Latest Developments, October 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Commitment to development
The Center for Global Development’s David Roodman and Julia Clark describe some of the changes to the latest edition of the Commitment to Development Index, which ranks rich countries “on how much their governments’ policies and actions support global prosperity”:

“Last year the troop surge in Afghanistan lifted the United States to first place on security. The CDI rewarded this military move because the U.N. Security Council continued to endorse the foreign intervention in Afghanistan. We decided in 2012 to impose an additional criterion for inclusion: an operation also needs to be reasonably describable as primarily intended to help the citizens of the country in question. The war in Afghanistan does not mean that test in our judgment. The 2011 intervention in Libya does.
The conception of ‘security’ has expanded beyond the use of force. Countries are now rewarded for participating in international security arrangements such as the International Criminal Court and Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel land mines.”

Setting priorities
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, sketches out his vision of a “food security first” approach to biofuel development:

“The best practice cases of small-scale sustainable biofuel production may not be geared for exports. This is more than a coincidence: once the primary interest of agricultural systems becomes the cheap, bulk production of export commodities, the positive outcomes of smallholder engagement and intercropping of local staples are always likely to be lost.
The Institute for European Environmental Policy estimated that, to reach its initial 10% target for renewables in transport fuels, the EU would have had to import 41% of its biodiesel and 50% of its ethanol needs by 2020. So even with lower targets, dependence on imports – and therefore pressure on the structure of farming systems in the global south – are always the likely outcome of EU biofuel mandates.”

Drones over Yemen
Reuters reports that a US drone has killed nine suspected al Qaeda members in Yemen, based on eyewitness accounts of “six charred bodies and the scattered remains of three other people”:

“While Washington usually avoids comment on the strikes in Yemen, the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks U.S. operations, says as many as 56 civilians have been killed this year by drones.
Many Yemenis complain the U.S. focus on militants is a violation of sovereignty that is driving many towards al Qaeda and diverting attention from other pressing issues such as unemployment, corruption, water depletion and economic revival.”

Drone journalism
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan writes that her paper is not doing enough to inform readers about US drone policy:

“Since the article in May, its reporting has not aggressively challenged the administration’s description of those killed as ‘militants’ — itself an undefined term. And it has been criticized for giving administration officials the cover of anonymity when they suggest that critics of drones are terrorist sympathizers.
Americans, according to polls, have a positive view of drones, but critics say that’s because the news media have not informed them well. The use of drones is deepening the resentment of the United States in volatile parts of the world and potentially undermining fragile democracies, said Naureen Shah, who directs the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia University’s law school.
‘It’s portrayed as picking off the bad guys from a plane,’ she said. ‘But it’s actually surveilling entire communities, locating behavior that might be suspicious and striking groups of unknown individuals based on video data that may or may not be corroborated by eyeballing it on the ground.’ ”

Paris massacre
France 24 reports that French President François Hollande spoke of “bloody repression” as he marked the 51st anniversary of the killings of Algerian protesters by Paris police:

“On that fateful day, French police – under the leadership of Paris prefect Maurice Papon – brutally crushed peaceful demonstrations of Algerian anti-war protesters who had gathered in and around the French capital to protest against a French security crackdown in Algeria.

More than half-a-century later, the details surrounding the October 17 massacre – including the casualty figures – remain murky. A day after the demonstrations, the left-leaning French newspaper Libération reported the official toll as two dead, several wounded and 7,500 arrests. The death toll, however, was disputed by the [Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN)], which claimed that dozens were killed.  Many of the bodies were found floating in the River Seine.”

Bribe banking
The Sunday Times reports that British defence firm GPT used the UK’s biggest bank to funnel millions in alleged bribes to Saudi officials:

“HSBC accounts in London and New York were used to provide the alleged kickbacks as part of a money-laundering scheme. It was operated by the defence company to channel cash into private company accounts in the Cayman Islands.
It is claimed the payments form part of a total £72m in sweeteners paid by GPT Special Project Management to a Saudi prince who is a close relative of the ruler, King Abdullah.
The disclosure will raise fresh questions about HSBC, which was recently implicated by the US authorities in the laundering of billions of dollars for drugs barons and terrorists.”

Asset seizure
Reuters reports that Ecuadorean plaintiffs say a court has given them permission to seize $200 million of assets belonging to oil giant Chevron:

“The plaintiffs from villages in the oil-rich Amazon won an $18.2 billion case against the oil giant over claims that Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001, contaminated the area from 1964 to 1992. Damages were increased to $19 billion in July.
Among the assets ordered turned over are $96.3 million that Ecuador’s government owes Chevron, money held in Ecuadorean bank accounts by Chevron, and licensing fees generated by the use of the company’s trademarks in the country, the plaintiffs said.”

Beyond aid targets
The Guardian reports that France’s development minister says he plans to focus more on “policies with the potential to help or hurt poor countries” than on traditional aid:

“On agriculture, particularly the common agricultural policy (CAP), which has been criticised for damaging the interests of poor countries despite reforms that have curbed the worst excesses, Canfin said France – where farmers have resisted CAP changes – would push for a ‘greener, more sustainable’ EU policy. On trade, he said France was willing to delay a 2014 deadline for completing economic partnership agreements (EPAs). EPAs are disliked by poor countries for forcing them to open their markes to competition that they cannot withstand. Canfin said France was willing to change the deadline to 2016, to allow more time to take into account the reservations of developing countries.”

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