Latest Developments, October 1

In the latest news and analysis…

State of hunger
A trio of UN agencies has released a new report suggesting that, despite a slight drop in global hunger, about an eighth of the world’s population is “still chronically hungry”:

“Despite the progress made worldwide, marked differences in hunger reduction persist. Sub-Saharan Africa has made only modest progress in recent years and remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with one in four people (24.8 per cent) estimated to be hungry.
No recent progress is observed in Western Asia, while Southern Asia and Northern Africa witnessed slow progress. More substantial reductions in both the number of hungry and prevalence of undernourishment have occurred in most countries of East Asia, Southeastern Asia, and in Latin America.”

Torture suit
Courthouse News Service reports that dozens of Iraqi plaintiffs are suing an American company in a US court over alleged war crimes at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison:

“The surviving Iraqi detainees and representatives from the estates of the dead sued CACI Premier Technology and CACI International under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act.

Detainees have sued CACI in the past for alleged torture. In June 2013, a federal judge found that CACI cannot be sued for its alleged role in the torture of Abu Ghraib prisoners. The ruling relies on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, a recent Supreme Court decision in which the justices effectively immunized corporations from claims under the Alien Tort Statute by foreign citizens.”

Red light
A group of UN experts is arguing that a steel project owned by South Korea’s Posco “must not proceed as planned” in India:

The project reportedly threatens to displace over 22,000 people in the Jagatsinghpur District, and disrupt the livelihoods of many thousands more in the surrounding area.

While India has the primary duty to protect the rights of those whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by the project, the experts underlined that ‘POSCO also has a responsibility to respect human rights, and the Republic of Korea, where POSCO is based, should also take measures to ensure that businesses based in its territory do not adversely impact human rights when operating abroad.’

‘People should not be impoverished in the name of development; their rights must take precedence over potential profits,’ stressed the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda.

UN scolded
The Caribbean Journal reports that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said the UN’s handling of the cholera epidemic it caused in Haiti threatens the organization’s “moral authority and credibility”:

“Gonsalves said there was ‘no longer any scientific dispute’ that the UN was responsible for the outbreak, which has killed more than 8,000 people in Haiti and infected more than 600,000.
‘I continue to be deeply disturbed by the UN’s callous disregard of the suffering it has wrought in a fellow CARICOM country, and by the shameful, legalistic avoidance of what is a clear moral responsibility on the part of the UN,’ he said. ‘I call on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to acknowledge unambiguously, and apologize for, this organization’s role in the tragedy, and to take immediate steps to compensate the victims and their families.’ ”

Climate refugee
Agence France-Presse reports on a man from Kiribati who is seeking refugee status in New Zealand due to the impact of rising sea levels on his native island:

“Legal experts consider the man’s case a long shot, but it will nevertheless be closely watched, and might have implications for tens of millions of residents in low-lying islands around the world.

In a transcript of the immigration case obtained by The Associated Press, the Kiribati man describes extreme high tides known as king tides that he says have started to regularly breach Kiribati’s defences — killing crops, flooding homes and sickening residents.”

Dirty business
The Tyee reports that a murder in Mexico fits into a pattern of violence faced by people who oppose Canadian mining companies around the world:

“Far from an isolated event, this kind of story has played out across Latin America, Africa and beyond when Canadian mining firms set up shop. When, occasionally, violence at distant mining sites comes to the attention of Canadian investors or the public, corporate officers typically deflect responsibility onto ‘pre-existing conflicts’ — old rivalries or local power struggles given fresh fuel by the injection of mining money.
What we found in Oaxaca, however, was that those ‘pre-existing’ conflicts are far from petty or ancient feuds. Instead, they reveal serious and deep differences of opinion in affected communities about whether the kind of industrial development a mine offers is a driver for community benefit, or a threat to traditional culture and more sustainable livelihoods. As the lure of personal gain subverts authentic community priorities, local democratic processes are often among the first to fall victim.”

Naming & shaming
Voice of America reports that the International Labour Organization may have problems carrying out its plan to get a bit tougher with abusive garment factories in Cambodia:

Beginning in January, the ILO will publicly release information on factories that fail to comply with the most important elements of the country’s labor laws.

‘In the last three years we’ve seen the factories’ compliance with the Labor Law has been declining – it’s getting worse. Working conditions are deteriorating. That’s not true in every factory, but on the whole this is what we’ve seen. And we’re returning to an old practice – something we did in the early years of the project – to create some gentle public pressure on factories to improve working conditions,’ said [the ILO’s Jason] Judd.

As a result, [the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia] will send letters to its members advising them that they are no longer obliged to let [ILO] inspectors enter their factories.”

Teeth required
SOMO writes that NGOs are “sceptical” about the Dutch government’s latest plans to improve the overseas behaviour of the country’s companies:

“What if companies do not want to cooperate and don’t stick to the agreements? MVO Platform feels that in addition to the commitment of the involved companies, monitoring and regulations from the side of the government will be necessary. The efforts should not be free of obligation and there should be supervision of the covenants. Companies that do not adhere to their agreements should experience real consequences, as should companies that are not entering into such agreements.”

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