Latest Developments, July 19

In the latest news and analysis…

With the food crisis in the Horn of Africa intensifying and the United Nations expected to declare the food shortage in southern Somalia a famine as early as tomorrow, Kenya has agreed to accept imports of genetically modified maize. The decision, which came in the face of anti-GMO protests, was a first for the country. The government insists the maize will be turned into flour at the point of importation so as to prevent the seeds from getting into the market, but it is unclear at this point what additional measures, if any, it will take to ensure containment.

The Center for Global Development’s David Wheeler examines investment in renewable energy sources by 174 countries over the last two decades. His findings “contradict the conventional view of North-South conflict that has dominated global climate negotiations, because they show that developing countries, whether by intention or not, have been critical participants in reducing the carbon load all along.  Furthermore, they indicate that poor countries have borne their fair portion of global carbon alleviation expenditures, measured as shares of income per capita.”

Wheeler’s colleague Charles Kenny defends his own suggestion that $100 billion in annual cash transfers would suffice to bring about “a world free of poverty,” by which he means that amount could raise everyone living in a poor country to the World Bank’s $1.25 a day poverty line, which the institution admits is a “frugal” figure.

Nick Dearden, director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign argues Western-style free trade – currently being pushed as the key to African prosperity by British prime minister David Cameron and the business delegation accompanying him on his trip to Africa – is the last thing the continent needs. Instead, he argues, African governments should look to “protecting industries, developing alternative and complementary means of trading, control of food production and banking, progressive tax structures, controlled use of savings, and strong regulation to ensure trade and investment really benefits people.”

While speaking in Nigeria, Cameron also called for the EU to adopt “legally binding measures to require oil, gas and mining companies to publish key financial information for each country and project they work on.” He explained: “We want to disclose the payments our companies make to your governments so you can hold your governments to account for the money they receive.” According to estimates by Global Financial Integrity, Nigeria lost $130 billion dollars between 2000 and 2008 due to illicit outbound financial flows, much of it in the energy sector. And real growth of such flows during that nine-year period was 21.9 percent in Africa. Christian Aid welcomed the prime minister’s words, pointing out that poor countries lose 50 percent more to transnational corporate tax avoidance each year than rich countries provide through aid. “But EU legislation needs to go further,” the group said. “In order to ensure companies are paying the right amount of tax, we need more information on how the taxes they do pay relate to the profits they make.” Christian Aid also wants to see a political push for greater transparency in all industries, not just the extractive ones.

JKL Energy, a Ghanaian company has announced it plans to start work on a $300 million oil and gas project. The venture, which has support from investors in Malaysia and Dubai, will contribute to “ensuring that indigenous companies actively participate in the development of Ghana’s oil and gas industry, seen by many as a major driver of the economy over the next 30 years,” according to a press release.

And Liberia could be the next African country to deal with the double-edged sword of oil production as Chevron is set to start offshore exploration later this year. The US expects a quarter of its oil imports to come from West Africa by 2015 and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has said she hopes her country can avoid the “oil curse.”

A day after a call for a new Marshall Plan in South Sudan, a week after an argument for a Greek Marshall Plan and 18 months after a plea for a Haitian Marshall Plan, a Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network blog post asks if it is time for a “21st Century Marshall Plan” in the Arab world.

Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker investigates the debates and motives behind American military involvement in Libya, which he describes as “a victory for the so-called humanitarian interventionists,” such as secretary of state Hillary Clinton, ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and National Security Council advisor Samantha Power.

An online fundraising plan is set to kick off this week to cover the costs of enacting Arizona state legislation calling for prisoners to build 130 km of fence along the US-Mexico border to keep out would-be illegal migrants. The MSNBC article portrays opposition to the planned construction as being largely practical and logistical – one county sheriff considers it “well intentioned” though ultimately futile – but it also mentions one group taking a moral stand. While Defenders of Wildlife “are in support of effective border security,” they believe in freedom of cross-border movement for imperilled species, such as the Chiricahua leopard frog and the Sonoran pronghorn.

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