Latest Developments, January 25

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone investigation
The New York Times reports that a UN expert has launched an inquiry into the civilian impacts of “drone strikes and other forms of remotely targeted killing” used by Western powers to eliminate alleged militants:

“The immediate focus, [Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben] Emmerson said in an interview, would be on 25 selected drone strikes that had been conducted in recent years in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and the Palestinian territories. That put the panel’s spotlight on the United States, Britain and Israel, the nations that have conducted drone attacks in those areas, but Mr. Emmerson said the inquiry would not be singling out the United States or any other countries.

‘This form of warfare is here to stay, and it is completely unacceptable to allow the world to drift blindly toward the precipice without any agreement between states as to the circumstances in which drone strike targeted killings are lawful, and on the safeguards necessary to protect civilians,’ [Emmerson said].”

Peacekeeping drones
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has granted permission for blue helmets to use surveillance drones over eastern DR Congo:

“U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote to the 15-member council late last month to advise that peacekeepers in Congo planned to use unmanned aerial systems ‘to enhance situational awareness and to permit timely decision-making’ in dealing with a nine-month insurgency by M23 rebels in the mineral-rich east.
In a response to Ban, the president of the council for January, Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Masood Khan, said the body had taken note of the plans for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo to use drones – effectively approving the proposal.
But the council also noted that it would be a trial use ‘in line with the Secretariat’s intention to use assets to enhance situational awareness, if available, on a case-by case basis,’ Khan wrote in a January 22 letter that was released on Thursday.”

Quid pro quo
The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian police believe a Montreal-based engineering firm paid $160 million in bribes to a son of former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi:

“The fortune that was allegedly funnelled to Saadi Gadhafi was used, in part, to buy two yachts, pay condo fees and renovate his luxury Toronto penthouse at a price tag of $200,000. One of the yachts, a champagne-coloured vessel known as the Hokulani, is 150 feet and features a private movie theatre.
The lavish gifts and payments were meant to help SNC land contracts in Libya, RCMP Corporal Brenda Makad alleged in the sworn statement. ‘It is alleged that these funds were paid to him as a reward for influencing the awarding of major contracts to SNC-Lavalin International,’ she stated.”

Hall of shame
Greenpeace Switzerland and the Berne Declaration have awarded the 2013 Public Eye Awards for “particularly glaring cases of companies’ greed for profit and environmental sins”:

“The US bank Goldman Sachs receives this year’s jury award. The public award goes, with a large winning margin, to the oil corporation Shell, in accordance with the wishes of 41,800 online voters.

Michael Baumgartner, Chairman of the Public Eye Awards jury, adds: ‘Not only is Goldman Sachs one of the main winners of the financial crisis, this bank is also a key player in the raw materials casino: it has tapped into these markets as a new source of income and destabilised raw material prices. When food prices break all records, like in 2008, millions of people are plunged into hunger and hardship.’ ”

Less militaristic
The Los Angeles Times reports that US secretary of state nominee John Kerry told those present at his confirmation hearing that America “cannot afford a diplomacy that is defined by troops or drones or confrontation”:

“Kerry, a loyal ally and occasional diplomatic representative of the administration, was giving another signal that the White House intended to close the door on a decade of war, as President Obama said at his inauguration ceremony Monday. His comments veered from the administration script only in their implications about drones, which the White House has embraced as a low-cost counter-terrorism tool but which Kerry’s statement cast in an unflattering light.”

Western weapons
Reuters reports that Russia is largely blaming the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya for the current crisis in Mali that has drawn France and a number of African countries into the armed conflict:

“ ‘Those whom the French and Africans are fighting now in Mali are the (same) people who overthrew the Gaddafi regime, those that our Western partners armed so that they would overthrow the Gaddafi regime,’ [Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov told a news conference.”

Boys’ club
The Guardian’s Jane Martinson writes that the World Economic Forum, currently underway in Davos, is very much a male event:

“Despite introducing a quota which insists that the biggest companies send at least one woman for every four men, the percentage of women attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos has stuck at 17% for the past two years. Many of the companies subject to the quota simply send exactly four men, thus avoiding the need for a woman delegate.

Fernando Morales-de la Cruz, founder of ItiMa, points out that this puts the percentage lower than the 20% membership of Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Council.”

Challenging power
The World Development Movement’s Deborah Doane argues that the newly launched If anti-hunger mega campaign focuses too much on policy fixes and too little on the root causes of world hunger:

“I would never argue against the G8 and international community ending tax dodging; nor would I argue against stopping land grabbing, or stopping food crops being diverted to biofuels. I fully endorse the need to support smallholder farmers. And I’m a great advocate of corporate transparency.
However, the policy solutions in themselves don’t provide the impetus to address power in our unjust globalised food system and our politics. Ensuring everyone has enough to eat is a long-term project that demands far deeper and wide-ranging policy change than that proposed by If, and needs democratic change well beyond the power of the G8. By all means, support the campaign’s individual aims, but ending hunger demands that we go further.”

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Latest Developments, December 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Historical responsibility
The Associated Press reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has placed the onus for tackling climate change on wealthy nations:

“Ban’s comments echoed the concerns of China and other developing countries, which say rich nations have a historical responsibility for global warming because their factories released carbon emissions into the atmosphere long before the climate effects were known.
‘The climate change phenomenon has been caused by the industrialisation of the developed world,’ Ban said. ‘It’s only fair and reasonable that the developed world should bear most of the responsibility.’ ”

Resource alienation
The Daily Nation reports that Canadian firm Bedford Biofuels’ planned jatropha plantation on 120,000 hectares of Kenyan land “has raised questions about land ownership for the first time between neighbours”:

“ ‘When waters ebb, farmers plant rice. The Pokomo have planted rice for centuries. During the floods, pastoralists drive out herds… that’s the traditional way of using the land, keeps the ecosystem functioning,’ explains Ms Serah Munguti, communications and advocacy manager at Nature Kenya.
But environmentalists like Ms Munguti say the arrival of foreign companies like Bedford Biofuels, who come to the delta armed with ambitious plans for large-scale, intensive farming, might disrupt the system.
That, according to Ms Munguti, promises to heighten tribal tensions.
‘The conflict comes because everybody wants the water. The Tana Delta as it is today is a recipe for disaster,’ argues Munguti. ‘There is already conflict over limited resources. Then you look at all the projects that have been proposed and you can imagine what we are setting ourselves up for.’ ”

Middlemen
The New York Times reports that the US gave the green light for Gulf states to supply arms to Libyan rebels during last year’s civil war, but as a similar scenario plays out in Syria, America is worried that weapons are going to “some of the wrong militants”:

“The administration has never determined where all of the weapons, paid for by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, went inside Libya, officials said. Qatar is believed to have shipped by air and sea small arms, including machine guns, automatic rifles, and ammunition, for which it has demanded reimbursement from Libya’s new government. Some of the arms since have been moved from Libya to militants with ties to Al Qaeda in Mali, where radical jihadi factions have imposed Shariah law in the northern part of the country, the former Defense Department official said. Others have gone to Syria, according to several American and foreign officials and arms traders.”

Betting the farm
A new report by the Oakland Institute asks if “you know what your pension fund is doing in Africa”:

“In recent years, the private financial sector has already invested between $10 to $25 billion in farmland and agriculture with little to no oversight; given current investment trends, this amount might double or triple in the coming years. Although agricultural funds are portrayed as positive social investment to help alleviate hunger and the effects of climate change, evidence demonstrates that large land deals are often detrimental to food security, local livelihoods, and the environment–yet little is known about the specific firms and funds driving this investment.”

Camp Integrity
Wired reports that following a $22.3 million no-bid deal, US special forces in Afghanistan are now based at a facility owned by America’s “most infamous private security company”:

You might think that Blackwater, now called Academi, was banished into some bureaucratic exile after its operatives in Afghanistan stole guns from U.S. weapons depots and killed Afghan civilians. Wrong. Academi’s private 10-acre compound outside Kabul, called Camp Integrity, is the new headquarters for perhaps the most important special operations unit in Afghanistan.

But the commandos won’t be the only U.S. military tenants at Camp Integrity. A Pentagon agency called the Counter-Narcoterrorism Program Office also uses Camp Integrity as a base of operations to aid in its war on Afghanistan’s drug lords. Academi provides the office’s small Kabul cell with, among other things, ‘a secure armory and weapons maintenance service.’ ”

Duty to protect
Debbie Stothard of the International Federation for Human rights (FIDH) argues that since the UN adopted the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, “access to justice for those affected has not improved”:

“Company-based grievance mechanisms may be useful for preventing harm and facilitating resolution of minor problems, however, they can in no way replace State-based mechanisms in cases involving egregious violations.
Of course, the best solution for a victim is to have access to an independent court where he/she lives. However, too often, the judicial system where the harm occurs is weak or unable to provide for an effective remedy. This is why we also need to remind home states of multinational companies of their duty to protect and insist that they provide effective avenues to remedy in cases where host states lack the capacity or will to do so.
The UN Working group could explore and recommend how home States, as part of their duty to protect, could facilitate access to justice for victims of human rights abuses in third countries involving corporations under their jurisdiction.”

Major shift
Inter Press Service reports on the IMF’s change of heart regarding government measures to control cross-border financial flows, though critics say more changes are needed:

“ ‘Arguably more important is to ask if the IMF will similarly relent on its manic obsession with keeping inflation extremely low in developing countries,’ [Delhi-based development consultant Rick Rowden] says.
‘Is the IMF now also suddenly in favour of trade protection and subsidy support for building domestic industries? Are they suggesting developing countries actually should ‘discriminate’ and against foreign investors and tilting the playing field in favour of building up domestic firms? I think not.’
He continues: ‘While the IMF’s about-face on capital controls is promising, the oft-cited pronouncements of the death of the Washington Consensus are quite premature.’ ”

Treaty violation
Radio France Internationale reports that Chadian President Idriss Déby, on an official visit to Paris, sought to set the record straight concerning a French NGO accused of attempting to smuggle children out of his country:

“I never, repeat never, pardoned members of Zoe’s Ark. Let there be no doubt. We have a treaty with France. They were convicted, and I respected the treaty. The kidnappers were freed without our consent. It’s a violation of the treaty. I’ve never said it before but today I’m saying it: It’s a violation of the treaty. In principle, the kidnappers should not only serve time in France but must also pay €6 million in compensation.” [Translated from the French.]

Latest Developments, October 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Commitment to development
The Center for Global Development’s David Roodman and Julia Clark describe some of the changes to the latest edition of the Commitment to Development Index, which ranks rich countries “on how much their governments’ policies and actions support global prosperity”:

“Last year the troop surge in Afghanistan lifted the United States to first place on security. The CDI rewarded this military move because the U.N. Security Council continued to endorse the foreign intervention in Afghanistan. We decided in 2012 to impose an additional criterion for inclusion: an operation also needs to be reasonably describable as primarily intended to help the citizens of the country in question. The war in Afghanistan does not mean that test in our judgment. The 2011 intervention in Libya does.
The conception of ‘security’ has expanded beyond the use of force. Countries are now rewarded for participating in international security arrangements such as the International Criminal Court and Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel land mines.”

Setting priorities
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, sketches out his vision of a “food security first” approach to biofuel development:

“The best practice cases of small-scale sustainable biofuel production may not be geared for exports. This is more than a coincidence: once the primary interest of agricultural systems becomes the cheap, bulk production of export commodities, the positive outcomes of smallholder engagement and intercropping of local staples are always likely to be lost.
The Institute for European Environmental Policy estimated that, to reach its initial 10% target for renewables in transport fuels, the EU would have had to import 41% of its biodiesel and 50% of its ethanol needs by 2020. So even with lower targets, dependence on imports – and therefore pressure on the structure of farming systems in the global south – are always the likely outcome of EU biofuel mandates.”

Drones over Yemen
Reuters reports that a US drone has killed nine suspected al Qaeda members in Yemen, based on eyewitness accounts of “six charred bodies and the scattered remains of three other people”:

“While Washington usually avoids comment on the strikes in Yemen, the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks U.S. operations, says as many as 56 civilians have been killed this year by drones.
Many Yemenis complain the U.S. focus on militants is a violation of sovereignty that is driving many towards al Qaeda and diverting attention from other pressing issues such as unemployment, corruption, water depletion and economic revival.”

Drone journalism
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan writes that her paper is not doing enough to inform readers about US drone policy:

“Since the article in May, its reporting has not aggressively challenged the administration’s description of those killed as ‘militants’ — itself an undefined term. And it has been criticized for giving administration officials the cover of anonymity when they suggest that critics of drones are terrorist sympathizers.
Americans, according to polls, have a positive view of drones, but critics say that’s because the news media have not informed them well. The use of drones is deepening the resentment of the United States in volatile parts of the world and potentially undermining fragile democracies, said Naureen Shah, who directs the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia University’s law school.
‘It’s portrayed as picking off the bad guys from a plane,’ she said. ‘But it’s actually surveilling entire communities, locating behavior that might be suspicious and striking groups of unknown individuals based on video data that may or may not be corroborated by eyeballing it on the ground.’ ”

Paris massacre
France 24 reports that French President François Hollande spoke of “bloody repression” as he marked the 51st anniversary of the killings of Algerian protesters by Paris police:

“On that fateful day, French police – under the leadership of Paris prefect Maurice Papon – brutally crushed peaceful demonstrations of Algerian anti-war protesters who had gathered in and around the French capital to protest against a French security crackdown in Algeria.

More than half-a-century later, the details surrounding the October 17 massacre – including the casualty figures – remain murky. A day after the demonstrations, the left-leaning French newspaper Libération reported the official toll as two dead, several wounded and 7,500 arrests. The death toll, however, was disputed by the [Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN)], which claimed that dozens were killed.  Many of the bodies were found floating in the River Seine.”

Bribe banking
The Sunday Times reports that British defence firm GPT used the UK’s biggest bank to funnel millions in alleged bribes to Saudi officials:

“HSBC accounts in London and New York were used to provide the alleged kickbacks as part of a money-laundering scheme. It was operated by the defence company to channel cash into private company accounts in the Cayman Islands.
It is claimed the payments form part of a total £72m in sweeteners paid by GPT Special Project Management to a Saudi prince who is a close relative of the ruler, King Abdullah.
The disclosure will raise fresh questions about HSBC, which was recently implicated by the US authorities in the laundering of billions of dollars for drugs barons and terrorists.”

Asset seizure
Reuters reports that Ecuadorean plaintiffs say a court has given them permission to seize $200 million of assets belonging to oil giant Chevron:

“The plaintiffs from villages in the oil-rich Amazon won an $18.2 billion case against the oil giant over claims that Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001, contaminated the area from 1964 to 1992. Damages were increased to $19 billion in July.
Among the assets ordered turned over are $96.3 million that Ecuador’s government owes Chevron, money held in Ecuadorean bank accounts by Chevron, and licensing fees generated by the use of the company’s trademarks in the country, the plaintiffs said.”

Beyond aid targets
The Guardian reports that France’s development minister says he plans to focus more on “policies with the potential to help or hurt poor countries” than on traditional aid:

“On agriculture, particularly the common agricultural policy (CAP), which has been criticised for damaging the interests of poor countries despite reforms that have curbed the worst excesses, Canfin said France – where farmers have resisted CAP changes – would push for a ‘greener, more sustainable’ EU policy. On trade, he said France was willing to delay a 2014 deadline for completing economic partnership agreements (EPAs). EPAs are disliked by poor countries for forcing them to open their markes to competition that they cannot withstand. Canfin said France was willing to change the deadline to 2016, to allow more time to take into account the reservations of developing countries.”

Latest Developments, September 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Hippocratic development
Harvard University’s Dani Rodrik makes his case for a different approach to development after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015:

“First, a new global compact should focus more directly on rich countries’ responsibilities. Second, it should emphasize policies beyond aid and trade that have an equal, if not greater, impact on poor countries’ development prospects.
A short list of such policies would include: carbon taxes and other measures to ameliorate climate change; more work visas to allow larger temporary migration flows from poor countries; strict controls on arms sales to developing nations; reduced support for repressive regimes; and improved sharing of financial information to reduce money laundering and tax avoidance.
Notice that most of these measures are actually aimed at reducing damage – for example, climate change, military conflict, and financial crime – that otherwise results from rich countries’ conduct. ‘Do no harm’ is as good a principle here as it is in medicine.”

New beginning
Reuters reports that Somalia’s lawmakers have chosen “political newcomer” Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country’s new president:

“Somalia has lacked an effective central government since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
The capital, however, which until last year witnessed street battles between al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants and African soldiers, is now a vibrant city where reconstructed houses are slowly replacing bullet-riddled structures.
Monday’s vote was seen as a culmination of a regionally brokered, U.N.-backed roadmap to end that conflict, during which tens of thousands of people were killed and many more fled.
Despite being on the back foot, the militants still control swathes of southern and central Somalia, while pirates, regional administrations and local militia group also vie for control of chunks of the mostly lawless Horn of Africa country.”

Questionable exports
Lisa Nandy, chair of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group, explains why the body is looking into government financing of British exports

“Concerns have been raised by a number of academics and NGOs that, because cover is provided for projects that the private sector won’t fund, the majority of business on [UK Export Finance]’s books are in risky projects or places, overwhelmingly in the arms trade, oil and aerospace industries. Airbus, for example, received 89% of the [Export Credits Guarantee Department]’s support last year.
Campaigners have also claimed that the Department is under very little scrutiny – the majority of projects are not screened for human rights abuses, environmental impact or even child labour; there is no mechanism for complaints for the people who are affected by the projects it supports and there is no evaluation of the projects that the government invests in.”

Nature’s value
The Guardian reports that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has released a list of the world’s 100 most endangered species and suggested certain seemingly well-intentioned conservation tactics may actually be harmful:

“In order to justify spending money on conservation efforts, scientists have felt under increasing pressure to argue for the human benefits that would accrue – for instance, calling for forests to be preserved because they can prevent landslides and naturally purify water for human consumption rather than because forests should be maintained for their own sake.
In some cases, the potential for ‘useful’ purposes for some species is contributing to their destruction. The wild yam of South Africa is supposed to have cancer-alleviating properties, according to traditional medicine, but the resulting hunt for the plant is threatening its very existence.
In others, the commercialisation of nature is having a damaging effect – the Franklin’s bumble bee, found in California and Oregon, is under threat because of diseases spread by commercially bred bumblebees.”

Biofuel U-turn
Reuters reports the European Union plans to impose limits on the use of “crop-based biofuels” due to concerns they do little to reduce emissions while contributing to higher food prices:

“The draft rules, which will need the approval of EU governments and lawmakers, represent a major shift in Europe’s much-criticized biofuel policy and a tacit admission by policymakers that the EU’s 2020 biofuel target was flawed from the outset.
The plans also include a promise to end all public subsidies for crop-based biofuels after the current legislation expires in 2020, effectively ensuring the decline of a European sector now estimated to be worth 17 billion euros ($21.7 billion) a year.”

Carbon crash
The Guardian reports that the UN’s global carbon trading scheme has “essentially collapsed”:

“Billions of dollars have been raised in the past seven years through the United Nations’ system to set up greenhouse gas-cutting projects, such as windfarms and solar panels, in poor nations. But the failure of governments to provide firm guarantees to continue with the system beyond this year has raised serious concerns over whether it can survive.
A panel convened by the UN reported on Monday at a meeting in Bangkok that the system, known as the clean development mechanism (CDM), was in dire need of rescue. The panel warned that allowing the CDM to collapse would make it harder in future to raise finance to help developing countries cut carbon.”

Time to reassess
Tamtam Info reports that France’s state-owned nuclear group Areva has changed its plans for a new Nigerien uranium mining project since receiving the environmental green light:

“Given the real threat to both the environment and public health that Areva’s decision poses, the Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity (CRIIRAD) and the environmental NGO Aghir in Man has alerted the Nigerien government and demanded that Areva undergo another environment impact assessment for its uranium mining project at Imouraren and provide precise answers relating to the hydrological impact and storage of radioactive waste, as well as the means for compensating affected populations.” [Translated from the French.]

Green counterrevolution
The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology’s Vandana Shiva argues that industrial agriculture is the cause of hunger and malnutrition, rather than the cure:

“Industrial agriculture, sold as the Green Revolution and 2nd Green Revolution to Third World countries, is a chemical intensive, capital intensive, fossil fuel intensive system. It must, by its very structure, push farmers into debt, and indebted farmers everywhere are pushed off the land, as their farms are foreclosed and appropriated. In poor countries, farmers trapped in debt for purchasing costly chemicals and non-renewable seeds sell the food they grow to pay back debt. That is why hunger today is a rural phenomenon. The debt-creating negative economy of high cost industrial farming is a hunger producing system, not a hunger reduction system. Wherever chemicals and commercial seeds have spread, farmers are in debt, and lose entitlement to their own produce. They become trapped in poverty and hunger.”

Latest Developments, August 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Ecological overdraft
The Global Footprint Network has declared August 22 Earth Overshoot Day, “the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year”:

“We are now operating in overdraft. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In 1992, Earth Overshoot Day—the approximate date our resource consumption for a given year exceeds the planet’s ability to replenish—fell on October 21. In 2002, Overshoot Day was on October 3.”

High-level apology
The Associated Press reports that South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula has apologized to striking Lonmin miners in the wake of last week’s police shootings that killed 34 of them, while the UK-based company has taken a harder line:

“When miners started shaking plastic bags of bullet casings at her, evidence of the many bullets that police fired in volleys last Thursday, she said: ‘I am begging, I beg and I apologize, may you find forgiveness in your hearts.’

The government did intervene in favor of the strikers, persuading mine managers that no striking miners should be fired in the week that South Africa officially mourns the killings, the presidency said Tuesday.
Managers of Lonmin PLC platinum mine had ordered strikers to report for duty by 7 a.m. Tuesday or get fired, even as some family members still were searching for missing loved ones, not knowing whether they were dead or alive among some 250 arrested protesters or in one of the hospitals”

Taking responsibility
The South African Press Association reports that the Bench Marks Foundation has said Lonmin “has to bear a heavy burden of responsibility” for the striking miners’ deaths:

“ ‘Lonmin must retract their insensitivity towards the grieving families and apologise for their lack of empathy and harsh response, especially by giving ultimatums to grieving workers to return to work immediately,’ the foundation said.
Lonmin and other platinum-producing companies in the area bore responsibility for the negative affects of mining on the lives of people in the Bojanala Platinum district municipality.
‘The Marikana tragedy cannot be understood without looking at the negative economic, social and environmental impacts of platinum mining for both workers and local communities in the area.’ ”

Bribery memo
The Age reports that a newly discovered document links the governor of Australia’s central bank and his former deputy to “one of the worst corporate corruption cover-ups” in the country’s history:

“The 2007 memo shows that almost two years before a bribery expose by The Age forced the [Reserve Bank of Australia] to call in police, [former deputy governor Ric] Battellino was given a detailed and explosive memo cataloguing bribery and corruption inside Note Printing Australia, a wholly owned and supervised subsidiary of the bank.
The memo, details of which have remained secret until now, was addressed to ‘Deputy Governor RBA’ and written by a senior executive of NPA, which along with sister firm Securency was charged last year by Australian Federal Police with bribing foreign officials via overseas agents in order to win contracts.”

Shell’s army
The Guardian reports that oil giant Shell is paying tens of millions to Nigeria’s security forces, as well as employing a private police force and “a network of plainclothes informants” to protect its Niger Delta assets:

“Activists expressed concern that the escalating cost of Shell’s security operation in the delta was further destabilising the oil rich region and helping to fuel rampant corruption and criminality. ‘The scale of Shell’s global security expenditure is colossal,’ said Ben Amunwa of London-based oil watchdog Platform. ‘It is staggering that Shell transferred $65m of company funds and resources into the hands of soldiers and police known for routine human rights abuses.’

‘This proves what we in the Niger delta have known for years – that the air force, the army, the police, they are paid for with Shell money and they are all at the disposal of the company for it to use it any how it likes,’ said Celestine Nkabari at the Niger delta campaign group Social Action.”

Oil transparency
Najwa al-Beshti, a former employee of the National Oil Corporation of Libya, calls on the US Securities and Exchange Commission and European regulators to bring in strong transparency requirements for extractive industry companies operating abroad:

“Oil industry lobbyists are using their influence in Washington and Brussels to try to undermine transparency measures that could help prevent future tyrants from emerging. That must not be allowed to happen.
When Colonel Qaddafi was in power, I worked for Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation, in a position that allowed me to observe corruption firsthand. I helped produce audits that detailed the mismanagement of millions of dollars of oil revenues, including the systematic underpricing of oil and the discounting of prices for select foreign companies.”

Ethanol rules
The Washington Post reports on a new study exploring the potential impact on global food prices of various possible adjustments to US policy regulating ethanol production:

“Under the fourth option there, the EPA allows a fairly big relaxation of the ethanol rule next year. (A waiver this year is unlikely.) Refiners are required to use 25 percent less ethanol. And ethanol producers can carry over their credits from previous years. In that case, corn prices could drop more than 20 percent, to $6.56 per bushel. That’s about where corn prices would have been if we only had a ‘weak drought’ this year. In other words, by relaxing the ethanol rule, the EPA could essentially turn a ‘strong drought’ into a ‘weak drought’ as far as prices are concerned.”

Ecuador bashing
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues that the British media’s treatment of Ecuador during the drama involving Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been characterized by “the dismissiveness that remains the hallmark of western foreign policy instincts”:

“In otherwise thoughtful comments criticising the Ecuadorian government on its press freedom record on Channel 4 News last week, David Aaronovitch, an influential British journalist said: “I’m not sure [the Ecuadorians] would understand what human rights were if they came and smacked them over the back of the head.”
Such language doubtless makes for good TV, but it’s both incredibly rude and not a little myopic: many people around the world would say the same of Britain – and with good cause, given the hardly glowing record of its government and companies.”