Ghana v USA – an oil plague on both your houses?

Ghana and the USA are at opposite ends of the social justice spectrum according to, but could all this change given that new oil has just been found off Ghana’s coastline? Reports abound as to whether this discovery and commercial exploitation by Irish company, Tullow oil (with the considerable financial backing of UK tax payer backed Royal Bank of Scotland) is a plague – or more commonly known as the ‘oil curse’ – or  a silver bullet which will deliver economic development and prosperity to the people of Ghana.

The oil curse is a phenomemon where a country is sucked dry of its oil, whilst its citizens continue to go hungry, whilst foreign multinationals reap the rewards and neighbours fight over whose oil it was in the first place (see the Tullow oil backed civil war on the border of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo) and spills happen with no compensation (see Nigeria not the USA)  nor furrowed brows from oil execs (see BP’s Tony Haywood except whilst on yaughting trips) nor the international outcry or media attention.

So is oil the route to prosperity and riches? In the US, surely the land that represents prosperity and riches above and beyond any other country, it is now seen as a plague that even the super power cannot control. And so after decades of over consumption and addiction, even Americans are finally eshewing the black stuff. And rightly so, it’s devastating the lives of millions of people around the world  going unnoticed by the main stream media – oil coating coast lines and wild life that were previously pristine. And the carbon emissions deriving from oil are staggering and have pushed us to the brink of climate catastrophe that will hit the poorest people worst. But similarly to oil spills, will people only really begin to listen and act when climate change hits the USA?

In the UK right now, campaigning and activism is ramping up, spelling out trouble for BP itself and those that it sponsors. The folks at Fair Pensions have been doing a stirling job pushing for pension funds to stop investing in BP and Shell, and it’s pretty likely that your pension is in Deep water. BP is an enormously important stock for British pension funds, and with BP under pressure to scrap its next quarterly dividend – and facing the possibility of a takeover if the share price continues to fall – there is real potential for this crisis to damage UK savings.

More could have been done to foresee and prevent this catastrophe, but despite clear warning signs that BP was exposing our money to unacceptable risks, few investors acted to demand that the company address those risks. You can call on Pensions Minister Steve Webb to toughen up the standards for pension funds, so that our pensions, people and the planet are better protected against future crises.

Also the arts in the UK are enjoying the profits of Big Oil. This Monday (28th) the Tate is having a Summer Party celebrating 20 years of BP sponsorship.  Taking money from BP lends big corporate oil the kudos of a key public cultural institution – it hands over a licence to spill. The vast and ugly Gulf of Mexico oil spill shows for the thousandth time that Big Oil sees no risk too reckless.  Public art institutions should no longer prop them up.  Yet, Shell and BP have between them sponsored almost all of London’s most prestigious museums and cultural institutions over the course of the last decade.

And, it’s peanuts – the actual figure has been kept hidden by both BP and Tate but it’s estimated to be as little as 0.5% of Tate’s annual budget.  They stopped taking tobacco money and it’s high time for them to stop taking oil money.  The pressure is ramping up – you can play a part of it

Today I will be sitting on the fence, cheering for two countries that are so different, but I fear that the oil plague that is on both their houses will bring them similarities that are not  the promised prosperity but the unspoken devastation and dispair

Posted in: Ghana, Ghana-USA, Global injustice, USA

Kate is WDM's press officer and is currently trying to get journalists to love as much as we do! This project has made her realise that her penchant for revolution and the use of tractors in demonstrations is in her genes. She is cheering for Serbia.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

England v USA: Flags should take a backseat to social justice

It’s the England/US game – who should I cheer for? It’s a good question. My US passport says I should cheer for the US. It nags me about national loyalty, hot dogs, baseball, the stars and stripes, individualism, capitalism, freedom and the American way. Right……. I think I’ll shut it up by smothering it under my 85 page UK visa application.

Call me a conscientious dissenter from the American way. I came to the UK at the end of the Bush years and have been jumping through hoops ever since for permission to stay. It was heartening to see Obama elected – if McCain and Palin had entered office I swore I was never returning- but for all its own difficulties the UK is still doing a lot more right than at home.

National pride aside, as I don’t really have any, why would I cheer for the good ‘ol US of A? A maternal mortality rate of 17 per 100,000 births is appalling, that’s a higher rate than South Korea, Greece, Italy, Serbia, the list goes on. We emit 10.8 tons more carbon emissions per person than the UK, and spend a stupid amount, thats 4.1%, of our GDP on the military.

Thankfully Obama’s push for strong regulation to stop banks and hedge funds from betting on food commodities gives me something to say we are doing better than England. There are now movements in both the US and in Europe to regulate food commodity speculation but the UK government, in deference to the city lobbyists might stand in the way. WDM is campaigning to make sure the UK government stops bankers from betting on hunger:

But even with Obama, I just can’t find enough reasons to cheer for the US. So I guess, for this game at least, it will have to be England!

(Tea party members can send their hate mail to:

Posted in: England-USA, USA, Who am I cheering for?

Ashley Erdman is the Development Officer at WDM. Although she has defected from the USA to the UK she is still appalled that her native country is ranked second to last just above North Korea.... She is cheering for Spain!

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

Team-by-team: Groups C & D

Group C


An overdue return for the Desert Foxes, whose best-known World Cup moment was as victims of the notorious Austro-West German stitch-up in 1982. Armchair psychologists looking for wider significance in this campaign see them as the Arab world’s only representatives – and drawn against the USA. But Algerians consider their greatest rivalries with neighbours Egypt (whom they defeated in a spectacularly ill-tempered qualifying showdown) and former colonial masters France (who are potential quarter-final opponents). We rank Algeria 22nd, a distant fifth of six African countries, not least due to high military spending.


The Three Lions have perhaps their weakest squad since failing to qualify in 1994. But in that time they have had nine managers and Fabio Capello has won more honours than the rest put together. Much depends on the pragmatic Italian, who is on record as an admirer of Francisco Franco and Silvio Berlusconi. Certainly he will envy their media control if his men bow out early and the tabloids go rabid. England is as low as 27th in our rankings thanks to high carbon emissions, military spending and inequality.


Slovenia are at their third major tournament in eight years, a remarkable achievement for a nation of just two million, after defeating Russia in a David-and-Goliath play-off. Among the most prosperous and stable of all post-Soviet states, there is marked inequality across such a small country from the wealthy north west, which borders Austria and Italy, to the poor south east, next to Croatia and Hungary.


One of only seven teams at their sixth successive World Cup, the US are overdue to make serious progress. To this end they may benefit from familiarity with altitude after regular trips to Mexico and last year’s Confederations Cup. The Obama effect may be enough for the Nobel committee but it has no effect on the Who Should I Cheer For? rankings, which rates the US as the least supportable of all 32 nations due to their combination of wealth, high military spending and rampant inequality.

Group D


A second successive World Cup appearance for the Socceroos but without the guidance of former coach Guus Hiddink they are expected to struggle. Australia’s famously sport-centric culture extends to immigration policy, where the citizenship test asks ‘Who was the greatest cricketer of the 1930s?’. In 2008 the new left-centre government reasoned that the question was biased against many new immigrants and moved to scratch it – only for a populist outcry to force a climb-down. (It’s Donald Bradman, FYI)


‘They are good, these Africans!’ hollered a startled John Motson in 2006 as the Black Stars progressed at the expense of more fancied Czech Republic and USA. Runners-up in January’s Africa Cup of Nations, they look likely to invite more European condescension although the magnificent Michael Essien has withdrawn injured. Ghana tops our rankings as the most supportable team. It’s a poor country with a lot of hunger, and across all factors only scores badly on maternal mortality.


‘This is not a great German team’ is the pundit’s biennial refrain and that has probably been true back to their last World Cup win at Italia ’90 (or, to a certain anti-German mindset, their first in 1954). But in the noughties ungreat German teams have managed two major finals and a further semi-. That other ubiquitous cliché – ‘Never write off the Germans’ – is probably more apt even without their captain Michael Ballack. Our rankings place them 9th overall, reflecting their commitment to equality both in income distribution and opportunities for women.


Serbia qualified comfortably ahead of France under veteran coach Raddy Antic, formerly of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Luton Town. This is their first World Cup as an independent nation after regular appearances within Yugoslavia before 2002 and as Serbia & Montenegro in 2006. Battling high unemployment in the wake of the global recession and overcoming turbulent internal politics, 6% of the Serbian population is chronically hungry despite its upper-middle global income and advantageous trading position between Europe and Russia.

Posted in: Algeria, Australia, England, Germany, Ghana, Group previews, Serbia, Slovenia, USA

Peter May is the author of The Rebel Tours: Cricket's Crisis of Conscience, the 2009 book that achieved critical praise and commercial indifference.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

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