Video

I name this video: “Enthusiastic majority white progressives saving the world in a Western lecture hall while multicultural stock video beneficiaries from across the globe dance with happiness and gratitude’

#Facepalm. #WhiteSaviours

Does anyone singing this song realise how much they (we) are part of the problem, or that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are NOT going to fix a system that has inequality and oppression built into it?

I don’t really want to give this any more oxygen. But. Really?

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News: GJN asks – is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?

If you’ve read the blog, you might be aware that I’m not exactly the greatest supporter of The Gates Foundation. Our team at The Rules criticised their ‘Narrative Project’, which invested much in pushing foreign aid as a solution to global poverty and inequality; and I have called them out on here for Melinda’s use of patriarchal language to talk about ‘development‘ and the organisation’s neoliberal agenda – I just don’t think they’re good news.

So it was really good to see UK organisation Global Justice Now releasing an important research project today: ‘Gated Development – is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?’, which examines how it is pushing a corporate vision of development features.

The report demonstrates that the trend to involve business in addressing poverty and inequality is central to the priorities and funding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and argues that this is far from a “neutral charitable strategy but instead an ideological commitment to promote neoliberal economic policies and corporate globalisation. Big business is directly benefitting, in particular in the fields of agriculture and health, as a result of the foundation’s activities, despite evidence to show that business solutions are not the most effective.”

Global Justice Now suggests that, for the foundation in particular, there is an overt focus on technological solutions to poverty. They argue that while technology should have a role in addressing poverty and inequality, long term solutions require social and economic justice which “cannot be given by donors in the form of a climate resilient crop or cheaper smartphone, but must be about systemic social, economic and political change – issues not represented in the foundation’s funding priorities.”

One of the most poignant parts of the report for me is where it highlights the fact that despite the Gates Foundation’s aggressive corporate strategy and extraordinary influence across governments, academics and the media, there is an absence of critical voices. Global Justice Now is concerned that the foundation’s influence is so pervasive that many actors in international development, which would otherwise critique the policy and practice of the foundation, are unable to speak out independently as a result of its funding and patronage – this is something I certainly have witnessed explicitly speaking to organisations and people working within the development sector.

Specifically, the report calls on the OECD to undertake an independent international review and evaluation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the UK’s International Development Select Committee to conduct an inquiry into the relationship between DFID and the foundation and the impact and effectiveness of any joint activity in addressing poverty and inequality.

Read the full report here >> www.globaljustice.org.uk/gateddeveloped

It’s also been featured in the UK’s Independent newspaper, which you can read here.

Let me know what you think – is the Gates Foundation a force for good or an exercise in rampant neoliberalism…?

The Wretched of the Earth – Global Frontlines Bloc @ People’s March for Climate Justice and Jobs

I’ll be there. Let me know if you want to join.

“We charge Genocide.
We charge Ecocide.
We see that Climate Change is Colonialism.
We know that Black and Brown communities are the first to die, the first to fight and the first to march in this war against Corporotocracy.

It is clear that without war, mega-development and extractivism there is no crisis of forced displacement, migration, detention and deportation.
That without ideologies of white supremacy there is no basis for treatment of our third world family as sub-human via paramilitary and police.
It is impossible to section our struggles for justice, unless the fight for climate is intersectional and led by the Wretched of the Earth, it will fail.”

“The Global South is the main frontline of the uphill battle against climate change. From Colombia to Côte d’Ivoire, from the Philippines to Pakistan, people are already facing the furious impacts of environmental devastation through floods, droughts, landslides, and typhoons. Diverse forms of extractivism, carried out under the colonial logic of ‘‘Western development’, are wrecking communities and fuelling the planetary crisis through prolonged social and environmental conflict.

All our struggles for justice around the world – for equality, food security, economic fairness, human rights, decent work, environmental protection and more – are interco nnected and tied up in the struggle against runaway climate change.

For many of our communities, this is a question of survival. The climate talks in Paris are about who lives and who dies, about whose lives matter and whose are disposable.

So on the 29th we will be marching for life. We will marching to demand justice for impacted communities. We will marching to decry the impending genocide. We will be marching to demand “system change, not climate change”. We will be marching to denounce the UK government and British extractive companies, whose policies plunder and destroy lives. We will be marching in solidarity with refugees around the world, fleeing the colliding horrors of imperial war, persecution, chronic poverty and climate change.

Together, we are more powerful than they could possibly imagine. Whatever happens in Paris, we can, and we will, build the future from here. A more just, more equitable and better world for us all.”

Originally written by Black Dissidents.

Find out more about the March: here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1500302780295862/

See you there.

Petition: ‘Walter Rodney: Even Death Cannot Silence Him’

Walter Rodney’s 1980 assassination remains a most traumatising political murder in Guyana’s history.  A proper investigation into the death of the pre-eminent scholar, historian, activist and author of How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was evaded by both the largely Afro-Guyanese supported PNC and Indo-Guyanese supported PPP governments until 2014, when the formal WRCOI started work.

Rodney’s political teaching exposed the exploitative nature Guyana’s historic ethnic Indian/African conflict.  His renowned work and legacy in Guyana endured sufficiently to curb racial voting for the first time in 50 years, thus enabling the win of the new David Granger cross-racial coalition government.  Yet Guyana’s new government has refused to allow the Commission a final two weeks to complete the investigation for transparently political reasons.

We demand that the Commission be allowed to finish its long-awaited task and particularly, to hear from the remaining key witnesses. 

This plea has been supported by all three commissioners, the lawyers representing Rodney’s party the Working People’s Alliance, his brother Donald Rodney and the rest of the Rodney family.  A new dispensation for the Commission could resolve previous abuses.  All Guyanese need and deserve a completed inquiry into this atrocity, both to unearth the truth and to promote healing and reconciliation.

Please sign the petition on Change.org to demand that the commission be allowed to finish it’s task. Please also share this with friends and colleagues.

Walter Rodney is a visionary, an inspiration to many and a strong and important voice.

Thank you.

For more information:

Walter Rodney (Wikipedia)

In the Sky’s Wild Noise (documentary about Walter Rodney directed by Lewanne Jones, 1983, 28 min)

Walter Rodney Foundation (Atlanta, US) – International Commission of Inquiry

“Commission of Inquiry into the Assassination of Walter Rodney,” Wazir Mohamed and Horace G. Campbell (TeleSur, 9 December 2014)

Justice for Walter Rodney (Facebook group of the Justice for Walter Rodney Committe, with video testimony from and background on the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry)

“Government ministers should not disparage and denigrate it; Cabinet should govern.”  Statement issued by the Justice for Walter Rodney Committee on the halting of the WRCOI, 1 September 2015.

It’s time to rethink the British Empire State of Mind

“For in the last resort, the only important question is, Do you want the British Empire to hold together or do you want it to disintegrate?  And at the bottom of his heart no Englishman does want it to disintegrate.  For, apart from any other consideration, the high standard of life we enjoy in England depends upon our keeping a tight hold on the Empire, particularly the tropical portions of it such as India and Africa.  Under the capitalist system, in order that England may live in comparative comfort, a hundred million Indians must live on the verge of starvation – an evil state of affairs, but you acquiesce in it every time you step into a taxi or eat a plate of strawberries and cream.  The alternative is to throw the Empire overboard and reduce England to a cold and unimportant little island where we should all have to work very hard and live mainly on herrings and potatoes.”

–George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937, p 159)

Today I am officially launching a new campaign – British Empire State of Mind – to challenge Britain’s continuing colonial mentality,  which I believe is the cause of increasing international inequality and xenophobia and racism in the UK. I hope you will join me in getting involved, taking part, or simply supporting the campaign.

Many argue that the British Empire ended in 1997 when the union flag came down in Hong Kong. However, the legacy of this empire lives on and with it a ‘British Empire State of Mind’.

Britain, a tiny island with a population of around 65 million, still holds a very privileged position of power and influence internationally, it has a very self-centric view of the world that continues to elevate it and its people as ‘civilisers’, ‘heroes’ and ‘saviours’, and traditional ‘British’ values, culture and norms as an ideal global standard.

Throughout history this ‘British Empire State of Mind’ and resulting actions has led to the suffering of people the world over, the pilfering of resources and the destruction of our planet. The result today is this: globally we are witnessing increasing political and economic inequality and borders that are closed to people but open to money, and at home in the UK there is a pervasive and growing fear of immigration and xenophobia and racism.

The context

I believe that (largely white) Brits are often (and sometimes unconsciously) ignorant of the inconvenient truth of the impact that Britain has had, and continues to have, on the world, and how this subsequently relates to the experiences of people of colour in the UK. I want to challenge this.

Throughout the media and in daily conversations between people in Britain it’s not uncommon to hear or read the following sentiments in discussions about society, politics and economics:

  • “Immigrants are coming to the UK and stealing our jobs”
  • “Immigrants and foreigners arrive here and dilute our culture with their own languages/food/religion/values”
  • “Immigrants are coming to the UK to live but they should sort out the problems in their own countries – there’s not enough room”
  • “People are poor in developing countries because of their corrupt leaders/lack of resources/lazy populations/fighting with one another”
  • “There’s nothing we can do about poverty in developing countries – it’s not our responsibility”
  • “We’re already doing enough sending them millions of pounds in aid money and sending in our army to help sort them out. It’s nothing to do with us. Charity begins at home.”

Putting to one side for a moment whether or not these statements are a) factually correct or b) patronising/unfair/selfish/racist etc, their foundations are often rooted in ignorance. There is a lack of understanding of the conditions that create global poverty and migration. And there is a lack of understanding of how the actions of the British Empire, with the complicity of British citizens, can be found at the root of a number of man-made global crises as the cause. By putting the problems we see in the world today into the context of our history, realising that these issues are interconnected and looking at them from a variety of different perspectives, we can (hopefully) start to develop a true understanding and empathy for others and realise actually how much influence Britain has had, and continues to have, in shaping these issues.

I’m very aware that information fed to us in the UK by the media/government/education etc often views people of colour and ‘developing countries’ and their inhabitants through a white/western-centric lens, marginalising and disempowering, silencing their voices, manipulating the truth and breeding ignorance.

I believe that achieving global equality will not only require the self-determined ‘development’ of developing countries, but also, in many ways, the underdevelopment and humbling of ‘developed’ nations, Britain included. This will start with examining our actions, our beliefs, what we’ve been told, our experiences and our thoughts.

Britain isn’t alone in this ‘state of mind’, or the influence it wields, it’s one shared by other western European countries, the US, and increasingly other developing global powers, but I’m British and this is my audience.

The event

As part of British Empire State of Mind I am hoping to help coordinate an event that’s not only educational, but transformational. One that fosters empathy and understanding and an ability for the audience to really put themselves in others’ shoes and call for change, rather than simply walking away feeling guilty, angry and helpless – not an easy task…

After an evening of sharing stories and some real listening I’d really like people to come away understanding:

History – The true history of Britain and the British Empire and how the country has benefitted from it (from colonialism and slavery etc).

Today – What’s going on in the world today in terms of global inequality and poverty and how Britain helped create the conditions that caused and continues to perpetuate it now (neocolonialism, war, weapons sales, unfair economics, stereotyping, racism, anti immigration).

How this plays out:

  • In the UK: Fear of immigration, racism and belief that individualism can be pursued without detriment to the global poor, lack of awareness about interconnectedness of countries
  • Around the world: Widening gap between rich and poor, increasing environmental instability, inhumanity, pursuing profit over people
  • To us as individuals: How are individuals are directly affected – including racism, forced migration, impact of climate change etc.

What’s possible? – What’s possible is a world where everyone is recognised as being of equal value and are treated as such, with equal access to opportunity. I believe true equality would, amongst other things, create balance, eradicate poverty, reduce conflict, end environmental destruction and build communities for a world that works for all.

What do we do to make it happen? – Listen, understand, learn, empathise, amplify, question, demand change, share stories.

Possible format

The way I have been thinking that this will work is through the power of stories. Ideally, it would be wonderful to host a series of events with active campaigners (challenging the idea of passive ‘victims’ in developing countries) from around the world and 1st/2nd/3rd/any generation ‘migrants’ in the UK who are or have been impacted by the actions of the UK and the British government and are able and willing to talk about it…

These are just my initial thoughts. I have lots more information and ideas, but I wanted to share the rough outline with you. I want this to be a collaboration and I am well aware that these aren’t my stories to tell – I just want to amplify them for a white, British audience. So far I have come up with concept, carried out research and started to look for, get in contact with and interview people who might have stories to tell (including half of Accra!). I really want to invite anyone who wants to jump on board, contribute, lead, influence and edit the course of the campaign – all feedback, suggestions criticism and input are more than welcome – I’d love to hear what you think. I’m not precious, I just believe that the ultimate end is important.

If this is something you’re passionate about and you want to get involved in in any way (or you know someone who might), or if you think I’m on the wrong track and should be doing something different (or nothing at all!) please do get in touch – you can do so on my Contact page.

You can also follow the campaign (for now) on Twitter – @devtruths and on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/developmenttruths using the hashtag #BESoM.

#TheAfricaTheMedia NeverShowsYou

You’ll have heard me talking in the past about working with a group, Simua, which we hoped would give birth to a campaign to challenge stereotypes of Africa perpetuated by the media, by NGOs, by our governments, by us. For various reasons we didn’t launch it, so I am so unbelievably delighted to see #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou taking off on Twitter.

You might remember that my initial reasons for writing this blog were these: 

“as I have become more involved in the world of international development and increasingly started to wonder about how effective some of the practices are, and how seemingly patronising some of the representations are of ‘developing countries’.”

 And it’s so true. Google Africa. Go to images and you’ll see, amongst a whole host of maps of the continent, hundreds of variations on sunsets, Acacia trees and giraffes. Second to that it’s images of war, poverty and hunger. So a group of young Africans on Twitter have been tweeting under the hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou, and it’s growing by the second with pictures of the diversity, individuality, joy, creativity and beauty of the huge continent, its countries, people, food, architecture, fashion, religion, cultures, art, societies, politics and communities.

Diana Salah, who helped to organise the campaign, told Fusion: “I got involved because growing up, I was made to feel ashamed of my homeland, with negative images that paint Africa as a desolate continent. It’s so important to showcase the diversity and beauty of Africa and with the mainstream media not up for the task, social media was the perfect outlet.” Yes the continent has its issues, just as EVERY OTHER CONTINENT ON THE PLANET… and this is the chance for Africans to tell their own stories, rather than having them prescribed by external influences.

I believe that it is important to remember that, despite the joy of such campaigns and the need to educate people around the world, Africa has nothing to prove. In my opinion, all that needs to happen is that the economic/political/cultural barriers need to be removed to allow the continent to flourish in its own way, do it’s own thing and ‘develop’ in its own image. Europe, the USA and increasingly China (and others), have screwed up the world, and continue to do so – they could learn a lot from Africa, the only continent that doesn’t export its violence, self-interest, destruction and greed.

Some of the favourites:

You can see more of the amazing images here.