Latest Developments, May 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Subsidiary immunity
The Associated Press reports that a Canadian judge has dismissed an attempt by Ecuadorian plaintiffs to have a $19 billion judgment enforced against US oil giant Chevron:

“Justice David Brown ruled Wednesday that the Canadian courts have no jurisdiction to enforce the controversial award handed down by an Ecuadorian court against Chevron.
The award to the villagers was made in Ecuador for black sludge contamination of a rainforest between 1972 and 1990 by Texaco, which Chevron Corp. bought in 2001.

Brown concluded the judgment was levied against Chevron Corp., and not Chevron Canada, therefore the subsidiary’s assets do not belong to the U.S. parent company

Alan Lenczner, the Toronto lawyer for the Ecuadorians, said they would appeal.
‘It cannot be right that a multinational company that operates entirely through subsidiaries is immune from the enforcement of a judgment in Canada, particularly where the subsidiary is 100% owned,’ Lenczner said in a statement.”

Unwanted aid
Al Jazeera reports that Bolivia has expelled the US Agency for International Development over “alleged political interference”:

“ ‘Never again, never again USAID, who manipulate and use our leaders, our colleagues with hand-outs,’ [Bolivian president Evo] Morales said in announcing the expulsion.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Philip Brenner, an international relations professor at the American University in Washington DC, said USAID became a target after its suspected role in encouraging secession in Santa Cruz, ‘a very wealthy part’ of Bolivia.”

Timber laundering
Global Witness reports that “shadow permits” are keeping the illicit logging trade flowing from Africa to the EU which imported up to to €12.4 billion worth of illegal timber in 2011:

Meanwhile, the EU has been developing Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with timber-exporting countries, which involve comprehensive forest governance reforms aimed at stamping out the illegal trade. Neither the EU Timber Regulation nor the VPAs take account of the widespread use of shadow permits, however. This means they could end up laundering the type of wood products they were designed to exclude.
‘Unless European and African policy-makers take urgent action, shadow permits could become the Trojan horse by which illegal timber is brought into the EU and passed off as legitimate. Timber importers must do proper checks right the way along their supply chains to make sure they know exactly where their timber came from and whether the permit used to get it was legal,’ said [Global Witness’s Alexandra] Pardal.

Illegal resource extraction
Reuters reports that nearly all of Liberia’s resource deals since 2009 have violated national laws:

“Liberian law sets rules for foreign investment projects including on competitive tendering, tax rates and equity stakes to be held by the government.
While some failures to comply with the law are relatively minor, the Moore Stephens draft shows the government granted vast swathes of land to firms including Golden Agri’s Golden Veroleum and Sime Darby without competitive bidding, and otherwise skipped contract steps meant to ensure a fair deal for Liberians.
Other companies with contracts found to be flawed include U.S. oil firm Chevron Petroleum and mining giant BHP, according to the report, which also accused Liberian authorities of having tried to stonewall the audit process since late last year by failing to hand over information promptly.”

No more executions
The Associated Press reports that Maryland has become the 18th US state and the first south of the Mason-Dixon line to abolish the death penalty:

“[National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] President and CEO Ben Jealous, who worked to get the repeal bill passed, noted the significance of a Democratic governor south of the Mason-Dixon line with presidential aspirations leading an effort to ban capital punishment. Jealous noted that in 1992, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton left the presidential campaign trail to oversee the execution of a man who had killed a police officer, a move widely viewed as an effort to shed the Democratic Party’s image as soft on crime.
‘Our governor has also just redefined what it means to have a political future in this country,’ Jealous said”

Fighting biopiracy
EurActiv reports that the EU is debating new measures that would require companies to compensate indigenous people for the commercial use of their knowledge:

“Under the law – based on the international convention on access to biodiversity, the Nagoya protocol – the pharmaceuticals industry would need the written consent of local or indigenous people before exploring their region’s genetic resources or making use of their traditional knowhow.
Relevant authorities would have the power to sanction companies that fail to comply, protecting local interests from the predatory attitude of big European companies.

But obstacles remain due to vested interests, particularly in the European pharmaceuticals industry. ‘90% of genetic resources are in the south and 90% of the patents are in the north,’ [Green MEP Sandrine] Bélier told EurActiv.”

Free trade racket
The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Dean Baker argues that international trade agreements, such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, have more to do with “securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests” than free trade:

“All the arguments that trade economists make against tariffs and quotas apply to patent and copyright protection. The main difference is the order of magnitude. Tariffs and quotas might raise the price of various items by 20 or 30 percent. By contrast, patent and copyright protection is likely to raise the price of protected items 2,000 percent or even 20,000 percent above the free market price. Drugs that would sell for a few dollars per prescription in a free market would sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars when the government gives a drug company a patent monopoly.
In the case of drug patents, the costs go beyond just dollars and cents. Higher drug prices will have a direct impact on the public’s health, especially in some of the poorer countries that might end up being parties to these agreements.”

Pharma power
This is Africa’s Adam Robert Green discusses concerns that pharmaceutical companies may be “shaping the public health agenda” in poor countries:

“One example is the HPV vaccination programme for cervical cancer in Rwanda, enabled by a donation from Merck. After three years, the freebies expire, but Merck promised to provide Rwanda with a discounted access price to the vaccine. Assuming donors and governments pick up the bill, the donations could be interpreted as market-priming – creating the conditions for adoption – rather than corporate citizenship.”

Latest Developments, April 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Shell’s back
Agence France-Presse reports that oil giant Shell has returned to Nigeria’s “massively polluted” Ogoniland region 20 years after suspending its operations there due to unrest:

“The Anglo-Dutch oil major said the move was not part of an attempt to restart oil production in Ogoniland, describing it instead as a bid to comply with a 2011 UN report that called for one of the world’s biggest ever environmental clean-ups.

The report called for the oil industry and the Nigerian government to contribute $1 billion (762 million euros) to a clean-up fund for the region, adding that restoration could take up to 30 years.”

Fine rhetoric
Euractiv reports that the point person on the EU’s new transparency rules for global resource companies has accused the UK government of trying to water down the legislation during negotiations “despite the government’s public declarations that it supports more disclosure”:

“ ‘There is a general view really that they [Britain] were working very closely with Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto inspired a lot of their original proposal,’ [UK Labour MEP Arlene] McCarthy said of the British government’s negotiating position.
Britain hued closely during the talks on Tuesday to the industry position that companies should only disclose contracts at the government level, even though Prime Minister David Cameron had given a speech about a year ago saying that Britain was committed to the higher transparency standard of project-level reporting – a stance pressed by civil society, McCarthy said.

‘On the one hand, the rhetoric is fine, claiming that you are leading on the issues, but that certainly was not the case when it comes to practical negotiations or influencing other member countries to try and get a better deal. They did not push for anything like that at all,’ she said.”

Execution numbers
Amnesty International has released its annual report on executions and death sentences around the world:

“Only 21 of the world’s countries were recorded as having carried out executions in 2012 – the same number as in 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade earlier in 2003.

The top five executing countries in the world were once again China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and USA, with Yemen closely behind.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

Ag-gag bills
The New York Times reports that “a dozen or so state legislatures” have proposed or adopted laws that would make it illegal for animal rights activists to videotape instances of cruelty on farms:

“Critics call them ‘Ag-Gag’ bills.
Some of the legislation appears inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business advocacy group with hundreds of state representatives from farm states as members. The group creates model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers, that in the past have included such things as ‘stand your ground’ gun laws and tighter voter identification rules.
One of the group’s model bills, ‘The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,’ prohibits filming or taking pictures on livestock farms to ‘defame the facility or its owner.’ Violators would be placed on a ‘terrorist registry.’ ”

Expanding war
The Wall Street Journal reports on America’s “escalating drug war across Africa”:

“Over the past two years, the U.S. government has spent about $100 million to expand its drug war into nearly every West African country, the State Department said. [Drug Enforcement Administration] officers are teaching police from Liberia and Cape Verde to board boats, and setting up drug squads in Nigeria and Ghana that would act on U.S. intelligence. The agency has five offices on the continent, with a sixth and seventh planned for Senegal and Morocco.”

Checkered past
The Associated Press reports that US private military contractor DynCorp, which was previously implicated in sex trafficking and extraordinary rendition, has won a new contract to support the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti:

“The Falls Church, Virginia-based DynCorp International received the contract from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. It will recruit and finance up to 100 officers to join the U.N.’s police unit affiliated with the mission, known as UN Pol, and 10 U.N. correction advisers.

The DynCorp task order has a one-year base period with three, one-year options that carries a total value of $48.6 million.”

Dam disappointment
The Asia Times reports that a World Bank-funded hydroelectric project in Laos may not be the “kinder, gentler” type of dam that was promised:

“After three years of commercial operations and a vigorous public relations campaign, the [Nam Theun 2] dam is now contributing to wider, more intractable problems. These include emerging evidence that resettled villagers have resorted to poaching and illegal logging to sustain their communities as well as reports from the European Union-sponsored Global Climate Change Alliance that Laos has recently become a net emitter of [greenhouse gases] after previously serving as a valuable global carbon sink.”

Carbon equality
Princeton University’s Peter Singer and Tsinghua University’s Teng Fei use the concept of a “carbon Gini coefficient” to assess the fairness of proposed approaches to tackling climate change:

“If it proves too difficult to reach agreement on a substantive equity principle, then an agreement that some carbon Gini coefficients are simply too extreme to be fair could form the basis of a minimum consensus. For example, we can compare the grandfathering principle’s carbon Gini coefficient of 0.7 with the Gini coefficient of the US, which most people regard as highly inegalitarian, and yet is much lower, at about 0.38.
On the other hand, equal per capita annual emissions is based on a principle that at least has a claim to be considered fair, and has a Gini coefficient of less than 0.4. We therefore propose that any fair solution should have a carbon Gini coefficient of 0.0-0.4. Although the choice of a precise number is somewhat arbitrary, this ‘fair range’ should establish the boundaries for those committed to an equitable solution to the problem of climate change.”

Latest Developments, December 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Warpath
The Globe and Mail reports on concerns that foreign military intervention in Mali, which has just received unanimous backing from the UN Security Council, could have “unintended consequences”:

“The rebel takeover of the north has already forced nearly 500,000 people to flee their homes or become refugees in neighbouring countries, and a new confidential UN report has warned that another 400,000 people could be pushed out of their homes if there is military intervention in the north.
‘No clear plan exists to ensure that a military intervention would not exacerbate the already disastrous humanitarian situation,’ said Alexandra Gheciu, a University of Ottawa professor who specializes in international security.
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has warned that the military intervention would have a high humanitarian cost that has been largely ignored so far.”

No way back
Think Africa Press’s James Wan takes issue with a European court ruling that Chagos Islanders, who were evicted from their homeland by the British to make way for a military base, relinquished their right to return 30 years ago when a group of them accepted $6 million in compensation:

“Firstly, the argument does not hold for the several hundreds of islanders deported to the Seychelles rather than Mauritius where the compensation was paid. ‘We were completely excluded from compensation’, Bernadette Dugasse told Think Africa Press earlier this year. ‘Chagossians from Seychelles were not even given half a penny, not even a teaspoonful of land.’ The full ruling barely acknowledges this.
Secondly, the suggestion that the exiled Chagossians could have pursued the matter in the courts had they ‘preferred’ is dubious at best. According to Mark Lattimer, executive director of Minority Rights Group, ‘it is frankly ridiculous to expect that a people from the Indian Ocean, some of who were illiterate, and who have been thrown into abject poverty, to have the means and the wherewithal to pursue the British government in the English court’.
In fact, even the notion that Chagossians who did get compensation renounced their right to return rests on shaky ground. Putting aside the fact that the compensation was derisory, it is notable that the documents were in English, which most Chagossians did not speak, and that many were illiterate and had to sign with thumbprints. Although the UK government claims that lawyers were present to explain the documents, many islanders have long insisted they had no idea they were signing away their right to return, and that had they known they would never have accepted the compensation.”

First Nations rising
The Dominion’s Martin Lukacs writes that the Idle No More protests currently taking place in Canada have the potential to “reset aboriginal-state relations”:

“Billions have indeed been spent – not on fixing housing, building schools or ending the country’s two-tiered child aid services, but on a legal war against aboriginal communities. Every year, the government pours more than $100m into court battles to curtail aboriginal rights – and that figure alone went to defeating a single lawsuit launched by two Alberta First Nations trying to recover oil royalties essentially stolen by bureaucrats.

Parliament will soon debate a bill that would break up reserves – still, mostly, collectively held – into individual private property that can be purchased by non-native speculators. The undeclared agenda of government policy is the same as it was a century ago: a grab for resource-rich lands, and the assimilation of aboriginal nations.”

Death to capital punishment
Amnesty International reports on the latest UN General Assembly vote on the death penalty, in which 111 states voted for abolition:

“New votes in favour included Central African Republic, Chad, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Tunisia. As a further positive sign, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia moved from opposition to abstention. Regrettably, Bahrain, Dominica and Oman changed their abstention to a vote against the resolution, while Maldives, Namibia and Sri Lanka went from a vote in favour to an abstention.”

Investment dangers
Paint Our World’s Priya Virmani is not convinced that the arrival in India of global supermarket chains will help the country’s farmers:

“Yet if the intervention of big supermarket chains lifts farmers, why do American and European farmers need to be heavily subsidised? Predatory pricing – the precedent set by the biggest supermarkets – threatens smaller retailers as monopolistic practices take place.

More [foreign direct investment] brings with it the promise of improving India’s growth figures. But these indicate the overall temperature of an economy and not the temperature of its disparate parts. When the temperature of India’s bottom of the pyramid, at around 800 million people, is at an opposite end of the spectrum to that of the other much more opulent India then growth in itself cannot be considered an indication of the health of the majority.”

Lump of coal
The Guardian reports that protesters dumped coal outside the London offices of GCM Resources over its plans to develop a massive open-pit mine in Bangladesh:

“An official complaint to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has been made by the World Development Movement and the International Accountability Project, saying the company would forcibly evict up to 130,000 people if the project went ahead. The complaint mentions a UN report from earlier this year warning that ‘access to safe drinking water for some 220,000 people is at stake’.
The company claims the mine will displace 40,000 people but create 17,000 jobs.”

Miner changes
Bloomberg reports that South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has decided against nationalizing mines, but is considering a number of other ways to increase the country’s benefits from mining:

“The party is considering a ‘resource rent’ tax or higher royalties to extract more revenue from the industry, said Enoch Godongwana, head of the ANC’s economic transformation committee.

The ANC agreed today to classify certain minerals as strategic, which the government wants to manage through measures including targeted export controls in order to ensure security of supply, Godongwana said. Iron ore, coal, copper, copper, zinc and nickel are amongst minerals being considered for classification, according to the ANC’s document.”

Death traps
EarthPeople’s Anna Clark argues that the US has outsourced much of the injustice it has eliminated from its own economic system:

“Due to the relentless pursuit of low-cost labour and the lack of accountability inherent in a global supply chain, companies will have to learn to work with labour rights groups to mandate and track compliance.
Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, for example, agreed to work with watchdog groups to introduce new fire safety standards at their supplier factories. Gap Inc, which operates the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta brands, instead decided to go it alone with its own corporate-controlled programme.
With limited oversight by worker organisations and no transparency, such measures are not good enough to protect vulnerable workers.”

Latest Developments, November 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Shady clients
The Telegraph reports that UK tax officials have received evidence suggesting Britain’s biggest bank “opened offshore accounts in Jersey for serious criminals”:

“The Telegraph understands that among those identified on the list are Daniel Bayes, a drug dealer who is now in Venezuela; Michael Lee, who was convicted of possessing more than 300 weapons at his house in Devon; three bankers facing major fraud allegations and a man once dubbed London’s ‘number two computer crook’.

The leak of the Jersey data, which is understood not to have involved HMRC paying for the list, is expected to have global ramifications as more than 4,000 residents of other countries are identified, although British residents account for more than half of all the clients.”

Corporate aid
MiningWatch has slammed a Canadian parliamentary committee report it says endorses “a wholesale handover of [the Canadian International Development Agency] to the private sector”:

“ ‘This committee report doesn’t just tie Canadian aid to mining interests, it would actually restructure CIDA to better serve the interests of the corporate sector,’ says MiningWatch spokesperson Catherine Coumans.

‘Rather than directing resources and political pressure towards stripping down the legal framework in other countries, the Canadian government should oblige Canadian mining companies operating overseas to meet strong environmental and human rights standards, including respect for free prior and informed consent,’ says Coumans. ‘The government should also ensure that people who have been harmed through the activities of a Canadian company have access to justice in Canadian courts.’ ”

Thinking the unthinkable
Reuters reports that the “taboo subject” of a carbon tax is beginning to garner support in some surprising circles as a potential way to avoid America’s so-called fiscal cliff:

“Prospects for such a tax as a way to address pollution and climate are probably dim in a still deeply-divided Congress, but some analysts say the measure would be more attractive if positioned as a source of new revenue.
In fact, a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, suggesting a $20 per ton tax on carbon emissions could halve the U.S. budget deficit over time.”

Subsidized overfishing
Inter Press Service reports on the latest research linking the $27 billion in fishing subsidies paid out by rich-country governments each year and the progressive destruction of fish stocks in poor countries:

“Most go to building the ever-more-efficient ships that are required to catch ever-dwindling populations of fish around the world, with yet more subsidies going to offset their growing consumption of fuel as they venture ever farther and deeper to fill their holds.
The result, says Dr. Rashid Sumaila, lead author of the [University of British Columbia] study, is that taxpayers are funding the depletion of the world’s fish populations and the impoverishment of coastal communities abroad.”

Extrajudicial drones
Barbara Lochbihler, a member of the European Parliament, explores some of the ethical and legal questions raised by the use of drones in warfare:

“Outside the context of war, in turn, state killings are legal only if they prove absolutely necessary to save lives. They must be conducted either in self-defense after an attack, or in anticipatory self-defense against an immediate threat, when taking time to discuss non-lethal alternatives is not feasible.
More than a decade after September 11, America’s drone program does not fall into the first category of reactive self-defense. Likewise, there is no evidence that any presumed terrorist who was killed outside of official war zones in the last few years represented a threat so immediate to US citizens’ lives that preventive and premeditated killing was the only option. Unless US leaders prove otherwise in every case, American UAV attacks in countries like Pakistan or Yemen should be called what they are: extrajudicial killings.

The US drone program does not make the world a safer place; it creates an environment in which unlawful killings can happen virtually anywhere, at any time, violating the fundamental human right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one’s life.”

Mining renegotiation
Reuters reports the DR Congo is seeking to reassure investors regarding plans to “sharply raise the state stake” in the country’s mining projects, promising to consult beforehand with mining companies as well as the World Bank and IMF:

“A draft of the proposed changes in the mining law seen by Reuters shows Congo is seeking a 35 percent stake in projects that is ‘free of charges and … non-dilutable.’ It also includes a proposal to double royalties on some minerals and introduces a 50 percent levy on miners’ ‘super profits’.
The draft revision defines ‘super profits’ as made when a commodity’s price rises exceptionally over 25 percent compared with its level at the time of the project’s feasibility study.”

Capital endorsement
Human Rights Watch has expressed disappointment at California voters’ decision to stick with the death penalty, arguing continued support for the “barbaric” practice puts them out of step with national and global trends:

“Between 2007 and 2011, the US ranked behind only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq in number of death sentences handed down. There has been a heartening trend away from the death penalty in the last five years, however, Human Rights Watch said. Of the 17 states that have rejected the death penalty, 5 have done so since 2007 – New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Illinois, and Connecticut. Nationally, the number of executions has been declining since 2009.

Countries around the world have increasingly rejected the death penalty. Of the 193 United Nations member states, 94 have laws abolishing the sentence, while 137 are abolitionist in practice. According to the UN Secretary General, 175 countries were execution-free in 2011. Belarus is the only European country that still applies the death penalty.”

Hunger wages
The Daily Maverick reports that the “poverty, pitiful wages, appalling living conditions” behind South Africa’s global wine and fruit exports have led to violent protests and fears that more will follow:

“The labourers’ perspective is that the table grapes and citrus products that are farmed in the area are for the export market and that the farm owners are making more than enough money.

‘The wealth and well-being these workers produce shouldn’t be rooted in human misery,’ Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said when the report was released. ‘The government and the industries and farmers themselves, need to do a lot more to protect people who live and work on farms.’ ”

Latest Developments, April 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Suppressing dissent
A letter signed by 49 former officials from the UN Conference on Trade and Development says wealthy countries are trying to silence the organization because its economic analyses provide an alternative to the views of Western-dominated institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF.
“No organisation correctly foresaw the current crisis, and no organisation has a magic wand to deal with present difficulties. But it is unquestionable that the crisis originated in and is widespread among the countries that now wish to stifle debate about global economic policies, despite their own manifest failings in this area.

So the developed countries in Geneva have seized the occasion to stifle UNCTAD’s capacity to think outside the box. This is neither a cost-saving measure nor an attempt to ‘eliminate duplication’ as some would claim. The budget for UNCTAD’s research work is peanuts and disparate views on economic policy are needed today more than ever as the world clamours for new economic thinking as a sustainable way out of the current crisis. No, it is rather – if you cannot kill the message, at least kill the messenger. ”

ICC reparations
IRIN reports that, following the International Criminal Court’s first-ever conviction last month, reparations for the victims has become a “thorny issue.”
“No other international criminal tribunal has ever awarded reparations, but under ICC rules, those who have suffered injury or harm from a crime for which someone is convicted could receive restitution, compensation or rehabilitation.

‘The ICC was initially thinking of symbolic reparations,’ [Witness’s Bukeni] Waruzi said. ‘They were saying something like building a statue in the village that will really honour the victims. But reparations cannot be symbolic, because the crimes were not symbolic. It is now for the ICC to take full responsibility, to actually manage the expectations.’ ”

Spanish integration
Inter Press Service reports Spain’s latest national budget has cut off all funding for “social insertion, employment and education programmes” for immigrants to the debt-ridden country.
“SOS Racismo predicts that the disappearance of the fund will paralyse ‘hundreds of municipal and regional integration plans,’ and said its removal contravenes European Union agreements, such as the European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals, established in July 2011.
According to SOS Racismo, ‘economic crises have different timescales to those needed to evaluate the extent of integration of an immigrant population that in recent years has seen its employment and family expectations frustrated.’ ”

Phasing out executions
Human Rights Watch says that five American states abolishing the death penalty in five years is a “clear sign” of the growing momentum against capital punishment in the US.
“Since 2007, the death penalty has been eliminated in New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, and Illinois. After Connecticut joins them, 17 US states will have rejected capital punishment.  Thirteen states that have the penalty on the books have not used it for at least five years. Challenges to the death penalty are also being mounted in California and Maryland.”

Big-box hate
The Atlantic reports on a new study which found a correlation between the presence of big-box stores and hate groups in communities across the US.
“Before anyone gets too worked up, the study’s authors aren’t saying that Walmarts cause hate groups to form (they’re also using Walmart here as a stand-in for all big box stores; Target merely got off the hook in the study headline). Rather, this research suggests national mega-stores like Walmart may fray the social capital in a community – by disrupting its economy and displacing the community leaders who run local businesses – in ways that enable hate groups to take hold.

Of all the variables [the study’s authors] looked at, the number of Walmarts in a county was the second-most significant predictor of the presence of hate groups, behind only the designation of a county as a Metropolitan Statistical Area, or in other words an urban one.”

Private aid
Global Humanitarian Assistance has published a new report on the increasing privatization of humanitarian and development assistance, and some of the transparency issues associated with this trend.
“While global private support to large-scale emergencies is relatively easy to gauge, it remains unclear how much private money is out there in any given year. While the absence of dedicated tracking mechanisms for this type of financing certainly does nothing to improve clarity, it is the lack of consistent reporting on the income and expenditure of private aid funding globally that makes any attempt at tracking it a near impossible mission.

If tracking total private voluntary contributions for humanitarian aid is a challenging task, gauging where this private money goes is an even more difficult enterprise. Very few humanitarian organisations report their private country or sector expenditure separately from their overall funding allocation.”

Drug-war addiction
The Universidad de Di Tella’s Juan Gabriel Tokatlian hopes the Obama administration’s appointment of a new “drug warrior” for Latin America and the Caribbean will mean a change of American tactics in the region.
“And, throughout Latin America, the situation has only worsened since the 1990’s. Indeed, Latin American countries’ US-backed fight against drugs has had universally destructive consequences in terms of civil-military relations, human-rights violations, and corruption.

The military and political challenges are significant, the risks are considerable, and the benefits are uncertain. But if [United States Southern Command] does not implement major changes in how it prosecutes the drug war, the US will find itself facing an increasingly volatile and dangerous set of neighbors to the south.”

Extractive politics
OpenOil’s Johnny West argues the extractive industry is inherently more political than other forms of business and any attempts to regulate it must take this feature into account.
“Once you recognise rent as the essence of the global oil and the mining industries, you must recognise that everything about them is as much political, and geo-political, as it is economic. That is how historically mismanagement of those industries has led to such massive corruption and conflict. Nobody ever went to war over car manufacturing or internet service provision. When it comes to bananas or silicon chips, or intellectual copyright, the term ‘trade war’ is, thankfully, a metaphor.

With oil, business is politics and politics is business, whatever anyone says. Technocratic solutions can only pick up where broader political questions have been settled.”