Latest Developments, October 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Legal precedent
The BBC reports that four Nigerian plaintiffs are taking oil giant Shell to court in the Netherlands over alleged pollution:

“It is the first time a Dutch multinational is being put on trial in a civil court at home in connection with damage caused abroad.

If the farmers’ case is successful it could set a legal precedent, paving the way for thousands of other compensation claims from those affected by oil spills, says the BBC’s Anna Holligan in The Hague.”

Accredited poachers
Reuters reports that “EU-approved vessels” account for the bulk of illegal fishing off Sierra Leone’s coast:

“The European Union has set up regulations to prevent vessels involved in so-called illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing from accessing European markets.
An 18-month investigation conducted by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), however, documented a long list of abuses including fishing inside exclusion zones, using banned equipment, and transhipping fish illegally at sea.
The majority of cases involved ships accredited to sell their seafood at EU ports.”

Fighting transparency
The Hill reports that US oil and business groups are suing to overturn new rules requiring the extractive industry to disclose payments made to foreign governments:

“The lawsuit, filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, escalates a battle between industry and human rights groups over controversial transparency rules required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

‘Secrecy around payments enables corrupt government officials and political elites to siphon off or misappropriate revenues for personal gain, rather than development. It has been said that ‘sunshine is the best disinfectant’ – this lawsuit begs the question, what are oil companies trying to hide?,’ said Jana Morgan, assistant policy adviser with Global Witness.”

Swiss arms
Swissinfo reports that Switzerland is adopting new rules aimed at preventing the re-export of “war material” to conflict zones after Swiss grenades sold to the United Arab Emirates were found in Syria:

“Buyers will have to declare that they will not export, sell, lend or donate the material, or pass it on in any other way to a third party abroad, without the agreement of the Swiss authorities.
Where there is seen to be a high risk of the material nevertheless being passed on to ‘undesirable’ end users, the relevant Swiss authorities can stipulate that they shall have the right to make ‘post shipment inspections’ on the spot.
Where large amounts of material is exported, the declaration is to take the form of a diplomatic note from the receiving country.”

Gloomy forecast
Maplecroft has released its Food Security Risk Index for 2013, according to which 75 percent of African countries are at high or extreme risk:

“ ‘Food price forecasts for 2013 provide a worrying picture,’ states Maplecroft’s Head of Maps and Indices Helen Hodge. ‘Although a food crisis has not emerged yet, there is potential for food related upheaval across the most vulnerable regions, including sub-Saharan Africa.’
A September report by Rabobank, a financial specialist in agro-commodities, estimates that prices of food staples could rise by as much as 15% by June 2013, resulting in record highs that will squeeze household incomes in many countries.”

Big loss
Bloomberg reports that the US Supreme Court has refused to intervene in a lawsuit that saw a judge in Ecuador impose a $19 billion fine on oil giant Chevron:

“Without commenting on the merits of the case, the U.S. Supreme Court today let stand a federal appeals court ruling that a New York trial judge exceeded his authority when he blocked a group of Ecuadorean farmers and Indians from seeking to collect the $19 billion award anywhere in the world.

The justices’ action, although it doesn’t address the substance of the case, effectively eliminates one avenue for Chevron to avoid liability. The company has refused to pay the judgment in Ecuador. Since Chevron does not have any bank accounts or other assets in Ecuador, the plaintiffs have now filed separate collection actions seeking liens against Chevron assets in Brazil and Canada.”

Mass firings
CNN reports that mining company Gold One has fired 1,400 striking workers at a South African mine:

“It’s the latest twist in a wave of sometimes-violent labor unrest that has wracked South Africa’s mining sector — the country’s biggest industry — for nearly two months. Another company, Anglo-American Platinum, fired about 12,000 striking workers who declined to attend disciplinary hearings last week after a three-week walkout.”

Scramble for Burma
Focus on the Global South argues that the impending boom in foreign direct investment poses a threat to farming communities in Burma/Myanmar:

“Land grabs are now set to accelerate due to new government laws that are specifically designed to encourage foreign investments in land. The two new land laws (the Farmlands Law and the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Law) establish a legal framework to reallocate so-called ‘wastelands’ to domestic and foreign private investors. Moreover, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Law and Foreign Investment Law that are being finalized, along with ASEAN-ADB regional infrastructure development plans, will provide new incentives and drivers for land grabbing and further compound the dispossession of local communities from their lands and resources. Land conflicts that are now emerging throughout the country will worsen as foreign companies, supported by foreign governments and International Financial Institutions (IFIs), rush in to profit from Burma/Myanmar’s political and economic transition period.”