Suppose that, one day, a foreign investor decided to buy a vast tract of fertile land in the United States. Suppose all that is grown or produced on that land, and all profits made, would be shipped directly overseas. Worse, imagine that those Americans who had been living off that land for decades, maybe centuries, would be forced to move and given little to no compensation.
Such an event would undoubtedly spark public outrage, yet this scenario is not far from reality—only the roles are reversed. American companies have recently been investing heavily in foreign land, and many involved in the worldwide struggle against hunger believe that is a cause for concern. What investors call “agricultural development” is described by critics as “land grabbing,” which they say undermines food security in developing countries.
Land grabbing is nothing new, according to Flavio Valente, secretary general of Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) International, a nonprofit that advocates for the right to food. “But recently, the practice of land grabbing has been intensifying and affecting the most vulnerable—peasants, farmers and indigenous people,” Valente says.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates more than 75,000 square miles have been acquired by foreign interests in Africa alone. A 2010 field study conducted by FIAN in Ethiopia found that the equivalent of up to 20 percent of the country’s arable land has been bought by or made available to foreign investors.
American companies are among those making land deals in Africa. New York-based Jarch Capital, bought an area the size of Dubai from a warlord in South Sudan last year, and Dominion Farms Ltd., which bought swampland in Kenya in 2003 to turn it into a rice plantation, has reportedly intentionally flooded local farms to force the relocation of farmers.
Despite promises of creating jobs and increasing food production, foreign investment hardly ever benefits local communities because it aims to secure crops and profits for those back home, the FIAN report states.
Food security advocates say that even initiatives touted for presenting solutions to the land-grabbing problem, such as the World Bank’s Principles for Responsible Agricultural Development, fail to address the lack of concrete mechanisms to hold companies and governments accountable. “These principles, which are meant to be voluntary and self-regulated by the private sector, distract from the fact that what is needed is mandatory and strict state regulation of investors in several policy fields, such as financial markets and agriculture,” says Sofia Monsalve Suárez, land program coordinator at FIAN International.
Resolutions to regulate foreign land acquisition exist, but are ineffective and weak, Valente says. He is hopeful that the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), a United Nations body which last year became more attuned to indigenous and peasant interests, will act.
“The CFS is the only organization with a clear mandate to uphold food security, and each country gets one vote,” Valente says. “Facilitating the participation of those most affected [by land-grabbing] was the first step; now we must see if those voices will actually be heard.”
By Joice Biazoto: a freelance journalist based in Germany.
I am sometimes gobsmacked by the audacity of these companies and the sleeping nature of present day humanity in general.. Reminds me of the holocaust.. when many “good people” did not speak out….
As I lay in bed early this morning, my memory took me back to 2003 and the Spanish journalist who had been killed by friendly fire in Iraq. I wondered what had become of his family? With it being the festive season and seeing all the families get together including mine I wanted to know what happened to his…. what an awful way to lose your child… Being as mumsy as I am I thought of his mother.. and maybe he had a wife… children…brothers and sisters….???
I could not remember his name … and it was annoying me. 😉
Generally speaking I have a lot of respect for anyone who goes into these war torn places to report…
So I got up and a few queries on google led me to his story… I did not realise the ..”breadth and depth” of all that had gone on in this case.. till I read various articles his family/supporters have written on the website http://www.josecouso.info
They are still fighting for justice for their loved one 7 years later…
Below is one of the articles….. I am sharing this particular article because it reveals a part of the pattern that like a magicians sleight of hand misleads us regards events of importance to humanity…
Please check out the website if you want to know more..
Shooting the Messenger, by Jeremy Scahill. The Nation
(Monday 7th March 2005)
CNN chief Jordan and US attacks against journalists. CNN’s news director Eason Jordan was forced to resign recently for merely suggesting off the record – in remarks he scurried to retract – that the US military “targets” journalists.
Jeremy Scahill shows that Jordan seems to have let slip the truth:
Shooting the Messenger, by Jeremy Scahill. The Nation.
One of the most powerful executives in the cable news business, CNN’s Eason Jordan, was brought down after he spoke out of school during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in January. In a rare moment of candor, Jordan reportedly said that the US military had targeted a dozen journalists who had been killed in Iraq. The comments quickly ignited a firestorm on the Internet, fueled by right-wing bloggers, that led to Jordan’s recanting, apologizing and ultimately resigning after twenty-three years at the network, “in an effort to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy.”
But the real controversy here should not be over Jordan’s comments. The controversy ought to be over the unconscionable silence in the United States about the military’s repeated killing of journalists in Iraq.
Consider the events of April 8, 2003. Early that morning, Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayyoub was reporting from the network’s Baghdad bureau. He was providing an eyewitness account of a fierce battle between US and Iraqi forces along the banks of the Tigris. As he stood on the roof of the building, a US warplane swooped in and fired a rocket at Al Jazeera’s office. Ayyoub was killed instantly. US Central Command released a statement claiming, “Coalition forces came under significant enemy fire from the building where the Al-Jazeera journalists were working.” No evidence was ever produced to bolster this claim. Al Jazeera, which gave the US military its coordinates weeks before the invasion began, says it received assurances a day before Ayyoub’s death that the network would not be attacked.
At noon on April 8, a US Abrams tank fired at the Palestine Hotel, home and office to more than 100 unembedded international journalists operating in Baghdad at the time. The shell smashed into the fifteenth-floor Reuters office, killing two cameramen, Reuters’s Taras Protsyuk and José Couso of Spain’s Telecinco. The United States again claimed that its forces had come under enemy fire and were acting in self-defense. This claim was contradicted by scores of journalists who were in the hotel and by a French TV crew that filmed the attack. In its report on the incident, the Committee to Protect Journalists asserted that “Pentagon officials, as well as commanders on the ground in Baghdad, knew that the Palestine Hotel was full of international journalists.”
In a chilling statement at the end of that day in Iraq, then-Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke spelled out the Pentagon’s policy on journalists not embedded with US troops. She warned them that Baghdad “is not a safe place. You should not be there.”
Eason Jordan’s comment was hardly a radical declaration. He was expressing a common view among news organizations around the world. “We have had three deaths, and they were all non-embedded, non-coalition nationals and they were all at the hands of the US military, and the reaction of the US authorities in each case was that they were somehow justified,” David Schlesinger, Reuters’s global managing editor, said in November. “What is the US’s position on nonembeds? Are nonembedded journalists fair game?” One of the BBC’s top news anchors, Nik Gowing, said recently that he was “speak[ing] for a large number of news organizations, many of whom are not really talking publicly about this at the moment,” when he made this statement about the dangers facing reporters in Iraq: “The trouble is that a lot of the military–particularly the American…military–do not want us there. And they make it very uncomfortable for us to work. And I think that this…is leading to security forces in some instances feeling it is legitimate to target us with deadly force and with impunity.”
The US military has yet to discipline a single soldier for the killing of a journalist in Iraq. While some incidents are classified as “ongoing investigation[s],” most have been labeled self-defense or mistakes. Some are even classified as “justified,” like the killing of Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana, shot near Abu Ghraib prison when his camera was allegedly mistaken for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Also “justified” was the killing of Al Arabiya TV’s Mazen al-Tumeizi, blown apart by a US missile as he reported on a burning US armored vehicle on Baghdad’s Haifa Street.
There have also been several questionable killings of journalists at US military checkpoints, such as the March 2004 shooting deaths of Ali Abdel-Aziz and Ali al-Khatib of Al Arabiya. The Pentagon said the soldiers who shot the journalists acted within the “rules of engagement.” And Reuters freelancer Dhia Najim was killed by US fire while filming resistance fighters in November 2004. “We did kill him,” an unnamed military official told the New York Times. “He was out with the bad guys. He was there with them, they attacked, and we fired back and hit him.”
The military has faced almost no public outcry at home about these killings. In fact, comments by Ann Cooper of the Committee to Protect Journalists have been used to discredit Jordan’s statement at Davos. “From our standpoint,” Cooper was widely quoted as saying, “journalists are not being targeted by the US military in Iraq.” But as CPJ’s Joel Campagna acknowledges, the Pentagon has not been cooperative in the investigations of many of these journalist killings. The fact is that CPJ doesn’t know that the military has not targeted journalists, and there are many facts that suggest that it has. These include not only the events of April 8, 2003, but credible accounts of journalists being tortured by the US military in Iraq, such as Salah Hassan and Suheib Badr Darwish of Al Jazeera [see Christian Parenti, “Al Jazeera Goes to Jail,” March 29, 2004] and three Reuters staffers who say they were brutalized by US forces for seventy-two hours after they filmed a crashed US helicopter near Falluja in January 2004. According to news reports, the journalists were blindfolded, forced to stand for hours with their arms raised and threatened with sexual abuse. A family member of one journalist said US interrogators stripped him naked and forced a shoe into his mouth.
In many of these cases, there is a common thread: The journalists, mostly Arabs, were reporting on places or incidents that the military may not have wanted the world to see–military vehicles in flames, helicopters shot down, fierce resistance against the “liberation” forces, civilian deaths.
In his resignation letter, Jordan wrote, “I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists.” The families and colleagues of the slain journalists believe otherwise. And it is up to all journalists, not just those in Europe and the Middle East, to honor the victims by holding their killers responsible. In Spain, the family of cameraman José Couso has filed a lawsuit against the US soldiers who killed him, and they plan to travel to the United States for the anniversary of his death this spring. Will any network have the courage to put them on the air?
I am going to be putting a few of the tracks from Paris and his friends..
Here’s one for starters.