Latest Developments, September 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Offense first
The Hill reports that the US, which was already sending weapons to Syria’s rebels, has now also cleared obstacles to sending them defensive equipment:

“The United States is prevented from shipping gas masks and other ‘non-lethal’ protective equipment related to chemical weapons use under mandates in the Arms Export Control Act.
Obama’s announcement effectively eliminates those rules for ‘international organizations… [and] select vetted members of the Syrian opposition, including the Supreme Military Council,’ [National Security Council Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden] said in a statement Monday.”

Global corporate accountability
Ecuador’s government has announced that nearly 100 countries supported its call for a “binding international instrument” concerning transnational companies and human rights:

“The Declaration led by Ecuador and adopted by the African Group, the Group of Arabic Countries, Pakistan, Kirgizstan, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Peru, gathers up the concerns of the countries from the South regarding the flagrant human rights violations caused by the operations of transnational corporations, that in many countries, they have left as large debts, large effects on local communities and populations, including many indigenous peoples.

This joint Declaration constitutes a milestone within the Human Rights Council of the UN, since for the moment; Ecuador has been the only country that has defended the idea of generating an international instrument about businesses and human rights. Nevertheless, after a hard work of lobbying carried out by the Ecuadorian delegation in Geneva, it has been possible to add support, especially of countries from the South which demand more equity and responsibility on behalf of the great transnational forces.”

ICC backlash
Reuters reports that the International Criminal Court could lose a big chunk of its membership due to its perceived lack of balance:

“Officials say suggestions are being made in the African Union for a pullout from the Hague court by the 34 African signatories to the Rome Statute that created it.
‘There is a proposal in the African Union, which will likely come in January, for all AU member countries to withdraw from the ICC because the court is seen to be targeting only African leaders,’ Tanzania’s government spokesman Assah Mwambene said.
The walk-out proposal could come even sooner, possibly at an extraordinary AU summit before the year end, following expected criticism of the ICC at the U.N. General Assembly this month.

All 18 cases so far before the ICC are against Africans, in eight countries. Most were either initiated or supported by the governments of those states.”

No number, no list
The Blog of Legal Times reports that the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the US government’s claim that divulging even the vaguest of information pertaining to drone strikes could threaten national security:

“[Justice Department lawyer Amy] Powell argued that the CIA’s ‘no number, no list’ response—where the government deems exempt from disclosure even the number of pages of any responsive document—is appropriate.
The ACLU lawyers said in their papers that the CIA failed to show why the government should be allowed not to describe the content of any single document.”

Crosses and veils
The Montreal Gazette reports the results of a public opinion poll on Quebec’s proposed “charter of values”, which suggest many of the Canadian province’s inhabitants share their government’s selective interpretation of secularism:

“Two proposals in the package do get large approval. Fifty-four per cent of Quebecers agree that the crucifix should remain over the speaker’s chair of the National Assembly. Thirty-eight per cent disagree.
And a big 90 per cent of Quebecers agree public servants giving services or Quebecers receiving services should do so with their faces uncovered.”

Oil displacement
The Monitor reports on the impacts of oil exploration on land tenure in Uganda:

“The discovery of oil and gas has also caused the appreciation of land value even in rural areas that are now getting transformed into urban centres. The resources have also attracted investors and speculators who are acquiring chunks of land to strategise how to profiteer from the nascent industry. The oil industry has also sparked off a scramble for land that at times has left some communities to be displaced by new landlords that are procuring pieces of land from individuals that were formerly owned communally.”

Miner threat
The Globe and Mail reports that a Canadian company is demanding Romania approve what would be Europe’s largest open-pit gold mine or face a massive lawsuit:

“ ‘If the lower house [of parliament] does reject the project, we will go ahead with formal notification to commence litigation for multiple breaches of international investment treaties for up to $4-billion,’ [Gabriel Resources CEO Jonathan] Henry said in a phone interview. ‘Our case is very strong and we will make it very public that Romania’s effort to attract foreign investment will suffer greatly.’

The Rosia Montana project has been held up by well-organized and well-funded protesters, ranging from local farmers who do not want their properties seized to make way for the enormous mine to billionaires such as George Soros and celebrities such as Vanessa Redgrave, for about 15 years.”

Expendable labour
The Guardian reports that a number of Western clothing brands are being accused of doing too little for the victims of Bangladesh’s deadliest industrial accident:

“The international union IndustriALL has called for brands to contribute $33.5m to those injured and the families of those who died in the accident with a further $41m to come from the Bangladeshi government and factory owners. While all the brands which met in Geneva said they were prepared to put up at least some cash, no agreement was reached on the structure or scale of compensation, partly because 20 brands which were invited did not attend including Walmart, Mango and the Zara owner, Inditex.
Samantha Maher of campaign group Labour Behind the Label, who attended the talks, said: ‘It is almost six months since Rana Plaza collapsed. After all the hand-wringing, workers are still facing a life of desperation when half of those brands whose products they were making have turned their back on them.’”

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Latest Developments, June 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Dangerous business
The UN News Centre reports that World Health Organization head Margaret Chan has singled out “big business” as a top threat to the fight against non-communicable diseases:

“ ‘It is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics.’
She said these tactics include front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that ‘confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt.’
They also include gifts, grants, and contributions to worthy causes that cast these industries as respectable corporate citizens in the eyes of politicians and the public, she added. They include arguments that place the responsibility for harm to health on individuals, and portray Government actions as interference in personal liberties and free choice.

‘Let me remind you. Not one single country has managed to turn around its obesity epidemic in all age groups. This is not a failure of individual will-power. This is a failure of political will to take on big business.’ ”

IP enforcement
The Guardian reports that a new draft agreement gives the world’s poorest countries an eight-year “grace period” instead of the exemption from international intellectual property laws that they had sought:

“ ‘They should have gotten more,’ says Sangeeta Shashikant, of the Third World Network, an NGO with offices in Geneva. ‘Eight years is nothing, really. The conditions in [least developed countries] aren’t really going to change in eight years.’
A handful of rich countries – led by the US and the EU – were reportedly adamant in their opposition to the LDCs’ proposal, which would have allowed the countries to maintain their exemption from the intellectual property rules for as long as they remained officially classified as LDCs.

If LDCs were to lose their exemption, any of the countries that failed to comply with the Trips agreement would be open to lawsuits under the WTO’s dispute settlement system. While it would be unlikely for a developed country to challenge an LDC in that forum, rich nations could use LDCs’ non-compliance to pressure them in other ways, such as by withholding aid money.”

Lethal aid
Reuters reports that the US could decide as early as this week to help arm Syria’s rebels:

“U.S. officials are adamant that Washington will not put ‘boots on the ground,’ which means deploying troops.
Fredrick Hof, a former senior U.S. official who worked on Syria policy, said the administration might decide to take charge of the distribution of weapons to the rebels, but not necessarily to provide U.S. arms.”

Boundless Informant
The Guardian reports that the National Security Agency’s newly revealed surveillance program extends well beyond monitoring communications within the US:

“A snapshot of the Boundless Informant data, contained in a top secret NSA ‘global heat map’ seen by the Guardian, shows that in March 2013 the agency collected 97bn pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide.
Iran was the country where the largest amount of intelligence was gathered, with more than 14bn reports in that period, followed by 13.5bn from Pakistan. Jordan, one of America’s closest Arab allies, came third with 12.7bn, Egypt fourth with 7.6bn and India fifth with 6.3bn.”

Thinking ahead
The Blue Planet Project’s Meera Karunananthan writes that events in El Salavador, where a ban on metal mining is being considered, show how difficult it can be for a “developing” country to protect its fresh water:

“Meanwhile, both [US-based] Commerce Group and [Canadian-based] Pacific Rim are using a World Bank trade tribunal to circumvent community consent and state regulation. They are suing the Salvadoran government for more than $400m through the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID), whose mandate is to protect investment rights.

As scientists and world leaders deliberate on how to fix the global water crisis, there should be greater international support for communities and countries attempting to forge new paths away from water-destructive economies. If El Salvador overcomes the odds and becomes the first country in the world to ban metal mining, it could serve as a model for a world grappling with the threat of an imminent water crisis.”

State secrets
CBS News reports on documents suggesting the US State Department covered up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its staff:

“In such cases, [Diplomatic Security Service] agents told the Inspector General’s investigators that senior State Department officials told them to back off, a charge that [former Inspector General investigator Aurelia] Fedenisn says is ‘very’ upsetting.
‘We were very upset. We expect to see influence, but the degree to which that influence existed and how high up it went, was very disturbing,’ she said.
In one specific and striking cover-up, State Department agents told the Inspector General they were told to stop investigating the case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.”

BG Group v. Argentina
Bloomberg reports that the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which a British oil and gas company is trying to obtain a $185 million award from Argentina’s government for capping natural gas prices in 2002:

“BG says the price freeze caused the bankruptcy of Metrogas SA, an Argentine gas distributor it previously controlled. BG says that, had it filed suit, it would have been punished under Argentine law and excluded from negotiations designed to mitigate the effects of the price cap.
The Obama administration urged the high court to reject the BG appeal, saying the appeals court reached the right decision.”

Let them eat cake
Oxfam’s Mohga Kamal-Yanni writes that the IMF, which may soon agree to lend millions to Egypt, does not seem to share Egyptians’ primary concerns, which she lists as “bread, freedom, social justice”:

“Instead, [the IMF] narrowly focuses on three economic measures: removing fuel subsidies, increasing the General Sales Tax (GST), and floating the pound, despite the clear signs of unrest among ordinary Egyptians as they have already started to suffer the impact of the fuel crisis.

And other ways to improve the fiscal and economic situation are not being taken seriously by either the government or the IMF. Civil society and academics have proposed measures such as progressive taxation, taxing the stock exchange, or removing fuel subsidies for rich people and energy-intensive industry. The IMF’s typical answer is that these measures would take time and not raise sufficient revenue.”

Latest Developments, May 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Bleeding a continent
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan argues that stopping the “plunder” of Africa by foreign investors will require multilateral efforts:

“The scale of the losses sustained by Africa is not widely recognized. Transfer pricing — the practice of shifting profits to lower tax jurisdictions — costs the continent $34 billion annually — more than the region receives in bilateral aid. Put differently, you could double aid by cutting this version of tax evasion. The extensive use made by foreign investors of offshore-registered companies operating from jurisdictions with minimal reporting requirements actively facilitates tax evasion. It is all but impossible for Africa’s understaffed and poorly resourced revenue authorities to track real profits through the maze of shell companies, holding companies and offshore entities used by investors.

It is time to draw back the veil of secrecy behind which too many companies operate. Every tax jurisdiction should be required to publicly disclose the full beneficial ownership structure of registered companies. Switzerland, Britain and the United States — all major conduits for offshore finance — should signal intent to clamp down on illicit financial flows.”

Orders to kill
The Guatemala Times reports that the security chief of a mine owned by Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources has been caught on tape demanding that protesters be killed:

“The information reveals Rotondo making several statements: ‘God dam dogs, they do not understand that the mine generates jobs’. ‘We must eliminate these animal pieces of shit’. ‘We can not allow people to establish resistance, another Puya no’. ‘Kill those sons of bitches’.

Rotondo was apprehended at the airport La Aurora, when he trying to flee the country. Wire tapping of conversations between him and his son reveal that he planned to leave Guatemala for a while, because ‘I ordered to kill some of these sons of Bitches.’ ”

Bad suits
Bloomberg reports on the boom in investor-state arbitration which one critic likens to a “a quiet, slow-moving coup d’état”:

“Arbitration clauses were originally included in treaties to deal with the nationalization or a company’s assets. Now arbitrators hear claims for lost business or costs stemming from public-health laws and environmental regulation and financial policies, with billions of dollars at stake.
In some instances, investors are even demanding that national laws or court judgments be overturned.

A record 62 treaty-based arbitration cases were filed last year, bringing the total to 480 since 2000, according to the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development. Before then, there were fewer than three a year dating to 1987, when a Hong Kong company brought the first known case over Sri Lanka’s destruction of a shrimp farm in a military operation against Tamil separatists.”

Court politics
The BBC reports that Kenya has asked the International Criminal Court to halt the trials of newly elected president Uhuru Kenyatta and deputy president William Ruto:

“The letter, sent last week, says the prosecutions are ‘neither impartial nor independent’ and could destabilise Kenya.
The UN Security Council is able to defer ICC cases for up to 12 months.
The deferral can be renewed indefinitely, but the Security Council cannot order the court to drop a case.”

Imperial crimes
Author Pankaj Mishra discusses Britain’s apparent “collective need to forget crimes and disasters” that occurred in the time of Empire:

“Astonishingly, British imperialism, seen for decades by western scholars and anticolonial leaders alike as a racist, illegitimate and often predatory despotism, came to be repackaged in our own time as a benediction that, in [Niall] Ferguson’s words, ‘undeniably pioneered free trade, free capital movements and, with the abolition of slavery, free labour’. Andrew Roberts, a leading mid-Atlanticist, also made the British empire seem like an American neocon wet dream in its alleged boosting of ‘free trade, free mobility of capital … low domestic taxation and spending and ‘gentlemanly’ capitalism’.
Never mind that free trade, introduced to Asia through gunboats, destroyed nascent industry in conquered countries, that ‘free’ capital mostly went to the white settler states of Australia and Canada, that indentured rather than ‘free’ labour replaced slavery, and that laissez faire capitalism, which condemned millions to early death in famines, was anything but gentlemanly.”

Toxic environments
Inter Press Service reports on new evidence suggesting the health impacts of toxic waste in poor countries are “on par” with those of malaria:

“Toxic waste sites in 31 countries are damaging the brains of nearly 800,000 children and impairing the health of millions of people in the developing world, two new studies have found.

Toxic sites ‘fly under the radar’ in terms of public health awareness and action. Little research has been done on the health impacts of chemical pollutants in developing countries.”

Syrian agenda
The National reports a Syrian rebel commander’s account of US attempts late last year to pit Syria’s insurgents against one another:

“The Americans began discussing the possibility of drone strikes on [Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat] Al Nusra camps inside Syria and tried to enlist the rebels to fight their fellow insurgents.

‘I’m not going to lie to you. We’d prefer you fight Al Nusra now, and then fight Assad’s army. You should kill these Nusra people. We’ll do it if you don’t,’ the rebel leader quoted the officer as saying.

‘They [foreign governments] are not fighting for the same things as us,’ [the rebel leader] said. ‘Syrians are fighting for our freedom, while they just want us to bleed to death fighting each other.’ ”

Toothless watchdog
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting argues that many mainstream US media outlets are failing once again “to treat [weapons of mass destruction] claims with the skepticism they deserve”:

“Seeing public reticence for another war as a ‘problem’ provides a revealing glimpse into the mindset of so many pundits, who are once again rallying in support of U.S. military action based on sketchy reports about weapons of mass destruction.”

Latest Developments, November 15

In the latest news and analysis…

War chest
The Wall Street Journal reports that the EU is contemplating “using its checkbook” instead of sending troops to help Mali recover its northern portion from armed groups:

“The EU, which has already pledged to support the proposed West African force with training, transport, and intelligence gathering, is now discussing spending tens of millions of euros to provide equipment and monthly allowances to the roughly 3,000 troops, [European diplomats and other people familiar with the matter] said.
However, the EU is moving cautiously with its proposal, two of these people said, because it wants any military intervention in the region to appear as an African initiative, not a European one.

If approved, EU funding would come from the European Commission’s African Peace Facility, the people familiar with the matter said.”

Bribe facilitation
The Vanguard reports it has obtained a list of specific banks used to wire “huge sums” to high-ranking Nigerians:

“According to sources, such principal suspects like a former military head of state (names withheld), used the American Express Bank Annex at the Towers World Financial Centre, New York, the Seaway National Bank, Chicago, and the Bank of New York to wire over $37.5 million of the bribe money.

Another principal suspect through who the British/Israeli lawyer, Jeffrey Tesler wired huge sums to prominent Nigerians is Air Vice Marshal Abdul Dominic Bello and the banks/ account numbers through which over $68 million were wired are Lloyds Bank of London, A/C No 736827, Tri-Star, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, London, Tri-Star, American Express Bank, A/C No 2101653,Tri-Star, HSBC, A/C No 31505024, and Lloyds Bank, A/C No 0737041, Tri-Star.”

Prix Pinocchio
Friends of the Earth France has named the winners of this year’s Pinocchio Sustainable Development Awards, which are “intended to illustrate and denounce the negative impacts of some French companies that behave in total contradiction with the concepts of sustainable development that they boast of extensively”:

“This year, more than 17,000 people voted online to choose the winners among the nominated companies. Lesieur, Bolera and Areva are the big winners in 2012.

The ever-increasing number of votes for the Pinocchio prizes proves there is growing support for the fight against the impunity that French multinational companies currently enjoy regarding the social and environmental impacts of their activities, a fight waged for years by Friends of the Earth, the Research and Information Centre for Development, and Peuples Solidaires.” [Translated from the French.]

Afghan fears
The Asia Foundation has released the results of a survey that suggests, among other things, that the people of Afghanistan are far more afraid of international soldiers than of Afghan ones:

“Only 20% of respondents say they would have no fear when encountering international forces, while more than three quarters (78%) say they would have some level of fear, including 35% who say they would have a lot of fear. A high level of fear when encountering international forces could be due to night raids as well as the international forces’ relatively large presence in military operations.”

Higher fences
Agence France-Presse reports on the recurring attempts by African migrants to enter Spain’s North African exclaves, which form “the only land frontier between Africa and Europe”:

“In August, after some 60 sub-Saharan migrants forced their way across the border, Spain boosted its security by raising the height of the fence and adding video cameras and more staff.
Since then, hundreds of migrants have tried to cross over into Melilla on several occasions.
Spanish officials said that attempts to reach Spanish soil by boat have also increased over the last few weeks, as migrants try to make the most of the last remaining days of warm weather.”

Responsible loans
Human Rights Watch calls on the World Bank to incorporate consideration of human rights into its lending practices:

“Historically, the World Bank Group has dismissed human rights as a ‘political’ issue and therefore outside of its mandate as a development bank. The same was true of corruption until a former Bank president, James Wolfensohn, took the seemingly risky step of raising ‘the c-word’ and began to address the issue within the bank and in its lending. President Jim Yong Kim has a similar opportunity to modernize the bank by taking on human rights, the groups said.
‘The World Bank Group is not above international law – the bank and its member states must abide by human rights standards in their development activities,’ said Kris Genovese, senior attorney at CIEL. ‘Now is the time for the bank to move into the 21st century and, if he’s willing to show leadership andsustained engagement with member countries, Kim can realize this signature achievement.’
”

Forcible profits
The Institute for Policy Studies is calling on Canada’s government to put a stop to a Canadian mining company’s “bullying” of El Salvador:

“Despite the prospect of major environmental damage, Pacific Rim says it has the ‘right,’ under the investor–state regime allowed by investment rules in free trade agreements, to reap the profits that would have been brought by gold mining. In pursuit of these so-called lost profits, Pacific Rim is demanding up to hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation at the International Centre for Settlement of International Disputes (ICSID), an unaccountable World Bank tribunal that operates behind closed doors.
The Sierra Club ‘opposes trade and investment agreements that allow foreign corporations to attack environmental and public health protections in secret trade tribunals,’ says Ilana Solomon, trade policy expert at the Sierra Club. ‘This lawsuit by Pacific Rim, which threatens the health and safety of communities in El Salvador, is a case in point for why we oppose these secret tribunals.’ ”

Islamophobia sells
Jeune Afrique questions the motives behind French magazines’ obsession with Islam and immigration:

“Issue 3202 of L’Express, on newsstands Nov. 14, presents an investigation into ‘the real costs of immigration,’ intended to challenge ‘preconceptions’ and publish ‘shocking statistics.’ On the cover: a woman, veiled head-to-toe, enters a family allowance office. Translation: immigrants, that is to say Muslims, depend on state benefits.
Why display this prejudice on the front cover, even if it is to dispute it inside the magazine? No doubt because the image will boost sales. According to a survey published in Le Figaro on Oct. 25, 60% of French people think Islam has ‘too much’ influence and visibility in their country. And 43% of them consider it a ‘menace’ to national identity. Fear sells…” [Translated from the French.]

Latest Developments, November 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Mining tax precedent
Australia’s proposed 30 percent tax on the country’s mining industry, which is “being eyed by other resource nations in South America and Africa,” has passed the parliament’s lower house by 73 votes to 71.
“[Prime Minister Julia] Gillard wants the new tax on mining profits to pay for a company tax cut and boost pensions, helping to spread the benefits of Australia’s resources boom to other parts of the economy struggling with the global downturn.
‘This is a way in which all Australians share in the bounty of the mining boom,’ Treasurer Wayne Swan told parliament.”

Surging investor-state lawsuits
A new Institute for Policy Studies report indicates that the number of lawsuits brought before international tribunals by oil, gas and mining companies against “governments seeking to increase the benefits of those resources for their own people” has risen sharply along with commodity prices in recent years.
“Under free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties, foreign investors have the right to file such “investor-state” lawsuits in international tribunals to demand compensation for government actions that reduce their profits.
This newly updated edition of “Mining for Profits” finds that at the most frequently used tribunal, the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), 43 of 137 pending “investor-state” cases are related to oil, mining, or gas. By contrast, one year ago there were only 32 such cases and 10 years ago there were only 3.”

Transparency not enough
A new report by the University of British Columbia’s Philippe Le Billon argues  initiatives to improve governance of the extractive industries tend not to go far enough.
“Among other priorities, transparency initiatives should demand higher disaggregation of information disclosed by extractive companies and host governments. Transparency requirements should extend beyond revenues to licensing, contracts, physical resource flows, and other production factors, as well as to public expenditure. Extractives transparency initiatives also need to integrate elements of the tax justice and tax evasion agendas in order to expand their relevance to the effort to reduce illicit financial flows.”

Accessible innovation
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Doha Declaration on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Public Health, which addressed the question of how to encourage innovation while keeping medicines accessible to the world’s poor.
“‘The sustainability of access at the end of the day is going to come back to the issue how you finance R&D,’ [James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International] said. Love argued that it is essential to de-link the prices of medicines and the development of new medicines in order to fulfil ‘the promise of Doha’ and access to medicines for all.”

Supply and demand
Agence France-Presse reports on a new World Wildlife Fund assessment of the palm oil market which suggests that, despite improvements, companies are not doing enough to ensure the oil they buy comes from sustainable sources.
“Palm plantations are considered one of the biggest threats to rainforests in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia — the source of 85 percent of world palm oil supply — as virgin forests are typically cleared to make way for them.

The scorecard focuses on major companies in Europe, Australia and Japan, the world’s biggest palm oil markets.
About 5.2 million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil was produced last year — roughly 10 percent of world supply — but only 56 percent was purchased, the WWF said.”

Unsustainable food
The International Institute for Environment and Development uses the example of ketchup to illustrate how unsustainable the global food industry is.
“Analysis of the steps involved in processing ketchup – from farming the tomatoes through to packaging – to transporting and retailing that symbol of American mass consumerism reveals an alarming fact. To produce it requires a mind-boggling 150 separate processes, across several continents, according to research cited in a new book by the International Institute for Environment and Development.
It’s just one small part of a ‘staggeringly inefficient’ food system according to the new book Virtuous Circles. When the overall energy costs for producing food are taken into account – including farm machinery, transportation, processing and packaging – ‘the modern food system consumes between ten and fifteen calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food energy (nutrition) produced.’”

Just say no (to the war on drugs)
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues wealthy, recreational drug-consuming countries need to renounce the war on drugs in order to “save west Africa from a fate worse than Mexico.”
“Clearly an end to prohibition will not end the problems created by the war on drugs at a stroke, nor the problems created by drugs themselves. The gangs that are now so powerful in Colombia, Mexico and elsewhere engage in many types of crime including people trafficking and kidnapping. But one of their largest sources of income would be decimated, as prices fall in a regulated market.
Insiders are more hopeful than ever that an end to global prohibition is possible within a decade. Both Barack Obama and David Cameron, the leaders of two of the most important drug-consuming nations in the world, are on the record in their opposition to the war on drugs before they were elected. If they followed through on their promise of a rethink they could go down in history as the leaders that began one of the most important global policy shifts of our time.”

Symbolic justice
Princeton University’s Richard Falk writes about past and present efforts to address the double standard of victors’ justice that has been the international norm since the end of World War II through “societal efforts to bring at large war criminals to symbolic justice.”
“The existence of double standards is part of the deep structure of world politics. It is even given constitutional status by being written into the Charter of the United Nations by allowing the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, that is the winners in 1945, to exercise a veto over any decision affecting the peace and security of the world, thereby exempting the world’s most dangerous states, being the most militarily powerful and expansionist, from any obligation to uphold international law.”