Latest Developments, November 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Cluster munition comeback
The Independent reports the UK is backing a US-led proposal that would legalize virtually all cluster munitions and be “a nail in the coffin” of a two-year-old ban on the controversial weapons.
“In recent years, the UK has played a leading role in trying to rid the world of cluster bombs. It is one of 111 countries that have signed up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, is on target to destroy its own stockpile, and has ordered the US military to remove any submunitions it holds on British soil.
But The Independent has learnt that the UK Government is supporting a Washington-led proposal that would permit the use of cluster bombs as long as they were manufactured after 1980 and had a failure rate of less than one per cent. Arms campaigners say the 1980 cut-off point is arbitrary, and that many modern cluster bombs have far higher failure rates on the field of battle than manufacturers claim.”

Corporate liability
Alliance Sud reports more than 50 organizations are calling on Switzerland to draw up laws that will require Swiss-based companies – “on a per capita basis the country has the highest number of internationally active firms” – to respect human rights and the environment while operating abroad.
“In response to pressure from public campaigns in recent years many companies have indeed adopted regulations for socially and environmentally responsible behaviour or have signed international guidelines like the Global Compact. Yet that is not enough to prevent human rights abuses and environmental destruction. These initiatives are often only about acquiring a social or a green image. Implementation depends on the goodwill of companies. Control and sanction mechanisms are either absent or very weakly formulated.”

Corporate Democracy
Harrington Investments’ Jack Ucciferri who caused a stir last month by calling the UN’s framework for business and human rights a “patently worthless document” has announced plans to launch the Corporate Democracy Initiative [DOC] and to develop “metrics to assess the ‘democracy quotient’ of publicly traded corporations.”
“The simple fact is that corporations and economic elites have too much power over governance and governments.  Power is never relinquished voluntarily.  Power must be met with power. I am not suggesting violence, but I am suggesting coercion.  Laws are coercive, binding bylaw resolutions are coercive, civil disobedience can be coercive, democratic elections are coercive.

Frameworks are not coercive, but they do take an awful lot of scarce non-profit and public sector resources to negotiate.  Now that we’re done with drafting the framework, let’s re-channel all of that energy and smarts toward more empowered forms of engagement.”

The rise of unelected officials
The Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders writes about the rise of unelected officials in the context of Europe’s current crisis, as illustrated by the forceful speech International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde delivered today in China.
“This starkly political message was being delivered by an unelected official. It joined messages delivered by European Union president Herman Van Rompuy, by European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, by European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi – as it appears that elected leaders still do not fully agree on a path forward.
With the fate of millions of hard-pressed voters being left to unelected officials, some of them on the other side of the world, it shouldn’t be surprising that many Europeans are taking to the streets.”

World finance’s black hole
The Res Publica Foundation’s Jean-Michel Quatrepoint looks at world trade figures from the last five years to buttress his argument that international trade imbalances – and a “black hole” – lie at the heart of the current financial crisis.
“First observation: the numbers don’t add up. Logically, the total of the account balances (balance of goods and services, financial revenues and capital movements) should cancel each other out. Far from it. Each year, the discrepancy is greater. It’s the black hole of world finance. Even taking into account the margins of error and the different accounting systems, there is still a gigantic gap that no one can, or wants to, explain. No doubt because that would involve taking a close look at the reality of Chinese statistics, the accounting of big corporations, the role of tax havens, the revenues of drug trafficking and organized crime. But the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the central banks do not want to deal with any of that. There’s an omerta over this black hole.” (Translated from the French.)

Dysfunctional disarmament
Simon Fraser University’s Paul Meyer argues multilateral disarmament efforts are in the depths of a decade-long “crisis of non-performance.”
“The designated forum for negotiation of arms control and disarmament agreements, the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, has not concluded any agreement since the 1996 Comprehensive (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty. Operating under an extreme version of the consensus rule, whereby nothing can be decided unless all 65 members are in agreement, the conference has not even been able to adopt a functioning work program since 1998.
As a result, major multilateral files such as the negotiation of a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and the prevention of an arms race in outer space go unaddressed. States shed copious tears over this lamentable situation, but take no effective measures to fix it.”

New imperialism
The Daily Maverick writes that former South African president Thabo Mbeki is concerned NATO’s Libyan intervention was the beginning of a new imperialism that threatens to recolonize Africa.
“He points out that Nato far exceeded its UN mandate in Libya, which allowed for the protection of civilians, not regime change. And he argues that the intervention was never motivated by anything other than a fig leaf to legitimise the involvement of foreign powers. ‘It is clear that the beginning of the peaceful demonstrations in Libya served as a signal to various Western countries to intervene to effect “regime change”. These countries then used the Security Council to authorise their intervention under the guise of the so-called “right-to-protect”.’”

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