Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 11:15:49 AM EST
back to diaries by whataboutbob... for another look at the oil industry
Several weeks ago I wrote to Jerome in hopes that he might consider writing about the connection between economies dependent on oil and the human cost in many of the countries that produce oil; particularly, the connection between oil, corruption, international policies, and human trafficking.
Over the last four years I have been researching the topic of human trafficking. I have interviewed a wide variety of trafficking experts from around the world and have spent time alongside of several social workers that assist victims of human trafficking.
Jerome recommended I post my email on the European Tribune. The following is the first of three posts on this subject.
I have created a site where I post text pieces and audio interviews on topics related to human trafficking, www.tradio21.org. This entry will be cross posted on the tradio21 site.
The goal of the tradio21 project is to conduct interviews with trafficking experts, in hopes of getting an in-depth perspective on the subject matter.
As I say on the site, after interviewing a variety of human trafficking experts from different parts of the world, and working alongside of some, I have found a much more complex, and at times contrary, story than what I have read on trafficking in the media or government releases.
I believe there is a large amount of information on the subject of human trafficking that is not making it into the media, particularly the politics of counter human trafficking efforts, and policies and practices that have an indirect affect on human trafficking.
Oil, Corruption, International Policies, and Human Trafficking -Part 1
One of the groups I spent time with is in Antwerp, Belgium. [ Chicago Public Radio piece on the group ] [ text piece on tradio21 ]
This group assists women from Nigeria working in prostitution. Nigeria is believed to be one of the largest source countries of victims of human trafficking. Most of the women this group assists carry debts of $40,000 and up for using smuggling networks to enter Europe.
As those familiar with the oil industry know, Nigeria is considered between the 6th -13th largest oil producer in the world, and the largest in Africa. Nigeria is also considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
As I was about to post this, Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perception Index was released. Transparency International's 2005 index ranks Nigeria as the 6th most corrupt country in the world. In 1998 Nigeria was rated as the 5th most corrupt country. Every other rating except for '98 and '05 put Nigeria in the worst, 2nd to worst, or 3rd to worst position.
One of the things that struck me when interviewing some of the women during my time in Antwerp was their awareness of the politics of Nigerian oil.
NPR recently ran a week long series on the Nigerian oil industry. Included in this series was a piece that discussed Halliburton and Vice President Richard Cheney's potential involvement in one of the largest corruption cases in Nigeria. Vice President Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton at the time the alleged corruption took place.
Readers of the European Tribune may recall that previous to the G8 summit meeting in Scotland, one of the primary conditions President Bush made for giving additional aid to Africa was Africa's need to address corruption. In a US Embassy G8 Summit press release, President Bush is quoted as saying,
"I don't know how we can look our taxpayers in the eye and say, 'this is a good deal to give money to countries that are corrupt'".
I have posted a letter sent to NPR asking that they consider including human trafficking in their series on Nigeria. Similar to this post, the letter touches upon what I perceive to be possible connections between western company practices, western international policy, and some of the conditions that contribute to increased irregular migration, and, in many cases, human trafficking. The letter is specifically related to Nigeria.
As readers of the European Tribune may know, President Bush recently waived sanctions against Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia failed to comply with the US' defined minimum requirements for combating human trafficking, and thus under US law was eligible for sanctions.
The primary reason given for waiving sanctions was:
"Over five billion dollars in foreign military sales to Saudi Arabia would have been restricted by sanctions under the Act. A full waiver has been granted in the national interest of providing these military sales in order to advance goals of the Global War on Terror."
Several bloggers, including Think Progress, picked up on this waiving of sanctions and commented on the seeming contradiction between rhetoric on human trafficking and action.
A staunch conservative, and one of the authors of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, Representative Chris Smith from NJ, issued a press release stating,
"Congressman Chris Smith, today expressed disappointment with President Bush's decision to waive or reduce sanctions against some countries that are known to be among the worst offenders in human trafficking... Ally or not, America cannot condone human trafficking by any nation, and that is what we seem to be doing... friends don't let friends commit human rights violations... Actions like this send the wrong signal to nations, friend and foe alike, that turn a blind eye to this international horror".
The US tier system
In 2000 the United States passed legislation detailing the US' response to human trafficking; both in the US and internationally.
One of the requirements of this legislation is that an annual report be conducted on countries receiving US economic or security assistance. This report is to assess the nature and extent of trafficking in persons in each country and the efforts by the government of the particular country to combat such trafficking.
This requirement has brought about a separate annual report, known as the Trafficking in Persons Report . Along with a country narrative answering particular questions related to human trafficking, the report places countries into a rating system divided into three tiers.
Those in a tier 1 are in full compliance with the US defined minimum standards. Those in a tier 3 are not in compliance. Tier 2 represents somewhere in between.
The countries that remain in a tier 3 for 90 days after the rating is issued are eligible for losing non-humanitarian US foreign aid. The President has the authority to determine if sanctions against a particular country would not be in the interest of US national security.
A "tier 2 watch list" was added to the rating structure a couple years ago. This "watch list" category implies lesser compliance than a straight tier 2. The "watch list" category also allows the country and the President to avoid the issue of sanctions.
Some believe the current tier placement of countries more closely parallels US foreign policy than provide an accurate representation of the global story of human trafficking.
End part 1