Latest Developments, August 30

In the latest news and analysis…

No to war
The New York Times reports that a parliamentary vote has prompted UK Prime Minister David Cameron to say Britain will not take part in any military strikes on Syria:

“It was a stunning defeat for a government that had seemed days away from joining the United States and France in a short, punitive cruise-missile attack on the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for reportedly using chemical weapons against civilians.
Thursday evening’s vote was nonbinding, but in a short statement to Parliament afterward, Mr. Cameron said that he respected the will of Parliament and that it was clear to him that the British people did not want to see military action over Syria. ‘I get it,’ he said.
The government motion was defeated 285 to 272.”

Problems of conscience
Although the US and France are still keen to attack Syria, Slate’s Matthew Yglesias argues there are better ways for Americans to reduce suffering in the world:

“Historically, military intervention on the side of rebel groups has increased the pace of civilian deaths, not decreased it. More to the point, if you put arbitrary framing issues aside, the United States stands by and does nothing in the face of human tragedy all the time. Millions of desperate people in Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, and elsewhere would love to escape dire poverty by moving to the United States to work, and we don’t let them. Nobody in Washington is doing anything about the ongoing civil war in Congo.

Another way of looking at it—the bleeding-heart, correct way—is that Americans ought to care more about the lives of people outside our borders. That we ought to be more open to foreign immigration and foreign trade to help bolster foreign economies. That when the Office of Management and Budget does cost-benefit analysis for regulatory measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it ought to consider the impact on foreigners.”

Black budget
The Washington Post has published bits and pieces of the US National Intelligence Program’s secret $52.6 billion budget, revealing among other things that the Obama administration has embraced “offensive cyber operations”:

“The 178-page budget summary for the National Intelligence Program details the successes, failures and objectives of the 16 spy agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, which has 107,035 employees.

The Post is withholding some information after consultation with U.S. officials who expressed concerns about the risk to intelligence sources and methods. Sensitive details are so pervasive in the documents that The Post is publishing only summary tables and charts online.”

UN inaction
Amnesty International argues the UN “singularly failed” to investigate murders and abductions while it was in charge of Kosovo after NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign:

“ ‘[The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)]’s failure to investigate what constituted a widespread, as well as a systematic, attack on a civilian population and, potentially, crimes against humanity, has contributed to the climate of impunity prevailing in Kosovo,’ said Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s expert on Kosovo.
‘There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity. They must be investigated and the families of the abducted and murdered must receive redress. The UN should not be allowed to shirk its responsibility any longer.’ ”

Legal troubles
Buzzfeed reports that US financial giant JPMorgan Chase faces at least 43 “material” lawsuits:

“Of course, the so-called ‘London Whale’ case that resulted in $6 billion in losses for the bank is getting most of the attention, with news this week that the financial powerhouse may settle with U.S. and UK regulators for about $600 million. And there’s also last week’s headline grabbing story that there is an inquiry into potential bribery charges stemming from hiring practices in its Chinese offices.
But other allegations against the bank span from fraud to breaching both its contracts and its fiduciary duty, among many other charges. According to SEC documents, JPMorgan estimates its combined legal losses could be as much as $6.8 billion — possibly more if unforeseen damages are brought this year. What’s more, the firm’s annual legal costs over the last two years have been about $4.9 billion each year.”

Secular demands
The Globe and Mail reports on the controversy over Quebec’s yet-to-be-unveiled “charter of values”:

“The measures being considered reportedly include a prohition on state employees from wearing religious articles in schools, daycares, hospitals and other state workplaces.
On Wednesday, [Federal Liberal leader Justin] Trudeau paid tribute to Martin Luther King on the 50th anniversary of his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, saying that Dr. King ‘refused segregation … denied discrimination … refused to allow [people] to believe that they were second-class citizens.’
Continuing his speech before a crowd of about 1,500 supporters, Mr. Trudeau said, ‘We sadly see that even today, as we speak, for example of this idea of a Charter of Quebec Values, there are still those who believe that we have to choose between our religion and our Quebec identity, that there are people who are forced by the Quebec State to make irresponsible and inconceivable choices.’ ”

Cosmopolitan vision
Fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream speech”, the Center for Global Development’s Owen Barder lays out his own global dream:

“I have a dream that we will one day take seriously the idea that we are all created equal, not just within countries but everywhere; and that we will recognize that it is as intolerable that a person’s future should be mainly determined by the place of his or her birth as it is intolerable that people’s future should be determined by the colour of his or her skin.”

CSR misunderstood
Mark Hodge of the Global Business Initiative for Human Rights warns against corporate social responsibility strategies that treat poor people “as recipients of charity and not as citizens with rights”:

“[India’s] Companies Bill also seems to convey the inexcusable message that companies can somehow offset negative impacts in one area of their work with corporate philanthropy in another. An example many in India point to is Vedanta’s ‘Creating Happiness’ campaign promoting the company’s philanthropic contributions, at the exact time it is embroiled in accusations of human rights and environmental abuses in India and internationally. The Indian ministry of environment withdrew permission for Vedanta to continue the project due to some of these concerns.”

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Latest Developments, March 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Treaty postponed
Carol Giacomo of the New York Times calls on America’s president and lawmakers to resist opposition from domestic heavyweights and sign/ratify a proposed international arms trade treaty, assuming it receives majority approval at the UN General Assembly after failing to obtain consensus support from member countries:

“The opposition included the conservative Heritage Foundation and the National Gun Rifle Association. As usual they ginned up dark visions of how any limits on conventional arms sales would deprive Americans of their weapons, which is totally false: The Obama administration bent over backwards to make sure the treaty excluded domestic sales and, in any event, as the American Bar Association affirmed, the treaty did not and could not infringe on Americans’ constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment Rights.

The world is awash in conventional weapons with a market valued at upward of $70 billion a year. These arms are fueling conflicts and killing innocents in Syria, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond. But while trade in virtually every major commodity, from oil to bananas, is subject to strong international agreements, conventional arms, absurdly, are not. The treaty would require states to review all cross-border arms contracts, establish national control systems and deny exports to purchasers who might use the weapons for terrorism or violations of humanitarian law.”

Not going anywhere
The Associated Press reports that French troops will remain in Mali “at least through the end of this year”:

“[French President François] Hollande said on France-2 television Thursday night that the first of France’s more than 4,000 troops in Mali will pull out in late April.
By July, he said about 2,000 French soldiers will still be in the former French colony, and at the end of the year ‘1,000 French soldiers will remain.’ He said the French troops would likely be part of a U.N. peacekeeping operation that France is pushing for.”

International corporate liability
Global Diligence reports that International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda recently stressed her commitment to investigating “business institutions” that contribute to war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity:

“She said that it had always been the [Office of the Prosecutor’s] strategy to investigate the link between international crimes and business. Conflicts are driven either by financial enrichment or ideology: a thorough investigation of the finances behind a conflict therefore helps to identify suspects and develop a more complete picture of responsibility.
‘We need to look beyond the structures that commit the actual atrocities … to the broader network around the criminal organization,’ Bensouda said. In other words, examining who is responsible for arming, supplying and equipping the troops committing the atrocities. Prosecutors should also scrutinise the exploitation of trade and natural resources, such as the minerals used in communications and technology devices, in order to trace the direct and indirect financial influence on the course of a conflict.”

Lawyering up
Reuters reports that the government of Guinea has assembled a stable of international lawyers to “help review and, if need be, renegotiate” mining contracts signed before the country’s first democratic elections were held in 2010:

“The review, pledged by President Alpha Conde after he came to power in 2010, will scrutinise contracts with companies such as BHP Billiton, Vale, Rio Tinto, RUSAL and BSGR to ensure the mineral-rich but impoverished West African nation is benefiting sufficiently from deals.
‘Our objective is to point out to our partners areas in their contracts where the country is at a flagrant disadvantage, and discuss openly with them,’ [review head] Nava Toure told Reuters.”

Coast to coast
The Associated Press reports the US is considering applying anti-piracy tactics used in Somalia to the Gulf of Guinea off Africa’s west coast:

“No final decisions have been made on how counter-piracy operations could be increased in that region, and budget restrictions could hamper that effort, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about emerging discussions between senior U.S. military commanders and other international leaders.

After repeated urgings from military commanders and other officials, shipping companies increased the use of armed guards and took steps to better avoid and deter pirates [off Somalia’s coast].”

Military non-intervention
Le Figaro’s Alain Barluet argues the French decision to send only a few hundred troops to the Central African Republic during recent violence is an example of France’s new policy of “non-interference” in Africa:

“French military engagement was limited to sending 300 troops to Bangui over the weekend, as reinforcements for the 250 soldiers already on the ground, to protect French, European and American citizens.

With the Central African crisis, we see an example of the policy outlined last October in Dakar by [French President] François Hollande who had announced, once again, the end of ‘Françafrique’. [Deposed CAR President] François Bozizé ‘did not receive our military support, any more than any other African president will from now on,’ according to a source close to Hollande.
But these same sources insist non-interference is not the same as indifference. The head of state is ‘involved’, he had phone conversations with a number of African presidents, including two with South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, according to an Élysée source.” [Translated from the French.]

The Future of R2P
Mount Holyoke College’s Jon Western and American University’s Joshua Goldstein argue the international community must “decouple” regime change from the responsibility to protect:

“The [R2P] doctrine will lose legitimacy if it is seen purely as an instrument of neoimperial adventurism. In an effort to prevent such misuse, Brazil, in 2011, introduced the concept of Responsibility While Protecting (RWP), which calls for increased UN Security Council monitoring and review of R2P actions. Brazil’s proposal was initially met with a tepid response by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, who feared it would lead to slower international responses to mass atrocities. But the concept is now gaining support; Ban endorsed it in a July 2012 report. Mitigating concerns that R2P will be misused, RWP might help the international community strike the right balance between maintaining the support of the UN Security Council and effectively responding to mass atrocities in a timely manner.”

Cyber limits
Al Jazeera explores America’s policies on and alleged commission of attacks on computer networks:

“Now a 300-page manual commissioned by NATO and written by legal scholars and military lawyers from member countries suggests the [Stuxnet] attack was an act of force prohibited under the United Nations charter.
After months of the US national security establishment sounding the alarm on the need to defend against potential cyber threats, questions are again being raised about how far the US itself is pioneering offensive cyber policy.”

Latest Developments, January 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Uranium lockdown
Reuters reports that France is sending “special forces and equipment” to Niger to protect uranium mines operated by French state-owned nuclear giant Areva:

“Areva has been mining uranium in Niger for more than five decades and provides much of the raw materials that power France’s nuclear power industry, the source of 75 percent of the country’s electricity.

The military source confirmed a report in weekly magazine Le Point that special forces and equipment would be sent to Areva’s uranium production sites in Imouraren and Arlit, but declined to go into further details.”

Mali blue helmets
Foreign Policy reports that US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has “quietly floated” the idea of a UN peacekeeping force in Mali once France’s military offensive ends:

“Rice made the remarks in a closed-door session of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday evening, though she noted that the Obama administration had not yet officially decided to back a force of blue helmets.

Rice said that the original U.N. plan — which envisioned the Malian army as the ‘tip of the spear’ in a military offensive against the Islamists — is no longer viable, according to an official present at the meeting. She said the mission would likely shift from a combat mission to a stabilization mission, requiring a long-term strategy to hold territory and build up local institutions. French combat forces are unlikely to remain in Mali to do that job. ‘We need to be open to a blue-helmeted operation,’ she said, according to another official at the meeting.”

More drones
The Los Angeles Times reports that the past few days have seen a “significant escalation” of US drone strikes in Yemen:

“The flurry of strikes in Yemen comes as the administration is considering codifying a set of procedures and policies governing how targeted killings are carried out — how militants are added to kill lists, who reviews the evidence and which government agencies get a say. The so-called counter-terrorism playbook is not yet complete, an official said this week.

It is impossible to verify whether all those killed were Al Qaeda militants, as some news reports from the region have suggested.”

Big waste
The UN is calling for an end to practices – by consumers, retailers and governments – that lead to a third of the world’s food being wasted:

“ ‘In industrialized regions, almost half of the total food squandered, around 300 million tons annually, occurs because producers, retailers and consumers discard food that is still fit for consumption,’ said FAO’s Director-General, José Graziano da Silva. ‘This is more than the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa, and would be sufficient to feed the estimated 870 million people hungry in the world.’
In Europe and North America, the average waste per consumer is between 95 and 115 kilograms per year, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and Southeast Asia each throw away only six to 11 kilograms annually.”

Human safaris
Survival International is celebrating an Indian Supreme Court order banning tourists from a road that cuts through a tribal reserve in the Andaman Islands:

“Survival has been campaigning for many years for the road through the Jarawa tribe’s reserve to be closed. It first alerted the world that tour operators were treating the Jarawa like animals in a zoo in 2010. Survival, and Andaman organization Search, had called for tourists to boycott the road.

The latest court order comes a year after the world was shocked by an international exposé of Jarawa women being forced to dance in exchange for food.”

Exporting emissions
Inter Press Service reports that environmentalists are looking to US President Barack Obama’s handling of the country’s coal reserves as a test of the commitment to tackling climate change he expressed in his inauguration speech:

“ ‘The big story out of the United States is the expansion of the country’s coal export – this is the biggest domestic threat to the climate,’ Kelly Mitchell, a campaigner with Greenpeace, an environment watchdog, told IPS.
‘Contrasted with the country’s great successes over the last couple of years in moving away from coal use, we’re now seeing risk of those emissions moving offshore.’

‘There is a little hypocrisy in this situation. The U.S. is moving forward to reduce emissions while at the same time the federal government is allowing a huge uptick in exports. That means we’re not living up to our responsibility to address the climate problem.’ ”

Accidental hostilities
Former NATO secretary general Javier Solana and the Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer lay out the two principal reasons they fear the prospect of “attacks in cyberspace” between nations in the years ahead:

“ First, unlike the structure of Cold War-era ‘mutually assured destruction,’ cyber weapons offer those who use them an opportunity to strike anonymously. Second, constant changes in technology ensure that no government can know how much damage its cyber-weapons can do or how well its deterrence will work until they use them.
As a result, governments now probe one another’s defenses every day, increasing the risk of accidental hostilities. If John Kerry and Chuck Hagel are confirmed as US secretaries of state and defense, respectively, the Obama administration will feature two prominent skeptics of military intervention. But high levels of US investment in drones, cyber-tools, and other unconventional weaponry will most likely be maintained.”

Differing views
The Guardian reports that the CEO of the world’s second-biggest brewing company has argued that “business can fix” Africa’s problems, a view not shared by everyone in the audience:

“Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, at a session called De-Risking Africa, alongside the Nigerian and South African presidents, [SABMiller’s Graham] Mackay insisted that throwing the continent’s markets open to more investment would boost growth.
‘Trust in economic growth to solve the problems of the continent,’ Mackay said. ‘Economic growth comes from the private sector: business will fix it, if it’s allowed to.’

But Paul Kagame, of Rwanda, stressed that Africans had to trust themselves – not outsiders – to solve their problems. Speaking from the audience, he said: ‘For me, the major problem I see is that Africa’s story is written from somewhere else, and not by Africans themselves.’ ”