Latest Developments, December 20

In the latest news and analysis…

New court
The BBC reports that Senegal’s MPs have voted to create a “special African Union tribunal” to try former Chadian president Hissène Habré on the continent, rather than in Europe:

“In July the United Nations’ highest court, the International Court of Justice, passed a binding ruling that Senegal should begin proceedings to try Mr Habre without delay if it did not extradite him to Belgium.
MP Cheikh Seck said he voted for the law because it would show that Africa could hold its own leaders accountable.
‘It’s not up to the West to try Hissene Habre. It’s why I voted in favour of this law,’ he told the Associated Press news agency.

A 1992 Truth Commission in Chad accused Mr Habre of being responsible for widespread torture and the deaths of 40,000 people during his eight-year rule.”

The hardest word
Reuters reports that on his first state visit to Algeria, French President François Hollande said he was “not here to repent or apologize” for his country’s colonial past:

“The trauma of the 1954-1962 Algerian war, in which hundreds of thousands were killed before France’s departure, left deep scars in both countries which still hold back a partnership France believes could help revive the Mediterranean basin.

A formal apology for its colonial past is a sensitive issue. Many French citizens who lived there before independence and who fought in the French army against Algerian insurgents oppose the idea, as do former loyalist Muslim volunteers known as ‘harkis’.”

Idle No More
The Globe and Mail reports that, while First Nations protests are nothing new in Canada, “never in recent years have the protests been so widespread or sustained”:

“They point to the legislation that directly affects their communities, which native leaders, including [National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn] Atleo, say was written without their input. They point to development of natural resources on their traditional lands that offers little sharing of wealth but promises lasting environmental consequences. They point to a federal government that they say has been long on gestures but short on a willingness to listen and negotiate.”

Rio suit
Dow Jones reports that Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state intends to sue Chevron for damages on top of the $149 million the US oil giant has already offered to settle federal lawsuits resulting from a 2011 offshore spill:

“ ‘There will be a series of demands made by Rio de Janeiro besides the fine’ paid to settle the federal lawsuits, [Rio Environment Secretary Carlos] Minc said. Mr. Minc said he was not authorized to disclose the value of the damages the state was seeking.
Mr. Minc said that the spill, which released an estimated 3,700 barrels of oil into the sea after a drilling accident, ‘obviously’ caused damage to the environment, dismissing claims to the contrary made by Chevron.”

Big fine
Al Jazeera reports that Swiss bank UBS has been ordered to pay $1.5 billion to regulators in the US, UK and Switzerland for its role in the Libor rate-rigging scandal:

“UBS, which is based in Zurich, is the second major bank to be fined over the interbank lending rate scandal after Britain’s Barclays bank was ordered to pay $450m to British and US authorities in the summer for attempted manipulation of interbank rates between 2005 and 2009.
The fine is the second-biggest ever levied on a bank with banking giant HSBC fined $1.9bn recently for money laundering.

Other banks are also reportedly in advanced talks with regulators about settling allegations that they too manipulated their Libor information, including Royal Bank of Scotland and Deutsche Bank.”

Land limits
Inter Press Service reports on Tanzania’s decision to limit the amount of land that investors can “lease” for agricultural purposes:

“According to official documents, seen by IPS, from the Tanzania Investment Centre, a government agency set up to promote and facilitate investment: ‘Even within a seven-year period, an investor would not be able to use more than 10,000 hectares…’
The move will come as a relief to land rights organisations that have continually called for the government to curb the land grabs here.

In Tanzania’s northern Loliondo district, which is known for its wildlife, much of the land has been leased out to international hunting concessions, which has resulted in the large-scale eviction of the local population – although the government refutes this.  A major U.S. energy company, AgriSol Energy, has also been accused of engaging in land grabs in Tanzania that would displace more than 160,000 Burundian refugees, according to a report by the Oakland Institute. The report states that AgriSol is benefiting from the forcible eviction of the refugees, many of whom are subsistence farmers, and leasing the land — as much as 800,000 acres — from the Tanzanian government for 25 cents per acre.
[Land Rights Research and Resources Institute’s Yefred] Myenzi said that of the 1,825 general land disputes reported in 2011, 1,095 involved powerful investors.”

Not on the agenda
Britain’s international development secretary, Justine Greening, has explained to the House of Commons why next year’s UK-chaired G8 summit will not play a role in establishing successors to the Millennium Development Goals:

“The Prime Minister is co-chair of the High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda, which will submit independent recommendations to the UN Secretary-General in May 2013. Thereafter, we anticipate that a wide UN-led process will culminate in the agreement of post-2015 development goals in 2015. It is right for this process to be led by the UN and developing countries. The Prime Minister has announced that the G8 summit in 2013 will focus on tax, trade and transparency.”

Friends in high places
The University of Cambridge’s Ha-Joon Chang gives his take on why tax havens, which drain public revenues from governments around the world, continue to prosper:

“Why do tax havens exist? Because rich countries allow them to. If the US came down on tax havens in the same way they come down on countries that trade with Iran and Cuba, we’d have no tax havens in the world.”

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