Latest Developments, September 27

In the latest news and analysis…

Africa’s lily pads
UPI reports that the US is expanding its “secret wars” in Africa as global interest in the continent’s resources grows:

“ ‘Washington is in the process of a massive expansion of what are referred to internally as “lily pads” that allow it a global strike capability,’ Oxford Analytica noted.
These include facilities in Kenya, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean off East Africa. Western military sources say the Americans are seeking to establish a base in newly independent South Sudan as well.”

Harmful financial flows
Boston University’s Kevin Gallagher writes about efforts to get the World Trade Organization to ensure international trade rules do not impede efforts to reform the global financial system:

“In 2011, Ecuador joined with India, Argentina and South Africa to request that the WTO study the inter-relationships between trade rules and regulatory reform. The US however, blocked the request. The US, South Korea, Norway and Canada, all said that the WTO, and particularly the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), had a ‘prudential carve-out’ that provided WTO Members with the flexibility to regulate their financial systems. Thus, they were implying, there was no need to have such a discussion.
Ecuador and other emerging market and developing countries want to see that in writing.  They worry that their regulations could eventually result in a WTO challenge or cause nations not to put in place needed reforms for fear of being challenged. ”

AGOA’s failure
University of Oxford researcher Pierre-Louis Vézina writes that the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a US law meant to promote the continent’s textile exports, may not have been such a “trade-policy success” after all:

“The quotas imposed on Chinese exports during the Multifibre Agreement guaranteed smaller developing countries access to the US market. This implicit export subsidy for African countries, coupled with AGOA preferences, was thus a golden opportunity for African apparel exporters.
Yet, a key feature of the AGOA preferences was the absence of rules of origin, which are usually imposed under trade agreements to avoid transhipment. This meant that African exporters could use inputs from any country, in any proportion, as long as some assembly work took place in Africa. It thus provided an opportunity for Chinese exporters to merely tranship their products via ‘screwdriver plants’ in Africa, avoiding US quotas and on top benefitting from AGOA preferences. The end of the quotas on Chinese exports rendered the transhipment unnecessary and thus led to the departure of footloose factories and the fall of AGOA exports.”

Bhopal’s water
The Business Standard reports on findings that Bhopal’s groundwater remains contaminated nearly three decades after a leak at a Union Carbide factory caused “the world’s largest industrial disaster”:

“Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR), which examined the ground water, submitted a report to the [Supreme Court] saying the levels of lead, nitrate and nickel are more than permissible levels in many samples of water taken by it.
‘In nine of the 30 samples, nitrate levels exceeded its permissible Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) limits for drinking water. Lead level in 24 samples were found to exceed its BIS permissible limit,’ said the report, submitted to a bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir.”

Carte blanche
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that Somalia’s new government has “little or no authority over the numerous foreign forces” operating in the country:

“ ‘Whoever comes trying to help them defeat al Shabaab, they are more than welcome… [but] they are given a licence to completely ignore any local or international law,’ [Omar Jamal, a diplomat with the Somali mission to the UN] added.
It’s not even clear which foreign forces are currently serving in Somalia, the terms of their involvement, and what they are doing.

The striking thing that emerges is the extent of the US’s involvement in Somalia, both direct and indirect.”

Oil impacts
In a Q&A with Rue89Lyon, Guatemalan community activist Hilda Ventura decries the actions of Franco-British oil company Perenco in her area:

“There was never any environmental impact assessment. Over the last while, children have been falling ill: they have skin ailments. We’ve seen an increase in miscarriages and respiratory problems. Ponds and wells have dried up near the oil drilling. In one community, they wanted to dig wells for water but it was contaminated. We live off corn and bean cultivation but we’ve noticed the harvests have shrunk. And we think it’s due to the pollution from the oil extraction.

Since 2009, there have been four expulsions. In total, 2,000 people were affected. From one day to the next, they tell us to leave. Only the big landowners have property titles. They kick us off our land: that’s taking our lives because we live off the land. Most of us have experienced three or four forced displacements. We’re being squeezed. To the north is a tourism megaproject, to the south is the monoculture for biofuels and to the west is the extension of the oilfield.” [Translated from the French.]

UK drones
A new report by Drone Wars UK indicates that the British government has so far spent £2 billion ($3.2bn) on drones and is “likely” to spend that much again, beginning in 2013:

“ ‘Rather than spending further billions on more drones what’s needed is investment in tackling the underlying causes of insecurity. That means devoting resources to measures designed to seriously tackle inequality and injustice in the world  – such as the Millennium Development Goals. Today, in the midst of a global economic and environmental crisis, we need to jettison ever-increasing military spending and technological security fixes in favour of a sustainable security strategy that puts people – and especially the poor – at its centre,’ [according to Chris Cole, the report’s author].”

Kiobel II
The Center for Justice and Accountability’s Pamela Merchant lays out what is at stake next week when the US Supreme Court hears a second round of arguments pitting Nigerian plaintiffs against oil giant Shell:

“If the Supreme Court accepts Shell’s arguments, federal law will no longer recognize a civil remedy for foreign abuses like genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or slavery. Already, the Supreme Court’s April 2012 ruling in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority shielded corporations, governments, and other legal entities from liability under the Torture Victim Protection Act.
For many survivors, the [Alien Tort Statute] offers the only avenue to seek redress and hear a court of law condemn a crime under its true name: genocide or crimes against humanity.”

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