In the latest news and analysis…
Blue helmet talks
Reuters reports that, following the French military’s capture of northern Mali’s principal towns, the UN Security Council looks set to discuss the deployment of peacekeepers:
“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had resisted U.N. peacekeepers becoming embroiled in an offensive combat mission but the recapture of the main Malian towns has made a deployment less risky. The Security Council is due to discuss the possibility soon, U.N. diplomats said on Wednesday.
“This development is extremely positive and I want this initiative to be carried through,” [French Defence Minister] Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Inter radio.”
In its newly released World Report 2013, Human Rights Watch criticizes America’s enthusiasm for depriving individuals of their freedom:
“The US incarcerates more people than any other country. Practices contrary to human rights principles, such as the death penalty, juvenile life-without-parole sentences, and solitary confinement are common and often marked by racial disparities. Increasing numbers of non-citizens are held in immigration detention facilities although many are not dangerous or at risk of absconding. Federal prosecutions for illegal entry and reentry have escalated.
As of 2010, the US maintained the world’s largest incarcerated population, at 1.6 million, and the world’s highest per capita incarceration rate, at 500 inmates per 100,000 residents.”
The Toronto Star reports that one Canadian NGO is having second thoughts about its participation in a federal government program that pairs up civil society organizations and mining companies for overseas development projects:
“ ‘Would we try it again? Probably not,’ Rosemary McCarney, [Plan Canada’s] president, said in an interview with the Toronto Star. ‘It’s upsetting to donors. People are mad. The reality is that working with any mining company is going to be a problem. There are going to be (employee) strikes and spills. Is it worth the headache? Probably not.’
[The Canadian International Development Agency] is giving Plan $5.6 million over five years to run an educational program in Burkina Faso. Iamgold, which operates a gold mine in the West African country, pledged another $1 million per year to the project. Plan has also committed $1 million. ”
Yale Environment 360 reports on concerns over Australian-based Lynas Corporation’s shipping of rare earths from Australia, where they are mined, to Malaysia for processing:
“The plant lies in an industrial zone atop reclaimed swampland, just 12 miles from Kuantan, a city of 600,000. The chief worry is that the rare earth elements are bound up in mineral deposits with the low-level radioactive element thorium, exposure to which has been linked to an increased risk of developing lung, pancreatic, and other cancers.
The [Institute for Applied Ecology] study faults a Lynas plan to dispose of wastewater through an open channel rather than a closed pipeline; a refusal by the company to disclose what the plant’s exact chemical byproducts will be; and a temporary waste storage facility that the institute predicts will cause radioactive leakage ‘even under normal operating conditions.’ ”
The Guardian reports that the World Bank’s own evaluators say the billions it has invested in forestry over the last decade have helped commercial loggers more than poor people:
“The World Bank funded 345 major forestry projects in 75 countries in the decade to July 2011. The [Independent Evaluation Group] panel, which visited many of the projects and interviewed hundreds of people, criticised the bank strongly for:
• Continuing to support industrial logging.
• Not involving communities in decision-making.
• Assuming that benefits would accrue to the poor rather than the rich and powerful.
• Paying little attention to rural poverty.”
Good and bad murder
Foreign Policy’s Micah Zenko writes that the current US administration fiercely opposes extrajudicial killings, except for the kind that it carries out routinely in places like Pakistan and Yemen:
“The Obama administration deserves credit for strongly endorsing an extension of the mandate of the U.N. special rapporteur of extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, and for repeatedly fighting to include language in General Assembly resolutions that specifically condemn extrajudicial killings of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Obama administration officials have also been willing to discuss targeted killings with the special rapporteurs, albeit in general terms. However, as the current mandate-holder, Christopher Heyns, observed after a two-day ‘interactive dialogue’ with U.S. officials in June: ‘I don’t think we have the full answer to the legal framework, we certainly don’t have the answer to the accountability issues. My concern is that we are dealing here with a situation that creates precedents around the world.’ This is exactly what his predecessors observed and warned about over the past ten years.”
Inter Press Service reports on concerns over the lack of guidelines in the “sustainable investment sector”:
“One significant point of concern among some environmentalists, for instance, is that investment funds will look to strengthen their ‘green’ credentials by choosing to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels – the biofuel products that to a great degree are fuelling the purchases of massive swaths of arable land across parts of Africa by Western corporations.
‘Investment is necessary, but only if investment criteria are first vetted by local communities, to incorporate labour, environmental and social concerns. Given that no such standards exist, and given that corporate accountability remains a major difficulty, this is extremely problematic,’ [according to the Oakland Institute’s Anuradha Mittal].”
Social contract sans frontières
UK shadow secretary for international development Ivan Lewis MP claims to lay out an “ambitious vision for a progressive post-2015 development framework”:
“Ultimately, the new framework must be developed through an authentic and equal partnership. Gone are the days when G8 governments could impose their views on the rest of the world.
Trade, jobs, migration, the cost of living, the impact of climate change, our security are all profoundly affected by factors beyond our borders. One Nation: One World is our best and only route to fairness and prosperity in the future. But our values mean globalisation must work for the many not the few and we have a particular duty to reassure people that we understand the insecurity this rapid change is creating. In the 21st century to be a British patriot is to be an internationalist.”