Latest Developments, April 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Radical revision
The New York Times editorial board calls the US Supreme Court’s decision in a case pitting Nigerian plaintiffs against oil giant Shell “a giant setback for human rights”:

“The court declared that a 1789 law called the Alien Tort Statute does not allow foreigners to sue in American courts to seek redress ‘for violations of the law of nations occurring outside the United States.’

But Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said that even where claims of atrocities ‘touch and concern the territory of the United States, they must do so with sufficient force’ to overcome a presumption that the statute does not apply to actions outside this country.
That presumption radically revises and undermines the way the statute has been applied for a generation. It has been limited by the types of human rights abuses it covers — but not by where they take place. The effect is to greatly narrow the statute’s reach.”

Silver lining
Reuters’s Alison Frankel writes, however, that human rights lawyers found some glimmers of hope in the Kiobel ruling:

“In the concurrence, [Justice Stephen] Breyer disputed the majority’s presumption against the extraterritoriality of the [Alien Tort Statute], though he agreed that the Nigerians’ case does not belong in U.S. courts. He laid out a different standard for ATS litigation: ‘I would find jurisdiction under this statute where (1) the alleged tort occurs on American soil, (2) the defendant is an American national, or (3) the defendant’s conduct substantially and adversely affects an important American national interest, and that includes a distinct interest in preventing the United States from becoming a safe harbor … for a torturer or other common enemy of mankind.’ ”

Senators heart guns
Former US Congresswoman and shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords excoriates the senators who have voted against increased gun control:

“We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.

The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job.
They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.”

Big debarment
The Globe and Mail reports that the World Bank has banned Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin and 100 of its subsidiaries from bidding on World Bank contracts for the next 10 years:

“The World Bank’s announcement about SNC, which was made Wednesday, also expanded the list of countries where the embattled engineering company has been accused of corruption. The bank said it has uncovered evidence that SNC conspired to bribe public officials in Cambodia and that it has passed that information along to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are already probing the company’s activities in Libya, Algeria and Bangladesh.
The 10-year prohibition was negotiated between the company and the bank and is the largest debarment that a company has agreed to as part of a settlement since the bank began sanctioning firms that seek to corrupt public officials.”

US torture
A new report by the Constitution Project alleges it is “indisputable” that the US practiced torture after the 9/11 attacks:

“The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been ‘the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.’ ”

Bad guest
A group of NGOs is calling on Canadian mining company Infinito Gold to stop its “decade-long harassment” of Costa Rica’s people and government, harassment they say includes the new threat of a $1 billion lawsuit:

“The [Costa Rican] courts told the Canadian company it could not develop the Crucitas mine, and told Infinito to pack up and go.
Instead of leaving, the company ratcheted-up a campaign of intimidation, attempting to censor a University of Costa Rica course focussed on the mining project and launching defamation suits against two professors and three other Costa Ricans who have spoken out publicly about the potential impact that this mining activity could have on a fragile environment.”

A tale of two archipelagos
The Guardian reports that a controversial UK official is going from administering the Chagos Islands, all of whose inhabitants Britain deported decades ago, to governing the Falkland Islands, for whose inhabitants Britain went to war a few years later:

“A US embassy cable published in the Guardian in December 2010 quoted a senior Foreign Office official, Colin Roberts, telling the Americans that as a result of imposing the marine reserve, there would be no ‘human footprints’ or ‘Man Fridays’ on the islands.
He said the plan would ‘in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents’, according to the cable.
The case is the first resulting from the leak of classified US cables in which UK officials have been ordered to appear.
Roberts, commissioner of the [British Indian Ocean Territory] at the time of his meeting with US officials in May 2009, will take up a new post next year as governor of the Falkland Islands, the high court heard on Monday.”

Carbon bubble
Environmental author Duncan Clark asks if we “can we bring ourselves to prioritise a safe planet over cheap fuels, flights, power and goods”:

“Blithely ignoring the fact that there is already far more accessible fuel than can be safely burned, pension fund managers and other investors are allowing listed fossil fuel companies to spend the best part of $1tn a year (comparable to the US defence budget, or more than $100 for every person on the planet) to find and develop yet more reserves.
If and when we emerge from this insanity, the carbon bubble will burst and those investments will turn out to have been as toxic as sub-prime mortgages. Don’t take my word for it. HSBC analysts recently concluded that oil giants such as BP – beloved of UK pension funds – could have their value cut in half if the world decides to tackle climate change. Coal companies can expect an even rougher ride, and yet our financial regulators still allow them to float on stock markets without mentioning in their share prospectuses that their assets may soon need to be written off.”

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Latest Developments, March 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone filibuster
The Washington Post reports that US Senator Rand Paul has ended a nearly 13-hour speech aimed at raising questions about American policy on extrajudicial killings:

“Paul said he was ‘alarmed’ by a lack of definition for who can be targeted by drone strikes. He suggested that many colleges in the 1960s were full of people who may have been considered enemies of the state.
‘Are you going to drop . . . a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?’ he asked at one point.
Repeatedly, Paul suggested that his cause was not partisan and not meant as a personal attack on the president — only on his drone policy.

‘I would be here if it were a Republican president doing this,’ Paul added. ‘Really, the great irony of this is that President Obama’s opinion on this is an extension of George Bush’s opinion.’ ”

New timetable
The BBC reports that France’s president, François Hollande, has said some of the 4,000 French troops currently in Mali will pull out next month:

“France had initially said that troop numbers would decrease from March if all went according to plan.
On Wednesday, Mr Hollande said that the ‘final phase’ of the French intervention ‘will last through March and from April there will be a decrease in the number of French soldiers in Mali as African forces will take over, supported by the Europeans’.”

See no evil
The Guardian reports on new evidence suggesting ex-CIA boss David Petraeus had extensive knowledge of torture being committed during his time as top commander in Iraq:

“[Special police commando] detention centres bought video cameras, funded by the US military, which they used to film detainees for the show [called ‘Terrorism In The Hands of Justice’]. When the show began to outrage the Iraqi public, [General Muntadher al-Samari] remembers being in the home of General Adnan Thabit – head of the special commandos – when a call came from Petraeus’s office demanding that they stop showing tortured men on TV.

Thabit is dismissive of the idea that the Americans he dealt with were unaware of what the commandos were doing. ‘Until I left, the Americans knew about everything I did; they knew what was going on in the interrogations and they knew the detainees. Even some of the intelligence about the detainees came to us from them – they are lying.’”

The grapes of graft
Reuters reports that an Italian vineyard may be key for an investigation into bribes allegedly paid by energy firm Eni to obtain oil and gas contracts in Algeria:

“[Farid Noureddine] Bedjaoui is suspected of channeling nearly 198 million euros in bribes to officials in Algeria via a company called Pearl Partners Limited for eight contracts totaling $11 billion awarded to [Eni subsidiary] Saipem, Europe’s biggest oil services company, between 2007-9, the warrant says.

The Feb 6 warrant alleges [Pietro Varone, former chief operating officer of Saipem’s engineering arm] recommended Pearl Partners to the Saipem board to advise on Saipem’s business activities in Algeria and the Middle East.
Varone was one of several senior managers at Saipem and Eni to resign in December as a result of the investigation. Eni and Saipem have denied wrongdoing.
Eni, Italy’s largest company in terms of market value, is the biggest foreign energy operator in Africa. It has operated in Algeria since 1981 and has extensive gas interests there.”

Fighting words
The Council of Canadians provides a transcript of comments made by a Greek mayor to the Canadian ambassador over a mining project planned by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold:

“ ‘We have studies that establish the utter devastation and we don’t want to discuss it any further. We are tired. What we want from you is to leave us alone so that we can develop here our agriculture, our stock farming, our fishery, our tourism, our forests, so that we can manage, through what we know, to keep the purity of our country, to advance,’ [said Alexandroupolis mayor Evangelos Labakis].

“You will get the gold, the 450 tons and we will keep the cyanide? Why should we do that when we have the opportunity to develop and we will do it?’ ”

Mining’s shadow
An Ottawa Citizen editorial calls on Ottawa to hold to account Canadian mining companies that behave badly abroad:

“Canada has many reasons to take a lead role in addressing unethical and illegal behaviour of mining companies around the world. A compelling one is that Canada is a major player on the world stage and companies that get into trouble are, therefore, frequently Canadian.
And, although the mining industry and the federal government have both been behind a major push to encourage corporate social responsibility, the federal government must do more, especially now that the giant mining industry is also at the centre of a shift in Canadian foreign aid toward more partnerships with private companies operating overseas.
With so much riding on our mining industry, Canada must move to remove the shadow that bad corporate citizens cast on it.”

Dirty City
TrustLaw reports that Transparency International’s new UK head has said London is “a clearing house for international corruption”:

“[TI-UK’s Robert] Barrington was one of a group of experts who drafted the official guidance to the UK Bribery Act, Britain’s strict new anti-bribery law. Since the Act came into force in July 2011, it has generated just two prosecutions, both for relatively minor bribery offences.

One reason for the small number of prosecutions under the Bribery Act is that Britain’s main anti-corruption prosecutor, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), has had its funding slashed in the last five years, Barrington said.”

Sharing benefits
Intellectual Property Watch reports that one expert has described the Nagoya Protocol, a proposed UN text on cultural diversity and traditional knowledge, as a “masterpiece of erratic treaty drafting”:

“In correspondence with Intellectual Property Watch, [the University of Sienna’s Riccardo] Pavoni said: ‘The Nagoya Protocol is absolutely neutral in relation to the issue of patentability of genetic material. The principle of sovereign rights over genetic resources may only allow states to ban the exploration and/or exportation of genetic resources found in their territories, but may not prevent a company from seeking patent protection in its home state or in other countries where such patents are granted.’
The core issue, he said, ‘is that of securing that genetic material has been accessed pursuant to the prior informed consent of the source country and that some form of benefit-sharing has been agreed upon with the same country.’ ”

Latest Developments, August 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Ecological overdraft
The Global Footprint Network has declared August 22 Earth Overshoot Day, “the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year”:

“We are now operating in overdraft. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In 1992, Earth Overshoot Day—the approximate date our resource consumption for a given year exceeds the planet’s ability to replenish—fell on October 21. In 2002, Overshoot Day was on October 3.”

High-level apology
The Associated Press reports that South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula has apologized to striking Lonmin miners in the wake of last week’s police shootings that killed 34 of them, while the UK-based company has taken a harder line:

“When miners started shaking plastic bags of bullet casings at her, evidence of the many bullets that police fired in volleys last Thursday, she said: ‘I am begging, I beg and I apologize, may you find forgiveness in your hearts.’

The government did intervene in favor of the strikers, persuading mine managers that no striking miners should be fired in the week that South Africa officially mourns the killings, the presidency said Tuesday.
Managers of Lonmin PLC platinum mine had ordered strikers to report for duty by 7 a.m. Tuesday or get fired, even as some family members still were searching for missing loved ones, not knowing whether they were dead or alive among some 250 arrested protesters or in one of the hospitals”

Taking responsibility
The South African Press Association reports that the Bench Marks Foundation has said Lonmin “has to bear a heavy burden of responsibility” for the striking miners’ deaths:

“ ‘Lonmin must retract their insensitivity towards the grieving families and apologise for their lack of empathy and harsh response, especially by giving ultimatums to grieving workers to return to work immediately,’ the foundation said.
Lonmin and other platinum-producing companies in the area bore responsibility for the negative affects of mining on the lives of people in the Bojanala Platinum district municipality.
‘The Marikana tragedy cannot be understood without looking at the negative economic, social and environmental impacts of platinum mining for both workers and local communities in the area.’ ”

Bribery memo
The Age reports that a newly discovered document links the governor of Australia’s central bank and his former deputy to “one of the worst corporate corruption cover-ups” in the country’s history:

“The 2007 memo shows that almost two years before a bribery expose by The Age forced the [Reserve Bank of Australia] to call in police, [former deputy governor Ric] Battellino was given a detailed and explosive memo cataloguing bribery and corruption inside Note Printing Australia, a wholly owned and supervised subsidiary of the bank.
The memo, details of which have remained secret until now, was addressed to ‘Deputy Governor RBA’ and written by a senior executive of NPA, which along with sister firm Securency was charged last year by Australian Federal Police with bribing foreign officials via overseas agents in order to win contracts.”

Shell’s army
The Guardian reports that oil giant Shell is paying tens of millions to Nigeria’s security forces, as well as employing a private police force and “a network of plainclothes informants” to protect its Niger Delta assets:

“Activists expressed concern that the escalating cost of Shell’s security operation in the delta was further destabilising the oil rich region and helping to fuel rampant corruption and criminality. ‘The scale of Shell’s global security expenditure is colossal,’ said Ben Amunwa of London-based oil watchdog Platform. ‘It is staggering that Shell transferred $65m of company funds and resources into the hands of soldiers and police known for routine human rights abuses.’

‘This proves what we in the Niger delta have known for years – that the air force, the army, the police, they are paid for with Shell money and they are all at the disposal of the company for it to use it any how it likes,’ said Celestine Nkabari at the Niger delta campaign group Social Action.”

Oil transparency
Najwa al-Beshti, a former employee of the National Oil Corporation of Libya, calls on the US Securities and Exchange Commission and European regulators to bring in strong transparency requirements for extractive industry companies operating abroad:

“Oil industry lobbyists are using their influence in Washington and Brussels to try to undermine transparency measures that could help prevent future tyrants from emerging. That must not be allowed to happen.
When Colonel Qaddafi was in power, I worked for Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation, in a position that allowed me to observe corruption firsthand. I helped produce audits that detailed the mismanagement of millions of dollars of oil revenues, including the systematic underpricing of oil and the discounting of prices for select foreign companies.”

Ethanol rules
The Washington Post reports on a new study exploring the potential impact on global food prices of various possible adjustments to US policy regulating ethanol production:

“Under the fourth option there, the EPA allows a fairly big relaxation of the ethanol rule next year. (A waiver this year is unlikely.) Refiners are required to use 25 percent less ethanol. And ethanol producers can carry over their credits from previous years. In that case, corn prices could drop more than 20 percent, to $6.56 per bushel. That’s about where corn prices would have been if we only had a ‘weak drought’ this year. In other words, by relaxing the ethanol rule, the EPA could essentially turn a ‘strong drought’ into a ‘weak drought’ as far as prices are concerned.”

Ecuador bashing
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues that the British media’s treatment of Ecuador during the drama involving Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been characterized by “the dismissiveness that remains the hallmark of western foreign policy instincts”:

“In otherwise thoughtful comments criticising the Ecuadorian government on its press freedom record on Channel 4 News last week, David Aaronovitch, an influential British journalist said: “I’m not sure [the Ecuadorians] would understand what human rights were if they came and smacked them over the back of the head.”
Such language doubtless makes for good TV, but it’s both incredibly rude and not a little myopic: many people around the world would say the same of Britain – and with good cause, given the hardly glowing record of its government and companies.”

Latest Developments, July 20

In the latest news and analysis…

Carbon glut
Reuters reports that despite plummeting carbon prices, the UN still believes its carbon offset market will play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

“U.N-backed carbon credits, called certified emissions reductions (CERs), have plunged around 70 percent over the past 12 months as a massive supply of credits has built up because of a drop in demand due to a slowing economy. The benchmark CER contract hit record lows below 3 euros this week.
Low carbon prices have stalled new investment in low-carbon technology, raising doubt about whether there is any point to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and its market-based mechanisms, notably the [Clean Development Mechanism].”

Sustainable friendship
The New York Times reports that, at a meeting where China promised $20 billion in loans to Africa, South African President Jacob Zuma described his continent’s relationship with China as preferable to the one with Europe, but problematic nevertheless:

“ ‘Africa’s commitment to China’s development has been demonstrated by supply of raw materials, other products and technology transfer. This trade pattern is unsustainable in the long term. Africa’s past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies,’ [said Zuma].”

Reconstruction corruption
iWatch News reports that the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has issued his penultimate report in which he estimates $6 billion to $8 billion worth of US funds were lost:

“SIGIR’s investigation also uncovered instances of bid-rigging and bribe-taking by State and Pentagon officials.

Many of the challenges described in the Iraq report mirror those depicted in similar reports by its cousin, the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. In a May report to Congress, for example, that office concluded that ‘corruption remains a major threat to the reconstruction effort’ and said contractors were taking advantage of lax oversight in Afghanistan.”

Owning genes
Bloomberg reports that a US court is set to consider whether or not human genes can become the property of corporations:

“Madeleine Ball, a Harvard University geneticist, said entire regions of the human genome are at risk of becoming inaccessible to anyone who can’t afford to pay for patent licenses, stifling the information-sharing that’s vital to scientific progress. For personalized medicine companies like Optimal Medicine Ltd., the patents are about protecting billions of dollars invested in years of research.

Aspects of seven [Myriad Genetics Inc.] patents were being challenged by the American Society of Human Genetics, the American Medical Association and other scientific groups. They argue that isolated DNA is the same thing as what is in the human body. The Supreme Court in March said that patents cannot be obtained on things that prevent others from the use of a natural law.”

Food aid, cash cow
The Guardian reports on the “special interests” that are blocking reform of America’s overseas food assistance system:

“Under US law, the majority of American food aid must be shipped on US-flagged vessels, and the shipping industry is another aggressive defender of the system. A 2007 report by the US government accountability office (GAO) found that nearly two-thirds of the US food aid budget was spent on transportation and other non-food costs.

Together, agribusiness, shipping companies and NGOs form what some have called the ‘iron triangle’ of special interests, blocking reform of the controversial in-kind system.”

Cartel clients
The Daily Beast reports on HSBC’s “complicity” in laundering Mexican drug money and the obstacles to an international crackdown:

“The understated element of the war on organized crime in Mexico—and in fact, around the world—has been the fight against the money launderers: the companies and banks that allow drug cartels to flood their illicit cash back into the global economy.

HSBC executives admitted that a large portion of some $7 billion transferred by their Mexican subsidiaries into the bank’s U.S. operation likely belonged to drug cartels.”

Suicide drone
Gizmodo reports that the British military has become the first customer for the “suicidal bird of prey” known as the Fire Shadow:

“According to missile systems manufacturer MBDA, this bird of death is a high precision, low cost flying missile that can be launched by a soldier from the ground, just like any other small unmanned air vehicle. After the launch, the Fire Shadow can hover over a large area for up to six hours or 62 miles (100 kilometers). Once the operator points out a target, the Fire Shadow will fall on it destroying it on contact.”

Classified Gitmo
ProPublica reports that the US government is being challenged over its decision to automatically classify everything said by Guantanamo detainees accused of involvement in 9/11, even accounts of their own torture.

“The ‘presumptive classification’ order extends to both detainees’ testimony and their discussions with their lawyers. In other words, anything said by a detainee, whether in court or to their counsel, will first need censors’ stamp of approval before it can become public.”

Managing FDI
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie welcomes a new UN report that ranks countries according to the development impact of their foreign direct investment inflows:

“Along with this matrix – and possibly more significantly – Unctad is promoting a new investment policy framework for sustainable development (IPFSD) focused on balancing the rights of investors with the need for the state to take an active role to ensure investments benefit society. Suggested indicators for analysing the contribution made by particular investments include economic value added (such as capital formation and fiscal revenues), obviously, but also job creation and sustainable development (such as families lifted out of poverty, greenhouse gas emissions, technology dissemination).”

Bad society
Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, argues there are both moral and practical reasons to object to inequality at its current levels:

“There is a strange, though little-noticed, consequence of the failure to distinguish value from price: the only way offered to most people to boost their incomes is through economic growth. In poor countries, this is reasonable; there is not enough wealth to spread round. But, in developed countries, concentration on economic growth is an extraordinarily inefficient way to increase general prosperity, because it means that an economy must grow by, say, 3% to raise the earnings of the majority by, say, 1%.
Nor is it by any means certain that the human capital of the majority can be increased faster than that of the minority, who capture all of the educational advantages flowing from superior wealth, family conditions, and connections. Redistribution in these circumstances is a more secure way to achieve a broad base of consumption, which is itself a guarantee of economic stability.”

Latest Developments, June 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Uranium politics
La Tribune reports that France’s new socialist president, François Hollande, has said he wants to see uranium production stepped up in Niger, where French state-owned company Areva is trying to get its new Imouraren mega-project up and running:

“In making this statement, François Hollande is following in the footsteps of his predecessors who supported the efforts of Areva to ensure the supply of uranium to France. A difficult task. Tensions are recurring with Niamey, which has been trying for years to get a bigger share of mining revenues. In 2007-2008, during the renegotiation of mining terms, Niger accused Areva of supporting the country’s Tuareg rebellion and expelled the local director. In trying to break Areva’s monopoly, Niamey has granted more than a hundred exploration licenses since 2006 to Chinese, Canadian, Indian, South African and Anglo-Australian companies.

In April, Nigerien staff at the Imouraren site undertook a seven-day warning strike to protest labour conditions, saying they were working 12 hours a day. Areva countered that this sort of disruption would make it difficult to begin production as anticipated in 2014.” (Translated from the French.)

Water grabbing
A new report by GRAIN warns that the “current scramble for land in Africa” has important implications for access to the continent’s water sources:

“Those who have been buying up vast stretches of farmland in recent years, whether they are based in Addis Ababa, Dubai or London, understand that the access to water they gain, often included for free and without restriction, may well be worth more over the long-term, than the land deals themselves.

‘The value is not in the land,’ says Neil Crowder of UK-based Chayton Capital which has been acquiring farmland in Zambia. ‘The real value is in water.’
And companies like Chayton Capital think that Africa is the best place to find that water. The message repeated at farmland investor conferences around the globe is that water is abundant in Africa. It is said that Africa’s water resources are vastly under utilised, and ready to be harnessed for export oriented agriculture projects.
The reality is that a third of Africans already live in water-scarce environments and climate change is likely to increase these numbers significantly. Massive land deals could rob millions of people of their access to water and risk the depletion of the continent’s most precious fresh water sources.”

US soldiers in Africa
The Army Times reports that at least 3,000 American soldiers will do tours of duty in Africa next year as part of the US military’s “new readiness model”:

“Africa, in particular, has emerged as a greater priority for the U.S. government because terrorist groups there have become an increasing threat to U.S. and regional security.
Though U.S. soldiers have operated in Africa for decades, including more than 1,200 soldiers currently stationed at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, the region in many ways remains the Army’s last frontier.”

Corruption cover-up
The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a scandal that has engulfed Australia’s central bank as a result of bribery allegations involving some of its subsidiaries:

“[Note Printing Australia], which is fully owned and supervised by the Reserve Bank, and Securency, half-owned by the RBA, were also charged with allegedly bribing officials in Vietnam, Malaysia, Nepal and Indonesia in order to secure banknote supply contracts.
The companies make and print Australia’s banknotes and export them to more than 30 countries.
The scandal has embroiled the leadership of the RBA, with senior central bank officials receiving explicit evidence of bribery back in 2007 but choosing to handle the matter internally rather than go to police.”

Digging a deeper hole
Reuters reports that Indian authorities are investigating whether a Swiss-based arms company tried to avoid being blacklisted for corruption by attempting to bribe government officials:

“An Indian businessman was charged on Saturday with attempting to bribe government officials in connection with allegations that Swiss-based Rheinmetall Air Defence AG paid him $530,000 to use his influence to stop the company from being blacklisted.

India’s Defence Ministry has put in place strict guidelines for arms deals in an effort to crack down on bribery and corruption at a time when Asia’s third-largest economy is on a weapons-buying spree to modernise its military. India is the world’s largest arms buyer.”

Valuing nature
The UN Environment Program’s Achim Steiner writes that a so-called green economy will require changes to “our current economic thinking at a systemic level”:

“Why, for example, does the world pursue a paradigm of economic growth that rests upon eroding the very basis of earth’s life-support systems? Can wealth be redefined and reframed to include access to basic goods and services, including those provided by nature free of cost, such as clean air, a stable climate, and fresh water? Is it not time to give human development, environmental sustainability, and social equity an equal footing with GDP growth?”

Myth of apolitical human rights
STAND’s Sean Langberg blogs about the global human rights movement’s “four dominant schools of thought” as identified by the University of Buffalo’s Makau Mutua who puts certain multilateral institutions in the same category as a former Congolese dictator:

Political Strategists or Instrumentalists are primarily individuals within government or institutions that exist to serve the interests of a state. Mutua takes exceptional issue with these advocates and believes they only employ a human rights narrative when it serves to better their cause. He cites Mobutu Sese Seko, NATO, and the World Bank as individuals or institutions that profess(ed) an allegiance to civil rights, but do/did so in rhetoric only. Mutua believes that instances of this disconnect are becoming more common as human rights movement continues to be ‘apolitical’ and ‘universal.’ ”

Victors’ justice
Trinity College’s Vijay Prashad criticizes NATO’s lack of transparency regarding its military campaign in Libya last year:

“The scandal here is that NATO, a military alliance, refuses any civilian oversight of its actions. It operated under a U.N. mandate and yet refuses to allow a U.N. evaluation of its actions. NATO, in other words, operates as a rogue military entity, outside the bounds of the prejudices of democratic society. The various human rights reports simply underlie the necessity of a formal and independent evaluation of NATO’s actions in Libya.”