Latest Developments, October 26

In the latest news and analysis…

License to bribe
Main Justice reports that a co-author of a US Chamber of Commerce proposal to water down the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has just become the FBI’s general counsel.
“In its report ‘Restoring Balance: Proposed Amendments to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’ the Chamber said that the FCPA is a costly burden to business and ‘there is also reason to believe that the FCPA has made U.S. businesses less competitive than their foreign counterparts who do not have significant FCPA exposure.’ The paper called for five specific reforms including limiting a company’s ‘successor liability’ for the prior actions of a firm it has acquired and giving a clear definition of ‘foreign official’ under the statute.
The Open Society Foundation, a George Soros-funded organization issued a report, charging that [Andrew] Weissmann’s plan would ‘significantly reduce the scope and efficacy of the FCPA while substantially undermining more than 30 years of successful U.S. leadership in promoting global anti-corruption standards.’ ‘[T]he Chamber’s proposal looks more like a license to commit pervasive and intentional bribery than a modest attempt to eliminate the risk of prosecutorial over-reach,’ the report said.”

Proposed EU legislation I: A victory for transparency
Tearfund’s Jonathan Spencer welcomes proposed EU legislation that would require extractive industry companies listed in Europe and operating abroad to disclose what they pay to host governments on a project-by-project basis.
“[This information] will play a key role in releasing resources for development, improving transparency and engaging citizens with their governments. Evidence from other countries has shown that where details of budgets and projected expenditure is published, the money is much more likely to reach its intended destination and support development.”

Proposed EU legislation II: Bad for business
But a number of the companies – including Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Shell and Total – that would be subject to the proposed legislation have argued in a letter to the European Commission that such regulations are misguided and would be bad for business.
“One example is oil or gas fields which cross borders, where governments are understandably careful to safeguard the confidentiality of the terms they offer to investors,” said the letter.
“Further damage to competitiveness will be caused by the additional cost and administrative burden of project-level reporting.”

Proposed EU legislation III: No legal teeth
On the other hand, France’s Citizen Forum for Social and Environmental Responsibility argues the European Commission’s proposal lacks legal teeth.
“In fact, notwithstanding progress in certain areas such as reporting obligation, the [European Commission’s] statement on social and environmental responsibility does not address other crucial questions. The proposal lacks concrete measures to improve the legal responsibility between the parent company and its subsidiaries: companies based in Europe cannot, therefore, be considered responsible for violations perpetrated by their subsidiaries and subcontractors in the South. Nor does the statement spell out the legal avenues that would guarantee real access to justice for all victims of violations.” (Translated from the French.)

South-South cooperation
The Guardian has reproduced part of an IRIN series on how countries like Brazil, India, China and South Africa are changing the world of aid as they become increasingly significant donors.
“Many are not new at all – India, Brazil and China have been giving aid for decades – but what is new is that a group of non-western donors is giving more humanitarian and development aid year on year, and reporting it more consistently to official trackers, such as the UN’s Financial Tracking System (127 donors reported aid in 2010).
As they “emerge”, the traditional hegemony held by western donors over how and where aid is dispersed is starting to be dismantled.”

South-South colonization
While many within the development industry speak of the growing importance of South-South cooperation, Al Jazeera uses the issue of African land grabs to raise the question of possible South-South colonization.
“What would Gandhi say today were he to know that Indians, who were only freed from the shackles of colonialism in recent history, were now at the forefront of this “land-grabbing” as part of the race for foreign control over African land and resources; currently being called the Neo-Colonialism of Africa?,” ask the Ethiopian authors of an open letter to the people of India.

One-step solutions
The University of Ottawa’s Rita Abrahamsen argues that attempts to rein in trading of “conflict minerals” are well-intentioned but may not be particularly helpful for ending African conflicts.
“The danger is that by making illegal mining the only story about the conflict in eastern Congo, other causes—requiring more complex solutions—will be ignored. Meanwhile, the international community will invest vast sums in cumbersome tracking procedures that may be easily avoided in an environment of weak institutional capacities and porous borders.
Ultimately, then, the campaign against conflict minerals might do more to restore Canada’s image abroad and make Canadians feel like ‘good global citizens’ than it does to bring peace to the DRC.”

Size doesn’t matter
The UN Population Fund has released its annual State of World Population just as the number of Earth’s inhabitants is set to hit 7 billion, but its authors are more concerned with how people live than with raw numbers.
“Environmental journalist Fred Pearce echoes the view that a small proportion of the world’s population takes the majority of resources and produces the majority of its pollution.
The world’s richest half billion people— about 7 per cent of the global population— are responsible for about 50 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, a surrogate measure of fossil fuel consumption. Meanwhile, the poorest 50 per cent are responsible for just 7 per cent of emissions, Pearce wrote in an article for Yale University’s “Environment 360” website. ‘It’s overconsumption, not population growth, that is the fundamental problem,’ Pearce argued”

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