Latest Developments, September 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Aid grump
Humanosphere’s Tom Paulson offers a summary of a recent interview with New York University’s Bill Easterly whom he describes as an “aid grump.”
“The historical record is pretty clear that success in development comes from people doing development themselves. Outsiders can help in modest ways, such as in a response to a disaster. But there’s no evidence aid can become the main engine of development to transform the Third World into the First World, poverty to prosperity.”

The evolution of philanthropreneurs
Oxfam’s Duncan Green draws attention to some of the highlights – mainly to do with taxation of the extractive industries, tobacco and transportation, as well as thoughts on how to tap into migrant worker remittances and sovereign wealth funds – of a leaked preview to the report Bill Gates will present to the G20 later this year.
“Does Bill Gates’ protagonism mark a further shift of the big philanthropreneurs (and their foundations) from an insistence on sticking to the relatively straightforward world of ‘stuf’ (vaccines, infrastructure, seeds, microfinance) to the more complex business of influencing systems and policies, which are every bit as crucial to development? Hope so.”

Anti-depression
Another billionaire philanthropist, George Soros, prescribes some measures he believes Europe must undertake in order to avoid triggering “another Great Depression with incalculable political consequences.”
“Three bold steps are needed. First, the governments of the eurozone must agree in principle on a new treaty creating a common treasury for the eurozone. In the meantime, the major banks must be put under the direction of the European Central Bank in exchange for a temporary guarantee and permanent recapitalization. Third, the ECB would enable countries such as Italy and Spain temporarily to refinance their debt at a very low cost.”

Panic tax
The Institute of Development Studies’ Lawrence Haddad suggests the Financial Transactions (or Tobin or Robin Hood) Tax just proposed by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso might not be as effective a tool against market volatility as a “a Panic Tax, the Tobin Tax’s first cousin.”
“The Panic Tax…does not tax the level of financial transactions, but the speed at which they occur.
This gets at Tobin’s original concern directly and deals with the dangers introduced by High Frequency Traders.”

CSR Binarism
The Institute for Human Rights and Business’s John Morrison expresses concern, in a letter to the Financial Times, that British Labour leader Ed Miliband has too simplistic a view of companies as being either good or bad.
“Company structures are value-neutral creations; it is the actions that business takes that have positive or negative impacts. What is needed is an undertaking from current or future UK governments also to intervene when an otherwise acceptable company does a very bad thing – such as the decision by Vodafone to close its Egyptian network at the end of January this year when its customers were most at need.”

Roma evictions
Human Rights Watch has condemned what it describes as “mass evictions and expulsions of Eastern European Roma” by the French government and the apparent indifference of European authorities.
“The European Commission gave France the all-clear, but the situation for Roma in France has only grown worse,” according to Human Rights Watch researcher Judith Sunderland. “It’s vital for the commission to renew its scrutiny of these abusive practices, which breach EU and human rights law.”

Irregular arrivals
Embassy Magazine reports that with Canada’s Conservative government now holding a majority of seats in parliament, the fight against a proposed toughening of the country’s immigration laws looks set to move to the courts, spearheaded by the newly formed Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.
“The bill defines human smuggling as an offence and sets out tough penalties. But the bill also lets the immigration minister designate an ‘irregular arrival’ of a group of people to Canada, whose members may be arrested without a warrant and detained for at least a year, unless their claim has been resolved or they get special permission from the minister.
Some refugee lawyers have said this clearly violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which, in Section 7 guarantees the right not to be deprived of life, liberty and security of the person except ‘in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.’”

Dangerous schlock
Foreign Policy’s Brett Keller is not a fan of the new film Machine Gun Preacher which he describes as “Hollywood’s latest take on the ‘white man saves Africa’ theme,” possibly a pack of lies and quite probably dangerous.
“But by conflating humanitarian work with Wild West-style vigilantism, Childers makes the world more dangerous for the many aid workers risking their lives to do good in places like South Sudan. The anonymous aid worker who writes the widely read blog Tales from the Hood makes this point: ‘We [aid workers] very often go into insecure places where our presence and the associated suspicion that we may have ulterior motives puts not only us, but our local colleagues and those we’re trying to help at greater risk, too…. Every time [Childers] puts up another video of himself jumping into his white SUV with an AK47 across his lap, he increases the likelihood that I or someone I care about is going to get shot.’”

Latest Developments, September 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Moving beyond aid
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie writes about the significance of a new ActionAid report that suggests aid dependence is declining in poor countries.
“As bilateral aid gradually reduces in importance as a development issue, it feels a bit like stepping into the unknown. We all know that trade, climate change, tax evasion and a host of other issues are more important, but somehow aid is manageable, deliverable, known. We don’t really know what will happen on the bigger issues, with so many powerful interests at play. All the more reason for the NGOs to accelerate their shift away from being aid agencies and towards being true development agencies.”

Role reversal
The Globe and Mail’s Kevin Carmichael writes about the possibility that the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will come up with a “modern-day Marshall Plan” to help fix Europe’s staggering economies.
“This is a noteworthy development, coming only days after finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of Seven industrial nations failed to instill financial markets with confidence that the world’s established powers have things in hand. After spending much of the past year pointing fingers at the U.S. Federal Reserve and various G7 legislatures, the big emerging markets might finally have come to the conclusion that they have a more positive role to play in stabilizing the global economy.”

Food
A new World Development Movement report places much of the blame for record food prices on “broken” financial markets and calls on the UK government to support European efforts to rein in speculation.
“Financial players including banks like Goldman Sachs and Barclays have taken over food markets, says the World Development Movement’s report, with the total assets of financial speculators in these markets nearly doubling from $65 billion to $126 billion in the last five years. Not a single penny of this has been invested in agriculture.”

The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny argues eating local, organic food is bad for the world’s poor and says people in wealthy countries should strive to become “cosmovores” who consume food from around the world.
“So how should you eat as a responsible global citizen? Consume less meat and oppose Western farm-subsidy programs — especially if they focus on livestock. Campaign against U.S. biofuel programs, which divert corn into grossly inefficient energy production. Embrace further testing and analysis of GM crops. Encourage public funding of research and intellectual property laws that ensure that poor farmers are not priced out of the potential benefits of GM seeds. Spend only on organic food that is as energy- and land-efficient as conventional production. And be a smart consumer: Local produce grown out of season and meat raised on imported feed isn’t friendly to you, the environment, or the developing world.”

Mining
The Christian Science Monitor reports foreign mining companies are outraged by new Guinean legislation that aims to give the government greater access to resource-extraction profits.
“The new law would allow Guinea to purchase rights of up to 35 percent of all money made off their mines and to hike export taxes on mineral shipments. It was the keystone of President Alpha Condé’s campaign, last year, to become Guinea’s first democratically elected leader after five decades of misrule by dictators.”

Arms trade
Two US senators have introduced bipartisan legislation that would risk China’s ire by requiring the sale of at least 66 fighter jets to Taiwan.
“This sale is a win-win, in strengthening the national security of our friend Taiwan as well as our own, and supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas

International justice
The International Criminal Court, which has only taken on cases involving Africa up to this point, is being asked to consider a complaint against the Vatican for its role in sexual abuse scandals.
“Human rights lawyers and victims of clergy sexual abuse filed a complaint on Tuesday urging the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate and prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three top Vatican officials for crimes against humanity for what they described as abetting and covering up the rape and sexual assault of children by priests.”

Happiness
Princeton ethicist Peter Singer writes about his recent visit to Bhutan and what he learned about the country’s experiment with gross national happiness.
“We may agree that our goal ought to be promoting happiness, rather than income or gross domestic product, but, if we have no objective measure of happiness, does this make sense? John Maynard Keynes famously said: “I would rather be vaguely right than precisely wrong.” He pointed out that when ideas first come into the world, they are likely to be woolly, and in need of more work to define them sharply. That may be the case with the idea of happiness as the goal of national policy.”

Entertainment
An iPhone application playfully depicting the dark side of mobile technology briefly showed up on the Mac App Store before being removed.
“Developed by Molleindustria, the Phone Story game combines economics, politics and environmental awareness with play. The 8-bit inspired graphics trace the origins of our electronic devices from the coltan mines of the Congo to the labor conditions in Chinese factories. The tale ends in the West, where our desire for the latest gadgets drives a cycle of innovation, obsolescence and e-waste.”

Writing “This does not get old,” Africa is a Country’s Sean Jacobs posts the trailer for Machine Gun Preacher, a new film starring Gerard Butler as a violent criminal who finds God and decides to help the children of Sudan in his own inimitable way.
“ – I was thinking maybe I could go over there.
- Africa?
- I reckon they could do with all the help they can get.”