Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum
This past weekend, President Obama made his historic trip to Ghana. While as far as we know, he did not visit the Kuapa Kokoo Fair Trade cocoa cooperative during his brief trip, he did tour the Cape Coast Castle (a major port during the Trans Atlantic slave trade) as well as a hospital in Accra to highlight maternal health issues. In his remarks to the Ghanaian Parliament, President Obama encouraged Ghanaians to "take responsibility for your future," echoing comments he made in an interview with AllAfrica.com earlier in the week calling arguments about the role neo-colonialism and Western government's policies play in perpetuating problems in Africa "excuses." Among other things, Obama also highlighted the importance of diversifying exports ("oil cannot simply become the new cocoa") and increasing trade and investment between the US and Africa in order to lift people out of poverty and create wealth.
Absent from President Obama's speech to the Ghanaian Parliament and his interviews and statements related to the trip were any references to the continued role that US-based multinational corporations and international financial institutions play in contributing to poverty and human rights abuses. Additionally, there was no mention of the critical role trade unions, cooperatives and other organizations of workers play in promoting development and holding governments, companies and international institutions accountable.