Latest Developments, December 1

In the latest news and analysis…

Climate fund row
The World Development Movement’s Murray Worthy writes about civil society opposition to perceived attempts by the US and UK to turn the Green Climate Fund into a “Greedy Corporate Fund” at the Durban climate talks.
“The role of private investment in financing climate activities must be decided at the national and sub-national levels in line with countries’ priorities, not corporate bottom lines. The move to allow the private sector to go directly to the Green Climate Fund for money undermines the possibility of a democratic, participatory process for meeting the needs of communities struggling to fight climate change,” according to Lidy Nacpil of Jubilee South Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development.

Durban deadlock
Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati argues there is little hope of a meaningful agreement at the Durban climate talks due in large part to a growing “What’s in it for me?” attitude from the US in global affairs.
“Moreover, abandoning the Kyoto Protocol’s exemption of developing countries from obligations for current emissions, the US has insisted on obligations from China and India that reflect a common form of ‘taxation’ of emissions. But there are persuasive reasons why these countries insist that the obligations must instead reflect per capita emissions, a criterion that would require far greater emission cuts by the US than its leaders now contemplate.”

Big decision
The Tico Times reports Costa Rica’s top court has annulled a Canadian mining company’s concession for the controversial Las Crucitas open-pit gold mine and suggested the project’s approval may have involved corruption at the highest level.
“The court’s ruling is the latest in a long-running battle between opponents of the mine and Industrias Infinto, which is a subsidiary of the Canadian company Infinito Gold. The company was awarded a mining concession by then-president Óscar Arias in 2006, but lawsuits by environmental groups kept the project hobbled through November of 2010 when the Sala I struck down the project. Industrias Infinito appealed that decision.
Wednesday’s ruling, however, dismissed the mining company’s appeals. The court also asked Costa Rica’s public prosecutor to initiate proceedings to see if criminal investigations are warranted for individuals in the Costa Rican government involved in the mining saga, including former President Arias. The project was first proposed in 1993.”

Public-private police
An Atlantic article by Samantha Michaels looks into allegations that American mining giant Freeport-McMoRan is bankrolling the violent repression of an ongoing labour dispute at its Grasberg facility in Indonesia and, indirectly, the fight against Papuan separatists.
“Freeport has given $79.1 million to police and military forces in the past 10 years, according to a group called Indonesian Corruption Watch.  Most of that funding has been through in-kind contributions such as food, housing, fuel, and travel costs, but officers have also received direct payments. A report by the NGO Global Witness shows that, between 2001 and 2003, Freeport gave nearly $250,000 to a controversial commander who in 1999 led military action in East Timor, where soldiers killed more than a thousand people.
Since then, the security funding has grown: Freeport’s financial documents show that the company paid $14 million to support government security forces in 2010, up from $10 million in 2009 and $8 million in 2008.”

Giving with one hand…
The Guardian reports that Norway is facing accusations of hypocrisy for funding forest protection in Indonesia while its state pension fund invests in commercial projects that aggravate deforestation in the Southeast Asian nation.
“The UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency wrote in October to the country’s prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg to call for a new approach. The NGO said Norway’s financial involvement in Indonesia was a net negative for the environment. It said that the $30m (£19m) that Norway provided for Redd projects in 2010 is just of the fifth of the profits and a third of the investment value in companies involved in ‘logging, plantations, and mining companies currently deforesting large areas of Indonesia.’”

Bush in Africa
Amnesty International is calling on the governments of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia to arrest former US president George W. Bush during this week’s visit over his alleged authorization of torture during his time in the White House.
“Amnesty International recognizes the value of raising awareness about cervical and breast cancer in Africa, the stated aim of the visit, but this cannot lessen the damage to the fight against torture caused by allowing someone who has admitted to authorizing water-boarding to travel without facing the consequences prescribed by law.”

Hunger crimes
Picking up on the recent claim by a UN official that the famine in Somalia is the result of crimes against humanity committed by the Transitional Federal Government and the militant group al-Shabaab, the University of Minnesota’s Abdi Ismail Samatar argues the accuser must also share in the blame.
“[W]hile the coordinator [of the UN’s Monitoring Group for Somalia] has blamed al-Shabaab for denying access to agencies like [the World Food Programme], the timeline of events appear to point the blame on the Monitoring Group’s tabloid-like research and report writing. We think that al-Shabaab is guilty of condemning people to starvation, but those who used the United Nations Monitoring Group as the vehicle to deliver unfounded half-truths also played a vital role in inducing the calamity by illegitimately damaging the credibility of WFP, which directly contributed to the dearth of food deliveries to the population.
The gossip-based report also indirectly precipitated al-Shabaab’s cruel decision and appears to coincide with the US’ decision to withdraw support for WFP.”

Philanthropic racism
The University of St. Gallen’s Martin Herrndorf argues the message of an ad intended to draw attention to global poverty – “Millions die, no one cries” – was undermined by its ethnocentric wording.
“Yet – ‘no one cries’ means ‘no one who is white and lives in places with fancy bus stops.’ Apparently, black people in poor countries crying don’t count. The poster thus is at least Eurocentric, if not outright racist.”

Latest Developments, July 11

Flying and a wedding made last weekend another long one for Beyond Aid, so we have some catching up to do on the latest news and analysis…

The biggest news of the last few days was of course the birth of a new country. All may not be well between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, but South Sudan officially came into being on Saturday, even if maps may take a little time to catch up with the new reality. Map aficionados will appreciate the Guardian’s interactive political map of Africa, which shows the continent’s shifting borders since 1900. Its creators, however, apparently forgot about Ceuta and Melilla, the final European possessions on the African mainland, which may be too small for the map’s scale but deserved a mention in the accompanying text.

The UN declared in its annual progress report on the Millennium Development Goals that the objectives set over a decade ago are still attainable by the 2015 deadline. While there has been progress in many parts of the world, much of the reduction in those living in poverty has occurred in East Asia. So, even though there has been some good news out of India, 54 percent of its people still live on under $2 a day.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon marked World Population Day with a call for an end to global poverty and inequality: “We have enough food for everyone, yet nearly a billion go hungry. We have the means to eradicate many diseases, yet they continue to spread. We have the gift of a rich natural environment, yet it remains subject to daily assault and exploitation. All people of conscience dream of peace, yet too much of the world is in conflict and steeped in armaments.” The UN press release also points out that many wealthier countries are worried about low fertility and aging in a world where the population has doubled since 1968.

Joseph Stiglitz touches on the problems posed by this apparent lack of solidarity when he argues for an overhaul of the global financial system, which he says is bad for rich and poor, but especially the poor: “If you just focus on nationalities, you cannot be self-regulated. This kind of valuation focuses on individual units, but not the whole system.” Similarly, George Soros argues the eurozone’s biggest problem is trying to find national solutions to continental problems.

The US has announced it will withhold $800 million in military assistance to Pakistan, while it has delivered only two percent of the agricultural aid it pledged at the 2009 G8 summit in L’Aquila, according to a new report by anti-poverty group ONE.

Senegal announced it would extradite former Chadian president Hissène Habré, who is accused of being responsible for at least 40,000 deaths during his reign in the 1980s, back to his native country. But the Senegalese government had a change of heart after the UN expressed concerns the man who once enjoyed French and US backing in a war with Gadhafi’s Libya could be subjected to torture upon his return. The case has long been controversial in Senegal, as many there feel the pressure to try Habré comes from outside the continent, thereby fuelling the perception that African rulers are held to account far more than their counterparts from wealthier countries.

Such objections might be calmed by the release of a new Human Rights Watch report – authored by none other than Reed Brody who has played a lead role in the campaign to try Habré – calling for former US president George W. Bush to be investigated over the use of torture during his administration. The report also names his vice-president Dick Cheney, former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and ex-CIA director George Tenet. “The US has a legal obligation to investigate these crimes,” according to Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth. “If the US doesn’t act on them, other countries should.” Roth added: “When the US government shields its own officials from investigation and prosecution, it makes it easier for others to dismiss global efforts to bring violators of serious crimes to justice.”

Also, following the European court of human rights rulings against Britain in a pair of cases involving UK abuses in Iraq, Human Rights Watch’s Clive Baldwin says an independent body, rather than the military itself, should investigate allegations of serious wrongdoing.

Canada has announced it will boycott the UN Conference on Disarmament until North Korea’s chairmanship ends next month, at which point it will push for changes that go beyond the rotating presidency. The US, on the other hand, does not believe a controversial chair can cause much damage in a consensus-based organization. The requirement of a consensus is one of the aspects Canada would like to see changed.

In a Guardian piece on the UK’s Department for International Development’s newfound enthusiasm for turning to the private sector to help reduce world poverty, a department official opines: “We suspect that the development community as a whole hasn’t looked hard enough at non-state provision of services.” The author characterizes the comment as “quite bold given that developing countries were very much forced to look at “non-state provision of services” in the 1980s when the World Bank and the IMF introduced its structural adjustment programme, which actually reversed development progress in some countries.” It is, however, more difficult to dispute the DFID official’s assertion that NGOs are not accountable to the public either.