Latest Developments, September 25

In the latest news and analysis…

Diplomatic baby steps
The Jerusalem Post provides a transcript of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s UN speech, in which he indicated a willingness “to engage immediately” in nuclear talks but also called for changes in Western attitudes and policies:

“Coercive economic and military policies and practices geared to the maintenance and preservation of old superiorities and dominations have been pursued in a conceptual mindset that negates peace, security, human dignity, and exalted human ideals. Ignoring differences between societies and globalizing Western values as universal ones represent another manifestation of this conceptual mindset.

The prevalent international political discourse depicts a civilized center surrounded by un-civilized peripheries. In this picture, the relation between the center of world power and the peripheries is hegemonic. The discourse assigning the North the center stage and relegating the South to the periphery has led to the establishment of a monologue at the level of international relations.”

Big signing
The Washington Post reports that the US is set to sign the international Arms Trade Treaty at the UN on Wednesday, though its entry into force still looks a long way off:

“The treaty will go into effect once it is signed and ratified by at least 50 U.N. member states. The United States will be the 89th country to sign the treaty, which was adopted in a 153 to 3 vote, with 20 abstentions, in April.

Only four countries have ratified the treaty — Iceland, Nigeria, Guyana and the Caribbean island state of Antigua and Barbuda. U.S. ratification requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, where many Republicans and some Democrats are strongly opposed, and the administration is unlikely to submit it in the near future.”

Intervention fever
Le Monde reports that France is currently mulling over three options for a military intervention in the Central African Republic:

“One, the most direct, would involve increasing the number of French soldiers currently in CAR from 450 to about 1,200 for a rapid securitization operation under a UN mandate, but with considerable autonomy. The second would call for increasing the current force to about 750 troops. This reduced mobilization put forward by President François Hollande would see the French contingent provide a support role for the international mission (MISCA) already on the ground with 1,300 soldiers from Cameroon, Congo, Gabon and Chad.
The last option, seen as more of a long-term approach, would keep the number of French soldiers at 450, who would serve as a rapid reaction force capable of increasing its size if needed.” [Translated from the French.]

ICC on Westgate
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has announced her willingness to investigate the deadly attack and siege of an upscale Nairobi mall:

“Such attacks by armed groups upon innocent civilians are contrary to international law and may constitute a crime under the Rome Statute, to which Kenya is a State Party. In expressing her solidarity with the victims, their families and the people of Kenya, and with full respect for the primacy of jurisdiction of the Republic of Kenya, the Prosecutor stands ready to work with the international community and the Government of Kenya to ensure that those responsible for these crimes are brought to justice.”

Blue-helmet crimes
Radio France Internationale reports that UN peacekeepers have been accused of misconduct, including rape, in northern Mali:

“An investigation is underway. According to information obtained by RFI on Tuesday, the rape allegations were made against Chadian soldiers belonging to the group that had left their post in Tessalit for Gao in order to protest that they had not been paid bonuses or relieved by fresh troops. According to the mission’s spokesperson, the suspects remain in custody in Gao.” [Translated from the French.]

Sharing the wealth
The Guardian reports that a town in Switzerland has voted to give a chunk of its “commodity million” to charities in countries where Swiss corporate giant Glencore operates:

“ ‘We hope that people will open their eyes to the danger that raw material extraction will be the next reputational time bomb for Switzerland,’ [Hedingen’s Samuel Schweizer] said. ‘Political leaders have not learned anything from the disaster of [Switzerland's role at the heart of the] banking industry.’
The Berne Declaration, a non-governmental organisation campaigning against Switzerland’s role in hosting global commodity companies, said: ‘While the decision makers in the capital Berne consider our commodities industry still only a political reputation risk, the landmark decision in the rural-conservative Hedingen shows that on the ground Glencore and their competitors already have a real reputational problem in this country.
‘Remarkably and correctly, the people of Hedingen assume that tax money is not automatically white, clean or legitimate. As citizens, they take responsibility for that which the government still shies away from.’ ”

Vision with teeth
Human Rights Watch has released a new report in which it lays out a post-2015 development agenda that enforces respect for human rights:

“Setting mandatory requirements on corporations to undertake human rights due diligence around their work and publicly report on their human rights, social and environmental impacts, as well as their payments to domestic or foreign governments.
Requiring respect for human rights by international financial institutions, in all their development policies and programs.
Making the post-2015 agenda universal – with commitments applicable to all countries, not just low income ones – and strengthening accountability for delivering on these commitments to inclusive, sustainable, and rights-respecting development.”

Corporate medicine
ONE reports that its co-founder, U2 frontman Bono, has lashed out at the US oil industry for fighting against new rules requiring its overseas activities to become more transparent:

“ ‘We know corruption is killing more kids than TB, AIDS, and malaria put together. There is a vaccine and it’s called transparency,’ said Bono.

‘I’m no cranky anti-corporation critic here,’ Bono said. ‘I implore the people in this room, from Exxon, from Chevron… You can’t have it both ways. You can’t give alms to the poor on one level and have your hands on their throats on another.’ ”

Latest Developments, May 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Dead miners
The New York Times reports that an “independent team” will investigate an accident that killed 28 workers at a US-owned mine in Indonesia:

“Rescue workers on Tuesday night recovered the last body from the debris of the collapsed tunnel, in the Big Gossan underground training facility. The tunnel’s roof caved in May 14 with 38 mining company employees inside, with only 10 surviving, [Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold] officials said.

Freeport Indonesia is the largest taxpayer to the Indonesian government, but it is a regular target of nationalist politicians who have called on it to pay higher royalties. The company has also had labor disputes in recent years.”

Rendition immunity
Al Jazeera reports that the UK wants the case of a former Libyan opposition figure sent back to face torture during the Gadhafi years “heard in a secret court, or not at all”:

“In the first preliminary hearing over the claim brought by Abdel Hakim Belhadj, a prominent rebel fighter-turned-politician, the government’s lawyers held on Tuesday that the case should either not go to trial in the UK, or that UK officials were ‘immune’ from prosecution.

Belhadj and Fatima Boudchar, his heavily pregnant wife, were captured in exile in China. The ‘rendering’ operation was co-ordinated between the UK, US and Libyan intelligence agencies.

Belhadj has offered to settle the matter out of court if the British government agrees to pay a token amount of one British pound each, apologise and admit liability. The defendants have refused these terms.”

Fashion disaster
The Wall Street Journal reports that clothes were being made for Swedish fashion giant H&M at a Cambodian factory where a building collapse has injured 23 people:

“The Stockholm-based retailer also said its orders had been placed at the factory without its knowledge, highlighting the lack of control some of the world’s biggest brands may have over their supply chains.
Garment factories in Cambodia and other countries sometimes subcontract orders from retail brands to other factories to help meet demand or save costs, even though major brands often officially forbid the practice. Workers’ rights activists condemn such subcontracting because they say it makes it harder to track the origin of garments, obscuring responsibility for working conditions at the factories. Subcontracted factories may also be subjected to less rigorous auditing than factories approved by the brands.

On Monday, 23 workers were injured when a rest area outside the subcontracted factory operated by Hong Kong’s Top World Garment (Cambodia) Ltd., and located near the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, collapsed and fell into a pond.
The incident came just a few days after portions of another Cambodian garment factory collapsed, killing three people and injuring several others.”

Criminalized migration
Human Rights Watch has released a new report criticizing the US government’s “skyrocketing” prosecutions of migrants who have entered the country illegally:

“The 82-page report, ‘Turning Migrants Into Criminals: The Harmful Impact of US Border Prosecutions,’ documents the negative impact of illegal entry and reentry prosecutions, which have increased 1,400 and 300 percent, respectively, over the past 10 years and now outnumber prosecutions for all other federal crimes. Over 80,000 people were convicted of these crimes in 2012, many in rapid-fire mass prosecutions that violate due process rights. Many are separated from their US families, and a large number end up in costly and overcrowded federal prisons, some for months or years.”

Dirty jewellery
An international coalition of labour and environmental groups has released a report that is highly critical of the Responsible Jewellery Council’s certification system:

“The RJC system is riddled with loopholes relating to membership, auditing, and accountability, allowing, for example, member companies as a whole to be certified as RJC compliant even when some of their gold, platinum and diamond-producing facilities — or projects they are invested in — are excluded from RJC audits. The system lacks transparency. Auditors’ reports are not made public, and equally troubling, the RJC itself doesn’t receive evidence or detailed auditors’ reports about operations that it certifies.
Several RJC standards are weak and violate widely accepted social and environmental principles. Under the RJC Code, mining companies can operate in conflict zones, fail to protect workers’ rights to join unions, and allow children as young as 14 to work. It also fails to place limits on water and air pollution and allows toxic waste disposal into lakes and ocean environments.”

Debt crimes
Jubilee Debt Campaign’s Nick Dearden says the debt repayments and austerity measures demanded by Pakistan’s external creditors are “tantamount to economic torture”:

“From 1998 Pakistan was lent $500m by the World Bank and others to build a drainage project to improve land irrigation. This might have been a good thing, if it had worked. But it was so badly constructed that the project increased, rather than decreased, the salinity of the land and seriously damaged ecosystems. In 2003 flooding, partially caused by the drainage project, killed more than 300 people. Pakistan has just start repaying the World Bank (with interest) for the project.

The IMF’s loans have made Pakistan a more unequal country. One condition the IMF imposed was to increase sales tax and cut trade taxes. Over the 1980s and 1990s, as a result, taxes on the poorest households increased by 7%, while falling by 15% for the richest.”

Extractive transparency
The Revenue Watch Institute’s Daniel Kaufmann calls on rich countries to require more transparent overseas operations from their oil, mining and gas companies:

“Building on the pioneering Lugar-Cardin provision in U.S. Dodd-Frank legislation and the newly minted agreement in the European Union (EU), the G-8 should endorse both home — and host-country mandatory disclosure standards in line with these new U.S. and EU regulations and support their implementation. In particular, Canada and Russia ought to adopt these standards and ensure that G20 and emerging economies including Australia, Brazil, China, South Africa and Switzerland follow suit. [Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative] should also fully align itself with these disclosure standards, helping countries and companies report detailed revenues paid to governments.”

AU turns 50
The University of North Carolina’s Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja assesses the African Union’s achievements and shortcomings as the organization celebrates its 50th birthday this week:

“This unswerving opposition to white minority rule and colonialism is undoubtedly the [Organisation of African Unity]‘s greatest achievement. It succeeded in mobilising African and world opinion against colonialists in the Portuguese colonies and settler states of Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

A major problem confronting the AU is resources. With so much dependence on the EU and other external funding, questions arise about African ownership and initiative in some of the theatres of intervention.”

Latest Developments, February 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Fear of the police
A new report released by Human Rights Watch accuses Canadian police of negligent and “abusive” behaviour in an area of the country infamous for the murder and disappearance of First Nations women and girls:

“Indigenous women and girls told Human Rights Watch that the RCMP has failed to protect them. They also described instances of abusive policing, including excessive use of force against girls, strip searches of women by male officers, and physical and sexual abuse. One woman said that in July, four police officers took her to a remote location, raped her, and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

Human Rights Watch researchers were struck by the fear expressed by women they interviewed. The women’s reactions were comparable to those Human Rights Watch has found in post-conflict or post-transition countries, where security forces have played an integral role in government abuses and enforcement of authoritarian policies.”

Toxic Europe
The Guardian reports that the EU’s own lawyers believe European efforts to legalize the export of contaminated ships to poor countries may be illegal:

“Leaked European council legal opinion papers seen by the Guardian express grave concerns over the European commission’s attempts to exempt ships from the Basel convention, the global treaty that demands that rich countries dispose of their own asbestos and other hazardous waste materials, and do not add to pollution in poorer countries.

According to the World Bank, Bangladesh alone is expected to have 79,000 tonnes of asbestos and 240,000 tonnes of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) chemicals ‘dumped’ on it by rich country’s ships in the next 20 years.”

Disappeared prisoners
ProPublica reports that “at least twenty” people who were detained by the CIA in so-called black prisons are still missing:

“The Senate Intelligence Committee recently completed a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention program. At Brenan’s confirmation hearings, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), said the report shows the interrogation program was run by people ‘ignorant of the topic, executed by personnel without relevant experience, managed incompetently by senior officials who did not pay attention to detail, and corrupted by personnel with pecuniary conflicts of interest.’ Rockefeller is one of the few to have read the report, which remains classified.”

Sankara’s ghost
Radio France Internationale reports that a French parliamentarian is calling for an investigation into the role France played in the 1987 assassination of Burkina Faso president Thomas Sankara:

“Twelve Burkinabé MPs wrote to their French counterparts two years ago to demand a parliamentary inquiry into Sankara’s death.
[MP André] Chassaigne says it’s time for France to heed their call.
‘France, to an as-yet unknown extent, is responsible for this assassination,’ he said on Wednesday.”

Classified medal
The Associated Press reports that the US military has created a new medal for those who fight wars using “remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems”:

“The new blue, red and white-ribboned Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to individuals for ‘extraordinary achievement’ related to a military operation that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001. But unlike other combat medals, it does not require the recipient risk his or her life to get it.

The Pentagon does not publicly discuss its offensive cyber operations or acts of cyberwarfare. Considering that secrecy, it’s not clear how public such awards might be in the future.”

Organic country
The Guardian reports that Bhutan plans to ban all pesticides, herbicides and artifical fertilizers to become the first country with “completely organic” agriculture:

“In the west, organic food growing is widely thought to reduce the size of crops because they become more susceptible to pests. But this is being challenged in Bhutan and some regions of Asia, where smallholders are developing new techniques to grow more and are not losing soil quality.
Systems like ‘sustainable root intensification’ (SRI), which carefully regulate the amount of water that crops need and the age at which seedlings are planted out, have shown that organic crop yields can be doubled with no synthetic chemicals.

Good intentions
Africa on the Blog’s Ossob Mohamud writes about her own uncomfortable experiences with so-called voluntourism, which she says can all too easily treat poor countries like “a playground for the redemption of privileged souls looking to atone for global injustices”:

“Time and energy would be better spent building real solidarity between disparate societies based on mutual respect and understanding. Instead of focusing on surface symptoms of poverty, volunteers and the organizations that recruit them should focus on the causes that often stem from an unjust global economic order. Why not advocate and campaign for IMF and World Bank reforms? How about having volunteers advocate for their home country to change aggressive foreign and agricultural policies (such as subsidy programs)? This might seem unrealistic but the idea is to get volunteers to understand their own (direct or indirect) role in global poverty. The idea is to get volunteers truly invested in ending poverty, and not simply to feel better about themselves.”

Bad suit
The Daily Guide reports that the Africa Centre for Energy Policy is speaking out against efforts by industry lobby groups to get around new US transparency requirements for oil, gas and mining companies operating abroad:

In a press release issued recently in Accra and signed by Mohammed Amin Adam, its Executive Director, ACEP said the suit is a betrayal of the move for global transparency in the oil and gas industry by well meaning global citizens and governments.
‘We, in Africa, received the news of the issuance of regulations to back the implementation of the Dodd Frank Transparency reforms with great joy because we believe that it would expose corruption and mismanagement of natural resources on our continent.’

‘It is against this background that ACEP calls on Anadarko, Hess Corporation and Kosmos Energy, who are operating in Ghana, to dissociate themselves from the legal suit by the [American Petroleum Institute] and instead support efforts at enhancing transparency and accountability in the global oil and gas industry,’ it stated.”

Latest Developments, February 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Surprise endorsement
Wired reports that UN special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson, the man who recently launched an investigation into the use of armed drones, has given his “qualified backing” to John Brennan, the man who has been running the US drone program, for next head of the CIA:

“Emmerson, a British lawyer, has put the U.S. on notice that he won’t hesitate to investigate U.S. ‘war crimes’ if he uncovers evidence of them. While Emmerson’s inquiry won’t focus on individuals responsible for any uncovered abuses, Brennan, as a White House aide, presided over the bureaucratic process for ordering suspected terrorists killed. Yet at the White House, Emmerson says, Brennan ‘had the job of reining in the more extreme positions advanced by the CIA,’ which he thinks augurs well for Brennan’s CIA tenure.
‘By putting Brennan in direct control of the CIA’s policy [of targeted killings], the president has placed this mediating legal presence in direct control of the positions that the CIA will adopt and advance, so as to bring the CIA much more closely under direct presidential and democratic control,’ Emmerson says. ‘It’s right to view this as a recognition of the repository of trust that Obama places in Brennan to put him in control of the organization that poses the greatest threat to international legal consensus and recognition of the lawfulness of the drone program.’ ”

Due process
Georgetown University’s David Cole wonders if there are any “alternative checks within the executive branch” during US decision making on targeted killings:

“For example, is anyone assigned to make the case against the targeted killing—that is, to advocate on behalf of the person the administration is considering executing? The CIA uses ‘red teams’ to challenge and improve its analysis of potential operations; shouldn’t that be required before the executive kills a human being? Much information has been leaked about the process, but nothing has suggested that such a safeguard exists in the targeted killing program.”

Economic war
The Associated Press reports that Iran’s supreme leader has said that increasingly harsh economic sanctions make direct nuclear talks with the US impossible:

“ ‘You are holding a gun against Iran saying, “Talks or you’ll fire.” The Iranian nation will not be frightened by such threats,’ [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei added in a reference to U.S. sanctions over Iran’s nuclear efforts.
The U.S. this week further tightened sanctions, which have already slashed Iran’s oil revenue by 45 percent. The new measures seek to cut deeper into Iran’s ability to get oil revenue. It calls on countries that buy Iranian crude — mostly Asian nations including China and India — not to transfer money directly to Iran and instead place it in local accounts.”

No exceptions
Publish What You Pay is celebrating the Dutch government’s decision not to support “dangerous exclusions” in proposed new EU requirements for extractive industry transparency:

“The upcoming legislation which is being introduced through the European Accounting and Transparency Directives builds upon a landmark provision in US law – section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010 – which requires all oil, gas, and mining companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to publish their payments to all countries and for every project. The US rules implementing Dodd-Frank 1504 do not provide for any exemptions from reporting.
In deciding not to support exemptions, Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp said in a letter to the Dutch Parliament that exemptions were ‘not desirable’ since the Dutch government wished to create ‘a level playing field for international transparency requirements’.
Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell and other oil companies have been fighting these laws both in the United States and European Union.”

Global precedent
Reuters reports on the opening of a special court in Senegal that will be the first in the world to hold a “trial of an ex-head of state by another country for rights abuses”:

“Prosecutors will work at a sea-front court in the Senegalese capital Dakar, investigating the alleged killing and torture of 40,000 people during [former Chadian President Hissene] Habre’s 1982-1990 rule.

Africa has a human rights court which sits in Arusha, Tanzania, but its status has only been ratified by 26 countries.
Former African heads of state have stood trial before, but only in their own countries or before international tribunals, never in the court of another country.”

Mining murders
Morning Star reports that a Colombian court has ordered prosecutors to investigate the president of a US mining company over the 2001 deaths of two union leaders:

“The company denies hiring militias and is fighting a lawsuit filed by survivors of the murdered men in an Alabama federal court that claims [Drummond Company] aided and abetted war crimes, including extra-judicial killings.

Lawyer for the plaintiffs Terry Collingsworth applauded judge [William] Castelblanco’s order that prosecutors investigate Drummond’s president, Garry Drummond, as well as a former mine security chief and two Colombians to determine whether they shared responsibility for the killings.
But he also said he wasn’t hopeful that the order would lead to a Colombian criminal prosecution.”

Gene treaty
Intellectual Property Watch reports that UN delegates have produced a text that could lead to “an international instrument or instruments protecting genetic resources against misappropriation”:

“The text, bearing a large number of brackets, shows that divergences still need to be bridged. The [Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC)] meeting scheduled for July has three extra days planned for the end to discuss the three legs of the IGC: genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. But this genetic resources text is not expected to be reopened then.

Canada, Japan, Norway, South Korea and the United States, resubmitted their joint recommendation on genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, for a non-binding instrument without a disclosure requirement.”

Luxury ban
Voice of America reports that China has banned radio and TV ads for luxury goods on the grounds that they “publicized incorrect values and helped create a bad social ethos”:

“The move to ban certain ads comes as the lunar new year celebrations approach and is another in a line of efforts by Chinese authorities to root out corruption, something the Chinese Communist Party has publicly acknowledged as a life or death struggle.

In December, China forbade high-ranking Chinese military officials from attending banquets and other events where alcoholic beverages are served. They also set limitations on the use of welcome banners, red carpets, floral arrangements, live performances and souvenirs.”

Latest Developments, January 17

In the latest news and analysis…

War behind closed doors
Reporters Without Borders is calling for journalists, both local and foreign, to be granted access to the conflict zone in Mali:

“Forced to comply with military directives that are keeping them far from the areas of operation by preventing them from going beyond the city of Ségou, the international and local media have been calling it a ‘war behind closed doors.’
The French and Malian authorities are preventing journalists from getting within 100 km of the areas where fighting is taking place. It is particularly difficult of find out what is happening in the embattled city of Gao, where phone networks have been down since the start of the week, preventing any contact with local residents, journalists or anyone else.”

Perfect record
The Associated Press reports that the International Criminal Court has launched a formal investigation into war crimes in Mali, thereby maintaining the Hague-based court’s apparently exclusive focus on Africa:

“The Mali probe is the Hague-based court’s eighth investigation — all of them in Africa.
The 10-year-old court also has opened investigations in Libya, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Congo, Central African Republic and Kenya.
Suspects indicted so far include Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. The court also indicted former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, but closed the case when he was killed by rebels who toppled his four-decade regime.”

We the oil & gas companies
The Hill reports that a trio of US senators is contending that a lawsuit by business groups threatens the ability of Congress to make energy policy:

“Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ex-Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), in a court filing Thursday, defend [Securities and Exchange Commission] rules that will force oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.
Their brief in the case notes that oil and business groups have challenged not only the specifics of the rule, but Congress’s power, in the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law, to force the disclosure.”

Rules of the game
In an interview with the Guardian, outgoing Oxfam head Barbara Stocking says she believes the “humanitarian spirit” has changed fundamentally since she got into the development business:

“And I think we’ve shifted in understanding that it’s not just the poor places that need to be changed, but our habits. But it’s hard to get across the message that it’s us lot, who are actually using all the global goods, who need to change. Not poor people.

I think we recognise more that poverty is about power and politics more generally – and that while charity or aid may be necessary, actually the rules of the game have to be changed if anything’s going to happen.”

Cloak of respectability
The World Development Movement’s Miriam Ross makes the case for companies that behave badly overseas to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange:

“Richard Lambert, former director general of [the Confederation of British Industry], wrote in the Financial Times: ‘It never occurred to those of us who helped launch the FTSE 100 index 27 years ago that one day it would be providing a cloak of respectability and lots of passive investors for companies that challenge the canons of corporate governance such as Vedanta…Perhaps it is time for those responsible for the index to rethink its purpose.’
In November, John McDonnell MP made the case in parliament for Vedanta and other ethically contentious mining companies to be strongly regulated by the FCA, including possibly de-listed ‘because of their behaviour in the developing world.’

A listing on the London Stock Exchange gives companies like Vedanta access to vast financial resources, as well as a cloak of legitimacy, however thin. As long as the City of London is home to mining companies that pursue profit at the expense of the lives of people in the countries in which they operate, it will hold part of the responsibility for the crimes they commit.”

Haven for fraud
The Guardian reports on the UK’s support for fraud-facilitating offshore secrecy in places like the British Virgin Islands:

“The BVI’s system of offshore secrecy is underwritten by the UK government, which ultimately controls the behaviour of the Caribbean islands. It is popular among property firms in the City of London, which are allowed by the British government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills to conceal the identities of owners on the UK’s public Land Registry, by putting premises in the name of such BVI vehicles.
More than 1m BVI companies have now been incorporated since the launch of their offshore system in the 1980s, according to the latest figures, and it is the world’s biggest provider of offshore entities.”

Democracy in crisis
The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities’ Slavoj Žižek argues a recent Slovenian court decision is “a symptom of a global tendency towards the limitation of democracy”:

“The idea is that, in a complex economic situation like today’s, the majority of the people are not qualified to decide – they are unaware of the catastrophic consequences that would ensue if their demands were to be met.

What is new today is that, with the financial crisis that began in 2008, this same distrust of democracy – once constrained to the third world or post-communist developing countries – is gaining ground in the developed west itself: what was a decade or two ago patronising advice to others now concerns ourselves.”