Latest Developments, January 25


In the latest news and analysis…

Business rules
Amnesty International is calling on governments to take on the global lack of corporate regulation it says is having a “devastating impact” on the world’s most vulnerable populations.
“Governments are legally bound to consider how the policies and programs they implement affect human rights. In reality, many governments do not conduct even rudimentary assessments of the potential impact of their economic policies on rights.

Governments are consistently failing to regulate the corporate sector, trusting in their false promises of self-regulation, creating a toxic environment that is showing signs of boiling over as people take to the streets demanding an end to corruption, corporate greed and injustice.”

Trade imbalances
World leaders gathered in Davos for the World Economic Forum must focus less on “the imbalances in developed countries’ debt-to-GDP ratios” and more on “the wider imbalances generated by unfettered globalization,” according to UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter.
“Trade and investment agreements are the gateways through which globalization passes on its way to redefining a country’s economic landscape, and they are increasing at an impressive pace. There are 6,092 bilateral investment agreements currently in force, with 56 concluded in 2010 alone.
That growth reflects the flawed economic model of the pre-crisis years, which relied on indifference to where growth came from, how sustainable it was, and who was benefiting from it. If we are to learn anything from the ongoing crisis, it must be to start asking the right questions.”

Coal black box
A new report by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) argues electricity companies operating in the Netherlands are not coming clean about the source of the coal they use.
“None of the energy companies analysed in the report – E.ON, Vattenfall/Nuon, GDF Suez/Electrabel, RWE/Essent, DONG Energy and EPZ (DELTA) – are transparent about the specific mines where their coal comes from. ‘If companies are open about the coal chain, human rights violations and pollution in the coal chain can be prevented. But the electricity companies refuse to publish this information and as a result are not following recommendations laid out in international standards for supply chain transparency such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies’, says Joseph Wilde-Ramsing, Senior Researcher at SOMO.”

Press freedom
Reporters Without Borders has released its latest Press Freedom Index, which ranks nine African countries ahead of the US following the “crackdown” on the Occupy movement.
“The worldwide wave of protests in 2011 also swept through the New World. It dragged the United States (47th) and Chile (80th) down the index, costing them 27 and 47 places respectively. The crackdown on protest movements and the accompanying excesses took their toll on journalists. In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation ”

Circumcision silence
Paris Descartes University’s Patrick Pognant decries the lack of debate over the UN’s advocacy of mass circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa as a means of reducing the spread of HIV.
“At the very least, those who are to be circumcised ought to be informed objectively of the irremediable effects of this surgical act, which they have the right to expect from humanitarian organizations that are meant to protect them and improve their living conditions. If we celebrate progress in the field of medicine, we must also remember that it can make mistakes and it harbours extremists and ideologues, overcome, in this case, by a passion for surgery (just as their predecessors from earlier centuries, bistoury in hand, ravaged large populations, especially male ones). The time will come, one hopes, when international authorities will condemn all forms of physical mutilation committed without proper consent, whether the motivation be medical, moral or religious.” (Translated from the French.)

Strange bedfellows
War Child’s Samantha Nutt asks if new partnerships between international NGOs and Canadian mining companies will “nudge along good practice” or “buy silence in the case of bad practice.”
“Under the deal, World University Services Canada, Plan Canada and World Vision Canada will receive CIDA funding totalling $6.7-million for projects with Rio Tinto Alcan, Iamgold and Barrick Gold, respectively. The largest share was for the Plan Canada-Iamgold project, which will take all but $1-million of the CIDA funding over the next five years. For their part, the three mining companies will contribute additional support just shy of $2-million. The combined annual net profit for these firms is more than $4-billion.

Two of the participating mining firms have recently been involved in labour and human-rights disputes related to their operations abroad.”

Arming the Middle East
The Buck Institute for Research on Aging’s Raja Kamal takes issue with recent American and British arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
“These deals have been presented as useful arrangements to promote stability in a Middle East, allegedly threatened by Iran’s ambitions. However, seen through a different lens, it appears that arms-producing nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom are using Saudi Arabia as an automated teller machine, from which billions of dollars can be secured to bolster their troubled economies.
It is unfortunate that the U.S. Congress did not seize the opportunity to block the F-15 sale on the grounds that arming the Arab world is in the best interests neither of the region nor of the U.S. or the West in the long run.”

Negotiating change
Panteion University’s Alexios Arvanitis calls for negotiators at international talks to bring more than the pursuit of national interests to the table.
“In casting his veto at the European Union’s December summit in Brussels, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, ‘What is on offer isn’t in Britain’s interests, so I didn’t agree to it,’ as if agreement solely depended upon whether or not interests were satisfied.
Then again, reaching an agreement might never have been Cameron’s goal. While so-called “win-win” outcomes are increasingly considered to be the ultimate purpose of every negotiation, what if the negotiating parties contemplate a win-win outcome that actually harms non-participants to the talks, or is against the law? What if the outcome is beneficial but contrary to the principles of the negotiating parties?”

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