Latest Developments, September 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Death by GDP
The Zoological Society of London’s Jonathon Baillie argues that America’s improving environment does not mean economic growth is good for biodiversity:

“GDP masquerading as growth has negative implications for biodiversity, as this ‘growth’ only calculates output; or as Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Laureate, said: ‘GDP measures only revenues to see how well a firm is doing; far more relevant is the balance sheet, which shows assets and liabilities.’

Some of America’s environmental conditions can be explained by innovation leading to greater efficiency, such as fuel efficiency in cars or more efficient agricultural production. But the majority of the negative impact has simply been exported. The industries that produce the most pollutants have been outsourced to emerging nations that have fewer regulations, in terms of both the environment and labour conditions. Therefore the environmental impact of increased consumption is largely felt beyond the borders of wealthy nations — it is middle- and lower-income nations that experience the majority of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.

It is self-evident that growth, as currently defined, has a major negative impact upon biodiversity. What needs to change is the definition of growth from a GDP-centric mindset to a balance-sheet approach.”

Toxic legacy
The Associated Press reports that hundreds of Chilean plaintiffs are suing a Swedish mining company for allegedly exporting and dumping toxic waste during the Pinochet era:

“The lawsuit filed with a Swedish district court claims Boliden exported 20,000 tons of mining waste to the Chilean town of Arica in the mid-1980s, despite knowing it was highly toxic and could not be handled safely at the site.
Citizens in a residential area called Polygono claim the waste includes high levels of arsenic, lead and quicksilver, and that it has given them health problems such as cancer, aching bones, breathing difficulties, rashes and miscarriages.”

MINUSTAH misconduct
The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that an alleged rape by a UN peacekeeper in Haiti is just the latest incident in an alarming pattern of sexual violence:

“In fact, according to the U.N. Conduct and Discipline Unit, there have been 78 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by members of MINUSTAH reported in just the last 7 years.
Responding to the latest allegation, the U.N. mission noted that ‘the UN has a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual exploitation and abuse that we, at MINUSTAH, strictly enforce.’ However the U.N. lacks the authority to hold accountable those who are found responsible. Troops stationed in Haiti under the U.N. mission are subject only to the justice system of their home country.

Through the first 8 months of 2013, there had already been 13 allegations. The latest makes 14. While MINUSTAH makes up less than 10 percent of U.N. peacekeeping forces worldwide, the mission has accounted for over 35 percent of all sexual abuse and exploitation allegations against all such U.N. forces in 2013.”

Corrupt companies
Canada.com reports that companies from wealthy, English-speaking countries dominate the World Bank’s newly updated corporate blacklist:

“The World Bank bans companies from participating in aid and development contracts if they ‘have been sanctioned under the Bank’s fraud and corruption policy.’

Companies with head offices listed in Canada, which does not include overseas subsidiaries, comprise 119 names on the World Bank list, the most of any country. The U.S. is second with 44 debarred firms, Indonesia third with 43 and Britain close behind with 40.”

Juggling act
The Financial Times reports on mining industry opposition to South African attempts at ensuring its people “benefit more equitably” from natural resource exploitation:

“ ‘What you can hear from all parts of Africa and elsewhere is that developing countries don’t want an extractive relationship either with the bigger emerging markets or with the developed countries. They want a relationship where there is value addition to the minerals, so that jobs are created, skills are created and technology imparted, and that this contributes to overall social and economic development,’ [South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan] told the FT.
The bill, as it stands, aims to do this by allowing the mines minister the discretion to determine the quantity and set the price at which mining companies sell to local industries.”

Visit cancelled
Bloomberg reports that Brazil’s president has called off a scheduled trip to Washington over allegations of US espionage:

“[Dilma Rousseff] said Sept. 6 she was outraged by allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency monitored her e-mail and telephone communications with top aides. The NSA also spied on state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA, according to accusations presented by U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald based on documents leaked by fugitive security analyst Edward Snowden.

Rousseff’s decision marks the second head of state meeting with Obama that has been canceled because of documents leaked by Snowden.”

Canadian xenophobia
The National Post reports on a new poll revealing the extent of ethnic and religious hatred across Canada:

“About half of Bloc Quebecois and Parti Quebecois supporters think that Muslims and Jews have too much influence in their province, while nearly a third of British Columbians think the same of Sikhs and Asians, a new poll suggests.
While that sentiment is particularly pronounced by separatists and in Quebec in general, the rest of Canada fares little better in the Forum Poll on multiculturalism, with about one-third of Canadians saying Muslims have too much influence in their home province.”

Unmissable opportunity
Global Witness is among 59 NGOs urging the EU to stop European businesses from “fuelling conflict and human rights abuses” through the purchase of natural resources:

“ ‘As the world’s largest trading bloc, and home to many leading global companies trading and manufacturing natural resources, the EU’s leverage over global supply chains is hugely significant,’ said Chantal Daniels of Christian Aid. ‘This is an unmissable opportunity for the EU to bring in strong and effective legislation. If they fail to do so then business will continue as usual and most companies will not check whether their purchases have funded conflict,’ added Zobel Behalal of CCFD-Terre Solidaire.”

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