Latest Developments, December 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Leaving Iraq
Reuters reports on celebrations in the Iraqi city of Fallujah to mark the departure of US troops.
“Many Iraqis await the U.S. withdrawal with relief and hopes for a better future, despite fears that sectarian tensions bubbling beneath the surface will return just as Iraq struggles to end years of war and violence.
Overall violence in Iraq has dropped sharply since the dark days of sectarian slaughter in 2006-07, but bombings and killings remain common.
‘After the Americans leave we want to see a united Iraq, we do not want disputes,’ Hameed Jadou, a Sunni cleric, told the crowds. ‘Whoever says this is an Iraqi Sunni, Shi’ite, Kurdish, or Turkman, is using the terms brought by the occupier.’”

Vulture funds
A UN human rights expert is urging the Channel Island of Jersey to prevent “vulture funds” from using its courts to sue heavily indebted poor countries.
“‘‘Vulture funds’ unfairly deprive poor countries of the gains from international debt relief efforts meant for the improvement of delivery of basic social services such as safe drinking water, health care, education, and housing,’ Mr. Lumina said. ‘The international community must not accept this immoral and unfair deprivation of scarce financial resources from the world’s poorest countries.’
In April 2010, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act to restrict the ability of ‘vulture funds’ to sue heavily indebted poor countries in UK courts, a favourite jurisdiction. However, the Act does not apply to UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories such as Jersey, Guernsey, the British Virgin Islands and Cayman islands.
This loophole has allowed US ‘vulture fund’ FG Capital Management (formerly FG Hemisphere) to sue the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Jersey’s courts for $100 million of debt obligations, reportedly bought for just 3.3 per cent of their value according to British media reports.”

Sweet Home Alabama
Human Rights Watch has released a report on Alabama’s new immigration act that, in the word’s of one of the legislation’s sponsors, “attacks every aspect of an illegal alien’s life.”
“Under the Beason-Hammon Act, unauthorized immigrants are prohibited from entering into ‘business transactions’ with the state. An unauthorized immigrant who tries to do so is committing a Class C felony, punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. As a result, state and local agencies have declared that unauthorized immigrants cannot sign up for water and other utilities, live in the mobile homes they own, or renew licenses for their own small businesses.

While every country has the authority to regulate the entry of immigrants into its territory, to deport those who have made an unauthorized entry, and to enforce its immigration laws against those no longer authorized to remain, international law requires that everyone is entitled to fundamental human rights by virtue of their humanity, Human Rights Watch said.”

Tough talk
The UN News Centre reports on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s description of the current imbalances in access to food, electricity, sanitation and healthcare around the world.
“This is not equitable. It is not sustainable. Nor can we live with deteriorating ecosystems. Science tells us that we are approaching, and increasingly over-stepping certain planetary boundaries. This, too, is not sustainable,” he said.

Making others rich
Al Jazeera reports on how the cocoa industry treats those who actually produce the beans required to make chocolate.
“The price of this important commodity may have been dropping in recent weeks, but suppliers, buyers and manufacturers will all still make billions of dollars. It’s the farmers of West Africa that will lose out, as they continue to live in poverty.”

Access to medicines
Daniele Dionisio of the European Parliament Working Group on Innovation, Access to Medicines and Poverty-Related Diseases argues for doing away with a controversial clause in a key intellectual property agreement that will be up for debate at this week’s World Trade Organization conference.
“The non-violation nullification of benefits (hereinafter non-violation or NV) provision allows World Trade Organization members to bring disputes to the WTO, which are based on the loss of an expected benefit caused by another member’s action, even if such action does not constitute violation of a WTO agreement.

WTO developing members would be put at risk should the NV clause be allowed in the [Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)] agreement. As a result, these countries might face pressures to reverse already enacted policies or measures under the threat of NV claims.
NV complaints could be used to threaten developing members’ use of flexibilities laid down in the TRIPS agreement. As regards access to medicines, the implementation of TRIPS flexibilities by developing members under Articles 30 or 31 (i.e., to grant compulsory licenses or CLs) could be charged with keeping patent owners from their legitimate or reasonable expectations. And it would come as no surprise should members claim that price cuttings of medicines under CLs deprive them of foreseen patent protection benefits.”

Sustainable development
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues it is essential for development and environmental agendas, which he believes are growing apart, to be brought together again at next year’s Rio+20 conference.
“The idea of sustainable development goals, first floated by the Colombian government and seemingly gathering momentum as Rio+20 approaches, could be a way of embedding the concept into international dialogue, as well as binding together disparate processes such as Busan, Durban and the MDGs.
Countries in the north are tempted to give in to vested interests and protect the dirty economy, as Canada appears to be doing by pulling out of the Kyoto protocol. Rio could be the arena to remind them that a green economy will be better for jobs and growth, as well as the planet, if they only have the vision to look beyond the dangerous comforts of the growth model with which we have so far been stuck.”

Democratic hopes and fears
In an interview with Jeune Afrique, the French Institute of International Relations’ Thierry de Montbrial discusses the prospect of an “Islamist counterrevolution” in North Africa and the West’s fickle attitude toward democracy.
“This rise of Islamists was perfectly predictable. Westerners have a contradictory attitude – they want democracy but often reject its consequences – and are naïve because establishing democracy takes time. That said, I don’t think the Islamists, in the Maghreb, are looking for confrontation. They’ll want to have good relations with the West, while trying to transform society slowly through social pressure.” (Translated from the French)

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