Humanitarian Issues

Beyond Blood Diamonds: The Violence behind the Gold Route

Gold Teeth
Courtesy Jason Taellious/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 25 November 2016.

Illegal gold exchanges between the global North and South are fuelling violence and exploitation, but most consumers are oblivious.

While the violence and exploitation associated with the illegal diamond trade is now widely known, there is far less global awareness of the violence associated with gold extraction. In 2014, an investigative journalism piece documented the illegal gold exchanges between some South American countries and those in the global North—on the one side Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil, and on the other Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Falkland Islands, Panama, and several European countries. This report found that not only does illegal gold mining adversely affect a country’s tax revenues, it is also directly related to human trafficking—particularly of children—and the perpetuation of conflict by funding armed groups.

While mining in general creates various problems (e.g., contamination of water sources, displacement of local populations), these problems are magnified when mineral extraction is done outside the legal regulatory framework. At this point it is necessary to make a distinction between illegal and informal mining because these tend to be confused.  The first cannot be formalized due to certain characteristics (for instance, it violates environmental laws or has unsafe labour conditions) that lead to criminal mining. Informal mining, however, is defined by the lack of legal mining titles and often can be formalized eventually. The problem with illegal mining is that the lack of mining titles facilitates gold trafficking.

South America’s Moves to Liberalise Irregular Migration are in Stark Contrast to the Policies of Europe

Image: steinchen/Pixabay

This article was originally published by USAPP, a blog on American politics and policy run by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Political scientists have long identified a paradox in the immigration policies of wealthy Western countries. Although governments typically condemn irregular migration, assuring their electorates that they are working hard to stem any ‘illegal flows’, they often tolerate the entry and residence of substantial numbers of irregular migrants due to structural labour market demands.

In South America, on the other hand, over the course of the past 15 years many governments have turned away from the previously often openly racist ‘criminalization’ of irregular immigrants and adopted surprisingly liberal discourses of universally welcoming all immigrants, irrespective of their origin and migratory status. Instead of distinguishing between desired ‘legal’ and undesired ‘illegal’ immigrants, South American politicians stress non-discrimination, the universality of migrants’ human rights irrespective of their status.

Regional Stability

The Future of the Organization of American States

Image: Mark Morgan/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 28 August, 2014.

The Organization of American States (OAS) is set to appoint a new Secretary General in 2015. The new leader will replace José Miguel Insulza, of Chile, who will soon finish his second consecutive term. Since the OAS charter states that a Secretary General cannot serve more than two five-year terms, the position will soon be open to a new candidate. Regardless of which Latin American figure is chosen for the position–– Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Almagro and former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein are two recent nominations––the next Secretary General will have the critical responsibility of maintaining the agency’s status as a relevant player in the evolving inter-American system.

Business and Finance

Corporate Influence on the Global Economy

How influential are multinational corporations in today’s global economy? One way of answering the question would be to analyze the nature and extent of corporate influence in mainstream media, on governments and public policy, and on international institutions and agreements – such as at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Today, however, we  take a simpler, but nonetheless revealing, approach: comparing the economic size of corporations with the size of national economies.

The map below pairs South American countries (measured in terms of aggregate GDP) with equivalently sized corporations (measured in terms of annual revenue). Hover your mouse over a country to see how the figures compare (view large map).

If Paraguay, Guyana, Bolivia or Suriname were corporations, they wouldn’t make Fortune’s list of the Global 500.  Indeed, the GDP of those four countries combined is smaller than the annual revenue of Vinci – a construction company you’ve probably never heard of (unless you’re French).

Brazil is the only South American country whose economy clearly outsizes any of the world’s corporations. With a GDP of 2.1 trillion, its economy is roughly five times the size of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest corporation. Wal-Mart’s revenue in 2011 (~421 billion) falls between the GDPs of Saudi Arabia and Norway respectively – and exceeds the  GDPs of the next 170 countries. Maybe the G20 should consider inviting CEO Mike Duke to their next summit.


ISN Quiz: Latin America

This week’s Special Report looks at Latin America. How much do you know about the region?