Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fighting the resource "curse" nonviolently

As I mentioned in class on Friday, I was fortunate enough to participate in a training program with Oxfam America this past summer.  Oxfam is an international nonprofit that works to combat issues of poverty and injustice. 

One of the most interesting issues I came across was the extractive industries problem.  In many developing, and poor countries, wealthy corporations are coming into communities and striping them of their natural resources.  These companies pay- but the money goes to the government, not to the communities affected.  The governments grow enormously wealthy, but the people remain in poverty, not receiving the economic benefits.  And, not only do these people remain poor- but they become worse off than when the corporations entered, often experiencing water pollution.
See, for example, in Equatorial New Guinea (Map above, right).  The country has enormous oil resources.  While the government receives compensation, the people still live without adequate health, education, and nutrition resources.  There has been limited progress addressing this injustice.  However, the United States is debating a bill, H.R. 6066 that would increase transparency for industry-government interactions.

Oxfam challenged people to fight this injustice nonviolently.  They especially emphasized letter-writing and advised people to contact their own representative.  Oxfam officials held that, by using our own political clout and specifically listing legislation we supported, we could peacefully stimulate change.

See this oxfam article for greater detail.

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