Archive for the ‘Books’ category

Why the Daewoo-Madagascar Deal Would Have Struggled Anyway

March 23, 2009

women in Madagascar, originally uploaded by Zé Eduardo….

A while ago I wrote about the issue of food security and the ethical implications that have arisen in relation to it, using the Madagascar-South Korea Daewoo deal as an example. The now failed agreement will serve as a text book case study for large conglomerates and nations seeking similar partnerships in the future, especially as they relate to issues of conflict-resolution.

(For background details on the issue, please click here.)

Over the weekend we learned that the tenant farming deal is now null. Due to political unrest in Madagascar, the island has brought into power a new leader who has scrapped the deal with Daewoo, much to the pleasure of the country’s citizens.

Says the BBC:

Correspondents say Malagasy people have deep ties to their land and some had condemned the deal as “neo-colonialism”.

While there is no denying that such a deal had the potential to bring about positive change for the impoverished nation, even if the agreement had gone through to implementation, Daewoo and Madagascar’s government would have faced an uphill battle from the start.

If the people such changes are meant to benefit aren’t on board with the plan, conflicts are sure to arise. Judging by the reports I have read, there was little support among the domestic population for this agreement.

This isn’t to say that over time, the domestic population would not have gradually accepted the agreement and would have come on board with the plan, especially if they were seeing immediate positive change. Of course, that is such a big “if” when they are resisting the proposal from the get-go.

A great book that deals with issues of development, the environment and indigenous peoples (although in the context of Southeast Asia) is The Politics of Environment in Southeast Asia: Resources and Resistance, edited by Philip Hirsch and Carol Warren.

While the tone of the book did tend to have me on the offensive (as I am a strong believer in development and the good it can bring impoverished populations), I did take away one important thing and that was the realization that there is a wrong way and a right way in terms of dealing with the web of relationships involved with international development, relationships that include the physical development itself, the environment, the people who will benefit and the people who will not (in many cases indigenous communities whose land and resources are affected by the changes).

While it’s not my place to point a finger at any one party in relation to the failed Daewoo-Madagascar deal, I will say that the approach taken in introducing the plan to the domestic population seemed to lack citizen participation in the decision-making process. (At least based on the mainstream media reports I have been reading). And while citizen participation may not have necessarily saved the deal, it could have perhaps lessened the feelings of antagonization that developed further down the road.

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A Suggested Reading List for Cabin Fever

February 6, 2009

You know that really cold period just before spring – yes, you know the time – it’s like, right now – well, now is the perfect time to curl up with a good book, get inspired or escape to another part of the world.

Recognizing the symptoms of cabin fever, here’s a suggested reading list (listed in no particular order) for those of you looking for inspiration from ordinary people doing extraordinary things internationally or for readers searching for a good book filled with travel, adventure, cross-cultural interactions or new ideas. Many titles may be familiar, some may be new and of course, the list could stand to be expanded with suggestions of your own so feel free to add to it:

1. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World

2. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

3. Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time

4. Capitalism at the Crossroads: Aligning Business, Earth and Humanity

5. Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey

6. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village

7. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

8. Chai Budesh? Anyone for Tea?: A Peace Corps Memoir of Turkmenistan

9. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

10. And being a strong supporter of the Peace Corps, it would be an incomplete list if we didn’t encourage people to read books written from Peace Corps writers. To see a complete list, click here.