What’s Ur Role in This

Development and conflict has a unique reciprocal relationship in the sense that poorly planned and misdirected development begets conflict and vice versa. In a short span of the previous 60 years, Iraq has endured continuous thrust of violence, oppression, and degradation of national autonomy. In the brief moments of respite, development under many roles is steadfast, but the efforts have been short lived as another conflict or crisis arises and sets movement in reverse.

Brief Timeline of Key Events

In the absence of obscure lines one can see that Iraq’s previous 60 years of undisputed discord ultimately impacted the Iraqi people rendering them unable to seek refuge today.

Prior to the nationalist revolution in 1958, Iraq was a developed state; with stable infrastructure, municipalities, and promising oil industry prospective.

In a 60 year span:

  • 8 political shifts which all involve conflict
  • 3 major external conflicts
  • 3 major sectarian entities rule over regions of Iraq (Kurdistan, Sunni-Ba’ath Sympathizers, The Capital which is the remaining Shia majority in Iraq)
  • IDP and refugees are over 3.4 million and counting
  • Food, Shelter, Safety, and Medical Supply scarcities are consecutively unending

Peering into the current situation one would have to be blind to miss the effect of short-lived cessations of development and immediate occurrence of conflict in Iraq. The cycle has now resulted in 3.3 million Iraqi people displaced, the unhinging of government and policy, and fueled sectarian tensions all whilst the decline of the crude oil, the major export in which national revenue is dependent on dwindles.


Development roles become obscure as external and internal pressures accumulate, especially in addition to the pre-existing fragility, a nation endures while in conflict or crisis. In 2016, development is still an undefinable and mutable concept with many, many facets. Not only does the philosophy of development change, it has a causative facet of change itself. In conflict, development is either in favor or in opposition to autonomy seekers. In the case of Iraq, the roles play both friend and foe as the nation struggles for reclamation and seems to be only a blink of time when Iraqis had autonomy together.

In this blog key roles of development make cameo appearances of Iraq’s recent 60 year history. In the latter part of the 20th century, Iraq’s conflict situation escalated immensely, as it gained prominent media attention after Iraq’s invasions and conflict with neighboring Iran and Iraq. The decade before and after these conflicts illuminate the political role of development. Immediately ensuing the conflicts, international pressures and sanctions were placed on Iraq. Said pressures vehemently decreased traditional developmental efforts, and the role of development began to shift from political to humanitarian as national interests superseded the responsibility of all the Iraqi people; as opposed to those only supporting the ruling government sect.

Infrastructure began to decline, water sources were rerouted, and people began to displace in the thousands. This shift of roles lasted well into the first part of the 21st Century as the world once again witnessed Iraq’s conflict on a global scale. After 9/11 and the Invasion of 2003, the world saw large-scale development mantled as humanitarian aid.

Previously mentioned, reconstruction was one role of development as the entire nation was recuperating from the De-Baathification Era (2003-2005). Soon to follow reconstruction was political and economic development as Iraq began holding elections and the new Constitution for the Republic of Iraq (ROI) was voted in. However, tensions between autonomy seekers caused another upheaval as the oil prices dropped and debt began to accrue rapidly. In 2004-2005 the tensions mentioned are simply the result of Shia sects in governmental power and lack of inclusion of Sunni population, which previously had the majority political influence. There is a plethora of information available as to what causes these tensions, some opinion and some fact, but that is useless at this point. The assumptions of who is causing the tensions became factual when the “insurgency” was claimed openly by ISIS and like sympathizers. The important thing to keep in mind is that regardless of the violent and obscenely criminal nature of the rebellion, the sect still falls under the umbrella of autonomy seekers. The changing role of development has impacts that can be seen clearly and is evidenced by the further division of a nation, which is already branched by sect.

Still, the imbalance and fall short of Iraq with efforts to stabilize its own nation (political development), resulted in vulnerabilities that have been piled up over the previous decades. This coupling created a prime target for the uprising of an insurgency and the retard of all progress towards stability, save the southern governates.

This stage of developmental transitioning (into humanitarian), much like the “Fight or Flight” mechanism in the human nervous system, marked another event in which development reverts to survival.

The interchangeable tottering of economic, political, and humanitarian roles of development is the major influencing factor that procured Iraq’s acquisition of the national turmoil we see today.

Please refer to Timeline at the end of this blog for further details and chronological list of development roles and related shifts.

Economic Development

It was a surprise to find that prior to the Ba’ath Party and numerous rebellious coups, Iraq was a developed nation state under the British Monarch. The oil industry was efficient and provided revenue to begin further infrastructural development; dams, hospital, and medical training facilities. Alas, there was an unwanted occupancy that procured developmental ‘successes as opposed to achieving that success via national autonomy. Autonomy also playes a large role in development…discusses later.

Shortly after the second round of military coups, and the genesis of the Ba’athist Regime, Iraq had obtained some sovereignty. In the 1970’s the economy had what seemed to be a steadying boom. According to researchers at San Jose State University, the following policies took effect:

  • Cancelation of payment for redistributed lands
  • Subsidized prices for basic consumer commodities
  • Welfare services
  • Establishment of agricultural cooperatives to provide subsidized seed and fertilizers

Iraq was the 3rd largest producer of oil in 1979 as oil fields became nationalized. IRRF was a major actor in revitalizing the oil sector in 2006 when the industry suffered impacts of inadequate maintenance and production. To date, several thousand projects for all sectors have commenced and The World Bank has kept in-depth records of such projects as well as outcomes.

Key Highlights of Economic – Political Overlap: When Development Reverses

  • Kurdish and Iraq Currency with different conversion rates (in favor of the Kurdish currency)
  • National prioritization of neighboring territorial conquests while infrastructure declined
  • Poorly planned irrigation and water extraction from marshlands
  • Inadequate Site Location of the Construction of the Mosul Dam

Political Development

General Qasim, painted in a neutral light, was a dictator of anti-sectarian values and had compassion for the poor. His coup to overthrow the Hashemite Monarch brought all sects together with a common nationalist goal. During the time frame of the Monarch rule there was Shia oppression and an overall discord as they were cast as peasants; which would ultimately play a role in 2005 when the new constitution and elections placed Shia members in control of Iraq. Assuming history repeats itself, there will be many coups in order for Sunni sympathizing insurgents in hopes to regain control of Iraq.

Fast forward to a hypothetical future…what do you see? Do you see the defeat or victory of the insurgents? Do you see the foreign influence again? Now rewind to the post Ba’ath Era and imagine if there was never any UN, U.S. or Coalition Forces. Would you see the same numbers and statistics of Iraqi Human Rights violations and crisis? Would the number be the same? Which sect would have the highest numbers? These are the questions that are realy discusses in public forums. When nations make the choice to shift politics, or cooperatively intervening in foreign politics, these potent topics seems to be overlooked and justified under other roles of development. When does political development become a risk to pass up on in order to prevent a potential humanitarian crisis on such a large scale?

Humanitarian Development

Another unique distinction of Iraq’s affairs in regards to development is that Humanitarian Aid is a role in which development has a scaffolding facet and has been the repeating result of economic and political development.

Initially, humanitarian assistance began in the 1970’s as the Ba’ath Regime inflicted many hardships for the Iraqi people. The timeline below highlights conflict correlated aid provisions, and does not include the enormous amounts of aid over the years to date. In the mid 1990’s an water borne diseases increased as potable water was scarce and lack of medical resources were limited. In 1999 the infant mortality rate doubled causing the inevitability of foreign involvement. From 1990-2002 the UN placed several heavy sanctions on Iraq as a result of the border conflicts with Kuwait. At this time in history the United Nations, U.S. and Coalition Forces are the major actors in the shift from the political development role to humanitarian aid, where the lines become invisible and human rights violations become the catalyst for yet another conflict.

Impact Echoes

Development is often shadowed with stigmas of exploitation. Return of investments, agreeable and profitable quarterly reports, and procuring future investments, play a role in development opportunities. In the Middle East the exploitation of oil and its related industry is under great scrutiny, as it should be, however in the case of Iraq, development leans heavily in the humanitarian corner as there is little to exploit save the last hope residing in the southern governates.

In the extreme cases of development, where conflict is a major contributor to the need of development or aid, there seems to be a trend of common factors. One common factor is the preliminary involvement by key international organizations like The United Nations, UNICEF, The World Bank, thousands of NGO’s, and WHO. The upside of the mentioned organizations’ involvement being there is not simply one nation or government involvement and in turn reducing the possibilities of colonization and exploitation. Of course, these organizations can succumb to external and internal political influences which damages the integrity of development and foreign aid, potentiating tensions that cause conflicts.

Autonomy: Borders within Borders

As mentioned in previous blogs, resilience plays a big role in development as well. As the north engages in heavy conflict and crisis, the southern governates use resilience and keep the momentum of development going all while remaining autonomous.

  • Kurdistan has been officially autonomies and given a form of plight as a sovereign entity however tensions grow as they become more and more independent of the ROI
  • In April 2016 Trevi contractors begin the process of repairing the Mosul dam. If they are successful they will be able to prevent the impending death of over a half of million people. The Italian engineers and contractors have implemented a plan of repair which also includes the training of Iraqis so they can efficiently maintain the dam once the project commences. This latest development project, like many before, has a vulnerability as the consistent problem of insurgency poses another threat by inhibiting resource attainment. It has been reported that the security risks pose a greater threat to the workers.
  • Thi-Qar/Nassiryia, NESPAK Irrigation, capitol approval for governing authorities (previous blog)
  • Basra made headway recently with oil exports

Ur Lessons Learned

The biggest take away is not the semantics of which development lines are blurred, erased, or crystal clear. It is important in the aspect of cause and effect of careless development practices and even more miniscule when compared to the efficacy of a nation and its people who suffer.

I happened upon a report from the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) which discusses lessons learned in regards to Iraq’s De-Ba’athification. I found the process steps to be potent in regards to a framework to incorporate in the phases of development with nations who are in a conflict or crisis state.

A Bitter Legacy: Lessons of de-Baathification in Iraq, International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).

 Abdulrazzaq Al-Saiedi, and Miranda Sissons

 Abdulrazzaq Al-Saiedi is a human rights researcher and former ICTJ consultant specialising in the Middle East and North Africa. Miranda Sissons was head of the Iraq program at the International Center for Transitional Justice from 2005-2008. A former Australian diplomat, she has authored numerous publications on human rights and the law of armed conflict in the Middle East.

 Lessons Learned

  1. Design a vetting program, not a purge. De-Baathification dismissed people based on rank, not behavior, and this created serious problems. Establish clear criteria to use when vetting, and be certain that your vetting procedure meets basic due process standards. If it does not, you risk creating an incoherent, ineffective, and unnecessarily controversial program.
  2. Know your target. Without accurate data, your program risks being impractical and ineffective. It could also create severe capacity problems. If you don’t have such data, pursue a more limited initiative while you gather the information you need.
  3. Set clear, realistic objectives. A vetting program is a tool that uses certain criteria to assess a person’s suitability to be a government employee. The program cannot by itself reform the public sector or deliver justice to victims. Be mindful of any capacity problems and where possible take steps to mitigate them.
  4. Don’t create a monster. The framework, powers, and oversight of any vetting program should be defined clearly, and it should be carried out for a limited period of time. Be sure the leadership broadly represents the makeup of your country’s population and is insulated from electoral politics.
  5. Consult and educate. Do not create a program without consulting the people who it is meant to serve. Their ideas and knowledge may differ from your preconceptions or may vary strongly among different groups.
  6. Look to the future. Design a program with criteria that can help protect against future abuse: think about promotion, recruitment, and other procedures, not just dismissals.

If practical, use your experience in the program to develop ideas for future reforms.

  1. Observe basic standards of fairness. This is strongly related to the first lesson. Fairness is not just a legal issue—it protects a vetting program from political manipulation and increases public confidence. Vetting programs are always controversial. By adhering to administrative due process standards (which are simpler than judicial standards), you can minimize needless controversy and focus on your program goals.

Iraq has quite the journey ahead. Since I left in 2006 I have thought continuously about the welfare of the Iraqi people as they are never far from my thoughts.In this course, I have had the opportunity to peer in closer and research as much as possible. I hope that I was able to deliver to you a view of Iraq in light of development on both a large and small scale. In review, development plays many roles and can often be defined in innumerable ways, however; there is a strong need for fine tuning of the roles that development plays as well as limits to authorities.

Iraq Timeline

Conclusion: What is the relationship between levels of development and torture?


Torture Reality ≠ Torture Portrayal

Amnesty International describes torture as “A global crisis of barbarism, failure, and fear” (“Torture in 2014”). I think we can all agree that torture is indeed a global crisis and an international human rights issue. The question remains, however, do we apply Amnesty’s description to all acts of torture equally? Is torture in developed, particularly Western, countries more accepted than torture in the Global South?

The prevalence of torture throughout both developed and developing nations suggests that levels of development do not directly correlate with the occurrence of torture. The U.S, for example, continues to use torture in the name of national security and intelligence gathering; Spain and New Zealand join the U.S with their use of torture by law enforcement; Germany, France, and the United Kingdom all continue to accept and utilize intelligence that was obtained through illegal torture. All of these (and many more) developed, Western countries have direct and explicit ties to torture. But how often do you hear (via government officials, news outlets, etc.) about torture in these countries?

Research conducted on the media portrayal of Abu Ghraib reveals significant deficiencies in the reporting of torture by U.S news outlets. The research report explains:

Even when provided with considerable photographic and documentary evidence and the critical statements of governmental and nongovernmental actors, the nation’s leading media proved unable or unwilling to construct a coherent challenge to the administration’s claims about its policies on torturing detainees (Bennett et al, 2006).

The lack of demand for change by the U.S media directly results in a weakened perception of torture by U.S citizens. It has been established that torture occurs at all levels of development; the portrayal of torture, however, appears to play a significant role in the determining what actions receive attention, and what is categorized/ accepted as torture.


A Blurred Line

Though there is an international definition of torture, established by the UN Convention Against Torture, there remains a blurred line on what actions constitute torture. In a recent interview with NBC, John Brennan, director of the CIA, stated that the “agency will not engage in harsh enhanced interrogation practices” such as waterboarding (Engel & Windrem, 2016). In response to comments made by presidential candidates, Brennan said, “I will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques I’ve heard bandied about because this institution needs to endure” (Engel & Windrem, 2016). Not once throughout the interview did Brennan refer to CIA actions as “torture.” He continually used the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” when discussing the horrific acts of the CIA.

Even Lester Holt, the reporter summarizing the interview said, “Waterboarding is a controversial technique used in the past that many call torture” and that the CIA would no longer implement “harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding” (Engel & Windrem, 2016). This rhetoric leaves dangerous room for the possibility that waterboarding is not actually torture (which we know is incorrect). When viewers hear “enhanced interrogation” over and over, “torture” begins to feel less significant. It was not until the very end of the report that the word “torture” was actually used. Waterboarding is indeed torture, yet some continue to refuse to call it what it is.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says he doesn’t believe that Waterboarding is torture. Waterboarding undoubtedly is an act which inflicts severe pain and suffering with the intent of obtaining intelligence, therefore falling under the UN definition of torture (“United Nations”). Cruz said, “Well under the definition of torture, no it [waterboarding] is not” (Kampmark, 2016).

The UN’s definition of torture is just loose enough to provide governments with grey area. Personally, I feel that “pain and suffering” should be descriptive enough for individuals to know what actions constitute torture. When it comes down to national security, however, those words take on a new weight and continue to be exploited, manipulated, and redefined by governments across the world.


Western Nationalism & Rationalization

As I began to explore in my post on Guantanamo Bay, and again in my post on media portrayal of torture, the United States attempts to legitimize torture in the name of national security. The rhetoric surrounding much of Western torture is centered on the safety of citizens. Governments harness the fear of their citizens, and present torture (what they call “enhanced interrogation”) as a necessary avenue of intelligence gathering. Even though the CIA senate torture report deemed Guantanamo torture unsuccessful at gathering useful and/or accurate information, governments use fear and nationalism to gain the backing of their constituents.

The 2016 U.S presidential elections have focused heavily on torture and its use to combat terrorism. Republican candidates generally support “enhanced interrogation” (read: torture) against suspected threats, and have exemplified the exploitation of fear that Western governments frequently use. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in particular have voiced (loudly) their beliefs that torture is absolutely necessary for U.S and international security.

In several GOP debates the topic of torture has been discussed; almost always, these discussions frame torture as something that the government has no choice but to perpetrate. Ted Cruz once stated, “I would use whatever enhanced interrogation methods we could to keep this country safe” (Engel & Windrem, 2016). Trump has said on multiple occasions, “I would bring back waterboarding and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” (Engel & Windrem, 2016). Following the recent Brussels attack, Trump stated that he would close U.S borders and, “would try to expand the laws to go beyond waterboarding” (Minnis, 2016). Even in these few examples you find the appeal to fear; the threat that without torture the lives of U.S citizens are in danger.

Trump’s rhetoric specifically focuses on the other-ing of religious groups, ethnic/racial groups, and nations. He presents certain groups as un-American and a threat to national security, which has detrimental consequences. Of course Isis is a threat, but not every Muslim is a threat; of course some terrorist attacks happen by immigrants, but not every immigrant is a terrorist. By focusing on an “us vs. them” plot, Trump is able to convince a large group of Americans that torture is necessary. He uses his slogan of “Make America Great Again” to promote blinding nationalism.

The reality of torture is that it is not necessary, or even consistently effective, for preserving national security. Much of the Western torture I found was perpetrated by some of the highest government officials, of which rely on the rationalization of torture in the name of America’s safety. While these Western countries are torturing behind locked doors “in the name of national security” they are simultaneously demonizing non-Western countries (ex: Nigeria, Syria, Mexico, the Philippines, etc.) for torturing (“Torture in 2014”).


Development & Torture: A Summary

I began my first blog post a tad unsure of where my research would take me. My research has enlightened me immensely and exemplified the discord between the portrayal of torture and the reality of its occurrence. Here are some of the key findings, highlights, and points I hope you takeaway from my posts:

  • Torture is not directly related to the level of development of a country; it occurs across the globe in countries of varying development.
  • Media portrayal of torture significantly impacts the public’s perception, tolerance, and categorization of torture; the portrayal of torture is not necessarily accurate to reality.
  • Mutua’s “Savage, Victim, Savior complex” can help explain the media portrayal of torture (Mutua, 2001).
  • Western/ developed torture is more widely accepted, while non-Western/ developing torture is demonized and criticized.
  • Western torture often relies on nationalism and rationalization to legitimize government use of torture.

Thank you for reading and learning with me throughout these posts!



Bennett, W., Lawrence, R., & Livingston, S. (2006). None Dare Call It Torture: Indexing and the Limits of Press Independence in the Abu Ghraib Scandal. Journal of Communication, 56, 467-485. Retrieved April 12, 2016.

Engel, R., & Windrem, R. (2016, April 11). Director Brennan: CIA Won’t Waterboard Again — Even if Ordered by Future President. NBC. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/director-brennan-cia-won-t-waterboard-again-even-if-ordered-n553756

Kampmark, B., Dr. (2016, April 9). Keeping Torture “Fashionable”: The US Presidential Elections. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.globalresearch.ca/keeping-torture-fashionable-the-us-presidential-elections/5519442

Minnis, G. (2016, March 23). Donald Trump’s Brussels Response: Close US Borders, Use Torture Tactics. Latin Post. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.latinpost.com/articles/118977/20160323/donald-trumps-brussels-response-close-us-borders-use-torture-tactics.htm

Mutua, M. (2001). Savage, Victims, and Saviors: The Metaphor of Human Rights. Harvard International Law Journal, 42(1), 201-209. Retrieved March 3, 2015.

United Nations, Convention Against Torture. (1994, July 16). Hrweb. Retrieved March 3, 2016, from http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cat.html

Torture in 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises. (2014). Retrieved April 12, 2016, from https://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/act400042014en.pdf

The Future of Sustainability in Southeast Asia

In previous blog posts I have focused on issues ailing the Southeast Asian region in the past and present. This concluding post will deviate from its predecessors, instead focusing on the future of this vibrant, yet rapidly changing area.

The hurdles and challenges facing the people, governments, NGOs, and international agencies in Southeast Asia are countless. Nearly every aspect of development in this region needs reform in order to veer onto a sustainable path. While I have spent extensive time detailing environmental problems such as dams in the Mekong, fishery collapses, and deforestation, these large scale events are largely unfelt by the average global citizen. Take for example the havoc being wreaked on coral reefs in the region. In the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, coral is beginning to bleach and die in response to rising sea temperatures and changing climatic conditions. One local source details, “If the temperature rises to 30.5 [degree Celsius] in the Gulf of Thailand and 28 [degree Celsius] in the Andaman Sea, bleaching is likely to happen,” (Wipatayotin). While the need is clearly urgent, the average person is not directly or immediately felt by the loss of coral reefs and its ecosystem service. How far will it take then to have these environmental disasters felt by and trigger response from the average person?

While environmental degradation is not felt significantly now, it is incorrect to say that it is having no impact. In fact, nearly one in four deaths are due to environmental factors like air, water, and soil pollution, with the “most environmentally-linked deaths [happening] in Southeast Asia, which accounted for 3.8 million such deaths in 2012,” (“Deaths in SE Asia”). Southeast Asia, whether it is the cause of degradation or not, is facing the brunt of the consequences. To the average Western consumer sitting at their computer, life continues uninterrupted, but to the individuals living in these regions, the changes they are encountering are only the beginning. Ultimately, a combined effort of NGOs, national governments, international agencies, and local stakeholders are needed to prevent the situation from getting worse. However, if the West fails to realize, assist, and pay for the harm its people and society is having on regions like Southeast Asia through avoidance of climate change accountability, then it is painstakingly up to national governments in Southeast Asia to save their own people. Eventually, Western officials who refuse to acknowledge delivering assistance will be forced to deal with similar problems in a few decades, however by then the damage will be impossible to mitigate.

Governments in Southeast Asia have typically been slow and unresponsive to ideas of sustainability and green technology as a source of energy. Natural gas, coal, and oil dominate the market, leaving renewables like solar and wind for small-scale village electrification. In fact, “The region will need more resources for itself as it develops further.

Graph detailing the amount by which each sector accounts for in Southeast Asia’s energy consumption.

There will be fewer surpluses for export. This is already the case for oil,” (Symon 241). In another instance the paper states, “With urbanization and growing incomes, motor vehicle ownership has risen rapidly. In Manila… the number of cars has doubled every seven years,” (Symon 243). Clearly, as the region grows economically and in terms of population, energy resources are going to be needed in greater demand. With a system in set for more coal, natural gas, and oil imports and production, there is little room or incentive for renewables. This is the time when governments and organizations like ASEAN need to push for sustainable initiatives and energy. If these governments are not capable of establishing a precedent for sustainable energy and independence now, then once resources become strained and populations and economies grow, there will be no room for switching to green technology.

Map detailing which regions are vulnerable to climate change, with a greater numerical value equating to more vulnerability.

While the outlook for energy independence in this region looks bleak, sustainable ideas and programs are appearing throughout Southeast Asia. As aforementioned in previous posts, tourism has the potential to place power in indigenous people while developing local economies. However, tourism also has the potential to be environmentally destructive, with the industry accounting for 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions through pollution and waste (“UNEP”). When used effectively, countries and local people can make huge economic gains, as described “in the Galapagos Islands and Palau, [where] visitors pay an entry tax to protected areas,” generating over $1.3 billion in Palau annually since 2009 (“UNEP”). The future success of ecotourism is one that requires collaboration with local people, organizations, and governments in order to ensure that the actions committed are in fact sustainable and supporting indigenous groups and conservation.

The future of sustainability in Southeast Asia is one that remains contingent on a variety of political stakeholders, two of those being the current global powerhouses China and the United States. With increasing Chinese influence, the United States has begun to intervene and divest leadership in these nations in order to remain sovereign. The idea of whether this is an American ploy to dominate the region is another debate, but one thing is clear, Southeast Asians are going to feel an increasing pressure from outside forces. As one article describes, “Southeast Asian nations are reluctant to choose sides, wary about being wed as pawns in a geopolitical struggle between superpowers,” (Nakamura). The theory has historical basis, with Korea and Vietnam serving as reminders of geopolitical struggles. The only solution is for global independence to be established, whether that be regional security through the ASEAN or security on a national basis, free from global powers. While establishing security, Southeast Asian nations would be in a position to launch and create sustainable agendas such as energy independence and environmental programs. Doing so would enable freedom from the oil and energy market while decreasing the need for reliance and influence from superpowers like China and the United States.

While Southeast Asian nations play an interconnected role in the global world as both exporters and importers of goods, the nation’s composing this region are at a crucial fork. An opportunity exists for these nations to become independent, free of influence from larger political entities, generating policies and development projects based on their specific economic, social, and environmental needs. Therefore, the future sustainability of this region is not bleak, but one filled with optimism that local groups, national governments, and international organizations can collaborate to promote independent, sustainable livelihoods, addressing the key issues facing the largest environmental crises of the 21st century.


“Environment to Blame for 3.8 Million Deaths in SE Asia since 2012, WHO Finds.” Malay Mail Online. Malay Mail Online, 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Nakamura, David. “Obama Welcomes 10 Southeast Asian Leaders to California Summit.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 15 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Symon, Andrew. “Fuelling Southeast Asia´s Growth: The Energy Challenge.” ASEAN Economic Bulletin 21.2 (2004): 239-48. JSTOR. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

“Harnessing the Power of One Billion Tourists for a Sustainable Future.” United Nations Environment Programme. United Nations Environment Programme, 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Wipatayotin, Apinya. “Andaman Coral Reef Sites May Close.” Bangkok Post. Bangkok Post, 10 Apr. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Dependency Theory


In my most recent post about colonization to post-colonization in African I ended with this sentence “Africa is left to unscramble itself.” To understand why; we have to look at dependency theory. Colonialism allowed wealthy western countries to “take” unclaimed territories or “their colonies” for material benefits. Now, these once colonies face poverty and are forces to take huge loans from these wealthy western countries (their colonizers) to sustain their countries. Leaving them with foreign debt. (Foreign debt: A debt that a country, an organization in a country, or a resident individual in a country owes to those in other countries.)

Therefore, dependency theory is a way for former colonizers to continue to exploit their former colonial countries with economic dependence. This is the main cause of poverty not only in Africa, but globally. Dependency allows countries to develop at an uneven rate. Why? Because wealthy countries have exploited poor countries in the past and continue to do so today through foreign debt and foreign trade.

In Alfred Ndi’s article “Why economic growth theories became a fiction of development in postcolonial Africa: Critiquing foreign aid policy as discourse” (2010), shows how “economic growth theories that had been applied do not bring a higher per capita income or GDP and social progress to Africans, but rather lead to underdevelopment by using dependency, power and new ideologies.” – (Nielsen)

Poor countries are trapped by large debts which prevent them from developing. Africa received $540 billion in loans from these wealthy western nations such as United States. This was done through the World Bank and IMF. Today, African countries have currently paid back $550 billion of their debt, but due to compound interest African countries are still in $295 billion in debt. Since, African countries are constantly paying off debts they are unable to develop economically or socially. Leaving theses countries to continue to remain undeveloped. Although, opinions about dependency theory are biased. Dependency theorists think “economic aid is not necessarily the key to reducing poverty and developing, but rather debt relief may be a more effective step.” Meanwhile, others think that aid encouraged Africans to move further and on the other hand some of the scholars regard aid as a way to construct Africa’s ‘dependency’ from the west.

Through unequal economic relations with wealthy countries in the form of continued debts and foreign trade, poor countries continue to be dependent and unable to tap into their full potential for development.” – Boundless Sociology

Works Cited

Author: Jorgen Ulff-Moller Nielsen. The Effects of Colonialism on African Economic Development (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

Author: Martin Odei Ajei. Africa’s Development: The imperatives of Indigenous Knowledge and Values

“Dependency Theories.” Boundless Sociology. Boundless, 21 Jul. 2015. Retrieved 01 Apr. 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/sociology/textbooks/boundless-sociology-textbook/global-stratification-and-inequality-8/sociological-theories-and-global-inequality-72/dependency-theories-428-8541/

Capitalism or Socialism: Could We Do It Better?

Socialism. It’s one of some Clarkies’ favorite words.

Socialism is praised as the answer to all our social and environmental problems by many. If we just transitioned from a capitalist to a socialist all social and economic problems – poof, they’d all disappear! Or so they say…

Let’s start with some simple definitions. Socialism is a system that believes that the government is the most effective body in a society. Therefore, the government (vs private assets) should manage the country’s resources (Diffen 2016). Socialism also most often contains the belief that the government is responsible for addressing and remediating all kinds of inequality including economic inequality (Diffen 2016). Capitalism is a system that believes that things are most effectively done by the free market (Diffen 2016).

Now, let’s talk about organics. Organics are heralded as a savior to our environment and our health. Clarkies love organics.

Now, let’s talk about Walmart. Walmart is highly criticized as degrading to the environment and our health. Clarkies hate Walmart.

Walmart now sells organic milk. How could such an evil body sell organic products?

The market responds to what consumers demand (Diffen 2016). That’s the beauty of capitalism.

Debate about which economic systems are best for people and the environment is a common discussion when it comes to sustainable development (Giddings et al. 2001).

The economy’s role in our daily lives can’t be ignored (Giddings et al. 2001). Many, including Giddings et al., paint GDP growth as antithetical to human or societal growth (2001). However, what Giddings et al. fails to recognize is that GDP growth increases the quality of life for individuals in a society (2001). Human needs are met by the products and services (like healthcare, education, food, shelter) provided by a capitalist economy (Giddings et al. 2001). The U.S. may not do this fairly or equitably for every single individual – but as recent social justice movements have worked for, we’re moving in the right direction, slowly but surely.

Now, let’s talk more about socialism. Socialism, because it advocates for government control of resources, it is thought of often as the most environmentally friendly economic choice (FEE 1992, Diffen 2016). Some claim it prevents the private sector from harming the environment (FEE 1992). Let’s talk about some socialist economies and how they’ve chosen to manage their natural resources (FEE 1992).


Some relevant facts and figures about socialist countries sourced from Foundation for Economic Education (1992):

  • 40% of the population of East Germany suffers some health problems as the result of air pollution
  • 70 villages of East German people were forced to relocate between 1960 and 1980 so that the government could mine coal on their property
  • In the Czech Republic, concentrations of sulfur dioxide in the air are eight times higher than U.S. levels
  • Soil in some areas of the Chez Republic is toxic up to a foot deep in the Earth
  • The life expectancy for a polish man decreased significantly between 1972 and 1992
  • 1 of every 3 people in Poland live in areas of environmental disaster, according to the Polish Academy of Sciences

What were some of your thoughts as you read those facts?

The entity commonly blamed for environmental degradation in the U.S. is big corporations (FEE 1992, Warren 2006, Diffen 2016). However, as we’ve explored, big corporations (thanks to the mechanisms of the free market) know when to respond and change in response to consumer wants and needs (Warner 2006, Diffen 2016). Perhaps those responsible for environmental degradation in the United States aren’t corporations, but rather something else (FEE 1992).

Part of our current problem is that although the U.S. has private property laws, the agencies we’ve assigned enforcement power have limited resources (FEE 1992). The EPA has great difficult enforcing environmental laws (FEE 1992). The EPA needs more grit, more bite, more power to protect those in the U.S. than it has currently (FEE 1992). If the EPA has that enforcement power, our built and natural environment would greatly improve (FEE 1992).

Under a socialist system, no individual owns or is responsible for any certain resource (FEE 1992, Diffen 2016). This means there is very little accountability to any individual when things go wrong (FEE 1992). This opens the door to rampant environmental abuse, since no one is left holding responsibility for damage and no individual is the direct recipient of damage (FEE 1992).

China, although a growing world power, is a socialist economy (FEE 1992). China is also responsible for 58% of of global carbon emissions (China Daily 2016). China has also openly admitted that they will continue to increase their carbon emissions for another fifteen years (China Daily 2016).  Despite government control of resources, China’s has prioritized economic and population growth over environmental preservation (China Daily 2016).

As I’ve explored in this blog post, issues relating to the environment and economy and society are incredibly complex and they aren’t likely to be resolved any time soon (Giddings et al. 2001). But despite popular claims, socialism isn’t likely to be our environmental saving grace as history has shown more harm to the environment than success (FEE 1992).

We don’t need to praise Walmart as a whole (especially since they treat employees pretty poorly), but we as a global environmental community don’t have the time or convenience to discredit any organization willing to do something to preserve our environment. Perhaps treating our environment better is a step in a more ethical direction for the corporation. Capitalism has responded to consumers wanting more environmentally sustainable products in one of the globe’s biggest retailers (Warner 2006). The way forward is not in reinventing the system, but working within and improving the one we have.





Work Cited

China Daily. “Business / Green China China Yet to Reach Carbon Emissions Peak, Working to Ease Growth.” China Daily Business. China Daily, 7 Mar. 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2016-03/07/content_23772544.htm>.

Diffen. “Capitalism vs. Socialism.” Difference and Comparison. Diffen, 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://www.diffen.com/difference/Capitalism_vs_Socialism>.

Foundation for Economic Education. “Why Socialism Causes Pollution.” FEE. Foundation for Economic Education, 01 Mar. 1992. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://fee.org/articles/why-socialism-causes-pollution/>.

Giddings, Bob, Bill Hopwood, and Geoff O’brien. “Environment, economy and society: fitting them together into sustainable development.” Sustainable development 10.4 (2002): 187-196.

Warner, Melanie. “A Milk War Over More Than Price.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Sept. 2006. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/16/business/16milk.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2>.

WorkPlaceFairness. “The Good, The Bad and Walmart.” The Good, the Bad, and –. WorkPlaceFairness, 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://www.workplacefairness.org/reports/good-bad-wal-mart/wal-mart.php>.

Consumers vs. the Consumed: The Beginnings

Today Americans consume food like there is no tomorrow.  We eat and eat and eat without a thought to where our food comes from and how it ended up on our plates.  While most of the food Americans eat travels long distances before it reaches the mouths of consumers “as much as 90 percent of Americans could eat food grown within 100 miles of their home” (Ferdman 1).  This privilege is the result of the United States being the global developed super power that it is.  While many Americans don’t think about where their food comes from, many people living in the Global South have watched their food disappear.

Diving deep into the tangled and confusing web of the agricultural world is no fun matter and may make you think twice the next time you sit down to eat a meal.  However, developing an understanding of how agriculture has changed to benefit consumers in developing worlds is a must for anyone who advocates for human rights.  For this reason, my blogs will explore agriculture from different lenses in order to highlight the exploitation of farmers and peoples in the Global South, both in the past and the present.

The concept of agriculture has existed for thousands of years.  Different cultures and peoples developed their own way of growing and producing food in order to survive.  Essential to agriculture is land, which is “fundamental to the lives of poor rural people since it is a source of food, shelter, income, and social equity” (Behnassi and Yaya 4).  Most importantly, agriculture was often the focal point of communities; it was the starting point that people would build upon.  However, the age of imperialism sparked a change in agriculture that forever altered the way people grew crops around the world.  Imperialism laid the foundation for the development project and globalization, the results of which can still be seen today.

Global and local changes in agriculture have drastically increased the global production of crops, but mostly at the cost of those living in the Global South.  In India, nutritional inequalities appear to be widening for vulnerable demographic groups, furthering gender and income disparities in the region (Pritchard and Rommohan 1).  The emergence of monoculture, genetically modified organisms, pesticides, and new legal systems are a few of the key issues that have negatively impacted millions of farmers in India and around the world.  Debriefing these key issues will allow me to shed light on the exploitative methods of agribusinesses, governments, and transnational corporations.

While it is important to be aware of the actors involved in exploitation I will also emphasize the views of the exploited.  The rationalization of agricultural development has changed throughout history, but the disregard of locals’ opinions and ways of life has always been a constant in the discussion.  A 2008 Human Development Report found that even though export-oriented agriculture can benefit subsistence-oriented farmers, greater involvement in the international economy can hurt the same farmers who don’t have the necessary tools to succeed (O’Brien and Leichenko 11).  However, this significant fact is often ignored in the developing world.  For this reason, I hope to incorporate the opinions and voices of those less heard; the voices that really matter.  As one of the many privileged Americans, I cannot experience the exploitation I can only share others accounts of it.

In order to amplify these voices, I will use local papers based in the Global South.  The Hindustan Times, based out of New Delhi, and Brazill, based out of Brazil, will provide current insight on how agriculturally dependent societies have faired during the global changes to the agricultural system.  Rather than projecting Western opinion onto a foreign matter, the locality of these papers will present stories of exploitation from the victims rather than the privileged.

The scholarly book, Sustainable Agricultural Development, edited by Mohamed Behnassi, Joyce D’Silva, Shabbir A. Shahid, will provide me with academic views of how agriculture has developed and changed throughout the course of history.  The book is composed of many scholarly articles that I can use to explain different aspects of agricultural imperialism and development and how each relate to the exploitation of local people.

As mass consumers Americans hold sway in the powerful agricultural system, but in order to release the consumed from their shackles Americans need to open their eyes and educate themselves.  Including research from major western papers such as The Washington Post will give me an understanding of what current attitudes and perceptions Americans hold on the matter of agricultural development in the Global South.

Even though I am not personally effected by the exploitative agricultural system, I am most certainly part of the problem.  However, I am only one of millions living in developed nations across the globe.  Even though this blog will only reach the eyes of a few I hope that my research and writing throughout the next few weeks will open my eyes to what I do not already know.



Behnassi, Mohamed, and Sanni Yaya. “Land resource governance from a sustainability and rural development perspective.” Sustainable Agricultural Development. Springer Netherlands, 2011. 3-23.

Ferdman, Roberto A. “As Much as 90 Percent of Americans Could Eat Food Grown within 100 Miles of Their Home.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 5 June 2015. Web.

O’Brien, Karen, and Robin Leichenko. “Human security, vulnerability and sustainable adaptation.” Human Development Report 2008 (2007): 1-2.

Pritchard, Bill, and Anu Rammohan. “How India’s Food Security Question Can Be Answered.” Hindustantimes. Hindustan Times, 15 Oct. 2013. Web.

Development & Torture: Searching for the Truth


Imagine you’re in a cold, dark cell, standing shackled with your hands in front of you. The only thing you’re able to hear is the loud music that has been on repeat for the past 48 hours (though you aren’t exactly sure how long it has been). You’re sleep-deprived, disoriented, and hungry. You know you have wounds from the beatings, but aren’t aware of how bad they may be. The guards periodically take you out of your cell to continue interrogation, though you do not have the information they are looking for, only making them angrier (Laughland, 2015). This horrific, imagined scene is the reality for victims of torture.

Claimed by the Romans to be the “highest form of truth,” torture can be found as far back as 540AD (Green). Though a clear human rights violation, governments across the world today continue to use torture as a means of information extraction and national security.

In order to fully understand and explore the implications of torture, it is important to establish a definition of torture. According to The United Nations Convention Against Torture, torture is defined as:

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining…information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity (United Nations).

Now even with this UN definition, there is grey area as to what methods constitute torture. To work around the UN’s definition, for example, the United States government will often refer to their techniques as “enhanced interrogation” (Laughland, 2015). In a study done by Amnesty International, a global human rights organization, over one-third of people around the world see justification for the use of torture, which Amnesty attributes to a “Western glorification of torture” (“Western Glorification”). Even though 155 countries have ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, recently “Amnesty International has reported on torture and other forms of ill-treatment in at least 141 countries from every region of the world” (“Global Crisis”).

When torture or “enhanced interrogation” methods are used in developing nations, however, it is common to hear incredibly negative commentary that depicts barbaric nature. As Mutua explains, this “savage, victim, savior complex” is a metaphor for human rights, frequently painting a picture of developing nations as savage and in need of Western assistance (Mutua, 2001).

Because of the prevalence of torture across both developed and developing countries, it raises a few questions; is there a correlation between the development of a nation and the occurrence of torture within that nation? Does torture occur more frequently in first world or   third world countries? Or, does it occur at similar rates but is portrayed differently? Does the portrayal of torture tactics impact when torture is officially considered torture? Through my subsequent blog posts I am going to explore the relationship between a country’s level of development and its government’s use of torture. I will investigate case studies throughout both developed and developing nations, and through comparison aim to understand how levels of development relate to the use of torture.

Check out this short video that is part of Amnesty’s “Stop Torture” Campaign


Global crisis on torture exposed by new worldwide campaign. (2014, May 13).    Amnesty International. Retrieved March 3, 2016, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2014/05/amnesty-international-global-crisis-torture-exposed-new-worldwide-campaign/

Green, C. (n.d.). History of Torture. The Justice Campaign. Retrieved March 3, 2016, from http://thejusticecampaign.org/?page_id=175

Laughland, O. (2015, May 20). How the CIA tortured its detainees. The Guardian. Retrieved March 3, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/09/cia-torture-methods-waterboarding-sleep-deprivation

Mutua, M. (2001). Savage, Victims, and Saviors: The Metaphor of Human Rights. Harvard International Law Journal, 42(1), 201-209. Retrieved March 3, 2015.

United Nations, Convention Against Torture. (1994, July 16). Hrweb. Retrieved March 3, 2016, from http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cat.html

Western glorification of torture making it ‘acceptable’ – Amnesty. (2014, May 13). RT. Retrieved March 3, 2016, from https://www.rt.com/news/158652-amnesty-torture-us-culture/