[Dehai-WN] Dailymaverick.co.za: A climate of corruption, Ethiopian edition

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2011 20:50:04 +0100

A climate of corruption, Ethiopian edition

Janice Winter

13 December 2011, 21:39:17 (South Africa)

COP17 is being hailed as “groundbreaking” as a deal was agreed after 14 days
of difficult and, at times, deadlocked talks. One of the most contentious
issues for Africa was the Green Climate Fund, which will go ahead despite
anger at the overall failure of developed countries to commit investments.
JANICE WINTER explains why this compromise is the best possible scenario.

Headlines last week declared: “Meles Zenawi cries foul over climate money
pledges”. Well, that’s rich.

Leading Africa’s heads of state and government panel at the COP17 climate
talks in Durban, the Ethiopian prime minister’s biggest emphasis was on the
Green Climate Fund. Not only did he complain that funds pledged at
Copenhagen COP15 in 2009 had failed to materialise, but also that, rather
than being “new” money, much of it seems set to be recycled from existing
aid budgets. He warned that such disingenuousness risked undoing the modest
gains made towards the Millennium Development Goals and undermining the
credibility of the entire process “in the eyes of the people of our whole

His position seemed reasonable enough: there was compelling scientific
evidence that climate change will have a disproportionate impact on
socio-economic development in Africa and that considerable financial
investments were required from developed countries to assist Africa to adapt
to the impact of climate change. But I am “of this continent” and something
else risks undermining the credibility of the process in my view: that a
corrupt dictator is provided with such an influential platform from which to
hijack a critical cause for his own, probably illicit, interests. Coming
from Meles, statements about credibility are hypocrisy at its most

The Green Climate Fund is aiming for about $100-billion a year by 2020. The
man clamouring for this considerable fund is regarded as one of the most
repressive leaders on the continent. His government claims to have won a
ludicrous 99.6% in the 2010 elections, jails the highest number of
journalists in Africa using a law that criminalises dissent as terrorism and
brutally tortures critics and opposition figures. Most crucial for this
discussion, his government faces widespread, credible and sustained
allegations of abusing Ethiopia’s enormous $3-billion of annual
developmental aid as a tool of political repression and as a co-option
mechanism to bolster his 20-year rule. Detailed and robust investigations
include those by <http://www.hrw.org/node/93605> Human Rights Watch,
<http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/ethiopia/> The
Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/9556288.stm> Newsnight.

According to a report to be published by
<http://www.gfintegrity.org/content/view/482/70/> Global Financial Integrity
later this month, Ethiopia has lost $11.7-billion to outflows of illicit
funds in the last decade. In 2009 alone, the figure was $3.26-billion,
exceeding both the value of its total annual exports and the total
development aid it received that year. And it is on the increase. The candid
finding: “The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry. No matter how hard they
try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be
swimming upstream against the current of illicit capital leakage.”

Yet despite these exposÚs and a significant deterioration in the country’s
human rights situation since the brutal post-election crackdown of 2005 (in
which 199 people were killed in just four days), international development
aid to Ethiopia has doubled since 2005. Something as critical as the Green
Climate Fund should not repeat the serious failures of developmental aid in
this regard.

Meles Zenawi’s international credibility lies largely in Ethiopia’s official
double-digit annual growth rates since the questionable 2005 elections and
its asserted progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. As exiled
Ethiopian journalist Abiye Teklemariam
ist-ethiopian-story> writes, Meles has forged an image as “a technocratic,
if dictatorial, leader who had been able to crack the code of east Asia’s
rise and download it into an Ethiopian hardware.”

Conveniently for Meles, no independent institutions in Ethiopia exist to
check the veracity of his government’s figures, despite the credible
scepticism by some international economists and substantial discrepancies in
conclusions about Ethiopia’s performance and progress toward the MDGs.
Indeed, the average growth rate for Meles’ entire 20-year rule (including
the purported fast-paced period of the past few years) is less than 5%
(below the African average of 6%) and that the country only overtook its
1975 GDP in 2006. Even if we take his spectacular recent figures at face
value, which would be very generous, these are not representative of his
rule. And despite these impressive, if contentious, figures, the Ethiopian
economy is characterised by very high inflation, widespread unemployment, a
stagnant private sector and corruption.

Before the enormous intended investments are endowed to the Green Climate
Fund, far closer interrogation is needed of the ways in which this money
might be spent and by whom – whether, in fact, there would be effective
guarantees that the funds would be spent on projects to counteract the
impacts of climate change, or would instead risk being used by undemocratic
leaders such as Meles to counteract the challenges of political opposition
and dissent.

The figures for the Green Climate Fund have been calculated by the African
Climate Policy Centre, based in Addis Ababa. As it currently stands, African
countries and institutions would be eligible for direct access to the fund.
Oh, and some of these countries would also be part of the governing
structures ensuring their own transparency and accountability.

Before the Green Climate Fund becomes operational and offers developing
countries direct access to significant sums of money, it is vital to
establish firm eligibility criteria of countries based on an independent
corruption index and a strong accountability mechanism to ensure funds are
spent transparently. This is necessary to prevent the situation of other aid
endeavours where direct access to funding and weak accountability procedures
enable corrupt and undemocratic governments to augment their rule through
the politicisation of foreign funding.

If the Arab Spring has taught democratic leaders and donor nations anything,
it is surely the need for far greater caution before financially assisting –
and inadvertently bolstering – repressive leaders and a climate of
corruption. DM



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