Latest Developments, October 27

In the latest news and analysis…

French weapons
Jeune Afrique reports that the French defence ministry has released its annual report to parliament on arms exports and while undemocratic Morocco was the top African importer, Arab Spring heavyweights Libya and Egypt were second and fourth, respectively.
“Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi fought the rebels with new French weapons: 88.4 million euros worth of military equipment was shipped to Libya last year (the most in five years), according to a report to parliament for 2010 published on Oct. 26. While Paris insists arms exports are conditional on the “respect for human rights” of the buyers, that criterion was not applied to the Jamahiriya… But ministry of defence spokesman General Philippe Pontiès said “as soon as the Arab revolutions began, all authorizations were frozen.” (Translated from the French)

Corporate warlords
A Nigerian foreign affairs official has called for a crackdown on the illegal importation of small arms into West Africa by “corporate warlords” from rich countries, according to the Africa Report.
“[Lawrence Olefumi Obisakin] said small arms and light weapons were the “weapons of mass destruction” in West Africa, in view of the devastation witnessed from their misuse and the destabilising effects they had on the region’s socio-economic development, including the Niger Delta.
Nigeria had spent more than $10 billion in the last two decades to stem the tide of recurrent conflicts caused by the circulation of an estimated eight million small arms, he said.”

Canadian expropriation
A coalition of human rights and indigenous peoples’ groups has released a statement welcoming the start of an international hearing into land rights in Canada.
“The case before Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concerns the 1884 expropriation of over 237,000 hectares of resource-rich land from the traditional territories of the Hul’qumi’num peoples on Vancouver Island. The Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group (HTG) alleges that Canada has violated international human rights norms by refusing to negotiate for any form of redress for the expropriated lands, which are now mostly in the hands of large forestry companies, and by failing to protect Hul’qumi’num interests while the dispute remains unresolved.”

Consumers of war
In an interview with the Calgary Herald, physician and humanitarian Samantha Nutt discusses her new book Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid and the ways in which rich countries help perpetuate conflict around the world.
“We think these conflicts around the world have nothing to do with us,” she says, adding, “We are, literally, consumers of war,” through everything from our pension funds to the purchasing of cellphones, diamond rings and gasoline.
“The Canada Pension Plan has investments in arms manufacturers,” she says, noting in her book she provides advice to average Canadians on how to keep closer tabs on where their investments, and charity dollars, go.”

Tanzanian taxman
Reuters reports South African mining giant AngloGold Ashanti has started paying a 30 percent corporate tax rate to Tanzania after more than a decade of commercial production in the country.
“The government began negotiations with mining companies to pay the tax after drafting a new mining policy in 2009 and the subsequent passing of new mining legislation last year.
‘This is the first time that AngloGold will start paying corporate tax since it entered the Tanzanian market,’ said the presidency.
Australian gold miner Resolute Mining was the first mining company to start paying corporate tax in Tanzania, according to the African country’s minerals ministry.
Mining officials said the government was also in talks with African Barrick Gold , which has four gold mines in Tanzania, on payment of the tax.”

Social protection floor
A new UN report calls for the worldwide establishment of a “social protection floor” that would guarantee a basic, livable income for all through transfers in cash or in kind.
“This report…shows that the extension of social protection, drawing on social protection floors, can play a pivotal role in relieving people of poverty and deprivation. It can in addition help people adapt their skills to overcome the constraints that block their full participation in a changing economic and social environment, contributing to improved human capital development and stimulating greater productive activity. The report also shows how social protection has helped to stabilize aggregate demand in times of crisis and to increase resilience against economic shocks, contributing to accelerate recovery towards more inclusive and sustainable development paths.”

Mandatory harmonization
The European Network on Debt and Development’s Alex Marriage argues proposed EU corporate tax harmonization is a nice idea but may do more harm than good unless it establishes a compulsory minimum rate.
“The [European] Commission’s proposal is commendable for introducing a form of formulary apportionment which seeks to establish where real economic activity takes place by looking at staffing levels, sales, assets, etc. meaning that companies cannot simply cherry pick the location where rates are lowest. This would be a crucial step forward in the fight against transfer pricing abuse by companies that use subsidiaries in low tax jurisdictions in order to minimise their tax bills. Secondly this is a move towards increased tax cooperation.”

The failure fad
Bottom Up Thinking’s MJ argues that the development industry’s growing penchant for admitting failure is a good thing but is unconvinced that this newfound humility has so far actually led to any fundamental questioning of assumptions.
“It’s hard enough to admit failure in the first place. It’s even harder to admit that you might actually be the problem. And what matter most is what you do after you’ve admitted failure.”

Latest Developments, September 28

In the latest news and analysis…

The new containment
David Eaves, “public policy entrepreneur” and blogger, argues the Open Government Partnership, which officially launched last week, is widely misunderstood as a “do good project” when it is actually motivated by geopolitical considerations.
“The OGP is part of a 21st century containment policy. And I’d go further, it is a effort to forge a new axis around which America specifically, and a broader democratic camp more generally, may seek to organize allies and rally its camp. It abandons the now outdated free-market/democratic vs. state-controlled/communist axis in favour of a more subtle, but more appropriate, open vs. closed.”

Double non-taxation
The European Network on Debt and Development’s Alex Marriage writes about efforts underway in Europe to stem the “race to the bottom” in corporate taxation and the practice of “treaty shopping” which often leads to “double non-taxation.”
“There is a constant stream of double taxation agreements being signed between developing and developed countries which in the current global regulatory environment frequently lead to double non taxation. This amendment will not help developing countries directly but acknowledgement of the problem is surely welcome.”

Co-opting Robin Hood
TheParliament.com reports that European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has announced plans for a Financial Transaction Tax or “Robin Hood tax,” saying it was time for the continent’s banks to give back to society after the trillions in public funds they have received since the financial crisis began.
“The FTT is moving from rhetoric to reality but a significant part of the revenues should be used as Bill Gates suggested, to help poor countries facing chilling reductions in aid, trade, and investment – not just shore up the EU budget,” according to Oxfam’s Nicolas Mombrial.
“An FTT is not a ‘Robin Hood tax’ unless clear commitments are made to use the revenues for tackling climate change, and poverty at home and abroad.”

The poor feeding the rich
Greenpeace has released a new report entitled How Africa is feeding Europe which describes the local impacts of European “fisheries partnership agreements” off the coast of West Africa.
“In European waters, the level of overfishing is higher than the global average, with an estimated 88% of European fish stocks in a poor state. Rather than solve this problem, the EU has progressively been increasing their capacity in seas beyond its own to meet the growing global demand for seafood and to keep their fleets in business. Several of Europe’s largest vessels are currently operating in waters of some of the world’s poorest nations through fisheries partnership agreements or joint ventures, undermining local food security by failing to adequately consider the local communities need for local fish as a source of protein and income.”

Good and bad refugees
Romero House’s Mary Jo Leddy imagines how history will judge Canada’s current treatment of would-be Tamil migrants and criticizes a proposed piece of immigration legislation the Conservative government describes as an effort to stop human smuggling.
“Bill C-4 is another attempt by stealth to prevent refugees from coming to Canada. A series of pieces of legislation have effectively divided refugees into two groups: the “bad” refugees who have the audacity to come to Canada on their own, and the “good” refugees who are in camps overseas and who will stay there until they are among those chosen to come to Canada.”

Absurd orthodoxy
Clarity Economics’s Phil Thornton reports on last month’s Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings where participants considered the possibility that the dominant economic model of the past few decades has failed.
“According to [Joseph] Stiglitz, the models used by central banks and many in the private sector created a policy framework that was clearly at the centre of the crisis: ‘It said you don’t need regulation. It said all you need for monetary policy is low inflation and that would suffice to ensure stable growth. In retrospect, these ideas seem absurd.’”

3Ds peril
The Guardian reports on the difficulties, including deportations and delayed shipments, faced by foreign aid agencies operating in Pakistan in the aftermath of revelations the CIA had used a fake vaccination scheme in its hunt for Osama bin Laden.
“Others complain of regular visits to their offices from intelligence officials seeking detailed information about their staff. One intelligence document, inadvertently left behind at one aid agency and seen by the Guardian, directs operatives to investigate the ‘covert funding’ and ‘covert operations’ of international NGOs.”

Humanitarian G-spot
On Motherhood and Sanity’s Angelica, guest blogging on Tales from the Hood, suggests the development industry is not walking its gender talk.
“You know I’m right. You just cannot (and certainly should not) have a document, meeting, program or strategy that does not address gender. Depending on the place and theme it can range from anything along the lines of combating FGM to increased political representation and decision making.  As aid practitioners we are acutely aware of the pitfalls and structural biases that leave women vulnerable to abuse and dependency. We ignore the local’s arguments that link these forms of discrimination to culture or tradition, and demand equality be treated as a basic human right.
So why is it we are failing so miserably to achieve gender balance at home?”

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.”