Tag Archives crisis

EADI ISS Conference 2021 | For the redistribution of water, framing matters!

EADI ISS Conference 2021 | For the redistribution of water, framing matters!

In the face of increasing pressure on global water resources, a degree of inventiveness in finding just and sustainable ways to ensure access to water is required. The redistribution of ...

The rise of Big Tech cements the fall of the US economy

The rise of Big Tech cements the fall of the US economy

While the US economy is going through its worst crisis in the last eight decades, with small businesses shutting down en masse and millions of Americans losing their jobs, one ...

Haemorrhaging Zambia: Underlying sources of the current sovereign debt crisis

Following a stand-off with commercial creditors and protracted but unresolved negotiations with the IMF, Zambia defaulted on its external sovereign debt on 13 November this year. While most commentary has focused exclusively on the government’s sovereign borrowing, our own research has detected massive outflows of private wealth over the past 15 years, hidden away in an obscure part of the country’s financial account. The outflows are most likely related to the large mining companies that dominate the country’s international trade. With many other African countries also facing debt distress, this huge siphoning of wealth from Zambia provides crucial lessons that need to be central in discussions about debt justice in the current crisis. We explain here what we’ve found.

Zambia was already debt-stressed going into the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy was hard hit following the sharp fall in international copper prices from 2013 to 2016, especially given that copper made up about 72% of its exports in 2018 (including unrefined, cathodes and alloys). Following a severe currency crisis in 2015, the government entered into negotiations with the IMF for a balance of payments support loan, but until now they have failed to reach an agreement on the conditions and accompanying programme. There was some improvement in its macroeconomic outlook in 2017 due to rising copper prices, which sent international investors throttling back into optimism.

However, international investors again turned against the country in 2018 in the midst of the global emerging market bond sell-off, which compounded the effects of severe droughts in 2018-19. As a result, the government was already teetering on the edge of default on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic fall-out of the pandemic has since pushed the country over the edge (see an excellent analysis here).

Inductive quantitative balance of payments analysis

Most of the commentary on Zambia’s default focuses exclusively on the government’s sovereign borrowing. Our own analysis peers behind this headline focus into the intricacies of financial flows into and out of the economy.

This is part of our ERC-funded project on the political economy of externally financing social policy in developing countries. As the principal investigator, I have focused on researching aid and financial flows related to social protection programmes and their place within broader macroeconomic and political economy dynamics. The rest of the research team (three PhDs: Ana Badillo Salgado, Emma Dadap-Cantal, Benedict Yiyugsah, and one postdoc, Dr Charmaine G. Ramos) have been focusing on how these external dynamics influence the adoption and implementation of social protection programmes.

As one of my main methods, I have been conducting historical-structural inductive analysis of balance of payments and related macroeconomic data. This might be best described as a form of investigative or forensic analysis of the external accounts of the respective case countries, of which Zambia happened to be one.

Financial account anomalies in the post debt-relief period

It is through this analysis that I identified a difficult-to-explain data anomaly on the financial accounts of the Zambian balance of payments that started with the debt relief of the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) in 2005. The anomaly is a sharp rise in net acquisitions of debt instruments by resident non-financial ‘other sectors’ on the ‘other investment’ account. In other words, Zambian residents – which include the local subsidiaries or affiliates of transnational corporations – were massively increasing their holdings of debt assets abroad even in the midst of debt distress at home.

The magnitude of these acquisitions of debt assets far exceeded the amount of Eurobonds that are now in default (worth $3 billion USD). They started at the same time as the MDRI debt relief, when this category jumped from non-existence in 2003 to over $600 million in 2005 and over $900 million in 2006, more than counteracting the gains of debt relief.[1] These obscure debt asset acquisitions then jumped to almost $1.5 billion in 2007 and peaked at over $5 billion in 2012, over $3 billion in 2015, and over $1.8 billion in 2017. While they subsided in 2018 and 2019, they had already reached over $1.3 billion in the first half of 2020 (based on the latest quarterly reporting).

In proportional terms, these outflows reached peaks of almost 20% of GDP in 2012, 15% of GDP in 2015, and over 7% of GDP as recently as 2017. They thereby siphoned off most of the gains from both the commodity boom of the early 2010s and the government’s borrowing, undermining any hope for achieving external financial stability.

What could such debt assets represent? Local subsidiaries of transnational corporations have been known to borrow heavily offshore, as is commonly discussed in the financialization literature.[2] However, such financial operations would appear as debt liabilities, not as debt assets, so this explanation does not make sense.

In exploring this puzzle during fieldwork in Zambia in 2017,[3] we came to understand that the debt assets in question represent an accounting discrepancy that is mostly likely explained by unreported profit remittances by large mining companies in Zambia. Other corporates might have also been involved, although given the conventional wisdom that most things occurring on the external accounts of Zambia are somehow related to the mining majors, it follows that so too were the discrepancies.

The monetary authorities in Zambia have been aware of this anomaly.[4] They admitted to us that they had been trying to figure it out with the help of the IMF. It was not related to private capital flight through banks given that the banking sector is well regulated by the central bank (the Bank of Zambia or BoZ). In contrast, mining companies are not required to report to the BoZ given that they are non-financial firms and hence are not covered by banking regulations, even though they dominate much of the financial activity in the economy, especially on the external accounts.

Indeed, the anomaly itself was a creation of the BoZ based on their observation of discrepancies between their own data versus the reporting of assets held by Zambian residents by the Bank of International Settlements, to which international banks are required to report even when they fall outside Zambian jurisdiction. This led the BoZ to believe that the discrepancies belonged in this category of international debt assets. Technically, however, they should have been reported in the category of errors and omissions or even as profit remittances, although this would have of course raised alarm bells given the magnitude of these flows.

More than just debt relief is needed

The enormous sums involved provide a vital counterperspective to the rise of sovereign borrowing by Zambia. In effect, sovereign borrowing has helped sustain these private outflows, especially once the commodity boom came to an end. Foreigners have profited, much of the wealth of Zambia is now offshore, and yet the Government of Zambia has continued borrowing in a desperate attempt to keep the financial ship afloat despite these massive holes in its hull. Regular Zambians are now paying the price.

The argument for this economic model since the beginning of the century has been, to put it crudely, that Africans are better off being exploited than not being exploited at all, in terms of the extra jobs, investment, demand, and revenue that transnational corporations bring. With governments returning to the spectres of hard adjustment and deep recession, so soon after debt relief and commodity boom were squandered by massive outflows of wealth that open capital accounts facilitated, it is hard to see how this logic retains any credibility. More than just debt relief, a complete rethink of the model is required.


[1] Cancelled multilateral debt was close to $2 billion in both 2005 and 2006 although the actual gains from this were only accrued through reduced interest payments on debt, which only fell by $73 million USD in 2016 and $37 million USD in 2017.

[2] For instance, see Serena JM, Moreno R. 2016. ‘Domestic financial markets and offshore bond financing’. BIS Quarterly Review, September: 81-97. For more critical discussions, see Bortz PG, Kaltenbrunner A. 2018. ‘The International Dimension of Financialization in Developing and Emerging Economies’. Development and Change. 49(2): 375-393; or Kaltenbrunner A, Painceira JP. 2015. ‘Developing countries’ changing nature of financial integration and new forms of external vulnerability: the Brazilian experience’. Cambridge Journal of Economics. 39(5): 1281-1306.

[3] While the PhDs in the project spent four to six months in each of the case study countries conducting political economy process tracing of social protection agendas and programmes, I joined them in each of the countries for a shorter period of time and focused specifically on conducting elite interviews with a range of specialized actors that had technical knowledge and experience over the external financing of domestic spending. These actors included staff from major donors, international organisations, central banks, finance ministries, and other government departments, especially those involved in social protection programmes.

[4] These must remain anonymised given the political sensitivity of these issues.

This article is an abridged and slightly modified version of the full analysis, including detailed data analysis, posted on the Developing Economics blog, which can be found here.

About the author:

 

Andrew Fischer

Andrew M. Fischer is Associate Professor of Social Policy and Development Studies at the ISS and the Scientific Director of CERES, the Dutch Research School for International Development. His latest book, Poverty as Ideology (Zed, 2018), was awarded the International Studies in Poverty Prize by the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP) and Zed Books and, as part of the award, is now fully open access (http://bora.uib.no/handle/1956/20614). Since 2015, he has been leading a European Research Council Starting Grant on the political economy of externally financing social policy in developing countries. He has been known to tweet @AndrewM_Fischer

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Are we in a crisis? Learning from Trump’s lawfare endgame

Are we in a crisis? Learning from Trump’s lawfare endgame

Is there a crisis in the United States, as many commentators would make us believe? If so, what is the nature of that crisis? It has become very fashionable to ...

COVID-19 | Putting COVID-19 into context(s)

COVID-19 | Putting COVID-19 into context(s)

COVID-19 is a hazard, but does not produce the risks that we now see unfolding throughout the world, says ISS researcher Dorothea Hilhorst, who recently participated in a webinar organized ...

Resisting environmental and social injustice through commoning

Lize Swartz in conversation with Dr Gustavo García-López, 2019-2021 Prince Claus Chair

Social and environmental injustice are increasing globally as neoliberalism tightens its grip. Crisis upon crisis are hitting especially vulnerable populations, interacting to create precarious and untenable living conditions. These issues become more pressing in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made more visible to the world the environmentally destructive and socially unjust patterns of our societies. The recovery of more equitable and sustainable ways of life based on communality and interconnectedness is needed to address the hypercomplex global crisis generated by globalized neoliberal capitalism, argues Dr Gustavo García-López, current Prince Claus Chair holder at the ISS. Lize Swartz spoke to him about his work and how commoning can transform the world we live in.


The ISS is one of two research institutes hosting Prince Claus Chair holders—researchers who are selected to spend a period of two years at the institute (or at Utrecht University on alternate years) to conduct research aligning to the position’s theme of ‘development and equity’. Dr Gustavo García-López started his tenure as Prince Claus Chair holder at the ISS in September 2019, focusing on ‘sustainable development, equity and environmental justice’, and regularly visits the Institute, where he spends time working on his research and interacting with other researchers.

Having done his PhD on community forestry initiatives under Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom at Indiana University Bloomington, during his tenure at the ISS Dr García-López will continue to focus on commoning initiatives and community-based natural resources governance, in particular initiatives to recover the commons. To this end he is developing two projects. One of them is comparing initiatives in Portugal (Baldios) and in Galicia, Spain (Montes Vecinales) that are attempting to recover a rural commons and sustain rural livelihoods that are in crisis. He will work with organizations to facilitate collaborative learning processes and the co-production of knowledge to find out what is working and how it is working so people can recover their ties to the land, culturally and economically. While these two study areas have many cultural commonalities, they have different political and legal systems, and García-López with other colleagues hopes to look at the type of policy reforms needed to facilitate the recovery of the commons for each of the contexts.

The second project he is currently engaged in is centered in the Caribbean and focuses on the climate crisis, in particular just transitions to a system that is not based on fossil fuel, extraction and private profit, but rather is based on the commons and is more sustainable and equitable. His interest in this area is based on his personal ties to the area, as a Puerto Rican, but also his observations as a political and environmental activist of growing disaster capitalism following the historic damages caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2018.

“[Hurricane Maria] was a moment of dramatic change,” he said. “Many people had to self-organize to survive, so many community kitchens called Centres of Mutual Aid emerged. Those centres also became spaces for discussing how we can change our society. People discussed how resilient they were, but also the economic crisis, the housing crisis in Puerto Rico, the education crisis, or the food crisis.” According to García-López, one of the biggest issues in Puerto Rico is that 85% or 90% of Puerto Rico’s food is imported “because our agriculture was killed historically to give way to industrialization”.

García-López is also involved in JunteGente, an organization started by a group of friends following Hurricane Maria that focuses on building a collective of professors at the Universidad de Puerto Rico (University of Puerto Rico) to intervene in debates on the economic crisis, the debt crisis, etc. and shape the conversation on this, but also to provide a space for encounters among organizations and academics working on issues of energy, health, environmental justice, urban issues, education, and so forth to develop ways to strengthen cross-sector solidarity.

The loss and recovery of rural livelihoods

The loss of rural livelihoods due to the commercialization of agriculture and rapid, ongoing urbanization, reduced government support for peasant farming, the privatization of land, as well as ecological problems all contribute to what García-López refers to as a rural crisis. In Spain and Portugal, as in many other parts of the world, however, communities are resisting the crisis by attempting to recover the rural commons through various initiatives.

For his PhD, García-López studied community forest management initiatives in Mexico, where similar initiatives were taking place. “Community-based natural resource management is globally recognized as one strategy to integrate proverty reduction, inequality and sustainable livelihood agendas,” García-López says. In Mexico, communities had their own forest enterprises—small, cooperative businesses operating at the community level—that controlled the land and sold timber as an income. But beyond that, forests were recognized as being complex ecosystems with multiple benefits that can be derived from them. Allowing communities to control the land and financially benefit from forests ensured that they were protected by the communities dependent on them. But, García-López highlights, forests are also protected because the value of conserving them—their tangible and intangible benefits beyond source of income are recognized by communities. “There is a conservation mentality in some of the communities.” In Oaxaca, for example, communities created their own community conservation areas, where forests were conserved for other reasons as well: “It’s also an identitarian issue—they are also proud that they have this beautiful forest that they conserve.”

While communities in the Global South are focused strongly on conservation, García-López notes that the Global North is seeing the reversal of trends related to natural resources overexploitation and deforestation. “Centuries ago, the idea of private property owernship did not even exist. In Europe, common lands were given to peasants to enjoy… there was a global shift, and now especially after 2009, after Elinor Ostrom received the Nobel Prize for Economics for the study of the commons… the global discussion started to change, and nowadays in urban cities you see a lot of initiatives to recover urban commons—to recover urban gardens, or housing as a commons, a cooperative—as a reaction to the expansion of private property.” Reconceptualizing natural resource use would change how we think about our relationships and with nature: “Everything that you do to a commons happens to everybody.”

The notion of a commons also can be applied to understand our human interconnectedness globally, remarks García-López. “Everything we do in life is affecting others and is benefiting others in positive and negative ways because of our interconnections. And I think climate change demonstrates that the whole planet is a commons. Anything you do is going to affect the whole world. Climate change changed everything because it shows that everything is interconnected… so we should manage it collectively.”

One of the big problems we have today is the equality issue associated with private property, class and power, where a few people have too much and many are excluded, says García-López. “The commons invites us to think about redistribution, about equality, about the problem of democratic governance—how we make decisions collectively instead of privately. It has a great potential while always recognizing that there will always be challenges. Politics has to remain self-reflective and critical and we have to keep in mind who is excluded.”

Besides this tendency to exclude that has to be kept in check, he mentions an additional, ideological challenge. “Our mindsets, our imaginaries have been so distorted by the idea of private property or self-interest, ownership… if you look at other cosmovisions or ontologies they recognize that precisely because of interconnectedness, ownership doesn’t make so much sense, but it’s difficult to get out of it when you’ve spent your whole life in that system… self-interest is a reality. Ostrom showed us that you could have self-interest, but that you could transcend it by recognizing that acting together would be in everybody’s interest.”

García-López remarks that we’re currently a short-term society, which impedes the ability to envision sustainable futures. Individualism is a major challenge to transformations to collectivity, he says. “It’s hard to do it when you’re overexploited in your work and you don’t have time to do things, because the style of our society is the compartementalization of life. To do things collectively becomes harder when your everyday patterns are individual. That’s why these discussions are linked to discussions about rethinking work—how we do everything. Some commons scholars talk about social reproduction needs that we require for basics of life.”

What García-López stressed throughout the conversation is that academics should be engaged in collective efforts and commoning initiatives that can start within academe as an effort to collectivize and share knowledge and co-create knowledge, reaching out beyond academia to engage with commoning initiatives that are visible in urban and rural contexts around us. While García-López’s research focuses on studying commoning initiatives—the recovery and reimagination of way of life in which things are communal, shared—anyone can create commoning initiatives in their own neighbourhoods or work space to help shape a new society based on degrowth and post-development.


Watch Gustavo García-López in a recorded webinar by JunteGente with the topic “How can we build a counter-hegemonic, supportive and ecological political power from below that challenges the lethal virus of the colony?”


About the authors:

Gustavo Garcia-LopezGustavo García-López is an engaged scholar-activist with a transdisciplinary training, building on institutional analysis, environmental policy and planning, and political ecology approaches. His research and practice centers on grassroots collective commoning initiatives that advance transformations towards socially-just and sustainable worlds. He is currently Assistant Researcher at the Center for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, and Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Planning, University of Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras (on leave). He is co-founding member of the editorial collective of the Undisciplined Environments blog, and of the JunteGente collective, a space of encounters between organizations fighting for a more socially-just, ecological and decolonized Puerto Rico.  

Lize SwartzLize Swartz is a PhD researcher at the ISS focusing on water user interactions with sustainability-climate crises in the water sector, in particular the role of water scarcity politics on crisis responses and adaptation processes. She is also the editor of the ISS Blog Bliss.

Are We Having One or Two Capitalist Crises? Mapping Social Reproduction in Capitalism by Maryse Helbert

Are We Having One or Two Capitalist Crises? Mapping Social Reproduction in Capitalism by Maryse Helbert

In June, a colloquium called ‘capital accumulation: Strategies of Profit and Dispossessive Policies’ was organised for the 50th anniversary of the University of Paris Dauphine. The colloquium provided a snapshot ...

IHSA Conference 2018 | How to defend a common humanity? by Khaled Mansour

IHSA Conference 2018 | How to defend a common humanity? by Khaled Mansour

In a gripping account of his witnessing of the gross human rights violations inflicted on others, Khaled Mansour asks why aid workers are becoming apathetic toward the crimes against humanity ...

IHSA Conference 2018 | Aid behind walls? A spatial view of humanitarian security by Janine Bressmer

The humanitarian aid community in reaction to security risks facing its staff is slowly but surely building a Fort Knox around itself. This article details only some of the risks associated with the building of physical and psychological walls, showing that ultimately, this act negatively influences the relationship between humanitarian staff and local populations. Humanitarian aid workers and scholars must actively investigate how they manage the security of humanitarian staff to prevent this from happening.


Ahead of 2018 World Humanitarian Day on 19 August, organisations are again pushing for recognition of the safety of their staff and operations in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan, Syria and the DRC. In 2017, 313 aid workers were victims of major attacks, of which over 90% were national staff.[1] The perception of this type of violence is hugely influential for how the humanitarian community engages with and responds to the environment where aid work aims to alleviate suffering.

The discourse on violence in humanitarian work, and specifically that of severe violence, has helped exaggerate existential threats and foster a climate of heightened fear.[2] It is in this context that humanitarian risk management found significant traction.[3] Although the delivery of aid has always been in areas experiencing severe violence and suffering from natural disasters or conflict for example, humanitarian security is increasingly seen as a vital part of protecting both the concept and practice of aid.

The need for ways to assess humanitarian security risks

However, there exists no common framework for assessing and responding to risks for humanitarian programming and staff. Ideally, such frameworks are used to identify harm, the probability and severity of the impact, and the development of an appropriate response by the organisation.[4] However, the widespread use of “standard” risk management approaches in humanitarian work represents an increased reliance on standardised assessments and “expert” opinion. The knowledge of staff on the ground, whether in senior management positions or not, arguably no longer feeds into the creation and implementation of security protocols and manuals.

Blanket approaches to the management of security, including both operational and staff security, may mean that stringent restrictions on the movement and visibility of aid workers results in their distancing from those they aim to help. Building concrete walls, setting up barbed wire fences, and posting a security guard in front of the main gate may be a way to deter violence, yet this approach to security can do more harm than good in the long run.

Humanitarian organisations must do more

Presently, the international community approaches security from a reactive stance, often putting in place measures only after major incidences have occurred and without institutionalising dedicated security advisor roles. Yet, and indeed, while aid will never be delivered in entirely “peaceful” spaces, humanitarian organisations must do more to approach their security in ways that neither threaten their own existence, nor that of their staff and the local population.

The current environment of risk management does not allow for the consideration of individual decisions based on available information.[5] This “new” risk management approach is, arguably, institutionalised in aid organisations and erodes individual and local autonomy in favour of distant security experts.[6] Further, the use of security protocols and fortification procedures, in combination with continuous attacks against aid workers, continues to push organisations to react by putting up walls, setting up perimeter lining of their buildings, and reducing the movement and visibility of staff.

This discourse of fear poses significant problems for the future of humanitarian action:

“Risk” leading to invisibility, separation, or absence: Approaching risks in humanitarian programming from a reactive stance can result in the visible separation of aid workers from the local population through their withdrawal into fortified aid compounds. Beyond the visible separation, security protocols can generate a discourse of fear of the “Other”, and can even lead to the absence of humanitarian aid programmes or a transfer of risk to local partner organisations without an accompanying transfer of capacities.

Top-down and divisive approaches to security: Not only does a blanket approach to security fail to consider local information and experiences, but it also can significantly hinder the communication between HQ and the field, as well as between the senior positions on the ground and the national staff. This divide can lead to a loss of trust between the two, resulting in a stop of reporting on security incidences to protect jobs and the program as a whole.[7] The stark divide between both the number of national versus international staff affected by violence, as well as the different security procedures for each, significantly contributes to this.

Materiality of reactive security management and its impact on everyday life inside and outside the compound: The materiality of the actual fortification can serve to enable and hinder, shape and change the way in which aid workers inhabit the space inside the compound. Daily routines of requiring permission to exit the compound, using armored vehicles when doing so, and physically and visually reducing ‘seeing’ the beneficiary are results of existing security measures. This can not only have implications for how aid workers act inside the compound, but also for how they perceive their own security, positionality in the local context, and their relationships with other organisations and actors in the space. The compound’s spatial manifestation itself can also influence the local economy. Building materials required for fortification (or even the building of an office space) can impact and alter demand, potentially resulting in price inflation, a reduction of available goods, and an undermining of both local building practices and businesses.

The translation of security protocols and manuals into the everyday: Whereas the generation and implementation of security manuals and protocols is most likely not going to be phased out anytime soon, the way in which aid workers interact with these structures and guidelines every day can greatly improve or undermine how humanitarian aid is carried out and perceived on the ground. Protocols become operationalised through their interpretation, use and adaptation in the context in which they are employed. Restrictions on movements and strict reporting chains can lead to aid workers not only experiencing the local environment in very “securitised” ways, but can also visibly signal to the local population that the organisation sees their space as insecure outside the walls of their own “safe” compound.

Rather than ignoring some of these issues, the humanitarian community must actively investigate its own security management and understand how their actions, materiality and visibility can contribute to safely delivering the assistance they are set up to do. This involves recognising their complicity, through their own discourse and everyday actions, in generating an environment that would rather build walls than find ways to safely integrate themselves in the local society they aim to serve.


[1] Humanitarian Outcomes, “Aid Worker Security Report: Figures at a Glance” (London: Humanitarian Outcomes, 2018), https://aidworkersecurity.org/sites/default/files/AWSR%20Figures%202018.pdf.
[2] Larissa Fast, Aid in Danger: The Perils and Promise of Humanitarianism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), 51.
[3] Important to note here that there is a distinction between risk and security management of aid organizations. Risk management encompasses, as one of its dimensions, the management of security.
[4] Victoria Metcalfe, Ellen Martin, and Sara Pantuliano, “Risk in Humanitarian Action: Towards a Common Approach?,” Policy Brief, HPG Commissioned Paper (London: Overseas Development Institute: Humanitarian Policy Group, 2011), 2.
[5] Mark Duffield, “Risk-Management and the Fortified Aid Compound: Everyday Life in Post-Interventionary Society,” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 4, no. 4 (2010): 463, https://doi.org/10.1080/17502971003700993.
[6] Duffield, 463.
[7] Ashley Jackson and Steven A. Zyck, “Presence and Proximity: To Stay and Deliver, Five Years On” (Geneva: Norwegian Refugee Council; UNOCHA; Jindal School of International Affairs, 2017), 41, https://www.nrc.no/globalassets/pdf/reports/presence-and-proximity_to-stay-and-deliver—five-years-on_final_2017-web-version.pdf.

References
Duffield, Mark. “Risk-Management and the Fortified Aid Compound: Everyday Life in Post-Interventionary Society.” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 4, no. 4 (2010): 453–74. https://doi.org/10.1080/17502971003700993.
Fast, Larissa. Aid in Danger: The Perils and Promise of Humanitarianism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.
Humanitarian Outcomes. “Aid Worker Security Report: Figures at a Glance.” London: Humanitarian Outcomes, 2018. https://aidworkersecurity.org/sites/default/files/AWSR%20Figures%202018.pdf.
Jackson, Ashley, and Steven A. Zyck. “Presence and Proximity: To Stay and Deliver, Five Years On.” Geneva: Norwegian Refugee Council; UNOCHA; Jindal School of International Affairs, 2017. https://www.nrc.no/globalassets/pdf/reports/presence-and-proximity_to-stay-and-deliver—five-years-on_final_2017-web-version.pdf.
Metcalfe, Victoria, Ellen Martin, and Sara Pantuliano. “Risk in Humanitarian Action: Towards a Common Approach?” Policy Brief. HPG Commissioned Paper. London: Overseas Development Institute: Humanitarian Policy Group, 2011.

Bressmer_photoAbout the author: 

Janine Bressmer is a PhD Candidate at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. Her research examines how humanitarian organizations approach the security of their operations and staff, the spatial manifestations of security in terms of fortified aid compounds, and the implications for the practice and concept of humanitarian action. The project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

IHSA Conference 2018 | (Re-)Shaping Boundaries in Crisis and Crisis Response: introducing the 2018 International Humanitarian Studies Association Conference by Dorothea Hilhorst

IHSA Conference 2018 | (Re-)Shaping Boundaries in Crisis and Crisis Response: introducing the 2018 International Humanitarian Studies Association Conference by Dorothea Hilhorst

Today, in a rapidly changing world, humanitarian crisis response and humanitarianism is increasingly confronted with boundaries that are dissolving, displaced, or resurrecting. The bi-annual International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) Conference taking ...

(How) should scholars say what humanitarians can’t? by Roanne van Voorst and Isabelle Desportes

In January this year, a long day of interviewing aid workers involved in the Myanmar Rohingya crisis revealed that these aid workers often refrain from talking about the human rights ...

Toward ‘fisheries justice’?: the global ‘fisheries crisis’ and how small-scale fishers are fighting back by Elyse Mills

The global ‘fisheries crisis’—in which fish stocks are depleted, environmental destruction has reached an apex, and small-scale fisheries are disappearing—is causing irreversible damage to both the fisheries sector and communities sustained by fishing activities. Governments implement stricter regulations and resource management strategies in an attempt to solve the crisis, but these approaches typically leave out the perspectives of small-scale fishers. Despite this, fishing communities are constructing innovative ways to make their voices heard and to protect their lives and livelihoods.


Transforming global fisheries

The overlap of the global food crisis (sparked by the 2007-2008 food price spike), and rapid economic growth occurring in the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) has contributed to significantly altering patterns of food production, consumption and trade worldwide. Economic growth has also facilitated changing dietary preferences, contributing to a rising global demand for animal protein. Fish protein has become particularly popular in light of health warnings about industrially farmed animals and eating too much red meat. This has caused fish consumption to double worldwide in the last 50 years.

Rising consumption has intensified pressure on the global fisheries sector—particularly to meet the demands of highly populated countries like China. Even South Africa, which has the smallest economy and population among the BRICS, saw fish consumption increase by 26% between 1999 and 2012. In terms of production, China is by far the world leader, and at its 2012 peak contributed 70% of fish to the global supply. Between 2012 and 2014, it further expanded its capture fishing sector by almost 2 million tonnes and its aquaculture sector by nearly 5 million tonnes. India produced at a similar level, contributing 50% of the global fish supply in 2012—ranking third in global capture fisheries (after China and Peru) and second in aquaculture. South Africa has one of the largest capture fishing sectors in the African continent, contributing approximately US$ 435 million to the national economy in 2012.

Fighting for policy change in South Africa

Capture fishing in South Africa is an important source of livelihoods for many coastal communities, of which a large proportion engages in small-scale fishing. Of the 43,458 commercial fishers and 29,233 subsistence fishers in South Africa, approximately 50,000 are considered small-scale.[i] However, despite comprising almost 62% of the fishing population, the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ national policies have historically not recognised the particular needs of small-scale fishers and the difficulties they are facing, focusing instead on expanding the large-scale industrial fishing industry. This has sparked intense resistance from fishing communities.

After the government adopted its 2005 long-term fisheries policy, leaving small-scale fishers without any access or fishing rights, a group of fishing communities, led by community organisations Masifundise and Coastal Links, took the issue to the South African Equality Court. The Court finally ruled in favour of the development of a new policy. In 2012, the new Policy for the Small-Scale Fisheries Sector in South Africa was completed, introducing new strategies for managing the sector, which aim to secure rights and access for communities by prioritising human rights, gender, and development as key issues. This marked an important victory for South African fishers, demonstrating their capacity for mobilisation and to achieve change. In 2014, Masifundise and Coastal Links also published Small-scale Fisheries Policy: A Handbook for Fishing Communities, providing fishers with accessible information on how the policy could be applied in their daily lives.

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Handline fishers off the coast of Cape Point, South Africa. Photo: Rodger Bosch

Fishers’ participation in governance processes

Considering South Africa’s 2012 policy was developed partly as a response to pressure from fishing communities, it has set an important precedent for future fisheries policies, both nationally and internationally. Masifundise and Coastal Links also played key roles in discussions with the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries (COFI), which led to the publication of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines) in 2015. These guidelines were the result of a bottom-up participatory process that included 4,000 representatives from small-scale fishing communities, governments, fish workers’ organisations, research institutes, and NGOs.

The development of the SSF Guidelines and South Africa’s national policy signal an important shift in the perception and governance of fisheries sectors. While small-scale fishers have been crucial contributors to the global food system for generations, their rights are only now beginning to be more formally recognised. There appears to be an important connection between this newfound recognition and increasing mobilisation within fishing communities both nationally and around the world.

The rise of a global ‘fisheries justice’ movement?

Increasing mobilisation among fishers, particularly within the last few decades, has demonstrated their commitment to participating in, and shaping, the transformation of the fisheries sector and its socio-political context. Fishers are also joining forces with farmers, pastoralists, rural, and indigenous peoples, as overlapping food and climate crises highlight common struggles between social movements. Their shared commitment to creating a fair food system has contributed both to a transnational convergence of resource justice movements (e.g. agrarian, climate, environmental), as well as the emergence of what I would argue is a global ‘fisheries justice’ movement.

A key actor in this movement is the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP), of which Masifundise and Coastal Links are active members. Founded in 1997, the WFFP now links 43 national small-scale fishers’ organisations in 40 countries around the world. It focuses on addressing the issues threatening small-scale fisheries (e.g. privatisation, climate change) and advocates for fishers’ human rights and secure livelihoods. The WFFP holds a triennial General Assembly and an annual Coordinating Committee meeting for member organisations to come together, reflect on their goals and actions taken, and develop new strategies for the future.

In an era when power within the food system is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a few huge corporations, movements of small-scale food producers and their allies offer alternatives based on social justice, sustainable production methods, and protecting the environment that rejuvenate hope for the way forward.


[i] Small-scale fishers refers to: ‘Persons that fish to meet food and basic livelihood needs, or are directly involved in harvesting/processing or marketing fish, traditionally operate on or near shore fishing grounds, predominantly employ traditional low technology or passive fishing gear, usually undertake single day fishing trips, and are engaged in the sale or barter or are involved in commercial activity’. Definition from Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) (2012), Policy for the Small-Scale Fisheries Sector in South Africa.


Untitled.pngAbout the author:

Elyse Mills is a PhD researcher in the Political Ecology Research Group at the ISS. Her PhD research focuses on the dynamics of fisheries and fishers’ movements in the context of global food and climate politics. She also co-coordinates the Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS), and is part of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) Secretariat.

 

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Deglobalisation Series | Deglobalisation 2.0: Trump and Brexit are but symptoms by Peter A.G. van Bergeijk

We live in strange and usual times. Actually, this is what people always do. And all people always think that their era is unique. We seem to live in the times of Trumpism, Brexitism and deglobalisation. It definitely feels like something unique. But it is not.


Our grandparents have been here before. Of course, the voices and characters on the world stage are different. But the stories of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession that we are still living today are similar.

The start is a financial crisis. Then follows a collapse of world trade and world investment that marks the end of decades of intensifying globalisation characterised by increasingly free international trade and capital flows. This collapse starts a period of deglobalisation that at first is hidden under the veil of recovery, but later becomes clear as a reduction of the share of international trade in production. This happened in the 1930s and it is happening now.

Graph Deglobalization 2.0
Deglobalisation 1.0 (in the 1930s) and 2.0 (today)—these two periods are shown in red. Index numbers 2007=100.

Many observers make the error of blaming Trump and Brexit for deglobalisation. They are wrong and confuse the symptoms and the causes of the disease. Why are Trump and Brexit only symptoms? Because the virus of deglobalisation is widespread: the Dutch referendum opposing the treaty with the Ukraine, and the Belgian opposition of the trade agreement between the EU and Canada, are just two examples. And in other countries such as Austria, Germany and France, anti-globalist election platforms have gained significant strength. An interesting observation is that anti-globalism now has a strong foothold in the Global North, with much different attitudes in the Global South, particular among the BRICS countries.

Déjà Vu: The 1930s (and today)

Although deglobalisation is a recurring phenomenon, scientists have so far treated the different periods of deglobalisation as isolated cases, limiting our knowledge of deglobalisation to a hermeneutic understanding of this real-world phenomenon. In science “one” is typically not enough, but economists and political scientists have unfortunately limited their research to the most recent manmade trade disaster at hand.

The problem is that we therefore do not learn from history, do not compare it with other occurrences of the phenomenon, and cannot correctly understand our current situation.

Of course, the two major phases of deglobalisation are not identical twins. I would like to add: fortunately so. One can only learn if both similarities and differences occur. The two phases of deglobalisation were equally triggered by a demand shock in the wake of a financial crisis. Both in the 1930s and in the 2000s the composition of trade was a second key determinant: manufacturing trade bore the brunt of the contraction.

Before the start of deglobalisation, income inequality increased significantly, and the recent rise in inequality has been linked to international trade. And as in the 1930s, the political institutions are key for understanding where and when deglobalisation of economies occurred. Unlike is often assumed, a “world” trade collapse and its deglobalisation aftermath is characterised by significant heterogeneity of country experiences and practices, implying that a one-size-fits-all approach to deglobalisation will be deemed to fail.

Democracy and deglobalisation

The differences, however, are equally important. In the 1930s, democracies supported free trade, and deglobalisation was driven by autocratic decisions to strengthen self-sufficiency. In the 2010s, political institutions are just as significant, but now democratic decisions drive the deglobalisation process worldwide. Indeed, while the industrialised countries this time avoided the pitfalls of protectionism and deflation, they have experienced different political dynamics.

It is important that their significance measurably and significantly occurs well before the presidential elections in the US or the Brexit referendum. Trump and Brexit are consequences of the underlying political dynamics. These manifestations have a self-reinforcing character, but fighting them will not cure the world economy from the deglobalisation virus.

This raises an important question regarding the concept of the liberal peace (trade between democracies reduces the probability of war by increasing the cost of conflict) that underpins the Bretton Woods institutions. Now that the 19th and 20th Century hegemons are repositioning towards lesser integration into the world economy, the maintenance of the multilateral rules for trade and investment are under threat; thus the very concept of the liberal peace may be eroding. It is interesting to see that the developing and emerging economies understand the importance of these rules and regulations against the power play of economic world leaders. China, the emerging hegemon of the 21st Century , is one of those important voices. In the era of Trump and Brexit, it is essential that this voice is heard.


 This contribution is the first of a series of blog articles on deglobalisation. It is based on a peer reviewed journal article that econometrically investigates the deglobalisations of the 1930s and the 2000s:
van Bergeijk, P.A.G. (2018) ‘On the brink of deglobalisation…again’, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society rsx023. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/cjres/rsx023

pag van bergeijkPeter van Bergeijk is Professor of International Economics at the Institute of Social Studies (of Erasmus University Rotterdam), one of Europe’s leading development studies institutes. He is author of On the Brink of Deglobalization: An Alternative Perspective on the Causes of the World Trade Collapse, Edward Elgar 2010. His latest book, Deglobalisation 2.0, is to appear in 2018.

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