Latest Developments, June 4

In the latest news and analysis…

Signing frenzy
The Associated Press reports that “more than 65” countries signed the UN Arms Trade Treaty on Monday, though the US and other major weapons exporters and importers are not yet among them:

“Signatures are the first step to ratification, and the treaty will only take effect after 50 countries ratify it.

What impact the treaty will have in curbing the global arms trade — estimated at between $60 billion and $85 billion — remains to be seen. A lot will depend on which countries ratify it, and how stringently it is implemented once it comes into force.

There have been some problems in harmonizing the translations of the treaty into the U.N.’s six official languages, and [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry said the United States looks forward to signing the document ‘as soon as the process of conforming the official translations is completed satisfactorily.’ Once that happens, the treaty would have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate where it is expected to face an uphill struggle because of opposition from the powerful National Rifle Association.”

State of emergency
The Associated Press reports that protesters in Kyrgyzstan have lifted their blockade of a Canadian-owned gold mine, but “tensions remained high”:

“Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters besieged the Kumtor gold mine, operated by Toronto-based Centerra Gold, for several days, demanding its nationalization and more social benefits. They blocked a road leading to the mine and cut power supplies, prompting the Kyrgyz president to introduce a state of emergency in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation.

On Friday, more than 50 people were wounded and 80 detained in violent clashes between stone-throwing protesters trying to storm the Kumtor mine’s office and riot police, who fought back with rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Trial date
Reuters reports that the International Criminal Court has announced the trial of Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto, who faces charges of crimes against humanity, will begin on September 10:

“Ruto has said he would abide by ICC rulings and attend hearings in The Hague if ordered to do so, although he has asked to participate by video link.

The ICC faces growing criticism in Africa, with leaders at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa last week urging the court to refer the cases back to Kenya.”

Legal tug-of-war
Reuters also reports that Libya plans to challenge the International Criminal Court’s demand that the son of former ruler Muammar Gadhafi be handed over for trial in The Hague:

“ ‘We will give what is needed to convince the ICC that Libya is capable of conducting a fair trial in accordance with international standards,’ the state LANA news agency quoted Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani as saying.
Libya has challenged the ICC’s right to put Saif al-Islam on trial on the grounds that since it is planning its own proceedings, the international court in The Hague had no jurisdiction because it should intervene only if the local legal system is not up to the task.”

Much ado
The Guardian’s Claire Provost writes that the debate over whether aid is a good or a bad thing, as manifested most recently in the public spat between Bill Gates and Dambisa Moyo, is largely a distraction from more significant tools in the fight against global poverty:

“Others have pointed out that the question ‘does aid work?’ is quite juvenile (in @rovingbandit’s words, it’s like asking ‘does policy work?’).

Aid, while the only international financial flow dedicated to tackling poverty, pales in comparison with the volume of remittances received – and tax revenues lost – by many African countries. Trade rules and migration policies can have just as large – if not larger – impacts on development.”

Perverted justice
As the trial of Bradley Manning kicked off in a Maryland court on Monday, the Guardian’s Gary Younge blasted America’s treatment of the young man who handed over thousands of diplomatic cables to Wikileaks for “people to see the truth”:

“If the leaks laid bare the hypocritical claim that the US was exporting democracy, then the nature of his incarceration and prosecution illustrate the fallacy of its insistence that it is protecting both freedom and security at home. Manning’s treatment since his arrest in May 2010 has involved a number of serious human rights violations.

But it’s not just about Manning. It’s about a government, obsessed with secrecy, that has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. And it’s about wars in which the resistance to, and exposure of, crimes and abuses has been criminalised while the criminals and abusers go free. If Manning is an enemy of the state then so too is truth.”

Fallen tycoon
Agence France-Presse reports that an Italian court has sentenced a Swiss billionaire in absentia to 18 years in prison over the asbestos-related deaths of 3,000 people:

“[Stephan] Schmidheiny, who has been referred to by Forbes magazine as the ‘Bill Gates of Switzerland’ for his philanthropy, had been convicted last year over the Eternit case and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
The appeals court said he was responsible for ‘a permanent health and environment catastrophe’ and had violated work safety rules at his facilities.”

Global blockage
Oxford University’s Thomas Hale, Durham University’s David Held and the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Kevin Young compare today’s seemingly paralyzed “multilateral order” to a road network whose very success has led to crippling congestion:

“We call this phenomenon gridlock, a basket of trends that is today making international cooperation more difficult, even as deepening globalization and interdependence mean that we need global cooperation now more than ever.

Recognizing that gridlock is a general condition of global politics—not just an issue-specific blockage—is an important step toward designing effective solutions. But at the same time, it militates against a hope in ‘silver bullet’ solutions. The problems facing global cooperation are long-term trends, and the solutions are likely to be equally gradual.”

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