Beyond Aid, January 15

In the latest news and analysis…

Operation Serval
Liberté Algérie’s Mounir Boudjema writes that the name of the French military action in Mali is apt, given that its namesake is a cat that “urinates 30 times an hour to mark its territory“:

“Despite the French president’s semantic precautions and the language used to legitimize a military intervention that will have terrible consequences for the sub-region, François Hollande has shown that he cannot alter the reality of ‘la Françafrique.’ When French interests are threatened in Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Chad, Gabon, Central African Republic…), Paris dusts off its policeman’s uniform and sends in its helicopters.  Protecting Niger’s uranium reserves is worth the sacrifice of military expenses, even in the midst of an economic crisis. It’s too early to speculate on the outcome of this inevitable military intervention. It’s all a question of timing. But two things are sure to happen. First, a humanitarian crisis in the Sahel with huge numbers of displaced people. Then, France’s action will unite the terrorist groups, since jihadists from around the world will descend on Mali to give a hand to their brothers in arms.” [Translated from the French.]

Beyond nation states
New York University’s Manthia Diawara suggests that perhaps restoring Mali to its pre-coup form may not be as desirable a goal as the international community seems to think:

“Why are we so attached to a nation state that can only be preserved for us by others. If the nation and nationalism were useful for Africa at one time, it was to do away with the colonial yoke that reduced us to subhumans. If after 50 years of independence Westerners have to come to save our nation states, or to protect us from dictators, or to teach us democracy, maybe it’s time to start rethinking, to imagine other systems of communal living than those offered by nation states.
If we cannot protect the rights of minorities inside our nation states, why not ask questions about the existence of these nation states. Why keep on keeping men and women like prisoners within the nation, if it cannot satisfy their basic needs for freedom of movement and expression, the right to work, to education and to health?” [Translated from the French.]

Hear no evil
A new Human Rights Watch report accuses a Canadian mining company of doing too little to prevent forced labour at its gold mine in Eritrea:

“The Bisha project, majority owned and operated by the small Canadian firm Nevsun Resources, is Eritrea’s first and so far only operational mine. It began gold production in 2011 and produced some $614 million worth of ore in its first year.
Other large projects led by Canadian, Australian, and Chinese firms are in the pipeline, however. Numerous exploration firms are scouring other leases for new prospects.

Human Rights Watch interviewed several Eritreans who worked at Bisha during its initial construction phase. Some said they were deployed there as conscript laborers by [state-owned construction firm] Segen. They described terrible living conditions and forced labor at paltry wages. One former conscript said that he had been arrested and imprisoned for several months after leaving the work site to attend a relative’s funeral.”

Land morality
Princeton University’s Peter Singer explores the ethics of investors from wealthy nations buying up agricultural land in countries that are, on average, four times poorer:

“But, given the pressures of poverty and the lure of cash, what does it take for people to be able to make a genuinely free and informed choice about selling something as significant as a right to land? After all, we do not allow poor people to sell their kidneys to the highest bidder.
Of course, hardline supporters of free markets will say that we should. But, at the very least, it needs to be explained why people should be prohibited from selling kidneys, but not from selling the land that grows their food. Most people can live without one kidney. No one can live without food.
Why does the purchase of body parts give rise to international condemnation, while the purchase of agricultural land does not – even when it involves evicting local landholders and producing food for export to rich countries instead of for local consumption?”

Bad law
The Canadian Press reports that a Canadian judge has struck down the country’s human smuggling law, calling it “unnecessarily broad“:

“[British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Arne Silverman] said the result could lead to the prosecution of people like humanitarian workers.
As the law stood, a human smuggler was defined as anyone who might ‘knowingly organize, induce, aid or abet’ someone coming to Canada who does not have a visa, passport or other required documentation.
The judge declared section 117 of the act to be of no force or effect, saying federal politicians now need to fill the legislative gap.”

More fish
Fish Information & Services reports that the head of the European Parliament fisheries committee plans to recommend that a proposed EU-Mauritania fishing agreement be rejected for being “insufficient in terms of fishing opportunities”:

“The MEP insisted on that the current agreement “is not profitable” because it is expensive for the fishing opportunities and the conditions it establishes.
He also claimed that the agreement will allow no access to the cephalopod fleet with no biological reason to justify it.
Therefore, 32 vessels, of which 24 are Spanish and based in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, have run out of ground to fish.
He also criticized the restriction of fishing areas for all fleets, including the pelagic one, which will mean a drastic reduction in catches.”

Legal lag
US congressman Keith Ellison argues America’s use of drones is dangerous first and foremost because “our technological capability has far surpassed our policy”:

“No country — not even our allies — accepts the U.S. legal justification for targeted killings. Our justification must rest on the concept of self-defense, which would allow the United States to protect itself against any imminent threat. Any broader criteria would create the opportunity for abuse and set a dangerous standard for other countries to follow, which could harm long-term U.S. security interests.

A just, internationally accepted protocol on the use of drones in warfare is needed.”

Latest Developments, July 27

In the latest news and analysis…
 
Things left unsaid
Reuters reports on the commander of US Africa Command’s assessment of the current situation in Northern Mali and the role he sees for his country’s military within that context:

“[General Carter] Ham repeated U.S. offers to broadly assist regional efforts to try to resolve Mali’s crisis, which has displaced around 420,000 people, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
But he said putting U.S. troops on the ground could be counterproductive and refused to comment on the possibility of Washington using drones for air strikes similar to those carried out on militant targets in Yemen or Pakistan.”
 
Feeling fine
Reuters also reports that a Mexican investigation into HSBC’s “lax controls against money laundering” has ended with a fine that amounted to 0.16 percent of the bank’s 2011 profits:

“Last week, a [US] Senate panel alleged that HSBC acted as a financier to clients routing funds from the world’s most dangerous places, including Mexico, Iran and Syria, doing regular business in areas tied to drug cartels, terrorist funding and tax cheats.
The Senate report slammed a ‘pervasively polluted’ culture at the bank and said between 2007 and 2008, HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7 billion into the bank’s U.S. operations.”
 
Fishing deal
Agence France-Presse reports that, after 15 months of negotiations, the EU and Mauritania have signed a new accord on access for European fishing boats to Mauritanian waters:

“The EU will contribute an annual 113 million euros ($138 million) in financing to Mauritania’s fishing industry, up from the 76.5 million it gave under the previous accord, [Mauritanian negotiator Cheikh Ould Baya] said.
That four-year protocol agreement on fishing will expire Tuesday.

According to official statistics, the fishing sector represents over 20 percent of budget revenue and employs more than 36,000 people in Mauritania.”
 
Climate complicity
New York University’s Alex Evans explains what he meant when he tweeted earlier this week that Greenpeace was “part of the problem rather than part of the solution”:

“Land grabs aren’t just happening on the ground in poor countries around the world; they’re happening in the sky as well. Consider this: the global carbon market was in 2010 worth $142 billion. That’s $13 billion more than total global aid flows in the same year. A hugely valuable new asset class has been created – literally out of thin air. And low income countries haven’t been given any. Despite the fact that their per capita emissions are a tiny fraction of everyone else’s.
Meanwhile, as richer countries keep pumping out the emissions, the size of the carbon budget that we’ll have to share out once we do finally decide to talk about it, keeps getting a little smaller every day. And, breathtakingly, this approach is described by Greenpeace and others as fair.”
 
Dodging Robin Hood
Bloomberg reports on some of the ways investors are likely to try to avoid France’s new financial transaction tax, which is set to take effect next week and whose revenues will go towards AIDS research:
 
“To escape the tax, many institutional investors will turn to so-called contracts for difference, or CFDs, offered by prime brokers that let them bet on a stock’s gain or loss without owning the shares. Traders have used it successfully to skirt the U.K.’s stamp duty.

Those who want to stay invested in France will find a way to avoid paying the tax, said Sam Capital’s Dietmar Schmitt.
‘There will be enough options to avoid the stamp duty in France,’ he said. ‘There are many loopholes. The people who are making the laws don’t understand the business.’ ”
 
Imperial crimes
In the wake of the British government’s admission that Kenyan prisoners were tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion, independent journalist Emanuel Stoakes calls on Britain to acknowledge its “many imperial crimes” or stop pretending to care:
 
“But all that happened in the past, and Britain has progressively behaved in a more civilised manner, many would argue. This may be broadly true, despite the dirty tricks evinced in the 2009 cable. Nonetheless, in responding to the Mau Mau case the UK has an opportunity to demonstrate its growing commitment to human rights as a moral, not just a policy-based, obligation. By showing some rare magnanimity, to echo the sentiments of Bishop Tutu on the subject, the UK can somehow begin to apologise for its past. By contrast, to deploy legal technicalities or to claim that too much time has passed would be to yet again fall back on expedient cruelties to avoid doing what is right.
Yet that latter, ignoble choice appears to be the one that Britain has once again taken: representing the government, Barrister Guy Mansfield QC argued without irony that for the plaintiff’s case to proceed to trial would be ‘contrary to principle and the balance of fairness.’ Astonishing.”
 
Legal hoops
Legal Times reports that US federal lawyers are contending with legal obstacles in attempting to revive the prosecution against former Blackwater employees they believe “wrongly killed” at least a dozen Iraqi civilians in 2007:
 
“A federal judge in December 2009 dismissed the government’s high-profile, controversial manslaughter case, saying that the prosecution was unlawfully built on protected statements that the guards made after the shooting. The prosecution, [trial judge Ricardo] Urbina concluded, was tainted with information that the prosecutors should never have used.

The big issue in the case remains this: keeping the prosecution team walled off from any protected, confidential information the Blackwater guards provided after the shooting.
An assistant U.S. attorney, John Crabb Jr., is on the so-called ‘filter team,’ reviewing evidence and witness statements before the trial prosecutors can review the material. Prosecutors and filter team lawyers and investigators recently returned from Iraq. There, prosecutors did not interview witnesses before filter team members spoke with them, Crabb said.”
 
Extracting transparency
European parliamentary advisor Benjamin Fox argues that British Prime Minister David Cameron is not following through on the commitments he made in last year’s Nigerian speech on greater extractive industry transparency:
 
“The perversity of the government’s position is that developing nations would need far less aid if they were allowed to get a decent chunk of revenue from exploiting their own resources. Today, even in a climate where there are no reporting requirements for extractive companies, Africa’s income from its resources is six times the amount it receives in aid.
On political, economic and moral grounds, the case for project-by-project reporting is unarguable. We should be able to see where extractive companies are operating, whether they are paying a fair price and whether governments are selling their people short by giving their country’s mineral wealth away too cheaply.”

Latest Developments, February 27

In the latest news and analysis…

OccupyLSX dismantled
Reuters reports that police have dismantled the Occupy London “anti-capitalist camp” after more than four months of protest outside St Paul’s cathedral.
“The [City of London] Corporation won its right to remove the camp after arguing in court that it hindered planning control, attracted crime, and interfered with a public right of way and the rights of those who wished to worship in the cathedral.
It won a case in the High Court last month for the tents to be taken away. The protesters went to the Court of Appeal arguing that their case had ‘unique and global’ significance but the appeal was rejected.
The protesters could still apply to the European Court of Human Rights.”

Latest from WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks has begun releasing over 5 million emails from Stratfor, a Texas-based company it says “fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations” and government agencies.
“The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the “Yes Men”, for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.”

Class morality
The Globe and Mail reports on new findings that suggest the rich are more likely to behave unethically than the poor.
“In results from seven separate studies, they found a consistent tendency among those they termed ‘upper-class’ to be more likely to break the law while driving, take valued goods from others, lie in negotiations, cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize and endorse unethical behaviour at work.
The reason for the ethical difference was simple, according to the paper being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a leading U.S. science journal. Wealthier people are more likely to have an attitude that greed is good.”

Legal opinions
The Huffington Post’s Mike Sacks writes that European governments do not share the Obama administration’s enthusiasm for equating “natural and judicial persons” when it comes to liability for crime committed overseas.
“In an ironic twist, the conservative [US Supreme Court] justices, who loudly resist being influenced by foreign legal trends, can look to European interpretations of U.S. law as the best cover for now discovering corporate immunity from international human rights allegations. In briefs filed in support of Royal Dutch Petroleum, the United Kingdom and Netherlands governments wrote that they have long opposed “overly broad assertions of extraterritorial civil jurisdiction” based on foreigners’ claims against foreign defendants for alleged activities in foreign countries. The German government took a similar stance. These positions arose out of all three nations’ express preference for multilateral agreements to resolve such problems, rather than unilateral action by any one country’s courts.”

Burn Berne
Kent Law School’s Alan Story believes there is little hope of  “a ‘balanced’ intellectual property agenda across the world” as long as the global copyright system is governed by the Berne Convention.
“In fact, the Berne Convention, the main provisions of which were drafted by a handful of industrialised countries in 1886 and is essentially unchanged in ideology or substantive assumptions since then, is one of the most lopsided and unequal international legal instruments one can imagine. Almost a decade ago in my Burn Berne article, I wrote that, for the peoples of the global South, Berne ‘operates as Western-based and unreconstructed colonial relic which they had no role in drafting and which was imposed on them without consultation in an earlier era’ ; I concluded the leading international copyright convention was both ‘unbalanced and unbalanceable.’
In 2012, I hold the same view. It is both illusory and delusory to think that a so-called balanced or re-balanced Berne and /or global copyright system can constructed; it is not only wishful, but also wistful, thinking and is based on a naive understanding of how this system operates, as well as its ideology and power relationships within it.”

Fair trade
The Guardian’s Felicity Lawrence argues the Fairtrade movement is guilty of making its case in the language of philanthropy, not rights.
“By doing that it throws responsibility for making sure farmers and workers are fairly paid back on to consumers – who may or may not be able to afford to take their morals shopping, especially in a recession – rather than on the big businesses, the international traders, the manufacturers and the retailers that make substantial profits out of the goods they sell.
Fair trade alone cannot address the core problem of excessively concentrated markets in which a handful of overpowerful transnational corporations dictate terms of trade and suck profits up into their own coffers.
What is needed for really fair trade is a more equitable distribution of the money in the chain. That will only be achieved with a shift in power which requires political action.”

EU overfishing
The Guardian reports that Spain is lobbying hard for stricter new fishing rules not to apply to EU boats operating outside European waters, despite evidence that current practices are overtaxing ocean resources and hurting the economy and diet of African coastal populations.
According to the [Greenpeace] study, the EU paid €142.7m to secure the fishing rights for just one fleet of 34 giant factory trawlers to work in Mauritanian and Moroccan waters between 2006 and 2012. Of this, EU taxpayers paid €128m, and the companies only €14m.
The report shows that these 34 vessels catch 235,000 tonnes a year of fish from the Moroccan and Mauritanian waters, leaving little for the local fishers. Mauritania is one of seven Sahelian countries to have declared a food emergency in the last month and appealed for emergency aid.”

Closing loopholes
UC Berkeley’s Robert Reich cannot understand why US President Barack Obama is talking about cutting corporate taxes.
“Corporate taxes have plummeted as a share of total federal revenues. In 1953, under President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, corporate taxes accounted for 32 per cent of total federal tax revenues. Now they’re only ten per cent.
But now the federal budget deficit is ballooning, and in less than a year major cuts are scheduled to slice everything from prenatal care to Medicare. So this would seem to be the ideal time to raise corporate taxes – or at the very least close corporate tax loopholes without lowering corporate rates.”