About Us

Poverty + Conflict + Corruption + Aid + Human Rights + Debt

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This picture shows a very successful European Union aid project which has established valuable communication infrastructure for trade and education. The solar powered email Pipolfastaem net is spread throughout the outlying islands and provides education and enterprise connections.

Aid for infrastructure and the development of civil society is desperately needed in Sub Saharan Africa and parts of the Pacific and South East Asia. In 1970 the United Nations General Assembly agreed to commit 0.7% of GDP to development, and this was affirmed in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit. In fact only Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have met this target. During the last ten years global development assistance of about $50 billion has actually fallen by about 30%. Repatriation of funds by immigrant workers to their developing nature homelands now stands at $70 billion per annum and significantly exceeds the quantum that the global community can muster.

The Solomon Islands has the lowest ranking of all Pacific Islands in the United Nations Human Development Index. They are a microcosm of the challenges that beset the world’s Least Developed Countries [LDCs]. They are unlikely to meet many if any of their Millennium goals of access to basic human rights of social infrastructure, food, health care, education, fresh drinking water, sanitation and income generation possibilities, without which dignity and development are not possible. There is high unemployment, a population growth amongst the highest in the world at around 3%, emergence of HIV/AIDS, significance violence towards women and a maternal mortality rate per 100,000 of about 300 compared to less than 10 in the UK. There is evidence of official violence and corruption during nearly ten years of armed conflict in which members of the police and government were implicated. Peace has recently been restored and is currently maintained by an Australian led police presence. This story of conflict repeats itself the world over, fueled by the $60 billion international arms trade, of which the United States, Russia and France are the main protagonists. About two thirds of these arms find their way into developing nations, undermining their potential for sustainable development while profits flow to the developed world.

Poverty coupled with armed conflict has devastating effects on sustainable development and the tourism and enterprise sectors receded as ethnic violence over resources escalated. One of the Island premier hotels was destroyed in the recent fighting along with many other buildings. This reduced available hotel rooms on the islands by about a third and as a consequence virtually all the available hotel rooms are now permanently taken up by the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands [RAMSI] staff and aid agencies, thereby negating the tourist trade. Easy money from the influx of RAMSI and aid projects have led to reduced interest in service and enterprise and the focus is on how to exploit the aid industry rather than the development of sustainable enterprise.

Exports collapsed by more than half during the conflict period and economic activity dropped by 25%; these statistics are approximate because the large majority of economic activity is outside regular economy and government capacity for measurement is sparse. This history of mismanagement and conflict has led to debt levels amongst the highest in the world at about 130% of GDP. Debt in LDCs is often accumulated during corrupt regimes [so called odious debt] or during periods of conflict, or spent on mismanaged projects the profits from which often simply accrue to developed countries with little benefit to the local people. The Solomon Islands missed out on the debt relief plan for the world’s 18 poorest debt ridden nations, adopted by the Group of 8 [G8] developed nations in London in 2005. Its Human Development Index measured prior to the latest devastating period of conflict was just above the cut off level.

Post the conflict and the flight of tourism the major sources of revenue are the erosion of natural capital through logging and the sale of fishing licensees to Japanese and Taiwanese trawlers and foreign aid. The large majority of the country's natural resources is exploited by foreign companies that pay low or no taxes, take most of the profits offshore and leave scant compensation to the Islands for the devastation of the natural environment. These challenges are compounded by aggressive loan conditions imposed by the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The debts are essentially unpayable through sustainable economic activity, and the Islands will be consigned to perpetual poverty trap unless debts are forgiven or sufficient aid is provided to compensate. In an effort to address these multiple economic challenges logging of tropical rainforest has escalated to an unsustainable level, increased trawler activity is reducing the subsistence stocks available to Islanders and this year the country was placed in the position of having to vote with Japan on the resumption of unsustainable whaling as a consequence of its economic dependency on that country’s aid.

To the credit of the international community notably the European Union and World Bank, millions of dollars of aid money have been poured into the country, but often without high impact. Stories abound of building projects that run out of money before they are complete, roads that run out of money and lead nowhere, and enterprises established without a clear idea of how they could ever become economically sustainable. Enterprises abandoned when the aid money was exhausted were plentiful. One sad outcome to this story was that the Solomon Islanders natural inclination towards enterprise appears to have been blunted by the access to aid monies, and their entrepreneurial spirit diverted towards accessing aid rather than creating enterprise. This was compounded by our glimpse into the aid industry during our visit. We were troubled by the extent to which it appeared to be self referential, in that the aid monies went to international professional aid implementation organizations without necessarily having great impact on people’s wellbeing, beyond those within the aid industry itself. The happy story of the Pipolfastaem net was a delightful exception.

This saga is repeated in LDCs around the world. Some commentators regard the actions of some developed nations, their multinational companies and the international loan agencies that support them in exploiting LDCs as simply a different form of neo-colonialism that continues to expropriate developing world natural resources to support profits and standards of living in developed nations. This global pattern of exploitation contributes to, encourages or indeed necessitates unsustainable development.

As in the Solomon Islands, the poverty trap in many parts of the world is getting worse not better. In 1971 27 countries had a per capita GNP of below $900 a year, whereas 49 countries are in that situation now; 20% of the world’s population live on less than $1 a day and 40% on less than $2 a day; by contrast 80% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 15% of the population. Unless this severe imbalance is seriously addressed, escalating conflict, civil war and terrorism are likely inevitable.

Part of the solution is renewed resolve from the developed world to address debt issues, confront the exploitative practices of some international corporations and contribute 7% of GDP for infrastructure aid and the development of civil society. Beyond this, there are outstanding sustainable enterprise opportunities available to contribute to the wellbeing of the three billion people at the ’Bottom of the Pyramid’ and at the same time to generate economic value through new ways of doing business. We explain how in our workshops.



1 World Atlas of Sustainable Development, Anthem Press, London 2005 page