Latest Developments, March 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Saying no
Reuters reports that the Cypriot parliament has totally rejected the terms of a proposed international bailout, with not a single MP voting in favour:

“EU countries said before the vote that they would withhold 10 billion euros ($12.89 billion) in bailout loans unless depositors in Cyprus shared the cost of the rescue, and the European Central Bank has threatened to end emergency lending assistance for teetering Cypriot banks.
But jubilant crowds outside parliament broke into applause, chanting: ‘Cyprus belongs to its people.’

Europe’s demand at the weekend that Cyprus break with previous EU practice and impose a levy on bank accounts sparked outrage among Cypriots and unsettled financial markets.”

Empty chambers
The Peace Research Institute Oslo has released a new paper arguing for the inclusion of ammunition, without which warfare cannot be sustained, in a proposed binding international arms trade treaty as final negotiations get underway at the UN:

“In 2011 the total value of identified international transfers of ammunition was USD 5.6 billion. Just fifteen states accounted for 90 per cent of all these exports. The governments of this handful of states already control almost all the global trade in ammunition through existing laws and regulations concerning export, import and transit. These 15 states are (in alphabetical order): Brazil, China, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. Embrace of an Arms Trade Treaty by just this small number of states would encompass the vast majority of the current trade in ammunition.”

Land racket
Global Witness has released a film in which an undercover investigator poses as a foreign investor to expose the process by which indigenous land is getting bought up by commercial interests in Malaysia’s largest state:

“ ‘The Taib family and their friends have treated Sarawak’s natural resources like a personal piggy bank for decades,’ said [Global Witness’s Tom] Picken. ‘This investigation shows how they are willing to stash this dirty cash in jurisdictions like Singapore, which one lawyer in the film describes as “the new Switzerland”. Until Singapore and other financial service centres stop allowing corrupt politicians and criminals to shield themselves and their loot from justice back home, the likes of [Sarawak’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud] will continue to get away with stealing from their own people.’ ”

Illicit association
The Wall Street Journal reports that Argentina’s government has filed charges against a subsidiary of UK banking giant HSBC for facilitating money laundering and tax evasion:

“Ricardo Echegaray, director of federal tax agency Afip, said a six-month investigation uncovered evidence that several companies evaded taxes of 224 million pesos and laundered 392 million pesos through phantom bank accounts at HSBC Bank Argentina SA.
Mr. Echegaray said at a news conference that ‘there was decisive participation’ of HSBC executives in hiding financial information from the authorities.

Executives at the companies targeted in the probe, including HSBC, have been charged with ‘illicit association,’ [an anonymous government source] said.”

Opposing protest
The CBC reports that HudBay Minerals has filed a lawsuit against a First Nation over protests outside a gold, zinc and copper mining project:

“[Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Chief Arlen] Dumas said HudBay and the Manitoba government should have obtained consent from area aboriginals before going ahead with development. The band never surrendered its rights to the land and resources, he said.
Work is well underway on development of the 916-hectare property.
A court hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Wednesday. Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting also wants an injuction against any further protests.”

Not budging
The Lowy Institute for International Policy’s Mike Callaghan argues that the US is harming future prospects of international cooperation by block reforms that would make the International Monetary Fund a bit less Eurocentric:

“It is worrying that one of the arguments against the reforms presented by the US Congressional Research Service is that emerging markets may not be ‘responsible stakeholders’, and increasing their voice ‘could result in the support of economic policies that are less aligned with the preferred policies of advanced economies.’ This is a ‘red rag to a bull’ to the emerging markets.
Commentators may worry about the impact on future US economic leadership, but the rest of the world should be concerned that the US is failing to exercise leadership now in not ratifying the governance reforms. This is undermining the IMF, the G20 and efforts to enhance better international economic cooperation.”

Unfettered industry
Mining Technology reports on the efforts of Canadian civil society groups to change the status quo in which Canada’s overseas mining industry is “not legally regulated or monitored by its own government in any way”:

“According to NGOs, the mining industry has also done some aggressive lobbying against regulation over the years, possibly because of fears it will limit companies’ ability to work in developing countries and contracts will be lost to competitors from countries such as China. However, [Human Rights Watch’s Chris]Albin-Lackey and [MiningWatch Canada’s Jamie] Kneen believe they underestimate the need for the expertise Canadian mining companies offer.
‘The argument…is really quite overblown,’ says Albin-Lackey. ‘To some degree this kind slippery slope argument is genuinely heartfelt from some people in the industry who are sort of suspicious of how far NGO advocates and other advocates actually want to take things, but in reality…there is nothing that we, or anyone else, are calling on the Canadian Government to keep an eye on that Canadian companies don’t already quite vigorously deny being involved with in the first place.’

A New York Times editorial slams the UN for its lack of accountability over the cholera epidemic it caused in Haiti:

“The U.N. said last month that it would not pay financial compensation for the epidemic’s victims, claiming immunity. This is despite overwhelming evidence that the U.N. introduced the disease, which was unknown in Haiti until it suddenly appeared near a base where U.N. peacekeepers had let sewage spill into a river.
Though the U.N. has done much good in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, its handling of cholera is looking like a fiasco. While it insists that it has no legal liability for cholera victims, it must not duck its moral obligations. That means mobilizing doctors and money to save lives now, and making sure the eradication plan gets all the money and support it needs.”