Latest Developments, January 25

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone investigation
The New York Times reports that a UN expert has launched an inquiry into the civilian impacts of “drone strikes and other forms of remotely targeted killing” used by Western powers to eliminate alleged militants:

“The immediate focus, [Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben] Emmerson said in an interview, would be on 25 selected drone strikes that had been conducted in recent years in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and the Palestinian territories. That put the panel’s spotlight on the United States, Britain and Israel, the nations that have conducted drone attacks in those areas, but Mr. Emmerson said the inquiry would not be singling out the United States or any other countries.

‘This form of warfare is here to stay, and it is completely unacceptable to allow the world to drift blindly toward the precipice without any agreement between states as to the circumstances in which drone strike targeted killings are lawful, and on the safeguards necessary to protect civilians,’ [Emmerson said].”

Peacekeeping drones
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has granted permission for blue helmets to use surveillance drones over eastern DR Congo:

“U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote to the 15-member council late last month to advise that peacekeepers in Congo planned to use unmanned aerial systems ‘to enhance situational awareness and to permit timely decision-making’ in dealing with a nine-month insurgency by M23 rebels in the mineral-rich east.
In a response to Ban, the president of the council for January, Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Masood Khan, said the body had taken note of the plans for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo to use drones – effectively approving the proposal.
But the council also noted that it would be a trial use ‘in line with the Secretariat’s intention to use assets to enhance situational awareness, if available, on a case-by case basis,’ Khan wrote in a January 22 letter that was released on Thursday.”

Quid pro quo
The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian police believe a Montreal-based engineering firm paid $160 million in bribes to a son of former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi:

“The fortune that was allegedly funnelled to Saadi Gadhafi was used, in part, to buy two yachts, pay condo fees and renovate his luxury Toronto penthouse at a price tag of $200,000. One of the yachts, a champagne-coloured vessel known as the Hokulani, is 150 feet and features a private movie theatre.
The lavish gifts and payments were meant to help SNC land contracts in Libya, RCMP Corporal Brenda Makad alleged in the sworn statement. ‘It is alleged that these funds were paid to him as a reward for influencing the awarding of major contracts to SNC-Lavalin International,’ she stated.”

Hall of shame
Greenpeace Switzerland and the Berne Declaration have awarded the 2013 Public Eye Awards for “particularly glaring cases of companies’ greed for profit and environmental sins”:

“The US bank Goldman Sachs receives this year’s jury award. The public award goes, with a large winning margin, to the oil corporation Shell, in accordance with the wishes of 41,800 online voters.

Michael Baumgartner, Chairman of the Public Eye Awards jury, adds: ‘Not only is Goldman Sachs one of the main winners of the financial crisis, this bank is also a key player in the raw materials casino: it has tapped into these markets as a new source of income and destabilised raw material prices. When food prices break all records, like in 2008, millions of people are plunged into hunger and hardship.’ ”

Less militaristic
The Los Angeles Times reports that US secretary of state nominee John Kerry told those present at his confirmation hearing that America “cannot afford a diplomacy that is defined by troops or drones or confrontation”:

“Kerry, a loyal ally and occasional diplomatic representative of the administration, was giving another signal that the White House intended to close the door on a decade of war, as President Obama said at his inauguration ceremony Monday. His comments veered from the administration script only in their implications about drones, which the White House has embraced as a low-cost counter-terrorism tool but which Kerry’s statement cast in an unflattering light.”

Western weapons
Reuters reports that Russia is largely blaming the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya for the current crisis in Mali that has drawn France and a number of African countries into the armed conflict:

“ ‘Those whom the French and Africans are fighting now in Mali are the (same) people who overthrew the Gaddafi regime, those that our Western partners armed so that they would overthrow the Gaddafi regime,’ [Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov told a news conference.”

Boys’ club
The Guardian’s Jane Martinson writes that the World Economic Forum, currently underway in Davos, is very much a male event:

“Despite introducing a quota which insists that the biggest companies send at least one woman for every four men, the percentage of women attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos has stuck at 17% for the past two years. Many of the companies subject to the quota simply send exactly four men, thus avoiding the need for a woman delegate.

Fernando Morales-de la Cruz, founder of ItiMa, points out that this puts the percentage lower than the 20% membership of Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Council.”

Challenging power
The World Development Movement’s Deborah Doane argues that the newly launched If anti-hunger mega campaign focuses too much on policy fixes and too little on the root causes of world hunger:

“I would never argue against the G8 and international community ending tax dodging; nor would I argue against stopping land grabbing, or stopping food crops being diverted to biofuels. I fully endorse the need to support smallholder farmers. And I’m a great advocate of corporate transparency.
However, the policy solutions in themselves don’t provide the impetus to address power in our unjust globalised food system and our politics. Ensuring everyone has enough to eat is a long-term project that demands far deeper and wide-ranging policy change than that proposed by If, and needs democratic change well beyond the power of the G8. By all means, support the campaign’s individual aims, but ending hunger demands that we go further.”

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