groundWork, Friends of the Earth-South Africa (http://www.groundwork.org.za) the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (http://www.sdcea.co.za) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society (http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za)
In Durban, South Africa, five heads of state meet in late March, to assure the rest of Africa that their countries’ corporations are better investors in infrastructure, mining, oil and agriculture than the traditional European and US multinationals. The Brazil-Russia-India-China-SA (BRICS) summit has invited 25 heads of state from Africa, many of whom are notorious tyrants. Given how much is at stake, critical civil society must scrutinise the claims, the processes and the outcomes of the BRICS summit and its aftermath. In Durban, three local organisations with a strong track record of advocacy and research on social, economic and ecological justice propose several events between 22-27 March, with the aim of raising critical voices so that long-overdue social, ecological, political, economic and other rights-related concerns are no longer ignored by BRICS leaders.
critical voices must be heard
Critics point to four groups of problems in all the BRICS:
- socio-economic rights violations, including severe inequality, poverty, unemployment, disease, inadequate education and healthcare, costly basic services and housing, constraints on labour organising, and extreme levels of violence, especially against women (such as the high-profile rapes/murders of a Delhi student last December 16, and in BRICS host South Africa of Anene Booysen on February 2 in Bredasdorp, Western Cape and Reeva Steenkamp on February 14);
- political and civil rights violations, such as increased securitisation of societies, militarisation and arms trading, prohibitions on protest, rising media repression and official secrecy, debilitating patriarchy and homophobia, activist jailings and torture, and even massacres (including in Durban where a notorious police hit squad killed more than 50 suspects in recent years);
- regional domination by BRICS economies, including extraction of hinterland raw materials, and through BRICS promotion of ‘Washington Consensus’ ideology which reduces poor countries’ policy space (for example, in the recent donation of $100 billion to the International Monetary Fund with the mandate that the IMF be more ‘nasty’, according to South Africa’s finance minister in a 2011 radio interview, or in the desire of China, Brazil and India to revitalise the World Trade Organisation so as to maximise their own trading power against weaker economies); and
- ‘maldevelopment’ based on elite-centric, consumerist, financialised, eco-destructive, climate-insensitive, nuclear-powered strategies which advance corporate and parastatal profits, but which create multiple crises within all the BRICS (as witnessed in South Africa during the Marikana Massacre carried out by police on behalf of Lonmin platinum corporation last August, and in South Durban where $30 billion in white- elephant state infrastructure subsidies for chaotic port, freight and petrochemical industry expansion – and more labour-broking exploitation – are being vigorously resisted by victim communities).
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