Latest Developments, November 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Border missiles
The New York Times reports that Turkey may be looking to install Patriot missiles along its border with Syria, giving rise to speculation that the US and its allies are working on “a more robust plan” to deal with the Syrian conflict:

“The development, coming only hours after President Obama had won re-election, raised speculation that the United States and its allies were working on a more robust plan to deal with the 20-month-old conflict in Syria during the second Obama administration term. Further reinforcing that speculation, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said he was prepared to open direct lines of communication with Syrian rebel commanders.

The lack of a cohesive Syrian opposition has been partly blamed for preventing a more robust international effort on Syria. Efforts to create a more unified coalition of anti-Assad groups sputtered along this week in Doha, Qatar, where a meeting was scheduled for Thursday to try to implement an American-backed plan to broaden the opposition to include more factions, including more representatives of the military units doing the fighting.”

Libyan commandos
Reuters reports that the US is seeking recruits among Libya’s militias for “a commando force which they plan to train to fight militants”:

“A team of about 10 Americans from the embassy in Tripoli visited a paramilitary base in the eastern city of Benghazi 10 days ago to interview and get to know potential recruits, according to militia commander Fathi al-Obeidi.

Obeidi said the interviewers also took note of the types of uniforms the men were wearing and asked about their opinion on security in Libya.
He said that the team of American officials included the U.S. charge d’affaires Laurence Pope and the future head trainer of the Libyan special forces team.
‘I’ve been asked to help pick about 400 of these young men between the ages of 19 and 25 to train for this force,’ he said. ‘They could be trained either in Libya or abroad.’ ”

Growing smaller
Inter Press Service reports on efforts to devise a plan for reducing the “human footprint on Earth’s systems”:

“ ‘By not proactively pursuing a path of degrowth, then we accept that instead of degrowth we’ll have an uncontrolled global contraction that will lead to much more discomfort and human suffering than degrowth ever would,’ [according to Erik Assadourian, a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute].”

Sustainable growth?
Journalist and academic Desné Masie raises some concerns about Africa’s much-vaunted recent economic growth:

“The BIG question is whether the second scramble for Africa can contain capital flight and see corporate social responsibility distribute profits back to the communities in which companies operate.
The mining and resources scramble currently taking place also won’t have the best outcome for the environment, people and long-term sustainability. These industries are the heaviest polluters and exploiters of human capital. Green and fairtrade economies would be preferable alternatives for Africans. Excessive financial sector development should also be approached with caution.”

Four more drones
Wired’s Spencer Ackerman writes that Barack Obama’s second term as US president is likely to see increased military action in Africa, primarily in the form of “robot attacks”:

“The [drone] strikes have spread from Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia. And now that Obama’s been reelected, expect them to spread to Mali, another country most Americans neither know nor understand. The northern part of the North African country has fallen into militant hands. U.S.-aligned forces are currently plotting to take it back. The coming arrival of Army Gen. David Rodriguez, the former day-to-day commander of the Afghanistan war, as leader of U.S. forces in Africa is a signal that Obama wants someone experienced at managing protracted wars on a continent where large troop footprints aren’t available.”

Double non-taxation
The Tax Justice Network takes issue with “the world’s dominant system for taxing multinational corporations” and the way discussions on international corporate taxation tend to get framed:

“[The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] seems paranoid about the possibility of double taxation, but seems rather unconcerned about what is sometimes called ‘double non-taxation’ – that is, where the income is taxed nowhere. But whose interests are more important here? Those of the multinationals? Or those of the wider societies upon which they depend, which provide these multinationals with so many benefits that many seem unwilling to pay taxes to support?
On the subject of double taxation, TJN would also add that one might consider it an issue that is being framed in the wrong way. It is complex, but typically a company subject to ‘double taxation’ might suffer it only to a certain degree, so it may suffers an effective tax rate of, say, 25 percent instead of 22 percent if it weren’t suffering ‘double taxation’. If one talks about ‘double taxation’ then accounting firms and multinationals will complain bitterly – but if you talk instead about a somewhat higher effective tax rate, then you have the basis for a far more reasonable discussion.”

Arms treaty optimism
Reuters reports that the US has joined 156 other countries in voting for resuming efforts to hash out a UN agreement that would regulate “the $70 billion global conventional arms trade”:

“U.S. officials have acknowledged privately that the treaty under discussion would have no effect on domestic gun sales and ownership because it would apply only to exports.
The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States – the world’s biggest arms trader accounting for more than 40 percent of global conventional arms transfers – reversed U.S. policy on the issue after Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.”

Cruel and unusual treatment
Human Rights Watch’s Ian Kysel argues for an end to solitary confinement of children in US prisons, which he calls “a gross violation of human rights and constitutional law”:

“We don’t let teens under 18 vote. We don’t let them buy cigarettes or beer. Yet we have no problem treating them like adults when they are sent to jail or prison for serious crimes.

Solitary confinement is a common practice in U.S. jails and prisons, and one that has been the subject of increasing scrutiny in recent years due to its cruelty. An estimated 95,000 people under 18 were held in adult jails and prisons in the United States last year. Many are held in isolation for 22 to 24 hours a day, in some cases for weeks or months at a time. While there, they are often denied exercise, counseling, education and family visits.”

Latest Developments, March 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Arms stats
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has released new statistics indicating the international arms trade increased by 24 percent in 2007-2011 compared to previous five-year period, with the usual suspects still dominating the market.
“The five biggest suppliers of major conventional weapons in the period 2007– 11 were the United States, Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. The USA and Russia remained by far the largest exporters, accounting for 30 per cent and 24 per cent of all exports, respectively. The top 5 suppliers accounted for 75 per cent of exports of major conventional weapons in the period 2007–11, compared with 78 per cent for the same five suppliers in the period 2002–2006.”

Apple dividend
KPCC’s Mike DeBord suggests Apple’s decision to reduce its cash surplus by paying its shareholders a quarterly dividend is both morally and strategically questionable.
“So when you think about it, Apple’s cash hoard has really come from extracting profits from its Asian contract manufacturers, who support Apple’s 30-plus profit margins by slashing their own; and by extracting profits from the likes of Verizon and AT&T, who have to subsidize customer purchases of ex-pen-sive iPhones. For the moment, Foxconn and American’s biggest wireless providers are willing to accept a redistribution of wealth from their balance sheets to Apple’s. But you have to wonder how long that will last — especially if people like [ValueWalk’s Paul] Shea are right and the post-Jobs Apple shifts its focus from product innovation to the care and feeding of shareholders (more than 70 percent of who are big institutional investors and hedge funds).”

Grim forecast
In a blog post announcing the release of a new environmental outlook to 2050, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Patrick Love writes that “we’re all doomed.”
“The [greenhouse gas] mitigation actions pledged by countries in the 2010 Cancún Agreements at the UN Climate Change Conference will not be enough to prevent the global average temperature from exceeding the 2C threshold, unless very rapid and costly emission reductions are realised after 2020.
Projections like these are probably familiar to most people interested in environmental issues, but other figures in the book may prove more of a shock, notably concerning health. We may be damaging the environment, but it’s killing us. Today, unsafe water kills more people than all forms of violence, but air pollution is set to become the world’s top environmental cause of premature mortality, overtaking dirty water and lack of sanitation.”

Dam guidelines
The Guardian reports that new voluntary guidelines for assessing the impacts of large hydroelectric dams are gathering support from corporations, while critics cry “greenwash.”
“Zachary Hurwitz, policy programme coordinator at International Rivers, said the protocol could create opportunities for dam builders to make sustainability claims while potentially undermining legislative and civil society-led efforts to hold them accountable for the social and environmental impacts of their projects.
‘There are ways to better regulate dam building,’ he said. ‘It is by the legislative process, through harmonising-upwards country regulatory systems in order to truly come to a global binding standard, with the ability to penalise developers.’ ”

Trayvon Martin
GlobalGrind.com’s Michael Skolnik writes about last month’s fatal shooting of an African-American teenager in a Florida gated community, arguing that “the rights I take for granted [as a white American] are only valid if I fight to give those same rights to others.”
“I got a lot of emails about Trayvon.  I have read a lot of articles.  I have seen a lot of television segments.  The message is consistent.  Most of the commentators, writers, op-ed pages agree.  Something went wrong.  Trayvon was murdered.  Racially profiled. Race. America’s elephant that never seems to leave the room. But, the part that doesn’t sit well with me is that all of the messengers of this message are all black too.  I mean, it was only two weeks ago when almost every white person I knew was tweeting about stopping a brutal African warlord from killing more innocent children.  And they even took thirty minutes out of their busy schedules to watch a movie about dude.  They bought t-shirts.  Some bracelets. Even tweeted at Rihanna to take a stance.  But, a 17 year old American kid is followed and then ultimately killed by a neighborhood vigilante who happens to be carrying a semi-automatic weapon and my white friends are quiet.  Eerily quiet. Not even a trending topic for the young man.”

Abolishing tax havens
The UN Millennium Campaign’s Charles Abugre writes that corrupt government officials are not the main culprits behind illicit capital flight from Africa, an estimated 65-70 percent of which is attributable to “commercial activities, especially through trade mis-pricing of goods”.
“Africa is experiencing economic growth, and for the increasing wealth to be channelled to public services, development and the achievement of the millennium development goals by 2015, it is urgent the problem of tax havens as a conduit for illicit outflows is addressed. The high-level panel set up by the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and chaired by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, is a significant step forward – and testifies to the importance of this issue for Africa’s development. The ball is now in the court of the rich countries.”

A world bank
It is time for the US to give up its unwritten right to appoint World Bank presidents in favour of a more open, meritocratic process, according to François Bourguignon, Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz, all of whom held senior positions at the bank in the past.
“The developed countries have declared the importance of an ‘open, transparent and merit-based process’ many times. They have recognised the importance of trust, credibility and collaboration in overcoming global challenges, particularly that of poverty. Yet when the moment comes for decision, they cannot resist the temptation to perpetuate the monopoly. This is not only hypocritical, it also destroys the trust and spirit of collaboration needed to manage the profound problems facing the world.”

Lundins fight back
The Local reports the sons of Lundin Group founder Adolf Lundin have responded to allegations their company consists of “opportunistic, dictator-hugging businessmen” who show little regard for human rights in their search for natural resources.
“The allegations refer to alleged human rights abuses in connection with oil exploration in southern Sudan between 1997 and 2003.
Magnus Elving of the International Prosecution Chamber in Stockholm (Internationella åklagarkammaren i Stockholm) is investigating claims made in a report entitled “Unpaid Debt” framed by an umbrella group named the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS) and present in 2010.
The report alleges that Sudanese troops, in collaboration with militias, attacked and drove away the civilian population in areas where companies could drill for oil.”

Latest Developments, March 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Costly loophole
ActionAid has released a report on the potential impacts of UK government plans to open a “huge new tax loophole” by watering down regulations discouraging the use of tax havens.
“This loophole will make it much easier for UK-based global businesses to avoid taxes in the developing countries they operate in, at an estimated cost of £4 billion a year. Some of the poorest countries in the world, with minimal public services, will be losing vital revenues they could be investing in healthcare and education, keeping them more dependent on foreign aid.”

DR Congo’s missing revenues
Voice of America reports that anti-corruption investigators cannot locate $70 million that mining companies say they have paid to the Congolese government, but these corporations may be short-changing the government by a “far greater” amount.
“Mining companies may be hiding some of their income and thus paying less tax than they should. [The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative’s Jeremy] Dumba said he knew of cases where this may have been happening.
He said for example there’s the case of a company that exported 400,000 tons of minerals.  They should have paid 2 percent tax on that, but their tax declaration came to much less, indicating that they hadn’t declared all their income.”

Global poverty numbers
The Brookings Institution’s Laurence Chandy and Homi Kharas argue that the World Bank’s latest poverty figures contain too many discrepancies to be taken “at face value.”
“The World Bank’s global poverty estimates extend over nearly three decades, with its earliest estimates provided for the year 1981. Throughout this period, the global headcount (based on the $1.25 poverty line) has been dominated by three population groups: Sub-Saharan Africa, India and China. These three account for a remarkably constant three-quarters of the world’s poor—a share which has never deviated by more than three percentage points on either side. Yet poverty estimates for each of the three suffer from glaring problems: insufficient survey data, flawed surveys, and faulty PPP conversions, respectively. If we cannot believe the poverty estimates for Sub-Saharan Africa, India and China, then we cannot believe the World Bank’s global estimates, and we must admit that our knowledge of the state of global poverty is glaringly limited.”

The UK’s 44%
British MP Diane Abbott calls for an examination of the “underlying reasons” for the UK’s 44 percent unemployment among young black people, a rate more than double that of their white peers.
“Some people will be antagonised by any discussion of the fact that spiralling unemployment is hitting black people hardest. They may think it a price worth paying for cutting back on public spending. Or they may argue that it doesn’t matter what colour you are. But the more unequal a society, the more unstable it is. And inequality with a racial dimension risks creating a time bomb. The immediate response to last summer’s riots was (quite correctly) a call to restore order. But these figures are not irrelevant. Policymakers cannot afford to ignore black unemployment.”

Françafrique lives
Former French ambassador to Senegal, Jean-Christophe Rufin, writes that the end of France’s neocolonial activities in Africa, promised by Nicolas Sarkozy during his presidential candidacy in 2006, has not materialized.
“French interventionism in Africa has rarely been stronger than during the last five years. Featuring a military rescue for Chad’s Idriss Déby, support for Mauritania’s coup leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, an electoral helping hand for Gabon’s Ali Bongo, armed intervention in Côte d’Ivoire, support for the transition in Guinea, armed operations against Al-Qaeda in Niger, to say nothing of the intervention in Libya, the past five years have been marked by all-out French activism, covert or overt, on the African continent.” (Translated from the French.)

Pacification program
International NGO veteran Rick Arnold argues the new partnership linking the Canadian International Development Agency, World Vision and Barrick Gold in Peru has more to do with pacification than development.
“As [Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations’ Miguel] Palacin is strongly suggesting, World Vision-Canada should focus its efforts on Canada. It should join with other organizations working to bring about needed legislation at home to hold Canadian mining companies responsible for damages done abroad.”

Moral calculus
In a Q&A with the Atlantic, Oxford University’s Nick Bostrom reaches a controversial conclusion in weighing the value of current and future generations.
“Well suppose you have a moral view that counts future people as being worth as much as present people. You might say that fundamentally it doesn’t matter whether someone exists at the current time or at some future time, just as many people think that from a fundamental moral point of view, it doesn’t matter where somebody is spatially—somebody isn’t automatically worth less because you move them to the moon or to Africa or something. A human life is a human life. If you have that moral point of view that future generations matter in proportion to their population numbers, then you get this very stark implication that existential risk mitigation has a much higher utility than pretty much anything else that you could do. There are so many people that could come into existence in the future if humanity survives this critical period of time—we might live for billions of years, our descendants might colonize billions of solar systems, and there could be billions and billions times more people than exist currently. Therefore, even a very small reduction in the probability of realizing this enormous good will tend to outweigh even immense benefits like eliminating poverty or curing malaria, which would be tremendous under ordinary standards.”

Raging against cupcakes
Exasperated by the theme of several International Women’s Day events, the Overseas Development Institute’s Claire Melamed asks when cupcakes became the “international symbol of womankind.”
“Why does this fetishisation of cupcakes make me so annoyed?  Cupcakes are just so twee-ly, coyly, ‘ooh no I really shouldn’t’-ly, pink and fluffily, everything that I think feminism is not.  It’s feminism-lite, feminism as consumption and ‘me time’ (grr), rather than feminism as power and politics and equal pay.”

World Bank track record
Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs gives a stinging historical account of the World Bank, as he continues to make his case for becoming its 12th consecutive American, male president.
“From the Bank’s establishment until today, the unwritten rule has been that the US government simply designates each new president: all 11 have been Americans, and not a single one has been an expert in economic development, the Bank’s core responsibility, or had a career in fighting poverty or promoting environmental sustainability. Instead, the US has selected Wall Street bankers and politicians, presumably to ensure that the Bank’s policies are suitably friendly to US commercial and political interests.

For too long, the Bank’s leadership has imposed US concepts that are often utterly inappropriate for the poorest countries and their poorest people.”

Latest Developments, March 1

In the latest news and analysis…

Pakistan misconceptions
The Telegraph’s Peter Osborne argues simultaneously that media reports exaggerate current levels of violence in Pakistan and that the West should acknowledge its own role in creating instability in Afghanistan’s neighbour.
“In recent years, the Nato occupation of Afghanistan has dragged Pakistan towards civil war. Consider this: suicide bombings were unknown in Pakistan before Osama bin Laden’s attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001. Immediately afterwards, President Bush rang President Musharraf and threatened to ‘bomb Pakistan into the stone age’ if Musharraf refused to co-operate in the so-called War on Terror.
The Pakistani leader complied, but at a terrible cost. Effectively the United States president was asking him to condemn his country to civil war by authorising attacks on Pashtun tribes who were sympathetic to the Afghan Taliban. The consequences did not take long, with the first suicide strike just six weeks later, on October 28.”

Dependency theory
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie and Nora Hassanaien make the case for the continued usefulness of the currently out-of-fashion dependency theory.
“It is critical that voters in the rich world learn that their wealth is related to a historic exploitation of other parts of the world, especially when they are eventually asked to readjust their living habits and conditions in order to better accommodate the just requirements of poorer countries.

‘Everyone is doing better,’ say the people who are doing better. But what about those who aren’t? Is their lack of progress the foundation on which the progress of others rests? To answer that question, and others, dependency theories may be needed now more than ever.”

Debt repudiation
James Boyce and Léonce Ndikumana, the authors of Africa’s Odious Debts: How Foreign Loans and Capital Flight Bled a Continent, suggest a number of ways to curb the “hemorrhage of Africa’s scarce resources” to other parts of the world.
“Last but not least, African countries can and should selectively repudiate odious debts incurred by past regimes where the borrowed funds were not used for the benefit of the public, and creditors knew or should have known this to be the case.
Bankers threaten that repudiation of such debts would bring new hardships as the debtor country is cut off from access to new borrowing. But with selective repudiation, legitimate creditors would have no reason to fear, as their debts would continue to be honored. Moreover, repudiation will benefit the many countries that currently pay more in debt service than they receive in new loans.
These steps would not only benefit the people of Africa today, but also strengthen future incentives for the exercise of due diligence by creditors and for responsible borrowing by governments. Banking on capital flight is a symptom of deeper defects in our international financial architecture. What’s needed, in Africa and abroad, are reforms tough enough to ensure that banks serve the people rather than fleecing them.”

GM & apartheid
The Mail & Guardian reports bankrupt auto giant General Motors has reached a settlement with South African plaintiffs over claims it supplied vehicle parts to apartheid-era police.
“There are still cases pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in New York against Ford Motor Company, IBM, Daimler AG and Rheinmetall, [the plaintiffs’ lawyer Charles]Abrahams said.

The original damages suffered and claimed for were human rights violations including assassination and murder, indiscriminate shooting, prolonged detention without trial, torture and rape (in detention). An additional damage of ‘denationalisation’ (deprivation of citizenship) was later included.”

Escaping responsibility
Yale Law School’s Oona Hathaway explains why she believes the US Supreme Court should rule that corporations can be sued in the US for human rights abuses committed overseas.
“Absent liability under the [Alien Tort] statute, corporations would often escape responsibility, even though they have made additional profit as a result of terrible abuses they directly committed or aided and abetted. There is usually no recourse available in the country where the abuses took place, often because the government participated. And lawsuits against corporate agents are usually impossible (because the agents are not within the jurisdiction of the courts) or fruitless (because the agents could never pay a judgment against them). Concluding that corporations cannot be held liable under the statute would thus mean that the victims of a modern-day I.G. Farben, the company that produced the gas for the Nazi gas chambers, would have no effective legal recourse against it.”

Future of warfare
TomDispatch.com’s Tom Engelhardt writes that all signs point toward a future where America’s “citizen’s army” has been replaced by a robot military.
“In other words, we are moving towards an ever greater outsourcing of war to things that cannot protest, cannot vote with their feet (or wings), and for whom there is no ‘home front’ or even a home at all. In a sense, we are, as we have been since 1973, heading for a form of war without anyone, citizen or otherwise, in the picture – except those on the ground, enemy and civilian alike, who will die as usual.
Of course, it may never happen this way, in part because drones are anything but perfect or wonder weapons, and in part because corporate war fought by a thoroughly professional military turns out to be staggeringly expensive to the demobilised citizen, profligate in its waste, and – by the evidence of recent history – remarkably unsuccessful. It also couldn’t be more remote from the idea of a democracy or a republic.”

Benefit corporations
PBS NewsHour reports on new laws in seven US states that redefine the role and goal of corporations.
“ ‘Existing corporate law was built for maximization of shareholder value. And so the legal innovation here is that idea that the directors and the officers of the company are now protected to be able to consider a broader set of interests,’ [said B Lab’s Andrew Kassoy].
The law protects firms that file as benefit corporations from shareholder lawsuits that could otherwise charge they didn’t maximize profits.
B Corps are legally mandated to maximize social benefits as well.”

Latest Developments, February 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Pharma corruption
Reuters reports on global efforts to rein in corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, as multinational drug companies seek to expand their business beyond traditional markets.
“The drugs business is particularly exposed to corruption, Transparency International says: pharmaceuticals create vast opportunities for graft across both rich and poor countries. Its 2011 Bribe Payers’ Index ranks pharmaceuticals and healthcare 13th out of 19 industries on probity – a lower ranking than defense firms, though above mining and construction.

Over the past year eight of the world’s top 10 drugmakers – Pfizer Inc, Novartis AG, Merck & Co Inc, Sanofi, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly & Co – have all warned that they may face liabilities related to charges of corruption in numerous overseas markets.
Investigations into potential wrongdoing by pharmaceutical firms cover activities in countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia and Saudi Arabia, according to company filings. They also involve possible improper conduct of clinical trials, which are increasingly being run in lower-cost Asian or East European countries.”

Sustainable development?
The Gaia Foundation has released a new report that highlights the rate at which global extractive industries have grown over the last 10 years.
“For example, iron ore production is up by 180%; cobalt by 165%; lithium by 125%, and coal by 44%. The increase in prospecting has also grown exponentially, which means this massive acceleration in extraction will continue if concessions are granted as freely as they are now.

The rights of farming and indigenous communities are increasingly ignored in the race to grab land and water. Each wave of new extractive technologies requires ever more water to wrench the material from its source. The hunger for these materials is a growing threat to the necessities for life: water, fertile soil and food. The implications are obvious.”

Time limit
The Guardian reports the UK government plans to implement new rules that would require migrant workers earning less than £35,000 a year to leave after 5 years.
“Ministers hope changing settlement rights for skilled workers will put plans back on track to cut net migration from its current 250,000 a year to ‘tens of thousands’ by the next general election. They believe the £35,000-a-year earnings threshold will ensure only the ‘brightest and the best’ migrants settle in the UK. But critics say it will simply mean only the wealthy and the comfortable are able to come and live and work in Britain permanently.”

Power, Inc.
Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf examines what it means to live in a world where large numbers of corporations have grown more powerful than most countries.
“Today’s corporations often conduct something very much like their own foreign policy. They launch active political advocacy campaigns, such as ExxonMobil’s lobbying to kill U.S. acceptance of the Kyoto Protocol. They undertake significant security initiatives, as in the company formerly known as Blackwater’s defense contracting during the Iraq war. They also provide health care, training, shelter, and other functions that states ought to but can’t or won’t provide.
The result is societies that are profoundly out of whack, with far too much power in the hands of massive, often distant corporate entities that are only accountable, fundamentally, to their shareholders. Meanwhile, the public is seeing that the increasingly weak institutions designed to give them a voice are unable to meet some of the most basic terms of the social contract, as the issues that need to be addressed are effectively beyond their jurisdiction.”

Remedy gaps
Haley St. Dennis of the Institute for Human Rights and Business argues the current US Supreme Court case pitting Nigerian plaintiffs against oil giant Shell is a “stark reminder” that voluntary corporate policies are not always enough to prevent environmental and human rights abuses.
“But clearly governments must be at the forefront in ensuring effective remedies. Under the state duty to protect, governments have an obligation to ensure access to justice through provision of effective judicial and non-judicial remedies accessible to all.

It is safe to say that whether or not the Supreme Court finds in favour of the Kiobel plaintiffs, the need for more accessible forums for national or international redress to answer grievances unable to be remediated locally will remain a priority on the public agenda. Given the high threshold of evidence involving international crimes, tort laws such as [the Alien Tort Claims Act] and similar international processes, though often arduous, offer more accessible options.”

The cost of complicity
In a Q&A with Embassy Magazine, the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Léonce Ndikumana discusses African capital flight which, he says, “kills babies.”
“We then look at the linkages between external flight and external borrowing. Statistically we find that for every dollar that comes into Africa, between 40 and 60 cents comes out of the continent in the form of capital flight. Africa keeps 40 cents, but Africa is going to have to pay the whole dollar, because it’s the debt that they signed.

We emphasis the fact that capital flight is the result of mismanagement, corrupt management in Africa, but also complicity of foreign actors including banks that take this money being robbed from the continent and turn a blind eye and don’t ask any questions about a government official bringing a million to deposit.”

Creating new truths
J.D.M. Stewart, who teaches history at Toronto’s Bishop Strachan School, takes up the call issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada for the country’s students to be taught about the history of residential schools and their devastating impact on Aboriginal culture.
“As Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair, the TRC’s chair, wrote: ‘There is an opportunity now for Canadians to engage in this work, to make their own contributions to reconciliation, and to create new truths about our country.’ ”