April 2017

Section 1504- The Wall Between Corruption and Transparency

An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant

Anti-Fracking Protest – Photo by Julie Maldonado, Cape Town, South Africa, October 2012.

 

 

While the expediting of the Dakota and Keystone Pipelines by President Trump made global headlines, many other important actions have gone by undetected. One important example is Representative Bill Huizenga’s bill to abolish “Section 1504” of Dodd-Frank – more commonly known as the anti-corruption rule (Grossman-Cohen 2017). Section 1504 requires that oil, gas and mining companies publish statements of their payments towards foreign governments (Grossman-Cohen 2017). The purpose of this was to decrease corruption by making governments accountable for any money given to them, as information about the acquisition of such money would then be accessible by the public. Such an anti-corruption law safeguards civilians of under-developed nations by ensuring this money goes to necessities, such as education, health care and infrastructure. The capital obtained from these “extractives operations” are in many cases “the only significant source of government revenue in underdeveloped countries” (Sibley 2017). Because of this, these operations have the ability to either aid and modernize a county, or further increase the wealth disparity between civilians and unethical elites. When looking to understand the importance of section 1504, it is necessary to see the scope of corruption and the extent to which it can be taken.

An infamous case of corruption that was investigated was the dealing between ExxonMobil and the Nigerian Government. ExxonMobil was working with the Nigerian Government to renew their oil licenses at a price of $1.5 billion (Global Witness 2016). After this renewal, however, the Nigerian Government not only may have valued these licenses at $2.55 billion, but also possibly sold them at a much higher cost (Global Witness 2016). The reason they were able to do this was because no payments had been published originally (Global Witness 2016).

Many big oil and mining companies have spoken out against section 1504 for several reasons. Some say they believe it will divulge sensitive information while others say it threatens their competitive edge (Morgan 2015). In actuality, these allegations are false. Some companies have even noted, “transparency makes good business sense, and is not costly or damaging to their operations in any way” (Morgan 2015). In reality, companies who want section 1504 dismissed are those that fear immoral governments will no longer want business without discretion, furthering corruption.

Section 1504, and the civilians it protects, is essential. In order to defend under-developed communities from the grasp of corruption – and the poverty it brings – governments must be held accountable for their actions. The first step towards this is transparency and making government dealings and actions public knowledge. For this reason, eliminating section 1504 will only worsen the situation within developing countries meaning that we as a developed nation have the responsibility to stand up and defend section 1504.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Global Witness. “Global Witness Report Sheds Light On Exxonmobil’s Questionable Dealings In Nigeria.” Global Witness, 24 June 2016, www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/probe-murky-exxonmobil-deal-shows-need-tough-oil-transparency-rules/.

 

 

Grossman-Cohen, Ben. “Is Representative Bill Huizenga pro-corruption?” Oxfam, 24 Jan. 2017, politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org/2017/01/is-rep-bill-huizenga-pro-corruption/.

 

Morgan, Jana. “The foundation is shaking beneath Big Oil’s House of Cards.” Publish What You Pay Us, 18 Aug. 2015, www.pwypusa.org/the-foundation-is-shaking-beneath-big-oils-house-of-cards/.

 

Sibley, Nate. “Fueling Kleptocracy: Transparency in the Extractives Industry.” Kleptocracy Initiative, 24 Jan. 2017, kleptocracyinitiative.org/2017/01/fueling-kleptocracy-transparency-in-the-extractives-industry/.

Environmental Progress or Regress?

An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant

Women’s March, Washington, DC. January 22, 2017. Photo by Julie Maldonado.

In the past eight years, global society has made great strides towards a more environmentally conscious international community. Just recently in 2016, 131 countries of diverging ideologies and backgrounds came together to sign the Paris Agreement to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. Yet, as President Donald Trump’s positions have been introduced over the past several weeks, the environmental progress the Paris Agreement represents seems threatened at best. Highlighting Trump’s direction for environmental policy, two particular Trump cabinet selections have ignited a spark of panic: Myron Ebell and Scott Pruitt.

Myron Ebell was chosen as an environmental advisor to Trump and is part of the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The concern is that Myron Ebell – a man who questions the validity of climate change – has an imperatively influential role on what path the EPA will now take. Ebell hopes to utilize his power in the EPA in order to “undo…regs that are very harmful to our economy” showing no concern for the environmental degradation our current economy creates (Fountain 2016). Instead, Ebell plans to use the EPA as a way to protect fossil-fuel industries, which makes sense as his organization is partially financed by the coal industry (Fountain 2016).

Analogously, Scott Pruitt has been nominated to run the EPA, but seems to lack an understanding of the reality of climate change. Before being elected to run the EPA, Pruitt had sued the EPA a myriad of times for its ‘harsh’ regulations for pollutions, such as smog (Dennis 2017). With an influential role in the EPA, Pruitt plans to alleviate the pressure and regulations President Obama had applied to fossil-fuel companies amongst many other things (Dennis 2017).

With Ebell and Pruitt both holding the key to environmental progress – or regression – it seems as if we are leaving the foxes to guard the henhouse. If Trump’s presidency has demonstrated anything thus far, it is that anything can happen. Predictions are all we are currently able to do. In the name of extrapolating, however, there is a dire future we could potentially move towards if trends continue in the current direction.

Paris – COP21, Photo by Emily Williams.

Trump’s decision to expedite both the Keystone and Dakota pipelines cast aside eight years of struggle by environmental justice movements. These pipelines, amongst many other decisions of Trump, will lead to an increased reliance upon coal and oil, and the avoidance of renewable energies. Nevertheless, as the interests of big oil and coal companies (and all who profit with them) are put before our ecosystem, health and wellbeing, increased pollution is but one of many problems we face.

If this trend towards a government uninterested in environmental issues continues, we risk the chance of fostering a younger generation uneducated and uneducated and unconcerned about the environment. On a grander scale, we jeopardize our role as one of the world’s leading superpowers. By going back on the Paris Agreement, alliances could be torn and threatened, creating a global society riddled with strife. Furthermore, as a world leader we should be acting as a role model. Instead we are going back on our word and possibly encouraging other countries to follow suit and to abandon collective action on this urgent global danger. In doing so, our environment will effectively continue to be destroyed until our resources are depleted and our ecosystems are run dry.

On the other hand, the selection of Ebell, Pruitt and others might galvanize individuals to take progress into their own hands. Since the election of Donald Trump, protests and marches have erupted globally. When there are this many people fighting for the future of our planet and ourselves, it seems as if, although not ideal, this situation is not unbeatable. Until the future of our environmental movement is clear, however, it is important we strive to make change at an individual and community level.

 

Works Cited:

Dennis, Brady. “Scott Pruitt, longtime adversary of EPA, confirmed to lead the agency.” The Washington Post, Feb. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/02/17/scott-pruitt-long-time-adversary-of-epa-confirmed-to-lead-the-agency/?utm_term=.5674cb1b165d.

Fountain, Henry. “Trump’s Climate Contrarian: Myron Ebell Takes On the E.P.A.” The New York Times, 11 Nov. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/11/12/science/myron-ebell-trump-epa.html.

The global generation

An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant

Outside the Paris Agreement COP 21. Paris, France. Photo by Emily Williams.

Having grown up in a generation where global society is accessible through the click of a button, I am concerned about recent political shifts towards isolation. Our modern lives are inescapably influenced by the interconnectedness most commonly referred to as globalization. To many, globalization is deemed a negative force supportive of only the neo-liberal leaders who fostered the economic movement to begin with. Now backlash against these partnerships that benefit a global elite at the expense of local economies and environments have emerged globally – from Brexit, to the election of Donald Trump to Italy’s referendum. Nations previously at the forefront of globalization are now experiencing contemporary nationalistic movements, striving to reconstruct the barriers global institutions fought to remove and promoting traditional borders that protect the individual from the outside. We are in danger of a political polarization between those who espouse such anti-globalization sentiments and those who fear that the new nationalisms will perpetuate bad oppositions of “us vs. them”. Many who are worried about anti-globalization nationalism, favor a kind of international interconnectedness that fosters a notion of global citizenship where all are supported. Although to many globalization is this sense of global citizenship and support, the aforementioned isolationist movements deem globalization a negative force tempered by negligent institutional governance, utilizing the middle-class as a necessary consequence. But are they wrong? How can we bridge the gap between these opposing viewpoints?

As our millennial generation begins to enter the workforce, we are left at a crossroad. Do I strive to devote my career to returning a sense of promise and hope to globalization, or do I foster this growing aversion towards it? These anti-globalization movements have erupted globally for a reason and it is imperative for our generation to understand why.

Over the past two decades, proponents of economic globalization have argued that it would increase prosperity and remedy divergences and stratification, especially in developing nations. However, under globalization, inequality has increased throughout the globe. Should we therefore abandon globalization, or should we restructure it? There may be no definitive answer to these questions, but we now have the opportunity and responsibility to decide globalization’s role in our future.

Movements fighting for issues such as sexual, racial and social equality greatly benefited from globalization as interconnectedness. Climate Change activists have analogously benefited from globalization, as explicated by the 2016 Paris Agreement where governments of divergent cultures came together to cooperate for the greater good. Taking ostrich-like approaches and distancing ourselves from global cooperation will slow – if not halt – progress on many of these necessary pursuits of justice. What should we do in a time where governments question their role in global society? We must highlight how globalization has not only fueled success up to now, but how it can further provide our society with greater progress. Why are we suddenly fueled by a desire to protect those within our border, but not those who neighbor it? Now is the time more than ever for individuals to label themselves as global citizens rather than perpetuate the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Catastrophes, such as global climate change, do not just affect one of us, but rather they affect everyone.

Paris Agreement COP21. Paris, France. Photo by Emily Williams

So, what does this mean for us, the younger generation transitioning from school to the work force?

It means we should try to redefine globalization, effectively eliminating its negative aspects and enhancing its positive influence on our futures. The growing apprehension over the globalized economy does not need to push us towards total isolation from global society. Our generation can still utilize the interconnectedness of today to propagate a communal attitude towards progress. Starting campus organizations, attending conferences or simply educating ourselves on international news are invaluable first steps. Knowing the dangers of globalization should only empower us to create a more effective system that can successfully bridge the gap between the equal, just and profitable society we need, and the society we have. “…the fate of nations is intertwined, and…exclusion hurts those who are excluding as much as those who are excluded” (Solomon 2016). Opposition to interconnectedness will only hurt the societal victories modern civilization is fighting for.

Works Cited

Solomon, Andrew. “A Perilous Nationalism at Brexit.” The New Yorker, 28 June 2016, www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/a-perilous-nationalism-at-brexit.