Category Archives: Economic Justice

Nicaragua abandons social security changes after dozens killed in riots

with Nicaragua
A security guard outside a supermarket after protests against the Nicaraguan government’s social security reforms, which have now been dropped. Photograph: Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian
Source: Associated Press
22 April 2018

 

President Daniel Ortega says changes implemented on 16 April have been cancelled.

Nicaragua’s president has withdrawn changes to the social security system that triggered deadly protests and looting.

President Daniel Ortega said in a message to the nation that the social security board of directors had cancelled the changes implemented on 16 April. The overhaul was intended to shore up Nicaragua’s troubled social security system by both reducing benefits and increasing taxes.

The changes touched off protests across the Central American nation that escalated into clashes with police as well as looting. The demonstrations appeared to expand to include broader anti-government grievances.

Human rights groups said at least 26 people were killed in several days of clashes. Dozens of shops in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua were looted during unrest that extended into Sunday.

Unlike his appearance on Saturday with the police chief, Ortega announced the cancellation of the overhaul accompanied by business executives who account for about 130,000 jobs and millions of dollars in exports.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis said at the Vatican that he was “very worried” about the situation in Nicaragua and echoed the call of local bishops for an end to all violence.

Images broadcast by local news media showed looted shops in the capital’s sprawling Oriental Market district and at least one Walmart.

Police apparently did not intervene on Sunday, in contrast to what had been a strong response to earlier demonstrations in which dozens were injured or arrested.

“We are seeing social chaos in Nicaragua provoked by the absence of government leadership, and the crisis has been combined with poverty, and that in any society is a time bomb,” sociologist and analyst Cirilo Otero said.

Ortega had said on Saturday he was willing to negotiate on the social security overhaul, but said the talks would be only with business leaders.

He seemed to try to justify the tough response against protesters by the government and allied groups, accusing demonstrators, most of them university students, of being manipulated by unspecified “minority” political interests and of being infiltrated by gangsters.

Nicaragua has been one of the more stable countries in Central America, largely avoiding the turmoil caused by gang violence or political upheaval that has at times plagued Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in recent years.

But top Nicaraguan business lobby COSEP has backed peaceful protests against the government, and said it would not enter talks with Ortega to review the social security plan until he had ended police repression and restored freedom of expression.

A former Marxist guerrilla and Cold War antagonist of the United States, Ortega has presided over a period of stable growth with a blend of socialist policies and capitalism.

But critics accuse Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, of trying to establish a family dictatorship. The country remains one of the poorest in the Americas.

Behind the violent upheavals in the Congo Democratic Republic

Posted by Chika Onyejiuwa | Mar 26, 2018 | Africa |
Africa-Europe Faith & Justice Network

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REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

As the year 2017 wound to a close, the world received ‘’the announcement’’ that the Democratic Republic of Congo was on the verge of entering a new phase of arms conflicts. It was more of a news report than a prediction. In no distant time, the news had assumed a distressing tone; the UN reported that the DR Congo was reaching a ‘breaking point’, violence had once again enveloped the resource-rich nation, and another humanitarian crisis was looming.Like many other African countries, the huge natural resources of this beautiful country have become a curse for her citizens. Their political elites have squandered their post-independence years, looting their resources instead of creating structures for nation-building. The perennial arms conflicts in Congo DR is a systematic struggle of her political elites to sustain their control the country’s vast natural resources and continue with the looting spree. Fortunately, there is a time when even the weakest rise in defence of life, even at the cost of life itself. Could it now be the time for the Congo DR?

The present impasse in Congo arose from the refusal of Joseph Kabila to keep to the ethos of democracy at the end of his mandate in 2016 and the decision of the Catholic Church to stand with the people to demand accountability from him. Indeed, the decision of the Church to stand with the voiceless people of Congo is truly encouraging. It is not only prophetic for the people of Congo; it is also an encouragement to the other Episcopal Conferences in Africa who remain silent in the face of injustices, exploitation and oppression of the people by their leaders. Probably, if the Church in Africa had embraced the Holy People of God as she has embraced the Holy Altar of God through the years, Africa would currently be singing sweet melodies.

Meanwhile, recall that the Congolese constitution was created only in 2006; thirty-two years after Mobutu Sese Seko had plundered the resources of the country. Joseph Kabila accidentally ascended to the throne, but he and his coterie appear ready to use all available means to crush, silence and eliminate any opposition to their effort to stay in power to protect their corrupt and ill-gotten wealth. It is on record that the Kabila family business empire alone includes 80 companies and businesses, 71,000 hectares of farmland, the largest diamond permits along 450 miles of Congo’s border with Angola and a 4.8% stake in one of the country’s largest mobile phone networks. Of course, unjustified acquisition of wealth makes such acquisitions vulnerable to the imperatives of democracy; it is therefore not surprising that Kabila is willing to mortgage the lives of the Congolese in defence of his loot.

While we stand aghast at the corruption, lack of vision and the desperation of the African leaders for ill-gotten wealth, we must point out the complicity of the global north in the crime of the African political elites against their people in providing the safe havens for their loot. It is not possible to speak about the looting of the Africa resources by their political elites without the shadow interest of the global north.

In April 2015, Ibrahim Thiaw, the Executive Director of the UN Environment program, stated that the estimated annual earnings from exploitation of natural resources in Congo by far exceeded USD1 billion. He noted with regret that about 98% of that earning ended up in the coffers of international concerns while the remaining 2% went into the funding of armed groups in Congo DR.

It is known that the link between the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources; and the proliferation of arms is one of the major factors fueling and exacerbating the conflicts in the Great Lakes. One then wonders why it is that the global north is reluctant to bring its gains in democratic principles to bear on their relations with Africa. In 2016, the European Union shied away from complete regulation of the supply chain of the 3TG (Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum and Gold) even in the presence of compelling evidence to the contrary. It is evident that the failure of Syria is not so much the corruption of President Assad as the shadow interests of some countries of the global north. Unfortunately, those picking up the pieces are not the champions of the interests. If the Congo DR fails, the European Union would surely have enormous challenges with which to grapple.

The EU must now rise above their shadow interests to mobilise the international community and pressurise Kabila to step down from power because Africa is her next-door neighbour. Botswana has shown that the African national governments will flow with the tide of international leadership. Not only that, the EU will need to go beyond mere words to reconsider her unproductive paternalistic economic relations with Africa. There are insinuations out there that the presence of Europe in Africa is the best thing that has happened to Africa irrespective of its shortcomings, pointing to the presence of the Chinese who have infested Africa with their ubiquitous presence. One wonders whether this is the theory of a messiah or a vampire. Although the Chinese – who are pushing on all fronts of the African economy – may not be the perfect economic collaborators, at least it is a wake-up call for the former colony owners that a new economic interest has entered the ‘market place’ that was originally their monopoly. What then is the take of the average African on the current multiple economic interests in the continent? In the interim, it provides alternatives; what it would be in the long run is a matter of speculation. While hoping for the best, the continent awaits the later outcomes with mixed feelings and a prayer that it may not become another veiled plundering that leaves the land and its people poorer.

For now, the Congo DR boils, and the poor people are dying in their hundreds. The international media carry the news of killings, maiming, incarcerations and other gory inhuman acts. Immediate and long-term responses are needed. There are also other pockets of state unrest in Africa. Dare we say that the input of the international community towards crisis resolution in Africa is one of the strongest differentiating coefficients between economic partners and plunderers?

Chika Onyejiuwa

 

 

End of an Era

Thank you to Sr. Marie André Mitchell, SNDdeN (from the Zimbabwe-South Africa Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur) for sending this article and site.

Please continue to keep Zimbabwe in your prayers.


The Jesuit Institute is passionate about building bridges between faith and the broader society. Each week we offer a reflection on something topical. Feel free to reproduce or distribute but please credit the Jesuit Institute and the writer.

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The End of an Era
by Anthony Egan SJ

Robert Mugabe’s resignation on 21 November 2017 after 37 years as President of Zimbabwe is the end of an era. It is also a relief for many – perhaps most – Zimbabweans, whose country has undergone political, economic and social turmoil for so long. For many the events of the last week or so culminating in Mugabe’s peaceful deposition is a sign of hope. It will almost certainly have consequences wider afield.

The last twenty years have been tragic for Zimbabwe. Instead of improving the people’s lot, chaotic land reform, whatever it’s symbolic and social necessity, damaged the nation’s economy and reduced its agricultural output. The once-strong Zim Dollar collapsed and its replacement by the U.S. Dollar and the Bond Notes has crippled the economy and reduced the majority of citizens to poverty. Beyond that, there have been constant claims of corruption, electoral irregularities, political intimidation and increasingly authoritarian state power. As one who has visited Zimbabwe regularly since the 1980s, I have noticed over the years how behind the warmth of the Zimbabweans I met there has been an increasing sense of fear, uncertainty and even pessimism about the country’s future.

This week that changed. This is all to the good. One can only hope and pray that things will improve.

There are questions, of course, about Mugabe’s successor. Emmerson Mnangagwa has a reputation among political observers as a ‘hard man’. He was minister of State Security during the Gukurahundi massacres in the south during the 1980s. Combatting guerrilla dissidents led to well-documented atrocities. Similarly, he was implicated later by the United Nations in mineral trafficking and using the Zimbabwe Defence Force for personal gain during the country’s intervention in the civil war in the Congo. To deliver on the hope this week has generated, Mnangagwa will have to restore national confidence in democracy and introduce policies to revive the economy.

Is this possible? While cynical political observers may doubt it, the Christian vision says it is possible. At the heart of faith is metanoia – conversion of heart. But there must be the will to do it.

Looking beyond Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s deposition may have wider, perhaps unexpected, consequences. The sense that a seemingly untouchable figure can be forced to resign could have a ripple effect in countries across Africa, where once-popular leaders have overstayed their welcome.

While the blunt instruments of mass protest and ‘coups’ are not the ideal way to change governments, particularly in constitutional democracies, they may occasionally be the only way to remove folks in power past their sell-by date. The events this week may be an impetus and inspiration in some countries to encourage unpopular leaders to consider other gainful employment.

I would not be surprised, too, that, in South Africa, Mugabe’s resignation has not been watched with unease. Though there is no exact correlation (yet) between the Zimbabwean and South African situations, widespread discontent with Jacob Zuma’s government grows. This should be particularly apparent to the ruling party as its party congress approaches. Could events in Zimbabwe be the catalyst for the end of yet another era…?

[ http://www.jesuitinstitute.org.za/index.php/2017/11/23/end-of-an-era/ ]

 

Catholic church to make record divestment from fossil fuels

by Arthur Neslen
Guardian
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

More than 40 Catholic institutions will make largest ever faith-based divestment, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.

Church Steple and coal plants
A Catholic church spire against smoky coal power plants in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

More than 40 Catholic institutions are to announce the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.

The sum involved has not been disclosed but the volume of divesting groups is four times higher than a previous church record, and adds to a global divestment movement, led by investors worth $5.5tn.

Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, hailed Tuesday’s move as “a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission.”

She said: “I hope we will see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit, because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative.”

Church institutions joining the action include the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the spiritual home of the world’s Franciscan brothers.

A spokesman for the €4.5bn German Church bank and Catholic relief organisation Caritas said that it was committing to divest from coal, tar sands and shale oil.

In a symbolically charged move, the Italian town of Assisi will also shed all oil, coal and gas holdings the day before a visit by the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, to mark St Francis’s feast day.

Assisi’s mayor, Stefania Proietti – a former climate mitigation professor – told the Guardian: “When we pay attention to the environment, we pay attention to poor people, who are the first victims of climate change.

“When we invest in fossil fuels, we stray very far from social justice. But when we disinvest and invest in renewable and energy efficiency instead, we can mitigate climate change, create a sustainable new economic deal and, most importantly, help the poor.”

The origins of the latest church action lie in last year’s climate encyclical by Pope Francis – himself named after St Francis of Assisi – although the project was advanced by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

 

When women have land rights the tide begins to turn

IPS
By Manipadma Jena

This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Women’s secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India’s Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2017 (IPS) – In Meghalaya, India’s northeastern biodiversity hotspot, all three major tribes are matrilineal. Children take the mother’s family name, while daughters inherit the family lands.

Because women own land and have always decided what is grown on it and what is conserved, the state not only has a strong climate-resistant food system but also some of the rarest edible and medicinal plants, researchers said.

While their ancient culture empowers Meghalaya’s indigenous women with land ownership that vastly improves their resilience to the food shocks climate change springs on them, for an overwhelming majority of women in developing countries, culture does not allow them even a voice in family or community land management. Nor do national laws support their rights to own the very land they sow and harvest to feed their families.

The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow.

Continue reading When women have land rights the tide begins to turn

In a “World of Plenty,” G7 Must Fight Famine

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
IPS

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A child from drought-stricken southern Somalia who survived the long journey to an aid camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 2017 (IPS) – World leaders must step up and take action in fighting famine to prevent further catastrophic levels of hunger and deaths, said Oxfam.

Ahead of the 43rd G7 summit, Oxfam urged world leaders to urgently address the issue of famine, currently affecting four countries at unprecedented levels.

“Political failure has led to these crises – political leadership is needed to resolve them…the world’s most powerful leaders must now act to prevent a catastrophe happening on their watch,” said Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.

“If G7 leaders were to travel to any of these four countries, they would see for themselves how life is becoming impossible for so many people: many are already dying in pain, from disease and extreme hunger,” she continued.

In northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, approximately 30 million people are severely food insecure. Of this figure, 10 million face emergency and famine conditions, more than the population of G7 member United Kingdom’s capital of London.

After descending into conflict over three years ago, famine has now been declared in two South Sudan counties and a third county is at risk if food aid is not provided.

In Somalia, conflict alongside prolonged drought – most likely exacerbated by climate change – has left almost 7 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Drought has also contributed to cholera outbreaks and displacement.

Byanyima pointed to the hypocrisy in a “world of plenty” experiencing four famines.

These widespread crises are not confined to the four countries’ borders.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, almost 2 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya, making it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Due to the influx of South Sudanese refugees, the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda is now the largest in the world, placing a strain on local services.

Escaping hunger and conflict, Nigerians have sought refuge in the Lake Chad region which shares its borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger only to once again face high levels of food insecurity and disease outbreaks.

Among the guest invitees to the G7 meeting are the affected nations, including the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Oxfam called on the G7 countries to provide its fair share of funding. So far, they have provided 1.7 billion dollars, just under 60 percent of their fair share. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of a 6.3-billion-dollar UN appeal for all four countries has been funded. If each G7 country contributed its fair share, almost half of the appeal would be funded, Oxfam estimates.

In 2015, the G7 committed to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition. Oxfam noted that they should thus uphold their commitments and focus on crisis prevention.

However, some of the G77 nations’ actions do not bode well for accelerated action on famine.

For instance, the U.S. government has proposed significant cuts to foreign assistance, including a 30 percent decrease in funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The proposal also includes the elimination of Title II For Peace, a major USAID food aid program, which would mean the loss of over 1.7 billion dollars of food assistance.

Former US Foreign Disaster Assistance chief Jeremy Konyndyk noted that the cuts are “catastrophic.” “So bad I fear I’m misreading it,” he added.

International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) President David Miliband highlighted the importance of continuing U.S. foreign assistance in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering abroad and protect the interests and security of the U.S. and its allies.

“Global threats like Ebola and ISIS grow out of poverty, instability, and bad governance. Working to counteract these with a forward-leaning foreign aid policy doesn’t just mean saving lives today, but sparing the US and its allies around the world the much more difficult, expensive work of combating them tomorrow,” he stated.

President Trump also called for the elimination of the U.S. African Development Foundation which provides grants to underserved communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has suggested cutting funds to climate change programs such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund which aims to help vulnerable developing nations combat climate change.

Meanwhile, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May has already abolished its climate change department.

In addition to scaling up humanitarian funding, G7 nations must commit to fund longer-term solutions that build resilience and improve food security to avoid large-scale disasters, Oxfam stated. This includes action on climate change, “no excuses,” said Oxfam.

President Trump is expected to announce whether the U.S. will remain in the Paris climate agreement after the G7 summit.

“History shows that when donors fail to act on early warnings of potential famine, the consequence can be a large-scale, devastating loss of life….now clear warnings have again been issued,” Oxfam stated.

“The international community have the power to end such failures—if they choose to—by marshaling international logistics and a humanitarian response network to work sustainably with existing local systems to prevent famine and address conflict, governance, and climate change drivers,” Oxfam concluded.

The G7 summit is hosted by Sicily, Italy and will be held from 26-27 May.

Change the Goal – Doughnut Economics

YES Magazine

David Korten

I see a lot of books presuming to explain what’s wrong with the economy and what to do about it. Rarely do I come across one with the consistent new paradigm frame, historical depth, practical sensibility, systemic analysis, and readability of Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth. Especially unique and valuable is her carefully reasoned, illustrated, and documented debunking of the fatally flawed theory behind economic policies that drive financial instability, environmental collapse, poverty, and extreme inequality.

Doughnut Economics opens with the story of an Oxford University student. Recognizing the inseparable connection between the economy and the environmental and social issues of our time, she did what many students with such concerns do. She signed up for an economics major hoping to learn how she might contribute to creating a better world.

What she learned instead is that the theory taught in textbook economics is hopelessly simplistic and largely irrelevant to her concerns—and to those of many of her fellow students. Rather than just shift to a more relevant major, however, she started what has become a spreading global student movement demanding reform of university economics curricula.

On a fast track to becoming one of the world’s most influential economists, Raworth has produced a book that more than validates the reasons for the student revolt. She fills in yawning gaps in current textbook economic theory to make the connections for which these students—and many of the rest of us—are looking. More