Latest Developments, October 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Reducing oversight
Stars and Stripes calls the Obama administration’s decision to loosen controls over military exports “a big win for the defense industry”:

“Come tomorrow, thousands of parts of military aircraft, such as propeller blades, brake pads and tires will be able to be sent to almost any country in the world, with minimal oversight – even to some countries subject to U.N. arms embargos. U.S. companies will also face fewer checks than in the past when selling some military aircraft to dozens of countries.

Under the new system, whole categories of equipment encompassing tens of thousands of items will move to the Commerce Department, where they will be under more ‘flexible’ controls. Final rules have been issued for six of 19 categories of equipment and more will roll out in the coming months. Some military equipment, such as fighter jets, drones, and other systems and parts, will stay under the State Department’s tighter oversight. Commerce will do interagency human rights reviews before allowing exports, but only as a matter of policy, whereas in the State Department it is required by law.”

Corporate accountability
Reuters reports that a majority of US Supreme Court judges seem to think an American court is not the proper venue for a lawsuit against German auto giant Daimler AG over alleged human rights violations in 1970s Argentina:

“The Daimler case is the second time in the last year that the court has considered how and under what circumstances multinational companies can be sued in U.S. courts for alleged human rights violations.

The legal question in the Daimler case is different from that in the [Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell] case, which focused on an obscure federal law called the Alien Tort Statute.
The Daimler case concerns whether a U.S. court has the authority to hear a case against a foreign corporation ‘solely on the fact that an indirect corporate subsidiary performs services on behalf of the defendant’ in the state where the lawsuit was filed, which in this instance was California.
A decision in the Daimler case is expected by the end of June.”

Non-classical intervention
Reuters also reports that France could triple the number of troops it has in the Central African Republic by the end of 2013:

[French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius] has announced a troop increase by year-end once the U.N. Security Council votes in December on a resolution to strengthen a U.N. mission. Sources said it could increase the total French force to between 700-1,200.
‘It wouldn’t be an intervention in the classical sense of the word,’ Fabius said. ‘We’re not going to send parachutists, but there needs to be a presence because the state has been completely unseated.’ ”

Colonial marketing
Inner City Press reports on the latest debates inside the UN’s decolonization committee:

“Friday afternoon in the Fourth Committee, after a week of speeches denouncing the UK for the Malvinas or Falkland Islands, UK Political Coordinator Michael Tatham spoke. He spoke of his country’s ‘modern relationship’ with its territories — if you want to stay, you can.
Moments later Bolivia’s Permanent Representative Sacha Llorenti said that the UK’s invocation of self-determination, for which generations fought, was now being used as ‘colonial marketing.’
Llorenti also took on the United States, calling Puerto Rico a colony and long-jailed Oscar Lopez Rivera a political prisoner.

Papua New Guinea chided France for not turning over education in New Caledonia.”

Rental racism
A BBC investigation of 10 “letting agents” in London suggests that would-be tenants face rampant racism despite equality legislation:

“All 10 were recorded on secret camera saying they would be prepared not to show the flat to African-Caribbean people – and many detailed how they had done it before.
The lettings manager at A to Z Property Services, in Dollis Hill, said: ‘We cannot be shown discriminating against a community. But obviously we’ve got our ways around that.
‘99% of my landlords don’t want Afro-Caribbeans or any troublesome people.’ ”

Moral economy
Spirited Social Change’s Christine Boyle and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Seth Klein argue it is “wrong to presume that a moral economy would necessarily be one with fewer decent jobs”:

“We offer this simple definition: A moral economy is one in which people do not feel they have to sacrifice their values, harm human dignity or compromise ecological health in order to achieve economic security.
This definition is as much a cultural shift as it is a policy one. It’s not about public vs. private, so much as reconsidering the balance, and bringing a new lens to the economic planning that both governments and businesses undertake.”

Sharing, not caring
Evgeny Morozov writes in the Financial Times that companies pushing the so-called sharing economy are not really looking to build an “economy that benefits everyone”:

“The power model behind the sharing economy is more Michel Foucault than Joseph Stalin: no one forces you to be part of it – but you may have little choice anyway.
A new UN, indeed: the erosion of full-time employment, the disappearance of healthcare and insurance benefits, the assault on unions and the transformation of workers into always-on self-employed entrepreneurs who must think like brands. The sharing economy amplifies the worst excesses of the dominant economic model: it is neoliberalism on steroids.”

Choosing inequality
Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz argues that inequality is a policy choice and that the trend of growing disparities in the West is “not universal, or inevitable”:

“In many countries, weak corporate governance and eroding social cohesion have led to increasing gaps between the pay of chief executives and that of ordinary workers — not yet approaching the 500-to-1 level for America’s biggest companies (as estimated by the International Labor Organization) but still greater than pre-recession levels. (Japan, which has curbed executive pay, is a notable exception.) American innovations in rent-seeking — enriching oneself not by making the size of the economic pie bigger but by manipulating the system to seize a larger slice — have gone global.
Asymmetric globalization has also exerted its toll around the globe. Mobile capital has demanded that workers make wage concessions and governments make tax concessions. The result is a race to the bottom. Wages and working conditions are being threatened. Pioneering firms like Apple, whose work relies on enormous advances in science and technology, many of them financed by government, have also shown great dexterity in avoiding taxes. They are willing to take, but not to give back.”

Latest Developments, April 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Radical revision
The New York Times editorial board calls the US Supreme Court’s decision in a case pitting Nigerian plaintiffs against oil giant Shell “a giant setback for human rights”:

“The court declared that a 1789 law called the Alien Tort Statute does not allow foreigners to sue in American courts to seek redress ‘for violations of the law of nations occurring outside the United States.’

But Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said that even where claims of atrocities ‘touch and concern the territory of the United States, they must do so with sufficient force’ to overcome a presumption that the statute does not apply to actions outside this country.
That presumption radically revises and undermines the way the statute has been applied for a generation. It has been limited by the types of human rights abuses it covers — but not by where they take place. The effect is to greatly narrow the statute’s reach.”

Silver lining
Reuters’s Alison Frankel writes, however, that human rights lawyers found some glimmers of hope in the Kiobel ruling:

“In the concurrence, [Justice Stephen] Breyer disputed the majority’s presumption against the extraterritoriality of the [Alien Tort Statute], though he agreed that the Nigerians’ case does not belong in U.S. courts. He laid out a different standard for ATS litigation: ‘I would find jurisdiction under this statute where (1) the alleged tort occurs on American soil, (2) the defendant is an American national, or (3) the defendant’s conduct substantially and adversely affects an important American national interest, and that includes a distinct interest in preventing the United States from becoming a safe harbor … for a torturer or other common enemy of mankind.’ ”

Senators heart guns
Former US Congresswoman and shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords excoriates the senators who have voted against increased gun control:

“We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.

The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job.
They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.”

Big debarment
The Globe and Mail reports that the World Bank has banned Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin and 100 of its subsidiaries from bidding on World Bank contracts for the next 10 years:

“The World Bank’s announcement about SNC, which was made Wednesday, also expanded the list of countries where the embattled engineering company has been accused of corruption. The bank said it has uncovered evidence that SNC conspired to bribe public officials in Cambodia and that it has passed that information along to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are already probing the company’s activities in Libya, Algeria and Bangladesh.
The 10-year prohibition was negotiated between the company and the bank and is the largest debarment that a company has agreed to as part of a settlement since the bank began sanctioning firms that seek to corrupt public officials.”

US torture
A new report by the Constitution Project alleges it is “indisputable” that the US practiced torture after the 9/11 attacks:

“The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been ‘the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.’ ”

Bad guest
A group of NGOs is calling on Canadian mining company Infinito Gold to stop its “decade-long harassment” of Costa Rica’s people and government, harassment they say includes the new threat of a $1 billion lawsuit:

“The [Costa Rican] courts told the Canadian company it could not develop the Crucitas mine, and told Infinito to pack up and go.
Instead of leaving, the company ratcheted-up a campaign of intimidation, attempting to censor a University of Costa Rica course focussed on the mining project and launching defamation suits against two professors and three other Costa Ricans who have spoken out publicly about the potential impact that this mining activity could have on a fragile environment.”

A tale of two archipelagos
The Guardian reports that a controversial UK official is going from administering the Chagos Islands, all of whose inhabitants Britain deported decades ago, to governing the Falkland Islands, for whose inhabitants Britain went to war a few years later:

“A US embassy cable published in the Guardian in December 2010 quoted a senior Foreign Office official, Colin Roberts, telling the Americans that as a result of imposing the marine reserve, there would be no ‘human footprints’ or ‘Man Fridays’ on the islands.
He said the plan would ‘in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents’, according to the cable.
The case is the first resulting from the leak of classified US cables in which UK officials have been ordered to appear.
Roberts, commissioner of the [British Indian Ocean Territory] at the time of his meeting with US officials in May 2009, will take up a new post next year as governor of the Falkland Islands, the high court heard on Monday.”

Carbon bubble
Environmental author Duncan Clark asks if we “can we bring ourselves to prioritise a safe planet over cheap fuels, flights, power and goods”:

“Blithely ignoring the fact that there is already far more accessible fuel than can be safely burned, pension fund managers and other investors are allowing listed fossil fuel companies to spend the best part of $1tn a year (comparable to the US defence budget, or more than $100 for every person on the planet) to find and develop yet more reserves.
If and when we emerge from this insanity, the carbon bubble will burst and those investments will turn out to have been as toxic as sub-prime mortgages. Don’t take my word for it. HSBC analysts recently concluded that oil giants such as BP – beloved of UK pension funds – could have their value cut in half if the world decides to tackle climate change. Coal companies can expect an even rougher ride, and yet our financial regulators still allow them to float on stock markets without mentioning in their share prospectuses that their assets may soon need to be written off.”

Latest Developments, April 3

In today’s news and analysis…

Huge loophole
Agence France-Presse highlights some of the perceived shortcomings of the Arms Trade Treaty which has been approved by “an overwhelming 154-3 margin” in the UN General Assembly:

“The treaty has no automatic enforcement. However, it seeks to force the weapons industry within accepted boundaries.

However, the Conflict Awareness Project, a non-governmental research organisation, said the treaty left a huge loophole by not directly addressing the role of middlemen in arms dealing networks.
‘Since the broker is the central actor using the cover of legitimate business to divert weapons into the illicit trade, of all actors, this is the one requiring the strictest regulation,’ CAP’s executive director Kathi Lynn Austin said.”

Landmark ruling
The Guardian reports that India’s Supreme Court has ruled against Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis whose efforts to obtain a patent for a cancer drug were deemed to constitute an attempt at “evergreening”:

“At stake in the legal battle was not just the right of generic companies to make cheap drugs for India once original patents expire but also access to newer drugs for poorer countries in much of Africa and Asia. India has long been known as the pharmacy of the developing world.

In a statement, the Cancer Patients Aid Association in India (CPAA), which had opposed the patent application, said: ‘We are very happy that the court has recognised the right of patients to access affordable medicines over profits for big pharmaceutical companies through patents. Our access to affordable treatment will not be possible if the medicines are patented. It is a huge victory for human rights.’ ”

Bad image
The Antioquia School of Engineering’s Santiago Ortega Arango writes that Canadian mining companies have recently been the targets of popular protests in “at least 10 countries”:

“Canada is very well represented in global mining conflicts because, in large part, Canada is the home of most of the junior mining companies of the world,” says Ramsey Hart, the Canada program co-ordinator at Mining Watch, an Ottawa-based advocacy group.
The reason for this, he says, is that Canada has a favourable environment for high-risk, speculative investments, the kind that drives international mineral exploration.
Unlike the U.S. Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign citizens to bring American companies to U.S. courts for abuses committed in a foreign country, there are no mechanisms to hold Canadian companies overseas accountable for their social and environmental policies. ‘We’ve just completely dropped that ball,’ Ramsey says.

New relationship
The Canadian government is celebrating a new “competitive edge for Canadian exporters” as the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement goes into effect:

“In less than six years, the Harper government has concluded free trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Panama, Peru and the European Free Trade Association member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. In addition, Canada is in ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union, India, Japan and the members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Upon implementation April 1, 2013, Panama will immediately eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of non-agricultural imports and 78 percent of agricultural imports from Canada…

Most of Panama’s remaining tariffs will be eliminated over a period of 5 to 15 years.”

Carbon colonialism
The Nigerian Current reports that the newly formed No REDD in Africa Network blames a UN emissions reduction scheme for “rampant land grabs and neocolonialism”:

“[Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest degradation] is a carbon offset mechanism whereby industrialized Northern countries use forests, agriculture, soils and even water as sponges for their pollution instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at source.
Nnimmo Bassey, Alternative Nobel Prize Laureate and former Executive Director of ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria said that ‘REDD is no longer just a false solution but a new form of colonialism…We launch the No REDD in Africa Network to defend the continent from carbon colonialism.’
In the UN-REDD Framework Document, the United Nations itself admits that REDD could result in the ‘lock-up of forests,’ ‘loss of land’ and ‘new risks for the poor.’ ”

Wrong approach
The University of Utrecht’s Annelies Zoomers and the Broker magazine’s Evert-jan Quak argue that current efforts to rein in land grabbing fail to get at the root of the problem:

“These problems are the result of the commoditisation of nature and neoliberal policies in general, rather than narrowing the causes of the land rush solely to the current food, climate and energy crisis. Land-titling programmes and codes of conducts are therefore a continuation of the same economic principles.
Furthermore, land governance and policies focussing on land grabbing narrow the scope of the problem and the solution to agriculture. However, urban expansion, infrastructure projects, mining, special economic zones, and tourism projects also spark the rush for land and speculative forces to purchase land in rural areas that affect rural communities. Finally, there is no coherence between policies on food security, climate change, biodiversity and poverty eradication. One problem can be solved (for example REDD and REDD+ to tackle carbon emissions by fast reforestation projects) but create others (small farmers losing their land). A much more interdisciplinary way of policy-making should therefore be enforced.”

Bank crimes
MIT’s Simon Johnson argues that when it comes to international money laundering, “complicit bankers have nothing to fear from the US justice system”:

“To be on the safe side, though, miscreants should be sure to use a really large global bank for all their money-laundering needs.
There may be fines, but the largest financial companies are unlikely to face criminal actions or meaningful sanctions. The Department of Justice has decided that these banks are too big to prosecute to the full extent of the law, though why this also gets employees and executives off the hook remains a mystery. And the Federal Reserve refuses to rescind bank licenses, undermining the credibility, legitimacy and stability of the financial system.”

Basic income
The Guardian’s Geoge Monbiot makes the case for everyone, whether rich or poor, to receive a “guaranteed sum” each week:

“A basic income removes the stigma of benefits while also breaking open what politicians call the welfare trap. Because taking work would not reduce your entitlement to social security, there would be no disincentive to find a job – all the money you earn is extra income. The poor are not forced by desperation into the arms of unscrupulous employers: people will work if conditions are good and pay fair, but will refuse to be treated like mules. It redresses the wild imbalance in bargaining power that the current system exacerbates.”

Latest Developments, October 4

In the latest news and analysis…

Land grab complicity
A new Oxfam report criticizes the World Bank for contributing to the growing problem of land grabs in poor countries:

“The World Bank is in a unique position as both an investor in land and an adviser to developing countries. The Bank’s investments in agriculture have increased by 200 per cent in the last 10 years, while its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, sets standards followed by many investors. The Bank’s own research reveals that countries with the most large scale land deals are those with the poorest protection of people’s land rights. And since 2008, 21 formal complaints have been brought by communities affected by Bank projects that they say have violated their land rights.”

Defence corruption
A new Transparency International report gives 37% of the world’s biggest defence companies an “F” and only 1% an “A” on its anti-corruption test:

“The study, which grades companies from A to F, measures defence companies worth more than USD 10 trillion, with a combined defence revenue of over USD 500 billion. Transparency International estimates the global cost of corruption in the defence sector to be a minimum of USD 20 billion per year, based on data from the World Bank and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This equates to the total sum pledged by the G8 in L’Aquila in 2009 to fight world hunger.”

Optional accountability
iPolitics reports that an office established by the Canadian government to mediate disputes between the country’s extractive industry and communities overseas has once again had to drop a case due to a mining company’s refusal to play along:

“The Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor, created in 2009 following widespread allegations of human rights abuses and environmental degradation by the industry around the world, received a complaint from two Argentine environmental groups in July over the impacts of McEwen Mining’s Los Azules copper exploration site on glaciers in the Andes.
But the office, which has dropped two previous cases brought on by civil society groups in Mexico and Mauritania and can only work with companies who agree to co-operate, has been informed by McEwen that the company won’t be participating in the mediation process, said Nils Engelstad, vice-president for corporate affairs.”

Herbicide boom
Mother Jones reports that contrary to biotech company claims, genetically modified crops actually seem to require larger amounts of herbicides than non-GMO strains:

“For several years, the Roundup Ready trait actually did meet Monsanto’s promise of decreasing overall herbicide use—herbicide use dropped by about 2 percent between 1996 and 1999, [Washington State University's Chuck] Benbrook told me in an interview. But then weeds started to develop resistance to Roundup, pushing farmers to apply higher per-acre rates. In 2002, farmers using Roundup Ready soybeans jacked up their Roundup application rates by 21 percent, triggering a 19 million pound overall increase in Roundup use.
Since then, an herbicide gusher has been uncorked. By 2011, farms using Roundup Ready seeds were using 24 percent more herbicide than non-GMO farms planting the same crops, Benbrook told me. What happened? By that time, ‘in all three crops [corn, soy, and cotton], resistant weeds had fully kicked in,’ Benbrook said, and farmers were responding both by ramping up use of Roundup and resorting to older, more toxic herbicides like 2,4-D.”

Questionable investments
The Bretton Woods Project writes that the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector arm, is coming under fire for funding mines at the centre of controversies in South Africa, Peru and elsewhere:

“Indiana University-based researcher Alex Lichtenstein commented: ‘In retrospect, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that Lonmin secured a major infusion of capital from the IFC five years ago by pimping its vastly overstated claim to corporate social responsibility. Indeed, the poverty of North West Province, historically abetted by a system of apartheid designed to insure cheap mine labor, by 2007 represented another investment opportunity for the nimble forces of global capital that had impoverished the region in the first place.’

Alhassan Atta-Quayson of Ghana-based NGO Third World Network Africa, said: ‘The African mines supported by the IFC, from Guinea to South Africa, show the IFC’s complicity in the sub-optimal exploitation of Africa’s natural resources and the escalation of conflicts. The least we expect from the IFC is a return to the recommendations of the Extractive Industries Review and the divestment from these projects.’ ”

Investors for rights
A group of investors collectively worth over half a trillion dollars has issued a statement supporting “international legal frameworks, including the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS), to protect human rights”:

The ATS is an important tool in encouraging standardized expectations for corporate behavior related to human rights. As Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz puts it, ‘ATS liability might be bad for bad businesses, but it is good for good businesses.’ For good companies, the ATS not only reduces the ability of competitors to gain advantage by ignoring human rights – it also gives them a mechanism to stand up to oppressive governments. They can point to the ATS as the reason why they are unable to participate in projects suspected to hold human rights liabilities.

Kiobel concerns
The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable’s Amol Mehra and Katie Shay write that a US Supreme Court case pitting Nigerian plaintiffs against oil giant Shell highlights the “alarming disconnect between corporate social responsibility practices and actual corporate behavior”:

“If Shell’s arguments win, the Supreme Court will effectively cut off what is often the best available remedy for victims of corporate-related human rights abuses. Outside of the allegations in the case, what the posturing by Shell highlights is the alarming disconnect between corporate social responsibility practices and actual corporate behavior, including the choice of litigation strategy and legal positions. How can a company that purportedly has a commitment to CSR seek to gut a law that brings human rights victims a remedy for harm?

For CSR to truly mean anything, it must include clear commitments to respect human rights. The choice of litigation strategy and legal positions feeds directly into this responsibility, especially when a company is seeking to do more than defend itself from allegations of wrongdoing.”

Latest Developments, September 27

In the latest news and analysis…

Africa’s lily pads
UPI reports that the US is expanding its “secret wars” in Africa as global interest in the continent’s resources grows:

“ ‘Washington is in the process of a massive expansion of what are referred to internally as “lily pads” that allow it a global strike capability,’ Oxford Analytica noted.
These include facilities in Kenya, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean off East Africa. Western military sources say the Americans are seeking to establish a base in newly independent South Sudan as well.”

Harmful financial flows
Boston University’s Kevin Gallagher writes about efforts to get the World Trade Organization to ensure international trade rules do not impede efforts to reform the global financial system:

“In 2011, Ecuador joined with India, Argentina and South Africa to request that the WTO study the inter-relationships between trade rules and regulatory reform. The US however, blocked the request. The US, South Korea, Norway and Canada, all said that the WTO, and particularly the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), had a ‘prudential carve-out’ that provided WTO Members with the flexibility to regulate their financial systems. Thus, they were implying, there was no need to have such a discussion.
Ecuador and other emerging market and developing countries want to see that in writing.  They worry that their regulations could eventually result in a WTO challenge or cause nations not to put in place needed reforms for fear of being challenged. ”

AGOA’s failure
University of Oxford researcher Pierre-Louis Vézina writes that the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a US law meant to promote the continent’s textile exports, may not have been such a “trade-policy success” after all:

“The quotas imposed on Chinese exports during the Multifibre Agreement guaranteed smaller developing countries access to the US market. This implicit export subsidy for African countries, coupled with AGOA preferences, was thus a golden opportunity for African apparel exporters.
Yet, a key feature of the AGOA preferences was the absence of rules of origin, which are usually imposed under trade agreements to avoid transhipment. This meant that African exporters could use inputs from any country, in any proportion, as long as some assembly work took place in Africa. It thus provided an opportunity for Chinese exporters to merely tranship their products via ‘screwdriver plants’ in Africa, avoiding US quotas and on top benefitting from AGOA preferences. The end of the quotas on Chinese exports rendered the transhipment unnecessary and thus led to the departure of footloose factories and the fall of AGOA exports.”

Bhopal’s water
The Business Standard reports on findings that Bhopal’s groundwater remains contaminated nearly three decades after a leak at a Union Carbide factory caused “the world’s largest industrial disaster”:

“Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR), which examined the ground water, submitted a report to the [Supreme Court] saying the levels of lead, nitrate and nickel are more than permissible levels in many samples of water taken by it.
‘In nine of the 30 samples, nitrate levels exceeded its permissible Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) limits for drinking water. Lead level in 24 samples were found to exceed its BIS permissible limit,’ said the report, submitted to a bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir.”

Carte blanche
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that Somalia’s new government has “little or no authority over the numerous foreign forces” operating in the country:

“ ‘Whoever comes trying to help them defeat al Shabaab, they are more than welcome… [but] they are given a licence to completely ignore any local or international law,’ [Omar Jamal, a diplomat with the Somali mission to the UN] added.
It’s not even clear which foreign forces are currently serving in Somalia, the terms of their involvement, and what they are doing.

The striking thing that emerges is the extent of the US’s involvement in Somalia, both direct and indirect.”

Oil impacts
In a Q&A with Rue89Lyon, Guatemalan community activist Hilda Ventura decries the actions of Franco-British oil company Perenco in her area:

“There was never any environmental impact assessment. Over the last while, children have been falling ill: they have skin ailments. We’ve seen an increase in miscarriages and respiratory problems. Ponds and wells have dried up near the oil drilling. In one community, they wanted to dig wells for water but it was contaminated. We live off corn and bean cultivation but we’ve noticed the harvests have shrunk. And we think it’s due to the pollution from the oil extraction.

Since 2009, there have been four expulsions. In total, 2,000 people were affected. From one day to the next, they tell us to leave. Only the big landowners have property titles. They kick us off our land: that’s taking our lives because we live off the land. Most of us have experienced three or four forced displacements. We’re being squeezed. To the north is a tourism megaproject, to the south is the monoculture for biofuels and to the west is the extension of the oilfield.” [Translated from the French.]

UK drones
A new report by Drone Wars UK indicates that the British government has so far spent £2 billion ($3.2bn) on drones and is “likely” to spend that much again, beginning in 2013:

“ ‘Rather than spending further billions on more drones what’s needed is investment in tackling the underlying causes of insecurity. That means devoting resources to measures designed to seriously tackle inequality and injustice in the world  – such as the Millennium Development Goals. Today, in the midst of a global economic and environmental crisis, we need to jettison ever-increasing military spending and technological security fixes in favour of a sustainable security strategy that puts people – and especially the poor – at its centre,’ [according to Chris Cole, the report’s author].”

Kiobel II
The Center for Justice and Accountability’s Pamela Merchant lays out what is at stake next week when the US Supreme Court hears a second round of arguments pitting Nigerian plaintiffs against oil giant Shell:

“If the Supreme Court accepts Shell’s arguments, federal law will no longer recognize a civil remedy for foreign abuses like genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or slavery. Already, the Supreme Court’s April 2012 ruling in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority shielded corporations, governments, and other legal entities from liability under the Torture Victim Protection Act.
For many survivors, the [Alien Tort Statute] offers the only avenue to seek redress and hear a court of law condemn a crime under its true name: genocide or crimes against humanity.”