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The richest poorest country in the world

The richest poorest country in the world

UNHCR's 2013 Nansen Refugee Award Laureate: Sister Angélique Namaika

While it might seem paradoxical, the richest poorest country in the world exists. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is located right in the heart of the African continent. With a territorial extension roughly the size of Western Europe, the United Nations estimates that the DRC possesses half of Africa’s water and forest resources as well as an estimated $24 trillion wealth in untapped mineral resources.

With a population of 67 million people, the Democratic Republic of Congo is considered to be the richest country in the world in terms of natural resources. The DRC is also Africa’s most bio diverse country and home to five World Heritage Sites that include Salonga National Park (Africa’s largest tropical rainforest) and Virunga National Park (Africa’s first national park).

This richness and potential, however, does not translate into economic or social prosperity. Unfortunately, the DRC has been constantly placed at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Ranking and at the near bottom in worldwide GDP (PPP) world rankings (only above the Central African Republic). The DRC is also regarded as the worst place in the world to be a woman, as it holds the title of “rape capital of the world” due to the systematic sexual violence that takes place in the country. Additionally, the DRC has the world’s second highest infant mortality rate as a result of high levels of malnutrition, precarious health conditions, among others.

It is worth noting that a significant amount of the Congo’s actual problems are closely tied to its history. The DRC was formerly known as “Belgian Congo” as it was brutally colonized first by King Leopold II from 1870’s to 1920’s and then by Belgium from 1908 until 1960, when the country finally gained its independence. Therefore, resulting in a colonial legacy that left behind instability, corruption, and an overall broken and deeply divided nation.

By 1997, the DRC was the epicenter of the “Great War of Africa”, which is regarded today as one of the deadliest conflicts in the world since WWII, as it claimed the lives of almost six million people and caused massive starvation and displacement of millions more until its end in 2003. Today, although no war is being officially fought, the DRC is still in the midst of constant and severe outbreaks of violence between armed groups and the Congolese army.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s premier producer of cobalt, and has major mining activity in the gold, diamond, cooper and coaltan industries; yet, the majority of the industry is controlled by international corporations and by a reduced Congolese elite that profits from the extractive industry. Today, it is known that a significant reason behind internal conflicts and wars between armed groups in the Congo, is related to the control these groups want to exercise over the country’s wealth and natural resources. The means by which these armed groups pretend to take control of these mineral rich areas is by terrorizing the local population through killing sprees, the systematic use of rape, and the fragmentation of entire communities.

From regulating and imposing sanctions on corporations (and governments) that engage in illicit and exploitative mining practices -such as that of blood diamonds-, to effectively disarming groups that terrorize and rape entire communities; it is imperative that the efforts of the international community match those of a country in desperate need for help and reconstruction.

Despite any big efforts the international community might be making, it is apparent that aid and conflict resolution must take a different turn. While Congo is home to the United Nation’s largest peacekeeping mission; it is evident that war, poverty, and lawlessness still rule the country. Therefore, the commitment of the international community must be accompanied by the will of local authorities in the form of a more aggressive and proactive approach, considering the years of humanitarian catastrophes that have struck a nation that should be –due to its potential- Africa’s powerhouse.

 


El país pobre más rico del mundo 

Aunque pueda resultar paradójico, el país pobre más rico del mundo existe. La República Democrática del Congo (RDC) se encuentra ubicada en el corazón del continente Africano. Con una extensión territorial aproximadamente del tamaño de Europa Occidental, las Naciones Unidas estiman que la RDC posee la mitad de los recursos hídricos y forestales de África, así como un estimado de $24 trillones en recursos minerales sin explotar.

Con una población de alrededor de 67 millones de personas, la República Democrática del Congo se considera el país más rico del mundo en términos de recursos naturales. La RDC es también el país más biodiverso de África, y es hogar de cinco sitios Patrimonio de la Humanidad que incluyen el Parque Nacional de Salonga (la selva tropical más grande de África), así como el Parque Nacional de Virunga (el primer parque nacional de África).

Sin embargo, esta riqueza y potencial no se traducen en prosperidad económica y social. Desafortunadamente la RDC ha figurado constantemente al final del Ranking de las Naciones Unidas de Desarrollo Humano, y casi al final en los rankings de PIB mundiales (solo por encima de la República Centroafricana). La RDC es también reconocida como el peor lugar en el mundo para ser una mujer, ya que sostiene el título de “capital de violaciones del mundo” debido a la violencia sexual sistemática que da lugar en el país. Adicionalmente, la RDC tiene la segunda tasa de mortalidad infantil más grande del mundo debido a altos niveles de malnutrición, condiciones de salud precarias, entre otros.

Por otra parte, debe de tomarse en cuenta que una gran parte de los problemas actuales del Congo están muy relacionados con su historia. La República Democrática del Congo se conocía como “Congo Belga” debido a que había sido brutalmente colonizado, primero por el Rey Leopoldo II (1870 a 1920), y luego por Bélgica desde 1908 hasta 1960 cuando la RDC logró independizarse. De modo que, esto resultó en un legado colonial que dejó atrás inestabilidad, corrupción, y en general una nación rota y profundamente dividida.

Para el año 1997, la RDC fue el epicentro de la “Gran Guerra de África”, la cual se considera uno de los conflictos más mortíferos en el mundo desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial, ya que la misma cobró alrededor de seis millones de vidas y causó hambrunas y desplazamientos masivos hasta su fin en el año 2003. Hoy en día, sin embargo, aunque no se está librando ninguna guerra oficialmente, la República Democrática del Congo se encuentra en medio de brotes constantes de violencia entre grupos armados y el ejército Congoleño.

Por otra parte, la República Democrática del Congo es el productor de cobalto más importante del mundo, y tiene una importante actividad minera en las industrias del oro, diamantes, cobre y coaltan; sin embargo, la mayoría de la industria está controlada por corporaciones internacionales y por una reducida élite congoleña que se beneficia de las ganancias de la industria extractiva. Hoy en día, se sabe que una razón importante detrás de los conflictos y las guerras internas entre grupos armados en el Congo, está relacionada con el control que estos grupos quieren ejercer sobre las riquezas del país. Los medios por los cuales estos grupos armados pretenden tomar el control de las zonas ricas minerales es aterrorizando a la población local a través de matanzas, el uso sistemático de la violación, y la fragmentación de comunidades enteras.

Desde la regulación y la imposición de sanciones a las empresas (y gobiernos) que se dedican a las prácticas mineras ilícitas -como la de los diamantes sangre-, hasta desarmar efectivamente a aquellos grupos armados que aterrorizan y violan a comunidades enteras; es imperativo que los esfuerzos de la comunidad internacional coincidan con los de un país en desesperada necesidad de ayuda y reconstrucción.

A pesar de los grandes esfuerzos que la comunidad internacional este haciendo, es evidente que la ayuda y los planes de resolución de conflictos deben tomar un giro diferente. Si bien la República Democrática del Congo es sede de la mayor misión de fortalecimiento de la paz de las Naciones Unidas; es evidente que la guerra, la pobreza y la anarquía todavía gobiernan el país. Por tanto, el compromiso de la comunidad internacional debe de continuar siendo acompañado de la voluntad de las autoridades locales, a través de un enfoque más agresivo y pro activo, teniendo en cuenta los años de catástrofes humanitarias que han afectado a una nación que debería de ser -por su potencial-, el centro de éxito del continente Africano. 

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  1. Monte McMurchy #

    The Magic of Education and Rule of Law and DRC

    I consider the University embedded within civil state sanctioned assisted Education along with the Civil Institutions which promote and enhance Education as an absolute essential requirement if the DRC nation state is to flourish in a manner prescriptive, prosperous and robust within an ethos of respectful political public pluralism. In a report advanced by the World Bank “Where Is the Wealth of Nations”, the World Bank attempts to demarcate how different kinds of capital contribute to a nation’s economic social development. The World Bank micro economic development analysts started with the common familiar sources of a nation’s capital:—–natural resources such as gas, oil, minerals, forests, cropland products and ‘built capital’ such as machinery, infrastructure, cities. However, these economic analysts discovered that these two fundamental sources of tangible capital accounted for only 20% – 40% percent of a nations gross wealth. The vast majority of a nations wealth is derived from the ‘intangible’ capital of civic civil social institutions such as found in education, governance, justice systems which when robust and open in process and procedure add immeasurably to the continued ongoing wealth of a nation ensuring a high degree of human capital productivity entailing civic civil stability.
    For me and one would believe for the DRC Government that this makes intuitive logic sense in terms of promoting and enhancing education. The DRC is a nation privileged with rich natural resources and substantial equipment and social civic infrastructure with citizens who cannot read and write. The DRC is a nation bereft of nationally educated engineers or advanced national expertise for technical innovation. This will ensure that the DRC is simply not going to flourish and prosper at the same pace as a country with institutions that educate and train a highly sophisticated labour force. This explains my reasoned emphasis on education for those who care about economic social development, poverty alleviation, or empowerment of the girl-child. Education is critical. Educational Institutions are a major factor in accounting for a nations intangible social civic capital. An increase in the value of a nation’s educational institutions will dramatically increase the value of the nation’s intangible social civic capital. This is the magic of education in creating wealth and lifting a nation out of poverty.
    Education without normative rule of law process and procedure will founder as strong normative rule of law process and procedure is the most important requirement needed if a nation is to continue as being an open strong tolerant state. David Brooks of the New York Times drilled with clear asperity this salient consideration. “You can cram all the nongovernmental organizations you want into a country, but if there is no rule of law and if the ruling class is predatory then your achievements won’t add up to much…….there’s only so much good you can do unless you are willing to confront corruption, venality, and disorder head on”.
    Lord Paddy Ashdown, former UN High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina distills my conclusion in this pity statement—–“In hindsight, we should have put the establishment of the rule of law first, for everything else depends on it: a functioning economy, a free and fair political system, the development of civil society, public confidence in police and the courts”.

    J'aime

    11 décembre 2014

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