Resources: Corner House Briefing Paper

41 results
Learning about Climate Policy from the Financial Crisis
Larry Lohmann

18 September 2009

40. Studying the financial crisis and the climate crisis together can provide useful tools for understanding how to tackle both. Overconfident commodification of uncertainty (in the form of a trade in new and complex derivatives) helped precipitate a global economic crash. Overconfident commodification of climate benefits (in the form of a trade in carbon) threatens to hasten an even worse catastrophe.


Cuando los mercados son veneno: Aprender sobre política climática de la crisis financiera

El estudio simultáneo de la crisis financiera y la crisis climática puede proporcionar herramientas útiles para hacer frente a las dos. Los intentos imprudentes de mercantilizar incertidumbres (en la forma de un mercado de derivados complejos) ayudaron a provocar una crisis económica mundial. Los intentos irresponsables de comercializar el clima amenazan con contribuir a una catástrofe aún peor.

Financial Bricolage, Derivatives and Power
Nicholas Hildyard

9 October 2008

39. Financial entrepreneurs created a 'shadow banking system' over the past 30 years to circumvent regulation and to offload risk onto others, relying on 'derivatives' and 'securitisation'. They generated easy credit that fuelled a boom in corporate mergers and acquisitions across the United States and Europe, and that enabled companies involved in mining, biofuels, private health care, water supply, infrastructure and forestry to expand their activities signficantly. When the pyramid of deals came tumbling down, however, the public had to bear the costs.

Some Frequently Asked Questions
Kavaljit Singh

8 October 2008

38. The current protectionist backlash against state-owned sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), particularly from the Middle East and China, stems from Western policy makers' fears that SWFs follow strategic political objectives rather than commercial interests, investing in Western companies and banks to secure control of strategically important industries such as telecommunications, energy and banking. This paper examines these fears in order to understand the potential impact and implications of sovereign wealth funds in a rapidly-changing global political economy.

The Global Consequences of Private Equity
Kavaljit Singh

17 September 2008

37. Private equity has become an integral part of the world's financial system, creating a new type of corporate conglomerate that is reshaping the way business is conducted. It poses new challenges to labour unions, NGOs and community groups because of its influence on taxation policy, corporate governance, labour rights and public services. These challenges are especially clear in Asia, which private equity firms are targeting since the "credit crunch" took hold. Private equity's vulnerabilities, however, may provide opportunities to address public concerns.

The Scientific Manufacture of Fear
Elizabeth L. Krause

30 July 2006

36. Supposedly scientific demographic reports and alarms about low birthrates, ageing and immigration in Italy, and the catastrophic societal consequences that are predicted to flow from them, enable racism by stimulating a climate of fear and anxiety toward immigrants. They reinforce xenophobic notions in which racism is "coded as culture" rather than on supposedly objective somatic or visual differences.

Constructing a New Population Threat
Anne Hendrixson

2 December 2004

34. 'Youth-bulge' theory refers to the large proportion of the world's population under 27 years old who are supposedly prone to violence. Images of angry young men of colour as potential terrorists and veiled young women as victims of repressive regimes support the theory. The implied threat of explosive violence and explosive fertility provides a rationale for US military intervention and population control initiatives in other countries and justifies government surveillance of Muslims and Arabs within US borders.

Tales From the New Mozambique
Joseph Hanlon

29 October 2004

33. Northern aid donors demand that Southern countries tackle corruption, but continue to require them to implement economic liberalisation policies that increase corruption. In Mozambique, corruption has grown to high levels because of increasing intervention by international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, and bilateral aid donors in support of liberalisation, facilitated by tacit alliances between donors and a section of the Mozambican elite.

Political Organising Behind TRIPS
Peter Drahos with John Braithwaite

30 September 2004

32. When TRIPS was signed in 1994, the United States, Europe and Japan dominated the world's software, pharmaceutical, chemical and entertainment industries. The rest of the world had little to gain by agreeing to these terms of trade for intellectual property. They did so because a failure of democratic processes nationally and internationally enabled a small group of men within the United States to capture the US trade-agenda-setting process, to draft intellectual property principles that became the blueprint for TRIPS and to crush resistance through US trade power.

Women's Health in a Free Market Economy
Sumati Nair and Preeti Kirbat with Sarah Sexton

16 June 2004

31. This briefing evaluates the 1994 UN International Conference on Population and Development. It assesses several processes that affect women's reproductive and sexual rights and health: the decline and collapse in health services; neo-liberal economic policies and religious fundamentalisms; and development policies underpinned by neo-Malthusianism.

Export Credit Agencies and Corruption
Susan Hawley

15 December 2003

30. The taxpayer-backed export credit agencies of industrialised countries are underwriting the bribery and corruption of large, mainly Western, companies operating abroad.

Lessons from the New Thailand
Dr Pasuk Phongpaichit

14 December 2003

29. Corruption in Thailand has been neither pervasive nor incompatible with economic growth. It is centred on a big business-politics complex whose rise has gone hand-in-hand with globalisation.

Larry Lohmann

31 March 2003

28. Disputes about human population increase are less about numbers than about rights, as is suggested by an analysis of the historical context in which Malthus wrote his first story about overpopulation.

Markets, States and Climate
Mike Davis

30 December 2002

27. A revised understanding of nineteenth cenutry famines illuminates many current challenges of 'development' and questions the wisdom of development policies still pursued today.

TNC Regulation in an Era of Dialogues and Partnerships
Judith Richter

28 February 2002

26. As corporations have expanded beyond their national borders, it has become harder for individual countries to protect public interests through national regulation alone. Industry self regulation or co-regulation is often considered the best way to set global rules. Drawing on a case study of the infant food industry, this briefing paper raises crucial questions about making TNCs publicly accountable at a time when dialogues and partnerships are portrayed as the best way to interact with them.

A New Political Space for Activists
Mark Mansley and Nicholas Hildyard

30 January 2002

25. Lobbying financial markets has become a major way of halting or lessening the impact of environmentally-damaging and socially-inequitable projects. This briefing provides several case studies, traces the rise of ethical shareholding, and explores the limits and potential pitfalls of financial market activism.

Intellectual Corruption and the Future of the Climate Debate
Larry Lohmann

30 October 2001

24. The “carbon market” approach of international agreements to tackle climate change is incoherent. No one knows how to value the goods in this market, nor to whom they belong. As a result, the market, backed by a growing, well-funded, global climate technocracy, will subsidise further climate change. Democratic challenges to this “carbocracy” will be crucial in opening up the climate debate and combating the scientific fraudulence now rife in mainstream discussions.

GATS, Public Services and Privatisation
Sarah Sexton

31 July 2001

23. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is revising its General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) so as to increase international trade in services. If current proposals are implemented, GATS could be used to overturn almost any legislation governing services. Particularly under threat are public services -- health care, education, energy, water and sanitation. This briefing explores the potential for private companies to capture the most profitable components of publicly-provided and -funded health care services, leaving a reduced public sector to cope with the elderly, chronically sick and the poor who most need health care and who can least afford it.

Identity, Territory and Co-existence in Bosnia
David Campbell

30 January 2001

22. “Ethnic cleansing” was the term the world adopted in the early 1990s for a process in Bosnia through which non-Serbian people -- Muslims or Croats -- were forced to flee from land deemed to be Serb by Serbian authorities -- and killed if they did not. Yet before the war, Bosnia was not Serb or Muslim or Croat but multicultural. Various international schemes to end the violence only encouraged it because they relied on neat conceptual divisions among “ethnic identities” that did not correspond to lived reality.

The Biological Politics of Genetically Modified Trees
Viola Sampson and Larry Lohmann

30 December 2000

21. Vast plantations of genetically modified (GM) trees would undoubtedly have significant social and environmental impacts, including displacement of people from their lands, and pollen and gene drift to non-GM trees. GM trees are a technofix for problems created by industrial pulpwood plantations and the worldwide paper, timber and fruit industries. Tackling the challenge posed by GM trees entails alliance building with groups ranging from seed savers to communities battling encroachment of industrial tree farms on their land.

Poverty, Politics and Population in Capitalist Development
Eric B. Ross

31 July 2000

20. The goal of Thomas Malthus, the 19th century originator of a theory about population, was to absolve the state and wealthier segments of society from responsibility for poverty. The briefing explores the theory’s subsequent uses in eugenic, anti-immigration, environmental, Cold War and Green Revolution interests. It explores how population thinking is used today in discussions of globalisation, violent conflict, immigration and the environment.

Privatisation, Multinationals and Bribery
Susan Hawley

30 June 2000

19. Growing corrpution throughout the world has resulted from the rapid privatisation of public enterprises. Multinationals, supported by Western governments and their agencies, are engaging in corruption on a vast scale in North and South alike. Donor governments and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund frequently put forward ‘good governance’ agendas to combat corruption, but their other actions send different signals about where their priorites lie.

The Politics and Culture of Combustion
Stephen J. Pyne with Larry Lohmann

28 February 2000

18. Sensational images of wildfires often prompt calls for sweeping, high-tech measures to control fire in the open. Yet fire in the open is a planetary necessity. The problem is too little controlled open burning in the North, and too much wildfire in the South -- and too many catastrophic, destructive blazes and not enough cleansing, fertilizing ones. Constructive debate about climate change, agriculture or forestry requires a careful look at the culture, ecology and politics of global fire.

The Danger of MOX-fuelled Nuclear Reactors
Frank Barnaby

30 December 1999

17. Plutonium is radioactive by-product of nuclear reactors and one of the most toxic substances known. The nuclear industry argues that producing mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel would reduce plutonium stockpiles. It is unlikely to do so and instead would encourage the risk of nuclear terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons.

Power and Decision-Making in the Geneticisation of Health
Sarah Sexton

31 October 1999

16. Most discussions about human embryo cloning focus on ethics and potential health benefits. In the process, the many social, economic and environmental aspects of health and disease are increasingly hidden, while issues such as how the potential benefits of biotech would be obtained and distributed are sidelined. It has therefore become hard to raise key questions about the increased geneticisation of our lives and societies.

Carbon ‘Offset’ Forestry and The Privatization of the Atmosphere
Larry Lohmann

31 July 1999

15. This briefing questions the view that tree plantations are a viable way of mitigating the climatic effects of industrial carbon-dioxide emissions. This “solution” to global warming is based on bad science, enlarges society’s ecological footprint, and reinforces neo-colonialist structures of power.

Export Credit Agencies, Corporate Welfare and Policy Incoherence
Nicholas Hildyard

30 June 1999

14. Projects backed by export credit agencies (ECAs) are frequently environmentally destructive, socially oppressive or financially unviable. It is the poorest people in the countries where the projects are located who end up paying the bill. With rare exceptions, the major ECAs lack mandatory environmental and development standards, and are secretive and unaccountable.

Adaptation and Reaction to Globalisation
Mark Duffield

31 January 1999

12. Many internal wars in Africa, Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, far from representing societal breakdown, can be seen as a rational response on the part of rulers (and would-be rulers) to ensure their economic and political survival in a context of globalisation and the changing nation-state.

Racial Oppression in Scientific Nature Conservation
Larry Lohmann

31 January 1999

13. Some strains of environmentalism treat “cultures” as fixed, closed systems with impermeable boundaries. Racism is neither a theory nor a collection of beliefs, sentiments or intentions, but rather a process of social control which functions to block inquiry and attempts to live with difference. Illustrated with a case study from Northern Thailand.

Les Conflits Ethniques Seraient ils Naturels?
Nicholas Hildyard (traduction: C. Bertrand)

30 January 1999

11. Au sein du mouvement écologiste occidental une aile conservatrice importante a développé, dans un souci de stabilité sociale, des conceptions sur la "culture" qui placent la cause profonde des "conflits ethniques" dans des antagonismes anciens, définitifs, implacables et invétérés entre populations. Ces conceptions sont très proches de celles de la Nouvelle Droite qui, de plus en plus, s'approprie le langage de la "différence" culturelle pour promouvoir un "racisme différencialiste". Il est important que les groupes progressistes s’opposent à cette manupulation politique d'éthnicité des environnementalistes conservateurs, ou de la Nouvelle Droite.

Ethnic Conflict and the Authoritarian Right
Nicholas Hildyard

29 January 1999

11. “Ethnic conflicts” are not rooted in ancient antagonisms or fixed cultural differences. Yet the authoritarian Right in Europe is increasingly framing its racist agenda in terms of “cultural differences” -- a discourse that chimes in disturbing harmony with that of many Greens, whose preoccupation with “tradition” can lend itself to a politics of exclusion. The need for progressive groups to distance themselves -- in actions as well as words -- from the Right’s “cultural” agenda is urgent.

Genetic Engineering and World Hunger
Sarah Sexton, Nicholas Hildyard and Larry Lohmann

30 October 1998

10. The biotechnology industry claims that genetic engineering in agriculture is necessary to feed a growing world population. Yet, far from preventing world starvation, genetic engineering threatens to exacerbate the social and ecological causes of hunger by forcing farmers to pay for their right to fertile seeds, threatening crop yields, undermining biodiversity and reducing the access of poorer people to food.

Reflections for Activists
Larry Lohmann

31 August 1998

9. “Third World development” seldom achieves its stated objectives and is repeatedly discovered to be based on false assumptions. Although discredited, however, it has survived and flourished. This briefing asks to what extent development’s critics have inadvertently increased both its longevity and its capacity to produce falsehoods and failure. Forging an effective critical activism requires reexamining the dynamic between development projects and their opponents, helpers and beneficiaries.

The Flawed Economics of Large Hydroelectric Dams
Nicholas Hildyard

28 August 1998

8. Popular opposition and changing macro-economic policies have disproved the claim that large-scale hydrolectric dams provide a cheap, reliable and economic source of power.

How Opinion Polls and Cost-Benefit Analysis Synthesize New “Publics”
Larry Lohmann

31 May 1998

7. Opinion polls and cost-benefit analysis, like public relations, attempt to construct new, simplified “publics” which are friendly to bureaucracies, politicians and corporations. The success of these attempts is limited by popular resistance at many levels.

Uncovering Corporate PR Strategies
Judith Richter

31 March 1998

6. Corporations use public relations techniques to limit campaigns against the socially-irresponsible or environmentally-destructive practices of transnational companies. Taking the infant food industry as a case study, this briefing discusses the risks of ‘dialogue’ with company or industry organizations.

Free Market Ambiguities
Nicholas Hildyard

31 March 1998

5. The practical outcome of free-market policies has not been to diminish the state’s power -- but to redirect it in favour of transnational interests. Thus the power of many Northern states to intervene in the economic and social affairs of other countries has increased. Resistance to the “free market state” is growing, as is the demand that the state’s powers be used to protect the interests and rights of citizens, not corporations.

The Politics of Participation
Nicholas Hildyard, Pandurang Hegde, Paul Wolverkamp and Somersekhave Reddy

3 March 1998

 4.Popular movements seeking radical structural change have long called for the right to participate in the planning and implementation of development projects. Many development agencies now aim to make their programmes more “participatory”. But “participation” can be little more than a means of engineering consent to programmes that have already been decided upon. Analysis of the UK-funded Western Ghats Forestry Project in India suggests that not participating in such programmes may in some cases be a better way for popular movements to achieve structural change.

Aubrey Meyer and Nicholas Hildyard

2 December 1997

3. Most scientists agree that human-made emissions of greenhouse gases have to be reduced signifiantly. The North is the main emitter of these gases and should make the most cuts. Many Southern countries argue that emission targets should be set on a per capita basis within a framework of “contraction and convergence”: per capita emissions should converge globally to an agreed ceiling, allowing emissions of developing countries to increase and those of developed countries to contract.

Democracy in a Plutonium Economy
Frank Barnaby

2 November 1997

2. Plutonium is a radioactive by-product of nuclear reactors and one of the most toxic substances known. The nuclear industry argues that it should be mixed with uranium oxide and used in ordinary nuclear reactors as mixed-oxide or MOX fuel elements. Yet this would produce more plutonium; cost more than conventional nuclear fuel; be less safe; increase the risk of serious accidents during transportation; necessitate extreme high security to prevent theft; and increase the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation by countries and terrorist organisations.

A Briefing on the Proposed EU Directive on the Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions
Alan Simpson, MP, and Nicholas Hildyard and Sarah Sexton

1 September 1997

1.Living organisms can now be patented as “inventions” if they are the result of genetic engineering techniques or of the transfer of genes between totally unrelated species of plants, animals and micro-organisms. Yet patents can hinder research, legalise biopiracy and restrict both competition and people’s access to health treatment.

Private Pensions, Corporate Welfare and Growing Insecurity
Richard Minns with Sarah Sexton

35. This briefing outlines the different ways in which countries have financed both social security for older people and economic production. It describes the rise of the private model of pensions and the influence of pension funds on capital flows around the world. It then summarises and critiques the main justifications given for expanding private pension schemes, and analyses the motivations of the groups that perpetuate this model.