Latest Developments, August 9

In the latest news and analysis…

While London’s riots may not really seem like Beyond Aid material, commentators such as Laurie Penny have highlighted common ground through their accounts of how difficult it is for a society to provide thoughtful analysis of its own culture’s uglier aspects: “The violence on the streets is being dismissed as “pure criminality”, as the work of a “violent minority”, as “opportunism”. This is madly insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest.” Similarly, Daniel Hind writes in an Al Jazeera piece it is a mistake to view the riots as apolitical: “We should perhaps ask [the young rioters] what they were thinking before reaching for phrases like “mindless violence“. We might actually learn something.” In the meantime, while stressing he does not wish to “draw a straight line from the decision to bail out the banks to what’s going on now in London,” he provides an assessment of his own: “Those who want to see law and order restored must turn their attention to a menace that no amount of riot police will disperse; a social and political order that rewards vandalism and the looting of public property, so long as the perpetrators are sufficiently rich and powerful.”

Oxfam’s Duncan Green makes no mention of the riots on his blog but does suggest a distance between government priorities and those of the public with his comments on the UK Office of National Statistics’ recently published report “Measuring What Matters”: “Topline results from a big public consultation is that ‘what matters’ are health; good connections with friends and family; present and future conditions of the environment and education and training. Not much of that reflected in our leaders’ fixation on GDP.”

Libyan officials have accused NATO of the “massacre” of 85 civilians. NATO denies the charge, saying there is no such evidence and the overnight air strikes were “legitimate.” The EU has added to its existing sanctions against Libya by targeting two organizations it claims are “directly linked” to the Gadhafi regime. And the US is reportedly preparing to impose new sanctions against Syria and to tell President Bashar Assad he must go.

Self-described social entrepreneur Dermot Egan argues in the Guradian that reactionary corporate social responsibility must give way to social enterprise, which requires that a company to embrace “positive social impact” as its central purpose: “Companies cannot continue to pretend to serve society while simultaneously acting against it. Neither can they continue to give shareholder’s interest primacy above the interests of the public. No amount of investment in charitable causes or employee volunteering can change that fact. The purpose of a company will be to create shared value, where business and society achieve success together.” In the meantime, Wyoming state legislators are considering adopting new measures to combat corporate fraud, including banning the practice of appointing nominee directors which companies can use “to hide the company’s real corporate officers and to help the operators avoid responsibility for the company’s actions,” according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. And activists in India are outraged the organizers of the London 2012 Olympic Games have accepted Dow Chemical – the parent of Union Carbide whose pesticide plant was the source of a gas leak that killed thousands in Bhopal, India in 1984 – as a sponsor.

In a statement marking the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said large numbers of the world’s indigenous people have lost or risk losing “their ancestral lands, territories and natural resources because of unfair and unjust exploitation for the sake of ‘development.’ On this day, let us ask the crucial question: who actually benefits from this so-called development, and at what cost is such development taking place?” She also called on multinational corporations involved in resource exploitation on indigenous lands to respect human rights, before concluding: “The right to development is a human right for all, and indigenous peoples have the right to define and determine their own development.”  Two of the countries Pillay singled out for their problematic handling of relations between extraction companies and indigenous populations were Canada and Brazil. During the current visit by Canada’s prime minister to Brazil, the two nations set up a committee to deepen bilateral trade,  co-chaired by the CEOs of Brazilian miner Vale and Canada’s Scotiabank which last year helped set up “the largest arms length oil and gas deal in Brazilian history.”

A new Economist Intelligence Unit report predicts the African banking industry will grow 178-248 percent by 2020 “due to huge unmet financial needs in a world largely marked by excessive debt and leverage.” On the subject of excessive debt, Jonathan Glennie argues a debt default by a wealthy European nation could be a good thing for poor countries if , as a result, it became easier for them to repudiate their own dates. He believes it is “morally bankrupt to force poor countries to pay debts while their people suffer in extreme poverty, especially if much of the debt is illegal or otherwise illegitimate.” He does not dispute that default is a difficult and painful process, but wonders if repaying massive debts and the attendant interest might not be worse over the long run. As things stand, creditors dictate repayment conditions. But Glennie would like to see debtor nations have recourse to an independent panel that “would try to ensure that the debtor emerges from the proceedings with good prospects for financial and economic stability. And lenders will know that they can no longer get away with odious or careless lending.”

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