Latest Developments, June 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Bleak outlook
The World Bank has published a new climate change report exploring what “temperature increases will look like, degree-by-degree” for some of the world’s poorest people over the next century:

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers found food security will be the overarching challenge, with dangers from droughts, flooding, and shifts in rainfall.
Between 1.5°C-2°C warming, drought and aridity, will contribute to farmers losing 40-80 percent of cropland conducive to growing maize, millet, and sorghum by the 2030s-2040s, the researchers found.

Loss of snow melt from the Himalayas will reduce the flow of water into the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra basins. Together, they threaten to leave hundreds of millions of people without enough water, food, or access to reliable energy.”

US troops in Mali
Sahara Media reports that American soldiers have arrived at the Amchach military base near Tessalit in northern Mali:

“According to sources contacted by Sahara Media, the soldiers’ arrival at this strategic base, which took place over the past two days, has the support of the French military.
These same sources say the US troops will be deployed to various points in northern Mali by month’s end.
According to Sahel watchers, this base had been a point of contention between Paris and Washington, both of whom wanted to set up a military base, though Algeria and Libya objected to foreign troops being stationed near their borders.” [Translated from the French.]

Partial transparency
The Center for Global Development’s Alex Cobham and Owen Barder have mixed feelings about this week’s G8 statement on “tackling financial secrecy”:

“It is disappointing that the G-8 did not agree to compile registries of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts, let alone to make them public. If individuals can own companies anonymously, it is too easy for them to set up shell companies and shelter their income from tax within them. We are confident it will eventually dawn on everyone that the only workable solution is registries of beneficial ownership, and that there is no reason that these should not be public.”

Going beyond aid
The Canadian Council for International Co-operation’s Fraser Reilly-King argues that while “aid alone” will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals or their post-2015 successors, strategies based on leveraging private capital should be viewed with caution :

“With the obsession around growth and the private sector, has come a strong focus on creating an enabling environment for private sector development. The World Bank’s (much criticized) flagship Doing Business Report ranks countries according to the ease of doing business. In practice, while it may encourage countries to streamline heavy bureaucratic processes that choke innovation, this has also led to excessive deregulation, flexibilization of work forces, and attacks on labour rights. For me, it is not about creating an enabling environment to develop the private sector (and stimulate investment), but rather creating an environment that enables the private sector (and investment and civil society and citizens) to contribute to development and poverty eradication. It’s a subtle, but extremely important, difference.”

Truth to power
Humanosphere reports that former Costa Rican president and Nobel laureate Oscar Arias told a US audience “your government is the most dangerous government on Earth”:

“Arias — in town to do a commencement speech for [the University of Washington Bothell], among other speaking events — had plenty of praise for the United States, for the generous and enterprising spirit of Americans.
But he also couldn’t help noting our country’s history of ‘supporting military dictatorships,’ of only doing foreign aid when we can see how it helps us and, as the world’s leading arms dealer and military power, of exporting violence.”

Green façade
The Dominion raises questions about Canadian-based Goldcorp’s attempts to “re-brand” its San Martin mine, which ceased production in 2008, as a Honduran ecotourism site:

“But the reality on the ground is a long way from the stories told in company documents and press releases.
A visit to the site in early 2013 revealed no evidence of a thriving hotel or ecotourism project. Instead, tall fences with barbed wire surrounded a space of land on the hill down from the mine. It cost $20 to enter the area and there were security forces guarding the site.

Residents claim that Goldcorp’s San Martin Foundation should not fall under the definition of ecotourism. Members of the Siria Valley Environmental Committee fear that the site is acting as a placeholder for the mine to re-open in the future once new mining regulations come into place.

Health equality
Durham University’s Clare Bambra makes the case for taking on economic inequality as a way to improve public health:

“Ultimately, more equal societies have better health outcomes. While even the most egalitarian developed countries have health inequalities, all of their citizens are better off and live longer. The poorest and most vulnerable groups in social-democratic countries like Sweden and Norway are far healthier and live longer than their counterparts in neo-liberal countries such as the UK or the US.”

Dodgy accounting
Freedom from Want author Ian Smillie argues that current statistics on extreme poverty do not reflect improving global conditions since the 1980s so much as a big change in the World Bank’s math:

“The problem is that the figures used a decade or so afterwards for 1980, 1985 and 1990 are not the same figures the Bank was using at the time. In its 1980 World Development Report (WDR)—still available on line—the World Bank said that ‘The number of people living in absolute poverty in developing countries (excluding China and other centrally planned economies) is estimated at around 780 million.’ At the time, China had an estimated 360 million destitute people, so the global total was probably about 1.1 billion—the same as today.

Over the past decade, however, the Bank began to tinker with the 1980-1 base. For example, ‘The Bank’s annual statistical report, World Development Indicators 2004 (WDI)… shows a drop in the absolute number of people living on less than $1 a day in all developing countries from 1.5 billion in 1981, to 1.1 billion in 2001.’
Are you following the numbers? The 1981 base had increased to 1.5 billion. And it kept rising thereafter to its current level of 1.9 billion. What remains constant is the 1.1 or 1.2 billion people living in poverty ‘today’ (whether that ‘today’ is 2013, 2004, 2000, 1985 or 1980).”

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