Latest Developments, December 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Creative corrupter
The New York Times has published an extensive report on retail giant Wal-Mart’s corrupting influence in Mexico, based on evidence from “tens of thousands of documents” and interviews with government officials and company employees:

“The Times’s examination reveals that Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business. Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de Mexico was an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited. It used bribes to subvert democratic governance — public votes, open debates, transparent procedures. It used bribes to circumvent regulatory safeguards that protect Mexican citizens from unsafe construction. It used bribes to outflank rivals.

Over and over, for example, the dates of bribe payments coincided with dates when critical permits were issued. Again and again, the strictly forbidden became miraculously attainable.”

First acquittal
Reuters reports that the International Criminal Court has handed down its second-ever decision, acquitting Congolese militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui:

“The court’s first verdict found [Thomas] Lubanga guilty of recruiting child soldiers to another militia in the same conflict in Ituri. Some observers said the different outcomes of the trials for militia leaders from different tribes could cause new friction.
‘Lubanga was a Hema leader, and the acquittal of a Ngudjolo, a Lendu, just after the conviction of a Hema could exacerbate tension between the two ethnicities in Ituri,’ said Jennifer Easterday of the Open Society Justice Initiative.”

Calling it off
Association Sherpa has ended its partnership with French nuclear giant Areva, calling the company’s health measures in Niger and Gabon “public relations exercises”:

“The arrival of Luc Oursel at the head of Areva coincided with a change in the culture of the company in terms of sustainable development and as a result, led to a questioning of its capacity to respect the letter and spirit of the 2009 agreements:

  • While the 2009 accords led to the much-needed medical monitoring of over 700 African workers, it is incomprehensible and unacceptable that the compensation process, which benefited the families of two French expatriates (a patently insufficient number), offered nothing to any Nigerien or Gabonese workers even though the medical condition of more than 100 of them was examined;
  • The decontamination of [Gabon’s] Mounana site, where production stopped in 1999, promised by [former CEO] Anne Lauvergnon, has stalled. It was carried out only partially and unsatisfactorily, with the result that local populations are still exposed to radiation risks;” [Translated from the French]

Aid hypocrisy
The Guardian reports on the UK’s Department for International Development’s “breathtaking arrogance” for demanding transparency from recipient governments while refusing to make public a report on its own expenditures:

“The department said releasing the report could “undermine DfID’s commercial interests and lead to DfID incurring greater expense which would consequently undermine our ability to fulfil our role and to achieve value for money in the use of public funds”.
Disclosure could also reveal personal data about individuals, make other governments and international organisations less willing to share information with Britain, and ‘severely prejudice the policy development process’ within government by inhibiting open discussion, it said.”

Good intentions
The Financial Times reports that American legislation aimed at ending the role of minerals in fuelling DR Congo’s conflict is making matters worse so far:

“ ‘We’re getting the opposite of what they wanted. And we still have conflict,’ says Emmanuel Ndimubanzi, head of North Kivu provisional government’s mining division, who says tens of thousands of jobs across the sector have been lost. A proposal in the act to spend $25m to help out-of-work find jobs and fund mineral tracing schemes was dropped.

The landmark US [Dodd-Frank] act has created the first compulsory framework to disclose the provenance of potential conflict minerals across the industry. But beset by delays, loopholes and vague guidance, it has complicated and impeded initiatives by industry, regional governments and international donors, as well as the UN and OECD. These include tagging schemes, chains of documentation and a mineralogical ‘fingerprinting’ pilot scheme already under way.”

Nuclear stagnation
Inter Press Service reports that the Federation of American Scientists has warned that the US and Russia are reducing their nuclear arsenals at a slowing rate:

“ ‘Both the United States and Russia appear to be more cautious about reducing further, placing more emphasis on “hedging” and reconstitution of reduced nuclear forces, and both are investing enormous sums of money in modernising their nuclear forces over the next decade,’ [FAS Nuclear Information Project director Hans M. Kristensen said.]

Given the new data, the implication is that either a new set of arms-reduction treaties will need to be agreed in coming years, or each country will need to embark on new unilateral programmes of reduction. If neither of those takes place, ‘large nuclear forces could be retained far into the future.’ ”

Tarnished reputation
The Montreal Gazette reports on calls from both inside and outside Canada for Ottawa to hold the country’s mining companies to account for their behaviour abroad:

“But as mining investment has exploded over the last decade, so too have conflicts involving Canadian mines, from the Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic, where 25 people were injured in clashes with police in September, to the Pierina mine in Peru, where one person was killed that same month. (Both are mines owned by Barrick Gold, but protests are not restricted to Barrick mines.)
All the while the Canadian government’s role in defending, even promoting, mining companies’ interests has solidified.”

Global ambulance chasers
CorpWatch reports on a growing and lucrative branch of law that involves suing governments on behalf of corporations:

“Legal experts have denounced this trend. ‘Investment treaty arbitration … imposes exceptionally powerful legal and economic constraints on governments and, by extension, on democratic choice, in order to protect from regulation the assets of multinational firms,’ writes Professor Gus van Harten of the Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.

There are five major arbitration tribunals that take on these cases – the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington DC, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, the Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) in London, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris and the Chamber of Commerce in Stockholm (SCC).

The number of such lawsuits registered at the ICSID has skyrocketed. In 1996, just 38 cases were under arbitration but by 2011, this had risen almost 12 fold to 450.”

Latest Developments, December 5

In the latest news and analysis…

Perception confirmation
The widely reported release of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index was met by an extended “grumble” on Twitter by Save the Children’s Alex Cobham:

“Dear twitter, remember that an index based on *perceptions* of corruption will score worst those places most often reported as corrupt…
…regardless of any *actual* corruption. So a priori you might expect Greece to be worst in EU; Somalia worst in world etc. But…
… remember that it is just perception confirmation – with no element of objective factual support. Corruption continues to be #uncounted.
In addition, if you share view that providing financial secrecy can be corrupt and corrupting, good scores of eg Switzerland should raise qs
The other side of corruption can be seen in the Financial Secrecy Index
[Grumble over.]”

Right to opacity
The Wall Street Journal reports that the US oil industry is proceeding with a lawsuit aimed at blocking the required disclosure of payments made to foreign governments:

“In court papers filed Monday, the American Petroleum Institute, joined by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and two other trade groups, called the rule, promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Provision under Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act and narrowly approved, ‘one of the most expensive’ in the history of the Commission.
Mandating disclosure is a violation of the First Amendment, the filing added. ‘The rule – and the statutory provision that authorized it – violate the First Amendment by compelling speech on a controversial matter in order to influence political affairs,’ it said.”

Performance anxiety
Germanwatch has released the 2013 edition of its Climate Change Performance Index, ranking the efforts of the world’s 58 highest emitters to protect the climate:

“In 2010, the most recent data period for this year‘s CCPI, the world saw another record breaking increase in global CO2 emissions. Not only have global emissions risen to another all time high, but this increase has also been the steepest emissions surge in history.
Not only are emissions rising at the global level. As well at the national level is little good news to tell. Not one of the examined countries has managed to change to a development path that is compatible with limiting global warming substantially below 2°C. No country‘s effort is deemed sufficient to prevent dangerous climate change. Therefore, as in the years before, we still cannot award any country with 1st, 2nd or 3rd place.”

Only the brave
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project has released a report on the dangers faced by those opposing or monitoring the extractive industries in Uganda and Tanzania:

“There is a long history of antagonism, including cases of violence, between the mining industry and Tanzanian citizens, especially in the North Mara region of the country. It was here that in May 2011 between 4 and 7 Tanzanians (reported figures vary) were shot and killed and many others wounded by private mine security officers in an incident at the North Mara mine owned and operated by African Barrick Gold (AGB), a subsidiary of Canadian mining giant, Barrick Gold Corp.”

Just business
In a speech delivered to a UN forum in Geneva, Harvard University’s John Ruggie explained what he sees as the greatest need for holding to account businesses that commit human rights abuses abroad:

“National courts appear not to share a consistent understanding regarding the applicability to companies of international standards prohibiting gross human rights abuses, potentially amounting to international crimes. These may arise in areas where the human rights regime cannot be expected to function as intended, such as conflict zones or similar sources of heightened risk, and typically the allegations involve corporate complicity in acts committed by related parties. In those situations, plaintiffs may turn to home country courts. But even as the number of such cases has increased, courts have issued conflicting interpretations of what precisely the international standards stipulate. Greater legal clarity is needed for victims and companies alike. Only an intergovernmental process can provide that clarity.
The international community has determined, and everyone present in this room would agree, that sovereignty can no longer serve as a shield behind which governments are allowed to commit or be complicit in the worst human rights violations. Surely the same must be true of the corporate form. So let that be affirmed authoritatively, and remove all doubt.”

Very mercenary
Oxfam’s Gawain Kripke writes that the founder of private military company Blackwater, “which has been renamed several times, trying to escape the stench of scandal and atrocity,” has turned himself into an investment advisor:

“From a comfortable perch in Abu Dhabi (no extradition treaty with the US), [Erik] Prince now raises funds and advises clients on the wonderful investment opportunities in Africa. He claims he’s raised $100 million and is shooting (err) for $400 million more. His new company, Frontier Resource Group (motto: fortuna audaces iuvat or fortune favors the bold) offers support for investors mixed with ‘security and logistical capacity’.
Ever the bottom dweller, Prince has focused his efforts on some of the more problematic investments (natural resources extraction), and problematic countries; DRC, Guinea, and South Sudan. Which should be appealing to problematic investors (based in Hong Kong).”

Cold War continues
Columbia University’s Howard French argues Susan Rice, a frontrunner to become the next US secretary of state, has been instrumental in perpetuating an outdated American approach to Africa:

“On a broader level, the old paradigm of Cold War policy, with its momentous ideological competition, has been repurposed to work for something far more inchoate and hollow: the War on Terror. Accordingly, the United States has persisted in its embrace of leaders who align with Washington on that basis in places like Sudan and Somalia, mirroring the style of cherry-picking allies during the struggle against communism.”

Big food
National Public Radio asks if the food and beverage industry is the new tobacco:

“[The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity’s Kelly Brownell] pointed to cases in which the industry set up front groups to fight a soda tax in California and fought national guidelines that would restrict the marketing of unhealthy food to children.
The food industry can do some good things, Brownell admitted, when it comes to fighting hunger or promoting sustainable agricultural practices. But ‘obesity is a different kettle of fish’ because solving it conflicts directly with the industry’s most basic imperative: To sell more food. All of the industry’s much-celebrated ‘healthy eating’ campaigns and partnerships with public health initiatives, Brownell says, amount to ‘baby steps’ that simply obscure this basic fact.”

Latest Developments, November 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Martial plan
Deutsche Welle reports that a new proposal for a military intervention in northern Mali could include troops from “two or three non-African nations”:

“West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS says it has agreed on a plan to recapture northern Mali using 3,300 troops. ECOWAS leaders meeting in Abuja said they still favor talks with Islamist insurgents holding the area.

Briefing reporters in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, [Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane] Ouattara, who is ECOWAS’s chairman, said the plan would be sent to the United Nations for approval by the end of November.

There is not total unanimity on how to end the conflict. Neighboring Algeria would prefer a negotiated solution to the conflict. France, Mali’s former colonial master, which has several citizens held hostage by al Qaeda-linked groups in the Sahara, supports a swift war scenario.”

Big deal
Press Trust of India reports that the Pentagon has said the sale of billions worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the US”:

“Saudi Arabia plans to buy 20 military transport planes and five refuelling aircraft along with related defence equipment, worth an estimated USD 6.7 billion, from the US, the Pentagon has said.

‘Saudi Arabia has requested a possible sale of 20 C-130J-30 Aircraft, 5 KC-130J Air Refuelling Aircraft, 120 Rolls Royce AE2100D3 Engines (100 installed and 20 spares), 25 Link-16 Multi-functional Information Distribution Systems, support equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, US Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related logistics support,’ [the Defense Security Cooperation Agency] said.”

Evergreening
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a new study that found tactics used by pharmaceutical companies could hold off generic competition, in some cases, by decades:

“The article looked at two key antiretroviral drugs to manage HIV, ritonavir (Norvir) and lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra), and identified 108 patents that could delay generics until 2028. That is 12 years after the expiration of the patents on drugs’ base compounds and 39 years after the first patents on ritonavir were filed.

The authors said some of the secondary patents were questionable, and called for stricter patentability standards, greater transparency, and more opportunities to challenge patents.”

Motion denied
The Hill reports that extractive industry groups have failed to persuade the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it should hold off on requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments:

“The SEC rejected claims that initial compliance costs would be burdensome. Claims of competitive harm are too speculative to warrant a stay, the SEC said.
The order is the latest move in a long-running battle over rules required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

The industry favors disclosure carried out under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a voluntary, multilateral group that brings together energy-producing nations, companies and civil society organizations.”

Nigerian spill
The Guardian Nigeria reports that oil giant Mobil is trying to contain a new spill off the country’s coast:

“According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the spill from the Atlantic coastline in Ibeno, which started on Friday, has hit the shoreline.
Oily sediments have deposited on the shoreline in Ibeno, Esit Eket, Eastern Obollo and other settlements along the coast.
Heavy equipment, chemicals, hoses and oil spill containment equipment were being moved from the jetty to the fields.”

Cui bono
The New York Times reports on the broken promises and dashed hopes of Mozambique’s foreign investment-fuelled economic boom:

“The coal deposits in Moatize represent one of the biggest untapped reserves in the world, and the Brazilian mining company Vale has placed a big bet on it. But to get to the coal, hundreds of villagers living atop it had to be moved. The company held a series of meetings with community members and government officials, laying out its plans to build tidy new bungalows for each family and upgrade public services. As the prospect of huge new investments in their rural corner of the world beckoned, villagers anticipated a whole new life: jobs, houses, education, and even free food.
Things didn’t work out that way. The houses were poorly built and leaked when it rained. The promised water taps and electricity never arrived. Cateme is too far from the mine for anyone here to get a job there. The new fields are dusty and barren — coaxing anything from them is hard.”

Strategy adjustment
Veteran journalist Ian Birrell argues “the aid debate has been mugged by economic reality” and calls for new thinking in the fight against global injustice:

Inequality is moving up the political agenda across the world. In the west, there is justified concern over bonus-chasing bankers and plutocrats who plunder profits while cutting wages for workers. In the developing world, the issues are even more stark. But we need to recognise the pace of change on the planet. If we really want to help the world’s poor, we could liberalise immigration controls and tackle issues such as tax evasion and corruption with far tougher action against money-laundering and all those in our own countries who assist the corruption. We can do the most good by abandoning an antiquated way of talking about aid.

Robbing Africa
Journalist and filmmaker Anas Aremeyaw Anas asks why rich countries “frown publicly about corruption, yet turn a blind eye to its fruits”:

“We do not say that all of Africa’s woes are the fault of others outside the continent. Nor do we assume that criminality is the only reason why Africa, despite its many natural riches, has been kept in poverty.
But we did come away wondering why the outside world feeds Africa with one hand and takes from it with another. Why cannot the resources for aid be directed into fighting this obvious problem? Is it not about time that something was done to stop those stealing our wealth, and those helping them steal it, from evading responsibility prosecution for their crimes?”

Latest Developments, October 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Legal precedent
The BBC reports that four Nigerian plaintiffs are taking oil giant Shell to court in the Netherlands over alleged pollution:

“It is the first time a Dutch multinational is being put on trial in a civil court at home in connection with damage caused abroad.

If the farmers’ case is successful it could set a legal precedent, paving the way for thousands of other compensation claims from those affected by oil spills, says the BBC’s Anna Holligan in The Hague.”

Accredited poachers
Reuters reports that “EU-approved vessels” account for the bulk of illegal fishing off Sierra Leone’s coast:

“The European Union has set up regulations to prevent vessels involved in so-called illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing from accessing European markets.
An 18-month investigation conducted by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), however, documented a long list of abuses including fishing inside exclusion zones, using banned equipment, and transhipping fish illegally at sea.
The majority of cases involved ships accredited to sell their seafood at EU ports.”

Fighting transparency
The Hill reports that US oil and business groups are suing to overturn new rules requiring the extractive industry to disclose payments made to foreign governments:

“The lawsuit, filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, escalates a battle between industry and human rights groups over controversial transparency rules required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

‘Secrecy around payments enables corrupt government officials and political elites to siphon off or misappropriate revenues for personal gain, rather than development. It has been said that ‘sunshine is the best disinfectant’ – this lawsuit begs the question, what are oil companies trying to hide?,’ said Jana Morgan, assistant policy adviser with Global Witness.”

Swiss arms
Swissinfo reports that Switzerland is adopting new rules aimed at preventing the re-export of “war material” to conflict zones after Swiss grenades sold to the United Arab Emirates were found in Syria:

“Buyers will have to declare that they will not export, sell, lend or donate the material, or pass it on in any other way to a third party abroad, without the agreement of the Swiss authorities.
Where there is seen to be a high risk of the material nevertheless being passed on to ‘undesirable’ end users, the relevant Swiss authorities can stipulate that they shall have the right to make ‘post shipment inspections’ on the spot.
Where large amounts of material is exported, the declaration is to take the form of a diplomatic note from the receiving country.”

Gloomy forecast
Maplecroft has released its Food Security Risk Index for 2013, according to which 75 percent of African countries are at high or extreme risk:

“ ‘Food price forecasts for 2013 provide a worrying picture,’ states Maplecroft’s Head of Maps and Indices Helen Hodge. ‘Although a food crisis has not emerged yet, there is potential for food related upheaval across the most vulnerable regions, including sub-Saharan Africa.’
A September report by Rabobank, a financial specialist in agro-commodities, estimates that prices of food staples could rise by as much as 15% by June 2013, resulting in record highs that will squeeze household incomes in many countries.”

Big loss
Bloomberg reports that the US Supreme Court has refused to intervene in a lawsuit that saw a judge in Ecuador impose a $19 billion fine on oil giant Chevron:

“Without commenting on the merits of the case, the U.S. Supreme Court today let stand a federal appeals court ruling that a New York trial judge exceeded his authority when he blocked a group of Ecuadorean farmers and Indians from seeking to collect the $19 billion award anywhere in the world.

The justices’ action, although it doesn’t address the substance of the case, effectively eliminates one avenue for Chevron to avoid liability. The company has refused to pay the judgment in Ecuador. Since Chevron does not have any bank accounts or other assets in Ecuador, the plaintiffs have now filed separate collection actions seeking liens against Chevron assets in Brazil and Canada.”

Mass firings
CNN reports that mining company Gold One has fired 1,400 striking workers at a South African mine:

“It’s the latest twist in a wave of sometimes-violent labor unrest that has wracked South Africa’s mining sector — the country’s biggest industry — for nearly two months. Another company, Anglo-American Platinum, fired about 12,000 striking workers who declined to attend disciplinary hearings last week after a three-week walkout.”

Scramble for Burma
Focus on the Global South argues that the impending boom in foreign direct investment poses a threat to farming communities in Burma/Myanmar:

“Land grabs are now set to accelerate due to new government laws that are specifically designed to encourage foreign investments in land. The two new land laws (the Farmlands Law and the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Law) establish a legal framework to reallocate so-called ‘wastelands’ to domestic and foreign private investors. Moreover, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Law and Foreign Investment Law that are being finalized, along with ASEAN-ADB regional infrastructure development plans, will provide new incentives and drivers for land grabbing and further compound the dispossession of local communities from their lands and resources. Land conflicts that are now emerging throughout the country will worsen as foreign companies, supported by foreign governments and International Financial Institutions (IFIs), rush in to profit from Burma/Myanmar’s political and economic transition period.”

Latest Developments, September 28

In the latest news and analysis…

Dodd-Frank setback
The New York Times reports that a US judge has struck down a rule aimed at imposing restrictions on speculative commodities trading:

“The court decision dealt the latest blow to the Dodd-Frank Act, the regulatory crackdown passed in response to the financial crisis. The decision on Friday, aimed at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s so-called position limits rule, is the second time a Dodd-Frank rule has suffered legal defeat.

The ruling is sure to embolden Wall Street as it shifts the attack on Dodd-Frank from piecemeal lobbying to broader legal challenges. Industry groups are currently challenging another C.F.T.C. rule, while others are weighing lawsuits against the so-called Volcker Rule, a still-uncompleted plan to stop banks from trading with their own money.”

Enemy of the state
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the US military has added Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange to a list of national enemies that include al-Qaeda and the Taliban:

“Declassified US Air Force counter-intelligence documents, released under US freedom-of-information laws, reveal that military personnel who contact WikiLeaks or WikiLeaks supporters may be at risk of being charged with ‘communicating with the enemy’, a military crime that carries a maximum sentence of death.” 

Defunct land grab
The Oakland Institute examines the consequences in Tanzania of an 8,211-hectare biofuel project whose British developer went bankrupt:

“People have lost their land and their supply of fresh water as well as access to essential natural resources, while the promises of development and better life never materialized. In 2011, what was left of Sun Biofuels was acquired by 30 Degrees East, an investment company registered in the tax haven of Mauritius. At the time of our field research, the project had not resumed. The new company only employed 35 staff, mostly security guards, who ban villagers from accessing their land and natural resources.”

False revolution
Friends of the Earth warns that the Gates Foundation is promoting “damaging industrial farming” in Africa:

“Multi-million dollar investments from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – a major Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa donor – into shares in biotech corporations, and revolving doors between donors and these corporations skew the agenda of AGRA in favor of profit-based, corporate-led farming rather than farming that benefits local people and small farmers.
The bulk of projects funded by the Gates Foundation and its brainchild AGRA favor technological solutions for high-input industrial farming methods. These include patented seeds, fertilizers and lobbying for genetically modified crops. Evidence from the roll-out of genetically modified crops in other countries shows that these crops push farmers into debt, cause irreversible environmental damage and encourage land concentration.”

Transparent ownership
Save the Children’s Alex Cobham suggests the “post-2015 development framework” that will replace the Millenium Development Goals should include greater transparency regarding the beneficial ownership of companies:

“The Norwegian presidential commission on tax havens presented considerable evidence on the links between developing countries and havens, pulling out link after link that threatens development and revolving around the hiding of ownership – whether for purposes of facilitating corrupt payments, trade mispricing to dodge tax, or money laundering. In addition, the commission set out a model of how governance in a country could be broadly undermined by greater exposure to tax havens.
Because the key to havens is not in fact tax rates but secrecy, I prefer the term ‘secrecy jurisdiction’. Ultimately, it is the hiding of ownership that havens facilitate which undermines regulation and taxation around the world – not any tax competition they may engender.”

Drone development
Citing a new investigation into the civilian impacts of US drone strikes in Pakistan, New York University’s William Easterly questions his government’s claim that defense and development are “complementary”:

“It would be hard for Development to benefit from “drones hovering 24 hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning.”
The report alleges that drones strike areas multiple times, killing rescuers of victims of the first strike.
Next challenge in US: getting people to care about this.”

Workers’ rights
Human Rights Watch reports that one of the world’s biggest auditing firms has warned that companies involved in an Emirati mega-development must ensure workers’ rights are being respected:

“The government-owned developer of Abu Dhabi’s high-profile Saadiyat Island project, the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), faces ‘significant challenges’ to carry out agreed-upon minimum labor standards, says the September 23, 2012 report published by independent auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Saadiyat Island will be home to branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim Museums and a New York University (NYU) campus, and has been the focus of criticismover migrant workers’ rights.

The 34-page report detailed a range of ongoing violations of the [Employment Practices Policy] and domestic labor law. It says that 75 percent of workers interviewed had paid recruitment fees and 77 percent had paid visa and travel costs, which are supposed to be paid by employers. According to Human Rights Watch’s research, these recruitment fees are the most significant factor in creating conditions of forced labor in the UAE. Twenty percent of those interviewed reported illegal deductions from their salaries.”

Nuclear pressure
Inter Press Service reports that 50 years on from the Cuban Missile Crisis, the international community is pushing the world’s nuclear-armed countries to ratify a ban on testing nuclear weapons:

“Opened for signature in September 1996, the [Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Teaty] has been signed by 183 nations and ratified by 157. However, it cannot be enforced without ratification by 44 countries that had nuclear power or research reactors when the CTBT was negotiated.
Most of those nations have ratified the treaty, but the United States, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Iran, and Egypt remain unwilling to do so. In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama declared his intention to seek Senate reconsideration of the treaty. The administration has given no firm timeframe for action.”