Latest Developments, September 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Exceptionally dangerous
In a New York Times op-ed, Russian President Vladimir Putin calls it “alarming” that US military interventions in foreign conflicts have become “commonplace”:

“The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

I carefully studied [US President Barack Obama’s] address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’ It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Lethal aid
The Washington Post reports that the CIA has started arming Syrian rebels:

“The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.

The CIA shipments are to flow through a network of clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan that were expanded over the past year as the agency sought to help Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, direct weapons to moderate Syrian rebel forces.”

Excessive murders
Al Jazeera reports that the Dutch government has issued a formal apology for mass executions in Indonesia during the colonial era:

“Special forces from the Netherlands carried out a series of summary executions in its former colony between 1945 and 1949, killing thousands.
In total, about 40,000 people were executed during the colonial era, according to the Indonesian government; however, Dutch figures mention only a few thousand.

‘They are apologising for all the war crimes, which the Dutch merely call excesses,’ [Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen] added.
The Hague had previously apologised and paid out to the widows in individual cases but it had never said sorry or offered compensation for the victims of general summary executions.”

New boss
Reuters reports that Mali’s newly elected government has announced plans to review all existing oil and mining contracts:

“ ‘If there are contracts which it is necessary to revise in the interests of Mali, we will start negotiations with the partners in question,’ [Mines Minister Boubou Cisse] said.
Cisse, a 39-year-old former World Bank economist, said the inventory would be conducted under complete transparency and its results would be made available to the public.

Cisse said his ministry aimed to increase the contribution of the mining sector in the national economy from around 8 percent at present to 15 to 20 percent in the long term.”

No strikes
The UN’s commission of inquiry for Syria has released its latest report on recent atrocities in the war-torn country, along with a statement making clear its position on the prospect of foreign military intervention:

“For the Commission, charged with investigating violations of international law committed by all parties to the conflict, any response must be founded upon the protection of civilians. The nature of the war raging in Syria is such that the number of violations by all sides goes hand in hand with the intensity of the conflict itself. With the spectre of international military involvement, Syria – and the region – face further conflagration, leading to increased civilian suffering.

There is an urgent need for a cessation of hostilities and a return to negotiations, leading to a political settlement. To elect military action in Syria will not only intensify the suffering inside the country but will also serve to keep such a settlement beyond our collective reach.”

Peddling wars
The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries has put out a press release suggesting Canada’s government wants to increase arms sales abroad:

“CADSI also took the opportunity to thank the Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, for her department’s recent decision to provide financial support to CADSI to strengthen the Canada brand at major international defence and security trade shows and increase the visibility of western Canadian businesses at those events.
‘Our Government is pleased to partner with CADSI to help promote western Canadian companies on the global stage,’ said Minister Rempel. ‘The defence and security industries are important economic drivers in Canada, and Western Economic Diversification Canada is committed to strengthening these key sectors.’ ”

Words and deeds
The Guardian reports that the US has thus far failed to keep its promises under the Chemical Weapons Convention that Syria is now under pressure to sign:

“About 2,611 tons of mustard gas remains stockpiled in Pueblo, Colorado. The second stockpile, in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, is smaller – 524 tons – but more complicated to decommission, because it consists of a broader range of lethal gases and nerve agents, many of which are contained within weaponry.”

Divide and rule
Georgetown University doctoral candidate Nick Danforth argues that European colonialism’s most enduring harm has little to do with arbitrary borders:

“In Syria, the French cultivated the previously disenfranchised Alawite minority as an ally against the Sunni majority. This involved recruiting and promoting Alawite soldiers in the territory’s colonial army, thereby fostering their sense of identity as Alawites and bringing them into conflict with local residents of other ethnicities. The French pursued the same policy with Maronite Christians in Lebanon, just as the Belgians did with Tutsis in Rwanda and the British did with Muslims in India, Turks in Cyprus and innumerable other groups elsewhere.
The militarization of these ethnic and religious identities, rather than the failure of perfectly placed state borders to alleviate tension between them, explains much of violence in the Middle East today. Blaming imperialism is usually sound politics and good comedy. But in this case, focusing on bad borders risks taking perpetual identity-based violence as a given, resulting in policies that ultimately exacerbate the conflicts they aim to solve.”

Latest Developments, August 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Three strikes
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports on three more US drone strikes in Yemen, bringing the total over the last 12 days to eight attacks:

“A Yemeni official told the Associated Press the bodies were seen lying charred alongside their vehicle. The anonymous source said five of the dead were Yemeni while the sixth was of another Arab nationality. However local security officials told CNN only four of the dead had links to [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] – two were civilians. This was the second time civilian casualties were reported in this series of [eight] strikes.

Unnamed US officials told NBC News drones launched this strike and the six before it in response to intercepted communications suggesting a terrorist attack was coming. The officials said ‘there is no evidence any of those killed could be considered among al Qaeda leadership.”

Tons of radioactivity
Reuters reports that Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant is leaking 300 tons of “highly radioactive water” daily into the Pacific Ocean:

“The revelation amounted to an acknowledgement that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) has yet to come to grips with the scale of the catastrophe, 2 1/2 years after the plant was hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami. Tepco only recently admitted water had leaked at all.

Local fishermen and independent researchers had already suspected a leak of radioactive water, but Tepco denied the claims.”

Still waiting
The BBC reports that the recent security scare said to be emanating from Yemen could impact the long awaited release of the many Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay:

“In another development, a Yemeni diplomatic source told BBC Arabic that the US had suspended arrangements to return about 100 Yemeni detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
However a White House official said there had been no policy change and that President Barack Obama’s May decision to lift a moratorium on transferring Guantanamo detainees to Yemen remained in effect.
‘He lifted the moratorium on transfers in favour of a case-by-case evaluation. That evaluation necessarily will take into account security conditions. The security situation is always taken into account,’ the official told the BBC.”

Soy victims
Time Magazine reports that one of US agribusiness giant Monsanto’s products may be poisoning people in Paraguay:

“Around 9,000 families a year in a nation of fewer than 7 million people migrate from the countryside to cities because of soy monoculture, according to BaseIS, an Asunción-based social research center. ‘Peasants are displaced because they are being poisoned,’ says Óscar Rivas, a former environment minister.
Dionisio Gómez moved to Asunción in 1998 because the water in Campo Agua’e, his village in the state of Canindeyú, was contaminated. ‘They would fumigate the soy and the chemicals infiltrated our land,’ says Gómez, who now lives in a slum. Two of Gómez’s children were stillborn with defects. Doctors never gave a cause, but academic studies — including a 2008 paper on Paraguay published by the American Academy of Pediatrics — say herbicides, specifically glyphosate, cause birth malformations.
Monsanto, the multinational that first brought glyphosate to market, says on its Paraguayan website that none of the studies are ‘serious.’ ”

Multinational corruption
The BBC reports that a South African corruption inquiry into a massive 1999 arms deal has finally begun:

“The huge deal – post-apartheid South Africa’s largest such transaction – was intended to modernise its national defences through the purchase of fighter jets, submarines, corvettes, helicopters and tanks.
It involved companies from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Britain, France and South Africa.
The initial cost was about $3bn (£2bn) but this has since ballooned to around $7bn.
Corruption allegations swirled around the deal from the start.”

Sweatshop locator
The New York Times reports on a Hong Kong-based company that is the top “matchmaker” between factories in poor countries and retailers in rich countries:

“But in pioneering and perfecting the global hunt for ways to produce clothing more quickly and cheaply, Li & Fung, which had $20 billion in revenue last year, has been described by critics as the garment industry’s ‘sweatshop locator.’
‘If globalization is a race to the bottom, where lowest wages win,’ said Cathy Feingold, director of international affairs for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., ‘Li & Fung is the sherpa showing companies the fastest route down that slope.’ ”

Staying put
Reuters reports that, “despite grumbles,” multinational oil companies do not appear to be leaving the Niger Delta anytime soon:

“ ‘Nigeria’s “difficult” operating environment, security concerns and the non-passage of the [Petroleum Industry Bill] all provide useful cover for what may essentially be a portfolio optimisation process,’ said Razia Khan, Head of Africa Research at Standard Chartered.

If anything, they will use their grievances as leverage in negotiations with government over licenses and taxes.”

Sacrosanct secrecy
Reuters also reports that a Swiss court has upheld the continued detention of a witness in a French tax evasion investigation for violating the country’s famous banking secrecy:

“Pierre Condamin-Gerbier, a former employee at Geneva-based private bank Reyl & Cie, has said he has a list of French politicians with undeclared funds in secret Swiss bank accounts and in July appeared before a French parliamentary commission investigating tax fraud.
He was arrested shortly after his return from France when an investigation was opened against him into allegations of dealing in commercial information.

Herve Falciani, a former employee of HSBC’s private banking unit in Switzerland who gave evidence at the same French parliamentary commission investigation is wanted in Switzerland on charges of stealing data on tens of thousands of bank accounts that a number of European countries have used to pursue suspected tax evaders.”

Inequality’s bright side
Oxfam’s Ben Phillips explains why, despite the fact that the world’s “300 richest people have the same wealth as the 3 billion poorest,” he is optimistic about global inequality:

“Because we are talking about it. Because people are saying it’s a problem. Because in a counterpoint to how the neoliberals of the 70s and 80s changed the conversation from community to individualism to break the post-war consensus that had limited inequality, so now the conversation is shifting back to community. People are challenging the idea that “economic shock treatment” cures when it literally kills. They are speaking out against the profit maximisation mantra that corporations should behave in ways which we would call psychopathic in normal human interaction.
When problems are invisibilised they cannot be fixed.”

Latest Developments, July 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Election dropout
Radio France Internationale reports that Tiébilé Dramé has withdrawn his candidacy from this month’s presidential election in Mali, saying a “credible” vote is impossible at this point in time and criticizing France’s role in his country’s electoral process:

“ ‘Paris,’ Tiébilé Dramé said, ‘is pushing for elections, no matter what the cost.’ He added: ‘I get the feeling [French foreign minister] Laurent Fabius is running the elections in Mali.’ Nevertheless, Dramé is not calling for a boycott of the vote. He even wished ‘good luck’ to his country.” [Translated from the French.]

The customer’s always right
The Independent reports that the UK has sold £12.3 billion worth of military equipment to “countries which are on its own official list for human rights abuses”:

“The Government had stated that it would not issue export licences for goods ‘which might be used to facilitate internal repression’ or ‘might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts’.

Only two states of 27 on the Foreign Office’s human rights list – North Korea and South Sudan –did not have licences to their names. Among the others, Saudi Arabia has 417 licences with a value of £1.8bn; Pakistan 219 worth almost £50m; Sri Lanka 49 at £8m and Zimbabwe 46, worth just under £3m.

‘The Government needs to acknowledge that there’s an inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights at the same time. Instead they continue to claim these two policies “are mutually reinforcing”,’ [said Committees on Arms Export Controls chairman John Stanley].”

Hunger studies
The Canadian Press reports on new evidence that researchers in Canada conducted nutritional experiments on “isolated, dependent, hungry” aboriginal people in the mid-20th Century:

“Government documents eventually revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 aboriginals, most of them children.

They found people who were hungry, beggared by a combination of the collapsing fur trade and declining government support. They also found a demoralized population marked by, in the words of the researchers, ‘shiftlessness, indolence, improvidence and inertia.’
The researchers suggested those problems — ‘so long regarded as inherent or hereditary traits in the Indian race’ — were in fact the results of malnutrition.”

Dangerous oil
Reuters reports that the UN is warning that the activities of Western oil companies in Somalia could “threaten peace and security” in the region:

“Around a dozen companies, including many multinational oil and gas majors, had licenses to explore Somalia before 1991, but since then Somaliland and Puntland and other regional authorities have granted their own licenses for the same blocks.
In some cases Somaliland and Puntland have awarded licenses for blocks that overlap. The experts said one such case involves Norwegian oil firm DNO and Canadian-listed Africa Oil Corp.
‘Potentially, it means that exploration operations in these blocks, conducted by both DNO and Africa Oil under the protection of regional security forces, its allied militia or private forces, could generate new conflict between Somaliland and Puntland,’ the report said.
‘It is alarming that regional security forces and armed groups may clash to protect and further Western-based oil companies interests,’ it said.”

Fortress Europe
Human Rights Watch’s Judith Sunderland argues that the EU’s “increasingly hostile” attitude toward immigration is putting Africans’ lives at risk:

“[European commissioner for home affairs Cecilia] Malmström’s office has said it is examining pushback practices by member states – and not just to Libya – but it needs to be more open about this process and its conclusions. And it should be willing to use infringement proceedings against EU countries that send people to places where there is a risk of torture or persecution, a clear breach of EU law.
The European Parliament and European Council are studying a European Commission proposal for new regulations governing interceptions in the Mediterranean. It would allow for returns to third countries for those intercepted on the high seas following a cursory assessment of protection needs and the situation in the country of return. This is unacceptable.”

UN peacemaking
Al Jazeera reports on concerns that that the deployment of the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo could have dire consequences:

The move abandons past UN risk-aversion in a way that critics fear could create a politicised force with an offensive mandate that fuels local resistance to peacekeeping and exposes humanitarian staff to new risks.

Pieter Vanholder, DRC country director of the Life & Peace Institute in Bukavu, told Al Jazeera FIB could have a deterrent effect, but ‘if some things go wrong, which they are bound to, the brigade may be seen as a kind of occupation force.’’
‘As a consequence it could become a push factor for some to join armed groups, adding to local resistance,’ Vanholder said.

Exaggerated risk
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenney argues, regarding the US Department of Homeland Security, the time has come to “shut the whole thing down”:

“More than a decade [after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks], it’s increasingly clear that the danger to Americans posed by terrorism remains smaller than that of myriad other threats, from infectious disease to gun violence to drunk driving. Even in 2001, considerably more Americans died of drowning than from terror attacks. Since then, the odds of an American being killed in a terrorist attack in the U.S. or abroad have been about one in 20 million. The Boston marathon bombing was evil and tragic, but it’s worth comparing the three deaths in that attack to a list of the number of people in the U.S. killed by guns since the December 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., which stood at 6,078 as of June.”

People for sale
UK House of Lords member Mary Goudie argues “it’s only by cutting off the money” that the world can stop human trafficking:

“Modern-day slavery is an underground business, intrinsically linked to global supply chains. Individuals and companies are making a huge amount of money out of this business and can make it extremely hard for campaigners and governments to chase the cash back to its true source. Dealing with the murky links between forced labour and global supply chains is perhaps the only real chance we have of cracking the business of slavery. All private companies should be required to sign up to the Athens ethical principles against human trafficking. By signing this agreement, they will be contributing to the eradication of human trafficking and emphasising that this form of business will not be tolerated.”

Latest Developments, July 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Lethal aid
Reuters reports that while Washington tries to decide whether or not the Egyptian military’s ouster of a democratically elected president constitutes a coup, the US will continue delivering “aid” to Egypt in the form of F-16 fighter jets:

“A U.S. decision to brand [President Mohamed Mursi’s] overthrow a coup would, by U.S. law, require Washington to halt aid to the Egyptian military, which receives the lion’s share of the $1.5 billion in annual U.S. assistance to that country.
The jets, which will likely be delivered in August and are built by Lockheed Martin Corp, are part of the annual aid package, a U.S. defense official said.

Asked about the F-16s, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: ‘It’s our view that we should not … hastily change our aid programs.’ ”

Deportations halted
Voice of America reports that a European court has blocked Malta’s plan to deport Somali migrants to Libya:

“Maltese authorities had intended to send two planes back to Libya carrying 45 Somali migrants who had arrived Tuesday. But the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling banning the repatriations.

Authorities say more than 400 migrants have arrived on the island in the past week, including babies, pregnant women and three men with gunshot wounds. Most are Eritrean or Somali.
The European Court of Human Rights declared illegal in 2009 the practice of so-called ‘push back’ – where migrants are forced to return where they came from.”

Low standards
The Guardian reports that members of a palm-oil industry sustainability initiative have been implicated in “Asia’s worst air pollution crisis in decades”:

“Greenpeace said its investigation pointed to a wider problem among the industry which is being ignored by the [Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil], which only investigated member companies who had been named in the media, not all member companies in the Sumatran region.
‘Rather than claiming the innocence of members who’ve been reported in the media, the RSPO needs to address the real problem – years of peatland drainage and destruction which is labelled “sustainable” under RSPO rules and has laid the foundation for these disastrous fires,’ said [Greenpeace’s Bustar] Maitar.”

Taking sides
The Azerbaijan Press Agency reports that the Azeri government is accusing France and Germany of violating an arms embargo by selling anti-tank missiles to Armenia:

“The embassies of the aforementioned countries in Azerbaijan were demanded to clarify how these countries that imposed an embargo on the sale of weapons to the conflicting parties could deliver these systems to Armenia.

France and Germany announce that in connection with the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, they are not selling weapons and military vehicles to Azerbaijan and Armenia and have imposed an embargo on this.”

Biofuels shift
Inter Press Service reports that changes to EU regulations on biofuels are eliciting mixed reviews from anti-poverty activists:

“ ‘From the point of view of the climate, this result is unexpectedly positive: from now on only truly sustainable biofuels will be subsidized,’ Marc-Olivier Herman, Oxfam International’s biofuel expert, told IPS.
‘But as far as food security is concerned, the result is outright negative. Last year the Commission proposed 5 percent to protect the existing industry while blocking its expansion. Everything higher than this percentage is unjustifiable. It signifies a subsidised growth of the sector, resulting in more speculation on land and food, causing more food insecurity and hunger.’ ”

Pharma bribes
The BBC reports that “senior executives” of the UK’s biggest pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, are under investigation in China over alleged corruption:

“They are being investigated for bribery and tax-related violations, said the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.
They are suspected of offering bribes to officials and doctors in an attempt to boost sales in the country.

‘The case involves many people, the duration of time is long, the amount of money involved is huge and the criminal activities are malicious,’ the ministry said.”

New wealth measure
The Alternative Development and Research Center’s Prahlad Shekhawat welcomes the UN Development Programme’s adoption of a “more inclusive” way of calculating wealth:

“[The Human Development Report 2013] includes both the amount of human well-being that countries generate as measured by the Human Development Index, as well as the level of resource demand and consumption as measured by the Ecological Footprint. It is a big step forward that a leading UN agency has now offered a strategy for alternative development. Earlier versions of the report only included Ecological Footprint outcomes in the background data.
The United Nations HDI is an indicator of human development that measures a country’s achievements in the areas of life expectancy, education, and income. The Ecological Footprint measures a people’s demand on nature and can be compared to available biocapacity. The HDI-Footprint, using simple indicators, prominently reveals how far removed the world is from achieving sustainable development.”

Ethical stain
The British Medical Association’s Eleanor Chrispin and Vivienne Nathanson write that doctors are “increasingly among those expressing concern” about the force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison:

“This year’s annual representative meeting of the BMA condemned the participation of doctors and nurses in force feeding, branding it a ‘stain on medical ethics.’ In doing so, the BMA added its voice to that of the American Medical Association, which denounced the practice in a letter to the secretary of defense of the United States, and in a BMJ editorial. Individual doctors on both sides of the Atlantic have publicly expressed their alarm. While the US authorities continue to pursue a medically supervised regime of force feeding, the more insistent the medical community’s protests will become.
The forced enteral feeding of competent adults, protesting at being held without charge, is a human rights issue. The use of doctors and nurses as instruments to violate detainees’ fundamental rights is an issue of both human rights and medical ethics.”

Drone questions
The BBC reports that British MPs will hold an “inquiry” into the country’s policy on armed drones:

“MPs will examine the UK’s deployment of armed drones and the legal

The Defence Committee will look at the lessons learned from operations in Afghanistan as well as the constraints on the use of drones in the UK and overseas.
MPs will also investigate the future potential for unmanned aerial vehicles, and what capabilities the UK will seek to develop between now and 2020.”

Latest Developments, July 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Absolute immunity
The University of Birmingham’s Rosa Freedman argues that 5,000 Haitians are “being denied their fundamental rights” by the UN’s insistence that it is immune from having to compensate victims of a cholera epidemic triggered by its peacekeepers:

“By invoking absolute immunity, the UN has either ignored or missed the point that all individuals have rights to access a court and a remedy. Those rights are being denied by the UN’s absolute immunity coupled together with its refusal to hear those claims within its own tribunals. The Organisation that created the modern system of international human rights law, and that is tasked with protecting and promoting those rights, is denying fundamental rights to these 5,000 individuals from Haiti. By failing to provide compensation to the victims of cholera in Haiti, the door has been opened for a successful human rights-based challenge to the UN’s absolute immunity – one that may have far-reaching implications and one that is long overdue.”

Made in the USA
Inter Press Service looks into the flow of arms from the US to Egypt in recent years:

“As the second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, Egypt receives about 1.5 billion dollars in both military and economic aid annually, of which 1.3 billion dollars is earmarked for the armed forces.

According to figures released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Egypt received about 11.8 billion dollars worth of weapons from the United States during 2004-2011, followed by 900 million dollars each in arms from China and Russia, and 700 million dollars in arms from Europe.”

Bitter sugar
The Guardian reports on the links between a UK-based company and alleged child labour, land grabbing and violence in Cambodia:

“Sugar is big business in Cambodia, thanks to a preferential EU trade scheme called Everything But Arms (EBA), which allows Cambodian sugar to be sold duty-free on the European market at a minimum price per tonne. Official figures show that 97% of Cambodia’s €10m (£8.5m) sugar exports went to the EU last year, and Tate & Lyle bought 99% of them.
Although the initiative is intended to bolster the world’s least-developed countries, the villagers say they have not profited from the deal at all.

Backed by British law firm Jones Day, the villagers have filed a lawsuit against Tate & Lyle, claiming that KSL were complicit in government moves to evict them to make way for the plantations. They also say they were insufficiently compensated for the land they lost, and faced ‘multiple instances of battery and criminal violence’ during which villagers were shot at and wounded, with one activist murdered.”

Another spill
Sahara Reporters reports Italy’s Agip has experienced two oil spills in three weeks in Nigeria:

“Alagoa Morris, the head of field operations for Environmental Rights Action in Bayelsa, said the community had witnessed numerous spills in the recent past, adding that the environment was badly affected and needed urgent remediation. Mr. Morris called on Agip to lessen the pressure on the pipelines in order to reduce the discharge into the atmosphere.
According to him, residents of the affected communities had expressed their readiness to cooperate with Agip to end the frequent spills and address the issue of oil theft, but he regretted that the oil firm had yet to agree to any sustainable and workable plan.”

Forest malpractice
The Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that a pair of Cameroonian NGOs are calling on the US government to investigate an American-owned palm oil company for alleged land grabbing:

“ ‘Our petition to the U.S. government against the corrupt land grab and illegal forest exploitation activities by Herakles Farms is within the framework of the principle of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) relating to the functioning of international enterprises,’ [Centre for Environment and Development] coordinator Samuel Nguiffo told Thomson Reuters Foundation. ‘The principle requires that international investors carry out better policies to improve the livelihood of the population, and not destroy it.’

CED investigations and a mission sent to the region by the ministry also discovered that locals were paid as low as 350 francs ($0.50) in annual leasing fees for the land, Nguiffo said.”

Geography of sustainability
The Conference Board has released a report that suggests North American companies “lag their peers” in other parts of the world in terms of corporate responsibility:

“Across the environmental and social practices covered, European companies had the highest average disclosure rate (27 percent), followed by companies in Latin America (24 percent), Asia-Pacific (23 percent), and North America (19 percent). [Global Reporting Initiative] reporting, in particular, continues to be at an early stage in North America, with only 29 percent of North American companies releasing reports following GRI guidelines, compared to 61 percent of companies in Europe.

While 84 percent of S&P Global 1200 companies reported having a business ethics policy, only 44 percent of companies disclosed having a human rights policy. The geographic differences are even more pronounced, as only 23 percent of North American companies reported having a human rights policy, compared to 63 percent of European companies, 57 percent of companies in Latin America, and 51 percent of companies in Asia-Pacific.”

Sweatshop nation
Freelance journalist Isabeau Doucet questions the international push to promote Haiti’s textile industry “by branding ‘Made in Haiti’ garments as somehow humanitarian, socially responsible, and good for Haiti’s ‘development’ ”:

“A new minimum-wage law was passed in the fall of 2012 to ensure workers in the Haitian garment-outsourcing sector would earn 300 gourdes for an eight-hour day (around CAD$7). But according to an audit released in mid-April 2013 by Better Work, a labour and business development partnership between the International Labour Organization and the International Financial Corporation (ILO-IFC), 100 per cent of apparel manufacturers evaluated in Haiti failed to comply, continuing to pay the previous wage of 200 gourdes (around CAD$4.70).

In a market driven by the profit-making of multinationals, the garment sector isn’t about creating jobs for Haitians so much as displacing jobs from one poor country to another, poorer one, making Haiti’s poverty its ‘comparative advantage.’ The Korean clothing giant Sae-A, which produces for Walmart, Target, and Gap, has been accused of anti-union repression, including ‘acts of violence and intimidation’ in Guatemala and, more recently, in Nicaragua. It closed its operations in Guatemala due to union disputes, before setting up shop in Caracol, Haiti.”