Latest Developments, February 5

In the latest news and analysis…

Redefining imminence
NBC News reports that a confidential US government document lays out the conditions needed to ensure the “lawfulness of a lethal operation” against American citizens who are thought to be senior members of certain organizations:

“It refers, for example, to what it calls a ‘broader concept of imminence’ than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.

Instead, it says, an ‘informed, high-level’ official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been ‘recently’ involved in ‘activities’ posing a threat of a violent attack and ‘there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.’ The memo does not define ‘recently’ or ‘activities.’ ”

Conflict parasites
Olivier Roy, of the School of Advanced Social Science Studies (EHESS), argues the solution to Mali’s current conflict will require more political negotiation than military force:

“Al-Qaeda’s strategy is global and deterritorialized: it seeks to multiply confrontations, always with the West.
In a word, al-Qaeda draws on local conflicts, each of which has its own logic, in order to promote radical anti-Western sentiment and lure the West into the trap of intervention.

It would be absurd for France to hope it can dislodge al-Qaeda from the Maghreb by occupying territory: the group will just reconstitute itself a little further away.
And it would be equally absurd to aim to destroy these groups: given their small number of fighters (a few hundred) and international recruiting, nothing would be easier for them than to relocate, cross borders or come back clean-shaven and wearing jeans in Toronto or London.
Al-Qaeda is a nuisance, but not a strategic threat. To remove a big part of its power, one must ensure the local forces off which the movement wants to feed no longer have any good reason to protect it.” [Translated from the French.]

ICC detainees
Radio Netherlands reports that Congolese witnesses before the International Criminal Court are struggling to get the attention of the Dutch state, which “tries to keep people away from court and out of range of Dutch law”:

“Last month the International Criminal Court (ICC) handed down the second verdict in its 10-year history: Congolese militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was found not guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes relating to a deadly 2003 attack in the Ituri region of DR Congo. Ngudjolo was released pending the prosecutors’ appeal, but the three Congolese witnesses who testified against him remain in custody.
The witnesses have spent almost two years in a prison cell in the ICC’s detention unit in a legal limbo one of their lawyers has compared to Guantanamo Bay. Last month they lost their first legal round in an attempt to get asylum from the Dutch state.”

Swiss plunder
The Berne Declaration alleges that Trafigura, Switzerland’s third largest company, has extensive ties with a pair of Angolan generals who dominate their country’s economy:

“In the US, laws have been passed forcing oil and mining companies to publish any payments made to governments in countries where they are active; the EU is also about to do the same. Switzerland has decided to do nothing. The lack of transparency and regulation in Switzerland provides a refuge for unscrupulous companies and contributes to enriching dictators to the detriment of the poorest peoples on the planet. Angola is but another country on the long list where Switzerland is complicit in the plundering of their natural resources.”

Right to say no
The Guardian reports, in photo essay form, on a recent gathering in Mexico, which brought together activists from across the Americas to “co-ordinate growing local resistance” to mining on indigenous lands:

“In the final moments of the gathering a declaration of intent was read out: ‘The time when the government represented absolute power is a thing of the past, we need a new relationship with the government, where indigenous peoples decide the fate of their territories. Faced with the great threat that the mining industry represents to our Mesoamerican region, we call on the people and communities of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Canada and Mexico to strengthen our networks of resistance and to generate broad-based partnerships based on our knowledge, where the defence of territory is the basis of our co-ordination.’ The event closed with the statement: ‘We have the right to say NO to imposed development and to define our own forms of economic, social, political and cultural production’ ”

Population boom
Inter Press Service reports that the number of inmates in US federal prisons has increased by close to 800 percent over the past three decades:

“ ‘Last year, some 95,000 juveniles under 18 years of age were put in prison, and that doesn’t count those in juvenile facilities,’ [Human Rights Watch’s Maria McFarland] noted.
‘And between 2007 and 2011, the population of those over 64 grew by 94 times the rate of the regular population. Prisons clearly aren’t equipped to take care of these aging people, and you have to question what threat they pose to society – and the justification for imprisoning them.’ ”

Fragile states
Oxfam’s Duncan Green summarizes (and quotes extensively) from a recent report that lays out some of the ways in which outside actions can further destabilize countries they are ostensibly meant to help:

“ ‘There is a strong, negative and significant association between military interventions and democracy. Military interventions have tended to destroy a state’s conflict-resolution mechanisms, often unleashed forms of politics incompatible with democracy, upset political settlements and critically weakened state systems in general.’

‘Policy makers need to consider the extent to which deregulating an economy across the board will be politically destabilising and actually undermine economic reforms….. policies that contribute to state withdrawal are often evaluated on grounds of efficiency and equity, but almost never for their impact on the institutional resilience of the state. This is a major blind spot which has far-reaching consequences for the ability of states to embark upon or return to a path of institutional consolidation.’ ”

Global new deal
UN economist Richard Kozul-Wright and Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Jayati Ghosh argue the international community is “in the wrong frame of mind” for solving global problems, such as extreme poverty and environmental destruction:

“Making inequality part of the development policy agenda has already gained traction. But to make lasting progress, it will be necessary to move beyond MDG-style targets and instead consider a global new deal allowing different economic strategies providing benefits for all.

Policies of universal social protection (including basic income policies) can help repair the social contract. Along with humanitarian aid for the poorest and most vulnerable, the international community needs to guarantee adequate policy space for countries to develop measures relevant to their own contexts.”

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