use these as a resource and to distribute them further. We hope you find them useful.

Links to the briefing papers follow, please note that these materials have been produced by a number of different organisations listed in full on each brief, but the content of each is not endorsed by all the contributors

The “shared vision for long-term cooperative action” in climate change negotiations should not be reduced to defining the limit on temperature increases and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but must also incorporate in a balanced and integral manner measures regarding capacity building, production and consumption patterns, and other essential factors such as the acknowledging of the Rights...

Several civil society organizations focused on climate justice have compiled a set of briefing papers to help government delegates, advocates, journalists and members of the public understand various topics being discussed at the climate change negotiations and their real world impacts.

The goal of the briefs is to connect some of the ideas and energy of the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia (April 2010) with issues on the table at the UN climate talks. Please feel free to use these as a resource and to distribute them further. We hope you find them useful.

Links to the briefing papers follow, please note that these materials have been produced by a number of different organisations listed in full on each brief, but the content of each is not endorsed by all the contributors

A wealthy minority of the world’s countries and corporations are the principal cause of climate change; its adverse effects fall first and foremost on the majority that is poor. This basic and undeniable truth forms the foundation of the global climate justice movement.

 

Over 100 European and international organisations are calling on the G20 Finance Ministers, who are meeting this weekend, to rein in speculation on food prices by banks, hedge funds and pension funds.

The Finance Ministers will be discussing responses to the record food prices which are at ‘dangerous’ levels according to the World Bank with 44 million more people pushed into poverty since last June. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, currently the head of the G20, is pushing for tighter regulation of commodity markets in order to reduce food price spikes and volatility.

But there are concerns that some governments, including the UK, could try to block reforms in the EU and G20 due to fierce opposition from the banking industry. Strong statements have been made by key EU decision makers, including Commissioner Michel Barnier and the French Government, on curbing speculation, but it remains to be seen whether European financial reforms will deliver.

In a statement signed by the Fairtrade Foundation, Friends of the Earth Europe, New Economics Foundation, Corporate Europe Observatory and over a hundred more groups from around the world, political leaders are warned...

As an anti-cuts campaigner in the UK fighting rises in tuition fees or corporate tax dodging or the closure of a local library or redundancies at a city council or (hopefully) all of the above, it wouldn’t be surprising if you have been so busy over the last few weeks that events in Tunisia have passed you by. And now that media coverage of the protests is more prominent, it still may fail to immediately resonate as your fight too.

The historical and political context of the series of protests over food prices and unemployment in Algeria, Sudan, Jordan, and the overthrow of the Tunisian president on Friday, is vastly different to the UK. But the fight to resist the dominance of neoliberalism and its iniquitous effects is a thread that ties together protests over library closures in Liverpool and rising food prices and unemployment in Jordan.

In Tunisia, protests were triggered by unrest in Algeria, food prices, unemployment and Mohammad Bouazizi, a 26 year old unemployed graduate, who set himself on fire in December after the police stopped him from making a living by selling vegetables because he didn’t have a permit.

The military responded by beating, torturing...

Kate Blagogevic, WDM media officer writng from Oaxaca, Mexico. 

Earlier this week, we met Oliver in the Universidad de la Tierra. It’s a small organisation of 7 academics who are working to provide alternative analysis, education and solutions to those being pushed by governments and the powers that lie behind the dominant system of corporate globalisation.

It was founded a decade ago in Oaxaca, a city with has a history imbued with a fight for autonomy from state and corporate power. The university offers exchanges for foreign students to open their eyes to the political and economic struggles at play in Mexico; and apprenticeships to people from surrounding communities; including midwifery, environmental management and computer science. The ethos behind this is to teach practical skills that can be put to use in communities to avoid the ‘brain drain’ from rural to urban areas and provide an alternative to the dominant education system where learning is so often directed purely towards functioning within the capitalist system that so often fails the people who try to be a part of it.

Unitierra are involved in a huge range of practical community projects helping to create a pathway towards a more...

Martin Bowman, campaigns and policy intern

2010 is surely the year of the octopus, if controversially. The death threats that were sent to Paul the psychic octopus have shown the capacity of our bulbous eight-legged friends to galvanize public opinion. If harmless football score predictions fuelled such anger, let us hope that Paul was just a warm-up act for this next aquatic provocateur. Enter: the Giant Vampire Squid.

Being compared to a Giant Vampire Squid is not particularly desirable, but it’s probably another insult to add to the pile for investment banks like Goldman Sachs. The name was first given to them by the journalist Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, saying that investment banks are like: “a giant vampire squid wrapped round the face of humanity”. The new economics foundation (nef), backed by a variety of groups including Compass and the Post Bank campaign, have picked up this neat little metaphor, and made it the basis of their fantastic new video, which I urge you to watch and shout / facebook / tweet to the hills:

...

Rich countries and corporations have grown wealthy through a model of development that has pushed the planet to the brink of climate catastrophe. They have over-used the planet’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide. Drastic measures now have to be taken to prevent runaway climate change, making it impossible for poor countries to grow their economies in the same way.

This is a joing briefing with the Jubilee Debt Campaign.

We sit in anticipation of the full extent of the cuts today. Of course, they’re only the headlines, and one can only guess at how they’ll play out over time. People (on the right) tell us not to worry: they’ll be painful, but necessary.

We’re also told to stop whinging: Look, international development spending is being protected, they say! Aside from the fact that this isn’t really accurate – there’s no new money for climate change for developing countries, for example, and DFID’s budget will be focussed on areas where there is a “security” threat for the UK, meaning its budget will now subsidise cuts in other areas such as defence – it’s the wider trends that leave a very bitter aftertaste.

Globally, we are actually very prosperous – the financial crisis doesn’t really mean that there is less money in the world to spend – it means that we have chosen to prioritise profit for the few over human well-being for the many. Banks are currently preparing £7 billion bonus packages, thirteen times the grants expenditure of Comic Relief, the Disasters Emergency Committee, Oxfam, the British Heart Foundation and MacMillan Cancer Relief put together. Or the total UK aid budget.

The austerity measures being pushed today, and elsewhere in Europe – Ireland,...

In a characteristically brilliant article, George Monbiot today argues that the cuts that George Osborne will announce tomorrow as a result of the comprehensive spending review is a classic example of what Naomi Klein calls disaster capitalism:

In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein shows how disaster capitalism was conceived by the extreme neoliberals at the University of Chicago. These people believed that the public sphere should be eliminated, that business should be free to do as it wants, and almost all tax and social spending should be stopped. They believed that total personal freedom in a completely free market produces a perfect economy and perfect relationships. It was a utopian system as fanatical as any developed by a religious cult. And it was profoundly unpopular. For a long time its only supporters were the heads of multinational corporations and a few wackos in the US government."


Essentially, disaster capitalism works by exploiting a situation when ordinary people are disoriented and confused – a financial crisis, for example – to push through unpopular policies like deregulation,...

Caroline Griffin, Fundraising and communications officer

In July, I went to Kenya to find out how speculation on basic food commodities has affected people’s lives. I've put together a photo gallery which tells the story of gambling on food from the people's perspective.

Many of the photographs are of people I met who had gone without food for days or been forced to sell their few possessions to feed their families. The price of maize, the Kenyan staple food doubled or tripled in a matter of days, causing unnecessary hardship for the fifty per cent of the Kenyan population who already live below the poverty line.

Additional problems such as drought, unemployment and underlying health problems meant that many families reached crisis point when food prices shot up. Some of the people I spoke to are still picking up the pieces after the events of 2008.

But thanks to the World Development Movement, economists, journalists and development experts are now pointing to food speculation as the most significant cause of food crises, including the current food...

Secretive corporate lobbying efforts are being dragged into the open today at the launch of the Worst EU Lobbying Awards 2010 in Brussels. Some of WDM's old and new foes have been nominated for their part in lobbying in Europe to stop progressive change.

In the climate category, supported by: Climate Action Network Europe, Oxfam, World Development Movement. The nominees are:

- BusinessEurope: Nominated for its aggressive lobbying to block effective climate action in the EU while claiming to support action to protect the climate.
- ArcelorMittal: Steel industry fat cat, nominated for lobbying on CO2 cuts under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and profiting from free ETS emission permits.
- RWE: Nominated for claiming to be green while lobbying to keep its dirty coal-and oil-fired power plants open.

In the finance category, supported by: ATTAC Network, World Development Movement.
- Royal Bank of Scotland: Nominated for secretly lobbying in Brussels and for exploiting insider contacts by headhunting former EU Commissioner Günter Verheugen as an advisor
- Goldman Sachs and derivatives lobby group ISDA: Nominated for aggressive lobbying to defend their ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’
- Hedge fund and private equity lobby groups AIMA...

Today, there are many stories about food price rises - hitting poorer people in Mexico and countries in Africa, but delivering fat profits for the likes of contraversial agribusiness, Cargill, which is the world's largest agricultural commodity trader.

In the Daily Mail, climate change is blamed, stemming from academics studing extreme weather events and the impact on food production - they recommended more investment in agriculture and weather resistant crops.

Over at the BBC, they are asking you why you think Africa is still hungry which will culminate in a phone in on World Service this afternoon, should make interesting listening.

And the FT, they highlight that Cargill has made bumper profits because corn prices are at a two year high, that tortilla riots in Mexico in 2006 were a sign of things to come, and that there is a stampede to buy corn because of a reported drop in supply.

With the exception of the...

Since I joined WDM last year, I’ve been thinking a lot about “narrative”. WDM is against injustice; against poverty; against inequality. A quick trawl through our campaigns and you’ll often see us saying “stop” something – stop betting on hunger; stop RBS from spending money on tar sands: stop, stop, stop.

George Monbiot’s article today, which highlights work by Tom Crompton, an advisor at WWF, about framing, is spot on. “It goes against our nature; but the left has to start asserting its own values”. I’ve worked with Tom, and his deep thinking approach to social change has always inspired me, but I’ve never been quite sure what to do with it, until now (clearly I’m not quite as big a thinker as he is).

According to Tom’s research, psychologists have demonstrated that social identity is either based on extrinsic or intrinsic values. People with a strong sense of extrinsic values are focussed on individual self-interest, money, image and traditional notions of “success”, whereas people with more intrinsic values favour relationships, community, family and friends, and...

The progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals is being discussed at a summit in New York. The goals were set in 2000 with a target of meeting them by 2015. Ten years later, it's clear that progress in many areas is slow, espeicially for countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where over half the population continues to live in abject poverty.

Deborah Doane, director of UK based, anti-poverty campaigners, the World Development Movement explains why:
“With only five years to reach the Millennium Development Goals, leaders of rich countries need to get beyond inspirational speeches, and pledging more aid money that never arrives. Heads of State are delivering rhetoric but little else.
 

"They need to address the root causes of poverty that simply aren’t being mentioned: including an unfair trading system, unjust debt burdens and the biggest elephant in the room: climate change. If governments continue to dodge these thorny issues, then ultimately, MDG project will be doomed to failure.”
 

The World Development Movement believes that the lack of progress can be attributed to three central failures by rich countries which are neglecting people in sub-Saharan Africa in particular, but are also failing to address inequality between...

Support our appeal and help us achieve another forty years of campaign success by donating now

Join WDM in celebrating forty years of successfully fighting for justice for the world’s poor. With your help, we have exposed injustice, held corporations to account and stopped harmful government policies; winning lasting change for the world’s poorest people.

From our famous victory in the 1994 Pergau Dam court case, which forced the government to stop conditional aid spending, to spearheading the campaign that led to debt cancellation for many of the world's poorest countries, WDM has always punched above its weight.

WDM campaigners during the historic Pergau Dam campaign

Four decades on, WDM’s work remains vital. Over the last 20 years globalisation has slowed economic progress in many developing countries, benefiting the few while millions still live in poverty. Recently, the financial crisis and rising food prices have driven...



Stop the sell off - find out more