Latest Developments, October 21

In the latest news and analysis…

World Bank and human rights
The Guardian’s John Vidal reports on fears that the World Bank’s proposed Programme-for-Results lending could be disastrous for human rights and the environment in poor countries.
“According to the proposals, the new instrument would eliminate or greatly dilute 25 existing safeguards and policies. They include those that apply to forced resettlement, natural habitats, physical and cultural resources, indigenous peoples, forests, safety of dams, natural habitats, and environmental action plans. Most of these policies have taken years of pressure by NGOs to secure.
The bank, which lends more than $50bn a year, is one of the world’s largest providers of loans for mega-projects, many of which are particularly damaging to local people, the environment and the climate. If countries wanting to build giant dams, roads, power and water projects are to be largely freed from acting in a socially responsible way, the NGOs fear bank lending could lead to more forced evictions and human rights abuses.”

Deregulation fever
The Tax Justice Network slams the World Bank’s new Doing Business report for assuming that deregulating the business environment is inherently good and accuses it of being unduly influenced by corporate lobbyists.
“This has meant that countries that don’t provide effective worker protection are deemed ‘business-friendly’, while those that try to protect their environment are deemed ‘unfriendly’.
Among the indicators used in the guide is a Paying Taxes Indicator (PTI), and – you guessed it – countries are ranked according to their corporate tax rates. In Bankspeak taxing business is ‘unfriendly’.”

Beyond GDP
The Broker magazine’s Steffie Verstappen summarizes an online discussion in which the contributors agreed that growth and per capita GDP are inadequate indicators of human wellbeing.
“What we need, suggests [executive director of WOTRO Science for Development in The Hague, Henk] Molenaar, is ‘a single, powerful concept to rival growth’ as the driving force behind development. Needless to say, this is not an easy task. Nonetheless, the concept is likely to be found in the social nature of human beings and not in the logic of accumulation and competition. If we want to make a difference, we should start looking at and measuring development as a social phenomenon that is ‘nested in relations rather than individuals’, Molenaar contends.”

Food trade
The International Food Policy Research Institute’s Sara Gustafson welcomes new limits on commodity trading in the US as “a step toward reducing food price volatility and thus food insecurity.”
“Specifically, the new rules limit the number of commodity contracts that any investor can hold in agriculture, energy, or metals contracts. The trade limits, originally mandated in the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act which was passed in July 2010, stemmed from worldwide concerns that commodity index and other funds contributed to the 2008 surge in food and fuel prices, and could again be contributing to recent price spikes. The new rules are intended to prevent commodities markets from becoming too concentrated, which can lead to speculation and market manipulation. Under the new limits, a single trader would be allowed to hold spot month positions equal to 25% of the estimated physical deliverable supply of a given commodity.”

Libyan bonanza
The Press Association reports UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is pushing British companies to compete for Libyan reconstruction contracts amid expectations the former rebels will be looking to reward the countries that helped them come to power.
“With the military campaign all but over after the death of Muammar Gaddafi and the defeat of what appears to have been the last pockets of resistance, Mr Hammond said sales directors should be ‘packing their suitcases’ for Libya.”

War and peace
The University of Cambridge’s Tarak Barkawi argues it is far too simplistic to think the death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s death will mean the end of that country’s conflict, in part because NATO’s military support meant the erstwhile rebels never had to cooperate  amongst themselves in a way that might have fostered lasting cohesion.
“Diplomats and the UN make tidy distinctions between ‘conflict’ and ‘post-conflict’, upon which their policies are based.
Yet fighting, out in the open or in the shadows, has often preceded and post-dated the official period of hostilities. More fundamentally, there is a continuum between peace and war.”

Out of Iraq
The Associated Press reports US President Barack Obama has announced all American troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year, though several thousand private security contractors will remain.
“Denis McDonough, the White House’s deputy national security adviser, said that in addition to the standard Marine security detail, the U.S. will also have 4,000 to 5,000 contractors to provide security for U.S. diplomats, including at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and U.S. consulates in Basra and Erbil.
In recent months, Washington had been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training Iraqi security forces.
Throughout the discussions, Iraqi leaders refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans refused to stay without that guarantee.”

W abroad
The Canadian Centre for International Justice’s Matt Eisenbrandt and the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Katherine Gallagher explain why they believe the Canadian government should have arrested former US president George W. Bush during yesterday’s visit to a Vancouver suburb.
“Canada has ratified the Convention Against Torture and incorporated it into its domestic legislation. Under the global treaty, Canada has the obligation to prosecute a torture suspect present in Canada unless another country seeks the suspect’s extradition to stand trial elsewhere. This is not a matter of discretion. When Mr. Bush is present in Canada, he must be extradited or prosecuted.”

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