Monday, December 29, 2008

Corporate culture shock and the IT revolution

By Robert Heller

Robert Heller is Britain's most renowned and best-selling author on business management. Author of more than 50 books, he was the founding editor of Management Today and the Global Future Forum. About his latest title, The Fusion Manager, Sir John Harvey-Jones wrote: "The future lies with the thinking manager, and the thinking manager must read this book". [more]

Back in 1990, a book I was commissioned to write by Rank Xerox was published. It was called Culture Shock: The Office Revolution.
I have to say that, before I began researching the book, I had no clear idea of where corporate culture might be heading as it absorbed all the frenetic developments of the Silicon Age.
But my revelation of revolution occurred in a Rank office in High Holborn, where I was shown a Chinese-born whiz-kid metaphorically crossing the Atlantic, travelling coast-to-coast to LA, and accessing a colleague's PC file to add his own input.
The conclusion to me seemed obvious. The networked PC was bound to conquer the world and revolutionise corporate culture across the globe. In particular, collaborative working suddenly had a whole new significance and potential. The subsequent advances have been massive across the board.
But back in 1990, many were blind to the revolution. Similarly, many didn't understand the significance of the World Wide Web when it was unleashed around three years after my book was published.
Even worse, many are still blind in 2008. Trouble lies ahead for them.
Directly linked to Wall Street's mania and downfall was ignorance of the real revolution. While Amazon was sneered at because it made no money for so long, there was a rush to invest in the day-dreams of con-men who lavished their venture capital on themselves up-front. Insane amounts were paid on the basis of 'hits' and 'eyeballs', and an unreal clientele was built up.
Unsurprisingly, most of these ventures ended in failure. No more surprisingly, those companies which operated in the real world with real markets, such as Amazon, stayed the course, making real breakthroughs and winning real rewards for their life-changing innovations. Competition had achieved total lunacy, as was the case with the sub-prime massacre years later.
The years that followed l990 were full of big disappointments (and vast ephemeral rewards) for followers of The Cult of Shareholder Value and The Cult of the Chief Executive. These two aberrations of corporate culture were naked invitations to maximise both the share price and the amounts which the boss could extract from the stock markets.
Regardless of all the fiascos and financial scandals, managerial IT is much fitter for purpose than it was in 1990 or 2000 – and so it should be. Those two Rank Xerox employees I witnessed working together while 7,000 miles apart represented forerunners of whole armies of collaborators, using shared and networked electronic information to remould their organisations, businesses and respective corporate cultures.
The Office is now everywhere and anywhere, and we're all home workers now. What's more, a worker's knowledge of what's actually happening inside their organisation and outside is much greater and gained much quicker.
The new cult is (or should be) the Cult of Collaboration, which I caught my first glimpse of in 1990.

Firms should co-create with customers: C.K. Prahalad (Interview)

Chennai, Dec 25 (IANS) US-based management guru Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad says companies should join hands with customers to co-create products of value.”The role of the consumer has changed. Traditionally, companies create products based on their market research and exchange that for a value. But it has changed now, with customers equally involved in solving the problem,” Prahalad, 67, told IANS in an interview here. “Co-creation is not customisation, but it is personalised,” he said.
A professor at the University of Michigan and author of several books, Prahalad was in Chennai for an IIT alumni meet. He calls himself a serial entrepreneur and says his reputation is his risk capital.
“I generate ideas and sell them as books. If the ideas are of value to the customer, the book sells well or else it bombs. I risk my reputation,” said Prahalad.
Prahalad’s latest “risky” venture is “The New Age of Innovation”, co-authored with M.S. Krishnan that indicates corporates can co-create products by partnering with customers.
Increased connectivity, convergence of technologies, digitisation and creation of social networks, globalisation and ‘Googlisation’ of the world have thrown up an important challenge as well as opportunity for corporates across the globe, Prahalad said.
He said opening up borders for business increases competition but it also enables corporates to join hands with customers and co-create products of value.
But is not co-creation similar to the concept of open innovation?
“Open innovation is not necessarily co-creation as a company’s vendor may also contribute to the innovation. The concept is based on the principle that no single company has all the tools to innovate. So they will access others for innovation.”
For corporates to venture into co-creation, they have to have deep understanding of the product technology and the IT architecture. “The company’s managers should be able to anticipate and respond proactively.”
Agreeing that managers may not initially accept co-creation options, Prahalad said companies should train managers on the creation of new skills, develop suitable performance metrics to enable co-creation, and inculcate customer-centric focus.
He referred to the current global economic meltdown, saying, “Crisis is the time for nations and corporates to make fundamental change. In 1991-92, India faced the balance of payments crisis, which in turn resulted in the opening up of the economy.”
Though free market preaching countries are busy nationalising failed corporates, Prahalad said one ought not to “draw wrong conclusions” on the free market economy. “We need to strengthen the regulatory framework,” he said.
Prahalad also does not foresee foreign investors shying away from investing in Indian companies following the aborted attempt by software major Satyam to buy two companies run by sons of the promoter.
“Global investors are of the opinion that there is a reasonable level of corporate governance and one or two wrong incidents will not deter them,” said Prahalad.

Seven Questions: Jeffrey Sachs

The global economy is in crisis, but there may be more hope for the poor than you think.

In the shadow of a financial crisis that has sent the U.S. stock market tumbling nearly 25 percentage points in the last month, the world’s finance ministers and central bankers gathered in Washington recently for an urgent discussion of how the economic peril will spread—and how to stop it. Days later, leaders from London to Berlin promised hundreds of billions in bailouts to embattled banks and financial institutions.
Throughout this crisis, there’s been much talk of how it is affecting Wall Street and Main Street. But only a few public figures, such as World Bank President Robert Zoellick, have sounded the alarm about how the credit crunch will hurt the poorest of the poor—people who may not have a street at all. So, FP’s Elizabeth Dickinson caught up with Jeffrey Sachs, a renowned economist and World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) advisor who has made his name with his passionate calls for an end to poverty. She asked him if he still thinks such an ambitious goal is possible and what world leaders can do to prevent the worst suffering.
Foreign Policy: Western finance ministers and central bankers were in Washington Oct. 11 to 12 for the IMF and World Bank annual meetings and to hash out a coordinated global strategy to deal with the financial crisis. How would you describe the mood?
Jeffrey Sachs: I think in general there’s fear, naturally. This is a very big financial upheaval and there are profound risks. We are far from out of the woods. Certainly, there will be a significant financial crisis as far as the real economy [is concerned]. Everyone is uncertain about what’s happening.
FP: U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke wrote in the Wall Street Journal Oct. 14 that, “the tools are in place to respond effectively and with force.” Is he right?
JS: I think that it all depends on the terms. I don’t think we’re going to have a Great Depression, and we’re not going to have an outright crash where there are mass bank failures and bankruptcies. But we are going to have a deep recession. We will feel it, and it will be very painful. Unemployment will go up several points; the drop in growth will be significant in absolute terms. It will be prolonged, and it will be a difficult recovery because of all of the imbalances in the economy and because households have high levels of debt. The scale is a major recession of an economy that has business cycles. We’re going to have a meaningful-sized business cycle.
Other areas of the world are experiencing the crisis for lots of reasons—because their own banks did what U.S. banks did; because our monetary policy led to bubbles that spread; because their economies are dependent on imports. I don’t think it will lead to a worldwide downturn everywhere. China, for example, will continue to experience good growth during this period.
FP: As the crisis spreads around the globe, can you give us a sense of how it is affecting people in developing countries?
JS: I think the effects probably are ironically felt more in middle-income countries, because one of the attributes of the poorest countries is that they are more disconnected to the world system. Their banks are not connected and are very small relative to the economy. People don’t own stock, so they don’t lose their pensions. In middle-income countries like Brazil and India, there could be more substantial risks.
FP: At last weekend’s meeting, Robert Zoellick noted that 100 million people have been driven into poverty so far this year. Do you think that number will go higher?
JS: That crisis is a result of commodity prices, especially rising energy prices and higher fertilizer prices. It is not the result of this crisis, and I don’t think that the direct effects of this crisis will be significant.
The question of course is whether the crisis distracts [countries] from all of these [antipoverty] policy agendas, which is relevant and often a life-or-death issue. That’s obviously a real concern. My general take is that in good times or bad, it’s hard to get people to focus on these issues. I’m not sure [this crisis is] going to diminish from the low levels of focus we usually have.
I expect the whole attitude toward governance to change, especially if [U.S. Senator Barack] Obama becomes president. The days of laissez faire recklessness and greed are over, and the idea that government has responsibilities in the financial markets and to the poor and even to the world’s poor will become more important.
FP: You wrote on your blog, “The basic message of this week is that the world must find a new model of collective leadership following the collapse of US authority.” You seem to think a multipolar world will be better suited to combating global challenges such as poverty and global warming. But isn’t it equally likely that we end up with a power vacuum—no leadership at all?

JS: Well, this is what we’ve had over the past several years: The United States has abandoned its old role as system stabilizer. Really already in the Clinton administration that was true, but it was bravely accelerated in the Bush era where policies were neglectful.
I do expect China, the European Union, and other actors can play a responsible role especially on these developmental, climate, and global investment issues. But no one should expect U.S. leadership, only U.S. cooperation.
FP: Even if the financial crisis doesn’t touch the poorest of the poor, what about emerging economies such as Nigeria, Angola, and Kenya where the banking system, for example, was just getting on its feet? How will the crisis affect these places?
JS: Of course Nigeria fluctuates with the oil prices, and that’s also the case for Angola. Kenya is a lot more complicated because you have a more diversified economy. Its banks are not strong to begin with, and now the easy go-go days are [over]. But I don’t see that as a major loss for the development of these countries. They will have their work cut out for them in attracting serious investment, but it can remain possible in this setting. Linkages that can be forged with the United States, China, India, will continue to go forward.
FP: As president of the Millennium Promise Alliance, which aims to help countries reach the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals by 2015, you have spent a great deal of time advocating for increased foreign aid. With hard economic times hitting big donors such as the United States, Europe, and others, how much do your efforts need to change?
JS: The main point I have been trying to make is that promises are for less than 1 percent of income—which is true whether we are in a good year or a bad year. Less than 1 percent is manageable. These are commitments that we can afford. It’s important for the world, and I’ll continue to argue that case.
Second, the idea of $25 billion for Africa suddenly doesn’t sound like so much after a $700 billion bailout in the United States or $2 trillion in bank guarantees in Europe. We’ve just been making choices to ignore the poor rather than calculations based on real resources available. We made a choice to let millions of people die and not honor our commitments. The crisis doesn’t change our quantitative ability to follow through. And now, I think everyone is more of a macroeconomist than they were before. They can evaluate for themselves that it’s just not a lot of money compared to the amounts mobilized in recent weeks.
Third is that one of the core strategies is looking at multiple donors, not only traditional donors in the United States and Europe. The Middle East can and should put in more money; China can and should put in more money. We are going to see those connections grow, to the good of everyone.
Jeffrey Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (New York: Penguin Press, 2008).

Will the Economic Crisis hit Asia Harder than the U.S.?

By:Michael Mandel {Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.}
The latest news out of Asia is not good. On December 26 the Japanese government announced that factory output fell by more than 8% in November, the biggest drop in 55 years. Toyota—now the world’s largest automaker— expects to report its first annual operating loss since World War II. And Chinese exports are down over the past year, the first year-over-year decline since 2001.
What’s happening is that the global economic crisis is moving into its third stage. The first stage hit finance and housing. In the second stage, the downturn spread to the real economy in the U.S.
Now, with consumers cutting back around the world, the downturn has jumped to the exporting countries in Asia. And it’s not just China and Japan—countries such as Taiwan and Thailand are seeing sharp plunges in merchandise exports as well.
What’s more, there may be no easy answer: Without the housing and credit bubble in the U.S., there may be a long-term glut of global manufacturing capacity. The major exporting countries in Asia can produce far more electronics, clothing, and cars than their own populations can consume, at least for now.
The key question is: What happens next? One possibility is that fiscal stimulus—in the U.S. and around the world—will boost demand and get consumers buying again. Then the Asian factories can get back to work.
Alternatively, the global manufacturing glut will turn out to be real and persistent, even with the stimulus. Prices for imported goods will fall and fall and fall, because there are simply too many factories around the world. After all, how many flat screen TVs do we really need?
For workers in the U.S. who still have a job, this drop in prices could be a bonanza. But as factories around the world shut down, the result will be devastation in manufacturing-dependent regions.
In the end, it may turn out that the worst effects of the global economic downturn will be felt in countries which are dependent on manufacturing. China, especially, will find out how much of its economic boom was real, and how much was credit-fueled. The answer may not be pretty

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Amartya Sen blames crisis on lack of regulation

NEW DELHI: On his flight to India, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was asked by at least three or four co-passengers about how India would be affected by the global economic downturn. Sen admitted that he did not have a ready answer. But speaking at an international conference organized to celebrate his 75th birthday, he said on Friday the present crisis has come about from an "over-reliance on markets" and not enough regulation. Another speaker at the conference, American economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, was highly critical of the role of the US in the economic crisis. "The US has exported its toxic mortgages. If this had not happened we would be even worse off. We have also exported our deregulation policy." He added that decoupling was a myth and that the US was now "exporting its recession". According to Stiglitz, September 15 the day when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy was a black day in the history of capitalism. "September 15 will be to free market economics as Berlin wall is to the fall of Communism. Market fundamentalism doesn't work. The idea that markets are self-correcting is flawed," he said. He said there were several inferences that could be drawn from the economic crisis: Wall Street has made several bad decisions and has repeatedly failed; prices are bad signals for resource allocation; and though the G7 has been expanded to G20 old paradigms were still at work. For Stiglitz, this wasn't just a crisis of capitalism but a crisis in how we approach economics. He said, "Sen's work which is about increasing the well-being of human beings is important here." Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released a two-volume collection of essays dedicated to Sen. "We have known each other since the days we were both students at Cambridge. I certainly have always felt that Amartya even in those days gave one the impression that here is an individual who is going to make a lot of difference to the way people think about their problems and he has lived up to that expectation," he said. "The response of the developed countries to the challenges of our times, be it financial crisis or climate change or terrorism, shows that they have no monopoly on good ideas. We in the developing world wish to work with the developed, but we have to find our own ways to deal with these challenges," he added.

Climate change: India needs a timebound policy paradigm

Jaidee Mishra, ET Bureau

THERE’S much talk of action to counter climate change, or so it seems. While the UN climate change jamboree, in Poznan, Poland, ended last week in a flurry of declarations and announcements, the domestic policy process to cope and negate the effects of climate change seems to be longdrawn and elaborate when it comes to pious intentions and objectives, but woefully short on specifics and timelines. The National Action Plan on Climate Change does call for chalking out concrete policy proposals for the various sub-missions, by December 31. But India’s stated principle of “common but differential responsibility” in coping with the effects of green-house gas emissions and consequent global warming may well stultify policy revamp. Instead, what’s required is proactive climate-change policy to innovatively remove poverty when it comes to everyday energy usage, and rev up efficiency of energy systems right across the board. The subsequent payoffs would be huge indeed. In parallel, what’s needed is initiative to summarily improve the methods and data available for policy analysis in the domain of the environment and apparent climate change in the offing. Let us set up a premier body such as a National Centre for Environmental Economics–complete with a vigorous programme of publishing working papers, for better informed policy design. In tandem, widespread energy poverty and poor efficiency levels in energy supply and logistics need to be addressed. Imperative is forward-looking policy to better diffuse alternate, sustainable energy resources such as solar and wind power. Such a policy stance would concurrently reduce emissions of green house gases (GHGs), with the relative decline is the usage of fossil fuels , the main source of additional GHGs in the atmosphere. The latest UN meet does call upon member governments to diffuse ‘green,’ environmentally-friendly technology and to “promptly initiate and expeditiously facilitate the preparation of projects for approval and implementation...” too. If only things were so simple! When it comes to actual policy implementation and follow through, far from being sanguine, there would be a host of rigidities on the ground. So instead of hoping for “manna from heaven” and green technology easily available off the shelve, what’s required is a suitably conducive policy environment to step up investments for requisite diffusion and development of hardware, skills and knowledge in the domestic tariff area, preferably with heightened FDI flows. The UN communiqué does also–in a somewhat grandiose manner–mention the Special Climate Change Fund, and besides “welcoming the outcome of pledging meeting of potential donors” to the corpus, goes on to note that $60 million “have been pledged” for the purpose. For what is supposed to be a global fund, it’s much too small and inconsequential. In the midst of a severe global economic slowdown, there are of course a panoply of other, more pressing concerns for governments. But the point remains that resource mobilisation for climate change would need to be largely and perhaps overwhelmingly domestic, especially for a large, turnaround economy like India. Hence the need for appropriate policy design. However, it does not necessarily follow that the monies for climate change would need to be budgeted from scratch. The fact of the matter is that tens of thousands of crores are already spent each year on open-ended energy subsidies, with the questionable objective of boosting usage of fossil fuels. So what’s needed is vision to prioritise expenditure and policy induce sustainable, less fossil-fuel intensive energy. Specifically, what’s needed is a scheme to diffuse such alternative energy aides as solar lamps and well-designed cookers, and pay for it by limiting and withdrawing subventions on account of kerosene, cooking gas and agricultural power. As various pilot studies show, such a policy substitution would quickly pay for itself and so effectively bring down energy subsidy levels. It would also hand-in-hand do much to remove energy poverty and stepup fuel usage as well. There remains the need to increase thermal efficiency in our power plants, which would be more capital-intensive than the change over required for domestic sustainable energy resources. Power plants emissions are the single largest source of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent GHG. But here again, the prospect of generating up to a third more power from practically the same amount of coal ought to be attractive enough for corrective action. And suitable changes in power policy can better coagulate funds for high-efficiency, super-critical boilers and the like. The point is that the environment is the basis of all activities, be they ecological, economic or social, and it would make policy sense to strive for less degradation even as we boost newer energy resources. The future after all begins now!

Monday, December 15, 2008


I have seen many visitors in this blog visiting to read on Jaya Kumar Christian. I am a great fan of this wonderful development thinker. I have collected quite a number of his articles which is in pdf format. If you are interested to get one you can simply leave a comment on this write up. I will certainly send one to you free of cost.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

UN cuts food aid, as widespread starvation takes hold

By Alex Bell
As millions of Zimbabweans fight a daily battle against hunger, malnutrition and disease, and as the need for humanitarian assistance daily grows, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said this week it has been forced to cut its life-saving food rations.
The UN has predicted that up to 5 million people will face starvation as soon as January, because of widespread food shortages and the devastating effect of the crash of the local currency. The government, in a shocking act of cruelty, only partially lifted a ban on crucial foreign aid recently and the trickle of food aid that has returned to the country means countless numbers of men, women and children have already died from lack of food. The true number of deaths may never be known.
The food crisis is affecting all sectors of life, and even boarding schools across the country have been forced to shut their doors early because there is no food to give students. Schools were scheduled to shut down for the festive season in early December but authorities at some boarding schools last Friday ordered all Form one, two, three and five students out of school, citing the overwhelming food crisis. Only students writing their ‘O’ and ‘A’ level examinations have remained, but it unclear what they are being fed, if they are being fed at all.
The lives of countless more people now hang in the balance after the WFP announced on Tuesday that it is facing a serious funding crisis and it has already been forced to reduce its aid.
“WFP still requires US$140 million to fund its operations in Zimbabwe until the end of March 2009 - with a shortfall of approximately 145,000 tons of food, including 110,000 metric tons of cereals and 35,000 metric tons of other food commodities,” the agency said in an update detailing its first month of large-scale distributions in October.
A WFP spokesman, Richard Lee explained on Wednesday that there is “currently no food in the pipeline for distributions in January and February”, a period when the food crisis is set to reach its peak and when almost half the population will need urgent food assistance. The WFP said it aims in November to distribute around 46,000 tons of food to more than 3.3 million people under the “vulnerable group” feeding programme and around 600,000 under the safety net programmes, but the organisation said it will not be able to provide every beneficiary with a full food basket. The November cereal ration has been cut from 12 kilograms to 10 kilograms per person per month and the pulse ration from 1.8 kilograms to one kilogram for all “vulnerable group” beneficiaries and for people receiving take-home rations under the safety net programmes.
“These cuts will allow WFP to stretch its available resources as far as possible but they will leave greater numbers more malnourished and more susceptible to disease,” Lee explained, saying the group is very concerned by the numbers that will be left hungry. He added that the group is confident it can “reach and provide aid for the predicted numbers of Zimbabweans next year” but said this will depend of receiving sufficient donations to make up the current shortfall.

Worst of Food Crisis Approaching: Going Long In The Midst of Panic Selling

The wave of selling fear and forced liquidation has sent grain prices along with everything else plunging to impressive lows. Grains prices as measured by the DJ-AIG sub index are now over 50% off their highs from just a few months ago. At this time most investors are running for the streets in panic calling for all markets to return to prices not seen since the ice age. However, those investors who have the nerve to position themselves over the next couple of months will probably be handsomely rewarded over the next couple of years. It is often said that if you hear a lie enough times, you will eventually believe it. If you watch “Bubble Vision,” everyday you will hear the term “Global Demand Destruction!” People are returning to pre-historic times and will soon live in caves again. They will no longer drive, fly, eat, heat their homes, and use electricity. They are primarily focused on demand here in the United States, and continue to ignore the 685 billion people on the other side of the planet. They fail to realize that demand is merely slowing at a time when production and inventories of most commodities are falling off a cliff. You will continue to hear that the Federal Reserve can bail out institution after institution. They can print trillions and trillions of dollars and they can do all of this without impacting the credit worthiness of the U.S. government and value of the U.S. Dollar. Thanks to the global credit crisis, farmers around the world are having trouble getting the credit they need for next year’s crop. They do not have the financing they need to for the land, fuel, equipment, fertilizer and labor. Furthermore, input costs are still relatively high. Farmers need grain prices to come up just to break even. Marino Colpo, a large soybean producer in Brazil said that they require at least $10.50 soybeans to break even. He also said that production in Brazil is likely to drop this coming season because farmers are unwilling to plant at a loss. Thanks to the plunging grain prices induced by the credit crisis, we will see farmers around the world cutting back on production. This is at a time when global grain inventories are already near historic lows. William Doyle, president of Potash says that even with slowing demand growth they will need to produce record crops just to maintain adequate stocks.Global grain inventories will get tighter as farmers are unable and unwilling to produce grains at a loss. This could eventually send grain prices higher and switch the attention of the mainstream media from the credit crisis to the food crisis and famine. Feel free to contact me for information and research to help you invest in commodity futures and options including the grain markets. I can be reached at 1-877-377-7936 or you can email me at .

Friday, November 14, 2008

Seasons of Hunger: Forward by Robert Chambers


by Stephen Devereux, Bapu Vaitla and Samuel Hauenstein Swan

foreword by Robert Chambers

Of all the dimensions of rural deprivation, the most neglected is seasonality. Vulnerability, sickness, powerlessness, exploitation, material poverty, under- and malnutrition, wages, prices,
incomes…these are recognised, researched and written about, But among them again and again seasonality is overlooked and left out.

Yet seasonality manifests in all these other dimensions and in how they interlock. This is almost universal for poor people, but especially so in the rural tropics. There, during the rains, poor people are repeatedly oppressed and screwed down by a cruel combination of lack of food, lack of money, high food prices, physical hardship, hard work vital for survival, debilitating sicknesses such as diarrhoeas and malaria, and isolation and lack of access to services. It is then that they are materially most poor, most vulnerable, most powerless, most exploited, most isolated, and most short of food. It is then these dimensions most tightly interlock and reinforce each other. It
is then that poor people suffer most and are most vulnerable to becoming poorer.
It is also when they are most invisible. Integrated seasonal poverty is matched and mirrored by integrated professional ignorance.Professionals anyway focus on their own specialised disciplinary concerns and miss linkages with those of others. This is compounded when all professions overlook seasonality. They do not see the stark and cyclical reality of the seasons when deprivations collide and hit poor people simultaneously. So research, reports and recommendations repeatedly omit the seasonal dimension. Papers published on rural poverty in the tropics often never mention it. I have never once read or heard it in the speech of a policy-maker. It is simply missing from most professionals’ and policy-makers’ mental maps.

The reasons are not far to seek. We development professionals are season-proofed - insulated and protected by our housing, air conditioning, fans and heaters, clothing, urban facilities, incomes, food supplies, protection from infection, and access to health services. Often we gain impressions most from rural elites, but as this book points out, while seasonality is bad for the poor it can be good for the rich. We are also season-blind – we travel least at the bad times during the rains and before the harvest, and when we do, stick more than ever to tarmac and places close to town. Except in full-blown famines, we rarely encounter or perceive the regular seasonal hardship, hunger and starvation of remoter poor people. Cyclical seasonal hunger is quiet and hidden. When the rains are over, the harvest in, and people are through the worst,
urban-based professionals travel again and venture further afield. Their impressions are then formed at the best times, missing the worst.
This book is a powerful corrective. It brings a new perspective and proposals for action that are new in their scope and focus. It shows how central seasonality is to the creation and deepening of
deprivation. The case is made, irrefutably, that seasonal hunger is the father of famine and that famine cannot be stopped unless seasonal hunger is stopped.

What is so shocking is the evidence of how policies have made it worse. In earlier decades, in many countries, with parastatal marketing boards, people in remote areas were entitled and able to buy seed and sell crops at fixed prices which did not vary by season. With enforced liberalisation and the abolition of the boards, the poor people in those areas, and elsewhere, lost that protection and were once again exposed to cruel seasonal fluctuations in prices. The market did not serve them. It exposed them. Liberalisation made poor people poorer, and created conditions for famines in bad years.

The situation cries out for action. Drawing on their experience and research, Devereux, Vaitla and Swan show what has to be done. They bring together proposals for a raft of workable measures for social protection. Agricultural livelihood development is basic. Social protection measures include: nutritional and food security surveillance; community-based management of acute malnutrition, and home-based care; cash and food transfers; seasonal employment programmes; social pensions; child growth promotion; and crop insurance schemes. And these are costed. The question becomes not whether they can be afforded but whether if governments, lenders and donors who are serious about poverty can conceivably not afford them.

To end seasonal hunger, rights and power are crucial. This is shown by India’s employment guarantee schemes. Poor people must have rights to make demands. There must be an enforceable right to food. The persuasive argument put forward is for a “fundamental transformation in the political obligations around hunger”.

This book is a wake up call. After Seasons of Hunger, things should never be the same again. It should be required reading for all development professionals – political leaders, officials, those who work in governments, aid agencies and NGOs, academics, researchers, teachers, local leaders and others –all who are committed to the fight against poverty. For all those who share that commitment, it is a ‘must’. Let us in future always find ‘seasonality’ in books, articles and reports on poverty. In committees, meetings and reviews of policy and practice, and in research, let there always be someone who asks and presses the question: “And what about seasonality?” Let that crucial, pervasive, cross cutting dimension never again be overlooked or ignored. To achieve that, we have to start with ourselves, our own perceptions and priorities. To make poverty history, we have to make seasonal blindness history.
The development community has a huge, historic opportunity. It is precisely because seasonal deprivation has been so neglected that it now presents such immense and wide-ranging scope for attacking poverty. Any development professional serious about poverty has now, more than ever, to be serious about seasonality. May the right to food be recognised. May the measures advocated here be adopted. And so let us banish the hidden obscenity of quiet seasonal starvation from our world and make seasonal hunger history.

Seasons of Hunger shows how.
29 May 2008 Robert Chambers

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Drought-like situation in Orissa's Ganjam district

Inadequate rainfall during the kharif season has led to drought-like situation in Orissa's Ganjam district as several thousand hectares of paddy crops experienced moisture stress.
Preliminary reports of the state agriculture department said that moisture stress had been noticed in about 15,036 hectares, mostly cultivated in high land areas.
However, sources claimed that over 50 per cent of crop had already withered due to lack of rain and irrigation facility.
The district experienced less precipitation this year except in August-September. In October there was a meagre 27.40 mm rainfall against 177 mm last year causing moisture stress, official reports said.
Normal rainfall was essential in October for bumper kharif crop.
Last year, there was 1298.19 mm rainfall against noraml rainfall of 1275.29 mm in the district.
Altogether 22.35 lakh hectares had been covered for paddy cultivation in the district and the yield was 7,83,368 metric tonnes.
The department had set the target to produce 7,85,795 metric tonnes of paddy this year, the sources said, adding if the present situation continued for a week more, the yield would drastically reduce.
The blocks facing moisture stress included Rangeilunda, Sanakhemundi, Digapahandi, Kukudakhandi, Bhanjanagar, Chikiti, Patrapur, Ganjam, Chhatrapur, Buguda, Jagannathprasad, Khallikote and Belaguntha.

Monday, November 3, 2008

VIOLENCE IN NANDIGRAM :Children in the crossfire

Shoma Chatterji
23 October 2008 - A public agitation in any area inevitably leads to disturbances of routine activities. This can be difficult enough for adults, who must cope with changes to their employment routines, scheduling purchases for their homes, etc. But for children, the uncertainties and resulting losses can be even more harsh, as routines are particularly important to them. In long-draw-out agitations, the negative impacts can be especially severe, cutting off access to schooling, and in the process closing the door on many opportunities in the future.
In the politics surrounding Nandigram, the impact of the events on children has been completely ignored. In view of this, Child Rights and You (CRY), and its dynamic team of seven youth volunteers drawn from Kolkata, Gandhinagar ad Hyderabad, embarked on a unique survey of the children of Nandigram to assess the impact of the disturbances that began there in January 2007, in particular during the three months immediately thereafter. Their report, while motivated by a special concern for the affected children, has tried to be as objective as possible in assessing human rights with special reference to the rights of the child.
This is the first status report of its kind on child victims of the proposed industrialisation of Nandigram, and the resultant displacement caused by forcible land acquisition. Case histories of affected children, and conditions of the schools in the area point out how the rights of the childred have been ignored or violated. The media and the public have focussed constantly on political issues and on human rights violations directly linked to these political issues. Mental health conditions, as well as schooling and living conditions of the children in the aftermath of the violence on March 14 have received far less attention - if any - in the press.
Condition of schools in Nandigram
Schooling in Nandigram has understandably been affected by the disturbances. Classes are not held regularly. Science practicals are held in the open grounds, while policemen occupy the laboratories. Police camped themselves in Gokulnagar High School after March 14, a government-aided school, and the only high school in Nandigram. The situation in this school is the most pathetic of all. The police pollute the environment by cooking their food here, and do not clean up properly afterward, leading to accumulation of garbage. The toilets, which too the police use, are not properly cleaned; this has created a stench making it difficult for the children to sit in the classrooms. There is also a water crisis, as the police use a lot of water for bathing, washing and so on. Letters sent out to the administration including the Chief Minister and the Home Minister asking for the police to be removed were not responded to.
Moreover, the constant presence of the police on the premises and even the sports grounds keep the children in a constant state of fear and tension. The students do not hold any grudge against the policemen, as they understand that the policemen must follow orders but they still find it hard to come to terms with the situation. The policemen try to maintain a friendly relationship with the students, but in vain. Grades of top rankers have declined after the tragedy. A few students were forced to leave Gokulnagar High School because their results in the annual examinations had been below par. They could not study for the examinations. Students from Gangra, one of the worst affected areas, are particularly vulnerable and many of them have stopped attending schools.
Schooling in Nandigram has understandably been affected by the disturbances. Classes are not held regularly. Science practicals are held in the open grounds, while policemen occupy the laboratories.
The student register of Maheshpur High School shows a student-strength of around 770. It is a government-aided school, part of the funds coming from Sarva Siskha Abhiyan. Students can take the Madhyamik (Clss X) board exams from this school. Every year, about 50 students appear for the public exam, said the headmaster (but this could not be verified, as he declined to show the team his register). During the team's visit, a disruptive crowd was present on the premises that refused to budge. The team members spoke to the headmaster, three teachers and some students. The annual school examinations scheduled to begin on March 14 had to be postponed twice as a result of the incidents on that day. Though the headmaster had arranged to announce the postponement in neighbouring villages, many students could not take the exams for fear, nervousness and tension in the entire area.
The children
Bikash Mondal, 10, and his sister Pompa Mondal, 8 studying in Class V and Class III respectively at Sonachura Prathamik Vidyalaya lost their father Bharat Mondal. Bharat is one of the first casualties of the struggle - on the night intervening 6 and 7 January he was killed, allegedly by a group of CPM cadres who also killed Biswajit Maiti, Bhudeb Mondal, Sk. Salim, and Bishnu Maiti. Pompa, who went back to regular school from May, 2007, is so confused that she does not remember whether she has taken her annual examinations or not. When asked about her father's death, she clams up at once and grows tense and quiet.
She did not witness her father's death and was not allowed to see his corpse before his cremation. But his loss seems to have affected her deeply. She has not been able to cope with the shock four months after the tragedy. Each time she thinks of him or hears about him, she chokes up and turns mute. Some incidents between January and February last year have been wiped out from her memory.
Her brother Bikash says that the sound of gunfire and bombings were so disturbing that his family was forced to spend many nights in the open fields. He resumed schooling some time after his father's death. His performance in his exams, he said, was not good because of the terror. (He used the word santrash to speak of terror.) In his opinion, the CPM was responsible for the bombings and the firing adding that these party cadres, and their supporters made no secret of their political affiliations. When asked about his father's death, he began to cry. His father worked as a hired farm labour. The family owns very little land. Even at this tender age, he has begun to worry about providing for his mother, sister and grandmother, now that his father is no more. He wants to study well, he says, adding that though the situation is under control, there is tension in the air.
Shivaprasad Mondal, 16, lives in Gangra and studies at Gokulnagar High School in Class XII. His brother Ramchandra is a leader in the Bhumi Uchchhed Protirodh Committee (BUPC – Committee for Resistance to Eviction from Homeland) formed on January 5. He was close to a CPM leader Joyshokor Pyke and took shelter in his house during the worst violence. The CPM men alleged that Shivaprasad was informing the BUPC about their actions, as his brother was a BUPC leader. The CPM men followed him around as a strategy to place pressure on his older brother by threatening Shivaprasad. He informed the school's Head Master and Managing Committee but they could not do anything.
He had to take exams by staying at friends' homes close to the school. Months later, he still takes a detour because he is scared of encountering CPM cadres on the direct route through Tekkhali Bagan. He said that of the former batch of around 169 students who cleared the Class XI exams, 50-60 do not attend school any more. Besides, as the police were camping on the school premises, the students are facing space problems and are not able to study properly.
Shivprasad does not support either the BUPC or the CPM. He is caught up in a political fray between two organisations and this is hampering his studies and depriving him of a home. He is forced to move from one friend's house to another's in order to ensure his safety and schooling. He admits that this has taken a toll on his health and his studies. Even today, when tensions have decreased, he is scared to move freely in his own area. This has restricted his movement and his freedom.
Eight-year-old Abhijit Maiti is the kid brother of Biswajit Maiti, 12, who was killed on 7 January. His mother is still in shock over her son's death. The child could not tell us anything about his brother's death, as it had not registered in his mind. He could not understand the questions the team asked him, was very nervous and said that his brother continues to haunt him at night. The shock of his brother's sudden death and the tension in the area has taken a heavy toll on the tender mind of this eight-year-old boy. He has problems understanding things and situations.
Sushanta Pal, 12, is an eyewitness to the sequence of events that took place on 14 March last year, culminating in the police firing on villagers. He has stopped going to his high school in Sonachura after that day. He recalls his parents tell him on the night of 13 March, that the police would try to enter Nandigram the following day. During the Gouranga Pooja, he was right near the ditch on the Nandigram side of the bridge, as he lives near Talpatti Khal. While the pooja was on amidst huge crowds, he saw about 45 cars carrying policemen draw up on the Khejuri side of the bridge. They ordered the crowds to disperse for their own safety. When the crowds paid no heed to the warnings and went on with the pooja, the police fired rubber bullets and teargas into the crowd followed by random firing, injuring many.
He claims to have seen five people die. Along with some of his friends, he ran away from the Tekkhali Bridge. None of them were hurt in the police firing but once the police crossed over from Khejuri into Nandigram they did not spare even the children. He saw the police grab a child from its mother and kill the little one. Till this day, he says cannot bear the bright sun as his eyes begin to burn because of the teargas the police used that day. He left school. He feels mentally disturbed with the incessant noise of bombing and gunfire from Khejuri that takes away his attention from studies. He cannot sleep properly at night. Along with the men in the family, he keeps watch at nights even now.
He has chosen not to attend school anymore firstly because the school authorities refuse to take responsibility if and when any violence takes place; secondly, because he has taken on the responsibility of his five sisters and one brother. He hardly meets his brother who studies in a boarding school in Khejuri because they are scared to cross the bridge. Though he could not prove his claim, he insisted that the policemen were wearing chappals which real police would never do and could recognise some CPM cadres among them in police uniform.
The vocabulary of these children now has words like shilpo (industrialisation), santrash (terror) and proshashon (administration). Six-year-old Mamoni Bai knows the word shilpo, but to her it means displacement and land-grabbing. Proshashon is synonymous with the police and santrash the children understand as something dangerous. Most of these words have negative implications for them.
The CRY team of volunteers - Chiranjib Paul, Nikita Jhunjhunwalla, Oishik Bagchi, Priyanka Mukherjee, Poulomi Saha, Ramanika Nandy, Rohan Saha and Sukanya Bhaumik - were appalled by what they uncovered during the survey. Every rule on child rights has been violated with impunity as if it does not exist. The report, says the team, "is our immediate response addressing the urgency of the situation and the demands that need to be met."
The volunteers have no political affiliations and the survey was solely aimed at detecting violations of the human rights of children in the area. Their report has taken several months to be compiled, but despite this, it is revealing. Moreover, the impact on children is universal and timeless. The scars will remain, the nightmares will continue and the child victims' understanding of industrialisation will have been warped forever by the conflicts in which they and their families have been caught up. ⊕
Shoma Chatterji Dr Shoma Chatterji is a freelance writer based in Kolkata, and a member of NWMI. She is the author of 16 books, including 'Kali - The Goddess of Kolkota' and 'Gender and Conflict'.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Adopted by the South Asian Civil Society Forum on Responding to Food Insecurity in South Asia 23‐24 October 2008, Kathmandu, Nepal
Organizers: South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal;
Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) ‐International, India; and Oxfam (novib), The Netherlands

We, the participants of the South Asian Civil Society Forum on Food Security, view that the Triple 'F' Global Crises—Fuel, Food and Financial—have been affecting the global economy as well as posing a range of complex challenges for South Asian countries in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including the goal of halving the number of poor and hunger, and the "SAARC Development Goals".
We note that the global fuel prices have fallen significantly of late but there is no assurance that prices will stabilize, and will not adversely affect the food security situation in South Asia. We believe that while the rise in food prices will continue to adversely affect the region and to create further challenges in the form of widespread poverty and food insecurity, the worsening global financial crisis threatens to perpetuate food insecurity, by, inter alia, diverting the attention of international donor agencies and governments from the agenda of food security.
We recognize that South Asian governments have taken the food security issue seriously but it is high time for them to initiate effective collaborative actions for addressing the food security concerns from the human rights perspective, both nationally and regionally, and redesign their policies on agriculture, food security and trade.
We welcome the outcome of the 15th SAARC Summit that was concluded this August in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The main Declaration of the Summit and a separate "Colombo Statement on Food Security" indicate that SAARC Member States are willing to make concerted efforts for addressing the food insecurity challenges facing the region.
Taking note of these developments and supporting the willingness of the Member States to devise and implement "people-centered short- to medium-term Regional Strategy and Collaborative Projects" for ensuring food security in the region, as well as the decisions made for the operationalization of the SAARC Food Bank, and the drawing up of SAARC Agriculture Perspective 2020, we met to discuss various food security issues ahead of the Meeting of the SAARC Agriculture Ministers to be held in New Delhi on 5─6 November 2008.
Based on the deliberations and discussions made at the forum, we came up with the following recommendations (some of which are cross-cutting) on different thematic areas, which we consider to be important for SAARC Member States to integrate into their regional strategies, collaborative actions and projects, and Agriculture Perspective 2020.
*SAARC Food Bank*
In order to effectively and efficiently operationalize the Food Bank:
• Make an institutional arrangement for periodic estimations of food demand; and undertake measures to increase the storage capacity of the Member States.
• Relax the withdrawal conditions and the replenishment requirements of the bank by taking into account the national capacity of the Member States.
• Set up a Central Information System (e.g., websites for real time data sharing); and form a SAARC Food Security Monitoring Committee, including civil society representatives, and also task this committee with the role of: making arrangements for a regional mapping of vulnerable regions and populations, as well as preparing a vulnerability calendar for the effective distribution of food and response systems. Such regional food mapping can also guide the concerned authorities to establish community food centres which are needed mainly to enhance access to food in remote and inaccessible areas.
• Set up a Negotiation Committee for price determination and a Dispute Settlement Mechanism to resolve disputes concerned with the bank's operationalization.
• Agree to authorize Parliamentary Committees of the Member States to look into its operational issues for wider political support and cooperation, as well as contribute ideas for the effective operationalization of the bank.
• Work out detailed procurement modalities in addition to ensuring timely, localized and transparent procurement as well as rationalization of procurement prices. Ensure that public-private partnership be an integral part of the procurement modality.
• Utilize the SAARC Development Fund to facilitate the procurement process.
• Make distribution systems responsive to regional and seasonal food insecurity, as well as non-political and non-partisan.
*Production and Productivity*
• Promote the exchange and testing of varieties/seeds within the region keeping in consideration the similarities and diversities of agro-ecological zones. Bilateral and regional contracts and agreements between and among the Member States should be implemented to facilitate the access to and exchange of varieties/seeds, which is currently being restricted in the region in view of the emerging concerns relating to Access and Benefit Sharing and Intellectual Property Right (IPR) Regimes.
• In this regard, establish a "SAARC Seed Bank", linking it with "national seed banks" (the creation of which is also important) as well as "community seed banks" (which are already under implementation in several countries of the region) so that it ensures an effective long-term mechanism of production, exchange and use of community- and environment-friendly quality seeds that are in the domain of public and private sector organizations as well as farmers. The bank will also contribute to agriculture research (breeding) and promote the sharing of seeds and technologies that are critical for developing new varieties/seeds and promoting the conservation of agricultural biodiversity.
• Promote the cost-effective intensification of agriculture and invest sufficiently in agriculture research, extension and infrastructure for, among others, strengthening crop diversification and management techniques; arresting soil degradation (e.g., salination); and strengthening effective post-harvest loss management.
• Implement collaborative projects to encourage farmer-to-farmer exchange as well as partnership activities with scientists, breeders and other private sector groups (such as through participatory plan breeding projects).
*Bioenergy and climate change*
• Establish a Technical Working Group to:
o undertake a stocktaking exercise of bioenergy technologies and research capacities with a focus on technologies that are not competing with the use of food production.
o prioritize and adapt available technologies for pilot projects on bioenergy, building on experiences and strengths of the SAARC Member States.
o develop short- and long-term research priorities for regional collaboration on the development and dissemination of bioenergy technologies, with a possibility of adding liquid biofuels in the long-term perspective.
• Invest in research and development projects to identify and adopt cost-effective technologies needed for mitigation of climate change effects on food security and agriculture, and develop regulatory policy frameworks that can help mitigate and adapt to climate change, including an early warning system.
• Establish a South Asian Climate Change Fund to also support activities in response to intensifying climate change impacts on food security and agriculture.
• Develop a regional agenda to advocate the reduction of subsidies, tariffs and other distortive trade measures on liquid biofuels in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries through the World Trade Organization (WTO).
• Lobby for time-bound commitments and actions from developed countries for transferring energy-efficient, low-carbon technologies to South Asian countries through the Clean Development Mechanism.
*Trade and Biotechnology*
• Make time-bound commitments and actions in the area of transit and trade facilitation, and harmonize customs rules and regulations as well as product standards and quality (such as sanitary and phytosanitary, and technical standards) with adequate institutional arrangements for facilitating food procurement and trade.
• Promote intra-regional trade in farm products by de-listing some of the farm products from the negative list under the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area in a phase-wise manner or on a trial basis, and remove para-tariff and non-tariff barriers to agriculture trade. This is also essential to strengthen the procurement mechanism required for the effective operationalization of the SAARC Food Bank.
• Protect small and marginal farmers from cheap subsidized imports but at the same time, also develop strategies to boost farm exports from the region.
• Agree not to apply food export restraints to the Member States.
• Make commitments to institutionalize the process of the involvement and participation of non-state actors in trade negotiations at the national, regional and international levels, and while signing trade agreements, including trans-regional bilateral trade agreements, do not agree to conditions that adversely affect the food security interest of the region.
• Develop Regional Framework/Guidelines on the application of biotechnology as well as bio-safety measures so as to ensure that the outcomes are community- and environment friendly.
• Develop Regional Framework/Guidelines on Genetically Modified Organisms, keeping in consideration the interests of both consumers and producers, as well as the implications for the environment and the natural resource base.
• Work in unison to ensure that global negotiations in agriculture and related issues such as intellectual property rights (IPRs) are made supportive of the agricultural development thrust of SAARC countries and demand that they be allowed to exercise the right to protect their agricultural sector through, for example, the Special Safeguard Mechanism being negotiated at the WTO.
*Agricultural Biodiversity and Intellectual Property Rights*
• Promote community-based biodiversity management (CBM) systems and practices for the protection of farmers' rights to seeds, genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, and for the strengthening of tripartite partnership among the public, private and community actors and agencies.
• Recognize and implement programmes and projects such as Participatory Plant Breeding, Community Seed Banks, Community Biodiversity Registers, Home-gardens, and Value Addition and Marketing, including of neglected and underutilized species.
• Create a Regional Network of community seed banks so as to facilitate the exchange and use of seeds in the region.
• Form a Regional Intellectual Property Expert Committee to look into the IPR affairs and issues, and develop a Regional IPR Policy, taking into account the national capacity of developing and least-developed Member countries.
• Develop common positions on IPR issues for negotiations at the international forums such as at the level of the WTO and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), taking into account the interest of both developing and least-developed Member countries.
• Develop Regional Framework/Guidelines on "Plant Variety Protection" and "Access and Benefit Sharing" Regimes to ensure an effective implementation of farmers' rights over farmers' varieties as well as IPR-protected varieties so as to bring into implementation effective domestic (sui generis) regimes to safeguard farmers from the onslaught of IPRs. Such regional framework must take into account the provisions of relevant international instruments—such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture—and importantly, the special and differential treatment of the least-developed countries (LDCs) at the WTO.
• Make institutional arrangements and implement collaborative projects to assess the potential of benefiting from the geographical indication (GI) registration of agriculture products, for example, by undertaking economic and export feasibility research and studies on potential products of the region.
*Role of SAARC Observers, and International Actors and Agencies*
• Observer nations should develop strategic community-centered action plans to support regional strategies and collaborative projects of SAARC, as well as the drawing up and implementation of Agriculture Perspective 2020, and also to provide concrete support to the effective operationalization of the Food Bank and the early warning system.
• More coordinated efforts should be made by developed countries, the United Nations High Level Task Force on Global Food Crisis, and institutions such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World Bank and the WTO for financial, logistical and technical support, and technology transfer.
• Support for trade-related infrastructure, particularly to deal with sanitary and phytosanitary and technical barriers to trade, for increased farm exports from SAARC, as well as for favourable market access opportunities, including meaningful and beneficial duty-free and quota-free facilities for the LDCs, must be an integral part of their programmes and packages.
• The global financial crisis should not be used as an excuse for bilateral and multilateral donors and developed countries to withdraw commitments on the assistance required for food security.
*SAWTEE (South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment)* is a regional network that operates through its secretariat in Kathmandu and 11 member institutions from five South Asian countries, namely Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The overall objective of SAWTEE is to build the capacity of concerned stakeholders in South Asia in the context of liberalization and globalization. SAWTEE's network institutions in five South Asian countries are: Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association (BELA), Dhaka, and Unnayan Shamannay, Dhaka in Bangladesh; Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), Chennai, Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), Jaipur, and Development Research and Action Group (DRAG), New Delhi in India; Society for Legal and Environmental Analysis and Development Research (LEADERS), Kathmandu, and Forum for Protection of Public Interest (Pro Public), Kathmandu in Nepal; Journalists for Democracy and Human Rights (JDHR), Islamabad, and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad in Pakistan; and Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Colombo, and Law & Society Trust (LST), Colombo in Sri Lanka (
*CUTS (Consumer Unity & Trust Society)* was a small voluntary group of concerned citizens operating out of a garage on a zero budget in 1983. Currently, it operates out of five programme centres and five resource centres— six in India: three in Jaipur, one in Kolkata, and one each in Chittorgarh and Delhi; two in Africa: Lusaka, Zambia and Nairobi, Kenya; one in London, the UK and one in Hanoi, Vietnam, with a staff strength of over 85. CUTS' work is divided into six programme areas: Consumer Protection; International Trade and Development; Competition, Investment and Economic Regulation; Human Development; and Consumer Safety. Over 353 individuals and 300 organisations are its members. The organisation is accredited to UNCTAD and UNCSD. CUTS also works with several national, regional and international organisations, such as Consumers International (CI); ICTSD; SAWTEE; the Consumer Coordination Council (CCC) of India, etc. It also serves on several policy-making bodies of the Government of India (
*The Nederlandse Organisatie voor Internationale Bijstand, or Oxfam Novib*for short, was set up on 23 March 1956. Prince Bernard was its first chairman. Oxfam Novib, a member of Oxfam International, is fighting for a just world without poverty. Together with people, organisations, businesses and governments. Through projects and lobby. Locally and internationally. Because poverty and injustice are global problems. They are about unjust economic and political relationships (

The EU must send troops to Congo now

Written by: Chris Chapman
Probably the most toxic aspect of the current conflict in North Kivu is that, as in Iraq and Sudan and other countries, the protection civilians get from violence often depends on which ethnic group they belong to.
The FARDC - the national army - has fled Goma, unable to stem the advance of Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). The UN peacekeeping mission is desperately calling for more resources, and in the past has been accused of failing to protect civilians.
In this security vacuum, leaders such as Nkunda are able to play on the grievances of their communities to recruit militias, even if their real motivations are about controlling mines and trade. Nkunda says he is fighting because of the abuses his people, the Tutsi, have suffered.
The Tutsi do have legitimate grievances, notably they have been the victims of a number of pogroms in the 1990s. But they certainly do not have the monopoly on suffering in North Kivu. To cite one example, the Mbuti Pygmies, an indigenous people in the Kivus and Ituri, has no militia to protect it; it has been targeted by armed groups, and subjected to massive human rights violations - torture, displacement and the rape of women and children.
The grievances of the Tutsi cannot justify the abuses committed by the CNDP: it has used rape on a massive scale as a tool to terrorise civilian populations, and mass graves of civilians have been found by MONUC, the UN mission in the DRC, in areas recently vacated by the rebel group. More recently, the group has been using refugee camps to launch attacks, in clear contravention of international law.
UN forces are well placed to provide security in North Kivu, because what is desperately needed is a security force that is perceived as neutral. It clearly needs strengthening, but the international political will to do so appears to be weak.
In response to a French proposal earlier this week to send additional European Union troops, British Foreign Office Minister Mark Malloch-Brown said, "we cannot rule out an additional deployment ... but I think it is too early to say that is necessary ... and whether it would arrive in time is also questionable". It's too early, but it may also be too late; a classic piece of diplomatic equivocation, and the result is likely to be that nothing is done.
Faced with another human catastrophe, we are yet again throwing up our hands in powerlessness. It is imperative that the EU approve the French proposal, and send troops to North Kivu within days; it was for this kind of situation, after all, that EU battle groups were proposed in the first place. Even if they arrive too late to protect Goma, there is no reason to assume that Nkunda will stop there.
However in the long term, the only way to stop these conflicts from re-occurring will be by addressing their root causes. There has been a succession of peace agreements between Nkunda's forces, other armed groups and the DRC government.
But, like so many peace agreements, these have only addressed the visible part of the conflict iceberg; the immediate violence. What is needed is for the government to address grievances over illegal land seizures, by establishing a transparent judicial process to review claims. Economic opportunities must be improved by loosening the grip of the militias on import/export income and mines.
The Congolese army needs to become a professional, impartial force that provides security to all communities, including the most vulnerable, by integrating the various militias. In so doing, the militia brigades must be broken up and dispersed, otherwise they carry on waging the same wars in different uniforms.
Finally, and most importantly, the Rwandan and DRC governments need to stop using proxy militias to fight for control over North Kivu and its resources; if they fail to do this, they risk an inflammation of the conflict that may finally destabilize Rwanda and cause the Balkanisation of the DRC.

1 million flee Congo fighting, U.N. says

(CNN) -- About 1 million people have been forced to flee because of fighting between rebel and government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday, adding that it was investigating reports of camps being looted and torched.

Children eat bread and porridge at a camp for displaced people 12 kilometers north of Goma in Congo.

A rebel spokesman said they were keeping to a cease-fire so aid can reach displaced Congolese.
Babou Amane, deputy spokesman for the National Congress for the Defense of the People, said rebel forces had retreated to about 9 miles (15 kilometers) north of the city of Goma to create a "humanitarian corridor."
Despite a rebel cease-fire declared late Wednesday, security in Congo's North Kivu province was tenuous, with many aid organizations refusing or reluctant to venture out to help the homeless, authorities said.
About 50 medical personnel from Medecins sans Frontieres can move throughout the area relatively unobstructed and supplies are getting in, said Marie-Noelle Rodrigue, the agency's local emergency coordinator.
"Security is a concern, of course," Rodrigue said from Goma, the provincial capital. "For the moment, we have not been stopped by anybody."
Thousands of displaced residents are on the move and Medecins sans Frontieres has mobile clinics dispensing water and any other needed aid, Rodrigue said late Friday.
"We're trying to move with the people," Rodrigue said. "We're setting up mobile clinics where ever they are."
There have been some isolated cases of cholera but no epidemics or other major health concerns, Rodrigue said.
"For the moment, it is still under control," the 40-year-old nurse said.
David Miliband, the foreign minister of Britain, and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, were heading to Congo and neighboring Rwanda on Friday, their offices said. France holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, which is considering its options, officials have said.
In addition, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked Alain Leroy, the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, to travel to the region, the organization said.
European Union Commissioner Louis Michel was in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, on Friday and obtained "verbal agreement" from Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congo President Joseph Kabila to attend an emergency summit on the crisis to be held "in Nairobi [Kenya] under auspices of the United Nations," EU spokesman John Clancy said.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said it was investigating reports that some camps for displaced persons had been "forcibly emptied, looted and burned," according to a written statement.
In a written statement, the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees spokesman Ron Redmond said Friday afternoon, "UNHCR staff in Goma this morning reported the situation calm but tense. Our office is open and our people are working, but security restrictions on movement remain tight."
He said rebels controlled Rutshuru, where UNHCR has an office. Rutshuru is 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Goma, the provincial capital.
Redmond said the UNHCR was trying to verify "disturbing reports" from "humanitarian partners" about attacks on the camps near Rutshuru.
"We are extremely concerned about the fate of some 50,000 displaced people living in these camps, which include the UNHCR-administered sites of Dumez, Nyongera and Kasasa as well as several makeshift settlements," he said.
Rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda said Thursday that he ordered a cease-fire for his forces because he wants start work with the U.N. mission in Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, to allow people back to their homes.
"We are respecting our cease-fire. ... We are waiting for the response [to the corridor offer] from the government and from MONUC, the U.N. forces," Nkunda said. "We want to have an agenda that we can discuss political issues with the government."
Nkunda, a Tutsi, has repeatedly blamed the Congolese government for failing to protect the Tutsi tribe from Rwandan Hutu militia in Congo. Hutu rebels have been active in the jungles of eastern Congo since Rwanda's 1994 genocide, according to the United Nations.
The United Nations estimates that during the 100 days of the genocide in Rwanda, the Hutu majority killed 800,000 Tutsis and and moderate Hutus.
The top U.S. diplomat for Africa said Friday that she was encouraged that the deadly conflict won't grow into "something that looks like genocide."
Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer spoke to CNN International by phone from Kigali, Rwanda, Congo's neighbor, where she planned to meet Saturday with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Frazer, who visited Thursday with Congo President Joseph Kabila, was making diplomatic rounds to deliver a U.S. message: "We understand the need for the Rwandans and the Congolese to work together to try to end the human crisis that's unfolded in North Kivu, as well as to cooperate together to address the negative forces in the eastern Congo."
One of the negative forces, she said, is the National Congress for the Defense of the People rebel force led by Nkunda, which fought government forces for four days until a cease-fire was declared late Wednesday.
Frazer said she would impress upon Kagame the need for continued cooperation between Rwanda and Kabila's government.
"Eastern Congo is very, very unstable right now. ... There have been attacks and counterattacks between rebels and the Congo military," she said.
Asked about the possible danger that the rebels could overrun Goma, Frazer said tensions seemed to be lessening.
"But I am growing confident that both President Kabila and President Kagame have been speaking to each other.
"They've exchanged envoys. ... They are engaged in the type of discussions that will be necessary to prevent such an attack on Goma as well as some type of ethnic reprisal that could lead to something that looks like genocide."
Frazer said the United States also recognizes the limitations of MONUC, whose soldiers have lent support to Congolese troops.
The United States has said for some time that they need more troops and specialized forces, even for a limited time while diplomatic measures are being pursued, she said.
On Thursday, MONUC spokesman Kevin Kennedy said U.N. troops, numbering a few hundred, were struggling to keep the peace in Goma, a city of about 1 million people, and the surrounding countryside.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Law and poverty: the legal system and poverty reduction

Cause and effect: exploring the relations between law and poverty Authors: L. Williams; A. Kjönstad; P. Robson Publisher: Comparative Research Programme on Poverty , 2008
Full text of document
Poverty tends to be considered as an economic subject area rather than a legal one. And yet, a society’s distribution of income and opportunity is the outcome of its legal system which may encourage or fail to prevent various forms of marginalisation. Even when individuals are responsible for their poverty, modern notions of citizenship enshrined in national and international law entitle them to various forms of state protection. Under these circumstances, the law becomes an instrument for redistribution. Much of this work is still cutting-edge but a start was made at a workshop held in Onati, Spain in 1999 which aimed to explore the theme of “Law and Poverty”. The twelve papers presented at the workshop are now reproduced in a book brought out by the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP) of the International Social Science Council. The book is divided into four sections which look into:
>poverty as a legal construction
>the responsibility for alleviating poverty
>establishing legal entitlements
>legal initiatives to address poverty

The paper titles comprise of:
>the right to development as a basic human right
>cross-border reflections on poverty: lessons from the United States and Mexico
>poverty as a violation of human rights: the Pinochet case and the emergence of a new paradigm
>the politics of child support
>the state, laws and NGOs in Bangladesh
>exclusion and rights
>poverty and property – human rights and social security
>the effect of legal mechanisms on selective welfare strategies for needy persons: the Greek experience
>gender mainstreaming as an instrument for combating poverty
>does alcohol and tobacco legislation help reduce poverty: the evidence from Sri Lanka
>child labour: a threat to the survival of civilization
>labour organization and labour relations law in India: implications for poverty alleviation
The book comes to the following broad conclusions:
>improved understandings of and approaches to poverty require broad analysis that takes into account different angles, frameworks and lenses
>while poverty is culture and nation-specific, it also has an increasingly important global >dimension which needs to start being taken into account
>support initiatives for poor people are more powerful when framed as citizenship rights – >particularly in the context of social exclusion and gender inequality
>more effective poverty reduction in an age of globalisation requires reconsidering traditional >distinctions between public and private areas of responsibility

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Climate change: feed it and weep or lead and reap

Jeffrey Sachs
Australia will reap important benefits from the carbon pollution reduction scheme. Properly, the Government has left itself considerable flexibility on several points, which will depend heavily on what other countries do. But the value of the scheme lies not in the details but in three more basic considerations. Australia can now lead economically, technologically and diplomatically in the global effort that lies ahead.
A global climate control regime is on its way. It will almost surely not be a global emissions trading system, but a regime in which participating countries commit to national targets implemented through national means. The Government's proposals can work whether or not global trading comes to pass.
Until now Australia, like the United States, has absented itself from a carbon policy. Some may have viewed this as clever "free riding" on the exertions of others, but that view was short-sighted and wearing thin. A global system will come, and the laggards will face sharper economic dislocations than those who have taken a running start.
In the US, for example, the financial sector has basically stopped financing conventional coal-fired powerplants. Nuclear power is also a huge question mark for market financing, given public worries and the lack of an agreed national strategy. The automotive industry, long betting on cheap oil and a lack of public interest in climate change, is flat on its back. Australia will spare itself the risks of backing into a stalemate on energy technology and infrastructure investment by charting a course consistent with long-term climate change mitigation.
Emissions trading can support the transition to sustainable energy in Australia but will surely not be enough, a fact acknowledged by the Government's initiation of complementary programs such as the Climate Change Action Fund, to spur the adoption of innovative energy technologies.
Transformative technologies, such as carbon capture and sequestration at coal-fired power plants, large-scale solar power, plug-in hybrids, green buildings and perhaps nuclear power, are even more important in achieving a low-cost transformation.
Australia stands to benefit enormously by speedier action on technological development and demonstration. As the world's largest coal exporter, and as a continent with vast solar potential, Australia could find itself a sustainable energy technology leader in just a few years. I think the same could be true about nuclear power in Australia, despite the obvious grounds for public reservations.

One of the greatest benefits from the Government's new initiative will be geopolitical. Australia needs to be at the global negotiating table, not only to defend its national interests but also to help broker the global grand bargain. There is probably no world leader better placed than Kevin Rudd to help intermediate the complex pas de deux that will begin between China and the US next year. Only a solid agreement between the two largest emitters can underpin global actions beyond mere gestures.
China will have to understand that it can no longer hang back and call on rich countries to lead first. China is already rich enough, and emitting enough, to bear major global responsibilities. In any event, the US Senate will not ratify an agreement that puts US industry at a competitive disadvantage. At the same time, China will not move unless it sees a way to combine its continued rapid economic growth with emissions restraint.
Since Australia and China are close neighbours and major trading partners, and share such basic challenges as coal-based power sectors, increasing water stress and solar potential, Australia is especially well placed to help identify global principles and a technological pathway that can accommodate the concerns of China, the US and Europe.
I don't subscribe to every detail of the green paper. I would have leaned more heavily on upstream carbon taxes than downstream carbon permits as the way to put a market price on carbon with least administrative difficulty and most long-term predictability. I am more sympathetic to nuclear power. But Australia has taken a huge step forward to protect its economy, its fragile climate-stressed ecology, its long-term technological leadership and its geopolitical role.
Jeffrey Sachs is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, on the Millennium Development Goals. He is author of Common Wealth: Economics For A Crowded Planet.

Why no bailout for the hungry?

Could all those bailout billions been put to better use? How about feeding poor, starving people?
From the Washington Post:
"The amount of money used for the bailouts in the U.S. and Europe -- people here are saying that money is enough to feed the poor in Africa for the next three years," said Stephen Muchiri, head of the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation.
No question: On its face, there is an obscene disparity between the trillions of dollars that will be spent by Western governments to keep financial markets from breaking down and the paltry $12.3 billion pledged in July by governments and other donors in Rome to tackle the world food crisis. Even just in the United States, the Department of Energy appears to see little problem with loaning GM $5 billion to purchase a nearly worthless Chrysler, but the White House couldn't find the cash to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program from $5 billion to $12 billion a year so as to cover everyone. These are the kinds of funding gaps that drive caring people insane.
But suppose that the U.S. and various European governments had decided not to bail out their banking systems, and in consequence, credit markets completely collapsed and world trade ground to a halt. It's quite possible that global poverty and hunger would drastically worsen. If farmers have no access to credit, they are unable to pay for seed and fertilizer and labor. If shipping companies have no access to credit, food doesn't move across the oceans. If enough banks collapse, mass unemployment is sure to follow.
I do not mean to privilege one form of spending over another. I think one of the clear lessons from the efforts of governments to address the financial crisis is that when properly motivated, political leaders will throw astonishing amounts of money at a problem. If we can find $700 billion to bail out our banks, surely we can fund national health care and end starvation. But it's also not an either-or question. We would all likely be worse off, in Africa and the United States, if the wheels came completely off the global economy.
― Andrew Leonard

It's Time for Poverty to Have the Spotlight

by Chelsea Wieber
After a few fumbled attempts on their own, global financial leaders gathered in Washington D.C. last weekend to develop a joint plan to prevent the spread of the financial crisis.
Imagine if they focused just a fraction of that attention on alleviating global poverty. After all, high food and fuel prices pushed an additional 75 million people further into poverty this year.
"When food prices peaked and began to come down, despite the fact that conditions within poor countries remained hugely adverse, attention already started to wane," development economist Jeffry Sachs told Reuters. By contrast, the world's finance ministers jumped to commit incredibly large sums of money when credit markets started to fail — a crisis that continues to hold the world's attention.
"The amounts that are needed (to help the poor grow more food) are in the low billions of dollars and we're talking every day now about a new commitment of hundreds of billions for this and hundreds of billions for that," says Sachs. "The truth about poverty is that the poor don't need very much."
In other words, $700 billion — or whatever the astronomical total the worldwide bailout turns out to be — would go a long, long way.

The Real North Korean Crisis

by Manasi Sharma
When you think of North Korea, you may first think of the ongoing nuclear weapons debates and political squabble with the U.S. Yet according to the latest United Nations report, the most significant problem affecting North Koreans is the current shortage of food there.
The UN report found that more than three-quarters of North Korean families have cut their food intake to two meals per day. Even city dwellers are facing higher food prices. A recent Time magazine article says many children have stopped attending school due to hunger, while their parents search for food instead of going to work.
North Korea hasn’t seen such a devastating food crisis since the 1990s, when a famine took more than a million lives. Time blames the government for the current food shortage. In the 1990s, government officials privatized food distribution to some extent so that farmers could sell grains and food throughout the country. The result was that famished North Koreans could still find food. But in 2005, according to Time, the government broke up these markets and confiscated grain from farmers, leading to the current shortfall of production. Destructive floods in 2007 further hampered the country's agricultural production.
The UN also reported a rising number of children suffering from malnutrition and diarrhea. The food crisis guarantees more hunger-related deaths according to an expert on North Korean economy at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
North Korea’s leadership does not want to pursue market reform according to Nicholas Eberstadt, a North Korea expert at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. He says allowing open markets to emerge in the state dominated food distribution sector would imply a significant change of Pyongyang’s policies. Major reforms are not a part of North Korean culture or government, a regime that requires government permission to own a cell phone or computer. However, without changes in policy and perhaps even ideology, North Koreans will continue to experience health-related problems if the government is unable to provide basic necessities such as food.
The World Food Program has expanded their food aid program in North Korea in hopes of reaching 6.5 million people. Without additional help from donor countries, North Koreans may see the 1990s famine repeat itself.