Latest Developments, November 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone child
New York University’s Sarah Knuckey discusses the “remarkable government admission” that a CIA drone killed a child between the age of 6 and 13 in Yemen in June:

“[The admission] adds to concerns about the reliability of much initial mainstream news reporting. Despite [Yemen-based journalists Iona Craig and Adam Baron’s] tweets the day of the strike, (the few) major news outlets covering the strike at the time failed to mention the child’s death. The admission in the LA Times adds weight to the warnings of many that initial mainstream news reports describing strikes – especially those relying solely on anonymous Pakistani or Yemeni officials for information on who was killed – should be treated with caution.

The admission notes that the CIA provided a classified briefing to Congress about this unintended death. For those of us concerned about the extent to which the CIA investigates and keeps track of unintended and civilian deaths, and the extent to which Congress is kept informed, this aspect of the admission is a positive. The next important step is for the government to provide such information to the American public, redacted as necessary.”

Leading from behind
The Canadian Press reports that Canada’s self-proclaimed “leadership role in international climate change efforts” remains near the very bottom of this year’s Climate Change Performance Index:

“A European report released to coincide with the United Nations conference ranks Canada 55th of 58 countries in terms of tackling greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of only Iran, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

‘As in the previous year, Canada still shows no intention of moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all industrialized countries,’ states the report, released Monday in Warsaw.”

Françafrique support
International Crisis Group has called on the UN Security Council to “encourage” and “mandate” a French intervention in the Central African Republic:

“Now, however, the [UN Security Council] must act faster, initially to help those on the ground restore law and order and then to reverse the country’s chronic fragility. Under a Chapter VII mandate, it could greatly contribute through the following steps:
To stabilise the situation on the ground

2. Mandate French forces to contribute to the restoration of law and order.
3. Encourage French forces and other countries to provide much-needed intelligence support to [an African Union-led international support mission for the CAR (MISCA)].”

Punishing pillage
The University of British Columbia’s James Stewart questions an international justice regime in which only individuals, never corporations, are charged with war crimes:

“Trying perpetrators of rape, torture, murder and other crimes against humanity is essential. But we also must confront the war crimes committed by corporations that provide the means and motivations for mass violence.
In 2003, a United Nations panel on the plundering of Congo’s gems and minerals named approximately 125 companies and individuals that had contributed, directly or indirectly, to the conflict there. Soon after, the Security Council called on states to ‘conduct their own investigations’ through ‘judicial means’ — a call, in effect, for prosecutions. But no country responded directly to this call. Political impediments certainly contributed to the inaction, but so did legal uncertainty about how to go about these prosecutions. Many nations shrugged and asked, ‘Prosecute them with what?’

Other nations can, and should, follow the Swiss example. In the United States, for example, the War Crimes Act of 1996 declared pillage a federal crime. Federal prosecutors should examine ways to use this potentially powerful tool.”

Kalihari fracking
The Guardian reports on concerns that Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve is being secretively carved up for fracking by international energy companies:

“The Bushmen said they had no idea their areas had been earmarked for drilling until they were shown a map during the making of a new documentary film, The High Cost Of Cheap Gas, revealing that half the game reserve has been allocated to multinationals. Seranne Junner, a lawyer who successfully defended the Bushmen’s right to occupy their traditional lands within the CKGR, expressed surprise at the extent of land concessions.

She warned: ‘These licences may have been granted without anybody realising the long-term consequences … Water is not a resource that is overly abundant in Botswana as a whole, more especially within an area such as the CKGR. I would say it’s going to be extremely far-reaching for a sector of our population, if not the whole country.’ ”

Letter from Gitmo
Shaker Aamer, “the last remaining UK resident imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay”, argues that Americans’ security concerns do not justify “atrocities” against non-Americans:

“Elected American officials labeled me and the other prisoners here as ‘the worst of the worst’. They called us ‘terrorists’. Yet, despite these claims, I have not been charged with a single crime nor has any evidence been presented to support my imprisonment these long years. In fact, I have been cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Of course, Guantanamo does not define me. I arrived here bound at the hands and feet, blacked-out goggles covering my eyes, and expecting death. But up until that point, I had been an English teacher, a translator, a volunteer with a humanitarian group, a resident of Great Britain, a husband, and a father of four.

I pray that Americans do not continue to allow fellow human beings to suffer such atrocities in the name of their security. I dream that they will find the strength to peacefully challenge those in power. And I hope that their actions are shown more humanity than ours have seen.”

Global decision making
The Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations’ Pascal Lamy and Ian Goldin call for “a comprehensive review and renewal of international institutions”, while stopping short of any mention of democracy:

“International affairs and international organizations largely operate under mid-twentieth-century arrangements, which has two serious shortcomings. First, countries with a diminishing stake retain disproportionate power. Second, global decision-making now involves four times as many countries as it did in the immediate post-war era, not to mention a plethora of non-governmental organizations and civil-society groups, making for a messy – and often unproductive – process.
With the world’s problems becoming increasingly complex and interconnected, global decision-making processes must be as streamlined and efficient as possible. When numerous committees meet in parallel, the countries with the largest teams of experts dominate proceedings, effectively locking most countries out of key decisions and impeding meaningful dialogue.”

Advertisements

Latest Developments, December 5

In the latest news and analysis…

Perception confirmation
The widely reported release of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index was met by an extended “grumble” on Twitter by Save the Children’s Alex Cobham:

“Dear twitter, remember that an index based on *perceptions* of corruption will score worst those places most often reported as corrupt…
…regardless of any *actual* corruption. So a priori you might expect Greece to be worst in EU; Somalia worst in world etc. But…
… remember that it is just perception confirmation – with no element of objective factual support. Corruption continues to be #uncounted.
In addition, if you share view that providing financial secrecy can be corrupt and corrupting, good scores of eg Switzerland should raise qs
The other side of corruption can be seen in the Financial Secrecy Index
[Grumble over.]”

Right to opacity
The Wall Street Journal reports that the US oil industry is proceeding with a lawsuit aimed at blocking the required disclosure of payments made to foreign governments:

“In court papers filed Monday, the American Petroleum Institute, joined by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and two other trade groups, called the rule, promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Provision under Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act and narrowly approved, ‘one of the most expensive’ in the history of the Commission.
Mandating disclosure is a violation of the First Amendment, the filing added. ‘The rule – and the statutory provision that authorized it – violate the First Amendment by compelling speech on a controversial matter in order to influence political affairs,’ it said.”

Performance anxiety
Germanwatch has released the 2013 edition of its Climate Change Performance Index, ranking the efforts of the world’s 58 highest emitters to protect the climate:

“In 2010, the most recent data period for this year‘s CCPI, the world saw another record breaking increase in global CO2 emissions. Not only have global emissions risen to another all time high, but this increase has also been the steepest emissions surge in history.
Not only are emissions rising at the global level. As well at the national level is little good news to tell. Not one of the examined countries has managed to change to a development path that is compatible with limiting global warming substantially below 2°C. No country‘s effort is deemed sufficient to prevent dangerous climate change. Therefore, as in the years before, we still cannot award any country with 1st, 2nd or 3rd place.”

Only the brave
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project has released a report on the dangers faced by those opposing or monitoring the extractive industries in Uganda and Tanzania:

“There is a long history of antagonism, including cases of violence, between the mining industry and Tanzanian citizens, especially in the North Mara region of the country. It was here that in May 2011 between 4 and 7 Tanzanians (reported figures vary) were shot and killed and many others wounded by private mine security officers in an incident at the North Mara mine owned and operated by African Barrick Gold (AGB), a subsidiary of Canadian mining giant, Barrick Gold Corp.”

Just business
In a speech delivered to a UN forum in Geneva, Harvard University’s John Ruggie explained what he sees as the greatest need for holding to account businesses that commit human rights abuses abroad:

“National courts appear not to share a consistent understanding regarding the applicability to companies of international standards prohibiting gross human rights abuses, potentially amounting to international crimes. These may arise in areas where the human rights regime cannot be expected to function as intended, such as conflict zones or similar sources of heightened risk, and typically the allegations involve corporate complicity in acts committed by related parties. In those situations, plaintiffs may turn to home country courts. But even as the number of such cases has increased, courts have issued conflicting interpretations of what precisely the international standards stipulate. Greater legal clarity is needed for victims and companies alike. Only an intergovernmental process can provide that clarity.
The international community has determined, and everyone present in this room would agree, that sovereignty can no longer serve as a shield behind which governments are allowed to commit or be complicit in the worst human rights violations. Surely the same must be true of the corporate form. So let that be affirmed authoritatively, and remove all doubt.”

Very mercenary
Oxfam’s Gawain Kripke writes that the founder of private military company Blackwater, “which has been renamed several times, trying to escape the stench of scandal and atrocity,” has turned himself into an investment advisor:

“From a comfortable perch in Abu Dhabi (no extradition treaty with the US), [Erik] Prince now raises funds and advises clients on the wonderful investment opportunities in Africa. He claims he’s raised $100 million and is shooting (err) for $400 million more. His new company, Frontier Resource Group (motto: fortuna audaces iuvat or fortune favors the bold) offers support for investors mixed with ‘security and logistical capacity’.
Ever the bottom dweller, Prince has focused his efforts on some of the more problematic investments (natural resources extraction), and problematic countries; DRC, Guinea, and South Sudan. Which should be appealing to problematic investors (based in Hong Kong).”

Cold War continues
Columbia University’s Howard French argues Susan Rice, a frontrunner to become the next US secretary of state, has been instrumental in perpetuating an outdated American approach to Africa:

“On a broader level, the old paradigm of Cold War policy, with its momentous ideological competition, has been repurposed to work for something far more inchoate and hollow: the War on Terror. Accordingly, the United States has persisted in its embrace of leaders who align with Washington on that basis in places like Sudan and Somalia, mirroring the style of cherry-picking allies during the struggle against communism.”

Big food
National Public Radio asks if the food and beverage industry is the new tobacco:

“[The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity’s Kelly Brownell] pointed to cases in which the industry set up front groups to fight a soda tax in California and fought national guidelines that would restrict the marketing of unhealthy food to children.
The food industry can do some good things, Brownell admitted, when it comes to fighting hunger or promoting sustainable agricultural practices. But ‘obesity is a different kettle of fish’ because solving it conflicts directly with the industry’s most basic imperative: To sell more food. All of the industry’s much-celebrated ‘healthy eating’ campaigns and partnerships with public health initiatives, Brownell says, amount to ‘baby steps’ that simply obscure this basic fact.”