"it would be wrong for rich Northern consumers... to block development of these technologies that hold so much promise to help feed the poor", Mark Malloch Brown, head of the UNDP
In item 1 Indian NGOs reject the UNDP report's pro-GM stance and ponder the UNDP's sudden change of direction. Item 2 is relevant to the UNDP report's authors' World Bank background.
1. Pro-Multinational Corporations and Anti-Poor
2. BLOOD SUCKERS: The World Bank's globalization squeeze plan
1. UNDP’s HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2001:
Pro-Multinational Corporations and Anti-Poor
July 9, 2001
The undersigned civil society organisations strongly disagree with the main messages contained in the UNDP Human Development Report 2001. The report taken in its entirety forms an unabashed pat on the back for the hi-tech bandwagon on which a minority of powerful elites are galloping to even greater riches, even more power. The verdict of the report is clear: the hi-tech world of information technology and biotechnology is the savior of millions of poor, starving, desperate people in the "developing" countries.
Such a stark conclusion flies in the face of the conclusions reached by the UNDP itself in its Human Development Reports of 1999 and 2000. Last year’s report, for example, made a strong argument in favour of global policies that are human rights based and favour fundamental rights of the world’s poor and vulnerable to food, housing, health and self-determination to name a few. Apparently, going by the conclusions of the HDR 2001 report, this was a one-off plea. So much for consistency and mainstreaming of human rights and environmental concerns across the UN system!
In brief, we present the following commentary on the main points made by the HDR 2001:
1. Though the HDR admits that modern technologies should not be viewed as "silver bullets" that can by themselves bring meaningful development to people, it nevertheless focuses predominantly on promoting such technologies.
2. It claims that the benefits of such technologies will reach the poor if they are rooted in a "pro-poor development strategy", but does not lay much stress on what such a strategy will need to have.
3. At various points, it talks of how the "savage" inequalities existing in the world could stop the benefits of new technologies reaching the poor, but does not take this further to its logical conclusion: that the realization of the human rights of the underprivileged and oppressed sections of human societies will require economic and social policies that emanate from people themselves, technologies that build on their own capacities and knowledge rather than bringing in alien ones, community and people's control over the natural and economic resources necessary for life and livelihoods, and sincere political decentralisation. Yet, none of these get central focus in the HDR, which is shocking given that the implementation of human rights was the central focus in the HDR 2000 report.
4. Though at times advocating the need to ensure that people have a choice and are not saddled with one global formula, the biases towards only one model of technology are clear in some revealing sentences. It exhorts, for instance, 'developing' countries to take action for "bridging the technological divide and becoming full participants in the modern world". The report advocates that "farmers and firms need to master new technologies developed elsewhere to stay competitive in global markets". In so doing, it completely and amazingly ignores the scores of technological alternatives to hi-tech and biotech that have been developed by people, ordinary people, around the world, including in agriculture, medicine, industry, and energy.
5. Such biases are seen in its advocacy of biotechnology, for instance. It commends Bt cotton technology for reducing the amount of pesticide sprays from 30 (for conventional cotton) to 3, and enabling greater production in countries like China. This completely ignores the fact that hundreds of farmers in India alone, have developed organic cotton production techniques that use no pesticides at all, and yet produce high quantities”¦and in ways that are economically more profitable since input costs are very low. Advocating modern biotechnology by citing a few (dubious) success stories, while ignoring natural and organic agricultural techniques that are being used by thousands of farmers around the world, is a clear case of bias.
6. The report honestly describes the enormous risks associated with genetic engineering, and even suggests that it is wrong to posit only a choice between conventional technologies and biotechnologies, since organic farming is also available.”¦yet does not anywhere even examine, let alone advocate, organic or natural farming technologies.
7. In its advocacy of strong policy measures to contain the risks of the new technologies, and ensure that their benefits reach the poor, the HDR is on strong ground.
Unfortunately, it does not take this analysis far enough, in asking: who will push for these measures? Surely not governments, who have so far ignored them? It will have to be very strong ground-level mobilisation of affected people and communities, truly bottom-up pressure, that would assure such policy changes. Yet the technologies that can facilitate such community empowerment, such as organic farming and decentralised energy sources, are ignored in this report, and the technologies that can only further alienate people, such as complex biotechnology, are pushed! This is double-speak of a sophisticated, but nevertheless transparent, nature.
8. It mentions the need to be "fair" in implementing Intellectual Property Regimes, and even admits that many communities do not favour such regimes at all”¦yet strongly advocates the continuation of universal regimes that will provide protection to formal knowledge systems. It does mention that informal systems exist, that indigenous knowledge systems are found”¦but does not place these at the centre of its recommendations.
9. Its Technology Achievement Index (on which India places a lowly 63), is based entirely on modern technologies developed in the formal sector. This completely ignores the thousands of diffused technological innovations that take place in countries like India.
These conclusions are lent weight by the sugar-coated but clear bias in the HDR towards private capital, corporations, and the profit-motive. Listen to this: "The broader challenge for public, private and non-profit decision-makers is to agree on ways to segment the global market so that key technology products can be sold at low cost in developing countries without destroying markets --- and industry incentives --- in industrial countries". So now, public good has to bend itself to suit private profit!
This year's HDR is a huge, huge disappointment. But what more can one expect from a report, whose only mention of Monsanto Corporation, universally criticised for its unethical and destructive practices, is a citation of its agreement to transfer patented genes to the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute for virus-resistant potato varieties. Never mind how much Monsanto has stolen from countries like Kenya.
Over the last couple of years, the HDR had become a welcome ally of those fighting for greater justice and freedom, for greater equity amongst and within nations and for a greater stress on the implementation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the world’s poor and marginalized. Last year, for instance, it has explicitly highlighted the role of globalisation and global forces, including the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its many agreements, in the violation of basic human rights and ecological sustainability. The 2001 report’s conclusions are a clear and devastating turnaround and indicate the UNDP can no longer be relied upon to stand on the side of the very people from whome it derives its credibility - the disprivileged millions across the world.
q Kalpavriksh, Environmental Action Group, Pune
q Lokayan, Delhi
q Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, New Delhi
q Habitat International Coalition, New Delhi
q Deccan Development Society
q Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defense of Diversity, Hyderabad
q International Group for Grassroots Initiatives, New Delhi.
2. World Bank whistle blower details globalization squeeze plan: One country at a time
Gregory Palast The Observer(UK) 6 June 2001
[UNDP Human Development Report 2001 author, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, previously served the World Bank as an Agricultural Economist. The current head of the UNDP, Mark Malloch Brown, was previously the World Bank's Vice President for External Affairs and its Vice President for United Nations Affairs.]
It was like a scene out of Le Carré: the brilliant agent comes in from the cold and, in hours of debriefing, empties his memory of horrors committed in the name of an ideology gone rotten.
But this was a far bigger catch than some used-up Cold War spy. The former apparatchik was Joseph Stiglitz, ex-chief economist of the World Bank. The new world economic order was his theory come to life.
He was in Washington for the big confab of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. But instead of chairing meetings of ministers and central bankers, he was outside the police cordons.
The World Bank fired Stiglitz two years ago. He was not allowed a quiet retirement: he was excommunicated purely for expressing mild dissent from globalisation World Bank-style.
Here in Washington we conducted exclusive interviews with Stiglitz, for The Observer and Newsnight, about the inside workings of the IMF, the World Bank, and the bank's 51% owner, the US Treasury.
And here, from sources unnamable (not Stiglitz), we obtained a cache of documents marked, 'confidential' and 'restricted'. Stiglitz helped translate one, a 'country assistance strategy'. There's an assistance strategy for every poorer nation, designed, says the World Bank, after careful in-country investigation.
But according to insider Stiglitz, the Bank's 'investigation' involves little more than close inspection of five-star hotels. It concludes with a meeting with a begging finance minister, who is handed a'restructuring agreement' pre-drafted for 'voluntary' signature.
Each nation's economy is analysed, says Stiglitz, then the Bank hands every minister the same four-step programme.
Step One is privatisation. Stiglitz said that rather than objecting to the sell-offs of state industries, some politicians - using the World Bank's demands to silence local critics - happily flogged their electricity and water companies. 'You could see their eyes widen' at the possibility of commissions for shaving a few billion off the sale price.
And the US government knew it, charges Stiglitz, at least in the case of the biggest privatisation of all, the 1995 Russian sell-off. 'The US Treasury view was: "This was great, as we wanted Yeltsin re-elected. We DON'T CARE if corrupt election." '
Stiglitz cannot simply be dismissed as a conspiracy nutter. The man was inside the game - a member of Bill Clinton's cabinet, chairman of the President's council of economic advisers.
Most sick-making for Stiglitz is that the US-backed oligarchs stripped Russia's industrial assets, with the effect that national output was cut nearly in half.
After privatisation, Step Two is capital market liberalisation. In theory this allows investment capital to flow in and out. Unfortunately, as in Indonesia and Brazil, the money often simply flows out.
Stiglitz calls this the 'hot money' cycle. Cash comes in for speculation in real estate and currency, then flees at the first whiff of trouble. A nation's reserves can drain in days.
And when that happens, to seduce speculators into returning a nation's own capital funds, the IMF demands these nations raise interest rates to 30%, 50% and 80%.
'The result was predictable,' said Stiglitz. Higher interest rates demolish property values, savage industrial production and drain national treasuries. At this point, according to Stiglitz, the IMF drags the gasping nation to Step Three: market-based pricing - a fancy term for raising prices on food, water and cooking gas. This leads, predictably, to Step-Three-and-a-Half: what Stiglitz calls 'the IMF riot'.
The IMF riot is painfully predictable. When a nation is, 'down and out, [the IMF] squeezes the last drop of blood out of them. They turn up the heat until, finally, the whole cauldron blows up,' - as when the IMF eliminated food and fuel subsidies for the poor in Indonesia in 1998. Indonesia exploded into riots.
There are other examples - the Bolivian riots over water prices last year and, this February, the riots in Ecuador over the rise in cooking gas prices imposed by the World Bank. You'd almost believe the riot was expected. And it is. What Stiglitz did not know is that Newsnight obtained several documents from inside the World Bank. In one, last year's Interim Country Assistance Strategy for Ecuador, the Bank several times suggests - with cold accuracy - that the plans could be expected to spark 'social unrest'.
That's not surprising. The secret report notes that the plan to make the US dollar Ecuador's currency has pushed 51% of the population below the poverty line.
The IMF riots (and by riots I mean peaceful demonstrations dispersed by bullets, tanks and tear gas) cause new flights of capital and government bankruptcies This economic arson has its bright side - for foreigners, who can then pick off remaining assets at fire sale prices.
A pattern emerges. There are lots of losers but the clear winners seem to be the western banks and US Treasury.
Now we arrive at Step Four: free trade. This is free trade by the rules of the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank, which Stiglitz likens to the Opium Wars. 'That too was about "opening markets",' he said. As in the nineteenth century, Europeans and Americans today are kicking down barriers to sales in Asia, Latin American and Africa while barricading our own markets against the Third World 's agriculture.
In the Opium Wars, the West used military blockades. Today, the World Bank can order a financial blockade, which is just as effective and sometimes just as deadly.
Stiglitz has two concerns about the IMF/World Bank plans. First, he says, because the plans are devised in secrecy and driven by an absolutist ideology, never open for discourse or dissent, they 'undermine democracy'. Second, they don't work. Under the guiding hand of IMF structural 'assistance' Africa's income dropped by 23%.
Did any nation avoid this fate? Yes, said Stiglitz, Botswana. Their trick? 'They told the IMF to go packing.' Stiglitz proposes radical land reform: an attack on the 50% crop rents charged by the propertied oligarchies worldwide.
Why didn't the World Bank and IMF follow his advice?
'If you challenge [land ownership], that would be a change in the power of the elites. That's not high on their agenda.'
Ultimately, what drove him to put his job on the line was the failure of the banks and US Treasury to change course when confronted with the crises, failures, and suffering perpetrated by their four-step monetarist mambo. 'It's a little like the Middle Ages,' says the economist, 'When the patient died they would say well, we stopped the bloodletting too soon, he still had a little blood in him.'
Maybe it's time to remove the bloodsuckers.
"I believe that Mark will do a wonderful job as head of the UNDP, and I wish him every success. I am certain that his appointment will further strengthen the partnership between the Bank and the U.N. system." - World Bank President, James Wolfensohn (April 1999) on Mark Malloch Brown's move from the World Bank to head the UN World Development Program
UN OFFICIAL URGES RICH NATIONS NOT TO BLOCK LIFE-SAVING MODIFIED CROPS
July 10, 2001
Agence France Presse English
MEXICO CITY - Mark Malloch Brown, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) told a news conference in Mexico City after presenting a UN report, that rich countries should put aside their fears of GMOs and not block the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which he said could save the lives of millions who would otherwise die of starvation, adding, "While the risks are as yet unproven, there is a very proven risk from malnutrition: 850 million people in the world go to bed every night hungry. Unproven scientific fears should not lead to the unnecessary loss of tens of millions of lives to hunger," he said.
At a ceremony to present the report, Malloch Brown was further quoted as saying, "it would be wrong for rich Northern consumers, faced with overflowing supermarket shelves, to block development of these technologies that hold so much promise to help feed the poor." He said there was a huge potential to create more nutritious, drought- and disease-resistant crops, which could also help reverse desertification in many developing countries."The developing world has for far too long been victimized by creeping double standard by which rich nations, having benefited from revolutions in pharmaceuticals, agriculture and information and communications technologies, are questioning their utility for the poor," the UN official said.