Latest Developments, December 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Warpath
The Globe and Mail reports on concerns that foreign military intervention in Mali, which has just received unanimous backing from the UN Security Council, could have “unintended consequences”:

“The rebel takeover of the north has already forced nearly 500,000 people to flee their homes or become refugees in neighbouring countries, and a new confidential UN report has warned that another 400,000 people could be pushed out of their homes if there is military intervention in the north.
‘No clear plan exists to ensure that a military intervention would not exacerbate the already disastrous humanitarian situation,’ said Alexandra Gheciu, a University of Ottawa professor who specializes in international security.
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has warned that the military intervention would have a high humanitarian cost that has been largely ignored so far.”

No way back
Think Africa Press’s James Wan takes issue with a European court ruling that Chagos Islanders, who were evicted from their homeland by the British to make way for a military base, relinquished their right to return 30 years ago when a group of them accepted $6 million in compensation:

“Firstly, the argument does not hold for the several hundreds of islanders deported to the Seychelles rather than Mauritius where the compensation was paid. ‘We were completely excluded from compensation’, Bernadette Dugasse told Think Africa Press earlier this year. ‘Chagossians from Seychelles were not even given half a penny, not even a teaspoonful of land.’ The full ruling barely acknowledges this.
Secondly, the suggestion that the exiled Chagossians could have pursued the matter in the courts had they ‘preferred’ is dubious at best. According to Mark Lattimer, executive director of Minority Rights Group, ‘it is frankly ridiculous to expect that a people from the Indian Ocean, some of who were illiterate, and who have been thrown into abject poverty, to have the means and the wherewithal to pursue the British government in the English court’.
In fact, even the notion that Chagossians who did get compensation renounced their right to return rests on shaky ground. Putting aside the fact that the compensation was derisory, it is notable that the documents were in English, which most Chagossians did not speak, and that many were illiterate and had to sign with thumbprints. Although the UK government claims that lawyers were present to explain the documents, many islanders have long insisted they had no idea they were signing away their right to return, and that had they known they would never have accepted the compensation.”

First Nations rising
The Dominion’s Martin Lukacs writes that the Idle No More protests currently taking place in Canada have the potential to “reset aboriginal-state relations”:

“Billions have indeed been spent – not on fixing housing, building schools or ending the country’s two-tiered child aid services, but on a legal war against aboriginal communities. Every year, the government pours more than $100m into court battles to curtail aboriginal rights – and that figure alone went to defeating a single lawsuit launched by two Alberta First Nations trying to recover oil royalties essentially stolen by bureaucrats.

Parliament will soon debate a bill that would break up reserves – still, mostly, collectively held – into individual private property that can be purchased by non-native speculators. The undeclared agenda of government policy is the same as it was a century ago: a grab for resource-rich lands, and the assimilation of aboriginal nations.”

Death to capital punishment
Amnesty International reports on the latest UN General Assembly vote on the death penalty, in which 111 states voted for abolition:

“New votes in favour included Central African Republic, Chad, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Tunisia. As a further positive sign, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia moved from opposition to abstention. Regrettably, Bahrain, Dominica and Oman changed their abstention to a vote against the resolution, while Maldives, Namibia and Sri Lanka went from a vote in favour to an abstention.”

Investment dangers
Paint Our World’s Priya Virmani is not convinced that the arrival in India of global supermarket chains will help the country’s farmers:

“Yet if the intervention of big supermarket chains lifts farmers, why do American and European farmers need to be heavily subsidised? Predatory pricing – the precedent set by the biggest supermarkets – threatens smaller retailers as monopolistic practices take place.

More [foreign direct investment] brings with it the promise of improving India’s growth figures. But these indicate the overall temperature of an economy and not the temperature of its disparate parts. When the temperature of India’s bottom of the pyramid, at around 800 million people, is at an opposite end of the spectrum to that of the other much more opulent India then growth in itself cannot be considered an indication of the health of the majority.”

Lump of coal
The Guardian reports that protesters dumped coal outside the London offices of GCM Resources over its plans to develop a massive open-pit mine in Bangladesh:

“An official complaint to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has been made by the World Development Movement and the International Accountability Project, saying the company would forcibly evict up to 130,000 people if the project went ahead. The complaint mentions a UN report from earlier this year warning that ‘access to safe drinking water for some 220,000 people is at stake’.
The company claims the mine will displace 40,000 people but create 17,000 jobs.”

Miner changes
Bloomberg reports that South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has decided against nationalizing mines, but is considering a number of other ways to increase the country’s benefits from mining:

“The party is considering a ‘resource rent’ tax or higher royalties to extract more revenue from the industry, said Enoch Godongwana, head of the ANC’s economic transformation committee.

The ANC agreed today to classify certain minerals as strategic, which the government wants to manage through measures including targeted export controls in order to ensure security of supply, Godongwana said. Iron ore, coal, copper, copper, zinc and nickel are amongst minerals being considered for classification, according to the ANC’s document.”

Death traps
EarthPeople’s Anna Clark argues that the US has outsourced much of the injustice it has eliminated from its own economic system:

“Due to the relentless pursuit of low-cost labour and the lack of accountability inherent in a global supply chain, companies will have to learn to work with labour rights groups to mandate and track compliance.
Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, for example, agreed to work with watchdog groups to introduce new fire safety standards at their supplier factories. Gap Inc, which operates the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta brands, instead decided to go it alone with its own corporate-controlled programme.
With limited oversight by worker organisations and no transparency, such measures are not good enough to protect vulnerable workers.”

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