Titel: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2001 or a Corporate Marketing Strategy?
Datum: 18 juli 2001
Via: wdl@xminy.nl / Robert Vint

Statement on UNDP Report from the farmers organisation UBINIG in Bangladesh:

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2001 or a Corporate Marketing Strategy?
Farida Akhter, UBINIG ubinig@citechco.net

"The broader challenge for public, private and non-profit decision-makers
is to agree on ways to segment the global market so that key technology products
can be sold at low cost in developing countries without destroying markets ---
and industry incentives --- in industrial countries". UNDP Human Development
Report 2001

The quotation above from the UNDP Human Development Report 2001, launched on
July 11 in Dhaka, is a shameless propaganda for proprietary corporate
technology, particularly transgenic products. It is a corporate marketing
strategy in the name of 'development' and 'poverty reduction'. The blatant
agendum to dump or create effective demand for genetically engineered and IT
products aimed at running the wheel of corporate profit. It is appalling
when it comes from UNDP Human Development Report, which enjoyed a kind of
critical support from the social activists and people who work for social justice.
Indeed earlier UNDP Human Development Report tried explicitly to maintain a
balance with which one could live with given the dominance of corporate
ideology in the era of 'globalisation'. It seems that UNDP has decided to
tip over to the side of transnational corporations.

Many may be surprised, but given the history of the other UN
organisations, it is not a shock. Unsafe hormonal injections like Depo-provera and notoriously
coercive contraceptive such as Norplant was promoted by UNFPA, WHO in order
to fill the million dollar profit pockets of pharmaceutical corporations.
Governments of developing countries were forced to purchase contraceptives
and unsafe medical technologies to terminate their own population. No one in a
developing country could afford to purchase hormonal contraceptives and
implants. Government received loan in the name of 'development' to spend on
purchasing contraceptives from the companies. Tax payers' money of the rich
nations were spent to purchase unsafe corporate commodities to dump in the
developing countries like Bangladesh to terminate the 'poor' in their
mother's womb to reduce poverty. If poor are not born, poverty will be reduced --
this was the strange implicit and explicit logic. UNDP couldn't be better. What
we may have to explain why it was a bit different before this report came to
light. The report used same rhetoric of the poor and the poverty, so
familiar to legitimise the institutions and the process that generate poverty and
forced the majority of the people of the world to remain poor.

The report was launched in other countries more or less at the same time.
Immediately it has generated massive protest and criticisms have been
mounting. "the report taken in its entirety forms an unabashed pat on the back for the
hi-tech bandwagon on which a minority of powerful elites are galloping to
even greater riches, even more power", said the prominent groups of India
well-known for their activism to defend the political, human and environmental rights
of the poor. It summarises the angry sentiment of the people working in their
communities around the world.

The danger of the report lies not in it's blatant promotion of the
profiteering mission of the corporations, but rather in the rhetoric of the poor. It
claims that the hi-tech world of information technology and biotechnology is the
saviour of millions of poor, starving, desperate people in the "developing"
countries. It points at the site of resistance globally, in particular in
the developed countries where GMOs are more or less rejected by the conscious
consumers. Since market in the industrial countries are increasingly showing
grim, the report claims that the First World's debate about the safety of
genetically altered food and cutting edge drugs is forcing poor countries to
wait for technology that could already be feeding their hungry and healing
their sick. The playing of developing countries against the popular
resistance against biotechnology and genetic engineering in the developed countries is a dangerous game. The safety issue of the GE food is not a debate anymore, it
is a real struggle of all the people both in the rich and poor countries.

Poor countries do not need genetically altered food, they need to preserve
their own food production. The UN Report is trying to undermine the protests
and the concerns expressed by the farmers in the poorer countries about the
GE food. The third world does not need the western countries to teach them how
to protest. For countries like Bangladesh, we already have bumper crop
production from our existing local production. Bangladesh does not need genetic
engineering in food. GE will create market for corporate technologies but
will destroy the livelihood of the farming communities. Farmers in Bangladesh
have already experienced negatively from the hybrid technology and are
apprehensive of any technology, which leads to the dependence on the companies for seeds and its associate inputs. The UNDP failed to see the implications of their
proposition in the context of poor countries. It is trying to shift the
technologies to the poor countries because those have been discarded by the
first world. They have lost their market in the first world, or at least the
confidence of the consumers. It is a well-recognised fact that biotechnology
and GE has not been able to gain credibility, even in the scientific
In this context, making poor the market place to dump and test the
questionable technologies of the North can not be acceptable. Now poor have become the market place for the corporations. UNDP' report is a sneak and desperate
effort to find excuses and justifications for hi-tech companies. It is sad indeed.

The Human Development Report entitled "Making New Technologies Work for
Human Development" is a shame because under the leadership of late Mahbubul Haque and his team this annual UNDP report got credibility among many nations of the
world. Despite it's limitation and a mainstream approach to development the
reports used to play a converging arena where governments were offered a
breeze to think about the people and the processes of underdevelopment.
Unfortunately, the Human Development Reports are now being manipulated by the corporations for promoting their own self-interest in the name of poverty eradication. It
will be difficult for the HDR to regain its credibility unless they withdraw this
report of 2001 immediately and rewrite.

The Human Development Report 2001 is being criticised by many progressive
groups around the world. It is accused of being a biotechnology
industry-sponsored study. It focuses on Agriculture, Medicine and
Information technology as the three main areas through which technological innovations
are promoted for the world poor. Without any scientific evidence and with no
sign of genuine home work the Report claims that in agriculture, plant breeding
promises to generate higher yields and resistance to drought, pests and
diseases. Biotechnology offers the only or the best 'tool of choice' for
marginal ecological zones left behind by the green revolution but home to
more than half the world's poorest people, dependent on agriculture and
It says, "Western consumers naturally focus on potential allergic reactions
and other food safety issues. People in developing countries however, may be
more interested in better crop yield". This is utterly dangerous, as if food
safety is not an issue for the developing countries. Since they are hungry,
anything can be dumped on them. This is an absolutely irresponsible statement and
obviously is not based on facts. People in developing countries are lured to
become interested in so called yield with false and fraudulent measures.
This is nothing but justification of promoting harmful technologies and forcing
the poor to use them. Once the poor consume it, they describe them as
Even micro-credits are being used by NGOs in Bangladesh to force the poor to
accept hybrid seeds along with several kinds of pesticides and chemical
fertilisers. The poor women, who do not even have enough land to cultivate
such crops are paying back the credit with high interest rates. The seeds that
they have used did not provide better yields. The companies failed to sell their
hybrid seeds through open market but have forcing them through NGOs
micro-credit programme to accept it

The second issue that Human Development Report focuses is on medicine. It
notes that 2 billion people do not have access to low cost, life-saving medicines
because drug companies focus on so called "diseases of the rich". Of the
1,000 new drugs developed in the past 10 years, only 13 of those targeted
devastating tropical diseases that afflict many poor nations. It urges the governments
around the world to work with the "private sector" to reverse the trend.
UNDP is an organisation of the nations in the world, not an organisation of the
private sector. It is quite shameful to see UNDP urging governments around
the world to work with the private particularly in a very essential public
service that the governments must ensure for its citizens. This is dreadful. The
health sector has already been invaded by the private sector and the public health
care services have been dismantled resulting in less and less access of the
poor to health care. The UNDP is promoting further privatisation in medicine
and healthcare, which is entirely against the poor. The major expenses after
food that poor have to incur is on health. Privatisation in health care
means no money, no service. The result is that the poor will have to die without
treatment. Only the rich will survive from any illness.

For Bangladesh, the Human Poverty Index (HPI) remained stagnant as the
country continued to lag behind even the South Asian average in terms of life
expectancy, percentage of undernourished people, percentage of under-weight
children, infant and under-five mortality rates etc. These are health
indicators, which the innovations in technology cannot solve. These need
broad-based social and development programmes for the eradication of
poverty, which the HDR is not focussing at all. The corporations on the other hand
are trying to capture the market of under-nourishment through their so-called
scientific research in genetic engineering laboratories. The focus of these
researches is on crops which will produce edible vaccines and will address
the problems of malnutrition by incorporating genes for Vit. A, iron, zinc and
other micro-nutrients. Those who suffer from nutritional deficiencies do not
have adequate food. The corporate micro-nutrients cannot solve to fill up
the hungry stomachs with their profit oriented food in the market.

The third issue that the HDR emphasises is on information technology. It
warns the developing countries not to stay off the information superhighway. The
Report further said that informations and communications technology could
make an important development impact because it could overcome barriers to
social, economic and geographical isolation, increase access to information and
education and enable poor people to participate in more of the decisions
that affect their life. However, the report also shows the high cost of
technology use in poor countries compared to those of the rich countries. The monthly
internet access charge in Nepal is 278 per cent of the average per capita
monthly income in Nepal, 191 percent in Bangladesh, 80 percent in Bhutan
and 60 per cent in Sri Lanka and only 1.2 per cent in the United States. The HDR
emphasised on the need for introducing fibre optic system to have smooth,
quick and cost effective Internet connectivity in the age of information and
communications technology (ICT). Bangladesh has about 60 private Internet
Service Providers (ISPs) and half a million Internet users with more than
100 per cent growth rate every year. But the capacity of all satellites is
lesser than one fibre optic. It will take at least two years to get connectivity to
the submarine cable.

The HDR referred to the expansion of cellular phones in the rural areas by
the Grameen Bank. It is true that Grameen is providing an easy access of the
corporations to the poorer families in Bangladesh for the introduction of
technologies. Micro-credit, as they are now structured with cellular phones
and seeds, enhances purchasing power of the poor to buy corporate products.
Grameen made several deals with transnational companies such as Telenor of Norway,
Marubeni of Japan to promote cellular mobile phones. Through these phones
women are supposed to make business contacts for their small business. The
experiences of the mobile phones in the villages are not showing any
positive result. When the mobile phones were promoted as a 'tool' of poverty
reduction, poor women with mobiles near their ear were shown with smiling face. Soon
that has replaced the upper city elites with tie and shirt. The rhetoric of the
IT technology and the poor disappeared without a trace. Grameen has not even
been able to operate the mobile phone system in an effective manner in the
cities. The rural areas are often in "network fail" condition. However, the
inhumanity in such false projections is that poor women are already paying for the cell
phones at the cost of not using the money for more important needs in the
families. Cellular phones, and for that matter Information technology cannot
meet hunger, nor can it eradicate poverty. The experiments so contributed to
the indebtedness of the poor for reasons of using technology. The issue is
not whether we need information technology or not, a different debate. The
issue here is generation of ample nonsense and utter hypocrisy that links
technology to poverty in a linear, uncritical manner simply to veil the complexity of
the social, economic and political dynamics that generates poverty.

The HDR's warning that "if the developing community turns its back on the
explosion of technological innovation in food, medicine and information, it
risks marginalising itself." rather sheds doubts about the UNDP's real
commitment in terms of human development and poverty eradication. If the
developing country government turn it's back to the processes of monopoly
control of few corporations over innovation and technology, they willend up
becoming nothing more than marketing agent of the companies. The violent
efforts to divide the world into segments of markets, for which UNDP has
ranked to become their front soldier, must be resisted.

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Tel: 880-2-8111465; Fax: 880-2-8113065
UBINIG: ubinig@citechco.net,
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