Latest Developments, February 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Accountability deficit
The School of Oriental and African Studies’ Michael Jennings argues there are few consequences for international NGOs that fail to deliver on their humanitarian promises or, in some cases, do actual harm to the people they have pledged to help.
“The question of accountability has often looked to how NGOs answer to donors or to the national governments of countries in which they are operating. From a financial or legal perspective, this makes perfect sense. NGOs should account for the money they spend as contracted agents of donors. And they should, of course, be working within the parameters of national regulatory frameworks and laws (although the fact that NGOs themselves often sit on the committees that draw up such regulatory systems is troubling).

The best NGOs do think about how they can be accountable to the communities and individuals with whom they work. But the issue is too important to be left to self-regulation. Development interventions involve change, and change can result in profoundly negative outcomes for some or many. Unintended as these negative consequences may be, those affected should be afforded a better means to hold to account development actors.”

Mining profits
Bench Marks Foundation’s John Capel writes that calls for increased investment in Africa rarely incorporate a discussion of “how this investment should be undertaken,” a shortcoming the Alternative Mining Indaba seeks to rectify.
“We believe there is a role for independent monitoring and evaluation and a role for community monitoring to hold mining corporations accountable.
But to do so we need independent funds to capacitate communities to engage with mining houses on a level playing field. To back this up we need an independent grievance mechanism, independent of the company, supported by an independent fund contributed to by mining corporations. It must be quick and easy to use, bring redress, be able to hold corporations accountable and must address any adverse impacts on communities.”

Arms control
The Inter Press Service reports on the continuing campaign for stricter controls on international weapons sales ahead of next week’s pre-negotiation meeting regarding the Arms Trade Treaty which is supposed to be finalized later this year.
“ ‘There is more control on the selling of bananas than there is on conventional arms,’ said Zobel Behalal, peace and conflicts advocacy officer for CCFD-Terre Solidare, a French-based Catholic NGO.
‘For us, this is a true scandal because states can do what they want without taking into account the impact on civilian populations,’ he told IPS.”

Immunity lost
Agence France-Presse reports Iraqi officials want to rein in private security contractors whose large number “negatively impacts the security situation in the country.”
“The firms ‘have to understand that … they don’t have free (movement) in the country. They have to follow the instruction, they have to hold the permit, a valid permit, and they are not allowed to violate the Iraqi laws.’
‘They are not exempted as before, and they are not getting any sort of immunity,’ [government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh] said.
‘We do need them, definitely, we do need them, (and) we are not going to stop them, but definitely, we will limit their work,’ Dabbagh said.”

Living wage
The Phnom Penh Post reports on a push to quadruple the wages of Cambodian garment workers.
“[Asia Floor Wage] coordinator Anannya Bhattacharjee said the $281 calculation was based on a worker’s monthly nutritional needs according to figures obtained from governments and international institutions.
She added that such an increase would rely to some extent on clothing brands and retailers paying more for the finished product.
‘There is enough money in the global supply chain for brands to pay Cambodian manufacturers enough so that garment workers can earn that,’ she said.”

Down the toilet
A new World Wildlife Fund report suggests American consumers are contributing to the destruction of Indonesia’s rain forests by buying certain brands of toilet paper.
“In recent years, APP has greatly expanded into the U.S. tissue market, including through Paseo and Livi tissue products. Oasis Brands, which markets Paseo, announced in 2011 that Paseo had become the fastest-growing brand of toilet paper in the U.S.  Paseo and Livi are also marketed as ‘away-from-home’ products used in public restrooms in restaurants, office buildings, schools and hotels.”

Universal joy
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny responds to Japanese calls to make happiness one of the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Goals with a more American plea to focus on the “right to pursue happiness.”
“Most differences in life satisfaction poll answers are due to inherited characteristics, while less than 3 percent can be explained by socioeconomic status, education, income, marital status, and religious commitment combined.  As I suggest in this CGD Essay, for a society to maximize average happiness poll answers, its most effective course would probably be to put everyone on an antidepressant-ecstasy cocktail and (given the strong genetic component of happiness poll answers) add in chemical sterilization for the naturally unhappy.  Is that really what we want out of a new round of Millennium Development Goals?”

Geography of trade
Drew University’s Fred Curtis and Rutgers’s David Ehrenfeld argue the end of globalization – or at least its considerable reduction – is nigh but they see as many opportunities as problems in the inevitable transition to more localized life.
“It is now critical for economic planners, laypersons and governments to recognise that long-term energy and climate realities will impose limits on the global movement of goods. Trade pacts, like the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and business models, like Walmart with its transoceanic supply chains, will make less sense as the foundations of global trade are undermined. This is not the result of either ideology or policy. Only when we accept these realities can we design and rebuild less vulnerable patterns of production and trade throughout the world. Nearly every country has existing examples of sound, regional development that can be used as models.”

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