In the latest news and analysis…
Sense of urgency
Agence France-Presse reports that France is urging “rapid deployment” of international troops to Mali where combat between government and rebel forces started this week:
“Preparations are underway for the deployment to Mali of an international force approved by the UN on Dec. 20, to occur in stages and with no defined timetable.
The African force is to consist of 3,300 troops, with a European mission of 400, of which 250 will be trainers. The deployment of the EU mission, to be commanded by an as-yet undesignated French general, is expected to launch in February, according to Paris.” [Translated from the French.]
The Vanguard reports that Nigerian authorities have quarantined a ship thought to have sailed from the UK carrying toxic e-waste:
“Confirming this to Vanguard, Public Relations Officer of Tin-Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr. Chris Osunkwo, said that [the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency] had written to the Command informing them that they have intelligence report that a vessel which is erroneously called M.V. Mavia, was coming into the country with two container loads of e-waste.
Osunkwo said that the NESREA officials in the letter said that the vessel should not be allowed to discharge, adding that the inspection would be done onboard the vessel before it is sent back to it’s country of origin.”
The Guardian reports on new findings that up to half the world’s food, about 2 billion tons worth, is wasted each year:
“The UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) blames the ‘staggering’ new figures in its analysis on unnecessarily strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free and Western consumer demand for cosmetically perfect food, along with ‘poor engineering and agricultural practices’, inadequate infrastructure and poor storage facilities.
In the UK as much as 30% of vegetable crops are not harvested due to their failure to meet retailers’ exacting standards on physical appearance, it says, while up to half of the food that is bought in Europe and the US is thrown away by consumers.
And about 550bn cubic metres of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer. Carnivorous diets add extra pressure as it takes 20-50 times the amount of water to produce 1 kilogramme of meat than 1kg of vegetables; the demand for water in food production could reach 10–13 trillion cubic metres a year by 2050.”
Reuters reports that Colombia has announced it will create a wilderness park and ban mining in an area where a Canadian company wants to dig for gold:
“Eco Oro, formerly known as Greystar Resources, had faced opposition from local authorities, the country’s inspector general and environmental groups. They called its Angostura gold project a threat to the delicate Andean ecosystem.
The move by the country’s environment ministry to create the park effectively rules out any mining in an area of more than 12,000 hectares in northern Santander province.”
7sur7 reports that British government documents implicate top Belgian diplomats in the killing of Burundian independence hero Prince Louis Rwagasore half a century ago:
“The documents in question are telexes exchanged between James Murray, the British ambassador in Bujumbura at the time, and the Foreign Office, as well as a confidential report by Belgium’s prosecutor. They indicate that Roberto Régnier, Burundi’s colonial governor, repeatedly spoke of ‘the need to kill Rwagasore’.” [Translated from the French.]
Domini Social Investments’ Adam Kanzer argues that without proper social and environmental guidelines, mutual funds “can be a very effective way of promoting broad social harm”:
“If there’s anything we’ve learned from the financial crisis, it is that even the most arcane financial decisions can have real-world impacts. Such is the case when you allocate billions of dollars to companies that make military-style assault weapons. We can no longer pretend that these decisions are morally neutral – they are not.
Standard-setting is not foreign to index management. Both the index managers and the stock exchanges set all sorts of financial and governance standards. The OMX Nordic Exchange actually has a standard to ‘investigate’, and presumably to ultimately delist, companies that have committed ‘serious or systematic violation of human rights or other ethical international norms’ including those that manufacture chemical weapons or land mines. They placed these standards under the heading “marketplaces with integrity.” After OMX’s acquisition by NASDAQ, it is unclear where those standards now stand. Some exchanges, including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, require listed companies to produce sustainability reports. Dow Jones, MSCI and FTSE all maintain indices that include social and environmental standards.”
Human Rights Watch criticizes wealthy countries for opposing inclusion of “a stand-alone article on health” in what is expected to become the Minamata Convention, an international agreement aimed at limiting the negative impacts of mercury:
“At the last round of negotiations, in July 2012, Western governments – in particular Canada, the United States, and European Union members – rejected including a stand-alone article on health, contending that treaty is primarily about the environment.
They indicated that including health strategies might interfere with the health sector and drive up the cost of the treaty’s implementation. They also said that current references to health strategies in the draft text were sufficient. Their stance caused a heated debate with Latin American and African governments, whose representatives wanted a stronger health article.
‘The position of the United States, Canada, and the European Union has been disappointing,’ [Human Rights Watch’s Juliane] Kippenberg said. ‘Wealthier countries should recognize that environmental and health strategies on mercury go hand in hand, and provide financial support for both.’ ”
Too much information
Radio France Internationale reports that a new investigation by French newspaper Libération raises questions about why the country’s military issued a fake death certificate for one of a pair of French gendarmes killed in the first days of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide:
“For Libération, the answer may lie in the activities of the two gendarmes in Kigali. They were working, according to the newspaper, on radio transmissions by the French embassy, the French development mission and the Rwandan army. Did they stumble upon information about those responsible for the shooting down of President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994, the event that triggered the genocide?” [Translated from the French.]