One of the main things I have noticed through keeping this blog is that there is a definite divide between what we percieve businesses to be doing and what they are actually doing. For example, a corporation can brand themselves as ‘ethical’ and we will accept that as their brand. What we don’t realise is that this ‘ethical’ brand is actually commiting terrible human rights abuses in developing countries. It’s like we are so distanced from the global south, we don’t feel a need to consider it in our purchasing decisions. However, I have never really considered the idea of western intervention in developing countries that need our ‘help.’
This week this story about a Kenyan climate change project really grabbed my attention. The project is known as the ‘Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation project.’ As I understand it, this project’s aim was to protect Kenya’s ground supply of water. However, in attempting to do so, this EU backed project ended up buring down the houses of and killing an indigenous person who lived in the area they were working in. This was conducted by the Kenya Forest Service, a corporate body that works for the Kenyan Government.
I know that this breach of human rights was down to the KFS rather than the EU as a collective, but it just baffles me how many instances I find of people doing ‘good’ things but also doing abhorrent and disgusting acts in the process. This could be an example of the western world intervening in the developing world without considering the wider implications of what they are doing. This idea has led me to read up more on the global north/south divide, which has pointed me to a book entitled Geographies of Developing Areas: The Global South in a Changing World by Glyn Williams, Paula Meth and Katie Willis. A section of this book that really summed up the issues with western intervention is as follows:
‘When students in the north are introduced to the Global South through courses, it is often via a set of problems – such as poverty, debt or environmental degradation – and the development theories and policies used to ‘solve’ these. This coveys some useful information, and links with many students’ personal interests in issues of global inequality or ecological sustainability, but it does so with some considerable difficulties of its own. One of these is that it reinforces negative stereotypes of developing areas, and represents the Global South as a collection of places and peoples in need of external (i.e Northern) intervention.’
As much as I’m an advocate for foreign aid and helping developing countries, sometimes the global north can do so haphazardly. Take child labour as an issue for example, although we can agree that child labour isn’t a good thing, there are examples of organisations such as Amnesty International who make it their goal to ‘eliminate’ child labour without considering the wider issues. In a lot of cases child labour can be vital for a countries economy. What’s worse, child labour? Or families starving to death because they can’t afford to eat?
Focusing back on the original story, I started to think a bit more about the rights of indigeonous people generally. The global north has a hideous history in terms of indigeonous genecide, (take a look at the U.S.A!) The rights of indigeonous people are often overlooked as they can be seen as ‘under developed’ but who are we to say that their way of life doesn’t hold the same value as everyone else? We as the global north definitely need to change our attitudes and stop pitying people from countries that are ‘less’ developed than our own. Not just you and I, but the EU and other NGOs and charities too.