Latest Developments, July 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Debt speculation
The Guardian reports that the UK’s privy council has ruled that a “vulture fund” cannot collect $100 million on a DR Congo debt that was, before interest, a thirtieth of that amount:

“In an attempt to skirt British law, which bans ‘vulture funds’ from buying poor nations’ debts on the cheap before suing them for 10-100 times the amount paid, [FG Hemisphere’s Peter] Grossman took the case to Jersey, a crown dependency not covered by the UK law.

Before turning to the Jersey loophole, Grossman’s company had unsuccessfully tried to seize the DRC’s embassy in Washington as a downpayment on the debt.”

Fatal strike
The Globe and Mail reports Canadian-based First Quantum Minerals has temporarily shut down operations at a copper and gold mine in Mauritania due to an “illegal strike” that has already claimed the life of one worker:

“According to local reports, demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the Guelb Moghrein mine over the weekend as workers demanded better pay and conditions. One worker died in the clashes, although further details about the circumstances were muddied amid differing reports.”

Dogs of war
The Daily Maverick reports that a leaked UN document accuses private security companies of violating international arms embargoes against Somalia and Eritrea:

“During the course of the [UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea]’s mandate, this highly profitable business has expanded beyond the provision of armed escorts to the leasing of arms, ammunition and security equipment, and the establishment of ‘floating armouries’ that operate in international waters beyond the remit of any effective international regulatory authority. PMSCs are currently holding approximately 7,000 weapons in circulation, which are either owned or leased.”

Deposed despots beware
Reuters reports that the International Court of Justice is expected to hand down a ruling on Friday that could create new legal obligations for countries with exiled former dictators residing on their territory:

“The ruling could worry former rulers like Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president overthrown in January 2011 at the start of the Arab Spring and now in exile in Saudi Arabia.
But it could also deter other leaders facing mounting violence at home, such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, from going into exile despite promises or guarantees of amnesty.
‘If Belgium is successful, it will mean that third states would be able to oblige states on whose territory an accused war criminal resides to either prosecute such persons or extradite them to a state which can and wishes to prosecute,’ Malcolm Shaw, a law professor at Cambridge University, said in an email.”

Easing pressure
The Independent reports that the UK government is proposing to relax EU sanctions against Zimbabwe, whereas opposition MP Peter Hain is calling for more sanctions:

“Mr Hain said: ‘Let us be clear: Zimbabwean military-controlled blood diamonds are now sold within the EU and almost certainly within the UK, appearing on wedding rings. It is time for jewellery companies to stop hiding behind the façade of the Kimberley Process [to stop diamonds being used to finance military activity] and take responsibility for their own supply chains.’ ”

Let’s make a deal
Reuters reports the US wants a new trade deal with the 5-nation East African Community, comprising Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi:

“[US deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs Michael] Froman said the proposal by Obama for a new trade deal was meant to encourage [growing investment in East Africa] and support further EAC integration. The deal would seek to guarantee American investors that they would be treated fairly and that their investments would be secure.
‘It calls for a focus on trade facilitation to reduce the bottlenecks at the border, such as moving to a single border clearance and harmonising customs documentation, to reduce delays and unnecessary costs,’ he said.”

Watering down the ATT
Embassy Magazine reports that opposition MPs are accusing the Canadian government of trying to sabotage the Arms Trade Treaty, currently under negotiation at the UN, by adding loopholes:

[NDP trade critic Don Davies] and other treaty supporters point to the Harper government’s desire not to include the mandatory tracking of ammunition, or detailed reporting on high-volume trades. They say another example of Canada’s attempts to gum up the treaty is Canada’s suggestion that no new money go to the UN to police the agreement’s implementation.

Mr. Davies attended the first week of negotiations in New York, and said foreign delegations frequently asked him why Canada was trying to weaken the treaty by pushing for ammunition and other items to be exempt.
‘I got a lot of questions on Canada’s official position that not every transaction be recorded,’ he said. ‘They asked how we saw an effective arms trade treaty if from the outset, and by design, there are loopholes built into it.’ ”

Transparency hype
Using the example of Angola, Oxford University’s Ricardo Soares de Oliveira warns that transparency reforms can amount to little more than “upgrades of the status quo”:

“The contribution of the IMF and a number of Angolan technocrats towards macro-economic reform is undeniable. What is missing from the IMF’s assessment is the fact that the reforms have had next to no impact on the elite’s approach to development and the real lives of the poor.
tA lesson of the Angolan reform trajectory is self-evident yet frequently forgotten: transparency is merely a means to an end. By itself the transparency agenda is a technocratic exercise that savvy governments can easily game. You can have an oil-rich state tick all the boxes and come out on the other side without this having any implications whatsoever for the nature of governance and broad-based development.”

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