Latest Developments, December 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Historical responsibility
The Associated Press reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has placed the onus for tackling climate change on wealthy nations:

“Ban’s comments echoed the concerns of China and other developing countries, which say rich nations have a historical responsibility for global warming because their factories released carbon emissions into the atmosphere long before the climate effects were known.
‘The climate change phenomenon has been caused by the industrialisation of the developed world,’ Ban said. ‘It’s only fair and reasonable that the developed world should bear most of the responsibility.’ ”

Resource alienation
The Daily Nation reports that Canadian firm Bedford Biofuels’ planned jatropha plantation on 120,000 hectares of Kenyan land “has raised questions about land ownership for the first time between neighbours”:

“ ‘When waters ebb, farmers plant rice. The Pokomo have planted rice for centuries. During the floods, pastoralists drive out herds… that’s the traditional way of using the land, keeps the ecosystem functioning,’ explains Ms Serah Munguti, communications and advocacy manager at Nature Kenya.
But environmentalists like Ms Munguti say the arrival of foreign companies like Bedford Biofuels, who come to the delta armed with ambitious plans for large-scale, intensive farming, might disrupt the system.
That, according to Ms Munguti, promises to heighten tribal tensions.
‘The conflict comes because everybody wants the water. The Tana Delta as it is today is a recipe for disaster,’ argues Munguti. ‘There is already conflict over limited resources. Then you look at all the projects that have been proposed and you can imagine what we are setting ourselves up for.’ ”

Middlemen
The New York Times reports that the US gave the green light for Gulf states to supply arms to Libyan rebels during last year’s civil war, but as a similar scenario plays out in Syria, America is worried that weapons are going to “some of the wrong militants”:

“The administration has never determined where all of the weapons, paid for by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, went inside Libya, officials said. Qatar is believed to have shipped by air and sea small arms, including machine guns, automatic rifles, and ammunition, for which it has demanded reimbursement from Libya’s new government. Some of the arms since have been moved from Libya to militants with ties to Al Qaeda in Mali, where radical jihadi factions have imposed Shariah law in the northern part of the country, the former Defense Department official said. Others have gone to Syria, according to several American and foreign officials and arms traders.”

Betting the farm
A new report by the Oakland Institute asks if “you know what your pension fund is doing in Africa”:

“In recent years, the private financial sector has already invested between $10 to $25 billion in farmland and agriculture with little to no oversight; given current investment trends, this amount might double or triple in the coming years. Although agricultural funds are portrayed as positive social investment to help alleviate hunger and the effects of climate change, evidence demonstrates that large land deals are often detrimental to food security, local livelihoods, and the environment–yet little is known about the specific firms and funds driving this investment.”

Camp Integrity
Wired reports that following a $22.3 million no-bid deal, US special forces in Afghanistan are now based at a facility owned by America’s “most infamous private security company”:

You might think that Blackwater, now called Academi, was banished into some bureaucratic exile after its operatives in Afghanistan stole guns from U.S. weapons depots and killed Afghan civilians. Wrong. Academi’s private 10-acre compound outside Kabul, called Camp Integrity, is the new headquarters for perhaps the most important special operations unit in Afghanistan.

But the commandos won’t be the only U.S. military tenants at Camp Integrity. A Pentagon agency called the Counter-Narcoterrorism Program Office also uses Camp Integrity as a base of operations to aid in its war on Afghanistan’s drug lords. Academi provides the office’s small Kabul cell with, among other things, ‘a secure armory and weapons maintenance service.’ ”

Duty to protect
Debbie Stothard of the International Federation for Human rights (FIDH) argues that since the UN adopted the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, “access to justice for those affected has not improved”:

“Company-based grievance mechanisms may be useful for preventing harm and facilitating resolution of minor problems, however, they can in no way replace State-based mechanisms in cases involving egregious violations.
Of course, the best solution for a victim is to have access to an independent court where he/she lives. However, too often, the judicial system where the harm occurs is weak or unable to provide for an effective remedy. This is why we also need to remind home states of multinational companies of their duty to protect and insist that they provide effective avenues to remedy in cases where host states lack the capacity or will to do so.
The UN Working group could explore and recommend how home States, as part of their duty to protect, could facilitate access to justice for victims of human rights abuses in third countries involving corporations under their jurisdiction.”

Major shift
Inter Press Service reports on the IMF’s change of heart regarding government measures to control cross-border financial flows, though critics say more changes are needed:

“ ‘Arguably more important is to ask if the IMF will similarly relent on its manic obsession with keeping inflation extremely low in developing countries,’ [Delhi-based development consultant Rick Rowden] says.
‘Is the IMF now also suddenly in favour of trade protection and subsidy support for building domestic industries? Are they suggesting developing countries actually should ‘discriminate’ and against foreign investors and tilting the playing field in favour of building up domestic firms? I think not.’
He continues: ‘While the IMF’s about-face on capital controls is promising, the oft-cited pronouncements of the death of the Washington Consensus are quite premature.’ ”

Treaty violation
Radio France Internationale reports that Chadian President Idriss Déby, on an official visit to Paris, sought to set the record straight concerning a French NGO accused of attempting to smuggle children out of his country:

“I never, repeat never, pardoned members of Zoe’s Ark. Let there be no doubt. We have a treaty with France. They were convicted, and I respected the treaty. The kidnappers were freed without our consent. It’s a violation of the treaty. I’ve never said it before but today I’m saying it: It’s a violation of the treaty. In principle, the kidnappers should not only serve time in France but must also pay €6 million in compensation.” [Translated from the French.]

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