Latest Developments, September 12

Latest Developments is undergoing a change of format in order to free up more time for original Beyond Aid reporting. All constructive feedback is welcome.

In the latest news and analysis…

The BBC’s Hugh Schofield places allegations former French president Jacques Chirac and his prime minister Dominique de Villepin accepted millions in cash from African heads of state within a historical context of often unsavoury relationship between France and its former colonies on the continent.
“Under the original arrangement, the African leaders guaranteed French access to mineral resources and arms contracts, and helped France maintain its standing on the continent. In return a French military presence more or less ensured their survival in power.”

Reuters reports US officials are looking into possible corruption involving the aerospace industry.
“According to a document obtained by Reuters, the FBI briefed other government agencies in June about a project focused on possible corruption associated with sales and maintenance contracts between aerospace companies and state-owned airlines.
While the aerospace industry has long been subject to such scrutiny, the new initiative focuses on sales and maintenance contracts on the commercial side, not in defense.”

Fiscal policy
Harvard economist Dani Rodrik argues European political leaders need to embrace fiscal unification if they want to save the eurozone.
“Yet this cannot mean that fiscal policy for, say, Greece or Italy would be run from Berlin. A common fiscal policy implies that the elected leaders of Greece and Italy would have some say over German fiscal policies, too. While the need for fiscal unification is increasingly recognized, it is not clear whether European leaders are willing to confront its ultimate political logic head-on. If Germans are unable to stomach the idea of sharing a political community with Greeks, they might as well accept that economic union is as good as dead.”

The Institute of Development Studies’ Lawrence Haddad wonders whether the upcoming Busan and Rio+20 summits – on aid effectiveness and sustainable development, respectively – will actually lead to new thinking. He gets the ball rolling with a few suggestions of his own, including:
“Ditching the terms “developed” and “developing” countries and replacing them with new terms such as “sustainable developing countries” and “developing countries” to stress the work that the richer countries have to do. Germany might be in the former category and the USA and China in the latter (although strictly speaking no countries can be classified as sustainable developing countries if the collective action failure on emissions continues).” 

The Guardian reports a Rio+20 organizer believes it is necessary to “un-environmentalize” sustainability discourse in order to win over new converts.
“The effort to broaden the principles of the original 1992 Rio Earth summit are likely to prove controversial. Supporters say the world needs a new, more inclusive approach to sustainability that emphasises the benefits to humanity because current efforts to protect nature are failing. Critics warn the increased emphasis on technology and markets will simply greenwash destructive levels of consumption and development.”

Resource extraction
The Globe and Mail’s Barrie McKenna takes Canada, home to about three quarters of the world’s mining companies, to task for its reluctance to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
“It wouldn’t be easy, of course…But a little more regulation and some federal-provincial stress could prove a lot more palatable than a reputation for spawning companies that run amok in the world.”

In an excerpt from his upcoming book on ethical investment, NAJ Taylor draws on the example of Australian miner Rio Tinto to suggest that investors are complicit in the misdeeds of the companies that earn them money.
“Behind the headlines of the global financial crisis is a deeper, more systemic fault line that rewards rampant capitalism. Too many invest in and operate mines such as Grasberg without any consideration of the ethics of so doing.”

La Paz-based freelancer Mattia Cabitza argues Peru’s new land law marks a radical departure from the region’s tendency to favour the interests of resource companies over those of indigenous populations.
“Against the wider backdrop of a struggle that pits the ancestral owners of untapped natural resources against greedy governments and corporations, Peru’s new law on the right of indigenous people to prior consultation may set a regional precedent in avoiding lengthy legal battles and, more importantly, in the prevention and reduction of social conflicts.”

The Guardian’s Mark Tran writes about some of the challenges that are likely to dominate this week’s G20 meeting on agricultural research and development.
“In their discussions on food security and self-reliance, ministers should be asking themselves what impact they will have on a woman farmer in Kenya with a few acres, who is struggling to grow crops on semi-arid soil to feed her family and generate income for school revenues.”

The Overseas Development Institute’s Steve Wiggins and Sharada Keats look at predictions for 2020 cereal prices that range from a significant increase to a gradual decline.
“The medium-term prospects for cereals prices depend much on policy. If too little is spent across much of the developing world on rural roads, health, education, water, and agricultural research and extension, then the outcomes could be as gloomy as those projected by Oxfam and Willenbockel. This applies all the more so if OECD countries do not support international public research for agriculture, and continue their beggar-my-neighbour polices of agricultural trade restrictions, and export and farm subsidies that distort world markets.”


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