Right to Protection (R2P) from the World’s Rich
By Shenali Waduge
Would anyone disagree that the distribution of wealth & resources in the world is unequal? It was not so but for some reasons or other we have two extremes - nations that are extremely rich & nations that are extremely poor.
We are aware that one quarter of the world’s population live in the developed North & has four fifths of the world’s wealth at its disposal, while the majority of the developing nations lie south of the equator. Of the "Rich" Luxembourg comes top with an average person earning $40,000 per year, then there is the United States of America the world's most powerful and wealthiest country, with a GDP of $8650 billion - about $31,330 per person.….comparing this to $63 what a Sudanese would earn…there is certainly a visible difference. Why isn’t the whole world rich? Why is Africa stuck in eternal poverty? Why is it that 80% of the world is poor or categorized as "developing" nations?
According to the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations 1% of the richest adults in the world own 40% of the world’s wealth – together it totals $125 trillion globally. The richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world’s total global assets (those in the financial services & internet sectors enjoying super rich status). Half of the world’s adult population barely owned 1% of global wealth.More than a third of the world’s rich lived in the US.
800 million people go to bed hungry every night while the US is fighting against Obesity: 58 million Americans are overweight, 40 million obese, 3 million morbidly obese. 8 out of 10 over 25’s overweight. 76% increase in Type II diabetes in adults 30-40 yrs old since 1990.
Taking the example of disparity further is seafood that comes in from low-income country waters which are ultimately consumed by almost 85% of rich nations (only 15% are consumed by the world’s poor) There are over 3billion people who live on 2 dollars or less & who spend up to 70% of their income on food & even a modest rise in food prices can quickly translate into a life threat. "The excess consumption by the world's obese costs $20 billion annually, to which must be added indirect costs of $100 billion resulting from premature death and related diseases," UN Food and Agriculture Organization director-general Jacques Diouf said. But are the obese really to blame for food scarcity…maybe not so…
Let us take a look at a few statistics:
* The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed one-third is starving / One in twelve people worldwide is malnourished, including 160 million children under the age of 5. United Nations Food and Agriculture
* In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called "absolute poverty"
* It is estimated that some 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition, about 100 times as many as those who actually die from it each year
* Every year 15 million children die of hunger
* Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger
* The Indian subcontinent has nearly half the world's hungry people. Africa and the rest of Asia together have approximately 40%, and the remaining hungry people are found in Latin America and other parts of the world. Hunger in Global Economy
* Nearly one in four people, 1.3 billion - a majority of humanity - live on less than $1 per day, while the world's 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world's people. UNICEF
* Malnutrition is implicated in more than half of all child deaths worldwide - a proportion unmatched by any infectious disease since the Black Death
* About 183 million children weigh less than they should for their age
* 3 billion people in the world today struggle to survive on US$2 a day.
* To satisfy the world's sanitation and food requirements would cost only US$13 billion- what the people of the United States and the European Union spend on perfume each year.
* The assets of the world's three richest men are more than the combined GNP of all the least developed countries on the planet.
The levels of inequality are astounding to say the least.
Why is it that some people in the world have too much supply of wealth while others do not?
Increasingly we see quite a number of developing countries faced with political problems, some nations having to deal with rebels who have a steady flow of arms. There are problems related to starvation (when people do not have enough to eat), malnutrition (lack of a balanced diet), poor sanitation, poor nutrition, lack of money, population explosion, producers being fleeced by retailers & transporters & the World Bank that supplies loans to these countries but expects their money returned with interest leaving countries no other option but to take a fresh loan to repay the first loan materializing into a never-ending cycle of developing nations faced with eternal debt.
The Environmental factor
We are all in agreement of the affects of greenhouse gases on global warming. The consequences of inertia are like to see their results in less than a decade – changes that are likely to affect our life to epic proportions. There is no exaggeration & if one were to view Al Gore’s Noble winning film that may send an impetus for some positive actions – it is predicted that sea levels are likely to rise 2feet or more by 2100 perhaps more & sooner if the Greenland/Antarctic melting accelerates (total melting of Greenland would raise sea level by 7metres or 21 feet. This will certainly threaten coastal populations. Incidentally, 50% or more of the worlds’ population live at or near sea level.
We are witness to dramatic changes in weather patterns – the storms are more intense & lead to frequent flooding & tropical disease, then there are severe droughts, unusual heat waves, lack of portable water, rapid changes in land appropriate for agriculture (arable land in the US likely to move northward towards Canada), the forests are getting damaged, the likelihood that some species like polar bears, penguins are at risk, there is even the risk of damage to infrastructure at high latitude which depends on permafrost.
The world has seen over 4 decades of environmental degradation & who has to foot the bill – the poor nations.
A paper published by the US based Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has discovered that low-income nations subsidized the living standards of middle & high income nations by more than $3trillion between 1961 & 2000 – all caused by climate change.
Surprise, surprise it was discovered that poor nations were responsible for only 13% of greenhouse gases generated over time & would bear up to 29% of the costs (measured in impact on agriculture, water resources, ecosystem disruption & risk of catastrophic weather). The least wealthy nations had only contributed 1.3% of ozone-depleting gases but ended up paying 15% of the health-impact. Almost 55% of the environmental costs carried by poor countries were actually caused by wealthier nations.
The soaring oil prices gave rise to the realization that over pumping would result in the depletion of oil reserves.
The world economy has expanded six-fold since 1950. With the economy growing its demands are outgrowing the earth & the earth’s natural capacities that provide water, food & basic living needs are being compromised & challenged which is why we see collapses in fisheries, shrinking forests, expanding deserts, melting glaciers, rising seas, rivers running dry, eroding soils, rising temperatures….. how can the world’s farmers feed 76million people that add on each year?
It is believed that a human drink nearly 4 quarts of water daily but food requires 2000 quarts of water to produce. 70% of water used for irrigation is either pumped from underground or diverted from rivers. 20% is used by industry while a mere 10% goes to residences. Water is falling short which in turn would mean shortage of food. The 5 warmest years during 124 years (since 1880) took place during the last seven years. 2002 saw record high temperatures in USA & India, the following year Europe had a heat wave that claimed 35,000 lives in 8 countries – Europe suffered a reduction in grain production by 30million tons (equaled half of the US wheat harvest)
Historically it was the supply of land that controlled the growth in food production – today the shortage of water has turned into a barrier that needs greater attention. Linked to this is also the rising level of temperature & its affects on crops – all likely to affect wheat, rice, corn. Rice which is the most water-dependent of the three grains is likely to suffer & farmers will find greater difficulty in finding enough water for rice production, if this occurs the prices will soar & inadvertently affect wheat & corn too. China has reduced grain production by 50million tons & is purchasing from the world market – overnight China has become the world’s largest wheat importer – this 50million ton or more requirement is likely to result in plenty of food scarcity. The problem of food scarcity is more problematic than before. Earlier when world grain supplies were needed, the US would use its idle land to produce & expand the harvest & reestablish price stability – that is non-existent now.
It only remains to say that to secure the future world food supplies efforts need to be taken to raise water productivity, cut carbon emissions & stabilize population. Things like automobile industry need to immediately take steps to cut gasoline use in half, wind resources need to be nurtured to generate electricity (Europe is closing its mines & taking a lead in developing wind power – 40million Europeans are beneficiaries of residential electricity through wind farms). It is predicted that by 2020, half of Europe’s 400 million people will be using wind power.
$47trillion in natural resources are damaged.
Nevertheless, rich nations cannot shirk from their role in damaging the ecosystem.
The will to win the “war on terrorism” must equally translate into win the “war on carbon emissions”
The environmental threat is a concern but it is not a security concern as seen in the manner in which powerful nations are using this as a canard to exert pressure on developing countries while ignoring the real perpetrators – the rich countries. The report by the UN Inter governmental Panel on Climate Change declares that there is more than 90% possibility that global warming in the past half century is related to the increase of greenhouse gases generated by the human use of fossil fuel – it certainly implicates the major fossil fuel consumers which are the industrial developed countries. The US being the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions has refused to accept the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions (claiming that the protocol is likely to affect 80% of global population) Is it the 290million US citizens or the US successive governments that are responsible for one fourth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions? ….even Australia has also refused. Global warming in essence will result from human “faults” though it will manifest itself through natural disasters & all countries including the rich are likely to be affected.
Globalization & the reality of trade agreements
1944 saw the emergence of two entities known as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) & the World Bank – funded by the US its aim was to rebuild the shattered world economy after two world wars. Europe was facing a wave of revolutions & US needed to work out a program of aid to redevelop Europe. Today, the role of both entities is by far different though it continues to defend the capitalists & world closely with the World Trade Organization.
While the World Bank provides long term loans to governments to finance development projects the IMF decides the eligibility of the recipient countries. Only those countries that agree to accept “structural adjustment programs” will be granted loans (the citizens of these countries are not told what these SAPs are) – how do these countries repay? They have to sell public assets & privatize, cut state expenses for social services like health care, education, child care, pensions etc… who are the real perpetrators of human rights? The loans given by IMF & World Bank in reality create a huge debt trap – leaving poor nations allocating enormous portions of national incomes towards paying interest (the logic of capitalism is when money actually goes from the poor to the rich)
The undeveloped nations of the world owe US$2.5trillion in international debt – repayment to these Western countries will mean nine times more than the loans taken. Reforms to the IMF, World Bank or WTO are not going to help & it is best they are abolished altogether & the debt cancelled & making banks & financial institutions under public ownership.
Rich nations continue to bribe, bully & threaten developing nations especially in trade matters through the WTO – a report titled “Divide & Rule : the EU & US response to developing-country alliances at the WTO” shows how the EU & US have used tactics since Cancun to split alliances like the G90, G20, G33 & African Group to force their own interests – subsidized sugar exports of the EU resulted in the lost of employment to over 36,000 poor in Swaziland, similarly cheap subsidized imports from Italy have made it impossible to sell tomatoes from Ghana…even in India thousands of farmers have committed suicide unable to even feed themselves all due to trade liberalization policies.
Sri Lanka is presently faced with the GSP+ problem a scheme that provides duty free exports of Sri Lankan products to EU nations – a scheme that has benefitted thousands of workers in Sri Lanka. Tagged to the scheme is 27 international conventions that cover human rights, labor rights & environmental standards & preceding its extension has been the highlighting of supposed human rights violations by the Government leading to the GSP+ being used as a weapon against the Government. Now if human rights were the concern of the EU nations should they not think that denying a Government the scheme actually translates to denying thousands of workers a means of employment? Would the EU not be creating a human rights violation itself as there are over 300,000 people that may face the EU’s decision?
The case of Zimbabwe is no different. The international media has made out Robert Mugabe to be the Hitler of modern times…he well may be but the truth of the situation in Zimbabwe are often kept shielded from the pomp of depicting the leader as a monster & toyed with the idea of military intervention. Little does the world know of the role played by Western Governments, financial institutions, tough diplomacy & proxy interventionists? We cannot deny the depreciating status within the country but was not the decline as a result of Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned commercial farms from 2000 onwards …this was answered by economic sanctions, denial of visas etc making it impossible for Zimbabwe to carry on international trade …the USA’s Zimbabwe Democracy & Economic Recovery Act of 2001 meant that the US Government would even fund “opposition media” as well as any other programs to “discredit” Mugabe & the Opposition Party the MDC was to also receive financial backing & political advice from UK, Germany, Holland, Denmark & the US (Guardian, 2007) – was it a surprise then when Morgan Tsvangirai was seen continuously calling for international intervention even military?
Predictably this is exactly what happened to Saddam Hussein..once a friend of the US so long as US interests were carried it soon became its enemy & a one time leader of a nation was executed without even a proper trial.
In the case of Afghanistan the UK has been accused of a secret deal with the Taliban (The Independent) "Britain planned to build a Taliban training camp for 2,000 fighters in southern Afghanistan, as part of a top-secret deal to make them swap sides, intelligence sources in Kabul have revealed."
The case of the former Yugoslavia also depicts the evil will of the rich nations. According to the official charge of the International Criminal Tribunal - Yugoslavia has been ripped apart all because of an evil individual (Milosevic) & we are being projected a notion of “endless ethnic hatred” among small nationalities of the region which immediately permeates us to ponder whether these are the workings of hidden agendas of US & West European corporate powers – or was a mere coincidence that they have acquired major industries, infrastructure & resources of the Balkans & East Europe facilitated by the NATO bases that help to transfer ownership?
A closer look at who is likely to benefit will reveal the true story behind “invasions” in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan…who will own industries, natural resources, get the contracts to rebuild bombed infrastructure…answers to these will reveal the truth. Thus, a “court” tasked to indict & arrest any political figure becomes the first step in this exercise …a court where there is no jury, no independent appeals body & no bail…..a court where defendants or their lawyers have no right to cross-examine a witness or even know the identity of a witness………in fact these “witnesses” are not even required to appear in court to answer any questions, we have to accept the prosecutors statements of “anonymous” witnesses….a court that is actually paid for, staffed & assisted by private corporations & multi billionaires…. the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was a court whose proceedings were orchestrated by the very countries that bombed it for 78 days, bombed 480 schools, 33 hospitals, & countless bridges, refugee convoys & market places….the former US Secretary General Madeleine Albright set up the court in 1993 in violation of the UN Charter while she was US Ambassador to UN……every bombing that took place by NATO was preceded by a campaign of unsubstantiated charges from unidentified witnesses …. it is why former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark made a case “Indictment of US/NATO for Crimes against Peace, War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity” – a list of 19 charges.
Kosovo’s liberation was similarly described as a “humanitarian intervention” contrary to the explosive propaganda on mass graves there were none to prove. Essentially the truth in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan & perhaps any of the other countries that are being earmarked is the need to devour profit for a few & the best strategy is to create an enemy. There are NATO bases in Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo & Hungary …this is the plan of the “new world order”. There are over 65,000 troops in Kosovo & Bosnia has it brought any peace, reconciliation or stability – is there better life for the people - NO? In Kosovo the unemployment rate stands at 60%, in Bosnia the economy is in ruins ….the $1.3billion loan received by Serbian PM Zoran Djindijic for selling Milosevic to The Hague Tribunal has not helped at all.
The media is now setting the stage for what’s likely to come for Iran…how many other countries are being earmarked is the question! In all the conflict stricken nations there is more to the conflicts than meets the eye…it is upto the world to open their eyes & see the truth behind the media coverage that depicts a different version.
We have on the one side around 25 industrialized “democratic” states whose 750million citizens consume most of the world’s resources, produce most of its manufactured goods & enjoys the highest standards of living – in comparison are well over 100 underdeveloped nations with over 2 billion people, most of whom are bordering starvation. The rich nations may collect at international forums & pledge to provide “aid” but they do little to break the trade barriers that actually contribute to the worsening conditions of these nations & poor nations have to suffer tariffs on agriculture which are five times higher than those on manufacturers.
It may be too farsighted to imagine a world where every country enjoys he same per capita income as the world’s richest country, & also enjoys the same education levels etc. The spoils created by rich nation politicos who have shrewdly divested interest upon themselves through trade agreements & now utilizing a newly developed “human rights” theme may not go on forever…. & the urgency in which these rich nations work towards undermining whatever efforts are being taken by countries to upgrade themselves could possibly be as a result of an inherent fear that the gap they created may not hold.
Could we imagine a time where the Yen or the Indian rupee may run the world economy instead of the dollar? What the poor nations really need are innovative young geniuses to speed up the development of their regions, clean up the environmental hazards & draw up a new world order that is not just suited for the rich ….Sri Lanka was once known as the granary of the East but today it is forced to import rice to feed its people, its having foreign governments bringing up cases of HR violations, other quarters aiming to provide breathing space to a terrorist movement & by & large delaying positive actions that would nullify terrorist activity in the nation.
But, wouldn’t it be a nightmare if the developing nations actually caught up with the rich?
The point of the matter remains that all humans deserve rights to basic needs & this should take precedence over the rights of others whose past time is to accumulate wealth & property. When world systems started at zero levels but unfortunately left only a handful rich are these not obligated to help change the status quo for any injustices & unfairness that have accrued along history?
- Asian Tribune -