What transparency?

On October 11th, the British government  announced transparency measures regarding the trade of imported natural resources, including gas and petrol. Companies will be required to publish payments to any government of more than €80,000 . This is meant to inform the local populations of the crimes and misdemeanours of their respective governments when they handle   the selling-off of their precious resources. As if the people of Afghanistan, Russia, Nigeria, DRC, Azerbaidjan etc etc did n’t know that the money was being pocketed directly with no benefit to themselves.
How naïve does the Liberal democrat leader, Nicolas Clegg think the public is? Surely everyone is aware that Nicolas Putin, Joseph Kabila or Hamid Karzai’s names are not on the cheques but that backhanders are filtered all along the food chain from well or mine to multinational company somewhere in the West.
Furthermore, one may wonder how such measures are to be efficient in countries where government is weak to non-existent, corruption rife , smuggling the main form of export and the goods are conflict minerals. This is the case of DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo),  which holds the main reserves of minerals used for digital technology today, as in smartphones Ipads, GPS and drones, to cite just a few.  Certainly IBM, Motorola, Samsung et al do not mine in their own name, but go through intermediary companies notorious for the mystery they shroud themselves in- (eg Glencore in Katanga) . But this does absolve any of the companies from responsibility of the heinous human rights abuses, including mass rape, that have become part and parcel of mining the resources used in digital technology.

All this is not unknown in Central Africa.
But up and and coming is the mining situation in Afghanistan which will become acute once the last NATO troops leave in 2014. The one legacy that is being prepared is who gets what in terms of natural resources. Never mind universal education,  women’s basic rights, any measure is purely cosmetic- as becomes obvious from what we see on a daily basis in Afghanistan. Copper, oil, gold, lithium, iron ore and much more  are hijacked by local warlords (including the supposedly Puritan Taliban). The mining law designed to attract foreign investments was rejected in summer, in order to keep the business at home-thereby paving the way for a civil war . Either way, whether these warlords try and keep the benefits for themselves or negotiate as they will have to with Western multinationals, the already impoverished Afghan population will lose out, as usual. Unless Afghan public opinion begins to react now….And there are enough angry young Afghans, well aware of what is going on to start clamouring for national ownership of their resources!

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