Seed banks or stethoscopes?
Hard to swallow
Drawing on evidence from the World Bank, the Intemational Labour Organization and the FAO (hardly revolutionary bodies) Harrison concludes ‘the single most important reason why hunger exists where there is enough for everyone is inequality.’
In 1977 the world consumed ten per cent more food than necessary. Yet, according to World Bank estimates, over a fifth of the global family went hungry.
So hunger is not a question of food production — but of distribution and the means to buy it. Yet World Food Day will concentrate mainly on ways to grow more food to stock an already - overflowing pantry. Less than ten per cent of the world’s cereals could provide sufficient nourishment for all the hungry. Yet four times that was fed to cattle between 1975 and 1977. It is not hungry cows that are to blame, but the massive wealth-gap that means some countries pay more to feed their livestock than others can afford for their hungry citizens.
Inequalities within Third World countries add to the problems — how few own how much of the farming land is a reliable barometer of both inequality and hunger (see table). On such a reckoning Latin America is the most scarred of continents, with the wealthiest eight per cent controlling 80 per cent of the farmland.
The obvious injustice of warped ownership patterns is compounded by cheap govemment loans to the big farmers: they are less of a risk, they repay promptly, provide collateral, and can use their contacts to pull strings. And large loans are much less of a headache to the civil servant than all those little dribs and drabs to small-holders. In 1976, a World Bank report in Pakistan found 40 per cent of the farmers cornering 97 per cent of available credit.
The line of least resistance
This summer the World Bank released its first document about minority peoples in developing countries. There are more than 200 million such people living in various parts of the world. And almost everywhere discrimination and disregard for their rights pushes them down among the most under-privileged of the world’s poor.
The Bank has a reputation for ignoring human rights. The release of this report follows a period of severe criticism from anthropologists, activists and increasingly, from tribal people themselves.
Economic Development and Tribal People is full of bold phrases, calling for a ‘moral imperative’ to prevent entire tribes from being ‘sacrificed for a goal of economic development’. The report suggests:
But the rhetoric goes further— castigating the Bank for allowing so many projects to go ahead before the presence of tribal people was even suspected by Bank planners.
However, ignorance was no excuse at the Chico River project in the Philippines. Tribal people whose livelihood was threatened by the project loudly rejected the project at the earliest planning stages in the 1960s.
As a result the plans were quietly shelved — until the declaration of martial law in 1972. Without informing the people, surveys began again. And so did the opposition of native peoples. At one point women disrobed — a traditional way of showing their defencelessness to shame the enemy. They also dismantled the construction camps and dumped the equipment outside the local military headquarters.
The govemment retaliated with arrests, bribery attempts and intimidation. Meanwhile, the Bank withdrew part of their promised loan for the project. Now Bank representatives deny all responsibility for the Chico project. But their involvement continues: the irrigation part of the scheme still receives Bank money. And just 75 kilometres from Chico another $200 million World Bank loan helps build the Magat dam — which will flood the ancestral lands of another 150,000 tribal people.
Out of all this the Bank seems to have leamed one lesson. The report says it is ‘poor planning’ to ignore tribal groups if they actually have the muscle to threaten a project. So far tribal people near the Magat dam have been relatively quiet.
If even a handful of the report’s recommendations were taken seriously a sigh of relief would go up from everyone threatened by World Bank-funded dams, roads, irrigation and forestry projects.
But it will take more than one report to transform the Bank from one of the most unkissable frogs in the international lily pond into a shining prince to champion tribal rights.
Hundreds of protesters rushed torn-down fences and onto a rugby field in New Zealand this August. Standing arms-linked, centre-field, surrounded by police, within an hour they brought about the cancellation of the South African Springboks’ second game in their New Zealand tour.
The anti-apartheid movement began in New Zealand 21 years ago with the ‘No Maoris, no tour’ controversy over whether the country should send an all-white rugby team to South Africa. To exclude Maoris (New Zealand’s aboriginal minority) would lend tacit support to the white regime in South Africa, argued the anti-apartheid group.
The team — all white — went. In 1965, the Springboks (all white) returned the compliment and toured New Zealand. In 1970 the first multi-racial New Zealand team toured South Africa — which bestowed ‘honorary white’ status on the visiting team’s Maori members. But in 1973 the anti-apartheid movement had its first success when Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk cancelled another Springbok tour of New Zealand.
So the current tour — the first to New Zealand for 16 years — is not just a rugby tour. It is more a trial of strength between the anti-apartheid movement and the ‘rugby-at-all-costs, no-politics-in-sport, freedom-of-association and don’t-rock-the-boat’ attitudes of perhaps half the New Zealand population.
This conflict culminated in September with the unprecedented spectacle of anti-apartheid’s light aircraft attack on the final match of the tour. As smoke bombs rained through the air, the election-year theme of ‘law and order’ gained a new significance.
But more than law and order is being challenged, argues Rev. Brian Tumer of the National Council of Churches. The anti-apartheid movement has gathered a cross-section of all ages to walk under its banner. And the growing political awareness of that wide cross-section — not easily pigeon-holed into the usual ‘trendy-lefty’ compartments — poses a bigger, long-term threat. It threatens a government committed to selling New Zealand’s energy resources to the highest bidder.
‘The government is right if it thinks the opposition to it's growth strategy will come from those opposing the Springboks’ tour’, says Rev. Turner. ‘People are growing more aware of the similarity between separate (apartheid) development in South Africa and New Zealand’s energy-intensive growth model.’ Both systems exploit people and places, acquire land and natural resources by force, resettle those that get in the way and result in a widening gap between rich and poor.
But those who challenge Prime Minister Muldon’s conservative government soon feel the chill winds of its displeasure. CORSO, one of the country’s major aid agencies, was stripped of its tax-deductability status two years ago because it pointed out the parallels between the causes of poverty in the Third World and the causes of poverty in New Zealand. So CORSO and similar non-government agencies have been holding back on the rugby tour debate, leaving the midfield to the protests of church and civic leaders.
Ecuador's border sideshow
The news of the President’s death, coming less than 20 months after his inauguration, was seen as merely another disaster for a country already bedevilled by problems since the beginning of the year.
On the 22nd January war broke out between Ecuador and Peru in the remote Condor mountains where an ill-defined border has long been in dispute. At the foot of the mountains lie rich deposits of oil, estimated at between 5,000 and 15,000 million barrels. The Ecuadorian press immediately accused Peru of instigating the border clashes to divert attention from internal economic problems and political unrest. But such an accusation could equally well have been levelled at Ecuador.
After nine years of military and civilian dictatorship, Roldos was the youngest ever freely-elected leader in Latin America when he took office in August 1979. Sixteen months later, with inflation up 15 per cent. Roldos was coming under mounting pressure to rejuvenate the ailing economy, placate an impatient middle class, and reassure the population that they, too, would shortly share in the spoils from Ecuador’s oil exports.
What the war with Peru achieved — through a jingoistic media campaign that reached its zenith in a massive street rally in February — was a breathing space for the Government. It distracted public concern away from its inability to control inflation or dispel gloomy economic forecasts.
On 20th February it was announced that Peru had again attacked border posts in the Condor region. The announcement coincided neatly with a new package of economic measures, including petrol price increases of 200 per cent and bus fare rises of 40 per cent Concerted trade union anger soon came to a head with the one-day General Strike on 13th May.
During the same period, the President’s leftist sympathies for Castro’s Cuba, the insurgents in El Salvador and the Sandinista Government in Nicaragua suffered a serious set-back. Under pressure from within his own party (and probably also from the Reagan administration) he was forced to expel a group of fund-raising guerrillas from El Salvador. And, after Cuban commandos had stormed the Ecuadorian Embassy in Havana to arrest a group of dissidents occupying the building, he reduced relations with Cuba to the level of Commercial Attache.
So, after the news of the plane crash that killed him, it was not unreasonable to suspect sabotage — from the left or the right from Ml9 guerrillas as a repraisal for the capture and return to Colombia of other guerrillas discovered in Ecuador in March; or from restive army generals unconvinced of the feasibility of democracy in a country more familiar with dictatorships.
Vice President Osvaldo Hurtado has not inherited an enviable task. The current glut on world markets has led to a loss in revenue from oil, cocoa and coffee. And the Government’ s failure to stimulate agricultural and industrial production, or to halt the steady drift of campesinos into the already overcrowded cities, has led to an ever deepening depression in the country.
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