The World Bank has also had its own scandal featured on the front page of the New York Times. The charge was that they financed a project in Uganda in which poor people had their homes, cattle, and crops destroyed as the project forced them off their own land. The World Bank promised an investigation, which inspired us to post a clock beginning at the time of the promise.*
The clock is now at 294 days, 17 hours, and 54 minutes. The investigation has been repeatedly stonewalled. Unlike Penn State, no World Bank executives faced any consequences. Unlike Penn State, the victims have not been compensated. Unlike Penn State, no institutional reforms have taken place to make it less likely to happen again.
Why the different outcomes? I speculate the most single powerful difference is the state of public opinion as it affects the respective organizations’ reputations. The level of public outrage at Penn State was uber-many times greater than outrage at the World Bank for the respective transgressions. The offenses were different of course, but that alone does not explain the difference in outrage.
It is great that there are more people in rich countries than ever before that care about poor Ugandans. But the level of caring is still way too faint to force the World Bank to be held accountable when it does wrong to poor Ugandans.
*Relevant updates, which were mostly no news, were posted at this site.
The North Korea Disney show
A theory of dictator kitsch: that’s what you get when you have no mechanism for critical feedback (wait, I feel a metaphor for aid coming on!)
Africa is a Country gives a hard time to a 2012 Failed States Index.
Here at the Development Research Institute, we are always glad when we can recycle an old “Failure of State Failure” post making the same point 2.5 years ago as something today. The basic problem is that “failed states” is either (1) a less well-defined way to express other more well-defined concepts like “civil war” or “lousy institutions” or (2) just has no coherent definition.
Maybe we can get unstuck by being more creative about the definition. How about “states that someone might like to invade?”
Here at DRI, we must concede our longstanding strenuous effort to get the individual who has been World Bank President to say the word “Democracy” has ignominiously failed. His term ends this weekend.
Alas, this is more than a game. Yesterday, the peaceful Ethiopian blogger Eskinder Nega was convicted of “high treason” and “terrorist acts” for such nefarious activities as noticing there was an Arab Spring. (Nega should have followed the World Bank President’s exemplary speech on the Arab Spring that omitted the word “democracy” even in a purely descriptive sense. ) The World Bank has given Ethiopia’s government more than $2.5 billion (2007-2010) during Robert Zoellick’s term.
Of course, President Zoellick did have to obey
China the 1944 Articles of Agreement, which forbids interference in “the political affairs of any member.” But when Ethiopian rulers use the aid to give food relief to supporters and starve opponents, according to careful documentation by Human Rights Watch (HRW), one begins to wonder if aid itself is political interference? Wouldn’t suspending aid be more consistent with the Articles in that case?
At least the Development Assistance Group for Ethiopia (which includes the US, Canada, the UK, and the EU, together accounting for another $6 billion to Meles Zenawi over 2007-2010) sternly commissioned a field investigation into the HRW charges. Which has since quietly been cancelled. A 2009 secret US cable released by Wikileaks said that donors to Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi were already “keenly aware that foreign assistance … is vulnerable to politicization.”
Mr. Zoellick, you still have two whole business days to use some word form of democra____. Maybe you could just casually mention the official name of North Korea?
There is widespread consensus that development in Africa is held back by the capricious policies of the government. I am referring, of course, to the US government.
A crucial duty-free provision of the US African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) will expire in September, killing off the African textile export jobs on which 200,000 families depend.
US government policy on Africa is capricious because nobody cares.
The NYT has not mentioned AGOA in print since 2010 and virtually all of its mentions over the last decade were in Nick Kristof columns; the last regular NYT news story on AGOA was in 2003.
The Washington Post last mentioned AGOA in 2009 in a story headlined:
Clinton Pushes Kenyan Leaders to Follow Through on Promised Reforms
Don’t blame the newspapers: they cover what their readers want to read. (The specialized business press, FT (already linked above) and WSJ have done better covering the current crisis.) We had our own bitter experience with this when we lobbied hard to save AGOA jobs in Madagascar, with an impressive lack of success. Apparently none of the three readers of those posts had much ability to influence US government policy.
So my prediction is that this post today will have no readers and will have no effect whatsoever, unless enough of you non-readers get outraged enough about this non-effect to use your non-influence to save the day.