Latest Developments, March 5

In the latest news and analysis…

Justifying targeted killings
Talking Points Memo provides an excerpt of US Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech in which he explains the thinking behind the current administration’s growing habit of eliminating perceived threats extrajudicially.
“Some have called such operations ‘assassinations.’ They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced. Assassinations are unlawful killings. Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government’s use of lethal force in self defense against a leader of al Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the Executive Order banning assassination or criminal statutes.

Some have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces. This is simply not accurate. “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”

Drones in the Philippines
American University’s Akbar Ahmed and Frankie Martin argue last month’s US drone strike in the southern Philippines – the first in Southeast Asia – has the potential to “further enflame” a conflict that has killed an estimated 120,000 over the past four decades.
“By unleashing the drones, the US has pushed the conflict between centre and periphery in the Philippines in a dangerous direction. If there is one lesson we can learn from half a millennium of history it is this: weapons destroy flesh and blood, but cannot break the spirit of a people motivated by ideas of honour and justice.
Instead, the US and Manila should work with the Muslims of the Philippines to ensure full rights of identity, development, dignity, human rights and self-determination. Only then will the security situation improve and the Moro permitted to live the prosperous and secure lives they have been denied for so long; and only then will the Philippines be able to become the Asian Tiger it aspires to be.”

Kiobel expanded
Bloomberg reports the US Supreme Court has expanded the scope of a human rights and corporate liability case involving Nigerian plaintiffs and oil giant Shell.
“When the justices heard arguments in the Shell case last week, they focused on whether the Alien Tort Statute allowed suits against corporations. Several justices, including Samuel Alito, suggested during the argument that they were more interested in considering contentions that the law can’t be applied overseas.
A ruling on the so-called extraterritoriality issue would potentially impose more sweeping limits on lawsuits, shielding corporate officers as well as the companies themselves.”

Beyond Kiobel
The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law’s Joanna Kyriakakis presents an overview of the issues at play in the Kiobel case, as well as future avenues for corporate liability advocates should the Supreme Court rule in Shell’s favour.
“Comments by plaintiff lawyer, Paul Hoffman, in a panel conversation the day after the hearing indicate that, whatever the outcome in this case, they will continue to pursue corporations implicated in human rights abuses through US judicial avenues. One option already noted would be to litigate individual corporate executives. In many respects, this option may be less appealing to the business world.”

Rich get richer
UC Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez presents new figures suggesting these are good times for America’s “one percent”.
“In 2010, average real income per family grew by 2.3% but the gains were very uneven. Top 1% incomes grew by 11.6% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.2%. Hence, the top 1% captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery. Such an uneven recovery can help explain the recent public demonstrations against inequality. It is likely that this uneven recovery has continued in 2011 as the stock market has continued to recover. National Accounts statistics show that corporate profits and dividends distributed have grown strongly in 2011 while wage and salary accruals have only grown only modestly. Unemployment and non-employment have remained high in 2011.”

In defense of social unrest
In a Q&A with Inter Press Service, former UN Conference on Trade and Development head Rubens Ricupero speaks approvingly of how “dissatisfaction” drives history.
“I hope this movement demanding change will modify not only the internal economies of countries, in the sense of moving away from that market fundamentalism, but that it will also change the institutions that have represented that fundamentalist spirit.
And in order for that to happen, the central role has to be played by people around the world – not only in the (developing) South – who are aware of the problem, that it is not possible to continue with an organisation that foments the growth of inequality.”

World Bank non-leadership
Following close on the heels of Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs’s open application to become the next World Bank president, New York University’s William Easterly spells out how he would not run the international financial institution.
“I would not lead the World Bank by perpetuating the technocratic illusion that development is something ‘we’ do to ‘them.’ I would not ignore the rights of ‘them.’ If the New York Times should happen to report on the front page that a World Bank-financed project torched the homes and crops of Ugandan farmers, I would not stonewall the investigation for the next 165 days, 4 hours, 37 minutes, and 20 seconds up to now.”

Development gospel
Aid on the Edge of Chaos’s Ben Ramalingam argues the World Bank must stop being a “Development Church” that promotes economic dogma if its client countries are ever going to be “intellectually in the driver’s seat.”
“[Former World Bank staffer David] Ellerman argues that in the face of these Official Views, adverse opinions and critical reasoning tend to give way to authority, rules and bureaucratic reasoning shaped by the hierarchies within the organisation. Moreover, these Official Views “short-circuit” and bypass the active learning capability of national and local actors, and substitute the authority of external agencies in its place.”

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