Latest Developments, April 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Looking beyond aid
The Guardian reports that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has urged the EU to do more to ensure its trade, immigration and food policies do not harm poor countries.
“Between 2009 and 2011, only seven out of 164 impact assessments looked at the impact on developing countries even though 77 were potentially relevant to them, the [OECD’s development assistance committee] said. In the case of fisheries policy, the impact assessment restricted its analysis to public agreements, excluding the majority of EU vessels that fish outside EU waters under private agreements or joint venture, the review noted.”

Commodity pains
The UN News Centre reports on new findings that suggest high commodity prices are doing more harm than good to poor countries, despite higher export revenues.
“What should be a boon for poor nations, especially the globe’s 48 least developed countries – whose economies often depend heavily on commodity exports – is on balance a negative development because many of these countries are net importers of oil and staple foods.
Since the food crisis of 2008, prices for basic nourishment have been both volatile and high, the report notes – and poor families are acutely vulnerable, as they typically spend 50 per cent or more of their incomes on food.”

Five-star apology
Postmedia News reports that Canada’s international development minister has apologized for upgrading from “a five-star hotel to a swankier hotel” at the taxpayers’ expense while attending a conference in London last year.
“The government announced Monday [International Development Minister Bev Oda] was reimbursing some of the additional costs from the June 2011 international conference — held to discuss vaccines and immunization for children in developing countries — after they were uncovered in a media report.
Those reimbursed costs included the $16 glass of orange juice.
In her apology, Oda made no mention of repaying the money she spent hiring a chauffeured limousine during her trip — costs that may not have been incurred had she stayed in the hotel where the conference was held.”

Museum greenwash
The CBC reports that environmental groups are protesting the decision to name a room at the Canadian Museum of Nature after mining giant Barrick Gold.
“Barrick Gold Corp., based out of Toronto, purchased the room’s naming rights for about $1 million. The new ‘Barrick Salon’ is the museum’s premier rental space featuring a circular room with glass windows from floor to ceiling.
The decision has activists planning a demonstration at the museum this afternoon, a few hours before the official naming reception that includes Barrick Gold executives.
They believe mining companies do not put nature before their own business practice.”

Vale under fire
Inter Press Service reports that 30 groups from around the world have come together to condemn Brazilian mining giant Vale for allegedly committing serious environmental and human rights abuses while posting earnings in excess of $20 billion in each of the last two years.
“Vale is a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, the International Council on Mining and Metals ICMM), and the São Paulo Stock Exchange Corporate Sustainability Index (ISE), all of which establish corporate social and environmental responsibility principles.
But in January 2012 it was named the “Worst Company in the World” by the Public Eye Awards, which every year name and shame the companies that have shown the worst social or environmental irresponsibility.
Vale even beat out Japan’s Tepco, the firm that operates the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, which melted down after the March 2011 tsunami.”

Duty to cooperate
The UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, argues that the current debate on climate change lacks “an honest starting point,” which he believes should be human rights.
“Climate change represents an enormous threat to a whole host of human rights: the right to food, the right to water and sanitation, the right to development. There is therefore huge scope for human rights courts and non-judicial human rights bodies to treat climate change as the immediate threat to human rights that it is. Such bodies could therefore take government policy to task when it is too short-sighted, too unambitious, or too narrowly focused on its own constituents at the expense of those elsewhere. Fossil fuel mining, deforestation, the disturbance of carbon sinks, and the degradation of the oceans are developments that can be blocked on human rights grounds.”

Africa’s image
Author Binyavanga Wainaina takes issue with international media portrayals of Africa.
“The truth is, with the rise of China, we do not have to take any deal Europe throws at us that comes packaged with permanent poverty, incompetent volunteers and the occasional Nato bomb.
As the West flounders, there is a real sense that we have some leverage.
The truth is, we will never look like what CNN wants us to look like.
But that’s fine – we can get online now and completely bypass their nonsense.”

Privatizing Rivera
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi reflects on the irony of having to pay $25 to see the revolutionary public art of Diego Rivera inside New York’s private Museum of Modern Art.
“The spirit of Diego Rivera has long since abandoned MoMA and is now hovering somewhere between Zuccotti Park in New York and Tahrir Square in Cairo – hovering over the Syntagma Square in Athens, Azadi Square in Tehran, the Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid, and the remnants of the Pearl Square in Bahrain – where young artists are plotting the proportions of their organic tenacity between the beautiful and the just. ”

Global economic governance
The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Deborah James argues the UN Conference on Trade and Development is “seriously threatening” to those who caused the global financial crisis.
“The role of UNCTAD as an alternative voice to the ‘Washington Consensus’ paradigm – being the only multilateral economic institution focused on development – must be strengthened vis-a-vis the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and the G20 in global economic governance decision-making. In the coming week, it will be important to choose sides in the ‘Battle of UNCTAD’s Future Mandate.’ A lot depends on it.”

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