AfrikaYetu

An upcoming public and policy engagement non-profit consultancy focusing on Social, Political and Ecological Justice issues in Afrika. We work and stand in solidarity with communities in mineral rich areas in Afrika and other global south environments.

Development Discourse and its ‘Downplayed’ Social Consequences

Health problems facing local community members in the mining areas. This senior member of the North Mara suffered (continues to suffer) from skin problem after washing his face in the River Tighithe which was contaminated by a toxic sludge from the North Mara Gold Mine in May 2009. North Mara Gold Mine is owned and operated by African Barrick Gold – a Subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corporation. Photo by Afrikayetu

Health problems facing local community members in the mining areas.
This senior member of the North Mara suffered (continues to suffer) from skin problem after washing his face in the River Tighithe which was contaminated by a toxic sludge from the North Mara Gold Mine in May 2009. North Mara Gold Mine is owned and operated by African Barrick Gold – a Subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corporation. Photo by Afrikayetu

Pain and misery have been the ‘infamous’ face of the neoliberal capitalist market-led economic system (otherwise known as globalisation) for the last 44 years of its existence. Even though the years of the neoliberal capitalist economic system goes further back than 1970 when the reform policies (known as the structural adjustment policies – SAPs) were rolled-out by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), such pain and misery is mostly experienced within the Global South context.

It is no exaggeration to suggest that countries in the Global South have been the focus of this discourse as far as natural/mineral resource based development is concerned. This is clearly enshrined in the resolutions from the 1972 United Nations conference on development and environment which took place in Stockholm – Sweden. It is evident that countries in the Global South were seen as helpless therefore needed help from the Global North countries. This is deduced from the fact that resolution 9 expressly state that “Developing countries […] need assistance”.

Globalising Development Policies

Apart from the fact that there were so many good points (resolution-wise) raised at this conference, natural/mineral resource exploitation seems to have been a dominant subject matter. Resolutions 2, 5, and 21 focus on natural/mineral resource sovereignty and ascribe such responsibility to the individual States – the governing authorities. However, there is a catch. Even though the previous resolutions give a sense of the realisation that natural/mineral resources are finite by nature, the 1972 Stockholm conference as it concluded, the new chapter of perspectives on the environment and development opened as it “marked the beginning of a debate over the relationship between environmental protection and economic development” (O’Neill 2009).

This conference concluded that “development and the environment are inextricably linked” (UNEP 2010). To start promoting natural/mineral resource exploitation in the name of development, the 1972 Stockholm conference placed an ‘injunction’ against any strict policy measures, it would seem, on individual countries that would stop neoliberal capitalist market-led economic system’s progress as the 11th expressly state that “Environment policy must not hamper development”.

The concept of environment and development was elaborated further in the 1987 Brundtland commission’s report – famously known as “Our Common Future”. The Brundtland report asserted that “environment” is where we all live; and “development” is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot within that abode”. This report in its 30th resolution states that,

“…in the end, sustainable development is not a fixed state of harmony, but rather a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs. We do not pretend that the process is easy or straightforward. Painful choices have to be made. Thus, in the final analysis, sustainable development must rest on political will”.

Undeniably, mining and other land-based economic methods have worked but only in a few countries. The experiences from various countries in the Global South and in many cases among local communities – indigenous communities in the Global North have shown that such mega-projects have only deepened poverty and differentiation. There are so many examples to be given in relation to neoliberal development system’s impacts on human, livestock, environment and Global South economies.

Dead livestock as a result of poorly managed tailings Dam at the North Mara Gold Mine owned and operated African Barrick Gold, a subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corporation. Photo by Afrikayetu

Dead livestock as a result of poorly managed tailings Dam at the North Mara Gold Mine owned and operated African Barrick Gold, a subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corporation. Photo by Afrikayetu

Examples of Development Induced Social Impacts

Between 1955 and 1959 a hydroelectric project known as the Kariba Dam within the Kariba Gorge led to the displacement “of about 57,000 Tonga people living along the Zambezi in both Zambia and Zimbabwe” (Nkhuwa & Musiwa 2010: 12). These evictees are still waiting for a redress as of 2010 when the report by Nkhuwa & Musiwa (2010) titled “Prosperity Unto Death: Is Zambia Ready for Uranium Mining?” was published.

Another case that could serve as a good example of failure of neoliberalising policies is the case of the Barbaig Indigenous people of Tanzania. In the case of this indigenous community, the Tanzanian government expropriated “over 100,000 acres of prime grazing land” (Mwaikusa (1993: 154) to facilitate a large scale wheat production project backed by the Canadian government through its defunct Canadian for International Development Agency (CIDA). Coming at a time of crisis, this was supposed to be famine and hunger ‘silver’ bullet. Yet, another case is that of the rampant land expropriation by the government of Tanzania which have seen many socioecological impacts in the areas such as Bulyanhulu in Kahama District, North Mara, Buzwagi Geita and other places.

What is similar in all these cases is that community members have borne such impacts to their destruction and are still waiting for redress. Even though the 1972 UN’s Stocholm conference on environment and the latter study by Brundtland came up with a lot of practical resolutions, there was no resolution, in our view, which sought to deliberately talk about how the international community should behave. But there was in both reports resolutions prohibiting formulation of restrictive and environmental protective policies within country contexts, especially in the natural/mineral resource rich countries as shown above.

This has left community members in the hands of predatory actors in the process of exploiting natural/mineral resources in the African continent and the rest of the Global South with reckless impunity. Such have and continue to inflict untold pain and misery to the local community members.

Evicted community members trying to make-do with little resources they have to make shelters after an eviction to pave way to multinational mining project. Photo by Afrikayetu

Evicted community members trying to make-do with little resources they have to make shelters after an eviction to pave way to multinational mining project. Photo by Afrikayetu

Cernea (1997), in a celebrated work on population displacement and resettlement titled, “The Risks and Reconstruction Model for Resettling Displaced Populations” lists 10 social injustices committed against humanity, livestock. These are appended below and quoted in full as follows:

  • Landlessness: Expropriation of land removes the main foundation upon which people’s productive systems, commercial activities, and livelihoods are constructed. This is the principal form of de-capitalization and pauperization of displaced people, as they lose both natural and human-made capital.
  • Joblessness: The risk of losing wage employment is very high both in urban and rural displacements for those employed in enterprises, services, or agriculture. Yet, creating new jobs is difficult and requires substantial investment. Unemployment or underemployment among resettlers often endures long after physical relocation has been completed.
  • Homelessness: Loss of shelter tends to be only temporary for many resettlers; but, for some, homelessness or a worsening in their housing standards remains a lingering condition. In a broader cultural sense, loss of a family’s individual home and the loss of a group’s cultural space tend to result in alienation and status deprivation.
  • Marginalization: Marginalization occurs when families lose economic power and spiral on a “downward mobility” path. Many individuals cannot use their earlier acquired skills at the new location; human capital is lost or rendered inactive or obsolete. Economic marginalization is often accompanied by social and psychological marginalization, expressed in a drop in social status, in resettlers’ loss of confidence in society and in themselves, a feeling of injustice, and deepened vulnerability.
  • Food Insecurity: Forced uprooting increases the risk that people will fall into temporary or chronic undernourishment, defined as calorie-protein intake levels below the minimum necessary for normal growth and work.
  • Increased Morbidity and Mortality: Massive population displacement threatens to cause serious decline in health levels. Displacement-induced social stress and psychological trauma are sometimes accompanied by the outbreak of relocation related illnesses, particularly parasitic and vector-borne diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis. Unsafe water supply and improvised sewage systems increase vulnerability to epidemics and chronic diarrhea, dysentery, and so on. The weakest segments of the demographic spectrum—infants, children, and the elderly—are affected most strongly.
  • Loss of Access to Common Property: For poor people, loss of access to the common property assets that belonged to relocated communities (pastures, forest lands, water bodies, burial grounds, quarries, and so on) result in significant deterioration in income and livelihood levels.
  • Social Disintegration: The fundamental feature of forced displacement is that it causes a profound unraveling of existing patterns of social organization. This unraveling occurs at many levels. When people are forcibly moved, production systems are dismantled. Long-established residential communities and settlements are disorganized, while kinship groups and family systems are often scattered. Life-sustaining informal social networks that provide mutual help are rendered non-functional. Trade linkages between producers and their customer base are interrupted, and local labor markets are disrupted. Formal and informal associations, and self-organized services, are wiped out by the sudden scattering of their membership. Traditional management systems tend to lose their leaders. The coerced abandonment of symbolic markers (such as ancestral shrines and graves) or of spatial contexts (such as mountains and rivers considered holy, or sacred trails) cuts off some of the physical and psychological linkages with the past and saps at the roots of the peoples’ cultural identity. The cumulative effect is that the social fabric is torn apart.
  • Loss of Access to Community Services: This could include anything from health clinics to educational facilities, but especially costly both in the short and long term are lost or delayed opportunities for the education of children, and
  • Violation of Human Rights: Displacement from one’s habitual residence and the loss of property without fair compensation can, in itself, constitute a violation of human rights. In addition to violating economic and social rights, listed above, arbitrary displacement can also lead to violations of civil and political rights, including: arbitrary arrest, degrading treatment or punishment, temporary or permanent disenfranchisement and the loss of one’s political voice. Finally, displacement carries not only the risk of human rights violations at the hands of state authorities and security forces but also the risk of communal violence when new settlers move in amongst existing populations.

The above case and many which remain unmentioned demands some sort of explanation as to why the drive from the West (Global North) economic imperialist states and international bodies such as the United Nations (and all its other institutions) glosses over such impacts as if they mattered less if weighed against the ‘need’ for development?

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This entry was posted on Jun 24, 2014 by in Extractive Industry.

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