Latest Developments, August 3

In the latest news and analysis…

0.7% rethink
The European Centre for Development Policy Management’s Niels Keijzer questions the continued relevance of the decades-old (though largely unmet) commitment made by wealthy countries to devote 0.7 percent of their GDP to foreign aid:

“Measuring development efforts in a ‘post-0.7 world’ may therefore need a much stronger focus on actions in policy areas beyond aid; a reporting system would check how far donors promoted development other than by giving development assistance. This requires monitoring national policies and international policy positions on issues such as visa facilitation, banking secrecy, arms export, agricultural subsidies, fisheries and renewable energy.

The focus on ‘proving’ the effectiveness of ODA in splendid isolation – ie ‘value for money’ – continues. But is it now time to move away from it?”

Assault on Mother Earth
Nnimmo’s Reflections reports that a court in Ecuador has agreed to hear a suit against oil-giant BP on the grounds that the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill may have amounted to a violation of the rights of nature, as enshrined in the Ecuadorian constitution:

“In the suit the plaintiffs demand, among other things, actions on release of information, restoration, compensation and a guarantee of non-recurrence. With regard to compensation, the demands are that ‘British Petroleum be ordered to commit to leaving untapped an equivalent amount of oil to the oil spilled in the Gulf’. Secondly, that ‘British Petroleum be ordered to redirect investment earmarked for further exploration towards strategies aimed a leaving oil underground as a more effective mechanism for compensating nature for the current impact on its climate cycles due to oil production.’ ”

Delta fiasco
Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development have released a statement condemning the investigation process into oil spills in the Niger Delta:

“ ‘The investigation process into oil spills in the Niger Delta is a fiasco. There is more investment in public relations messaging than in facing up to the fact that much of the oil infrastructure is old, poorly maintained and prone to leaks – some of them devastating in terms of their human rights impact,’ said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.
‘No matter what evidence is presented to Shell about oil spills, they constantly hide behind the “sabotage” excuse and dodge their responsibility for massive pollution that is due to their failure to properly maintain their infrastructure and make it safe, and to properly clean up oil spills.’ ”

Drones and democracy
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that a top Pakistani diplomat believes US drone strikes are doing serious harm to his country:

“[High Commissioner to London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan] also claims that some factions of the US government still prefer to work with ‘just one man’ rather than a democratically-elected government, and accuses the US of ‘talking in miles’ when it comes to democracy but of ‘moving in inches.’

‘What has been the whole outcome of these drone attacks is, that you have rather directly or indirectly contributed to destabilizing or undermining the democratic government. Because people really make fun of the democratic government – when you pass a resolution against drone attacks in the parliament, and nothing happens. The Americans don’t listen to you, and they continue to violate your territory.’
The army too risks being seen as impotent, he warns the United States.”

Strong words
The Citizen reports that former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa has said EU Economic Partnership Agreements are “a poisoned chalice and must be rejected,” likening them to a second Scramble for Africa:

“He  said the country would lose more than $62.4 million a year from tariff elimination when the EPA is fully implemented. He said the zero rating of taxes on imports, as among the EPA conditions, would put the country’s future production at risk as it would allow more goods from the EU, thus killing local industries.

‘Unlike the Berlin Conference of 1884/85, which Balkanised Africa among 13 European powers as a guaranteed source of raw materials and market, the current contraption under EPA is the modern day equivalent of the Berlin Conference,’ said Mr Mkapa. ”

Saying no to REDD+
Inter Press Service reports that civil society groups in El Salvador are asking the World Bank to reject their government’s proposal to join an international anti-deforestation scheme they believe is bad for the environment:

“They argue that, beyond the praiseworthy aim of preserving forests in developing countries, the mechanism does nothing to enforce reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the industrialised countries that are the prime causes of the pollution.
‘This is perverse logic on the part of sectors emitting the most greenhouse gases, like industry, energy generation and transport, which produce 60 percent of all emissions and are seeking to avoid responsibility,’ said Ivette Aguilar, an expert on climate change.
‘Rich countries do not want to change their consumption patterns,’ she told IPS.”

SEC scolded
US Senators Dick Lugar and Benjamin Cardin say there is “no excuse” for the Securities and Exchange Commission’s delays in implementing legislation that would require US-listed extractive companies to disclose all payments made to foreign governments:

“Our offices consulted with the SEC before we drafted the legislation and — at the agency’s urging — we gave it leeway to write the specific reporting rules within the confines of the law after consulting with industry, investor groups, the public, and other interested parties. The April 2011, deadline has passed. We have called for an investigation into the SEC’s failure to follow the clear letter of the law.

With a Commission vote not scheduled until late August, the lengthy delay has raised fears that the SEC may dilute the regulation, either by granting a broad exemption to countries that don’t want the public to know the sums they receive, or by limiting the specifics of the payments disclosed. The law is clear on both points: no exemptions, and project by project reporting. We urge the commission: follow the law and issue the rule.”

Fallujah fallout
Al Jazeera asks if the US is coming clean about its use of unconventional weapons in Fallujah in 2004 and the “possible link” with the Iraqi city’s high number of birth defects:

“ ‘Some kind of dust or material, whether it’s uranium, whether it’s some chemical we don’t know, must’ve got into the air, must’ve got into people’s bodies and into their food and their water … there are traces, most of the material are inside the individual parents,’ [according to weapons researcher Dai Williams].”

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