Latest Developments, September 19

In the latest news and analysis…

French drone strike?
Xinhua quotes an anonymous “security source” as saying a French drone has killed six people in northern Mali, which if true, would be the first-ever drone killings by France:

“The source said that the Algerian army detected the drone, confirming that the strike took place near the border, on the Malian side.
The six combatants killed were allegedly plotting an attack against the military base at Tessalit, controlled since February by French and Chadian forces.” [Translated from the French.]

Welcome mat
Reuters report that on the same day as the alleged French strike, Niger’s foreign minister said he wanted armed drones to operate in his country:

“ ‘I would really welcome armed drones to shoot down drug traffickers, and all those who live from activities linked to drug trafficking. I don’t see why that shouldn’t be possible,’ [Mohamed Bazoum] said.”

Security state
The International Crisis Group has published a new report in which it expresses concern that Niger’s Western allies are pushing “a security strategy that has already shown its limitations elsewhere in the Sahel”:

“ ‘Niger has been included in security strategies that protect it but over which it has little influence’, says Jean-Hervé Jezequel, Crisis Group Sahel Senior Analyst. ‘Encouraged by its allies to upgrade its security apparatus, the Nigerien government has also substantially increased its military expenditure. But such a security focus could lead to a reallocation of resources at the expense of already weak social sectors’.
‘Rather than a security state, the people of Niger need a government that provides services, an economy that creates employment and a reinforced democratic system”, says Jonathan Prentice, Crisis Group’s Chief Policy Officer.”

Incoherent policy
The Guardian reports that a group of NGOs has accused the EU of breaking the law by letting European firms dodge “at least $100bn a year” in taxes owed to poor countries:

“The EU is the only region of the world to have a legally binding commitment to policy coherence for development, set out in the 2009 Lisbon treaty. Under the PCD, the aims of EU development co-operation should not be undermined by other EU policies on climate, trade, energy, agriculture, migration and finance.

On taxes, Concord calls on the European council – the group of EU leaders – to extend the automatic exchange of tax information among European countries to the developing world.”

Massacre cover-up
The Associated Press reports that a South African government commission investigating last year’s shooting deaths at the Marikana platinum mine has accused the police of lying:

“In a statement issued Thursday, the Marikana commission said it had to search computer hard drives of officers to discover documents about the 2012 shootings that riveted South Africa and recalled the worst excesses of the apartheid era.
The commission said documents show the police version of events at the platinum mine ‘is in material respects not the truth.’
The statement said the thousands of pages of new evidence include documents the police had previously said did not exist and material which should have been disclosed earlier by police.”

Small consolation
The Inquirer reports that Canada’s Barrick Gold is being accused of offering “crumbs” as compensation for a toxic spill in the Philippines:

“After nearly a decade of battling it out in a United States state court, the province of Marinduque has come close to signing a deal worth $20 million with the mining company that bought the firm being held responsible for unleashing toxic wastes into Marinduque’s Boac River in a case considered to be the country’s worst mining disaster.
The compensation offer of $20 million, however, is way below the $100-million claim for damages that the Marinduque government is demanding from Barrick in a 2006 lawsuit.

The amount, however, would further be reduced to $13.5 million after litigation expenses had been paid.”

Looming divorce
Reuters reports that African leaders will meet next month to discuss the future of the continent’s relationship with the International Criminal Court:

“So far there does not seem to be much support for it, but heads of state from the 54-member African Union (AU) may still discuss the possibility of a pullout by the 34 African signatories to the Rome Statute that created the tribunal.
Last week’s start of the trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto for crimes against humanity – with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial due in November – has fuelled a growing backlash against the Hague-based court from some African governments, which see it as a tool of Western powers.
‘The Kenyans have been criss-crossing Africa in search of support for their cause, even before their parliament voted to withdraw from the ICC,’ an AU official told Reuters.
‘An extraordinary summit will now take place to discuss the issue. A complete walk-out of signatories (to the Rome Statute) is certainly a possibility, but other requests maybe made.’”

House of cards
The Associated Press reports that Pope Francis has said he wants the Catholic church to become less fixated on “small-minded rules”:

“But his vision of what the church should be stands out, primarily because it contrasts so sharply with many of the priorities of his immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They were both intellectuals for whom doctrine was paramount, an orientation that guided the selection of a generation of bishops and cardinals around the globe.
Francis said the dogmatic and the moral teachings of the church were not all equivalent.
‘The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,’ Francis said. ‘We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.’ ”

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Latest Developments, April 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Mine on hold
The Globe and Mail reports that a Chilean court has ordered Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold to suspend construction on its “massive” Pascua-Lama project:

“Barrick stock fell 8.6 per cent to a new 52-week low of $24.81 per share on Wednesday after the appeals court said Pascua-Lama should be halted as it reviewed complaints by local communities that the project is polluting groundwater and rivers in the Atacama desert region, one of the driest areas on earth.

A court source in Chile told Reuters that the appeal could take several months, and the dispute will probably end up in the Chilean Supreme Court.

Set at about 5,500 metres above sea level, the project is being built at the peak of the Andes mountain range between Chile and Argentina and is at once lauded as an engineering feat and decried as an environmental scar on ancient and pristine glaciers.”

War without borders
Radio France Internationale reports that France’s three-month old military operations in Mali could spill over into other African countries:

“ ‘We can’t think “Mali.” We have to think “Sahel” and beyond,’ said a French general. ‘Armed groups are going to operate from other countries in the region. In Libya alone, there are nearly 300 katibas. We made the jihadis’ GPS boxes talk and found frequent return trips between the Adrar des Ifoghas and southwestern Libya via the Salvador Pass in northern Niger. What’s more, we overheard conversations at the start of our operation in which al-Shabaab in Somalia offered to help al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.’ ” [Translated from the French.]

Pakistan’s 99 percent
Foreign Policy’s John Hudson expresses concern over the recent revelation that 98.8 percent of people killed by US drones in Pakistan during the 12-month period ending in September 2011 were not senior al-Qaeda leaders:

“Some advocates of the drone program trust the administration’s judgment, and feel that the White House deeming targets dangerous — even if they had no association with al Qaeda — is sufficient. But for others, the McClatchy report may only confirm allegations that terror suspects are killed with an insufficient degree of background information and oversight.”

A lesser form of justice
The Washington Post reports that senior commanders in the US military could soon lose their “virtually unlimited authority to reduce or overturn” court-martial verdicts:

“Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, commended [Defense Secretary Chuck] Hagel but said the Pentagon needed to further reduce the power of senior commanders over the military justice system and give more authority to prosecutors and judges.
‘Unless pretrial decision making around investigation and prosecution of offenses is also removed from the hands of commanders and given to impartial prosecutors, military criminal justice will remain a lesser form of justice,’ she said.”

Who’s Dramane?
MaliWeb reports that Mali’s largest political party has picked Dramane Dembélé, a man who has worked for a number of foreign mining companies, as its presidential candidate in the national election scheduled for July:

“A mining consultant, he was national director of Geology and Mines from 2005 to 2010, head of a Mali-European Investment Bank mining project in 2004, and exploration geologist for private companies, such as CMCX, Barrick Gold and Pangea Goldfield.” [Translated from the French.]

Beyond MDGs
The Guardian reports that a group of European think tanks have said eradicating global poverty will require a broader approach than that of the Millennium Development Goals, which are set to expire in 2015:

“The report called on richer countries to collaborate in areas important to development such as international financial regulation, trade, migration and climate change. In a message to the EU in particular, the report called on member states to live up to the principle of policy coherence on development (PCD).
‘The concept of PCD is central, since it implies that all policies, and not merely development co-operation, should be conducive to development, eg policies in the areas of trade and investment or agriculture and fisheries should promote (or at the very least not thwart) development,’ said the report.”

Majority rules
Drawing on her recent experience of the Arms Trade Treaty talks, Oxfam’s Anna Macdonald argues that requiring consensus for international agreements is a recipe for paralysis:

“The requirement to reach consensus is in principle a means of protecting the rights and voices of even the smallest countries. It’s what can enable small island states and other vulnerable countries to stand their ground in the U.N. climate change negotiations. But too often the consensus rule works to protect the powerful, not the powerless. Big powers love consensus because it gives them veto power.

In a sudden about-face, the United States, the government that had insisted on consensus as the condition for its support throughout the [ATT] negotiating process, switched to calling for a vote as soon a possible.

This may not mean the United States now supports the majority process – but changing horses during the race meant the Americans could use the consensus process to get the text they wanted and then, by supporting the resolution [to take any blocked text to the General Assembly], they could ensure it went to a vote and passed.”

10 minutes
Transparency International drives home just how simple it can be for individuals to set up shell companies “in spite of global regulatory restrictions”:

“In fact, anyone with access to the internet can set up an offshore company. It takes about 10 minutes and consists of little more than a few sheets of paper and a few thousand dollars. This makes it too easy for corrupt individuals to hide their ill-gotten gains.”