Latest Developments, August 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Swiss segregation
The BBC reports that some Swiss towns are planning to ban asylum-seekers from “public places such as swimming pools, playing fields and libraries”:

“Asylum-seekers are to be housed in special centres, mainly former army barracks, and the first one has opened in the town of Bremgarten.

Roman Staub, mayor of the town of Menzingen, said asylum-seekers should be banned from ‘sensitive areas’ such as the vicinity of a school. ‘This is certainly a very difficult area, because here asylum-seekers could meet our schoolchildren – young girls or young boys,’ he said.
In Bremgarten, a church will also be off-limits to asylum-seekers.”

Plan of death
The Guardian reports on a consultation exercise intended as a “reality check” for the UN panel tasked with formulating the post-2015 successors to the Millennium Development Goals:

“Four groups were consulted, each comprising 10 to 14 people, including urban slum dwellers, people with disabilities, nomadic and indigenous people, and those from remote communities.

The most radical vision came from Brazil’s panel, which saw present patterns of development as tantamount to developing a ‘plan of death’ for the planet. The group proposed a so-called plan for global life emphasising the importance of dignity. ‘We understand dignity as the complete fulfilment of human rights and basic security in terms of housing, access to land, health, nourishment, education, transport and leisure,’ it said.”

Strike five
Reuters reports that the latest of a string of US drone strikes in Yemen, the fifth in less than two weeks, has killed “at least six” people:

“Witnesses and local officials in the province of Shabwa said the drone fired at least six missiles at two vehicles in a remote area some 70 km (50 miles) north of the provincial capital, Ataq. Both vehicles were destroyed.
Residents who rushed to the scene found only charred bodies, they said.”

More war
The Financial Times’ Geoff Dyer writes that US President Barrack Obama’s recent pledge to dial down his country’s so-called war on terror has been “largely shredded”:

“It is not clear that the terror threat, which appears to be focused on the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is a reason to double-down on the war on terror tactics.
Some observers believe the plot could be a sign of weakness of an al-Qaeda leadership that is desperate for a high-profile incident to boost its standing. Others suggest that the continued strength of AQAP is a form of blowback for the heavy US drone campaign in Yemen. While the targets of drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan have often been foreign fighters, in Yemen they have been aimed at locals with families and tribes.”

NGO sideshow
The School of Oriental and African Studies’ Michael Jennings argues that six-figure executive salaries are not the real problem with international charities:

“This latest furore is a distraction from what is a genuinely important point made in the Telegraph’s exposé: the need for transparency and openness in organisations that work in the development and humanitarian relief sector. Not just because they receive and spend hundreds of millions of pounds of public funds, but because their decisions affect the lives and prospects of some of the most marginalised people in the world.
There have been significant moves in recent years to make donors and recipient governments more transparent in their dealings. But given the amounts of money donors spend through NGOs, these organisations also need to be equally transparent: in terms of the money they receive, the evaluations of the projects and programmes they engage in, and their own dealings with governments, lobbyists, thinktanks and private sector companies. The best already do this. But transparency is too important to be left to best intentions.”

Bad business
Reuters reports that Guinea could invalidate an Israeli-owned company’s mining permits if its employees are found guilty of corruption:

“BSGR, the mining arm of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s business empire, is battling Guinea over the right to mine one of the world’s largest untapped iron-ore deposits, known as Simandou.
The Guinean government alleges that BSGR bribed officials and Mamadie Toure, the wife of former President Lansana Conte, to win permits, or titles, to develop the northern half of the deposit, a charge the company has repeatedly rejected.

U.S. authorities in January began investigating potential illegal payments made to obtain mining concessions in Guinea and transfers of those payments into the United States.”

Depicting Africa
Wronging Rights’ Amanda Taub calls for a simple, Bechdel-style test to be applied to films and TV shows set in Africa:

“The Bechdel test is a feminist movie evaluation tool introduced by cartoonist Alison Bechdel. To pass the test, a movie must (1) have two or more female characters, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about a topic other than a man. If a movie doesn’t pass the test, that’s a sign that it’s lacking in female characters, and/or just using them as emotional MacGuffins for the males around them. (Many, many movies do not pass this test.)
I think it’s about time for us to introduce an equivalent test for African characters: if a movie or TV show is set in Africa, then it should (1) have at least two African characters, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about a topic other than poverty, disease, or violent conflict.”

Surveillance dissident
Princeton University’s Richard Falk objects on a number of levels to mainstream US media’s “pro-government bias” in the ongoing Edward Snowden controversy:

“[F]irstly, by consistently referring to Snowden by the demeaning designation of ‘leaker’ rather than as ‘whistleblower’ or ‘surveillance dissident,’ both more respectful and accurate.

Thirdly, the media’s refusal to point out that espionage, the main accusation against Snowden, is the quintessential ‘political offense’ in international law, and as such is routinely excluded from any list of extraditable offenses.

Of course, Putin’s new identity as ‘human rights defender’ lacks any principled credibility given his approach to political dissent in Russia, but that does not diminish the basic correctness of his response to Snowden. There is a certain obtuseness in the American diplomatic shrillness in this instance. Snowden’s acts of espionage are pure political offense.”

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Latest Developments, May 1

In the latest news and analysis…

US in Mali
The Washington Post reports that the US has sent “a small number” of troops to Mali despite earlier promises not to do so:

“About 10 U.S. military personnel are in Mali to provide ‘liaison support’ to French and African troops but are not engaged in combat operations, said Lt. Col. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman. Twelve others are assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, the capital, he added.

Since the coup, there have been signs that some U.S. Special Operations forces have been deployed to Mali on undeclared missions. In April 2012, three U.S. soldiers were killed in a mysterious car crash in Bamako.
Last month, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) suggested that U.S. commandos were ‘taking action’ in Mali.”

Medical reinforcements
The BBC reports that the US has sent additional medical staff to its Guantanamo Bay prison to deal with a growing hunger strike among detainees:

“About 40 nurses and other specialists arrived at the weekend, camp spokesman Lt Col Samuel House said.
He said that 100 of 166 detainees were now on hunger strike, with 21 of them being force-fed through a tube.
The inmates are protesting against their indefinite detention. Most are being held without charge.”

As open as they want to be
Platts reports that Switzerland’s commodity traders are pushing the Swiss government to water proposed “transparency requirements” down to mere “voluntary principles”:

“The Swiss government has said it is at risk of reputational damage in the international community because of its role as a commodity trading hub, and in May last year set up an interdepartmental “platform” comprising the Swiss finance, foreign and economy departments to examine the role of commodity trading in the country.
Switzerland is home to the world’s biggest oil and other commodity trading houses, including oil traders Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura, Mercuria and Gunvor.”

Taking responsibility
Reuters reports that the UK’s Primark and Canada’s Loblaw have become the first two Western retailers to promise compensation for the families of victims of the collapsed garment factories that killed nearly 400 in Bangladesh last week:

“The collapsed complex housed a number of factories that made clothing for Western brands.

Loblaw has said it regularly conducts audits to ensure its garments are manufactured responsibly, but focuses on labor practices and not building construction.
Loblaw said it would issue updates as it developed details of its compensation plan.

Primark, owned by FTSE 100 company Associated British Foods , said on Monday that it was working with a local NGO to help victims of the disaster.
It pledged to provide long-term aid for children who lost parents, financial aid for the injured and payments to families of the victims.”

Swelling protests
The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian mining company Eldorado has triggered “something akin to civil war” in northern Greece:

“The first mobilizations against the expansion of the old mines in the Halkidiki peninsula, the birthplace of Aristotle in northeastern Greece, began in late 2011. That’s when Vancouver’s Eldorado Gold Corp. grabbed most of the local mining industry and unveiled plans for a €1-billion ($1.32-billion) development that would turn the recession-stricken region into a gold-producing powerhouse.
But development skeptics asked: At what cost to the environment, tourism and agriculture? They concluded that the massive project, smack in the middle of a part of Greece that could pass for Tuscany, would do more harm than good and took to the streets. ‘To live, you need, air, soil and water,’ explains Nina Karina, 50, an artist who opposes Eldorado. ‘This investment takes away all three from us.’ ”

NGO paradox
Plain Sense’s Fairouz El Tom argues that many of the world’s top 100 NGOs have a board make-up at odds with their stated mission:

“In different ways, the NGOs surveyed promote ideals of justice and social progress. Yet over half have board members who are affiliated with companies that invest in, or provide legal, marketing, or other services to the arms, tobacco and finance industries.”

Killing in the name
The New Yorker’s Steve Coll reviews two new books on ‘the return of Presidentially sanctioned assassinations’:

“But [Anwar] Awlaki’s case, troubling as it may be, raises a broader issue: the Administration’s refusal to disclose the criteria by which it condemns anyone, American or otherwise, to death. The information used in such cases is intelligence data rather than evidence; it is not subject to cross-examination or judicial review. Unanswered questions abound. Does the President require that intelligence used to convict a terror suspect in absentia be based on multiple sources, or is one sufficient? Must intercepts, photographs, or credible firsthand testimony be obtained, or can people be executed on the basis of hearsay from paid informants? How directly involved in violence must an individual be to receive a death sentence? At what point does a preacher’s hate speech warrant his being killed?”

Inflated claims
The Guardian reports on a new study that suggests aid figures reported by donor countries are “a very different thing” from the resources they actually transfer:

“Some donors, including Japan and Germany, receive hundreds of millions of dollars each year in interest repayments on the loans they give, said DI. In total, ‘if interest repayments are taken into account, the net resource flows associated with global [official development assistance] are approximately $5bn per annum lower than the reported total net ODA figure suggests,’ said a DI discussion paper this month.

Net ODA figures subtract repayments made by recipients, but, according to current OECD rules, only account for principal repayments. Instead, interest repayments are recorded only as a memo item in OECD statistics.”

Latest Developments, December 4

Traffic jam, Fraser Canyon, Canada

In the latest news and analysis…

Rehabilitation
The Guardian reports that the question of whether or not rich countries should compensate poor communities suffering from the effects of climate change has become “a major new issue” at the ongoing UN climate talks in Doha:

“The concept is new for both science and policy, say observers. In the past, the debate was about how poorer countries could adapt their economies to climate change and reduce, or mitigate, their emissions with assistance from rich countries.
But in a little-noticed paragraph in the agreement that came out of the Cancún, Mexico, talks in 2010, the need ‘to reduce loss and damage associated with climate change’ was recognised by all countries. In legal terms, that potentially opens the door to compensation – or, as the negotiators in Doha say, ‘rehabilitation’.”

Red line
The Washington Post reports that US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have again warned Syria’s government against deploying or using chemical weapons, without making it clear what they might do about it:

“The administration has never publicly spelled out how it would respond, but one option is an airstrike to destroy supplies before they can be weaponized. Once the chemicals were ready for deployment, however, airstrikes would no longer be viable as they could release deadly agents.

Syria is suspected to possess the world’s third-largest stockpile of chemical weapons after the United States and Russia.”

Euro drone
Wired reports that a number of European governments are hoping the inaugural test flight of the nEUROn is the first step towards the continent’s “future of flying killer robots”:

“In fact, the nEURON won’t actually join any European air forces. Much like the U.S. Navy’s stealthy X-47B — which, as David Cenciotti of The Aviationist  notes, the drone kinda resembles — it’s just a demonstrator aircraft, meant to show that European companies can successfully develop an attack-sized, stealthy unmanned plane. Concept proven, the follow-on aircraft will both evade radar and release air-to-ground missiles, the Euros hope, thereby putting them at the front of the pack in emerging drone technology.”

Selling children
Reuters reports that a trial has begun in Paris for employees of French NGO Zoe’s Ark that was accused of kidnapping children from Chad for adoption in France:

“They face up to 10 years in prison and 750,000 euros ($975,400) each in fines for fraud, for being an illegal intermediary in an adoption and for aiding foreign minors to stay illegally in France.
The trial, which is expected to last until mid-December, relates to the charity’s activities in France before its workers left for Chad. Over 350 French families were promised a child from Sudan’s conflict-ridden Darfur region and paid up to several thousand euros each in the expectation of adopting.”

Weapons footprint
The Global Post reports on the international impacts of the enthusiasm that America, as the world’s biggest importer and exporter of firearms, has for guns:

“The [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] says US companies increased production by 2 million between 2006 and 2010, bringing the total to nearly 5.5 million.
Three manufacturers produce about a quarter of that total. The top maker of pistols and rifles, Sturm, Ruger & Company, has facilities in Arizona and New Hampshire. Other major players include Smith & Wesson in Massachusetts, which produces the most revolvers, and Maverick Arms in Texas, the leading shotgun manufacturer.
Those companies also top the list of American firearms exporters, shipping about 110,000 guns, or 45 percent of total exports, in 2010.”

New politics
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues that the future welfare of the planet and its inhabitants depends on changing the prevailing distribution of political power:

“In other words, the struggle against climate change – and all the crises that now beset both human beings and the natural world – cannot be won without a wider political fight: a democratic mobilisation against plutocracy. This should start with an effort to reform campaign finance – the means by which corporations and the very rich buy policies and politicians.

But this is scarcely a beginning. We must start to articulate a new politics, one that sees intervention as legitimate, that contains a higher purpose than corporate emancipation disguised as market freedom, that puts the survival of people and the living world above the survival of a few favoured industries. In other words, a politics that belongs to us, not just the super-rich.”

Words of caution
The Associated Press reports that the head of US Africa Command has warned against a hasty military intervention in northern Mali, arguing “negotiation is the best way”:

“Army Gen. Carter Ham said that any military intervention done now would likely fail and would set the precarious situation there back ‘even farther than they are today.’

The African Union has been pressing the U.N. to take immediate military action to regain northern Mali, and Ham said that military intervention may well be necessary. But he said the African-led collaborative effort that has worked in Somalia may be the right model to use in Mali. That effort generally involves intelligence and logistical support from the United States, as well as funding and training, but the fighting is led by African nations and does not include U.S. combat troops on the ground.”

Defending squatting
The Open University’s Steven Rose puts a positive spin on squatters, who currently face hostile laws and public opinion in Europe but make up over 10 percent of the world’s population:

“These squat neighbourhoods are often referred to as slums, shanty towns, favelas or bidonvilles. They are often characterised as grim places, with poor sanitation, high crime rates, drug gangs, and other problems. But it’s often a misconception, says Robert Neuwirth, author of Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters. He spent two years living in slums in four of the world’s largest cities: Mumbai, Nairobi, Istanbul and Rio de Janeiro. ‘They’re not criminal enterprises. They’re not mafias,’ he says. ‘These are people, law-abiding citizens, workers. People who wait on the tables and clean the rooms in the tourist hotels. People help each other and take care of each other. These were wonderful places to live, once you step beyond the fact that they don’t have a sewer system.’

What the squatting dispute boils down to is a split between those who consider private property to be sacred, and those who would prioritise the right to shelter. Few people would happily forfeit a second home to squatters, but nor does it feel morally justifiable for a nation to have an estimated 930,000 empty homes while people sleep on the streets.”

Latest Developments, July 26

In the latest news and analysis…

ATT plea
Author and former child soldier Ishmael Beah makes the case for a strong Arms Trade Treaty – including controls on ammunition sales – as UN negotiations enter the final stretch:

“The treaty is not a panacea to end all violence, genocide and human rights abuses, but it is a colossal step in the right direction. It is also an important missing piece to end the rampant use of children in war and to significantly reduce violence and the number of lives lost in such conflicts. For the first time, it will set an international standard that governments and civil society can use to hold accountable those who sell weapons irresponsibly. It will also prevent the flow of weapons into lawless areas plagued by conflict by closing the many loopholes immoral businessmen now use to navigate with impunity.

As negotiators race this week to finish the text of the treaty, they must include measures to control the flow of ammunition. Weaponry is abundant in Libya, Mali and other conflict zones around the world, but oftentimes ammunition is in short supply.
Some of these weapons, such as AK-47s, are extremely durable. You can bury them, dig them up years later and start using them again. If we didn’t have access to ammunition during the war in Sierra Leone, the AK-47s would have been no more deadly than sticks, and we would have been unable to inflict tremendous violence simply by squeezing a trigger.”

War on drugs redux
The New York Times reports that the US is expanding its drug war into Africa, with “elite” counternarcotics training already underway in Ghana and the same planned for Nigeria and Kenya:

“ ‘We see Africa as the new frontier in terms of counterterrorism and counternarcotics issues,’ said Jeffrey P. Breeden, the chief of the D.E.A.’s Europe, Asia and Africa section. ‘It’s a place that we need to get ahead of — we’re already behind the curve in some ways, and we need to catch up.’

In May, William R. Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, a leading architect of the strategy now on display in Honduras, traveled to Ghana and Liberia to put the finishing touches on a West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative, which will try to replicate across 15 nations the steps taken in battling trafficking groups operating in Central America and Mexico.”

Jordan loan
Reuters reports the IMF has agreed to lend Jordan $2 billion, in part, to offset the costs of the Arab Spring:

“Meanwhile, tourism income and remittances from Jordanian workers abroad have been hit by the global economic slump and the unrest in the region. Government finances have been weakened by higher welfare spending to buy social peace during the Arab Spring, and by the cost of caring for refugees from Syria.
In an effort to cut its deficits, Jordan launched an austerity drive in May, raising fuel and electricity prices, imposing higher taxes on luxury goods and increasing corporate taxes on banks and mining companies.
But the government’s room for maneuver has been limited by the threat of unrest; Islamist and tribal opposition groups have held street protests against price rises, warning the authorities that austerity measures could trigger wider demonstrations and even civil disorder in impoverished areas.”

Bhopal Olympics
The Hindu reports that survivors of the Bhopal disaster are holding their own “Bhopal Special Olympics” in protest against Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the London Games, which kick off on Friday:

“The Bhopal Olympics, with the theme ‘From East India Company to the Dow Chemical Company’, will be held in a stadium right behind the abandoned Union Carbide factory that continues to leach carcinogenic chemicals in the local groundwater, causing birth defects in children even today.

The opening ceremony will draw attention to the many famines caused during the British rule in India, the mass hangings following the ‘first battle for Indian independence in 1857’, the massacre at Jalianwala Bagh in 1919 and last but not the least, to the support extended by the British Prime Minister to the Dow Chemical Company.”

Big bad pharma
The University of London’s Simon Reid-Henry and Deakin University’s Hans Lofgren condemn a “triple-pronged attack” from the West on India’s role as “global pharmacist”:

“It is not only the pharmaceutical industry that needs to be addressed but the continued and ruthless lobbying by western politicians to secure the profitability of their own industries.
We ought to be asking why governments in the rich world still seem happy to checkmate the lives of poor people to save their political skins. And why the pharmaceutical industry sees India as such a threat.”

Human rights rep
Xinhua reports that former Greek foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis has become the EU’s first-ever special representative for human rights:

“Lambrinidis’ tasks will mainly focus on strengthening EU values in the bloc and around the world.
While some analysts question the tangible effectiveness of such a position, the appointment was welcomed by EU institutions.”

NGO transparency
The Irish Examiner reports that Ireland’s government is considering extending the scope of freedom of information laws to cover non-public bodies that receive state funding, “such as sporting groups and charities”:

“The [government] spokesman said no set criteria had been agreed upon as to which non-public bodies would fall under the extended reach of the FOI laws.
However, it could include the level of funding provided to a body, the percentage of that funding within the body’s overall budget, whether the grants are provided annually as opposed to once-off and the nature of the functions provided by the body and the extent to which it provides a service to the public.”

Constructive vandalism
Oxfam’s Kate Raworth makes the case for rewriting economics into something less focused on GDP growth and monetized resource flows:

“So here’s a guerrilla campaign to make it happen. Anyone can do it because all you need is a pencil. Here’s the plan (umm, I have to say at this point, this is not Oxfam Policy…). Sneak into the bookshops, the libraries and classrooms, and into the office of every economics professor you know. Get out the macroeconomic textbooks and find that diagram. Take your pencil. Now draw in the environment. Draw in the unpaid care economy. Draw in social inequality.
With these few strokes, we could stick a great big spanner in the wheel of mainstream economic thinking. We’d save the next generation of economics students from having the wrong model of the world stuck in the back of their heads. And that would help save us all from another era of economic policymakers who unknowingly have the wrong model of the economy shaping their decisions.”

Latest Developments, May 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Creative accounting
The New York Times reports on the Obama administration’s controversial approach to labelling drone strike casualties.
“It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year [John] Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the ‘single digits’ — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.
But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low.”

Lagarde’s taxes
The Guardian reports that IMF head Christine Lagarde, who recently stirred controversy by bluntly suggesting that Greeks ought to pay their taxes, does not pay taxes.
“As an official of an international institution, her salary of $467,940 (£298,675) a year plus $83,760 additional allowance a year is not subject to any taxes.

According to Lagarde’s contract she is also entitled to a pay rise on 1 July every year during her five-year contract.”

Rules needed
Reuters reports that Oxfam is stepping up its calls for “legally binding global rules on weapon and ammunition sales” in the run-up to a UN conference aimed at establishing an international arms trade treaty.
“There are no internationally agreed rules governing global conventional weapons sales, the United Nations says, and Oxfam says there are more regulations applicable to the banana trade than to weapons.
The aid agency also said the estimated $4.3 billion annual global trade in ammunition is growing at a faster rate than the trade in guns and must be included in any arms treaty.

The United States, Syria and Egypt are among countries that have objected to the inclusion of ammunition controls in any global arms treaty, according to Oxfam.”

Avaaz ethics
The New Republic raises questions about NGO competition and self-promotion with an investigation of claims made by human rights group Avaaz about its role in Syria’s conflict.
“On the morning of February 28, the activist organization Avaaz reported that it had coordinated [photojournalist Paul] Conroy’s escape to Lebanon and that 13 activists within its network had been killed in the effort. ‘This operation was carried by Syrians with the help of Avaaz,’ read the press release. ‘No other agency was involved.’

A week after his escape, I called Conroy, who was recovering in a London hospital, to ask him about Avaaz’s role. ‘I can sum it up in one word,’ he said. ‘Bollocks.’ ”

Place premium
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny writes about the impact of the country where one lives on one’s earning power.
“So the overwhelming explanation for who is rich and who is poor on a global scale isn’t about who you are; it’s about where you are. The same applies to quality-of-life measures from health to education. And that suggests something about international development efforts: If there’s one simple answer to the challenge of global poverty, it isn’t more aid or removing trade and investment barriers (though those can all help). It’s removing barriers to migration.

Unfortunately, politicians don’t seem to care about whether people born on the wrong side of the tracks have the motivation to cross over, or how much the planet benefits when they do. Instead we’ve erected a huge electrified fence to keep people out. The evidence on the place premium suggests immigration restrictions are probably the greatest preventable cause of global suffering known to man.”

State capture
Queen’s University’s Toby Moorsom writes about the danger Africa’s mining boom poses to the continent’s fragile states.
“Capital is not withdrawing from Africa, but instead, the processes of extraction are becoming more obvious as the economic basis of societies are under severe strain.

The reason we need to worry about these mining investments is not simply because of the human rights violations, the displacement of populations and the pollution of land that accompany them. More than that, we need to be aware of the fact that mining increases the rewards for those forces able to capture the state – regardless of how they go about accomplishing it. Warlords have little need to control the productive activities; they just need to have some control over the proceeds – or at least portions of them.”

With friends like these
Jubilee Debt Campaign’s Nick Dearden argues the World Bank and IMF have played a significant role in the famine and malnutrition that periodically drag Niger into the international media spotlight.
“After many years, debt cancellation for Niger was seen, even by the IMF, as unavoidable. Debt relief allowed Niger to improve education and increase access to safe drinking water. But it came with strings. A 19% sales tax on basic foods and rapidly rising prices put food further out of the reach of ordinary people. The sale of emergency grain reserves, a policy that has already caused famine in Malawi in 2002, did further damage to the population’s vulnerability.
These policies fed into the 2005 famine, a crisis caused not primarily by natural catastrophe – food was available but unaffordable – but by an appalling set of policy decisions. Even during a crisis there was no let-up in economic dogma. The IMF told the Niger government not to distribute free food to those most in need.”

North-South divide
In an Inter Press Service Q&A, former Brundtland Commission staffer Branislav Gosovic says the traditional divide between rich and poor countries remains “deep and intense” on the eve of the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development, which he prefers to call Stockholm+40.
“It should not be surprising that developing countries are rather suspicious of the ultimate motivations and practical implications of the recently launched concept of ‘green economy’ and of the institutional moves to create a specialised agency on environment.

The other conflict, less visible to the eye, has to do with the nature of the dominant socioeconomic order, or paradigm, which is challenged globally as non-sustainable socially and environmentally. This conflict is present within the North and within the South. There has been little progress in practice on fundamental issues of this kind.”