Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

State Dept. records finger Kissinger in Argentine dirty war
That perennial treasure trove of information, the US State Department's classified documents, have put another argument to bed. Henry Kissinger's role in the dirty war in which Argentina's military junta brutally oppressed any political opposition had always been debated, but according to the latest declassified documents, Kissinger gave the green light, telling the country's foreign minister: "If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly,' according to newly-declassified documents published on Friday."

Read the full story here.

Bush can't win the war on terror
Let's be honest, it's impossible to win a war on terror. It's impossible to win a war that is fought against a infinite opponent that can be limitless, or limited, according to direction of political winds. But Bush has made winning the war on terror the defining symbol of his presidency, the platform upon which he is fighting this election, and he is sure that he can win it.

On April 13, Bush said: "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, 'Can you ever win the war on terror?' Of course you can." On July 14 he said "I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror."

So why then, on the eve of the Republican Convention, his launchpad to election success, does George Bush have a rethink. Quoted on the NBC 'Today' show, when asked if the United States could win the war against terrorism, which he has made the focus of his administration and the central thrust of his re-election campaign, he replied "I don't think you can win it, but I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." Small alteration in wording, significant alteration in meaning.

That is a rather bizarre and central shift in rhetoric from Bush, and it makes rather strange reading at the opening of the Republican Convention. We have already seen how Bush is trying to move to the center of his base by using less fire-brand Republicans like Guilliani, McCain and Schwarzenegger as speakers at the convention, so perhaps it falls in line with this strategy. This may be a prudent strategy as we enter the final laps of the election race, but it does seem to be a risky strategy, as it may well be perceived as a weakening of his position in his central election promise.

Friday, August 27, 2004

MDC makes a fateful decision
The MDC's decision to boycott the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe if 'democratic changes' are not made is one of substantial consequence. I can't help feeling that this decision could spell the death of the MDC. Zanu-PF will never accede to the demands and the MDC will thus be forced to make good on its threat. With Mugabe's vice grip control of the Zimbabwean media, the MDC will struggle to convey any influence by shouting on the fringe of the election process. They are giving away their only voice, both locally and internationally, and the Zanu-PF should be able to make short work of reducing them to an invisible party.

A poll released yesterday and overseen by our own Institute for Democracy, found "that 46 percent of Zimbabweans now say they trust President Robert Mugabe, up from 19 percent in 1999. Seven out of 10 said they distrusted the opposition." In addition, the poll found that "fewer than one-fifth of those polled said they trusted the MDC's leader, Morgan Tsvangirai." Such is the power of state-controlled media, and the parallels are not lost on South Africans living through Apartheid SA's media control.

An MDC involved in the election would be able to point out the irregularities in the election process, highlight areas of human rights abuses during the 'democratic' process, and, probably through their own supporters' suffering, illustrate the lack of true democratic freedom in the country. Now, whilst sitting on the sidelines, it is an all but impossible mission. All but their most ardent supporters will probably take it as a signal that the MDC has lost it's direction, and will most likely bend in the political wind and settle for a 'safety first' Zanu-PF vote.

It just seems like an inexplicable decision, one taken without strategic imperative. Surely a decision to boycott should have been taken on the eve of the elections to maximise world attention of the plight of democracy in Zimbabwe. The current decision just fades them out of the political landscape with little more than a whimper. The question has to be asked, have they simply lost the will to fight? Have they given up on the opportunity for the reintroduction of true democratic principles in Zimbabwe? Perhaps they have another plan of action up their sleeves, and I sincerely hope they do, or they may not have the luxury of choice in the next election...

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The "Scratcher" Story
The UK media has really dug into the Thatcher story, and it's always interesting to see how it's being covered, often along parochial lines. The UK Independent probably has the most balanced coverage of the Thatcher, or should I say "Scratcher", scandal, with an in-depth explanation of how they see Sir Mark being caught up in it. The Sun, as per usual, takes a different, rather more salacious slant in supporting the Thatchers reporting "Sir Mark at the mercy of a cannibal" and also "Maggie torment over son", whilst the Guardian takes tougher line on Thatcher. Even tougher is the Mirror, which quotes a Scorpions spokesperson as saying "The Scorpions do not just arrest people unless there is a very strong case. This man has a very serious case to answer."

Each of these positions you could probably have safely predicted before they hit the streets, due to the fact that Maggie Thatcher, more than most personalities, polarises the UK media along party or ideological grounds.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

US brushes quiet diplomacy aside for regime change in Zim
According to the UK Independent, the US has "called for the building of a 'coalition of the willing' to push for regime change in Zimbabwe". Trumpeting the failures of Mbeki's 'quiet diplomacy', new US ambassador to South Africa, and protege of Condoleezza Rice, Jendayi Frazer, said that the US would be willing to lead a coalition of the willing to return Zimbabwe to democracy and that South Africa should be playing a lead role.

What exactly she means by this is fairly open-ended. One would think that the US has their hands full with other regime change operations around the world, and that this may rather merely be the opening salvo of a new ambassador keen to create an immediate impression. With Jack Straw arriving in SA today with Zimbabwe firmly on his agenda, what influence this may have will be intriguing to follow.

Abu Ghraib Report
The release of the Abu Ghraib highlights a dogma in the US that in an election year, politics are stronger than principle. The report concludes that only the actual Abu Ghraib wardens and their immediate commanders can be faulted, and whilst the trail of leadership failures leads to Washington, there was no policy of abuse. Consequentially, there's something for everyone to hang their hat on and escape routes for each side to exploit.

Thus whilst left-leaning media such as the Guardian and the NY Times herald the report "representing an implicit indictment of the defence secretary's management of the defence department," (Guardian) and that the responsibility "extended to the defense secretary's office" (NY Times), the media on the other end of the spectrum ascribed the responsibility from the report on lone rogue soldiers. The New York Post focuses on the report stating that "there is no evidence [U.S. military leaders in Iraq and at the Pentagon] ordered any mistreatment" but rather that it was undertaken by soldiers who were "renegades" and who were "were not acting on approved orders or policies".

'Independent panels' in the US are fast becoming little more than hand-picked sheep farms that have little leeway to apportion true blame under intense political strain. The result is a 'muddying' of principles and a further regression of the international credibility of the US political process. Perhaps I'm being naive and this is just the way it will be, but it just seems that all of the recent major reports that have been released in the last year in the US have been gravely watered down, largely running the middle line and keeping masters on both sides happy.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Sporting issues
Big sporting weekend, and well done to the Boks for finally putting 5 long years of drought behind us! Firstly, I want to weigh in on the grand Rathbone debate, and have a chat about general sports administration in the country.

Clyde Rathbone's departure to the land of the sheep 18 months ago was met with hardly a ripple from the local sporting media. There were the usual laments of 'another one we let slip', but none of the intense vitriol that is being bandied about at present. Let me first lay my cards on the table. Rathbone had every reason to be jaded by the rugby administration in SA and the lack of player job security, and if his decision was based in his reasoning that rugby is a professional game, and he has merely chosen to ply his profession in another country, then so be it. The problem for him is that the South African rugby public do not treat rugby as a profession, they treat it as a yardstick of their society, which patently, he shares no blame for. However, the fact that he has made short work of trashing South Africa as a dangerous place to live begins to illustrate where the media is coming from.

Rathbone raised a disturbing point in his interview on Fox Sports Australia ascribing his 'defection' partly on the South African race quota system. To me, this is an incredibly naive view. We all know that true transformation can only take place from the bottom-up, training and nurturing young non-white talent to bring them through the ranks as future Springboks, but this is a long-term solution. If anybody thinks that the wider SA and international public would have sat back and allowed South Africa to continue fielding all-white teams in the decade after the 1994 elections, they are being short-sighted. Quotas have served their purpose in placing the onus on the unions to develop black talent and give them the experience in substantial competition. This again comes back to getting around the nuances of racism. It is the easiest thing in the world for a coach or union to say that they "have no black players that are yet good enough" to play first class rugby, and it is this nuance in view that keeps non-white players down. The quotas had to be put in place to get around these subtle perceptions, and in my view, they have been very successful in doing so. Yes, many coaches do not need quotas to get them to field black players, and yes, many black players are playing international and Currie Cup rugby purely on merit, but you cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. The quotas force coaches and unions to come out from behind their often blinkered perceptions and find real solutions. I am in favour of a sunset clause for the quotas, but I do feel that they are a requisite in South African rugby, and Rathbone's comment shows a lack of insight into the nature and history of South African rugby.

But Rathbone does raise a bigger issue in terms of the appalling history of administration in SA sport. Sport is so important to the national psyche, whether it be soccer, rugby, cricket, or any of the other sports, but we have been disastrously let down by administrators. It seems as though sports administration in SA is seen more as a political vehicle than a sporting structure, and there are simply too many egos and too much politics where there should be none. Professional teams demand professional structures, and we are sadly lacking in the latter.

The recent swimming debacle is a case in point. Our 4 x 100m Olympic gold medal swimmers are apparently going to be hauled over the coals on their return to South Africa because they did not wear a sponsor's costume in their final. This from four guys who have received very little assistance from Swimming SA, three of which have been forced, at their own expense, to train in the US, and after they break the world record and do more to lift the sport's profile than anything Swimming SA has done, are given the cold shoulder. An opportunity to give swimming in South Africa a healthy kick is torpedoed by administrator politics. It's a sad shame...

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The hijacking of Najaf's Imam Ali mosque
Al Sadr's decision to hole up inside the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, one of Islam's holiest sites, has brought months of careful thought from US leadership about how to proceed. On the one hand, you have the need to defeat a fiery cleric leading an army of Jihadist fighters against US and Iraqi fighters, and on the other the destruction or damage of a building with global consequences.

But what of Al Sadr's decision, and what of the Islamic world's response. We all know what the extremist bloc of the Muslim faith say, but what of the moderates? What do they think of an extremist that has essentially hijacked a holy shrine and doomed it to destruction in order to incite greater warfare against the West, and the US in particular? It seems sad that moderate Muslims do not seem to have an effective voice in the modern world, as their breath has been stolen by these extremist groups, keen to maximise the media coverage of their message and to disparage any moderates as weak believers. The result is that Al Sadr's decision to - by consequence - destroy a site holy to 1.3 billion Muslims globally is taken without any expressed consent by the majority of those followers.

So now, as the US is in the midst of direct action against the mosque (brought to bear by the Iraqi National Council, naturally, to weakly hide US involvement) and Al Sadr's embattled insurgents inside, the world will face the consequences. The extremist groups use the destruction of the Islamic holy site to frame this action as a holy war between Islam and Christianity, whilst moderate Muslims continue to be held accountable for their inaction, through fear or principle, in condemning this hijacking of their holy sites to benefit causes that are beyond the scope of their own spectrum of belief.

Signs of the times
The US Presidential election is (as we all know) on a knife-edge, with neither candidate willing to allow the first error. As a result, some electioneering has adopted strategies that follow questionable democratic principles. An example cited by Sidney Blumenthal involves Bush's recent "Ask President Bush" roadshows, in which only staunch Bush supporters are allowed to participate in.

"Before attending a rally to hear vice president Dick Cheney, citizens in New Mexico were required to sign a political loyalty oath approved by the Republican national committee. 'I, [full name] ... do herby [sic] endorse George W Bush for reelection of the United States.' The form noted: 'In signing the above endorsement you are consenting to use and release of your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush.'"

Parochial commentary, but worthy of a read nonetheless...

Slow blogging week
Apologies for the slow blogging this week, under the cosh at work...

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Democracy, SADC style
More truth was revealed about Southern Africa's blind love for Mugabe's Zimbabwe during the SADC summit yesterday. The SADC leaders, to a man, praised Mugabe's Zimbabwe and warned that Africans are 'tired of being preached to' by the West.

It would be interesting to know how much politics was involved in these statements, with the most vociferous commentary coming from leaders of Tanzania, Mauritius and Lesotho who are, economically at least, under the skirts their 'big brother' regional powers. Mbeki was very careful not to be quoted saying anything at this summit, but the party line is being towed here and it follows neatly on from the hushing up of the recent AU directive on human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

How Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, former chairperson of the SADC's key politics, defence and security body, can say that "democracy is not just well, but is thriving," in the SADC is beyond any sane mind. Whilst some members are regional bastions for democracy, one can hardly claim that democracy is playing any sort of role in Zimbabwe. The continued blind oversight of human rights abuses in conjunction with the blatant abuse of democracy is patent, and is incomprehensible.

Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa says that "we are tired of being lectured on democracy by the very countries which, under colonialism, either directly denied us the rights of free citizens, or were indifferent in our suffering and yearnings to break free and be democratic". Is Mugabe's stranglehold on power, denying food aid to non-ZanuPF voters, beating up opponents, forcibly stealing legitimately owned land, and watching whilst the majority of his people starve, not the same thing?

I have to agree with Leon's sentiments when he said the SADC meeting "presented the perfect opportunity for SADC leaders to discuss the report of the African Commission on Human and People''s Rights on Zimbabwe, which was presented at the third ordinary session of the African Union in Addis Ababa last month and which the Zimbabwean government has now had ample time to study. Instead, SADC leaders outdid each other in heaping praises on Mugabe''s government."

Bizarre times indeed. History will make short work of judging of both the SADC and Mbeki's line on Zimbabwe and we'll all wonder, how did we let it happen?

Friday, August 13, 2004

ANC 'planning' of Nats demise
The Mail & Guardian carries a story about the ANC's "Operation Nat Attack" in which they planned the destruction of the NNP, starting in 1998 to its successful conclusion this week.

Whilst the ANC may have had a plan to achieve this, one could hardly say that the death of the NNP was attributable to the covert actions of the ruling party. The NNP had emotive and structural reasons for its demise, not least of which was the fact that the party could never escape its Apartheid past. A lack of coherent post-1994 election strategy and some poor leadership also colluded to push the party over the abyss, and in my view, the NNP would today be floating belly up on the political waters with or without the nattily named "Operation Nat Attack".

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Freedom of Speech?
Two recent events have put freedom of speech in South African society into question, both involving vigilante consumers. The first is the anti-Sentech site and the latest is Both are basically noticeboards for unhappy consumers to voice their anger over poor service delivery, with a 'moderator' webmaster that adds his own commentary, with offering forums, and Hellkom linking to the MyADSL forums. Mywireless was taken down after legal threats were received from Sentech, and Hellkom was served yesterday with legal action threatening a R5 million lawsuit.

Whilst the protection of intellectual property, in this case of the Telkom trademarked name and logo, is an incredibly important construct in this modern economy, the curtailment of free speech is notable. In both cases, the webmasters have been threatened with the big stick of legal action under trademark infringement, in a similar vein to SAB's legal action on Laugh it Off owner Justin Nurse.

Consumers should be able to vent at poor service, it is an incredibly important part of a consumer society. It could be said that Hellkom trades too much on the Telkom brand and thus was always going to be an easy target, but in my opinion this should fall under the ambit of acceptable free speech. Some balance has to be found in our law that allows for free speech without impinging on intellectual property rights.

Gregg Stirton, webmaster of has not yet inferred what action he will be taking in response, but he gives an insight by stating that "the logo's are classified as parody, even my little pet tree knows that." Let's hope he gives them a good fight and brings the debate into the public conversation.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

US polling data shows entrenched views
The latest Time polling results show that both the Democratic Convention and the recent terror alert had very little effect on voter choice.

Even after the recent terror alerts, the voters' dominant issue is the economy (27%), whilst terrorism is second on 18%, which in both cases is exactly the same as it was two weeks ago. In a result that may not be good reading for Karl Rove and the Bush Administration strategists, a full 70% disagreed with the statement that they "want a President who is strong on terrorism and not much else matters" in their vote. Further, if there were a terrorist strike before the November election, 66% say it would have little impact on their own vote. The remaining voters split on how an attack might affect their vote: 16% say an attack would make them more likely to vote for Kerry, while 15% say it would make them more likely to vote for Bush. Even Stephens there then.

What is interesting is that the poll reinforces the notion that the 2004 election is largely a referendum on Bush, rather than a battle between two candidates. The polls show that 56% of voters say that their opinion of Bush is more important than their opinion of Kerry in shaping their decision. Kerry's lifeless demeanour and campaign style only seem to enhance this proposition.

However, all of these polls reflect numbers which have remained similar over the past quarter, implying that there has been a lot of money made by media companies from political advertising, without any corresponding movement in voter choice. The Christian Science Monitor carries a story on the lack of influence of political advertising, in which they report that the Bush and Kerry campaigns have thus far spent more than $250 million in political advertising with very little swaying of the vote either way.

Ken Goldstein, head of a University of Wisconsin project tracking political advertising, says that "Ninety-nine percent of this election is not being decided by TV advertising." This election is mostly about partisan predisposition, plus events on the ground in Iraq and the direction of the economy, he says. "And so you have an eensy, eensy bit that's going to be decided by the campaign, and some portion of that eensy bit will be decided by political advertising."

$250 million is a substantial amount of hard cash to be wasting, but neither candidate will step down lest he lose any potential advantage. That leaves a situation where events largely outside the control of both candidates will influence the undecided voter. One can't help feeling though, that Kerry has to find some kind of form. The fact that he has such strong numbers is disproportionately attributable to voters' views on Bush rather than any real love for Kerry, and he has not struck any personal cord yet with the voting public. It's a strange strategy, as to negate the Republican attacks on Kerry as a 'flip-flopper', you would have thought that the Kerry strategists would be at pains to lay out his potential policies, but his policy speeches have been largely vague and undefined. He has a reputation as a late finisher, so perhaps he will hit his straps after the traditional Arbor Day electioneering final push. If he does, it may be troublesome for Bush, but his ruthless campaign strategists ably led by Rove will I'm sure have many surprises up their sleeves. One can't help shake the feeling that Bush may pip this one, not neccessarily by being a deserved leader, but by being the better campaigner.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

NNP finally gives up the ghost
The NNP announced today that they would fight all future elections under the ANC, ceasing to exist after the floor-crossing window opens in September 2005, and sending yet another opposition party to its grave.

Although the ANC purports that there is nothing wrong with one-party democracy, I firmly believe that there are significant vulnerabilities in such a theology. One party leadership negates the strengths of strong democratic opposition as the only robust way to ensure protection against the ravages of corruption and power-hungry leadership. There is great temptation for future ANC leadership to take steps entrench, or even ensure, their leadership position through abuses of power, without the usual safety net of opposition.

The question is though, what the ANC will be gaining from this arrangement? The marriage with the ANC was an abhorration for many NNP members, and many of them will presumably not be defecting. The situation under the ANC-NNP marriage ensured that the ANC leveraged the entire NNP party structure, without having to deal with unhappy members. So who will benefit from these politicians, and these voters? I would think that they will be split throughout the opposition parties, with gains for the DA, for the ACDP and perhaps for the ID and Freedom Front.

Whilst this will imply that the ANC will lose some of their NNP members, this will no doubt not be of much concern to them, as it represents the folding of another opposition party. The irony must be especially sweet for the ANC, overseeing the amalgamation of the party born from Apartheid's creators into the belly of the new South African government, and I hasten to add, and politics aside, the South African political landscape looks a lot rosier without any vestige of the old NP left.

More signs of US action on Iran
Is Iran next? Pentagon policy in Iraq seem to reinforce that the Bush Administration is laying the foundations for potential action in Iran. Whilst the US press has been ramping up the stories of Iran's nuclear capabilities, and Iran hadn't been assisting the situation by extolling some fiery rhetoric, I had perceived that the Bush Administration was using it more as an election sub-strategy. But recent reports suggest that the Pentagon is actively preparing Iranian allies (similar to the Northern Alliance in Iraq). A report in the Christian Science Monitor states that:

"The US State Department officially considers a group of 3,800 Marxist Iranian rebels - who once killed several Americans and was supported by Saddam Hussein - 'terrorists.' But the same group, under American guard in an Iraqi camp, was just accorded a new status by the Pentagon: "protected persons".

According to analysts, this is "a function of the swiftly deteriorating US-Iran dynamic," and is "a victory for US hawks who favor using the Mujahideen-e Khalq Organization (MKO) or 'People's Holy Warriors,' as a tool against Iran's clerical regime."

Whether this is merely back-pocket insurance by the Pentagon remains to be seen, but it could be the first concrete signs that the Hawks are on the move again...

Friday, August 06, 2004

Another classic from the leader of the free world

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," said George Bush in an address yesterday. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people... and neither do we."

This guy should be President?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Sudanese militia confirm Government link
Sky News is reporting from a Janjaweed village this morning that tribal elders have confirmed that the Sudanese government had instructed them to take up arms against the African tribes that had attempted the uprising.

According to Sky News, tribal elders told correspondent Stuart Ramsay that "they told him they regretted the violence, but said the government had asked them to take up arms".

Ramsay went on to say that Janjaweed gunmen have been making overtures of peace lately, in an attempt to encourage some of the people they forced from their homes to return, but that the sight of young miltiamen with AK-47 assault rifles slung over their shoulders meant the refugees were too scared to come back.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Is this Karl Rove again?
Two interesting articles this morning out of the NY Times and the Washington Post, which both state that the information that led to the terror alert, whilst gained from captured information and interrogations as recently as January, is three or four years old. And thus we develop an interesting conspiracy theory: Does this mean Karl Rove and the Republican strategists are holding the US populus to ransom again?

The Washington Post reports that "most of the al Qaeda surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terrorism alert Sunday was conducted before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and authorities are not sure whether the casing of the buildings has continued since then, numerous intelligence and law enforcement officials said yesterday."

White House officials say that the reason for the current terror alert is this information, in conjunction with the recent threat attributed to Al Qaeda that they were determined to launch an attack on US soil before the November elections.

However, the NY Times offers that "Federal authorities said on Monday that they had uncovered no evidence that any of the surveillance activities described in the documents was currently under way. Another counterterrorism official in Washington said that it was not yet clear whether the information pointed to a current plot. 'We know that Al Qaeda routinely cases targets and then puts the plans on a shelf without doing anything,' the official said."

The timing would be just perfect wouldn't it? Kerry concludes a strong week at the Democratic Convention expecting the usual ratings bounce, the terror alert is raised at the end of the convention, and any gains he has made are wiped out as people forget campaigning Democrats and remember that they're at war and need their 'war president' to protect them.

This would be nothing new. The recent slew of books on Karl Rove and on Bush himself show the strategy of keeping leadership positions by maintaining a level of fear amongst the population of an outside 'sinister' enemy who could strike at any time. Republican strategists have used it incessantly over the years; it was in fact an art perfected by Reagan in the 80's.

To add more interest to the conspiracy theory, you would have thought that the biggest terror alert since the 9-11 attacks, and on financial institutions themselves, would have sent the stock market plummeting when it reopened on Monday. What happened? The NYSE gained ground and the Dow Jones industrial average was up 39 points. Is that pure business skepticisim, or do Bush's big business buddies know something we don't...

Monday, August 02, 2004

Mixed response to Doha rebirth
Delegates from the WTO's 140 member states argued late into the evening last night, but emerged with an interim document outlining key developments in breaking the deadlock between rich and poor countries and giving a December 2005 deadline to endeavour to conclude a new global trade deal. Whilst this should be heralded as great news, especially for our continent, any response has to be tempered by realism.

Here is a basic summary of the agreement reached:

  • All 147 members of the World Trade Organisation have agreed on the basis for talks on a trade deal, but still have months of hard negotiations ahead

  • Rich countries have agreed to eliminate all forms of export farm subsidies but can keep some of their domestic support

  • The deal includes a "down payment" that would see an immediate 20 per cent cut in the maximum permitted payments by rich nations

  • Europe's multibillion-pound sugar industry is still outside the negotiations
    West African states failed in their attempt to open separate negotiations over the US's $3bn (£1.65m) of subsidies for its cotton-growers

  • Poorer countries will have to cut import barriers under which the highest get cut the most

  • Developing countries have to negotiate on rules to make customs procedures easier and less expensive for business

  • The agreement culminates almost two years of behind the scenes campaigning by developing countries and the G20+, of which SA is a founder nation, and is a definite step in the right direction. The problem though, is that this is a tune we have heard before, and the document holds no inherent timelines or concrete stipulations; it is more a document of intent. The pursuit of wealth makes capitalist countries noisy neighbours in the quiet streets of philanthropy, and one cannot see developed countries losing protection over their major industries. Already, West African nations have been forced to drop their requests for an end to the $3bn in subsidies the US pays to its cotton farmers, which is killing African cotton production. This trumpets the path that will most likely be followed.

    The negotiators from developed countries hold all the aces here, and any final deal is likely to largely diluted in its power to bring rich nations to heel and uplift developing nations' economies. The retraction of developed nation protectionism and is an internationally recognised noble pursuit, but let's not forget that the wealth of these developed nations has often drawn its power from the colonial oppression of poorer nations, and the market positions subsequently enjoyed are not ones that will be relinquished easily. These trade talks extend influence not over charitable aid, but into the very structure of developed countries' economies and these rich countries have little incentive other than charity to appease this situation. One may argue that inaction will lead to further global poverty, but I'm not as left leaning as to concur that the developed nations are truly empathetic to their poorer global colleagues.

    Call me cynical, and perhaps I'll be proven wrong on this one, but I envisage that wealth will once again overcome wisdom on this one, and the poor nations will be left at the altar once again. It's a triumph for diplomacy that rich and poor nations managed to get back to the table after the debacle at Doha, but whether this will bring triumph for developing nations is a question with few positive answers.