Research Help Required

24 03 2010

In the last week or so I have been researching past work by artists relating to the issue of corruption. I have come across quite a lot, most in music and painted art.

It seems that quite a lot of work has been done at local and national levels, but little has been done internationally. It would also appear that most efforts have been related to single, sporadic events unconnected to other events.

These efforts have all helped to play a part in raising awareness of the issues, but I think it is now time to try to coordinate these efforts as part of an ongoing campaign in order to maximise the effectiveness of them. This is the idea behind Artists Aagainst Corruption.

To grow the project quickly I would appreciate any help you might be able to give in putting together a database of artists of all types that are known to have some sympathy with our objectives. The database will help us in the planning of future exhibitions, performances, publications etc.

Please email me with any information you may have about artists that have tried to address the issue of corruption or poverty in anyway. By doing so you will significantly help this project.

Many Thanks, Paul





What Does Foreign Aid Acheive?

2 03 2010

This is the third of three articles I published earlier. I think the three raise the serious issues associated with poverty and corruption, and give evidence of the reasons why they must tackled together as one policy not as two separate issues.  I first published this article on the 9th August 2008.

According to Andrew Mwanda, a leading Ugandan commentator the answer is very little in terms of economic growth. The evidence supports his arguments.

“Over the last 40 years, Africa has received over $600 billion in foreign aid and debt relief. For most of this period, the continent sustained zero to negative growth; positive growth was only occasional and sporadic, depending on international commodity price fluctuations.” reports the Guardian newspaper.

The article continues, “Why has aid been antithetical to growth? There are many reasons, including mismanagement and miss-allocation of aid resources, slow disbursement of aid monies and corruption. But the fundamental reason is that aid creates the wrong incentives for growth.”

Despite the evidence The recent G8 Summit in Japan upheld earlier calls for doubling foreign financial aid to Africa as a solution to poverty on the continent.

Mwanda suggests that If the source of this revenue is the national economy, government would be driven by self-interest to listen to its citizens about policies and it would be necessary to increase the productivity of private enterprises. But, foreign id distorts the situation. Rather than forge a productive relationship with their own citizens, governments find it more profitable to negotiate for revenues from abroad.

Foreign aid that has saved incompetent governments from collapse. By providing them an external subsidy, governments in Africa have been able to retain power even when pursuing policies that impoverish their citizens. Cut the aid, and many of them will be forced to pursue economic growth or pay the political price of their economic folly.

Our View: Almost certainly Mwanda´argument is correct, but this should not lead to an ending of aid. Instead it is the responsibility of o private and public, to adopt policies that recognise and address these issues. That means supporting initiatives, such as those by Transparency International, to encourage the expansion of open and accountable governments, and continuing to expose those that under-perform on the Corruption Perceptions Index which ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys. This index allows decision makers to adopt policies and make investment decisions accordingly.





Rampant Corruption In 80% of Least Developed Nations

2 03 2010

This is the second of three earlier articles that I am re-publishing. I feel they capture the real issue we are dealing with. I first published this in August 12th 2008.

The United Nations classifies a group of 49 countries as the Least Developed Nations. They exhibit the lowest indicators of socio-economic development and the lowest Human Development Index ratings of all countries in the world.

Perhaps not surprisingly, 80% of them score less than 3 out of 10 points on the Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International. That means they suffer from rampant corruption.

Of the 49 countries on the Least Developed Countries list 33 are in Africa, 10 are in Asia, 5 are in Oceania and 1 is in the Americas.

In 2005, 12 percent of the world´s population lived in Least Developed Countries. That figure represented 750 million people. It was predicted that this figure would rise by 200 million people by 2015, making the reduction, let alone eradication, of poverty more difficult.

Fifty per cent of their populations live on less than $1 dollar a day, and 80 percent on less than $2 a day. Life expectancy is declining as a result of malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. And the resources and technologies available to most LDCs are limited.

Clearly these countries are in need of foreign aid but, as the article I posted yesterday indicates, $600bn in aid to Africa over the past 40years has had almost zero impact in most cases. Improvements have been minimal.

Map of Least Developed Countries

Comment

As the previous post on this blog shows $600bn in Foreign Aid to Africa over several decades has acheived very little in terms of economic growth and the reduction of poverty.

These facts and figures indicate that no amount of aid is likely to solve the problems in least developed nations without there also being a action to fight corruption. It can also be argued that aid is actually perpetuating the problem by sustaining corrupt and incompetent governments that would otherwise not be tollerated.

As previously stated Artists Against Corruption is not arguing for reducitions in aid. We merely argue that aid is wasted because of corruption and fighting the cause of poverty is as, if not more, important than fighting the symptoms of it. This is especially true of aid donated to corrupt governments, but all donors should adopt policies to fight corruption if they want to fight poverty.





Corruption: The Ongoing Humanitarian Disaster

2 03 2010

I wanted to post this article again (first posted on 23rd september 2008). It exmpains why Artists Against Corruption will focus on exposing corruption, because of the direct link between corruption and poverty, expecially in developing nations.

Transparency International launched the 2008 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) which measures the perceived levels of corruption in 180 countries drawing on different expert and business surveys.

The Fatal Link between Corruption and Poverty

The Major findings of the 2008 report are “Persistently high corruption in low-income countries amounts to an “ongoing humanitarian disaster”, but at the same time, “Against a backdrop of continued corporate scandal, wealthy countries backsliding too.”

The report highlights the fatal link between poverty, failed institutions and corruption. “In the poorest countries, corruption levels can mean the difference between life and death, when money for hospitals or clean water is in play,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International. “The continuing high levels of corruption and poverty plaguing many of the world’s societies amount to an ongoing humanitarian disaster and cannot be tolerated. But even in more privileged countries, with enforcement disturbingly uneven, a tougher approach to tackling corruption is needed.”

Highs & Lows

Countries are scored on a scale from zero (highly corrupt) to ten (highly clean). The 2008 finds the cleanest countries are Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden, all sharing a score of 9.3. The most corrupt are; Somalia at 1.0, Iraq & Myanmar 1.3 and Haiti at 1.4.

Changes

2008 sores, compared to 2007 scores, showed significant declines for Bulgaria, Burundi, Maldives, Norway and the United Kingdom. On the other hand, Albania, Cyprus, Georgia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, South Korea, Tonga and Turkey all showed significant improvements.

Wealthy Country Corruption v Poor Country Corruption

Whether in high or low-income countries, the challenge of reigning in corruption requires functioning societal and governmental institutions. Poorer countries are often plagued by corrupt judiciaries and ineffective parliamentary oversight. Wealthy countries, on the other hand, show evidence of insufficient regulation of the private sector, in terms of addressing overseas bribery by their countries, and weak oversight of financial institutions and transactions.

“Stemming corruption requires strong oversight through parliaments, law enforcement, independent media and a vibrant civil society,” said Labelle. “When these institutions are weak, corruption spirals out of control with horrendous consequences for ordinary people, and for justice and equality in societies more broadly.”

Weakening the Fight Against Poverty

In low-income countries, rampant corruption jeopardises the global fight against poverty, threatening to derail the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to TI’s 2008 Global Corruption Report, unchecked levels of corruption would add US $50 billion (€35 billion) – or nearly half of annual global aid outlays – to the cost of achieving the MDG on water and sanitation.

Not only does this call for a redoubling of efforts in low-income countries, where the welfare of significant portions of the population hangs in the balance, it also calls for a more focussed and coordinated approach by the global donor community to ensure development assistance is designed to strengthen institutions of governance and oversight in recipient countries, and that aid flows themselves are fortified against abuse.

This is the message that TI will be sending to the member states of the UN General Assembly as they prepare to take stock on progress in reaching the MDGs on 25 September, and ahead of the UN conference on Financing for Development, in Doha, Qatar, where commitments on funding aid will be taken.

Double Standards

The weakening performance of some wealthy exporting countries, with notable European decliners in the 2008 CPI, casts a further critical light on government commitment to reign in the questionable methods of their companies in acquiring and managing overseas business, in addition to domestic concerns about issues such as the role of money in politics. The continuing emergence of foreign bribery scandals indicates a broader failure by the world’s wealthiest countries to live up to the promise of mutual accountability in the fight against corruption.

“This sort of double standard is unacceptable and disregards international legal standards,” said Labelle. “Beyond its corrosive effects on the rule of law and public confidence, this lack of resolution undermines the credibility of the wealthiest nations in calling for greater action to fight corruption by low-income countries.” The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which criminalises overseas bribery by OECD-based companies, has been in effect since 1999, but application remains uneven.

Regulation, though, is just half the battle. Real change can only come from an internalised commitment by businesses of all sizes, and in developing as well as developed countries, to real improvement in anti-corruption practices.

Full Story





Project Update

1 03 2010

Artists Against Corruption (AAC) was starting life as a project a year or so ago, but along came the economic crisis. I had to focus on my main business activities to ensure they survived, and during that period I was not able to invest much time or effort in anything else. Fortunately things are improving and I can now spend some time re-activating AAC.

Out there in the world, I know that corruption remains a massive issue, one that many people are increasingly concerned about. The abuse of power by politicians and businesses seems to be overwhelming, yet we must try to fight it. We also have to remember that politics and businesses are run by people, individuals and groups. These people are fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers and colleagues. They can be subject to positive family and social pressures as easily as by negative forces. In other words the culture of corruption will end from the ground up, when ordinary individuals stand up and say that they are no longer willing to tolerate it, not even from the people they know.

Concern about corruption is increasing not decreasing, perhaps as word of it is spread faster and wider across the Internet. In Brazil  a recent survey found that nearly 70% of people believe corruption is increasing. And, on trust in institutions of the state the survey found, “69.8 percent said they trust the military, followed by the press (49.8 percent), the government (40.1 percent), the courts (37.8), the police (37.5 percent), the public service (36 percent)and the National Congress (9.3 percent).”  This survey also found that corruption was a greater concern than violence, the second biggest concern.

What these surveys do not do is show the link between poverty, corruption and violence.

This rising concern, and a look through the over 1,300 images now in the AAC Image Bank on Flickr, prompted me to get on with moving the project forward again. Somethings are too important to wait. If you feel the same way, perhaps you would like to help me grow the campaign. If so, I would love to hear from you.

Paul

pbarnett@artistsagainstcorruption.org





Photography Project on Flickr

11 10 2008

LRA victim

Originally uploaded by Nick Anderson

This is one of the 800+ images posted to the Artists Against Corruption Group on Flickr as part of our first photography based project.

From the images posted we will select a collection for an exhibition and book. The aim will be to put a human face on the abstract concept of corruption. Also, to show the scale of the problem, the vast range of consequences, and its connection with poverty in particular.

Professional & Amateur photographers are invited to participate. If their images are then selected for use in the exhibition we will first seek written permission.

The image shown is of a Ugandan boy that was a victim of the atrocities carries out by the Lords Resistance Army lead by Joseph Kony who I have previously profiled on this blog.

Kony and the LRA are still active. Recent reports say he has set up six new bases in northern DR Congo and is running diamond mines in the Central African Republic. The LRA are notorious for abducting children and mutilating victims.

In Sudan the LRA were hired and supported by the Sudanese Government of Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir who is also responsible for the Darfur crisis today.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Kony and other LRA members. There are 33 charges, 12 counts are crimes against humanity, which include murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement and rape. There are another 21 counts of war crimes which include murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape, and forced enlisting of children into the rebel ranks.

Photo by Nick Anderson
Click the link for a profile of Joseph Kony





Palin Abused Her Power

11 10 2008

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin abused her power as Alaska’s governor and violated state ethics law by trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the state police, a state investigator’s report concluded Friday.

“Gov. Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda,” the report states.

As may be expected, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign responded by calling the investigation “a partisan-led inquiry” run by supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, but hailing its finding that Monegan’s firing broke no law.

“Gov. Palin was cleared of the allegation of an improper firing, which is what this investigation was approved to look into,” campaign spokeswoman Meg Stapleton said.

She said the Legislature exceeded its mandate in finding an ethics violation. “Lacking evidence to support the original Monegan allegation, the Legislative Council seriously overreached, making a tortured argument to find fault without basis in law or fact,” she said.

Though the McCain-Palin campaign tried to put a positive spin on the outcome the bipartisan Legislative Council, which commissioned the investigation after Monegan was fired, unanimously adopted the 263-page public report after a marathon executive session Friday. About 1,000 more pages of documents compiled during the inquiry will remain confidential, the council’s chairman, state Sen. Kim Elton, said.

Opinion

The investigation into the affair began before Mr McCain selected Mrs Palin as his running mate in August, and Several Republican politicians have attempted to have the investigation stopped on the grounds that it was politically motivated. Given these facts McCain’s choice of Pailin as Vice President now looks very questionable and will rightly have a negative impact on his campaign.





Sudan is Critical

5 10 2008

Today Reuters reports that the foreign minister of Sudan has criticized both US vice presidential contenders, Biden & Palin. They expressed support for the idea of a flying ban over the Darfur region in their recent TV debate.

Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig on Sunday said an air ban would be ineffective because the Sudanese armed forces are only using government planes and helicopters to fight bandits and protect humanitarian convoys.

The Darfur conflict has killed 200,000 – 300,000 and driven more than 2.5 million from their homes, say international experts. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

Opinion

As I have reported in earlier posts the Darfur situation was recognized as genocide by the Busy administration as long ago as 2004. In September 2004 Secretary Powell officially invoked the term “genocide” to describe what was going on there in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and  President Bush (white House Press Release, September 9, 2004).

Despite calling it a genocide the U.S. and the rest of the world have taken no effective action to date. UN forces there have no mandate to engage. They are there to observe and offer humanitarian aid. This is a repeat of Rwanda.

A no fly zone would at least show some action was being taken, but not nearly enough. Enforcement of the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity would also be a step in the right direction.

Incredibly, and despite all the evidence the no fly zone is only a possibility with pathetic arguments being made against it, and apparently THE UN Security Council is under pressure to suspend the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of Bashir according to a report in the Economist, which I reported here last week.

The charges may be dropped because, of the Security Council’s five permanent members, three – China, Russia and the United States—refused to sign up to the International Criminal Court. Coincidentally Russia and China have huge financial interests in Sudan and are actively supporting the regime, and in-directly the genocide. I reported on this before – China is Fueling the War in Darfur.

the 53-member African Union (AU) and the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have also demanded that the Security Council suspend proceedings against Mr Bashir. As the author of the Economist article rightly points out several members of the AU abd OIC, “no doubt fearing that it could be their turn next”, to face the International Criminal Courts.

It is also interesting that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in her electioneering today accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists”. She could equally suggest that, by their unwillingness to act to stop what they themselves describe as genocide, the republican party, the President, and the United states are also guilty of “palling around with terrorists.”





Capitalism in Crisis: The Cost of U.S. Corruption

26 09 2008

The ongoing bank driven economic crisis in the U.S., and the proposed $700bn rescue plan clearly demonstrate the cost of corruption. Again I am adopting the definition of corruption used by Transparency International (TI) to suggest that this crisis has corruption at its roots.

Transparency International, one of the largest Anti-Corruption agency in the world, define corruption as, “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. and say, ” It hurts everyone whose life, livelihood or happiness depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority.”

As to the cost, the $700bn deal being proposed would cost every man, woman and child in the United States about $2,300. And, the total cost exceeds total lending by the International Monetary Fund since its inception after World War Two. The IMF has loaned $506.7 billion since 1947.

In other words, the U.S. government is proposing a deal that would rob every citizen of the U.S. to reward the corrupt institutions and the corrupt directors of them.

The deal is in trouble today. Let’s hope and pray it does not pass. If it does it will be a clear demonstration that corruption pays and would undermine the credibility of America and the capitalist system as a whole.

These are my opinions, and the figures used come from reporting by Reuters.





Saving the President

26 09 2008

THE UN Security Council is under pressure to suspend the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity, according to a report in the Economist magazine today.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Bashir does not like the charge at all, and nor do the rest of his peers in the 53-member African Union (AU) and the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Both groups have demanded that the Security Council suspend proceedings against Mr Bashir. As the author of the article rightly points out several members of the AU abd OIC, “no doubt fearing that it could be their turn next”.

Further increasing the pressure on the ICC if it does indict Mr Bashir (a decision is expected in November), several AU and OIC members, who together account for a third of the ICC’s 108 states parties, have threatened to pull out of the court.

With an eye on Sudan, Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s secretary-general, recently declared that the search for a balance between peace and justice “should never be influenced by the threats and postures of those seeking to escape justice”.

There is a more than reasonable chance that charges will be dropped, or ‘postponed’ despite the overwhelming evidence against Bashir (an estimated 300,000 have already lost their lives and some 3m have been forced to flee their homes in the five-year conflict, continues to deteriorate). And, despite the fact that as early as September 2004 Secretary Powell officially invoked the term “genocide” to describe what was going on there in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and  President Bush (white House Press Release, September 9, 2004).

Despite calling it a genocide the U.S. and the rest of the world have taken no effective action to date. This is Rwanda 2:0, and the killing not only continues, it is getting worse.

Why might charges be dropped despite the evidence? Corrupt politics of course. Of the Security Council’s five permanent members, three – China, Russia and the United States—refused to sign up to the court. Coincidentally Russia and China have huge financial interests in Sudan and are actively supporting the regime, and in-directly the genocide. I reported on this before – China is Fueling the War in Darfur.

As I have also said already, Darfur and Sudan show the ineffectiveness of the United nations. Now there is a more than reasonable chance that they will show how useless one of it’s key institutions, the International Criminal Court, actually is. This may make or break the future of the ICC and, the action of the permanent members in relation to Sudan and Darfur will be yet another test of the credibility of the United Nations itself.

Read the Economist Article