Latest Developments, November 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Cholera compensation
Al Jazeera reports a US-based human rights group is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in reparations from the UN for those affected by a deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti.
“‘The cholera outbreak is directly attributable to the negligence, gross negligence, recklessness and deliberate indifference for the health and lives of Haiti’s citizens by the United Nations and its subsidiary, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH),’ the petition said.
It said numerous studies, including those by the UN, traced the virus to UN personnel from Nepal.
‘Until MINUSTAH’s actions incited the cholera outbreak, Haiti had not reported a single case of cholera for over 50 years,’ the petition said.”

Development as right
The UN News Centre reports that on the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, some of the organization’s top officials conceded the principle had “languished” in practice.
“‘The fact that almost three billion people live in poverty and that 20 per cent of the world’s people hold 70 per cent of its total income means that we have not kept our promises,’ said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.”

R2P’s uncertain future
Embassy Magazine reports that, while a number of Responsibility to Protect proponents have pointed to the NATO intervention in Libya as a successful implementation of the doctrine, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan argues the “jury is still out.”
“When the council voted to effectively unleash the air power of western countries like the United States, France and Britain against Libyan military infrastructure and equipment, Brazil, China, India and Russia all abstained, sending a “powerful message” that the UN’s top body was divided, said Mr. Annan.
‘Therefore, when you go to implement that resolution, you have to be very careful to stick to that resolution,’ he said.
That powerful message is reverberating in another failed council effort. An Oct. 5 resolution, that would have condemned Syria for the killing of thousands of people the UN says was at the hands of Syrian government authorities, was vetoed by China and Russia under the auspices that it didn’t explicitly rule out another foreign military intervention.”

Open-pit ban
MiningWatch Canada reports the government of a Philippine province has issued a ban on open-pit mining over the objections of Canadian mining company TVI Pacific, which has vowed to take legal action.
“‘The destruction of our land and natural resources through open pit mining is irreversible and the forced displacement of communities contradicts the real meaning of development, or should we ask “development for whom?”’ says Daniel Castillo, Director of the Dipolog Committee on Mining Initiatives, a Church-based support group in Zamboanga del Norte.”

Benefits of conservation
The UN Environment Program’s Achim Steiner makes the economic case for protecting animal species from extinction, using the example of Palau which recently became the first country to declare its waters a shark sanctuary and now earns an estimated eight percent of its GDP through shark-diving tours.
“Nature should never be prized merely for its economic value. But, in a world of competing demands and limited resources, economic considerations can help to tip decisions in favor of conservation rather than degradation. This kind of strategic thinking can help to ensure that the world’s 10,000 migratory species continue their journeys, so that future generations can also marvel at these nomads of the natural world.”

Learning from others
The University of Cambridge’s Tarak Barkawi argues that because we live in “a jingoistic age, when Westerners, Asians and Muslims are all convinced of their own superiority,” new ideas and solutions are impeded by a reluctance to learn from and co-operate with others.
“And so, when we look upon the Arab Spring, we should not interpret it as a matter of Arabs having finally read John Locke and Thomas Jefferson and applied Western ideas. We should look instead for the new ideas, the new possibilities, the new politics created up by the protesters, activists and ordinary people who have made revolution.
We should be cognizant too that the Arab Winter will be a university of counter-revolution, as new forms of repression, of neo-imperialism and of exploitation are developed in response to novel circumstances.”

Othering and torture
The University of Edinburgh’s Tobias Kelly writes about the long-standing Western tradition of viewing torture as something that is only committed by uncivilized “others”, with the result that no British citizen has ever stood trial for the crime of torture.
“The problem is that too much is at stake for the British government to admit its complicity in torture. They will always try and find other words to describe the brutal ill-treatment of detainees. Assault, disobeying orders, dereliction of duty, even murder, but not torture.
Once torture has been used to make the distinction between the civilised and the barbarous, it is just too difficult for the British government to imagine that it stands on the wrong side of that line.”

Durban showdown looming
Democratic Republic of Congo negotiator Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu tells the Independent Online what he is expecting from rich countries at the upcoming climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.
“They seek to tear down the Kyoto Protocol, now or later, and to replace it with a different architecture.
A few have said they will not participate in a second commitment period, despite their legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, while others have said the next commitment period should be ‘transitional’ to a new regime.
In other words, they seek to ‘transition’ out of their legally binding obligations under the Kyoto Protocol into a new regime we have not designed yet.
One country seems to prefer an altogether weaker system via a ‘pledge-based’ rather than ‘science-based’ system of emission reductions that applies ‘symmetrically’ to rich and poor countries.
So it is not merely a question of who will remain inside or outside the multilateral process, but, more fundamentally, what that process will be. This is the big question for Durban.”

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