Latest Developments, April 25

In the latest news and analysis…

Setting a precedent
The Uxbridge Gazette reports on an asbestos-related UK court ruling that the plaintiff’s lawyers say represents a landmark in the fight for corporate accountability.
“Historically, parent companies have been able to avoid any liabilities arising from work undertaken at its subsidiaries, treating them as separate entities where one company cannot be found responsible for the actions of another. Todays (Wednesday) decision will mean that parent companies can be held liable for the practices of their subsidiaries irrespective of the corporate veil, according to Mr Chandler’s legal team.
The judgment, it believes, will not only have far reaching ramifications for companies in this country with subsidiaries in the UK but also multinational companies headquartered in the UK with subsidiaries in developing countries.”

Chief’s letter
The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network reports that Canada’s top First Nations chief, Shawn Atleo, has written a letter to the federal government slamming its lack of consultation over proposed changes to environmental assessments of industrial projects as “unlawful and unconstitutional.”
“At stake but not mentioned in Atleo’s letter is Enbridge’s massive Northern Gateway Pipeline project which is broadly opposed by First Nations. The project, however, is backed by the Conservative government which says piping Alberta bitumen to the British Columbia coast to satiate China’s oil-thirsty economic machinery is in Canada’s national interest.
‘Thirty years after the Constitution recognized and affirmed Aboriginal and Treaty rights, it is an alarming development that Canada would take such steps that will potentially further undermine processes that already do not adequately address clear duties for consultation and accommodation,’ wrote Atleo, in the letter, dated the April 20, 2012.”

Dam tensions
Inter Press Service reports on the labour troubles plaguing hydroelectric dam construction in Brazil.
“A year ago, [trade unionist Altair Donizete de Oliveira] had predicted that unrest would break out again at Jirau because the dam is being built by a consortium controlled by a foreign company, the French utility GDF Suez.
Analysing the factors fuelling the conflicts, Oliveira said ‘Brazilian companies have a heart,’ while foreign firms only use cold logic based on technical considerations. He also mentioned cultural differences.”

Writing about Africa
Morehouse College’s Laura Seay writes that the simple solution to poor Western media coverage of Africa is to follow the BBC model of hiring African journalists.
“There’s no reason that other major media providers couldn’t hire local reporters to improve their coverage as well. Rather than relegating them to second-tier or co-author status, why not hire Africans as country or regional correspondents? A reporter does not have to be Caucasian to provide objective and well-written reporting from the continent, and in many cases, this reporting is more nuanced than that of an international correspondent who spends five days reporting a story. For example, by far the most thoughtful reporting and analysis on Ugandan reactions to the Kony 2012 viral video came not from American journalists, but from Ugandan reporter Angelo Izama who, to the New York Times‘ credit, was able to publish an opinion article in its pages. Why can’t the Times hire Izama or someone equally qualified to report on Uganda full time?”

Post-2015 problem
Anti-poverty activist Lysa John and Oxfam’s Stephen Hale argue the discussion around establishing successors to the Millennium Development Goals is distressingly one-sided.
“Where are the voices of the poor in this process? The conversation at present is overwhelmingly between northern governments and thinktanks. The most glowing achievements in the MDG success story have been the result of social and economic initiatives in the global south. Most believe that traditional donor countries have failed to meet the commitment for aid and partnership spelled out in the infamously catch-all goal eight – to develop a global partnership for development.
This really matters. Unless there is far broader involvement and ownership of the next round of goals, there will be no agreement on them. Developing countries and the ‘emerging’ economies must be co-creators of this process. The UN plans to consult civil society in 50 countries. But civil society groups and coalitions in the south need financial support to help them carry out their own independent reflection and mobilisation on this, not simply an invitation to participate in the UN consultation.”

Many centres
In a Q&A with IRIN, Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom discusses the concept of polycentrism as it relates to managing the planet and its resources.
“Part of my discouragement with the international negotiations is that we have gotten riveted into battles at the very big level over who caused global change in the first place and who is responsible for correcting [it]. It will take a long time to resolve some of these conflicts. Meanwhile, if we do not take action, the increase to greenhouse gas collection at a global level gets larger and larger. While we cannot solve all aspects of this problem by cumulatively taking action at local levels, we can make a difference, and we should.

We need to get out of thinking that we have to be moving the same everywhere. We need to be recognizing the complexity of the different problems being faced in a wide diversity of regions of the world. Thus, really great solutions that work in one environment do not work in others. We need to understand why, and figure out ways of helping to learn from good examples as well as bad examples of how to move ahead.”

Aiming high on the ATT
Oxfam’s Ed Cairns presents a new paper that argues national governments must not compromise in the quest for a tough Arms Trade Treaty at this summer’s UN negotiations.
“But there’s no point in any new regulation unless it works – to make the market operate for the public good. And that applies every bit as much to a UN conference to agree a useful Arms Trade Treaty. The vast majority of governments want an effective Treaty that will have a practical impact on curbing the irresponsible arms deals that fuel human rights abuses or war crimes – or waste a vast amount of money that could be better spent on, say, development. But like every idea for effective regulation, there are those who want to water it down.  On the arms trade, they’re governments like Syria and Iran, and – an odd companion – the US, which may have made a catastrophic error when it insisted that the process to agree the Treaty should be by consensus.”

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