Latest Developments, April 18

In the latest news and analysis…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest Developments, October 4

In the latest news and analysis…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest Developments, October 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Secret meetings
The Washington Post reports that the White House has held a series of meetings to “consider for the first time whether to prepare for unilateral strikes” in North Africa as a result of a perceived increase in the threat of terrorism:

“ ‘Right now, we’re not in position to do much about it,’ said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official involved in the talks. As a result, he said, officials have begun to consider contingencies, including the question of ‘do we or don’t we’ deploy drones.

In addition, the U.S. military has launched a series of clandestine intelligence missions, including the use of civilian aircraft to conduct surveillance flights and monitor communications over the Sahara Desert and the arid region to the south, known as the Sahel.”

American justice
Reuters reports that US Supreme Court judges “seemed skeptical” as they listened to arguments for allowing American courts to hear cases relating to human rights abuses committed overseas by foreign corporations:

“But in oral arguments in one of the court’s biggest human rights cases in years, some justices suggested they might not close U.S. courts to similar claims against individuals, including those who take refuge in the United States, or to claims involving U.S. companies.

More than 150 lawsuits accusing U.S. and foreign corporations of wrongdoing in more than 60 foreign countries have been filed in U.S. courts in the last two decades, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

Running interference
The Globe and Mail reports that a Canadian cabinet minister is being accused of “threatening the integrity and independence of the penal and parole systems” in the wake of comments made following the repatriation of Omar Khadr who spent a decade in detention at Guantanamo Bay after his capture at the age of 15:

“[Public Safety Minister Vic] Toews’ remarks are controversial because while he was the government minister tasked with overseeing Mr. Khadr’s repatriation, he is also the minister who presides over the Correctional Service of Canada.
Mr. Toews also appoints and renews the adjudicators for the National Parole Board – the same patronage appointees who are charged with determining any given individual prisoner’s liberties.
Now these same officials who must now try to figure out whether to allow Mr. Khadr out of prison and onto parole in coming months, or whether to lock him up until his sentence expires in 2018.
Lawyers for Mr. Khadr wonder whether Mr. Toews’ remarks too clearly telegraph to his officials what he would like to have happen.”

Death tolls
The Associated Press reports that US military deaths in Afghanistan have reached 2,000, a number that is dwarfed by the number of dead Afghan civilians:

“Tracking deaths of Afghan civilians is much more difficult. According to the UN, 13,431 civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict between 2007, when the UN began keeping statistics, and the end of August. Going back to the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, most estimates put the number of Afghan civilian deaths in the war at more than 20,000.”

Unequal trade talks
Inter Press Service reports that a former Jamaican prime minister, P.J. Patterson, has concerns about ongoing talks for an “Economic Partnership Agreement” between Caribbean states and the European Union:

“ ‘The concept of proportionality has been thrown out of the window. Indeed, some are more equal than others. Inequality is evident – no visas are required for entry in most of our countries – while we need a Schengen Visa or UK Permit to step foot on European soil.’
Patterson said the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will need to address without further delay ‘such issues as investment, competition policy and government procurement to avert the danger of undertaking obligations or conferring rights on others that do not yet exist within the Community but already fall within the framework of the EPA’.”

Big deal
The New York Times reports that the board of Anglo-Swiss miner Xstrata has approved a takeover bid that would “create a behemoth in the world of mining and minerals”:

“First announced in February, the proposed transaction would unite Glencore, a giant commodities trading house, with Xstrata, its longtime mining partner. Together, the two would create an international mining company with both significant physical assets and an enormous trading operation that has invaluable insights into global demand for minerals.
The talks have drawn in many of London’s top deal makers, generating big fees for the bankers involved if the transaction is approved.”

Gray wave
The Guardian reports that legally enforceable rights specific to people over the age of 60, who will outnumber those under 15 by 2050, remain a rarity in today’s world:

“[The International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics’ Laura] Machado said there is a split between rich and poor countries on the need for a legally binding international instrument on ageing along the lines of the UN convention on discrimination against women.
‘It is clear there are two groups with very different positions,’ she said. ‘The EU especially does not consider such a convention on older persons necessary, whereas the Latin American bloc wants a legally binding instrument that will pave the way for laws at the state level.’ ”

Jobs, jobs, jobs
Inter Press Service reports that the latest edition of the World Bank’s annual World Development Report marks something of a shift from the institution’s traditional fixation on economic growth:

“ ‘The conventional wisdom is to focus on growth as a precondition for continued increases in living standards and strengthened social cohesion. But … the impact of growth on poverty reduction varies considerably across countries,’ the report notes.
‘If growth indicators captured the intangible social benefits from jobs, from lower poverty to greater social cohesion, a growth strategy and a jobs strategy would be equivalent. But a growth strategy may not pay enough attention to female employment, or to employment in secondary cities, or to idleness among youth. When potentially important spillovers from jobs are not realized, a jobs strategy may provide more useful insights.’ ”

Latest Developments, September 27

In the latest news and analysis…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest Developments, August 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Embassy threatened
The New York Times reports that an Ecuadorean government official has said that Ecuador would be prepared to let Wikileaks founder Julian Assange stay at its London embassy “indefinitely under a type of humanitarian protection”:

“Earlier Wednesday, Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, said that the British authorities had threatened to barge into the country’s embassy in London if officials did not hand over Mr. Assange. ‘Today we have received from the United Kingdom an explicit threat in writing that they could assault our embassy in London if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange,’ Mr. Patiño said at a news conference in Quito, adding defiantly, ‘We are not a British colony.’

Under diplomatic protocol, Mr. Assange was thought to be off limits while in the embassy. But the BBC reported Wednesday that British officials had raised the notion of revoking the diplomatic immunity of the Ecuadorean Embassy, allowing British officials to enter.”

Consultation required
Al Jazeera reports that a Brazilian judge has suspended construction of a controversial hydroelectric megaproject that is expected to flood 500 sq km of Amazon rainforest: 

“In a statement released on Tuesday, Judge Souza Prudente said that work could only resume on the $11bn, 11,000MW Belo Monte Dam after the indigenous communities living in the area were consulted.
The dam has been condemned by environmentalists and rights activists, who say that it would devastate wildlife and the livelihoods of 40,000 people who live in the area that would be flooded.”

Plain packaging
Bloomberg reports that the backing of Australia’s highest court for a ban on trademarked labeling of cigarette packs has public health experts hoping for a “domino effect” around the world:

“The High Court of Australia today dismissed claims by Japan Tobacco Inc. (2914), British American Tobacco Plc (BATS), Philip Morris International Inc. (PM) and Imperial Tobacco Group Plc that the government illegally seized their intellectual property by barring the display of trademarks on packs. The judges gave no reasons for the decision and said these will be published later.
The ruling is a victory for a government faced with A$31.5 billion ($33 billion) in annual health costs from smoking, a habit it estimates killed 900,000 Australians over six decades. New Zealand and the U.K. are among countries whose governments have indicated interest in implementing similar legislation, which takes effect in Australia Dec. 1.”

Four-star tastes
The Associated Press reports that former US Africa Command head William “Kip” Ward is being investigated “for allegedly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars improperly”:

“The defense officials said Ward is facing numerous allegations that he spent several hundred thousand dollars allowing unauthorized people, including family members, to fly on government planes, and spent excessive amounts of money on hotel rooms, transportation and other expenses when he traveled as head of Africa Command.
A four-star general is the highest rank in the Army.”

Exxon spill
Reuters reports that ExxonMobil is “investigating” an oil spill off Nigeria’s coast that has shut down the local fishing industry:

“Sam Ayadi, a fisherman in Ibeno, said by telephone that no one had been able to go fishing since the spill was first noticed on Sunday.
‘The fishermen are still off the waters due to the spill. We cannot return yet. We are waiting for Mobil to open to discussions with us about what happened,’ he said.
Oil spills are common in Africa’s top energy producer. Stretches of the Niger Delta, a fragile wetlands environment, are coated in crude. Thousands of barrels are spilled every year, and lax enforcement means there are few penalties.”

Aid’s colonial roots
Aid on the Edge of Chaos’s Ben Ramalingam presents a collection of thoughts on the “implications of complexity science for development aid” by Nobel prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom who passed away in June:

“The lack of long timeframes and a lack of supporting cultures means that aid agencies don’t help people learn how to think about and change the structure of the situations they are facing. In many situations, this is because of colonial roots of aid, which did not respect local institutions – they didn’t understand them so they were treated as non-existent.
The difference between this approach and that of Darwin is stark – the care and diligence that was given to studying animal species in the 19th century is so evident, and it from this that we have evolutionary theory. But these countries also had people, but there was no attempt to understand their knowledge systems, the rules they had developed to manage various kinds of socio-ecological systems… Colonial powers assumed we have the answers, and destroyed social capital. Aid agencies, unfortunately, do much the same thing.”

Haiti’s gold rush
Jacob Kushner writes in Guernica Magazine about “behind closed doors” negotiations between Haitian politicians and foreign mining companies over access to the country’s underground wealth:

“Since 2009, Haiti’s government ministers have been considering a new convention. This would allow Eurasian, Newmont’s business partner, to explore an additional 1300 square kilometers of land in Haiti’s north. But according to Dieuseul Anglade, Haiti’s mining chief of two decades, unlike previous agreements, this one doesn’t include a limit—standard among mining contracts worldwide—on how much of a mine’s revenue the company can write off as costs. Without any cap, a mining company can claim that a mine has an unusually low profit margin, allowing it to pay fewer taxes to the Haitian state; Anglade opposed these terms, and was fired in May.”

Corporate inconvenience
Harvard Law School student Maia Levenson has little sympathy for oil giant Shell’s argument, ahead of its US Supreme Court showdown with Nigerian plaintiffs, that corporate liability for foreign conduct could have “an adverse effect on a company’s stock price and debt rating”:

“Sure, major corporations may find it inconvenient to defend against allegations that they were complicit in crimes against humanity. But that is not a reason to find that they are immune. Major corporations, and the United States itself, are frequently the subject of lawsuits that may have adverse commercial implications—and we don’t deny plaintiffs the opportunity for redress because of the potential or actual costs. If we don’t deny victims a forum for even ordinary claims, why would we do so when the crimes at issue are the very worst kinds imaginable?”