Latest Developments, January 9

In the latest news and analysis…

UN drones
Inner City Press reports that Rwanda is “far from the only member” of the UN Security Council raising questions about the proposed use of surveillance drones by the UN in eastern DR Congo:

“Tuesday, sources exclusively tell Inner City Press, not only Russia (through co-Deputy Permanent Representative Petr Iliichev) and China but also Azerbaijan and Guatemala, both through their Permanent Representatives, expressed concern about [Department of Peacekeeping Operations chief Hervé] Ladsous’ proposed used of drones.
The concerns ranged from the control of information — that is, who would get it — to compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization rules. And, as Inner City Press first reported, concerns were again expressed about the tender process.”

Torture settlement
The Associated Press reports that a US defense contractor has paid $5.28 million to former inmates of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison over torture allegations:

“The settlement in the case involving Engility Holdings Inc. of Chantilly, Va., marks the first successful effort by lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers to collect money from a U.S. defense contractor in lawsuits alleging torture. Another contractor, CACI, is expected to go to trial over similar allegations this summer.
The payments were disclosed in a document that Engility filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission two months ago but which has gone essentially unnoticed.”

Not onboard
The Toronto Star reports that Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, told the president of the African Union and Benin his government “is not considering a direct Canadian military mission” in Mali, but he did take care of some business with Benin:

“There has been speculation that Canada is laying the groundwork for a military foray into Mali and Defence Minister Peter MacKay raised eyebrows last week when he said Canada might send military trainers.
But Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s officials have played down the possibility of an armed mission to Mali.

After meeting with [AU and Benin president Thomas Boni] Yayi, Harper announced Canada and Benin have signed a foreign investor protection agreement and that Ottawa will provide $18.2 million over eight years to support improvements in Benin’s public administration.”

Small club
Inter Press Service reports that the US is under renewed pressure from civil society for being one of only seven countries yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW):

“So far, 187 out of 194 countries have ratified CEDAW, but the non-ratifiers include Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Palau, Tonga and the United States.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted CEDAW back in 1979. The treaty consists of a preamble and 30 articles, which according to the United Nations, ‘defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.’
And countries that have ratified CEDAW are legally bound to put its provisions into practice.”

Aid control
The Canadian Press reports that Haiti’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, has said he wants to have more say over how Canadian aid to his country gets spent:

“ ‘For any future co-operation, when it’s decided to resume, we will ask the Canadian government to focus on the priorities of the Haitian government,’ he said by telephone after meeting with Canada’s ambassador to Haiti in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
‘Basically, the development assistance, because of the perceived weakness of Haitian institutions, was routed directly to NGOs (non-government organizations) and Canadian firms…
‘That weakened our institutions.’

Lamothe insists his government’s hands are tied when it comes to development programs because it doesn’t receive any of CIDA’s aid. He wants Canada — and other donor countries — to work together to find a way to involve Haiti’s institutions in the process.”

The business of closing borders
Inter Press Service reports that security and weapons companies stand to make big bucks from the EU’s tougher stance on immigration:

“Thirteen companies and consortiums (Israel Aerospace Industries, Lockheed Martin, FAST Protect AG, L-3 Communications, FLIR Systems, SCOTTY Group Austria, Diamond Airborne Sensing, Inmarsat, Thales, AeroVision, AeroVironment, Altus, BlueBird) demonstrated technological solutions for maritime surveillance.

The demonstrations are part of the preparation for the launch of EUROSUR, the European External Border Surveillance System meant to enhance cooperation between border control agencies of EU member states and to promote surveillance of EU’s external borders by [EU border agency] Frontex, with a particular focus on the Mediterranean and North Africa, in view of controlling migration to Europe.
Surveillance plans envisage the possibility of using drones to spot migrant boats trying to cross the Mediterranean.”

Hijacking the climate
The Guardian reports that the World Economic Forum has warned geoengineering aimed at preventing global warming could do more harm than good:

“ ‘The global climate could, in effect, be hijacked. For example, an island state threatened with rising sea levels may decide they have nothing to lose, or a well-funded individual with good intentions may take matters into their own hands,’ the report notes. It said there are ‘signs that this is already starting to occur’, highlighting the case of a story broken by the Guardian involving the dumping of 100 tonnes of iron sulphate off the Canadian coast in 2012, in a bid to spawn plankton and capture carbon.”

Big picture
Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz argues it is dangerous for the global community to focus on immediate economic issues to the exclusion of long-term problems:

“An economic and political system that does not deliver for most citizens is one that is not sustainable in the long run. Eventually, faith in democracy and the market economy will erode, and the legitimacy of existing institutions and arrangements will be called into question.
The good news is that the gap between the emerging and advanced countries has narrowed greatly in the last three decades. Nonetheless, hundreds of millions of people remain in poverty, and there has been only a little progress in reducing the gap between the least developed countries and the rest.
Here, unfair trade agreements – including the persistence of unjustifiable agricultural subsidies, which depress the prices upon which the income of many of the poorest depend – have played a role. The developed countries have not lived up to their promise in Doha in November 2001 to create a pro-development trade regime, or to their pledge at the G-8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005 to provide significantly more assistance to the poorest countries.”

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