Latest Developments, October 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone crimes I
Amnesty International has released a new report alleging that some US drone strikes in Pakistan may constitute war crimes:

“Contrary to official claims that those killed were ‘terrorists’, Amnesty International’s research indicates that the victims of these attacks were not involved in fighting and posed no threat to life.

Amnesty International also documented cases of so-called ‘rescuer attacks’ in which those who ran to the aid of the victims of an initial drone strike were themselves targeted in a rapid follow-on attack. While there may have been a presumption that the rescuers were members of the group being targeted, it is difficult to see how such distinctions could be made in the immediate and chaotic aftermath of a missile strike.

While the Pakistan government maintains it opposes the US drone program, Amnesty International is concerned that some officials and institutions in Pakistan and in other countries including Australia, Germany and the UK may be assisting the USA to carry out drone strikes that constitute human rights violations.”

Drone crimes II
Human Rights Watch has also released a new report on US drone strikes, which have allegedly “killed civilians in violation of international law”, this time in Yemen:

“The six strikes investigated by Human Rights Watch killed 82 people, at least 57 of them civilians.

During targeting operations, the US may be using an overly elastic definition of a fighter who may be lawfully attacked during an armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said. For example, a November 2012 drone strike in the military town of Beit al-Ahmar killed an alleged AQAP recruiter, but recruiting activities alone would not be sufficient grounds under the laws of war to target someone for attack.
The six strikes also did not meet US policy guidelines for targeted killings that Obama disclosed in May 2013, Human Rights Watch said.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US government has carried out hundreds of targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In Yemen, the US is estimated to have conducted 81 targeted killing operations, one in 2002 and the rest since 2009.”

War on activism
The Financial Times reports that Bahrain’s use of 2 million tear gas projectiles since early 2011 is part of a growing global trend:

“The rise in global activism has spurred sales for non-lethal weapons as governments shift spending from counter terrorism to counter-activist policies.
‘It’s a cheap option when compared with other forms of crowd control,’ says Anna Feigenbaum, a lecturer at Bournemouth University whose research focuses on the use of tear gas.
‘Manufacturers are now bragging about how much tear gas they are selling, with promotional videos of uprisings and how much their products are needed,’ she says.

Globally, demand for so-called ‘dispersal non-lethal weapons,’ including tear gas and pepper spray, is estimated at $368m this year, and is likely to rise to $490m by 2018, [research group Markets and Markets] says.”

Price of exclusion
The Globe and Mail reports that First Nations leaders are warning that last week’s anti-fracking confrontation with Canadian police was “just the tip of the iceberg”:

“The protest against shale-gas exploration near the village of Rexton, N.B., took place as some aboriginal groups across the country are expressing frustration over being excluded from consultations, especially when it comes to resource development.

“We are not going to sit back, we’re not going to let the wealth leave our lands the way it has for the last 100 years, keeping us impoverished …” [Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak] said, noting Prime Minister Stephen Harper is travelling the world “trying to sell Canadian resource wealth … and he’s doing that all in complete disrespect of the rights of indigenous people.””

Coherent future
The Guardian reports on the challenges that lie ahead for the UN diplomats assigned with designing the so-called sustainable development goals:

“To do this, [Kenya’s UN representative Macharia Kamau] and Csaba Kõrösi, his Hungarian counterpart, will have to bring together governments who disagree on issues such as women’s rights, diplomatically fend off demands from NGOs and campaign groups insistent that their issue takes priority, and grapple with country blocs and bureaucratic, inter-governmental processes.

One challenge, says Kamau, is to ensure that various goals, targets and indicators proposed do not contradict each other. ‘We have to make sure that there is consistency between what we’re doing on one aspect, say macroeconomic policy, with what we’re aspiring to in another aspect, say climate change, or consumption,’ he says. ‘The sum of all these pieces must make a coherent whole that is consistent with our aspirations for sustainable development.’ ”

New angle
The Mail and Guardian reports on the emergence of “new, apparently damning, footage” of South African police actions during last year’s Marikana massacre of striking miners:

“[Filmmaker Rehad Desai] said this new footage ‘put paid’ to the argument that police had acted in self-defence and was more suggestive of premeditated action on their part.
Desai also noted that the new footage shows ‘the police taking out their pistols from their holsters well before the alleged attack and before the miners arrived on the scene’.

The drawing and cocking of weapons, said Desai, was against police standing orders, which were explicit that guns should only be drawn in the case of ‘imminent danger’.”

Empty particpation
Lyndsay Stecher writes in Think Africa Press that the UN’s consultation process falls short of “genuine inclusivity” at the design stage of the post-2015 development agenda:

As [Participate’s Joanna Wheeler] puts it, ‘Citizen participation in the new global development framework is not just about a small global elite in the UN “hearing the voices of the poor”. Meaningful participation is about creating sustainable and long-term mechanisms for citizens to be involved in decision-making at all levels – from local to global’.

Ultimately then, inclusivity is about more than just coming up with technically-effective and efficient ways of gathering information in remote areas. It is about more than taking polls of the poor that can be cited in faraway international meetings. It is about more than adding a few extra voices to the growing hubbub clamouring to shape the post-2015 agenda. Genuine participation of the poorest is about politics and power. And the imbalances that have so far stymied meaningful participation are arguably the same ones underpinning the main problems with the UN’s post-2015 High-Level Panel – a failure to address the root causes of poverty; a preoccupation with the market rather than unemployment and deprivation; and a failure to tackle the inequality in wealth, resources and, crucially, power.”

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Latest Developments, October 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Military solutions
The BBC reports that the European Commission is calling for migrant-intercepting sea patrols “covering the whole Mediterranean, from Cyprus to Spain”:

“The move by Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem was prompted by the deaths of at least 274 migrants whose boat sank off Italy’s Lampedusa island.

[The EU’s Frontex border agency] is currently helping Italy to intercept migrant boats, but the two EU operations in the southern Mediterranean have limited resources – a total of four ships, two helicopters and two planes.
The search and rescue patrols would ‘help better tracking, identification and rescue of boats, especially migrants’ boats’, the commissioner’s spokesman Michele Cercone said.”

Watery graveyard
The Danish Institute for International Studies’ Hans Lucht argues that European policies on migration and refugees have led to “a massacre by negligence”:

“Countries like Italy routinely send rescue boats into the Mediterranean to pick up migrants stranded off the coast, but this is only a belated Band-Aid. Europe’s professed commitment to human rights, including, in principle, a duty to give refuge to those escaping persecution and misery, has not been matched by meaningful policies.

For all of Europe’s economic woes, it is well within the capacity of the European Union to resettle these migrants. The real barrier is the devaluation of African lives. For this there is no quick fix. A unified, humane policy on refugees and asylum seekers is needed. So is a long-term commitment to social and economic transformation in sub-Saharan Africa, to which Europeans owe a moral debt.

There is a growing acceptance that a watery graveyard is a necessary evil for the maintenance of a free and prosperous Europe. This is a disgrace: the suffering in the chilly waters off Sicily calls into question the moral integrity of the entire border system (to the extent it can be called one).”

Cholera compensation
The Associated Press reports that the UN’s top human rights official has called for the “right” to compensation for victims of the cholera epidemic triggered by UN peacekeepers in Haiti:

“ ‘I have used my voice both inside the United Nations and outside to call for the right — for an investigation by the United Nations, by the country concerned, and I still stand by the call that victims of — of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation,’ [U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay] said at an awards ceremony for human rights activists in Geneva.
The U.N. maintains it has legal immunity from such compensation claims.”

Immediate surrender
Agence France-Presse reports that Libya’s parliament has officially demanded that the US return a Libyan citizen “snatched” by American forces in Tripoli over the weekend:

“A [General National Congress] statement read out by spokesman Omar Hmidan stressed ‘the need for the immediate surrender’ of Abu Anas al-Libi and described the US operation as a ‘flagrant violation of (Libya’s) national sovereignty.’
The text, which was passed by the GNC, also calls for the ‘need to allow the Libyan authorities and their families to get in touch with him (Libi) and guarantee them access to a lawyer.’

[Libi] is reportedly being held aboard a US naval ship in the Mediterranean.”

Interrogations at sea
NPR explains why the US appears to be holding alleged terrorist Abu Anas al-Libi on a ship in the Mediterranean:

“The U.S. could send al-Libi to the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, where he could be questioned and held indefinitely while awaiting a military trial.
But President Obama wants to close the Guantanamo prison and therefore is unlikely to add to its population. The president has also barred the use of ‘extraordinary rendition,’ or sending suspects to secret prisons in third countries.

Human rights groups say the shipboard detention is just another version of Guantanamo and the secret prisons that delay or prevent fair trials from taking place. But the intelligence agencies argue that they need to question suspects to break up terror networks and guard against future attacks.
There’s no time limit for how long the U.S. could hold al-Libi on a ship outside the U.S.”

Deadly blaze
Reuters reports on another fatal fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh:

“Gazipur’s firefighting chief, Abu Zafar Ahmed, said nine employees including three company managers had died in the blaze that originated in the knitting section of Aswad Composite Mills factory, a sister concern of Paul Mall Group.

The recent string of accidents has put the government, industrialists and the global brands that use the factories under pressure to reform an industry that employs four million and generates 80 percent of Bangladesh’s export earnings.”

Unequal partnership
iPolitics reports that Canada’s top First Nations leader has described the federal government’s approach to his people as “paternalistic at best and assimilationist at worst”:

“[Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo] outlined what he’d like to see in the throne speech, set for Oct. 16. The AFN, he said, wants four things: predictable and sustainable funding based on First Nations control; First Nations authority over education; a commitment to a full national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women; and reform of the comprehensive claims policy, which he says is ‘deeply flawed.’ ”

Boys club
Inter Press Service reports on calls to remedy the absence of women in top UN positions:

“Despite adopting scores of pious resolutions on gender empowerment over the last 67 years, the 193-member General Assembly has failed to practice in its own backyard what it has vigourously preached to the outside world.
So far, the U.N’s highest policy making body has elected only three women as its president since 1946: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969) and Sheikha Haya Rasheed al-Khalifa of Bahrain (2006).
In a letter addressed to over 160 world leaders, who were at the United Nations last week, the New York-based Impact Leadership 21 has called for meaningful steps in establishing ‘the rights of women and the equality of their participation at all decision-making levels’.
More specifically, the letter makes a strong case for a woman as the next U.N. secretary-general (UNSG) when Ban Ki-moon finishes his current term at the end of 2016.”

Latest Developments, July 31

In the latest news and analysis…

Upside-down justice
Amnesty International, though pleased to see Wikileaker Bradley Manning acquitted of the “aiding the enemy” charge, accuses the US government of punishing those who reveal wrongdoing while protecting those who order or commit the crimes:

“ ‘Since the attacks of September 11, we have seen the US government use the issue of national security to defend a whole range of actions that are unlawful under international and domestic law,’ said [Amnesty International’s Widney] Brown.
‘It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning’s trial was about sending a message: the US government will come after you, no holds barred, if you’re thinking of revealing evidence of its unlawful behaviour.’ ”

UN ultimatum
The UN peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo has issued a statement threatening to disarm by force all non-military armed actors in and around the eastern city of Goma:

“In light of the high risk to the civilian population in the Goma-Sake area, MONUSCO will support the [Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo] in establishing a security zone in Goma and its northern suburbs. Any individuals in this area who are not members of the national security forces will be given 48 hours as of 4pm (Goma time) on Tuesday 30 July to hand in their weapon to a MONUSCO base and join the [Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration, and Resettlement] process. After 4pm on Thursday 1 August, they will be considered an imminent threat of physical violence to civilians and MONUSCO will take all necessary measures to disarm them, including by the use of force in accordance with its mandate and rules of engagement.”

Pattern of violence
London-based law firm Leigh Day has announced the launch of a suit against a subsidiary of Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold over alleged complicity in “the deaths and injuries of local villagers” in Tanzania:

“The claims relate to incidents occurring over the last three years, including one in which five young men were shot and killed on 16 May 2011. The claimants allege that the mine and [North Mara Gold Mine Limited] are controlled by [African Barrick Gold] and that ABG failed to curb the use of excessive force at the mine, including deadly force used by police on a regular basis over a protracted period of time.
‘Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. We are aware of many other instances in which local people have reportedly been seriously injured or killed at ABG’s mine,’ said Leigh Day partner, Richard Meeran.

Two years ago, Barrick announced that ABG had launched a full investigation into what it called ‘credible’ allegations of sexual assault at the North Mara mine in Tanzania. The results of the investigation have never been released.”

Defining atrocities
The Globe and Mail reports on a movement to get the Canadian government to recognize that the country’s history of abuses against First Nations people constitutes genocide:

“As early as this fall, they could ask the United Nations to apply its definition of genocide to Canada’s historical record. This push comes five years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the treatment of children at aboriginal residential schools.

The UN defines genocide as the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group through any of a number of means including killing its members, causing them serious mental or physical harm, subjecting them to unsustainable living conditions, preventing births of their children, and forcibly transferring their children to another group.
In 2000, four years after the last residential school closed, the government of Canada adopted a definition of genocide that excluded the line about the forcible transfer of children. Courts have rejected native claims of genocide against Ottawa and the churches because Canada had no law banning genocide while the schools were operating.”

Last minute deals
L’Indicateur du Renouveau reports that an Irish and a Czech company obtained oil licenses from Mali’s interim government mere days before Sunday’s presidential election:

“Circle Oil Ltd, a company that already operates in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, is now authorized to ‘carry out exploration activities in blocks 21 and 28 of the Taoudenni Basin and to exploit any commercially viable deposits found therein,’ according to the government. In return, the company has pledged to invest at least $6.5 million in block 21 and $3.9 million in block 28.
As for the Czech Republic’s New Catalyst Capital Investments, a newcomer to the oil industry, it obtained carte blanche for exploration, production, transport and even refining of oil and gas in block 4 of the Taoudenni Basin. In return, it pledged to invest a minimum of $69 million.” [Translated from the French.]

Lies of omission
Politico reports that US Senator Ron Wyden has alleged that American spy agencies’ violations of court orders are “more serious” than the government is admitting:

“ ‘We had a big development last Friday when Gen. [James] Clapper, the head of the intelligence agencies, admitted that the community had violated these court orders on phone record collection, and I’ll tell your viewers that those violations are significantly more troubling than the government has stated,’ Wyden said.

Wyden has been an outspoken critic of the surveillance programs but has been restricted with what he can release about them because of his position on the Intelligence Committee. He said since the government made the compliance issues public, however, he could warn about them.”

Resumption of hostilities
The Long War Journal reports that US drone strikes have started up again in Yemen:

“Today’s strike is the second in Yemen in four days. The previous strike, on July 27, which is said to have killed six AQAP fighters in the Al Mahfad area in Abyan province, broke a seven-week pause in drone activity in Yemen.”

Dodgy deal
The Guardian reports on a mining agreement that has outraged the people of Guinea and prompted the FBI to investigate the Guernsey-registered company that hit the “jackpot”:

“The deal was notable not only because BSGR’s expertise was in mining diamonds, rather than extracting and exporting iron ore, but because the glittering prize of Simandou had cost the company so little: rather than paying the government of Guinea for the concession, it had invested $165m in an exploration programme in the area.

Even within the buccaneering world of African mining, the deal was regarded as stupendous. For an investment of just $165m, [Beny] Steinmetz’s BSGR had secured an asset worth around $5bn.”

Latest Developments, July 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Election dropout
Radio France Internationale reports that Tiébilé Dramé has withdrawn his candidacy from this month’s presidential election in Mali, saying a “credible” vote is impossible at this point in time and criticizing France’s role in his country’s electoral process:

“ ‘Paris,’ Tiébilé Dramé said, ‘is pushing for elections, no matter what the cost.’ He added: ‘I get the feeling [French foreign minister] Laurent Fabius is running the elections in Mali.’ Nevertheless, Dramé is not calling for a boycott of the vote. He even wished ‘good luck’ to his country.” [Translated from the French.]

The customer’s always right
The Independent reports that the UK has sold £12.3 billion worth of military equipment to “countries which are on its own official list for human rights abuses”:

“The Government had stated that it would not issue export licences for goods ‘which might be used to facilitate internal repression’ or ‘might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts’.

Only two states of 27 on the Foreign Office’s human rights list – North Korea and South Sudan –did not have licences to their names. Among the others, Saudi Arabia has 417 licences with a value of £1.8bn; Pakistan 219 worth almost £50m; Sri Lanka 49 at £8m and Zimbabwe 46, worth just under £3m.

‘The Government needs to acknowledge that there’s an inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights at the same time. Instead they continue to claim these two policies “are mutually reinforcing”,’ [said Committees on Arms Export Controls chairman John Stanley].”

Hunger studies
The Canadian Press reports on new evidence that researchers in Canada conducted nutritional experiments on “isolated, dependent, hungry” aboriginal people in the mid-20th Century:

“Government documents eventually revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 aboriginals, most of them children.

They found people who were hungry, beggared by a combination of the collapsing fur trade and declining government support. They also found a demoralized population marked by, in the words of the researchers, ‘shiftlessness, indolence, improvidence and inertia.’
The researchers suggested those problems — ‘so long regarded as inherent or hereditary traits in the Indian race’ — were in fact the results of malnutrition.”

Dangerous oil
Reuters reports that the UN is warning that the activities of Western oil companies in Somalia could “threaten peace and security” in the region:

“Around a dozen companies, including many multinational oil and gas majors, had licenses to explore Somalia before 1991, but since then Somaliland and Puntland and other regional authorities have granted their own licenses for the same blocks.
In some cases Somaliland and Puntland have awarded licenses for blocks that overlap. The experts said one such case involves Norwegian oil firm DNO and Canadian-listed Africa Oil Corp.
‘Potentially, it means that exploration operations in these blocks, conducted by both DNO and Africa Oil under the protection of regional security forces, its allied militia or private forces, could generate new conflict between Somaliland and Puntland,’ the report said.
‘It is alarming that regional security forces and armed groups may clash to protect and further Western-based oil companies interests,’ it said.”

Fortress Europe
Human Rights Watch’s Judith Sunderland argues that the EU’s “increasingly hostile” attitude toward immigration is putting Africans’ lives at risk:

“[European commissioner for home affairs Cecilia] Malmström’s office has said it is examining pushback practices by member states – and not just to Libya – but it needs to be more open about this process and its conclusions. And it should be willing to use infringement proceedings against EU countries that send people to places where there is a risk of torture or persecution, a clear breach of EU law.
The European Parliament and European Council are studying a European Commission proposal for new regulations governing interceptions in the Mediterranean. It would allow for returns to third countries for those intercepted on the high seas following a cursory assessment of protection needs and the situation in the country of return. This is unacceptable.”

UN peacemaking
Al Jazeera reports on concerns that that the deployment of the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo could have dire consequences:

The move abandons past UN risk-aversion in a way that critics fear could create a politicised force with an offensive mandate that fuels local resistance to peacekeeping and exposes humanitarian staff to new risks.

Pieter Vanholder, DRC country director of the Life & Peace Institute in Bukavu, told Al Jazeera FIB could have a deterrent effect, but ‘if some things go wrong, which they are bound to, the brigade may be seen as a kind of occupation force.’’
‘As a consequence it could become a push factor for some to join armed groups, adding to local resistance,’ Vanholder said.

Exaggerated risk
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenney argues, regarding the US Department of Homeland Security, the time has come to “shut the whole thing down”:

“More than a decade [after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks], it’s increasingly clear that the danger to Americans posed by terrorism remains smaller than that of myriad other threats, from infectious disease to gun violence to drunk driving. Even in 2001, considerably more Americans died of drowning than from terror attacks. Since then, the odds of an American being killed in a terrorist attack in the U.S. or abroad have been about one in 20 million. The Boston marathon bombing was evil and tragic, but it’s worth comparing the three deaths in that attack to a list of the number of people in the U.S. killed by guns since the December 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., which stood at 6,078 as of June.”

People for sale
UK House of Lords member Mary Goudie argues “it’s only by cutting off the money” that the world can stop human trafficking:

“Modern-day slavery is an underground business, intrinsically linked to global supply chains. Individuals and companies are making a huge amount of money out of this business and can make it extremely hard for campaigners and governments to chase the cash back to its true source. Dealing with the murky links between forced labour and global supply chains is perhaps the only real chance we have of cracking the business of slavery. All private companies should be required to sign up to the Athens ethical principles against human trafficking. By signing this agreement, they will be contributing to the eradication of human trafficking and emphasising that this form of business will not be tolerated.”

Latest Developments, February 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Fear of the police
A new report released by Human Rights Watch accuses Canadian police of negligent and “abusive” behaviour in an area of the country infamous for the murder and disappearance of First Nations women and girls:

“Indigenous women and girls told Human Rights Watch that the RCMP has failed to protect them. They also described instances of abusive policing, including excessive use of force against girls, strip searches of women by male officers, and physical and sexual abuse. One woman said that in July, four police officers took her to a remote location, raped her, and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

Human Rights Watch researchers were struck by the fear expressed by women they interviewed. The women’s reactions were comparable to those Human Rights Watch has found in post-conflict or post-transition countries, where security forces have played an integral role in government abuses and enforcement of authoritarian policies.”

Toxic Europe
The Guardian reports that the EU’s own lawyers believe European efforts to legalize the export of contaminated ships to poor countries may be illegal:

“Leaked European council legal opinion papers seen by the Guardian express grave concerns over the European commission’s attempts to exempt ships from the Basel convention, the global treaty that demands that rich countries dispose of their own asbestos and other hazardous waste materials, and do not add to pollution in poorer countries.

According to the World Bank, Bangladesh alone is expected to have 79,000 tonnes of asbestos and 240,000 tonnes of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) chemicals ‘dumped’ on it by rich country’s ships in the next 20 years.”

Disappeared prisoners
ProPublica reports that “at least twenty” people who were detained by the CIA in so-called black prisons are still missing:

“The Senate Intelligence Committee recently completed a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention program. At Brenan’s confirmation hearings, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), said the report shows the interrogation program was run by people ‘ignorant of the topic, executed by personnel without relevant experience, managed incompetently by senior officials who did not pay attention to detail, and corrupted by personnel with pecuniary conflicts of interest.’ Rockefeller is one of the few to have read the report, which remains classified.”

Sankara’s ghost
Radio France Internationale reports that a French parliamentarian is calling for an investigation into the role France played in the 1987 assassination of Burkina Faso president Thomas Sankara:

“Twelve Burkinabé MPs wrote to their French counterparts two years ago to demand a parliamentary inquiry into Sankara’s death.
[MP André] Chassaigne says it’s time for France to heed their call.
‘France, to an as-yet unknown extent, is responsible for this assassination,’ he said on Wednesday.”

Classified medal
The Associated Press reports that the US military has created a new medal for those who fight wars using “remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems”:

“The new blue, red and white-ribboned Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to individuals for ‘extraordinary achievement’ related to a military operation that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001. But unlike other combat medals, it does not require the recipient risk his or her life to get it.

The Pentagon does not publicly discuss its offensive cyber operations or acts of cyberwarfare. Considering that secrecy, it’s not clear how public such awards might be in the future.”

Organic country
The Guardian reports that Bhutan plans to ban all pesticides, herbicides and artifical fertilizers to become the first country with “completely organic” agriculture:

“In the west, organic food growing is widely thought to reduce the size of crops because they become more susceptible to pests. But this is being challenged in Bhutan and some regions of Asia, where smallholders are developing new techniques to grow more and are not losing soil quality.
Systems like ‘sustainable root intensification’ (SRI), which carefully regulate the amount of water that crops need and the age at which seedlings are planted out, have shown that organic crop yields can be doubled with no synthetic chemicals.

Good intentions
Africa on the Blog’s Ossob Mohamud writes about her own uncomfortable experiences with so-called voluntourism, which she says can all too easily treat poor countries like “a playground for the redemption of privileged souls looking to atone for global injustices”:

“Time and energy would be better spent building real solidarity between disparate societies based on mutual respect and understanding. Instead of focusing on surface symptoms of poverty, volunteers and the organizations that recruit them should focus on the causes that often stem from an unjust global economic order. Why not advocate and campaign for IMF and World Bank reforms? How about having volunteers advocate for their home country to change aggressive foreign and agricultural policies (such as subsidy programs)? This might seem unrealistic but the idea is to get volunteers to understand their own (direct or indirect) role in global poverty. The idea is to get volunteers truly invested in ending poverty, and not simply to feel better about themselves.”

Bad suit
The Daily Guide reports that the Africa Centre for Energy Policy is speaking out against efforts by industry lobby groups to get around new US transparency requirements for oil, gas and mining companies operating abroad:

In a press release issued recently in Accra and signed by Mohammed Amin Adam, its Executive Director, ACEP said the suit is a betrayal of the move for global transparency in the oil and gas industry by well meaning global citizens and governments.
‘We, in Africa, received the news of the issuance of regulations to back the implementation of the Dodd Frank Transparency reforms with great joy because we believe that it would expose corruption and mismanagement of natural resources on our continent.’

‘It is against this background that ACEP calls on Anadarko, Hess Corporation and Kosmos Energy, who are operating in Ghana, to dissociate themselves from the legal suit by the [American Petroleum Institute] and instead support efforts at enhancing transparency and accountability in the global oil and gas industry,’ it stated.”