Latest Developments, September 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Offense first
The Hill reports that the US, which was already sending weapons to Syria’s rebels, has now also cleared obstacles to sending them defensive equipment:

“The United States is prevented from shipping gas masks and other ‘non-lethal’ protective equipment related to chemical weapons use under mandates in the Arms Export Control Act.
Obama’s announcement effectively eliminates those rules for ‘international organizations… [and] select vetted members of the Syrian opposition, including the Supreme Military Council,’ [National Security Council Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden] said in a statement Monday.”

Global corporate accountability
Ecuador’s government has announced that nearly 100 countries supported its call for a “binding international instrument” concerning transnational companies and human rights:

“The Declaration led by Ecuador and adopted by the African Group, the Group of Arabic Countries, Pakistan, Kirgizstan, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Peru, gathers up the concerns of the countries from the South regarding the flagrant human rights violations caused by the operations of transnational corporations, that in many countries, they have left as large debts, large effects on local communities and populations, including many indigenous peoples.

This joint Declaration constitutes a milestone within the Human Rights Council of the UN, since for the moment; Ecuador has been the only country that has defended the idea of generating an international instrument about businesses and human rights. Nevertheless, after a hard work of lobbying carried out by the Ecuadorian delegation in Geneva, it has been possible to add support, especially of countries from the South which demand more equity and responsibility on behalf of the great transnational forces.”

ICC backlash
Reuters reports that the International Criminal Court could lose a big chunk of its membership due to its perceived lack of balance:

“Officials say suggestions are being made in the African Union for a pullout from the Hague court by the 34 African signatories to the Rome Statute that created it.
‘There is a proposal in the African Union, which will likely come in January, for all AU member countries to withdraw from the ICC because the court is seen to be targeting only African leaders,’ Tanzania’s government spokesman Assah Mwambene said.
The walk-out proposal could come even sooner, possibly at an extraordinary AU summit before the year end, following expected criticism of the ICC at the U.N. General Assembly this month.

All 18 cases so far before the ICC are against Africans, in eight countries. Most were either initiated or supported by the governments of those states.”

No number, no list
The Blog of Legal Times reports that the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the US government’s claim that divulging even the vaguest of information pertaining to drone strikes could threaten national security:

“[Justice Department lawyer Amy] Powell argued that the CIA’s ‘no number, no list’ response—where the government deems exempt from disclosure even the number of pages of any responsive document—is appropriate.
The ACLU lawyers said in their papers that the CIA failed to show why the government should be allowed not to describe the content of any single document.”

Crosses and veils
The Montreal Gazette reports the results of a public opinion poll on Quebec’s proposed “charter of values”, which suggest many of the Canadian province’s inhabitants share their government’s selective interpretation of secularism:

“Two proposals in the package do get large approval. Fifty-four per cent of Quebecers agree that the crucifix should remain over the speaker’s chair of the National Assembly. Thirty-eight per cent disagree.
And a big 90 per cent of Quebecers agree public servants giving services or Quebecers receiving services should do so with their faces uncovered.”

Oil displacement
The Monitor reports on the impacts of oil exploration on land tenure in Uganda:

“The discovery of oil and gas has also caused the appreciation of land value even in rural areas that are now getting transformed into urban centres. The resources have also attracted investors and speculators who are acquiring chunks of land to strategise how to profiteer from the nascent industry. The oil industry has also sparked off a scramble for land that at times has left some communities to be displaced by new landlords that are procuring pieces of land from individuals that were formerly owned communally.”

Miner threat
The Globe and Mail reports that a Canadian company is demanding Romania approve what would be Europe’s largest open-pit gold mine or face a massive lawsuit:

“ ‘If the lower house [of parliament] does reject the project, we will go ahead with formal notification to commence litigation for multiple breaches of international investment treaties for up to $4-billion,’ [Gabriel Resources CEO Jonathan] Henry said in a phone interview. ‘Our case is very strong and we will make it very public that Romania’s effort to attract foreign investment will suffer greatly.’

The Rosia Montana project has been held up by well-organized and well-funded protesters, ranging from local farmers who do not want their properties seized to make way for the enormous mine to billionaires such as George Soros and celebrities such as Vanessa Redgrave, for about 15 years.”

Expendable labour
The Guardian reports that a number of Western clothing brands are being accused of doing too little for the victims of Bangladesh’s deadliest industrial accident:

“The international union IndustriALL has called for brands to contribute $33.5m to those injured and the families of those who died in the accident with a further $41m to come from the Bangladeshi government and factory owners. While all the brands which met in Geneva said they were prepared to put up at least some cash, no agreement was reached on the structure or scale of compensation, partly because 20 brands which were invited did not attend including Walmart, Mango and the Zara owner, Inditex.
Samantha Maher of campaign group Labour Behind the Label, who attended the talks, said: ‘It is almost six months since Rana Plaza collapsed. After all the hand-wringing, workers are still facing a life of desperation when half of those brands whose products they were making have turned their back on them.’”

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