Latest Developments, July 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Legal first
The Globe and Mail reports that a Canadian court has ruled that Canada’s HudBay Minerals can be sued in Canada over alleged human rights abuses in Guatemala:

“The decision opens the door to other cases in which companies could face liability on their home turf for incidents that happen overseas.

In the Guatemalan lawsuits, one case involved the alleged beating, machete hacking and killing of a local Mayan community leader who voiced opposition to the mine: Adolfo Ich Chaman. Another man was shot and now uses a wheelchair. There are also allegations that 11 women were gang-raped by men in mine security uniforms.”

Mortal sin
The New York Times reports that UK pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline’s ethical lapses in China may go well beyond recent bribery allegations:

“The [auditors’] report revealed that the drug’s project leader belatedly learned the results of three studies of ozanezumab in mice. During their investigation, auditors came across six studies whose results had not been reported, even though early trials in humans were already under way.

‘If that’s true, it’s a mortal sin in research requirements,’ said Arthur L. Caplan, the head of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. He served as the chairman of an advisory committee on bioethics at Glaxo from 2005 to 2008. ‘No one could approve human trials without having that information available, scientifically or ethically. That’s kind of a Rock-of-Gibraltar-sized ethics violation.’ ”

Bad treaties
Lee Sheppard writes in Forbes that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s new “action plan” on corporate tax avoidance, endorsed by the G20, is unlikely to help poor countries:

“Multinationals are doing business and extracting resources from poor countries without paying for the costs of their activities or otherwise contributing to the cost of government. Insufficient corporate tax payments are not the full extent of their depredations.
A couple decades ago, many developing countries signed OECD model treaties with developed countries that are home to multinationals. They didn’t realize the full ramifications of the concessions they were making. They were told that a tax treaty is good for inbound investment. The fact is that multinationals will do business in any country where there is money to be made, tax treaty or not. Ask Brazil, which has no tax treaty with the United States.
Developing countries should not sign OECD model tax treaties.”

Criminal words
The Independent reports that a French politician is under investigation for “apologising for crimes against humanity” after allegedly making anti-Roma comments:

“Gilles Bourdouleix, who is also the MP for Cholet, near Nantes, made the comment after 150 traveller caravans moved on to a municipally owned field near his town on Sunday.
The gypsies refused requests to move on and made Nazi salutes at the mayor, according to reports. A regional newspaper, the Courrier de L’Ouest, reported that Mr Bourdouleix then turned away and said: ‘Maybe Hitler didn’t kill enough of them.’ ”

Secret war
Foreign Policy reports on what appears to be an undeclared, escalating and illegal war waged by the US in Somalia:

“Last year, according to [the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea], the United States violated the international arms embargo on Somalia by dispatching American special operations forces in Russian M-17 helicopters to northern Somalia in support of operations by the intelligence service of Puntland, a breakaway Somali province.

Two U.S. air-charter companies linked to American intelligence activities in Somalia have increased the number of clandestine flights to Mogadishu and the breakaway province of Puntland by as much as 25 percent last year.

The flights — which have not been reported to the U.N. Security Council — suggest a further strengthening of American cooperation with Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency in Mogadishu and the Puntland Intelligence Service, which has been cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism operations for more than a decade.”

Corrupting perceptions
The Center for Global Development’s Alex Cobham argues that Transparency International’s oft-cited corruption ranking of countries provides “an unhelpfully distorted reflection of the truth”:

“[University of Minnesota law professor Stuart Vincent] Campbell writes that, in contrast to the [Corruption Perceptions Index] ranking which in 2010 put Brazil 69th, behind Italy and Rwanda, ‘The 2010 Global Corruption Barometer [based on a broader survey of Brazilian citizens] found that only 4 percent of Brazilians had paid a bribe, which is a lower percentage of bribe-givers than the survey found in the United States or any other country in Latin America.’

The CPI embeds a powerful and misleading elite bias in popular perceptions of corruption, potentially contributing to a vicious cycle and at the same time incentivizing inappropriate policy responses. The index corrupts perceptions to the extent that it’s hard to see a justification for its continuing publication. For the good of the organization, its important aims and the many people committed to its success, Transparency International should drop the Corruption Perceptions Index.”

Raw deal
Oxfam’s Jennifer Lentfer reproduces US Congressional testimony, including that of NFL star Anquan Boldin, on whether there is such a thing as an “African resource curse”:

“Meanwhile, the community that lost its land sees little benefit from the enormous mine in what was once their backyard. No percentage of the revenue from the mine, which is bigger than several football stadiums and brings in untold revenues, ever makes its way back to the community. The mining company did leave the community with one gift though. Because the mining company also took ownership of the community’s water source, they built a brand new well in the middle of the community. They now have access to water whenever the company decides to turn on the water (which is rare), and assuming they’ve paid their monthly bill to the mining company. This is the definition of a raw deal.”

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