Latest Developments, May 31

In the latest news and analysis…

Universal justice?
Following the 50-year sentence handed down by a court in The Hague to former Liberian president Charles Taylor, the Daily Beast reports on some of the different views held in the country he once ruled concerning Western-style justice.
“Just last week, controversy arose when a commissioner from the nation’s Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC) was quoted by media outlets as saying that the body would be forwarding names of Liberians to the International Criminal Court to be considered for prosecution.
Leroy Urey, chairman of the commission, said the statement did not reflect the view of the body. Commissioner Thomas Bureh, who was quoted in various Liberian media outlets, has stepped away from the comment and said that reconciliation should be Liberia’s primary focus.
According to a report by Front Page Africa, Mr. Urey accused Mr. Bureh of receiving bribes to make the statement: ‘I think Bureh has been tampered with by people in the erstwhile [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] and the international community, especially [the UN Mission in Liberia],’ said Mr. Urey, according to the report.”

Boomerang bailout
The New York Times reports that most of Greece’s bailout money is going right back to where it came from.
“The European bailout of 130 billion euros ($163.4 billion) that was supposed to buy time for Greece is mainly servicing only the interest on the country’s debt — while the Greek economy continues to struggle.
If that seems to make little sense economically, it has a certain logic in the politics of euro-finance. After all, the money dispensed by the troika — the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission — comes from European taxpayers, many of whom are increasingly wary of the political disarray that has afflicted Athens and clouded the future of the euro zone.
As they pay themselves, though, the troika members are also withholding other funds intended to keep the Greek government in operation.”

Right to Water
Embassy Magazine reports that “after years of opposition,” the Canadian government has said it plans to recognize the human right to water.
“In an interview, [Environment Minister Peter] Kent told Embassy that Canada is now willing to remove its request for the statement on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation to be deleted.
At the same time, he maintained that the right to water should not encompass ‘trans-boundary water issues or the export of water, or any mandatory allocation of international development assistance.’

Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN special rapporteur for the right to water, publicly condemned Canada for its stance in a speech on world water day, March 22.”

Pan-African vote
Press TV reports that the Pan-African parliament has chosen Bethel Amadi to be its new president, though the body’s powers remain strictly “consultative and advisory.”
“Already commentators have criticized it, saying that without being able to pass binding resolutions, the parliament risks becoming nothing more than a talkshop. The new president admits the step to achieve legislative powers is one of his biggest challenges…
In order to be ratified, the amendment must receive the support of 28 countries. The Pan-African Parliament is hopeful a tangible step in this direction will be taken at the African Union Heads of State meeting in Malawi in July.”

Executive maximum wage
Reuters reports that France’s new government aims to unveil next month its plans to impose a relative cap on the salaries of top executives at state-controlled companies.
“Elected this month promising to curb the privileges enjoyed by France’s wealthy and powerful, Socialist President Francois Hollande pledged during campaigning to limit senior executives’ salaries to a maximum of 20 times that of their lowest-paid employee.

While restricted to state-controlled firms, the French pay limit could affect a number of listed companies including nuclear power plant builder Areva and utility EDF.”

Drone survivors
Harper’s provides a series of statements made by families of victims and survivors of a 2011 US drone strike in Pakistan’s North Waziristan.
“The men who died in this strike were our leaders; the ones we turned to for all forms of support. We always knew that drone strikes were wrong, that they encroached on Pakistan’s sovereign territory. We knew that innocent civilians had been killed. However, we did not realize how callous and cruel it could be. The community is now plagued with fear. The tribal elders are afraid to gather together in jirgas, as had been our custom for more than a century. The mothers and wives plead with the men not to congregate together. They do not want to lose any more of their husbands, sons, brothers, and nephews. People in the same family now sleep apart because they do not want their togetherness to be viewed suspiciously through the eye of the drone. They do not want to become the next target.”

Spear’s silver lining
The Centre for the Study of Democracy’s Steven Friedman argues that the controversy over a painting depicting South African President Jacob Zuma’s genitals will have done some good if it leads to an acknowledgment of the sense of frustration among many that “minority rule is still with us.”
“[The solution] rests, rather, in recognising that the attitudes that made apartheid possible have not disappeared and that those who were powerful then still are — not in politics, perhaps, but in the economy, in the professions and in our cultural life. To name but one example — despite constant complaints about affirmative action, research shows that it is still harder for black graduates to get work than it is for their white counterparts.
While the row over the painting seems like a diversion, there is nothing trivial about a widespread sense that black people still do not enjoy the respect and access to opportunities due to citizens of a democracy. There is no more important issue than the charge that we are not overcoming our past.”

World Bank transparency
Global Financial Integrity “applauded” the World Bank for committing to the public disclosure of its decisions regarding sanctions against companies and individuals over allegations of fraud and corruption.
“ ‘Knowing which companies have been debarred is helpful, but understanding why a company has been debarred is critical in the fight against fraud and corruption.  The methods used by companies and individuals, who are defrauding the World Bank, are methods used to defraud governments, businesses, and individuals globally,’ [said GFI’s Heather Lowe.]”