In the latest news and analysis…
Author and former child soldier Ishmael Beah makes the case for a strong Arms Trade Treaty – including controls on ammunition sales – as UN negotiations enter the final stretch:
“The treaty is not a panacea to end all violence, genocide and human rights abuses, but it is a colossal step in the right direction. It is also an important missing piece to end the rampant use of children in war and to significantly reduce violence and the number of lives lost in such conflicts. For the first time, it will set an international standard that governments and civil society can use to hold accountable those who sell weapons irresponsibly. It will also prevent the flow of weapons into lawless areas plagued by conflict by closing the many loopholes immoral businessmen now use to navigate with impunity.
As negotiators race this week to finish the text of the treaty, they must include measures to control the flow of ammunition. Weaponry is abundant in Libya, Mali and other conflict zones around the world, but oftentimes ammunition is in short supply.
Some of these weapons, such as AK-47s, are extremely durable. You can bury them, dig them up years later and start using them again. If we didn’t have access to ammunition during the war in Sierra Leone, the AK-47s would have been no more deadly than sticks, and we would have been unable to inflict tremendous violence simply by squeezing a trigger.”
War on drugs redux
The New York Times reports that the US is expanding its drug war into Africa, with “elite” counternarcotics training already underway in Ghana and the same planned for Nigeria and Kenya:
“ ‘We see Africa as the new frontier in terms of counterterrorism and counternarcotics issues,’ said Jeffrey P. Breeden, the chief of the D.E.A.’s Europe, Asia and Africa section. ‘It’s a place that we need to get ahead of — we’re already behind the curve in some ways, and we need to catch up.’
In May, William R. Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, a leading architect of the strategy now on display in Honduras, traveled to Ghana and Liberia to put the finishing touches on a West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative, which will try to replicate across 15 nations the steps taken in battling trafficking groups operating in Central America and Mexico.”
Reuters reports the IMF has agreed to lend Jordan $2 billion, in part, to offset the costs of the Arab Spring:
“Meanwhile, tourism income and remittances from Jordanian workers abroad have been hit by the global economic slump and the unrest in the region. Government finances have been weakened by higher welfare spending to buy social peace during the Arab Spring, and by the cost of caring for refugees from Syria.
In an effort to cut its deficits, Jordan launched an austerity drive in May, raising fuel and electricity prices, imposing higher taxes on luxury goods and increasing corporate taxes on banks and mining companies.
But the government’s room for maneuver has been limited by the threat of unrest; Islamist and tribal opposition groups have held street protests against price rises, warning the authorities that austerity measures could trigger wider demonstrations and even civil disorder in impoverished areas.”
The Hindu reports that survivors of the Bhopal disaster are holding their own “Bhopal Special Olympics” in protest against Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the London Games, which kick off on Friday:
“The Bhopal Olympics, with the theme ‘From East India Company to the Dow Chemical Company’, will be held in a stadium right behind the abandoned Union Carbide factory that continues to leach carcinogenic chemicals in the local groundwater, causing birth defects in children even today.
The opening ceremony will draw attention to the many famines caused during the British rule in India, the mass hangings following the ‘first battle for Indian independence in 1857’, the massacre at Jalianwala Bagh in 1919 and last but not the least, to the support extended by the British Prime Minister to the Dow Chemical Company.”
Big bad pharma
The University of London’s Simon Reid-Henry and Deakin University’s Hans Lofgren condemn a “triple-pronged attack” from the West on India’s role as “global pharmacist”:
“It is not only the pharmaceutical industry that needs to be addressed but the continued and ruthless lobbying by western politicians to secure the profitability of their own industries.
We ought to be asking why governments in the rich world still seem happy to checkmate the lives of poor people to save their political skins. And why the pharmaceutical industry sees India as such a threat.”
Human rights rep
Xinhua reports that former Greek foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis has become the EU’s first-ever special representative for human rights:
“Lambrinidis’ tasks will mainly focus on strengthening EU values in the bloc and around the world.
While some analysts question the tangible effectiveness of such a position, the appointment was welcomed by EU institutions.”
The Irish Examiner reports that Ireland’s government is considering extending the scope of freedom of information laws to cover non-public bodies that receive state funding, “such as sporting groups and charities”:
“The [government] spokesman said no set criteria had been agreed upon as to which non-public bodies would fall under the extended reach of the FOI laws.
However, it could include the level of funding provided to a body, the percentage of that funding within the body’s overall budget, whether the grants are provided annually as opposed to once-off and the nature of the functions provided by the body and the extent to which it provides a service to the public.”
Oxfam’s Kate Raworth makes the case for rewriting economics into something less focused on GDP growth and monetized resource flows:
“So here’s a guerrilla campaign to make it happen. Anyone can do it because all you need is a pencil. Here’s the plan (umm, I have to say at this point, this is not Oxfam Policy…). Sneak into the bookshops, the libraries and classrooms, and into the office of every economics professor you know. Get out the macroeconomic textbooks and find that diagram. Take your pencil. Now draw in the environment. Draw in the unpaid care economy. Draw in social inequality.
With these few strokes, we could stick a great big spanner in the wheel of mainstream economic thinking. We’d save the next generation of economics students from having the wrong model of the world stuck in the back of their heads. And that would help save us all from another era of economic policymakers who unknowingly have the wrong model of the economy shaping their decisions.”