Latest Developments, September 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Chemical danger
Reuters reports that the UN is warning of growing health and environmental damage caused by the “increasing misuse of chemicals”:

“Poisonings from industrial and agricultural chemicals are among the top five leading causes of death worldwide, contributing to more than a million deaths every year, [the UN Environment Programme] said in a statement of its Global Chemicals Outlook.

Scientists have only assessed the risks of using a fraction of an estimated 140,000 chemicals marketed worldwide, in everything from plastics to pesticides, UNEP said.

The study also said rich nations are failing to recycle electronic waste, such as from old computers or television sets.
‘Estimates suggest that up to 75 per cent of the e-waste generated in Europe and approximately 80 per cent of the e-waste generated in the United States goes unaccounted for,’ it said.”

Behind closed doors
Amnesty International is calling on negotiators of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement to ensure intellectual property provisions “adhere to core principles of transparency and uphold human rights”:

“Specifically, leaked TPP draft text neglects protections for fair use and standard judicial guarantees – such as the presumption of innocence – and includes copyright provisions that could compromise free speech on the internet and access to educational materials.
Moreover, draft TPP provisions related to patents for pharmaceuticals risk stifling the development and production of generic medicines, by strengthening and deepening monopoly protections.”

Charter cities
The Guardian reports that Honduras is about to embark on “one of the world’s most radical neo-liberal economic experiments” by establishing new settlements designed to attract foreign investment:

“The Central American nation hopes the plan for model development zones, which will have their own laws, tax system, judiciary and police, will emulate the economic success of city states such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
But even as the government signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with a group of international investors on Tuesday, opponents tried to lodge a suit at the supreme court for the arrangement to be declared illegal because the ‘state within a state’ risked undermining national laws, sidestepping labour rights, worsening inequality and creating a modern-day enclave that impinged upon the territory of indigenous groups.”

Universal means universal
Save the Children’s Alex Cobham writes about the proposed Framework Convention on Global Health that aims to “ensure health coverage for all”:

“[Researchers] have calculated, for example, that collectively, health inequalities between countries result in around 20 million lives lost each year (i.e. this is the size of the gap between outcomes in high-income and other countries), and that this has held over the last 20 years. This is roughly one third of all deaths over the period…
The fourth of ten points in the post-2015 document, in full, is this:
4. ‘Universal’ as universal: ‘Universal’ must be truly universal. No population should be
excluded because of legal or other status (e.g., undocumented immigrants, stateless people). Similarly, universal should entail 100% population coverage. Less than truly universal coverage as a goal may enable countries to forego the efforts required to ensure coverage for the most difficult-to-reach populations, who are often the most marginalized.

Business-lobby victory
Southern Illinois University’s Mike Koehler, a.k.a. the FCPA Professor, writes that US regulators have adopted a more business-friendly definition of “foreign officials” in new rules pertaining to overseas corporate behaviour:

“By so concluding, not only did the [Securities and Exchange Commission] quietly adopt a [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] reform proposal advanced by the Chamber [of Commerce], but it also contradicted an enforcement theory at issue in several of its prior FCPA actions.

With the SEC’s conclusion in its Section 1504 final rules that a company owned by a foreign government is a company that is at least majority-owned by a foreign government, the SEC will be hard pressed to allege in future FCPA enforcement actions that an entity with less than 50% foreign government ownership or control is an instrumentality of a foreign government and that its employees are ‘foreign officials’ under the FCPA.”

Unhealthy speech
Inspired by two contrasting court decisions on tobacco packaging in Australia and the US, Princeton University’s Peter Singer calls for laws that “level the playing field between individuals and giant corporations”:

“Whether to prohibit cigarettes altogether is another question, because doing so would no doubt create a new revenue source for organized crime. It seems odd, however, to hold that the state may, in principle, prohibit the sale of a product, but may not permit it to be sold only in packs that carry graphic images of the damage it causes to human health.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 100 million people died from smoking in the twentieth century, but smoking will kill up to one billion people in the twenty-first century.”

Inhumane laws
Human Rights Watch’s Ricardo Sandoval-Palos argues that US immigration laws lead to serious rights violations:

“Is it really in the United States’ interest to have policies generating such a level of fear among unauthorized immigrants that sexual violence or other abuses go unreported?
The United States government is entitled to regulate immigration. But it must do so in a fair manner that respects internationally recognized human rights standards—values the U.S. claims to promote and respect.”

Not easy being green
Reuters reports that US-based Herakles Capital has withdrawn its application for membership of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil following complaints over its project in Cameroon:

“Kuala Lumpur-based certification body RSPO said in a statement on Tuesday that Herakles had issued a written withdrawal of its application on Aug. 24, before the organisation could check the allegations made against the firm.

Greenpeace and other organisations had filed a complaint with RSPO alleging that Herakles’ project violated Cameroonian laws. The groups also said the area earmarked for the plantation was in a biodiversity hotspot and ‘would disrupt the ecological landscape and migration routes of protected species.’ ”

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