Latest Developments, April 4

In the latest news and analysis…

Aid down
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development announced that 2011 marked the first time in 14 years that aid from its member countries had decreased.
“In 2011, members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD provided USD 133.5 billion of net official development assistance (ODA), representing 0.31 per cent of their combined gross national income (GNI). This was a -2.7 % drop in real terms compared to 2010, the year it reached its peak. This decrease reflects fiscal constraints in several DAC countries which have affected their ODA budgets.”

Transfer pricing
Reuters reports Brazilian tax authorities have announced new regulations regarding billions of dollars worth of intra-company trade by transnational corporations.
“Under new rules, the Brazilian units of companies such as Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus, Glencore and Noble must value transactions with overseas units of the same company using international price benchmarks, said Sandro Serpa, a top enforcement official at Brazil’s Federal tax authority.
The measures are aimed at ending “price manipulation” of inter-company imports and exports that allow multi-national companies to evade local taxes, he said.”

Landmine talk
Human Rights Watch points out that while the US has condemned Syria’s use of landmines, America has yet to join the ban on the weapons.
“The United States is not a party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively prohibits antipersonnel landmines and requires their clearance and assistance to victims. Yet the US already follows most of the treaty’s key provisions and has condemned new use of landmines by others. On March 14, US Ambassador Susan Rice and the State Department both described reports of Syria’s use of antipersonnel mines on its borders with Lebanon and Turkey as ‘horrific.’

Until the current policy review is completed, the 2004 Bush policy remains in place, permitting the US to use self-destructing, self-deactivating antipersonnel mines anywhere in the world. In accordance with this policy, the US no longer uses antipersonnel mines that do not self-destruct – sometimes called ‘persistent’ or ‘dumb’ mines – anywhere in the world, including in Korea.”

Indigenous IP rights
The Washington Post reports that a DC-based law firm has launched a “first-of-its-kind practice” that combines intellectual property and human rights.
“Spearheaded by founding director and veteran attorney Jorge Goldstein, who specializes in health sciences, the pro bono practice aims to use patent and copyright laws to help indigenous groups in developing countries protect and leverage their right to native or regional intellectual property — such as medicinal plants, artwork and designs — that often get co-opted, patented and sold by multinational corporations, including pharmaceutical companies.”

Intervention doctrine
Manuela Picq, most recently a visiting professor and research fellow at Amherst College, draws a direct line between today’s political ethics and the 15th Century Vatican doctrine of discovery that called for enslavement of non-Christians and occupation of their lands.
“The discourse that rationalised the colonisation of the Americas in the sake of Christianity is the same that justifies protecting human rights in Iraq or privatising water supplies for the sake of development.

Dominant cultures continue to intervene in the autonomy of indigenous peoples. This continuum is proof that the doctrine of intervention did not die with formal processes of decolonisation, adapting to new zeitgeists like a chameleon.
The practice of conquest, more diverse than often assumed, needs to be reconceived as a global political challenge that concerns us all rather than as a mere cultural concern discussed in indigenous forums. It is the international system that is at stake. Universalism cannot be exported, much less imposed. It is a collective practice.”

White guilt
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny writes that people in wealthy countries hold views that “would make [Rudyard] Kipling proud” and are “positively harmful” to both rich and poor countries.
“A recent study in Britain suggested that the dominant image of developing countries remains ‘malnutrition and pot-bellied young children desperate for help with flies on their faces.’ Perhaps that’s not surprising when a survey by journalist Marlon Miller looking at ten years of Africa coverage by major U.S. print media found the most common topic of articles was conflict, corruption, and crime. Or when well-intentioned efforts to mobilize support for famine relief or bringing war criminals to justice in Africa tend to emphasize the worst of the continent and play up the role of outsiders.”

The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie criticizes the “limited nature of development inquiry” that tends to focus on results and cost effectiveness to the virtual exclusion of other considerations.
“So while the Bank’s own evaluators (generally reckoned to be well-equipped and relatively independent) say that 59% of country assistance strategies are completed satisfactorily, the really interesting question is how many of those helped the country rather than hindered it. While Bank advice has helped some countries achieve development, there is no doubt it has done the opposite in others – the evidence is overwhelming. That makes the 59% number meaningless in terms of what it tells us about actual poverty reduction. But it fulfils the requirement of being a number, and will therefore be used in countless powerpoint presentations.”

IFI criticism
Inter Press Service reports on calls by NGOs for international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, to practice what they preach when it comes to transparency and accountability, and to alter their traditional policy prescriptions which critics deem harmful to the world’s poor.
“Other groups, such as the Europe Corporate Observatory, raise similar complaints against the Bank and the IMF, for supporting free trade agreements (FTAs) with developing countries, which obviously damage local public health initiatives and food provision.
The most salient case is the European FTA with India, slated to come into force this year, which would force the Indian pharmaceutical industry to cease producing inexpensive generic medications to treat contagious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, which most of the developing world is dependent on as a cheap alternative to patented drugs.”