The CSS Blog Network

Our Business: Trafficking Weapons, Delivering Aid

What’s transported in this cargo plane? Weapons? Humanitarian aid? Or both? / photo: tz1_1zt, flickr

The global transport industry plays a crucial role in conflict economies. Ethical Cargo, a new information portal by one of our partners, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), sheds light on this role and helps donors to choose the right companies when giving out contracts.

An earlier study by SIPRI showed that 90 percent of air transport companies engaged in weapons, drugs or precious minerals trafficking have also received contracts to deliver humanitarian aid or peacekeeping equipment.

“Air transportation has played a key role in fuelling the war economies that have devastated much of Africa in recent decades,” Hugh Griffiths and Mark Bromley write in their paper. They urge the EU and its member states to “deny humanitarian aid, peace support, stability operations and defence logistics supply chain contracts to air transport companies engaged in destabilizing or illicit commodity flows, in particular the transfer of SALW [small arms and light weapons].”

To support this, Ethical Cargo was launched, namely to help the “humanitarian aid and peace-support communities implement effective conflict-sensitive logistics and ethical transportation policies.” The website offers an emergency 24-hour hotline, a database, model codes of conduct, best practices and contract negotiation techniques.

People working for organizations engaged in humanitarian aid or peace-support can register and use the services freely.

“Okadas” – The Informal Nigerian Subway System

 

This blog post is part of a series of contributions documenting time spent in southern Nigeria to attend a conference and gather data for the targeting energy infrastructure (TEI) project.

Prior to arriving in Nigeria, I heard about ‘Okadas‘ which are 2-wheel and 3-wheel commercial motorcycles found throughout cities in Nigeria. In reading up on domestic travel options I found that Okadas were commonly described in a negative light – often associated with the words “dangerous” and “reckless”. However, as I entered Lagos and saw the densely populated metropolis in action I saw the Okada system first-hand, and overall I couldn’t help but be impressed.

Rather than view this system through a negative prism I saw another expression of African, and in this case Nigerian, societal ingenuity at work despite living in challenging conditions. In a land where the development of strong state institutions is constantly being challenged by corruption, which hinders the reliable delivery of public goods  (decent roads and public transportation), civil society emerges as the engine of service; utilizing creative solutions harvested from below that circumvent the restraints that come from above.

After spending a few days in Lagos, the significant role that Okadas play not only to mass city transit but also as a form of employment to many, mainly young males who operate as drivers became clear to me. Bikes are more affordable and fuel efficient than cars, which is important given that gasoline shortages are an all to common feature in Nigeria. Granted, locals will quickly note how Okada drivers tend to aggressively push through traffic, ignore signs and motorists, and often take chances that can lead to fatal accidents. In fact, looking around one can quickly see that most bikes operate without helmets. Regardless, many admitted to using and benefiting from the service- some more often than others. In one particular conversation, a Nigerian friend told me that while she does not normally use Okadas she revealed that when running late for a meeting she has found herself on the back of a bike, cutting through traffic in the hopes of reaching her destination both quickly and in one piece. I also spoke with a few Okada drivers who shared with me the sense of pride they had in both having wheels to get around and being able to use it as a source of income. » More

But Timber Doesn’t Sink, Right?

Rambo with a missile, photo: Andrew Becraft / flickr

Lego Rambo with a missile, photo: Andrew Becraft / flickr

In one of the most bizarre stories of the month, a Finnish-owned ship with a timber load belonging to Stora Enso (a Finnish company and the second largest paper producer in the world) worth an estimated 1.3 million euros, vanished (yes, vanished!) as it was passing through the English Channel nearly three weeks ago on its way to Algeria. The ship and its all-Russian crew have not been heard from since. Reports state that the ship was hijacked off the Swedish coast in July and subsequently released by suspected pirates who had reportedly boarded the vessel dressed up as Swedish anti-narcotics police. The ship, upon failing to bring its load to Algeria on 4 August was reported missing.

While the Finns seem oddly indifferent and blasé about the whole thing, Putin is already flexing his well-toned muscles and threatening to launch a Rambo-mission to find the poor hijackees (with the help of his sidekick, Medvedev, of course). We needn’t worry though- apparently timber can’t sink, so the ship will be found, intact or as a sea of floating Finnish timber in the Atlantic.

» More

Pilots vs Zurich Airport

Another case of biting the hand that feeds you:

Here in Switzerland, Aeropers, the Swiss Airlines pilots’ union, is suing Zurich Airport because of aircraft noise.

“The Aircraft noise reduces the value of our office building, which is located in Kloten under the eastern approach corridor”, says Henning Hoffman, the head of Aeropers.



View Larger Map

Since Germany has limited the over flight over its territory to the north, the eastern approach of the airport, which is the global hub for Swiss, faces much more traffic and the buildings underneath it an increased devaluation.

At present, many flat owners in Kloten, the town nearest the airport, have lawsuits pending for monetary compensation. Never mind that:

  • They built and bought their homes 1 kilometer from an airport under an existing – though less frequented – approach corridor and knew it.


  • The home prices have always been lower in the area because of the airport.

The same holds true for Aeropers, whose members produce the same aircraft noise they’re complaining about every day. (The ‘B’ in the map is the Aeroper building).

Real life satire.