Latest Developments, January 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Future worth choosing
The BBC reports on a new UN Global Sustainability Panel document that makes 56 recommendations for a world where the “true costs to people and the environment” drive policy decisions.
“Governments would build the true environmental costs of products into the prices that people pay to purchase them, leading to an economic system that protects natural resources.
Goods would be labelled with information on their environmental impact, enabling consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions.
With UN support, governments would adopt indicators of economic performance that go beyond simple GDP, and measure the sustainability of countries’ economies.
Governments would change the regulation of financial markets to promote longer-term, more stable and sustainable investment.”

Sea traffic
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has released a new report that finds 61 percent of “reported cases of sanctions-busting or illicit transfers of arms, drugs, other military equipment and sensitive dual-use goods that could be used in the development of missiles and weapons of mass destruction” over the last two decades have involved ships with ties to EU, NATO or OECD member states.
“It is not surprising that companies based in the world’s richest maritime states and those that have historically played the greatest role in the development of maritime trade own the greater share of ships in the world merchant fleet. However, it is notable that companies subject to the laws of those states with the most developed legal systems, law enforcement, intelligence and foreign policy establishments are nevertheless over-represented among the beneficial owners of ships reported as involved in destabilizing military equipment, dual-use goods and narcotics transfers: the same group of states account for only 54.5 per cent of ships over 1000 [gross tonnes] in the world merchant fleet.”

French FTT
The Telegraph reports France’s embattled president has unilaterally pledged to implement a 0.1 percent financial transaction tax as of August if he is re-elected.
“President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is trailing heavily in the polls ahead of April’s election, said France would go it alone in a bid to “create a shock” and inspire other European countries to follow his lead. That is despite vocal opposition from other EU leaders, not least David Cameron.”

Drone creep
The New York Times reports Iraqi officials are angry that the US is using “surveillance drones” to provide security for its embassy, consulates and personnel.
“It foreshadows a possible expansion of unmanned drone operations into the diplomatic arm of the American government; until now they have been mainly the province of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.
American contractors say they have been told that the State Department is considering to field unarmed surveillance drones in the future in a handful of other potentially “high-threat” countries, including Indonesia and Pakistan, and in Afghanistan after the bulk of American troops leave in the next two years. State Department officials say that no decisions have been made beyond the drone operations in Iraq.”

Coward’s war
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues the growing sophistication of drones allows the governments that use them to “snuff out opposition of any kind, terrorist or democrat” with ease and impunity.
“In October last year, a 16-year-old called Tariq Aziz was travelling through North Waziristan in Pakistan with his 12-year-old cousin, Waheed Khan. Their car was hit by a missile from a US drone. As always, their deaths made them guilty: if we killed them, they must be terrorists. But they weren’t. Tariq was about to start work with the human rights group Reprieve, taking pictures of the aftermath of drone strikes. A mistake? Possibly. But it is also possible that he was murdered out of self-interest. If you have such powers, if you are not held to account by Congress, the media or the American people, why not use them?”

Broken food system
Drought and Famine are both normal and predictable, given a global food system “built on inequality, imbalances and – ultimately – fragility,” according to UN special rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter.
“The solution is therefore twofold: we must plan adequately for the food crises that emerge within our broken food system, and we must finally acknowledge how broken it is. Only when we are honest about hunger will the world’s most vulnerable populations receive the short-term aid and long-term support that they need.”

Corporate responsibility
Speaking at the Public Eye awards ceremony, where UK finance giant Barclays and Brazilian super-miner Vale were named the worst companies of the year, Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz stressed how far we are from a world where the majority of companies behave ethically and sustainably.
“When I look at the finalists for this year’s Public Eye awards, two things immediately strike me. For one, it is remarkable how ubiquitous some of the firms with the most deplorable practices are in contemporary life. This year’s nominees are companies in fields as diverse as finance, energy, mining, and electronics. Even the most socially aware consumer would be hard pressed to avoid buying their products and services, directly or indirectly.

What is needed is not just a recognition of what is wrong with, say, their environmental and labor practices, but systemic improvements—to incentive structures, legal frameworks, and our expectations and demands of corporations, as global citizens.”

Drugs in Africa
Former UN secretary General Kofi Annan argues the growing importance of West Africa as a transit point for the drug trade threatens to undo many of the positive developments of recent years in the region.
“We need to take action now before the grip of the criminal networks linked to the trafficking of illicit drugs tightens into a stranglehold on West African political and economic development. That can only achieved through a strong, well-co-ordinated and integrated effort led by West African states with the strong backing of the international community. In particular, the region needs more help from those countries that are producing and consuming these drugs.”

Colonial fantasies
Africa is a Country’s Sean Jacobs writes about a recent spate of media reports suggesting an upswing in nostalgia for colonial Africa.
“Two days ago, The Guardian (of all publications) put up a travel piece with this introduction: ‘I was alone in the middle of deepest, darkest Congo. Worse still, I was being chased by eight angry tribesmen in two dugout canoes – and they were gaining on me.’ We figured it must be a joke.”

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