Latest Developments, June 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Business as usual
Forum for the Future’s Jonathon Porritt argues the fact that Unilever is part of the UK’s delegation to the Rio+20 conference while British Prime Minister David Cameron is not, is “a sign of our unsustainable times”:

“Twenty years on from the 1992 Earth Summit, it seems to be almost universally accepted that governments have less scope and less appetite for governing, and that much more influence (if not power) has flowed over to big business and capital markets.
That’s not necessarily seen as a good thing by most people in the NGO community. In their eyes, no amount of ‘corporate responsibility’ can possibly compensate for the damage done in the name of profit maximisation.”

Dodgy draft
Former Bolivian climate negotiator Nele Marien expresses disappointment at the draft text agreed to in the run-up to Rio+20:

“It is nothing new to state that we are living in a limited world with limited recourses, and that we are at the edge of surpassing some critical tipping points for Mother Earth. To keep on growing economically in this setting is just a logical impossibility. Nevertheless, the RIO+20 text never considers these aspects of the environmental problem – in fact doesn’t make any assessment of the critical situation of nature at all- but on the contrary mentions ‘sustained economic growth’ about 23 times, as an objective in itself, and as a solution to the multiple crisis that the world faces today.”

Uruguay to legalize it
Al Jazeera reports that Uruguay plans to legalize the production and sale of marijuana in an effort to fight crime:

“The government will also urge that marijuana sales be legalised worldwide, Huidobro said, adding the measure could discourage the use of so-called hard drugs.
Marijuana consumption is already legal in Uruguay.
‘We want to fight against two different things: one is drug consumption and the other is drug trafficking. We think the ban on certain drugs is creating more problems in society than the drug itself,’ [Defence Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro] told a news conference.”

The state of corporate accountability
The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has released its first annual briefing on corporate legal accountability, in which it covers human rights lawsuits against companies around the world:

“A few countries, including UK, USA, France, Germany and Netherlands, have heard some lawsuits against companies for alleged abuses occurring in other countries. But even in these countries, such lawsuits are rare.

‘Home’ governments (where companies are headquartered) fail to make extraterritorial remedies available for multiple reasons. In part, they simply do not wish to constrain their companies in their operations abroad. There are rarely strong constituencies pushing them to hold their companies accountable. And these measures are often opposed by host states as an infringement on sovereignty.”

Mining violence
The Georgia Straight reports that activists are calling on a pair of Canadian mining companies to “publicly order an absolute halt to all violence” against their opponents in Mexico and Guatemala:

“One of these cases involved the shooting of Yolanda Oquely Veliz on June 13. The 33-year-old Veliz was shot by men on a motorcycle after she left a blockade near the entrance to Radius Gold’s mine in San José del Golfo, Guatemala. She survived the attack but remains in serious condition.
They also cited the shooting of Bertín Vásquez Ruiz and Guadalupe Vásquez Ruiz on June 16. The two opponents of Fortuna Silver’s operations in Mexico were wounded.”

Dead man washing
The Wall Street Journal reports on the ease with which international crime syndicates can launder money in the UK:

“According to a new report from non-profit Global Witness, a U.K.-registered company saw about $700 million flow through its account at a Kyrgyzstan bank despite the fact that its identified owner, a Russian from a remote area, had died three years before the company was registered. Moreover, records cited by Global Witness said he attended a company meeting in London after his death.”

Drone math
ProPublica looks into seemingly conflicting US estimates of the number of civilians killed by drones in Pakistan:

“It’s possible that all these claims are true. But if they are, it implies that the government believes there were zero or almost zero civilian deaths between the beginning of 2008 and August 2009, and then again zero deaths between August 2010 and July 2011. Those periods comprise a total of 182 strikes.”

Green grabbing
The ESRC STEPS Centre’s Melissa Leach argues there is a “dark side” to attempts at building a so-called green economy:

“Green grabbing builds on well-known histories of colonial and neo-colonial resource alienation in the name of the environment – whether for parks, forest reserves or to halt assumed destructive local practices. Yet it involves novel forms of valuation, commodification and markets for pieces and aspects of nature, and an extraordinary new range of actors and alliances. Pension funds and venture capitalists, commodity traders and consultants, GIS service providers and business entrepreneurs, ecotourism companies and the military, green activists and anxious consumers among others find once-unlikely common interests. ”

The right kind of investment
The Financial Times reports that foreign investment is not always a good thing, especially when it involves agricultural land, as was the case in Africa when global food prices soared in 2008:

“Experts say that, ultimately, many of the plans of 2008-09 failed to materialise as the food crisis abated and investors became more aware of the political risks and huge logistic difficulties. But as populations grow and consumption habits change, the trend of foreign investor interest in Africa’s soils is expected to continue.”

Multilateral blues
In the wake of the G20’s latest summit in Mexico and as the UN’s Rio+20 conference kicks off, Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf discusses what the recent “depressing panoply of multilateral misfires” will mean for the future of global governance:

“What we are seeing today is the kind of failure of leadership likely to produce consequences so disturbing that ultimately they will help move us past the multilateral rhetoric of idealists to the urgency that comes of clear-eyed realism about what works, what doesn’t, and what we really need.  Multilateralism will ultimately flourish not because it is more equitable but because we cannot solve global problems without it. Today’s leaders — through their inaction and missteps — may inadvertently be doing more to ensure cooperation among their successors than they did when they actually seemed to care about such issues earlier in their careers.”

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