Lynda Chalker

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Baroness Chalker

Lynda Chalker, or Baroness Chalker of Wallasey of Leigh-on-Sea (born 29 April 1942) is a British politician and businesswoman particularly involved in corporate investments in Africa.

Background

Chalker began her career as a statistician and market research manager at Unilever's research bureau (1963-69) also working at Shell Mex, Kodak and BP. She became chair of the Young Conservatives from 1970-71 and shortly after this the Chief Executive of the International division of Louis Harris International. In 1977 she became a member of the Royal Institute for International Affairs (RIIA) and later joined the Ditchley Foundation.

Political record

Chalker was MP for Wallasey from 1974-92, and following the loss of her seat she was made a life peer. During her time in office Chalker was under-secretary of state DHSS (1979-82), then with the Department of Transport (1982-83) and was Minister of State for Africa & the Commonwealth at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1986-97. She is one of only four ministers who served consecutively throughout the 18-year period of the Thatcher and Major governments in the UK. During this time she defended the government’s often destructive aid policies. John Pilger notes that:

Shortly after the [1991] massacre the British Government increased its aid to the Suharto regime to £81 million, a rise of 250 per cent. The Minister for Overseas Aid, Baroness Chalker, claimed in Parliament that this was "helping the poor in Indonesia". In fact, a large proportion of all British aid to Indonesia is made up of Aid for Trade Provisions (ATP); and much of this is the supply of weapons: British Aerospace, maker of Hawk aircraft, is among the British weapons companies helping Indonesia's poor.[1]

Africa Matters

Chalker currently operates as an independent adviser on projects across the mining and investment promotion sector. She develops links with governments and other international organisations in Africa via International Investment Councils in Tanzania, Zambia,[2] Ghana, [3] Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa, with business and institutions in Britain (such as the Commonwealth Business Council) which is often undertaken through Africa Matters, which she chairs.[4] Africa Matters was established in 1997, after Chalker lost her government position as Minister for Overseas Development. Its remit is “to assist private sector development in Africa by providing guidance and advice on managing the interface between the public and private sectors.”[5]

Chalker uses Africa Matters to extend her role as co-ordinator of the Honorary International Investor Council for the President of Nigeria alongside a team of former Unilever and FCO people who comprise and run her Chalker Foundation for Africa.[6]

AngloGold

Chalker combines this consultancy work with a non-executive position with AngloGold Ashanti Goldfields Company Ltd, an African-based international gold mining and exploration group with seven producing mines in four African countries — Ghana, Guinea, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.[7] The major shareholder is now Anglo American plc[8] but the company was formerly owned by Lonrho plc (now renamed Lonmin).[9]

As a non-executive director, Chalker sits on AngloGold Ashanti Corporate Governance Committee, responsible for the monitoring of the general conduct of directors and for the non-financial aspects of safety, health and environmental issues. Human Rights Watch's report, “The Curse of Gold,” provides details of how AngloGold Ashanti “developed links with one murderous armed group, the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI), helping them to access the gold-rich mining site around the town of Mongbwalu in the northeastern Ituri district.”[10] Quotes from the report include:

Witness of atrocities by the UPC armed group in a village near to Mongbwalu:
I saw many people tied up ready to be executed. The UPC said they were going to kill them all. They made the Lendu dig their own graves… [then] they killed the people by hitting them on the head with a sledgehammer.
A Congolese government official:
“We just watch our country’s resources drain away with no benefit to the Congolese people.”
Charles Carter, Vice President at AngloGold Ashanti:
The company has made preparations to “commence exploration drilling on the Kimin prospect [OKIMO] in the Ituri region of the DRC…[W]hile this is obviously a tough environment right now, we are looking forward to the opportunity to fully explore the properties we have in the Congo, believing that we now have access to potentially exciting growth prospects in Central Africa."
Local observer to events in the mining regions:
“Njabu [President of the FNI] now has power due to the gold he controls and [the presence of] AngloGold Ashanti. This is his ace and he will use it to get power in Kinshasa.

AngloGold Ashanti Board members have connections to Cluff Resources Plc (with whom the company operates), part of Algy Cluff's operations (see David French).[11] Also on the board is Council on Foreign Relations' Dr. Chester Arthur Crocker, who is a Professor of Strategic Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Chairman of the United States Institute of Peace, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs between 1981-89, and a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the International Institute of Strategic Studies).

Unilever

Chalker is also a Non-executive Director of Unilever, and chairs it's Corporate Social Responsibility CSR Committee. At conferences she stresses the need for charities to engage with 'corporates' — with their objectives and operations rather than just thinking of a cash 'donation' — in other words to become subsumed within their ethos.[12]

She makes it plain that there is a: "Shift towards greater degree of partnership even with tough campaigning organisations," with the insistence that:

You are dealing with a business which will be thinking every step of the way: What’s in it for me? [...] Remember that for a corporate the bottom line of the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ is the financial bottom line: CSR is integral to fulfilling a corporate purpose and must contribute to the drive for business growth and success."[13]

Chalker says that CSR is "Not a philanthropic initiative but a marketing programme with social benefits."[14] And this is the line taken in promotions such as Unilever's 'Swasthya Chetna' ('Health Awakening') campaign, that Unilever claims is the "single largest rural health and hygiene educational programme ever undertaken in India."[15]

Unilever is also part of "The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap" initially devised at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The project was launched by the World Bank, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, USAID, UNICEF, WHO; as well as the three bigggest soap producers: Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Colgate Palmolive in the Indian State of Kerala.[16] In India, half a billion people do not have access to proper sanitation and are scattered around in rural and peri-urban areas. Reaching them is a costly proposition for any soap-selling corporation: and the plan was it would be underwritten and facilitated by the Handwashing Partnership.

Analysis of the success of the campaign have found much 'marketing programme' but little 'social benefit'. Vandana Shiva who authored several highly critical articles argues:

The project is also launched to legitimise water privatisation through private-public partnerships, which are aimed at undermining people's water rights and the State's duties to protect water and people's water rights. The case of Coca Cola destroying water in Kerala by extracting 1.5m litres per day for its bottling plant is an example of how "private-public Partnerships" are a recipe for over exploitation of scarce fresh water resources and a threat to people's water rights and a recipe for creating thirst and disease."[17]

There has also been local resistance to the 'Swasthya Chetna' scheme from environmental and anti-globalisation activists, doctors, local newspapers and opposition groups: The main points of criticism were:

  • the choice of Kerala for the program in view of its already high human development indicators;
  • unclear linkage between handwashing and health improvement;
  • the potential adverse effect on the indigenous and local soap industry by increasing the market share of multinational soap companies;
  • the suggestion that the state government was capitulating to World Bank pressure.

In the face of media attacks and after a long period of inaction, the state cabinet decided to abandon the programme in August 2003.[18]

Chalker is also the chair of the Board of Management of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of the partners in the project. The School's Environmental Health Group is funded by Unilever.

MerchantBridge

Chalker is a senior advisor to the merchant bank Merchant Bridge which describes itself as 'the bridge between the Middle-east and the World Financial Markets'. Other senior advisors include Lord Lamont (British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Benador Associates, Chairman of Le Cercle) and Lord Denman (Consolidated Goldfields and The Research Institute for the Study of Conflict and Terrorism).

Since 1988 Merchant Bridge has been the advisor to British Government of the Offset Programme, a £1 billion economic investment agreement in Saudi Arabia as part of the notorious Al Yamamah ('the Dove') arms deal. When asked by Lord Judd as to "What arrangements they now have in place to ensure that their overseas programme is never directly or indirectly related to arms deals." Chalker replied:

Consistent with the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980, the primary purpose of all development assistance budget spending is developmental. All projects must pass the usual tests of developmental soundness. Arms deals never have any connection, direct or indirect, with the provision of British development assistance."[19]

Merchant Bridge have provided “Knowledge and access to key decision makers in Washington and Iraq”,[20] and the company was Lead Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals for their Lease of Industrial Factories Programme which is looking for quantities of Ready Mixed Concrete. At the same time Chalker was a member of the international advisory board of Lafarge, the world's leading cement producer.

Links to private security companies

Chalker's Private Secretary (1991-97), Andrew Bearpark, is the current Director General of the British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC). BAPSC was formed in February 2006 to exploit the UK's world leadership in “the provision of armed security services.”[21] Bearpark is currently with Olive Security which is a member (together with many private security firms) of British Expertise, which has Chalker on its advisory council.[22] Bearpark and Chalker are also linked through the FreePlay Foundation – both serve as Trustees of the organisation.

Other organisations

Former interests

Notes

  1. John Pilger, ‘The West's ‘dirty wink’’, 12 Febuary 1994
  2. ‘Zambia will have to go through a tough time’, Times of Zambia, 17 – 28 February 2004
  3. ‘Ghana Africa's #1 Investment Destination – Chalker’, Ghana News Agency, 29 November 2002
  4. Africa Matters website, Our people > Lynda, Baroness Chalker of Wallasey (accessed 19 September 2008)
  5. Botswana: Africa’s Success Story. An FT Investment Forum. The Berkeley, London, 27 June 2006, Speakers (accessed 19 September 2008)
  6. Africa Matters website, Our people > Roger Martin (accessed 19 September 2008); Africa Matters website, [1] Our people > Susannah Baker] (accessed 19 September 2008)
  7. The MBendi Directory of Organisations, AngloGold Ashanti, (accessed 19 September 2008)
  8. Anglo Gold, PROPOSED MERGER OF ANGLOGOLD LIMITED AND ASHANTI GOLDFIELDS COMPANY LIMITED, 4 August 2003 (PDF) (accessed 19 September 2008)
  9. Jason Nissa, [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/who-will-have-the-midas-touch-in-ghana-536088.html ‘Who will have the Midas touch in Ghana?’], The Independent, 17 August 2003
  10. Human Rights Watch press release, ‘D.R. Congo: Gold Fuels Massive Human Rights Atrocities. Leading international corporations established links to warlords’, 2 June 2005; Human Rights Watch The Curse of Gold, June 2005, ISBN 1-56432-332-3
  11. Cluff Gold website, Cluff Gold Presentation (PDF) 22 November 2004, (accessed 19 September 2008)
  12. Russam GMS, Newsletter July 2006 (PDF) (accessed 19 September 2008)
  13. Presentation by Chalker at Russam GMS Charities Practice Breakfast – 15 June 2006 8.00am, Lanesborough Hotel, Hyde Park (accessed 19 September 2008)
  14. Presentation by Chalker at Russam GMS Charities Practice Breakfast – 15 June 2006 8.00am, Lanesborough Hotel, Hyde Park (accessed 19 September 2008)
  15. Unilever website, Our Values - India: Lifebuoy promotes handwashing with soap to improve health, (accessed 19 September 2008)
  16. Global Hand Washing, About Us, (accessed 19 September 2008)
  17. World Bank, Toilet Paper and Washing Soap, AgBioIndia 23sep02
  18. India Together, ‘Clean hands, not soap sales’, 8 April 2005; Vandana Shiva, ‘The Real Reasons for Hunger’, Observer Worldview, 22 June 2002
  19. Hansard HL 20 Feb 1997, Column WA60
  20. Google Cache of http://www.mbih.com/_mbih/asp/showcomment.asp?hardcoded=iraq.htm as it appeared on 5 Aug 2008 12:17:23 GMT.
  21. BAPSC press release, ‘New British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC) for armed security services’, 8 February 2006
  22. British Expertise website, The Advisory Council, (accessed 19 September 2008)
  23. Baroness Chalker of Wallasey Parliament.UK, accessed 9 January 2015
  24. Register of Lords' Interests as at 10th September 2008