A worrisome UN report supports Cote d’Ivoire’s allegations of Ivorian exiles using Ghana as a staging area for incursions into CI.
After 8 years in office, Pascal Lamy, the long-standing, cool-headed leader of the World Trade Organization will step down. Lamy (France, and former EC Commissioner for Trade) was the fifth Director-General of the WTO. Past leaders included Supachai Panitchpakdi (2002-2005, Thailand), Mike Moore (1999-2002, New Zealand), Renato Ruggiero (1995-1999, Italy) and Peter Sutherland (1993-1995, Ireland, also the last leader of the GATT). (WTO)
Lamy has presided over the WTO during some difficult times. Most notably, he has repeatedly tried–and failed–to revive the Doha round of trade talks. This has not been his fault, the D-G has limited power to impact members’ behaviors. And one could say that he has succeeded in fending off the complete death of the negotiations. However, one can wonder whether a fresh face might help revive talks.
Who is running for office?
According to Reuters, we only have two names at the moment (Reuters). Formal nominations will be made in December
The African Candidate
It is common for regional blocks to put forward their own candidates and the African Union may have the clearers mechanisms for doing this. Several potential African candidates have been mentioned. Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who also was an important candidate for the World Bank’s top job earlier this year, has reportedly expressed no interest in running for the WTO position (PeaceFMOnline). Nigeria’s current trade minister, Olusegun Aganga, has also been mentioned. Another possibility that has been mentioned is South Africa Trade Minister Rob Davies (Reuters). But apparently the AU has decided it will be none of the above. There are a number of reports stating that the African Union has decided that Ghana’s former trade minister, Alan Kyremanten, should hold the post (Ghana Joy Online; AfricaNews.com). Kyerematen currently is the trade advisor at the UN Economic Commission for Africa and head of the African Trade Policy Centre. (thisafrica.com). As Reuters reports, this was a contentious decision. However, if he can get all of Africa’s WTO members to back him, then that would be (a) the first time all of them supported the same candidate and (b) a significant portion of the WTO’s membership, which could go a long way towards getting him elected to the job.
New Zealand Again?
Another likely candidate is New Zealand’s trade minister Tim Groser. However, it has barely been a decade since someone from New Zealand held the post, making his chances unlikely (The New Zealand Herald).
Reuters mentions a number of possible candidate from Mexico and Costa Rica, with some broader speculation about Brazil’s Ambassador to the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, as a possible Latin American choice.
It is still way too early to tell what will happen in this competition for the WTO’s top job. But it is clear that the game is afoot.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is on Time Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World. Other Africans who made the list include: South African Paralympic medalist Oscar Pistorius, Egyptian Samira Ibrahim, Tunisian scholar-politician Rached Ghannouchi, and Gambian Fatou Bensouda, the new head of the International Criminal Court.
Opinio Juris has an interesting set online forum on “Kony 2012: The Social, the Media, and the Activism: Kony Meets World.”
The Cocoa Map
The Guardian’s “World of Chocolate” via Business Insider. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are the clear global leaders in production, but I must say I hadn’t realized how important Indonesia is to this market.
Do African politicians have a reason to support gay rights?
A recent conversation with some colleagues and the discovery of a post about “Gay Relief” on Ramblings of a Procastinator in Accra got me thinking again about the politics of homosexuality in Africa. In the blog post, Abena Serwaa writes:
Contrary to what most people believe, African leaders love gay people. In recent times, the African politician has come to realise that no single issue can galvanize and unite the citizenry across the usual divides than calls for gay rights.
As she mentions, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s call for African leaders to respect gay rights has not had its intended effects. Ghana’s President had this to say:
Ghanaian society frowns on homosexuality, if the people’s interest is that we do not legalize homosexuality, I don’t see how any responsible leader can decide to go against the wishes of his people.
And recent Nobel Prize Winner Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also vowed to veto any bill legalizing homosexuality. Her Press Secretary said this:
Liberians should hold this government by her word. This President will not sign into law anything called same sex marriage. This government opposes gay rights. In fact, government will not compromise its religious belief for any (foreign) aid. We have listened to the vast majority of our people who have spoken on this issue and kicked against it, so this government has the will of the people and believes in the dreams and aspirations of the people and I can assure you that President Sirleaf will not sign that bill.
Of course, Africa is not the only part of the world that struggles to accept gay rights as Brian Whitaker notes, there is an “ongoing battle for gay rights in the Arab world.” And how can we expect this to happen any easier there than it does here in the US? Jimmy Carter, one of our most famous human rights campaigners, has just now come around to supporting gay civil marriages. And I think everyone knows how Santorum has felt about gay rights for some time.
The question becomes: what will it take to incentivize politicians in Africa (and elsewhere) to promote gay rights? No, I don’t yet have the answer.
Can Americans be sued for pursuing anti-gay agendas in Africa?
Indeed, just recently a Ugandan gay rights group, Sexual Minorities Uganda, has filed suit against American evangelist Scott Lively using the Alien Tort Statute (ATS; a statute I have written about here). As reported by the New York Times:
The lawsuit maintains that beginning in 2002, Mr. Lively conspired with religious and political leaders in Uganda to whip up anti-gay hysteria with warnings that gay people would sodomize African children and corrupt their culture.
The Supreme Court is currently hearing a different ATS case which may impact whether other cases such as this get heard. But this could be an interesting way to hold our own extremists accountable.
Surfing in Africa
The Economist, has this story on the “Beach Rush”. I don’t think the numbers of surfers going to Africa are all that substantial, but there are some cool scenes and great possibilities. In the story the mention the Black Star Surf Camp, which is run by theBlack Star Surf Shop at Busua Beach.
The story behind this outfit is pretty neat, involving some help form a couple former Peace Corps Volunteers in the mid-2000s. A brief documentary on their effort is available here:
Personally, I think the sign of their greatest success–or Ghana’s, at any rate–will be when local demand for their services consistently outweighs foreign demand.
55 Years Old Today
President Mill Speaks:
Besides some concerns about oil’s impact on the environment in Ghana, there have been a number of other recent stories that remind us that Ghana’s environmental problems are far more widespread and diversified.
One of the biggest issues is the problem of waste disposal (or the lack thereof).As Fiona Leonard mentions in her blog, “A Fork in the Road”,Ghana’s beaches occasionally look pretty bad because of this. The Korle Lagoon in Ghana is particularly bad (a number of observers have called it one of the most polluted waters on the planet but I’m not sure whether there is an official measure of this). It is even called “Sodom and Gomorrah”. Nevertheless, there have been efforts to change the situation. Ghana’s Ministry of Housing and Works has contracted with International Marine and Dredging Consultants to do work to reduce pollution in the lagoon. However, some efforts (I’m not sure exactly who is behind these) have also created important social problems, including the eviction of squatters.
Fiona also mentions a great advertising campaign designed to bring attention to the issue (“The Picture the Ghana Tourist Board Doesn’t Want You to See”).
However, don’t take all of this as a sign that there aren’t good beaches in Ghana. Esi’s “What Yo’ Mama Never Told You About Ghana” blog has a nice rundown of great Ghanaian beaches that are worth visiting.
More pleasant, perhaps, is the news about a new grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and World Bank to combat desertification and drought in Ghana.
In case you missed it, last friday, June 17th, was World Desertification Day. Sponsored by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) the focus this year was on supporting the UN’s International Year of the Forests. In Ghana, the MTN Group sponsored at least a couple events.
Bill Easterly has been spending some time in Ghana. In one post on his blog he extolls the virtues of the private sector at keeping lavatories clean. (However, Easterly does seem to fine some signs that aid can work in his visit to a Hunger Project site.) Apparently, a private firm — that also sells cleaning products — has taken on bathroom cleaning contracts in restaurants. Easterly doesn’t seem to think much of the restaurant he was at. But I do hope he finds some great Ghanaian food. If he has questions about what can be great, I suggest he take a look at Fran Osseo-Asare’s BetumiBlog.