Latest Developments, November 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Martial plan
Deutsche Welle reports that a new proposal for a military intervention in northern Mali could include troops from “two or three non-African nations”:

“West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS says it has agreed on a plan to recapture northern Mali using 3,300 troops. ECOWAS leaders meeting in Abuja said they still favor talks with Islamist insurgents holding the area.

Briefing reporters in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, [Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane] Ouattara, who is ECOWAS’s chairman, said the plan would be sent to the United Nations for approval by the end of November.

There is not total unanimity on how to end the conflict. Neighboring Algeria would prefer a negotiated solution to the conflict. France, Mali’s former colonial master, which has several citizens held hostage by al Qaeda-linked groups in the Sahara, supports a swift war scenario.”

Big deal
Press Trust of India reports that the Pentagon has said the sale of billions worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the US”:

“Saudi Arabia plans to buy 20 military transport planes and five refuelling aircraft along with related defence equipment, worth an estimated USD 6.7 billion, from the US, the Pentagon has said.

‘Saudi Arabia has requested a possible sale of 20 C-130J-30 Aircraft, 5 KC-130J Air Refuelling Aircraft, 120 Rolls Royce AE2100D3 Engines (100 installed and 20 spares), 25 Link-16 Multi-functional Information Distribution Systems, support equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, US Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related logistics support,’ [the Defense Security Cooperation Agency] said.”

Evergreening
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a new study that found tactics used by pharmaceutical companies could hold off generic competition, in some cases, by decades:

“The article looked at two key antiretroviral drugs to manage HIV, ritonavir (Norvir) and lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra), and identified 108 patents that could delay generics until 2028. That is 12 years after the expiration of the patents on drugs’ base compounds and 39 years after the first patents on ritonavir were filed.

The authors said some of the secondary patents were questionable, and called for stricter patentability standards, greater transparency, and more opportunities to challenge patents.”

Motion denied
The Hill reports that extractive industry groups have failed to persuade the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it should hold off on requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments:

“The SEC rejected claims that initial compliance costs would be burdensome. Claims of competitive harm are too speculative to warrant a stay, the SEC said.
The order is the latest move in a long-running battle over rules required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

The industry favors disclosure carried out under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a voluntary, multilateral group that brings together energy-producing nations, companies and civil society organizations.”

Nigerian spill
The Guardian Nigeria reports that oil giant Mobil is trying to contain a new spill off the country’s coast:

“According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the spill from the Atlantic coastline in Ibeno, which started on Friday, has hit the shoreline.
Oily sediments have deposited on the shoreline in Ibeno, Esit Eket, Eastern Obollo and other settlements along the coast.
Heavy equipment, chemicals, hoses and oil spill containment equipment were being moved from the jetty to the fields.”

Cui bono
The New York Times reports on the broken promises and dashed hopes of Mozambique’s foreign investment-fuelled economic boom:

“The coal deposits in Moatize represent one of the biggest untapped reserves in the world, and the Brazilian mining company Vale has placed a big bet on it. But to get to the coal, hundreds of villagers living atop it had to be moved. The company held a series of meetings with community members and government officials, laying out its plans to build tidy new bungalows for each family and upgrade public services. As the prospect of huge new investments in their rural corner of the world beckoned, villagers anticipated a whole new life: jobs, houses, education, and even free food.
Things didn’t work out that way. The houses were poorly built and leaked when it rained. The promised water taps and electricity never arrived. Cateme is too far from the mine for anyone here to get a job there. The new fields are dusty and barren — coaxing anything from them is hard.”

Strategy adjustment
Veteran journalist Ian Birrell argues “the aid debate has been mugged by economic reality” and calls for new thinking in the fight against global injustice:

Inequality is moving up the political agenda across the world. In the west, there is justified concern over bonus-chasing bankers and plutocrats who plunder profits while cutting wages for workers. In the developing world, the issues are even more stark. But we need to recognise the pace of change on the planet. If we really want to help the world’s poor, we could liberalise immigration controls and tackle issues such as tax evasion and corruption with far tougher action against money-laundering and all those in our own countries who assist the corruption. We can do the most good by abandoning an antiquated way of talking about aid.

Robbing Africa
Journalist and filmmaker Anas Aremeyaw Anas asks why rich countries “frown publicly about corruption, yet turn a blind eye to its fruits”:

“We do not say that all of Africa’s woes are the fault of others outside the continent. Nor do we assume that criminality is the only reason why Africa, despite its many natural riches, has been kept in poverty.
But we did come away wondering why the outside world feeds Africa with one hand and takes from it with another. Why cannot the resources for aid be directed into fighting this obvious problem? Is it not about time that something was done to stop those stealing our wealth, and those helping them steal it, from evading responsibility prosecution for their crimes?”

Latest Developments, August 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Ecological overdraft
The Global Footprint Network has declared August 22 Earth Overshoot Day, “the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year”:

“We are now operating in overdraft. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In 1992, Earth Overshoot Day—the approximate date our resource consumption for a given year exceeds the planet’s ability to replenish—fell on October 21. In 2002, Overshoot Day was on October 3.”

High-level apology
The Associated Press reports that South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula has apologized to striking Lonmin miners in the wake of last week’s police shootings that killed 34 of them, while the UK-based company has taken a harder line:

“When miners started shaking plastic bags of bullet casings at her, evidence of the many bullets that police fired in volleys last Thursday, she said: ‘I am begging, I beg and I apologize, may you find forgiveness in your hearts.’

The government did intervene in favor of the strikers, persuading mine managers that no striking miners should be fired in the week that South Africa officially mourns the killings, the presidency said Tuesday.
Managers of Lonmin PLC platinum mine had ordered strikers to report for duty by 7 a.m. Tuesday or get fired, even as some family members still were searching for missing loved ones, not knowing whether they were dead or alive among some 250 arrested protesters or in one of the hospitals”

Taking responsibility
The South African Press Association reports that the Bench Marks Foundation has said Lonmin “has to bear a heavy burden of responsibility” for the striking miners’ deaths:

“ ‘Lonmin must retract their insensitivity towards the grieving families and apologise for their lack of empathy and harsh response, especially by giving ultimatums to grieving workers to return to work immediately,’ the foundation said.
Lonmin and other platinum-producing companies in the area bore responsibility for the negative affects of mining on the lives of people in the Bojanala Platinum district municipality.
‘The Marikana tragedy cannot be understood without looking at the negative economic, social and environmental impacts of platinum mining for both workers and local communities in the area.’ ”

Bribery memo
The Age reports that a newly discovered document links the governor of Australia’s central bank and his former deputy to “one of the worst corporate corruption cover-ups” in the country’s history:

“The 2007 memo shows that almost two years before a bribery expose by The Age forced the [Reserve Bank of Australia] to call in police, [former deputy governor Ric] Battellino was given a detailed and explosive memo cataloguing bribery and corruption inside Note Printing Australia, a wholly owned and supervised subsidiary of the bank.
The memo, details of which have remained secret until now, was addressed to ‘Deputy Governor RBA’ and written by a senior executive of NPA, which along with sister firm Securency was charged last year by Australian Federal Police with bribing foreign officials via overseas agents in order to win contracts.”

Shell’s army
The Guardian reports that oil giant Shell is paying tens of millions to Nigeria’s security forces, as well as employing a private police force and “a network of plainclothes informants” to protect its Niger Delta assets:

“Activists expressed concern that the escalating cost of Shell’s security operation in the delta was further destabilising the oil rich region and helping to fuel rampant corruption and criminality. ‘The scale of Shell’s global security expenditure is colossal,’ said Ben Amunwa of London-based oil watchdog Platform. ‘It is staggering that Shell transferred $65m of company funds and resources into the hands of soldiers and police known for routine human rights abuses.’

‘This proves what we in the Niger delta have known for years – that the air force, the army, the police, they are paid for with Shell money and they are all at the disposal of the company for it to use it any how it likes,’ said Celestine Nkabari at the Niger delta campaign group Social Action.”

Oil transparency
Najwa al-Beshti, a former employee of the National Oil Corporation of Libya, calls on the US Securities and Exchange Commission and European regulators to bring in strong transparency requirements for extractive industry companies operating abroad:

“Oil industry lobbyists are using their influence in Washington and Brussels to try to undermine transparency measures that could help prevent future tyrants from emerging. That must not be allowed to happen.
When Colonel Qaddafi was in power, I worked for Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation, in a position that allowed me to observe corruption firsthand. I helped produce audits that detailed the mismanagement of millions of dollars of oil revenues, including the systematic underpricing of oil and the discounting of prices for select foreign companies.”

Ethanol rules
The Washington Post reports on a new study exploring the potential impact on global food prices of various possible adjustments to US policy regulating ethanol production:

“Under the fourth option there, the EPA allows a fairly big relaxation of the ethanol rule next year. (A waiver this year is unlikely.) Refiners are required to use 25 percent less ethanol. And ethanol producers can carry over their credits from previous years. In that case, corn prices could drop more than 20 percent, to $6.56 per bushel. That’s about where corn prices would have been if we only had a ‘weak drought’ this year. In other words, by relaxing the ethanol rule, the EPA could essentially turn a ‘strong drought’ into a ‘weak drought’ as far as prices are concerned.”

Ecuador bashing
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues that the British media’s treatment of Ecuador during the drama involving Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been characterized by “the dismissiveness that remains the hallmark of western foreign policy instincts”:

“In otherwise thoughtful comments criticising the Ecuadorian government on its press freedom record on Channel 4 News last week, David Aaronovitch, an influential British journalist said: “I’m not sure [the Ecuadorians] would understand what human rights were if they came and smacked them over the back of the head.”
Such language doubtless makes for good TV, but it’s both incredibly rude and not a little myopic: many people around the world would say the same of Britain – and with good cause, given the hardly glowing record of its government and companies.”

Latest Developments, August 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Moment of silence
Following the official announcement that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is dead, the Center for Global Development’s Owen Barder explains why he is not weighing in on the challenges of the succession:

“Why do you want your analysis of Ethiopian politics to be intermediated by a European? Isn’t that a little bit, well, racist?

I want to focus mainly on holding my own government and society to account for our impact on the world.
Our choices make a huge difference to the lives of people in developing countries.  Our policies on trade and corruption affect their economic development; our approach to financial markets and the environment spill over into the lives of people we have never met.  If we choose to use it, we have the power to lift people out of poverty by giving more aid, and managing it better.
These issues interest me most because they are properly mine to help fix.”

Mining repression
The Unemployed People’s Movement’s Ayanda Kota argues that last week’s “massacre” of Lonmin miners by South African police underscores the mining industry’s inextricable link to the country’s massive inequality:

“Mining has been central to the history of repression in South Africa. Mining made Sandton to be Sandton (a district in Johannesburg known as “Africa’s richest square mile”) and the Bantustans of the Eastern Cape to be the desolate places that they still are. Mining in South Africa also made the elites in England rich by exploiting workers in South Africa. You cannot understand why the rural Eastern Cape is poor without understanding why Sandton and the City of London are rich.”

Chemical threats
The Los Angeles Times reports that US President Barack Obama has opened the door for an American military intervention in Syria, saying the Assad regime’s use or movement of chemical weapons would be a “red line”:

“Obama said he has not ‘at this point’ ordered the U.S. military into action. But he said his administration has ‘put together a range of contingency plans,’ including a response if it appears Assad’s forces are preparing to use poison gas or biological weapons in a bid to stay in power.”

Somali roadmap
Roland Marchal of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) argues that current attempts by foreign powers to restore stability in Somalia, which has just inaugurated a new parliament, are likely to do more harm than good:

“One of the strategic weaknesses of the outgoing transitional Parliament and Government (TFG), set up in 2004, was its lack of popular legitimacy. The new institutions are likely to have no more legitimacy since the whole roadmap process appears to be overly-influenced by foreigners, especially through the United Nations Political Office for Somalia, and by corruption. Shockingly, MP seats can be bought for a few thousand US dollars.
Though the country is still at war and public debates are nearly impossible, the USA and UK pushed for a new constitution to be endorsed. The Constitutional Assembly was left with no choice but to endorse a draft constitution (at a cost of $13m) since it would be implemented anyway as a new Provisional Constitution. Many elders saw that debate on the Constitution as very divisive and the whole exercise illegitimate, rather than being a basis to express shared values.”

Anti-piracy offensive
The BBC reports that an EU committee believes Europe “must” continue to use warships off the coast of Somalia in order to defeat the region’s pirates:

“Its chairman, Liberal Democrat Lord Teverson, said: ‘Operation Atalanta has clearly made real progress in reducing the threat of Somali piracy. However if the situation is to continue to improve it is important the pirates know the international commitment to stop their activities is real and ongoing.
‘To ensure this Operation Atalanta should now have its remit extended beyond 2014.’ ”

Dirty work
The Mindanao Examiner reports that a Philippine general has rejected a Canadian mining company’s version of events that left one smallscale miner dead and six others injured:

“[Major General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III] said police filed criminal charges against 7 private security guards working for [TVI Resources Development].
‘Using the pieces of evidence gathered to include accounts from several witnesses and sworn statements of the complainants, cases of two counts frustrated murder and six for attempted murder have been filed at a local court against the seven security guards of the TVIRD who are all under the Big JR private security agency,’ Cruz said in a statement sent to The Manila Times.
Cruz branded the security guards as members of a ‘pseudo-organization employed by the said mining company to execute dirty works’ commonly known among miners in Balabag area as ‘K9’.”

Bad tenants
The Daily Guide reports that mining companies operating in Ghana are not paying their dues to the country’s government or its people:

“Though the mining companies continue to exploit the nation’s non renewable resources they have failed to pay the paltry sum of GH50p annually for ground rent per acre of land under concessions entrusted to them.

The operations of two multinationals in the last five years is reported to have displaced 50,000 people in a number of communities where the big companies work, destroying their farms, homes and livelihood.
The major concern of people, who have suffered this plight, has been over the payment of low compensations for their loss.
Mining companies pay one-off compensation of about GH¢20.00 for a cocoa tree, which may not cover the farmer’s earnings from a cocoa tree for one year.
Their activities deny farmers of their earnings from their long-term investment in cocoa, which has economic life of about 50 to 60 years.
The unpaid compensations translate into subsidies that the poor farmers provide to the multinational companies.”

Liberation geography
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi writes on the altering of geography at Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival in New Delhi:

“Perhaps the most fantastic aspect of this festival was the fact that it had categorically discarded the ghastly colonial concoction code-named ‘the Middle East’ and termed it appropriately ‘West Asia’. That very simple turn of phrase had liberated a whole habitat of humanity from a colonial legacy.

We as Asians or Arabs are no longer located to the East of a colonial officer who once drew an imaginary line to his East and called its vicinities the middle, near, or far of his East. Asia has long awaited its moment of full self-recognition, as has Africa – and, by extension, Latin America. Upon this axis, there is no longer any ‘West’, nor, a fortiori, any false hostility between ‘the East and the West’. Transcending these destabilising metaphors is the threshold of our emerging liberation geography. ”

Latest Developments, July 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Bad news on inequality
The Tax Justice Network has released a pair of reports on the extent and the impacts of the global offshore banking system, which together argue that the “at least $21 trillion hidden in secret tax havens” mean economic inequality is actually much worse than generally thought:

“At its simplest, our argument is that if an asset is hidden in an offshore bank account, or an offshore trust or company, and the ultimate owner or beneficiary of the income or capital cannot be identified, then this asset and the income it produces will not be counted in the inequality statistics. Almost all these hidden assets are owned by the world’s wealthiest individuals. So it follows that the inequality statistics, particularly at the top end of the scale, underestimate the scale of the problem.”

AND

“For our focus subgroup of 139 mostly low-middle income countries, traditional data shows aggregate external debts of $4.1tn at the end of 2010. But take their foreign reserves and unrecorded offshore private wealth into account, and the picture reverses: they had aggregate net debts of minus US$10.1-13.1tn. In other words, these countries are big net creditors, not debtors. Unfortunately, their assets are held by a few wealthy individuals, while their debts are shouldered by their ordinary people through their governments.”

Strings attached
The International Monetary Fund has announced it has approved a $156 million loan for Malawi, as a result of new president Joyce Banda’s policies, even though they may be exacerbating the country’s growing food crisis:

“Following the Board’s discussion of Malawi, Naoyuki Shinohara, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, issued the following statement:
‘Malawi’s new administration moved swiftly to devalue the kwacha, adopt a flexible exchange rate regime and liberalize current account transactions to address the country’s chronic balance of payment problems and improve the outlook for poverty reduction and growth.’

‘Tight control over non-priority spending will be needed to ensure that expenditures are aligned with the government’s priorities, including scaled up spending on social protection programs to mitigate the impact of adjustment measures on the poor.’ ”

Regulatory capture
The New York Times discusses a new book by Neil Barofsky, “the man whose job it was to police the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program”:

“ ‘There has to be wide-scale acknowledgment that regulatory capture exists, dominates our system and needs to be eradicated,’ Mr. Barofsky said in the interview.

‘We need to re-educate our regulators that it’s O.K. to be adversarial, that it’s not going to hurt your career advancement to be more skeptical and more challenging,’ he said. ‘It’s implicit in so much of the regulatory structure that if you don’t make too many waves there will be a job for you elsewhere. So we have to limit those job opportunities and develop a more professional path for regulators as a career. That way, they won’t always have that siren call of Wall Street.’
Mr. Barofsky’s assessment of his former regulatory brethren is crucial for taxpayers to understand, because Congress’s financial reform act — the Dodd-Frank legislation — left so much of the heavy lifting to the weak-kneed.”

Expanding footprint
MENAFN reports that Barrick Gold subsidiary African Barrick Gold is growing its operations beyond Tanzania, where controversies involving the company’s mines have included alleged toxic spills and fatal shootings, into Kenya with newly acquired exploration assets:

“Aviva’s Kenyan assets are located in the southwest corner of Kenya, about 300 kilometers northwest of Nairobi, near the border of Uganda and on the shores of Lake Victoria, it said.
‘This acquisition represents the first step in expanding our footprint outside of Tanzania and building our future growth pipeline,’ said Chief Executive Greg Hawkins. ‘The acquisition is an attractive entry into an under explored and highly prospective land package in a country bordering our existing operations.’ ”

Democratic calculus
Responding to a Human Rights Watch report condemning the current state of human rights in Venezuela, the Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie counters that in some instances, freedom of the press “can actually mitigate against progress for the majority poor”:

“Take the Murdoch empire, multiply it by about a thousand and you are somewhere close to how powerful the rightwing media is in Latin America. In [the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Mark] Weisbrot’s words the ‘unelected owners [of major media outlets] and their allies use their control of information to advance the interests of the wealth and power that used to rule the country’.
It is proven beyond doubt that the rightwing media was an active and key player in the 2002 coup that briefly removed [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chávez from power (see the brilliant documentary The revolution will not be televised). In such a context, reducing the rightwing media’s room for manoeuvre may be a crucial element in any plan to radically transform a country. (In the run-up to elections in October, Chavez has accused Venezuela’s privately owned media companies of bias towards the opposition and of ignoring his government’s achievements.) Where single-issue civil rights organisations see media crackdowns, what may be happening is an elected and popular government trying to implement the will of the people in the face of powerful business interests prepared to undermine democracy if need be.”

Fatal laws
Reuters reports that Mexican President Felipe Calderon has called America’s gun laws “mistaken” and is urging the US government to change them: 

“In comments posted on his Twitter account on Saturday, Calderon offered his condolences to the United States after a gunman went on the rampage with an assault rifle at a midnight premier of the new Batman film in Aurora, Colorado.
But Mexico’s president, who has repeatedly called on Washington to tighten gun controls to stop weapons flowing from the United States into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, said U.S. weapons policy needed a rethink after the killings.”

Fostering homophobia
The Guardian reports that US-based thinktank Political Research Associates is accusing American evangelical groups of attempting a “cultural colonisation” of Africa by opening offices across the continent to promote attacks on abortion and homosexuality.

“Entitled Colonising African Values: How the US Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, the study analysed data from seven African countries and employed researchers for several months in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
It identified three organisations it believes are aggressively targeting the continent: [televangelist Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice], the Catholic group Human Life International and Family Watch International, led by the Mormon activist Sharon Slater.
Each of these ‘frame their agendas as authentically African, in an effort to brand human rights advocacy as a new colonialism bent on destroying cultural traditions and values’, the report says.”

Latest Developments, June 14

In the latest news and analysis…

US bases in Africa
The Washington Post reports on America’s growing network of military bases in Africa:

“About a dozen air bases have been established in Africa since 2007, according to a former senior U.S. commander involved in setting up the network. Most are small operations run out of secluded hangars at African military bases or civilian airports.

The operations have intensified in recent months, part of a growing shadow war against al-Qaeda affiliates and other militant groups. The surveillance is overseen by U.S. Special Operations forces but relies heavily on private military contractors and support from African troops.”

Enemy’s enemy
Sahel Blog’s Alex Thurston points to a common feature among many of the African countries where the US has established military bases:

“In my view having bases in a country involves the US in (or exposes the US to, if you prefer) local politics, one way or another. US military involvement in local politics, including in Africa, is nothing new. But it is worth pointing out, time and again, that most of the key partner countries for the military in Africa are run by presidents/prime-ministers-for-life: Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi (in power since 1995), Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore (in power since 1987), Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni (in power since 1986), Djibouti’s Ismael Omar Guellah (in power since 1999), etc. The contradictions between such partnerships and stated US ideals of democracy promotion are now so familiar as to be hardly worth mentioning. A more pragmatic point may be that the stability won through decades of rule by one person or clique can often prove quite brittle when put to the test.”

America’s Africa strategy
But in the foreword to the “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa,” US President Barack Obama stresses America’s unwavering commitment to African democracy, the strengthening of which is one of the “four pillars” laid out in the new document:

“Our message to those who would derail the democratic process is clear and unequivocal: the United States will not stand idly by when actors threaten legitimately elected governments or manipulate the fairness and integrity of democratic processes, and we will stand in steady partnership with those who are committed to the principles of equality, justice, and the rule of law.”

Selective memory
Vanderbilt University’s Peter James Hudson argues that the “story of achievement, progress and world-uniting vision” being presented by Citigroup as it marks its 200th anniversary does not fit with the role played in Haiti by the banking giant back when it was called the National City Bank of New York:

“In 1914, [National City’s Roger Leslie] Farnham, who once described the Haitian people as ‘nothing but grownup children,’ drafted a memorandum for William Jennings Bryan — then U.S. secretary of state — arguing for military intervention as a way of protecting American interests in Haiti. Sending troops, Farnham insisted, would not only stabilize the country, but be welcomed by most Haitians.

For National City, the occupation provided ideal conditions for business, offering the bank the authority to reorganize Haitian finances just as Vanderlip had envisioned in 1909. By 1922, National City had secured complete control of Banque Nationale and floated a $16 million loan refinancing Haiti’s internal and external debts. Amortization payments were effectively guaranteed from Haiti’s customs revenue, and the loan contract was backed up by the U.S. State Department.”

Nature’s price
The World Bank’s Rachel Kyte writes about the growing enthusiasm for “natural capital accounting”:

“Many countries are looking beyond GDP to help them address the challenges undervaluing natural capital has created. What they need is a measure of a country’s wealth that includes all of its capital — produced, social, human, and natural capital.
In Botswana at the Summit for Sustainability in Africa this afternoon, 10 African countries endorsed the need to move toward factoring natural capital into systems of national accounting. By Rio +20, the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development, we hope to see 50 countries and 50 private corporations join this effort.”

Green capitalism
Inter Press Service reports on concerns that corporate lobbyists will co-opt sustainability discussions at the upcoming G20 summit in Mexico:

“It’s an agenda for investors,” Diana Aguiar, representative of the Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples (REBRIP), told IPS. “The idea is that natural resources won’t be preserved if no monetary value is put on them. This is a very mistaken premise. They see it as a business.

Fomenting free movement of green or sustainable products is one of the recommendations that Business 20 (B20) – which represents companies in the G20 bloc – set forth to the governments. The issue is to be discussed at the summit.
In a 102-page report on recommendations of the B20 task force, to which IPS had access, the business executives laid out suggestions on food security, green growth, employment, trade, investment, technology and innovation, and financing for growth and development.”

Trees as luxury goods
In a Q&A with Colorlines, environmental journalist Tim De Chant discusses his ‘income inequality, seen from space’ project:

“I had stumbled across a paper that spoke on how different income groups and neighborhoods showed what economists call ‘demand for trees.’ Wealthy people demand more trees, and have money to pay for them and the land needed. They found that for every one percent increase in income, the demand for trees increased by 1.76 percent. According to economists, this correlation reflects a luxury good. This was pretty disheartening. I don’t think trees should be a benefit reserved for the wealthy.”

Sustainable rights
In an interview with Inter Press Service, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay stresses the importance of factoring human rights into sustainable development strategies:

“For example, in recent years, we have seen that technocratic efforts towards sustainable development have excluded many communities from the process of decision-making, causing economic and social inequalities to be exacerbated and human rights to be sidelined.
Indigenous peoples have seen threats to their lands and livelihoods from some emission reduction schemes, scarce food-growing lands have sometimes been diverted for the production of biofuels, and massive infrastructure projects have resulted in the forced eviction and relocation of entire communities.”