GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – In a panel session called ‘So, You Want a Green Job?’ at the recently-concluded COP26 Climate Conference, the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills for Her Majesty’s government, Alex Burghart, described the “primary obsession” of his office in response to a question about the role of indigenous and marginalized communities in the burgeoning “green” economy:
“A large part of my job is talking to the people who are not going to go down the university path,” Burghart replied, focusing instead on those who will “go straight to the jobs market or go and get higher technical skills [to] work on the nuclear power plants of tomorrow and help us build the green ships of the next decade.”
In addition to Burghart’s bosses at the UK Department of Education, now headed by Gulf Keystone Petroleum’s former chief strategy officer, Nadhim Zahawi, the panel session was sponsored by The Prince’s Trust International – a non-profit founded in 2015 by the Prince of Wales to “tackle the global crisis of youth unemployment” operating across India and twelve other countries in the Global South –, and One Young World (OYW), a.k.a. “Davos Youth Forum”, whose sponsors include Pfizer, BP and The World Bank, to name only a handful of the major corporations and institutions, that back the annual summit.
Colombian President and former PR officer for the Inter-American Development Bank, Iván Duque Marquez, kicked off the session via a pre-recorded video message on behalf of OYW. The Latin American head of state’s ties to organized crime networks, which helped bring him to power, are just one of many inconvenient realities that are omitted from the starry-eyed, feel-good narratives surrounding the so-called green economy promoted at COP26.
Jamie Crummie, who joined the panel representing the “food waste reduction” mobile app startup Too Good To Go, provided an effective veneer of an ethical business concept for what is actually a Trojan horse for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Nº 12, which seeks to bring food supply chains under a global, Western-controlled mandate.
The app creates a secondary market for restaurants to sell their excess food, and uses its otherwise laudable efforts to influence policy across the governments of the world to bring them in closer alignment with the SDG framework. SDGs are central to the creation of the Fourth Sector corporate paradigm envisioned by The Rockefeller Foundation and its partners in the financial industry, like asset management behemoth BlackRock, which is using its outsized influence in company board rooms to force the adoption of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies across virtually every sector of the economy.
ESG, in turn, is the scaffold upon which the entire impact investment model rests. The Quality Education India Development Impact Bond (QEI DIB) is just one of many pilot programs being carried out concurrently around the world to lay the foundations for the re-colonization of the earth, using sustainability narratives to set up the pipelines for the digital workforce of a future where financial markets are elevated to quasi-religious status and protecting the environment is an investment choice rather than a way of life.
Arms of Imperialism
In part one of The New Face of Colonialism, we focused on the QEI DIB’s funders, led by the son of the Queen of England, who has spent much of his public life cultivating a pro-environmentalist image and counts on a massive multi-national propaganda apparatus to convey the idea to the world. Part two looks at the organizations implementing the pilot project.
The technical, yet crucial, details of the IXO blockchain technology employed by the project’s risk funder, UBS Optimus, to record and authenticate the bond data and allocate the outcome payouts was already covered in-depth by Leo Saraceno for Silicon Icarus and is vital reading for those who want to grasp the full picture.
Doing the legwork, we find organizations tied to many of the same energy, heavy industry and financial sectors that pepper the partners lists of so many of these SDG-aligned consortiums like OYW or the World Economic Forum (WEF). The DIB’s performance manager, Geneva-based Dalberg Consultants, literally wrote the book on how partnerships between corporations and social actors can be formed, producing the “first ever” NGO and UN agency rating guide as part of the 2007 UN Global Compact framework – the original “corporate sustainability” initiative announced at the WEF in 1999 by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to advance the Millennium Development Goals, later to be replaced by the SDGs.
Dalberg’s questionable history includes stints with the U.S. State Department and the Obama administration’s dubious intervention in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Then led by Hillary Clinton, the State Department gave Dalberg a $1.5 million contract to assess to refugee situation on the ground in the Caribbean nation and came under intense criticism for their lack of expertise. The firm has also been tied to obscure financial practices at the UN itself and accused of participating in an “insider’s game” of opaque contract awards and slush fund activities at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Gaurav Gupta, Dalberg’s Regional Director for Asia, leads the consultancy’s performance management operation for the DIB. The Yale and Oxford graduate also serves on the board of the project’s technical advisor, Educate Girls, which was the project initially funded by Prince Charles’ British Asian Trust in 2015. Gupta also heads the firm’s energy practice, which sets up sustainable energy projects throughout the region, where it is also active in the roll out of digital financial services in partnership with the Omidyar Network.
Dalberg then oversees both the technical aspects and performance metrics associated with the DIB, which is carried out by the five service providers receiving outcome funds to execute the purported educational services and collect the data from hundreds of thousands of Indian children. Dalberg’s funding comes from the DIB’s “Knowledge partner”, Tata Trusts – a charity organization run by one of the wealthiest families in India, which like outcome funder Mittal Foundation, traces its vast fortunes to the steel industry.
Return of the Zamindars
Jamsetji Tata, revered as the “father of Indian industry”, left behind a considerable inheritance for his two sons Dorabji and Ratanji. Both of whom were knighted by the British Crown early in the twentieth century and would go on to build on their father’s legacy, forming the multi-national conglomerate Tata Group, which today spans the hospitality, real estate, chemical and steel industries.
Tata Steel is among the world’s biggest steel producing companies, operating in 26 countries and boasting a crude steel capacity of 34 million tonnes per year. In 2019, its manufacturing plant in the Jajpur district of Odisha, India was recognized by the WEF as a Global Lighthouse Network (GLN) member, for “showing leadership in applying Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to drive financial and operational impact”.
Its Ijmuiden plant in The Netherlands had already been included on the list and formed part of only 16 “lighthouses” deemed by the WEF “as beacons to guide others to overcome challenges in upgrading systems and applying cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics and 3D printing”.
Tata Trusts, the philanthropic umbrella organization chaired by former Tata Group chairman Ratan Naval Tata, presides over a vast portfolio that spans practically every sector of the economy. Its education portfolio features Sir Ronald Cohen’s Social Finance India and The British Council among its grantees, and USAID among its funding partners. Only two outfits are listed among its technical partners – the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program (STEP), a learning game designer program, a.k.a. the “education arcade”.
Listed as the DIB’s “Independent” Outcome Evaluator is a company out of Atlanta, Georgia called Gray Matters India(GMI), which was acquired last year by a Singapore-based AI startup backed by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, called ConveGenius. The company had already been running its edtech chatbot in India through state government deals reaching half a million students across 5,400 schools, according to The Economist. In April, ConveGenius launched its product directly to consumers, mapped to the state school curriculum via Facebook’s WhatsApp and growing its user-base to 4.5 million people, which gets the service for free, but turns ownership of all customer data over to ConveGenius.
Dell Foundation director and ConveGenius advisory board member, Prachi Windlass, considered that the timing was right “to take the product to millions of children”. Specifically, the timing here refers to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has provided the perfect excuse for any number of digital startups to “fill the gap” of the widening “digital divide”.
Another such edtech software developer, Mindspark, is one of the DIB’s service providers. Among the cloud-based adaptive learning platform’s partners are Google, USAID, the Dell Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. The other four organizations receiving funds to execute the pilot in India are the Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF), Gyan Shala, Pratham InfoTech and the Society for All-around Development (SARD). With a few interchangeable exceptions, every one of them shares the same list of corporate and philanthropic sponsors emanating from Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the City of London.
Bringing them all together are the global governance entities as represented by the multiple agencies of the United Nations, which have always used the pretense of global democracy as a tool for Western hegemony. Under the aegis of Prince Charles, grandson of India’s last British emperor, the dual narratives of climate change and public health are being interlaced to re-colonize the world by targeting the youngest generations and erecting an invisible digital wall between them.
After all, it is only in a curated virtual reality that the continued resource extraction and labor exploitation required to maintain the new global empire can be reimagined as a green, eco-friendly and socially just “investable” opportunity. So, while one side of the world is taught to code the walls of its own prison, the other will learn to pretend that playing on their ESG-approved asset management app makes a difference.