Latest Developments, July 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Election dropout
Radio France Internationale reports that Tiébilé Dramé has withdrawn his candidacy from this month’s presidential election in Mali, saying a “credible” vote is impossible at this point in time and criticizing France’s role in his country’s electoral process:

“ ‘Paris,’ Tiébilé Dramé said, ‘is pushing for elections, no matter what the cost.’ He added: ‘I get the feeling [French foreign minister] Laurent Fabius is running the elections in Mali.’ Nevertheless, Dramé is not calling for a boycott of the vote. He even wished ‘good luck’ to his country.” [Translated from the French.]

The customer’s always right
The Independent reports that the UK has sold £12.3 billion worth of military equipment to “countries which are on its own official list for human rights abuses”:

“The Government had stated that it would not issue export licences for goods ‘which might be used to facilitate internal repression’ or ‘might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts’.

Only two states of 27 on the Foreign Office’s human rights list – North Korea and South Sudan –did not have licences to their names. Among the others, Saudi Arabia has 417 licences with a value of £1.8bn; Pakistan 219 worth almost £50m; Sri Lanka 49 at £8m and Zimbabwe 46, worth just under £3m.

‘The Government needs to acknowledge that there’s an inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights at the same time. Instead they continue to claim these two policies “are mutually reinforcing”,’ [said Committees on Arms Export Controls chairman John Stanley].”

Hunger studies
The Canadian Press reports on new evidence that researchers in Canada conducted nutritional experiments on “isolated, dependent, hungry” aboriginal people in the mid-20th Century:

“Government documents eventually revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 aboriginals, most of them children.

They found people who were hungry, beggared by a combination of the collapsing fur trade and declining government support. They also found a demoralized population marked by, in the words of the researchers, ‘shiftlessness, indolence, improvidence and inertia.’
The researchers suggested those problems — ‘so long regarded as inherent or hereditary traits in the Indian race’ — were in fact the results of malnutrition.”

Dangerous oil
Reuters reports that the UN is warning that the activities of Western oil companies in Somalia could “threaten peace and security” in the region:

“Around a dozen companies, including many multinational oil and gas majors, had licenses to explore Somalia before 1991, but since then Somaliland and Puntland and other regional authorities have granted their own licenses for the same blocks.
In some cases Somaliland and Puntland have awarded licenses for blocks that overlap. The experts said one such case involves Norwegian oil firm DNO and Canadian-listed Africa Oil Corp.
‘Potentially, it means that exploration operations in these blocks, conducted by both DNO and Africa Oil under the protection of regional security forces, its allied militia or private forces, could generate new conflict between Somaliland and Puntland,’ the report said.
‘It is alarming that regional security forces and armed groups may clash to protect and further Western-based oil companies interests,’ it said.”

Fortress Europe
Human Rights Watch’s Judith Sunderland argues that the EU’s “increasingly hostile” attitude toward immigration is putting Africans’ lives at risk:

“[European commissioner for home affairs Cecilia] Malmström’s office has said it is examining pushback practices by member states – and not just to Libya – but it needs to be more open about this process and its conclusions. And it should be willing to use infringement proceedings against EU countries that send people to places where there is a risk of torture or persecution, a clear breach of EU law.
The European Parliament and European Council are studying a European Commission proposal for new regulations governing interceptions in the Mediterranean. It would allow for returns to third countries for those intercepted on the high seas following a cursory assessment of protection needs and the situation in the country of return. This is unacceptable.”

UN peacemaking
Al Jazeera reports on concerns that that the deployment of the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo could have dire consequences:

The move abandons past UN risk-aversion in a way that critics fear could create a politicised force with an offensive mandate that fuels local resistance to peacekeeping and exposes humanitarian staff to new risks.

Pieter Vanholder, DRC country director of the Life & Peace Institute in Bukavu, told Al Jazeera FIB could have a deterrent effect, but ‘if some things go wrong, which they are bound to, the brigade may be seen as a kind of occupation force.’’
‘As a consequence it could become a push factor for some to join armed groups, adding to local resistance,’ Vanholder said.

Exaggerated risk
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenney argues, regarding the US Department of Homeland Security, the time has come to “shut the whole thing down”:

“More than a decade [after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks], it’s increasingly clear that the danger to Americans posed by terrorism remains smaller than that of myriad other threats, from infectious disease to gun violence to drunk driving. Even in 2001, considerably more Americans died of drowning than from terror attacks. Since then, the odds of an American being killed in a terrorist attack in the U.S. or abroad have been about one in 20 million. The Boston marathon bombing was evil and tragic, but it’s worth comparing the three deaths in that attack to a list of the number of people in the U.S. killed by guns since the December 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., which stood at 6,078 as of June.”

People for sale
UK House of Lords member Mary Goudie argues “it’s only by cutting off the money” that the world can stop human trafficking:

“Modern-day slavery is an underground business, intrinsically linked to global supply chains. Individuals and companies are making a huge amount of money out of this business and can make it extremely hard for campaigners and governments to chase the cash back to its true source. Dealing with the murky links between forced labour and global supply chains is perhaps the only real chance we have of cracking the business of slavery. All private companies should be required to sign up to the Athens ethical principles against human trafficking. By signing this agreement, they will be contributing to the eradication of human trafficking and emphasising that this form of business will not be tolerated.”

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