Latest Developments, August 2

In the latest news and analysis…

USA for Africa
In a speech delivered in the Senegalese capital Dakar, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to portray her country as force for good in Africa, even if “in the past our policies did not always line up with our principles”:

“We’re also working with resource-rich nations to help make sure that their mineral and energy wealth actually improves the lives of their citizens. The days of having outsiders come and extract the wealth of Africa for themselves leaving nothing or very little behind should be over in the 21st century.

We want to advance your aspirations and our shared values. We want to help more people in more places live up to their own God-given potentials. We want this to be our mutual mission. That is the work we are called to do in the 21st century.”

Top-down agenda
The Guardian reports that not everyone is happy with the makeup of the UN panel tasked with preparing a “bold yet practical” global development agenda beyond 2015:

“John Hilary from War on Want, the anti-poverty group, criticised the panel for being unrepresentative. ‘Ban Ki-moon has put together a panel of career diplomats, business leaders, politicians and professors,’ said Hilary, who strongly criticized the appointment of Cameron as co-chair. ‘Why is there no one at all from social movements, trade unions or people who are actually engaged in the struggle against poverty? Was there genuinely no room for a single representative from civil society? This is like having a panel to take forward women’s empowerment composed entirely of men.’ ”

Oil shutdown
Al Jazeera reports that a Brazilian court has given oil giant Chevron and drilling company Transocean 30 days to suspend their operations in the country:

“The court said in a statement posted on Wednesday on its website that each company will be fined 500 million reals, or about $244m, for each day they fail to comply with the suspension.

‘Two environmental accidents in the space of just four months and the lack of equipment needed to identify the origin of the leaks and contain them, shows that the two companies do not have the conditions necessary to operate the wells in an environmentally safe manner,’ Judge Ricardo Perlingeiro said in his ruling.”

FTT baby steps
The Nicolas Hulot Foundation’s Nicolas Hulot and Oxfam’s Luc Lamprière call for the right kind of precedent to be set by France’s new financial transaction tax which, they say, offers a mere hint of what a “real tax on transactions” could look like:

“If an extreme weather event causes, on average, 23 deaths in a rich country, that number is 1,052 in less developed countries. Even in the face of nature’s fury, the injustice of poverty divides humanity.
If the goal of containing our deficits is laudable, necessary even, we must not create a choice between two debts: the one owed to financial players who are now betting on the euro’s failure, and the one we have been accumulating for centuries in the countries of the South by pillaging their resources, ignoring the pandemics they face and provoking climate change that hits the poorest hardest.” [Translated from the French.]

Crop Shock
The World Development Movement’s Amy Horton presents the latest surge in cereal prices as evidence that the global food system needs urgent reform to reduce the damage caused by biofuels and financial speculation:

“The researchers [at the New England Complex Systems Institute] point out that efforts to reform the markets have been too slow, with US regulators facing a legal challenge from Wall Street and European regulation also delayed. Consequently, measures that might have limited the effect of speculators have not yet been implemented.

But power to deliver many of the necessary reforms – not least reform of the global trade system – lies with developed nations. Without a radical change of approach to our food system, including regulation to prevent financial speculators gambling on food prices, the world’s poorest people will continue to pay the highest price.”

Reconstruction business
CNNMoney reports that bakery-café chain Cinnabon has become the first US franchise in Libya, as American business interests expand in the rebuilding country:

“American business interest in Libya is growing, said Chuck Dittrich, executive director of the U.S.-Libya Business Association, a trade group representing American companies that are interested in doing business in Libya.
In April, the trade group led a delegation of 20 American companies to Libya to discuss business opportunities.
Much of the interest is coming from the energy, infrastructure and health care industries, Dittrich said. But American franchises are also taking note of Libya.”

Blocking Braille
The Guardian reports that the US and EU are blocking a treaty that would give blind people access to more books translated into Braille:

“Europe and the US are home to some of the world’s biggest publishing companies, many of which don’t like the idea of an international treaty that would restrict their intellectual property rights. Observers speculate that the Obama administration may be loth to upset the publishing industry, a major campaign supporter, this late in an election year. ‘What we can see in the [negotiating] room is that primarily it’s the business interests that dominate,’ said [Electronic Information for Libraries’ Teresa] Hackett.
Activists are hoping for a legally binding treaty, but US and European delegates have been pushing for a softer ‘instrument’ that would offer only guidelines and recommendations.”

Water rights
Inter Press Service reports that two years on from the UN General Assembly’s recognition of the human right to water, a coalition of NGOs is saying much work remains to be done if the resolution is to become a reality:

“The resolution in the General Assembly proved politically divisive, with 122 countries voting for it and 41 abstaining, but with no negative votes.
The United States abstained and so did some of the European and industrialised countries, including Britain, Australia, Austria, Canada, Greece, Sweden, Japan, Israel, South Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Ireland.

In its letter, the NGO coalition said the recently concluded Rio+20 summit on sustainable development affirmed ‘full and unquestioned consensus among UN Member States regarding the human right to water and sanitation’.”

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