Latest Developments, January 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Legal breakthrough
Reuters reports that a Dutch court has ruled that Shell must pay damages for an oil spill in the Niger delta:

“A legal expert said the ruling could make it possible for other Nigerians who say they also suffered losses due to Shell’s activities to file lawsuits in the Netherlands.
‘The fact that a subsidiary has been held responsible by a Dutch court is new and opens new avenues,’ said Menno Kamminga, professor of international law at Maastricht University.
The court did not just examine the role of the parent company, but also looked ‘at abuses committed by Shell Nigeria, where the link with the Netherlands is extremely limited,’ he said. ‘That’s a real breakthrough.’

[Friends of the Earth’s Geert] Ritsema said it was also new that an oil company was being held responsible for failing to prevent sabotage.
There were 198 oil spills at Shell facilities in the Niger Delta last year, releasing around 26,000 barrels of oil, according to data from the company.”

Conditional care
A trio of NGOs is calling out Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold for attaching strings to a “remedy program” offered to women raped by employees of the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea:

“In order to receive a remedy package, women must enter into an agreement in which ‘the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against [Porgera Joint Venture], [Porgera Remediation Framework Association Inc.] or Barrick in or outside of PNG. PRFA and Barrick will be able to rely on the agreement as a bar to any legal proceedings which may be brought by the claimant in breach of the agreement.’
Included in the remedy options offered to women are ‘access to phychosocial/trauma counseling’ and ‘access to health care.’
‘We do not believe women should have to sign away rights to possible future legal action in order to access the types of remedy Barrick is offering these victims of rape and gang rape,’ says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada.

‘We are also concerned that Barrick is not offering remedy to those women who have been raped and gang raped by members of police Mobile Squads who are being housed, fed and supported by PJV on PJV property’ says Tricia Feeney, Executive Director of Rights & Accountability in Development.”

Pacific Solution challenged
Inter Press Service reports that the leader of Papua New Guinea’s official opposition is going to court to fight an Australian detention centre for asylum seekers which is located in the island nation:

Following an agreement with Papua New Guinea, the Australian government reopened the detention facility in November last year as part of its widely criticised ‘Pacific Solution’ to increased numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australian waters.

‘We challenge the right of the government to force people seeking refugee status in Australia to enter Papua New Guinea to be illegally and indefinitely detained under inhumane conditions,’ [Belden] Namah said in a public statement.
‘We are filing injunctions to have the current detainees released and to prevent the government from receiving or detaining any more asylum seekers from Australia.’ ”

Coal protest
The Financial Express reports that representatives of a British company wanting to develop a coal project in Bangladesh had to abandon a blanket distribution event due to hundreds of protesters “with country-made weapons in hand”:

“As information on [Asia Energy CEO] Gary Lye’s visit to the coal project area spread, local people on Monday staged demonstrations in different parts of Phulbari, Birampur, Nababganj and Parbatipur upazilas.
They also brought out processions on Tuesday morning and chanted slogans asking Asia Energy and its associates to leave the country immediately.”

Cash-strapped court
IRIN reports on concerns that the International Criminal Court cannot handle its recently announced investigation into alleged war crimes in Mali:

“ ‘There are serious questions to be asked of the new prosecutor as to whether it is a drastic overstretch to have eight African countries being dealt with simultaneously with essentially the same level of staff and the same level of finance as her office was operating on before,’ said Phil Clark, a lecturer in comparative and international politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. ‘Is it really feasible for the office to be dealing with so many cases?’

Total court funding in 2013 is around US$144 million, with possible access to a contingency fund of up to $9.3 million, compared with $138 million in 2010. The prosecutor’s office, which carries out the investigations, was this year allocated $37 million. This represents an increase of just $1.3 million since 2010 despite the addition of Mali, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Libya to the docket – and these countries were themselves in addition to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Uganda and the Central African Republic (CAR).”

Blacklisted banks
The Guardian reports that Co-operative Asset Management has added Barclays to the list of banks in which the ethical funds it manages can no longer invest:

“But a subsequent review has led to Barclays being removed from the approved list of investments, which before the financial crisis excluded Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley, Alliance & Leicester, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland.
Banks that are predominantly investment banks – Barclays makes the majority of its profits from investment banking – are not approved for investment. ‘Apart from struggling to convincingly pass the net benefit test, it is universally acknowledged that the most egregious risk taking, socially useless financial engineering and excess remuneration of the kind that threatened systemic failure took place at investment banks,’ the Co-op said.”

Anti-drone city
Chapati Mystery’s Manan Ahmed reflects on alternative ways to resist the US drone war in his introduction to a proposal for a city that “uses inscrutability as its armor”:

“What precisely is a response to the drones? Recently Teju Cole introduced drones in first lines of well-known fiction works and got more tweets than any of the current drone strikes. Almost simultaneously, Himanshu Suri (aka HEEMS) released the video of his ‘Soup Boys’ single which feature drones. Let us just say that while Pitchfork.tv is not necessarily concerned with Yemen or Pakistan or Mali and drones, they gushed about Soup Boys and its politics. There is both creativity and critique at the heart of these efforts – and where legally or morally we seem to be getting no where, perhaps creativity is the only ethical space left to marshall a defense.”

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Latest Developments, January 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Françafrique lives
91 days after declaring France’s neocolonial relationship with Africa dead, French President François Hollande announced that his country was taking military action in former colony Mali:

“At stake today is the very existence of our ally Mali, the security of its population and that of French citizens. There are 6,000 of them in Mali.
I have, therefore, in the name of France, answered the plea for help from Mali’s president, which has the support of the nations of West Africa. As a result, the French armed forces gave their support this afternoon to Malian units for the fight against these terrorist elements.
This operation will last as long as necessary.” [Translated from the French.]

Deep roots
350.org co-founder Bill McKibben discusses the global significance of the indigenous protest movement that began in Canada last year under the banner #IdleNoMore:

“[First Nations] are, legally and morally, all that stand in the way of Canada’s total exploitation of its vast energy and mineral resources, including the tar sands, the world’s second largest pool of carbon. NASA’s James Hansen has explained that burning that bitumen on top of everything else we’re combusting will mean it’s ‘game over for the climate.’ Which means, in turn, that Canada’s First Nations are in some sense standing guard over the planet.

Corporations and governments have often discounted the power of native communities — because they were poor and scattered in distant places, they could be ignored or bought off. But in fact their lands contain much of the continent’s hydrocarbon wealth — and, happily, much of its wind, solar and geo-thermal resources, as well. The choices that Native people make over the next few years will be crucial to the planet’s future — and #IdleNoMore is an awfully good sign that the people who have spent the longest in this place are now rising artfully and forcefully to its defense.”

Importing cholera
Foreign Policy has published an account, drawn from former Associated Press correspondent Jonathan Katz’s new book, of his investigation into how the UN turned Haiti’s biggest river into an “artery of disease”:

“In two years, more than 7,800 Haitians have died of cholera. One in five people in a nation of roughly 10 million has fallen seriously ill with the disease, while the unusually virulent strain has spread across the Caribbean, into South America, and the United States.
The United Nations has made grandiose, if seemingly empty, promises to fight and eradicate the disease, but refuses to consider its own accountability in starting the epidemic. Aid workers and donor governments have lost a critical opportunity — to demonstrate that they took Haitian lives and welfare as seriously as their own.”

Funding abuses
The Guardian reports that the UK plans to give millions to Ethiopian “special police” accused of human rights violations, including summary executions, in the country’s restive Ogaden region:

“The Guardian has seen an internal Department for International Development document forming part of a tender to train security forces in the Somali region of Ogaden, which lies within Ethiopia, as part of a five-year £13m–15m ‘peace-building’ programme.
The document notes the ‘reputational risks of working alongside actors frequently cited in human rights violation allegations’. DfID insists that the training will be managed by NGOs and private companies with the goal of improving security, professionalism and accountability of the force, but Human Rights Watch has documented countless allegations of human rights abuses.”

Mining maze
Bloomberg reports on the difficult road to compensation faced by thousands of South African ex-miners suffering from silicosis:

“ ‘Whether we are able to bring Anglo American and other parent companies to the table or not will have a significant impact on the size of any final award or settlement,’ [the plaintiff’s lawyer Richard] Spoor said by phone yesterday. ‘The question of the parent company liability is a very difficult area of law because of the principle of limited liability.’

Mergers, acquisitions and delistings over the years have left former workers with nowhere to go to seek compensation, Spoor said. Gold Fields Ltd. was created in 1998 by combining the assets of Gencor and Gold Fields of South Africa Ltd. AngloGold was formed when Anglo American’s South African business bought out minority shareholders of its gold units in 1997.
Anglo American ceded control of AngloGold in April 2004 when the gold miner bought Ghana’s Ashanti Goldfields Ltd., creating AngloGold Ashanti.
Gold companies including AngloGold deny liability.”

Tax-shy telcos
The BBC reports that Indian tax officials have raided a facility belonging to Finnish phone giant Nokia:

“According to some media reports, officials said they were looking to recover tax payments totalling as much as 30bn Indian rupees ($545m; £340m).

The raid on Nokia comes just days after Indian tax officials asked the UK’s Vodafone to pay more than $2bn in back taxes.”

Banning fake vaccines
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny calls on the US government to declare it will never again use public health interventions to gather intelligence, as it famously did in Pakistan where there has been a recent spate of violence against vaccine providers:

“Such a declaration has been proposed in a letter sent to President Obama this Monday signed by the deans of America’s top public health schools.  I suggest this could be modeled on –and inserted into– Executive Order 12333 which mandates that ‘No element of the Intelligence Community shall sponsor, contract for, or conduct research on human subjects except in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services,’ and bans engagement in or conspiracy towards assassination and actions intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.”

Diluting responsibility
The Guardian reports that “opaque supply chains” are part of the reason that Bangladesh’s booming garment industry keeps experiencing deadly factory blazes, the latest of which claimed 111 lives:

“Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, says a convoluted and opaque supply chain is largely to blame for the lack of compliance with international labour standards. ‘Often the factory that gets the order is fully compliant,’ she says. ‘But multiple subcontracts make a mockery of so-called ethical sourcing. When an accident happens, the buyers can simply deny responsibility.’
After the Tazreen blaze, retailers said they had not authorised production at the factory. Walmart and Sears said in separate statements that suppliers had subcontracted production without informing them.”

Latest Developments, January 9

In the latest news and analysis…

UN drones
Inner City Press reports that Rwanda is “far from the only member” of the UN Security Council raising questions about the proposed use of surveillance drones by the UN in eastern DR Congo:

“Tuesday, sources exclusively tell Inner City Press, not only Russia (through co-Deputy Permanent Representative Petr Iliichev) and China but also Azerbaijan and Guatemala, both through their Permanent Representatives, expressed concern about [Department of Peacekeeping Operations chief Hervé] Ladsous’ proposed used of drones.
The concerns ranged from the control of information — that is, who would get it — to compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization rules. And, as Inner City Press first reported, concerns were again expressed about the tender process.”

Torture settlement
The Associated Press reports that a US defense contractor has paid $5.28 million to former inmates of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison over torture allegations:

“The settlement in the case involving Engility Holdings Inc. of Chantilly, Va., marks the first successful effort by lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers to collect money from a U.S. defense contractor in lawsuits alleging torture. Another contractor, CACI, is expected to go to trial over similar allegations this summer.
The payments were disclosed in a document that Engility filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission two months ago but which has gone essentially unnoticed.”

Not onboard
The Toronto Star reports that Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, told the president of the African Union and Benin his government “is not considering a direct Canadian military mission” in Mali, but he did take care of some business with Benin:

“There has been speculation that Canada is laying the groundwork for a military foray into Mali and Defence Minister Peter MacKay raised eyebrows last week when he said Canada might send military trainers.
But Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s officials have played down the possibility of an armed mission to Mali.

After meeting with [AU and Benin president Thomas Boni] Yayi, Harper announced Canada and Benin have signed a foreign investor protection agreement and that Ottawa will provide $18.2 million over eight years to support improvements in Benin’s public administration.”

Small club
Inter Press Service reports that the US is under renewed pressure from civil society for being one of only seven countries yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW):

“So far, 187 out of 194 countries have ratified CEDAW, but the non-ratifiers include Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Palau, Tonga and the United States.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted CEDAW back in 1979. The treaty consists of a preamble and 30 articles, which according to the United Nations, ‘defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.’
And countries that have ratified CEDAW are legally bound to put its provisions into practice.”

Aid control
The Canadian Press reports that Haiti’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, has said he wants to have more say over how Canadian aid to his country gets spent:

“ ‘For any future co-operation, when it’s decided to resume, we will ask the Canadian government to focus on the priorities of the Haitian government,’ he said by telephone after meeting with Canada’s ambassador to Haiti in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
‘Basically, the development assistance, because of the perceived weakness of Haitian institutions, was routed directly to NGOs (non-government organizations) and Canadian firms…
‘That weakened our institutions.’

Lamothe insists his government’s hands are tied when it comes to development programs because it doesn’t receive any of CIDA’s aid. He wants Canada — and other donor countries — to work together to find a way to involve Haiti’s institutions in the process.”

The business of closing borders
Inter Press Service reports that security and weapons companies stand to make big bucks from the EU’s tougher stance on immigration:

“Thirteen companies and consortiums (Israel Aerospace Industries, Lockheed Martin, FAST Protect AG, L-3 Communications, FLIR Systems, SCOTTY Group Austria, Diamond Airborne Sensing, Inmarsat, Thales, AeroVision, AeroVironment, Altus, BlueBird) demonstrated technological solutions for maritime surveillance.

The demonstrations are part of the preparation for the launch of EUROSUR, the European External Border Surveillance System meant to enhance cooperation between border control agencies of EU member states and to promote surveillance of EU’s external borders by [EU border agency] Frontex, with a particular focus on the Mediterranean and North Africa, in view of controlling migration to Europe.
Surveillance plans envisage the possibility of using drones to spot migrant boats trying to cross the Mediterranean.”

Hijacking the climate
The Guardian reports that the World Economic Forum has warned geoengineering aimed at preventing global warming could do more harm than good:

“ ‘The global climate could, in effect, be hijacked. For example, an island state threatened with rising sea levels may decide they have nothing to lose, or a well-funded individual with good intentions may take matters into their own hands,’ the report notes. It said there are ‘signs that this is already starting to occur’, highlighting the case of a story broken by the Guardian involving the dumping of 100 tonnes of iron sulphate off the Canadian coast in 2012, in a bid to spawn plankton and capture carbon.”

Big picture
Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz argues it is dangerous for the global community to focus on immediate economic issues to the exclusion of long-term problems:

“An economic and political system that does not deliver for most citizens is one that is not sustainable in the long run. Eventually, faith in democracy and the market economy will erode, and the legitimacy of existing institutions and arrangements will be called into question.
The good news is that the gap between the emerging and advanced countries has narrowed greatly in the last three decades. Nonetheless, hundreds of millions of people remain in poverty, and there has been only a little progress in reducing the gap between the least developed countries and the rest.
Here, unfair trade agreements – including the persistence of unjustifiable agricultural subsidies, which depress the prices upon which the income of many of the poorest depend – have played a role. The developed countries have not lived up to their promise in Doha in November 2001 to create a pro-development trade regime, or to their pledge at the G-8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005 to provide significantly more assistance to the poorest countries.”

Latest Developments, December 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Rebel recognition
The New York Times reports that the US has announced it now considers an opposition coalition to be Syria’s “legitimate representative” even though it is unclear how much authority the group actually has over rebel fighters:

“Moreover, [the recognition] draws an even sharper line between those elements of the opposition that the United States champions and those it rejects. The Obama administration coupled its recognition with the designation hours earlier of a militant Syrian rebel group, the Nusra Front, as a foreign terrorist organization, affiliated with Al Qaeda.

But Mr. Obama’s move does not go so far as to confer on the opposition the legal authority of a state. It does not, for example, recognize the opposition’s right to have access to Syrian government funds, take over the Syrian Embassy in Washington or enter into binding diplomatic commitments.”

Too big to jail
Global Witness points out that 47,000 people died in Mexico’s drug war during the time that HSBC “failed to check whether the dollars it was shipping from Mexico to the US were drugs money,” an oversight for which Europe’s biggest bank has agreed to pay a $1.9 billion fine:

“ ‘Fines alone are not going to change banks’ behaviour: the chances of being caught are relatively small and the potential profits from accepting dodgy clients are too big.  Fines are seen as a cost of doing business,’ said Rosie Sharpe, campaigner at Global Witness.
‘Instead, regulators should hold senior bankers legally responsible for their banks’ money laundering performance.  At the very least, senior bankers should be prevented from working in the industry, akin to the way in which doctors can be struck off.  Bonuses should be clawed back, and, in the most serious cases, senior bankers should face jail,’ said Sharpe.”

Uranium politics
NGO l’Observatoire du nucléaire sees the hand of a French state-owned company in the sudden alteration of Niger’s 2013 budget:

“This change, probably illegal, consisted of adding to the national budget 17 billion CFA francs (about €26 million) ‘given’ to Niger by the French nuclear company Areva, of which 10 billion CFA francs (more than €15 million) are set to go directly to purchasing an airplane for Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou.
This is a clear act of corruption, in moral terms if not legal ones, by Areva which expects thereby to maintain its grip on Niger’s uranium, in order to supply French nuclear power plants.

It just so happens that Mr. Issoufou is a former director of a uranium mining company, Somaïr, which is an Areva subsidiary!” [Translated from the French.]

Patent trolls
Reuters reports that in the US, more patent lawsuits have been brought this year by “entities that don’t make anything than those that do”:

“This year, about 61 percent of all patent lawsuits filed through December 1 were brought by patent-assertion entities, or individuals and companies that work aggressively and opportunistically to assert patents as a business model rather than build their own technology, according to a paper by Colleen Chien, a law professor at Santa Clara University.
That compares with 45 percent in 2011 and 23 percent five years ago.”

Corruption’s infrastructure
The Center for Global Development’s William Savedoff suggests some measures rich countries can take to help stem illicit financial flows, which he calls “a problem for world governance”:

“There is only so much the developed world can do to promote better governance in developing countries; after all, developed countries don’t have such a great track record of addressing corruption at home – whether it comes to Super PACs in the US or Berlusconi’s comeback after conviction on tax fraud. But we can make a big difference if rich and powerful countries were to stop protecting and enforcing repayment of odious debt; hindering recovery of stolen assets; allowing multinationals to make facilitation payments; and hiding oil and mineral royalty payments from public view.”

Aid business
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, raises concerns about the potential impacts on Africa’s food security of a new US-led initiative to increase private sector investment in the continent’s agriculture:

“One of the [New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition] projects will see agri-food giant Cargill, subsidised by G8 development funding, take some 40,000 hectares of farmland in Mozambique. This comes at a time when peasant movements and smallholders across the developing world are calling out for their access to land to be secured in the face of land grabs.

And aid must not result in a long-term dependency on expensive technologies that may eventually force the most marginal farmers, who have the greatest difficulties accessing credit, to leave the land.”

Pathological consumption
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues that consumer culture is “screwing the planet” for the sake of acquiring largely useless items:

“People in eastern Congo are massacred to facilitate smartphone upgrades of ever diminishing marginal utility. Forests are felled to make ‘personalised heart-shaped wooden cheese board sets’. Rivers are poisoned to manufacture talking fish. This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and by the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.

This boom has not happened by accident. Our lives have been corralled and shaped in order to encourage it. World trade rules force countries to participate in the festival of junk. Governments cut taxes, deregulate business, manipulate interest rates to stimulate spending. But seldom do the engineers of these policies stop and ask, ‘spending on what?’ When every conceivable want and need has been met (among those who have disposable money), growth depends on selling the utterly useless. The solemnity of the state, its might and majesty, are harnessed to the task of delivering Terry the Swearing Turtle to our doors.”

Moral legacy
Mother Jones’s Adam Serwer suggests the makers of Zero Dark Thirty, the new Hollywood movie about the American hunt for Osama bin Laden, are “rehabilitating torture”:

“The critical acclaim Zero Dark Thirty is already receiving suggests that it may do what Karl Rove could not have done with all the money in the world: embed in the popular imagination the efficacy, even the necessity, of torture, despite available evidence to the contrary. Whatever the artistic merits of the film, that will be its moral legacy.”

Latest Developments, November 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Status upgrade
Reuters reports that the UN General Assembly has voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, in favour of recognizing Palestine as a non-member state rather than an “entity”:

“Granting Palestinians the title of ‘non-member observer state’ falls short of full U.N. membership – something the Palestinians failed to achieve last year. But it would allow them access to the [International Criminal Court] and other international bodies, should they choose to join them.

At least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. Britain, Germany and others chose to abstain.
The Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and tiny Pacific Island states likes Nauru, Palau and Micronesia in voting against the move.”

Frozen assets
Bloomberg reports that oil giant Chevron is asking Argentine courts to lift an embargo imposed on its assets in the country because of a massive outstanding fine handed down by a judge in Ecuador:

“Judge Adrian Elcuj Miranda ordered 40 percent of Chevron’s Argentine bank accounts to be held in escrow, Enrique Bruchou, an Argentine attorney representing Ecuadorean plaintiffs, said on Nov. 7.
The plaintiffs are seeking to enforce a $19 billion award against Chevron, which they say is responsible for destroying the environment in the Lago Agrio region, damaging living conditions of 30,000 inhabitants.”

Problematic portfolio
OnEarth reports that Susan Rice, the presumptive frontrunner to become the next US secretary of state, is heavily invested in Canadian companies that stand to profit from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which she would have the power to approve:

“The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.
Beyond that, according to financial disclosure reports, about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel — including companies with poor environmental and safety records on both U.S. and Canadian soil. Rice and her husband own at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada’s eight leading oil producers, as ranked by Forbes magazine.”

Mind the Gap
Paloma Muñoz Quick of the Danish Institute for Human Rights argues that the ongoing international negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty focus so much on states, that the “monumental” role of the private sector is largely overlooked:

“Companies in North America and Western Europe dominate the global arms industry. Likewise, shipping companies dominate international transport in weapons, including shipments to actors involved in conflict and illicit deliveries of small arms and light weapons to non-state actors in Colombia. Private security companies (PSCs) also fuel and directly rely on the arms trade for their operations.

A joint effort therefore is necessary to address the private sector’s role in the arms trade. Accordingly, UN Member States should seek to reference the [UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] in the ATT’s preamble, which will provide a common reference point for States to address the private sector’s central role in the arms trade, and help ensure that companies in their jurisdiction do not contribute to human rights abuses undermining development”

Image issues
Concerned about the potential for reputational damage, Barclays has said it may get out of the agricultural commodities trading business:

“Several German banks, including Commerzbank, have this year restricted their investments in agricultural products, but banks elsewhere have been slower to curb activity despite heavy lobbying by groups such as World Development Movement (WDM), which has been critical of Barclays.

Barclays, Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan have all built up strongly in commodities in the past decade to challenge established veterans Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Those five banks control about 70 percent of the commodities trading pot.”

Circular economy
Science writer Gaia Vince sees signs that the tide may be turning against a consumer culture marked by planned obsolescence or worse, “replacing functioning phones simply for reasons of fashion or for technological additions that many of us rarely use”:

“And other companies are joining the move towards a circular economy, in which economic growth is uncoupled from finite-resource-use. Instead of the linear manufacturing route: mining materials, fabricating, selling, throwing them away; a circular economy is based around making products that are more easily disassembled, so that the resources can be recovered and used to make new products, keeping them in circulation. British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur is a strong advocate of the concept and commissioned a report into the idea, which found that the benefits to Europe’s economy alone could be $630 billion, based on cycling just 15% of materials in 48% of manufacturing and just being recycled once.”

Market colonization
Inter Press Service reports on opposition in Africa to genetically modified crops, which are often touted as a solution to food shortages on the continent:

“[Friends of the Earth International’s Nnimmo] Bassey said that GM crops are neither more nutritious nor better yielding nor use fewer pesticides and herbicides. And he said they are unsafe for humans and for the environment.
‘It is all about market colonisation,’ Bassey told IPS. ‘GM crops would neither produce food security nor meet nutrition deficits. The way forward is food sovereignty – Africans must determine what crops are suitable culturally and environmentally. Up to 80 percent of our food needs are met by smallholder farmers. These people need support and inputs for integrated agro-ecological crop management. Africa should ideally be a GMO-free continent.’ ”

Changing the rules
Purpose’s Alnoor Ladha, Pambazuka founder Firoze Manji and Yale University’s Thomas Pogge argue the world’s current level of poverty and inequality is not inevitable:

“It is the outcome of active choices by people who make and enforce the rules we all live by: rules about global trade, banking, loans, investment, taxes, working conditions, land, food, health and education. These rules are made by people and people can change them.
Frederick Douglass, a leader of the 19th century abolitionist movement which brought an end to slavery, once said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand’. If we want to change rules that have been written by the few and for the few, we must look outside existing power structures to the power of the many.”