Latest Developments, November 10

In today’s latest news and analysis…

Beyond aid
The Overseas Development Institute’s Alison Evans reviews UK Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell’s speech on taking a multi-faceted approach to promoting development and she suggests the country “has a lot more to do on its beyond-aid agenda.”
“Mitchell noted the positive ranking of UK funding and policy on climate change in the latest Commitment to Development Index 2011. The same could be said on development-friendly investment and, of course, aid.  What he didn’t mention, however, is that in the very same index, the UK continues to be ranked amongst the bottom four (out of 22 OECD countries) on security (largely reflecting the continued export of military hardware to poor and undemocratic regimes); on technology (mainly regarding spending on research and development and intellectual property rights issues); and, worst of all, on migration (which reflects how easy – or not – it is for people from poor countries to immigrate, access education or find work, send money home, and even return home with new skills and capital). This is the dark side of UK policy on development and it is not heading in the right direction.
As Mitchell celebrates the powerful alchemy of public, private and voluntary sector commitment to development in the UK, he needs also to focus his energy on making UK policy as a whole development-friendly.”

Mining politics
Bloomberg reports the decision by South Africa’s ruling Africa National Congress to suspend Julius Malema is being welcomed by mining executives who had been made nervous by the Youth League leader’s push for nationalizing the country’s mines.
“In April 2010, Citigroup Inc. valued the country’s mineral resources at $2.5 trillion, the most of any nation.
Malema has lobbied the ANC to adopt a policy of nationalization, saying South Africa’s black majority hasn’t benefited adequately from those riches in the 17 years since the end of white-minority rule. Last month, he led thousands of young supporters on a 62-kilometer (39-mile) march between Johannesburg and Pretoria, calling for nationalization and jobs. A quarter of South Africa’s workforce is unemployed.”

Roma deportations
Al Jazeera reports that a European rights watchdog has declared that France’s expulsion of over 1,000 Roma immigrants last year constituted an “aggravated violation of human rights.”
“A Council of Europe committee has now condemned the move as a violation of its social charter – a document that sets out ‘social rights’, such as the right to fair working conditions and to housing. France is a signatory.
France claimed the expulsions were ‘voluntary’ repatriations only.
The committee dismissed the argument, saying ‘the so-called voluntary returns were in fact disguised forced repatriations in the form of collective expulsions’.”

Cleaning bill
Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development  have called on Shell to pay $1 billion as a “first step” toward cleaning up Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
“In 2008, two consecutive spills, caused by faults in a pipeline, resulted in thousands of barrels of oil polluting the land and creek surrounding Bodo, a town of some 69,000 people. Both spills continued for weeks before they were stopped. No proper clean up has ever taken place.
‘The situation in Bodo is symptomatic of the wider situation in the Niger Delta oil industry. The authorities simply do not control the oil companies. Shell and other oil companies have the freedom to act – or fail to act – without fear of sanction. An independent, robust and well-resourced regulator is long overdue, otherwise even more people will continue to suffer at the hands of the oil companies,’ said Patrick Naagbanton, CEHRD’s Coordiantor.
Shell, which recently reported profits of US$ 7.2bn for July-September, initially offered the Bodo community just 50 bags of rice, beans, sugar and tomatoes as relief for the disaster.”

G20 food inaction
The Inter Press Service reports that the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, believes the lack of substantive progress on global food policies at last week’s G20 summit was the result of lobbying from commercial interests, especially in biofuel-producing countries.
“Back in 2008, a note released by the World Bank’s development prospects group spotlighted how biofuels were responsible for a full 75 percent of the then skyrocketing food prices.
But in spite of strong evidence that biofuels and agrofuels are ‘one of the major drivers of speculation on the commodities markets and one of the major reasons why we have such high pressure on land in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa,’ according to De Schutter, the G20 completely bypassed the issue.”

Legal empowerment
Namati’s Vivek Maru calls on the international community to establish a global fund for “legal empowerment” in order to ensure laws and policies apply as much in practice as in theory.
“Legal empowerment is a public good: it renders governments more accountable, and makes development more equitable. But unlike public health, for example, states have a natural disincentive to support legal empowerment, because it constrains state power – which is all the more reason for a multilateral financing mechanism.
Social movements in India, the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere are demanding institutions that promote greater citizen participation and oversight. The challenge of responding to those movements does not belong exclusively to a handful of governments. It belongs to all of us.”

Sector equality
The European Network on Debt and Development’s Alex Marriage argues the European Commission’s recently proposed corporate transparency rules need to target more than just mining, oil and gas, and logging companies.
“Evidence presented in [an upcoming] report finds that extractive commodities are only a small part of the problem and accounted for just 5% of the trade mispricing activity taking place between the EU and third countries in 2007. This clearly suggests country-by-country reporting is needed in all sectors.”

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