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Week of December 16, 2003, Program 0350

UN Slum Report Transcript MP3 Related Links
Dr. Jeffrey Sachs Transcript MP3 Related Links
North Korea Gulags - Part Two Transcript MP3 Related Links
Mercedes-Benz Museum Transcript MP3 Related Links
Global Trade - Tariff Tensions Transcript MP3 Related Links
Eurasia Development Transcript MP3 Related Link
Global Citizen Hitchens Transcript MP3 Related Links

 


December 16, 2003
Program 0350

(This text has been professionally transcribed, However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)

ANNA TIBAIJUKA: Health will be, continue to be elusive if people find themselves in slum conditions.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, the world wide challenge of slums.

KEITH PORTER: Plus, the connection between global poverty and national security.

DR. JEFFREY SACHS: This could change our planet in a way that people have dreamt about for ages but is now possible because of just how rich we are.

PORTER: And the proud history of German cars.

He was the first car dealer in the world. And he sold the cars of Daimler exclusive to America, France, and Austria only under the name of his daughter Mercedes.

MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.

[Musical interlude]

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UN Slum Report

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Related Links
UN-Habitat
http://www.unhabitat.org
"The Challenge of Slums" Report
http://www.unhabitat.org/global_report.asp

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: Common Ground is radio's weekly program on world affairs. I'm Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I'm Kristin McHugh. One-third of the world's urban population lives in slums. That's the finding of a recent United Nations report, which warns the number of people living in poverty in cities globally could double in the next 30 years. The UN agency Habitat, which is in charge of improving the plight of slum dwellers, says a billion people are in urgent need of help. Steve Mort reports from the United Nations.

[The sound of children playing in a Kenyan slum]

STEVE MORT: The sound of children, some toddlers, playing in the streets outside their homes. These youngsters live in the slums of Kenya—one of the countries with the highest proportion of city residents living in poverty. The UN agency Habitat says, in a new report entitled "The Challenge of Slums," that in some parts of the world more than 70 percent of urban dwellers live in such areas. The message contained in the agency's report on slums is clear—the problem of city poverty worldwide is growing and urgent action is needed to tackle it.

ANNA TIBAIJUKA: About 40 percent of the city settlements in the world are classified as slums.

MORT: Anna Tibaijuka is the Executive Director of Habitat. She says the expansion of slums is responsible for a range of problems and is preventing the UN, as well as individual nations, from achieving targets in key areas such as health and education.

TIBAIJUKA: Health will be continuing to be elusive if people find themselves in slum conditions. We can also submit that targets like education will be very difficult to achieve when people do not have shelter and an adequate place to live. Water and sanitation of course, they go to show exactly the situation facing the slum dwellers.

[The sound of a crying Afghan child]

MORT: The UN says the problem is not confined to any one region of the world—a mother tries to comfort this crying baby in a slum in Afghanistan. The concentration of slum dwellers is highest in African cities, but Asia accounts for some 60 percent of the world's urban slum residents. Over 30 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean reside in slum conditions. The numbers contrast sharply with an average of only six percent in developed nations. Jeffrey Sachs is a leading advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the United Nations' so-called Millennium Development Goals. He says by 2020, half of the world's entire population will live in cities.

JEFFREY SACHS: What's going to happen in the cities of the poor world is going to determine whether poverty is alleviated or worsened, whether health crises are alleviated or exacerbated, whether people have access to basic services, which is a global commitment unfulfilled, of safe water and sanitation, for example, or whether the numbers that don't have access to these services widens.

MORT: The question of why slums are growing so fast is one on which experts find it hard to agree. Habitat believes the expansion is due partly to the spiraling birth rate in many developing countries. But Habitat Director Anna Tibaijuka says the crisis is mostly down to people leaving the countryside in an effort to find a better life.

TIBAIJUKA: Rural-urban migration is going on very quickly in many parts of the world. In Africa, in Asia, urbanization is going on very fast. In Latin America it is, for all practical purposes, a completed exercise.

MORT: She says that in some parts of the world, migration to cities is not necessarily the result of rural poverty.

TIBAIJUKA: In Africa, the main factor fuelling the growth of slums is, of course, failure of agricultural policies but also conflicts which are flushing people prematurely from the land.

[The sound of a busy city]

MORT: Migration to cities, according to Jeffrey Sachs, is not necessarily a bad thing. Urban development, he says, is needed to ensure economic development, so long as conditions are right.

SACHS: There's a tremendous amount of evidence that cities really are the core of economic growth in the long term. This is very promising from the point of view of how developing countries can get integrated and grow in the world economy. But the question is, are these healthy cities that are producing jobs and incomes and livable conditions? Or are they instead simply places where even more impoverished people from rural areas are flooding, not because there are jobs and opportunities there, but because the situation in the rural areas is even more desperate?

MORT: The UN report on slums runs to over 300 pages and calls for ways to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. It says the critical situation of urban poverty is recognized by very few governments, cities, and other agencies. Jeffrey Sachs, advisor to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, says the solution will take time to achieve.

SACHS: We need viable, creative, job producing, income producing cities to meet the slum goal and to meet the overall Millennium goals. And that's not going to be achieved only by a focus on specific issues, however important they are, of housing tenure for example. It's going to be guaranteed by making these rapidly growing cities in poor countries viable places for overall development and human habitation.

MORT: The authors of this report from the United Nations say it's the first global assessment of slums. But they acknowledge that solving the problem will be far more difficult than documenting it. Figures show that 43 percent of people in cities in the developing world live in slums—some one billion people—and that number is predicted to double over the next three decades. For Common Ground, I'm Steve Mort at the United Nations in New York.

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Dr. Jeffrey Sachs

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Related Links
Columbia University - Dr. Jeffrey Sachs Biography
http://www.earth.columbia.edu/about/director
The UN Millennium Development Mission
http://www.un.org/millennium

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: Some of the most far-reaching efforts on global peace and security are focusing on the role global poverty plays in instability around the world. Keith recently spoke about these efforts with one of the world's leading experts on global economic issues. Dr. Jeffrey Sachs directs the Earth Institute at Columbia University and is a special advisor to the United Nations. Dr. Sachs first explained the connection between national security and global poverty.

DR. JEFFREY SACHS: We know very well that when societies that don't prosper—indeed, when they're in extreme poverty and falling backward, that things fall apart—disease, government can't function, the situation in the environment tends to get worse. And what's been observed and actually studied with a lot of care is that when you get that kind of downward spiral of economic collapse and social calamity and the governments aren't functioning you can get revolution, terrorism, civil war—all the things that pull the US into one mess after another. And yet we find that we seem to wait till the mess arrives rather than trying to get to the root cause. Helping countries before it becomes so expensive that we're spending tens of billions of dollars to clean up a mess rather than spending much smaller amounts to help countries avoid falling into that niche.

PORTER: Much of what you've just said has been written down in the form of the Millennium Development Goals. Give us in a nutshell what those goals are.

DR. SACHS: When the millennium started, the new millennium, the world's leaders got together at the United Nations in September 2000 and said, "Let's, make the new millennium a little bit more peaceful, safe, and securer than the old millennium. Let's actually take on challenges which are now possible because of our tremendous science and technology and wealth." What they said—All of the countries of the world, indeed said—"We have the capacity to sharply cut extreme poverty, hunger, and disease. And by doing so will not only save millions of people each year who would otherwise die and who are dying right now, but also make a world that is much safer for everybody, more prosperous, more secure." And so in September 2000 they adopted the Millennium Development Goals. They said by the year 2015 we want hunger of the extreme sort—the sort that kills—we want that to be cut by half. We want poverty of the extreme sort—the sort that's killing people—to be cut by half. The great irony is that the more closely you look at it, the more clear it is that this is something that can be accomplished. But it's also tragically true we're just not on course to accomplish it because we're spending all our time thinking about things like Iraq in this country. We're, we're not spending our time thinking about the problems of disease and hunger which are the root causes of the Iraqs of the world.

PORTER: What would it take on the part of the developed world, the richest countries in the world, to actually meet the goals set forward in the Millennium Development?

DR. SACHS: In the years 2000, 2001 I directed a commission for the World Health Organization to look at that question with respect to disease. Poor people are dying by the millions. That means thousands and thousands every day of malaria. Easily treatable. But they're still dying because the drugs aren't there. Tuberculosis. AIDS. A treatable disease but the poor people don't get the drugs. Even diarrhea, which kills millions of children in poor countries because they don't have access to proper water, sanitation, and health services. Well, we looked at that in detail. We found something absolutely astounding, which is that if you target well the kinds of health investments that need to be made to fight these diseases, for a mere 1/1000th of our income of the rich world—that is one cent out of every $10 of our GNP, or 10 cents out of every $100 that we earn each year—if the rich countries did that they'd be able to put together a fund of about $25 billion a year which would be sufficient to save 8 million people each year, mainly children, who will otherwise die. And what we also found is something the people find surprising but is really a powerful truth. If those children were to stay alive actually the problems of overpopulation, paradoxically, would be less rather than more. Because we found all the evidence in the world, and experts have been saying it for a long time, that when the children survive the poor families decide to have fewer children. And that happens quite quickly and you actually end up with lower population growth also. In other words healthier populations, averting death, slower population growth, and much more chance of economic development. And this, for 1/1000th of our annual income of the rich world. This could change, change our planet in a way that people have dreamt about for ages but is now possible because of just how rich we are and just how good our science and technology and proven results are.

PORTER: It seems like there must be people out there who hear you say this and say, "You know, I've heard these things from the United Nations before. I've heard this from, from do-gooders all over the place before, that we can end something or we can stop something. And it never seems to really happen." So what do you say to those, to the skeptics who, who look at this and say, "It's just another report from the UN. It's more hot air over Manhattan."

DR. SACHS: I think the skeptics are absolutely right. This is more hot air until we decide to do something. A report won't solve a single problem. But what the skeptics need to understand is that when they've heard this time and time again—what they've heard has been correct but it hasn't been acted upon. Maybe we ought to act rather than just issue reports. So, I understand the skepticism. Absolutely. I feel it the same way. I ask, "So what? Another report." The point is that we are not acting. And what people do need to understand is the big misunderstanding that says, "Well, we've tried that before." That's not true. We've taken money that we said was to help development but it wasn't. It was for foreign policy purposes or military purposes. We haven't tried to fight disease, to end hunger, to help get children into school. Very practicable to end hunger, to help get children into school. Very practicable, doable, utterly straightforward things—that we haven't done yet.

PORTER: Dr. Jeffrey Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

MCHUGH: Tracking North Korea's political prisoners, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

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North Korea Gulags - Part Two

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Related Links
Natural Resources Defense Council
http://www.nrdc.org
"The Hidden Gulag - Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps"
http://www.hrnk.org/TheHiddenGulag-press.pdf
Korea, North From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/Korea,_north.cfm

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: Considered the world's most closed society, it has proved very hard for governments and non-governmental organizations to get verifiable information about the plight of North Korea's population. But technology is lending a hand. Malcolm Brown explains in the second of two reports on the recent publication of research into North Korea's treatment of political prisoners.

[The sound of a clicking mouse]

MALCOLM BROWN: From his kitchen in suburban Silver Spring, Maryland, Matthew McKinzie can look into North Korea. The staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council is one of relatively few people outside the military and intelligence sphere, expert in the acquisition and analysis of satellite imagery. With a laptop and a couple of external hard drives, he can examine archived overhead photographs of the secretive communist state.

MATTHEW MCKINZIE: And if you zoom in, you can see first of all the runway here and then parked along the runway are MiG fighter aircraft—clearly visible—and also what are called reveted or protected parking spaces for these aircraft.

MALCOLM BROWN: Am I seeing trees, maybe, or some kind of shadow here?

MCKINZIE: Yeah, these are the shadows of trees. This, if you can think of it as an earth mound, U-shaped earth mound, in which an aircraft could be parked and it would help to protect the aircraft in the event that it was attacked from, from the air.

BROWN: My sense if that there was a car parked there you'd also see that fairly clearly. What resolution is this?

MCKINZIE: Yeah. This is 61 centimeter resolution. The MiG fighter aircraft at this base in North Korea do appear quite clearly. You mention that you'd be able to see a car. This is true. The one interesting thing about looking at satellite images of North Korea is that you see very few cars. The country is so impoverished that in a major city you might see a dozen cars on the streets.

BROWN: Imagine a two foot by two foot square, visible from space. That's the sort of detail we're talking about. Not so long ago, high resolution images like this were available only to a limited number of governments. Now you or I can buy them from a commercial provider; even direct a satellite to be pointed at a specific location. It's a development that is opening up a world of new possibilities for the public policy community. Some non-governmental organizations have already used the capability to assess and publicize nuclear proliferation threats around the world. Now, a bipartisan, non-profit group called the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, claims to have come up with a new use. Executive Director Debra Liang-Fenton spoke at the Washington, DC launch of the committee's report, called "The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps."

DEBRA LIANG-FENTON: This is the first time a human rights organization has used satellite technology to document human rights abuses.

BROWN: The group used images from two US-based companies to help expose what the report describes as a "vast and inhumane" system holding up to 200,000 political prisoners in slave labor conditions. Matthew McKinzie from the NRDC was called in to help acquire and interpret the data with the help of North Korean survivors. They told him where to look and then helped to identify features of camps where they'd been housed.

MCKINZIE: There was a quiet determination to expose the North Korean prison camp system. That was my first observation, that they were very intent on conveying as much information as they could, based on this new technology. There were no other photographs of these places.

BROWN: While the satellite images are remarkably detailed, Matthew McKinzie describes the survivor input as "critical."

MCKINZIE: Of the seven, eight, or nine prison camps that were studied and discussed in this report, only one looks—from a satellite-eye view—like a prison. The rest look like little villages off in the middle of the North Korean countryside and you just wouldn't know except for the testimony of these prisoners that these were in fact the facilities.

BROWN: Nor can a satellite photograph describe conditions for those who endured life at the prisons, known as kwan-li-so. That job fell to survivors like Kim Yong, who escaped from one of the camps and attended the press conference to launch the report. He described a system in which a political prisoner, as well as his or her whole family, would be rounded up.

KIM YONG: [via a translator] Prison Camp Number 14 has a policy of separating all the family members on the first day they arrive at the camp. So, you know that your families live nearby but you never hear about them in their entire lives once you've been separated.

BROWN: Kim was one of more than 30 former prisoners and guards interviewed on behalf of the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea by report author David Hawk.

DAVID HAWK: It's basically only within the last two years that there is a critical mass of former North Koreans who have obtained asylum in South Korea. This is largely North Koreans who fled to China during the height of the famine conditions and have made their way through a variety of circuitous routes into South Korea.

BROWN: The human rights group says that the novel use of satellite imagery combined with eyewitness testimony has allowed it not only to expose the prison system, but to catalog it in detail. Among the facilities seen in the photos are those identified as places of torture, execution and mass burial. Proponents of using this technology for human rights work say it will be a powerful tool in a wide variety of contexts. Referring to two commercial satellites used in the North Korea report, Matthew McKinzie says there are limitations.

MCKINZIE: If what you want to know has to do with a refugee situation in a war zone, trying to understand where refugees are—say by imaging their campfires by night—it's very expensive, it's often technically very difficult to task either QuickBird or Ikonos to image something right away.

BROWN: He says that acquiring an image that's already in commercial archives costs thousands of dollars. The bill rises if you commission a specific shoot and McKinzie says that's probably beyond the reach of most non-governmental human rights organizations. For Common Ground, I'm Malcolm Brown in Washington.

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Mercedes-Benz Museum

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Related Links
Mercedes-Benz Museum
http://www.mercedes-benz.com/com/d/home/heritage
Benz & Daimler history
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blbenz.htm
Germany From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/Germany.cfm

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: Every country likes to promote the history of its own famous inventors. Germany boasts of Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, the men who invented the first gasoline powered cars. An American invented the automotive assembly line. In 1998 Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler. So if you live in Germany in this era of globalization, exactly whose glory do you promote—German or American? Reese Erlich visited the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart to find out.

[Sounds from a large museum]

ERLICH: The full glory of German industrial know-how is on display here at the museum with over 100 cars and planes. Tour guide Michael Jung explains.

MICHAEL JUNG: Mr. Benz was the greatest car builder in the world in the 19th century—building complete cars. And then it's very crazy, the history. Daimler also invented the gasoline driven motor, but he didn't knew at the beginning of Mr. Benz. And Mr. Benz didn't knew about Daimler.

ERLICH: Jung shows me a full-size, working replica of the first gasoline powered car, invented by Karl Benz in 1886. Then he tries to get the engine started.

ERLICH: In the old days it was a crank, right?

MICHAEL JUNG: Yes. And now I have to turn the flywheel.

[Sound of Mr. Jung trying to manually start the sputtering engine with a hand crank]

ERLICH: We have to crank it again.

[both Mr. Erlich and Mr. Jung laughing]

[Sound of Mr. Jung trying to manually start the sputtering engine with a hand crank]

JUNG: So now I must do it another way.

[Sound of Mr. Jung trying to manually start the sputtering engine with a hand crank]

JUNG: It's terrible sometimes.

ERLICH: Watching Jung struggle to manually start the car, we are reminded of the significant advances in automotive technology in the past 100 years.

[Sound of Mr. Jung trying to manually start the sputtering engine with a hand crank]

ERLICH: Do you know the first journey was made by a woman, by Mrs. Bertha Benz. She drove such a car from her domicile in Manheim, and she drove to Pfalzheim to visit her mother, with her two sons.

ERLICH: But how did she get it started?

JUNG: In this way. We'll see. Yes.

[Both men laugh]

[The engine finally turns over]

ERLICH: It was Daimler, not Benz, who first began manufacturing cars in Germany. And it was Daimler who started selling his cars to other countries, through a dealer named Emil Jellinek. Jellinek named the car after his daughter, Mercedes.

JUNG: He was the first car dealer in the world. And he sold the cars of Daimler exclusive to America, France, and Austria only under the name of his daughter, Mercedes. And he was very successful in doing. And in 1901 the Daimler company officials called her Daimler cars Mercedes because nobody spoke about Daimler cars.

ERLICH: The Mercedes museum displays a vast array of German luxury cars, limos, race cars, and airplanes—all developed by the Daimler Benz company.

[The musical soundtrack of an old film from the 1930s, The Three from the Gasoline Station]

JUNG: This is an old film from the '30s, The Three from the Gasoline Station.

ERLICH: When it comes to the Hitler era, the museum emphasizes nostalgia, not the company's cooperation with the Nazi war machine. But, perhaps more surprising, the Museum doesn't even discuss the company's ties with Chrysler. There are no Chrysler cars on display, let alone mention of American automotive history.

[The sound of a car door slamming shut]

ERLICH: In 1998 Daimler Benz bought Chrysler, the third largest auto maker in the US, and renamed the company Daimler Chrysler. The new German owners moved the headquarters here to Stuttgart. Jung, expressing his personal opinion, says the absence of Chryslers in the museum reflect a wider company policy of not vigorously promoting the Chrysler brand inside Germany.

JUNG: They wanted to separate the trade marks. This is also okay, but why don't the dealers of Mercedes or Smart give to the customers information who also can order Chryslers and so on? Why not? Some—I'm very astonished—much people didn't know about the merger.

ERLICH: Jung notes that Americans buy cars manufactured in other countries. Germans would buy more as well, he argues, if the company promoted Chrysler. Even in Germany, Mercedes are very expensive. Jung says Germans need lower priced alternatives. So why not sell Mercedes and Chryslers in the same showrooms?

JUNG: Why don't we sell Chrysler cars in Germany with Mercedes Benz cars? Why not? I cannot buy a Mercedes car, it's too expensive. And so you go buy an Opal or Ford or another car, also very good cars. No problem. You don't know that you can buy a Chrysler car. It's not so expensive. Why not?

ERLICH: Of course, that's not the official view of Daimler Chrysler. Florijan Hadzic, a public relations spokesperson for the company, says Daimler Chrysler does sell Chryslers in Germany through separate dealerships. And, he says, the Mercedes museum hopes to bring some classic Chryslers over from Detroit in the future, although he didn't specify a date. But Hadzic makes clear the museum will remain focused on German automotive prowess.

FLORIJAN HADZIC: We as well the company which offers all the people visiting the museum the whole range of cars from the early beginning, from the first car, to the newest car. And as well, very important for the people here in Germany to have such a museum like this.

ERLICH: Do you think it helps build some pride in being German?

HADZIC: Yeah, surely, why not? So we wouldn't have this museum if we wouldn't have anything to show to the people.

ERLICH: And, says Hadzic, while the company promotes both Mercedes and Chryslers in Germany, the brands are not the same.

HADZIC: Okay, the globalisation took its part. But if you want to buy a car with a good quality car or better quality or outstanding quality, so to say, you should drive a Mercedes. Mercedes is well known from the very beginning for outstanding quality, technical features, and so on. So I would say please buy a Mercedes.

ERLICH: In this era of globalization, some argue that trans-national conglomerates have no national allegiances. That apparently doesn't apply here in Stuttgart. For Common Ground, I'm Reese Erlich, Stuttgart, Germany.

MCHUGH: If you have questions or comments about today's program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at commonground@commongroundradio.org.

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.

MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio's weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

KRISTIN MCHUGH: I'm Kristin McHugh.

KEITH PORTER: I'm Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, free trade tensions.

JOHN AUDLEY: The progress they made simply wasn't enough to put trade liberalization on a path that actually works to promote the interests of developing countries.

PORTER: Plus, Eurasia's development potential. And, this week's global citizen is an author, journalist, and political commentator.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: I like the idea of being an American because it's being international by definition, as well as constitutional and democratic and cosmopolitan.

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Global Trade - Tariff Tensions

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Related Links
World Trade Organization
http://www.wto.org
North American Free Trade Agreement
http://www.nafta-customs.org

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: It is one of the most hotly contested issues in global politics—how to encourage the development of free trade between nations. The Bush administration in Washington says it believes in a tariff-free world and yet it retains protectionist duties on many American goods, chemicals, all designed to keep foreign imports out and defend jobs here at home. The globalization movement faces widespread opposition from protestors who say that moves toward free trade often marginalize the poorest in society. During a recent World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, Mexico, Common Ground's Simon Marks took a trip to the local market to find out what traders there think.

[The sound of a busy marketplace]

SIMON MARKS: Think of Cancun, and you almost certainly do not think of Food Market Number 23. It's only about 5 miles from the beaches and the surf that attracts tourists from all over the world to this Mexican resort. But for the people who live in Cancun, as opposed to the town's occasional visitors, the market stalls here with their piles of fresh produce and dried chiles are a lifeline. Martin Martinez sells fruits and vegetables here.

MARTIN MARTINEZ: [via a translator] The produce is from a wide variety of places in Mexico. From Cancun, from the Yucatan peninsula, even some of it from the United States. It comes from all parts of the country.

MARKS: And, says Mr. Martinez, it's all good.

MARTINEZ: [via a translator] It's good. Mexico produces a lot of really good products. The north of Mexico produces very good fruits, lemons, onions, and carrots. Everything that we produce is really good.

[The sound of a tortilla machine]

MARKS: In a corner of the market, there's a bakery where corn and flour tortillas roll off an ancient conveyor belt. It looks like they've been baking tortillas here for decades on a Rube Goldberg-style contraption that fills the air with the sweet aroma of freshly toasted breads. But while the market looks serene, in fact it's in trouble. Traders here told us there are fewer shoppers than before, and that business is 30 per cent down on a year ago.

[The sound of someone cleaning fish]

MARKS: As he removed the scales from fresh fish on his stall and prepared them for sale, fishmonger Alberto Morales said the market is facing intense competition from big American supermarkets that have opened up nearby.

ALBERTO MORALES: Not too many people come to the market, because it's, there are a lot of stores, and the fishermen they sell on the street, the fish. You know, it's different.

MARKS: [directly interviewing Mr. Morales] So what, do they go to the supermarkets instead?

MORALES: Yes. They prefer, because the prices is low. Maybe the quality not as good, but the price is low.

MARKS: The price in the supermarkets is low because, as in the US, the stores' owners buy in bulk and can win attractive deals from suppliers. The arrival of American supermarket chains in Mexico is partly a result of NAFTA—the North American Free Trade Agreement—that unites Mexico, the USA, and Canada in one enormous free-trade zone.

[The sound of noisy street protests]

MARKS: But some Mexican farmers took to the streets of Cancun during the recent World Trade Organization meeting to voice their objections not only to NAFTA, but to the ongoing use of agricultural subsidies by the US, which they argue closes the American market to Mexican products and does nothing to alleviate rural poverty in Mexico. The trade talks in Cancun ultimately collapsed over that very issue. And former Clinton administration trade official John Audley—now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC—argues that the developing world deserves a better deal than the one put on the table in Cancun.

JOHN AUDLEY: I think they have to get a better deal. I think it was important that they walk away, despite the progress that they made towards the end of their meetings in Mexico. But the progress they made simply wasn't enough to put trade liberalization on a path that actually works to promote the interests of developing countries. So had they stopped there, they would have been way short of the hash mark they themselves laid down for success.

[The sound of a busy marketplace]

MARKS: Despite the controversy over how best to implement a free-trade-world, at the Cancun market many traders said they were broadly in favor of lowering tariffs and ending protectionism. Fishmonger Alberto Morales says the protesting farmers are ill-informed. He argues that free trade will bring eventual benefits to Mexico.

ALBERTO MORALES: [via a translator] It's good for most people because people here don't have enough money and I think this will help make things better.

[The sound of a busy marketplace]

MARKS: Of course, even if freer trade brings those results, it may also bear down competitive forces even further on Cancun's Market Number 23. Those traders who say it's still in Mexico's long-term interests, also know it could one day put them out of business. For Common Ground, I'm Simon Marks in Cancun, Mexico.

[Musical interlude]

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Eurasia Development

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Related Link
Kalman Mizsei, UNDP Assistant Administrator
http://www.undp.org/execbrd/pdf/P001206-A1.PDF

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: The political landscape in countries that bridge Europe and Asia—sometimes referred to as Eurasia—is changing. The United Nations is trying to serve as a catalyst in bringing new foreign investments to those countries. Common Ground's Cliff Brockman recently talked with Kalman Mizsei of the United Nations Development Program and asked him about foreign interest in Eurasia's economic development.

KALMAN MIZSEI: The one single important characteristic of that region that is actually a global challenge is the distance, the physical distance, of it from major markets. Social backwardness and distance go hand in hand. And likewise the closer you get to the major markets it is easier to foster economic and social change that is conducive to modernization. So there is a very strong linkage between distance and backwardness.

BROCKMAN: What countries would you define as Eurasia?

MIZSEI: The former Communist countries of Europe and then Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia. But not China, because it, it takes us really to really very different waters.

BROCKMAN: Is there a feeling that there could be a lot of economic development in that area? Is it on the brink of quite a bit of development?

MIZSEI: It's a very, very varied picture. Part of the post-Communist countries are, have, are actually in the midst of an incredibly incredible successful transition from Communism into both market economies and democracy. And 10 of, or eight of them, if you don't count Cyprus and Malta, which are not, which do not share this Communist past, are going to successfully join the European Union next year as a kind of milestone in their way out of closedness, out of rigid plan structures, out of extreme undemocratic regimes, into really something very, very modern.

It's very difficult to, to declare success in any of the rest of the region. You know, if you look at Russia, very strong economic growth. But how much of it depends on oil? And on the other hand, how do you assess strong economic growth in the last five years, we can already say, at the same time a narrowing democracy.

If you look at Turkey, a country that aspires to the European Union but at the same time have, has experienced major economic crisis at the end of the last century and is just slowly, slowly coming out of it, is between Islam and the Christian world. It's run by an Islamic party, however one that preaches modernity, is also having a large border with Iraq. Turkey's another challenge. And if you look at Iran it's definitely not a fully democratic regime. Neither is it a fully totalitarian regime. So it's a very funny mixture. And one that, that has run a very rigid economic system. Not a Soviet system but still a very rigid system. So you have, you have really huge challenges. But I think what, what triggers our attention is both opportunities but as well as threats, to see after Afghanistan and after September 11th, what failed states can produce, I think it is in everybody's interest to, to pull out countries from the brink of becoming failed states.

BROCKMAN: Well, economists say that foreign direct investment is the most important element for economic growth in this area. What opportunities are there for foreign investors?

MIZSEI: Two types of big opportunities. Obviously one which we see actually this year in Russia, that's the oil majors are picking up Russia. BP has invested there. There's a big talk about Chevron investment in the Caucasus. The BP investment is going to be $7 billion over the years, so it's really sizeable. Over time Iran obviously could also be a big target of that, as well as a few other countries. Kazakhstan already experiences very, very sizeable investment in its extractive sectors, and so on.

But I also should say that the really, really good type of foreign investment is that, that invests into labor intensive rather than just capital intensive branches. For a very basic and primitive reason that that really contributes a lot more to this culture change that we, that we need. In extractive economies such as Russia and Kazakhstan and Iran, Turkmenistan also, it's very easy to create foreign enclaves that don't penetrate the rest of the economy. But if you invest into, you know, like in Hungary in the last 12 years, four auto companies have invested, that has a very, very strong spillover effect. So what, obviously what we as development actors try to do is to bring together the different pieces of the puzzle. To explain to the investors why is this region prospective. On the other hand to explain to governments what they need to make to have a sustained attraction in the eyes of the investors.

BROCKMAN: Kalman Mizsei is the Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe with the United Nations Development Program in New York. For Common Ground, I'm Cliff Brockman.

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PORTER: Coming up next, our global citizen is a Brit who's about to become an American. You're listening to Common Ground, radio's weekly program on world affairs.

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Global Citizen Hitchens

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The Nation - Christopher Hitchens Biography
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Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: Christopher Hitchens is a hard man to describe in a single phrase: Author, journalist, political commentator and intellectual, he is a contributing editor to the Atlantic Monthly and Vanity Fair. His latest books include Why Orwell Matters, Letters to a Young Contrarian, and The Trial of Henry Kissinger. This week he is our global citizen profile.

PORTER: Today Christopher Hitchens is based in Washington, DC, but he was born in England in 1949. His mother was Jewish, of German-Polish stock; his father a British naval officer. Christopher Hitchens first left England for the United States in 1970 on a scholarship from Oxford University. Nina-Maria Potts caught up with him in his airy DC apartment, the afternoon buzz of city traffic down below.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: The first place I remember is Malta, where my brother was born and where my first recollections, true recollections occur. For a while I even spoke Maltese, which if I'd kept up with would mean I spoke a version of Magrevian Arabic. But I don't alas. And my life was very much that of the navy brat for quite a while. We moved from naval base to naval base—Scotland, Devonshire, Plymouth. And I was, I was sent off to boarding school when I was eight.

NINA-MARIA POTTS: Nonetheless, Christopher Hitchens was brought up with a sense of the international.

HITCHENS: Well, I think if your first memory is of the Mediterranean as mine is, of the grand harbor at Valetta, where this wonderful baroque and renaissance city, comes down in all its white brilliance of its buildings to the extreme azure of the sea, and then the contrasting blue of the sky with a certain amount of green shrubbery and olive in the background, that's a very piercing first memory. A flash memory to me. And I've always felt very much at home in the Mediterranean and in the Levant and in the Middle East. And yes, I think it probably is a nice baptism for someone whose background was, would otherwise have been somewhat provincial English. I'd always felt I'd been slightly born in the wrong country. I had this yearning to cross the Atlantic, and I would then have overstayed my visa, and tried to get a work permit and stay on, if I'd had the nerve, perhaps the wherewithal perhaps, or if it hadn't been for a girlfriend back in England. I'm never sure which of the three things made the difference. But anyway I did go back to London and found a job in Fleet Street and was happy doing that. Didn't come back to America for some years, but never lost the ambition. I began to spend more and more time here and I finally bought a one-way ticket, consciously emigrating, leaving England behind in October of '81.

POTTS: Christopher Hitchens describes himself as an Anglo-American, but he is very much a global citizen. He travels extensively and has written several books on international current affairs. His book Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies deals with the trans-Atlantic relationship. But Christopher Hitchens, who's lived in the States for many years, says he is committed to America's world view.

HITCHENS: Well, you're talking to someone who is on the verge of doing the paperwork to become an American citizen, and I'm doing it not because I have to, but because I want to. It's an identification with America and its current crisis in confrontation. It's a feeling of solidarity. When I ask myself why I didn't bother before, there are several reasons. One, English people don't often feel that need. An English person in America is somehow welcome and blends in, almost by definition. There's no such thing as an English-American for example. Though you can be an Italian-American, a Danish-American, Arab-American, so forth. There's no such thing as an English- American, there never will be. Second, because I felt that if perhaps I went around saying I was an American sounding as I do, people might not believe me, either here or in England. And third, because I wanted to keep a European passport. Or rather, I wanted my old English passport, British passport to become an EU one, which it has. And this I won't surrender, of course. So all of my children will have the right of residence in the United States of America and what I hope will become the United States of Europe. So that does mean a lot to me, the feeling that for them, the world will not be the very small compass that it was for myself, born in Portsmouth, even though it was one of the great cities of a great empire, it was extraordinarily insular. They won't and never will know what it's like to feel that way.

I like the idea of being an American, because it means being international by definition, as well as constitutional and democratic and cosmopolitan, although all these things have to be fought for. This long period of perfectly amiable part committed, part non-committed came to an end just a little over two years ago when I realized that in that discussion, and in all of the ones that ensued from it, when people were referring colloquially to the American point of view, as opposed to any other—supposed there to be such a thing—I realized that supposed there to be such a thing, it was the American view I was taking.

POTTS: Christopher Hitchens says his Britishness is very much part of his self-identity, but possibly too important to analyze.

HITCHENS: One of the great things about being English is that it doesn't involve you in much discussion of identity crisis, or essence, or any of these matters. In fact such things are thought of as rather embarrassing if anything. They go, in other words, without saying. So being English is let's just say, native to me.

NINA-MARIA POTTS: Christopher Hitchens is on the verge of becoming an American citizen. So then, does the American flag make his heart swell with pride?

HITCHENS: I think it's a pretty good flag. And I have to say that even when I was a relatively unpatriotic but decided Englishman, I never much liked the Union Jack. It's too messy. It tries to do too much. It also reflects some of the less admirable compromises of our history. And I always hated the national anthem and I am a republican, and am against the monarchic principle in any case. So it's preferable to me to see the stars and stripes, because they do represent something about a union, a republic, and a constitution. And though it was indeed the flag of slavery at one point it was also the flag under which slavery was defeated. So that the, though it's been the flag of empire, it's also the flag of liberation. So I quite like it for its ambiguities.

I didn't wear one after September the 11th and I was opposed to the building where we're sitting, my apartment building in Washington, displaying one outside. That was because I thought, "What will happen when the time comes to take it down, or when the flag fades and no one's quite noticed or when it droops a bit?" The opposition to flag-waving is among other things, I think, the feeling that what are you going to do for an encore? The best thing is to be a bit more British about it and a bit more reserved and assume that people feel loyal to the relevant decencies unless you have any reason to suspect that they don't.

POTTS: With this week's global citizen Christopher Hitchens, I'm Nina-Naria Potts in Washington.

PORTER: That's our show for this week. If you have questions or comments about today's program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at commonground@commongroundradio.org. Please drop us a line—we'd love to hear from you.

MCHUGH: Transcripts and information on how to order copies of this and other Common Ground programs are also available on our Web site: commongroundradio.org. I'm Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I'm Keith Porter. Cliff Brockman is our Associate Producer. B.J. Liederman created our theme music. Additional compositions by Wink Music.

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. The Stanley Foundation: promoting public understanding, constructive dialogue, and cooperative action on critical international issues. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.

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