Saturday, August 31, 2002
Johannesburg - African and Asian farmers, and hawkers from across South Africa handed over a "Bullshit Trophy" (yes, that is the trophy's real name) to Greenpeace, the Third World Network and BioWatch for their contribution to the "preservation of poverty" in developing countries.
The trophy comprises of a piece of wood on which two heaps of dried cow-dung - "unfortunately not elephant dung" - are mounted.
Barun Mitra of the Sustainable Development Network (SDN), a coalition of non-governmental organisations which believes, among other things, that sustainable development is attainable only through free trade, officiated at the symbolic handing-over in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Mitra denounced the three NGOs as parasites which "prey on the blood of the poor" and did not help to improve agricultural productivity in the Third World.
"They are not interested in famine or poverty. This lot is concerned only about their own interests.
"They sit here at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in their rich man's hotels and romanticise everything," he said."
Thursday, August 29, 2002
"The chief proposal is for a new framework of global rules. A system of "binding social accountability" which give citizens more rights and business more responsibilities.
Cheerleader for this approach is Friends of the Earth, busy lobbying for "strong language" on this issue in the final summit declaration.
Its case is simple. A voluntary approach is no good, it says. All that happens is that bad companies undercut good ones. Effective regulation is needed to level the playing field.
Surprisingly, business - or at least the type of business represented at the summit - agrees.
"It's a myth that we want a lawless wild west society," says Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, chair of the Business Action on Sustainable Development and ex-chairman of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of companies
Raising the stakes
So what’s the problem? It's a question of how much regulation and where it is applied.
As an opening gambit, at least, FoE are demanding what amounts to a radically different model of capitalism.
"At present," they say, "directors of publicly traded corporations have a duty to account to shareholders and maximise financial returns."
Their proposals would make companies accountable to a range of other stakeholders, such as the communities they operate in.
Directors would then be expected to balance profit with the interests of all those affected by their business. "
What's important is that it's big businesses who can live with complex reporting guidelines and multiple responsibilities. Sure, it would be a pain to take into account the views and interests of other stakeholders (though what sort of formal "balancing", beyond mere consideration, could be laid down in enforceable rules is beyond me). But that's what's great about big businesses - they can spread compliance costs over huge sales, leading to only small per-unit cost increases (unless the regulations are insanely strong, but that's what lobbying's for...).
However, small businesses (especially the entrepreneurial individuals or families vital to economic growth in developing nations) have no such luck. They have to understand all of the regulations that apply, but they don't get to have a legal department to do that for them. They have to figure things out themselves or, potentially, get burnt.
And even in firms who are large enough to consult lawyers, up against big multinationals, lose out badly. If you have the choice between entering into a business with complex regulations well understood by a food giant, which lay down precisely what kinds of approach are allowed (say), or finding something else to do with your money where you don't have to shoulder the same costs as global players but over much smaller revenues, what are you going to do?
To go techy economics boy for a second, regulation often acts as a "barrier to entry", preventing competition. And if you reduce competitive pressure, companies still involved can charge higher prices. And, if you're lucky, it works out that the costs you incur are less than the extra money you get coming in. And it becomes very sweet to be a multinational able to understand, comply with, or dodge fines for breaking all sorts of regulations.
Which is why "the types of businesses attending the summit" probably think that, once the normal committee processes have played their part, they should probably buy Friends of the Earth a slap-up dinner.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
"CULTURAL DIFFERENCES. In America, a thong was used to attract a President. In Australia, a thong is used to repel a buffalo."
My slightly alarmed reaction - what if it wasn't a culture difference? What if the American thought the president was a buffalo, or the Aussie thought the opposite? After the chicken story, I'm not sure I handle the possibilities in the modern world...
"A WIFE has filed for divorce after catching her husband having sex with a FROZEN CHICKEN.
Shocked Jean Curtis, 47, claims ex-military cop Ian was clad in a blouse and rubber stockings as he lay on the sofa with the bird.
She sobbed last night: “My jaw just dropped. I said, ‘You dirty b*****, that’s my Sunday lunch’. He was calm as you like and said, ‘It’s all right — we can still eat it’. I kicked him out.”
We tracked Curtis to his new bedsit in Cardiff — where he branded Jean’s claims “bulls***.”
The bearded dad of three snarled: “Someone else in Glasgow says he caught me having sex with a chicken and told Jean. It’s not true.”"
What a defence... Oh, and there's a picture (who would have suspected him":
"A MAN of 81 was filmed by police having sex — with a herd of cows.
Pervert Stan Balderson was seen running from cow to cow wearing only a T-shirt, tennis shoes and sunglasses.
The sheriff’s office set up surveillance cameras and spotted him being intimate with the animals after a fed-up neighbour complained about his lewd activities.
It was the first time Balderson had been caught, but police said he had been to the field in Nomini Grove, Virginia, US, many times before.
He was convicted of bestiality by a judge who gave him a two-year suspended jail sentence and placed him on probation"