19 January 2010

Complex issues

Some time ago, I wrote to Starbucks asking them to consider their purchase of Ugandan coffee in light of their standards and the "kill the gays" law being considered by the Ugandan Parliament and endorsed by some Ugandan bishops. With a nice apology for a delay in answering, I got a polite reply today. There are three things to note:
  1. "Were we to not buy Ugandan coffee, it's the coffee farmers who would suffer, not the government."
  2. "By including zero tolerance human rights criteria based on ILO conventions in our ethical sourcing guidelines, C.A.F.E. Practices, we have always worked to make clear our commitment to equal treatment for all."
  3. "We are encouraged to see that many in the international community have taken a strong position against this discriminatory bill."

I think she makes some very valid points.

I am opposed to the trade embargoes we impose on Cuba and Viet Nam. In my judgement, embargoes do not move dictatorship or oligarchies. As I have perhaps too often observed, if there is one chicken left in Cuba, tommorrow the Castro brothers are having eggs for breakfast.

I am not capable of saying much about the Ugandan government, but I suspect the farmers' influence is limited. And yet it looks more or less like a republic. In republics, embargoes can have an impact. Cf. the old Union of South Africa White government.

Reluctantly I defer to the lady's judgement.

Starbuck's does have standards and is known for actually meaning them. I know some socialist sorts object to a company actually making a buck but I don't.

It is the last quote that really got my attention. Before the Canadian House of Bishops spoke out, US Executive Council demanded action and the President of the House of Deputies showed some guts, The Episcopal Church and Church of England were notable because of their willingness to be silent. In his arrogant way, the Archbishop of Canterbury noted that he was using his 'influence.'

It is worth noting that his influence on Uganda is so powerful that Uganda's bishops boycotted the Lambeth Council the Archbishop called last Summer. I may have less influence on the Ugandan house, but not much less.

The Presiding Bishop (she of the "crucified space") has if anything less influence. She is to the Central Africans the face of a church with which they have 'impaired communion" or in plain English a schism.

While corporations doing business in the area and others are clear in their non-support of this genocide bill, our leaders were not among the voices they were glad to hear. Shame.


1 comment:

RonF said...

Embargoes don't seem to achieve foreign policy objectives much at all. North Korea continues to develop and distribute nuclear technology. Cuba is still Cuba. Iraq under Saddam simply let their people get sick and starve while sinking money in to palaces and weaponry. And the list goes on. At this point I'm afraid that imposing embargoes makes the body that came up with it (be it the U.S. Congress or the U.N. General Assembly) look like it's doing something without actually accomplishing anything except avoiding solving the problem.

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