Latest Developments, May 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Business as usual
Inter Press Service reports that UN experts have found that American corporations show “little appreciation” of human rights in their operations both at home and abroad:

“ ‘The U.S. government has committed to the [UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights], and established a number of key initiatives in this regard,’ the Working Group’s Michael Addo stated Wednesday, when he and [Puvan] Selvanathan unveiled their early observations here in Washington.
‘[But] it is now facing the challenge of putting them into practice, across all departments, ensuring that this is done in a coherent and effective way, and in a way that makes a real difference to people on the ground.’ ”

Mining diplomacy
The Toronto Star reports that the Canadian government is being accused of providing “active and unquestioning support” to a mining company linked to the murder of an activist in Mexico:

“The study, made available by [MiningWatch Canada] to the Star and La Presse, is based on 900 pages of documents obtained through Access to Information from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade about its dealings with Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration.

‘It’s not that we’re saying that the embassy doesn’t have a mandate to support Canadian economic interests,’ said Jennifer Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch and a co-author of the report. ‘In part, that is what they are supposed to do.
‘But Canadian embassies around the world are supposed to ensure the protection of individual and collective human rights—and that is just as important to us as Canadians.’”

No change of heart
The Tax Justice Network argues reports that Swiss banks have agreed to increased openness are greatly exaggerated:

“And we know this from a short sentence in the [Reuters] story, citing Patrick Odier, head of the Swiss Bankers’ Association:
‘We should no longer categorically reject an automatic exchange of information,’ he said. ‘But it should be introduced globally.’
It’s that bit in bold that is the give-away. In other words, we won’t do anything until everyone else has. Which, snigger snigger, will never happen. This is the classic ‘level playing field argument’ that we at TJN have seen time and time again, as justification for inaction.”

Printed weapons
The BBC reports that a gun made with 3D printer technology has been fired in the US for the first time:

“The controversial group which created the firearm, Defense Distributed, plans to make the blueprints available online.
The group has spent a year trying to create the firearm, which was successfully tested on Saturday at a firing range south of Austin, Texas.
Anti-gun campaigners have criticised the project.
Europe’s law enforcement agency said it was monitoring developments.”

Imperial aid
The University of Amsterdam’s Antonio Carmona Báez argues that understanding Bolivia’s expulsion of the US Agency for International Development requires a “de-colonial reading of development”:

“USAID belongs to the host of organs that were initiated by US president Harry Truman’s post-war Point Four Programme. The agency responds directly to the US Secretary of State and is closely monitored by the Department of Defence. While much of the discourse around USAID action highlights the terms sustainable development, elimination of poverty and international cooperation, military intervention and imposed foreign policy has marked the history of US foreign aid since the Cold War in Bolivia and throughout the Global South generally. USAID Office of Military Affairs and its Civic-Military Programme have been responsible for the funding of counter-insurgency practices in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and continuing the ‘global war on terrorism’ introduced by George W. Bush and sustained by current president Barak Obama. Recently, the Associated Press has revealed the agency’s meddling in Bolivia’s internal political affairs by providing ‘building democracy grants’ to groups that oppose the Morales government.”

Rocky relations
The Washington Post reports that even those Mongolians who are seeing some benefits from a massive Rio Tinto copper and gold project have concerns about the Anglo-Australian mining giant’s activities in their country:

“Puntsag Tsagaan, the president’s chief of staff, says he doesn’t want to see his country turned into Minegolia. Mineral wealth should be exploited cautiously and benefit the people, he says: ‘It does not have to be unlocked in a generation.’

In addition to the complaint about a cost blowout, the government says the company should have paid taxes last year and needs greater financial transparency.
In his speech to parliament on Feb. 1, [President Tsakhia] Elbegdorj wasn’t just bluffing. A few days later, his government briefly froze Rio Tinto’s bank accounts.

[Aimtan] Ulam-Badrakh says that he is glad Oyu Tolgoi is being developed but that he also has reservations. ‘Foreigners cannot just dig up the land, take away our wealth and leave us with a big hole in the ground,’ he says. ‘It has to be beneficial for foreigners and the Mongolian people.’ ”

Misplaced priorities
Humanosphere reports that Médecins Sans Frontières believes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s promotion of vaccines prioritizes drug industry profits over saving lives:

[MSF’s Kate] Elder said the problem is we don’t know how much money [pharmaceutical companies] are making since industry refuses to open its books. MSF, which is a member of the GAVI alliance, had asked drug industry partners to show the actual costs of drug development and production so the consortium can see that the profits are modest. Industry, and the GAVI leadership, Elder said, refused to incorporate this into the Global Vaccine Action Plan – an over-arching strategy led by a group convened by the Gates Foundation called the Decades of Vaccine Collaboration.
‘We’d like to see more of this information made public,’ said Elder, referring to both the price calculations as well as the development of global vaccine policy.”

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