Latest Developments, December 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Better than nothing
Mother Jones reports on the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” which prevented the COP 17 climate summit from going down as a total disaster but leaves much still to be negotiated and done.
“While it’s notable that the US, China, and India agreed to creating a legal pathway, there was still concern from developing countries that too much burden had been shifted to them. China expressed concern that the developed nations were not doing enough. ‘It is not what is said by countries it is what is done by countries, and many are not realizing their commitments,’ said Xie Zhenhua, China’s lead negotiators. ‘We’ve been talking about this for 20 years, they’re still not being acted upon … We want to see your real actions.’”

Enabling corruption
A new report by the Bond Anti-Corruption Group calls on the British government to do more in preventing UK banks and companies from “fuelling and facilitating” corruption in other countries.
“The failure to act here in the UK when it comes to enforcing bribery laws and tackling dirty money has devastating effects on developing countries, undermining good governance and exacerbating poverty,” according to the Bond Anti-Corruption Group’s Melissa Lawson.

Business & human rights
The Institute for Human Rights and Business has released its Top 10 list of emerging business and human rights issues for 2012, among which is “providing legal redress for business participation in human rights violations.”
“For over a decade victims of human rights abuses around the world have turned to the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) for redress in the form of monetary compensation. Of the over 100 cases filed (which include allegations of child abuse, providing support to or benefiting from security forces, and divulging the identity of Internet users), only a few have been admitted, and all have been dismissed or settled out of court.”

Not beyond aid
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie writes a review of a recent speech given in London by economist Jeffrey Sachs whose thinking, it seems, has yet to move beyond aid.
“A notable omission from his hour-long speech was aid, traditionally a Sachs staple. The subject finally came up when a member of the audience asked him what he would tell western leaders to do to support development in Africa.
His answer focused entirely on aid: raise contributions to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria; find better ways to deliver aid to agriculture and education. These are important areas, but there is a long list of weightier issues – capital flight, tax regimes, climate change and improved global business regulation, to name but a few.
One understands why Sachs always returns to aid. It is the easiest thing for rich countries to deliver – everything else requires genuine change rather than just reaching into the wallet. But he could at least say: “In the absence of the real changes required, let’s at least give aid.” He didn’t, which brought his appearance to a disappointing conclusion.”

Poverty & human rights
The International Council on Human Rights Policy’s Vijay Nagaraj marks Human Rights Day by making the case for increased attention to socio-economic rights.
“Sixty years ago, the United Nations affirmed the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Now is the time to recall those unassailable rights and to act on them in good faith and with strong conviction. For a start, the human rights community must push to ensure discrimination on the grounds of poverty (or economic status) is prohibited in human rights law, alongside race, colour, sex, language, religion, etc. The continued failure to recognise discrimination on the grounds of poverty is not only a failure to account for the real-life experiences of millions of people who experience it every day, but also reinforces the secondary status of socio-economic rights in mainstream human rights practice.
On this 10th of December, let us call for a paradigm shift in how we see and address poverty. A human rights approach calls on us to view poverty not as unwelcome collateral, temporarily inevitable or even a result of faceless, unstoppable economic forces, but rather as the result of acts of commission and omission and bad policy choices by political and economic elites. It is a problem of justice.”

Blame the parents
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Nick Mathiason argues the necessity of “piercing the corporate veil” that allows large companies to use their complex corporate structure to avoid being held accountable for environmental and human rights abuses.
“Clearly, in financial reporting, a link between the parent and subsidiary is manifest. Yet company law treats every business entity as legally separate, even within the same ‘business family’. And this is where difficulties arise in seeking to hold a parent company accountable, even in instances where it knew of, or supported, the conduct of its subsidiary.
To remedy this, a corporate ‘duty of care’ principle needs to be established which states that, in the event of a parent financially benefitting from a subsidiary, it has a responsibility to ensure the subsidiary carries out duties in line with established laws. When the subsidiary fails to live up to required standards, the parent cannot hide behind a corporate veil but has to face legal liability.”

UN parliament
The World Federalist Movement’s Warren Allmand lays out his case for supporting the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
“The idea is to start with an advisory body at the UN that gradually transitions into a world parliament. Article 22 of the UN Charter allows for creation of ‘subsidiary bodies.’
National parliaments would second MPs to the UN parliamentary assembly in proportion to party standings. Unlike UN ambassadors, UN parliamentarians would not take instruction from national governments, but would be accountable to citizens, and mandated to act according to conscience and the common good.”

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