Latest Developments, March 8

Parasols

In the latest news and analysis…

Working women
To mark International Women’s Day, the Globe and Mail highlights countries, including a number of African ones, that are leaders in certain areas of gender equality:

“Egypt, where the World Economic Forum says the gender wage gap is 18 cents – so women can expect to earn 82 cents for every dollar a man gets.
(Canadian women, by comparison, can expect to earn about 73 cents, placing us 35th in the ranking.)

Rwanda. In the African country, as of February, women held 45 of the 80 seats in Parliament. By comparison, in Canada, which ranks 45th in the Inter-Parliamentary Union study, men outnumber women in Parliament by a ratio of 3 to 1.

Burundi. According the World Economic Forum, 92 per cent of female citizens in Burundi have paid work – compared with 88 per cent of men.”

Notable abstention
Inter Press Service reports that the US has opted not to vote on whether or not the World Bank should help fund a controversial mining mega-project in Mongolia:

“In abstaining, the U.S. representative cited concerns over the potential environmental consequences and an inadequate impact study of the mine plan.
The Oyu Tolgoi mine, a 12-billion-dollar project, is looking to massively expand copper-and-gold extraction in the South Gobi Desert. Its parent company, the London-based Rio Tinto, is currently fielding funding proposals from multiple international investors, including the World Bank Group.”

Democracy’s price
The Canadian Press reports that Export Development Canada, a government-owned entity that provides political risk insurance to its corporate clients, may ask the people of Arab Spring countries to compensate Canadian companies for business disruptions resulting from the overthrow of dictators:

“A number of Canadian companies, including oil firm Suncor Energy and SNC-Lavalin, the engineering firm, operate in the Middle East, but the EDC would not name the countries involved or the firms who made claims.

[EDC’s Ken] Kember said paying out claims does not end the story for the EDC, adding the agency often attempts to reclaim losses from the governments involved.

Much-needed debate
Now that “the architect of Barack Obama’s aggressive drone policy” has cleared the last hurdle to becoming the new head of the CIA, Time’s Michael Crowley considers what good came out of the confirmation process:

“The focus on the extremely narrow question of targeting American citizens may have been misplaced. But good questions were raised along the way about expanded presidential power, the drawbacks of heavy reliance on drones, and whether it’s time to reassess the basic legal framework governing the war against al Qaeda, its allies, and other terrorist groups.”

April-ish troop withdrawal
Reuters reports that a day after French President Francois Hollande set a new date for his country to begin withdrawing troops from Mali, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke of a more fluid timeline on a visit to the West African nation:

“ ‘We are in the last phase, the most decisive phase,’ Le Drian said. ‘This phase entails some very violent combat. When the liberation of the whole country is complete, then we will hand over responsibility to African forces.’
President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday that France would start to draw down its forces in Mali from April, a month later than previously forecast.”

Questionable company
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs’ Frederick Mills explores alleged links between the recipient of a World Bank loan and a series of murders in the Bajo Aguán Valley of Honduras:

“With regard to the money trail, the Bird Report indicates that the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, and a number of other institutions have made loan commitments to the Dinant Corporation. This corporation is owned by Miguel Facusse, who runs one of the three big African Palm Oil plantations in the area. This is important because the Bird Report links a security firm (called Orion Private Security Corporation) in the pay of Dinant and at least one other agribusiness to some of the acts of violence against campesinos associated with several vicitimized coop organizations. These lenders have an ethical obligation to further research and reevaluate any loan commitments to questionable agribusinesses that are alleged to engage in murder for hire and other notorious crimes.”

Fortress Europe
In a piece for Africa is a Country, Serginho Roosblad looks at the contrast between China’s and Europe’s current attitudes toward migrants from Africa:

“[Ian] Goldin, the former Director of Development Policy at the World Bank and now Director at the Oxford Martin School paints a clear picture for Europe: ‘I predict that in 2030, Europe will be saying desperately: “we want more Africans”.’ A pretty grim picture for those political leaders in Europe who in recent years have been working hard to build the European fortress.
A lot of the analysis and facts Goldin presents about the economic dawn of Europe are not new. However the connection he draws between the liberal economic policies that have enabled free flow of people and goods in Europe for the economic good of the continent and the liberal politicians that have drafted these policies while also being the ones responsible for the strict immigration laws might be the most interesting.”

Existential risks
Cambridge University’s Martin Rees draws attention to “the downside risks of powerful new cyber, bio, and nanotechnologies”:

“A few individuals, via error or terror, could ignite a societal breakdown so quickly that government responses would be overwhelmed.

In a media landscape saturated with sensational science stories, end-times Hollywood productions, and Mayan warnings of apocalypse, it may be hard to persuade the public that potential catastrophes could arise as unexpectedly as the 2008 financial crisis did – and with a far greater impact. Existential risks receive disproportionately little serious attention. Some suggested scenarios can be dismissed, but we should surely try to assess which ones cannot – and study how to mitigate them.”

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