Latest Developments, May 25

In the latest news and analysis…

Global leadership failure
Amnesty International has released its 50th annual global human rights report, in which it describes the UN Security Council as “tired, out of step and increasingly unfit for purpose.”
“ ‘Failed leadership has gone global in the last year, with politicians responding to protests with brutality or indifference. Governments must show legitimate leadership and reject injustice by protecting the powerless and restraining the powerful. It is time to put people before corporations and rights before profits,’ said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General.

‘The language of human rights is adopted when it serves political or corporate agendas, and shelved
 when inconvenient or standing in the way of profit.’

The UN meeting to agree an Arms Trade Treaty in July will be an acid test for politicians to place rights over self-interest and profit. Without a strong treaty, the UN Security Council’s guardianship of global peace and security seems doomed to failure; its permanent members wielding an absolute veto on any resolution despite being the world’s largest arms suppliers. ”

Indifference in the time of cholera
The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that the rainy season is causing an intensification of Haiti’s cholera crisis, whose origins lie in UN peacekeepers’ sewage discharge into a source of drinking water.
“The cholera death toll is up to 7,155, with 543,042 infections over 586 days (and no UN apology so far), according to a new ‘cholera counter’ created by advocacy group Just Foreign Policy.

But so far, even this new danger [of an evolving second strain] doesn’t seem to be enough to make fighting cholera in Haiti a cause célèbre. Maybe a viral ‘Kolera 2012’ campaign would do the trick?”

FCPA questions
The Huffington Post reports that two American congressmen are looking into the motives behind the US Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to water down a 35-year-old piece of anti-corruption legislation.
“In a letter to the Chamber released Tuesday, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) — the ranking Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, respectively — describe how committee staff looked through the institute’s tax filings and found that 14 of the group’s 55 board members between 2007 and 2010 ‘were affiliated with companies that were reportedly under investigation for violations or had settled allegations that they violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.’

In their letter, the congressmen request information from the Institute for Legal Reform, including any documentation of board discussions about FCPA and ‘documents relating to companies that have provided funds to the Chamber or the ILR for work related specifically to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.’ ”

Bribery rising
The Wall Street Journal reports on a new survey that suggests business executives worldwide are increasingly willing to engage in unethical practices.
“Of the more than 1,700 executives polled by Ernst & Young for its annual fraud survey, 15% said they were prepared to make cash payments to win business, up from 9% in the previous survey.

The study found that 47% of the 400 chief financial officers surveyed felt they could justify potentially unethical practices to help business survive during an economic downturn. Those practices included giving cash payments, using entertainment and giving personal gifts to win business. And, 16% of CFO respondents said they did not know that their company can be held liable for the actions of third-party agents.”

Ending slave labour
The Associated Press reports that Brazilian lawmakers have approved a constitutional amendment that will mean those “who force people into slave-like working conditions” will face harsher punishments.
“The amendment allows the government to confiscate without compensation all the property of anyone found to be using slave labor, which is most common on remote farms but also occurs in urban sweatshops in places like Sao Paulo, South America’s largest city.”

Land fever
Reuters AlertNet reports on the growing enthusiasm among foreign-owned companies for setting up industrial palm plantations on Cameroonian land.
“Six foreign-owned companies are currently trying to secure over 1 million hectares (about 2.5 million acres) of land for the production of palm oil in the country’s forested southern zone, according to a coalition of environmental organisations.

In a recent letter addressed to Cameroon’s Prime Minister Philemon Yang, the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations in Cameroon called on the government to reject the projects, which they argue will destroy a critical forested zone linking five national parks and protected areas.
‘In addition to the direct destruction of flora and fauna, these projects will bring hunger and frustration to the local population,’ the coalition argued.”

Stock exchange accountability
British MP Lisa Nandy has explained in parliament a proposed legal amendment that would require UK companies to report on the human rights and sustainable development impacts of their business.
“As some Members may be aware, the [London Stock Exchange] is currently host to a number of companies that have been found guilty of gross violations of human rights, particularly in countries that are in conflict or deemed high risk, yet very few companies have been held properly to account for such actions.

Our amendment would clarify rather than rethink the purpose of the stock exchange, allowing the [Financial Conduct Authority] to take into account an applicant’s respect for human rights and sustainable development, in protecting the integrity and respectability of the exchange. That has been done elsewhere, such as in Hong Kong, and Istanbul, Brazil, Indonesia, Shanghai, Egypt, Korea and South Africa have all taken steps in that direction.”

Defining green
The World Development Movement asks a fundamental question in the lead-up to the Rio+20 Summit: what exactly does the oft-used term “green economy” actually mean?
“However, industrialised countries like the UK, alongside banks and multinational companies, are using the phrase ‘green economy’ as a smokescreen to hide their plan to further privatise the global commons and create new markets in the functions nature provides for free.
Out of this Trojan horse will spring new market-based mechanisms that will allow the financial sector to gain more control of the management of the global commons.
Instead of contributing to sustainable development and economic justice, this corporate green economy would lead to the privatisation of land and nature by multinational companies, taking control of these resources further away from the communities which depend on them.”

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Latest Developments, May 3

In the latest news and analysis…

Toothless embargoes
Oxfam has released a new report that shows countries under arms embargoes have imported over $2.2 billion in weapons and ammunition since 2000.
“This figure shows the extent to which states have been flagrantly flouting the 26 UN, regional or multilateral arms embargoes in force during this period. Oxfam is calling on the international community to put an end to decades of irresponsible arms deals which devastate people’s lives by agreeing a set of legally binding laws when diplomats meet to draw up a new Arms Trade Treaty in July 2012. Oxfam wants to see the new treaty place strict, unambiguous and legal obligations on states to control the global trade in arms.”

Protecting domestic workers
Human Rights Watch commends Uruguay for becoming the first country to ratify the international Domestic Workers Convention.
“The treaty, which extends core labor rights to an estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers, will come into legal force when it is ratified by two countries.

The convention requires governments to provide domestic workers with labor protections equivalent to those of other workers, including for working hours, minimum wage coverage, overtime compensation, daily and weekly rest periods, social security, and maternity protection. It also includes specific protections for children, requiring governments to establish a minimum age for domestic work and ensuring that domestic work by children above that age does not interfere with their education.”

$300M allegation
CBC reports that a former executive with Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin has been accused of using shell companies to pay the Gadhafi family more than $300 million.
“CBC has no proof of the substance of the allegations contained in the “poison pen” email, nor any evidence it relates in any way to the allegations [Riadh] Ben Aissa now faces in Switzerland.
Ben Aissa is also the executive who hired Cyndy Vanier, the Canadian consultant who is sitting in a Mexican jail. She is accused of plotting to smuggle Saadi Gadhafi — who had a long history of directing billions of dollars in construction projects to Ben Aissa – out of Libya last fall.

What is clear is that that the December email — amid media reports of Vanier’s arrest — sparked a cascade of internal company audits, revelations of missing millions and three high-profile resignations within the company, including that of Ben Aissa prior to his arrest.”

Military pact
Inter Press Service reports on opposition to a new agreement between the US and the Philippines on increased military cooperation.
“ ‘It is terribly discouraging that the Philippine government cannot figure out a truly healthy relationship with the U.S. – that is, a relationship that allows the Philippines to forge meaningful relationships with America as well as with its neighbours, including China,’ Gina Apostol, the author of a novel on the Philippine elite’s relationship with the U.S. military, told IPS.
‘We are too stuck on our historical relationship with America, even though it has been patently disgraceful and traumatic.’ ”

NGO accountability
The Center for Global Development’s Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz discuss the recently published independent assessment of the US government’s response to Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.
“The report makes passing references to the lack of beneficiary and local involvement, the large number of NGOs operating in the country, and the fact that many organizations came to Haiti with no previous experience in disaster management.  Yet it states that “due to time and resource constraints, we were unable to explore these topics in great detail.”  Also, the report says that “no clear baseline or reporting mechanism was established” for NGOs receiving USAID funding.  These are big issues for the USG – especially if NGOs and private contractors continue to be the main channels through which the money is being disbursed.  The USG must look at various options to increase accountability—from easily-accessible quarterly reports to the standard accounting framework offered by the International Aid Transparency Initiative.”

Cluster bomb bill
Earl Turcotte, who led the Canadian delegation during the negotiation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, says his country’s proposed legislation concerning the banned weapons is “the worst of any country” that has ratified the treaty.
“The Harper government is seeking exceptions that, among other things, will allow a Canadian commander of a multinational force to authorize or order forces outside the convention to use, acquire, possess, import or export cluster munitions.
As well, Canadian pilots or artillery personnel can use, acquire, possess or move cluster munitions while on secondment or attachment to outside states. Canadian Forces can also transport non-party state cluster munitions on Canadian carriers.
The legislation further proposes blanket exceptions that permit Canadian Forces to, in their words, ‘aid, abet, conspire, counsel and assist non-party State forces’ to carry out or escape from acts prohibited to convention states.”

Gods & consumers
Author Homero Aridjis writes that he was not surprised to hear that Wal-Mart was accused of paying $24 million worth of bribes in Mexico, given the histories of the company and his country.
“Walmart already had a history of controversial behavior in Mexico. Most notably, in November 2004, despite widespread opposition, the company opened a 72,000-square-foot store within the boundaries of the 2,000-year-old city of Teotihuacán, which features the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon (“the place where men became gods” — or consumers?). Walmart has also built a supermarket on forested land in the resort town of Playa del Carmen, in Quintana Roo — though the permit for the building later turned out to have been granted for another site, on the island of Cozumel. The question now is who allows this, and in exchange for what?”

Legal hype
The University of Virginia’s Brandon Garrett argues that the growing number of companies being prosecuted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act does not necessarily mean that corporate accountability is thriving in America.
“Most of these FCPA cases are self-reported by the corporation itself — not uncovered by intrepid police-work. They should not make us think prosecutors now have enough resources to take on major corporations. After all, corporations routinely spend hundreds of millions of dollars on FCPA investigations and defense costs; prosecutors can hardly command such resources. Foreign corporations now pay the largest FCPA fines, and my data from the past decade shows that foreign corporations pay larger fines across a whole range of crimes.”

Latest Developments, March 14

In the latest news and analysis…

ICC’s big day
The Independent reports that even as the International Criminal Court handed down its first ever verdict – finding Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga guilty of recruiting and using child soldiers – questions remain about the court’s ability to overcome the challenges it faces.
“The complicated nature of building cases in the absence of international legal precedent and the necessity of gaining support from states for its intervention, as well as the uneven support for the Rome treaty by major powers such as the United States, have undermined the court’s efforts to gain acceptance. The ICC and its controversial outgoing chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, have been criticised in some quarters for focusing exclusively on Africa. In an effort to weaken the accusations of an anti-African bias the ICC has appointed Fatou Bensouda from the Gambia to replace the departing Argentinian.”

Voluntary solutions
The Guardian reports not everyone is impressed by a new set of proposed “voluntary global guidelines” on land governance and resource rights that would theoretically address the issue of mass land grabs by foreign investors in poor countries.
“ ‘The breadth of participants, including governments, has seen the content watered down to secure consensus. Value for the immense time and money invested in producing the guidelines may be hard to come by,’ said Liz Alden Wily, an international land tenure specialist.  ‘These are only guidelines after all, not binding on the very governments, companies, elites and investors who are already so heavily involved in land and resource capture.’
She said the time and money might have been better spent reframing international trade law, on which resource exploitation so heavily depends, and ‘bringing feeble human rights law up to scratch. Or invested in mobilising the millions of poor affected by policies and laws.’
Alden Wily added: ‘It will be interesting to see if the global aid community promoting these guidelines will spend the same effort to translate the advice into 150 languages and get copies down to every poor community in the developing world. That’s a billion copies right there.’ ”

Water rights
Reuters AlertNet reports that NGOs were unable to get the World Water Forum declaration amended to include “an unequivocal commitment to the U.N.-recognised rights to water and sanitation.”
“…Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch – a small U.S.-based NGO – described the declaration as ‘a step backwards for water justice’, noting that signatures had not even been collected from nations that endorsed it. “The entire event itself is a corporate tradeshow parading as a multilateral forum,” she added.

The firms supporting the event include French energy giant EDF, Veolia Eau, Bouygues Construction, HSBC and JCDecaux.”

WHO woes
Intellectual Property Watch reports on allegations that the private sector is using “financial leverage to gain undue influence” in the cash-strapped World Health Organization.
“A recent piece for the non-governmental Third World Network made the assertion based on developments such as the presence of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates sharing the stage with WHO Director General Margaret Chan at the WHO members annual meeting last year, and the presence of industry interests at a civil society meeting before last year’s UN summit on non-communicable diseases.

Chan has sought repeatedly to assure member states that the WHO understands the necessary line between any stakeholders. But some see industry links in the reform proposals emerging from the WHO, the group said.”

Environmentalists, Martians and terrorists
The Huffington Post reports that the campaign by Canada’s ruling party against environmental groups took a “jaw-droppingly bizarre” turn when a Conservative senator asked “if environmentalists are willing to accept money from Martians,” would they also take money from Al Qaeda, Hamas or the Taliban?
“Many environmentalists are upset with [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper’s seeming obsession with the millions they receive each year in charitable funding from the U.S., while ignoring the millions more spent in Canada each year by foreign business interests.
Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell pointed out that the Tories have no trouble with foreign funding as long as it benefits it’s own causes, such as the National Rifle Association petitioning to kill the long gun registry.
‘Funding flows in all directions across borders, and to somehow single out a subset just because you don’t like the stance of certain organizations and then demonize them for it for receiving the funding…is really a reprehensible treatment,’ Peter Robinson, the chief executive officer of the David Suzuki Foundation told HuffPost.”

Tax haven runaround
EUobserver reports the EU’s top tax official is running into opposition from certain member countries over attempts to tackle tax avoidance in Switzerland.
“Algirdas Semeta told EUobserver that bank secrecy makes it impossible to say how much potential tax income is being lost even as EU countries cut wages and public services amid the financial crisis. But it is likely to be big bucks: Switzerland currently hands over €330 million a year in tax payments to EU countries, while its banks manage €1.5 trillion of private wealth.”

Bizjet bribes
Tulsa World reports an American aviation company and its German parent have agreed to a deal with US authorities over alleged bribes paid to Mexican officials between 2004 and 2010.
“In many instances, Bizjet allegedly paid the bribes directly to the foreign officials. On other occasions, Bizjet is accused of funneling the bribes through a shell company owned and operated by a person who was then a Bizjet sales manager.
The Justice Department also stated that Lufthansa Technik — which it described as Bizjet’s “indirect parent company” — also entered into an agreement with DOJ in connection with the purported unlawful payments by Bizjet and the directors, officers, employees and agents involved in the conspiracy.”

Bankers vs. Robin Hood
Intelligence Capital’s Avinash Persaud compares the London banking industry’s arguments against a proposed financial transaction tax, aka the Robin Hood Tax, to past denials of the link between cigarettes and cancer.
“Listening to some London bankers, you would think that a 0.1% tax would usher in a nuclear winter. Bankers are effectively saying that, while they justify their high pay with claims of superior creativity, credibility and connectivity, all of that cannot compete with a tax on each transaction of just one tenth of one per cent. If, despite the industry receiving billions in implicit public subsidies and guarantees, the largest sector in the UK economy hangs by such a thin thread, its value-added must be seriously questioned.”

Latest Developments, February 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Global New Deal
The UN News Centre reports on a new UN Conference on Trade and Development paper that calls for an overhaul of the world’s financial system to produce a “more stable and inclusive” global economy.
“ ‘Financial markets and institutions have become the masters rather than the servants of the real economy, distorting trade and investment, heightening levels of inequality, and posing a systemic threat to economic stability,’ warns the report, which also defines the dominant pattern of international economic relations during the past three decades as ‘finance-driven globalization.’
[UNCTAD Secretary-General] Supachai [Panitchpakdi] instead calls for financial and other resources to be channelled towards ‘the right kinds’ of productive activities, ensuring that measures to diversify economic development are consistent with job creation, food and energy security, and tackling the threat of climate change.”

Arms trade transparency
The BBC reports the UK government is promising to allow greater public scrutiny of arms exports following allegations that weapons it had sold to Middle Eastern regimes were used to suppress popular protests during last year’s Arab Spring.
“The government intends to publish information about licence applications and updates of sales, once they have been awarded.
An independent reviewer could also be appointed to scrutinise the process to ensure it is working ‘correctly’.”

Shooting the messenger
The Wall Street Journal reports a former General Electric executive is alleging he was fired for relaying concerns about the legality of the company’s behaviour abroad.
“ ‘The Plaintiff provided information to his immediate supervisor and to the Ombudsperson for GE regarding potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act committed by GE during negotiations for a lucrative, multi-year deal with the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity,’ the complaint said.”

Unethical links
The Ecologist reports a number of “seemingly ethical” Brititsh companies – The Co-operative, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose – are facing criticism over their partnerships with controversial oil giants.
“Greg Muttitt, campaigns and policy director at international development charity War on Want, said: ‘People believe there is an ethical option. The fact these companies are doing deals with unethical businesses shows how limited their ethical commitments are. This will wake people up to how these companies’ ethical policies are only skin deep.’ ”

Democratic deficit
The recently signed international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a potential threat to Internet freedom but the extent of its menace remains unclear because of the opaque and undemocratic negotiation process, according to Oxford Internet Institute graduate student Alexander Furnas.
“It is worth noting that the negotiations throughout most of the process were highly secret with negotiators forced to sign non-disclosure agreements, a fact that, according to one [Wikileaks] cable, made even some of the negotiating parties uncomfortable. There were few avenues for public or civil-society input. Meanwhile many U.S. based multinational corporations and their interest groups, including the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, Sony, and Time Warner were consulted via formal [Office of the US Trade Representative] advisory boards.”

Myth making
The Center for Global Development’s Michael Clemens writes about the birth of an “immigration fiction” as the UK Minister of State for Immigration Damian Green, with the help of the British media, distorts the findings of a recent report by attributing causation where it found only association.
“But the minister’s myth propagates anyway, with help from a docile press. The BBC article on the minister’s speech, for example, simply quotes the minister’s false interpretation of the [Migration Advisory Committee] report, without qualification. The article does not bother to interview any of the MAC report’s authors, who could clarify what they did or did not say. The BBC article does bother to interview anti-immigration activist Sir Andrew Green, who (shocker!) shares the minister’s sadly fictional interpretation of the MAC report.

What does the best economic research show? As I’ve discussed in a peer-reviewed article in a journal of the American Economic Association, barriers to migration from developing countries are far and away the most impoverishing obstacle to the global economy. Even slightly greater labor mobility out of developing countries would add trillions of dollars to the world economy, and most of those gains happen in countries of destination like the UK.”

Zero-sum madness
The Post Carbon Institute’s Richard Heinberg argues that perpetuating the current competition-based global system is not a viable option if survival of the species is our objective.
“Taken together, current cooperative efforts toward resource conservation, climate mitigation and population stabilisation are woefully insufficient – as exemplified by failed climate talks, continued global population growth and ever-heightening international competition for access to dwindling fossil fuel supplies. There are plenty of justifications for pessimism: after all, won’t the first nations to engage in resource conservation lose economic advantage to those that engage in conquest and consumption maximisation? Wouldn’t even one major national holdout undermine a worldwide cooperative effort at climate protection?
Dramatically expanding our international and domestic cooperative efforts at this worrisome moment in history may seem like a tall order. The only advantage to doing so is that it is the only path going forward that does not end in a global tragedy in which the fate of the ‘winners’ is hardly preferable to that of the ‘losers’.”

Body of evidence
The World Bank’s Markus Goldstein writes that there is remarkably little impact evaluation done on interventions and reforms relating to trade policy.
“The need for more evidence is key. As [Olivier] Cadot & co. point out, trade is receiving an increasing amount of policy attention and donors (the World Bank among them) are stepping up support of trade related interventions. But, alas, little work is being done. As a striking example, Cadot & co. review all World Bank trade projects from 1995-2005. Of these 85 projects, only 5 included an impact evaluation that used a comparison group. ”

Latest Developments, December 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Siemens charges
Reuters reports US prosecutors have charged eight executives at German electronics giant Siemens with paying $100 million worth of bribes in Argentina.
“Between 1996 and 2007, the executives paid bribes intended for top Argentina officials, including two presidents and cabinet ministers, according to the criminal charges and a separate civil lawsuit brought by the top market regulator, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The charges were filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The defendants face criminal charges of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) anti-fraud statute, as well as wire fraud and money laundering, crimes that carry a possible maximum prison term of 25 years.”

Fighting REDD
The Inter Press Service reports that a new coalition is voicing its opposition to the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) projects, which are meant to provide market incentives for protecting forests.
“The new Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life issued a statement stating that based on “in-depth investigations, a growing number of recent reports provide evidence that indigenous peoples are being subjected to violations of their rights as a result of the implementation of REDD+-type programs and policies.”
‘Indigenous peoples and local forest communities will not place our lives and lands in the hands of corporate polluters,’ said Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, based in the United States.”

Kyoto regrets
The UN News Centre reports the organization’s top climate change official has expressed “regret” over Canada’s Kyoto pullout and suggested rich countries must do more to meet their emissions pledges.
“Whether or not Canada is a Party to the Kyoto Protocol, it has a legal obligation under the [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] to reduce its emissions, and a moral obligation to itself and future generations to lead in the global effort,” [Christiana Figueres] said. “Industrialized countries, whose emissions have risen significantly since 1990, as is the case for Canada, remain in a weaker position to call on developing countries to limit their emissions.”

Lords of poverty
The Telegraph reports Somalia’s prime minister is accusing international aid agencies of being “lords of poverty” who are exaggerating the severity of his country’s food crisis to further their own ends.
“Seated in his air-conditioned office, Mr [Abdiweli Mohammed] Ali said the UN’s judgment that famine had struck his capital was wrong. ‘I have no idea how this international community makes the grading. You ask them and tell me how they did it. They don’t know what they’re talking about. But what I can say is enough relief came to Somalia and we provided enough relief to those affected by the famine.’
Mr Ali added: ‘I don’t believe there’s a famine in Mogadishu. Absolutely no. You know the aid agencies became an entrenched interest group and they say all kind of things that they want to say.’
Mr Ali cited a searing critique of aid workers, ‘Lords of Poverty’, written by Graham Hancock, a British author, in 1989. ‘I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist, but I believe a lot of what has been said in the ‘Lords of Poverty’ book by Graham Hancock,’ added the prime minister.”

Afghan questions
The American Security Project’s Joshua Foust takes issue with a new Foreign Policy piece that suggests Afghanistan is “a much better place” now than it was before the NATO invasion.
“Things in much of the country really are not good, and leaving the internet data archives (and even Kabul!) can show that to anyone brave enough to look for it. If the international community had spent $100 billion on development over ten years and accomplished nothing, that would be shocking. So it’s no surprise that some things have improved. What Kenny should be asking isn’t, did we get anything for our vast expenditure, but have the improvements been worth the cost? And could another policy have achieved the same or more at less cost?
Those are the kinds of questions aid and development boosters don’t like to answer. I wish they would.”

Nuclear testing ban
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano call on the remaining eight key countries to follow Indonesia’s recent example and ratify the ban on nuclear testing.
“For the five decades following World War II, a nuclear test shook and irradiated the planet on average every nine days. This era was ended in 1996, when the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. But, for the CTBT to enter into force, all 44 states specified as holders of nuclear technology must ratify it. Until they do, the specter of nuclear testing will continue to haunt us.”

European illusions
The University of Cambridge’s Tarak Barkawi argues the UK’s left and right both hold views of the EU that have little to do with reality.
“At its core, Europe has always been a capitalist project, and is at its most successful as a single market regulated by unelected officials. The EU’s social agenda pales in significance to its economic powers, and as a diplomatic and military actor it has never achieved real weight as a “force for good”. Much less noticed is the EU’s brutal anti-immigration policy. It has built a gulag of concentration camps across North Africa and prefers to let migrants drown in the Mediterranean rather than admit them to Europe.”

Different kind of economics
Oxfam’s Duncan Green lists a number of concerns he took away from his participation in “an initial discussion” with the World Bank regarding the World Development Report’s 2013 edition, which will focus on jobs.
“Third, great that jobs are presented as the ‘hinge’ of development. But from the presentation, it looks like that hinge will then be explored almost entirely in terms of improving the enabling environment for employers. That could easily end up producing a kinder, gentler tweak of the standard Washington Consensus: make it easier to hire and fire and otherwise ‘flexibilize’ the workforce; trade unions are a ‘distortion’ to the efficient workings of labour markets etc (see Kanbur’s point three). Why not, as Christina Weller from CAFOD suggested in the meeting, focus on the enabling environment for workers, starting by asking them what makes for decent, life-enhancing jobs?”