An Open Letter from Friends of the Earth Africa, signed by many NGO’s and other groups from Africa and other parts of the World, which is being handed over to several Danish Embassies all over Africa.
To: The Honorable Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark
In light of the interview given by your Minister for Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, on the 9th of this month to the Danish newspaper Politiken, and taking into account that the presence of Danish cooperations on the African continent dates long before the independence of most countries where they still operate today through various organizations that develop various projects and activities in various spheres of the political system, civil society and the business sector, we cannot refrain from expressing our deepest distaste for the disrespectful and peculiar ideological content of the above-mentioned interview.
Truth be told, Minister Christian Friis Bach said exactly what many politicians and leaders of developed countries think but cleverly would never dare say. Frankly, we prefer Christian Friis Bach to those other dodgy individuals. Petulant or reckless, your Minister of Development Cooperation said just what he thinks, giving us a chance to rebut, to contest and tell him that his notion of development is obsolete, that what he says he is willing to do is ethically despicable and offensive, that those who he claims would be the main beneficiaries of the policies he intends to impose will for sure become its main victims, and that even though unfortunately he may have the power to influence the decisions taken by the state apparatuses of some African countries, he definitely does not have the right to do so. We believe that he ought to know it. We Africans assure Christian Friis Bach and all who think like him, that even though we are already being pillaged, we will never allow Africa to be economically recolonized. Never.
It is instructive to remember that contrary to what Minister Friis Bach said in his interview, we Africans do have capacity to feed and sustain our people. African agriculture and food needs have been met over time through sustainable and multi-dimensional approaches, keeping to a minimum such externalities as artificial fertilizers, imported pesticides and herbicides, as well as practices that are alien to the socio-cultural settings of our people.
The support Africa needs right now is a decisive stand to maintain seed as well as cultural diversities and defend staple crops which are targeted by biotech even when there is no need for their engineered varieties or GM crops.
To you, as the highest elected representative of the Danish people, we would like to ask if you share the opinions of your Minister for Development Cooperation. If you do, please be kind enough to answer the following questions:
Do you think it is fair that the African continent should be held accountable “today” for the bad decisions rich countries such as yours made “yesterday”, and which led to over-exploitation of nature, animals and human beings by introducing unhealthy and destructive diets as well as excess energy consumption?
Do you consider it acceptable that countries like yours should impose their failed development models on Africa as if they were models of success and the only guaranteed path towards development?
Would you imagine a world in which Africa adopts your ideas of production, consumption, development and progress?
Do you think it right that we Africans must accept without question the responsibility of using our resources to support those who were obviously unable to manage theirs?
It honours us greatly that the world is turning to Africa and its leaders say they are counting on us. We Africans are hospitable and supportive and for long we have been wanting to contribute more and better to a development path that supports sustainable livelihoods. However, we do not have to sacrifice ourselves to accommodate the whims of those who think it is a mark of progress to destroy the planet. We want to rely on the support of all who are well intended, but such support must not trample on our sovereignty and dignity.
In this context, we, African organizations, movements and associations who hereby signed this letter, reiterate that we continue to consider much welcome the support of those who wish to walk with us towards a development path:
- That adequately serves our needs and those of our future generations;
- That is fair and just and not predicated on exploitation, resource grabs and denigration;
- That is logical and thoughtful and does not necessarily have to be traversed in pursuit of anything or anyone;
- In which we may not be sole beneficiaries, but we must not be denied our due;
- That not only respects the sovereignty of each African country, but also our diversity as a people, as well as the diversity of our cultures and traditions;
- That is guided by principles of honesty, transparency and inclusion, fundamental to the democratic exercise of any territory.
- That respects our Food sovereignty, which is built upon the inalienable rights of peoples to maintain their cultural as well as seed diversities. Cultural diversity permits peoples to maintain and enlarge their stock of local knowledge; produce, save and use their seeds and have control over farming practices developed over centuries of experimentation and experience. Food sovereignty ensures that farmers stay in business and that peoples are not forced to alter their diets.
Naturally, we consider that any development project that ignores or disregards any of these principles is not in the best interest of Africa or Africans, and we reject and denounce the position taken by your government through your Minister of Development Cooperation.
For the sake of the good relations we wish to maintain with you, we would appreciate you would be so kind as to respond to this letter.