The briefcase-wielding officials in Oren Ginzburg's satirical cartoon series ‘There you go!' claim to want to ‘bring sustainable development' to an imaginary forest-dwelling tribe.
What they really unleash is the clearing of the tribe's forest and the destruction of their livelihood and culture. The self-sufficient tribespeople are reduced to poverty, dependent on welfare, living on rubbish dumps on the edge of a polluted city. All in the name of a ‘multi-stakeholder cross-disciplinary integrated approach' to development.
Ginzburg's little book will bring a wry smile to the lips of anyone familiar with tribal peoples' struggles to keep their land, from the rainforests of Borneo to the sands of the Kalahari. It cleverly exposes the motives that too often lie behind attempts to ‘ develop' tribal people.
In India, tribal people have some reason to be optimistic. Minister Jairam Ramesh's decision to block British company Vedanta Resources from mining the Niyamgiri hills for bauxite was a stunning victory for the Dongria Kondh. Could it be that it is going to get more difficult for those who want what is on or under tribal peoples' land to simply take it from them, ruining their lives for the nebulous goal of development?
The formation of the National Council for Tribal Welfare, with its cross-ministerial focus on India's 84 million tribal people, also presents an opportunity to put rights and choice at the heart of tribal policy.
Survival International is calling on the new Council to ensure that tribal people can choose the course of their own development, rather than having someone else's ideas imposed upon them. Crucially, this includes the freedom to say ‘yes' or ‘no' to industrial projects that corporations, or State governments, want to implement on their land.
For particularly vulnerable tribes like the Jarawa on the Andaman Islands, the government's sensitivity to their need to choose their own direction could determine whether they thrive or collapse.
‘There you go!' neatly and humorously makes the case against imposing ‘development' on tribal peoples. Survival is launching the cartoon in India in the hope that its simple message will contribute to debate about the meaning of tribal welfare.
Miriam Ross is a campaigner at Survival International. Oren Ginzburg's book of cartoons, ‘There you go!', is at the Survivor website, >http://www.survivalinternational.org/thereyougo