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Netherlands vs. Spain: The Immigrant Question

Both La Furia Roja and the Oranje will kit up for a shot at their first ever World Cup titles and it’s hard to tell who might emerge the winner. With both teams never having won the World Cup before, they will be going after the trophy with an equally bloodthirsty zeal. With both teams in peak form, a comparison of their form stacks up pretty evenly too – both won all their qualifying matches for the World Cup, and David Villa and Wesley Sneijder are currently tied for the tournament’s Golden Boot award (although Sneijder has committed 13 fouls in the course of the tournament, while Villa has just two fouls to his name).

Tough to tell who will win? Well, it’s equally tricky to say who I’ll be cheering for come Sunday evening in the spirit of Who Should I Cheer For? – both countries stack up evenly against one another in the statistics as well. While Netherlands does well to set aside over 0.7% of its GDP for aid, Spain has the highest degree of gender equality in government, with 50% of its leadership undertaken by women. If we examine these countries beyond the WSICF? rankings, both countries have an illustrious colonial history as well – both nations had expansive and prosperous empires up until the 20th century. How did these colonial pursuits play out, and what socio-economic legacies have they left in the two countries today?

Both the Dutch and Spanish empires spanned the globe, and resulted in eras of great economic and social growth. However, the process of empire building was inevitably problematic and exploitative. The Spanish infamously brought smallpox and famine to the indigenous populations they colonised, as well as brutal slavery in the plantations and mines whose bounty fuelled their prosperity. Colonial rule under the Dutch was considerably less cruel than under the Spanish, primarily because they occupied their lands primarily through means of strategic trading posts, and commerce treaties. Indeed, the Dutch East India Company (the world’s first multinational corporation) was an unparalleled commercial force, particularly in Asia where the Spice Islands and Indonesia provided numerous export and trading opportunities.

Interestingly, the ancestors of the Oranje are also responsible for the initial conception of modern development policy. Primarily focused on the Dutch East Indies, or modern day Indonesia, this policy recognised the moral imperative to improve the material well-being of the lands from which it had gained such great riches. By introducing education, irrigation technology and transmigration to reduce population pressure on certain areas, the Dutch sought to improve the lives of the people without the over-arching imperatives of culture transfer or recruiting “brown Dutchmen” to aid the Dutch settlers. Despite the fact that this policy came up against significant budget constraints and internal opposition, the intention of the policy was undeniably noble.

Centuries later, how has the dynamic between the Netherlands, Spain and the ex-empire played out? As with the rest of the Western world, both countries are struggling with the multiculturalism and diversity that result from the global migration of people and ideas. On one hand, the immigration pol¬icies that both countries enforce have been the subject of much scrutiny and criticism; on the other, both countries have been subject to violent attacks by people from various immigrant communities.

The 2004 attacks on Madrid’s trains during peak hour left almost 200 people dead, and another 1,800 wounded. When a group of Moroccan terrorists were convicted for the bombings, a wave of Islamophobia swept the nation, putting the already-marginalised Moroccan community in a weakened, powerless position. In a country that has a staunchly Catholic tradition, the Moroccan Muslim community has been characterised by low-skilled labour, a struggle for economic survival, and largely low levels of education amongst the community. In a recent report by Human Rights Watch, incidents of Spain deporting illegal, unaccompanied Moroccan children back across the Straits of Gibraltar into detention centres that leave them open to abuse and exploitation has attracted much international criticism. While it’s no justification for terrorism, the uncertain, insecure and impoverished circumstances low-skilled migrants from Spain’s ex-colonies live in is certainly a fertile breeding ground for resentment against the Spanish.

Netherland’s struggle with multiculturalism and the influx of immigrants from the developing world – countries such as Morocco, Turkey and Indonesia – has also resulted in several controversial outcomes, such as a overseas integration test (that immigrants from the European Economic Area and other prosperous nations such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States do not have to take), which examines factors such as language proficiency and the ability of migrants to support themselves. This discriminatory test makes it very difficult for the families of poor migrants to join them in the Netherlands. In a nation whose respect for love and family life has made it amongst the first in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, this denial of the right to family life for certain migrants seems particularly ironic.

Against a backdrop of violent riots by minority migrant communities in nearby France, as well as high rates of unemployment and immigrant crime reported within Dutch borders, the political tide is shifting towards anti-immigrant legislation and perhaps more importantly, towards hateful and resentful attitudes towards existing communities. Of course, the counter-reaction of these communities only complicates matters further. The murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Moroccan immigrant following the production of Submission, a film that accuses Islam of great cruelty and injustice towards women exemplifies this perfectly. The medium of filmmaking has also been used by the right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders. The anti-Islam sentiments portrayed in his 2008 film Fitna are also echoed in his broader political rhetoric against Muslim immigration into the Netherlands.

Indeed, it’s not difficult to see that migrant disenfranchisement and strict, conservative immigration policies in both Spain and Holland are simply two stages in what seems to be an endless, vicious cycle. One must acknowledge that the situations in these countries are underpinned by broader economic, political and social problems. Questioning how just immigration policies in the Netherlands and Spain is looking at only one side of the coin – what can be done to stem the exodus from unfavourable circumstances in these migrants’ home countries? Issues of migrant rights, the security and safety of a nation and the socio-economic welfare of a country’s citizens are inextricably tangled up with the broader global problems of exploitative and violent colonial legacies, a global tide of religious fundamentalism and its equally problematic counter-measures by Western governments.

It’s hard to say, then, who I’ll be cheering for in this World Cup final. Spain has been a long-standing personal favourite, and I’m reluctant to support Netherlands against them. So I’ll be cheering for a fair, exciting and high-scoring game, for the safeguarding of the rights of the most disenfranchised inhabitants of these countries, and for the gradual, peaceful resolution of the economic, political and religious tensions fragmenting both nations today.

Posted in: Netherlands, Netherlands-Spain, Spain

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Spain v Germany: Fair Play?

Last night I found myself in the strange position of cheering my heart out for a Dutch team playing in South Africa – given the history of the dreadful Dutch role in apartheid that was something I would have never envisaged happening. But my cheers were really for Ghana, as Holland avenged Uruguay for knocking the wonderful Ghanaians out of the world cup with a deliberate hand ball (yes, I know I should have let go of that by now – I’m working on it).

So tonight, how the six teams (oops, seven if you include Holland) I was following are not playing – who should I cheer for? Spain or Germany.

Well, win-wise they are fairly equal – both teams having lost just one (albeit quite surprising) match each. In terms of social justice indicators they are fairly even too. Both countries give a similar amount in aid (ie for health European economies – not enough). Germany has less carbon emissions than Spain but then Spain’s inequality difference is slightly less than Germany. Hmm.

The only thing is that when Germany won their matches, they really won! Except of course when Ghana managed to limit them to only one goal – sorry, had to get that in. Otherwise it was a clear 4:1 or 4:0 hammering. I would like to say that Spain’s fabulous 50% representation of women in government was a similarly thumping victory which would have helped in my choice dilemma, but actually, Germany aren’t far behind on 46.2% and they have a female Chancellor.

So I’m still undecided. But in a world cup that saw some teams have progress because of unfair decisions and plain cheating I think I’m going to go by something my son told me. He said Spain have been the cleanest team of the world cup with only 3 yellow cards even at this stage. Having been upset at Ghana’s unjust exit (and other more major injustices around the world ranging from bankers’ greed pushing people further into poverty or the ravaging impacts of climate change suffered by people that didn’t even cause it) I think my cheering criteria should be judged by fairness and so I will celebrate with Spain’s in their clean and justified arrival at the semis.

Posted in: Germany, Spain, Spain v Germany

Sharon Jordan is campaigns assistant at WDM. Generally football indifferent, her football passion ignites about this time once every 4 years as the ups and downs of life are played out by global players in 90 minutes on a patch of green grass.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Argentina v Germany: The Truman Show

Saturday afternoon sees one of the most eagerly awaited clashes of the tournament yet. Germany’s swashbuckling ingénues and creaky defence taking on Argentina’s endless array of superstar attacking talent… and even creakier defence, coupled with a managerial battle of the clinical, versus the clinically insane. This game can surely only end nil-nil.

For the average England fan, this clash of bêtes noires will surely prove confusing. Germany’s Thomas Müller hasn’t been afraid to stick the boot into England this week for having ‘too many chiefs and not enough Indians’, which, presumably spoils the broth. While Argentine centre back Martin Demichelis came out on Friday to say that he wouldn’t be able to return home if he played like John Terry had against Germany. When the worst defender to play in a Champions League final since Djimi Traore is looking down on England’s ex-captain, the phrase ‘insult to injury’ doesn’t do it justice.

The bad-tempered end to these two teams’ last meeting in the World Cup in 2006 only adds extra spice to an already appealing meal. After a Jens Lehmann-inspired Germany put out the form team of the tournament Argentina on penalties in Berlin, proceedings descended into a near riot. Disgraceful scenes… that will hopefully be replicated this weekend. Germany certainly haven’t been afraid to stick the knife in through the press in the last few days , and this Argentina side (or indeed any Argentina side) aren’t exactly shrinking violets. Cape Town could well be in for some fireworks.

While the less said about 20th century German settlers in Argentina the better, there is no doubt that the recent history of these two countries is very much intertwined. 55 years ago, after defeat in World War II, Germany was on its knees, while Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world. The fortunes of the two countries have dramatically turned in opposite directions since then. German stability and renewal has contrasted with Argentina’s descent into military rule, war and multiple economic collapses.

US President Harry Truman in fact had a significant hand in both of these trajectories. The Marshall Plan, as everyone knows, was crucial in the rebuilding of post-war Europe, and particularly Germany. But while Europe was booming, it was under pressure from the Truman administration to keep Argentinean exports out, because they saw Juan Perón as a fascist (a mischaracterisation). Argentina’s wealth at the time was built on exports of grain and beef, but their subsequent poverty displayed how all too easily things can go wrong in such an open economy. Placing one’s country at the whim of the global markets, be they financial, or in goods, can be a dangerous casino, and the waves of prosperity and poverty that Argentina has experienced since the 50’s have only been marginally less violent than the alternating waves of democracy and military rule.

Argentina’s turbulent recent history makes it a fascinating place to visit. The centre of Buenos Aires is characterised by the grandeur of late 19th and early 20th century European architecture, when the city was modelled on Paris and other great European cities. However it is very much a faded grandeur, dusty relics of their past as an economic giant, and their degration a daily reminder of their chequered history since. In fact the Ministerio de Economía building off the Plaza de Mayo still sports bullet holes from one of the many military coups of the mid-20th century.

While much of the centre of Buenos Aires heralds its lamented past, the rest is a reminder of its harsh present. Once out of the centre, it’s not far until you reach one of the barrios, where makeshift shacks house three generations with not a job between them. In one case, the entrance to the shanty town stands directly opposite the Sheraton Hotel. A heavy handed image of inequality indeed, but nonetheless a true one.

There is much to admire about Germany, both for footballing, economic and environmental reasons, but Argentina’s political and economic history is a compelling melodrama of triumph and disaster, and Saturday will find me donning the albiceleste to cheer them on, spearheaded by quite simply the most naturally talented footballer I have ever had the honour to see in the flesh. And I’m not talking about Martin Demichelis.

Posted in: Argentina, Argentina-Germany, Germany

Carl works for the Irish Ombudsman for Children's Office in Dublin. When not crying bitter, resentful tears over Ireland's elmination from the World Cup and their subsequent lack of dignity, he is busy admiring Xavi and Iniesta's spearheading of a golden era of Spanish football.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Paraguay v Spain: Cheering the overdog

A poor developing nation exceeding expectations against an EU powerbroker replete with grotesquely paid Champions League stars.

The duty of a WSCIF? blogger should be self-evident. But I’m less a fan of William of Occam than of Adrian Monk. Why accept the obvious solution when there is a perfectly perverse and convoluted alternative just waiting to be put together?

Spain are the only team to follow in the fourth quarter-final of the 2010 World Cup; now I just need to construct a logical case.

In this age of transparency and accountability, the following interest should be declared: I am a football fan and as such hopelessly biased towards Spain. Art historians can enjoy the superficial joys of the Renaissance to their hearts’ content but Europe has never produced an aesthetic spectacle to match Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa working in tandem.

Happily, this blatant conflict of interest does not require justifying propaganda. A closer inspection of the facts reveals Vincente del Bosque’s men really might be the good guys.

Paraguay is the most unequal nation in the World Cup and its low military spending belies a strong naval tradition – 34 surface vessels seems rather high for a landlocked country. Even their creditable 30.8% female representation in government is trumped by Spain, whose 50% is disconcertingly just.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Paraguayans do not even have strong colonial guilt cards to play at this point. Economic irrelevance and geographical distance ensured indifferent Spanish governance virtually from its ‘discovery’. Paraguay has since revelled in its eccentricity, exemplified by their choice of revered national hero, Francisco Solano López.

Solano López was a megalomaniac misogynist dictator who brought Paraguay to the brink of total destruction by instigating the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-70) with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. It’s as if tomorrow Albert II of Monaco sent the troops into France, the air force to Italy and the navy to Algeria with inevitable annihilation – only to be remembered with a national holiday of celebration in his name.

This maverick approach is also evident in their current choice of President: Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop with little political experience. In a single week last year Lugo was the subject of three paternity suits from his time in the church but those remain his most noteworthy headlines. An ambitious redistributive agenda has been repeatedly blocked by other branches of government.

In short, while Paraguay is second in our rankings they are an enigmatic curiosity rather than irresistibly deserving of support.

Spain are not without their faults but a WSICF? ranking of eight, below only the Netherlands among European nations, is an encouraging start. The Zapatero Government is the only centre-left administration in any large EU nation and has an admirable list of legislative achievements: withdrew from troops from Iraq, legalised same-sex marriage, reformed abortion law, reduced inequality and increased Catalonian autonomy. The memory of their election victory amidst Aznar’s ‘3/11 bombing’ manipulation – a nation showing intelligence to defeat fear in a moment of crisis – seals the deal.

And so, back to the football. It shouldn’t matter, of course. In fact it doesn’t. But people come together for the World Cup like for nothing else because at its best it’s magnificent. This Spain team is football at its best and if they were also orphan-eating, gun-toting despots it would still be difficult to hide a sneaking admiration for the way they play the game.

Posted in: Paraguay, Paraguay-Spain QF, Spain

Peter May is the author of The Rebel Tours: Cricket's Crisis of Conscience, the 2009 book that achieved critical praise and commercial indifference.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Austerity new v old – Netherlands v Brazil

In the UK  and across the globe, debate, anger and  fear are raging over the austerity measures  that are being imposed to cure economic ailments. The World Cup has offered us welcome distraction from the constant scare mongering generated by governments’ PR machines that tell us the debt problem (or really any problem you can think of) must be solved by cuts, cuts, cuts. They all say tell us ‘We know what is best for you, shut your eyes, open your mouth, take the medicine it will cure all our ills. Watch the football, drink your beer, stay on the sofa there’s a good chap.’

But the World Development Movement and others don’t want you to stay on your sofa. We have campaigned for decades to stop institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank from forcing developing countries to introduce public service cuts, privatisation and reductions in government  spending. Sound familiar?

We campaign against these measures  because the evidence categorically shows that these policies hurt people in developing countries making them poorer, and the gap grows chasmic between the richest and poorest. We have been vindicated, in the late 1990s even the World Bank and IMF slowly slowly began to change their neoliberal tune.  Ok so they weren’t exactly singing the Internationale, but they introduced measures to try and provide a safety net to cushion people against the worst aspects of poverty that these policies brought. And ok it wasn’t that sucessful, but we were somewhere in the argument that more privatisation and less government spending on, let’s say schools and midwives salaries, do not in fact cure the debt crisis, do not cure poverty but do bring unemployment, more children and mothers dying in childbirth and plummeting literacy rates .

But somewhere along the line we’ve lost the argument again because those same policies are being introduced now in the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Spain, the UK…. read behind the spin of ‘free’ schools or of ‘efficiency savings’ in the NHS and you’ll see they are the same old policies with prettier names. So our governments are singing loudly that neoliberal anthem that’s been discredited and discarded by its inventors for over a decade.

Brazil is one of the many countries that had to undergo the structural adjustment or economic shock therapy imposed by the IMF during the 1980s and 1990s. This included the economic policies described above to try to reduce its debts. Analysis from Oxfam showed the results:

  • 43% of Brazilians – over 60 million people – lack the essentials of a decent life
  • One in three children drop out of school without completing primary education
  • 90% of sewage is untreated

Brazil now is also being hit by the economic recession, but they are still a growing economy. Having seen his country decimated by the cuts agenda in the past, President Lula does not sing from the neoliberal song book, instead   Lula wants to invest in new roads, highspeed trains and new homes for people on low incomes.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, the new coalition government will be bringing in austerity measures that Brazil eshews. The Guardian argued that people voted for austerity with a conscience. The argument seems to be that the coalition is softened, in a similar way to the UK, by the Dutch equivalent of the Lib Dems. Not so soft?

I can’t make predictions for the match, but my prediction for the countries that bring in austerity measures: inquality and poverty will increase. I feel like sitting on my sofa, having a beer, watching the match to forget that the next generation of kids might go to a school run by Tesco where they are trained to work for Tesco, they will live in a Tesco housing estate and they will eat Tesco food.

But I won’t – what I will do is check out No Shock Doctrine for Britain who are campaigning against the cuts, and work to force those in power and in wealth see that austerity is not the medecine that will cure us, it is the medicine that no matter how much sugar we pile on top of it will only hurt us.

Posted in: Brazil, Global injustice, Netherlands, Uncategorized, Who am I cheering for?

Kate is WDM's press officer and is currently trying to get journalists to love whoshouldicheerfor.com as much as we do! This project has made her realise that her penchant for revolution and the use of tractors in demonstrations is in her genes. She is cheering for Serbia.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Uruguay vs Ghana: if only betting on food was regulated like betting on football

As soon as the last whistle of the game was blown, car boots opened to let out the drums that had been waiting to celebrate; doors opened to let the jubilant crowd who had been watching the match spill out on to the street so they had more room to party; traffic came to a standstill as roads in South Norwood, London, turned into a makeshift dance floor; champagne corks popped. Ghana had beaten USA and we’re through to the quarter finals.

So now we face Uruguay. In the Who Should I Cheer For social justice rankings Ghana holds the number one spot while Uruguay trails far behind in 21st place. I would have been cheering for Ghana anyway so I will just cheer even louder – especially as Ghana’s percentage of women in politics is 11.8% of compared to Uraguay’s, well – 0%.

While we’re on the subject of statistics, apparently the odds on Ghana winning are 3/1. I know this because since the last World Cup the gambling restrictions in the UK have been relaxed and gambling companies can now advertise their services on tv. This they do during all the ad breaks before, during and after the match. There was a big debate about whether gambling adverts should be allowed, but eventually the decision to allow it was taken as long as ads conformed to a set of rules to ensure they are ‘socially responsible’ and ‘must not show gamblers behaving in a way which is irresponsible or could lead to “financial, social or emotional harm’.

It’s a shame such tight regulations don’t apply to the gambling that is currently taking place on food – banks are earning huge profits from betting on food prices in unregulated financial markets. This food speculation creates instability and pushes up global food prices, making poor families around the world go hungry and forcing millions into deeper poverty. It’s ironic that tv adverts are restricted, but the actions of banks, hedge funds and pensions funds gambling on food are unregulated when their behaviour has not been ‘socially responsible’ and is leading to ‘financial, social [and] emotional harm’ to many people around the world – especially in poorer countries as affordable food is pushed further and further out of reach.

The World Development Movement is campaigning to have the financial markets regulated to stop reckless bankers gambling on food and hunger (www.wdm.org.uk/food or search #hungercasino on Twitter).

The Obama administration and the EU are pushing for regulations but the UK is siding with the bankers and standing in the way of reform. WDM’s campaign aims to remove this barrier change so we can have a safer, fairer food economy.

Posted in: Ghana, Uruguay, Uruguay-Ghana

Sharon Jordan is campaigns assistant at WDM. Generally football indifferent, her football passion ignites about this time once every 4 years as the ups and downs of life are played out by global players in 90 minutes on a patch of green grass.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Paraguay v Japan: Show some respect, Alan

“Japan have played some of the best football of the tournament,” conceded a reluctant Alan Shearer before their Group F shoot-out with Denmark last Thursday.

“But,” added the BBC’s former England captain promptly, “that’s because they’ve no choice. They can’t play it long.”

Really, Alan? Why is that? A clue arrived at half-time when Shearer praised Japan’s “little playmakers”, a.k.a. “the number eight and Honda”.

Unlike the England team the BBC’s punditry line-up has very much met expectations this summer. Shearer, Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen are so patently moving together from golf course to club house to studio that it’s a surprise they manage to keep talking about the football without recourse to John Motson’s four-iron into the 13th green earlier in the day.

For teams with little Premier League or Champions League representation, there is scant attempt to disguise the BBC analysts’ ignorance. And if investigating players’ pre-tournament form is too much for six- and seven-figure salaried talking heads, you can forget about attempting to pronounce polysyllabic surnames.

Two honourable exceptions have been Clarence Seedorf who has taken over from Martin O’Neill in the likable, intelligent outsider role and Danny Baker, who made a guest appearance one night to let rip on various topics including “patronising coverage of plucky Africans”.

If you want reflective World Cup insight, we can apparently do no better than the former presenter of Pets Win Prizes. On BBC, ITV and Ireland’s RTÉ ex-pros variously put down the under-achievement of Cameroon and the Ivory Coast at this World Cup to “naivety”, “poor leadership” and “lack of intelligent players around the key men”.

But it is not the very disappointing African teams who have been patronised and dismissed most grievously. It is Japan. Having beaten Cameroon in their opening match they out-passed the much-fancied Netherlands for most of their second game before eventually losing 1-0. Last Thursday, little number eight and all, they put a strong Denmark to the sword 3-1 with more outstanding technical play. They also have a tremendous defensive work ethic, hunting in packs to retrieve the ball (something the tv pundits seem altogether less surprised by).

Yet no-one really takes them seriously. This attitude has been extended to the bookmakers, who make Takeshi Okada’s men big outsiders in their last-16 clash with Paraguay. The South Americans topped a group containing a dismal Italy but made hard work of matches with Slovakia and New Zealand, neither a serious force.

As such when Japan play Paraguay this afternoon for the right to face Spain or Portugal in the quarter-finals, I will be firmly on the side of the Japanese. This is not for any of the life-or-death issues that underpin most WSICF? blogs. It is about a lack of basic dignity and respect – and the chance to capitalise on that with Japan 3/1 to win in 90 minutes.

Moreover the further Japan go, the more chance the BBC notice that key playmaker Keisuke Honda is 182cm – the same height as former England target man Alan Shearer.

Posted in: Japan, Paraguay, Paraguay-Japan

Peter May is the author of The Rebel Tours: Cricket's Crisis of Conscience, the 2009 book that achieved critical praise and commercial indifference.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Paraguay v Japan: The rising tide of inequality

Both Japan and Paraguay will be pleased to have made it to the second round and a fourth match in this World Cup. This is the fourth time Paraguay have made it to the second round, but on previous occasions they have always gone out. The South Americans will fancy their chances this time against a Japanese team who have qualified from the group stage for the first time away from home.

Although it’s not one of the glamour contests of the second round, Paraguay-Japan draws an interesting contrast in the Whoshouldicheerfor.com rankings. Japan is the most equal country taking part in the World Cup, Paraguay the most unequal.

One way to measure inequality is to contrast how much the poorest 10 per cent earn compare to the richest 10 per cent. In Japan, the rich get 4.5 times more. In Paraguay the rich get 65 times more. Japan is the most equal country in the world. Paraguay is almost off the scale in how unequal it is.

Inequality tends to be higher in developing countries. In our globalised world, there is increasingly an upper-middle class in most countries, but the absolute level of poverty is much greater in the developing world. The gap between rich and poor tends to be greater the poorer a country is.

For the past thirty years, policy across the world has been dominated by the view that inequality does not matter. New Labour Ministers in the UK to World Bank officials have argued that as long as absolute poverty is falling, it does not matter if some people are getting filthy rich at the same time. The rising tide of globalisation would lift all boats up, even if some are lifted up more.

This argument is fundamentally wrong for many reasons. The simple injustice of some people having so much in a world of such poverty is the main one, followed by that inequality allowing the rich to exercise power and keep the world spinning in their own interest.

But to tackle the ‘inequality doesn’t matter’ people head-on, there is little evidence that growth has helped the poor, but a lot that it has helped the rich. David Woodward, whilst at the New Economics Foundation showed that to get £1 more to the poorest 1 billion people in the world requires the global economy to grow by £166. That’s £165 for me, £1 for you… This is such an economically inefficient way to tackle poverty it is like trying to ride a square-wheeled bicycle up a hill. Meanwhile, the fortunes of inequality creating bankers and footballers ballooned.

Furthermore, inequality is a bad thing, and disadvantages everyone; rich and poor. In their book ‘Spirit level: Why more equal societies almost always do better’, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett show that citizens of more equal countries have longer, healthier, and happier lives, whilst violence, imprisonment and addiction are lower. Furthermore, it is not just the poor who are affected by inequality. Men from the poorest Japanese social classes are healthier than those from the richest social classes in England. Inequality destroys the relationships between everyone in a society, to the detriment of all.

In 2000, the CIA made a prediction which reads more like a statement of the bleeding obvious:

“The rising tide of the global economy will create many economic winners, but it will not lift all boats. [It will] spawn conflicts at home and abroad, ensuring an ever wider gap between regional winners and losers than exists today. [Globalisation’s] evolution will be rocky, marked by chronic financial volatility and a widening economic divide. Regions, countries, and groups feeling left behind will face deepening economic stagnation, political instability, and cultural alienation.”

Posted in: Japan, Paraguay, Paraguay-Japan

Tim Jones is policy officer at the World Development Movement. He became hooked on football as a boy when England got to the World Cup semi-final in 1990, and Leeds United won the league in 1992. All else has been disappointment.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Ghana v USA – an oil plague on both your houses?

Ghana and the USA are at opposite ends of the social justice spectrum according to whoshouldicheerfor.com, but could all this change given that new oil has just been found off Ghana’s coastline? Reports abound as to whether this discovery and commercial exploitation by Irish company, Tullow oil (with the considerable financial backing of UK tax payer backed Royal Bank of Scotland) is a plague – or more commonly known as the ‘oil curse’ – or  a silver bullet which will deliver economic development and prosperity to the people of Ghana.

The oil curse is a phenomemon where a country is sucked dry of its oil, whilst its citizens continue to go hungry, whilst foreign multinationals reap the rewards and neighbours fight over whose oil it was in the first place (see the Tullow oil backed civil war on the border of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo) and spills happen with no compensation (see Nigeria not the USA)  nor furrowed brows from oil execs (see BP’s Tony Haywood except whilst on yaughting trips) nor the international outcry or media attention.

So is oil the route to prosperity and riches? In the US, surely the land that represents prosperity and riches above and beyond any other country, it is now seen as a plague that even the super power cannot control. And so after decades of over consumption and addiction, even Americans are finally eshewing the black stuff. And rightly so, it’s devastating the lives of millions of people around the world  going unnoticed by the main stream media – oil coating coast lines and wild life that were previously pristine. And the carbon emissions deriving from oil are staggering and have pushed us to the brink of climate catastrophe that will hit the poorest people worst. But similarly to oil spills, will people only really begin to listen and act when climate change hits the USA?

In the UK right now, campaigning and activism is ramping up, spelling out trouble for BP itself and those that it sponsors. The folks at Fair Pensions have been doing a stirling job pushing for pension funds to stop investing in BP and Shell, and it’s pretty likely that your pension is in Deep water. BP is an enormously important stock for British pension funds, and with BP under pressure to scrap its next quarterly dividend – and facing the possibility of a takeover if the share price continues to fall – there is real potential for this crisis to damage UK savings.

More could have been done to foresee and prevent this catastrophe, but despite clear warning signs that BP was exposing our money to unacceptable risks, few investors acted to demand that the company address those risks. You can call on Pensions Minister Steve Webb to toughen up the standards for pension funds, so that our pensions, people and the planet are better protected against future crises.

Also the arts in the UK are enjoying the profits of Big Oil. This Monday (28th) the Tate is having a Summer Party celebrating 20 years of BP sponsorship.  Taking money from BP lends big corporate oil the kudos of a key public cultural institution – it hands over a licence to spill. The vast and ugly Gulf of Mexico oil spill shows for the thousandth time that Big Oil sees no risk too reckless.  Public art institutions should no longer prop them up.  Yet, Shell and BP have between them sponsored almost all of London’s most prestigious museums and cultural institutions over the course of the last decade.

And, it’s peanuts – the actual figure has been kept hidden by both BP and Tate but it’s estimated to be as little as 0.5% of Tate’s annual budget.  They stopped taking tobacco money and it’s high time for them to stop taking oil money.  The pressure is ramping up – you can play a part of it

Today I will be sitting on the fence, cheering for two countries that are so different, but I fear that the oil plague that is on both their houses will bring them similarities that are not  the promised prosperity but the unspoken devastation and dispair

Posted in: Ghana, Ghana-USA, Global injustice, USA

Kate is WDM's press officer and is currently trying to get journalists to love whoshouldicheerfor.com as much as we do! This project has made her realise that her penchant for revolution and the use of tractors in demonstrations is in her genes. She is cheering for Serbia.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

North Korea v Ivory Coast: Where are the African coaches?

One of my best football memories is the World Cup 1994 quarter final between Sweden and Romania. Sweden had gone 1-0 up late in the second half, after an unbelievably clever free kick and goal by Tomas Brolin,  but Romania had equalised with just two minutes to go, taking the match to extra time. In extra time, Romania went 2-1 up early on and we thought it was all over until Kenneth Andersson managed to equalise in the dying stages of the match.

The winner would be decided through penalties.

It was an incredible experience. After Håkan Mild missed Sweden’s first penalty, the goal keeper, Thomas Ravelli pulled off two amazing saves to stop Petrescu and Belodedici from scoring and Sweden went on to meet Brazil in the semi finals. My brother and I went out in the garden to play football even though it was 12 o’clock at night and dark. I still get tears in my eyes watching this.

But why am I telling you this in a blog post about North Korea v Ivory Coast?

Well, one of the commentators during the match was none other than Sven-Göran Eriksson, on holiday from managing Sampdoria in the Italian Serie A. For Swedish football fans, his slow, measured, and heavily accented (yes, he has a very strong regional accent in Swedish too) voice will forever be connected with that amazing summer when Sweden came third in the World Cup.

Since then a lot has happened. As you know, Eriksson went on to take England to two World Cup quarter finals, before short stints at Manchester City, Mexico and Notts County. And now, of course, he is managing the Ivory Coast.

Out of the six African teams taking part in this year’s World Cup, only one – Algeria – is managed by an African, 64-year old Rabah Saadane. The rest – two Swedes, a Frenchman, a Serb and a Brazilian – are all from outside the continent. Neither of the two Swedes – Lagerbäck for Nigeria and Eriksson for Ivory Coast – have any previous Africa experience, and were both parachuted in at the last minute to lead the teams in the World Cup.

But why this obsession with white, foreign coaches? The New York Times quotes academic Peter Alegi:

“I think a lot of it has to do with the colonial history of Africa, the sort of idea that you need white supervision for black achievement.”

Outspoken former Cameroonian goalkeeper Jo Jo Bell agrees with this sentiment:

“I understand it perfectly. In Africa, there is a fear of progress. Africa has not dealt with colonialism.”

But surely this cannot be the whole story? Colonialism is often blamed for Africa’s problems, and while undoubtedly true on some levels, there are other factors too.

One such problem is the lack of investment and interest in domestic leagues in many African countries. The poor quality and lack of money forces players like Didier Drogba and Michael Essien to leave for Europe at an early age in order to develop their skills and make a living. Steve Bloomfield, author of Africa United – how football explains Africa, which WDM is currently giving away as part of our membership offer, compares Africa with Brazil, which also has high levels of poverty, but still manages to do well at World Cups:

“It’s one thing to play barefoot in the street when you’re six years old and develop your skills that way, but to actually become a proper footballer you need good coaches and facilities. Brazil is in parts very poor but it also has pockets of enormous wealth and a very strong footballing tradition, so there are numerous centres of excellence if you’re a talented 12- or 13-year-old. Africa doesn’t have that.”

In a sense this is a problem that is seen all over the world, from Scotland to South Africa. Domestic club competitions struggle to compete with television coverage of the Premier League or the Champions league, most of the money goes to a few clubs and players chasing that money leave their home club early – often too early to develop properly.

But that doesn’t fully explain the lack of African managers at this World Cup. This year has seen a return of several well-known former players, for example Maradona as the Argentine coach and Dunga as manager of Brazil. But where are the African stars from a few years back? Where are Lucas Radebe, George Weah or Roger Milla, for example?

Former Nigerian player Jay Jay Okocha says that African football needs to “go back to the drawing board” and focus on planning:

“In Africa I don’t think we plan enough. We always wait for an event and then get ourselves ready for just that event.”

Let’s hope that that planning includes giving players like him a chance to swap their successful playing careers for a career on the sidelines.

And the match? Well, Ivory Coast need to beat North Korea 8-0 while Portugal loses 2-0 to Brazil to qualify, making it very unlikely Ivory Coast will join Ghana as the only other African team in the second round.

Let’s hope for an African comeback – with local managers on the sidelines – in four years’ time

Posted in: Cote d'Ivoire, North Korea, North Korea-Ivory Coast

Pontus Westerberg is web officer at WDM. Terribly disappointed that his native Sweden has not qualified for the World Cup, he is putting all his effort into Who Should I Cheer For instead. He is cheering for Nigeria.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

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