Latest Developments, July 13

In today’s news and analysis…

South Sudan looks set to join the UN, as the Security Council has recommended the world’s newest country for membership. According to the UN charter, the primary requirement is to be a “peace-loving” state.

Human Rights Watch has released a new report on abuses committed by Libya’s rebel troops. “Whatever happens, they couldn’t be any worse than Col. Gadhafi,” Canadian foreign minister John Baird said while officially recognizing Libya’s National Transitional Council last month. Only time will tell.

The EU is trying to fix its own fish stocks. But what about Africa’s?

Insurance broker Marsh has launched a policy to cover corporate corruption investigations under US and UK anti-bribery laws.

The New York Times explores the tortuous route to US legislation regarding conflict minerals, as companies hold their breath in anticipation of tangible rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Tiffany & Company, the self-proclaimed “world’s premier jeweler,” reportedly thinks gold should not be subject to the legislation and mandatory disclosure on use of conflict minerals “would violate the First Amendment.”

Jonathan Glennie believes we should recognize the limits of corporate social responsibility and move toward global regulation. “The point is to change incentives, and voluntary measures don’t do that,” he writes in the Guardian. “Only legal sanction or consumer action is strong enough, and consumer action is too erratic to rely upon.”

There is more to cracking down on tax havens than simply recovering revenue, according to Richard Murphy who argues the fight is necessary for the functioning of modern capitalism. “Tax havens are important with regard to tax. But their pernicious impact is much more significant than that. Their use to create opacity, to undermine the effectiveness of regulation and to ensure that owners are unaccountable corrodes all faith in the market itself.”

When it comes to recent food crises, price volatility is not the main problem, according to a new Foreign Affairs article. High prices are the real danger. “Food price levels are at historic highs, but food price volatility, although high these past few years, is not out of line with historical experience and is generally lower than it was in the 1970s.” The authors argue that high prices hurt consumers, while high volatility hurts producers, and that there is a positive correlation between high prices and political unrest but a negative one between volatility and unrest. As a result, they believe world leaders should focus on lowering trade barriers, increasing yields and reducing waste rather than imposing export controls and giving subsidies.

Of course, not everyone agrees. Nick Cullather argues food prices are actually too low and leading to the ruin of farmers and the agricultural sector more generally. “The global economy includes the global countryside, and the return of prosperity will have to begin there,” he writes. Vandana Shiva, for her part, sees high-tech solutions as part of the problem. She decries the hunger and desperation among India’s food producers and attributes their difficulties to “the capital and chemical-intensive, high external input systems of food production introduced as the Green Revolution.”

A Wellcome Trust blog post asks if global health inequalities represent the biggest bioethical challenge of our time. The author provides a summary of a recent conference on the subject, during which a number of global health programs were deemed “highly unsuitable for developing countries, focussing on the introduction of new technologies or disease-specific programmes, rather than on strengthening local efforts to secure effective, high-quality, inclusive health systems.”

A new study out of the Netherlands suggests there is little truth to the common perception that immigrants take advantage of the welfare state in rich countries. Instead, they tend to return to their country of origin if they lose their job.


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