Latest Developments, October 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Crimes of empire
The Guardian reports that a UK court ruling in favour of three Mau Mau veterans means the country’s government could face thousands of lawsuits over alleged torture “during the final days of the British empire”:

“The court on Friday rejected claims from the government’s lawyers that too much time had elapsed since the seven-year insurgency in the 1950s, and it was no longer possible to hold a fair trial. Last year the same high court judge, Mr Justice McCombe, rejected the government’s claim that the three claimants should be suing the Kenyan government as it had inherited Britain’s legal responsibilities on independence in 1963.
Human rights activists in Kenya estimate more than 5,000 of the 70,000-plus people detained by the British colonial authorities are still alive. Many may bring claims against the British government. The ruling may also make it possible for victims of colonial atrocities in other parts of the world to sue.”

Resource curse
The Guardian also reports that a new World Bank analysis suggests that poverty rates are declining faster in “countries without riches in the ground” than in their resource-rich counterparts:

“Some countries, such as Angola, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon, have witnessed an increase in the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty.
The report confirms the common perception that, to a large extent, the benefits of growth have not reached the poorest segments of society. It raises questions for aid donors and African governments on how to deal with the ‘resource curse’, with strikes in South African mines providing a stark illustration of what is at stake.

The report noted that oil-rich countries systematically perform worse than any other country groups in terms of voice and accountability, political stability, rule of law and the control of corruption.”

Supranational democracy
Using the example of the eurozone, Harvard University’s Dani Rodrik argues that globalization and democracy are not necessarily incompatible:

“But combining market integration with democracy requires the creation of supranational political institutions that are representative and accountable.
The conflict between democracy and globalization becomes acute when globalization restricts the domestic articulation of policy preferences without a compensating expansion of democratic space at the regional/global level. Europe is already on the wrong side of this boundary, as the political unrest in Spain and Greece indicates.
That is where my political trilemma begins to bite: We cannot have globalization, democracy, and national sovereignty simultaneously. We must choose two among the three.”

Half-finished business
The Associated Press reports that the US government is under fire for not cleaning up its own mess on a former Puerto Rican bombing range:

“An extensive cleanup of the eastern portion of Vieques is years from being finished, but the government says it is ready to declare work completed on a nearly 400-acre site on the western side that was used to store and detonate expired munitions.
The former storage site was turned over to the U.S. Interior Department and declared a nature reserve. Under a proposal favored by the Navy, the cleanup of the area would be deemed complete even though about 200 acres has not been cleared of munitions debris, some potentially still live.

Navy officials say it would hurt the nature reserve by tearing up the dense vegetation to clear the remainder of the debris.”

Toothless watchdog
iPolitics reports that the Canadian government is keeping quiet over the fate of an office ostensibly set up to improve relations between Canada’s extractive industry and affected communities overseas:

“In the three years since she was appointed by the prime minister, [Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor Marketa] Evans has mediated three conflicts between Canadian mining companies and communities overseas.
Two have ended with the companies pulling out of the process before a resolution was reached. One ended because Evans found the community lacked information on avenues for mediation available to them through the company.
Critics say the voluntary nature of the office — a company must consent to mediation for a community’s complaints to be heard — render it effectively toothless.”

Killing the rial
The Wall Street Journal reports that the US and Europe are working together to “accelerate the recent plunge of Iran’s currency“:

“A nearly 40% drop in the Iranian rial’s value against the dollar since Sept. 24 has increased confidence in Washington and Brussels that Western sanctions are starting to significantly erode Tehran’s finances, senior U.S. and European officials said.

Some member states still have concerns about taking steps that could disproportionately harm the Iranian population. There have been reports of food and medicine shortages in Iran in recent days, fueled by the weakening of the rial and dwindling imports.”

Letting them starve
In a Q&A translated by Africa is a Country, former UN official Jean Ziegler discusses rich-world inhabitants’ complicity in global hunger, which he describes as “mass murder“:

“We allow multinational food corporations and speculators to decide everyday who is eating and living, and who is starving and dying.

It is mainly about becoming politically active in order to put an end to the murderous activities of food speculators and multinationals. We can do so, we live in a democracy.

We could exclude all non-producers and non-consumers from the commodities exchange — in this sense only the farmer and the baker, through the commodities exchange engage in trade with each other.”

Rostow lives
The University of London’s Simon Reid-Henry argues that Walter Rostow’s Cold War-era The Stages of Economic Growth continues to exert major influence over today’s development economics:

“If this paternalist rendering of the economic trajectory of nations had a clear moral compass, it had a clear political compass too – just look at the book’s subtitle: An Anti-Communist Manifesto. This brings home an important point about development: its inherently political nature.

Certainly most practitioners today, though not all, are more wary of assuming European and American history to be the norm, or of reading development as a linear or cumulative process.
But Rostow’s view that a dynamic private sector was to be supported by a strong but market-friendly state can still be found in many of today’s public-private partnership models. And anyone even slightly informed on World Bank and IMF policies over the past 20 years will see the persistence of his belief that political influence is best delivered under the radar of economic investments.”

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