Friday 19 June 2009

Count your shoes

Since 2000, the German development bank KfW has organised public panel discussions on globalisation. In its 50th instalment on 16 June, three Africans and two Europeans, one woman and four men, discussed the topic "development is the future". Dirk Messner, Director of the German Institute for Devlopment Policy (DIE) emphasised the need to address climate change; Simon Maxwell from the British Overseas Development Institue (ODI) called for Europeans to unite their efforts in a common development policy and enhanced coherence between development and other policies. Francis Appiah (African Peer Review Mechanism APRM) reiterated the appeal for better co-ordinated, multilateral approaches. He said government officials in Ghana spent about 300 days a year in donor meetings of all kinds... Norah Uwaraga, ED of a consultancy bureau, pointed to the potential benefits of carbon emissions trading to the lives of "ordinary" Africans.

Just before the champagne was brought in to celebrate the 50th instalment of the KfW panels, a listener from Botswana took the microphone. She came with an issue no-one on the panel had addressed: mass consumption as a driving force of environmental destruction and global injustice. I have travelled to many rich countries and I am amazed by what people here consider necessary for a good life. Just the number of shoes you have is absurd. How can a single person need so many pairs of shoes? Applause. Then the doors open to a rich buffet: beef carpaccio, salmon and petits fours. It's a strange world.

For those who wish to deepen the topic, I recommend Story of Stuff or the quite spectacular new film Home, both free downloads.

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