The Lost Decade
The lost decade
They were promised a brighter future, but in the 1990s the world's poor
fell further behind
Larry Elliott, economics editor
Wednesday July 9, 2003
The widening gulf between the global haves and have-nots was starkly
revealed last night when the UN announced that while the US was booming
in the 1990s more than 50 countries suffered falling living standards.
The UN's annual human development report charted increasing poverty for
more than a quarter of the world's countries, where a lethal combination
of famine, HIV/Aids, conflict and failed economic policies have turned
the clock back.
Highlighting the setbacks endured by sub-Saharan Africa and the
countries that emerged from the
break-up of the Soviet Union at the end of the cold war, the UN called
for urgent action to meet its
millennium development goals for 2015.
These include a halving of the number of people living on less than a
dollar a day, a two-thirds drop in mortality for the under-fives,
universal primary education and a halving of those without access to
safe drinking water and improved sanitation.
The report said the 90s had seen a drop from 30% to 23% in the number of
people globally living on less than a dollar a day, but the improvement
had largely been the result of the progress in China and India, the
world's two most populous countries.
Despite some sporadic successes such as Ghana and Senegal, there was
little hope of Africa meeting
the UN's 2015 development goals; on current trends it would be 2147
before the poorest countries in the poorest continent halved poverty and
2165 before child mortality was cut by two-thirds. Thirty of the 34
countries classified by the UN as "low human development" are in
Taking issue with those who have argued that the "tough love" policies
of the past two decades have
spawned the growth of a new global middle class, the report says the
world became ever more divided between the super-rich and the
The richest 1% of the world's population (around 60 million) now receive
as much income as the poorest 57%, while the income of the richest 25
million Americans is the equivalent of that of almost 2 billion of the
world's poorest people. In 1820 western Europe's per capita income was
three times that of Africa's; by the 90s it was more than 13 times as
In Norway, top of the UN's league table for human development, life
expectancy at birth is 78.7 years, there is 100% literacy and annual
income is just under $30,000 (about £18,200). At the other end of the
scale, a newborn child in Sierra Leone will be lucky to reach its 35th
birthday, has a two in three chance of growing up illiterate and would
have an income of $470 a year.
Overall human development, measured by the UN as an amalgam of income,
life expectancy and
literacy, fell in 21 countries during the 90s. By contrast only four
countries suffered falling human
development in the 80s.
"Though average incomes have risen and fallen over time, human
development has historically shown
sustained improvement, especially when measured by the human development
index," the report said. "But the 1990s saw unprecedented stagnation,
with the HDI falling in 21 countries.
"Much of the decline in the 1990s can be traced to the spread of
HIV/AIDS, which lowered life
expectancies, and to a collapse in incomes, particularly in the
commonwealth of independent states."
The UN said the events of September 11 had created a "genuine consensus"
that poverty was the
world's problem, but urged the west to abandon the one-size-fits-all
liberalisation agenda foisted on poor countries.
Mark Malloch-Brown, administrator of the UN development programme, said
many countries in Africa and Latin America held up as examples of how to
kickstart development were among the stragglers in the global economy.
"The poster children of the 1990s are among those who didn't do terribly
well," he said. "There are
structural restraints on development. Market reforms are not enough. You
can't just liberalise; you need an interventionist strategy."
The report added that: "Over the past 20 years too much development
thinking and practice have
confused market-based economic growth with laissez faire."
The west needed to tear down trade barriers, dismantle its lavish
subsidy regimes, provide deeper debt relief and double aid from $50bn to
$100bn a year. This would provide the resources for investment in the
building blocks of development - health, education, clean water and
"Poor countries cannot afford to wait until they are wealthy before they
invest in their people," said Jeffrey Sachs, special adviser to Kofi
Annan, the UN secretary general, on the UN's millennium development
Economic growth alone would not rescue the world from poverty, the
report said. "Without addressing issues like malnutrition and illiteracy
that are both causes and symptoms of poverty, the goals will not be met.
"The statistics today are shaming: more than 13 million children have
died through diarrhoeal disease in the past decade. Each year, over half
a million women, one for every minute of the day, die in pregnancy and
childbirth. More than 800 million suffer from malnutrition."
It added: "For many countries the 1990s were a decade of despair. Some
54 countries are poorer now than in 1990. In 21, a larger proportion is
"In 14, more children are dying before age five. In 12, primary school
enrolments are shrinking. In 34, life expectancy has fallen. Such
reversals in survival were previously rare."
Matthew Lockwood, head of UK Advocacy Team, ActionAid, said: "The
shocking truth is that the poor are getting poorer. Leaders, in rich and
poor countries alike, are not taking poverty seriously enough.
"You don't solve this problem by making the leaders of poor countries
accountable to their rich-country counterparts. They need to be
accountable to their own citizens. Poor people must have a voice.
"We agree with much in the report but we would have liked to see more
about grassroots participation."
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
THE BIRTH OF NEOCOLONIALISM
WITHOUT AFRICA THE EUROPEAN UNION WOULD NOT EXIST
February 2007 will mark 50 years since the birth of Neocolonialism. It will have been a long and baffling 50 years for Africans. This devastating policy in Africa was established in order to reconstruct post war Europe and primarily to build European federalism. In fact the EU was made possible only through the imposition of Neocolonialism in Africa.
Africa has always featured significantly in efforts for European federalist thinking. In fact it can be argued that the control of Africa was central in the creation of the EU and its forerunners. The most important examples of efforts to assure claims over African territory, labor and resources in European federalist formulations prior to the establishment of the EEC, include the Convention of European Economic Cooperation (CEEC), the forerunner of the Organization of European Economic Cooperation (OEEC). Units of the OEEC later became the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD), the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the abortive European Defense Community (EDC), and the Council of Europe with the Plan of Strasbourg.
It is false to assume that Neocolonialism (in the form of maintaining control of African dependencies) was not the primary motive in establishing the EEC. The truth is that the control of Africa specifically, necessitated the creation of the EU. European colonial powers could not afford to singly maintain control over Africa, so they appealed to federalism to bail them out. Moreover, the EU was made possible only by European control of African labour and resources. In fact during EC treaty negotiations (including the Treaty of Rome) France made the control of its colonial territories the sine qua non for joining the EEC project, and the other European partners, especially Germany acquiesced to the French condition.
The matter of Africa was so significant to the process of EEC formulations that it nearly derailed European federalism in the 1950s. Resolutions central to what was renamed the EU stated that the association?of certain oversees territories?(meaning Africa) was an important feature of the EEC treaty. The six founder members of the EU could not maintain their economies without association?with colonial territories. The six European states agreed on integrating the overseas territories of France, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands into the "European" Common Market.
The colonial order under which the Treaty of Rome was negotiated probably precludes any arguments that colonial matters made no difference to the strategic and systemic formulations of the European signatories. The record proves the case that Africa was central to the idea and the structural outcomes in the order that Europe was building.
Beginning in June 1955, at ministerial conferences in Venice, Brussel and Paris, (including a secret technical?meeting at Ch?eau de Val-Duchesse near Brussels) France demanded annual contributions from above $100,000,000 from the other European states, to be used for economic development in French occupied Africa in exchange for allowing the Europeans to sell their products in Africa.
In February 1957 the French government proposed to begin by an experimental five-year period during which those territories would receive European exports on a limited but annually increasing scale.?The French would expect the rest of the founder European states to buy increasing quantities of farm products and raw materials from the French occupied Africa. The idea that African areas under French rule were constitutionally part of France with the same political and economic rights as French territory in Europe was made void by the preferential treatment the French administration was asserting within the European Community.
On February 20, six European Heads of Government agreed to include their overseas territories within the European Common Market under the satanic trade arrangement that came to be known as Neocolonialism, and issued a communique to the effect that Algeria, together with the other French Overseas Departments, was accorded a twofold status, being, on the one hand, close to full membership in the Community (Article 227 of the Rome Treaty), and, on the other hand, treated in a similar way with the associated territories (Article 16 of the Implementing Convention). The French proposal to grant Algeria this peculiar status caused the other states to follow suit with their own overseas territories.
In December 1956 at the luncheon of the Association des Journalistes dOtre-Mers, French Prime Minister Guy Mollet said France had no intention to be penalized in the problem of integrating Europe. He stated that France can only enter the Common Market with her overseas territories; otherwise there will not be any Common Market?
The matter of starting a new form of economic domination over Africa was the outstanding issue at the European Summit in Paris in1957. Without its resolution in favor of the French proposal over the exploitation of Africans, the EU would not exist today. The arrangement that was set up on February 20, 1957 came to be known as Neocolonialism. It was not inevitable, and Africa could have been an entirely different place had not the French and German governments built the EU over the graves of Africans.
The economic benefits of EU members, and the threats of France and the USA regarding the need to prevent Africa from becoming communist, encouraged colonial powers to grant independence?to the Africans under the dubious Neocolonial scheme that has finally made the European Union a reality. In January 1957, following a heated debate in the French National Assembly, Prime Minister Mollet stated that the new arrangement with Africa must be established on the three following principles: each country of the European Community will progressively obtain an equal access to the overseas products; each of them will participate in financing the public investments overseas; each of them will give a system of preferential treatment to the agricultural products for the overseas territories. The Government considers that the association of the overseas territories must be regulated on the above-mentioned principles before the treaty (EEC) is signed.?
Since then, the EUs officials have created a lot of disinformation about African underdevelopment, claiming that EU relations with Africa are a result of the need to help Africans, rather than the cause of underdevelopment in Africa. Yet all economic indicators show that in the 1950s Africa was at the same or at a higher economic and political level of development than most of Asia and South America, but because of European neocolonial policy for Africa, Africans have endured 50 years of protracted obstruction and exploitation at the hands of the European Union.
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