Latest Developments, October 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone investigation
New York University’s Sarah Knuckey provides a brief summary of the new interim report on the UN’s investigation into drone strikes and targeted killings:

“There is ‘strong evidence’ that between 2004 and 2008, Pakistani intelligence and military officials consented to US strikes, and that senior government officials acquiesced and at times gave ‘active approval’ (¶53). However, the report states that only the democratically elected Government of Pakistan can provide legal consent to US strikes, and (now) only in accordance with consent procedures announced in a 2012 parliamentary resolution. Any current cooperation ‘at the military or intelligence level’ does not ‘affect the position in international law’ (¶54). On this basis, the report finds that there is currently no legal consent, and thus that the continued US use of force in Pakistan violates Pakistani sovereignty (absent valid US self-defence).”

African test case
The New York Times reports that the US military, eager for new missions after Iraq and Afghanistan, is using its Africa Command to try out “a new Army program of regionally aligned brigades”:

“The first-of-its-kind program is drawing on troops from a 3,500-member brigade in the Army’s storied First Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One, to conduct more than 100 missions in Africa over the next year. The missions range from a two-man sniper team in Burundi to 350 soldiers conducting airborne and humanitarian exercises in South Africa.
The brigade has also sent a 150-member rapid-response force to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa to protect embassies in emergencies, a direct reply to the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed four Americans.

Before deploying, the troops in Kansas receive six days of cultural training and instruction from Africa-born graduate students at nearby Kansas State University.”

Françafrique redux
In an interview with La Voix du Nord, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian indicates that France is also looking to increase its military capacities in Africa:

“We can carry out two or three [UN-led] operations simultaneously. We do, after all, have 280,000 troops and there are only 3,000 in Mali, as far as I know. I would even say that, with the changes to the military budget I’ve undertaken, we could do another Mali alone, without the Americans. With drones – the first two Reapers will arrive in Niamey by the end of the year –, the transport planes and the supplies that have been ordered. The puny little French army I’ve been hearing about will be able to do another Mali all by itself in the years to come.
The key is our reactivity in Africa between the prepositioned forces and, shall we say, the long-term foreign operations. If we succeeded in Mali, it’s because we had troops in Ouagadougou. We’re on the ground in Dakar, Abidjan, Bangui, Libreville, Bamako, N’Djamena, Niamey. The time has come to think about improved reactivity, particularly with regards to managing the Sahel question.” [Translated from the French.]

Migrant deaths
The Miami Herald reports that a boat carrying Caribbean migrants has capsized off the Florida coast, killing at least four:

“ ‘It was difficult to ascertain truly how many people were on this overloaded vessel,’ said Commander Darren Caprara, chief response officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Miami.

Once in U.S. custody, Haitian and Jamaican migrants may ask for asylum, after which asylum officers would determine whether each one has a ‘credible fear’ of being returned home.
If they pass the credible-fear test, the migrants would have their cases heard in front of immigration judges. A win there would allow them to be freed and to apply for a green card after a year in the United States. If they lose, including appeals, they would be deported.
A separate policy known as wet foot/dry foot applies to undocumented Cuban migrants. Those caught at sea are generally returned to the island nation, while those who reach U.S. land can stay.”

Saudi no
Al Jazeera reports that Saudi Arabia has turned down a two-year stint on the Security Council, accusing the UN of “double standards”

“ ‘Work mechanisms and double-standards on the Security Council prevent it from carrying out its duties and assuming its responsibilities in keeping world peace,’ the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.
‘Therefore Saudi Arabia… has no other option but to turn down Security Council membership until it is reformed and given the means to accomplish its duties and assume its responsibilities in preserving the world’s peace and security,’ it added.”

Illegal texts
The BBC reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has backed an “illegal-immigrant text message campaign” despite some wrong numbers:

“The Home Office says just 14 people out of a total of 58,800 contacted were mistakenly asked if they had overstayed their visas.
But campaigners say the true number of people wrongly contacted is far higher.
Labour described the government’s tactic as ‘shambolic and incompetent’

Originally, [the texts] had included the phrase: ‘You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain.’ ”

Kyrgyz pullout
Foreign Policy reports that the US military has announced it will return the Manas airbase to Kyrgyzstan by next July, after years of bumpy relations with the host government:

“The Defense Department instead will expand its use of an air base in eastern Romania called Forward Operating Site Mihail Kogalniceanu, or ‘MK,’ which now serves as a logistics hub for U.S. European Command. MIK is already used to house as many as 1,350 troops at any one time, typically for rotational use for troops deployed to Romania. Now that will be used for troops leaving Afghanistan.”

Casting stones
The Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders suggests it is problematic for Canada to apply “the ‘G’ word” to countries like Turkey when its own past may be no less genocidal:

“The UN Genocide Convention, which Canada ratified more than six decades ago and has applied against other countries, defines the crime as including ‘any of’ a list of acts committed against an identifiable group, including not just mass killing and mass physical or mental harm but also ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part,’ ‘imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group,’ and ‘forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’ You can find sustained examples of many of these in Canadian history, plus acts of cultural destruction such as forcing thousands of Inuit to replace their names with metal number plates.”

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, April 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Inequality warning
The BBC reports that the Asia Development Bank is warning that growing inequality – particularly in China, India and Indonesia – could threaten the continent’s stability.
“During the 1960s and 1970s, Asia was better at ensuring that growth did not marginalise large chunks of the region’s population and was actually reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.
However, over the past decade the sudden explosion of growth and rapid enrichment of many people has seen the rich-poor divide grow. The ADB estimates that currently in most Asian countries the wealthiest 5% of the population now account for 20% of total expenditure.
At the same time, for hundreds of millions of people access to education, healthcare and housing has become more difficult and expensive.”

Hijacking democracy
The Independent reports that two of Britain’s top lobbying firms are offering to help corporate clients benefit from the European Citizens’ Initiative, which is intended to increase public input into EU lawmaking.
“A leaked memo shows that Bell Pottinger, the subject of an undercover investigation published in this newspaper in December last year, has offered to help potential clients set up petitions demanding changes to EU law under the new programme, whose rules specifically bar organisations from doing so.
And information posted on the website of its fellow lobbyist Fleishman-Hillard shows it too is offering to help businesses hijack the initiative, which came into force on 1 April.”

Inivisible Children leaks
RT reports that diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks suggest “collaboration” between the group behind the Kony 2012 video and Uganda’s intelligence services.
“A memo written by a public affairs officer at the US embassy in Uganda documents Invisible Children’s collaboration with Ugandan intelligence services. It notes that the US-based NGO tipped the Ugandan government on the whereabouts of Patrick Komakech, a former child soldier for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who was wanted by security officials for extorting money from the government officials, NGO’s and local tribal leaders. Ugandan security organizations jumped the tip and immediately arrested Komakech.

Invisible Children also actively supported Operation Lightning Thunder (OLT), a joint attack by Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the then-autonomous South Sudan against the LRA. The operation, which was also received US intelligence and logistical backing, killed more civilians than LRA militants.”

Sacred hills
The Guardian reports that the Dongria Kondh people’s “Avatar-like battle” against a UK-based mining company has reached India’s Supreme Court.
“Lingaraj Azad, a leader of the Save Niyamgiri Committee, said the Dongria Kondh’s campaign was ‘not just that of an isolated tribe for its customary rights over its traditional lands and habitats, but that of the entire world over protecting our natural heritage’.

A government report accused the firm of violations of forest conservation, tribal rights and environmental protection laws in Orissa, a charge subsequently repeated by a panel of forestry experts.”

Illegal lumber
Inter Press Service reports on a new investigation that found more than 20 US companies had imported illegal timber from Peru’s Amazon region in recent years.
“ ‘Exporters in Peru and importers in the United States and around the world are currently integral parts of a systematic flow of illegal timber from the Peruvian Amazon. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes through sheer negligence, each of the actors and agencies involved in this system are working as gears in a well-oiled machine that is ransacking Peru’s forests and undermining the livelihoods and rights of the people that depend on them,’ the [Environmental Investigation Agency] report stated.
The investigation discovered at least 112 shipments of protected cedar and mahogany were illegally laundered with fabricated papers and imported by U.S. companies between 2008 and 2010.”

Complicity in genocide
Groupe Rwanda argues in Billets d’Afrique that the French government was complicit in the Rwandan genocide that started 18 Aprils ago.
“In fact, according to the jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR): ‘…an accused is liable for complicity in genocide if he knowingly and voluntarily aided or abetted or instigated a person or persons to commit genocide, while knowing that such person or persons were committing genocide, even though the accused himself did not have the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, specifically targeted as such.’ In the name of geopolitical considerations dictated by a minority above all accountability due to the so-called ‘reserved domain’ of the head of state, French decision makers consented without qualms to the preparation and subsequent carrying out of the massacre of nearly a million human beings. Once the crime was completed, they did not break their alliance with the killers. François Mitterrand even said to his inner circle in the summer of 1994: ‘You know, in such countries, genocide is not too important.’ ” (Translated from the French.)

Judicial racism
The Guardian’s Gary Younge argues that incidents of judicial racism in the US and UK are not the result of “people simply going rogue.”
“All these perpetrators were reported to the authorities and – in the absence of massive public pressure and media exposure – all were cleared. Both systemic and systematic, the racism these incidents and statistics reveal is embedded within the judicial system itself, rendering it part of the problem rather than the solution. This goes beyond the parental to the political. For it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the state, as currently imagined and experienced, is simply not set up with the purpose of protecting the rights of black people – indeed quite the opposite. It seems to function with the specific intent of violating their rights.”

Skin whitening
India Real Time’s Rupa Subramanya looks into India’s $400 million market for skin-whitening products, including one whose ad promises to “make a woman’s vagina fairer.”
“But before this gets branded a uniquely Indian phenomenon, consider that ever since the craze for the Brazilian wax, skin whitening for your private parts has been a thriving industry in the U.S. and elsewhere for some time. There are skin whitening products for just about every orifice. These were invented and marketed in the West long before they came to India. Like Coca-Cola and many other consumer goods, they’ve arrived here a little later.
The premium on fair skin isn’t unique to India and the developing world.”

Latest Developments, March 26

In the latest news and analysis…

NATO secrecy
The New York Times’ C.J. Chivers writes that NATO is withholding information regarding civilian casualties of its Libyan campaign.
“In previous statements, [NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh] Rasmussen had said that there were no ‘confirmed’ civilian casualties caused by NATO in the entire war. That ringing denial overlooked two points: NATO’s definition of a ‘confirmed casualty’ is a casualty that has been investigated by NATO; and because the alliance has refused to look into credible allegations of the scores of civilian deaths that independent investigations have found it caused, it is impossible for the official tally to rise above zero.”

Nominee controversy
The Financial Times reports the US nominee for World Bank president is “under fire” over a 2000 book he co-edited, which was highly critical of “neoliberal” economic policies.
“But colleagues of Dr [Jim Yong] Kim and officials at the US Treasury said that when taken in context he was simply arguing that the distribution of gains from economic growth decides whether it makes life better for the poorest. They pointed out that such criticisms were widespread in the late 1990s and the World Bank had since changed its practices to take account of them.
‘Jim Kim is a brilliant man and fully understands the need for economic growth. What we have said in the book is that economic growth, in and of itself, is insufficient and will not automatically lead to a better life for everyone,’ said Joyce Millen, one of the co-editors of Dying for Growth, and associate professor of anthropology at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.”

Mining claims
The CBC reports that a coalition of human rights groups has filed for Canada’s highest court to hear a lawsuit against a Canadian mining company for its alleged contributions to a massacre of civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The groups allege that Anvil Mining Limited provided logistical support to the Congolese military who raped and murdered people as it crushed a rebel uprising in 2004, killing as many as 100 people in the port city of Kilwa.
That support allegedly included planes, trucks and drivers instrumental in ending the conflict. The port was key to the operation of a copper mine, the exit point for $500,000 worth of copper and silver every day.”

German apology
The Namibian reports on the growing pressure on Germany’s parliament to make amends for crimes committed in its former colony – now called Namibia – during the early 20th Century.
“More than 100 German NGOs have now signed the ‘No Amnesty to Genocide’ appeal to the German parliament joining the demand for a formal apology for the genocide and reparations.
The Left Party’s motion was debated in the Bundestag last Thursday, and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Green Party had also introduced similar motions, the latter of which [No Amnesty to Genocide’s Christian] Kopp said made no mention of payments of reparations.
Instead, said Kopp, the SPD and Green Party in their motions simply focus on demanding for the revival of the reconciliation initiative in the context of intensive development aid, and initiative he said was from the start unilaterally implemented with limited success so far.”

Private security boom
The BBC reports on the growing presence of foreign private military firms in and around Somalia.
“Another rapid growth area is the business of armed contractors hired to protect ships in Somalia from on board – a practice officially sanctioned for British ships by Prime Minister David Cameron in October.
Prof Chris Kinsey, a security expert at King’s College London, says Britain’s private security firms were “following the cash cow” much like they did in Iraq in 2003.

He predicts the recent discovery of oil in the region will generate even more work as “huge capital assets” like tankers and drilling ships need protection.”

Internet inequality
The Atlantic reports on new findings that suggest the “lion’s share” of online content still comes from the US and Europe.
“ ‘Many commentators speculated that [the Internet] would allow people outside of industrialised nations to gain access to all networked and codified knowledge, thus mitigating the traditionally concentrated nature of information production and consumption,’ [the Oxford Internet Institute’s Corinne Flick] writes. ‘These early expectations remain largely unrealised.’ ”

Speed kills
The Brookings Institution’s Kevin Watkins writes that Western actors bear some of the blame for the huge number of fatal road accidents in poor countries.
“The global nature of the crisis is epitomised by the road linking Kenya’s capital Nairobi to the port of Mombasa. Upgraded into an eight-lane superhighway with support from the World Bank and other donors, speed is up and journey times are down.
Pity they forgot about the children, hundreds of whom cross the road to get from their homes in the sprawling slum of Kibera to primary school. ‘It makes me scared every single day,’ Mary Kitunga, 12, told me.

Car companies talk about road safety, but people come a distant second to profit when they spot a market opportunity. That’s why major multinational companies operate one set of vehicle standards for the US and another for Brazil.”

The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie makes a case for moving beyond aid and its one-way approach to sharing solutions.
“In 2010 Nigel Crisp, a former chief executive of Britain’s National Health Service, published an extraordinary book called Turning the World Upside Down: The Search for Global Health in the 21st Century. Like this [Global Health Strategies Initiatives] report, he argues that the solutions to global health problems are now at least as likely to come from unexpected sources in the developing world as from the west. But he goes a step further, bringing out lessons that rich countries can learn from poorer ones, and treating health similarly in rich and poor countries alike.
Crisp’s talk of ‘co-development’ rather than rich-poor international development resonates in this era of shifting power, and with a blog I wrote a few years ago arguing something similar. When western audiences start to look to poorer countries for solutions in health and in other sectors, they will finally have moved on from the era of aid.”

Latest Developments, August 4

In the latest news and analysis…

After controversy and delay, the UN Environment Programme has released the results of a 14-month study of the oil industry’s impacts on Nigeria’s Ogoniland region. According to the report, “there are, in a significant number of locations, serious threats to human health from contaminated drinking water to concerns over the viability and productivity of ecosystems. In addition that pollution has perhaps gone further and penetrated deeper than many may have previously supposed.” It goes on to say clean up could take decades and cost billions. Shell Petroleum Development Company, a Nigerian subsidiary of the world’s second largest oil company, says it ceased oil production in Ogoniland in 1993 and blames the majority of spills on illegal bunkering by local inhabitants. But Nigerian NGO Environmental Rights Action wants Shell to apologize to the Nigerian people and pay for clean up and compensation. It is calling for a $100 billion remediation fund and environmental audits of other drilling areas in the Niger Delta.

French oil giant Total, its CEO and a number of French politicians are being charged for their roles in a scandal involving bribe paying and the UN’s oil-for-food program which operated in Iraq from 1996 to 2003. French law allows for corporations to be “declared a legal entity and be prosecuted,” according to Radio France International. The trial is expected to begin next year.

Although much of the blame for the severity of Somalia’s current humanitarian crisis has been heaped on the Islamist rebels who have banned many foreign agencies from operating in the country’s south, the Guardian’s Xan Rice reports “delays in procuring food aid and raising funds” are every bit as much of a problem. A problem that makes the international humanitarian community look bad, according to one aid worker, given that warnings of a looming food shortage started months ago. A Globe and Mail editorial calls the current situation a crisis of unpreparedness, anarchy and sloth.

The Economist says “developing” countries have surpassed their “developed” counterparts – a division it call “more than a tad arbitrary – on a number of economic indicators. While the former still only account for 38 percent of global GDP, that figure is twice what it was two decades ago and when adjusted for purchasing-power parity, it climbs to 54 percent. These same countries also accounted for more than half of foreign direct investment inflows, energy consumption and mobile-phone subscriptions. But in none of these categories does their share equal their proportion of the global population.

US President Barack Obama has issued a directive establishing a new “standing interagency Atrocities Prevention Board” in order to remedy the fact that “66 years since the Holocaust and 17 years after Rwanda, the United States still lacks a comprehensive policy framework and a corresponding interagency mechanism for preventing and responding to mass atrocities and genocide.”

Oxfam’s Duncan Green points out some of the things World Food Programme head Josette Sheeran left out of her TED talk on ending hunger: “Globally, apart from an oblique reference to food subsidies, there is little mention of rich country policies on biofuels, or cutting aid to agriculture, or land grabs, or driving risks down the value chain to small farmers, or failing to do anything on climate change, which all contribute to the problem.”

Reuters’ Barry Malone writes about the predictable nature of the food crises he covers. He laments “that every few years we’re faced with an “emergency” that could have been prevented, that aid groups must frantically try to raise money to respond, that journalists need to find emaciated babies at death’s door and film and photograph and write about them before the world gives a damn.” And he is sceptical of foreign charities that “talk about long-term plans to help people become self-sufficient but they’ve been failing to achieve them for 20 years.” Saving perhaps his harshest criticism for his own profession, Malone quotes an Ethiopian girl who was moved to tears while watching foreign journalists interacting with a Somali woman in a refugee camp: “All she had left was her dignity,” the girl tells him. “And then they took that, too.”

With the EU currently looking into establishing rules on corporate transparency, Christian Aid’s Joseph Stead argues it should draw inspiration from US legislation requiring oil, gas and mining companies listed on American stock exchanges to divulge how much they pay to foreign governments, thereby making it easier for citizens of poor countries to hold their elected officials to account. But Stead believes the EU should go a step further by requiring European businesses to disclose their profits, sales and number of employees on a country-by-country basis. These requirements, unlike the US ones, would address the two main ways the inhabitants of poor countries miss out on the benefits of resource wealth: In addition to bringing to light government corruption, the information Stead suggests “would also help identify suspected corporate tax dodging. The latter is a problem that Christian Aid estimates costs poor countries $160bn a year – much more than they receive in aid.”

In a wide-ranging Q&A, City University of New York’s Talal Asad talks about the fear among many Western observers that the Arab Spring will eventually hand the reins of power to Islamist groups, such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: “I don’t think, in principle, that just because a movement declares itself to be religious, it should be made the object of special suspicion. In my view, one shouldn’t trust anyone who hankers after state power, whether they call themselves religious or secular. The modern state is at once one of the most brutal sources of oppression and a necessary means for providing common benefits to citizens. Whether it is secular or religious seems to me much less important than the fact that it is a state. If we look back over the twentieth century and this should become obvious.”