Latest Developments, February 7

In the latest news and analysis…

French exit strategy
Reuters reports that France is calling for UN peacekeepers to take over from the “African-led military mission” in Mali by April:

“According to diplomats at the United Nations, the Security Council is looking at adopting a resolution at the end of February or early March to replace the current African mission under the United Nations.
It would then take 45-60 days to ‘re-hat’ them as U.N. forces, which would involve a reduction of their number, the diplomats said.

French sources said the exact role of French troops in Mali under a U.N. mandate would have to be defined.”

Alternative Mining Indaba
The Daily Maverick’s Rebecca Davis writes that South Africa’s annual mining mega-convention, the Mining Indaba, is being accused of “deliberately excluding any potentially oppositional voices, like those of civil society or – crazy idea – miners”:

“A venture now in its fourth year, the [Alternative Mining Indaba] aims to give voice to mining’s critics, and members of mining-affected communities. Made up of a collective of NGOs and faith-based organisations, the impetus for the initiative came from Tanzania, where mining communities complained of toxic effects on health. ‘For 18 years the Mining Indaba has been meeting and talking about dividing up mineral resources, but there is no representation of people that live in these areas and are most seriously inconvenienced,’ Mandla Hadebe, programme manager for the Economic Justice Network, told the Daily Maverick.
The group of protestors carried signs bearing the words ‘Remember the slain of Marikana’, ‘No To Tax Dodgers’, and ‘If It’s Not Okay In Canada, It’s Not Okay In Africa!’ ”

Sharing the wealth
Bloomberg reports that Zambia’s state-controlled investor is calling on foreign mining companies such as Vedanta and Glencore to contribute higher dividends:

“Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, privatized its mining industry between 1996 and 2001, maintaining minority stakes ranging from 10 percent to 21 percent in the companies, which it holds through ZCCM. The degree to which the country benefits from its copper resources has become a point of political contention, with the government accusing mining companies of avoiding as much as $2 billion a year in tax.
ZCCM wants the companies in which it has shareholdings to alter their dividend policies to improve transparency and increase payouts, [ZCCM CEO Mukela] Muyunda said in the Jan. 31 interview. He said dividends are the last priority for some companies, and this ‘doesn’t work for us.’ ”

Missed opportunity
Global Witness argues the European Commission’s proposed new legislation on financial crime does not go far enough in two key areas:

“Criminals currently find it easy to abuse European companies to hide their identity and therefore their assets. ‘Who owns and controls European companies should not be secret,’ said Robert Palmer, campaigner at Global Witness. ‘The names of the ultimate, beneficial, owners should be made public.’ A European Commission study found that public registries of the beneficial owners of companies would be more cost effective than other options.
Instead, under the Commission’s proposal, companies will only be required to know themselves who their ultimate owners are. This will be of limited help.

The proposal does not do enough to tackle professionals that facilitate tax evasion. ‘The Commission proposal allows bankers, lawyers and accountants who facilitate tax evasion to get away with it. They should face money laundering charges for this insidious activity which costs developing countries billions every year’ said Alex Marriage, Policy and Outreach Analyst at [the European Network on Debt and Development].”

Open secret
Gawker’s Adrian Chen tears into some of America’s most respected news organizations for decisiding not to report on a drone base in Saudi Arabia for more than a year after learning about it:

“In the case of the Saudi drone base, the Times and the Post weren’t protecting a state secret: They were helping the CIA bury an inconvenient story.
Reading the Times and Post stories on the Saudia Arabia drone base used by the CIA to assassinate American cleric Anwar al-awlaki in Yemen, one is left with the impression that its existence had become known for the first time today. In fact, the Times of London reported 18 months ago that the CIA was ‘launching daily missions with unmanned Predator aircraft from bases in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates.’ ”

Not budging
Inter Press Service reports that the World Bank is standing by its forestry policies despite both internal and external criticism:

“ ‘The allocation of large logging concessions, millions of hectares, to mostly foreign companies is still the prevailing model in many countries in the Congo Basin to manage forests,’ Susanne Breitkopf, a Washington-based senior political adviser on forest and climate with Greenpeace International, told IPS, referring to the vast tropical rainforests that cover six countries in Central Africa.
‘That clashes with local use by communities, and economically the local communities are not benefitting from this. As it turns out, these are often low-paid, low-quality jobs without contracts. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we found that over time local communities are often poorer than when the companies arrive.’ ”

History matters
Based on his experiences at last month’s World Economic Forum, Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz writes that the global financial crisis has reduced the West’s power but has not necessarily changed how the rest of the world feels towards it:

“In response to one development expert’s heartfelt despair that unfair trade treaties and unfulfilled promises of aid have cost the developed countries their moral authority, [a mining company executive from a developing country] retorted: ‘The West never had any moral authority.’ Colonialism, slavery, the splintering of Africa into small countries, and a long history of resource exploitation may be matters of the distant past to the perpetrators, but not so to those who suffered as a result.”

Force majeure
Mining.com reports that uranium supplies are under threat due to a huge storm in Kazakhstan and unrest in the Sahel:

“State-owned Kazatomprom has since reported that operation of the affected uranium mines has been halted, and that repair of the power transmission lines could take anywhere between one to five months. Analysts estimate that the power outage could lead to a shortfall in uranium supply of up to 21 million pounds.

Areva’s two uranium operations in Niger have an estimated total output of 10.9 million pounds of uranium this year, much of which could be disrupted if conflict spreads from Mali to Niger, where France has already taken the precaution of dispatching special forces soldiers and helicopters.”

Latest Developments, February 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Accountability deficit
The School of Oriental and African Studies’ Michael Jennings argues there are few consequences for international NGOs that fail to deliver on their humanitarian promises or, in some cases, do actual harm to the people they have pledged to help.
“The question of accountability has often looked to how NGOs answer to donors or to the national governments of countries in which they are operating. From a financial or legal perspective, this makes perfect sense. NGOs should account for the money they spend as contracted agents of donors. And they should, of course, be working within the parameters of national regulatory frameworks and laws (although the fact that NGOs themselves often sit on the committees that draw up such regulatory systems is troubling).

The best NGOs do think about how they can be accountable to the communities and individuals with whom they work. But the issue is too important to be left to self-regulation. Development interventions involve change, and change can result in profoundly negative outcomes for some or many. Unintended as these negative consequences may be, those affected should be afforded a better means to hold to account development actors.”

Mining profits
Bench Marks Foundation’s John Capel writes that calls for increased investment in Africa rarely incorporate a discussion of “how this investment should be undertaken,” a shortcoming the Alternative Mining Indaba seeks to rectify.
“We believe there is a role for independent monitoring and evaluation and a role for community monitoring to hold mining corporations accountable.
But to do so we need independent funds to capacitate communities to engage with mining houses on a level playing field. To back this up we need an independent grievance mechanism, independent of the company, supported by an independent fund contributed to by mining corporations. It must be quick and easy to use, bring redress, be able to hold corporations accountable and must address any adverse impacts on communities.”

Arms control
The Inter Press Service reports on the continuing campaign for stricter controls on international weapons sales ahead of next week’s pre-negotiation meeting regarding the Arms Trade Treaty which is supposed to be finalized later this year.
“ ‘There is more control on the selling of bananas than there is on conventional arms,’ said Zobel Behalal, peace and conflicts advocacy officer for CCFD-Terre Solidare, a French-based Catholic NGO.
‘For us, this is a true scandal because states can do what they want without taking into account the impact on civilian populations,’ he told IPS.”

Immunity lost
Agence France-Presse reports Iraqi officials want to rein in private security contractors whose large number “negatively impacts the security situation in the country.”
“The firms ‘have to understand that … they don’t have free (movement) in the country. They have to follow the instruction, they have to hold the permit, a valid permit, and they are not allowed to violate the Iraqi laws.’
‘They are not exempted as before, and they are not getting any sort of immunity,’ [government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh] said.
‘We do need them, definitely, we do need them, (and) we are not going to stop them, but definitely, we will limit their work,’ Dabbagh said.”

Living wage
The Phnom Penh Post reports on a push to quadruple the wages of Cambodian garment workers.
“[Asia Floor Wage] coordinator Anannya Bhattacharjee said the $281 calculation was based on a worker’s monthly nutritional needs according to figures obtained from governments and international institutions.
She added that such an increase would rely to some extent on clothing brands and retailers paying more for the finished product.
‘There is enough money in the global supply chain for brands to pay Cambodian manufacturers enough so that garment workers can earn that,’ she said.”

Down the toilet
A new World Wildlife Fund report suggests American consumers are contributing to the destruction of Indonesia’s rain forests by buying certain brands of toilet paper.
“In recent years, APP has greatly expanded into the U.S. tissue market, including through Paseo and Livi tissue products. Oasis Brands, which markets Paseo, announced in 2011 that Paseo had become the fastest-growing brand of toilet paper in the U.S.  Paseo and Livi are also marketed as ‘away-from-home’ products used in public restrooms in restaurants, office buildings, schools and hotels.”

Universal joy
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny responds to Japanese calls to make happiness one of the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Goals with a more American plea to focus on the “right to pursue happiness.”
“Most differences in life satisfaction poll answers are due to inherited characteristics, while less than 3 percent can be explained by socioeconomic status, education, income, marital status, and religious commitment combined.  As I suggest in this CGD Essay, for a society to maximize average happiness poll answers, its most effective course would probably be to put everyone on an antidepressant-ecstasy cocktail and (given the strong genetic component of happiness poll answers) add in chemical sterilization for the naturally unhappy.  Is that really what we want out of a new round of Millennium Development Goals?”

Geography of trade
Drew University’s Fred Curtis and Rutgers’s David Ehrenfeld argue the end of globalization – or at least its considerable reduction – is nigh but they see as many opportunities as problems in the inevitable transition to more localized life.
“It is now critical for economic planners, laypersons and governments to recognise that long-term energy and climate realities will impose limits on the global movement of goods. Trade pacts, like the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and business models, like Walmart with its transoceanic supply chains, will make less sense as the foundations of global trade are undermined. This is not the result of either ideology or policy. Only when we accept these realities can we design and rebuild less vulnerable patterns of production and trade throughout the world. Nearly every country has existing examples of sound, regional development that can be used as models.”