Monday, 31 March 2014

A halt to Japanese whaling in the Antarctic

This is great news for so many of us as we have just learned that judges at the highest UN court ordered Japan to halt whaling in the Antarctic, rejecting the country's long-held argument that the catch was for scientific purposes.
New Zealand can take "significant credit" after the UN ordered Japan to stop whaling in the Antarctic, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says.
Judges at the International Court of Justice, the highest UN court, today rejected Japan's long-held argument that the catch was for scientific purposes and not primarily for human consumption.
Tokyo said it was disappointed but would abide by the decision, while activists said they hoped it would bring closer a complete end to whaling.
The court sided with plaintiff Australia, which was supported by New Zealand, in finding that the scientific output of the whaling programme did not justify the number of whales killed.
The practice was deeply offensive to many New Zealanders, McCully said this morning.
Activist Pete Bethune, who in 2010 was arrested and indicted in Japan after he boarded a Japanese whaling vessel in the southern ocean, slept outside The Hague overnight to make sure he was in the court to see the ruling handed down.
"I am over the moon," he said today.
"I believe justice has been served and I feel in some way vindicated with my activities in 2010. It's been amazing, a very emotional day."
The tribunal said no further licences should be issued for scientific whaling, where animals are first examined for research purposes before the meat was sold to consumers.
"In light of the fact the JARPA II (research programme) has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited," presiding Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said.
Japan signed a 1986 moratorium on whaling, but has continued to hunt up to 850 minke whales in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean, as well as smaller numbers of fin and humpback whales, citing a 1946 treaty that permits killing the giant mammals for research.
Japan was "deeply disappointed" by the ruling, but it would comply, said Koji Tsuruoka, the country's chief lawyer before the court.
He said the Japanese Government would need to study the ruling before taking any further action.
Judges agreed with Australia that the Japanese research - two peer-reviewed papers since 2005, based on results obtained from just nine killed whales - was not proportionate to the number of animals killed.
The judgment is an embarrassment to Japan, but Tokyo could continue whaling if it devised a new, more persuasive programme of scientific that required "lethal catch" of whales, or if it withdrew from the whaling moratorium or the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

Labour's foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said the ruling was a victory for both New Zealand and Australia.
"The court has confirmed what New Zealand has always claimed - that Japan's continued killing of whales under JARPA II, which is nothing more than slaughter under the highly dubious guise of science, is false," he said.
"Like New Zealand, Japan has always placed great importance on the international legal order and the rule of law. Japan's early statements that it will abide by the ICJ's ruling are welcome.
"Diplomatic efforts are now needed to ensure that new loopholes are not found to continue whaling operations."
Shearer said the decision was "fantastic news" for those who had campaigned for the protection of whales.
Whaling was once widespread around the world, but Japan is now one of only three countries, alongside Iceland and Norway, that continue the practice.
The meat is popular with some Japanese consumers who consider it a delicacy.
Norway, the other main whaling nation, in 1993 shifted away from scientific whaling to "commercial" catches, where the meat is sold directly to consumers.
Norway set a quota of 1286 minke whales in the north Atlantic in last year's summer hunt, saying stocks were plentiful in the region. Fishermen rarely catch the full quota, partly because demand has sunk in recent years.
Iceland and Norway do not claim to be carrying out research, openly hunting whale meat for commercial purposes, meaning the ICJ's ruling has no immediate consequences for them. But activists said the ruling reflected a gradually changing climate that would put an end to whaling.
"Whaling is under immense scrutiny from the international community, and the pincer movement on these countries is ever tightening," said Claire Bass, wildlife campaigner at the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Thanks to Reuters, Fairfax NZ for permission to use excerpts from various articles.

Another interesting viewpoint is that of Gigi Ewing who says it's time for Japan to 'stop pulling the cultural card'.
It was evident that their actions in killing whales had nothing to do with so-called research, despite the Japanese painting "research" on their ships, as if just labeling it made it so.
As soon as the ships returned to port, whale meat would suddenly show up in the markets.
It is not a "cultural" tradition to eat whale meat as is claimed, but one that occurred only during the war, when protein was scarce. There are many generations that do not even know or recognise that what they are eating is indeed whale meat.
With the world recognising the ban on killing whales, it is time for this barbaric practice to stop.
There are many other sources of meat nowadays and Japan needs to stop playing the cultural card.
I would hope that now that the international community has brought their hypocrisy to light, the murder of innocent and endangered whales will stop.
I wish that New Zealand had joined Australia in this fight, since we oversee the Antarctic Ocean in which this hunting occurs.
I would hope we will back up this decision.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Russian-majority areas watch Moscow's post-Crimea moves

Pro-Russian demonstrator in Donetsk (file photo March 2014)
Moscow originally said it was intervening in Crimea because of concern over the ill-treatment of Russians there - they make up more than half the population. So could the same happen in other parts of the former Soviet Union? Of course it could and Kazakhstan must be very worried as 23.7% of its population are Russian

Map of the former Soviet Union
Eastern Ukraine Ever since Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukoych was ousted in February, there have been frequent pro-Russian demonstrations in Donetsk and other cities in eastern Ukraine. At least one person has been killed.
Russia has blamed far-right pro-Western demonstrators for escalating tensions there. Russian troops have staged military exercises near the border and remain in the area. It would not be difficult for them to move across into Ukraine itself.
If Russia is considering more territorial expansion, eastern Ukraine would be high on the list.
Crew members of a Ukrainian naval vessel come ashore in Donuzlav Bay, Crimea (24 March) Ukraine's military has now left Crimea altogether

However, once the separatist genie is out of the bottle, it is hard to put back in. There is even a mock campaign for Donetsk to become part of the UK - the city was founded by a Welsh industrialist, John Hughes, in the 19th Century.

Moldova Attention has also focused on Trans-Dniester, a separatist region of Moldova that has already offered itself to Moscow. It proclaimed independence in 1990, but has never been recognised internationally. Trans-Dniester is majority Russian-speaking while most Moldovans speak Romanian.
Soldiers in the separatist Moldovan region of Trans-Dniester clean land at a military cemetery in the regional capital Tiraspol (file photo 2007) Soldiers in the breakaway enclave of Trans-Dniester clean land at a military cemetery in the city of Tiraspol

There is also the southern pocket known as Gagauzia, an autonomous region of Moldova made up of four enclaves (population 160,000). The Gagauz are Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christians. In February 2014, Gagauzia held a referendum in which 98.4% of voters backed integration with a Russia-led customs union. The Moldovan government said the referendum was illegitimate.

Georgia In 2008, Russia fought a brief war in Georgia that ended with the breakaway of two areas, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Although Moscow's stated aim was to protect Russian speakers, most residents are native speakers of Ossetian and Abkhaz respectively. However, many hold Russian passports and they are opposed to the Georgian government in Tbilisi.
Palm Sunday procession in Tskhinvali, capital of the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia (file photo 2012) Palm Sunday in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali - neither a part of Russia nor fully independent
Abkhazia had already declared independence unilaterally in 1999.

Since then, the two enclaves have existed in a kind of grey zone - not recognised internationally, but not formally part of Russia.
Abkhazia shares a border with Russia - not far from Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Security was tightened for the Games.
South Ossetia has no border with Russia proper. North Ossetia is part of the Russian Federation, from which it wants to separate. All goods must come in via a tunnel under the Caucasus mountain range. Prices are high. Unemployment and corruption are widespread.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia Russians account for about a third of the population in both Latvia and Estonia. The Baltic republics regained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Both Latvia and Estonia require knowledge of their languages for citizenship. Some Russian speakers born in the countries are either unable or unwilling to become citizens as a result.
Demonstration against Russia's actions in Ukraine outside the Russian embassy in the Latvian capital Riga (2 March) Some in Latvia are concerned about what might befall areas with large Russian-speaking populations
Many Russian speakers complain of discrimination, saying strict language laws make it hard to get jobs.

In Lithuania, ethnic Russians make up about 5% of the population and there is no requirement for them to pass a language test.
In mid-March, the Kremlin expressed "outrage" at the treatment of ethnic Russians in Estonia - the same reason it gave for intervening in Crimea.
However, the Baltic states are members of both the EU and Nato. Any Russian incursion would have serious consequences. Article 5 of the Nato treaty says that an attack on one member state is an attack on all.

Northern Kazakhstan
Russians account for more than half the population in northern Kazakhstan which, like Crimea, was once a part of Russia itself.
Ties between the two go back to tsarist times, when northern cities such as Pavlodar and Uralsk were founded by the Russians as military outposts.
Actor dressed as Pushkin greets Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on a visit to Uralsk (file photo 2006) An Actor dressed as the poet Pushkin greets the Russian and Kazakh presidents on a visit to Uralsk

Like Ukraine, Kazakhstan signed an agreement on nuclear disarmament in 1994 in exchange for protection. It has no port like Sevastopol in Crimea, but it does have the Baikonur space facility.
However, Kazakhstan already has close ties with Russia - it is one of two other members (along with Belarus) of Moscow's customs union.
Kazakhstan is remaining officially neutral in the matter of Ukraine, but has called for a peaceful resolution.
Kazakhs fear 'Ukraine scenario'

The other Central Asian republics
The percentage of ethnic Russians in central Asia ranges from 1.1% in Tajikistan to 12.5% in Kyrgyzstan. After independence in 1991, large numbers of Russians emigrated.
However, the Central Asian economies remain tied to Russia - both in terms of trade and remittances from migrants working there.
It seems unlikely that Moscow would seek to intervene in the region.
However, the post-Crimea turmoil could still have an effect, as the rouble falls and sanctions hit Russian businesses. Jobless migrants returning from Russia could cause trouble for the governments in Dushanbe or Bishkek.
Tajik migrants in Moscow (file photo 2009) Millions of Tajiks work in Russia as labourers, sending money home but often spending years away

Armenia and Azerbaijan
Armenia has no Russian population to speak of, and Azerbaijan has just 1%. Both countries tread a geopolitical tightrope between Russia and the West.
Like Ukraine, Armenia had been preparing to sign an association agreement with the EU. But in September, it announced it would be joining the Russian-led customs union instead.
Under the terms of Armenian independence in 1991, Russia retains a military base at Gyumri.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian at the Russian military base in the Armenian city of Gyumri Last September, Armenia's President Serzh Sarkisian (right, pink tie) jettisoned closer ties with the EU in favour of the customs union led by Russia and President Vladimir Putin (left)
Azerbaijan exports oil and natural gas to the EU and is less economically dependent. A pipeline that ends in Turkey allows it to skirt Russian territory.
Russia would like to keep both countries in its sphere of influence, but it is likely to use economic, rather than military, measures.

Belarus Belarus is already closely aligned with Moscow. Although about 8.3% of the population identify as Russian, more than 70% speak the language.
There is no reason why Russia would seek to intervene: the two governments could not be any closer. Belarus is in an economic union with Russia, and Russian is an official language.
Belarus special forces in competitions to mark Defence of the Fatherland Day (23 February) Despite the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarus and other former countries of the USSR continue to mark Defence of the Fatherland Day on 23 February each year
Thanks to the BBC for permission to run this article. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

One Fine Day On A Mountain

If you haven't already seen this.....fantastic film from the Backyard and Beyond Team. Paul Hersey, Shelley Hersey, Jamie Vinton-Boot. Filmed by Troy Mattingley.

One Fine Day On A Mountain – The Film

With only a couple of weeks until we leave for our latest expedition, it seems an appropriate time to publicly release the video of our last adventure. ‘One Fine Day On A Mountain’ received a Special Jury Award at the 2013 New Zealand Mountain Film Festival, and has also had a very positive response from various screenings around the country.
For us in the BAB team, this documentary is also a personal, poignant and lasting memory of one of our founding members Jamie Vinton-Boot.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Who was Saint Patrick?

Those who wish to pay homage to St Patrick on 17 March could attend a parade, don an outlandish green costume or swig a pint (or several – twice as much Guinness worldwide is consumed on St Patrick’s Day than on any other day of the year). An alternative way to celebrate the saint's legacy, however, is far more peaceful and spectacular: visiting the sites where he brought Christianity to Ireland – including mighty hilltops, vast mountains and exquisite alpine lakes.

                                                          The rock of Cashel

Facts about Patrick's life and work are as misty as Ireland's mountains, and they’re mingled (or mangled) with folklore and legend. Scholars generally believe that he was born sometime around 373 AD in Roman Britain. As a 16-year-old, Patrick (Patricius in Latin) was captured by Irish raiders and sold as a slave to a druid (a Celtic priest) in today’s County Antrim in Northern Ireland, though the exact location is unknown. For the next six years, he toiled as a shepherd, developed his spirituality through prayer and became fluent in Irish.
According to his autobiographical letter Confessio, thought to have been written around 450 AD and first published in the early 9th Century (the Book of Amagh, containing the earliest copy believed to exist, is in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin), an angel appeared in a dream urging him to flee from his enslavement. After being reunited with his family in Britain, he had a divine calling to the priesthood. He trained in France and returned to Ireland as a missionary in about 433 AD.
At the time, the Hill of Tara, located 43km north of Dublin in fertile County Meath, was the ceremonial capital of the High Kings. They practised Celtic paganism and believed Tara to be both the dwelling place of the gods and the gateway to the Otherworld. Today the hill, a vast green expanse rising 197m with sweeping vistas  of the surrounding countryside, remains a palpably sacred site with a wealth of remains including a Stone Age passage tomb (a narrow passage made of large stones containing multiple burial chambers) and prehistoric burial mounds up to 5,000 years old. The Heritage Ireland information centre runs 40-minute guided tours of the site and screens a 20-minute film entitled Tara, A Royal Sanctuary about the area’s impact on Ireland's Celtic history.
While it's not known when Patrick first visited Tara, he certainly saw the High Kings' power base across the valley not long after his return to Ireland. While Celtic festival fires were burning on Tara, the High Kings forbid other fires in the area. But Patrick defied convention, lighting a paschal (Easter) fire on the Hill of Slane, near today's village of Slane, located about 16km northeast of Tara. From the Hill of Tara, you can see the Hill of Slane across the valley on a clear day. High King Laoghaire and his attendants (including Erc, who later was baptised as a Christian and would become the first bishop of Slane shortly thereafter) went to confront the interloper. According to legend, Patrick plucked a shamrock from the ground, using its three leaves (and his Irish language skills) to explain the Church’s paradox of the Holy Trinity: the union of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in one. Convinced by the stranger, Laoghaire agreed to let Patrick continue his missionary work. The weathered, silvery stone ruins scattered across the grassy, 158m-high Hill of Slane today include a foundational outline of a church, a round tower and a monastery associated with St Erc, and a later Norman motte and bailey on the hill's western side, built by Archembald Fleming, who came to Ireland with Henry II in 1171. Every year on Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter), the local parish priest lights a fire on the Hill of Slane in Patrick's honour.

Patrick's accomplishments at Slane marked only the beginning of his missionary career. He headed to another significant Celtic site, the Rock of Cashel, in the town of Cashel, County Tipperary, about 94km north of Cork, which then rivalled Tara as a centre of power in Ireland. It was here that Patrick is said to have baptised Aengus, the son of the King of Munster, in the mid-5th Century. The Rock is still sometimes referred to as St Patrick's Rock. Edged by jagged limestone outcrops, it rises from the plains just outside the town of Cashel. Its walls enclose a still-intact 12th-century round tower, 13th-century Gothic cathedral and exquisite 12th-century Romanesque chapel. In the courtyard, the stone St Patrick's cross replicates the worn original in the Rock of Cashel's 15th-century Hall of the Vicars Choral, which was built to house the cathedral's male choristers.
Ireland's “holiest mountain”, Croagh Patrick, aka “The Reek” — a soaring 765m-high, conical mountain near Westport, County Mayo — was already a place of Celtic pilgrimage to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season when Patrick arrived. Around 441 BC, he reputedly took a 40km route from County Mayo’s Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick via the pathway Tóchar Phádraig (Patrick’s Causeway), and fasted atop the mountain for 40 days and nights during Lent. On the last Sunday of July (Reek Sunday), devout pilgrims follow his original route, traditionally without shoes. Mass is celebrated at the modern-day chapel at the top of the mountain. Otherwise, any time of year, hikers can start the two-hour climb from the base of the mountain to the summit in the village of Murrisk, next to the visitor centre Teach na Miasa. The views over picturesque Clew Bay, which is dotted with 365 islands, are dazzling, especially at sunset. Those less trekking-inclined can contemplate Croagh Patrick aboard an idyllic cruise around the bay with companies such as Clewbay Cruises, whose 90-minute cruises also take in seal colonies and unspoilt sand dunes.
Croagh Patrick is just one of several places where St Patrick is famously claimed to have banished snakes from Ireland, chasing them into the sea during his mountaintop fast. Another is the Serpent’s Lake, in the Gap of Dunloe. Located just outside of Killarney National Park in County Kerry, the lake is where Patrick is alleged to have tricked and imprisoned the last of Ireland’s snakes in a chest – then thrown the them into the waters. The Gap — a glorious mountain pass with crystal-clear streams, rugged peaks and wildflowers — is best explored by walking, cycling, or, most atmospherically, jaunting car (horse and cart) with entertaining commentary from a jarvey (driver). At the northern end, the landmark 19th-century pub Kate Kearney's Cottage, still owned by Kate Kearney’s descendants, is a great resource for information on the area. (Of course, it is now widely accepted that there never were any snakes in Ireland in the first place, and that the legends surrounding Patrick's exploits are symbolic of eliminating pagan culture.)
Patrick spent some 30 years spreading the Gospel and founding churches and monasteries, eventually becoming the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland toward the end of his life. He retired to what is now County Down, where it is believed he died in 461 AD on 17 March — hence his feast day — in Downpatrick. He is said to be buried in the grounds of the 12th-century Down Cathedral.
Below St Patrick's alleged burial site, the enlightening, highly interactive Saint Patrick Centre is the only dedicated exhibition centre in the world dedicated to Ireland's patron saint. The centre makes an ideal starting — or ending — point for discovering other St Patrick sites throughout the Emerald Isle.
Thanks to the BBC travel section for permission to run this article.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Top 100 NGOs 2013 Edition

Special Feature: The Top 100 NGOs 2013 Edition

by The Global Journal January 23, 2013
Top 100 NGOs 2013
We are pleased to present the second edition of The Global Journal’s Top 100 NGOs ranking. In introducing the inaugural list, we began by asking: just what is a non-government organization? On this, our definition remains the same – an operational or advocacy-focused non-profit organization active at the local, national or international level.
This time around, however, in a climate of financial crisis, reduced aid budgets and economy-wide fiscal austerity, it is probably more appropriate to ask a more fundamental question: in the broader global scheme of things, why do NGOs matter?
To come up with an answer, we need look no further than our top-ranked NGO for this year, the Bangladeshi giant BRAC. While undoubtedly a deserved winner, the sheer size and influence of the organization gives one pause for thought. This is an entity that reaches 126 million people directly through its programs, that provides health care to 100 million people, that employs a growing staff of 102,000, and that has lent $9.73 billion in micro-loans to over five million borrowers. Yet, for all its benevolence and clear social value, BRAC is ultimately accountable only to its donors – and in that regard, due to an astute foray into social business ventures, will only find this a less and less onerous burden to bear.
Turning to the sector as a whole, the numbers continue to speak for themselves. A Johns Hopkins University study from a decade ago revealed that the global non-profit sector was estimated to be worth $1.3 trillion in the five largest economies alone – equivalent to the total GDP of the United Kingdom (or the combined GDP of the 50 low-income countries at the time). One can only imagine it has expanded even further in the period since. Some may bristle at any mention of an ‘NGO industry,’ but what cannot be disputed is the critical role that NGOs play in the context of numerous national economies around the world. Profit margins may be non-existent, but the influence of the financial flows involved is undeniable.
And, of course, this does not even account for the fact the sector is in the midst of a fundamental transition – a transition catalyzed, arguably, by the earlier microfinance revolution of the 1970s. BRAC was part of the vanguard then, and remains at the forefront of new developments today. As the lines between NGO, social enterprise and social business blur, the questions of what an NGO should be, which interests it should serve and how it should be regulated by the state, will become more and more relevant.
But back to this year’s ranking. As you will see, there have been changes afoot. We have continued to refine our evaluation methodology, which this time around focused on what we believe are the three key criteria relevant to the activities of any NGO – impact, innovation and sustainability. For some organizations, these changes have resulted in a climb up the ranking. For others, a no doubt unwelcome slide. In either case though, we return to the same point as last year: despite our best efforts to ensure the ranking is based on concrete information fed through a rigorous, objective process, there is no science in the measuring. We invite you to read the feature that follows for what it is – a fascinating global snapshot of an often-overlooked sector. Like last year, we hope this list will inform, stimulate debate, inspire and shine a light on one hundred organizations worthy of your time.
Further information is available here.
For the full list of 100 NGOs, click here.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Mr. Explorer Douglas

Charlie Douglas (centre of photo) lived on the West Coast of New Zealand from 1867 to 1916, exploring, surveying and mapping the mountains, bush, rivers, lakes and coastline. He was born in Scotland and for his outstanding work he was referred to respectfully as Mr. Explorer Douglas. Recently I have had a few inquiries about Charlie and thought I would run this poem I wrote about him, and published in the NZ Alpine Journal some years back..


So what was the inner spring that made you tick ?
In valleys where snow, ice, water and mica mix
Incessant rain and slippery logs
Mosquitoes, sand flies bush and bogs

And ah, paradise lurking in those hot pools
Stripped your rags far way from ’those fools’
As you soaked your matted beard and ropey hair
And a moment of thanksgiving, a silent prayer

Strong, sinewy and stringy as Weka meat
After years of amazing geographical feats
You lay awake, dreaming year after year
Many thought you were a man without a care

But you were putting the world together
While stranded for weeks in nor’westerly weather
Puffing, sucking the old brown brair
In your batwing tent you kindle a fire

No mortgage family possessions houses or barns
You are a free-wheeling man with only socks to darn
A river to cross and a range to measure
Keeping a watchful eye on the wild weather
Weeks of rain and sodden clothes
Notebooks full of maps, observations and prose

Your thrills came from discovery and not wiley tarts,
Betsy Jane at your side, obedient and fast
Never answered back when you got it wrong
The tuis, bellbirds and robins kept you in song
Your footprints were the first in many places,
Mountain top, gorges river and glaciers

The whiskey jar at the Forks, Okarito and Scotts,
Discussing the world with fellow Scots
The jar was your best mate on the binge
You were one of those living over the fringe

Banking almost got you, wife kids and all
But marriage to you was like a pall

Your dreams wafted like smoke from your pipe
Slabs of rata your company during the night
The cursed danps got into every joint
Did you ever ask ‘whats the bloody point ?'

Was it you Charlie or the others who were the fools ?
Your maps, sketches and diaries over which generations drool
No Charlie it was a good deal you got
Harper, and others, you never tolerated that lot
Alpine Club braggards you named them true
Canterbury amateurs who stole feats from you

It was Roberts McFarlane, Bannister and Teichy
They were soul mates of a similar physie
Staunch and modest friends who knew your strengths
Overlooked your weaknesses and came to your defence

The final years in Hokitika with Mrs Ward
Wife of your mate in the mountains who died at a ford

After the stroke you were seen camping at Kaniere
With batwing tent, maps, diaries but without a penny
Possessions and money had no meaning or dues
It was the uncharted land that was treasure to you.

Copyright. Bob McKerrow 2007

Charlie washing his shirt in a stream while his towel dries on a rock behind.

Charlie Douglas
Between 1893 and 1895 Charlie Douglas explored with Arthur P. Harper, a Canterbury mountaineer and lawyer, particularly in the Franz Josef and Fox glacier areas. Harper took this photograph of Douglas washing his shirt in a glacial stream. At this time, Douglas began to muse on his life of exploration: ‘[H]ere I am after thirty years wandering, crouched under a few yards of Calico, with the rain pouring & the Wind & Thunder roaring among the mountains a homeless, friendless, Vagabond, with a past that looks dreary & a future still more so. Still I can’t regret having followed such a life and I know that even if I & thousands besides me perish miserably the impulse which impels them to search the Wild places of the Earth is good’ (quoted in Philip Temple, New Zealand explorers: great journeys of discovery. Christchurch: Whitcoulls, 1985, p. 148).

If you want to read more about this amazing explorer, read Mr Explorer Douglas: John Pascoe's New Zealand Classic

Monday, 10 March 2014

The New Tyranny


How development experts have empowered dictators and helped to trap millions and millions of people in poverty.

On the morning of Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010, the villagers of Mubende District, Uganda were in church when they heard the sound of gunfire. They came out to find men torching their homes and crops. The soldiers held them off at gunpoint from rescuing their homes; one 8-year-old child was trapped and died in the fire. The soldiers then marched off the 20,000 farmers from the land that had been in their families for generations.
The reason for the violence was that a forestry project financed by the World Bank wanted the land.
The only thing that distinguishes this episode from the many human rights violations that happen in the name of development is that it got unusual publicity. The New York Times ran a front-page story on it on Sept. 21, 2011. The World Bank the next day promised an investigation. 
What is most revealing of all about this episode is what happened next: nothing. The World Bank never investigated its own actions in financing this project. Now, just after the fourth anniversary of the Mubende tragedy, it has been forgotten by nearly everyone except its victims.
The sad neglect of the rights of the poor in Mubende follows from the ideas behind the global war on poverty. Those who work in development prefer to focus on technical solutions to the poor's problems, such as forestry projects, clean water supplies, or nutritional supplements. Development experts advise leaders they perceive to be benevolent autocrats to implement these technical solutions. The international professionals perpetrate an illusion that poverty is purely a technical problem, distracting attention away from the real cause: the unchecked power of the state against poor people without rights. The dictators whom experts are advising are not the solution -- they are the problem. 
The individual economic and political rights crucial to development include all those we take for granted at home, such as the right to your own property, the right to trade with whomever you wish, the right to protest bad government actions (don't burn down our houses!), and the right to vote for politicians who do beneficial actions (clean our water!). Technical experts in development sometimes concede some rights and deny others, which disrespects rights for what they are: unalienable. The Uganda story shows the Mubende farmers' lack of both economic rights (rights to their own property) and political rights (prevented at gunpoint from protesting).
The tyranny of experts that neglects rights is first of all a moral tragedy. It reflects a double standard in which we respect rights for the world's rich -- is it conceivable that we would forget these farmers if the story had happened in Ohio? -- but not for the poor. 
The technocratic approach of dictators advised by experts is also a pragmatic tragedy, because it does not actually work to end poverty.
The technocratic approach of dictators advised by experts is also a pragmatic tragedy, because it does not actually work to end poverty. New research by economists on history and modern experience suggest that free individuals with political and economic rights make up remarkably successful problem-solving systems. Such systems based on rights reward a decentralized array of people: Economic entrepreneurs with property rights get to keep the rewards of solving the problems of their consumers. Political entrepreneurs at many government levels and in many departments get rewarded with a longer tenure in office if they solve the citizens' problems, and they are driven out of office if they don't. In contrast, Uganda's dictator Yoweri Museveni (a longtime favorite of development experts) can use repression and patronage -- financed, for example, by the sales of the Mubende farms -- to stay in office despite harming his own subjects. 
Focusing on rights yields two perspectives on how development success happens. First, societies that have already attained individual freedom are likely to have already escaped poverty. Economists have gone back deep into our own history to confirm this widely-accepted story for how we in the West escaped our own poverty, but we seem unwilling to consider that the same story could play out in the rest of the world. Second, societies in which there is a positive change in in freedom will likely see a positive change in prosperity (ergo, rapid economic growth and fall in poverty). Despite the indifference or even hostility of development experts, freedom is spreading anyway to some places outside the West.
The lifetime of a Korean peasant born in 1915, Chung Ju-yung, illustrates what can happen with growing freedom. Chung was born into a society that had only recently abolished a rigid class system that included slaves and "out-castes," in which he would have had little future. A 1919 Korean declaration of independence said "by protecting our individual rights to freedom our joy shall be full." The Japanese colonial regime then occupying Korea was less enthusiastic about individual rights, killing 7,500 people demonstrating for independence and jailing 46,000 more. In Cheamni village near Suwon, the Japanese herded villagers into the local church, locked the doors, and burned it down.  Chung and other Koreans would get more freedom after liberation from Japan in 1945. At first, however, South Korea's post-independence rulers imposed extensive controls on Koreans' economic rights, such as restricting trade with foreigners and seizing most of the rewards. But then Chung saw Korean rulers cede more and more economic freedom beginning in the 1960s. Chung also lived to see the triumph of political rights, after student protesters and other activists forced autocrats to allow democracy, which South Korea has now enjoyed for a quarter century. (South Korea is often mischaracterized as an autocratic growth miracle, which fails to understand the theory that would match changes in prosperity to changes in freedom. The correctly predicted match in South Korea is between a miracle of rapidly rising prosperity associated with the falling power and then disappearance of autocracy.)
Chung Ju-yung took advantage of these expanding freedoms to leave the infertile land of his home village and to found an auto repair shop in Seoul, rehabilitating vehicles discarded by American occupation forces. By the time Ford arrived in South Korea in the 1960s, looking for a Korean manufacturer to provide cheap labor for Ford cars, Chung was ready for them. Ford indulged Chung when he wanted to move from assembly of Ford designs to actually doing Korean models, fearing little from a man and a country that had barely seen a car before World War II. Ford woke up too late to the competitive threat of Chung's company that he had given the Korean name for "modern": Hyundai. South Koreans at home chose Chung's cheap small cars to solve their personal transportation problems. Eventually, consumers in the rest of the world got equally enthusiastic about Hyundai cars, creating rising incomes for South Korean workers. Today, the Hyundai Sonata wins quality awards in the U.S. market, Hyundai is the world's fourth-largest auto company, and Chung is only one of the many spontaneous problem-solvers -- individual entrepreneurs, traders, technology imitators, and political activists -- that ended poverty in South Korea. 
So what should we do about rights for the poor? Possible starting places for Western policy changes are to not fund dictators, to not support projects that torch farms, to not break promises to investigate rights abuses, and to not let us forget such abuses and missing investigations.
But obsessing too much on the "what should we do?" question should not hand the agenda back to the same technical experts who have showed so little interest in the rights of the poor in the first place.
The danger of such a tyranny of experts is illustrated by a long history of politicians using technical poverty debates as an excuse to avoid debating rights for the poor. 
The danger of such a tyranny of experts is illustrated by a long history of politicians using technical poverty debates as an excuse to avoid debating rights for the poor.  The concentration on expert development has proven remarkably useful to evade the rights of the poor for nearly a century. In 1919, at the Treaty of Versailles talks after World War I, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson justified the transfer of former German African colonies to Britain as part of a "trust" for the "helpless parts of the world," which would be "administered for the benefit of their inhabitants...during the period of their development." The whole effort would be guided by expert knowledge, what the former Princeton professor grandly called "the counsels of mankind." The idea of expert development was a welcome distraction from the political reality of continuing colonial despotism in Africa in the interests of the colonizers.
In 1925, tensions flared in the British colony of Kenya between white settlers and indigenous Africans whose lands the settlers were taking. Inspired by the technical approach to development set out at Versailles, colonial officials' response to these tensions was to suggest doing a report on British Africa that would be a "dispassionate study of the facts" -- evading the real issue of the white settlers violating the rights of indigenous Africans. 
The eventual "dispassionate study" was not completed until 13 years later. A colonial official named Lord Hailey had called upon an array of technical experts in many fields to produce a 1,837 page report, published in 1938 as "An African Survey." These experts made many precise technical recommendations. A surprising number of these recommendations -- for example, "nitrogen-fixing legumes" for soil fertility -- are identical to those made by United Nations and Gates Foundation experts on Africa today.
The same colonial official, Lord Hailey, took a further step to use technical development to evade the rights debate in the British Empire during World War II. Lord Hailey rebutted those -- including some American commentators -- who wanted to end the empire after the war, justifying its continuation as an agent for "the betterment of the backward peoples of the world." He conveniently assumed that Africans would view "political liberties" as "meaningless unless they can be built up on a better foundation of … economic progress." Yet again, technical development done by a state with unchecked power was an excuse to postpone indefinitely consideration of human rights. 
Ironically, these development ideas outlasted the British Empire they had justified. The empire collapsed sooner than expected, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Yet the same technocratic neglect of rights appealed to the indigenous African autocrats who took over after colonial rulers left. The same development economists who used to advise the Colonial Office now advised the new autocrats (for example, later-Nobel-Prize-winning economist Sir Arthur Lewis did both, working with Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana after it became independent in 1957). Where autocrats used to appeal to the divine right of kings, autocrats could use the experts to articulate the development right of dictators.
Neglecting the rights of African citizens also appealed to American foreign-policy experts who sought those same autocrats as allies in the Cold War, cemented by loans from the new post-World War II organization staffed by technocratic experts: the World Bank. Decades of economic stagnation in Africa followed. 
Today, there is yet again a U.S. technocratic embrace of autocratic allies in Africa and elsewhere, this time for the "war on terror," still fueled by World Bank loans. The U.S. military's "Africa Command" views Uganda's Museveni as a "key U.S. strategic partner," providing troops to chase terrorists in Somalia, for example. The technocratic vision made it possible for Hillary Clinton, while secretary of state, to declare that "defense" (of the United States) and "development" (of the rest of the world) were "mutually reinforcing," thus enabling a grand alliance for development between humanitarian and national security interests.
Unfortunately, it is this same political alignment that lets the World Bank get away with its own violations of rights in Mubende, Uganda without even an investigation. The same politics also helps explain the failure of the development establishment to protest the World Bank's violations and its missing investigation of its own violations. 
Because of this long history, the debate between authoritarian and free development never really happened. So the choice that development made a long time ago to prefer the tyranny of experts over the rights of the poor sadly continues today.
There still remain many compassionate people in the West who have all the right motives to ask "What should we do?" 
And the answer is to have the authoritarian versus free development debate that never happened.
It is time at last for the tyranny of experts to end. It is time at last for the silence on unequal rights for the world's poor and the world's rich to end. It is time at last for all men and women to be equally free.
This article is an excerpt from the book The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, published in March 2014.
Yuri Gripas/IMF via Getty Images

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Reaching the summit. A role model for International Women's Day.

This is a mountaineering love story like no other. A star-studded Hollywood cast are currently making a movie of the 1996 Mt. Everest tragedy where New Zealand climbers Rob Hall and Andy Harris died near the summit.This Working Title Everest movie is still in production.  It is due for release Feb 2015.

The movie features Hollywood stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, and Sam Worthington

Since this tragedy, Jan Arnold, wife of Rob Hall has gone on to climb the seven highest peaks on seven continents.

The term ''conquering'' a mountain does not sit well with mountaineer and Nelson doctor Jan Arnold.
''I like to get on top of things, but I don't think that means anything is conquered in the process,'' she says.
She should know. She completed her goal of summiting the seven highest peaks in the seven continents last month, a trail that has taken 24 years and saw her travel to some of the world's remotest places.
''I would say, if your goal doesn't slightly take your breath away, you need to aim a little bit higher. It should slightly take your breath away.''
 It's also a journey that has taken her past the grief of losing her husband, world-renowned mountaineer Rob Hall , who died on Mt Everest in 1996 in a blizzard that claimed seven other lives.
Jan says a climber is at the mercy of the mountain, both its raw beauty and brutal force. 
She started climbing at 22 and, five years later, reached the first of her seven summits on Mt McKinley-Denali - on a date with Rob.  
''Normally people go out for dinner, but we went to Alaska. It was absolutely magic''.
She did not know then it would take more than two decades to complete the peaks but, being goal driven, it was something she ''really wanted to finish off''.
''I've got the peak bagging gene. You've either have it or you haven't,'' she says.

In 1993, she and Rob became the third married couple to stand at the highest point in the world. Photo left.
''Everest was really quite special. It was satisfying because I really didn't expect I was going to do it. I didn't go with the aim and certainly didn't think I could, because I was such a lousy acclimatiser,'' she says.
In January 1994, she went to Antarctica with Rob's guiding company Adventure Consultants. She not only got to climb Mt Vinson, but also visited the South Pole as a doctor accompanying a group of elderly adventurers.  
The same year she climbed Mt Kosciuszko in Australia  and Carstensz Pyramid-Puncak Jaya in Indonesia - there was some debate about which one was the tallest peak in Oceania, so she climbed both. 
Any further plans were put on hold in 1996. She was pregnant with the couple's daughter, Sarah, as the shocking events unfolded half a world away.

As he was trapped high on the mountain, Rob was able to talk to Jan on his radio through a satellite phone. They had three conversations. 
Grief was made easier because she had a chance to say goodbye, which many people don't, she says.
''When Rob died, or was going to die, there was nothing left unsaid - there wasn't stuff I wished I had said to him. 
''How lucky was I to speak to him? He could have died in a car accident and be gone and you don't get that chance to say anything, but we could connect.''
The last time she spoke to him, after a rescue party had to turn back, they shared their love for one another and he signed off: ''Sleep well, my sweetheart. Please don't worry too much.''
''The strangeness you've got of sitting in your house in Christchurch and talking - he is possibly the highest person on the ground alive in the world, but not for long,'' she says.
''I knew he was going to die, but I just felt lucky I had that chance to talk to him and I had his baby and for me it was like you have a part of someone when you have a child. 
''When she popped out, she just looked like him and she has his eyes and his big generous mouth and his long legs and his gentle nature - so daily I am reminded of him.
''It was a good death.''
She was proud of Rob, but there were other feelings, too.
''I was also quite weighed down with the feeling that one of his guides had died, two of his clients had died and I felt a responsibility to those families so, actually, my own grieving for Rob was on the back burner plus I had a baby, a new first baby so there was so much to do.
''My mind was quite occupied.''
It was only in recent years that she decided it was time to reconsider the remaining three mountains.
''I thought I need to do this before I am 50 because how long am I going to have this fitness?'' 
Jan went to Africa in September 2011,  climbing Mt Kilimanjaro with Sarah.

In 2011, Jan climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with her 14 year old daughter Sarah.

She made her first attempt at Aconcagua in Argentina in January 2013. After reaching 6300m, about 600m below the summit, she had to turn back as altitude sickness set in.
Russia's Mt Elbrus was next in July 2013. She reached the peak, but getting off the mountain proved more dangerous.
A power cut had knocked out the ski lifts, and she had to get a lift in the back of a former army truck on a rough, steep track.
''I was just sitting on the tray of the truck and it bounced around and felt like it was going to go off the road and I thought 'Goodness, I have just been to the top of this peak not feeling really at risk and I am going to lose my life on this truck. If this truck rolls you know we are finished'.''
But she made it down, and set her sights on the remaining peak, a second attempt at  Aconcagua.

 Rob Hall right, with Gary Ball centre and Peter Hillary left, shortly after their ascent of Everest in 1990. Photo: Bob McKerrow

To overcome her acclimatisation problems, she headed to South America early and climbed the 5434m Cerro El Plomo  in Chile, a place of Inca human sacrifice.
On February 12, she made it to the top of Aconcagua, but not without it taking a toll. 
''When I look at photos of myself I was absolutely blue on the lips and I took this video and I am slurring my words,'' she says.
''I thought I cannot do this to my brain again - this is it. Luckily, I've done it now.''
She has experienced the full risk mountaineering carries with it. But, she wouldn't change a thing.
''I didn't ever rail against the fact that Rob had died,'' she says.
''I accepted it quite quickly because I had wondered if sometime that might be in the future.
''You marry an 8000m mountaineer, what do you expect? I think that protected me. But, heck, it was rich and it was alive and vibrant and it was so worth not avoiding. 
''You want to make the most of it while you have got it because you don't know how long it will be and it makes it all the more precious. 
''It sharpens, it clarifies, and it brightens.''
Despite achieving what most would consider a mammoth challenge, Jan says she is not in the league of technical climbers like New Zealanders Pat Deavoll , Lydia Bradey  and Paul and Shelley Hersey who are pushing the boundaries of never-before-climbed peaks. 
The more technical climbing ''scares the hell'' out of her. 
''These peaks are hard because they require stamina and physical fitness, but they are not groundbreaking in any sense and these last three peaks, if they had involved great risk to my life, I wouldn't do them because of my children.''
With two daughters, Sarah, 17  - who she was pregnant with when Rob died on Everest -  and Helena, 11, it was a balance between motherhood and chasing her goals. 
''Someone once said to me, 'Is Everest the hardest thing you have ever done?' and I actually said parenting a two-year-old is much harder,'' she says laughing.  
She loves the opportunities that climbing brings -  ''travelling the globe with a focus in mind and learning about the area and this planet of ridges and hollows '' - but also the challenges.
''It's cold, tent living for days and days and days. Your tent mat goes down and you wake up cold in the night. There's a storm outside, the wind is blowing, the tent is rattling around. It requires a focus. It requires confidence in the people around you and the logistics of the organisation you are with.'' 
Letting yourself off on the bad days and knowing when to dig in is crucial, she says.  
Mountaineering is something anyone can do with commitment and careful planning ''bit by bit'', she says.
''The really big things are breathtaking. You stand at the base of Everest and you go, 'It was so much work getting to this altitude, how I am going to get three and half kilometres above me vertically?' and the truth is, day by day, step by step, camp by camp.''

Jan Arnold completed the seven summits with support from Adventure Consultants and Mapua-based adventure company High Places.

I salute you Jan Arnold for your achievements, strength and sensitivity. You are a brilliant role model on International Women's day, and throughout the year.

 Thanks to KATE DAVIDSON of Fairfax media for permission to runs extracts from her article.