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.
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.
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.
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:
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?