Latest Developments, December 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Nuclear testing ban progress
Reuters reports Indonesia has ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, moving the agreement, which has been agreed to by 156 countries, a step closer to becoming international law.
“Indonesia had been among nine countries – including nuclear weapons powers the United States and China, as well as India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, North Korea, and Egypt – whose approval is needed for the law, negotiated in the 1990s, to take effect.”

Investment ethics
Norway’s Government Pension Fund, the largest in the world, has dropped an American and a Canadian company – FMC Corporation and the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan – from its investment portfolio for buying phosphates mined in Western Sahara, which it describes in a statement as “particularly serious violations of fundamental ethical norms.”
“Potash and FMC purchase phosphate from the Moroccan company Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP). OCP extracts phosphate in Western Sahara, a territory which is not self-governed and which has no recognised administrator. In 2002, the UN’s legal adviser issued a general legal opinion on the legality of mineral resources extraction in territories which are not self-governed, which also included a specific assessment of this issue with regard to the situation in Western Sahara. The opinion stated that mineral resources extraction in territories which are not self-governed is only acceptable if it benefits the local population of the territory. The Council on Ethics takes the view that the interests of the local population are not served by OCP’s operations, and that it is this unacceptable situation which constitutes the core of the breach of ethical standards in the present case.

In its decision to adopt the recommendation of the Council on Ethics, the Ministry of Finance has attached particular weight to the fact that the companies know the origin of the phosphate, that they specify that they want phosphate from the particular Western Saharan mine in question, and that it appears likely that the companies will continue to purchase this particular phosphate for the foreseeable future.”

Destabilizing mining
Two Canadian mining companies – Nevsun Resources and Sunridge Gold – have issued statements declaring there will be “no direct impact” to their Eritrean operations as a result of a UN Security Council resolution expressing “concern at the potential use of the Eritrean mining sector as a financial source to destabilize” the region.
“Nevsun’s President Cliff Davis states, ‘The State of Eritrea has been a strong partner and shareholder in the Bisha Mining Share Company, a subsidiary of Nevsun… By collaborating with international companies, Eritrea is developing a mining industry that provides direct economic benefits, skill enhancement and supply chain expansion. Through these cooperative efforts, sustainable development from the industry can positively impact the Eritrean economy for decades to come.’”

FDI vs. the environment
The Guardian reports on the controversy over Peru’s Minas Conga gold mine and how it highlights the challenges of balancing foreign investment-driven development with environmental protection.
“After days of violent protests, and following [former deputy environment minister José] De Echave’s resignation, the US-based Newmont Mining Corporation – the majority partner in the joint venture, together with Minera Yanacocha, behind the Conga plans – said it was halting construction in an effort to ease tensions. But CEO Richard O’Brien indicated that the company, which is South America’s largest gold producer, remains committed to the project.
At issue is the impact on the local watershed, as Yanacocha plans to divert water from four mountain lakes into new reservoirs to enable mining to proceed. Protests have been led by local farmers and residents concerned about the impact on the underground drainage network and natural water harvesting system. Cajamarca is Peru’s leading dairy and livestock region.”

New world order
The Global Institute For Tomorrow’s Chandran Nair argues the anticipated Asian Century must be much more than a simple changing of the guard.
“In previous centuries, Western economic growth was characterized by a comparatively insignificant minority having unfettered access to resources, and was thus built on fueling consumption. This was, after all, the idea behind colonialism, which succeeded economically by underpricing resources or even obtaining them for free.
But the planet simply cannot support five billion Asians consuming like Westerners. The earth’s regenerative capacity was exceeded more than 30 years ago, and we now use 30% more resources than the planet can sustain. Although we know this to be the case, the vast majority of Western economists and institutions continue to encourage China and India to consume more.”

Transforming knowledge
Demos’s Michael Edwards asks what the future holds for international development NGOs which are, as a rule, “still raising money in the rich world and spending it on projects in poorer countries” despite the changing global context in which they operate.
“Richer countries no longer provide an ‘end-point’ to aim for in the processes of development and social change, because they generate too much inequality and too many social and environmental failures to serve as an example. In fact, no contemporary society has figured out how to tie economic growth to human flourishing in a future that will be dominated by the demands of climate change and other collective problems that cannot be tackled by the ‘North’ or the ‘South’ in isolation. Therefore, existing systems of knowledge, politics and economics must be transformed, not simply expanded or made more accessible to the poor (wherever it is they live).”

Remembering Fanon
Jeune Afrique marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Frantz Fanon, author of The Wretched of the Earth, at the age of 36.
“When he arrived in Algeria, his only ambition was to be a different kind of doctor. But the way in which the French treated the indigenous population was not lost on him. It reminded him of his own experiences as a black man and Martinican. And when the National Liberation Front (FLN) launched its first attacks, in the early hours of Nov. 1, 1954, Fanon understood the significance of the events. In 1955, he initiated contact with the FLN. The psychological condition of Algerian victims of torture and other violent acts troubled him. In late 1956, he resigned before being expelled from Algeria, marking an irrevocable break with France. From that point on, he saw himself as an Algerian. Nationality is not linked to one’s place of birth, but to one’s will.” (Translated from the French.)

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