Latest Developments, November 23

In the latest news and analysis…

A disturbing precedent
The UN News Centre reports three top officials have issued a statement calling on member states not to adopt a protocol they say would weaken the current ban on cluster munitions.
“‘The protocol that is being discussed will lower the standard set by the [Convention on Cluster Munitions] and fail to address the well-documented humanitarian and development threats posed by cluster munitions,’ [UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, UN Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay] stated.
‘If adopted, it will allow the indefinite use of cluster munitions produced after 1 January 1980 that meet certain technical requirements and that are prohibited by the CCM because of the unacceptable harm they pose to civilians.’
The adoption of this protocol would set ‘a disturbing precedent’ in international humanitarian law, creating – for the first time – a new global treaty that is actually weaker than existing international humanitarian law, they added.”

Tahrir ammo
Tree Huging Hoolah provides a “round-up” of weapons and ammunition allegedly being used against protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
“There seem to be a growing number people in and around the Square angry at being fired on by weapons supplied from countries making nice noises about democracy and restraint in Egypt, and are starting to document markings and specifications of what’s being used. It won’t help stop any violence, but I’m generally in favour of causing a modicum of embarrassment to those governments and companies which continue to supply tools of repression, usually for profit, to those who they well know will use them to violate human rights and repress their own citizens.”

Putting the “lethal” in “non-leathal”
Al Jazeera asks how dangerous the so-called non-lethal weapons being used against protesters around the world really are.
“With over 36 killed in Egypt since November 19, and medical sources citing ‘suffocation after inhaling tear gas’ as the cause of many of the deaths, the non-lethality of the weapons employed – as well as how they were imported – has come under serious question.
Khalid Abdala, an Egyptian actor and activist, told Al Jazeera from Tahrir that he held international governments ‘complicit in everything that is happening here’.
‘International governments have replenished the stocks of bullets that have been shot at people right now, and the tear gas that is clinging to my lungs,’ he said.”

E-waste exports
A new makeITfair report calls on the European Union to ensure revisions to its legislation on e-waste put an end to the export of such hazardous materials to poor countries.
“Electronics waste in industrialized countries is growing three times faster than regular waste – the result of the fast pace of technological innovation and the consequent short life of many electronic products. Up to 50 million tonnes of e-waste containing hazardous substances such as lead, cadmium and mercury are generated worldwide every year. A vast amount of the European e-waste is exported to developing countries such as Ghana, a major hub for European e-waste. This causes pollution and health problems because the country has no adequate infrastructure to deal with the hazardous waste.”

Let them eat processed food
The Guardian reports global food and drink companies are increasingly targeting the world’s poor whom they view as the primary “vehicle for growth” for processed products that increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
“As diets and lifestyles in developing countries change, their patterns of disease are following those seen in industrialised countries in the north equally rapidly. But for poor countries there is a double whammy: they have started suffering from high rates of [non-communicable diseases] before they have managed to deal with hunger and malnutrition. The double burden is devastating both their economic growth and their health budgets.”

Free trade impacts
Embassy Magazine reports an environmental assessment of a possible Canada-India free trade agreement will not examine Canadian exports of asbestos to the South Asian giant.
“Canada exported $40.3 million worth of asbestos-related products to India in 2010, according to Industry Canada, and the World Health Organization says asbestos causes an estimated 8,000 deaths each year in India—a phenomenon described in a recent Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary as an ‘epidemic.’”

Enabling corruption
Global Witness’s Anthea Lawson argues banks in wealthy countries must stop playing an integral part in the corruption that is devastating poor countries.
“Three entrenched, repressive and corrupt regimes fell this year largely because the people they ruled were fed up with epic levels of corruption.
That kind of corruption cannot happen without a bank. Dictators cannot steal millions of dollars from the state, nor accept massive bribes, if the money has to be kept under the bed.
Payments for natural resources like oil and gas do not arrive in dollar bills, they are paid by bank transfer; increasingly, bribes and rake-offs from commercial deals are too. Plus it’s safer to keep money out of the country — away from opponents, and accessible if you’re ousted from power.”

Accounting advice
York University economist Fred Lazar suggests many governments could make their perceived financial difficulties disappear simply by reporting their finances in the same way as corporations currently do.
“For example, many government expenditures are investments – capital expenditures. Expenditures on infrastructure clearly are in this category. Some of the expenditures on training, healthcare, education, R&D (e.g. NASA and the Departments of Defense and Energy in the US), and the judiciary also should be classified as investments, for all of them contribute to enhancing the productive capacity of the economy.
Such expenditures should be excluded in the calculation of the budget balance – the equivalent of a company’s income statement – and instead be included in the government’s cash flow statement, as is the case with investment expenditures by companies. If these expenditures were treated in this manner, most government deficits would disappear immediately, replaced with budget surpluses.”

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