Sunday, May 18, 2014

Global Health Critical Reflection #2

In September, 2009, I was beginning my third year at the University of Pittsburgh. The first month of classes seemed similar to my first two years, but at the time, Pittsburgh had been a part of national and international news, and not because of the University. The three rivers city was preparing to be the host of the next G-20 summit, in which international leaders from the 19 richest nations in the world and the European Union would meet to discuss the global economy and trade (G20, 2014). The topic of this year’s annual meeting was to reform the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, so these entities could better function in the economic market of the 21st century (G20, 2014). As a student, who was currently enrolled in a Global Studies course, I was excited about the opportunity to observe such a significant international event, but I did not expect nor was I prepared for my home to turn into chaos. Protesters from across the U.S. formed coalitions to show their opposition to the G20 summit and the actions that would take place as a result of the meeting. From my vantage point, as the summit’s date drew closer, I saw men and women from many different backgrounds forming crowds in the streets, yelling in unison, and some even becoming violent, destroying local businesses in my neighborhood (Yahoo News, 2014). What was the source for this destructive behavior? Why had the G20 summit angered so many people?
In his article “Globalisation is good for your health, mostly”, Richard Feachem tried to negate the views of globalization opposition (2001). Feachem argued that there were three main flaws amongst the protests against globalization: not understanding the economic benefits, ignoring the social and political advantages, and not providing an alternative to globalization (2001). For his first argument, Feachem listed four countries, China, India, Uganda, and Vietnam, whose economies have prospered in the new age of globalization. With the increase in gross domestic profits in these nations, disparities are also increasing, wherein vulnerable populations continue to be marginalized and not reap the benefits of flourishing economies. Although Feachem provided some counterarguments to the development of these inequities, there is strong evidence for the association between globalization and inequality. For example, India now holds a position in the G20, but it’s most rural provinces and home to more than one third of the nation’s population, experience the repercussions of trade liberalization with Indians in these areas having lower incomes, education levels, and life expectancies (Sachs, 2002). While many of these disproportionalities in India can be attributed to the shifts in the global economy, Feachem failed to mention the role of governance and corruption in terms of poverty, and how corruption can be fueled through globalization.
Like many African countries, I witnessed tremendous inequities in Sierra Leone, especially in regards to foreign mining companies. Recently, the Agence France-Presses (AFP) reported that one of the most precious diamonds of the last decade was found in the small West African country – the diamond is worth roughly $6.2 million (Yahoo News, 2014). During my Peace Corps service, I visited a few of my friends who lived in the district where the diamond was discovered, Kono District. At that point I had lived in Sierra Leone for about a year and had become accustomed to the way of life, but when I went to the district capital of Kono, Koidu, I was shocked. The rough road to Koidu was enough indication that this area of the country was highly affected by the 11-year civil war. In Koidu, every other building on the partially paved roads was dilapidated and had advertisements for diamonds. I was saddened by the fact that wealthy countries, like Australia and Great Britain, were stripping this low-income country of its natural resources, in areas like Kono District, where many young girls leave school to prostitute their bodies to local miners in order to feed their families. This unbelievable chain of events can be traced back to globalization, in which people are fighting preventable diseases in places like Sierra Leone and India, the same place where diamonds are sold or t-shirts are made to benefit those of high-income countries.
Feachem argues that globalization is “good for your health”, but it’s apparent that his perspective lacks a sense of reality in low-income nations. I am not completely opposing Feachem, but I believe his view needs to be better balanced. Unfortunately, I did not fully understand or learn why the G20 protesters in Pittsburgh were infuriated through my Global Studies class in 2009, but through my time in Sierra Leone, I gained a broader worldview of how the ideologies, like that of the G20 and the World Bank, affect the people who are often times exploited the most through the trends of globalization.

References

(2014, February 21). Retrieved from G20: https://www.g20.org/
Feachem, R. G. (2001). Globalisation is good for your health, mostly. BMJ, 504-6.
Sachs, J. D. (2002). Understanding Regional Economic . Working Papers: Center for International Development at Harvard University, 88. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20070701042206/http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/CID/cidwp/088.pdf
Urbina, I. (2009, September 24). Protesters Are Met by Tear Gas at G-20 Conference. The New York Times, p. A10. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/25/us/25pittsburgh.html
Yahoo News. (2014, February 22). Retrieved from Sierra Leone unearths $6-million diamond: http://news.yahoo.com/sierra-leone-unearths-6-million-diamond-183933013.html

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