Latest Developments, February 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Somalia strikes
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates US military strikes have killed up to 162 people, including as many as 59 civilians, in Somalia since 2007.
“The total number of casualties may be higher.  Some reports simply state ‘many killed’, and other attacks may be unrecorded.

Though the Bureau has striven to untangle confused reporting of western military activity in Somalia, much remains opaque – something the US seems keen to see continue.”

Indigenous walkout
Intellectual Property Watch reports that the International Indigenous Forum has withdrawn from UN talks on rights governing genetic resources and traditional knowledge, a move that “calls into question the legitimacy of the negotiations.”
“As the ‘titleholders, proprietors and ancestral owners of traditional knowledge that is inalienable, nonforfeitable and inherent to the genetic resources that we have conserved and utilized in a sustainable manner within our territories,’ the group feels that ‘the discussion on intellectual property rights and genetic resources should include Indigenous Peoples on equal terms with the States since the work will directly impact our lives, our lands, our territories and resources.’
As a consequence, they said they decided ‘unanimously, to withdraw our active participation in the work developed by this Committee until the States change the rules of procedure to permit our full and equitable participation at all levels of the IGC.’
Under the current rules of procedures, Indigenous Peoples have observer status at the IGC. They can make proposals to the negotiations but those proposals have to be endorsed by at least one delegation to be taken into account.”

Rejecting consensus
Former French prime minister Michel Rocard argues the unrealistic quest for consensus is condemning international negotiations to failure and June’s Rio+20 summit will likely be no exception.
“Of course, there is a chance that the world will recognize its quandary at Rio. If a majority of the countries present dares to declare that demanding consensus is equivalent to enforcing paralysis, and if they insist upon following the voting procedures enshrined in the UN Charter, we could see enormous progress.
Global warming and economic crisis are threatening international security. This alone justifies referring these issues to the UN General Assembly, which, unlike the Security Council, knows no veto power. A strong declaration and a call for binding measures to address these issues would then be possible.”

Unfair fight
Agence France-Presse reports most victims of corporate abuses in Nigeria lack the resources to obtain restitution.
“In October, a Nigerian tribal king filed a lawsuit in a US court on behalf of his people against oil giant Shell, seeking $1 billion in compensation for extensive pollution that sickened the population and damaged their lands.
The plaintiffs said they decided to file the suit in a US court because of Shell’s history of a ‘culture of impunity’ and ‘disregard’ for the Nigerian judicial process.
They note that the Shell has refused to comply with a 2005 order to end gas flaring in the Iwherekan community or to pay a 2006 judgment to pay $1.5 billion to the Ijaw Aborigines for damages caused by decades of pollution.”

Too big to jail
Former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson argues American banks will continue to engage in “fundamental and systemic breaches of the rule of law” until their top executives face real penalties for such behaviour.
“Top bankers want to make a lot of money. They also want to stay out of prison. Political leaders can huff and puff as much as they want, but, without a credible threat of poverty and time behind bars, bankers have no reason to comply with the law.”

War machine
Al Jazeera’s Marwan Bishara writes about the damage caused by “the militarisation of the Arab Spring in Libya” and the sense of inevitability that led up to it.
“In late 2010, France and Britain decided to stage a war game titled Operation: Southern Mistral. It would involve thousands of military personnel and hardware from both countries. The scenario envisioned the two longtime military rivals joining forces for a bombing campaign against an imaginary southern dictator. The simulated war was condoned by a fictitious UN Security Council resolution and was scheduled to begin on March 21 of 2011. Well, the actual bombing of Libya began on March 19. This is surely a coincidence. But it does highlight the French and British mindsets and why no serious diplomatic effort got off the ground. The bombers were already on the runway.”

Immigration doublespeak
CNN.com’s LZ Granderson argues the American discourse around “securing the border” is really about something quite different from homeland defense.
“[National security]’s a part, but the larger truth is that nonwhite people will be the majority in this country by 2040 and this browning of America scares the hell out of a lot of people, particularly some white people. The thinking goes that if the country can deport the Mexicans who are illegally here and stop new ones from coming in, maybe that trend will slow down or even reverse.
That sentiment is at the core of the racial profiling laws started in Arizona and is at the core of the entire illegal immigration conversation. It’s a clumsy attempt to talk about race without mentioning race so as not to appear racist.
But the dialogue is transparent because if it was really about ‘securing the border,’ the facts suggest Canada would be a big part of the conversation and not just an afterthought.”

Interventionary diplomacy
Princeton University’s Richard Falk argues that a group foreigners currently being detained in Egypt do not work for “genuine NGOs” but rather, “informal government organisations” that are “overtly political.”
“In the end, Egypt, along with other countries, is likely to be far better off if it prohibits US IGOs from operating freely within its national territorial space, especially if their supposed mandate is to promote democracy as defined and funded by Washington. This is not to say that Egyptians would not be far better off if the [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] allowed civilian rule to emerge in the country and acted in a manner respectful of human rights and democratic values.”

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