Latest Developments, April 3

In today’s news and analysis…

Huge loophole
Agence France-Presse highlights some of the perceived shortcomings of the Arms Trade Treaty which has been approved by “an overwhelming 154-3 margin” in the UN General Assembly:

“The treaty has no automatic enforcement. However, it seeks to force the weapons industry within accepted boundaries.

However, the Conflict Awareness Project, a non-governmental research organisation, said the treaty left a huge loophole by not directly addressing the role of middlemen in arms dealing networks.
‘Since the broker is the central actor using the cover of legitimate business to divert weapons into the illicit trade, of all actors, this is the one requiring the strictest regulation,’ CAP’s executive director Kathi Lynn Austin said.”

Landmark ruling
The Guardian reports that India’s Supreme Court has ruled against Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis whose efforts to obtain a patent for a cancer drug were deemed to constitute an attempt at “evergreening”:

“At stake in the legal battle was not just the right of generic companies to make cheap drugs for India once original patents expire but also access to newer drugs for poorer countries in much of Africa and Asia. India has long been known as the pharmacy of the developing world.

In a statement, the Cancer Patients Aid Association in India (CPAA), which had opposed the patent application, said: ‘We are very happy that the court has recognised the right of patients to access affordable medicines over profits for big pharmaceutical companies through patents. Our access to affordable treatment will not be possible if the medicines are patented. It is a huge victory for human rights.’ ”

Bad image
The Antioquia School of Engineering’s Santiago Ortega Arango writes that Canadian mining companies have recently been the targets of popular protests in “at least 10 countries”:

“Canada is very well represented in global mining conflicts because, in large part, Canada is the home of most of the junior mining companies of the world,” says Ramsey Hart, the Canada program co-ordinator at Mining Watch, an Ottawa-based advocacy group.
The reason for this, he says, is that Canada has a favourable environment for high-risk, speculative investments, the kind that drives international mineral exploration.
Unlike the U.S. Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign citizens to bring American companies to U.S. courts for abuses committed in a foreign country, there are no mechanisms to hold Canadian companies overseas accountable for their social and environmental policies. ‘We’ve just completely dropped that ball,’ Ramsey says.

New relationship
The Canadian government is celebrating a new “competitive edge for Canadian exporters” as the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement goes into effect:

“In less than six years, the Harper government has concluded free trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Panama, Peru and the European Free Trade Association member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. In addition, Canada is in ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union, India, Japan and the members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Upon implementation April 1, 2013, Panama will immediately eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of non-agricultural imports and 78 percent of agricultural imports from Canada…

Most of Panama’s remaining tariffs will be eliminated over a period of 5 to 15 years.”

Carbon colonialism
The Nigerian Current reports that the newly formed No REDD in Africa Network blames a UN emissions reduction scheme for “rampant land grabs and neocolonialism”:

“[Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest degradation] is a carbon offset mechanism whereby industrialized Northern countries use forests, agriculture, soils and even water as sponges for their pollution instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at source.
Nnimmo Bassey, Alternative Nobel Prize Laureate and former Executive Director of ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria said that ‘REDD is no longer just a false solution but a new form of colonialism…We launch the No REDD in Africa Network to defend the continent from carbon colonialism.’
In the UN-REDD Framework Document, the United Nations itself admits that REDD could result in the ‘lock-up of forests,’ ‘loss of land’ and ‘new risks for the poor.’ ”

Wrong approach
The University of Utrecht’s Annelies Zoomers and the Broker magazine’s Evert-jan Quak argue that current efforts to rein in land grabbing fail to get at the root of the problem:

“These problems are the result of the commoditisation of nature and neoliberal policies in general, rather than narrowing the causes of the land rush solely to the current food, climate and energy crisis. Land-titling programmes and codes of conducts are therefore a continuation of the same economic principles.
Furthermore, land governance and policies focussing on land grabbing narrow the scope of the problem and the solution to agriculture. However, urban expansion, infrastructure projects, mining, special economic zones, and tourism projects also spark the rush for land and speculative forces to purchase land in rural areas that affect rural communities. Finally, there is no coherence between policies on food security, climate change, biodiversity and poverty eradication. One problem can be solved (for example REDD and REDD+ to tackle carbon emissions by fast reforestation projects) but create others (small farmers losing their land). A much more interdisciplinary way of policy-making should therefore be enforced.”

Bank crimes
MIT’s Simon Johnson argues that when it comes to international money laundering, “complicit bankers have nothing to fear from the US justice system”:

“To be on the safe side, though, miscreants should be sure to use a really large global bank for all their money-laundering needs.
There may be fines, but the largest financial companies are unlikely to face criminal actions or meaningful sanctions. The Department of Justice has decided that these banks are too big to prosecute to the full extent of the law, though why this also gets employees and executives off the hook remains a mystery. And the Federal Reserve refuses to rescind bank licenses, undermining the credibility, legitimacy and stability of the financial system.”

Basic income
The Guardian’s Geoge Monbiot makes the case for everyone, whether rich or poor, to receive a “guaranteed sum” each week:

“A basic income removes the stigma of benefits while also breaking open what politicians call the welfare trap. Because taking work would not reduce your entitlement to social security, there would be no disincentive to find a job – all the money you earn is extra income. The poor are not forced by desperation into the arms of unscrupulous employers: people will work if conditions are good and pay fair, but will refuse to be treated like mules. It redresses the wild imbalance in bargaining power that the current system exacerbates.”

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