Latest Developments, August 25

In today’s latest news and analysis…

Amnesty International says Libya’s Transitional National Council, which has now been recognized by the Arab League and is relocating to the capital Tripoli, is legally obligated to hand Moammar Gadhafi over to the International Criminal Court if and when he is captured. But Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations says the principle of “complementarity” means the ICC “can claim jurisdiction on one of only two conditions: when the country lacks a functioning judicial system, or when state authorities have manifestly failed to carry out a credible investigation into alleged atrocity crimes.” He argues, however, “if there were ever a strong case for ICC jurisdiction, it is Libya–a country with no functioning judicial system after four decades of arbitrary, dictatorial rule.” But as ICC lawyers wrapped up their first ever war crimes trial, the Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Baldauf asks if the fledgling Court is capable of trying Gadhafi, given its short but shaky history. And South Africa’s deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, wants the ICC to investigate possible human rights violations by NATO. He also said the military alliance’s disregard for UN Security Council resolutions was having a ripple effect in the region: “Because of this situation created in Libya, the Security Council has not been able to agree on how to intervene in Syria.”

While not going as far in its criticism of NATO, a Globe and Mail editorial argues the “improvised air” of Operation Unified Protector “is not a good precedent for future applications of the United Nations’ responsibility-to-protect doctrine – which they interpreted very broadly.” But author David Rieff thinks what you see is what you get: “R2P may not have been designed as the latest version of humanitarian intervention, but with the Libyan action, that is what it has become.” In fact, as with the “humanitarian intervention” in Somalia during the 1990s, he believes the mission creep in Libya was entirely predictable: “This militarization may not be what [Gareth] Evans and the other architects of R2P intended. But then it is rare that a doctrine with the power to command people’s hearts and minds ever survives in the pure form those who first promulgated it imagined.”

The African Union no doubt felt the absence of its largest financial backer, Moammar Gadhafi, – though he was in good company as only four heads of state showed up – at a special summit to raise emergency relief funds for the Horn of Africa’s food crisis. Although pledges reached $351 million, the African Development Bank’s medium-term loans and grants represented the lion’s share of that amount. The actual cash total for immediate assistance appears to be $46 million. As a result, there was no shortage of criticism, especially for continental giants Nigeria and South Africa whose governments promised a combined $3.3 million in new money. “If we truly believe in ‘African solutions for African problems‘, we need to demonstrate this very clearly, not just in words but in actions,” according to Africans Act 4 Africa. On the other hand, EU humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva offered a more positive spin: “This is the first such summit held by a young organization with little humanitarian experience and a small but dedicated team. It will improve in the future.”

The wider community is not doing much better, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. So far governments have provided or promised only about a third of the $161 million it needs for its plan “to restore livelihoods and build the resilience of populations in the face of climate and other shocks” in East Africa.

A new study suggests a link between climate and violence, as the 93 tropical countries examined were twice as likely to experience internal conflict in El Niño years as they were in La Niña years. Lead researcher Solomon Hsiang of Columbia University “thinks the Niño analysis shows an example of a clear link between climate and conflict, and that this puts a new onus of proof on anyone saying that no such link will be at work as the climate changes in the future, even if it does not show what that future link might be,” according to the Economist.

Alena Buyx of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics lays out five principles for ethical biofuels, according to which their production must not violate people’s “essential rights” relating to food, water, health, etc.; they must be environmentally sustainable; they must reduce greenhouse gas emissions; their exchange must accord with fair trade practices; their costs and benefits must be shared equitably. To which she adds a sixth principle: “If the first five principles are respected and if biofuels can play a crucial role in mitigating dangerous climate change then, depending on certain key considerations, there is a duty to develop such biofuels.”

Swedish clothing company H&M says it is investigating after nearly 300 people collapsed at a supplier’s factory in Cambodia over a period of three days. According to a Reuters report, “deputy provincial police chief Ly Virak blamed the mass faintings on the “weak” health of workers and said the factory suspended operations until next week to allow its 4,000 workers to rest.” About 300 workers also fell ill last month at another H&M-affiliated factory in the capital Phnom Penh. The garment industry is Cambodia’s biggest source of foreign currency but has experienced sometimes violent strikes in recent years as workers demand better pay and working conditions. The latest “faintings” began on the same day as Greenpeace released a new report entitled “Dirty Laundry II: Hung Out to Dry” in which  the NGO says it found “hormone-disrupting chemicals” in the clothing of 14 global brands, including H&M. Helena Helmersson, the company’s head of corporate social responsibility, countered that the amounts found were well below EU restricted levels and that, in any case, the chemicals in question are not dangerous for humans. The first “Dirty Laundry” report came out last month and linked H&M, among others, “to suppliers in China who were found to be releasing a cocktail of chemicals into the Pearl and Yangtze River deltas.”

Oxfam’s Duncan Green looks at a report on the impact of cash transfers which, he says, are “all the rage, especially those handed over directly to women, who are widely thought to use the money more responsibly (spending it on food, rather than booze and fags etc).” While the Oxfam/Concern study identified a number of positives resulting from cash transfers, it also raised some serious concerns. Some of these related to poor project planning and execution, but others appear to run deeper: “Where cash was given in response to a food crisis, it is clear that while food aid was shared, cash was not. This was a major concern among recipients. Community sharing is critically important to women who tend to have a range of lending and borrowing strategies, with neighbours, family, shops and so forth, that enable them to cope when things get tough. Harming these coping strategies is potentially counter-productive for women who may find themselves increasingly vulnerable and less resilient to food insecurity in the long term.”

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