Spain v Germany: Fair Play?

Last night I found myself in the strange position of cheering my heart out for a Dutch team playing in South Africa – given the history of the dreadful Dutch role in apartheid that was something I would have never envisaged happening. But my cheers were really for Ghana, as Holland avenged Uruguay for knocking the wonderful Ghanaians out of the world cup with a deliberate hand ball (yes, I know I should have let go of that by now – I’m working on it).

So tonight, how the six teams (oops, seven if you include Holland) I was following are not playing – who should I cheer for? Spain or Germany.

Well, win-wise they are fairly equal – both teams having lost just one (albeit quite surprising) match each. In terms of social justice indicators they are fairly even too. Both countries give a similar amount in aid (ie for health European economies – not enough). Germany has less carbon emissions than Spain but then Spain’s inequality difference is slightly less than Germany. Hmm.

The only thing is that when Germany won their matches, they really won! Except of course when Ghana managed to limit them to only one goal – sorry, had to get that in. Otherwise it was a clear 4:1 or 4:0 hammering. I would like to say that Spain’s fabulous 50% representation of women in government was a similarly thumping victory which would have helped in my choice dilemma, but actually, Germany aren’t far behind on 46.2% and they have a female Chancellor.

So I’m still undecided. But in a world cup that saw some teams have progress because of unfair decisions and plain cheating I think I’m going to go by something my son told me. He said Spain have been the cleanest team of the world cup with only 3 yellow cards even at this stage. Having been upset at Ghana’s unjust exit (and other more major injustices around the world ranging from bankers’ greed pushing people further into poverty or the ravaging impacts of climate change suffered by people that didn’t even cause it) I think my cheering criteria should be judged by fairness and so I will celebrate with Spain’s in their clean and justified arrival at the semis.

Posted in: Germany, Spain, Spain v Germany

Sharon Jordan is campaigns assistant at WDM. Generally football indifferent, her football passion ignites about this time once every 4 years as the ups and downs of life are played out by global players in 90 minutes on a patch of green grass.

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

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.

Slovenia v England: Compensation for past wrongs

Following the inability of their ‘star’ players to practise the simple skill of passing and controlling a football on Friday, I said I would not support England anymore. But like any good addict I will be back on Wednesday for another excruciating performance from England on the world stage.

One measure England do beat Slovenia on is the amount of aid they give. In 1970 the countries of western Europe all agreed to spend 70p out of every £100 they earn on overseas aid. England has never done this; it is currently spending 47p. But according to official figures, Slovenia isn’t giving any.

Slovenia isn’t as rich as England, but it is still well-off in world terms. The eastern European country has an income higher than Portugal.

‘Aid’ is a term which can mean lots of different things. During the Cold War, the western and eastern blocks used ‘aid’ to advance their military aims across the world. The people of Slovenia, then part of Yugoslavia, stood aside from this competition. Whilst Yugoslavia was communist, it was one of the founder-members of the neutral non-aligned movement.

‘Aid’ is also used to win valuable contracts for a country’s companies. In 1994, the World Development Movement won a landmark court case when it proved that UK ‘aid’ for building the Pergau dam in Malaysia had been given to win contracts for British companies, including arms deals, rather than for tackling poverty.

Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s ‘aid’ has been used to force developing countries to deregulate their economies for the benefit of multinational companies. The Conservative party prior to the 2010 UK election said that aid should be used to privatise public services in developing countries.

Despite all the problems of ‘aid’ the whoshouldicheerfor rankings still list it as positive. Aid seems like it should be a good thing; those with a lot give a little bit away to those with a lot less.

An alternative view of aid is to see it as compensation for past wrongs. From its central role in the transatlantic slave trade to its central and continuing role in causing the climate to change in catastrophic ways, England has a lot to compensate for. Slovenia would have a reasonable case that its compensation payments should be a lot less.

Central to compensation is not to keep on committing wrong. Any benefit from UK aid dwarfs in comparison to the way our unregulated banks increase hunger and the effects of our climate changing greenhouse gas emissions.

This is why I am proud to be part of the World Development Movement which campaigns to abolish the wrongs of the UK which cause poverty, rather than just giving the sticking plaster of aid.

Posted in: England, England-Slovenia, Slovenia

Tim Jones is policy officer at the World Development Movement. He became hooked on football as a boy when England got to the World Cup semi-final in 1990, and Leeds United won the league in 1992. All else has been disappointment.

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

England v Algeria: anyone but England?

Like many people from Northern Ireland, I support two international football teams: Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

This isn’t being greedy – constitutionally speaking, anyway. One of the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement power sharing peace deal of 1998 was the recognition of “the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose”.

But while some more hardline Catholics / nationalists would choose not to support Northern Ireland and some Protestants / unionists would choose not to support the Republic, I would say with confidence that they’re both as likely, give or take, not to support England. Myself included. Something that living in England for the last ten years has done little if anything to change.

Tonight the Three Lions line up against a country with colonial baggage who play in white and green, Algeria. Hmmm, tough one.

But let’s set aside unwavering partisan bias for just a few moments, and instead look at cold hard social justice data, which Who Should I Cheer For has so kindly assembled in one handy place. Who should I be mindlessly honking my vuvuzela for tonight?

Well, with a national income per person of less than a quarter of the size of the UK’s (£21,604), Algeria (£4,490) are clearly underdogs in development terms, as well as on the football field. Their (pretty charitable) FIFA ranking is 30, 22 below England’s.

In the inequality stakes, the North African country perform better. For every £1 the poorest 10 per cent earn, the richest 10 per cent get £9.6, compared to £13.8 in England – a big tick in Algeria’s favour.

It’s far from cut and dried, though. While Algeria’s carbon emissions per person, 5.5 tonnes, are around half that of England’s, they’re still pretty sizeable. Only 1 in 10 of those in government in Algeria are women, much lower than the UK, even with the current regime’s pitiful lack of women at the top cabinet table.

Even worse, the former French colony’s military spending is actually marginally larger than England’s (2.9% of GDP compared to 2.7%). In fact, if you discount South Africa, who are let down by massive, Apartheid fuelled inequalities and large carbon emissions, Algeria are the least supportable African team according to WSICF stats, at 22 out of the 32 teams.

However, before I unfurl my miniature St George’s cross, a couple of mitigating factors should be taken into account. Firstly, Algeria’s high military spend can partly be explained by the fact that the country only came out of its decade long civil war against Islamic extremists in 2002. Secondly, the fossil fuels sector accounts for over 95% of Algeria’s export earnings, which have helped the government improve infrastructure, industry and agriculture since the end of the civil war.

So I’m sorry Fabio. Even on ethical grounds I can’t support you.

Posted in: Algeria, England, England-Algeria

Hugh Reilly is a web editor at UNICEF UK. During the World Cup he’ll be willing things to the the French team, especially Thierry Henry, that we can't mention here, and shouting vamos for Spain. He’ll also be looking at how different competing countries are doing at the Millennium Development Goals on the UNICEF UK blog.

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

Germany v Australia: Grella Grella Grella, ey ey ey.

In one of his rare articulate moments, Gary Lineker once declared that “Football is a simple game – you play for 120 minutes and then the Germans win on penalties”. Ethical comparison may also well be a simple game – you line up the statistics and then the Germans win on low levels of income inequality, progressive attitudes to gender and forward thinking on the environment.

Sunday’s evening game sees perennial World Cup overachievers Germany take on the great sporting nation of Australia. They may not have the Ballacks this time around, and they were comprehensively outclassed by Spain in the final of their last major tournament, but few would bet against Deutschland progressing once again to the latter stages in South Africa. Australia have had their own injury problems in the run up to the tournament, with Brett Emerton, Tim Cahill and, in surprise news, Harry Kewell, all struggling with various ailments.

As the science wars rumble on in Britain between proponents of alternative medicine and the cause of rational scientific enquiry, Australia appear to be taking a punt on quackery after Harry Kewell’s recent visit to a South African ‘witch doctor’. Despite 15 years of doctors telling him that his body is made of chocolate, it apparently turns out that he has been infected by malign spirits, and is only a message of well wishes from the Australian PM away from full health. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t incredibly excited about this development. If it works out, the NHS could be in line to save a hell of a lot of money. Though Kevin Rudd’s workload may suffer.

Germany sit in 10th place in the Who Should I Cheer For? rankings, behind only the Netherlands and (surprisingly) Spain in the developed world. Australia, mirroring their position in the football world, lie comprehensively towards the bottom in 25th. I was surprised to note Australia’s national income is actually higher than Germany’s, though it’s not exactly a battle of rags versus riches in that regard. However, despite their higher income, Australia has twice the level of inequality as Germany, with the richest 10% earning over 12 times as much as the poorest 10%. Given their somewhat macho national culture, Australia also lag behind Germany in the gender stakes, with less than half the number of sheilas in government. The Germans even showboat to victory in that category with a sheila for a prime minister.

The most significant disparity between the two countries is probably in carbon emissions, with Australia posting the highest emissions of any competing nation apart from perennial front-runner in that category, the United States. While Germany’s is not particularly low for a European country, the strength of the Green movement there means there was only ever going to be one winner. While the extent of Australia’s emissions (16.2 tons per person) is disturbing, it is at least partly explicable by the geography of the country, and it is not without its own progressive policies in that area. Kevin Rudd has applied himself to fixing their environmental policy as much as Harry Kewell’s dodgy groin. He belatedly signed the Kyoto Protocol immediately after entering office in 2007 and Australia were the first country in the world to impose an outright ban on traditional lightbulbs later that year. While they are on track to fulfil their Kyoto obligations, despite being such a late signatory, it is clear they still have much work to do to escape their position as one of the world’s climate villains. In the meantime though, Deutschland über Aussies…

Posted in: Australia, Germany, Germany-Australia

Carl works for the Irish Ombudsman for Children's Office in Dublin. When not crying bitter, resentful tears over Ireland's elmination from the World Cup and their subsequent lack of dignity, he is busy admiring Xavi and Iniesta's spearheading of a golden era of Spanish football.

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

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