Northern Governmental Organisations: between the free market and the nation state
Samarendra Das and Miriam Rose
The NGO sector is one of the world’s largest industries. In 2009 there were 3.3 million NGOs (or 1 for every 400 people) in India alone,1 with money pouring in from Intergovernmental Organisations (IGOs), Western donor agencies and philanthropic funds.
Though some critiques of the big NGOs and humanitarian aid have reached the mainstream media in recent years, the general Western perception is that NGOs are doing important and effective work on behalf of millions of deprived people without a voice.
This article gives an alternative perspective. Based on conversations with grassroots activists and marginalised communities in India and Africa over many years of our work on extractive industries, we draw together the common critiques of advocacy and development NGOs in the ‘Third world’ or ‘global South’ – from their role in dividing and co-opting people’s movements by professionalising activism, to their lack of accountability to the people they claim to represent. We show that, behind the ‘rights based’ rhetoric, NGOs consciously or unconsciously serve the neoliberal interests of donor countries, institutions, and even companies.
Prosperity or plunder?: The real story behind the global mining industry
Samarendra Das and Miriam Rose, Foil Vedanta
Foil Vedanta is a grassroots international solidarity group based in London. We aim to hold the FTSE 250 UK listed company Vedanta to account by building a global movement of communities opposing its operations, and using scholar activism to expose the real interests behind Vedanta and other mining companies. In 2014 our report Copper Colonialism: Vedanta KCM and the copper loot of Zambia, which followed our visit to Zambia, ignited protests and helped change Zambian mining policy.
A history of mining:
Scientists still don’t fully understand how the deposits of precious metal in the Earth’s surface were formed, but the most recent theory suggests that they were brought to the Earth by enormous meteors which smashed into the planet 200 million years after the earth formed (4.3 billion years ago).1The earth’s crust is mostly made up of Oxygen (47%) and Silicon (28%), followed by Aluminium (8%) and Iron (5%). Other metals are much more rare; Copper makes up 0.01%, Zinc 0.004%, Lead 0.002%, Tin 0.001%, Thorium 0.001%, Uranium 0.0004%, Silver 0.00001% and Gold 0.000001%. Only a fraction of these percentages are to be found in densities which are economically viable to extract.
In other words, metals are a very rare and very precious resource on our planet, and are completely irreplaceable. However, in 2014, after only a century of industrial scale mining, the speed and scale of extraction of metals has become so immense that most metals are predicted to run out in the next few decades. For example between 1.1 and 1.3 billion tonnes of aluminium has been extracted historically (until 2014), and at the current extraction rate of 40 – 46 million tonnes per year the remaining 8 billion tonnes will be used up in 20 – 40 years.2
Contract Labourers at Vedanta’s Punjabi power company Talwandi Sabo Power Limited are striking today and protesting in front of the plant gates demanding payment for which they have been waiting for four months.
The Talwandi Sabo plant will be Punjabs biggest greenfield power plant. It is being constructed by SEPCO, the Chinese firm who were found guilty alongside Vedanta for causing more than 40 deaths at the Korba plant in Chhattisgarh when a chimney collapsed on workers in 2009 . Like the Talwandi Sabo workers they were contracted, un-unionised and without rights.
Hardeep Singh, engineer said, “27/28 contractors working for Vedanta have not received salaries for the last 4 months for which we are holding a non-violent protest in front of the gate of Vedanta/ TSPL. In this matter we met the DC and the GM of SEPCO. Nothing has been resolved. We will not stop our protest until our due wage worth 80 crores is settled. We demand from the company and the government that we are given what is owed to us.”
3rd August Seven global locations in India and Africa held angry protests today and over the weekend opposing the activities of British-Indian mining company Vedanta while Vedanta’s AGM at Ironmongers Hall, Barbican, London was mobbed by a loud rally organised by Foil Vedanta, accusing the company of pollution, human rights abuses and financial mismanagement. In London a comical staged boxing match between Vedanta’s 69.6% owner and Chairman Anil Agarwal and new CEO Tom Albanese, revealed the company’s debt problems and internal dynamics while protesters chanted ‘Corporate criminal, shame on you!’ and drummed loudly. Vedanta’s share price has slipped 61% this year to 377p, and continues to dive as Q1 results show increased debt, and Cairn India minority shareholders oppose their attempt to merge with the oil and gas subsidiary to gain access to its $2.6 billion cash reserves for debt servicing.