Latest Developments, June 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Last words
Elinor Ostrom, the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in economics, has died but not before warning against attempts to forge “a single international agreement” at this month’s Rio+20 conference:

“We have never had to deal with problems of the scale facing today’s globally interconnected society. No one knows for sure what will work, so it is important to build a system that can evolve and adapt rapidly.

The goal now must be to build sustainability into the DNA of our globally interconnected society. Time is the natural resource in shortest supply, which is why the Rio summit must galvanize the world. What we need are universal sustainable development goals on issues such as energy, food security, sanitation, urban planning, and poverty eradication, while reducing inequality within the planet’s limits.”

Measuring peace
The Institute for Economics and Peace has released its latest Global Peace Index, which concludes that the world has become “slightly more peaceful” as countries focus more on projecting economic rather than military power:

“Improvements in the Political Terror Scale and gains in several indicators of militarization arising from austerity-driven defence cuts were the two leading factors making the world more peaceful in 2012, according to the latest Global Peace Index (GPI) released today. This reverses two consecutive years where the GPI has shown a decline in global peace. If the world had been completely peaceful, the economic benefit to the global economy would have been an estimated US$9 trillion in the past year (equal to the size of the German and Japanese economies combined.)”

GPI critique
Dart-Throwing Chimp’s Jay Ulfelder says he wants to like the Global Peace Index but fears it “obscures as much as it clarifies”:

“The index includes so many things, we are told, because it aims to get simultaneously at two distinct ideas: not just ‘negative peace,’ meaning the absence of violence, but also ‘positive peace,’ meaning the presence of structures and institutions that create and sustain the absence of violence.

International relations scholars would tell you that countries can sometimes avoid wars by preparing for them; rival states are less likely to pick fights with armies they can’t easily beat. Most people would probably think of the avoidance of war as a peaceful outcome, but the GPI casts the preparations that sometimes help to produce that outcome as a diminution of peace. In an ideal world, disarmament and peace would always go together; in the real world, they don’t, but the index’s attempt to combine measures of negative and positive peace muddles that complexity.”

World Bank complaint
Mining Watch Canada reports that civil society organizations have filed a complaint concerning World Bank financing of a Canadian-owned mining project in Colombia:

“The complaint cites, among ten main concerns, the [International Finance Corporation]’s failure to evaluate the potentially severe and irreversible social and environmental impacts of the project, a large-scale gold mine located in a fragile, high-altitude wetland, called the Santurbán páramo, which provides water to over 2.2 million Colombians.
The Committee for the Defence of Water and the Santurbán Páramo, a coalition of nearly 40 groups living downstream of the project in Bucaramanga, asserts that the IFC, the World Bank’s private-sector lending arm, ignored its own policies before investing US$11.79 million in Greystar Resources – now Eco Oro Minerals Corp. – in 2009. The IFC bought shares before the company had completed required environmental and social impact assessments.”

Letter to Walmart
Two senior Democratic members of the US House of Representatives have sent a letter to Walmart CEO Mike Duke, accusing the company of hampering an investigation into allegations it paid millions in bribes to Mexican officials:

“Although you stated during a recent shareholders meeting that Wal-Mart is ‘doing everything we can to get to the bottom of the matter,’ you have not provided us with the information we requested. Specifically, you have provided us with no documents, you have declined to allow any Wal-Mart employees to brief our staffs about the allegations, and you have failed to respond to our request to speak with Maritza Munich, a key figure in the investigation. Wal-Mart’s actions to date significantly inhibit our ability to investigate these allegations.”

Ethnic cleansing
The Jewish Week’s Eric Herschthal condemns the “conservative ethnic tribalism” behind Israel’s planned mass deportation of African migrants:

“The worry of guys like [Israeli interior minister Eli] Yishai is that the Africans will dilute Israel’s Jewish character. I find that idea deeply offensive, even though I fully understand the broader issue of wanting Israel to retain a strong Jewish majority (though I take issue with it still).  But what this whole African issue really underscores is just how problematic Israel’s strict ethnic definition of a ‘Jewish state’ is: to remain in control of their own affairs, Israel will have to effectively get in the business of ethnic cleansing.  One hopes this ethnic cleansing never turns into the bloody affair it has in so many other countries—but all we can do is hope.”

Chain reaction
Jeune Afrique reports on how mining and agribusiness companies are changing the geography of southern DR Congo:

“In the highly urbanized mining belt of southern Katanga, where the demand for agricultural products is high, access to land is becoming difficult for small-scale farmers. With urban sprawl, increasing mining activity and the arrival of agribusiness companies – such as Terra, which owns 10,000 hectares –, available space is shrinking and land prices have skyrocketed. Even if the granting of concessions to mining companies includes compensation, it represents a source of insecurity for local farmers, who have been forced to give up their lands and go elsewhere. The granting of new mining concessions and vast areas to agropastoral companies could further fuel the trend, with the risk of accelerating the rural exodus or transforming smallholder farmers into day labourers.” (Translated from the French.)

Underdeveloping Africa
Hamilton College’s Nigel Westmaas marks the 40th anniversary of Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and concludes much of the analysis continues to hold true:

“The overt fangs that slave traders and corporate giants like Barclays, Unilever and Firestone openly displayed in early profiteering and exploitation of the continent have been replaced by charming corporate public relations smiles and handouts. Yet the profits sequestered from Africa over several centuries, as effectively argued by Rodney, still stand as a foremost if not exclusive source and substance of Africa’s underdevelopment.”

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