Mittwoch, 18. März 2009

No risky dams - but freedom of expression, please!

It´s the sort of thing I have done many a times. A big international conference. The opening ceremony. Loads of media ... Media ready to cover your story, if you just do something simple: Hold up a sign, unfold a banner. That sort of thing. The UN has gotten pretty used to this type of protest - and thankfully pretty tolerant too! Even at the WTO opening ceremony in Cancun 2003 we were not sanctioned for holding up signs denouncing the WTO´s undemocratice free trade mania (see picture above). So, shame on Turkey for completely overreacting to the banner reading "No Risky Dams" my friend (and neighbour) Ann-Kathrin Schneider unfolded at the opening of the 5th World Water Forum. Ann Kathrin works for International Rivers and her story of being deported from Turkey for this peaceful banner action deserves to be heard:

Montag, 16. März 2009

What we leave our children ...

Last time I checked, UNDP was a long way from being consistently climate-friendly in their statements and actions. But this add (below) is great. Another example of international agencies doing the kind of communication work which was once the preserve of NGOs. Which does, of course, pose the question of what the new role of civil society should be. Read Remi´s thoughts on that here - and please comment!

Donnerstag, 12. März 2009

Victory - No new coal in Berlin ...

Today, finally, Vattenfall spoke publicly.They confirmed what they have already told Berlin´s leaders: There will be no new coal plant in Berlin! They are even planning on finally shutting down one of the old coal plants in Berlin - if only in 2020. Vattenfall seems to have decided to turn Berlin into the place where they green their image. That´s good news for Berlin - though this must only be the beginning of a debate on Berlin´s sustainable energy future. The end of the Berlin plant, achieved by a strong networked local campaign must be the beginning of the end for new coal plants in Germany. Appropriatly, there was a little celebration outside the Rote Rathaus yesterday (see picture). Arguing that coal should only be used for barbecues, tofu sausages were served. Tasty. May there be many more barbecue fests around the country. Here is a map of the 25 plants that still need to be stopped.

Sonntag, 8. März 2009

Männer: Auf zum Frauentag!

Ich wünsche einen schönen Internationalen Frauentag und unterstütze dieses Statement, mit Dank an Jan Philipp Albrecht: "Trotz auf dem Papier überwundener Ungleichheiten zwischen den Geschlechtern verdienen Frauen in der Europäischen Union noch immer im Durchschnitt 16 Prozent weniger als Männer - in Deutschland sind es sogar 23 Prozent weniger. Sei es durch offene Lohndiskriminierung oder auf Grund des Engagements für Familie und Kinder. Diese dramatische Ungleichbehandlung auf Grund des Geschlechts wollen wir nicht länger akzeptieren. Männer dürfen zu dieser Ungerechtigkeit nicht länger schweigen. Deshalb fordern wir alle Männer auf, sich am internationalen Frauentag offen zu einer tatsächlichen Gleichberechtigung zu bekennen und an den Aktionen zum Frauentag teilzunehmen.

Die nach wie vor überwiegend von Frauen - zunehmend aber auch von einigen Männern - geleistete Familienarbeit wird von der Gesellschaft nicht als gleichwertige Leistung anerkannt. Durch Erziehung und gesellschaftliche Vorurteile werden Frauen immer noch in ganz bestimmte, meist schlecht bezahlte Berufsfelder gedrängt, wohingegen den Männern eine einseitige Ernährerrolle aufgezwängt wird. Die notwendige - nicht nur formale sondern tatsächliche - Gleichberechtigung von Mann und Frau kann daher nur mit einem gesellschaftlichen Diskurs einher gehen, der festgefahrene Rollenbilder und Vorurteile aufbricht. Hierzu möchten wir vor allem die Männer ermutigen.”

Freitag, 6. März 2009

Ach wäre die Welt eine Bank ...

Schön und ärgerlich wahr! Details siehe ...

Mittwoch, 4. März 2009

National imperative versus voodoo economics?

Accepting anything called a "national imperative" is not easy for Germans on the Left. Rightly so, given the slaughter and destruction that has been waged in the German nation´s name. Yet, having listened to friends from the South and experienced how the national - at least for a certain phase of the struggle - was (and is) an essential part of the narrative of liberation, I have long become a convert. Living in Scotland when the struggles for a national parliament (for now) succeeded sealed my fate. I have become convinced of the usefulness, at times, of nationalism for the progressive cause. But rarely has someone put the need for national struggle as well as my friend Red does in this piece for the Business Mirror. There could be no starker contrast between making the most of what one has - and the idiotic religion of export-led growth that has been pushed down our throats for the last decades ... Do read on:


So, what do we do now?

For decades we were told not to mind the stink behind the altar, where pale clerics of the market faith congregated and preached the good word. Year after year, behind the burnished marble slab, beneath the old wood cross beams of consumption, black coat and black tie delivered the liturgy of bling and the brass cross, and the sanctity of the system was upheld. Year after year leaders chased away the phantoms of looming crises with ritual new liberalism and the prescribed brand of amen: our economic fundamentals are strong, our fundamentals are strong. Open the gates of the economy, open your heart. Peace be with you; everything is okay. Year after year we believed, happy in our blinkered place in the constellation of dependencies.

Then came 2008, the year the valves that had been holding back the stench finally broke down, when venom too long contained rushed through the veins.

By 2009, the empire of belief had fallen apart and its pallid high priests were issuing regular missals that years ago would have been denounced by the bishops of Washington as satanic edicts.

Nationalization -- not as a question of 'if' but of 'when' and 'where' and how much control, how much ownership, and how long the long-term intent. Re-regulation. Conservation instead of blind extraction. The cosseting of strategic domestic industries. Massive state spending to generate jobs. A green economy. From his prison cell in 1977 the Filipino martyr Ninoy Aquino issued a national call of comparable subversion and pragmatism, but who remembers? "I believe," wrote Aquino, "that basic and strategic industries must be nationalized because it is too dangerous to leave the determination of national needs and priorities in the hands of a few. My primary concern is national interest and the general welfare, not nationalization."

How interesting the turn of events. In 1988 in her book Unequal Alliance, Robin Broad observed the stagnation of world trade and the glut of international markets. Transnational capital was "no longer moving to the Third World," Broad wrote; it had "already turned toward new arenas for short-term rewards at home -- consumer credit, corporate mergers, and the get-rich-quick gimmicks of financial speculation." "As the world economy has become more integrated," Broad remarked, "effective sovereignty across the developing world has waned" while vulnerabilities have multiplied exponentially.

Yet everyone continued to be sold the idea of export-fueled growth, hinged on the magical power of the global bazaar where economic integration was the goal and the idea of "self-reliance" was considered an anachronism. India bought and paid dearly. Between 1997 and 2007, the journalist and Magsaysay awardee P. Sainath tells us, India recorded the "largest wave of suicides in history", which today "stands at a staggering 182,936" -- all of them ruined farmers. "In the next five years after 2001," by the "time India was well down the WTO garden path in agriculture...." wrote Sainath, "one farmer [was taking] his or her life every 30 minutes on average." The horrific figure is probably underestimated, said Sainath, because the countless women farmers who took their own lives are recorded as mere suicide deaths because, though they do the bulk of work in agriculture, they are mere "farmers' wives." According to Sainath, "Those who killed themselves were overwhelmingly cash crop farmers – growers of cotton, coffee, sugarcane, groundnut, pepper, vanilla" while the "largest number of farm suicides [took place] in the state of Maharashtra, home to the Mumbai Stock Exchange and ... to 21 of India’s 51 dollar billionaires." The same Mumbai of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. All too many bought the theology of the holy market and all too readily traded away the rights of their citizens, the fields that once fed their children and the ecosystems that once sustained their very cultures.

In October 1979, a World Bank report counseled the Philippines "to take advantage of the fact that its wages had 'declined significantly relative to those in competing ... countries' such as Hong Kong and South Korea." And of course the Philippine government took advantage, not recognizing that beneath the basement is a cellar, and underneath that is another basement. An ad in the October 16, 1981 issue of Far Eastern Economic Review talked about such architecture: "Sri Lanka challenges you to match the advantages of its Free Trade Zone, against those being offered elsewhere.... Sri Lanka has the lowest labor rates in Asia." In the midst of a global economic conflagration, autarky cannot be a solution. But neither can it be protracted national suicide based on the notion that we can only follow others because we have always had so little, and based on the childish hope that other countries will act in our interest. Almost 47 years ago the revered senator Lorenzo Tañada reminded us of the wealth that we had always possessed but which we all too often ignored in our mad pursuit of alien promises.

"We have accepted without too much thought the oft-repeated characterization of the Philippines as a capital-poor country," said Tañada on March 10, 1962, "and that therefore we must vigorously attract foreign capital if we are to develop our country." We paid him no attention and over the years we kept exporting what we already had. Our capital. The fruits of our soil. Our minerals. Our best and our brightest. Our dignity.

And the hemorrhage continues still.

Dienstag, 3. März 2009

No new coal in Berlin!?

How appropriate ... While thousands protested coal at the Capitol Hill Power Plant, news filtered out that Vattenfall no longer plans a coal fired power station in Berlin. Vattenfall has so far refused to confirm these reports (they are scheduled to meet local politicians next week to present their energy scenario for Berlin ...). But Vattenfall clearly felt the pressure - with groups ranging from the local conservatives to development groups all united in opposing new coal. Friends of mine played a key role (see here and here for examples ...). I can only thank them! If confirmed, this is a huge victory; a huge step forward for the anti coal movement in Germany! Until we have confirmation, though, please continue to show that coal is unnacceptable here ;-). P.S. Schöner Tagesspiegel Kommentar hier.