STRUCTURAL VIOLENCE & CSI Zubeida Shaik – 27 August 2010 Submitted to University of the Free State – BML Programme 1. BACKGROUND & INTRODUCTION “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. ” This classic phrase penned by George Orwell in his novel Animal Farm, signified a heartrending moment in the tale of farm animals becoming corrupted by power, as they destroy the utopian world of equality that they originally set out to create. When using this analogy to reflect on the human condition, the reality is that the truth is sadly stranger (or more damning! than fiction. Notwithstanding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, recognition of the “inalienable rights” of equality of “all members of the human family”, large scale inequality between people across the world is more embedded than ever before (UN, 1948: 1). While explanations for such persistent inequality abound, this essay will focus on the concept of structural violence, its explanation of the problems of world hunger and pollution, and the role of corporate social responsibility in contributing to solving these dilemmas. . DEFINING STRUCTURAL VIOLENCE According to Kathleen Ho (2007: 1) the concept of structural violence was coined by the peace researcher Johan Galtung in the mid-1970s. The concept denotes “the avoidable disparity between the potential ability to fulfill basic needs and their actual fulfillment”. Ho further points out that the “theory (of structural violence) further locates the unequal share of power to decide over the distribution of resources as the pivotal causal factor of these avoidable structural inequalities”.
This structural power was defined by Susan Strange (1998: 18) as “the power to shape and determine the structure of the global political economy within which other states, their political institutions, their economic enterprises and people have to operate”. This power to determine the “rules of the game” according to which all humanity have to live (or die) was traditionally exercised by powerful states, but today it is wielded more and more by private companies, especially multinational corporations (MNCs).
According to David Korten (1995: 26) the 10 largest MNCs today, have annual sales of more than the Gross National Products (GNPs) of the 100 poorest countries in the world. This reality seriously impairs the ability of the governments of such countries to determine their own fates. Coupled with MNCs’ ability to shift resources and production across borders, these firms have the ability to drive down costs, including the cost of labour and regulations, to the detriment of local communities who are at the mercy of their “investments” (Hart, 2010: 13-14).
Research conducted by the World Bank found that by the year 2000 MNCs accounted for a quarter of global economic activity, while they employed less than 1 percent of the global labour force (World Bank, 2000: 4). The resultant impact of the structural power of MNCs is that over the past 50 years the gap between the richest and poorest segments of the world’s population increased dramatically. Where in 1960 the richest 20 percent of the world population accounted for 70. 2 percent of global GDP and the poorest 20 percent accounted for 2. percent of global GDP, by 2000 the richest 20 percent controlled 85 percent of global GDP, while the poorest 20 percent accounted for only 1. 1 percent – this represents a shift in ratio of economic dominance from 30:1 to 80:1! (World Bank, 2000: 82). This domination due to structural violence does not only manifest in terms of economic power, but impacts virtually all aspects of human existence. To illustrate the pervasive impact of structural violence on other aspects of life, closer focus will now be placed on its impact on world hunger (or food security) and pollution. 3.
FORMS OF STRUCTURAL VIOLENCE 3. 1. World Hunger The World Food Programme estimates that 100 million people suffer from chronic hunger across the world (WFP, 2010). Amartya Sen (2007: 14) takes issue with the notion that hunger is due ostensible to population growth exceeding food production, pointing to more sinister facts such as the unequal access to knowledge, resources, gender biases and the prevalence of poverty. While Western countries such as the USA and the UK, experience over consumption of food, even resulting in many instances in obesity, hunger is a daily reality for the World’s poor.
A startling example of how such inequality can be “manufactured” by powerful western interests is the devastating impact Genetically Modified (GM) foods has on food security in certain developing countries. An example of the latter highlighted by Hart (33-35) is the entry of chemicals giant Monsanto into the GM food production sector. While the company publicly promised that their genetically engineered seeds would “increase farmers’ yield, reduce pesticide use, and help deliver nutrients to the World’s chronically undernourished”, the reality of their impact was unpleasantly different.
By acquiring and then enforcing patent rights on essential grains, Monsanto dramatically drove up the prices farmers had to pay for seeds. Furthermore, by applying seed-sterilisation technology the company prevented farmers from propagating seeds from their own crops, thus locking farmers into a system where they would be dependent on buying their seeds from Monsanto or other GM seed producers (Hart, 2010: 35).
The impact of these practices were experienced across the developing world with farmer suicides in India being directly linked to Monsanto’s exorbitant seed prices and farmers in South Africa experiencing reduced maize yields attributed to the use of GM seeds (Hart, 2010: 37). The use of GM seeds is however just one example of how the global agricultural system has disrupted food production in developing countries, resulting in the structural violence of hunger. One of the greatest challenges confronted by farmers in developing countries is unfair trade ractices, such as subsidies granted to farmers by developed states, coupled with high import tariffs. Bureau, Jean and Matthews (2005: 7) found that unfair trade practice negatively impact farmers in developing countries to the extent that they are unable to compete with their counterparts in the developed world, thus leading to agricultural economies failing to provide in the basic necessities of communities. In many sub-Saharan economies the agricultural sectors were shaped by former colonial powers to serve the needs of the colonies, rather than that of local communities.
Zimbabwe is a prime example where subsistence food crops, were replaced by cash crops, such as tobacco which was in high demand in the West. As demand dwindled (or due to international sanctions) farmers in this country failed to get the prices needed for their products to sustain their rural communities, with poverty and hunger following soon thereafter (Makamure, Jowa and Muzuva, 2001: 34). 3. 2 Pollution Pollution, especially as it relates to the emission of greenhouse gases, is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity in the world today.
Such pollution is chiefly attributable to rapid industrialization in countries such as the United States of America (USA), China and India. According to Hart (2010:54) the USA is the world’s largest polluter contributing in access of 25 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, while only making up 4 percent of the world’s population. Due to the integrated nature of the world’s ecosystem, the impact of such pollution is shared by everyone in the world – unevenly so by developing countries who bare the brunt of dramatic climate changes that often lead to floods and droughts (Kinuthia:1997).
As developed countries put in place regulations against pollution, many companies move their production facilities to developing countries, where environmental protection regimes are weak or underdeveloped. A tragic example of the impact that such practices may have on the citizens of developing countries, is the Bhopal Union Carbine incident of 1984. By paying scant attention to responsible pollution control measures Union Carbide, an American MNC, exposed more than 500 000 people to harmful toxins and eventually killed 15 000 and left 40 000 people permanently disabled at their plant in Bhopal, India (www. hopal. com). Although the Indian government and the company reached an “out-of-court” settlement in 1989, this incident still haunts Union Carbide today. Amnesty International recently reported that more than 25 years after the incident litigation against the company still continues. In the following sections we look closer at what companies can (or should) do to become a part of the solutions, rather than being part of the problem, when it comes to these issues of structural violence. 4. THE ROLE OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Companies can no longer afford to be oblivious to the adverse impact their business practices may have on the communities in which they operate. Consumer activism coupled with increased interconnectivity between activists around the globe, has seen large companies such as Adidas being “named and shamed” for damaging business practices (Guardian, 2000). The company did not only have to endure public embarrassment, but their socially irresponsible behaviour adversely impacted their bottom line, since consumers shied away from buying their goods. Triple bottom-line” business practices which take into consideration environmental and social responsibility, in addition to financial matters, are on the rise. Regulatory improvements, both nationally and internationally, have also made it increasingly difficult to flaunt environmental protection regulation. An example of such a protocol is the “total quality environmental management” protocol (EMS) introduced by the International Standards Organisation (ISO: 2004).
Failure to comply with this standard makes it virtually impossible for companies to export or operate within the most lucrative markets in the world. Where social responsibility was initially limited to companies “giving back” to communities through philanthropy, or merely complying with regulations, there is now an ever-evolving realisation of the opportunities associated with operating in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Companies such as Unilever have embraced the motto of “Doing Well, by doing Good. Ellison, Moller and Rodriguez (2003) conducted a case study about the Indian subsidiary of Unilever and found that by applying community-centered corporate social responsibility practices Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) has transformed itself into India’s largest “fast moving consumer goods” (FMCG) company. The company, for example, requires all employees to live in rural villages for up to six weeks to get an understanding of the needs, values and cultural practices of their consumers.
HLL has further set up Research and Development facilities, focusing exclusively on technology and product development which serves the needs of the poor. By collaborating with local partners in the development and distribution of products, the company has succeeded in embedding itself in the communities it operates in, and in so doing they have received the support of local communities. Knowledge of the local conditions also allowed HLL to exploit low-income segments of the market, where other FMCG companies are unable to penetrate. 5. CONCLUSION
Structural violence disempowers billions of people living across the world. The inequality and injustices associated with the fall-out from structural violence stand in stark contrast to the equalitarian world envisioned by the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and confirms that, for humanity, “Some are more equal than others”. Combating the scourge of poverty, pollution, and hunger will require a combined effort from governments, civil society, as well as a change in how companies do business. For companies this can be a win-win situation, or as Hart (2010: 62) rightfully points out: As long as (multinational) corporations persist in being outsiders—alien to both the cultures and the ecosystems within which they do business—it will be difficult for them to realize their full commercial, let alone social, potential. ” For people living in desperate poverty and agony across the world this can eventually mean that their potential ability to fulfill their basic needs will finally be realized. __________________________________ 6. BIBLIOGRAPHY Amnesty International. 2010. First convictions for 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal – Too little, too late. Online] Retrieved from: http://www. amnesty. org/en/news-and-updates/first-convictions-1984-union-carbide-disaster-bhopal-too-little-too-late-2010-06-07 30 August 2010 Bureau, J. , Jean, S. and A Matthews. 2005. The Consequences of Agricultural Trade Liberalization for Developing Countries: Distinguishing Between Genuine Benefits and False Hopes. ECONPAPERS no. 25 Burke. J. , 2000. Child labour scandal hits Adidas. The Observer. Guardian online [Online] Retrieved from: http://www. guardian. co. uk/uk/2000/nov/19/jasonburke. theobserver 30 August 2010 Ellison, B, Moller, D and M. A.
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