Latest Developments, September 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Syrian hope
The New York Times editorial board welcomes the new agreement between the US and Russia over Syria’s chemical weapons, while questioning how realistic it is:

“Under the deal’s terms, Syria is required to provide a ‘comprehensive listing’ of its chemical arsenal within a week. That includes the types and quantities of poison gas, and storage, production and research sites. The agreement also requires ‘immediate and unfettered’ access to these sites by international inspectors, with the inspections to be completed by November. Also by November, equipment for mixing and filling munitions with chemical agents must be destroyed. All chemical weapons and related equipment are to be eliminated by the middle of 2014.
The deadlines are necessary to keep the pressure on, but meeting them will not be easy in the middle of a civil war, even if Mr. Assad cooperates. The United States and Russia have worked for 15 years to eliminate their own chemical arms stocks and still have years to go.”

Moving picture
IRIN reports that the International Organization for Migration’s newly released World Migration Report offers a “global snapshot of migrant well-being”:

“Overall, the study found that migrants who moved north gained the most, with North to North migrants faring the best, and South to North migrants also rating their lives as better than their counterparts back home. Migrants in the South fared similarly or worse than if they had not migrated, with long-time South to South migrants considering themselves worse off than both the native-born and their counterparts back home. More than a quarter of South to South migrants struggled to afford food and shelter, even after being in a host country for more than five years.”

French coup
Jeune Afrique reports that a former president of Madagascar has accused France of being behind the 2009 ouster of his successor:

“It is a revelation that, if true, is likely to embarrass Paris. In an interview on the private chanel TV Plus Madagascar, ex-Malagasy president Didier Ratsiraka, 76, said on Sept. 11 that ‘France asked me to help Andry Rajoelina remove Marc Ravalomanana,’ referring to events in early 2009 that led to the overthrow of the ex-Madagascar president.
‘I answered that I am not in favour of coups,’ he added before explaining that he finally accepted after it was explained to him that this was not a coup. ‘We agreed that Marc Ravalomanana would leave power without a blood bath. And after his overthrow, we should undertake an inclusive transition… Andry Rajoelina was on board,’ he said.” [Translated from the French.]

No money, no answers
The Center for Economic Policy Research transcribes an Al Jazeera reporter’s questions to a UN spokesman about the organization’s position on compensating victims of the UN-triggered cholera epidemic in Haiti that has so far killed 8,260 and made 675,000 ill:

“[Al Jazeera’s Sebastian] Walker: But why is the claim not receivable?
[Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary General Eduardo] Del Buey: Well, it’s not the United Nations practice to discuss in public the details of our responses to claims against the organization.
Walker: So you don’t have to explain yourselves?
Del Buey: No.
Walker: You are saying that not only do they not get compensation but you don’t even have to explain why?
Del Buey: Well, that’s exactly what I said, that’s the United Nations’ policy.”

No deal
Reuters reports that thousands of Nigerian plaintiffs have rejected a “totally derisory and insulting” compensation offer by oil giant Royal Dutch Shell over pollution caused by spills in the Niger Delta:

“Their lawyers said they will now go back to a British court to request a trial timetable.
The legal action is being closely watched by the oil industry and by environmentalists for precedents that could have an impact on other big pollution claims against majors.

A source close to Shell and another source involved in the negotiations told Reuters the company offered total compensation of 7.5 billion naira ($46.3 million).
Leigh Day, the British law firm representing the villagers, said the compensation offer amounted to approximately 1,100 pounds ($1,700) per individual impacted, without giving the number of people it says were affected.”

Outside assistance
The Australian reports that Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said the US was “very, very helpful” in the bloody final war against the Tamil Tigers:

“American satellite technology located the ships and enabled the Sri Lankans to hit them. Before that, the Americans had been somewhat ambivalent about the Sri Lankan struggle. They never remotely justified or approved of the Tigers, but nor would they supply weapons to the Sri Lankan forces. Yet throughout the conflict, Sri Lanka got most of its military hardware from Israel and Pakistan, two military allies of the US that would probably have been susceptible to American entreaties not to supply arms.”

GMO creep
The Guardian reports that agribusiness giant Monsanto is under investigation in the US over suspected crop contamination:

“The investigation was ordered after a farmer in Washington state reported that his alfalfa shipments had been rejected for export after testing positive for genetic modification. Results were expected as early as Friday.
If confirmed, it would be the second known case of GM contamination in a major American crop since May, when university scientists confirmed the presence of a banned GM wheat growing in a farmer’s field in Oregon.”

Above the law
Human Rights Watch argues that the World Bank “does not recognize its obligation to respect international human rights law”:

“The absence of a clear commitment not to support activities that will contribute to or exacerbate human rights violations leaves World Bank staff without guidance on how they should approach human rights concerns or what their responsibilities are.

 Introducing a human rights commitment would include carrying out systematic human rights due diligence for every program, first to identify how its lending or other support may contribute to human rights violations and then to figure out constructive ways to avoid or mitigate the human rights risks.”

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Latest Developments, August 2

In the latest news and analysis…

Unlawful discrimination
The Independent reports that the UK Home Office is facing an investigation over “racist” spot checking for illegal immigrants:

“The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it was demanding an explanation for raids in the past week which led to the detention of dozens of suspected illegal immigrants. It said it intended to assess whether ‘unlawful discrimination took place’ with officials only stopping non-white people.
The EHRC is responsible for policing the Equalities Act to which all public bodies are bound. But as news of the checks emerged two women’s rights groups told The Independent they were aware of cases where women reporting domestic violence had been asked about their immigration status.”

Double-tap strikes
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that US drones appear to have restarted targeting rescuers at strike sites in 2012:

“[Mushtaq Yusufzai’s] findings indicate that five double-tap strikes did indeed take place again in mid-2012, one of which also struck a mosque. In total 53 people were killed in these attacks with 57 injured, the report suggests.
Yusufzai could find no evidence to support media claims that rescuers had been targeted on two further occasions.”

Mixed messages
Foreign policy reports on comments and actions that suggest there is little hope US Secretary of State John Kerry will get his stated wish for drone strikes in Pakistan to end “very, very soon”:

“Three hours after Kerry’s comments first broke, a spokesperson took them right back. ‘In no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool to fight a threat if it arises,’ a State Department spokesperson said.

When all the terrorists are dead, the United States will be happy to end its program of covert drone strikes in Pakistan. Until that day comes — and it will be ‘soon,’ according to Kerry — strikes are likely to continue. To underscore that reality, the United States carried out three drone strikes in Pakistan during the month of July. And in Yemen, the drone war made a roaring comeback this week with the United States carrying out three strikes in five days.”

Democratic coup
The Washington Post’s Max Fisher writes that coup-prone Pakistan was an odd place for US Secretary of State John Kerry to say that the Egyptian military, by overthrowing Egypt’s elected president, was “restoring democracy”:

“ ‘The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descent into chaos,’ Kerry said. That’s how many Egypt analysts see the events of early July, when millions of protesters clearly desired military intervention. But Kerry added, more controversially, ‘The military did not take over, to the best of our judgment … to run the country. There’s a civilian government.’ By all appearances, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the defense minister who formally announced the military’s removal of Morsi, is the now country’s de facto head of state.

Legalizing it
The BBC reports that MPs in Uruguay have passed a bill that, pending senate approval, would make the country the world’s first to “regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana”:

“The state would assume ‘the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialisation and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products’.
Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.
Foreigners would be excluded from the measure.”

Extended ban
Agence France-Presse reports that French President François Hollande has announced an extension of the moratorium on Monsanto’s genetically modified MON810 corn the day after the ban was struck down for violating European law:

“ ‘Why have we banned genetically modified organisms? Not because we refuse progress, but in the name of progress. We cannot allow a product, a corn, to have negative impacts on other crops,’ said François Hollande, speaking from a farm in the Sarlat region.” [Translated from the French.]

Corporate veil
The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of US senators is trying “once again” to shed light on corporate ownership:

“The lawmakers are trying, for the fourth consecutive Congress, to get the bill passed. Under the latest iteration of the bill, states would be required to add a single additional question to their existing incorporation forms that would ask for the name of the person behind the corporation being formed. States wouldn’t have to verify it, but people submitting false information would be subject to penalties.

U.S. foreign policy also has been pressuring other countries to disclose the hidden owners of companies, to root out corruption, the lawmakers said.
‘The fact that we have corporate secrecy right here in our backyard contradicts U.S. efforts to end corporate secrecy offshore,’ said [Senator Carl] Levin.”

Nobody killed
The Telegraph reports on a potential boost to Wikileaker Bradley Manning’s chances of avoiding a maximum 136-year prison sentence:

“The sentencing hearing began with testimony from retired Brigadier General Robert Carr, who in 2010 led an emergency Pentagon review into the impact of leaked war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although the mass leak ‘hit us in the face’ the review did not find any evidence that civilians named in the secret files had then been targeted by militants, Gen Carr said.”

UN enforcement
The Associated Press reports that UN peacekeepers have begun setting up a zone in eastern DR Congo where only members of the country’s military can carry arms:

“Earlier this week, the U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO issued an ultimatum before beginning the disarming effort.

In New York, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the security zone ‘is not an offensive operation and is not targeted at any one armed group.’ He emphasized that the disarmament effort will protect civilians.”

Run-off required
Reuters reports that there will be a second round in Mali’s presidential election after frontrunner Ibrahim Boubacar Keita failed to get an outright majority from the record-turnout 51.5 percent of registered voters:

“Provisional results gave Keita 39 percent of votes cast in the July 28 poll, well ahead of [Soumaila] Cisse’s 19 percent. But the third and fourth placed candidates may now rally behind Cisse, with whom they have been in coalition.

Fears of a chaotic poll were not borne out and voting was largely orderly, though some voters struggled to find their names on voter lists and voting in refugee camps, embassies abroad and the northern region of Kidal was disrupted.”

Latest Developments, June 25

In the latest news and analysis…

Green light for blue helmets
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has unanimously approved the start of peacekeeping operations in Mali on July 1:

“The 15-member Security Council unanimously approved in April a mandate for the 12,600-member force, to be known as MINUSMA, but its deployment had been subject to a council review on Tuesday of Mali’s security situation. French troops will support the peacekeepers if needed to combat Islamist extremist threats.

Once the U.N. peacekeeping force is deployed, France will continue to handle counterterrorism and peace enforcement operations as needed in Mali, while the U.N. blue helmets will handle traditional peacekeeping duties of policing and trying to ensure new violence does not erupt.”

History dismissed
The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson comments on US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s description of her colleagues’ “demolition” of the Voting Rights Act as “hubris”:

“Perhaps she’s right; but it could also be said that the majority ruling was built more on resentment of a particularly petulant kind: grudging about the need to remember an unpleasant past and to be mindful of the marginalized; offended by the idea that anyone would consider certain parts of the country more racist than others, or, really, that anyone is particularly racist at all these days.

‘As applied to Shelby County, the VRA’s preclearance requirement is hardly contestable,’ Ginsburg wrote, and the same could be said about Alabama as a whole. Ginsburg quoted an F.B.I. investigation of Alabama legislators who referred to black voters as ‘Aborigines’ and talked about how to keep them from the polls: ‘These conversations occurred not in the 1870’s, or even in the 1960’s, they took place in 2010.’”

Dangerous liaisons
In the wake of last week’s deadly attack on a UN compound in Mogadishu, Inner City Press reports on allegations that the actions of one UN agency operating in Somalia may be putting the organization’s personnel in danger:

“Now Inner City Press has exclusively been provided by whistleblowers with detailed complaints about the UN Mine Action Service’s David Bax, including that he shares both genetic information and physical evidence from bombings with American intelligence services, including through shadow private military contractor Bancroft Global Development.
According to the whistleblowers, this combined with Bax and ‘his’ Denel contractors traveling armed around Mogadishu leads to a perception that they and the UN have taken sides, and helps to make them a target.”

Militarized border
Agence France-Presse reports that US lawmakers are pushing for a military “surge” along the border with Mexico to prevent illegal immigration:

“Twenty thousand new border patrol agents, hundreds of miles of fencing, billions of dollars in drones, radar and sensors: US lawmakers are proposing a militaristic remedy to staunch illegal immigrant flow from Mexico.

In Washington, the ‘border surge’ proposal is already being compared with the ‘surge’ of US war troop reinforcements that president George W. Bush ordered to Iraq in 2007.
‘That military reference makes sense because it is going to militarize hundreds of American communities in the Southwest,’ said veteran Senate Democrat Patrick Leahy.
He sneered that the border security modification ‘reads like a Christmas wish list for Halliburton,’ one of the nation’s largest defense and energy contractors.”

Gulf Intervention
Radio France Internationale reports on the French military presence in the Gulf of Guinea, off Africa’s west coast:

“Since 1990, France has maintained a ship on a near permanent basis in the region as part of Operation Corymb. Currently, the frigate Touche-Tréville is patrolling the area. This ship intervened to assist the oil tanker MT Adour, attacked near the Togolese capital Lomé on the night of Wednesday June 19 to Thursday June 20. Its crew has since been freed. The Navy stresses, however, that ‘Operation Corymb’s mission is to protect French citizens and interests in the region. At this time, this boat is not dedicated to the fight against piracy.’ ”

African debt redux
Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Hamid Rashid ask if the new enthusiasm for sovereign-bond issues in Africa is paving the way for “the world’s next debt crisis“:

“Signs of default stress are already showing. In March 2009 – less than two years after the issue – Congolese bonds were trading for 20 cents on the dollar, pushing the yield to a record high. In January 2011, Côte d’Ivoire became the first country to default on its sovereign debt since Jamaica in January 2010.
In June 2012, Gabon delayed the coupon payment on its $1 billion bond, pending the outcome of a legal dispute, and was on the verge of a default. Should oil and copper prices collapse, Angola, Gabon, Congo, and Zambia may encounter difficulties in servicing their sovereign bonds.

Countries contemplating joining the bandwagon of sovereign-bond issuers would do well to learn the lessons of the all-too-frequent debt crises of the past three decades. Matters may become even worse in the future, because so-called ‘vulture’ funds have learned how to take full advantage of countries in distress. Recent court rulings in the United States have given the vultures the upper hand, and may make debt restructuring even more difficult, while enthusiasm for bailouts is clearly waning.”

GM dispute
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa’s Million Belay and the African Biodiversity Network’s Ruth Nyambura reject the UK environment minister’s claim that Africa needs genetically modified crops:

“It is a myth that the green revolution has helped poor farmers. By pushing just a few varieties of seed that need fertilisers and pesticides, agribusiness has eroded our indigenous crop diversity. It is not a solution to hunger and malnutrition, but a cause. If northern governments genuinely wish to help African agriculture, they should support the revival of seed-saving practices, to ensure that there is diversity in farmers’ hands.
But GM crops pose an even greater threat to Africa’s greatest wealth. GM companies make it illegal to save seed.”

Growth for some
King’s College London’s Andy Sumner looks into the “winners and losers” of global growth between 1990 and 2010:

“Third, one can say that 15% of global consumption growth from 1990 to 2010 went to the richest 1% of global population. At the other end of the distribution, the 53% under $2 in 1990 benefitted from less than an eighth of that global growth; and the 37% on less than $1.25 a day benefitted by little more than a twentieth of that growth.”

Latest Developments, April 4

In the latest news and analysis…

Massive leak
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reports on the findings of its investigation into offshore financial secrecy, which involved combing through 2.5 million leaked documents:

“The leaked files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well-connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike.
The records detail the offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories.
The hoard of documents represents the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organization.”

Vested interests
The New York Times reports that a “potent alliance of agribusiness, shipping and charitable groups” is opposing possible changes to US food aid:

“The administration is proposing that the government buy food in developing countries instead of shipping food from American farmers overseas, a process that typically takes months. The proposed change to the international food aid program is expected to save millions in shipping costs and get food more quickly to areas that need it.
The administration is also reportedly considering ending the controversial practice of food aid ‘monetization,’ a process by which Washington gives American-grown grains to international charities. The groups then sell the products on the market in poor countries and use the money to finance their antipoverty programs.
Critics of the practice say it hurts local farmers by competing with sales of their crops.”

Commodified culture
The New York Times also reports that efforts by the Hopi tribe of Arizona to stop an auction of sacred objects in Paris illustrate “a paradox in the way artifacts are repatriated around the world”:

“When a nation like Italy or Cambodia claims ownership of an object in the United States, it typically invokes international accords that require American officials to take up the cases.

The United States does not have similar accords that it could cite in support of the Hopi claim on the Paris auction items. Several experts and activists said the United States had never viewed its own cultural patrimony as a priority because the country is relatively young, has long embraced the concept of free trade and has not historically focused on the cultural heritage issues of American Indians.”

Peace enforcement
The Century Foundation’s Jeffrey Laurenti argues that the UN Security Council’s decision to add a combat force to the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo “could profoundly alter the world’s international security landscape”:

“The unanimous U.N. vote masked some very real concerns that the organization will lose its global moral authority if it becomes associated with fighting wars rather than halting them. Guatemala’s Gert Rosenthal voiced the worry that the United Nations could forfeit its unique role as ‘honest broker’ between adversaries — especially when domestic armed factions are challenging a government.
Yet this is a risk he and the rest of the council were willing to take, given the 15-year deadly record of armed spoilers in eastern Congo. France’s ambassador Gérard Araud celebrated their expected neutralization as ‘a step toward peace enforcement.’ ”

Seed money
The Guardian’s John Vidal writes that the “legendary power” of the US farm biotech industry just got even more spectacular with the signing of the so-called Monsanto Protection Act:

“A revolving door allows corporate chiefs to switch to top posts in the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies; US embassies around the world push GM technology onto dissenting countries; government subsidies back corporate research; federal regulators do largely as the industry wants; the companies pay millions of dollars a year to lobby politicians; conservative thinktanks combat any political opposition; the courts enforce corporate patents on seeds; and the consumer is denied labels or information.

According to an array of food and consumer groups, organic farmers, civil liberty and trade unions and others, [the new legislation] hijacks the constitution, sets a legal precedent and puts Monsanto and other biotech companies above the federal courts. It means, they say, that not even the US government can now stop the sale, planting, harvest or distribution of any GM seed, even if it is linked to illness or environmental problems.”

Cockroach effect
The Economist explains why Colombia’s reduced cocaine production is not necessarily cause for celebration:

“History suggests that Peru’s dramatic reining in of coca production in the 1990s helped push the business into Colombia. Now that Colombia is cutting down, the industry seems to be moving back into Peru, where production of coca has increased by some 40% since 2000. The trafficking business, meanwhile, has been taken on by Mexican ‘cartels’, with appalling results in Mexico. Drug-policy geeks call this the ‘balloon effect’: pushing down on drug production in one region causes it to bulge somewhere else. Latin Americans have a better phrase: the efecto cucaracha, or cockroach effect. You can chase the pests out of one corner of your house, but they have an irritating habit of popping up somewhere else.”

No smoking
Oxfam’s Duncan Green calls for a global campaign against tobacco which kills 6 million people worldwide each year, more than any other cause of death:

“Latin America’s new curbs on smoking face resistance from the industry. Philip Morris International, an American tobacco company, has filed a claim against Uruguay at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, an arm of the World Bank, claiming that the country’s anti-smoking measures violate a bilateral investment treaty.

A major tobacco company, Philip Morris, is trying to block the Uruguayan Government’s attempts to limit the devastation. According to a briefing by [the International Institute for Sustainable Development], the company brought the case in 2010 and ‘is challenging three provisions of Uruguay’s tobacco regulations: (1) a ‘single presentation’ requirement that prohibits marketing more than one tobacco product under each brand, (2) a requirement that tobacco packages include “pictograms” with graphic images of the health consequences of smoking (such as cancerous lungs), and (3) a mandate that health warnings cover 80% of the front and back of cigarette packages.’ Philip Morris’ own version of events confirms this.
The ICSID says that the suit is ongoing, with a tribunal meeting in Paris last February.”

Latest Developments, November 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Mining aid
The Globe and Mail reports that Canada’s new international co-operation minister’s promotion of business opportunities abroad, particularly for mining companies, signals “a profound shift” in the Canadian approach to foreign aid:

“[Julian Fantino] said part of [the Canadian International Development Agency’s] work is to help small and medium enterprises in developing countries find their footing. But he also emphasized CIDA’s role in preparing those countries for foreign investment, suggesting the agency’s work can help make countries and people ‘trade and investment ready’ and even dissuade governments from nationalizing extractive industries.
‘CIDA can help develop the capacity to negotiate with other countries, implement international commercial agreements with Canada and other trading partners and help firms benefit from these agreements. We will be doing more of this in the future,’ he said.”

Setting limits
In a draft report on sustainability and the post-2015 development agenda, New York University’s Alex Evans calls for the successors to the Millennium Development Goals to include “explicit recognition of planetary boundaries”:

“Poverty reduction is the first casualty of unsustainability, with poor people disproportionately reliant on natural assets and vulnerable to climate and scarcity risks. At the same time, current models of development are also the main driver of unsustainability – most obviously in ‘developed’ countries, but increasingly also in emerging economies which, though far behind high income countries in per capita impacts, are nonetheless helping push the world towards ecological tipping points.

Environmental summitry has become the world’s principal breeding ground for multilateral zombies (staggering on, moaning piteously, never quite dying) with few if any really significant wins in the 15 years since Kyoto. This should surprise no-one, mirroring as it does the fact that in capitals all over the world, environment ministers lack the clout to make change happen. Sustainability advocates need to stop talking about mainstreaming and get on with it. That means bringing environment to the heart of debates about how we develop – not in some vague, aspirational way, but by starting from quantified estimates of how much environmental space is available for us to share between us.”

Vulture loss
The Guardian reports that politicians in Jersey have voted to prevent so-called vulture funds from using the British island’s courts as a venue to sue poor countries:

Vulture funds, which buy up poor nations’ debts on the cheap before suing them for up to 100 times the original amount, had attempted to take cases to Jersey after British law banned the practice.
In the latest case, multimillionaire speculator Peter Grossman used Jersey’s courts to sue the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for $100m (£64m) over a decades-old debt that started out at $3.3m. Grossman, who runs the FG Hemisphere fund, was able to take the case to Jersey’s courts because the island is a crown dependency not covered by all UK laws.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank estimate that vulture funds are seeking total claims of $1.47bn from countries including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, and the DRC.

Vulture win
The Financial Times reports that Argentina’s government has described as “a kind of legal colonialism” a US court ruling that the country should pay $1.3 billion to hedge funds:

“The victory for several hedge funds against Argentina has sparked fears that the country could be plunged into yet another debilitating sovereign default and threatens to make government restructurings more difficult in the future.
In what has been dubbed the ‘trial of the century’ for sovereign debt restructurings, a US District Court judge on Wednesday ordered Argentina to pay the hedge fund creditors – led by Elliott Associates and Aurelius Capital – in mid-December.

Buenos Aires could choose to default rather than repay the hedge funds it considers ‘vultures’, in a case that experts say has far-reaching ramifications for international finance.

The decision still has to be confirmed by the appeals court and could end up before the US Supreme Court. But if upheld, it would open a chink in the armour of sovereign immunity against creditors that countries have largely enjoyed for the past century.”

Unnecessary incentives
TrustMedia reports that the African Tax Administration Forum is calling for a review of tax incentives granted by African governments to multinational corporations:

“[ATAF’s Logan Wort] said most tax incentives agreements were entered into without wide consultations as to how they impact on African countries’ ability to mobilise domestic resources for development.
‘We believe African countries are losing millions of dollars through tax incentives, which are mostly negotiated by the political elite.’

Zambia, for instance, has given specific tax incentives to companies operating in copper mining, the country’s traditional export sector, with conditions varying from one company to another. ATAF thinks this kind of incentive is not necessary.
‘We believe investors will come with or without tax incentives, therefore they are not necessary,’ Thulani Shongwe, a tax expert at the ATAF secretariat, commented. He said the organisation was now on a ‘crusade’ to review the benefits.”

Corn fears
Via Campesina expresses concern that multinational giants Monsanto, Dow and DuPont look likely to get the green light to plant genetically modified maize on 2.4 million hectares of Mexican land, “a surface area equivalent to that of El Salvador”:

The situation is extremely alarming since Mexico is the world’s centre of maize diversity, with thousands of varieties in the fields of peasant and indigenous communities. Maize is currently one of the world’s three main food staples, so the contamination of Mexican maize by dangerous GMOs is a threat to the entire planet.”

Human development
The University of London’s Simon Reid-Henry writes that Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen’s conception of development “requires thinking about poverty not simply as an aberration, as something that we might somehow solve.”

“It involves acknowledging, rather, that ‘our privileges are located on the same map as their suffering’, as Susan Sontag puts it. The problem of development lies as much in what we classify as wealth and how we go about promoting that as it does in poverty.

Accordingly, development becomes not so much about making up for what people lack (modernisation, say) so much as removing the ‘unfreedoms’ that stop them living in a way they might otherwise choose: market inequalities, perhaps, or state violence.”