In the latest news and analysis…
The Economist reports on a controversial large-scale development experiment getting underway in Honduras.
“In a nutshell, the Honduran government wants to create what amounts to internal start-ups—quasi-independent city-states that begin with a clean slate and are then overseen by outside experts. They will have their own government, write their own laws, manage their own currency and, eventually, hold their own elections.
This year the Honduran legislature has taken the first big steps towards the creation of what it called ‘special development regions’. It has passed a constitutional amendment making them possible and approved a ‘constitutional statute’ that creates their autonomous legal framework. Mauritius has just announced that it will allow its supreme court to hear cases from the new entities (beyond that, in a relic of colonialism, is Britain’s Privy Council, to which the decisions of the island state’s supreme court can be appealed). And on December 6th Porfirio Lobo, the Honduran president, appointed the first members of the ‘transparency commission’, the body that will oversee the new entities’ integrity.”
Right to science
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a UN-sponsored event that highlighted the need for greater attention to the “right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its application.”
“A delegate from Pakistan said that the most important point was to address the issue of access and that the privatisation of science and knowledge has led to some concerns. In particular, he asked how the role of the private sector could be regulated at the international level, as the intellectual property regime was restricting the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its application.”
Dangerous tech exports
Agence France-Presse reports on the introduction in the US House of Representatives of a bill – the Global Online Freedom Act – intended to limit the export of Internet surveillance or censorship technology.
“‘There is a criminal cooperation between Western hi-tech companies and authoritarian regimes,’ [Reporters Without Borders’ Clothilde] Le Coz said.
‘The surveillance tools sold by these companies are used all over the world by armed forces, intelligence agencies, democratic governments and repressive regimes.
‘The leading exporters of these technologies include the United States, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and Israel,’ she said. ‘Companies should have a responsibility when selling their technologies abroad.’”
The Canadian lawyers of a Guatemalan man have announced he is suing Toronto-based mining company HudBay – the third human rights lawsuit related to violence near a project it used to own in Guatemala – for alleged negligence over its handling of security operations.
“HudBay knew it was operating in a very violent country, but instead of hiring or training security staff with acceptable standards and supervision, HudBay’s Guatemalan subsidiary hired local security personnel with a track record of violence, supplied them with guns and deployed them without the controls or supervision we demand and take for granted in Canada.”
The Overseas Development Institute’s Neil Bird reflects on the apparent futility of trying to get nearly 200 self-interested governments to agree on anything of substance at summits like the Durban climate talks.
“In some respects, these negotiations hardly matter. The global response to climate change continues to progress at a snail-like pace: just consider for a moment that this is the 17th Conference of the Parties, it is not the 3rd, 4th, 5th or even 10th meeting. How many more international gatherings will be required for the countries attending to agree a global compact that both protects the environment and offers hope to the poorest people who are most vulnerable to climate change?
Perhaps what we have learned most over the past decade is that global negotiations take on a life of their own and, at worse, appear little more than a self-serving exercise.”
As controversy continues to swirl over living conditions in northern Canada’s Aboriginal community of Attawapiskat, Queen’s University’s Robert Lovelace argues “that while the misery is in the ‘North’, the source of the problem is in the ‘South’.”
“It is difficult in the face of human suffering to turn attention to the systemic and structural reasons that have led to this catastrophe, but this is the very time when thoughtful analysis is needed. The homes are small and cold. The tedium of poverty bears down day by day and those who have stolen your children’s future call the daily bread on your table a ‘handout.’ It is difficult to feel anything but shame through the numbing that is required to get by every day.
But there are reasons behind this suffering. There is a history. There is a structure to oppression, denial and indifference that houses this suffering and there is a system that perpetuates it.”
The World Bank’s Célestin Monga argues that improving “all the many ‘doing business’ indicators” is not the key to success for poor countries.
“By the way, China, Vietnam, and Brazil, which have been among the top-performing countries in the world for the past 20 years, are consistently ranked quite low when it comes to the ease of doing business; Brazil is 126th, Vietnam 98th, and China ranks 91st, behind such star economies as Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Vanuatu.”
Oppressed by carbon
Le Monde Diplomatique provides a write-up of a new book by “heterodox ecologist” Frédéric Denhez who rails against “the dictatorship of carbon.”
“Society obeys ‘mechanical’ rules: we knew the markets, free trade, gross domestic product (GDP); now we are discovering the measurement of carbon emissions as the indicator of the 21st century. The economic ruling class uses it to construct a narrative that pins blame on the individual and impedes all structural change. So we measure the emissions linked to the use of a product, but rarely those associated with its manufacture.
As a result, cash for clunkers promotes the destruction of cars that pollute less than the industrial process required to build new ones!’” (Translated from the French)