The last month has slipped away because I have been away for almost three weeks. I started with a day in Ottawa on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. We had a very good seminar and some useful discussions, Canada is a country that has managed its own mining well for the economic development of the country, and now has mining companies operating across the world. I tried to persuade those I met that instead of just supporting the EITI, Canada should consider implementing it. Many countries complain that the OECD countries that support the EITI are, as ever, telling developing countries what to do but not doing it themselves. At the end of my trip, I was in New York when President Obama announced that the US would implement the EITI, in order to clarify the US tax income from mining. I hope this will be an example to other OECD countries including the UK.
I then went on to Calgary and met up with my older sister and her husband. We travelled through Radium Hot Springs to a place called Nipika where my niece Sarah was getting married. It was a moving ceremony, tucked away in a remote and beautiful spot in the Rockies. The families and friends met and mingled, the ceremony drew on religious and cultural traditions from across the world and we all concluded that this was likely to be a happy marriage that had every chance of lasting for life. I then spent a week travelling in the Rockies with my sister. It is an incredibly beautiful place and the geology is extraordinary, but the most moving experience was a visit to the museum which recorded the terrible experiences of Canadians of Japanese origin who were interned during the second World War, mostly in ghost towns that had been former mining towns. We also visited a place called Sandon that had seen a massive silver rush in the 1880’s, great wealth, terrible working conditions, a lockout and starvation aimed against the union and then a fire and later a flood and abandonment. All that is left is a few buildings and a great museum. It was an important reminder of how often mining uses the land and the people and then moves on leaving a mess behind it.
I spent a couple of days in Washington and New York, connecting with the UN and World Bank and then came home with a case full of dirty washing.
Security sector reform
When I was in government I make a speech about the need to include the security sector in reforms, particularly in post-conflict situations. Development people like to do health and education and other caring activities but if the Armed Forces, the police and the courts are not functioning properly, there is little chance of stability or economic development and countries risk slipping back into conflict. In late September I went to Geneva to attend a workshop organised by the International Security Advisory Team. It works to support and improve donor performance in this area. I was disappointed to find that there had been so little progress in implementing the best thinking on this issue. I am afraid that like so many other things, the war on terror distorted thinking and held back progress. But there is no doubt that ISSAT is a very good organisation and has some impressive advisers including very experienced African former generals. I hope that now most people understand that the thinking behind the war on terror was deeply flawed, we can get back to working together on sensible Security Sector Reform.
At the beginning of October, I visited Mauritania to support their engagement with EITI. It is a fascinating country with a very large territory, much of it desert. it was a French colony but saw very little development and at independence in 1960, 90% of the people were nomadic. There are 3.2 million people and over 1 million camels. The population is mostly Arabic speaking with black African communities in the south of the country. There has been conflict between the different peoples in the past, exploitative mining and large numbers of military coups. Slavery was abolished only in 1980! There is great poverty but also great dignity and a determination to use transparency to bear down on corruption. They have mined iron ore in the past and seen little benefit from it; they now have some oil and copper and gold and the prospects of more. I met some great people from government, civil society and mining communities. I really hope transparency works to ensure that mining is responsible and brings benefits to the people.
I came back to fulfil a long-standing promise to give the second annual lecture for the Forgiveness Project. This is a very fine project that works on encouraging people who have recovered from great hurt to share with others the way in which they recovered and the part forgiveness played. They work in prisons, schools and communities and have an exhibition and book that summarises some very fine stories of people coming to terms with terrible wrongs that have been inflicted on them and avoiding becoming bitter and twisted.
When I was asked to give a lecture I said that I wasn’t sure that people should always forgive if there is no justice or prospect of justice because just anger helps to drive the demand for progress. Marina Cantacuzino who leads the project asked me to speak on No Forgiveness Without Justice? My lecture is here on the Web site. These are important questions. We had a very moving evening with contributions from Colin Parry whose son was killed by the IRA in Warrington, Elizabeth Turner whose husband was killed in the attack on the twin towers when she was pregnant with her first child and Bassam Aramin who was a Palestinian resistance fighter who spent 7 years in prison and then saw his daughter killed by an Israeli soldier, and now works with young Israelis who refuse to serve in the occupied territories, in a quest for peace. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown chaired a packed meeting in Union Chapel in Islington.
UK politics has been dominated by the party conferences which are now completely manipulated PR events. This is a great pity because as everybody knows, very difficult economic times are coming and will probably affect the whole world. We need to talk about how we got into this mess and the changes we should make to do better in future. But politics sadly is still dominated by spinning and headline catching, and there is little space for real thoughtfulness and intelligent debate.
It is my view though that the challenges that are coming on the economy, climate, the demand for justice and democracy in the Middle East, food prices, urbanisation etc is going to create new political space worldwide. It is important that people who yearn after justice do not give up but prepare their thinking for the times that are coming.
Asia’s share of world economy
According to FT of Sep 6 2011, Asia’s share of the world economy ( in purchasing parity terms ) was 8% in 1980 and 24% last year. Asian stock markets now account for 31% of global market capitalisation, ahead of Europe with 25%.
Death in the Second World War
Max Hasting’s new book reminds us that on average 27,000 people died each day. China lost 15 million people. It was truly a world war with terrible loss of life.
Africa and mobile phones
30% of the African continent’s population now have mobile phones. People too poor to buy a handset rent airtime from a local owner for a few cents a minute. Safaricom and Ericsson offer an App that enables Kenyan, Ethiopian and Somali refugees to search for each other in refugee camps.
The Jo’burg based think tank Informa estimates that Africa will have 265 million mobile broadband subscribers by 2015, against the current 12 million, and an increase in total mobiles to 824 million.