|The Courier N° 160 - Nov - Dec 1996 - Dossier Habitat - Country reports: Fiji , Tonga (EC Courier, 1996, 96 p.)|
Africa - Caribbean - Pacific - European Union
Fiji is home to people of a variety of cultures but it would not be accurate to describe this Pacific island country as a 'melting pot'. Politics here are dominated by the difficult relationship between indigenous Fijians and the descendants of indentured Indian labourers brought in to work the sugar cane fields. We look at how this situation affects the economy - which everyone acknowledges has considerable potential, and examine the prospects for ethnic rapprochement as the nation begins a 'great debase' on the future shape of its Constitution.
Tonga appears like a haven of tranquility in a turbulent world. A society which respects hierarchies and is strongly attached to 'traditional values', it is also one of the few remaining places with a hereditary ruler who wields substantial power. But outside influences cannot be ignored altogether and nations everywhere are having to adapt to living in the 'global village'. Our report focuses on the possible consequences of this for the 'Friendly Islands' as the new millenium approaches.
The concept of 'habitat' conjures up different things to different people - from the right to a roof over one's head to the way in which we manage the flora and fauna of the planet. In our dossier, we consider the legacy of the United Nations 'Habitat' Conference held in Istanbul earlier this year. We also highlight some of the initiatives being taken to improve the quality of people's living environment.
The Courier: Africa - Caribbean - Pacific - European union
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The main development battle must be fought in the towns and cities
Founded in 1972, Enda Tiers Monde ('Enda' stands for 'environment and development') is one of the few large international NGOs to be based in a developing country. It has a presence in a number of states in Africa, Latin America and Asia and has been concentrating its efforts on towns and cities, in the belief that this is where deprived populations can be best assisted. Jacques Bugnicourt, who is Enda's Executive Secretary, has some strong views about what needs to be done to tackle the problem of urban deprivation. When we interviewed him at the Enda headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, we began by asking him about the history of the organisation that he heads.
- When we launched Enda, I am not sure that we had any particular goal in mind. You would have to go back to the end of the 1950s, with the war in Indochina, the approaching conflict in Algeria, the independence of countries in Africa and the last-ditch struggles of the colonial powers, notably France. It was in Paris that links were forged between activists from many Third-World countries - in particular, we all took part in the street demonstrations mounted by people from the French colonies. There were some very strong groupings like the Federation of Students from Black Africa, and its equivalents set up by students from the Maghreb, Latin America and Asia. Ten years later, in the 1970s, we could see that the independence experiment was turning sour and the hopes we vested in the actions of determined and brilliant people had come to nothing. The United Nations was becoming increasingly bureaucratic. Some of our friends and colleagues who had government posts had their hands tied, while others were in prison and were equally powerless. In addition, the communists were disappointed at not being able to apply their doctrine to local conditions. Some did, in fact, manage to achieve small-scale results locally when working at the grass-roots, but by and large, their efforts were not successful. I came to Dakar, where I taught in a United Nations institute.
A lot of people had theories. But you cannot take up the battle for the poor without the poor themselves, or for those under the yoke of colonial rule without the participation of the subjugated population. To begin with, you have to appreciate the diversity of the various peoples in developing countries, and be aware of their daily life and struggle. Cesaire wrote that you had to ask questions about the soil, about cities, about men and about the sun. Later, once you have done this, you can act.
We need to dismantle the barriers. There can be no agronomy without economics, and no economics without sociology. If you are talking about jobs in Senegal, you also must talk about jobs in Mali and Guinea - treat Africa as a whole. Another thing is that you have to stand up for yourself and not allow yourself to be manipulated by people from the developed countries. One of the major problems we have noticed is that part of Africa's elite is out of touch with the general population.
These are the underlying reasons for the foundation of Enda. Nowadays, it is a non-profit-making international organisation working with various communities - an 'INGO', if you like, with the 'I' standing for 'international'. We have bases almost everywhere in the Third World, from Ho Chi Minh City to La Paz.
· Is each section of Enda independent, then?
- Yes. We took the view that there was a danger of becoming too centralised and acting like a small-scale UNICEF or UNESCO, so we decided to guard our independence very carefully. We opted for the widest-ranging autonomy possible. This has its drawbacks of course, but these are far outweighed by the advantages.
· You mention drawbacks. Would it be true to say that the original enthusiasm which greeted the creation of Enda has fallen off somewhat?
- That's something we are always concerned about. It is not structures which maintain cohesion, but the sharing of goals and the channelling of our actions towards the common good.
When the various sections get together, we find that we have a great many things in common. But there is no good reason why those of us in Dakar should try to influence the way people work in working-class districts in Santo Domingo, for example, where they are trying to tackle problems like AIDS and unemployment. We simply tell them what we are doing here and vice versa. If you want to serve the people, you have to have a decentralised set-up. It would be wrong to deal with a problem centrally, and to do so would be against our instincts. Most of us have no particular liking for institutions. An institution must be of service in the battle, not the other way round.
· How do you guarantee cohesion in practice?
- It costs a great deal to travel of course, but we do have a lot of joint programmes. For example, the cities programme includes people from Bogota, Santo Domingo, Rabat, Dakar, Ho Chi Minh City and Bombay, all working together. They meet from time to time and, when they do, it is to get down to practical work. Together, their work is, say, three-quarters practical and one quarter reflective. Nevertheless, there is ongoing tension, particularly in the relationship between overall policy and local demands. Another conflict arises between grass-roots action and reflection.
· The impression one gets is that you yourself are the 'cement' between the various groups which make up Enda. Could this not be seen as a weakness which may make things difficult in the future?
- That's what other people say, not what I think. I try to make my presence useful and those who come after me will do the same. What really holds us together is our belief in what we are doing. It is not a question of adhering to some kind of 'monolithic' faith. We simply believe that we can be of use, recognising that there are many limitations. Let me give you a practical example. If someone involved in recycling in Bogota were to meet up with someone from a poor district in Dakar who works at the rubbish tip, they would have a great deal in common and would find it useful to compare their problems and consider practical ways of solving them together.
· What are your most important activities in Senegal?
- By far the most important is the one covering the city of Dakar. As well as being a focus for the country itself, Dakar is a metropolitan centre for the entire sub-region, with influence over Bamako, Conakry, Bissau and perhaps even Praia in Cape Verde and Nouakchott in Mauritania. What happens here has repercussions in all those cities. I do not want to sound too dramatic, but the decisive factor in our destiny will be the fate of young people and the poor in the major cities. Two-thirds of these people are facing chronic problems. Those under twenty make up more than half the population and their lives are continuing to spiral down into poverty.
Enda should obviously be operating in those areas where it can be of most use. And in the context of towns and cities, we have completely reviewed our strategy. For some years we gave priority to the countryside. For a long time, in fact, we believed that rural development would permit a much improved urbanisation process. There was even the view that people in developed countries would not object to paying a little more for agricultural produce, because they could be certain that the money was going to those who actually grew the cotton, groundnuts, cocoa or whatever.
Over the last fifteen years or so, though, we have come round to the view that our actions must be directed principally at towns and cities. We found initially that there were some interesting projects involving small groups - working to improve the position of children or banding together in cooperative savings ventures. It was good, long-term work which gave results. But that is all out of date now. We have to speak in terms of much larger numbers - tens of thousands and not tens or hundreds. Otherwise, there is no chance of making a real difference. That is why we have considerably altered our strategy. Three years ago, approximately two thousand children were able to go to holiday camps. Most of these holidays were paid for by companies, but fewer than 10% of the beneficiaries were genuinely poor. Last year, no fewer than 10 000 children were sent away on five days' holiday - to the coast near Dakar. Enda was involved in this programme working with 200 local cultural and sports associations. The idea was to give the children the chance to splash about in the sea, but also to use African resources to help them become full citizens and learn that our diversity is the source of our wealth. There are at least 100 000 children living in misery and many of them could end up joining the ranks of the street children. If you can give these youngsters five days holiday plus a bit of follow-up, you allow friendships to be built. It offers a brief escape from everyday reality. It may not be paradise, but it is something tangible.
Another example is the tontines that have been formed into a federation. We currently have nineteen thousand women participating in these and if you bear the large family sizes in mind - there are perhaps ten people in every family - that represents a lot of people. The women pay into the tontines and the money is used, not just for the security of their immediate family, but also to help young people set themselves up.
Then there is rubbish collection. Enda runs its own scheme but there are also a number of groups that have turned rubbish collection into a profession. The young people collect the rubbish and recycle it. There are about 50 000 people in the biggest district where we are involved in rubbish collection. There are also some young people in that district who are engaged in water recycling and although it only involves supplying about a hundred people at the moment, I believe this scheme will grow.
We also organise schools and are currently involved in making films for schools on the subjects of the environment, hygiene and solidarity.
· Enda has just opened an 'eco-centre'. If I understand it correctly, this is a showcase to promote a horizontal link between Enda's various activities.
- That is right. We want it to be a place of passage, meeting, exhibition, permeation and redistribution. We hope people will feel comfortable there, and that it will be a tool symbolising a new way of working. So the centre offers an experience, but we also want it to be used to promote activity. A variety of events have been organised there simultaneously - recently for example, a meeting of shoe-shiners, a gathering of teachers from a long-standing educational centre, an exhibition for the Biennial Festival of Contemporary African Art, and a local-community meeting about setting up a small production facility. Two days earlier, there was a preliminary holiday-camp meeting where the instructors got together to look at the best available teaching methods designed to make children more aware of the importance of solidarity. We believe that solidarity is essential in tackling problems.
So the centre has a multitude of uses, all of which contribute to the vitality of the local economy. You have to understand the crucial importance of the local economy. It responds to all the basic needs of the poorest people, who want to live their lives just like the rest of us.
· You talk of depending on the local (what some would call the informal) economy to live - or at least survive. But this sector is not viewed with enthusiasm by the international authorities?
- Their policy is based on domination and fear: fear of those who accumulate assets. To see these hordes of people in the developing countries frightens them. It's a bit like the horror of the wealthy classes at the end of the nineteenth century when faced with a working class which dared to aspire to wealth. They will give to charity but are not prepared to make a long-term investment. The lack of support for the local economy stems from the fact that foreign aid is geared, first and foremost, towards major projects or emergency aid. Four or five years ago, the UN conducted a survey in 10 towns and cities in West Africa, but the results were not published because they showed that the average rate of growth of the local economy was 7.5%. So, you see, we are far from just muddling along. Great things could be achieved if only there were a change in attitude. It also requires a change of terminology. How can one justify the use of the word 'informal' and, worse still, treat the work of the poorest people and fraudulent activities under the same heading. Fraud may be formal or informal. Knowing African society as I do, I am aware that fraud is statistically more widespread amongst the prosperous and highly respected. So we must not cast stones at the little man selling socks who has no trading licence because he cannot afford one, or at the woman who sets up a stall at a school entrance without complying with the law which requires a recent certificate stating that she does not have tuberculosis. What is the bottom line here? Must we respect the law or the people who want to live without being thieves, beggars or prostitutes? It is unacceptable for force to lie with the law and for the majority to be cast into wretchedness.
In Senegal, there used to be fixed prices for milk. The World Bank protested, declaring that this was a restriction on free competition. Now we have to pay much more and many people can no longer afford to give their children-milk every day.
To put it in perspective, Senegal's economy is about the same size as that of the city of Bordeaux. So we must use all the available potential. Highly qualified managers should do their job looking after the high-tech sectors. But, at the same time, we should not be driving out the poor people who are just trying to eke out a living. The informal sector creates services for a very small investment, and people also require services. Economic policy must allow society to walk on two legs, not just one. What that means is that we need a great deal of flexibility, and perhaps a complete review of the law. Contraceptive implants have to be licensed so that there are no more back-street abortions. And it must be possible for girls to attend school even if they do not have a proper birth certificate - why should they be excluded from education for want of a piece of paper. It should be possible to trade with a simple one-day ticket which people should be able to buy in post offices or cinemas. What would be wrong with that? And we should have a moratorium on a number of regulations. We need to wage war on the destitution that we are suffering and that means taking decisive measure.
Although the agenda was, as usual, heavily laden with a variety of long-standing issues ranging from regional cooperation, fisheries, the cocoa content of chocolate and bananas to the situation in several ACP states (in particular Rwanda and Burundi), the future of ACP-EU relations was at the forefront of discussions at the ACP-EU Joint Assembly, which was held in Luxembourg from 23-26 September 1996.
Opened in the presence of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, the Assembly's general attitude was not one of speculation as to whether or not the European Union would abandon the ACP states when the LomV Convention expires in the year 2000 - a feeling that was rife shortly after the signing of the revised version in Mauritius in November 1995. Instead, it was one of positive thinking and of exploring the kind of agreement that would succeed it. 'There is no question of the European Union getting out of a relationship which took decades to build', Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Junker, told participants in his welcoming address.
As pessimism gives way to guarded optimism, ACP-EU parliamentarians have taken an important initiative, even before the Commission's Green Paper is published, in what is bound to be a long and passionate debate. A special summit of ACP Heads of State is planned for Gabon later in 1997 to discuss the issue.
Options for the future
A general report, introduced by Mr Firmin Jean-Louis (Haiti), provided the main platform for the Joint Assembly's deliberation. Although presented too late for representatives to have the opportunity to examine it in detail, the exchange of views on the floor was wide-ranging and reflected the report's content to a considerable degree.
The report encapsulates all the ideas that have emerged so far in various fore. It analyses framework options for future ACP-EU relations - bilateral, regional and multilateral - and raises pertinent questions and concerns. Noting that international cooperation is increasingly dictated by economic and security considerations, and that North-South solidarity is, as a result, being pushed to the background, it regrets the fact that certain EU member states appear to indicate a preference for bilateral over multilateral cooperation. The author of the report warns that this trend would not only diminish the credibility of the Union but also its international influence.
Any instrument of cooperation, the report says, should take into account the different levels of development among ACP states as well as the regional vocation of many others. Its objective must be poverty eradication, sustainable economic and social development, and the harmonious integration of the ACP states into the global economy.
It recognises the need to secure the support of European public opinion which is largely unconvinced that EU aid to ACP states has been effective over the past 20 years. Not enough publicity; it says, has been given to its positive aspects. The report goes on to warn that solidarity and development are at stake and that the debate on the future of ACP-EU relations should not be left to politicians and technocrats. It should also involve wider civil society.
In the Joint Assembly debate, the commitment of EU political leaders to the development of the ACP states was often called into question. Francis Wurtz (EUL-F) summed it up when he said there were worrying signs that the EU intends to downgrade its relationship with the ACP states - signs which go back to the negotiations on the LomV second financial protocol, when several countries refused to increase their contributions to the 8th EDF. The EU draft budget for 1997, which he said revealed a substantial reduction in the funds allocated to the developing countries outside the Mediterranean region, provided further evidence of this. 'We must be vigilant,' he told his colleagues, 'and must not allow the Lomonvention to be revised downwards.' Mr Wurtz agreed that greater efforts were needed to create awareness and mobilise European opinion in favour of development. The European public should know that EU development policy was not based on charity but on self-interest. 'Without Africa developing, Europe has little chance of maintaining growth in the long run.'
Lord Plumb (EPP-UK), the European Co-President of the Joint Assembly, admitted that it would not be easy to influence European public opinion. 'One of the roles of the Joint Assemby,' he said, however, 'must be to ensure that the peoples of Europe have confidence in the progress being made by the countries of the South. We must all help in this task of confidence-building.'
Glenys Kinnock (PES-UK) urged that there should be as much participation as possible in the ongoing dialogue over future ACP-EU relations in order to bridge what she saw as 'the gap between rhetoric and reality.' Equity, she argued, should be the main objective.
ACP Co-President, Sir John Kaputin (Papua New Guinea), said there was no doubt that the EU was forging closer ties with the former Eastern bloc countries at the expense of the ACPs. He pointed out, however, that the Lomonvention had always encouraged a 'forward-looking' approach and argued that whatever succeeded the current ACP-EU relationship should be 'the most important' agreement ever.
The representative from Barbados, Dr Richard Cheltenham, was of the opinion that whatever the outcome of the discussions, efforts were needed to avoid 'chaos'. There should, for example, be no immediate abandonment of the trade preferences that ACP states had acquired. Transformation must be gradual to enable them to adjust and restructure.
European Commissioner, Professor Pinheiro, chose, first of all, to underline the importance of the role of 'the state and civil society' in development. He indicated that he saw this as growing more and more in importance. This was reflected in the agreement signed in Mauritius - an agreement which seeks to encourage the consolidation of democracy, the rule of law, good governance and transparency, and which emphasises decentralised cooperation and the role of the private sector. the Commissioner spoke about the current programming exercise, reminding the Assembly that resources were being allocated in two tranches in accordance with the provisions of the revised Convention, to take account of each ACP state's development strategy and the objectives and priorities of the Community's development policy. He revealed that only 16 ACP countries and two EU Member States had ratified the revised Convention and urged those that have not done so to accelerate the process.
He welcomed the Joint Assembly's initiative in debating future ACP-EU relations. The Commission's Green Paper, he told representatives, will be published in November. He was, therefore, not in a position to enter into detailed discussions with members on the subject at this stage. He stressed, nonetheless, that the document 'will not be a blueprint for future EU strategy towards the ACP countries. It will be a discussion paper.' there were a number of key questions that needed to be addressed regarding strategy, the scope of future relations and the use of the traditional instruments of aid and trade. 'This is not to say that we should start afresh', he argued. 'We should build on what has been achieved so far, and adapt where necessary.' Professor Pinheiro was certain that whatever the outcome of the discussions, there were a number of 'unchallengeable principles' on which ACP-EU relations should continue to be based. These were: partnership, ownership by ACP countries of their development policies, security in terms of EU support and predictability of relations.
New areas of concern
This session of the Joint Assembly saw the emergence of two new areas of concern: urban development, and the effects of climate change on small island states. An initial report on the former was presented by the rapporteur, Daby Diagne (Senegal). It did not give rise to much debate. The report emphasises the pivotal role towns play in economic development and urges the Community to adopt an integrated policy on urban development (See our interview with Mr Daigne in the Dossier). The latter was the subject of a full morning hearing, involving a panel of ACP-EU experts who are closely involved with the problem. They warned of the threat posed by global warming to the survival, and even existence, of many islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The emission of greenhouse gases, the Assembly was told, has reached levels never before experienced (see the article which follows). Representatives agreed on the need to integrate climate change considerations into sustainable development strategies. A Working Group on the issue was set up with Karin Junker (PES-G) as general rapporteur.
Cocoa and babanas
There was no avoiding the intractable problems of cocoa and bananas. On cocoa, opinions were divided as usual. There were those who felt that the Commission's proposed new directive allowing chocolate to contain vegetable oils (up to 5% of total volume) in place of cocoa butter, was reasonable. The proposal also involves a labelling system to ensure that the exact contents of the product are clearly indicated Advocates of this strategy argued that it would not only widen consumer choice but would also promote the export of shea-butter and other vegetable oils which a number of ACP countries produce. Opponents were worried that if implemented, the directive could lead to a big fall in cocoa exports and a commensurate loss of earnings for ACP cocoa producers. Magda Aelvoet (Greens-B) argued in favour of maintaining the status quo, saying that this was preferable to what was being put forward in the draft directive. She warned that the Commission propose' would almost certainly result in everyone (cocoa producers, shea-butter producers and consumers) losing out. There was no guarantee that menu facturers would choose shea-butter given that they would be free to use whatever vegetable oils they liked She was certain they would go for the cheapest substitute or even for synthetic products. Accordingly, Mrs Aelvoet proposed a 'freeze' on all proposals. This view was reflected in the resolution passed by the Assembly, which called on the Council to reject the proposed directive. It also requested the sever member countries which currently authorise the use of vegetable oil to comply gradually with the existing directive - which bans their use altogether.
The banana issue proved even thornier. There is a dispute at the World Trade Organisation, where the Lomrotocol is being challenged by the United States and Latin American banana producers. Mrs Kinnock expressed anger at the fact that the arbitration panel set up by the WTO is made UP of three countries known to advocate free trade. The panel, she said, is chaired by Hong Kong - which the Organisation told her was representing the 'developing countries!' The general feeling among representatives was that the odds were stacked against the European Union and the ACPs. The Assembly passed a resolution asking the Union to stand firm in defence of the banana regime.
Democracy, human rights, peace and security
Twenty-seven questions were addressed to the Council of Ministers and a further 28 to the Commission. More than a third of these dealt with issues relating to emergency relief operations, democracy, human rights, peace and security - recurring themes throughout the four-day meeting. The emphasis, in this context, was on Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia and Nigeria, all of which were considered individually under the agenda item 'the situation in ACP states'.
In addition to the detailed answers given by Commissioner Pinheiro to questions on Burundi and Rwanda, the Assembly had a long session with Aldo Ajello, the EU's Special Representative to the Great Lakes. The discussion focused on efforts to restore democracy and legitimate government in Burundi, national reconciliation, and the repatriation of refugees from neighbouring countries to both Burundi and Rwanda. Mr Ajello gave members a comprehensive picture of the complex political and humanitarian situation in the region. He spoke of the sanctions imposed on Burundi by neighbouring countries and the efforts of the former Tanzania President, Julius Nyerere, to bring about dialogue and a just political settlement in Burundi.
Nigeria was again in the dock. Its representative, Dada Olisa, acting Charge d'affaires at the Embassy in Brussels, gave an account of what he considered was the progress made by the Abacha regime on human rights and democracy since the Joint Assembly met in Windhoek last March. He mentioned the repeal of the decree under which Ken Saro-Wiwa and other minority activists were executed, the release of detainees and the transitional programme for a return to democracy by 1998. He pleaded for the Assembly's understanding.
His explanation cut no ice with any of the seven political groupings in the European Parliament, who came together to present a compromise draft resolution on Nigeria. They wish to see all political prisoners released immediately, and the restoration of civil and political rights, as well as a democratically elected civilian government, by the end of 1996.
The resolution on Nigeria was again passed by secret ballot - the very last act of the session. It calls, among other things, for a total arms embargo (preventing the trade in future but also covering existing supply agreements) and for the financial assets of the Nigerian government and of members of the country's ruling councils (and of their families), to be frozen.
The resolution does not differ very much from the previous one. Mrs Junker, Johanna Maij-Weggen (EPP-NL) and Mrs Kinnock all expressed disappointment that the EU Council had failed to implement this fully. However, by repeating the demand for sanctions, they said, the Assembly was sending a very strong message to the Council that it was determined to see Nigeria return to democracy as quickly as possible.
A morning session of the ACP-EU Joint Assembly was devoted to a public hearing on the effects of climate change on small island states. It was appropriate that the issue should be brought to the attention of the Assembly by Maartje van Putten (PESNL). Representing a country much of which lies below sea-level. she is familiar with the devastating effects of sea flooding. At the hearing, which was very well attended, a panel of invited ACP-EU experts was on hand to enlighten the audience on the extent of the problem.
Although global warning has been on the international agenda for more than 10 years, the seriousness of the threat it poses to the survival of small island states is only now beginning to be taken seriously - and it might already be too late, if some of the most apocalyptic scientific predictions are to be believed.
There is now growing evidence that global warming is taking place. In recent years, we have experienced more extreme weather conditions - heatwaves, floods and increasingly destructive tropical storms - while there are signs that icecaps are melting and sea levels rising. The increasing incidence of malaria in Africa has been linked to these changes. And it is all happening because of the influence our style of living is having on the planet - in particular the huge emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, from our factories, vehicles and so on.
That the public hearing attracted a large audience was not only a reflection of the interest the problem is now commanding. It also symbolised the mounting international pressure for reductions in CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and for the adoption of more realistic strategies of sustainable development.
The panel of experts comprised Dr Leonard Nurse, Manager of the Coastal Conservation Project in Barbados, Donald Stewart, Acting Director of the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), Dr Robert Watson, Senior Scientific Adviser at the Environment Department of the World Bank and Chairman of the second Working Group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Neroni Slade, Vice-Chairman of the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) and AOSIS Coordinator on Climate Change. A separate workshop on climate change was also organised on the same afternoon outside the formal Joint Assembly setting.
According to Dr Nurse, current estimates based on most reliable models, suggest sea level is rising at the rate of 5mm a year (the 'range of uncertainty' is between 2mm and 9mm). This is two to five times the rate experienced in the last 100 years. This rise is expected to continue beyond the year 2100 even if greenhouse gases are stabilised. The implications for small island states, particularly the low-lying ones, would be severe. 'Atolls such as Tokelau, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and the Maldives could possibly disappear', he said. 'Major population displacement would be experienced in Micronesia, Palau, Nauru, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands and Tonga.' Meanwhile, small islands with extensive coastal plains and limited upland areas such as Barbados, the Bahamas and Antigua, 'would be highly vulnerable to social and economic disruptions', as major cities, ports and tourist facilities, industries, freshwater sources, fertile agricultural lands and even coral reefs are destroyed by typhoons and cyclones, or washed away in floods. 'Given the limitations of climate models,' Dr Nurse said, 'it is not possible to state with certainty at this stage whether there will be a change in the behaviour of tropical storms and hurricanes. However, it is highly probable that an increase in the frequency and intensity of these phenomena could occur in a 'warmer world'. One study, he claims, predicts tropical storms would have a potential destructive force at least twice what they have today.
Dr Watson, similarly, struck a pessimistic note when he said that the potential for irreversible damage was great. He agreed with Dr Nurse that even if we took measures now to reduce CO2 emissions, stabilisation of the situation will take centuries. He pleaded for climate change to be taken into consideration 'in our everyday decisions.' Governments must not wait for cause and effect to be established before taking action. 'It is,' he said, 'economically feasible to reduce CO2' by introducing appropriate policy measures: looking at supply of and demand for energy, resorting to new and renewable energy sources, nuclear power, etc. and ensuring more efficient land management.
The question of 'burden-sharing' in the reduction of emissions between the industrialised world and the developing countries was debated at length. It was noted, for example, that small islands states are responsible for a very small proportion of the emissions, yet they bear the brunt of the consequences. There was a general consensus that burden-sharing should be based on equity and justice.
It should be noted that the Alliance of Small Island States (which was formed during the Second World Climate Conference in 1990) has called on the industrialised world to achieve a 20% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2005 (The 'Toronto objective'). This, it hopes, would bring CO2 in the atmosphere down to 1990 levels. Whether this is realistic is debatable.
However, a number of strategy options are being closely examined by the European Commision and the Council with a view to adopting Community-wide measures to reduce emissions significantly by 2005-2010. Member States have made phasing-out proposals with targets of 5-10% by 2005, 15-20% by 2020 and 50% by 2030. This works out at an average reduction of 196 2% annually from the year 2000.
Several parliamentarians wanted to know what the Commission, in particular, had done and will do to help small ACP island states overcome the effects of climate change. It was soon discovered during the discussion that a number of African countries were equally concerned. A Commission representative referred the Assembly to the provisions in the Convention which covered global warming and the special problems of island states. Although there is no specific reference to climate change, the Commission had dealt and would continue to deal with the issue in the broader context of its environmental action. Studies, projects and programmes are being implemented in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean in particular. Furthermore, DG VIII has drawn up internal briefing papers aimed at making departments aware of the issues of climate change and the environment.
In most of the ACP states featured in our Country Reports, the vital issues are usually economic and social ones. How is a nation with a poor natural resource base to achieve lasting development? What can be done to improve the skills of the people? How can a vibrant private sector be created? Can better health care be delivered and how should it be paid for? Some of these questions might well be valid for Fiji but the visiting journalist soon discovers that they are all secondary issues. For this is a country whose political system itself dominates the agenda. The fundamental issue here is the relationship between the indigenous people of Fiji and the descendants of indentured Indian labourers brought in by the British between 1879 and 1916 to work in the sugar cane fields.
Fiji, in fact, is home to people of a variety of cultures. On the indigenous side, the majority are Melanesians but there are also some Polynesians (living on the island of Rotuma). The country even plays host to Banabans, from Kiribati, who were displaced from their homes on Ocean Island to make way for the phosphate diggers. They hold a freehold to the island of Rabi and enjoy a special self-governing status. And while the Indians form the bulk of the non-indigenous population, there are also small Chinese and European communities as well as a number of inhabitants of mixed race.
Despite this diversity, it would be inappropriate to describe Fiji as a melting pot. Ever since the rapid expansion of the Indian population, official policy has tended to accentuate the divisions. In the early days, it was the British who were responsible for this, although one has to be careful to avoid value judgments. The colonial administrators, it seems, were aware of the tensions that would arise by bringing in large numbers of people of a different culture, language and religion. Their eventual response was to provide guarantees for the local population, notably as regards land rights. The effect was to preserve the traditional land tenure system which was based on villages and families. At the time, it seemed a logical thing to do, but several generations on, the country now has a settled population of Indian origin (43% of the total) who have limited opportunities to own land - even though many of them work on it.
As the economy has developed, each of the two main communities has found itself 'specialising' in different fields. For example, cane farmers and retailers tend to be of Indian origin while the public service has traditionally attracted more native Fijians. Significantly, the army is almost exclusively filled by indigenous people - a crucial factor in the 1987 military coup.
On the political front, as Fiji moved towards independence, the idea of providing separate representation for each ethnic group also took hold. The independence constitution of 1970 reflected this with the two main communities being given parity (22 seats each) in the House of Representatives.
Although there was no real assimilation between 1970 and 1987, Fiji was seen by many as a model of a successful multiracial society. It was only when the country got its first Indian-dominated administration (sustained in power by a smaller native Fijian party) that this illusion was shattered. There was a military coup led by Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, who is now the elected Prime Minister,. Shortly thereafter, Fiji became a republic (Queen Elizabeth was formerly Head of State) and in 1990, a new Constitution was adopted giving political primacy to the indigenous Fijians. Needless to say, it was a time of greatly heightened communal tension.
The 1987 coup and the events that followed have been well covered elsewhere (including our previous Country Report which was published in 1991). It suffices to say here that while the last few years have been a lot less turbulent, tensions remain. In 1997, the country must adopt a new set of constitutional proposals and a big debate is currently under way about the shape of the system of government for the 21st century. This subject is covered in a later article and also features prominently in our interviews with the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.
The main focus of this article is therefore on economic and social aspects although, as one soon discovers, this frequently leads us back to the ethnic question. This is particularly the case when one considers the overall economic performance of the country. Fiji is not poor by developing nation standards and it has enjoyed modest growth during 1995 and 1996, but there is a widespread view that it could be doing a great deal better were it not for the political uncertainties. The problem is summed up by the Economic Intelligence Unit in its Fiji Country Report for the first quarter of 1996: 'Political instability will continue to deter investment, other than that on highly favourable tax terms.' In other words, Fiji is paying a high economic price for its internal difficulties.
General unease about the future and, in particular, the outcome of the constitutional review process is compounded by specific concerns over land tenure. The long-term leases granted to (mainly Indian) farmers are approaching their end and the government must soon decide what it should do next. Will any of the sugar cane farmers be evicted and if so, how many? What alternative arrangements will be made for them? These questions remained to be answered when The Courier visited Fiji in July although, as our keynote interviews show, the subject was clearly exercising the minds of the politicians.
A long-term strategy for agriculture?
The way in which the land question is dealt with will have a crucial impact on the sugar industry - still the country's most important product in terms of its contribution to GDP and the jobs that it generates (see the article entitled 'Sugar definitely has a future'). With other uncertainties facing this sector - in particular, the process of global liberalisation - there is a growing recognition of the need for a long-term strategy. The government has a two-pronged approach - improving efficiency within the sector and diversifying into other agricultural products. To learn more about this, we spoke to Luke Ratuvuki, who is the Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests.
Mr Ratuvuki began by stressing the scope for increasing the sugar yield per hectare by as much as 75% (and by even more with irrigation). If productivity could be boosted on this scale, Fiji sugar would be in a much better position to compete in open world markets. He admitted, however, that the country would still face a struggle in maintaining market share and, looking ahead ten years, foresaw a slimmed down industry providing high quality sugar with more of a focus on niche markets. This inevitably meant looking at other agricultural products as possible long-term substitutes. The coconut (or as the Permanent Secretary dubbed it, 'the tree of life') is traditionally grown here and seems poised to enjoy a new lease of life following a period of decline. Fiji has also picked up the taro trade at the expense of Western Samoa, which is affected by taro blight, while there are significant exports of ginger to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe. Mr Ratuvuki spoke enthusiastically about branching out into other areas such as pawpaws, mangoes, bananas and aubergines.
Fiji has potential for growth in a range of non-agricultural sectors, but farming is sure to play a vital part in the economy for many years to come. Currently, sugar represents almost three quarters of all crops by value (excluding subsistence growing) and the Fijians are only too aware that this makes the country particularly vulnerable to external shocks.
The other primary sectors are all present in Fiji, albeit on a more modest scale. There is some deep-sea fishing backed by Asian investors. This provides useful employment although perhaps not the best possible financial return to the country. As one would expect in a nation of three hundred islands, there is also extensive artisanal and subsistence fishing in the inshore areas.
The forestry sector divides into two parts: artificial softwood plantations which are said to be managed sustainably and the naturally growing hardwoods. As regards the latter, the EU is helping with a mapping project. Although Asian loggers do not operate in Fiji, there is considerable land clearance taking place, leading to problems of erosion and silting.
Prospects for mining
Gold is the main mineral being exploited with important deposits around Vatukoula. The sector has had its ups and downs but the Emperor Gold Mining Company has now embarked on an expansion project aimed at raising production from the current level of about 4000 kilos per annum to 6000 kilos by the year 2000. A huge copper and gold mine is also planned for Namosi, some 35 km from Suva. Other minerals discovered but not exploited include bauxite, iron, lead, zinc, phosphates and marble. Mining currently makes a modest contribution to overall GDP but represents an important component in the export earnings figures.
With one key exception, manufacturing is on a fairly small scale with an emphasis on staple items (butter, beer, soft drinks, paint, soap etc.) for the local market. The exception is the garment industry which provides some 20% of the country's export income and a considerable amount of employment.
The investments in garment manufacturing and mining have been important in jobs terms and in improving the trade figures, but there are those who criticise the fact that the government appears to derive little revenue from the operations. The exact fiscal benefits are not easy to determine, prompting some observers to suggest that official secrecy should be eased (see the article on the Constitutional Review later in this Country Report).
In the service sector, long-term growth is foreseen in the key area of tourism. The number of holidaymakers choosing Fiji dipped sharply at the time of the coup, illustrating the importance of political stability in attracting visitors. Tourist arrivals bounced back once Fiji's internal difficulties had receded from the international headlines. The politicians must be hoping that nothing will occur during the current period of constitutional discussion and negotiation to put Fiji back on the front pages. It is worth mentioning here that Fiji's national carrier, Air Pacific, is an example of a relatively rare bird - an airline that makes money ! According to journalist Avin Rahish, writing in the July 1996 issue of The Review (the news and business magazine of Fiji): 'It is one of the few government investments that is profitable on its own.'
If tourism is a success story, there is something of a shadow over the financial services sector, which is more extensive here than in most developing countries. The reason is the collapse last year of the National Bank of Fiji with losses of US$ 142m (equivalent to 10% of the annual GDP). The authorities were accused of a failure in supervision and the taxpayers have had to pick up some of the bill. More serious, however, is the undermining of confidence in the system and it will take time for this to be restored.
As a middle-income country, Fiji has relatively favourable social indicators in the areas of health and education. Medical facilities are provided by the government but it is said that the public health system is not as good as it once was. This is attributed, among other things, to the emigration of highly qualified staff in the aftermath of the events of 1987. Nonetheless, the country does have 27 hospitals and one doctor for approximately every 1900 people. At 72 years, life expectancy is high compared to the ACP average.
The education sector is well-developed with more than 800 primary and secondary schools (for a population of less than 800 000) and 41 technical or vocational institutions. As a result, primary school enrolment is close to 100% while the 1986 census revealed that 60% of 15-year olds were still in education. On the other hand, there are concerns over the proportion of teachers lacking qualifications, notably in the primary school system. In practice, there is considerable racial segregation at both primary and secondary levels, although there is no official policy to this effect.
Educationally, the jewel in the crown is almost certainly the University of the South Pacific whose main campus is in Suva. This regional institution, which has departments in a number of other countries of the South Pacific, draws students from various island nations. Dr Vijay Naidu, who is the USP's Pro-Vice Chancellor, outlined some of the special features of this unique university which has to cater for a highly dispersed population. Like traditional tertiary institutions, it provides a wide range of degree programmes on campus, catering for 3500 students. It has a further 9000 who are being educated using the 'distance mode'. Distance learning is organised through centres in each of the participating countries. Students can attend these centres from time to time but much of their work is done through radio and telephone linkages and, increasingly nowadays, by e-mail and satellite communications. The University, Dr Naidu stressed, also provides continuing education at non-degree level 'in everything from computing to basket-weaving'.
Like the health sector, the USP suffered a loss of highly qualified staff after 1987 - and not just among employees of Indian origin. As the Pro-Vice Chancellor pointed out, the coup created 'a new sense of insecurity' all round and teachers who decided to emigrate were quickly accepted in Australia and New Zealand. The loss has been particularly serious in the scientific disciplines.
90% of the USP's recurrent expenditure is covered by member government contributions with the remainder coming from Australia and New Zealand. For capital investments, there is heavy reliance on external donors.
In both of Fiji's main ethnic communities, a strong commitment to the family ensures that there is relatively little absolute poverty although things may be changing as the country become more urbanised. It is rare to see beggars in the streets in the South Pacific but Suva, sadly, has a number of these.
The overall picture is of a country with very considerable potential in both human and natural resource terms which needs to overcome a number of challenges to secure a more prosperous future. Some of these challenges - adapting to the world of free markets, tackling bureaucratic impediments, bringing development to rural villages, improving the infrastructure, and so on - are familiar to all developing countries. The single most important constraint, however, is the big ethnic divide, and the political uncertainty which flows from this. And this is something which can only be solved by the people of Fiji themselves.
'The last ten years have been very educational for me'
It is almost ten years since Sitiveni Rabuka led the military coup which toppled the newly-electerl coalition government The stormy events of 1987 are long gast end Fiji has returned to more peaceful ways, but the country is arguably not yet at peace with itself. Major-General Rabuka is now the erected Prime Minister, having led the SVT to victory at the polls in 1992 and 1994. But the gulf between the native Fijians end citizens of Indian descent remains - indeed, it is institutionalised in a political system which ensures a parliamentary majority for the former. A constitutional review is currently under way end a new text must tee adopted by July 1997. For both sides, the stakes are high. In this interview, Prime Minister Rabuka speaks frankly about the crucial issues facing Fiji as the nation gears up for the great constitutional debate.
Fiji also faces some formidable economic challenges and we began by asking the Prime Minister about these.
- The main challenge is the one that everybody faces: achieving an acceptable rate of growth to ensure job creation and address the unemployment problem. We also want to improve the standard of living of the people, to upgrade our infrastructure, and to develop both the urban and rural areas.
· What sectors do you see as offering the best hope for future growth?
- We are looking particularly at tourism and the agro-based industries. In the international sphere, we are aiming to boost trade, particularly with our traditional trading partners, Australia and New Zealand, and with new partners that we are trying to cultivate in Asia.
We are very grateful for the Lomonvention and the various arrangements associated with it - particularly as regards access to the EU market for our sugar products. Although it would be desirable for us not to have to rely on preferential pricing for sugar, for the moment, there is no alternative. And while we are looking for alternatives and seeking to diversify our economy, we will need that system to remain in place. We would like to continue the dialogue to ensure that this happens.
In the area of trade, as I say, our focus is on Australia and New Zealand, and the regional trade agreement that the Pacific island territories have with them. This agreement is currently under review. One important aspect is the clause governing the rules of origin. If we can convince Australia and New Zealand to reduce the local input requirement from 50% to 35%, then we won't need any aid from them. The effect will be to secure existing jobs and, indeed, to increase employment, particularly in the garment industry. At the moment, most of the textiles we import for further processing come from Australia. Because of the market we have to sell to, it is very good quality material. This means the costs are high, in comparison with the local input needed to turn it into finished products, and this makes it difficult for us to get up to the required 50%.
If we don't get that reduction, things could go in the opposite direction. Manufacturers might relocate and we could be facing jobs losses. You have to remember that we are competing with Asian producers who have very low wage costs.
· Is this proposal for a reduction in the local input requirement on the agenda with the Australians and New Zealanders?
- The review actually excludes the clause on the rules of origin. Having said this, we have effectively raised the calculation of our local input in negotiations on a series of other points. On paper, the 50% figure is unchanged but in fact, there has been a reduction of about 5%, thus giving us a little margin.
· On the sugar issue you said you were hopeful that some form of preferential access to the EU market would be maintained. Isn't there a concern that this may not last beyond the year 2000, particularly given the increasingly liberal world trading system?
- Yes, and we are looking at that. We should be gearing ourselves up for what happens at the end of the current Lomgreement. It remains to be seen whether, with the WTO and the new trends, the curtain will suddenly be brought down on 1 January 2000, or whether there will be a grace period in which we are given time to consolidate our diversification.
· The other big issue in the sugar sector concerns the impending expiry of the land leases.
- That is a local issue and a very important one. It has high priority on our government agenda. We are currently talking to the landowners and lessees, explaining what will happen. The legislation (the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act) makes no provision for further extensions to the leases, which are now nearing their end. Do we need a new act or should we amend the present law to allow extensions beyond the 50 years originally allowed for? And if we are to do that, what happens to the compensation provisions? At the moment, these are viewed in a rather one-sided way. The emphasis is on the situation where the landlord compensates the tenant for improvements made to the land. But the rules also provide for compensation in the other direction where the value has been reduced. This may be due to constant cultivation over 50 years. What if the owner wants to return the land to its original use, planting taro, yams or cassava, as his father may have done fifty years ago, and finds he can no longer do so? There has to be a balancing act here.
Hopefully, most of the land will be leased again under a new agreement or under an amendment to the existing law - because we will need to continue sugar production. It is also worth noting that some sugar farmers are beginning to diversify into other crops, both subsistence and commercial.
· What arrangements do you envisage for those farmers who do not have their leases renewed? Will they be relocated?
- Right now, we are looking at the use of state land. There are two basic categories here - what used to be known as 'Crown Land under Schedule A' and 'Crown Land under Schedule B'. Schedule A covers the land not claimed by anybody during the Commission that was set up to determine the ownership of land in the very early colonial years. Schedule B is land that belonged to a community or landholding unit that has since died out: in other words, where there is no surviving member of the land-owning unit. So we have those parcels of land available. My party's policy is to restore land to the traditional owners where possible, but in those cases where you cannot identify the original owners, there will be land available for resettlement - although resettlement is perhaps not a very good term to use.
· It is somewhat emotive.
- It implies taking a person, family or community from somewhere and planting them somewhere else - and I hope we can avoid that. On the other hand, if you look at what people are doing nowadays, everybody's relocating. People are always resettling, moving away from home and setting up elsewhere. In this case it is perhaps a necessity, in the sense that the legislation has caught up with us.
· Can I turn now to the sensitive issue of the constitution. This is another area where decision day is looming. You currently have a constitutional review under way with the Commission's report due out soon. What do you think will emerge from this process over the next 12-18 months?
- I don't feel that the constitutional issue is a sensitive one and do not think anyone should feel restrained in asking questions about it. It reflects the reality of the situation in Fiji. There is a requirement that the 1990 Constitution be reviewed and we have a Review Commission chaired by Sir Paul Reeves. He is a very capable man who is a former Governor-General of New Zealand and a very eminent constitutional lawyer. Assisting him, we have two party nominees - one from the main Fijian party and one nominated jointly by the Indian parties in Parliament. I have total confidence in that Commission. I believe they will come up with very objective observations and recommendations.
Let me explain the timetable to you. The report is expected by the end of August. It will be presented first to the President and then to me for submission to Cabinet. I envisage it being tabled in Parliament towards the end of September. We cannot debate it until three months have elapsed from the date it was tabled - which takes us to the end of the year. A lot of work will be needed during the first half of 1997. The Joint Parliamentary Select Committee, made up of members of both the upper and lower houses, will have to work on the report and try and build consensus on the various issues.
Given that the house is racially divided, and the possibility that a premature discussion on the floor of the house may raise the temperature, I would prefer not to have a full parliamentary sitting in the early part of next year. Instead, we should go into committee and deal with it there. And then when we are satisfied that the issues can be brought out into the open, we will debate them fully in Parliament. As soon as we start talking next year, the legislative craftsmen should begin their work. On the basis of this programme, I believe we can meet the deadline to the day, promulgating a new Constitution which has been accepted by both houses on 25 July 1997. So I am very hopeful.
· Without prejudging the final outcome, do you envisage a move away from strict communal separation? I am thinking here, in particular, of the separate voting lists?
- I think there may be provision for some cross-communal voting. There was something like this in the 1970 Constitution which had both communal and national rolls.
· What about the longer term. Do you foresee a political system developing in Fiji where ethnic origin is irrelevant - perhaps a 'right-left' divide, if that is still a meaningful concept?
- I am not bold enough to say that that will happen. I have seen the darkest side of Fijian nationalism. I have seen the fear that was in the Indian population in 1987. But if we move too quickly to remove the racial safeguards that are in the Constitution, we may run the risk of prolonging the bad relationship between the races that we now have. So I would say we should proceed very cautiously and let the natural healing process take its course. We also need to look beyond the Constitution at aspects such as our education system and enhancing the ability of the Fijians to compete.
· I believe the education system is also very divided.
- Some schools are reserved for Fijians although, slowly, there are Indians from families close to the schools who are beginning to enter them.
· Do you think that this is a promising sign for the future?
- I think so. I went to a purely Fijian school and when I came out of that, everything was Fijian for me. I went straight into the army which is another Fijian-dominated institution. It was not planned that way. It is just the way it happened. My tolerance level of other races was very low. But you cannot expect somebody who gets to this level of leadership to have a low racial tolerance level. I must admit that the last ten years have been very, very educational for me - very good for my own being. I consider what I used to think before and the way I used to feel before. I have never been threatened by an Indian, but I had always been in Fijian 'safe' areas - a Fijian school and then in the army. But since coming out of that sort of cocoon, I have managed very well to accept that I have to compete with them, I have to look after them, and I have to devise policies and programmes that will be good for them as well as being good for us.
· One final question. Do you envisage Fiji seeking to rejoin the Commonwealth in the near future?
- I think seeking is the wrong word. We will do what we feel is good for Fiji and its people. The people of Fiji are those who are here now but it will include some of those who have moved on looking for greener pastures and who are willing to come back. We were not expelled from the Commonwealth; our membership lapsed. It is up to the Commonwealth to say whether they are prepared to reconsider our member ship.
Area: 18 272 km². Fiji has two main islands (Viti Levu and Vanua Levu) and about 300 smaller ones. It has an Exclusive Economic Zone of approximately 1.3 million km²).
Population: 790 000
Population density: 43 per kilometre²
Capital: Suva (situated on the island of Viti Levu)
Main languaqes: English, Bauan
(main Fijian language)
Currency: Fiji dollar (F$). In June 1996, 1 ECU was worth approximately F$ 1.80. (US$1 = F$ 1.40)
System of government: A bicameral parliamentary system consisting of an appointed Senate and an elected House of Representatives. The President is a non-executive head of state chosen by the Great Council of Chiefs. The President appoints the Prime Minister.
Under the Constitution, adopted in 1990, the Parliament is divided along racial lines. The Senate has 34 members, 24 of whom are indigenous Fijians. In the 70-member House of Representatives, 37 seats are reserved for native Fijians, 27 for Indo-Fijians, 5 for 'general voters' (other ethnic groups) and 1 for Rotuma Island (whose inhabitants are Polynesian). The 1990 Constitution provides for a review within seven years and discussions are currently under way with a view to amending the Constitution by the 1997 deadline.
President: Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara
Prime Minister: Major General Sitiveni Rabuka
Main political parties: Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei (SVT - Fijian), National Federation Party (NFP - Indian), Fiji Labour Party (FLP - Indian), Fijian Association (FA - Fijian), General Voters Party (GVP).
Party representation in Parliament (1994 election result): SVT 31, NFP 20, FLP 7, FA 5, GVP 4, Others 3.
GDP: (1995) F$ 2.85 billion
Annual GDP per capita: approx US$ 2600
GDP growth rate (1995): 2.2% (2.9% predicted for 1996)
Principal exports (1994): Sugar (US$ 182m), Garments (US$ 96m), Gold (US$ 43m), Fish (US$ 38m), Timber (US$ 21 m) Main trading partners (in order of importance):
Exports - Australia, UK, USA, Japan, New Zealand.
Imports - Australia, New Zealand, USA, Japan, Singapore.
Trade balance (1994): exports - US$ 547m, imports - US$ 826, deficit - US$ 279m. The current account figures also usually reveal a deficit but this is much smaller due to tourism earnings and official transfers.
Inflation rate (1995): 2.2%
Government budget (1996): revenue - F$ 759m, expenditure - F$ 851 m, deficit - F$92 (about 3.5% of GDP)
Forma/sector employment: 98 112 (out of a total economically active population of about 265 000)
Life expectancy at birth (1993): 71.6 years
Adult literacy (1993): 90.6%
Enrolment in education: all levels from age 6-23: 79%
Human Development Index rating: 0.853 (47th out of 174)
Sources: Economic Intelligence Unit, UNDP Human Development Report, 1996, EC Commission.
'We need to move to a more racially neutral system'
Fiji is not unique in having a political system that is heavily influenced by racial or communel issues In places as diverse as Northern Ireland, Belgium, Guyana and Trinidad - not to mention many parts of Africa - people vote for parties which claim to represent the particular ethnic, religious or linguistic group to which they belong. Where Fiji is different, however, is in having a Constitution that gives primacy to one particular community. Since the 1987 coup, native Fijians have held the upper hand with a guaranteed majority in Parliament and a firm grip on the levers or power.
The 1990 Constitution, adopted when communal feelings were still running high, contained a requirement for a constitutional review within seven years. When The Courier visited Fiji (July 19961 the work of a three-member Commission appointed to carry out the review and make recormmendations was nearing completion. All sides seem to accept the need for reforms designed to help bridge the sharp racial divide.
The big question is how radical these reforms are likely to be. We sought the views of Jai Ram Reddy, the leader of the opposition National Federation Party (NFP) which has the support of most of the country's Indian (Indo-Fijian) community.
· You are the first opposition leader I have met who cannot, constitutionally, become Prime Minister. How do you feel about that?
- It is something that rankles with me - the mere thought that I am not equal with my fellow citizens of other races. I think that's generally the way the Indians feel here. All the constraints and limitations, the denial of basic human rights, are the source of a great deal of unhappiness.
· You talk about basic human rights. Obviously, the political aspects are very important but I get the impression that, in other respects, this is a fairly free and easy society: there is free expression, for example.
- Yes, but free expression is only one aspect of human rights. The fact is that discrimination based on race is widespread and institutionalised. About 45% of the population is Indo-Fijian but you will find they are not fairly represented in the higher levels of the public service. At the Permanent Secretary level, there is definitely a government policy to have a limited number of Indians - and there are hardly any in the more crucial ministries. The same is true of managerial positions throughout the public sector. In the statutory bodies and major public undertakings, there is a deliberate policy of excluding Indians. So we are very much a marginalised community in the public sector.
· Wouldn't it be true to say that Indians have quite a lot of economic power?
- No, I don't agree. There is a tendency for people who come here, end for some people in Fiji, to project this image of Indians controlling the economy. It is a fallacy. It all boils down to how you define economic power.
Let's take natural resources. The land, and therefore the forests, are almost exclusively owned and controlled by native Fijians. Even in the corporate sector, the largest business undertaking is the manufacture of sugar, and 80% of the shares are owned by the government. The Indians don't own this industry. They are the small sugar cane producers working on ten-acre plots. And who controls banking and insurance? Certainly not the Indians. Most of the financial services companies are foreign-owned.
The area where the Indians are most visible is in the retail sector. But those little shops you see in the towns are small family businesses. The shopkeepers work up to 15 hours a day, and you will discover that many of them do not even own their premises; they are tenants. So the idea that Indians control the economy is a bit of a myth.
· The Constitution, and in particular the system of racial differentiation for voting and holding certain offices, is obviously a key issue for you. With the Constitution currently under review, what is your party's policy in this area?
- The first elections under the current Constitution took place in 1992 and we took part in them under protest. We made clear that our participation should not be construed as acceptance of the system. Indeed, the sole issue on which we campaigned was our rejection of the Constitution. But we accepted the fact that we needed to get into the system as it was, and to try and create an environment where there would be widespread appreciation that it had to change. The 1990 text, in fact, laid down that it had to be reviewed by the seventh anniversary of its promulgation. I think the architects of the Constitution realised themselves that it was deficient. And we laid great emphasis on the need for dialogue; a general recognition that the country would be much better off with everybody working together and that there was nothing to be gained by oppressing or marginalising a community. And that is the kind of environment we have tried to create.
· The Constitutional review will shortly be published. What do you hope will come out of that exercise?
- I am reasonably optimistic. I think the environment is more favourable now and there is a general recognition that the system has to change. I am sure you will get confirmation of this when you talk to the government side. We need to move away from this very polarised, compartmentalised political system to a more racially neutral one. I think views may diverge as to how far we should go. That will be the contentious issue. But I believe we will make progress.
I certainly think we will get a good report from the Constitutional Review Commission. One of our fears, when we started on this journey, was whether it would be independent and be given fair terms of reference. Largely because of the cooperative and accommodating attitude that we ourselves adopted, and to which the government responded, we were able to get a Commission that was well-balanced. We are very fortunate to have Sir Paul Reeves, a former Governor-General of New Zealand. His independence is taken for granted. The Commission also has one nominee from the indigenous side and one from the Indo-Fijian side. So we certainly expect a good report. There is already a kind of acceptance I think on all sides that political parties need to prepare themselves for a more multiracial approach to governance in the future.
· On this point, I see that the SVT (the governing party) is looking at the idea of opening up its membership to other groups.
- That's right.
· Do you think there will be many nonnative Fijians interested in joining?
- Not straight away but at least it is a beginning. It is an acceptance that they can't remain racially exclusive. If, for example, the Commission recommends a move toward a racially neutral system - at least for a certain number of seats - then it would be important for the SVT to have non-Fijians in their party.
· Can I turn to economic issues, which I presume cannot be divorced altogether from political ones? There is a lot of discussion about the future of the sugar industry which is tied in with the question of renewing the land leases This is an issue which is due to be resolved soon. How concerned are you about the impending decision on the leases?
- This is something that concerns us very deeply. As you correctly observe, you can't separate the political and economic aspects. The two are very closely interlinked here - perhaps more so than in other countries - because of the land situation. The bulk of Indian peasant farmers, both within and outside the sugar industry, are on leases that will begin to expire next year. If these are not renewed, the problem will not just be an economic one but an enormous human one. What do we do with these people who all belong to a particular racial group. It really boils down to our very survival. Despite the growth in the towns, the bulk of the people are still rurally based. They are small subsistence farmers, living in the country areas with no more than 10 or 12 acres to cultivate. So the social implications of non-renewal in terms of poverty, dispossession and hardship are enormous.
· But how real is the concern? Surely, the overwhelming economic logic is for the leases to be renewed. After all the land is being put to productive use at the moment
- Yes, but unfortunately, when you have a communal dimension to the problem, logic does not always prevail. If you think about it, there was no logic in the events of 1987. The trouble is that every issue here has a racial twist. After the coup, communal sentiments were aroused and sharpened. There was a prolonged period of anti-lndian propaganda and in that environment of anger, a highly racial constitution was adopted. There were people in positions of influence openly advocating non-renewal, threatening to take all the land back. Now they need to undo all this and it will not be easy, given the enormous strength of feeling that has been aroused. Having said this, I believe that we are now in the process of restoring sanity to our public life. It is also beginning to dawn on everybody that the sugar industry is vital for Fiji and it will continue to be so for some years to come.
· I have heard that view expressed on all sides, but I wonder if people are sufficiently aware of the implications of global liberalisation. It has been suggested that this will make sugar increasingly unviable.
- I think a lot of people are unaware of the implications, because there has been very little public education in this field. But amongst those 'in the know', there is certainly an appreciation. I am a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Sugar and we were recently addressed by the head of the marketing company and the head of the Sugar Commission. At that level, there is an awareness, but if you speak to the average farmer who has been growing and selling sugar for many years, he will probably assume that life will just go on as before.
Isn't it true to say that sugar depends heavily on the Lomonvention arrangement with the European Community?
- Very much so. In my view, the sugar industry is run so inefficiently that but for the huge subsidy we get from the European Community, it would not be viable.
Presumably, this means that measures must be taken to improve efficiency?
- Yes, absolutely. But the first issue to resolve is the land question.
There is no point talking to the farmers about efficiency - asking them to improve their husbandry and focus on sugar content rather than the quantity of cane produced - when they don't know if they will have land to cultivate after next year. So you see all other issues have become completely subsidiary to the tenure question. At the moment, we are in a limbo. The government and the people urgently need to resolve this problem. Then we can put it behind us and address the other concerns.
Are there any other economic sectors which you feel offer promise for the future of the country?
- Any growth outside of tourism will, I think, have to be centred on the agricultural sector. We need more agro-based industries and more diversification. We could grow a lot of other crops here - mangoes for example. We also need to improve extension services to farmers, and make an aggressive effort to identify markets. The farmers will grow the crops but they must be sure that somebody will buy them. Every year, for example, we have a glut of tomatoes - so many that they can't even give them away in the markets. This kind of problem kills the incentive to produce.
There is obviously heavy state involvement in the running of agriculture. Do you see scope for more privatisation or 'corporatisation' in line with global trends?
- I think that growth, even in the agricultural sector has to be private-sector driven. At the same time, you have got to create the right environment and infrastructure for this to happen. Unfortunately, it keeps coming back to this question of land. If big investors, for instance, want to come here and invest in agriculture, they need to know what sort of tenure they are going to get and whether they can buy the freehold. I am sure there are people, particularly now from the Asian region, who would be interested in investing in agriculture, but the land problem is a big constraint.
Do you think Fiji will rejoin the Commonwealth at any point?
- Well, we hope so. You know we are all very strongly in favour of rejoining. One of the things that I personally feel very strongly about is the unfortunate severance of our link with the Queen. I don't know, constitutionally, whether it can be restored. Obviously, there are difficulties in that area, but I think a large majority of ordinary people in this country would like at least to see Fiji back in the Commonwealth.
When The Courier visited Fiji in July, the report of the Constitutional Review Commission headed by Sir Paul Reeves (former Governor-General of New Zealand) had not yet been completed - and what it would contain was a major topic of speculation. As readers will see from the interview we publish with the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, the impartiality of the three-member Commission was not in question - at least within the political mainstream on both the native Fijian and Indian sides. Nonetheless, there were doubts about whether a consensus could be found. For the Indo-Fijians, a scaling down of the 'racial' features in the Constitution was seen as a prerequisite. Yet the ruling SVT, in its own submissions to the Commission, had effectively supported the status quo. In view of this apparently unbridgeable gulf, could the compilers of the Report come up with recommendations capable of forming the basis for a lasting constitutional settlement?
The long-awaited Report was formally transmitted to President Ratu Mara on 6 September and a few days later, it was tabled to a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives. It now falls to a joint select committee of the two Houses to thrash out a new set of constitutional proposals. These will be presented to Parliament for debate and decision in the first half of next year with a view to meeting the July 1997 deadline foreseen in the 1990 Constitution.
The Report of the Review Commission is lengthy (almost 800 pages) and contains no fewer than 697 separate recommendations. The key ones, however, relate to the system for electing members of the House of Representatives. Currently, separate electoral lists based on race are used to fill all 70 seats (37 native Fijians, 27 Indo-Fijians, 1 Rotuman and 5 'General Electors', covering all other races). It was widely expected that the Commission would propose a mixture of 'reserve' seats and 'open' ones, with the latter, as their name implies, being chosen by the whole electorate.
45 'open' seats proposed
This is precisely what they have done - but the suggested breakdown may have come as a surprise to some. The proposal is for 45 open seats (15 three-member constituencies) and 25 single-member 'reserve seats (12 native Fijian, 10 Indo-Fijian, 1 Rotuman and 2 'General Electors'). If adopted, the new system would no longer legally guarantee a majority for people of Fijian origin in the country's legislature. What would happen in practice would depend on a number of factors including the nature of the voting system in the three member open constituencies, the willingness of people to cast their ballots across the ethnic divide and the actual turnout of voters from the different communities. It should be pointed out, however, that native Fijians now constitute half the population, large numbers of Indians having emigrated over the past nine years. So long as communal voting patterns persist, this will presumably be reflected in the Parliamentary arithmetic.
It is also proposed that the bulk of the 35-member Senate (Bose e Cake) should be made up of elected representatives of Fiji's provinces. In the field of local government, it is suggested that the present system based on villages and provinces, which applies only to native Fijians, might be replaced by an arrangement applicable to all races. In this context, the rote of the Council of Chiefs (Bose Levu Vakaturaga) would be reduced.
Although the sections of the Report relating to representation are bound to attract most attention, the Commission also put forward a series of other proposals aimed at improving the governance of Fiji. One idea, which appears designed to alter the political culture, is for the 'Official Secrets Act' to be replaced by a 'Freedom of Information Act'. The presumption of secrecy would be replaced by a rule that official information should be accessible to the public except where there is good reason to withhold it. In a similar vein, the Report recommends an 'integrity code' to govern the behaviour of holders of public office.
Initial reactions to the outcome of the Commission's work were mixed. Key players, including the President, Prime Minister and opposition spokespersons broadly welcomed the Report but more nationalistic elements were quick to reject it and one group even mounted a ceremonial burning of the document.
It is obvious that a great many more words will be exchanged - and some of them will no doubt be heated - in the coming months. It is difficult to see how everyone can be 'brought on board' but the hope must be that a compromise can be crafted that is acceptable to the majority on both sides of the communal divide. The people of this Pacific island nation are well aware that prosperity and stability go hand in hand. The single most important achievement in ensuring stability for the longer term would be to secure a satisfactory settlement of the constitutional issue.
This was the key sentiment expressed by Isimeli Bose, Fiji's Trade Minister, when he spoke to The Courier earlier this year. Mr Bose insisted that 'no matter what anybody says, sugar will be the backbone of this country's economy for years to come.'
When we discussed Fiji's current economic situation and future prospects with the Minister, it was not surprising that sugar should have featured so prominently. The sector faces a difficult future for both internal and external reasons. At home, the long-term leases granted to the farmers (mainly Fiji Indians) under the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act are due to expire over the next few years. No provision was made for their renewal and the resulting uncertainty has provoked widespread concern, not least among the leaseholders themselves. The external 'threat' comes from new international trade rules administered by the World Trade Organisation. At present, Fiji's sugar industry is heavily dependent on the preferential access to the EU market which was granted under the Lomugar Protocol. No one is quite sure what will happen when LomV expires at the turn of the century but it is clear that the stakes are high.
Mr Bose was quick to acknowledge the importance of ending the uncertainty facing the sugar farmers. 'But the real challenge', he said, 'is to ensure the maintenance of our markets for sugar.' He was aware of the encroachment of global trade liberalisation but stressed that the industry's leaders and the government were 'doing the work now and planning for the future.' At the same time, the authorities are clearly hoping that the European Union will be able to continue with some form of preferential arrangement after the year 2000, if only to buy time so that the industry can adapt and farmers can diversify.
On the subject of trade diversification, Mr Bose pointed out that 'the field is very limited'. He continued; 'However, since 1988, we have seen garment production picking up from very humble beginnings. By 1995, we had about F$185 million-worth of exports in this area.' He also spoke enthusiastically about the government policy of encouraging manufacturing in tax-free factories and zones. 'This developed well between 1989 and 1992 and then there was something of a slowdown.' Tax-free factories have been established in a number of locations and the first real tax-free zone is now being set up in Kalabo. Mr Bose indicated that EU assistance was being provided in this area.
Our conversation then turned to the changing economic role of governments - throughout the world, they are withdrawing from active involvement in industrial and commercial operations. We asked how far this process had occurred in Fiji and, in particular, whether there was a privatisation policy. The Minister replied in the affirmative, pointing out that government departments 'do not usually make very good businesspeople.' The policy, therefore, was to 'corporatise' and 'privatise', although the process is still in its early stages. The Trade and Commerce Ministry has a public enterprise unit which is responsible for drawing up a policy framework for the government. In 1995, Mr Bose explained, a public enterprise bill was presented to Parliament, 'but there were so many concerns expressed to the previous Minister that it was referred to a select committee - which, in fact was chaired by me before I took up my present poet.' The committee had now completed its work and the Minister indicated that the issue would go back to Parliament in September.
Despite the legislative delay, Mr Bose was keen to stress that his department was already working on individual programmes. The post and telecoms business, for example, had just gone through another stage towards privatisation.
There is, of course, an important distinction between 'corporatisation' and 'privatisation' - the former implies staying within the state sector but at arms-length from the administration. This point was acknowledged by our interviewee who explained that the approach was a step-by-step one. The first stage was to reorganise a department along commercial lines. Corporatisation came next 'and then finally you have privatisation by disposing of shares.'
He stressed that the most important aim was to ensure an element of competition wherever possible. 'There is no point simply moving from a government monopoly to a private monopoly', he insisted, 'although obviously, there are utilities like water, electricity and even telephones where this may not be easy.' The minister concluded; 'Where they are natural monopolies, we will regulate them.'
Our final topic of discussion was the possibility of regional integration in the Pacific.
How far had the South Pacific countries gone in this direction and did the Minister think there was a need for closer economic cooperation? Mr Bose replied that he thought economic integration was a good thing. He pointed to a document on his desk containing a draft proposal for a bilateral trade agreement with Papua New Guinea. 'We will soon be holding negotiations with them, and have also just signed an agreement with Tonga.'
The focus on bilateral trade arrangements at this stage suggests that the region still has some way to go on the regional integration path.
But the Minister nonetheless insisted that it was something 'that can and will happen'.
How can a businesswomen succeed in Fiji's patriarchal society? Mere Samisoni, the entrepreneur behind the 'Hotbread Kitchen' gave us an appropriate answer when she said 'I roll with it', although the pun was probably unintentional In fact, it is difficult to imagine this dynamic lady being pushed around. Anybody who manages to build up a chain of bakeries from scratch, capturing 35% of the country's urban consumer market in the process, must have a lot of determination. At the same time, Mrs Samisoni displays a strong sense of social commitment. She believes in community values, advocates group decision-making and consensus, and even describes the tax system as 'reasonably fair'. In short, she contradicts the widely-held view propagated by lurid American TV series, that a dogeat-dog attitude is needed for business success.
In fact, Mrs Samisoni started out with the idea of working with one of the caring professions. Trained in nursing administration in Australia and New Zealand, she returned to Fiji only to find that there were no openings available. That was when she decided to go into the private sector, establishing 'Samisoni Enterprises'. And over the years, she has succeeded in building up one of the largest bread-making operations in the country. The Hotbread Kitchen operation is highly decentralised with the bread being baked in different locations for sale through the company's local outlets. Her business is also the first Fijian one to franchise out its operations. And having already won a big chunk of the urban market, she is now looking to expand operations in the rural areas.
Samisoni Enterprises, of course, is not simply a bread-making operation. The company now offers a line of 62 separate bakery products, with some local adaptations to suit varying tastes. It employs some 275 staff with perhaps another 50 working in the related franchise operations. And the business had an important breakthrough when it won the contract for 'MacDonalds' in Nadi. With branches of the famous hamburger chain likely to open in other parts of Fiji, this could be the start of something big. In fact, there is even a suggestion that Fiji could be used to source Macdonalds' operations in New Zealand, the rolls (or buns, as the Americans like to call them) being exported frozen.
For Mrs Samisoni, the key to a successful and profitable operation is 'constant quality' and unfailing attention to customer service. As she puts its, 'if you let quality slip just once, you can end up losing customers for a very long time.' Baking is a labour-intensive business and she is keen to stress the importance of developing people's abilities - in particular, the human relaitons skills of those who deal direct with the customer.
As if running a business wasn't enough, Mere Samisoni is also busy completing a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at the University of the South Pacific, with a thesis on indigenous business. From what we discovered, speaking to this remarkable Fijian entrepreneur, she should have been helping to teach the course!
Anyone from overseas who is travelling to the Fijian capital, Suva, will soon discover that the country's largest island is a very diverse place. Roughly circular in shape, Viti Levu provides more than half of Fiji's total land area and is home to about three-quarters of the population.
The journey to Suva on the south-east coast will almost certainly involve transiting through Nadi International Airport (pronounced Nandi) which is situated in the west. This is the country's only major international gateway and while it is ideal for tourists heading for the resort hotels, it is less convenient for business travellers whose destination is Suva. Their journey has to be completed either by road (which takes several hours) or on one of the small commuter planes which ply regularly between Nadi and Nausori (itself a half-hour drive from the capital).
The biggest surprise to those who are unfamiliar with the country is that the west and the south-east have very different weather patterns. When your aircraft lands at Nadi, the chances are high that the sun will be shining. On reaching Suva, you are more likely to encounter rain. This part of the country enjoys - if that is the correct term - a micro-climate which is good for tropical vegetation but less appealing to human beings. The 'blame' for locating the Fijian capital in such a spot is said (not too seriously) to lie with the country's former colonial rulers. According to the story, a British envoy visited Suva on one of its rare sunny days and, on the strength of this, designated it as the seat of administration. The British can hardly deny their involvement since it was in 1882, during the early years of colonial rule, that the capital moved from Levuka (situated on the much smaller island of Ovalau). But the key reason was almost certainly the fact that Suva, with its large bay, could be developed as a port. Whatever the explanation, one must have some sympathy with the foreign diplomats who keep a raincoat or umbrella to hand at all times, and yet are viewed with envy back home because they have a 'paradise' posting.
To be fair, Suva has attributes other than its weather which make it an interesting place. It has, for example, some very attractive architecture, both local and colonial. The views across the bay can be dramatic - and, in this respect, the rolling cloud formations may actually enhance the picture. And the centre of the city buzzes with activity (except on Sunday because of the Sabbatarian influence).
The population of the greater Suva area is about 160 000. This may not be enormous, but it is the largest concentration of humanity to be found between Hawaii and Australia. In some ways, it is the 'capital' of the South Pacific - a point which is underlined by the fact that the Forum Secretariat is based here. It is also the site of the University of the South Pacific's main campus. The local population is mainly ethnic Fijian but there are Indo-Fijians as well as citizens of Chinese and European extraction. Add to this the diplomatic corps, foreign businesspeople and students from other parts of the region, and you get a very cosmopolitan mix. This is reflected in the variety of cuisines available in the local restaurants.
The western part of Viti Levu is also cosmopolitan but in a very different way, with a stronger Indian influence and, of course, a constantly changing tourist population.
Most of the island's inhabitants live a relatively short distance from the sea. Thus, in demographic terms, Viti Levu is like a doughnut with a thick layer of humanity around the edge and a hole in the middle. The analogy may not be entirely apt since the 'hole' is, in fact, a spectacular mountainous area. This makes the road that runs round the island a key arterial route. Meanwhile, those who choose to fly from Nadi to Suva, assuming they are not of a nervous disosition, can enjoy the experience of travelling below the height of the surrounding peaks.
The few people who do occupy the central region live in traditional Fijian villages and have a lifestyle far removed from either the town dwellers or the sugar cane farmers. Its size may be little more than ten thousand square kiLomes but Viti Levu is truly an island of contrasts.
by Ernst Kroner
Fiji was a signatory of the first Lomonvention in 1975 and, to date, the country has been allocated some ECU 190m in EU development cooperation funds.
Starting with a relatively modest ECU 9.9m under Lom, the national indicative programme rose to ECU 13m under the following Convention. Without neglecting rural development (feeder roads in Vanua Levu), under Lom most of the resources were devoted to transport infrastructure (a main road on Vanua Levu). Under Lom1, cooperation concentrated clearly on agriculture and rural development, in particular by means of the funding of microprojects, with infrastructural programmes (the extension of the Vanua Levu road, social infrastructure) taking second place. Under this Convention, a new field of action was also addressed: trade development.
Tax free zone
Trade development was addressed further under LomII (6th EDF, ECU 20m, of which ECU 5m in special loans), with support given to an Investment and Trade Development Programme. The longer-term objective of the project was to widen the economic base of Fiji and to create employment. The more immediate objective was the i establishment of a Tax Free Zone near Suva. In order to promote this scheme and to secure markets for exporting the goods which would eventually be produced, the project included a programme of trade and investment promotion to be implemented by the Fiji Trade and Investment Board. Due to problems linked with identifying an appropriate site, the project, which had been given the go-ahead in 1990, only came on stream in 1995.
Rural and agricultural development continued to be one of the main sectors of cooperation, with the funding of three major projects. The first was a coconut rehabilitation and development project, situated on the island of Taveuni, which aimed at improving the productivity of coconut plantations through the introduction and multiplication of high yield hybrids. The project also provided for the establishment of a 30 hectare coconut nursery centre, which was expected to finance itself through the sales of seedlings. EC support for this project ended in 1992, since when the scheme has been taken over by the Government. A second project (a large-scale microprogramme divided into two sub-programmes) aimed on the one hand at the construction of access roads to facilitate the development of cocoa plantations, and on the other at the introduction and development of pineapple plantations in Vanua Levu. The first component was closed after disappointing results. The second component, however, produced very interesting and promising results, which will, however, need private and governmental support in order to become sustainable. A rural electrification project involving 28 rural electrification schemes and the supply and installation of a small power plant is still ongoing.
Developing human resources
Under LomII, the formerly prominent transport infrastructure sector lost some importance. The Kubulau Peninsula road project on Vanua Levu brought to an end the work started under previous Conventions. This road, which filled the last gap in the circuminsular road, was opened on in July 1994. LomII also saw the beginning of human resources development as a new theme of cooperation, with Technical Assistance funded for the logging school. This area, embodying strong links with forestry and environmental issues, has been further developed under LomV with the reconstruction of the school burnt down in 1993, and the enlargement of the training and education provided to what now constitutes a Forest Training Centre.
The national indicative programme relating to the first protocol of LomV (7th EDF, ECU 22m in grant aid) identifies rural development and social infrastructure as the sectors of concentration to which 65% of resources are to be devoted. The remaining 35% will be used for non-focal activities, including trade and services, tourism, cultural cooperation, training and technical cooperation.
Unfortunately, it was only following the very destructive cyclone Kina in January 1993 that cooperation activities could start in the form of the rebuilding of four bridges either severely damaged or completely destroyed by the post-cyclone floods.
Work on two smaller bridges of major importance to Viti Levu (Korovou and Vunidawa, ECU 1.135m) was started in 1994 by the Public Works Department and completed in January 1995.
The Financing Agreement for the two major bridges (ECU 10.24m) was signed in June 1994 and provides for the rebuilding of the bridges of Ba and Sigatoka. These form part of the main road around the island of Viti Levu and are therefore vital for the movement of people and goods on Fiji's main island. The new bridges, 190 and 182 metres long respectively, will be two-lane, and will provide for footpaths and utilities. To enable the traffic to by-pass the often congested towns of Ba and Sigatoka, new sites for both bridges have been chosen, which also call for the building of new approach roads. Building works were under way in early 1996 and completion is expected by April 1997.
Non programmable aid for Fiji has been considerable over the years. While Stabex transfers for losses on coconut oil (totalling ECU 5.4m under Lom - LomII) came to a halt under LomV (because levels of exports fell below the required dependency threshold), emergency aid (total ECU 9.5m) has continued, unfortunately, to be needed. Time and again the islands have been hit by cyclones (the most recent occasion being in January 1993, when the EU made available ECU 1 m for food rations following cyclone Kina).
In the past, a significant feature of EU-Fiji cooperation was the credits provided by the European Investment Bank. It was very active under Lom to LomII, providing loans from its own resources to a total value of ECU 87.5m with a further ECU 6.1 m allocated in risk capital. Loans went to the energy sector (hydropower scheme), industry (wood processing) and services (telecommunications, sea and air transport). Considerable interest rate subsidies (totalling ECU 14.1m) have also been made available under the various EDFs in support of these loans. More recently, the EIB has financed an aircraft maintenance centre (1991) and a telecommunications project (1995).
Over and above financial cooperation, Fiji benefits from the second largest quota (165348 tonnes per annum) under the Sugar Protocol annexed to the Lomonventions. This covers some 45% of its total sugar exports. The yearly benefit from this provision is estimated at between ECU 45m and ECU 55m - in other words, only slightly less than the total of all programme aid granted since Lom (ECU 64.9m). About two-thirds of these benefits reach the farmers, so that the EU subsidises every sugar smallholder, on average, to the extent of some ECU 1500 a year.
Recently, Fiji's quota under the Sugar Protocol was increased by 881 tonnes, as a result of the reallocation of the shortfall of deliveries by Barbados. Furthermore, Fiji benefits from an annual special tariff quota to the tune of some 30 000 tonnes up to the year 2001.
Industrial development and external trade have been supported by the relaxation of the rules of origin for exports to the EU of canned tuna to the extent of 500 tonnes a year from 1993 to 1996. A similar arrangement, applicable for certain quantities of garments up the end of 1993 was recently extended to the end of 1996.
Fiji's main exports to the EU (sugar, fish and garments) - and the resulting surplus in its trade relations with the EU - are consequently highly dependent upon the continuity of these preferences.
Support for tourism
In the field of services, and specifically in tourism, the EU - through its support of the Tourism Council of the South Pacific - has contributed to the fact that every sixth tourist or so arriving in Fiji comes from a member country of the Union. Tourism being by far Fiji's most important source of foreign exchange earnings, receipts from European tourists amount at present to some ECU 30m, and are greater than those from the export of fish and fish products
Taking the Sugar Protocol into consideration, the EU is by far the most important of Fiji's development partners, followed by Australia. The country also benefits from bilateral cooperation arrangements with EU Member States (UK, France, Germany).
'None of the most civilised nations have ever exceeded these islanders in the great order and regularity maintained on every occasion, in ready and submissive compliance with the commands of their chiefs, and the perfect harmony that subsists among all ranks.'
These were the words of Captain Cook who visited the Tonga archipelago several times on his voyages around the world in the eighteenth century. The famous explorer was obviously impressed by the social organisation of this island nation and, although it is more than two centuries since he undertook his Pacific voyages, many of his observations hold true today. Talk of submissive compliance may no longer be appropriate, but in contrast to the turbulence of much of the outside world, Tonga certainly ranks as a peaceful society, which is respectful of hierarchies and strongly attached to 'traditional values'.
The reference to harmony is particularly apposite, as The Courier discovered when we visited Tonga earlier this year. It was fortunate that our trip coincided with the King's birthday celebrations and we had the opportunity to enjoy the superb choral music which plays a central part in many important ceremonies here. Like their Polynesian cousins in Western Samoa (featured in our last issue), the Tongans seem to have a natural flair for music and a talent for spontaneous harmony. The question is whether these 'Friendly Islands' - a name they certainly deserve - can maintain their reputation for social harmony into the third millenium.
In order to answer this, one has to identify where discordant notes could creep in. The biggest challenge appears to come from the process of globalisation. New technologies, particularly in the field of communications, are rapidly breaking down barriers. The tide of the international economic system, with its emphasis on mass production, con sumerism and free trade, is lapping at the islands' shores And political systems everywhere are under pressure to con form to a 'democratic' model which some would argue places the individual above the community.
Of course, external influences can be both positive and negative Cultural exchanges can be enriching, and new ideas and techniques may offer opportunities for improving the quality of life. The key is to adapt without undermining the social fabric. And in Tonga, as in other countries, a harmonious future will ultimately depend on the way the country evolves both politically and economically.
Looking first at the current political set-up in Tonga, one cannot fault the use of the term constitutional monarchy which is the preferred description locally. It is important, however, to recognise that the constitution - which dates back to 1875 - gives considerable power to the monarchy. There is a measure of democracy in that all adults over 21 have a vote, but they only elect nine of the 30 Members of Parliament A further nine are chosen by the country's 30+ nobles while the twelve Cabinet Ministers, who sit in the House ex officio are nominated by the King. Tonga may' be small (it has fewer than 100 000 inhabitants) but it nonetheless attract: the interest of political scientists as one of the few remaining states with a hereditary ruler who wields substantial power.
Critics of the system view it as an anachronism, although their emphasis is on reform rather than revolutionary change. Defenders argue that the arrangement works well in a small, homogenous nation which values its unique culture and traditions (even if the constitution contains many 'British' elements). The latter also point, with some justification, to the attitude of the population. There are dissenting voices but the majority appears to be happy with the existing set-up, thereby lending it democratic legitimacy - at least indirectly.
There may not, at present, be any overwhelming demand for constitutional reform but things can change. In particular, a people's view of their political system and how it might evolve is likely to be influenced by the prevailing economic conditions.
Tonga's economy is not exactly booming with the most recent estimates suggesting a 2% GDP drop in 1995-96. Several of the traditional problems faced by developing countries are to be found writ large here. The local market is not just small but tiny by global standards, and this makes it exceptionally difficult to achieve economies of scale. There is heavy demand for imported manufactured items and few viable export opportunities to balance the equation.
The education system compares favourably with those of other developing nations but the pool is so small that Tonga inevitably suffers from human resource shortages. This is exacerbated by a steady 'brain drain'. Qualified Tongans, who may already have experienced life abroad at college or university, are tempted by a range of attractions including higher salaries, better housing and more extensive career prospects. The skills shortage is particularly severe in the medical profession. In a recent issue of Matangi Tonga (the 'national news magazine'), it was reported that the country would only have one anaesthetist by 1997 - with a local doctor observing wryly that there was no need for one since the main hospital's only specialist surgeon had recently left to take up a post abroad.
Although it would be better for Tonga to retain its qualified people, the fact that the country 'exports' labour does have its positive side. Tongans have a strong sense of family and community, and overseas workers send significant amounts of money back home. This injection of 'foreign' funds boosts the local economy and reduces the overall balance of payments deficit.
Agriculture is by far the most important economic sector, with most crops being grown for local consumption. The islands benefit from a fertile soil and a tropical climate, allowing the cultivation of a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. All land is vested in the Crown, with estates allocated to the nobles. By law, each adult male is also supposed to be allotted three hectares although there is not enough land to go round. Despite this difficulty, which means that some people do not receive their allocation, the result is that most Tongans are involved in farming. The advantage of the arrangement is that it guarantees a living for the bulk of the population even if their cash income is low. On the other hand, it is obviously a feudal system which favours the upper echelons of Tongan society. In addition, it tends to hinder the development of larger units which could benefit from economies of scale. While anxious to make farming more efficient (and export-oriented), the government currently has no plans to introduce land reform.
In export terms, the main crop is squash (pumpkins). Production increased dramatically in the early 1990s when a market niche was identified in Japan and it soon became the country's biggest foreign exchange-earner. More recently, income has been depressed, with overproduction in 1994 leading to a drop in prices, and poor rainfall the following year reducing yields. The November export figures for the last three years (November is the month when squash deliveries peak) illustrate the extent of Tonga's reliance on this single product. In November 1993, the country's overall export income was T$15m - more than half of the annual total. Twelve months later, the figure had dropped to T$9m and last year, it fell below T$6m. When The Courier visited Tonga, the authorities were talking about limiting the amount of squash exported to Japan this year to 15 000 tonnes, in the hope of maintaining premium prices.
The government is also acutely aware of the risks of mono-dependence and is looking for other outlets for its agricultural produce. Demand for copra, Tonga's traditional export, has apparently been reviving, but the price has not been high enough to attract local farmers back into the market. Other crops sold abroad include vanilla, cocoa, coffee, black pepper and ginger.
One farmer who is doing his bit in the quest for export diversification is Masao Soakai, a former general manager of the Copra Board. He is now the managing director of a company that specialises in the import and export of produce. This energetic 73 year-old gave us a guided tour of the plots he had rented. He cultivates an astonishing range of different crops which include potatoes (for Fiji), cassava, taro, yams, carrots, broccoli, cauliflowers, strawberries, bananas and capsicums. He also rears cattle and pigs (a Tongan tradition). Masao Soakai stresses the importance of rotation in maintaining yields and believes strongly in planting for the future.
Wherever you happen to be in Tonga, the Pacific Ocean is never far away. Evidence of the country's maritime tradition can be found in accounts of the appropriately named William Mariner (see box article on this page). But while, in the past, Tongan vessels sailed far and wide, and the country has a huge exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the fishing industry is relatively undeveloped. The sector generates about 5% of GDP. A project sponsored jointly by the FAO and the UNDP revealed that there was considerable scope for expansion, both in the inshore and reef zones and in the deep sea area. The main species which could be exploited commercially are albacore, skipjack and yellowfin tuna. Tonga has received assistance to develop its fisheries from the USA and Japan, and the government has offered tax advantages in the hope of promoting investment, but there is still a long way to go before the country realises its full potential in this area. Hitherto, the country has not licensed foreign vessels to fish in its waters but there is talk of this policy changing.
Tourism could also generate a lot more income although it currently faces a number of infrastructural and practical constraints. The government is committed to expanding the sector but Mrs Papiloa Bloomlield Foliaki, the owner and manager of Nuku'alofa's third largest hotel (the 'Friendly Islander') feels that a lot more could be done. She pointed out to The Courier that a healthy tourist sector would provide employment as well as stimulating new business for food producers, builders and craft industries. She focused, in particular, on deficiencies in training and marketing, and suggested that some of the resources allocated to agriculture might be better spent in tackling these.
Tonga's natural assets make it a 'dream' location for visitors looking for a complete change of scene - particularly if they happen to be keen on sailing, snorkelling or scuba diving. The problem is that the country is so far off the beaten track that it is expensive to get to (some would see this as an advantage in deterring mass tourism). Nothing much can be done to change this but it does mean that they have to aim at the upper end of the market. This requires top quality accommodation - of which there is a distinct shortage at the moment. As regards marketing, Mrs Foliaki was hopeful that the recent formation of a hotel association would enable the Tongan tourist industry to raise its profile abroad. Despite her optimism - echoed by all those we spoke to in official circles - the latest figures for visitor arrivals show a downturn.
In the manufacturing sector, the story is, sadly, one of long term decline. Clothing production ceased in 1994 and the output of leather items has been falling. There are very few industrial activities in which Tonga has a comparative advantage (whether actual, or potential) and this is something which is recognised locally. There may be some scope for adding value to agricultural products through processing but it is unlikely that industry will take off in a big way in the foreseeable future.
The sale of passports (see the interview with Prime Minister Baron Vaea) is an issue which attracted publicity - not all of it favourable - some years ago, when the government launched the TPPP (Tonga Protected Person's Passport). This was designed to be a travel document which did not confer the right of residence in the country. The authorities adopted the scheme with an eye firmly on Hong Kong, a British colony which is due to be transferred to China in 1997. Some passports were sold but the project never really took off as the immigration authorities of other countries refused to accept the document. Now there are suggestions that the idea may be revived, although this time involving normal passports.
The foregoing survey of Tonga's economy does not paint a particularly happy picture but it should be stressed that there is very little real poverty in the islands. In many ways, the informal economy is more important, and subsistence agriculture and fishing ensure that people do not go hungry. With their traditional family structures and strong attachment to the Christian faith, the Tongans have not yet encountered many of the social problems associated with more consumption-oriented societies. But to paraphrase a famous saying, 'no nation is an island' nowadays - even if it happens to be surrounded by water! In an era of increasing globalisation, the key question is how to manage change. Let us hope that the people of Tonga can find the right answer.
'Constrained by our geography'
No-one can accuse Tonga's Prime Minister of being a starry-yed optimist. As the following interview reveals, Baron Vaea, who heads a twelve-member ministerial team, is refreshingly honest about the economic difficulties facing his small island country. The Courier interviewed him in July, at his office in Nuku'alofa.
· You have suffered a GDP drop and a general slowdown of activity in recent years. What is the government doing to restore the situation?
- It is true that the economy has been declining. The main
cause is the excessive demand from the private sector for imports from New
Zealand and Australia, combined with diminishing exports. Our exports fell when
the price of copra dropped. Another problem is New Zealand's quarantine rules.
New Zealand is very particular on quarantine against insects, notably fruit
flies, which may damage their own export trade. We have endeavoured to balance
this out by selling squash to Japan and indeed, it has been a saviour as far as
our economy is concerned. Squash is something our farmers know how to grow. Of
course, the market goes up and down. Recently, we made the mistake of
over-producing and quite a lot of the crop could not be sold abroad. I think our
farmers are now realising this, and that they have to plant according to the
quota that we ourselves have imposed. Tourism is another important area although
levels of room occupancy are very dependent
on the economic situation in other countries. Then there are passport sales.
· Is this something you are still doing?
- Yes, but it has been hit by technical difficulties. A number of Hong Kong Chinese bought our Tongan Protected Persons Passport (TPPP) in the hope that they could travel. The immigration authorities in other countries decided they would not accept the document so this source of income dried up. We have changed to national passports which people can use to travel. We are hoping to revive this in order to suit the conditions of the Hong Kong people.
· Is this being done on the assumption that the people who purchase such a passport would not ultimately settle here?
- Yes. The main reason people in Hong Kong want a passport is to keep open the option of leaving after the changeover.
· Has this policy prompted any criticism from other countries?
- No. The main problem is the Chinese themselves who are due to take over Hong Kong next year. It is possible that they will not recognise these passports. We are planning to have discussions with the Chinese on this.
· Going back to the agricultural sector, are you not putting too many eggs in one basket in focusing so heavily on squash. What efforts are you making to diversify?
- We have just signed a trade agreement with Fiji. They are such a close neighbour yet we have had virtually no trade with them. This should change with the agreement, to the benefit of our economy.
· What products are we talking about here?
- Mainly vegetables, particularly those that are favoured by the Indian community, such as chills and spices. A trade mission has just returned from Fiji where they picked up a number of orders. The representative of a group of growers also recently returned from Japan. He took a sample of dried pawpaw, a crop which is popular with the Japanese, and apparently received an excellent response. This is an area which is promising.
The key issue, however, is the amount of space available in the aeroplane. You can't ask everyone to grow pawpaw when the airline tells us that they can only take eight tonnes at a time. Only a limited number of farmers can be involved, so that we can continue to supply the tonnage that the airline can handle. We will encourage the rest of the farmers to concentrate on other products.
· What is your policy regarding foreign investment?
- We encourage overseas investors to engage in activities that local people are not involved in. Land leases are available for anything they want to do which fits in with this policy.
Tonga has an extremely limited manufacturing sector and there appears to have been a long-term decline. What prospects are there for reversing this trend?
- For many years, the policy of the government has been to encourage exports. We have had entrepreneurs here who have exported things like woollen garments, small boats, horse saddles and so on - but it didn't last. The sad fact is that hardy anything is exported from Tonga. The main reason is that we are constrained by our geography. We are so far away from the main markets. The raw materials have to be brought in and by the time the article is finished, there is no way that it can compete in price terms. This has always been our problem. We are always looking for new markets but it is not easy.
A second limitation is the private sector in Tonga. This is weak in terms of technology, marketing and product quality.
· What about further processing of local products - perhaps value-added agricultural activity?
- Yes, this is something that we would hope to do, though the same kinds of problem arise. People don't set up the processing plant because they say there isn't enough local cultivation to make it worthwhile. And the farmers don't grow the crop because they say there is no market.
· So it is 'chicken and egg' situation?
- Yes. The result is that people only grow for home consumption.
I should mention here that there are other resources we have yet to exploit, notably in our waters. We have reserved these for ourselves and do not allow foreign fishing vessels. So we are trying to recover resources from the sea.
There is also the possibility of drilling for oil. Research ships operating in the Pacific have found a limited number of locations where it would be worth looking for oil reserves and two of them are in our waters. We have been publicising this with a view to encouraging further exploration.
· This would presumably involve drilling licences for oil multinationals.
- Yes. Some companies have done this in the past although only on a small scale. The answer we got from the oil companies is that they are interested in exploitation - but not now because of the low oil price. When the price goes up, I think we may attract interest again but that is clearly only a long term possibility.
· A lot of young Tongans leave the islands to work overseas. What is the explanation for this?
- It is true that a high percentage of our population migrates. These are people in search of a better life, who seek to reap the benefits of their abilities by working overseas. They can have a nice house and get a good education for their children.
I should stress that we have a good education system here but there is a heavy emphasis on gaining qualifications in order to get into the civil service. Where we are lacking is in the field of technical education. We have some facilities of course - an Institute of Science and Technology and a Marine Institute to train people to go to sea. This is very much in its infancy and we hope it will help for the future. But even some who have gone through this system end up looking for jobs overseas.
· Turning to political issues, you have a monarchy here which is still very powerful. Do you anticipate any changes in the system?
- There has been some public pressure for change. I don't think people want a radical upheaval but there is a feeling in certain quarters that the present system could be improved upon. As you probably know, Parliament has nine members elected by the people and a further nine selected by the 28 nobles from among their own number. The third component is the government - 12 ministers who are appointed by the King. It has been suggested that qualified people who don't presently sit in Parliament should be there to help deal with the economy. One idea is to change the Constitution so that whole population elects 30 members. The King would then choose his ministers from these 30.
· Has this idea made any headway?
- No, not so far. We are maintaining the old system. The proposal has been aired but it hasn't been passed in the House. There are a lot of people, I think, who prefer the present system because they feel the monarchy works for the benefit of all the people. Would a new team necessarily stick to this principle? There must be a danger that they would tend to favour just one section of the population.
· Can you comment, finally, on Tonga' relations with its partners in development cooperation?
- As you know, we have good relations with the EU through the Lomonvention. We also have strong bilateral links with Australia and New Zealand which have been giving us assistance. But I think we have to face up to the fact that the aid cannot continue. The UK, for example, used to provide us with our judges. That has been taken over by Australia and New Zealand - but for how long? I think it is bound to be phased out.
So we will continue to have relations with our partners, but we need to recognise that they are concentrating their efforts now and adapt accordingly.
Area: 669 km². Tonga has about 170 small islands and four main island groups (Tongatapu, Ha'apai, Vava'u and the Niuas). It has an Exclusive Economic Zone of approximately 700 000 km,).
Capital: Nuku'alofa (situated on Tongatapu)
Population: 99 000 (1994 census)
Population density: 149 per kilometre²
Life expectancy at birth (1992): 68 years Official languages: Tongan and English Currency: Pa'anga (T$) made up of 100 seniti. The currency is pegged to the Australian dollar. In September 1996, 1 ECU was worth T$ 1.57 (US$1 T$ 1.22)
System of government: Constitutional monarchy based on the Constitution promulgated in 1875. Considerable powers remain vested in the King. The Parliament has 31 members - the Speaker, 12 ministers (including the Governors of Vava'u and Ha'apai) who are appointed by the King, 9 nobles chosen by the 33 members of the nobility and 9 People's Representatives elected by universal suffrage. There are no political parties although there has been talk of setting up a 'people's Party'. The twelve cabinet ministers hold office until they reach retirement age.
Head of State: King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV
Prime Minister: Baron Vaea of Houma
Economy (estimated 1995 figures unless otherwise stated)
Annual GDP per capita: approx US $1900
GDP growth rate: -2% (1995/96)
Principal exports: squash, vanilla, manufactured goods and fish. In the early 1990s, squash accounted for more than half the country's total export income. In 1995, however, the harvest was affected by drought and exports dropped significantly.
Balance of payments: A trade deficit of US $38.8m (exports - US $18.3m, imports - US $57.1 m). The current account deficit is much smaller thanks to 'invisible' earnings, notably from tourism and remittances from Tongans living overseas. Inflation rate (April 1995): 4.5%. Total external debt: T$ 44m (1993)
Sources: Tonga in Profile (on the Internet - http: 11l www. netstorage. com/kami/ tonga) Economic Intelligence Unit Country Report 1996.
'There is much more political awareness'
People's representative, Teisina Fuko offers an alternative view
While Tonga has no political parties, and the main levers of power remain in the hands of the monarch, it would be a mistake to conclude that there is no questioning of the status quo in this small Pacific kingdom. As The Courier discovered on its recent visit, Tongans are happy to speak openly about their political system and to criticise (or praise) aspects of it me local media may not be particularly extensive but it nonetheless allowe for different viewpoints to be expressed, including criticism of the authorities.
Those who advocate political reforms in Tonga face something of an uphill struggle. There is no overwhelming demand for change and although the lever of popular support for the current system is not easy to judge, there appears to be widespread acquiescence - which effectively amounts to the same thing.
In recent years, the focus of 'opposition' has tended to be within the ranks of the people's representatives who sit in Parliament We spoke to one of these elected members, Teisina Fuko, who comes from the Ha'apai island group and began by asking how democratic the thought the system was.
- I would say about 50%. Up until the 1970s, the system was very traditional but we now seem to be westernising quite quickly. People are returning from overseas with different ideas and this is having an impact on the way we are governed.
· Do you think you will ultimately have a Parliament whose members are all elected by universal franchise?
- I would say it is more certain now than ever before. There is much more political awareness. We see it in the schools, where children are being taught to think independently. There are also the new economic trends - commercialisation and the focus on foreign earnings which imply the need for modernisation.
· You sound quite enthusiastic about the 'westernisation' process. Are you not concerned about the possible negative aspects in terms of the survival of your traditional culture?
- I think we have to strike a balance. We mustn't go to extremes. Our culture and traditions are important but there are new things we need to take on board and some old habits we should drop. Take business opportunities: we have to be more democratic in this area. If one group has all the power then they will tend to favour their friends which isn't necessarily efficient. What it boils down to is a lack of checks and balances.
Given the present economic difficulties, I also think we need to move quite quickly. I recently wrote an article arguing that the King should transfer his power to appoint ministers to the people. Ministers should be elected so that they can be accountable to the taxpayer. We are a close-knit family here and there is no question of getting rid of the monarchy. But we need to sit down and hammer out a compromise which will allow us to improve our economy and make it more competitive.
Let me give you a practical example. Defence is now third on our list of priorities. That doesn't make sense to me. We would be better spending the money on economic development. We also need to boost the private sector so it can create jobs, instead of tying its hands. At present, 50% of our revenue goes on paying civil servants. What for 7 It may create employment, but it is not productive. So the government has to be minimised. Having said this, there are some positive signs. I am glad, for example, to see new blood being brought into the ministerial team.
· Parliament is currently composed of three groups - twelve ministers, nine nobles and nine people's representatives. On paper, that suggests that no group can dominate?
- Yes, but the ministers and nobles often work together and we are outvoted. It is difficult to imagine the nobles saying 'no' to the King although, to be fair, they do sometimes abstain and some of them recognise the need for certain reforms to the system.
· Turning to the economy, which areas do you think offer the best development prospects?
- Tonga's potential lies in fishing. We are an island nation that has always depended on the resources of the sea and we have the necessary labour force. What the people need is the know-how - advanced technologies to develop this sector. We also have to set up credit programmes so that people can invest in boats and equipment. I believe we should spend a lot more on fishing.
Unfortunately the government does not take the same view. It has put a lot of resources into small industries, airlines and so on. Yet the reality is that these sectors are in decline. Manufacturing has fallen and so have agricultural exports. Fishing is the only sector that is expanding.
· What about the prospects for agriculture?
- I think we have reached the limit in this sector. There is very little scope for expansion. I also believe we should be concentrating on what we can produce to use locally. There is very little more we can do in terms of commercial exploitation. Tonga is somewhat overcrowded and we cannot use too many chemicals because the water table is so low.
· One local issue, which presumably has economic implications, concerns the possible expulsion of foreigners who have been here for a certain amount of time. Apparently, the decision has been taken not to renew certain residence permits. What is your view on this?
- I think Tonga should encourage skilled people who are here to stay. We should use make use of their skills, particularly where they have expertise that is lacking locally. At the same time, there are some people here who just came for a visit and ended up staying without doing anything very productive. There are also a number who came after the coup in Fiji and I think we should give them some leeway.
On the whole, I don't think it is a big problem. Tonga has traditionally been very liberal in the application of its immigration law. We have never been colonised so we tend not to have a suspicion of foreigners. And whatever we do must be in accordance with the law.
· Could you sum up your vision for the future?
- You only need to look around you to see that we have a youthful population here: a lot of young people who need to be catered for. We are investing heavily in education which I think is good but we need to do more to adapt to the changing world. We were peaceful in the past because most Tongans were on roughly the same level in terms of wealth. Now the poor are getting poorer while the rich get richer. This could lead to an increase in social tensions. With a more democratic system, we should be able to close the gap and work for a peaceful and more prosperous future.
New Minister outlines economic strategy
If the policy of appointing Ministers for life - or at least until retirement age - is maintained, then Dr Giulio Masasso Tu'ikolongahau Paunga can look forward to a long career in the Tonga Cabinet. At just 32, he has recently been been given the job of Minister for Labour, Commerce and Industries (with responsibility also for tourism). He may be relatively young, but the new minister has impressive academic credentials. He took a master's degree in Japan (in Japanese) and as we soon discovered, he has some new ideas about how to achieve economic development in his country.
Dr Masasso's portfolio covers a wide range of economic activities and we began by asking what he thought the main focus of his work would be. He identified three areas - agriculture, which is the single most important sector; fisheries which has potential for growth; and tourism. He would also like to see more manufacturing, particularly for export, but acknowledged that the current prospects in this area were very limited.
Looking first at agricultural production for export, we noted that a significant change had taken place over the last decade. Coconut-related products had been largely replaced by squash, a 'gap' in the Japanese market having been identified when other sources of supply were not available. Tonga may have been the first to spot the opportunity but was there not a danger that other countries might 'muscle in'? The government was 'very aware of this danger', said the Minister and was trying very hard to diversify its export products. He mentioned vanilla, papaya, beans and, in particular, carrots. The last-mentioned crop grows well in the islands and there is apparently a growing taste for carrot juice in Japan. A list of products with export potential, which could be grown successfully in Tonga, had been drawn up in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, and Dr Masasso's department would be actively seeking new business overseas.
The government is obviously interested in developing trade with Japan and other countries in Asia, but the Minister felt that New Zealand and Australia were likely to remain the principal markets for Tongan farm products in the future. He was looking forward to easier access to New Zealand once new quarantine facilities had been set up at the international airport on Tongatapu. This, he said, should allow for a larger throughput of export crops.
Efficiency, of course, is the key to winning and keeping overseas customers. With this in mind, our discussion turned to the land tenure system. The allocation (at least in theory) of parcels of land to all male Tongans discourages the development of larger farms or plantations. Was this the most effective way of exploiting the country's fertile lands? Dr Masasso acknowledged that the system hampered efficiency but stressed that the question was a very sensitive one. The right to cultivate a plot of land is deeply rooted in Tongan culture, and radical changes to the property laws are not on the agenda. As the Minister put it; 'We are trying to maximise our efficiency under the present system of land tenure.'
Turning to tourism, Dr Masasso observed that 'this has been the most stable industry over the past ten years,' bringing an average of T$ 12 million into the country every year. In looking at possible growth, however, he stressed the need to take account of the environmental and cultural impact. 'Tonga is a very small country, and it would not be right to build too many hotels and related facilities. It might be possible, but the long-term effects would be a little too much for the country.' Dr Masasso said he favoured tourism which has 'e closer relationship with people - a cultural exchange, targeting people who really wish to understand our country.'
Fishing is a sector which appears to have huge potential given the size of Tonga's exclusive economic zone. Dr Masasso explained how Japanese assistance was being used in a boat building scheme designed to produce vessels that local people could afford. He also spoke enthusiastically of the research that had been carried out to determine the nature and size of the fish stocks. He recognised, however, that while most of Tonga's fishing was inshore, there was scope for a great deal more revenue from deep-sea fishing. In this connection, negotiations were underway with the United States, Taiwan and Japan, to allow vessels from these nations to fish in Tongan waters.
The conversation then moved on to the more general issue of entrepreneurship and the role of the state in the economy. The Minister indicated that the government believed in privatisation but stressed that this was not simply 'because other countries are doing ft.' The main issue at this stage, he said, was to create a sufficiently large pool of well-trained people to take over activities currently run by the authorities. 'The government wishes it didn't need to get involved but we are a small developing nation, and to get things started, you need capital and know-how - which locals sometimes don't have access to.' In these circumstances, the state had to activate projects which could later be privatised once the necessary skills had been built up. Another 'major strategy' was to develop a much closer relationship between the Ministry and the private sector.
This led us into a discussion about Tonga's attitude to foreign investors who might also be in a position to supply capital and know-how. The authorities had recently threatened that a number of residence permits would not be renewed. Was this not a disincentive to potential overseas investors? Dr Masasso was keen to offer clarification. 'The media makes it look as if Tonga doesn't like investors but they have misinterpeted the situation. He insisted; 'we want the foreign investment here and are encouraging it in those areas where locals cannot get involved.' Defending the actions of the immigration authorities, the Minister stressed that what they were doing was normal practice. 'Those who stay here illegally and do not extend their visa have to be deported.' The action, he argued, was not directed against foreign investors and indeed, the latter should be encouraged by the government's commitment to upholding the law.'
Developing the Vava'u islands
by Myfanwy van de Velde
EC-Tonga cooperation began in 1975 with the first Lomonvention, soon after Tonga gained full independence in 1970. Grant aid totalling ECU 19.8m (Lom - LomV) has been allocated to the country during its 20-year membership of the Convention.
Under Lom, funds were directed principally towards two main projects: the construction of the wharf at Neiafu, Vava'u, and funding for the Ministry of Works to procure road maintenance equipment and build schools, rural health centres and small wharves at Ha'apai and Vava'u. Remaining funds were used to finance studies involving dredging, trade promotion and designs for Vava'u and Faua fisheries harbours. The EIB also financed a line of credit of ECU 130 000, under Lom, to the Tonga Development Bank.
LomI funds focused on the fisheries sector, and on initiating works relating to the upgrading of the Vava'u airport. There were also projects in the fisheries sector, aimed at encouraging fishermen to undertake commercial fishing to meet local demand. To this end, the Faua Fisheries Harbour for small boats was built, and marketing and cold storage facilities were provided.
By the time LomII funds came on stream, Tonga had adopted a regional development approach with regard to its various island groups. The aim was to have a coherent development programme taking account of the specific constraints and potential of each. The Vava'u group of islands became identified as the focal area for the use of EC assistance, and LomII resources (ECU 6.5m in grants and ECU 0.5m in the form of risk capital to be managed by the EIB) as well as LomV funds (ECU 6m and ECU 1 m respectively) have duly focused on its development.
Located in the north of the Kingdom, Vava'u is the second group of islands both in terms of population (16 000) and land area. With an abundance of natural resources, the group is thought to have greater potential for agriculture and tourism than other parts of the Kingdom. However, this potential was largely untapped at the time LomII was initiated. This was due to a variety of constraining factors including relatively low productivity, undeveloped marketing infrastructures, substantial import levels and poor distribution of utilities and other public services. One particular constraint preventing the development of tourism was limited access caused by a lack of transport infrastructures.
Two main projects aimed at addressing these problems have been implemented. The first, costing ECU 1.24m, involved completing the upgrading of the local airport at Lupepau'u (begun under LomI). In addition to runway improvements, a new terminal building was provided, complete with safety and navigational equipment. Passengers began using the new facilities in early 1995. The second project, entitled the 'Vava'u Development Programme', was allocated the sum of ECU 5m. This money is being used to pay for a series of activities including road upgrading, the provision of photovoltaic equipment for household energy needs and the supply of equipment for vocational training colleges. New buildings being funded include health clinics, a market and an agricultural quarantine building. The funds also cover the cost of establishing the Vava'u Development Unit as the monitoring and implementing agency for the programme.
The Programme continues under LomV, with about 85% of programmable resources for Tonga (approximately ECU 5m) set aside for activities in the focal area. Funds will be directed towards developing the Neiafu urban area, in recognition of the need to upgrade access and services in the commercial centre of Vava'u. The projects envisaged include upgrading the town centre and urban roads, port improvements, and measures to increase the capacity and improve the distribution of piped and rain water to households. In addition, a multi-annual micro-projects programme will lead to the construction of jetties on the inhabited outer islands of Vava'u, thereby improving access to Neiafu which is the main centre of the archipelago.
In addition to the above grant aid, Tonga has received funds in the form of Stabex transfers for losses in export earnings in respect of coconut products, bananas and vanilla. It also received emergency aid in 1977, following an earthquake, and in 1982 following Hurricane Isaac.
EIB interventions have contributed to the share capital of the Tonga Development Bank and have increased the Bank's lending capacity to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Uelingatoni Tevita Vaea (known as 'T' to his friends), proved to be a mine of information for The Courier, when we visited the Vava'u island group in northern Tonga recently. 'T' is a Tongan engineer who returned to his native land from Australia to work as assistant project manager in the Vava'u Development Unit. His help was particularly useful during the highlight of our visit - a traditional celebratory feast laid on by the villagers of Nuapapu. This is one of Vava'u's inhabited outer islands and the celebration was staged to mark the installation of solar powered lighting, courtesy of Lomonvention funds.
Nuapapu is one of a number of outlying villages to receive solar installations under the Vava'u Development Programme. In all, some 350 homes have been wired up. Units attached to individual buildings collect the power and convert it into electricity which is stored in a battery. When night falls, the lights can then be switched on. Although the bulk of the installation costs are covered by the project, each participating household is required to pay a lump sum to have a unit fitted. They are also contracted to pay a modest amount each month towards maintenance of the system.
It may all seem rather prosaic to those of us accustomed to electrical power at the flick of a switch, but for the people of the villages in the Vava'u group, the project is little short of revolutionary. For centuries, their daily rhythm has been governed largely by the rising and setting of the sun. The only 'artificial' light available after darkness came from fuel-burning (and more recently, battery) torches or lamps - enough perhaps to reveal a path or highlight the position of an object, but certainly not to read or do intricate work with one's hands.
The formal 'switching on' ceremony was performed by the Dutch Ambassador, Mr van Thessen and Jonathan Rodwell, who is the European Commission's resident advisor in Tonga.
This was preceded by a courtesy visit to the village chief and the above-mentioned feast, which gave the European visitors an authentic and memorable taste of traditional Tongan hospitality.
The food was brought from all quarters of the village on long rectangular trays covered with leaves. Each was laden with food.
The fare was predominantly local: the famous roast pigs featured prominently along with fish, chicken, bananas, coconuts and a variety of root and tuber vegetables.
There were also some 'imported' items: the corned beef which is so popular here, some packets of crisps to add colour to the guest 'table' and boiled sweets woven into garlands.
The trays were laid end to end, stretching perhaps 20 metres and woven mats were placed all around. Having received our garlands of flowers, we were invited to sit down.
The feast was interspersed by various speeches and 'T' helped out with a translation and explanation of the proceedings. We began with a prayer in Tongan, delivered by the local minister. This was followed by a speech of welcome and thanks by the matapule (spokesman) of the village chief.
High ranking people in Tonga always have a matapule to speak on their behalf on such occasions. Ambassador van Thessen and Mr Rodwell then replied on behalf of the guests, (in English, with consecutive translation provided).
They expressed thanks to the people of Nuapapu for their hospitality and wished them success with their new electric lighting. There was then a short discourse by the District Officer followed by a closing prayer.
References to all this speechmaking could leave a false impression that this was a formal and stilted affair.
In fact the reverse was very much the case: the mood was relaxed throughout and there is no doubt that the villagers know how to enjoy themselves. Music was supplied by a group of men playing a variety of instruments and the women joined in the festivities with what appeared to be spontaneous bursts of dancing.
There were also special solo dances performed by two young ladies whose bodies had been smeared with coconut oil.
As tradition dictates, once their performances (involving highly expressive hand and finger movements) were complete, the audience expressed their appreciation by slapping banknotes on the oily exposed surfaces of the dancers' bodies.
The light was fading as the feast ended and we moved to the brief 'lighting up' ceremony, carried out to the accompaniment of applause.
The guests (including the staff of the Vava'u Development Unit who have guided the project through its various stages) then took their leave of this hospitable community and set off by boat on the return journey to Neiafu. As the vessel drew away from the shore, we were able to look up and see, for the first time, the twinkling lights of Nuapapu.
(Dossier coordinated by Debra Percival and Claude Smets)
The United Nations Conference, Habitat 11, on human settlements (Istanbul, June 3-14 1996) exposed the Herculean task of addressing the problems of ever-growing cities and called for 'shelter for all.' The special contribution of civil society in making cities more liveable was acknowledged at the conference - but the big question is, who will foot the bill? The meeting also spoke of improving dwellings in rural areas to keep people on the land and halt the mass exodus to the cities. But the right to remain and prosper from one's habitat can be at odds with outside pressures for environmental conservation. The dossier looks at some of the issues raised by the conference, and the wider significance of 'Habitat II'
The second UN gathering on the theme of 'habitat', staged two decades after the first conference in Vancouver, took place against a backdrop of rapid and alarming urban growth. In 1900, one person in ten lived in a city. By 1948, the ratio was three in ten and by the year 2000 half the world's population are expected to be urban dwellers. 25 years after that, the figure is expected to have climbed to 60%. Africa is the region that currently has the highest rate of urban growth. In 1950, it had only one city with a population of one million. By the end of this decade there could be 60 cities of this size, according to UN figures.
The focus on human settlements and liveable cities inevitably meant that Habitat II covered some of the same ground as other UN conferences convened during the 1990s to explore the big issues facing mankind: the 1992 'Earth Summit' on environmental matters in Rio de Janeiro, the 1994 Population Conference in Cairo, the 1995 Social Summit in Copenhagen and the 1995 Women's Conference in Beijing. Issues common to all the agendas included rapid population growth, environmental degradation, access to clean water, poor sanitation, lack of infrastructures, and women's issues.
The rallying calls of Habitat II, set out in the Conference's conclusions, were 'shelter for all' and 'sustainable human settlements in an urbanising world.' The Nairobi-based Centre for Human Settlements is to be the focus for the follow-up. But as delegates dispersed, one of the pressing questions was where the money will come from to meet the host of agreed objectives - which include clean water with improved technology, conservation and protection of the environment, and better health and education. In this dossier, European Commission officials from the Development Directorate General, who attended the conference, reflect on Istanbul and its likely followup.
Whereas in the past, cities were associated with economic development, innovation and the diffusion of new ideas, nowadays they conjure up the vision of urban poverty, environmental degradation, poor sanitation and a host of health hazards. Urbanisation is the direct consequence of rapid population growth, according to the 1993 Human Development Report. In 1965, agriculture provided 77% of employment in developing countries and represented more than 41 % of Gross Domestic Product. By 1985, this sector was contributing a lot less to GDP but was still providing 72% of all employment. So a large number of people continue to depend on agriculture although its share of the global economy is declining. In these circumstances, it not surprising that many of the world's poorest people are migrating to cities - the annual estimate is 20-30 million.
The dossier looks, in particular, at the environmental cost of rampant urbanisation and at the problems of city living for more vulnerable groups such as women. They are often among the poorest urban dwellers and can fall victim to exploitation and crime.
Paradoxically, poor people in cities are becoming even poorer as economies improve. Additional pressures on these marginalised groups living in cities are neatly summed up by Jeremy Seabrook, author of 'In the Cities of the South.' In a recent article for Gemini news agency: 'Tougher Struggle for Survival in the Concrete Jungle,' he writes; 'As the pace of development quickens, with high economic growth and increased migration to urban areas, land price in most big cities have soared. Poor people are being increasingly removed from their hoary" - by mysterious fires, explosions and 'accidents'. Meanwhile, the urban poor's ability to mobilise and achieve has been used against them. The capacity of people to create homes and secure local communities has been used as a justification for the withdrawal of government services.'
He continues: 'As inequalities become more glaring, enclaves of prosperity are sealed off from the slums by checkpoints, guards and fences - like frontiers to another country. Despite this, people are still flocking to the city - often refugees from intensifying, industrialised agriculture and.. megaprojects in the countryside...' Mr Seabrook points out that without decent jobs, they fall prey to sub-contractors, who exploit them, offering them low pay and demanding that they work long hours.
In the cities of many developing nations, 'civil society' is taking a lead, with projects to bridge the gap between the 'haves' end the 'have note'. Numerous participants at the Istanbul conference applauded the urban programmes undertaken by various elements of civil society, which include NGOs, community groups and individuals. Their significance was recognised in Istanbul, where their voice came through loud and clear. Nigerian journalist, Paul Okunlola, writing in this dossier notes a move towards 'bottom up' projects in Lagos as a result of the tough times.
Agostinho Jardim Gonves, the President of the NGO-EU Liaison Committee, was particularly pleased at the input of civil society to the conference's committees and conclusions. The debate, he said, had not just been about the macroeconomic aspects. Instead, it had come 'within the reach of the populations themselves.' The people, he argued, were both victims of the anomalies of inhumane settlement and the key players in efforts to construct a humane, dignified habitat.
Jeremy Seabrook describes some of the inspiring international initiatives undertaken by civil society. Examples include the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) in Bombay, which works with pavement dwellers; the Association of Basic Needs (ARBAN), and 'Health for All' in Dhaka; the Eddie Guazon Foundation in Manila, which seeks to protect the poor against private interests; and the Foundation for Women, which is trying to tackle the trafficking of girls for Bangkok's brothels. But Mr Seabrook also warns against overestimating the strengths of popular organisation. As he points out: 'They require an enabling and positive framework, which the free market can never provide. Government intervention, of a more benign and positive kind than hitherto, is vital if people are to help themselves. As it is, too often they are forced to struggle against the people elected to govern them.'
The chair of the Habitat Conference, Wally N'Dow, emphasised local solutions. The conference, he said, 'recognised the changing global patterns of life' and that solutions must be found at the local level. 'National governments and international agencies', he argued, were not in a position to solve massive urban problems or to pay to put them right.
There were a number of donor pledges at the conference. The European Union countries, for example, reiterated their long-standing commitment to provide 0.7% of GNP for development by the year 2000 - though many of the 15 member states are still well short of this target.
One scheme which has attracted the particular interest of donors is South Africa's Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). To a considerable extent, the success of President Mandela's government is likely to be judged on the success of this programme. It aims, among other things, to improve health, education, housing and sanitation and as such, it mirrors many of the 'Habitat II' goals. Launched in 1994, it is the centrepiece of the South African government's efforts to create a more democratic, prosperous, non-racial and non-sexist society. In the dossier, we look at the RDP's objectives, how it is faring and what sort of support the EU is giving.
Beyond the city, the dossier looks at what is happening to some rural dwellers who have not taken flight to the city. Although, largely focused on the city, Habitat II acknowledged the importance of urban and rural linkages in its conclusions: 'Rural and urban settlements are interdependent... governments must work to extend adequate infrastructure and opportunities to rural areas to increase their attractiveness and thereby minimise... migration.' There was mention too of the need for more jobs and housing for rural areas.
But in some rural areas, the inhabitants have found themselves in dispute with conservationists. The latter seek to protect wildlife and the rural habitat by setting up national parks - a solution which is not necessarily in the interests of local people struggling to maintain their livelihood. We take a look at such dilemmas and the possible solutions being developed so that rural dwellers can continue to make the most of their habitat. This rural struggle, where solutions are also being called for at a local level, is not unlike the battle being waged for a better quality of life in the cities.
Deputy mayor of the city of Louga, Daby Diagne is also President of the Finance Committee of Senegal's National Assembly, General Secretary of the Association of Mayors of Senegal and President of the World Federation of United Cities. He is the ACP-EU Joint Assembly's General Rapporteur on urban development and The Courier had the opportunity to interview him in September at the Assembly's meeting in Luxembourg.
· You have just submitted an initial report on urban development to the Joint Assembly. In it, you recommend that the Community adopt a specific and consistent global policy in this field, notwithstanding the fact that successive Lomonventions have contained a number of significant provisions relating to the subject. What is the reasoning behind your recommendation?
- There are several reasons. First, there is the fact that, in the past, cities were often viewed solely in terms of infrastructures and sectors. Experience shows that this approach is not effective. Specialists are increasingly opting for a more global 'city' concept. The Commission must therefore adapt itself to the new situation. It is true that it has financed infrastructures and launched health and clean-up programmes, but the problem is that this has been done in a somewhat unsystematic way without being linked to long-term regional development or a zonal policy. There is now an increasing need for an integrated regional development approach.
· Do you think ACP countries are aware of the importance of cities?
That's another question altogether. Obviously, the ACP countries are in the process of changing their views on this subject and a number have appointed ministers to look after urban affairs. The reality of city life has to be taken into account. The rate of urban growth in the ACPs far exceeds that in other parts of the world and it is in the towns and cities that one sees the most glaring instances of poverty and under-development. People have therefore been forced to take the 'city' phenomenon into account in the ACP countries.
· The political will must exist for a policy to be successful. Do the ACP countries have a genuine will to implement an urban policy?
- I don't think it is possible to speak of a uniform trend in all ACP states. However, in certain regions - for example in West Africa, which I know well - a municipal culture is beginning to take shape. There is a growing political will, which is illustrated by the discussions on decentralisation, and people are increasingly recognising that central government cannot do everything by itself. One can find regional development and planning policies designed to create the fabric of mediumsized cities. Not everyone has them but it is something we are seeing more and more of.
· ACP countries face complex challenges and there are people who say that the actions of the European Community are too dispersed owing to the number of sectors it is involved in. Doesn't your recommendation simply add to this problem?
- On the contrary. I regard my recommendation as being pro-integration and therefore pro-globalisation - which is not the complete opposite of a sectoral, diversified approach. I believe it would allow the Union's activities in certain fields to be better interlinked. I am thinking here of water, health, clean-up operations and infrastructures - all of which are major problems for society. Naturally, a more global concept will require greater dedication, and if there are additional resources, so much the better, but, in my view, the situation could be improved even with what we currently have available.
· The rate of urbanisation in Africa is higher than elsewhere and the living conditions of city dwellers - particularly those in the shanty towns - are becoming increasingly difficult in terms of health, education, environment and so on. What, in your opinion, would be the optimum strategy for reversing the decline, at least in the short-term?
- First of all, I think we have to make a distinction here. Let's take the actual rate of urbanisation. Contrary to what is generally thought, this is lower than in the rest of the world. In other words, Africa has fewer towns and cities than the rest of the world. It is the rate of growth in the urban population that is higher. Populations are becoming increasingly concentrated in the cities, with the drift of people from the countryside. In addition, the phenomenon is being fed by demographic trends. You ask me if there is anything we can do to halt this. There are actions that can be taken to restore some balance. For example, we could make investments in the rural environment to keep people in the countryside, and we could implement suitable agricultural policies.
But we must not labour under too many illusions, because life in towns and cities will be an inevitable characteristic of the next century. Economists and urban planners have been considering the phenomenon for a long time now - perhaps 30 or 40 years. It is something that cannot be halted, because it is a fact of civilisation. So, what should we do? Above all, we should devote our efforts to regional development, achieving a balanced distribution of human resources, and a more equitable exploitation of natural resources. Power has to be decentralised so that people do not abandon their roots but face up to local challenges. And we have to implement urban policies which are satisfactory in terms of investment, management and popular participation. In simple terms, urbanisation has to be managed. We cannot hope to reverse the trend overnight, particularly in the case of a continent like Africa where everything happens quickly. Africa is enormous and its population has not yet reached its maximum levels. We have to take all this into account.
We must acknowledge that scientific progress and improvements in the field of health have contributed to population growth, and a reduction in mortality rates. This means that urban civilisation is a reality that we have to manage. There is a risk of uncontrolled growth in urban centres. When infrastructures are lacking, when there is no water, when hygiene cannot be guaranteed and when there is no work, a country's security is threatened.
· You have mentioned democracy end the decentralisation of government This also requires adequate financial resources. Where do you think the ACP countries will find the money to implement decentralisation strategies?
- Democracy involves a search for freedom - freedom of opinion and expression, independent of material or financial problems. The problem with decentralisation lies in administrative method. It is not purely a matter of money. In the first instance, it is a question of choosing the right approach. It has been demonstrated that without any extra resources, one can still act differently by delegating and decentralising. And success is much more likely because the people are involved in the process. Admittedly, it requires an internal reallocation of resources. A proportion of everything that was formerly centralised has to be allocated to development and to basic needs.
To answer your question more directly, there is a great deal of talk of this alternative method of governing. It is inspiring new hope and a thirst for something better. It is even being viewed as an 'ideal' solution - which it cannot be entirely. However, by decentralising human and economic resources, and by allowing people to participate, hope can be inspired at local level. This should make for better administration and support, which is an improvement in itself. Of course, this may make people more demanding. Will it satisfy their requirements? As I have already said, internal resources will have to be reallocated, but resources must also come from outside. One cannot make an allout effort for decentralisation without doing something to improve international cooperation. This cooperation, however, must be adaptable, and the state must retain its pre-eminent position and its role as guarantor and arbiter. But in addition, local communities should have access to international cooperation either directly or indirectly through their organisations, municipal structures and so on.
· In this context, what role do you see for international organisations - not just in terms of financial resources, but also of human resources?
- I think what we now need to do is build up a pool of skills in each municipal area. The developed countries have experience in this field. We have to take their processes as a model without necessarily copying their experience. This is something which will be discussed. Secondly, in the context of relationships between towns and cities, I believe it is possible to make access to experts more flexible and that this can take place very quickly, with the provision of training and fairly basic technology transfers. General training is also extremely important. In order to build up a pool of skills in towns and cities, local government must form a dynamic, management-oriented team. The approach has to be one of business-like management and objectives have to be targeted using private-sector methods, although public-service requirements always have to be borne in mind. A great deal, therefore, can be done at international level, in terms of support for networks of associations and committees of locally elected representatives, enabling them to discuss matters.
We could, for example, carry out a comparative study of legislation in a particular area, thereby gaining access to other types of experience. Internationally, aid can be given to associations to help them buy equipment and attain a degree of freedom of manoeuvre vis-is the authorities. In the field of decentralised cooperation, the international community can help elected representatives to implement their projects through partnerships, conducting studies, and providing personnel. Cooperation is possible in all spheres - implementation, management, financing and so on. I believe that a new type of cooperation will gradually come into being. It is not a question of creating 'white elephants', but rather small and medium-scale projects which are of genuine use to the population. And I am not talking here about acts of charity, such as the donation of medicines, but sustainable projects.
by Christian Cure'
The future of towns and cities is not what it was. In the 20 years between the first United Nations conference on human settlements (1976) and Habitat II which took place in Istanbul in June 1996, the situation has changed a good deal. The significance of urbanisation - and its irreversible nature - are now acknowledged, as is the powerlessness of the authorities to deal single handedly with the complex phenomena which result The author of this article points out that civil society has suddenly broken into a field hitherto the preserve of official agencies and qualified experts, claiming a 'right to the city' based on research into more equitable development models.
Vancouver to Istanbul: two symbols for two eras
Vancouver was the 1976 host of the first conference on human settlements organised by the United Nations. At that time, the UN was celebrating 30 years of existence and Vancouver, a model of urban development and modernity, provided inspiration for the developers and experts needed to plan the cities of the future. 'Appropriate technologies' heralded the possibility of mass-produced, cheap housing for everyone.
Twenty years later, the UN chose Istanbul as the host city for the Habitat II conference on human settlements, forcing us to face up to a quite different situation: uncontrollable urban growth (400 000 migrants arrive there every year), social and environmental problems, and intercultural and political tensions (amply illustrated by the Turkish politicians' inability to form a government at the very time the Conference was taking place). In brief, Istanbul presents us with the usual list of problems facing most of the world's major cities - and those of developing countries in particular.
Against this backdrop, the international community - 180 countries, 500 local dignitaries, a few thousand professionals and even some ordinary citizens - came together from 3 to 14 June to discuss a 'settlement action plan'. This document, which had been in preparation for two years, contains 183 articles. It sets out a series of goals, principles and undertakings as well as providing an action plan for cities, the initial results of which should begin to be seen by the year 2001.
The preparatory committee selected two basic topics for discussion: securing adequate shelter for all, a basic but nonetheless controversial theme; and sustainable urban development The latter encompasses housing, demographic factors, infrastructure, services, the environment, transport, energy, social and economic development, the future of underprivileged groups and combating exclusion.
The cycle initiated at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 (followed by the Copenhagen, Beijing and Cairo meetings) was continued by Habitat II. Two major handicaps had to be overcome - 'conference fatigue' (with the resulting fact that there were fewer delegates than anticipated) and ensuring that what had been accomplished at earlier conferences was not undermined. Given that the subject of the meeting was human settlements, it was inevitable that sensitive issues already debated at previous summits, relating to the environment and social aspects, would keep recurring.
Civil society as an active force
A number of conclusions arose from the official sessions (hearings, dialogues and various forums) which took place over the two weeks of the conference.
First, Habitat II represented a recognition of the fact of urbanisation. In the past, there was a tendency on the part of the international community to play down, or even ignore, the phenomenon of urban growth and this was reflected in the meagre resources allocated to this area by donors. Today, the issue is better understood than it was 10 or 20 years ago, and it is acknowledged that the growth trend is unstoppable. Statistical studies and a set of 'urban indicators' drawn up for Habitat II confirm the scale of the problem.
Second, the Istanbul summit was a lesson in modesty. The obvious powerlessness of public authorities to deal single-handedly with the challenge of burgeoning towns and cities is recognised. The result was an understanding that a more pragmatic view is needed - one which pays more attention to the complexities of urbanisation, to the wide variety of possible responses and, above all, to the multi-faceted nature of the players involved.
The Conference therefore became a genuine forum for debate. One of its most significant aspects was the emergence of 'civil society' as an active force. Hitherto, the field has largely been the preserve of official agencies and qualified experts. For the first time in a UN forum, local authorities, community leaders, private sector representatives and other dynamic forces in civil society were invited to give their views and take part in discussion groups. Whereas in the past, the debate was dominated by macroeconomic and technical questions, in Istanbul, the political and social aspects were given prominence as well.
The effect of this was to improve the quality of the debate. The outlines of a new relationship between governments and civil society (NGOs, ordinary citizens and popular urban groups) were defined - with the local authorities slotting in somewhere in the middle. And there was a particular focus on the question of dimension or scale: what should be the basis for urban democracy and citizenship. Both of these are seen as essential if one is to have successful and sustainable urban development policies.
A right to the city?
The first stage of the analysis is to look at urban life from a macroeconomic standpoint. Urban growth is determined by the evolution of the world economic system and, in particular, by the globalisation of markets. This has generated increased competition, including competition between cities themselves. Since the end of the 1980s, cities have been responsible for between 50% and 80% of the GDP of most countries. In other words, they represent more than mere links in the global economy; they are, in fact, pivotal points.
Hence the principles which broadly underpin the Habitat 11 programme. In fundamental terms, public policies must promote the capital, housing, property and employment markets, with a view to improving the efficiency of urban management (living conditions, infrastructures, services, environment, etc.). This is not just desirable in human terms but also essential if urban productivity is to be improved. Many decision-makers at the meeting agreed that privatisation of services, partnerships involving the authorities, the community and the private sector, and decentralisation were all part and parcel of a new standard for good local governance.
Representatives of 'social' interests, on the other hand, were successful in focusing the debate on fundamental rights and principles, including individual and social rights. Indeed, these issues dominated the Conference and gave rise to the most difficult negotiations.
There were prolonged talks, for example, on the central issue of the right to a roof over one's head. The outcome was a commitment by governments to promote 'the full and progressive acceptance of the right to adequate shelter'. The NGOs had been hoping for a more clear-cut undertaking. Questions relating to the status of vulnerable groups, women's rights and their equal access to land, and protection against eviction, were also the subject of heated exchanges.
Perhaps the most important step forward, however, was the success of civil society representatives in sowing the seeds of a new idea - the 'right to the city'. This concept has been devised on the basis of research into more equitable and soundly-based development models to which local authorities are increasingly giving practical support. Thousands of individual experiences and issues were highlighted in Istanbul by NGOs and community groups. Thus, there is a mass of evidence that populations are capable of responding through local initiatives and of taking responsibility for improving their living and housing conditions. If this 'resource' is to be exploited to the full, urban politicians must develop a deeper understanding of the scale of micro-territories and local societies within cities. They also need to promote and coordinate their decision-making in a way which involves consulting and involving the local populations. In the modern era, this is the key to ensuring social cohesion.
There may have been a lot of new thinking on the basic principles, but there was no reference to financial undertakings in the Habitat 11 programme. On the latter issue, the international community was highly circumspect.
The World Bank took the initiative, announcing the launch of an 'urban compact', involving an additional $15 billion in loans for urban projects over the next five years. It also revealed that it would triple its aid to NGOs involved in the urban environment. Recent World Bank estimates suggest that just 0.2% to 0.5% of a country's GDP would need to be set aside for the poor to gain access to basic urban services.
As regards monitoring, the NGOs and local authorities won the right to sit on the Human Settlements Committee which will be responsible for implementing the habitat programme.
The most important points to emerge from Istanbul, however, were that local authorities were given both formal recognition, and a major practical role - in keeping with their current responsibilities. The habitat programme is, in fact, a powerful call for decentralisation and increased local autonomy, its action plan being built on the implicit principles of 'subsidiarily' and 'proximity'. To a large extent, the successful implementation of the programme will depend on the mobilisation of municipal politicians and officials - and on the policies they adopt at local level. The agenda for cities in the 21 st century that was adopted at the Rio Summit must now be fleshed out and become the future reference for action by local authorities, NGOs and citizens' associations. Finally, the importance of decentralised cooperation and the role of local councils in international cooperation have been reconfirmed.
Local authorities and their international organisations decided to form a worldwide coordinating group to continue structured dialogue with the international community and to guarantee that the Istanbul resolutions are followed up.
Some people predicted that Habitat 11 would be 'the revenge of the cities'. To quote P. Maragall, chairman of the Committee of the Regions, the conference at least provided the opportunity to build, and to give a wider audience to 'the voice of the United Cities within the United Nations'. That itself is a major step forward.
Tackling violence against women
by Rosemary Okello
The author of this article is a journalist with the Nairobi-based Women's Feature Service (WFS) She contends that the Habitat 11 conference skirted around some of the issues affecting women city dwellers in Africa, such es violence and sexual abuse. Improving their lives, she argues, starts with a roof over their heads
The lofty ideals set during this year's UN Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul meant little to African women like Catherine Kaberu.
As she recalls the misery of living on the streets of Nairobi, she is just happy now to have a safe, secure room for her family. 'I thought by running away from home and coming to Nairobi, I would find a better life" says Ms Kaberu. Instead, the streets became her home and her life was defined by the fear of violence against her. Her two children were born during that difficult period, following rapes. She cannot identify their father. There are an estimated 30 000 street people in Nairobi and Catherine Kaberu says that all street women and girls are regularly abused.
'Every day we had to look for a place to sleep and we bribed the watchmen to guard us.' Often it was the same watchmen, employed to guard office blocks in the city's central district, who took advantage of the women's desperate situation. Not even age could protect them says 63-year old Felista Nyambura, herself a veteran of the streets. 'I suffered all manner of humiliation,' she states, referring to ten years spent on the streets with her seven children. 'The watchmen would rape me if I refused to give in to them - after they had offered me a place to sleep for the night with my children. I am just so happy to be off the streets. I will never go back,' she states firmly.
The confidence of the two women comes from their new security as owners of simple one-roomed houses.
'Having a house to call my own is the most important thing that ever happened to me,' says Ms Nyambura as she explains how she ended up on the street after the piece of land her husband left in their rural home was taken over by her in-laws.
The two women are part of a group of 114 who have benefited from the Urban Destitute Programme, a project of the African Housing Fund which is involved in participatory community development with the homeless women of Nairobi.
Catalina Trujillo, the 'Women in Development' coordinator for the Habitat conference stresses: 'If a woman's place is in the house, we had better make sure she owns it.' These sentiments were supported in Istanbul by the conference Secretary General, Wally N'Dow: He stated: 'By conviction, by analysis and even by instinct, women's rights to ownership and inheritance of property is right. If Habitat II... does not also contribute to social progress by addressing some of the issues like property rights for women, then it will have failed.'
For the women of-Africa in particular, the most important thing that should have come out of Istanbul was an affirmation of their right to own and inherit property, and to security.
These issues affect most African women regardless of their status and they were presented to ministers concerned with shelter and settlements when they met in Johannesburg last year to prepare an African agenda for the Istanbul meeting.
Most African countries accept the theoretical premise that women must have access to land, credit and inheritance, and recognise that certain types of violence are targeted primarily at women. South Africa's President Mandela affirmed: 'When we talk about people-centred development, we should understand that the involvement of women is often the difference between success and failure.' Yet in reality, customary law and insensitivity to gender concerns continue to predominate. Unfortunately, when the African ministers adopted their declaration, the point on the "unencumbered access of women to credit and land ownership' appeared in only 20th place. And while forced evictions were highlighted in Istanbul, violence against women did not feature at all among the 'key priorities'.
Yet in parts of Africa these are major concerns affecting women every day. 'In South Africa, a women is raped every 83 seconds and in some areas, a girl can expect to be raped four times in her life,' says Emelda Boikanyo of the Johannesburg-based Women's Health Project. Idah Matou remembers how one Sunday morning in 1992, five men stormed into her shop in Alexandria township. They seized the day's earnings and anything else they could carry away before raping her 1 5-year old daughter. A few weeks earlier, they had called to demand protection money.
Violence in the home is also a growing problem. Mmatshilo Motsei, Director of Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training, an NGO based in Alexandria, South Africa, says the problem is so pervasive, 'it must be raised as a national concern.' Habitat II turned a deaf ear on these women's concerns. This was not their forum. Shawna Tropp of the NGO Women's Caucus criticised those attending the conference who claimed that it was not about women but cities. 'Women live in cities,' she says and adds: 'By and large, human settlements are still very much seen in terms of bricks and mortar'. She calls for greater understanding of the role played by women, usually in an unpaid capacity, in the management of communities. 'Everything begins with having a house in a secure neighbourhood where the dignity of women is protected.'
The megacity personifies human misery for many in developing nations. As agglomerations proliferate in the twenty-first century, the United Nations Population Fund's 1996 report - The State of the World Population - considers how one might go about remedying the ills of city dwelling.
The UNFPA's figures for urban growth make worrying reading. Over half the world's people will live in cities within ten years (3.3 billion out of a total of 6.59 billion). Between 1970 and 2020, the urban population will have risen by more than two billion - and 93% of these will be in developing nations. These increases will add to the strain of an estimated 600 million people already living in urban areas of developing nations without the resources to meet their basic housing and health needs.
Back in 1950, New York was the only city with more than 10 million inhabitants. Today, there are 14 in this category. Tokyo, which is home to 26.5 million people, is the largest. And by 2015, many others are expected to join the megacity 'club' - Djakarta (Indonesia), Karachi (Pakistan), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Delhi (India), Tianjin (China), Manila (Philippines), Cairo (Egypt), Istanbul (Turkey), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Lahore (Pakistan), Hyderabad (India), Bangkok (Thailand), Lima (Peru), Teheran (Iran) and Kinshasa (Zaire).
While the majority of the world's people will be living in cities by 2005, it will take a little longer for the 50% threshold to be crossed in the less developed regions. However, this is expected to happen before 2015. Looking specifically at Africa, the current estimates reveal significant regional variations. In Southern Africa the rate of urbanisation is 48%. The figures for North, West, Central and East Africa are 45%, 36%, 33% and 21 % respectively.
Expanding populations are likely to add to the widely reported list of horrors emanating from cities that are bursting at their seams. Problems include the collapse of basic services such as water and waste management, escalating social conflict, millions of urban children open to labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, environmental degradation, traffic congestion and environmental hazards such as increased air pollution.
On the other hand, the UNFPA report acknowledges that cities are also 'concentrations of human creativity and the highest form of social organisation'. It continues: 'Cities provide capital, labour and markets for entrepreneurs and innovators at all levels of economic activity'. Indeed, between 60% and 80% of developing countries' GNP is generated by their major conurbations. Social transformation occurs at a faster pace in urban areas. Thus, health indicators tend to be better, literacy is higher and there is more social mobility. And there are more opportunities for women. The city presents fewer obstacles for women's education and female city dwellers are less likely to be constrained by traditions which may stifle their creativity.
But harnessing this potential is no easy task. The final chapter of the UNFPA report, entitled 'Policies, strategies and issues for improving cities', argues that urban dwellers in developing nations have been badly affected by structural adjustment policies. These have resulted in the elimination of subsidies on food and other commodities, increases in school fees and job losses in the public sector. Cities will also be required to adapt to the 'mass global experience in decentralisation' involving the shifting of local decisions from central government to municipal authorities, parastatal bodies and the private sector.
Regional distribution of urban population
Women - a priority
The report stresses the importance of improving education and health, with a particular focus on women. As Dr Nafis Sadik, who is Executive Director of the UNFPA, observes; 'If urban centres are to be made liveable, and the quality of life of the poorer members of society is to be improved, women should be given the chance to play their role in the process.'
The report reiterates the specific targets for improving the lives of women that were drawn up by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo.
In the field of education, these include 100% primary school enrolment (for both girls and boys) by 2015, improving access for girls and women to secondary, tertiary and vocational education, and closing the gender gap in the primary and secondary sectors by 2005.
Other goals include a progressive reduction in infant and maternal mortality, making reproductive health services accessible to all through the primary health care system by 2015, greatly improved provision for family planning (allowing couples to make free and informed decisions on the number, spacing and timing of births) and providing better protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
The State of the World Population Report concludes: 'A successful urban future depends, as much as anything else, on engaging all members of the community - especially women and the poor - in a constructive political process.
There will have to be partnerships struck between governments, nongovernmental organisations, the private sector, and local and community organisations.
And global urbanisation will require that the international community - governments, NGOs and international institutions - act to exploit the potential of cities to improve the lives of the world's people and to establish the foundations of sustainable development in the 21st century.'
by Paul Okunlola
With a present population of some 7.5 million, the new millenium will propel Lagos to megacity status. The United Nations Population Fund predicts that 24 million people will live in the city by 2015, making it the third most populous conurbation on the globe. Whilst the donor community has supported urban projects in the past, tough times mean more reliance on 'bottom up' schemes backed by N60s and community-based groups.
When it began to rain in the small hours of Thursday 18 July 1996, residents of Lagos - Nigeria's largest city and economic nerve centre - merely stirred in their slumber. The gentle, but persistent showers, didn't rank among the heaviest downpours experienced by this coastal city, which gets rain on average for eight months in every year. Nor are Lagosians unfamiliar with spells of rain lasting up to seven days without break.
But by the time of the early morning 'rush hour', the traffic-laden streets of metropolitan Lagos were being swept with rampaging floods. Until well after noon, the city's social and economic life was at a standstill. Already difficult road conditions were rendered impossible for motorists, marooned at the wheel for hours. Exhausted school children eventually made it back home after spending the better part of the day in traffic. Crowds of commuters waited interminably at bus-stops for vehicles that never came.
The economic toll was expected to be heavy, with offices in both government and the private sector remaining empty all day. Commercial activities were put on hold as shops remained shuttered until well after noon. The communications network and electricity supply to key areas of the city were shut down for hours, to protect equipment. One state government official commented: 'It has never been so bad.' By the time the water receded and life had returned to normal, both government engineers and private sector consultants were in agreement: the main reasons for the flooding were illegal development along the natural courses of inner-city waterways, and the reduced drainage capacity of the overdeveloped metropolitan area.
Both the flood itself, and the acknowledgement of the human limitations of the city officials, illustrate the frustrations that have attended the management of this exploding metropolis over the last three decades. In the months leading up to the July flooding, a major controversy erupted over plans to landfill the inland Kuramo lake in the highbrow Victoria Island district and develop it as a housing estate. This pitted state government officials and a firm of developers on the one hand, against a motley band of citizens groups, non-governmental organisations and concerned environmentalists on the other.
The unusual strength of local feeling against the project reflects growing fears that the island itself could be submerged. Five years ago, this was thought to be a remote prospect but today it is seen as a real threat, given the increasing frequency of flooding incidents and ocean surges along the coastal area.
More and more people are arguing that there is a correlation between the growing frequency of flooding incidents and the massive sandfilling activity that has taken place over the years. The Kuramo issue remains contentious but it is just one example of the wider dilemma facing the city's development planners. They have the daunting task of providing for legions of migrants to Lagos - whose swelling numbers are placing great stress on the failing infrastructure. The problem may be particularly acute in the Nigeria's largest city, but it reflects a wider trend of urbanisation in the country over the past half century, as the overall population has increased.
In 1921, Nigeria had just 18.7 million inhabitants. Current estimates put the population in the region of 103.5 million. And the growth in the proportion of urban dwellers has been equally dramatic. In 1931, fewer than 7% of the people lived in urban centres. The figure had risen to 10% by 1952,19% by 1963, 33% by 1984, and 42% at the last count, in 1991. Current figures suggest that there are now seven Nigerian cities with more than a million inhabitants and no fewer than 78 whose population exceeds 100 000.
The changing structure of the country's human settlement profile has been linked to broader economic and social changes. The situation has been exacerbated by the economic depression of the last two decades. Analysts have noted a trend of declining primary production in such areas as agriculture, mining, quarrying and exploitation of natural resources. This has resulted in greater attention being paid to secondary and tertiary economic activities - which are generally city-based. The figures illustrate the dramatic nature of the change that has taken place. In 1952, the ratio of primary to secondary/ tertiary economic activity, as measured in Nigeria's GDP, was 68:32. Four decades later, the ratio was 38:62.
According to World Bank consultant, Prof. Akin Mabogunje, the trend is exemplified by the expansion of a whole range of activities located in urban centres - large, medium and small-scale enterprises in manufacturing and construction, utilities, transport and communications systems, wholesale and retail outlets, hotels, restaurants, finance and insurance companies, and estate agencies. Then there is the whole range of government activity. Until 1991, Nigeria's huge federal bureaucracy was located in Lagos, operating alongside a state administration and some 15 local authorities. Add to this the major docks and airports of Lagos, and you get an urbanisation phenomenon which has, to say the least, been intimidating.
Lagos, which only occupies 0.4% of the country's land area, gains an extra 300 000 inhabitants every year on top of its natural growth rate. That the city is a 'pole of attraction' is hardly surprising. It is clearly the economic nucleus of the country, reputed to account for about 57% of total value added in manufacturing and about 40% of the nation's most highly skilled manpower.
The costs have also been high. Professor Poju Onibokun, a human settlements expert, enumerates these: grossly inadequate housing and infrastructure with millions dwelling in slums; social amenities under enormous pressure with a shortage of schools and poor health facilities; endemic crime and juvenile delinquency; the breakdown of traditional values, family cohesiveness and community spirit. The capacity of law enforcement institutions is also increasingly hampered by technological and resource limitations.
Of these ills, the shortage of housing and lack of infrastructure are seen as the most acute. This is borne out by a recent World Bank study which notes that:
- the quality of life and living conditions have
- economic production has plunged;
- the inadequate provision of infrastructural services has negatively affected the operations of most private sector investors, who now need to spend between 22% and 25% of their capital outlay on providing their own infrastructure.
Over 90% of the city's housing is provided by the private sector. But this has been handicapped in recent times by spiralling development costs and a general shortage of funds. New private housing has consisted largely of thousands of individual units, built mainly in areas of existing large scale developments. The authorities have made their own efforts to plug the gap and over the last 15 years, no fewer than 6000 hectares of marshland have been sandfilled and reclaimed in six separate development schemes (some of which have proved controversial). The Land Use Act of 1978 vested all urban land in the state authorities, although the administration of the legislation has not always proved satisfactory.
Public transport is another problem for Lagos residents. There is no integrated system of mass transport and the sector is essentially made up of hundreds of privately operated buses and a dwindling taxi fleet. Massive currency devaluations have meant that the purchase price of new vehicles has rocketed. Maintenance costs for the increasingly dilapidated fleet have also spiralled. As a result, the system is stretched to beyond its capacity and it is the commuters who bear the brunt.
Public sector spending obviously has an important part to play in maintaining urban structures. The downturn in international aid flows has, therefore, had a visible impact with decline in infrastructure provision and maintenance, leading to a less favourable operating environment for private investors.
In the past, Lagos has been a notable beneficiary of urban support programmes with multi-million dollar schemes for water supply, storm water drainage, and infrastructure. Most of these have been World Bank-led but the support of the European Union and its Member States in this area is also considered crucial.
On the positive side, adversity has proved a catalyst for greater community-based and NGO activity in environmental and human settlement issues over the last decade. This is a fresh approach, based on 'bottom-up' strategies, which should open up muchneeded new avenues to urban management in Nigeria more generally and in Lagos in particular.
by Gilles Fontaine
The author, a specialist in urban development, offers us his thoughts on the Istanbul conference. This event, he believes, was a landmark in the collective process of raising awareness which was begun at the Rio Conference on the environment.
14 June 1996 - last day of Habitat II
Night fell a long time ago. A feeling of hope permeates the hall. Most of the work is completed but there are still disputes over a few paragraphs of the text of the Habitat 11 Agenda. Some delegates have not slept for two days and they can be seen standing around, afraid they might fall asleep. The sense of fatigue increases further when, at midnight, the symbolic 'stopping of the clocks' (to permit a successful outcome of the final negotiations) is announced over the PA system.
At two in the morning, the wait has become almost unreal. It is virtually unimaginable that the Conference should come to nothing, after two years of intense work. Since Wednesday evening, the general atmosphere has been almost euphoric. Agreement has been reached on all the essential points within the allotted time and the Conference is already being heralded as another success story. All that remains to be done is to finalise the 'Istanbul Declaration', a four-page policy text broadly summarising the work of the Conference. The Conference would finally close about two hours later, amid general relief - but why the impasse?
Breaking new ground... and remaining steadfast
Some problems arose where they were least expected! To everyone's surprise, 'informal' working sub-groups had to be set up to discuss nuclear testing and anti-personnel mines! These themes were a far cry from the Habitat Agenda, but this sort of thing inevitably happens at major international conferences.
Other stumbling blocks appeared without any real warning, when some delegates attempted to renegotiate the conclusions of the Beijing and Cairo conferences. The negotiators had to stand firm on two counts. The hard-won recognition of women's rights needed to be defended all over again. And, more importantly, the attempt in Istanbul to reopen the debate on everything that had been gained at previous conferences had to be avoided. The European Union's negotiators took an aggressive stance on both these issues.
The fact that so much negotiating effort is expended is a good illustration of the political significance governments attach to the topics debated on such occasions. A conference may be seen as resembling the proverbial half-bottle of water - some regard it as half empty and others as half full. One's viewpoint depends on one's expectations - and much disappointment is caused by a misunderstanding of how such conferences operate.
Meeting the delegates
Although I am no anthropologist, I think I was able to identify three major groups of participants. First, there were the 'negotiators', who have built up a common language from conference to conference. I was surprised at the extent to which reference was constantly made, in the negotiating groups, to the 'Languages' of Rio, Copenhagen or Beijing. This is not just a question of vocabulary or syntax, but represents a genuine revolution in thought at international level.
The second group, to which I myself belonged, was made up of national and international officials. These are the people who, to a greater or lesser extent, prepare the conference. They then attend it and, ideally, write a mission report on returning to their offices (bemoaning the fact that few people will read their words of wisdom !)'These delegates tend to offer the harshest judgments. A common refrain is: 'We have long argument about words in parenthesis in a huge document that no one will ever read!'.
The third group, which nowadays is the largest, consists of representatives of so-called civil society. Since Rio, every United Nations conference has seen the parallel organisation of an NGO Forum, and the latter's influence has constantly increased. At Beijing, the authorities banished the NGO Forum to a site 60 km from the capital, but Istanbul welcomed it with open arms on the same footing as the 'Cities Summit' and the meetings of researchers and industrialists. A more fundamental development was the invitation to NGOs and local authorities to take an active part in the working groups and at meetings. This was a 'first' in international conference history and I was struck by the motivation and competence of many of the participants, as well as by the ease with which they have adapted to the information society. Gone are the days when addresses are exchanged on scraps of paper, accompanied by the ritual 'We must keep in touch!'. These days, your business card must include your Internet Email address. Contacts are organised through networks connected to databases, and people swap CD ROMs with each other.
What did Habitat II achieve?
The 'official' end most visible result of the Conference was obviously the adoption of the Habitat Agenda - the final fruit of long hours of work within the national committees set up for the occasion. This document, over a hundred pages in length, contains a 'World Action Plan', accompanied by the 'Istanbul Declaration'.
What is not so well-publicised is the fact that many countries - including a number of ACPs - took the opportunity to publish their own national reports containing individual action plans. The amount of preparation that went into these reports revealed a high degree of motivation.
Having looked at them more closely since, I have gained a somewhat better understanding of the months of work put in tens of thousands of people across the world. This reassures me that the majority of state participants will monitor the Habitat 11 follow-up very closely.
One has to recognise that the mere adoption of a text, however significant it may be, cannot be regarded as a magic formula which will change the face of the world overnight. To the impatient among us who want everything straight away, and to unrepentant sceptics, I would say this. In environmental matters there are two major periods in our recent history - the period before Rio and the period after Rio. The Rio meeting, and each subsequent conference, have been milestones in a long, coherent process of collective reflection and growing awareness. Istanbul did, in fact, keep its promises: the right to adequate shelter is now recognised internationally as the fundamental right of every human being.
by Stephane Yerasimos
Istanbul. Ten million inhabitants - with double that number expected in 20 years time. Financial irregularities, a chaotic house-building sector, a lack of infrastructure and rampant speculation. One needed to look no further than the host city to find the key issues facing the Habitat Conference.
Istanbul is a city steeped in history. It is also one of the Third World's biggest conurbations. Over the last 16 centuries, it has been the capital of two great empires - the Byzantine and the Ottoman - resulting in a rich legacy of monuments and a historic centre on a par with that of Rome. From the Middle Ages to the beginning of the modern era, it was regarded as Europe's largest city. On the eve of the Second World War, it had a population of one million, but that figure has now multiplied tenfold. Almost half of its ten million inhabitants are living on a knife edge, and many are in 'illegal' housing.
The first big transformation of the city came in the middle of the 19th century when the Ottoman authorities opted for westernisation and embarked on an extensive management programme. By the time the Empire collapsed in 1922, much of the ancient fabric - and traditional housing - of the city had already been lost. Under the new republic, the capital was transferred to Ankara, and the authorities stepped up their efforts at modernisation. In 1937, Ataturk gave Frenchman Henri Prost, a city planner who had helped preserve the old centres of a number of Moroccan towns, the job of devising major public works in the heart of the old city. The infrastructure was also updated and taken together, these works (which were completed during the 1950s) transformed the old walled city and its ancient suburbs (Galata and Uskudar) into a modern aggLomtion, interspersed with ancient monuments.
Unlike the colonial powers who attempted to preserve the traditional character of old city centres around the Mediterranean rim and in the rest of the Islamic world, the desire of successive Turkish governments to modernise the country resulted in the disappearance of most of Istanbul's ancient fabric, and the city no longer has a compact area of old districts.
The transformation of the city centre was matched, after the Second World War, by an explosion of building on the outskirts - a phenomenon characteristic of Third World countries. Improved sanitation and hygiene standards led to a natural population increase of between 2.5% and 3% per year. Meanwhile, the modernisation of agricultural practices caused a mass rural exodus. Marginalised in both economic and social terms. the people who flooded into Istanbul soon over whelmed the resident population. Today, the bulk of the people living in the city have rural origins.
The new residents began by occupying the edges of the old quarters and taking over the open spaces which remained after the ravages of an earlier fire. They then began to settle in ever-increasing circles around Istanbul, establishing the first gecekondu districts (groups of huts constructed overnight). These have been incorrectly described as shanty towns. In fact, most buildings are permanent structures and they rapidly develop into multi-storey dwellings. Most of the land on which these illegal buildings have sprung up was originally privately owned. But the elected multi-party government in power at the time was quick to spot the electoral possibilities in these areas. Each district was a reservoir of potential voters and, on the eve of each election, the parties in power would distribute property titles to the illegal occupants. They, in turn hastened to consolidate and increase their assets. This explains the emergence of increasingly densely populated districts without infrastructure during the 1950s and early 1960s
Industrialisation, and the arrival in the city of people who used to be rural landowners (driven out by the new market economy) later created a demand for housing which the normal market was unable to meet. This has given rise to a new phenomenon of urban marginalisation, involving the illegal division of land into plots. The system involves the purchase of agricultural properties by developers and speculative builders. These are divided into small plots and resold, quite legally, to purchasers - who then build unauthorised structures in contravention of the normal planning rules. Often, benefiting from political alliances, the developers take control of these districts and 'convert' the votes of the people living there into cash, in return for urban investments. This enables them to consolidate their power and increase the value of their remaining stock of plots.
An uncontrolled population increase
Finally, a third phenomenon, linked to the growth of a middle class, began to occur in the mid-1980s, when building cooperatives came into being. Their predecessors were the corporate associations which grouped together public officials (beginning with the army and the police). These developed into ad-hoc associations enabling a group of developers to tap people's savings, thereby dispensing with the need for loans in a country where chronic inflation makes credit prohibitive. Several thousands of dwellings are often constructed at the same time, in the form of tightly packed, multiple-occupancy blocks. The requirements of multi-storey construction mean that these buildings are of acceptable quality, but the related infrastructures are sorely lacking. Entire districts are built 'in the wilds' without any infrastructural investment by the developers or local authorities.
The city is continuing to expand, without reference to any development plan. The fifteen or so major urban schemes drawn up since the 1950s have all remained in desk drawers and the only significant construction work has been on roads (notably bridges and ring roads). These generate further uncontrolled population increases on the outskirts of the city.
Although the natural rate of demographic growth is slowly declining - it has just dropped to under 2% per year - the most recent census (in 1990) reveals that Turkey now has more people living in its cities than in its rural areas. Yet the statistics also show that half of the country's people are still involved in agriculture. Given the continuing natural growth, and the fact that in semi-industrialised countries, the rural population tends to settle at around a third or even just a quarter of the total, we can assume that the drift to towns and cities will continue for the next 30 or 40 years. This trend will affect all Turkish towns and cities, be they large, small or medium-sized. But Greater Istanbul, where the majority of the country's economic and social activity is concentrated, is set to experience a doubling of its population within the next twenty-five years.
Dilemma for urban planners
The problem caused by demographic changes is exacerbated by economic constraints. For a number of years now, Turkey has suffered a high (albeit stable) inflation rate of about 70% per year. This situation discourages investment in industry, and makes people take refuge in ownership of land that they can build on. Land has thus become the target of speculation by people in all social classes. Against this background, it is virtually impossible to regulate the use of land - something which must be at the heart of any urban-development programme. An alternative is to discuss the possibility of developing a social consensus involving a more liberal approach to property speculation, recgnising that land is a source of revenue at all levels. This might entail releasing central and local authorities from any responsibility to provide services or other infrastructural investment.
In the present circumstances, however, any scheme to redevelop Istanbul effectively would seem doomed to failure. The only intervention which might succeed would be at the 'cleaning-up' stage - coming in after the construction of the dwellings under the conditions described above. It is only once the new inhabitants' dream of having a roof over their heads is realised that they come face to face with the harsh daily realities of living in a self-built city of nearly ten million people. They may then be prepared to make some sacrifices in order to improve their living conditions. The moment when harsh reality replaces emotion, is the only time the urban planner has the slightest chance of being listened to.
by Misia Coghlan
There are 2.7 million homeless people in the European Union and many millions more are badly housed. But the EU is said to be lagging in taking measures to provide adequate housing - one of the internationally recognised human rights. An expert from a leading campaign group for the homeless explains.
In the weeks and months leading up to the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), much argument and debate centred around the existence of the right to adequate housing. The legal basis of this right was challenged by a handful of delegates and the arguments continued right through the Conference itself. The outcome is that the final Declaration includes a reaffirmation of states to a 'commitment to the full and progressive realisation of the right to adequate housing as provided for in the international instruments.' (see first box)
The political impact of Habitat II as the culmination of the recent series of UN Conferences has been disappointing. The Istanbul Conference was originally heralded with the catch-phrase 'housing for all'. In the course of the preparatory process, this was watered-down to become 'shelter for all' and, as has been seen, the wording of the final Declaration simply refers to existing international commitments and allows for the 'full and progressive realisation of the right.' This of course begs the question of how such a right was ever supposed to have been achieved other than 'progressively' and how meaningful such a commitment can be in the absence of parallel undertakings as to implementation and enforcement. In short, very little has been achieved in progressing international commitment to the realisation of the right.
The right to adequate housing has in fact been recognised for some time now by the Member States of the European Union, all of whom have ratified the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the most important legal basis of housing rights found in international law). Under article 11(1), the parties to the Covenant recognise, 'the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing...'
The concept of 'adequacy', it is generally acknowledged, is determined at least in part by social, economic, cultural and climatic factors. Adequate housing can be understood as including the following components: legal security of tenure, affordability, habitability, accessibility, location and availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure.
It hardly needs pointing out that commitments in international law, whether legally binding or not, remain statements of intent and are of limited practical use unless accompanied by a comprehensive legislative framework in domestic law which will secure both the access to the right as well as providing enforcement mechanisms. What, then, is the reality? Has the right to adequate housing been enacted into national legislation and, most importantly, is the right actually being respected across the European Union?
FEANTSA, the European Federation of National Associations Working with the Homeless, has been conducting the European Observatory on Homelessness with the support of the European Commission since 1991. FEANTSA's research findings have increasingly demonstrated both the extent and the gravity of the housing crisis in Europe: in what is one of the wealthiest subregions of the world, a large and growing group of the population is being excluded from adequate housing. (see box on next page)
Moreover, FEANTSA's 1995 transnational research report (Home/essness in the European Union) has found that the right to housing does not exist in any Member State as a legally enforceable claim. Although the right is recognised in the constitution of several Member States, this remains a statement of intent and does not create any entitlement. Other Member States have adopted a different approach - housing legislation in the United Kingdom, for example, does create an obligation on the local authorities to provide housing for those homeless people assessed to be in priority need and found to be unintentionally homeless. There is no sign of convergence in the ways EU Member States address the right to housing and housing exclusion in their national legislation.
The right to housing is not addressed in EU legislation as a legal principle and Member States have exclusive competence to deal with housing issues themselves. There is thus no overall European housing policy, nor is there yet any European policy on homelessness. FEANTSA has, however, identified common trends throughout Europe which have contributed to the escalation of homelessness and the lack of adequate housing provision.
The overall European trend has been an increased reliance on the competitive market to meet all housing needs, with an unwillingness on the part of government to commit public resources to assist lower income groups, who are therefore confronted with the limited choice available to them on the open housing market.
The supply of housing has been undergoing change throughout Europe. In all countries, owner-occupation is on the increase, with tax relief generally being offered as an incentive. The private rented sector, on the other hand, has continued to decline. Social housing has generally suffered from cuts in funding. The result is that there is a shortfall in the supply of affordable housing for rent and rents have become correspondingly higher. It is clear that the competitive housing market cannot and will not meet the needs of the increasing numbers of people without the resources to afford market rents.
The type of housing required has also changed: demographic trends have meant that households are getting smaller but more numerous - thus, there is a need for more but smaller dwellings.
The problem has been exacerbated by the lack of an overall strategy either at European level or, indeed, often at national level, to meet the realities of structural changes on the labour market. Indeed, in some countries, the increase in long-term unemployment has been accompanied by an erosion of social protection systems. Faced with escalating demand for longterm welfare assistance, the authorities have often responded by tightening up on eligibility criteria in an attempt to cut or limit benefit payments, with shortterm palliative measures to deal with emergency cases. Thus, increasing numbers of people living on or under the poverty threshold, coupled with the deregulation of the housing market, have led to severe housing stress and increased vulnerability to homelessness.
Finland sets an example
Finland is one EU country tackling the housing problem. In 1987, the International Year of the Homeless, the Finnish government announced its intention to eliminate homelessness. At that time, the number of homeless people was put at close to 20 000. The programme for the development of housing set the objective of making 18 000 homes available for the homeless over a period of five years. Special funds were set aside in the national budget to permit the local authorities and other organisations to purchase housing for the homeless. State loans for the construction of housing for rent were made available to municipalities with a large homeless population. In under ten years, the number of homeless people in Finland has been reduced to half what it was in the mid-1980s. Finland now enjoys a comprehensive system of carefully targeted housing supply, housing subsidies, benefits and allowances and housing is seen as an integral part of a multi-dimensional strategy to combat poverty.
For one in twenty citizens of the European Union, the criteria which, as a whole, constitute adequate housing remain inaccessible. Yet at Istanbul, the EU voiced its determination to make an important and constructive contribution to the implementation of the Habitat objectives. This included an acknowledgement that increased attention should be paid to people living in poverty and that appropriate action should be taken by governments at all levels.
The European housing ministers were due to meet informally in Dublin, on 24 and 25 October of this year, specifically to tackle the question of 'housing for socially excluded people'. The time has come to devise and implement coherent strategies to prevent housing exclusion for low income groups. The market has neither the ethics nor the long-term planning capacity to do this; it remains the responsibility of the state. It can only be hoped that the housing ministers will recognise this and agree on the necessity of protecting housing as a product and as a service from the competitive market, at least for vulnerable groups. The housing ministers have been holding informal meetings since 1989. This year's meeting provides the opportunity, particularly in the light of the Habitat II debate, to exchange information on effective measures to help low income groups access and maintain a home. The result should be the drafting of a number of concrete goals to be achieved within a realistic time-scale.
Homelessness in Europe is not on the scale seen in other regions of the world - with the development and reinforcement of effective preventive policies, based on proven and cost-effective welfare models existing in some Member States, the housing crisis can still be contained. In short, where there is a political will, there is a way. Europe has the potential to serve as a model of good practice to the rest of the world and should do so, more especially in the light of all that was - and wasn't - achieved at Istanbul.
Is the European Union Housing its Poor? Dragana Avramov, Catherine Parmentier and Brian Harvey, FEANTSA, Brussels 1995
Homelessness in the European Union, Dragana Avramov, FEANTSA, Brussels 1995
The Invisible Hand of the Housing Market, Dragana Avramov, FEANTSA, Brussels 1996
by Francis Cass
In ten or so years' time, more than half the world's population will be living in built-up areas and, according to UN figures, by 2025 nearly two thirds of us will live in towns and cities. This is not a complete surprise - over the last few decades, the ratio of city dwellers to rural people has consistently moved in 'favour' of the former. In 1950, 29% of people were city dwellers. Since 1985, the urban population has exceeded 40% of the global total.
Today, we are witnessing an acceleration in demographic growth, especially in developing countries. Of the 2.6 billion people who currently live in towns, 1.6 billion live in the world's least developed regions. By 2025, the urban population of the Third World will have risen to 3.2 billion, out of a global urban population of just over 4 billion. On the basis of these figures, it is estimated that the number of urban dwellers in developing countries is increasing by approximately 150 000 people each day! In Cape Town in South Africa, for example, as in many towns and cities of the Third World, this demographic explosion can actually be seen happening. All you need to do is drive regularly along the N2 motor way - which passes through the shanty towns of Khayelitsha and Guguletu - to see how, week by week, the makeshift dwellings are spreading - gradually expanding to every available plot of land. The same scene is repeated in all of Africa's large towns. In Cot'lvoire, the population of Abidjan rises by 400 inhabitants a day on average. In Gabarone, the capital of Botswana, whose population was barely 3000 at the time of independence in the 1960s, the population is increasing by 18% each year and today 160 000 people live there. Such growth is often accompanied by widespread indifference on the part of local authorities. Such indifference is due, in particular, to a shortage of financial resources, but it also reflects an absence of political will to do anything to tackle the problem.
Demography and poverty
The demographic explosion which has taken place in the urban areas of developing countries is due to three main factors: natural population growth, rural emigration to towns and cities, and (less importantly) the redefinition of the administrative boundaries of built-up areas. The first two factors are equally to 'blame' but in future, it is predicted that rural depopulation in Africa will become the single most important element in urban population growth. This will be especially true of countries where there is rampant rural poverty. In this context, we need to recognise other circumstances, such as famine, desertification, a shortage of cultivable land and conflicts, which serve to exacerbate the phenomenon. If people living in the countryside decide to migrate to towns, it is because they are looking for a better life and hope to improve their standard of living. Few succeed. According to a World Bank study, 50% of people in abject poverty will be living in urban areas by the year 2000.
The effects that urban poverty has on the environment are often dramatic. The reverse is also true. A damaged environment constitutes a daily hazard for town and city dwellers, in particular the most destitute. The precarious nature of their living conditions means that only in extremely rare cases are these people able to guard against the degeneration of their immediate surroundings. Driven to the outer limits of the towns - where even basic infrastructures such as sewers and the collection of household waste are often lacking, the poorest sections of society are left to fend for themselves. Local authorities have neither the means nor (often) the inclination to do anything to help them. Even those who are comfortably off and who can afford to give part of their income to safeguard their immediate environment (thereby protecting themselves to some extent) cannot escape the consequences of more general ecological problems such as air pollution and the contamination of water supplies. Living in a modern house in a well-to-do district is simply not enough. It is not possible to shield oneself completely from the problems created by environmental destruction. For example, even an unofficial rubbish tip, located several kilometres away from a residential area, can have disastrous effects on groundwater - meaning that sooner or later, the quality of the drinking water will suffer.
Towns gasping for water...
At present, the vast majority of Third World towns are facing a series of ecological problems which directly or indirectly, affect the lives of their inhabitants. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 220 million city dwellers have no access to drinking water and 420 million have no latrines. It does not take much to imagine the potentially catastrophic health consequences of such a situation - in which people are forced to drink and irrigate their land with water from contaminated sources. The WHO has estimated that three million children died during 1993 as a direct result of diarrhoea, and that nearly two million of these victims had consumed drinking water contaminated with faecal matter. In developing countries, 90% of waste water is poured, completely untreated, into rivers, lakes and coastal waters. Again, one can easily imagine the impact on marine flora and fauna, and on the health of those who eat the products fished from these waters.
...and gasp for breath
As far as air quality is concerned, the WHO intimates that more than a billion city dwellers throughout the world breathe highly polluted air. For the most part, this pollution is generated by industry and motor vehicles. A small improvement has been recorded in the urban areas of developed countries, but air quality in the towns and cities of the South has deteriorated considerably during recent years.
There are many reasons for this. First, there has been an increase in industrial activity, mainly concentrated around towns and cities. This is a result of economic development, but also of the fact that many factories - including some with the worst pollution records - have relocated from the North to the South, where legislation governing emissions is less stringent. Second, in contrast to the trends seen in developed countries - where cars are usually well-maintained, (running on unleaded petrol and rarely more than five years old) motor vehicles in the Third World - whose numbers are increasing significantly - are frequently old, badly maintained and run on leaded fuel. According to the World Bank, 95% of the lead polluting the air in the towns and cities of developing countries comes from vehicles which run on leaded petrol and studies carried out on the subject have revealed concentrations of up to 1.5 microgrammes of lead per cubic metre of air. In North America and Europe the concentration varies between 0.2 and 0.8 microgrammes per cubic metre.
Another problem facing towns and cities in the southern hemisphere arises from the enormous amounts of waste they produce and from the fact that they have few treatment facilities. In many cases, the rubbish is not even collected and is left to accumulate into the piles which can often be seen on the edges of shanty towns. This accumulation of refuse encourages the proliferation of certain diseases and poses a real threat to the health of residents both nearby and further away. In addition to this ordinary, everyday waste, the countries of the Third World have to deal with problems generated by toxic waste - not just their own, but also that which is 'exported' there by industrialised countries. Needless to say, the towns which actually have the means and facilities needed to treat this highly polluting waste are few and far between.
Linking development with environmental protection
While environmental problems have a direct impact on human health and on the natural world, they also entail huge economic costs. The effect of pollution on human health translates into ever-increasing health costs and a decline in productivity. And it is not only city dwellers who suffer the consequences of a deteriorating urban environment. Depending on their size, the degree of industrial activity and population concentration, towns and cities pollute and destroy areas well beyond their own administrative boundaries. They swallow up enormous amounts of natural resources, suck their hinterlands dry and spit out 'what is left'.
Nowadays, there is an increasing global consensus over the need to tackle these growing problems rapidly. This was seen clearly at the Habitat II Conference in Istanbul. Most cities of the southern hemisphere urgently need to get to grips with their numerous ecological problems - the alternative is to sink further into chaos. In a similar vein, it has become obvious that some sort of balance must be found between economic development and safeguarding the environment - and that considerable investments are needed to achieve this.
Solutions do exist. Recycling projects, for example, could provide jobs for large numbers of town and city dwellers, as well as cleaning up the environment. Governments of industrialised nations should take the necessary steps to ensure that their toxic waste does not end up in the rubbish dumps of the countries of the South. Authorities in urban areas in the Third World should set aside more of their budgets to help the most underprivileged sections of their populations, so that they can manage their own environment. Local authorities should also respond more efficiently to the basic needs of impoverished districts, not least by building roads and sewer systems, by ensuring that rubbish is collected and by guaranteeing all people access to drinking water.
Last but not least, a concerted effort - especially a concerted financial effort - should be made by decision-makers at the local, national and international levels. We need to recognise that environmental damage is a phenomenon which rarely confines itself to the local level. Sooner or later, it becomes a problem for all of us.
by Hendrik Smets
The clash between the interests of people living on the edges of the Zakouma National Park in Chad and the authorities' attempts at conservation illustrates the situation facing many other nature reserves in Africa. This article argues in favour of a form of eco-development to suit everyone.
When the Zakouma National Park (PNZ) WAS officially set up in 1963 (it had been at the planning stage since 1956), the area it covered meant that local people had to be moved - but the promised compensation was never paid. During the second phase of the PNZ's relaunch, financed by the European Development Fund (EDF), a perimeter path following the 1963 boundaries was marked out, but local villagers opposed this, regarding it as an extension of the Park's area. Subsequently, they rejected a move to build a dispensary in a village located at the edge of the park on the pretext that such a structure would again constitute an extension to the reserve's land.
Conflict between the itinerant stockbreeders of the region and the authorities has simmered for many years. The latter have shrunk from enforcing the 1963 law on transhumance corridors which applies to the fringes of the national park. Under this law, it is prohibited (in principle) to gather wood, hunt for game, fish, or gather honey and other natural produce. The result is a tendency among locals to view the PNZ as an adversary rather than a potential partner in development. Safari tourism is developing too slowly and is not leading to sufficient benefits for example, from a craft industry, or more general redevelopment.
When the second phase of the project was at the planning stage, its organisers recognised that, in order to guarantee the park's future, support had to be given to the people living on its edges. A high-level 'cooperation committee' was therefore proposed. The membership of this committee, which would sit in N'Djamena, was to include ministers, directors-general, park authorities and Commission representatives. Unfortunately it has not yet been brought into operation. By contrast, the local authorities and park management have been able to set up their own committee which met for the first time in January 1996. This body has helped to tackle some of the most sensitive problems.
The second phase also saw the implementation of a series of microprojects. - school renovations, a dispensary, a bridge, the sinking of wells, a dam, a mill and a nursery. But these were set up without preliminary study, and no arrangements were made to sound out the views of the local people, or the form of development they would like promoted. Understandably, local hostility was encountered and the projects cannot, in any real sense, be viewed as offshoots of the wider PNZ scheme.
The project has not been extended to a third phase. Because of this, there is a risk that the capital invested - and the positive results that have been achieved - could be lost altogether. Should any donor choose to 'pick up the baton' in future, they will need to recognise the key imperative of creating a symbiotic relationship between the park and the local population. To do this, there must be an awareness-raising effort, undertaken in parallel with any eco-development programme.
In the first instance, a higher profile should be given to institutional issues. In particular, the cooperation committee in N'Djamena must be able to act, where necessary, as an appeal or arbitration chamber to deal with any disputes which cannot be resolved by the local authorities' committee. The latter, of course, would continue to meet on a regular basis to discuss any problems encountered.
At the same time, there should be campaigns to disseminate information and train local people who are in daily contact with the park's environment. The aim here would be to make them progressively more accountable for conservation and the exploitation of natural resources (cutting wood, gathering produce, hunting, fishing, and so on). They must also gain a better understanding of the effects of poaching and desertification. Above all, such campaigns should seek to convince the people of the benefits they stand to gain from the park, if they continue to respect its integrity.
In this context, some lessons might be drawn from a regional project dating from April 1987 (which was never fully implemented). This was aimed at halting the advance of the desert in the northern Central African Republic and southern Chad. The component of the project which is of interest to the present discussion was its programme to increase public awareness - which involved training organisers, preparing and disseminating information (posters, videos, films), organising information tours and giving support to the Training and Environmental Information Programme of the CILSS (Inter-State Committee to Combat Drought in the Sahel), of which Chad is a member.
One could also learn something from the approach adopted by the Manda National Park which is situated 270 km from Zakouma. This has 'volunteer villagers' appointed by the chiefs of the four cantons making up the park zone, who know the territory well. The volunteers take part in information, awareness and monitoring operations alongside national park and animal reserve employees. Dressed in pale olivegreen uniforms, they cycle between the villages and encampments, providing a link between the villagers and officials in N'Djamena. They have an invaluable role in convincing village people of the advantages of cooperating in the development of the park and its surrounding areas. And the cost of a volunteer is just CFAF 5 000 (ECU 7.5) per month.
Returning to the PNZ, it is true that a small proportion of the population already benefits from the park's existence. Wages are paid to the patrols, and the permanent and seasonal workforce, while micro-projects have been set up. The park pays traders, artisans, farmers and stockbreeders for certain services and there are some tourists. But the bulk of the population does not see these advantages having been largely excluded up to now.
Any future eco-development programme should therefore aim at reducing pressure on the park in order to guarantee its long-term integrity. This would obviously need to be preceded by a clear definition of the action to be undertaken, but in the meantime, it might be useful to offer a few guidelines. The programme should include:
- a series of flanking or support activities providing
infrastructure and equipment, such as a dispensary, a school, paths, wells and
- a food-security programme providing for the conservation of agricultural areas, as well as measures to prevent erosion and safeguard harvests (cereal banks, stores, gardens, agro-forestry systems and pest control);
- a project to promote natural resources such as fisheries, gum arable, honey, and straw fodder;
- a wood/energy management programme providing improved hearths and brick ovens, and the organised gathering and use of supplies;
- development of the craft industry and training of tourist guides.
If, in a third phase, an awareness and eco-development programme could be successfully implemented, the Zakouma National Park should be able to look forward to a brighter future.
In April, on the eve of the International Conference on Human Settlements, the first West-African eco-centre ('Ecopole´) was opened in Dakar. It was set up by Enda, one of the few international non-governmental organisations of significant size based in a developing country. The 'eco' refers to two things - the economic life of the ordinary people and the ecological aspect of the centre. One of the most memorable images of the opening ceremonies was the sight of two Presidents - Abdou Diouf of Senegal and his Malian counterpart, Alpha Oumar Konare - striding through the dust in a working-class district of the Senegalese capital. For supporters of the 'Ecopole', the event epitomised the fight back of the popular urban economy.
The dust which settled on the Presidents' fine clothes was that of the Rail district, so called on account of the railway which cut through it in former times. Built in an old, disused factory, the airy, clean 'eco-complex' adds a touch of style to this semi-industrial, semi-shanty town district. The old buildings were redeveloped with the help of members of some two hundred cultural and sports associations, working in partnership with the NGO. They used recycling techniques of which they are past masters.
The complex had, in fact, been in operation for some time prior to its formal inauguration, but the ceremony - which attracted the interest of international press agencies - provided an opportunity to publicise the venture. Since its formation in 1972, Enda has been working to give a higher profile to the 'popular' economy (they eschew the term 'informal') in Senegal and elsewhere. The NGO has focused, in particular, on trying to encourage those involved in the popular economy to collaborate more closely and integrate their activities, as well as on boosting awareness of what is happening in similar communities elsewhere. The opening of the 'Ecopole' provided a showcase for the achievements of the popular economy in West Africa, as well as a forum for dialogue. And it now has the seal of approval of two Heads of State, not to mention other VlPs who made supportive statements at the opening.
The popular economy fights back
For the inaugural ceremony, the former sheds - now converted into airy vaults clustered around a central structure - hosted a major presentation of the popular economy in a series of exhibitions. It is a kind of 'eco-museum' with pride of place going to recycling. Exhibits ranged from 'fabrics' made of old plastic bags crocheted together, to toy sports cars fashioned from wire and tin cans. And the reaction to the exhibition went beyond the usual, somewhat condescending appreciation of 'the skill of these people'. There were, of course, some curios of interest to tourists such as the aforementioned children's toys, small metal suitcases and papier-mache boxes. But there were also works of art, masks and sculptures, which captured something of the nature of this 'recycling culture'. Indeed, international art critics at the Biennal Festival of Contemporary African Art, taking place in Dakar, were talking of a new artistic trend, also seen in the work of artists from other regions, based on reclamation. This, of course, begs the question: 'Has art not always been based on reclamation?'
Interesting though the subject may be, the artistic and aesthetic qualities of the fruits of recycling are of only secondary importance when one is dealing with everyday objects. The important thing is for deprived populations to use what means they have to survive and to improve the quality of their lives. Tourists may choose to buy decorative and unusual objects on the reclamation market, but more significantly, families can obtain essential items such as kitchen utensils, ploughing implements, carpentry tools and stoves - all cast from vehicle wheels and bits of scrap metal. They are made using small forges and furnaces the size of a large saucepan, or cut from otherwise unusable pieces of metal sheet. The craftsmen can also supply somewhat more sophisticated equipment: ploughs, brick-moulding machines or soldering irons. One of the exhibitions staged at the 'eco-centre' was a co-production with the Quebec Museum of Civilisation and the Canadian Embassy in Senegal, which had previously toured Canada and four African countries. Entitled 'Africa's ingenuity', it covered a wide variety of styles, ranging from the utilitarian to the artistic. It will, in due course, form the eco-museum's centrepiece. Another temporary exhibition was called 'Antuka: Kinshasa, the art of living in the city', and this paid homage to the Zairean capital - a place which, of necessity, has become one of the 'capitals' of resourcefulness.
Jet engines and donkeys
One hopes that the two Heads of State found time to admire the jet engine constructed by a young Zairean from nothing but reclaimed materials: parts taken from cars, mopeds and unwanted metal sheet. And it works - not on an aircraft, naturally, but on the bench. This engine is now a legend. Its constructor has apparently already been spotted by a European head-hunting company and offered a job in France. This is part of the 'fight-back' referred to by Enda officials, in which some recognition is finally being given to the economies of the world's poorest populations. During his visit, the President of Senegal issued a plea for greater integration of the informal sector into the overall economic fabric. His remarks were revealing: the West-African 'Ecopole', as its name implies, covers an entire region, and assumption of responsibility by the local people for the shanty towns and poorer districts has lifted a significant burden from central government.
Another example of this trend is found in the Malian capital, Bamako, where a hundred or so local community associations have banded together to take over full responsibility for the collection of domestic waste. This organisation, whose initial efforts were ridiculed, is now fully operational. One wonders whether the authorities in other cities have heard about Bamako's scheme. What about Port-au-Prince in Haiti, for example, where they are struggling with mountains of rubbish which they cannot deal with owing to a lack of resources?
Since their inception, economic interest groupings (ElGs) such as the one in Bamako have helped bridge the gap between the 'formal' and 'informal' economies. They rely on collaboration and their enterprise is exemplary. At the outset, the inhabitants of poor districts, acting on the initiative of the ElGs, expressed the desire to improve their neighbourhoods by organising refuse collection. They used whatever means were available - which in most cases meant donkeys and carts. In more central districts, delivery tricycles were employed for collection. Specially constructed, tipper-style carts, each costing CFAF 200 000 (ECU 300) have since been brought into service. The price of a donkey, by contrast, is about CFAF 50 000 (ECU 75). The animals and equipment belong to the ElGs and are looked after and maintained by them, with carters receiving a monthly income and social security benefits. A number of groups were set up eight years ago, promoted by young technicians, academics, architects and economists. Those who benefit are known as 'subscribers', with each family paying a contribution towards the service. Managing equipment and collecting contributions both require a well-structured administrative department, but the administrators are not confined to their offices. As employees of the business, they see nothing wrong in lending a hand and assisting the carters. In short, it is an enterprise based on a whole new approach. The contribution made by families varies according to the EIG and the district in question, but it is generally set at around CFAF 750 (ECU 1.2) per family per month. The price of the service may be up to twice this sum in the so called 'quartier des Blancs' (the 'white' district). In theory, the state ought to be subsidising the ElGs, but in practice, this does not happen. The authorities do not even fulfil the task allocated to them under agreements signed with the ElGs, which is to transport the refuse from temporary dumps to a final site. According to local people, the problem is not that the local authorities do not have the trucks available for the task. The vehicles, they allege, are used instead for the officials' own private purposes. The ElGs are forced to plug the gap as far as possible. At present, they appear to be the only ones taking any interest in waste recycling, aware as they are of the risk to the environment posed by permanent dumping grounds, and of the specific danger that the water table will be polluted.
A modern concept of the 'informal' economy
The 'informal' economy is increasingly becoming the norm. According to an Enda survey, 90% of businesspeople in Senegal started out in the informal sector. The conclusion would seem to be that the necessary training for dealing with current conditions is not to be found in the formal education system. The popular economy is not out of step with the modern economy as some would claim. Indeed, one could argue that it is the modern economy, as adapted to today's conditions. The increasing involvement of ordinary people in the economic circuit, which they enter via parallel routes, should also guarantee the continuation of Africa's experiment with democracy. We have seen attempts by former dictators to backtrack in this respect. They cite as evidence, the failure of technicians trained abroad - the 'darlings' of the West who, they claim, are at the beck and call of international institutions. But a return to the past, as exemplified by the regime of Nicephore Soglo, strikes fear into many people. Their response is to generate productivity, social cohesion and political stability through the popular economy, by way of compensation.
It is suggested that small-scale traders, who distribute hardware from south-east Asia, constitute an obstacle to the development of local production. But there is a confusion here between cause and effect. In fact, the popular economy appears more as a response to the lack of consumer goods. The problem lies with the so-called 'major' local entrepreneurs who favour the import/ export business over production, and with the banks that prefer to focus on larger businesses (influenced by anonymous officials or major economic interests) and have no time for small-scale operators.
The Rail district in Dakar has a long history. It is overpopulated, having been settled by workers and artisans, and their influx made it the most expensive poor district. It is a place where the rents, for even the humblest hut without water or electricity, accounted for most of the inhabitants' meagre income. This situation led to the appearance of squatters who built their own shacks on waste ground. For these people, the threat of eviction loomed constantly like a sword of Damocles. The district is also home to a large number of maids and other household employees. Two thousand of these people (from Rail and other parts of the city) set up their own friendly society to which they pay regular contributions.
It is a world which has always teemed with good ideas: artisans recycling materials, blacksmiths working at the forge and so on. In this sense, nothing much has changed, but the big difference now is that the people have organised themselves. In so doing, they have been able to provide training for adults and children in makeshift schools, and to purchase and renovate old huts - having extracted a guarantee from officials that such moves would not be opposed. Nowadays, those who live in the district no longer pay rent. However, it will only be possible to measure the true success of the Rail district when there is no longer a need for an organisation like Enda to ensure that it operates effectively.
Some years ago, a former sailor, who always dreamed of being a teacher, set up his own school in the main street which runs through the district. He worked on the pavement and in the car park in front of a furniture store, teaching children in the morning before the offices opened and adults in the evening after they had closed. Enda recently offered him a few pieces of furniture, but for many years, he received no help other than a few pieces of chalk, worn-down pencils and the remains of exercise books from his 'colleagues' in regular education. This is a man who has to supply his pupils not just with teaching materials but also sometimes with food. This year, with his voice catching in his throat, he told us that one of his former 'street pupils' is going to college. How can the learned economists calculate the value of this devoted 'academic'?
by Professor Willie Esterhuyse
The cornerstone of South Africa's Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) announced by President Nelson Mandela on May 24 1994, shortly after taking office, is people-centred development with an accent on modern infrastructure, health, education, housing and sanitation.
Lessons have already been learnt from teething troubles.
The RDP is the government's response to the massive socio-economic needs of the bulk of the South African population. It is foremost a strategic framework aimed at human development and restructuring the country's economy. It involves housing projects and programmes to improve the socioeconomic infrastructure covering clean water, electricity, public works, schools, urban renewal and primary health care. Empowerment programmes have been developed, for example; micro and small businesses, support for emergent farmers and skills training.
One of the main achievements of the RDP has been to sensitise South Africans to the plight of the poor. Apartheid, amongst other things, succeeded in keeping this out of sight, effectively locking the poor out of the system. A veil of ignorance prevailed among the privileged class. The RDP tore away the veil and has led to a willingness to participate in development and reconstruction programmes, especially in private sector circles. It is succeeding in prioritising South Africa's socio-economic challenges, as well as mobilising funding and organising a common and sustainable approach. Its most important achievement to date is probably the idea of partnerships in development between the state, private sector institutions and non-governmental organisations. Through the RDP, South Africans have accepted that they will have to 'run with the development ball'. They are also aware that the state cannot go it alone, nor should it act as a 'super' development agency. Thus, a very high premium is put on involving the private sector and other actors.
But many problems have already been encountered. Unfortunately, the RDP was seen by some as a quick-fix solution to South Africa's socio-economic difficulties. Expectations over delivery were too high. Red tape and a growing bureaucracy stifled the initiative early on. Frustrations among the poor quickly surfaced. Many of those who wanted to participate, and applied for RDP funding, were unable to develop viable business plans - a strict requirement to get funds. The launch of projects was further complicated by the absence, at one stage, of legitimate local and governmental structures.
But important lessons were learnt from the initial phases, in particular the need to involve people on the ground from day one - starting with the identification of needs, the design of a specific project and its execution. It was accepted that process is more decisive than the product. A second lesson was that a separate RDP office, with its own Ministry, complicated matters as far as delivery was concerned, tending to centralise development. This led to the announcement by President Mandela on March 28 1996 that the RDP office would be closed down. RDP programmes were thereafter integrated into the main budget administered by functional government agencies.
Another very important lesson was that socio-economic development and reconstruction had to go hand in hand with a dynamic macro-economic strategy - made public earlier this year. It was realised that one cannot have good projects in a bad policy environment - to quote a World Bank report.
In fact, it is generally accepted that the RDP, on its own, cannot launch South Africa on a road to sustainable and vigorous economic growth. We needed a twin-track approach.
The RDP has notched up a number of successes. The provision of clean water to rural and urban communities has gone a long way under the leadership of Minister Kadar Asmal - highlighting the fact that leadership strengthened by solid management, does make a difference. The electrification programme for low-income households, involving the parastatal, Eskom (Electricity Supply Commission), is another success story. The same goes for the Presidential projects, such as free health care for expectant mothers and infants, and some of the nutrition programmes. But the provision of housing for low-income groups has been less successful than anticipated. Rent and services boycotts, as well as unemployment, are some of the reasons for slow progress. Job creation is another problem area. It is envisaged that visible progress in these areas will emerge in the course of next year. Establishing a culture of learning is another great challenge. A restructuring of the educational system is underway, but progress is restricted by severe financial constraints.
Implementation of the RDP, the best strategic framework for socioeconomic development South Africa has ever had, will be a long process. Courage and sustainability are key issues. How to lead and manage expectations, without undermining hope, is a great challenge. The meaningful involvement of donors is another issue. Joint ventures between donors, the private sector, government agencies and communities are happening. Most of these, having been carefully negotiated and executed, are already making a significant difference.
But spectacular progress should not be expected. Development, reconstruction, and growth of the kind that South Africa needs, will take time. However, the lessons and achievements of the past two years have put South Africa in an excellent position to change the country's socio-economic environment.
by Christine Thompson
The provision of basic amenities for the urban and rural poor rank high on the agenda of the EU's aid policy towards South Africa. In this respect, European cooperation has been tailored to fit with the government's own Reconstruction and Development Programme.
The European Programme for Reconstruction and Development (EPRD) is the name of the current EU development assistance package to South Africa and it seeks to help improve living conditions for all South Africans. The programme earmarks ECU 125 million a year until 1999. It has evolved from the so-called 'positive measures' programme launched in 1985 to help counter the negative effects of sanctions and to help the victims of apartheid.
Under a Declaration of Intent drawn up with Minister Jay Naidoo, then at the helm of South Africa's Reconstruction and Development Programme, it was decided that EU aid should be channelled to the key sectors of education and training, health, rural development, water supply, urban development, economic cooperation, trade and investment promotion, and the promotion of good governance and democracy. In each of these areas, the EU actively encourages a partnership effort between governmental structures and NGOs.
2.5 million homes wanted
Over 60% of South Africa's population is urbanised. The apartheid government's restrictions on home ownership in urban areas for the past four decades resulted in a housing backlog estimated at 2.5 million units, with demand growing by 200 000 units per year. Estimates vary, but approximately seven million people are believed to be living in informal settlements throughout South Africa on land occupied both legally and illegally.
Improved housing and sanitation are seen as priority areas in urban and rural development. Between 1991 and 1996, the EU has funded 18 projects in the urban development sector valued at approximately R303.1 m (ECU 52m). The Urban Sector Network (USN) and the Cato Manor Development Programme are typical.
The EU is providing the USN with a total of R26.2m (ECU 4.5m) between 1995 and 1998. The USN is a national network of nine affiliate NGOs, and its aim is to improve living conditions for the urban poor. The beneficiaries of the programme are city dwellers earning less than R2000 (ECU 344) a month and there is a particular emphasis on households with monthly incomes of under R800 (ECU 137) a month.
Through integrated, community-based development, the USN and its affiliates provide technical support and service provision to urban development projects, focusing on housing, local government transformation, skills transfer, project planning, facilitation, information dissemination, education and training.
The Cato Manor Development Programme received funding in 1995, also for a three year period. The EU has contributed R117.6m (ECU 20.2m) to the project. Cato Manor, an area in Natal near Durban, was the location of the largest forced resettlement scheme implemented under apartheid. Today, it is the first area targeted for integrated housing in a former white township.
The overall objective of the programme is to improve living conditions through a policy that strengthens the delivery system for infrastructure and housing. The programme anticipates providing the community with primary and secondary schools, sports fields, community halls, libraries and a community health centre. Access to housing finance will be improved and opportunities for income generation provided through a vocational training centre and small-scale industry workshops. In addition, provision is being made to improve management and general policy-making capabilities. By continuing to fund such projects, the EU is working with the South African government to improve the living conditions of the urban and rural poor.
Theatre for Africa, a performing group from Southern Africa, went on tour this autumn to put across the message that the exploitation of Africa's fauna should remain in the hands of rural communities. They did this with a powerful mix of words, dance, mime and song, in a play entitled Guardians of Eden '. The Courier met the author and cast on the Brussels leg of their tour.
The setting for the Brussels' performance was the 'Grand Place' (Grote Markt). With its ornate mediaeval architecture, this famous square in the centre of the Belgian capital could hardly have been more removed from the theme of the play - which is about conservation and development problems in Africa and empowering rural people to manage, use and benefit from the wildlife around them.
The play was commissioned by the Southern Africa Sustainable Use Specialist Group (SASUSG) and the idea was that it should reach as many people as possible in the run-up to the World Conservation Congress planned for Montreal in October 1996. South African writer and former economist, Nicolas Ellenbogen, travelled throughout Southern Africa to recruit the all-African cast. Many examples of cultural imperialism leading to the destruction of habitat, highlighted in the production, were actually encountered by Mr Ellenbogen as he travelled through the region.
The play opens with a spirit medium summoning representatives from villages in several African countries to discuss the threat to their survival. The actors display their athletic skills performing mimes of the abundant wildlife with simple props, as the history of Africa is recalled from the dinosaurs to the present day.
A parable is then told. An old chief informs his three sons that to prosper in the 21st century, the village must change. He instructs them to return a year later with ideas for prosperity, which will be discussed in an indaba (debate). Each chooses a different path. The wheeling and dealing first son seeks out quick fix schemes with NGOs and various city authorities. The second son learns from the difficulties of city life and comes up with a blend of simple wisdom and new ideas. The third spends his time in beer halls - and his revelry provokes roars of laughter throughout the performance.
Arriving back in his village after almost a year has elapsed, the second son finds that his older brother returned several months earlier to implement his money raising projects. Enjoying the cash benefits of the scheme, the men of the village do not want to hold an indaba. They are forced to do so by the women and Midzimu - the old chief. The audience is then asked to vote and there is a unanimous show of hands for the second son who symbolises the sustainable use of natural resources. The dissolute third son, meanwhile, is eaten by a crocodile.
Ivory ban fury
While the message goes out to developers and donors to respect rural autonomy, the play also raises serious questions for Europe's politicians. The frequent appearance of the destructive elephant, in the course of the play, allows Mr Ellenbogen to vent his anger at the ivory import ban imposed by many European states. 'I am furious about the ban', be told The Courier, 'as it is having a profound effect on the daily needs of the people.' He rejects the argument that it helps conservation, insisting that; 'with a stroke of a pen, you reduced the value of the elephant.' The playwrite argues that local people need to see wildlife as economically and socially valuable. Otherwise, they will adopt new forms of land use which will result in the extinction of the species. He also draws attention to the growing black market in ivory in Southern Africa since the ban was introduced.
The 'token' South African - symbolically played by the only woman in the cast - is given a 'rough time as the baby of Africa', says Ellenbogen. The play also contains numerous swipes at the donor community which frequently gives grants, without, it is said, any respect for local traditions. The Swiss doctoral student researching the potential for producing goat's cheese in Africa exits the stage squealing after asking a goat herder what he does with his animals. 'We slit their throats', is his reply.
Guardians of Eden was first launched at the Grahamstown Arts Festival in South Africa in July. It was performed in Zimbabwe and Kenya, and won a prize at the Edinburgh Festival 'Fringe' in August. From there, it moved to Frankfurt and Geneva before reaching Brussels. It was due to be performed in Antwerp, London and several American cities before a final staging at the Montreal Congress in October.
The play is in English and the languages of Southern Africa, but Nicolas Ellenbogen believes it can be readily understood by his multinational audiences. For him, the message - that local people must have the power to manage their own wildlife on their own land - needs no translating.
by Stelios Christopoulos
If politicians in Europe see jobs as their primary concern, it is probably because the citizens regard unemployment as their most serious problem. In the Europe of the Fifteen, the average unemployment rate was about 10% in 1985 dropping to 7.5% in 1990. By 1994, it had risen to a record high of more than 11%. By contrast, unemployment in the United States fell below 6.5% in 1994 and the figures for 1995 reveal a continuing downward trend. In Japan, the proportion of people without work remained below 3% in 1994. Assuming there is no change in current trends, the most recent demographic projections suggest that there will be 70 million people over the age of 65 in the EU by the year 2020, out of a total population of 348 million. This is 18 million more than there are today. The proportion of over-65s is, thus, projected to rise from 15% at present to 20% in less than 25 years. These two elements - an ageing population and ongoing structural unemployment - clearly reveal that European society lacks a degree of dynamism compared with its competitors.
In an attempt to address this problem, albeit partially, the President of the European Commission, Jacques Santer, launched a European employment pact in April 1996. There are three underlying reasons for this initiative - Europe's endemic unemployment, the need to reestablish a climate of confidence as a prerequisite for renewed investment and consumption, and the need to fit the creation of the single currency into an overall economic strategy aimed at increasing growth, competitiveness and employment in Europe.
'I'm young, help me find a job', is the heartfelt plea of many of young Europeans. But what chance is there that their cry for help will be answered in a difficult global environment?
We have seen the globalisation of strategic relationships in a range of key areas including the environment, the management of energy resources, health, demography and security. The trend has been accelerated by rapid technical progress in the fields of transport and telecommunications. This process has not taken the big multinational companies by surprise - they were already free of the constraints of sovereignty or space, and were quick to globalise their structures. These enterprises have become more competitive by taking advantage, wherever possible, of the most favourable production conditions, particularly regarding raw materials and employment conditions. More spectacular still has been the growth of international trade: in 1990, the volume of world trade was 11.5 times as great as it had been 40 years earlier. During the same period, global production only increased fivefold.
What this means nowadays is that employment in the EU Member States is directly affected (and some would say threatened) by the world situation. Productivity and growth conditions in Europe are no longer sufficient to ensure full employment. Competition from developing countries, with their low wage bills and undervalued currencies, is too great for countries in the EU. Their position is not the same as that of the multinational companies. They do not have the structures to deal with swiftly evolving events, nor are they capable of controlling the process of globalisation. This is demonstrated, inter alia, by their inability to respond to the financial speculation which turns capital away from productive investment. Today, for example, for every US dollar in circulation, there are at least 30 dollars which are the product of financial speculation. This is not money from productive work by any particular person, but money which is the product of a financial 'virtual reality' and which is usually reinvested in financial speculation.
Countries are beginning to realise the need to pool their national skills and cooperate at a regional level, in order to enhance their business competitiveness and take on the challenges of the globalised trading system. But the level of integration implied by this strategic choice must be sufficiently comprehensive if it is to make up for the reduced capability of countries to respond on an individual basis. This process of regionalisation may well be a prerequisite for regulating the world economy in such areas as exchange parities and financial speculation.
And what of Europe in particular? Despite having a head-start on other regional groupings (such Asean, Nafta and Mercosur), the situation is not too rosy. Owing to the lack of a full internal market, Europe is unable to compete on equal terms with the United States or Japan. The internal market still comes up against blocks in important areas, as evidenced by problems over the European employment pact. And there are a number of other defects which make the internal market insufficiently competitive in the context of globalisation. It is true that a more coherent environment has been created for European companies, with common regulations and rules of competition enabling them to distribute their goods and services among the EU's consumers. But despite the appearance of a domestic, or single, market, it is one which is devoid of a genuine internal policy in keeping with its size. This is what distinguishes it from the internal markets of the United States or Japan.
The explanation for the disparity may lie in the fact that the most recent moves towards the single market, through 'Single Act', date from 1987. This was before the upheavals which so decisively signalled the globalisation trend. Despite the criticisms sometimes levelled at it, it is a genuine single market which is largely open to the outside world (with only a few exceptions, notably as regards the Common Agricultural Policy, where it is recognised that there is a need for progressive adaptation). But there is still no single currency, nor is there a genuine common commercial and economic policy. The EU is unable to react to change at world level in the same way as its competitors. The common customs tariff, together with protective measures such as the anti-dumping regulations, are still not sufficient to solve all the Union's problems. What is needed on top of this is an active common policy component.
Yet, as the European employment pact makes clear, the EU holds a trump card in an increasingly interdependent world. The proviso is that it must speak with one voice, enforce multilateral rules and open up new markets for itself, because, as the document points out 'exports create jobs...'
In 1994, the developing world received 37% of global direct foreign investment ($84 billion) as against less than 20% at the beginning of the 1980s (the flow of foreign exchange is regarded nowadays as the principal factor influencing development). This is a spectacular increase but the resources are not 'fairly' distributed from the point of view of either the investing countries or the recipients. For example, southeast Asia is currently the world's most dynamic region. Yet, not to put too fine a point on it, it is virtually ignored by European investors. Only 3% of European overseas investment is directed towards this zone. Likewise, Europe's market share in the region is no more than 5%. The US has invested between two and three times more in south-east Asia while Japanese investment is four times higher.
In 1994, sub-Saharan Africa attracted just 0.8% of direct foreign investment ($1.8 billion). And there is no evidence that Europeans have invested more than the Japanese or Americans in this region. This is despite the highly optimistic outlook for the situation in Africa offered by the late Ron Brown, the former US Trade Secretary. On returning from a tour of Africa with American businesspeople in February 1994, he remarked that major opportunities were opening up in that continent, with spectacular returns on investments - at the time, the best in the world. His regret was that so few people were aware of the situation. Undoubtedly more significant still was the declaration made in Washington before his departure for Africa to the effect that the United States would no longer leave African markets exclusively to the former colonial powers.
So although others are beginning to explore the possibilities offered by Africa, Europe is still sceptical. A similar scepticism prevailed during the 1960s when it was assumed that the lot of south-east Asia would be famine, and few development prospects. Given the historical links between Europe and Africa, the geographical proximity of the two continents, and the pressing problems faced by the 'old' continent vis-is its competitors, such an attitude appears difficult to explain. In the years since the former European colonies in Africa gained independence - and despite the creation of an institutional cooperation framework (the Lomonvention, which many regard as a model of development cooperation) - many Europeans clearly no longer wish to be involved in Africa. The explanation for this lack of interest may be the difficult conditions within African countries - obstacles preventing access to markets, the lack of liberalisation or political instability.
But this analysis in not entirely convincing. More ACP countries are democracies than ever before in the post-independence era. As for Africa - a much-debated ACP region - it is wrong to talk purely in terms of internal conflict, famines or the AIDS epidemic. There are countries in this continent with growth rates of between 5% and 6%, and several examples of where European companies have successfully penetrated local markets.
The need to highlight the existence of genuine business opportunities in ACP countries and to make the European public aware of development aid success stories, were among the main conclusions to come out of the first meeting of a television delegates' network, organised by the European Commission's Development Directorate-General on 31 January 1996.
Any European company chairman interested in expanding into an ACP country - thereby enlarging the company's market and enhancing its competitiveness - is likely to acknowledge the possibilities, if offered back-up from the EU or from national governments. But they will then probably point to the complications which remain - and with some justification.
With this in mind, it is worth reiterating the fact that specialised institutions exist for facilitating contact with the ACP countries. In 1995, for example, the Centre for the Development of Industry (CDI) was involved in 367 projects, assisting, free of charge, in the expansion or rehabilitation of industrial companies in ACP countries, in partnership with European business. Although the number of such projects is constantly increasing (190 in 1993,229 in 1994), it is still a long way short of what is needed. But it should be stressed that the CDl's approach, which involves promoting the creation of networks, appears to work. The establishment OF ACP contact networks in ACP countries makes it easier to identify potential areas for involvement and to prepare better for European institutional and sectoral networks. There are several successful projects which have led to the creation or safeguarding of jobs in Europe.
Also in 1995, the European Investment Bank (EIB) granted ECU 430 million in loans to businesses in various sectors in 29 ACP countries. This includes an increase in the Bank's activity in Africa over previous years.
What, then, of the effect of Europe's development cooperation policies on the European market? According to the most conservative estimates, for every ECU 100 granted in aid, the Community 'gets back' ECU 48 in the form of jobs, supplies and technical assistance. This figure does not take account of additional 'secondary' business generated by, for example, the supply of spare parts or the provision of technical advice. This business can be quite significant given the degree of penetration achieved by European companies in the markets of many developing countries. Nor does the estimate include any new business opportunities directly arising from the links established between the companies involved in aid projects and the recipient countries. Thus, it is clear that when a project is set up, it may well have extra beneficial effects for Europe through additional flows of goods and services.
The 'return' on aid is even greater in Member States' individual bilateral programmes. For example, tied aid from countries such as Belgium, Italy and the United Kingdom leads to a payback of more than 70%. Another point is that as Europe's industrial rules are harmonised, the success of a single European company in penetrating a particular developing country market may pave the way for companies in other EU Member States, thus benefiting the Union as a whole. Tied aid creates favourable conditions for setting up European companies and for placing European goods and services in other markets.
While the return on aid may be described as satisfactory, the same is not true of the number of companies that benefit or of the actual turnover involved. One wonders whether this weakness is due to a lack of information about existing resources and facilities, or whether there still a lack of confidence about countries which, despite the progress they have made, are still politically unstable and therefore unpredictable.
One might also wonder whether the time is right for investment. Our answer would be that, even though financial speculation is currently governed by global economic considerations, which prevent productive targeting of capital, this situation cannot last. There is a worldwide move to rectify the situation.
We all need to be aware that time is no longer on our side. In many sectors, European companies still have a competitive edge over businesses from third countries, owing to their degree of specialisation and technological expertise. But if they are to survive, they must take on a worldwide dimension. In particular, they should pay attention to the comparative advantage that they have in the ACP countries on account of their special skills, historic links, geographical location and, above all, the institutional connections between these developing nations and the 'old' continent.
Although problems do exist and although both European and ACP bureaucracy can sometimes discourage private operators from exploring the potential of the developing world (and more particularly the ACP region), they should not give up. Europe's challenge is to help them to exploit this potential whilst not raising false hopes.
Nothing can take the place of the shared experience and confidence which arises spontaneously in full knowledge of the facts. In this regard, we feel, there is still much to be done. In both Europe and the ACP countries, one way to succeed is to increase the number of networks representing industrial, economic and financial interests at various levels, and to assist them in identifying opportunities more effectively. This would help to create a new dynamism and renewed vigour in Europe.
In the Courier's issue of July-August 1994, we published a country report on Eritrea. This country became independent in 1993 after almost 30 years of fighting which had bled the county white. Loss of human life, displaced persons, socio-economic disruption and environmental damage have been Eritrea's sad fate in recent times. However, there has now been peace for three years and the Eritrean people are attempting to pick up the threads. Alfonso Artico, a freelance journalist who recently travelled to Eritrea, now offers us a few on-the-spot impressions of his trip, focusing on some current projects which offer hope to this sorely afflicted people
Fisheries at Massawa
The port of Massawa is located on the Red Sea, whose blue waters are teeming with fish. In 1986, the European Union suggested that it would be a suitable place for fisheries development. At the time, the city was a maze of back streets, baking in the sun. Few could have predicted the fate that would befall it five years later. For in 1991, war came to Massawa and 80% of the city was destroyed.
The Italians, it is said, have 'always' been here, and they once had great plans for the city. Together with Assab, further to the south, Massawa was to be a key point of access to the sea, and a potential launch pad for the, country's struggling economy. The colonial days are long past but, when the Eritrean Popular Liberation Army took over the country after the recent war, the Italians came back to help tackle an immense task. The city, by then, was little more than a pile of rubble.
Help also came from somewhat further afield, in the shape of Professor Seichi Etoh, a Japanese specialist in marine biology. He had made a study of the city in 1989 and he chose to return in 1992 to help in fisheries development. At the outset, his working methods disconcerted the Eritreans who were used to a slightly more relaxed attitude to labour, under the hot sun and eternally blue sky.
Armed with the experience of working in Kenya and a number of other developing countries, Professor Etoh arrived in Massawa and installed himself in a house looking over the sea. After a period of adaptation, to gain his bearings, he took up his new challenge.
The challenge in question is a fisheries project whose main funders are the UNDP, Japan, Italy and the African Development Bank. A total of $7 million has been committed with payments spread over a five-year period. The project began operating in January 1993.
The main problem at the outset was one of skills and qualifications. Important posts were often filled by high-ranking former solders, whose administrative skills were less than satisfactory. Conversely, those with the right qualifications - some of whom were criticised for spending the war years in the lecture theatres of European universities - had problems finding work. This was particularly true in the closed and conservative world of the fisherman. After a few teething troubles, Etoh was able to announce that he had the confidence of the government, and his efforts rapidly bore fruit thereafter. He set about reorganising the fishermen's cooperative - a task which entailed overcoming the reluctance of members to adopt new practices. He also arranged for the construction of jetties where vessels could take on supplies. Fish were to be unloaded at one spot, and their diesel tanks would be refilled at a different location. The cost of diesel is 1.41 birr (ECU 0.17) per litre. The fishermen's cooperative, which has 440 members, has 35 000 birr (ECU 4000) in its funds. It is also making repayments on a 1.8 million-birr (ECU 200 000) loan.
'In the beginning, there was frenzied activity, which some regarded as chaos', Seichi Etoh recalls. However, in less than two years, the jetties have been completed and the ice plants - essential for preserving the fish - are running flat out. Now they are producing eight tonnes of ice a day. The daily catch is about two tonnes of fish.
The real revolution occurred when Seichi Etoh decided to try and organise cooperatives for women, who represent 25% of the workforce in the production chain. He followed up with an even more radical scheme, offering them paid work in the relatively unrewarding but essential field of ship maintainance and repair. This freed the fishermen, most of whom had no remunerative activity outside the fishing season (November to March), to seek work elsewhere during the other seven months of the year. Eritrea, a country where women's potential has not traditionally been acknowledged (or tapped) had never seen the like before. Nowadays, of the 200 who fish out of Massawa, 50 are women who have formed their own organisation - and they generate a considerable profit. They have even opened up a fish restaurant!
The overall standard of living has increased considerably. This year, fisheries-related production has risen 120% compared with 1995. And the port is doing reasonably well in quality terms. Using the international scale, which ranks the catches from 0 to 10, the quality of fish landings by the Massawa fishermen is rated 6 overall - as against 8 for Japan. 5 for China and 6.5 for Europe. The local market has expanded as a result of efforts to modify local eating habits. People have been taught to grill fish instead of frying it in expensive (and somewhat unhealthy) oil. The message - 'eat grilled fish' - is going out daily on national radio, and women are going into the schools and villages to teach this 'latest' cooking technique.
The local market may be important, but the main target for the increased production is Ethiopia. With the purchase of four refrigerated lorries, it is now possible to transport fish products over long distances. Another important customer is Italy, which currently takes about a third of the total production. Seichi Etoh is hopeful that, following this example, new markets can be found in other parts of Europe.
The success of the Massawa project has exceeded all expectations and, although he downplays the achievement with typical oriental modesty, it is clear that Etoh's bet has paid off. The fishermen have come to understand the advantages to be gained in reorganisation and maintaining their 'tools' of production. And as anticipated, the bulk of the profit from the project is going back to the fishermen. The government has taken care not to cream off too much for itself.
Other projects are now under way. Etoh is attempting to persuade the fishermen to give up their wooden craft in favour of ferro-cement vessels but after centuries of doing things in a certain way, it will take more than a few months for the new plans to be adopted. The monthly meetings with representatives from the cooperatives are stormy and animated. However, two vessels are already being built, on the assumption that a practical demonstration is worth far more than a long speech. The 60 people working directly on the project are awaiting the outcome.
This change has become necessary owing to the cost of wood - which is one of the reasons why the fishermen have grown progressively poorer. Timber prices have been rising sharply for some years, particularly in Dubia, the regional centre of the wood trade. The war, in the meantime, sent incomes spiralling downwards.
Overall, the Eritrean fishing fleet has 500 vessels, all made of wood, of which 250 have Massawa as their home port. In previous years, the wood (known as tengi in Eritrean) came from Ethiopia. But this country is facing ecological problems and fishermen have been forced to search elsewhere for building and maintenance materials for their unstable and costly vessels (a 13-metre boat requires 8 m³ of wood). Etoh explains that the new boats, while slower, glide more easily over the water on account of their stability. However, the first attempts at change have not been easy. Indeed, things got so bad that Etoh went on holiday 'for longer than expected', he said, though he took advantage of the break to visit Singapore and buy Chinese tricycles - which can now be seen in the streets of Massawa. The reign of the bicycle with a simple wicker basket which could carry just 20 kilos is over. Now, each tricycle can deliver 100 kg of fresh fish, packed in ice. All in all, the programme is running smoothly. Etoh has only to check it from time to time. After all this labour, will the smiling Japanese professor be taking a well-earned rest? 'Probably not,' he says, adding 'I am currently thinking about a chain of restaurants. Fish restaurants of course !'.
An unusual 'bank'
The road leading to Gersteti village is so beautiful that it takes your breath away. Multicoloured birds fly lazily above the vehicle carrying the journalists and humanitarian aid workers - who are deep in discussion about the kind of world they wish to create. However, there is a switch in the conversation once they reach the Seraye plateaux. Their attention is drawn to the fields which stretch as far as the eye can see. It doesn't take long to discover that demand for land here far outweighs supply. The situation, which is already critical, has not been helped by the influx of refugees returning from neighbouring countries.
When the war ended in 1991, everyone's prime concern was to relaunch an agricultural sector ruined by 28 years of combat. Farmers and farming communities, the lifeblood of the countryside, had been mobilised to fight on the front line. In 1990, agricultural production was at such a low level that the word 'negligible' featured prominently in the Ministry of Agriculture's statistics.
Oxfam, which first came to Eritrea in 1978, has been running an unusual project on the Seraye plateaux. Located to the south of Asmara, the capital, this region is the second most densely populated part of the country. Five districts containing 65 villages and 17000 families, were chosen for the project - on account of their low rainfall and the fact that it is difficult, and in some cases, impossible, to cultivate the exhausted soil. Local communities, village leaders and politicians all understood that only full-scale collaboration could prevent a food-supply disaster in the province. An organisation was therefore created: the villagers elected 13 representatives (12 men and one woman) and began by setting up a seed bank. There was a severe shortage of seed materials in this devastated country.
The project got off the ground in November 1995 and is set to run for three years. Its objective is simple: to guarantee self-sufficiency in seeds and to provide a reserve during hard times. The 'Seed Bank Committee' has also given training to 40 farmers in seed conservation, terracing and basic agricultural economics. Two wells have been sunk, but these are insufficient for the 40 square kiLomes that require irrigation. Oxfam is putting up the money for the various initiatives while the local community is providing the labour force. It is worth noting that a bag of averagequality cement costs 35 birrs (ECU4), equivalent to one third of a worker's monthly wage. Fourteen different varieties of seed have been stored in sheds - which the locals visit to obtain their supplies. The purchase of 230 quintals of local seeds and the donation of 70 quintals from elsewhere have started the programme off. Next year, Individual farmers will have to repay this 'loan' in kind, with a 10% 'interest payment', also in the form of seeds. The surplus generated will be retained by the bank as a resource to be drawn upon, if necessary, when times are hard.
The local community was quick to understand the advantages to be gained from this system. They were all too aware of the low productivity of their land and up to then, were powerless to resolve the situation. The possibility of falling back on traditional resources to offset production difficulties no longer existed. And the skills they had acquired over the generations were now insufficient, given the poor condition of the soil. In these circumstances, one can well understand their enthusiasm when they saw that 100 kg of seeds per hectare yielded a harvest six times larger than previously. Other elements which contributed to a progressive improvement in conditions were the sinking of new wells, a reduced influx of refugees from Sudan, and a slow but appreciable improvement in the country's general economic situation.
As well as being involved in this project, Oxfam is an active member of Acord, an NGO association which extends cash loans at rates much lower than those demanded by the banks. (Acord's rate is 12% per annum with a minimum repayment of 5 birrs per month). Targeted mainly at the most deprived sections of the population, the loans enable the poor to set up small businesses or, more commonly, to purchase agricultural implements, repair irrigation channels and buy cattle. Once again, a village committee manages the transactions. The scheme has brought renewed hope to the most deprived groups. Individual loans have been available since 1994 and the association currently has 163 clients. The total amount lent so far is 878 000 birrs (ECU 110 000).
The combined effects of these programmes - seed banks and preferential loans - are already visible. It would take months to visit all the farms and fields, workshops and stores, where men and women have invested their energies and hopes. Seraye province now produces a third of Eritrea's cereals, a telling illustration of the fact that one does not need billions of dollars for development and humanitarian aid for the work to be effective. In the final analysis, a country's wealth lies in its citizens.
An up-to-date printing plant
As one strolls down Liberation Avenue, which cuts the city of Asmara in two, one might be forgiven for thinking that 28 years of war have already been forgotten. Surveying the multi-coloured neon signs of the shops, it certainly appears as if the country has turned the corner and the wounds are healing rapidly. One building whose restrained frontage stands outs in sharp contrast is the Adulis printing-works. Adulis was the name of a semi-mythical city founded by the Greeks on the Red Sea in the third millennium before Christ. 'But there is nothing insubstantial about this place', comments Mohamad Shiffa Osman, with a smile. He is one of three expert typesetters who went on a training course in Belgium earlier this year.
The Adulis printing works has its own particular memories of the Eritrean people's struggle for independence. As far back as the 1960s, when the first shots were being fired, the resistance recognised that their fighters and the civil population both had to have access to information. However, it was not until the 1980s that a true propaganda structure came into being. During the war, the Eritrean People's Liberation Army ran a clandestine ministry of information. In Eritrea and elsewhere, this became the channel for conveying practical information, and providing the latest news from the front. It was also used to transmit personal messages, which were delivered to the heart of areas occupied by the Ethiopian Army. 'Our presses were hidden in caves, up in the mountains, and everything was run on generators', Mohamed remembers. The initial amateur approach was quickly replaced by a more professional one. 'We did have professional printers working for us, but it was mainly self-taught comrades'. On-the job apprenticeships had to be fitted in between bouts of fighting!
'At the time of liberation, in 1991, we set about restoring this printing works, which was founded in 1896 by the Italians', Mohamed explained as he gave us a guided tour of the works. The effort put into relaunching this essential activity soon bore fruit. Within the year, the printing operation was running at a profit - indeed it had a virtual monopoly of printing in the country. The presses were brought down from the mountains on the backs of camels and then taken to Asmara by truck. 'You see this Aurelia 48?', asks Mohamed, pointing to a machine. 'Well, it was up in the north, hidden away in a village'. Throughout our visit, Mohamed draws attention to equipment from an earlier age - candidates for the museum which are still in operation.
Some items have their own story to tell, like the press donated years ago by Oxfam which still churns out thousands of sheets every day. During the war, it was taken from cave to cave, following the army's advance as it conquered new terrain. Most of the Adulis machines, however, were already there, when the decision was taken to restart the operation.
The initial budget for the works was a tidy five million birr (ECU 620 000). Today, Adulis has an annual turnover of 20 million birr. Monthly salaries range from 400 birr (ECU 50) for maintenance staff to 1800 birr (ECU 225) for the director, Michael G. Bakhli.
The printing works also acts as a testing ground for workers' social progress. According to Mohamed and the director, the 350 or so people employed at the works benefit from exceptional social cover. If a worker falls ill, his wage is guaranteed for one month, then it drops to 50% in the second month and stops altogether at the end of the third. if a woman is pregnant, she has to take a month's statutory leave and is granted a further two months on full pay. In the event of dismissal, an employee receives two months' wages, although this latter arrangement is gradually changing to one month's wages for each year of service.
Far from resting on the laurels of their success, the Adulis works' directors have appealed for assistance. In order to be at the cutting edge of technology and to have the resources to break into new markets, they need to supplement their knowledge. Therefore, three 'volunteers' spent the three months from January to March this year working in Belgian companies, to the satisfaction of everyone, both hosts and visitors.
Under Mohamed's gaze, the walls of the workshop have been brightened up with posters which provide a splash of colour. Although the noise from the presses often drowns out conversation, you cannot escape the feeling of hope here. It is like a breath of fresh air, and one leaves with the strong impression of a country that is rising from the ashes.
by Eva Kaluzynska
When a cyclone strikes in the Caribbean, beware of giant flying razorblades - airborne sheets of corrugated iron that kill and maim unsuspecting victims every time. 'The use of galvanised iron sheeting for roofing is extremely dangerous in cyclone-prone areas,' says Professor Debarati Guha-Sapir, Director of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the Universite Catholique de Louvain. 'We know this, and we need to encourage the use of lighter materials, such as thatching, which doesn't kill if it flies off in a gale,' she adds.
That is the kind of issue facing people exposed to unavoidable natural disasters - in the Caribbean's case, every year. In 1995, there were 27 tropical storms in the region. CRED has been in the vanguard of monitoring natural disasters and in coming up with solutions to the problems they create since it was set up in 1973. Now it is assisting the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) in developing its new Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Preparedness Programme (DIPECHO) to cover the next two years.
Since 1994, ECHO has spent almost ECU 7 million on 50 disaster prevention operations, at both national and regional levels. Now, instead of just responding to requests for funding from non-governmental organisations, international organisations and governments, ECHO has decided to fine-tune its strategy. It will concentrate its efforts on specific regions known to be particularly vulnerable and prone to natural disasters. We may not know exactly when disasters will strike, but we certainly know where to expect them. The regions selected at present are: the Caribbean, Central America, South East Asia and Bangladesh.
All of them are exposed to repeated emergencies. All of them have a struggle to develop when their efforts are disrupted so frequently. They cannot just pick up where they left off. Loss of life and property is just the most visible aspect of what happens when disaster strikes.
The infrastructure, such as it is, takes a hammering. Road and rail links are severed. Communications, electricity and water supplies break down. Add loss of health care and sanitation, and you get populations exceedingly vulnerable to epidemics. Add loss of education facilites, and a vicious spiral of poverty sets in.
An expert in emergency aid cites the sad example of the Aetas, a tribal group that used to live a secluded life on the remote slopes of Mount Pinatubo, the volcano that erupted spectacularly in 1991 in the Philippines. Though the volcano was known to be menacingly active, the Aetas were not evacuated and resettled in time. They fled in panic as disaster struck, to the plains, where they faced a deadly, invisible enemy: measles, a disease to which they had never been exposed. Measles claimed more victims than the volcano itself did in the months that followed. They could have been resettled earlier. And they could have been immunised years before, but weren't.
It's easy to be wise after the event. DlPECHO aims to encourage action before it's too late. The idea behind ECHO's new policy is to take each region, and to identify its hazards and capacity for dealing with disasters. This will help to pinpoint the gaps. Then it will draw up Action Plans that slot into the wider picture of potential development in each case.
DIPECHO projects will involve training personnel in the regions affected to handle disasters, and to strengthen the institutions that can contribute to effective prevention, preparedness and mitigation.
Some of the solutions are ingenious, low-cost, low-tech ideas. Take, for instance, the use of light, widely-available, inexpensive materials for roofing in earthquake or cyclone-prone zones - an idea poorer countries could adapt from wealthy Japan's experience. Or the construction of safe, raised 'islands' that will stay above the waterline amid flooding in Bangladesh to offer shelter. Or adapting drainage, and changing cropping patterns in Andhra Pradesh, India, to mitigate the effects of cyclones.
In earthquake-prone Central America, protecting roads and bridges, or building schools less prone to collapse is very important. Using the radio or even neighbourhood watch systems to sound the alarm when disaster is imminent can make a big difference to its impact in terms of injuries. Drilling all at risk, from school-age up, to know what to expect and to know what to do is vital.
DIPECHO did not include Africa in its first selection of regions for Action Plans. This is not to underestimate the gravity or scale of the disasters experienced there, says Professor Guha-Sapir: 'Floods, drought and famine are very frequent events there.
They are often killers.' Overexploitation of scarce resources and political turmoil compound situations that lead to disasters which seem less dramatic than a volcano eruption, but are no less far-reaching in impact.
The instability in many of the areas worst affected means that African countries lack the institutions needed to prepare for disasters in an organised way, she says. 'There are limits on ECHO's ability to intervene. It's unrealistic to expect the kind of grassroots, technical preparedness we are talking about in the current situation.'
ECHO's Jean-Claude Heyraud sums up the new policy: 'As far as preventing, mitigating and preparing for catastrophes goes, the new proactive approach reflects the importance ECHO attaches to this type of action. The DIPECHO programme meets the growing need to evaluate risks in order to reduce loss of life and damage to property. If and when emergency aid is needed, preparation and prevention can help to reduce the scale and cost of such actions.'
by Seydou Sarr
The third Festival of African Cinema was held in Brussels on 15-22 June. For one week, film-goers in the Belgian capital filled the auditoria of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, where they discovered new images of an alternative Africa. And as always, when the time came to assess how the Festival had gone, professionals and organisers alike were left pondering the problems facing the African film industry.
Organised for the first time in 1994, on the initiative of Diaspora Productions, the Festival had a number of objectives, including that of bringing Africa's finest films to wider public notice. The initiative stemmed from two observations. In the first place, the European public's opinion of Africa is based on what it sees on television - and that image is of a continent so ravaged by famine, misery and strife that it is incapable of progress. Second, from a professional standpoint, there is no effective distribution network in Belgium for African films. Samba Traore by Burkina Faso's Idrissa Ouedraogo and Hyenes by the Senegalese Djibril Diop Mambety were two rare exceptions in succeeding in getting on to the circuit.
A forum for reflection
In setting up film-industry meetings, the organisers of the Brussels Festival wanted the event to be a forum for reflection on the problems facing African cinema. In the 40 years it has existed, there has undoubtedly been some progress. It is even possible to speak of genuine mastery of images and cinematographic language. But there are also many problems - involving production and distribution, a lack of official support, a shortage of private capital and limited access to international markets. At home, meanwhile, African firms face fierce competition from multi-million dollar productions coming out of the USA, Europe and Asia.
Europe has traditionally offered the only feasible route for those seeking technical and financial resources. The principal donors are the European Union, the ACCT (Cultural and Technical Corporation Agency) and the French Ministry of Cooperation. There are, of course, many instances of African directors producing films without taking this route, but these ventures usually have smaller budgets, and insufficient funds to devote to promotion (press releases, trailers etc). As regards distribution in Belgium, directors face an additional difficulty - they have to take the language issue into account (particularly when films are shown in Flanders).
African professionals are looking at various ways of solving these problems, including the possibility of coproduction with European operators. For some years now, public and private bodies have also been considering the idea of establishing combined co-production teams in a form of partnership, as a way of supporting African cinema. This topic has been on the agenda of other African film festivals (notably in Amiens) and it came up for discussion in Brussels as well.
A colloquium on the subject of ACP/Europe co-production was staged on the fringe of the Brussels event. This served to highlight a number of successful experiments in North/South collaboration. One example was the Cape Verdian film Ilheu de Contenda, by Leao Lopes which was made with support from a Belgian production company, Saga Films. This film was screened at the Festival. It also gave an opportunity to discuss a range of other topics. African journalists accredited to the Festival were given the task of drafting a resolution whose conclusions will be submitted to various contributors including FEPACI (the Pan-African Federation of Film-Makers), the European Union, producers and other donors.
There was general agreement that a coherent legal framework for organising relationships between directors and producers, on the basis of mutual trust, was badly needed.
It is worth making a brief assessment of the efforts made by the organisers of the Brussels Festival to offer an improved programme. The showing of shorts at the beginning of a performance is undoubtedly a formula they should employ again. These works are a specialised genre which give young directors the chance to present their first work. The bulk of the shorts that were screened this year were in the form of 'documentaries' based on fiction - but with one foot in the real world. They dealt with people's lives, their daily concerns, and a variety of social phenomena. Thus, we were presented with films dealing with Aids, urban delinquency, the role of women in society and so on.
Another positive point the organisers should concentrate on is the space resewed for English and Portuguese-language films. There were eight performances in this category including four feature films in English and two in Portuguese. A further worthwhile element was the space allocated to African women (from Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso) who have chosen to use the cinema as a means of expression.
Diaspora Productions' managers are said to be reasonably satisfied with the way the Festival went. They hope it can continue to be held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, since they see this as one way of liberating African cultural events from the Afro-Brussels 'ghetto' where they have often been held. They are also keen, in future years, for African films to be shown in Brussels cinemas while the Festival is under way. If this happens, film-goers in Brussels will have the pleasure, from next year, of seeing quality works in their usual cinemas. The timing is appropriate since the 1997 Brussels event will follow the Ouagadougou Festival (Fespaco) which traditionally sees the launch of a number of new films.
The organisers chose to close the 1996 Festival with a fashion parade which gave Pathe 'O, the designer from Cot'Ivoire, the chance to present his collection to the Brussels audience.
On the fringes of the Festival, there was also a musical offering in the shape of the Toure Kunda brothers who came to lend their support to filmmakers and other African artistes.
There are those who would argue that the Brussels Festival has now entered the category of a 'not-to-bemissed' event. Every year, it attracts significant numbers of film-makers from Africa and the diaspora, even when they have no current projects or films to present. There was a real family atmosphere in the corridors of the Palais des Beaux-Arts, due in no doubt to the absence of competition. From the outset, the Diaspora Productions team chose to stage an event at which prizes were not awarded, thereby promoting reflection and contact with the public. It is generally agreed that the Brussels Festival offers a rare opportunity for film-makers to meet and discuss their productions and projects in a relaxed atmosphere.
The credit for this, in the view of many of the participants, lies with Pape Mbaye Sene, one of the guiding lights of the event, who has also been dubbed the 'high priest' of African cinema. It has, in fact, been suggested tongue-in-cheek that 'in Brussels, they award a Pape, not an Oscar'.
The future of African cinema seen through the eyes of the Malian film maker,
In April, The Courier had the opportunity of meeting Souleymane Cisse, one of Africa's most celebrated film-makers, who has won several awards at major international film festivals. His films, such as Yeelen, which was awarded the Prix du Jury in Cannes in 1987 (the first African film to receive such a prestigious accolade), Waati, which was entered at the same festival, and Finye, have already become classics. Cisse is not just a director, he also produces his own films. In 1972, he impressed international critics by single-handedly producing a short film of exceptionally high quality Cinq jours d'une vie - which won an award at the Carthage Film Festival. By relying, above all, on his own limited resources, combined with a powerful determination to develop and promote Africa's film industry, Souleymane Cisse has an implied but powerful message for the entire African continent. When he went on stage at the Palais des Festivals in 1987 to receive his award for Yeelen, he said that he was accepting it on behalf of all those who did not have the opportunity to speak for themselves. In particular, he dedicated the film to all the South African technicians who had worked together with him on the project. His has made spirited efforts to boost the African film industry and it was in this context that he helped set up the 'Union of African cinema and audiovisual producers and entrepreneurs' last March. This organisation aims to encourage African countries (especially in West Africa), to take the necessary political decisions to ensure the survival and grouwth of African cinema. When we spoke to Souleymane Cisse, our discussion ranged far and wide. We began by asking the film director whether African art gets the recognition it deserves in Europe? He seemed surprised at the question but then, without hesitation, proceeded to explain his own approach - with the emphasis on the political rather than the aesthetic.
- The recognition that African art gets in the West has more to do with politics than aesthetic discernment. Such recognition evolves from the spirit of Africa's relations with the other continents, a spirit which is often devoid of all honesty. We stand at the threshold of the 21st century. We should be looking to develop ways of communicating with each other and finding common ground. We should be able to look each other in the eye. When, for example, people in France debate whether or not the Louvre should have a gallery of African art, it begs the question, 'who is asking for what?'. When some people wonder whether or not African art really is art, they are asking themselves a pointless question. African art is. Nothing more, nothing less. In any case, the West has some highly contradictory views as far as the whole idea of art in Africa is concerned. On the one hand they dispute the fact that the culture of the Ancient Egyptians was, in essence, an African one, and yet on the other hand the characters of Ancient Egypt - in films for example - are always portrayed as dark-skinned. African art is the 'in' thing at the moment, despite the current tendency to belittle Africa. They think that today's Black Americans and Afro-Caribbeans can be made to forget their African roots, but that just will not happen.
· Generally speaking, do you think that African politicians should devote time and energy to this battle to defend African culture when their countries face such insurmountable material problems?
- Once they have gained power, the obsessive preoccupation of our politicians has been to concentrate on economic policies, neglecting their countries' cultural needs. But without a deeply-rooted culture, you cannot discuss matters on equal terms with representatives of other nations. In their heart of hearts, they will not respect you fully. There have been two or three countries which have tried to combine economic development with cultural development - I'm thinking of Guinea under Sekou Toure, Mali under Modibo Keita and Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah, but in one way or another, all three have been thwarted, for their perceptiveness. I am not now commenting on, or necessarily agreeing with, their domestic policies, but rather with the broad vision they shared for Africa as a whole. The fact that Europe is currently in the process of forging the European Union will be an instrumental force in the opening up of other regions of the globe. It was Europe, after all, which divided much of the world into English speakers, French speakers, Portuguese speakers, Spanish speakers and so on. Now that Europeans are themselves seeking to unite their countries, how could they possibly object to a similar union in Africa - for the sake of its cultural identity. This idea of a United Europe is, therefore, a welcome one. What is more, I believe that the issue has already been tackled within relations between the European Union and ACP countries. Not only is Africa the continent closest to Europe; it is in helping to develop the African continent that Europe has most to gain.
· The cultural aspect has already been incorporated into LomV, but it seems that ACP countries do not attach as much importance as they should to such matters when drawing up their lists of priorities.
- Many of the politicians in charge of these countries themselves lack any sort of culture. Alternatively, stripped of their own culture, they flaunt that of a foreign land. They say that health care is a priority, that food is a priority, but cultural needs do not figure on their list. Yet culture forms part of an urgent need. You'll see - as soon as any sort of cultural development takes place in a country, or wherever a country already has a viable, thriving culture, its economy will also flourish; of that there is no doubt. A nation which has a highly developed culture will always be able to stand on its own two feet economically. Take, for example, the nations of the former Soviet Union - their economies may be unstable at the moment. It's only natural that they have to start from scratch, but as long as they manage to hold on to their cultures, they will pull through. These countries will not lag behind as Africa has done.
· It costs money to operate a film industry. Have you found that your reputation as a director has made the financial side of things any easier for you?
- I don't honestly think much has changed in the way we finance our films. Perhaps I should only speak for myself, but I do not believe it is any easier for me than it is for young filmmakers. Mali has no film production facilities, so we are all in the same boat. That is why we organised a colloquium in March this year, aimed at getting a picture of the exact state of West Africa's film industry. What we learned was that it is in pretty bad state. We make films but, in a certain sense, we don't really exist as a film industry. I would dearly like my works to be screened, for example, in Mali, Guinea and Senegal, but that is not possible because the distribution and screening networks are no longer there. Even the most liberal Western countries have passed laws to promote and protect their local film industries, so why don't we do the same? I cannot make films in the United States without first going through various unions and other professional associations. In France, I cannot distribute my films the way I want, and if I want to make a film, I have to make it through French producers. If people come to work here, they should have to use national producers. The relevant laws were drawn up three or four years ago, but they still haven't been passed. We want all those involved in the film industry to have the opportunity to be true professionals. There should be assistance available to modernise projection rooms and theatres. We are currently in the process of setting up the 'Union of African cinema and audiovisual producers and entrepreneurs' which should help to persuade governments to take our requests into account.
· Isn't African cinema also a victim of television?
- The problem in Mali is a very simple one. We live in a country where people like to get out and about. The cinema is somewhere they can do that quite easily. So people use it as a place where they can meet up in the evening, just as they like to congregate around the fire to sing and dance. So why are our cinemas empty? Because when people do go to the cinema, they cannot see the screen properly or they cannot hear the soundtrack, or they are uncomfortable sitting on broken and rickety chairs. If you can provide a suitable and comfortable environment for them, people will start going to the cinema again. That doesn't mean that television doesn't have its place, but people like to go out. This is especially the case with our open air cinemas, which are the perfect places for people to come together, have a chat, enjoy each other's company and relax. A nice auditorium, a good film, and you'll see how the queues will form. All we need to do is upgrade the auditoria, re-equip the projection rooms, overhaul the sound systems, put new chairs in - just a few basic comforts. When people go out to the cinema, it's because they want to escape from their humdrum routine for a while, to dream and unwind.
African governments should do what they can to enable people to relax and enjoy themselves like this. Going to the cinema is like going to school. People go there to learn something - whether consciously or subconsciously - and to see something different. We really must get rid of this purely commercial vision of the cinema, especially in Africa. It should, first and foremost, be a cultural experience, and only subsequently a commercial exercise. But we also need to be realistic. When helping those involved in promoting the film industry, the government should lay down a precise set of conditions, specifying how and when the loans should be repaid and requiring something in return for their subsidies.
· So you think that if the Ministries of Culture in African countries were given greater powers, they would be in a position to carry out this task?
- It is not something solely for the Ministry of Culture. This is the type of approach which should be adopted by the state as a whole, in each country. For example, the government should provide a support fund for the film industry and certain other branches of the arts. Even if they were increased substantially, the meagre budgets allocated to the Ministry of Culture in our countries would still represent paltry sums. In Africa, the department of culture is at the bottom of everybody's list.
· But if you look at the number of African films that have been shown in recent years at Cannes and other international festivals, surely one can afford to be a little more optimistic than you are? More and more young African filmmakers are releasing films.
- True, but as I said earlier, no progress has been made as far as film production is concerned. In that respect, contrary to what people may think, we are still at square one. Young filmmakers are put off and, as more and more avenues are closed to them, they gradually lose their fighting spirit. A film director has no choice but to be his own producer, his own manager - to do everything himself in fact. The result is that he becomes a jack of all trades and a master of none. During our recent colloquium, we decided to set up smallscale facilities which will deal solely with film production and where young people can go and use their services, thus leaving them free to channel their energies into actually directing their films. In the same way, we intend to set up other structures which will deal exclusively with other aspects of the cinema industry. The goal we have set ourselves is that of fostering professionalism in the West African film industry. Maybe then our governments will listen to us.
· Do you think there is any difference between African countries as far as opportunities are concerned? For example, Burkina Faso would appear to be the cinema capital of Africa.
- Yes, and no. More often than not, it is African film-makers who have chosen Burkina Faso to stage events connected with the cinema industry because it is a landlocked country. This is what has made it the film capital of Africa, not any deliberate move on the part of the politicians. Having said this, the government in Burkina Faso is also making great efforts, despite its limited resources. But each country has its own potential. We must stop trying to tear this continent apart.
· You mentioned the former President of your own country, Modibo Keita, as one of those far-sighted enough to appreciate the importance of nurturing African culture. Where does Mali stand at the moment in terms of strengthening its own cultural heritage identity?
- After independence, in the years from 1960 to 1968, there was a time when young people would get together and become involved in various biennial art festivals. We had a series of events which encouraged a kind of a 'cultural vision' nationwide. They were so successful that other countries were soon following our example. After the coup in 1968, however, everything fell apart. In the following 23 years there was a total cultural vacuum, in which young people felt completely disorientated, despite superficial attempts to relaunch the festivals. We are now only just trying to rediscover our cultural roots after a long period of upheaval. What we in Mali do have working in our favour, is the fact that our country is a harmonious patchwork of different peoples, all living together without the slightest trace of bitterness or hatred. We are lucky here because our rulers rarely tried to manipulate our ethnic loyalties to set one group against another. A Malian, irrespective of his roots, will always rejoice in the success of his fellow countrymen, whatever tribe they happen to belong to. We owe our good fortune to a heritage in which our peoples have always respected one another - even when they have faced each other as enemies. It is only as a result of this historic mutual respect that we can now speak of a Malian culture where each individual group of people has its own idiosyncrasies, its own customs, is sensitive towards other cultures and actually rejoices in their differences.
One of CTA's tasks is to provide information on request to researchers, extension workers, planners, farmers' organisations, trainers and information specialists involved in agricultural development in ACP states. In addition to requested publications, CTA also distributes publications on its own initiative to its target groups. These publications, some 550 titles, are also supplied free of charge and consist of books published by CTA, co-published, or purchased specially because of their relevance. In 1995, almost 65 000 books were posted to ACP countries.
The people who receive the publications to some extent select themselves, because they write to CTA with requests for information. They find out about its existence through attending CTA seminars held in ACP countries or in Europe, or through seeing copies of Spore (CTA's bi-monthly bulletin in English, French and Portuguese which goes to around 50 000 addresses and is seen by many more), or by word of mouth. Over the years, CTA has built up a mailing list of 42 500 addresses of people and organisations active in some way in agriculture and rural development. Of the total, 37 800 are in ACP countries.
But there are questions. Are our books getting to those who need them and is the targeting accurate enough? And, most importantly, is this the best way of doing things? For CTA does not - and cannot - satisfy the total demand for books on agriculture and rural development.
What is the best way?
Despite the number of addresses on the mailing list, many more people could in theory still be added. Should CTA even try to satisfy this demand? The publications are free and, if CTA increased its coverage of the demand, it might in some countries hold back the development of local bookselling with a consequent detrimental effect on local publishing.
The majority of those now on the mailing list are 'individuals' rather than institutions, libraries, documentation centres, associations, organisations, etc. On the face of it, more people could be reached by sending CTA publications to groups rather than to individuals, but it's not always clear who is an individual in the sense of information not being shared with others. Some individuals are teachers, some are extension agents, some receive publications on behalf of a cooperative, for example.
Because of the importance of information - the driving force behind development - CTA has been investigating and giving support to technical publishing and book distribution in Africa over the last few years and is currently examining its own policy on book distribution over the ACP countries as a whole. Part of the context for this policy re-appraisal is the state of bookselling.
Difficulty of book distribution
Everyone involved in the books business in and for the ACP countries knows that getting books where you want them to go, book distribution, is not straightforward. The reasons for the difficulty are not straightforward either. One development officer remarked of Papua New Guinea that the lack of books outside the capital, Port Moresby, couldn't simply be explained by lack of roads, because in the most out of the way places you could be sure of finding Coca Cola. Is it, then, that the Coca Cola company has superior marketing and distribution arrangements? Probably so, but it is the nature of the two products which also determines how far they get. Traders will more readily take goods which they know they will be able to sell easily and the immediate satisfaction given by cigarettes or Coca Cola tends to put them before books in the list of priorities for purchase.
Among the ACP countries where CTA sends books and information, many have under-developed road and rail networks while the postal facilities provide a reliable service only to a relatively small part of the country. The local book publishing and bookselling industries are often themselves developing. Potential readers often cannot afford to buy the books and consequently book distribution is the weak link in the chain from writing and publishing a book to selling it. If books can't be sold, new ones can't be published, for the investment finance for a new publishing project has to come from somewhere.
In Africa, the lack of a strong local book sector was attributed in part to the traditional oral culture of the continent which left little need for reading. The majority of students would read in order to pass their exams, after which they hardly sought books again to buy or to read.
The main books distributed were therefore textbooks for schools, colleges and for higher education. As long as these were distributed through booksellers, a forum still existed for displaying and raising interest in other books.
Booksellers could also function as sources and conduits of information about the variety of books in print and of their interest to particular groups.
This development was stunted because of the low purchasing power of many people, lack of foreign exchange (except in the CFA franc states), high cost of importing (either books or the raw materials, print machinery and spare parts to manufacture books) and, consequentially, shortage and lack of variety of locally-published books.
In addition, in some countries the state intervened in school book publishing and supply (for example in Tanzania), so that the bread and butter of the bookselling business disappeared.
Booksellers then either diversified their stock so that they became bookseller-stationers or worse - books came after groceries, footballs, hats, etc., or the booksellers ceased trading in books or closed down.
The publishing-distribution chain in Africa
Book distribution is part of a chain of activities in the book sector which depend on each other and support each other. The chain starts with an idea for a book which may come from an author or from potential readers who make known their needs and it ends with the published books being bought. The lack of a good book distribution infrastructure in Africa is linked to the lack of a wide variety of books from a good number of publishers and the lack of a market for the books.
At least until South Africa became a democracy, Nigeria probably had the most active publishing industry in Africa with a high level of publishing professionalism. In such a huge country this may not be surprising: there is a large market, state administrations with urban headquarters, and a variety of arrangements for publishing and distributing books. But publishers suffer from a scarcity of investment funds, with high costs of borrowing, which affects their ability to keep books in print and to start new publishing projects. Relatively few technical books are published locally because of the risks when compared with, for example, publishing school textbooks.
In such a vast country, the state of book distribution varies from place to place, with cities and large towns obviously having a greater variety of books available for sale than small towns and rural areas. Small traders carry books to the latter; they do not take orders and the books they carry are those that they can get hold of which they think will sell. Would-be readers are frustrated unless they or their friends visit a city. Mail order is not a possibility because the domestic postal service is not trusted.
In the urban areas, where there are booksellers, an indeterminate number of potential readers cannot afford to buy books, especially those that have been imported. Book piracy is a consequence of this. Booksellers' sales have declined, their turnover has been reduced as has their ability to stay in business. Some institutions in the country buy direct from publishers or from overseas suppliers rather than from booksellers, which further damages them. Booksellers buy books from publishers in small quantities for a fast turn-round which affects publishers' ability to build up investment funds for the next publishing project or for a large reprint with its possibility of reducing unit book costs.
This is not to say that technical books are totally unavailable from Nigerian booksellers, but it is clear that only specialised outlets which know their book-buying customers well can risk stocking some of them. Rural dwellers have no chance of buying them without making a big effort in time and money.
In contrast, Senegal has a less developed publishing and bookselling industry than Nigeria, with about a dozen professional publishers and a small network of booksellers, mostly in Dakar and the larger towns in the regions. The most important publishing opportunities in Senegal are in the field of primary school textbooks - where there is competition both within the country, with publishers from other developing states, and from the North. Senegal being a lot smaller than Nigeria, there is only room for one textbook, and primary school book production is not therefore the mainstay of local publishers. The publisher which used to supply all primary and secondary school textbooks for the Ministry of National Education is an exception and is still probably dependent upon educational publishing for its turnover. Few technical books are published; as with books for higher education, they are imported.
The network of booksellers has been decreasing and it is difficult to make a living just by selling books without the back-up of other products to sell. Thus there are bookseller-stationers, bookseller-grocers, kiosks and street sellers, especially of secondhand books. Booksellers tend to order titles in small quantities because they cannot risk being left with unsold stock which ties up their capital. They order little and often. Most school textbooks are distributed through the Ministry of National Education, but booksellers still sell a variety of textbooks, some official and approved and some not. Before the devaluation of the CFA franc, booksellers ordered more from abroad. These books have now doubled in price, making them unaffordable, with a consequent opportunity opened for local publishers to fill a gap.
Apart from the professional publishers, various sorts of publications are being produced and distributed by literacy and post-literacy organisations and a delegated literacy ministry. Some organisations promote literacy for its own sake, while others use the attainment of literacy as the means through which development can spread in rural areas. The publications concern rural development, agriculture, health and nutrition, and rural democracy, amongst others. There is a good variety of different titles and a good supply of cheap and affordable books. Some are sold through booksellers, but most people buy them when they take their literacy courses, while small traders carry them up-country to sell and buy more copies from the publishers with the proceeds.
Book aid schemes
A whole literature exists on book aid schemes. Briefly, book aid comes in two forms, one using the local book sector and the other not to any great extent. The British Government's Educational Low Prices Books Scheme (sadly scheduled to end, at least in its present form, in April 1997) and the French Government's Programme Plus both use the local bookselling industry to make available standard tertiary textbooks and others at subsidised rates. Not all students could afford to buy them, but the two schemes nonetheless promote bookselling and commercial life within ACP countries and beyond. To some extent they safeguard the continuation of fore where up-to-date books can be seen.
CTA's books aid scheme does not use the local book sector in terms of book distribution, although cooperation in co-publishing is beginning. The FAO, in distributing publications to ACP and other developing countries, is similar. Books supplied under multilateral and bilateral agencies' projects have tended to sidestep the local book sector, although this has been changing.
As with food aid, the question to be answered is whether continuing the aid prolongs the condition? Or does the analogy with food aid break down in certain circumstances because books are different?
Improving book distribution in Africa
Various efforts are being made to improve book markets for African publishers. For example, the African Books Collective, based in Oxford, UK, markets and sells both anglophone and francophone African publishers' selected books in the North and also to other African countries. It is often easier for publishers in the North to sell their books in Africa than it is for African publishers to sell their books across frontiers and in the continent.
Publishers Associations have been formed in about a dozen countries with APNET, the African Publishers' Network, celebrating its fourth year as a continental association. CTA supported APNET in the production of the first catalogue of agricultural books published by African publishers. Very recently, an Africa-wide booksellers association has been created.
CTA and future book distribution
Since CTA started distributing books on agriculture and rural development, publishing and bookselling activities in many ACP countries have multiplied and the context has changed somewhat. As noted at CTA's Montpellier conference in 1995, there is now much information and many documents going from North to South, suited to the planners, research workers and extension agents who process the information and pass it down to the small-scale farmers. Rather, a two-way information route would be more efficient, between farmers who have information to offer as well as information needs and information providers. The growth in requests to CTA for publications from co-operatives and farmer associations and from non-academic libraries and documentation units is evidence that the publications distribution service is fulfilling a need.
I read your article on 'Earthen Architecture', published by the CTA Bulletin in the September-October 1996 issue of The Courier (n° 159) with a great deal of interest.
The article presents such traditional products as rammed earth and adobe which have been used by man since time immemorial as witnessed by constructions and monuments to be found in the countries cited by the authors of the article, as well as industrial products such as the compressed earth block (CEB), which have provoked much interest in many parts of the world.
The authors also demonstrate that the use of the compressed earth block has a distinct advantage in that it valorises local raw materials, encourages the setting up of local enterprises and creates employment.
In this regard, I would particularly wish to inform you that the Centre for the Development of Industry (CDI) has, for the last ten years, been working on the industrial development of the CEB sector through support to ACP promoters at various levels:
- diagnostic studies of projects and setting-up of production
- search for EU technical partners who have economically advantageous technologies and are ready to transfer their know-how;
- training of enterprise personnel in CEB production and in the utilisation of this product;
- support in the manufacturing of brick presses such as is currently the case in Nigeria.
Some 100 small and mediumsized enterprises and non-governmental organisations in ACP countries involved in the CEB sector have benefited from direct CDI assistance. This assistance has, notably, led to the improved technical and economic performance of these enterprises.
Beyond support to projects, the CDI in collaboration with CRATerre actively participates in the industrial promotion of this technology. The Centre recently disseminated 2000 copies of a technical guide entitled 'CEB: Production Equipment' throughout the ACP countries. An exhibition on the compressed earth block and its application took place during the Industrial Mining Forum held in Lusaka, Zambia, in December 1994. Similar exhibitions were held during the Matconstruct Forum (Libreville, Gabon, October 1995) and at the Industrial Partnership event (Bordeaux, France, February 1995).
The standardisation of the compressed earth block is a prerequisite for the development of this sector. The Centre therefore organised a workshop on this topic in Yaounde in 1996 as a follow-up to the Matconstruct Forum. This seminar brought together some 40 ACP and EU participants to discuss the 'CEB: Standardisation' guide currently being prepared by CRATerre for publication in December 1996.
The main objective of the guide is to encourage ACP promoters to manufacture products in conformity with accepted norms and thus facilitate CEB integration in the industrial construction market.
Efforts made by the CDI, in collaboration with CRATerre, to develop the CEB sector deserve to be better known. We would therefore look forward to an opportunity to present the Centre's activities in this sector in a future issue of me Courier.
Surendra Sharma, Director, Centre for the Development of
Thank-you for your informative magazine. I wish you all the best in your endeavours to improve me Courier further. May I suggest that in the Country Report profiles, you include an inset map of the region highlighting the country in question for those readers who may not be familiar with the area.
Andrew Frederick Meya, Kampala, Uganda.
A number of readers have raised this point with us since we have rearranged the cover pages and transferred the ACP and Europe 'regional' maps to the inside back cover. In future, we will endeavour to ensure that there is a cross-reference to this page in the Country Report profile.
La politique etrangere du Cameroun (Cameroon's foreign policy)
By Narcisse Mouelle Kombi. Pub. L'Harmattan, Collection «Points de vue» (5-7, rue de l'Ecole Polytechnique, F-75005 Paris). 1996. 238 pp. ISBN 2-73843701-X.
Cameroon belongs to the zone formerly called the 'Third World' which is nowadays labelled the 'South'. This region of great diversity currently faces major socio-economic and political conflict, and receives 'multiform' and 'tied' aid from the developed countries.
This does not, however, prevent it from having a degree of freedom of action in diplomatic terms.
The author, who is a specialist in international law, believes that as a player on the world scene, Cameroon puts its foreign-policy skills to good advantage and has acquired a certain respect in international relations and in global institutions.
He argues that Yaounde is attempting to implement a realistic and pragmatic foreign policy, reflecting its own sovereign status and the imperatives of development.
At the same time, the country is endeavouring to implement the changes forced upon it by modern circumstances.
Le developpement institutionnel - Les organisations a l'epreuve de la specificite et de la concurrence (Institutional development - Organisations based on specificity and competition)
By Arturo Israel. Translated from the English by Alain Claisse. Pub. L'Harmattan (5-7, me de l'Ecole Polytechnique, F-75005 Paris). 1996. 235 pp. 140 FF. ISBN 2-73844322-2.
A graduate of the University of Chile and the London School of Economics, the author has devoted most of his career (particularly within the World Bank) to examining the problems of economic and social development.
He has been one of the pioneers of institutional development, a field which is nowadays seen as essential to all development strategies.
He argues that institutional development requires not bureaucratisation but the promotion and recognition of two principles in both public and private organisations. These are competition and specificity.
The former induces those involved to improve the quality of their work, whilst forcing them to listen to the 'consumer'. The latter involves qualifications, specialisation and a precise definition of objectives, tasks, resources and results.
After a critical review of assessment reports produced over a 15-year period by the World Bank in the field of institutional development, Arturo Israel tells us why such development is one of the keys to success in development projects. He demonstrates that a good project being implemented in an unfavourable institutional environment has little chance of achieving positive long-term effects.
La justice internationale face au drame rwandais (International justice confronted by the Rwandan crisis)
Under the direction of Jean-Franse Dupaquier, with William Bourdon, Pierre-Serge Heger, Frederic Mutagwera, Fran,cois-Xavier Nsanzuwera, Rakiya Omaar, William A. Schabas and Anne-Marie Swartenbroekx. Pub. Karthala (22-24, boulevard Arago, F-75013, Paris). 1996. 248 pp. FF 130. BF. 715. ISBN 2-86537-662-1.
It is two years since the genocide and political massacres which resulted in the death of a million people in Rwanda. In this work, the authors describe and analyse the progress made in various legal proceedings in Rwanda itself, in the international arena and in the jurisdictions of Belgium, France, Canada and Switzerland.
Some countries have been slow and apparently reluctant to fulfil their international obligations and this has resulted in disappointment and impatience on the part of the victims' families, jurists and human rights activists.
Given the example of the Nuremberg trials, the authors suggest there are good grounds for concluding that international human rights have become less important over the last 50 years. This work allows one to reach a considered opinion. Modern legal instruments provide for the punishment of those responsible for the appalling tragedy in Rwanda. These instruments could be seen as a significant advance in the recognition of human rights by the international community. But what is missing at the moment is the political will (and public pressure) to implement them.
Methodologies d'analyse de la mortalite des enfants - Applications au Cameroun (Analytical methodologies in child mortality as applied to Cameroon)
By Amadou Noumbissi. Pub. Braylant-Academia (25, Grand Rue, B-134B Louvainla-Neuve) and L'Harmattan (5-7, rue de l'Ecole Polytechnique, F-75005 Paris). 1996. 305 pp. ISBN 2-87209389-3 (Academia-Braylant) and ISBN 2-7384-3722-2 (L'Harmattan).
Child mortality, always very high in sub-Saharan Africa, varies according to social class, habitat and region. The identification of the social, economic and cultural factors which influence the survival of children depends on the quality of data, and on the relevance of the indicators and statistical models used.
With the aid of specific examples, this work attempts to demonstrate the origin of a number of sources of bias in so-called classical approaches and the distortion of the truth which a poor choice or detrimental manipulation of statistical models can give rise to.
A teacher and researcher at the Demographic Institute of the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), the author proposes methods to take account of the interdependence and synergy which exist between the factors which affect the risk of mortality. He applies these methods to the data gained in two national surveys which were carried out in Cameroon in 1978 and 1991.
Revue Region et Developpement (Region and Development Journal)
Pub. L'Harmattan (5-7, rue de l'Ecole Polytechnique, F75005 Paris). 1995. 238 pp. ISBN 2-7384-4125-4
This half-yearly journal, first launched in 1995, deals with the various socio-economic aspects of regional development. The second issue contains articles which may be of interest to our readers, including: 'Regionalisation, globalisation and polarisation of the world economy: is there room for developing countries?', and 'Housing models in developing countries'.
Structural adjustment and ethnicity in Nigeria
By Eghosa E. Osaghae. Pub. The Nordic Africa Institute (P.O. Box 1703, S-751 47 Uppsala, Sweden). 1995. 66 pp. ISBN 91-7106373-0.
The author is a lecturer who heads the politics department at the University of Transkei in South Africa. A significant conclusion from his study, undertaken at the Nordic Africa Institute, is that from the ethnic standpoint, the implementation of structural adjustment (with its corollary of reduced state involvement in public life), has had positive effects in Nigeria. This contrasts with the usual perception of the structural adjustment process.
The migration experience in Africa
Collection prepared under the direction of Jonathan Baker and Tade Akin Aina. Pub. The Nordic Africa Institute (P.O. Box 1703, S-751 47 Uppsala, Sweden). 1995. 353 pp. ISBN-91-7106366-8.
This volume aims to take stock of migration in Africa. The causes of the phenomenon are varied and complex, and the authors have chosen an approach which illustrates the diversity of the theories, and methodological and analytical trends involved.
The book offers an empirical assessment of migration in contemporary Africa, focusing particularly on the problem of women migrants. Migration is an important element in the wider development equation and this work fills a gap in the literature.
Challenges to the Nation-State in Africa
Collection prepared under the direction of Adebayo O. Olukoshi and Liisa Laakso. Pub. The Nordic Africa Institute (P.O. Box 1703, S-751 47 Uppsala, Sweden) in collaboration with the Institute of Development Studies, University of Helsinki. 1996. 213 pp. ISBN 91-7106381-1.
The challenge confronting the nation state in contemporary Africa are of great interest to specialists attempting to understand how deconstruction and recomposition of the political identity of populations affects the post-colonial unitarian project. The studies offered in this volume show that this process has often taken ethno-regionalist, religious or separatist forms - reinforced by economic crisis and the negative effects of structural adjustment, not to mention the legacy of years of political authoritarianism and exclusion dating from the colonial period.
The authors believe that in order to promote national unity and a sense of citizenship in Africa, priority should be given, inter alia, to more representative forms of government, power-sharing and decentralisation, multi-party elections, the reinvention of the post-colonial social contract and cultural autonomy for minority groups.
Agenda for Africa's economic renewal
Collection prepared under the direction of Benno Ndulu and Nicolas van de Walle. Pub. Overseas Department Council (1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1012, Washington, DC 20009, USA). 1996. 246 pp. ISBN 1-56000900-4.
For 20 years, sub-Saharan Africa has been experiencing a severe economic crisis. Growth has been stagnant and the result has been reduced living standards for much of the population, and ever-increasing pressure on the continent's political structures. Structural adjustment, advocated by international organisations in an attempt to restore growth in Africa, has not had the anticipated results and has given rise to a number of disputes.
In this book, 10 African, US and European experts attempt to look beyond the immediate horizon and identify strategies which could be implemented to give renewed vigour to the African economy. They analyse the choices which should be made in key areas such as agriculture, trade and industry, the role of the state and the social sectors.
World congress against the sexual exploitation of children
The first international congress dealing with the problem of the sexual exploitation of children for profit was held in Stockholm from 27 to 31 August. The initiative for the meeting came from ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism), working in collaboration with the Swedish government, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and a group of NGOs supporting the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The congress was attended by government representatives from most of the UN countries, participants from various international and regional organisations (including the UN Centre for Human Rights, the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation, UNESCO, UNHCR and Interpol), NGOs, health professionals and media representatives from across the globe.
The aim of the congress was to draw the international community's attention to the issue of the sexual exploitation of children and to promote the development of national plans to tackle all forms of abuse in this area. It focused particularly on three aspects: child prostitution, the 'trade' in children for sexual purposes, and child pornography.
Although there are a number of legal instruments which refer to these problems, the key one for the purposes of the Stockholm meeting was the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In Article 34 of this multilateral treaty, which has been ratified by 186 countries, the signatory states commit themselves to protect children against all forms of exploitation and violence of a sexual nature. For the purposes of the Convention, a child is defined as any human being less than 18 years old, except where the age of majority is lower than 18 in the relevant local legislation (Article 1).
The committee that was responsible for planning the Congress drew up documents on a number of themes including: the revision and application of laws; psycho-social prevention; tourism and child prostitution; those who engage in abuse; hygiene and health; the role of the media; child pornography; education; and human values. These subjects were all examined by working groups during the two-day session.
The congress was addressed by Anita Gradin, Member of the European Commission with responsibility for internal and judicial affairs, and matters relating to immigration. She took the opportunity to underline the point that the traffic in women and children was international. Organised crime, she said, lay at the heart of the 'trade' and it was closely linked to a whole range of other criminal activities. She cited, in this context, kidnapping, forging of documents, 'false' marriages and adoptions, clandestine immigration, violence and forced labour. these, in turn were associated with the drug trade, extortion and murder. The conclusion was that a global action plan and more international cooperation were needed. Ms Gradin acknowledged that existing arrangements had been successful in exposing the existence of paedophile networks but she was convinced that international cooperation should be strengthened further, and that organisations such as Interpol and Europol would be called upon to play a bigger part in the future. The European Commissioner went on to declare that a commitment to the protection of children ought to be a priority. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - which is now eight years old - should not merely tee 'adopted' by all countries. It should, rather, be applied in full and integrated into the legislation of every nation. There was no point, she suggested, in enacting new laws, if the existing ones were not being implemented and the financial resources had not been provided. Ms Gradin reaffirmed the European Commission's commitment to the fight against the exploitation of children. This would be reflected in communications to be drawn up by the Commission for presentation to the Council of Ministers and European Parliament, on the following subjects: - the treatment of women (on the basis of the recommendations made by the Vienna Conference on this subject, which was held in June 1996); - sex tourism, notably in certain countries in Asia and Latin America; - actions designed to eliminate paedophile rings and child pornography networks which make use of new information technologies such as the Internet. During the congress, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that his country would be launching an initiative at the EC's Justice and Internal Affairs Council meeting scheduled for 26 and 27 September. They would be proposing common action designed to strengthen police and judicial cooperation in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children for profit. He believed that it should be possible to take measures both within the framework of the Europol Convention, and by means of new and specific cooperation instruments. The culmination of the Stockholm congress was the adoption of a declaration and an action plan. These foresee strengthened cooperation and coordination among local and national authorities, and a series of measures to protect children, prevent abuse and provide rehabilitation.
1997: European year against racism
In a resolution adopted on 23 July, the Council of Ministers formally designated 1997 as the European year against racism. The aims, set out in the resolution, include: - highlighting the threat posed by racism, xenophobia and antisemitism, in terms of both respect for fundamental rights, and in ensuring the economic and social cohesion of the European Community; - encouraging reflection and discussion of the measures needed to tackle racism, xenophobia and antisemitism in Europe; - promoting a sharing of experiences, best practice, and effective strategies drawn up at the local, national and European levels; - disseminating information on the aforementioned best practice and strategies amongst those most closely involved in the fight against racism, xenophobia and antisemitism, with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of their actions in this area; - highlighting the advantages of integration policies implemented at the national level, in particular in the fields of employment, education, training and housing; - taking account, wherever possible, of the experiences of victims of racism, xenophobia and antisemitism, and promoting the participation of these people in society. ECU 6 million will be spent on a series of activities designed to help achieve these objectives during the 'year against racism'. A logo and slogan will be devised, and seminars and conferences will be staged with the aim of strengthening international cooperation (themes will include the role of education in eliminating racism, ways of establishing dialogue, and establishing mutual respect between different communities living in towns and cities). Documents and audiovisual material will be distributed, and an effort will be made to get the message across in the media. There will also be action to encourage information exchanges on best practice, and to increase public awareness of the issue. Prizes will be awarded to media organisations which safeguard the quality of the information they put out and which seek to promote tolerance. A specific effort will be made to counter the racist propaganda now appearing on the Internet.
WTO banana challenge
The European Union has set out its legal defence of duty-free preferences for African and Caribbean banana producing countries that are members of the Fourth Lomonvention. This took place in September at an initial hearing of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel - convened at the request of a number of competing banana producer nations. African and Caribbean states were permitted to voice their opinion as third part)" in the case, despite an objection from the United States. The EU's banana market arrangements - notably Protocol 5 of the Lomonvention, which sanctions duty-free access - have twice before come under attack in the Geneva body. Two earlier hearings in the WTO's forerunner, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), concerned the EU's previous state-to-state regime, and the new single market arrangements which have been in operation since July 1993. The present panel was set up at the request of four Latin American banana producer nations - Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala - together with the United States which is arguing that its domestic banana companies are losing out. The complainants jointly claim that the tariff quota for Latin American nations, the core of regulation 404/93 establishing the EU regime, discriminates against them. They also challenge the licensing arrangements of the so-called 'framework agreement' made under the GATT framework in 1994 with four Latin American nations (Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Venezuela). In return for a bigger share of the EU market, these four agreed to refrain from further challenges in the WTO against the EU's banana arrangements.
The panel is expected to give its verdict in March 1997. The hearings are taking place behind closed doors, but it is understood that EU and ACP nations can count on the support of Japan - which currently imposes its own quotas on imports of other items and does not want to be challenged for these - and that of India which wants to show solidarity with the ACP countries.
Speaking in Geneva, Cot'lvoire's Commodities Minister, Alain Gauze, stressed the heavy dependence of many African and Caribbean states on banana growing. 90% of Dominica's commodity exports are bananas and the crop accounts for 70% of its export receipts and 25% of its Gross Domestic Product.
One ACP representative in Brussels described the task ahead es 'convincing them (the panel) that the banana regime and regulation 404/93 are required to fulfil the obligations of the EU under the Lomonvention and the subsequent waiver.'
The waiver to which he referred was accorded by GATT to the Lomonvention's various non-reciprocal trade preferences in 1994, but it is up for renewal at the end of the year.
The EU has already put in a request for its extension until February 29, 2000, coinciding with the expiry date of LomV.
The WTO was expected to rule on the renewal of the waiver in mid-October ahead of the panel's decision. If the renewal of the waiver were to be disallowed, the EU and ACP 'defendants' at the panel could find themselves on shaky legal ground.
In the meantime, the EU has fixed its 1996 tariff quota, allowing a maximum of 2.553 million tonnes of Latin American bananas to be imported into the Union with a tariff of ECU 75 per tonne.
A further quota of 72 440 tonnes has been allocated to this region following tropical storms Iris, Luis et Marilyn. The damage caused by these storms led to the suspension of supplies of bananas from several Caribbean islands.
EU banana production is expected to reach 750 000 tonnes in 1996, while preferential imports from the African and Caribbean members of the ACP group have been fixed at 680 000 tonnes. According to latest predictions, the total consumption of this fruit in the European Union in 1996 will be 4030440 tonnes.
Trade and labour standards
Ahead of the first ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to be held in December in Singapore, the European Commission has published a discussion paper (COM (96) 402 final) on whether labour standards should be linked to trade - which could mean sanctions for nations which do not comply with globally recognised labour clauses. What is at stake is to draw up globally recognised criteria and implement them without accusations of protectionism from some developing nations.
At an informal meeting of EU trade ministers in Dublin on September 18, EC Trade Commissioner, Sir Leon Brittan, said that, in supporting an international code, the European Union had no intention of damaging the competitive advantage of developing nations.
Many Asian countries, who view the move of the EU and of other industrialised nations as veiled protectionism, do not even want the subject broached at the Singapore meeting. However, mention was made of the link between trade and internationally recognised labour standards in the conclusions of the Uruguay Round of GATT in Marrakesh in 1994, which requested that the WTO do more work on this issue.
The recent Commission paper advances the reasons for an international code: 'Workers in certain sectors in particular perceive that their jobs are under threat from imports from countries which allow unfair or unacceptable working practices.
These concerns cannot be ignored and should be addressed by the world trading system. Otherwise the perception will be - wrongly - that trade liberalisation is the problem and not the solution to the challenge to all societies to create a higher standard of living for all their citizens.'
It further makes the point that such a policy is in line with others such as the promotion of democracy, respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law. The EU has always upheld the view that there is a positive correlation between social progress, economic growth and trade liberalisation. According to the paper: 'There is no question of imposing on developing countries the higher wage levels and better working conditions which pertain in the industrialised world. Nor is this an action designed to re-erect new barriers to trade under cover of a social agenda.'
The EU and international bodies are already looking at the kind of global criteria that might be adopted. A report of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), published in 1994, as well as the conclusions of the 1995 World Social Summit in Copenhagen, both suggest that freedom of association, collective bargaining, prohibition of forced labour and the elimination of child labour are top of the list.
A report entitled: 'Trade, Employment and Labour Standards - a study of core workers' rights and international trade', produced this year by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), looks at the options in depth.
Jeff Atkinson, trade policy advisor for the NGO, Oxfam UK, suggests that initial negotiations should be limited to matters covered in ILO Conventions 87 and 98. The former deals with freedom of association and protection of the right to organise, while the latter is on the right to organise and collective bargaining. He argues that other Conventions, covering such matters as the right to equal renumeration for men and women workers, freedom from discrimination and the abolition of forced labour, depend on the first two.
A notable omission from Jeff Atkinson's list is ILO Convention 138 on child labour. He does not feel that this Convention adequately addresses the issue. While international concern has focused on the most abusive forms of child labour such as slavery and prostitution, he points out not all child labour is so grossly abusive. Some forms can bring in money for food and shelter, which would otherwise not be available.
He argues that if conditions are right, employment (say on a family farm or business) can contribute positively to a child's development, by providing an informal learning environment in which social and physical skills can develop.
'To tackle the symptoms, for example by banning child labour, without addressing the underlying cause is likely to be counterproductive', says Mr Atkinson. He argues that it might induce children to seek illegal work in order to survive, or alternatively that they may end up becoming destitute.
Some bodies are already trying to enforce improved standards. Although the ILO cannot implement sanctions, if an ILO member fails to comply with Conventions, a dialogue can be instituted with the defaulting country. It is also running an extensive public campaign against child labour and is assisting the development of social labelling for goods produced which fully respect ILO Conventions.
Under its new Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), the EU can remove some trade preferences if goods imported from non-Lomeveloping nations are found to have been made with forced or slave labour. And from January 1, 1998, extra preferences can be given to countries which so request and comply with Conventions 87, 98 and 138. But if the enforcement of a socalled 'Social Clause' does reach the WTO level, some voices are already calling for joint monitoring involving the WTO and that long-time champion of human rights, the ILO.
The 1996 UNCTAD Report
A slow world growth rate is revealed in this year's annual report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), published in September. The global economy expanded by only 2.4% in 1995 compared with a 2.8% increase in 1994. And production is below what it could be, says the report. On the whole, developing nations achieved higher growth rates than their industrialised counterparts in 1995.
In 1996, world growth is expected to slow further although there will still be 'star performers' in some regions, and particularly slow movers in others. Asia is the continent currently doing best and China has the fastest expanding economy - despite this having slackened in recent years.
In 1995, Africa recorded higher growth than Latin America, according to the Rubens Ricupero, UNCTAD Secretary General. It also managed the first real increase in average per capita income for a long time. This was partly due to commodity prices picking up - they rose 10% on average.
But not such good news for the continent was a drop in private capital flows, notably direct investment. And the growth rate was highly variable across Africa. In some countries it was above 5% but in others, the economic situation was hit badly by political and armed conflicts.
Meanwhile, drought led to lower production in the Sahel. The prospects for 1996 are uncertain according to the report. It noted that even countries whose economies have expanded during 1995 and 1996 will need another ten concurrent years of good economic results to get back to the per capita income they enjoyed 20 years ago.
The report highlights the tremendous difficulties facing many of the heavily-indebted, least developed nations. This is despite the fact that a number of donors have recently written off substantial amounts of some countries' public debts while the Paris Club has rescheduled repayments from other nations. Even if the new arrangements are followed through, UNCTAD is predicting that debt will remain a major burden for many countries.
One worrying factor is the weight of their multilateral debt and bilateral obligations to creditors other than the Paris Club. Multilateral institutions have implemented a number of measures, but these are of very limited scope. The UNCTAD Secretary General is encouraging multilateral creditors in particular, to put more muscle behind their debt relief plans.
The authors of the report are also recommending the establishment of an agency, within UNCTAD itself, to help developing nations achieve trade diversification and industrialisation strategies for economic growth.
Seminar on NGOs and government relations in humanitarian emergencies
The British Council is organising an international seminar on the above subject in Oxford, UK, from 12-17 December 1996. The main themes to be covered at the meeting will include:
- the actors in humanitarian assistance;
- funder and donor policy;
- government sovereignty;
- rights and obligations of intervention;
- the role of the beneficiary;
- conflicts of interest and areas of cooperation between donor NGOs and host governments, and;
- accountability and evaluation.
Further information can be obtained from the Marketing Manager, International Seminars, The British Council, 1 Beaumont Place, GB-Oxford, OX1 2PJ.
Tel. (44) 1B65 316 636, Fax. (44) 1865 57368.
E-mail: International. Seminar@britcoun.org
COMMON FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY
Within the framework of its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the European Union has recently issued a number of statements, details of which are set out below:
Burundi: condemnation of the massacre on 19 July
Declaration of 23 July 1996
The European Union expresses grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Burundi especially at the killing of civilians and other gross violations of human rights which continue to be perpetrated in that country. It vehemently condemns the massacre of civilians in the Bugendana camp for displaced persons on 19 July last and deplores the expulsions of Rwandan refugees against their will. This massacre, following as it does those at Gishubi, Kivyuka, Teza, Mutoyi, Songa and Kamenge, represents a new stage in the vortex of violence, action and reaction putting Burundi at risk of being drawn ever further into a full civil war, the effects of which would be catastrophic for the people of Burundi.
The EU calls on all Burundians to turn away from violence and move singlemindedly along the road to a peaceful and negotiated solution of their problems. It would point to the undertakings given on 25 June 1996 at Arusha during the Summit of Heads of State of the region in favour of dialogue open to all sectors of Burundi's population together with provision of the security measures needed to create the conditions for such dialogue. It would also point out that these undertakings were given formal backing by the Heads of State and Government of the entire continent of Africa when they met from 8 to 10 July at Yaounde under the aegis of the Organisation for African Unity.
The EU believes that only compliance with the undertakings given at Arusha and their swift implementation can restore a climate of confidence and prevent Burundi becoming embroiled in a generalised conflict. As it has already stressed in the Council's statement of 15 and 16 July, the EU reiterates that it is prepared to assist in pursuit of the Arusha objectives in order to restore peace and security in Burundi and it supports the efforts of former President Nyerere and the countries of the region to achieve this.
Burundi: appeal for reconciliation following the coup d'Etat
Declaration of 26 July 1996
The European Union shares the deep concern of the Secretary General of the United Nations, and others, about yesterday's military coup in Burundi.
The EU urges all sides to avoid recourse to violence and to take all steps to resolve the crisis by exclusively peaceful means.
The EU believes that the main immediate priority is the humanitarian situation. There must be no further loss of life.
An immediate beginning of a national debate is essential, leading to a real process of national reconciliation, founded on democracy and security for all sections of society.
In this regard, the EU commends the efforts of former President Nyerere and regional leaders to broker an all-inclusive, negotiated settlement in Burundi, in peaceful conditions, and urges them to examine the possibility of continuing their efforts in this respect.
The EU reiterates its firm commitment to the re-establishment of peace in Burundi. The Union is following developments in the country closely, in active consultation with partners in the UN, with the OAU and others, towards the goal of restoring peace and security in Burundi. The EU Special Envoy, Mr Ajello, who is in the region, is actively assisting in this process.
Niger: doubts about the first round election results
Declaration of 1 August 1996
The European Union expresses deep concern about the way in which the first round of the presidential elections in Niger on 7-8 July was conducted. In particular, it deplores the decision taken by the Niger authorities to dissolve the independent national electoral commission during the voting process and to replace it with an alternative body. It is the view of the EU that this decision, by the Niger authorities, casts serious doubts on the credibility of the election results. It requests the Niger authorities to explain this decision and why observers found it impossible to assist in gathering and collating the election results.
The EU urges the Niger authorities, in dealing with the critical situation which has resulted from their decision, to respect fully the fundamental freedoms of movement, expression and association of the Niger people. It attaches great importance to the restoration of all civil rights.
The EU will examine, in the light of recent developments, its policies of economic and development cooperation with the Niger authorities.
The EU calls for the full restoration of democratic civilian government in Niger through transparent processes. Free and fair elections will be crucial in this respect. The EU will continue to follow the situation in Niger closely and in particular the preparation, holding and transparency of the forthcoming legislative elections on 22 September. Iceland, the Central European countries associated with the EU and the associated countries Cyprus and Malta align themselves with this declaration.
Swaziland: revision of the Constitution
Declaration of 6 August 1996
The European Union welcomes the announcement by King Mswati III of the names of the new Prime Minister of Swaziland and of the Constitutional Review Commission and is pleased that its membership represents all shades of political opinion in Swaziland.
The EU wishes to encourage all members of the Constitutional Review Commission to participate fully in its work and expresses confidence that their endeavours will bring about the adoption of a draft democratic constitution acceptable to the people of Swaziland as a whole. It hopes that the Commission will pursue its task energetically and is ready to offer appropriate assistance to the Commission if it so wishes.
Burundi: appeal for talks and reconciliation
Declaration of 19 August 1996
Recalling its declarations of 25 June and 5, 15, 23 and 26 July 1996, the European Union reiterates its deep concern about the situation in Burundi. It urges all sides to refrain from violence and to commit themselves to, and work actively towards, a negotiated and peaceful resolution of the crisis.
The EU wishes to express its support for the regional leaders, the Organisation of African Unity and the former President of Tanzania, Mr Julius Nyerere, in the efforts which they have been making to assist Burundi to overcome peacefully the grave crisis which it is experiencing, and encourages them to continue their efforts to facilitate the search for a political solution.
The EU considers it essential for a dialogue to be organised without delay, bringing together all of Burundi's political forces without exception, including representatives of civil society, in order to negotiate a democratic, institutional consensus ensuring security for all.
The EU is convinced that national reconciliation and civil peace in Burundi can be restored on a lasting basis only through the participation of all sections of society in the principal institutions and bodies of the State.
The EU urges all sides in Burundi to call an immediate halt to the violence and respect the safety of all Burundians.
It reaffirms its willingness to support Burundi's recovery efforts, once the necessary national reconciliation is embarked upon with all the resolve required.
AID FOR REHABILITATION
Within the framework of the 'European Programme for Reconstruction and Development in South Africa', the Commission has recently decided on financing for the following ten projects:
- ECU 19.2 million for a development programme covering the
management of the public service;
- ECU 17.2 million for technical assistance to the Ministry of Education;
- ECU 16 million for a support programme for Parliament;
- ECU 15 million for the electrification of rural schools;
- ECU 9 million to support the reform process in the police services of the Eastern Cape province;
- ECU 8.9 million for a financing and investment development programme for SMEs;
- ECU 5 million for a programme of rural water supply and sanitation projects to be implemented
by the NGO Mvula Trust;
- ECU 4.3 million to support the trade union movement;
- ECU 2.3 million for the 'Soul City 1996' project designed to make full use of the mass media to promote health and development issues;
- ECU 1.9 million to support the 'Truth and National Reconciliation Commission'.
EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT FUND
Following, where required, favourable opinions from the EDF Committee, the Commission has decided to provide grants and special loans from the 5th, 6th and 7th EDFs to finance the following operations (grants unless otherwise stated). Major projects and programmes are highlighted.
Economic and social infrastructure
Burkina Faso: ECU 4.125 million for studies relating to certain road infrastructures.
Mauritius: ECU 9 million for an irrigation programme in the northern plains.
Dominica: ECU 1.65 million towards the establishment of refuse treatments systems. Trade promotion/ structural adjustment
Cot'lvoire: ECU 25.5 million to , support the structural adjustment programme.
Lesotho: ECU 8.6 million for the fourth structural adjustment programme.
Ethiopia-Kenya-Uganda: ECU 20 million for a programme to coordinate national activities aimed at achieving sustainable rural development in the region (notably involving the fight against the Tsetse fly)
Caribbean region: ECU 5.9 million towards a post-secondary education training programme in the countries of the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States - Antigua & Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines).
Malawi: ECU 4.4 million for a social/ participatory programme in the forestry sector as part of the implementation of a national forestry policy.
SADC member states: ECU 1.7 million to support the SADC (Southern African Development Community) secretariat in order to strengthen the SADC-EU regional programme.
UEMOA (West Africa Economic and Monetary Union): ECU 12 million to support the regional integration process in the member states (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cot'lvoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo)
Zambia: ECU 1.5 million for a support programme for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK
During the first half of 1996, the Bank has provided the following loans from its own resources or in the form of risk capital:
Africa/Madagascar: ECU 30 million for ASECNA (I'Agence pour la securite de la navigation aerienne en Afrique et a Madagascar) for the renewal and modernisation of air safety equipment. Botswana: ECU 6.6 million to the Botswana Power Corporation to help increase electricity-generating capacity.
Burkina Faso: ECU 6 million to SOFITEX (Societe burkinabe des fibres textiles) for the renewal and extension of its cotton ginneries facility.
Mali: ECU 5.3 million to the Societe Energie du Mali for the financing of the Balingue thermal power station.
Mauritania: ECU 2 million to SNIM (Societe rationale industrielle et miniere) for the setting up and operation of a mechanical workshop.
Mauritania: ECU 1.4 million to the Societe arabe du fer et de l'acier (Arab iron and steel company) for the construction of a foundry.
Mozambique: ECU 500 000 to Grafites de Ancuabe for the exploitation of a graphite mine.
Zambia: ECU 2 million to the Zambia Venture Capital Fund, set up to subscribe for minority equity stakes in SMEs.
Jamaica: ECU 40 million to Telecommunications of Jamaica Ltd for expansion and modernisation of the domestic and international telecommunications network.
British Virgin Islands: ECU 600 000 to the government for the design and feasibility study of the main airport at Beef Island, Tortola.
Tonga: ECU 3.7 million to the Tonga Telecommunications Commission for the development of the country's domestic telecommunications network.
Ethiopia: ECU 5 million for the purchase and distribution of vegetable oils and cereals to refugees living in the country.
Kenya: ECU 420 000 for emergency medical assistance in the fight against cholera in the Mandera region.
Somalia: ECU 1.9 million for emergency food aid to the victims of the continuing factional fighting.
Sudan: ECU 2.5 million for the purchase and distribution of maize in a transit camp close to the capital (154 000 people) and in the south of the country (1 million people), and for the distribution of sorghum to Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees in the east (200 000 people).
Chad: ECU 150 000 to help tackle the cholera epidemic.
Haiti: ECU 10 million for a programme to counter malnutrition and improve basic health care, in particular for women and children in isolated locations.
Montserrat: ECU 380 000 to help evacuees in the wake of the recent volcanic eruption.
Colombia: ECU 1 million for people displaced as a result of drug terrorism and the fighting that has been taking peace between government forces and guerillas.
Costa Rica: ECU 400 000 for the victims of Hurricane Cesar.
Guatemala: ECU 220 000 to train teachers in order to improve education among repatriated communities in the department of Alta Verapaz.
Nicaragua: ECU 440 000 to improve conditions for the social and economic reintegration of uprooted populations (people who have been repatriated, displaced or demobilised) in the department of Rio San Juan.
Northern Caucasus: ECU 4.18 million for civilian victims of the war in Chechnya and for refugees in Ossetia and Dagestan.
Iraq: ECU 9 million for food aid, medical provisions, rehabilitation of drinking water systems, sanitary equipment and educational material to assist 3 million people in the north and centre of the country.
Yemen: ECU 150 000 for flood victims.
Cambodia: ECU 290 000 for a programme to construct and distribute artificial limbs to land-mine victims.
Thailand (Burmese refugees): ECU 220 000 for 'Mon' refugees from Burma (Myanmar) who have fled the violence in their country.
Thailand (Burmese refugees): ECU 500 000 for medical aid in favour of 'Karen' refugees from Burma (Myanmar).
The Commission has recently decided to allocate the following aid: