Latest Developments, April 5

In the latest news and analysis…

Kony 2012, part II
The Guardian reports that the London School of Economics’ Craig Valters believes the newly released sequel to Invisible Children’s mega-viral video fails to address the criticism against its predecessor.
“Again, there is plenty of talk of turning power on its head. A form of ‘revolution’ as Ocampo put it. Firstly, who is harnessing this power? It certainly isn’t local Ugandans, who barely feature in either film, and who (judging from press reports) do not like the film one bit. Secondly, the film makes no mention of the UPDF (who the US has funded and worked with closely) who have committed many human rights violations. Thirdly, the film-makers (given their affiliation with Ocampo) clearly want Kony tried by the ICC. But the ICC is itself highly politicised, and has been criticised for failing to go after more powerful actors who have also committed crimes.”

LRA response
A document has appeared online, purporting to be a response by the Lord’s Resistance Army’s “Peace Team” to the Kony 2012 video.
“[Invisible Children’s] continued role is, to help sanitize the murderous regime of the army republic of Uganda – and maximally demonize the armed guerrillas in Uganda including the LRA – by working to pile all that is discreditable on the guerrillas, who are only one of the parties in the wars that the army regime has waged against the people of Uganda – while exculpating the murderous military machine of the regime of the army republic from any and all blame.
The principal endeavor of the masters of the Invisible Children is however to divert the attention of the people of Uganda and world democratic opinion from focusing on the real problems that face our African people under the army republic of Uganda and the search for their necessary resolution.”

Debt suicide
Reuters reports that the suicide of a pensioner outside the Greek parliament has turned into “symbol of the pain of austerity.”
“The 77-year-old retired pharmacist, Dimitris Christoulas, shot himself in the head on Wednesday after saying that financial troubles had pushed him over the edge. A suicide note said he preferred to die than scavenge for food.
The highly public – and symbolic – nature of the suicide prompted an outpouring of sympathy from Greeks, who set up an impromptu shrine where he killed himself with hand-written notes condemning the crisis. Some protested at night, clashing with riot police who sent them home in clouds of tear gas.”

Blaming Apple
In a letter to the New York Times, former UN special representative for business and human rights, John Ruggie, writes that Apple “contributes directly” to the well publicized problems at its Chinese supplier factories.
“Imposing stricter conditions on suppliers alone isn’t going to solve this problem. The brands also have to acknowledge their role and change their own practices accordingly. All major brands that source their products overseas, including Apple, have supplier codes of conduct. The time has come for them also to consider codes of responsible ordering practices.”

Drone HQ
The BBC asks “what it means to wage war from afar” during its visit to a New Mexico base where American and British personnel control drones.
” ‘I think it’s only controversial in terms of the media – they will make it controversial,’ said [Squadron Leader “Dex”].
‘We train to operate a weapon system in exactly the same way we would train in a manned aircraft – and we do the same job.
‘So to us there’s nothing controversial about it. Through our training and our smart decisions we avoid collateral damage as best we can. All of our engagements, all of our missions are legitimate and legal.’ ”

Decolonizing the franc zone
Former African Development Bank executive Sanou Mbaye calls the CFA franc zone “a formula for perpetual mass capital flight” from Africa to France.
“The CFA franc’s fixed exchange rate is pegged to the euro and overvalued in order to shield French companies from euro depreciation. But the currency’s overvaluation also underlies the lack of competitiveness that curbs franc-zone countries’ capacity to diversify their economies, create added value, and develop. Scandalously, they still have to surrender 50% of their foreign-exchange reserves to the French Treasury as a guarantee of the CFA franc’s limited convertibility and free transfer to France.

It is no wonder that the franc-zone countries have been unable to catch up with the performance of neighboring economies, most of which are undergoing the most prosperous period in their history. Since 2000, sub-Saharan African countries’ annual GDP growth has averaged 5-7%, compared to 2.5-3% for the franc zone. This gap should encourage the franc zone’s member countries to reject their relationship with France.”

Vying for influence
The Financial Times’ Alan Beattie writes that the World Bank’s structural inequality runs deeper than the US monopoly over the institution’s presidency.
“Emerging markets also complain that the bank’s lending practices give advanced countries control over the institution’s policy that is disproportionately large given their financial contributions. Much of the surplus from the commercial loans arm, which lends to middle-income countries, is ploughed back into the bank to provide low-cost loans and grants to the poorest nations. But control over those recycled funds rests largely with rich countries, which donate money on top and hold about half the voting power over the entire budget.”

Mismeasuring wealth
The time has come to replace GDP with “new indicators that tell us if we are destroying the productive base that supports our well-being,” according to the University of Cambridge’s Partha Dasgupta and the International Human Dimensions Programme’s Anantha Duraiappah.
“The United Nations University’s International Human Dimensions Program (UNU-IHDP) is already working to find these indicators for its ‘Inclusive Wealth Report’ (IWR), which proposes an approach to sustainability based on natural, manufactured, human, and social capital.

The IWR represents a crucial first step in transforming the global economic paradigm, by ensuring that we have the correct information with which to assess our economic development and well-being – and to reassess our needs and goals. While it is not intended as a universal indicator for sustainability, it does offer a framework for dialogue with multiple constituencies from the environmental, social, and economic fields.”

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