Latest Developments, March 12

In the latest news and analysis…

The backlash continues
As reactions to the Kony 2012 mega-viral video keep pouring in, Warscapes’ Dinaw Mengestu’s contribution – in which he blasts Invisible Children’s saviour complex and “doctrine of simplicity” – drew rave reviews on Twitter.
“In the world of Kony 2012, Joseph Kony has evaded arrest for one dominant reason: Those of us living in the western world haven’t known about him, and because we haven’t known about him, no one has been able to stop him. The film is more than just an explanation of the problem; it’s the answer as well. It’s a beautiful equation that can only work so long as we believe that nothing in the world happens unless we know about it, and that once we do know about it, however poorly informed and ignorant we may be, every action we take is good, and more importantly, ‘makes a difference.’ In the case of Kony 2012, this isn’t simply a matter of making a complicated narrative easier to understand, but rather it’s a distortion, or at worse, a self-serving omission of the extensive efforts made over the past decade by the UN, US, Ugandan and South Sudanese governments, and numerous religious and civil organizations across Uganda, to bring Kony to justice.”

Water world
The Guardian reports on concerns over the priorities of the World Water Forum, currently underway in France, that is calling itself a “platform for solutions” to global water issues.
“But critics say the forum, which costs as much as 700 euros for full access, caters to the interests of big business and gives corporations opportunities to advance their interests by facilitating direct access to high-ranking government officials. Starting on Wednesday, activists are staging an Alternative World Water Forum to promote alternatives to privatisation and share experiences on how to promote public and community-led water management from the bottom-up.
On Friday, UN special rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque warned that government delegates to the WWF appeared to be watering down their human rights commitments to water and sanitation. These rights, formally recognised by the UN in 2010, must form the basis of any proposals to expand access to essential services, said De Albuquerque in a statement.”

Public support for Anonymous
Web consultant Jon Blanchard makes the “perhaps career-limiting admission” that he supports the Anonymous international hacktivist movement.
“Hactivism, as undertaken by Anonymous, sees no buildings burned, no kids are clubbed and no officers pelted with rocks. It is non-violent protest that deliberately targets nothing more, and nothing less, than reputation.
The most dangerous outcome of the Anonymous movement, perhaps the most important thing it can do, is the embarrassment of people unaccustomed to being embarrassed.”

Patent precedent
Intellectual Property Watch reports an Indian court has ruled that a domestic generic drug manufacturer can produce a patented cancer medication despite the objections of Bayer, the German pharmaceutical giant that first developed the drug.
“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) said the ruling ends Bayer’s monopoly in India on the drug and could set precedent for making more expensive patented drugs available for compulsory licensing.
‘But this decision marks a precedent that offers hope: it shows that new drugs under patent can also be produced by generic makers at a fraction of the price, while royalties are paid to the patent holder. This compensates patent holders while at the same time ensuring that competition can bring down prices,’ Tido von Schoen-Angerer, director of the MSF Access Campaign, said in a statement.”

Ethics of obesity
Arguing that “an increase in weight by some imposes costs on others,” Princeton University’s Peter Singer calls for public policies that would discourage obesity.
“Taxing foods that are disproportionately implicated in obesity – especially foods with no nutritional value, such as sugary drinks – would help. The revenue raised could then be used to offset the extra costs that overweight people impose on others, and the increased cost of these foods could discourage their consumption by people who are at risk of obesity, which is second only to tobacco use as the leading cause of preventable death.
Many of us are rightly concerned about whether our planet can support a human population that has surpassed seven billion. But we should think of the size of the human population not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of its mass. If we value both sustainable human well-being and our planet’s natural environment, my weight – and yours – is everyone’s business.”

Evolving IMF
Boston University’s Kevin Gallagher writes that despite the International Monetary Fund’s continued pushing of austerity measures in recent agreements with Latvia, Ukraine and Pakistan, there are signs that the 65 year-old institution is changing its ways.
“The IMF is in a period of what economist Ilene Grabel refers to as ‘productive incoherence’. There is a lot of very productive debate and change within the organisation, but it is often inconsistent and contradictory. New thinking about inflation targeting and capital flows has indeed crept into stand-by arrangements, but not the new thinking and hard evidence on austerity.
That said, the changes in the wake of the financial crisis are not to be overlooked and deserve applause. Part of the reason the institution is changing is due to the rising economic power of its developing members, such as China, Brazil and India. Along with this newfound power will come more voting power at the Fund.
If strategic coalitions are built, they can coalesce to make the institution more development-friendly – and live up to the promise laid out by its founders.”

Multilateralism and poverty
Oxfam’s Stephen Hale sees little short-term prospect of international cooperation that would fundamentally alter a global economic system whose rules are “stacked against the interests of the poorest countries.”
“A third cause is the poverty of current global governance structures, which do not foster the common approach we need to manage global risks and deliver prosperity and security for a world of 9 billion people.
In truth, it was ever thus. Despite progress on development aid and on climate change in better economic times, the pace of global collective action has always been profoundly inadequate for the scale of the challenges we face.”