Latest Developments, November 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Climate fast
The BBC reports that the Philippines’ delegate to the UN’s COP 19 climate change summit in Warsaw has announced he is going on hunger strike until conference participants make “meaningful” progress:

“In an emotional speech, Yeb Sano linked the ‘staggering’ devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan to a changing climate.

‘In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate, this means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this Cop, until a meaningful outcome is in sight.’
‘What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness, the climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw,’ he said.”

Presumption of guilt
The Financial Times reports that UK Home Secretary Theresa May wants to strip terror suspects of their citizenship, thereby rendering unconvicted people “stateless”:

“The home secretary is already able to strip passports from those with dual nationality and has repeatedly said British citizenship is a ‘privilege, not a right’. Since coming to office, she has exercised this power on at least 16 individuals alleged to have links to terrorist groups.
But the Financial Times understands Ms May has asked officials to find a way of overturning international human rights conventions which prevent individuals with only one citizenship being made stateless.”

Deep-sea mining
Radio Australia reports that civil society groups in Papua New Guinea are taking the government to court over a Canadian company’s license to establish the world’s first seabed mine in PNG waters:

“The license was granted under the former [Michael] Somare government to the Canadian company Nautilus for its Solwara 1 mine.

[Stop Experimental Seabed Mining in the Pacific’s Wenceslas Magun] says the group’s advisors – which include scientists and lawyers – have ‘clearly indicated that there is going to be damage to the ecological system’.
‘Nobody knows what the impact of the damage is going to be to the marine ecosystem because no one has ever done seabed mining in the world,’ he said.”

Euphemism for war
Boston University’s Andrew Bacevich expresses concern of the apparent “militarization of U.S. policy in Africa”:

“For Army leaders, Africa spells opportunity, a chance to demonstrate continuing relevance at a time when the nation’s appetite for sending U.S. troops to invade and occupy countries has pretty much evaporated.
Thus, we have U.S. Army Africa, or USARAF, the latest in the Pentagon’s ever-growing roster of military headquarters. The mission of this command, which describes itself as ‘America’s premier Army team dedicated to positive change in Africa,’ manages to be at once reassuringly bland and ominously ambitious. On the one hand, USARAF ‘strengthens the land force capabilities of African states and regional organizations.’ On the other, it ‘conducts decisive action in order to establish a secure environment and protect the national security interests of the United States.’
One might hope that successfully accomplishing the first half of that mission — U.S. troops training and equipping African counterparts — will preclude the second. More likely, however, such efforts will pave the way for ‘decisive action,’ a euphemism for war.”

History of failure
The Center for Global Development’s Kimberly Ann Elliott writes that economic sanctions had a 1.5% success rate in the 20th Century and are even less likely to work in Iran:

“Across all 204 episodes and 170 case studies analyzed, there were only three cases deemed fully successful when the issues at stake involved core national interests on both sides. And in all three of those cases, the target of the sanctions was heavily dependent, both economically and for security guarantees, on the sanctioning country.

None of those cases bears any resemblance to the situation that the United States and its allies face with Iran today. As I explained in this Foreign Affairs essay last week, the economic sanctions against Iran are already imposing serious economic costs on the country and tightening sanctions further is likely to create more problems than it solves. Avoiding negotiations and waiting for sanctions to force Iran to raise a white flag would delay a resolution and increase the humanitarian impact on ordinary citizens in Iran.”

Black Bruins
The Huffington Post reports on the stir caused by a spoken-word video in which UCLA student Sy Stokes calls his university, which has more national athletics championships than black male freshmen, an “institutionalized racist corporation”:

“According to the school’s enrollment statistics, African-Americans make up 3.8 percent of the student population. In the video, Stokes points out that black males make up 3.3 percent of the male student population, and that 65 percent of those black males are undergraduate athletes. Of the incoming men in the freshmen class, only 1.9 percent of them were black.

‘We certainly recognize that the low numbers of African Americans and other underrepresented students on campus does lead to a sense of isolation and invisibility,’ [UCLA’s Janina Montero] said in her email statement. ‘It is difficult to eliminate this painful imbalance without considering race in the admissions process.’ ”

Poverty tourism
Business Day’s Sipho Hlongwane slams a faux shanty-town tourist resort in South Africa as an example of postmodern racism:

“And now you too can experience this, for R850 a night!
This, incidentally, is more than most South Africans living in informal settlements see in an entire month. According to the latest census data, only about 15% of black South Africans are considered middle and upper class. The large majority do not make more than R1,400 a month. A whopping 61% of black people live on less than R515 a month. About 87% of white South Africans are considered middle class or above. There is some improvement, but it is at snail’s pace — the reason why the problem is so entrenched is apartheid.
But instead of critical self-examination that might lead many people to accept their own complicity in the oppression of their fellow citizens, this is what we have. Reducing the pain of poverty to an experience, that you can dip in and out of for more money than those poor shack dwellers have in a month.”

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Latest Development, September 8

Latest Developments is undergoing a format change in order to free up time for original Beyond Aid reporting. All constructive feedback is welcome.

In the latest news and analysis…

Global governance

Former British foreign secretary David Miliband argues the “war on terror” has distracted world leaders from matters of more pressing existential import.
“If you think the blame game in Europe over Greece is bad, just wait for arguments about who is causing drought and food-price inflation. These are not just “environmental” questions. They are questions of justice and responsibility, and stronger regional and international institutions are needed to address them.”

Human rights

Al Jazeera reports that a UK inquiry into a 2003 detainee death found no evidence of systemic abuse but had harsh words for those involved in this particular incident.
“A three year-long investigation into the death of an Iraqi civilian in British army custody has concluded that Baha Mousa died after suffering an ‘appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence.’ Mousa died after being detained for two days by UK forces in Basra in 2003 after suffering 93 individual wounds to his body.”

UC-Santa Barbara sociologist Lisa Hajjar writes about the US-run Guantánamo detention facility which remains open despite of President Barack Obama’s pledge to shut it down.
“Only three Guantánamo prisoners were convicted in the military commissions over the course of the Bush administration, none for perpetrating the 9/11 attacks. Of the total population of 779 people ever confined at this facility, over 500 of these ostensibly “worst of the worst” men had been released or transferred by the time President Bush left office.”

Human Rights Watch says it has uncovered evidence of “high level of cooperation” among US, UK and Libyan intelligence services.
“The documents, discovered on September 3, 2011, describe US offers to transfer, or render, at least four detainees from US to Libyan custody, one with the active participation of the UK; US requests for detention and interrogation of other suspects; UK requests for information about terrorism suspects; and the sharing of information about Libyans living in the UK. This cooperation took place despite Libya’s extensive and widely known record of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees.”

Reuters reports that a pair of lawsuits alleging Cisco Systems facilitated human rights abuses in China could change how US technology companies do business abroad.
“Both cases could provide answers to an evolving legal question: Can U.S. companies be held liable if foreign governments use their products for repression?”

Taxes

A coalition of French NGOs is slamming recent deals signed by Switzerland with Germany and the UK that will provide the latter two countries with tax revenue from their nationals who store wealth in Swiss accounts but will not impact banking secrecy.
“These so-called Rubik accords, which still have to be ratified at the parliamentary level, call into question pledges made within the G20, OECD and EU to promote greater tax haven transparency.”

Tax-News.com reports France and Germany are making progress towards a common corporate tax rate.
“[French Finance Minister François] Baroin explained that plans for a complete project would be drawn up for 2012, with planned implementation in 2013.”

The Nation reports Nigeria has begun recovering the assets of former president Sani Abacha’s family from the Channel Island tax haven Jersey.
“The Federal Government has recovered £22.5m (about N6.18 billion) loot from the family of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha. There are plans to recover $400million more, it was learnt yesterday.”

Unsavoury friends

Former secretary general of the European Green Party, Arnold Cassola, writes that Libya’s deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi could not have remained in power for over four decades without some high-placed Western allies.
“The International Criminal Court in The Hague, one hopes, will one day bring Qaddafi, his family, and his minions to justice. But one should also hope that Libya’s new government will expose the links between Western politicians and the Qaddafi regime. At that point, the court of public opinion, at the very least, can render its judgement on their actions.”

Wired’s Danger Room reports one of the top general’s of Somalia’s US-backed government is widely known as “The Butcher.”
“If you thought it was bad that Washington is paying a shady French mercenary to do its dirty work in Somalia, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Just wait to you see our latest ally: an admirer of Osama bin Laden with a gory past.”

Immigration

The Canadian Press reports Canada’s government has set up a hotline for people to report those they suspect of citizenship fraud.
“Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is declaring that “Canadian citizenship is not for sale” and he’s encouraging people to use the tip line to report suspected cases of citizenship fraud.”

The Australian reports Australia’s government and opposition close to agreeing over controversial proposed immigration measures that would outsource the processing of refugee claims.
“A face-saving deal that includes Labor’s Malaysian refugee swap and offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island has emerged as the most likely solution to the nation’s border protection impasse.”

Thanks but no thanks

The Guardian reports on attempts to provide poor countries with low-tech, context-appropriate medical instruments such as a donkey ambulance.
“It is a familiar problem. A well-meaning donor gives a shiny new piece of equipment to a poor country only for it to gather dust. Parts that are expensive and difficult to replace, the need for a constant electricity supply, a lack of trained operators, unsuitability to rough terrain are all factors preventing the use of these devices in the developing world.”

Tax Justice Network reviews a new book on Africa’s “odious debts” that estimates capital flight from the continent at $700 billion over the last 40 years.
“More than half of the money borrowed by African governments in recent decades departed in the same year, with a significant portion of it winding up in private accounts at the very banks that provided the loans in the first place. Meanwhile, debt-service payments continue to drain scarce resources from Africa, cutting into funds available for public health and other needs.”