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, May 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Thriving havens
The Guardian reports on a new study suggesting the G20’s attempted crackdown on tax havens has “largely failed” so far.
“Despite unprecedented action from political leaders, and a blizzard of bilateral co-operation treaties entered into by offshore centres, deposit data from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) shows bank accounts in tax havens still held $2.7tn (£1.7tn) last year – about the same amount as in 2007.

However, [the study’s authors, Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman] also noted that those withdrawing deposits around the time of co-operation treaties – possible tax evaders – were frequently shifting their wealth to other, similarly secretive, offshore centres where no such equivalent treaty existed.”

With donors like these…
Inter Press Service reports on a new Center for Economic and Policy Research paper that suggests policies being prescribed by the IMF and other donors could send Jamaica’s economy into a downward spiral.
“Jamaica is currently paying more debt interest than any other country, including those in Europe that have been reeling under the near collapse of the euro. In total, the island owes around 18 billion dollars.
‘Pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, implemented under the auspices of the IMF, damaged Jamaica’s recent and current economic prospects,’ the report warns.
‘This policy mix risks perpetuating an unsustainable cycle where public spending cuts lead to low growth, exacerbating the public debt burden and eventually leading to further cuts and even lower growth.’ ”

Climate investment
The Financial Times reports on a new initiative that will ask the world’s 1,000 biggest institutional investors to report on their portfolio’s carbon footprint.
“Julian Poulter, executive director of the [Asset Owners’ Disclosure Project], says these investors manage more than $52tn, ‘and of this less than 2 per cent is invested in low carbon assets, while 50-60 per cent is invested in high carbon assets, whether that’s in energy, transport, agriculture, mining or property’.

‘The AODP is the last piece in the puzzle. The [Carbon Disclosure Project] has done a lot to generate a database of emissions and investors signed up to the [UN] Principles for Responsible Investment are demonstrating their intent to invest sustainably,’ Mr Poulter says. ‘What is missing is the driver that will make asset owners implement better investment practices. It is really important that we have some measurement of what the owners are doing.’ ”

Destroyed tapes
The BBC speaks to former senior CIA official Jose Rodriguez about his decision to destroy video documentation of his agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Three days after the tapes had been shredded, a CIA memorandum, since released under America’s Freedom of Information Act, reported comments by Jose Rodriguez:
‘As Jose said, the heat from destroying [the tapes] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes got into the public domain – he said that out of context they would make us look terrible – it would be devastating to us. All in the room agreed.’
I put this to Rodriguez and he was typically upfront about it.
‘I said that, yes. If you’re waterboarding somebody and they’re naked, of course that was a concern of mine.’

Questionable friends
The Guardian reports on an upcoming parliamentary inquiry into the British government’s “involvement in supporting dubious practices overseas” over the last 40 years.
“The bosses of the world’s biggest multinational defence and oil companies, including BAE Systems and BP, will be asked to account for why hundreds of millions of pounds of government money was used to help military dictators build up their arsenals, and facilitated environmental and human rights abuses across the world.

The inquiry has no legal power to force industry executives or former politicians to provide evidence.”

IP’s uncertain future
Intellectual Property Watch reports that members of the World Intellectual Property Organization are engaged in a struggle to shape the UN agency’s “development orientation.”
On the first day [of WIPO’s Committee on Development and Intellectual Property meeting], an attempt was made again by developing countries to create a permanent agenda item on “IP and development,” which developed countries again resisted on the grounds that it is repetitive with the title of the committee itself. But developing countries’ concern is that broader issues of IP and development do not have a place in a committee that spends most of its time working through specific projects. They have raised this issue for several years.

Medical impartiality
Roehampton University’s Martin Stanton asks how it is that Briton Khalil Dale could have been kidnapped and killed, not in spite of his being a humanitarian worker, but because of it .
“First of all, the US Anti-Terror Law judges the provision of medical aid to ‘terrorists’, or negotiation with ‘terrorists’ to gain access to wounded, starving or destitute civilians, to constitute a major criminal offence. This has actively removed any identifiable ‘neutral’ status for doctors, nurses or allied health professionals in battlefield, conflict or famines zone. You are either for the ‘terrorists’ or against them.

It is alarming indeed to contemplate that troops might open fire on ambulances and hospitals, but it is truly terrifying to observe the covert removal of the basic human right of everyone to receive healthcare, irrespective of their social, religious, financial or political status.”

RIP Poco
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi argues the Arab Spring marked the end of postcolonialism.
“These uprisings have already moved beyond race and religion, sects and ideologies, pro- or anti-Western. The term ‘West’ is more meaningless today than ever before – it has lost its potency, and with it the notion, and the condition, we had code-named postcoloniality. The East, the West, the Oriental, the colonial, the postcolonial – they are no more. What we are witnessing unfold in what used to be called ‘the Middle East’ (and beyond) marks the end of postcolonial ideological formations – and that is precisely the principal argument informing the way this book discusses and celebrates the Arab Spring. The postcolonial did not overcome the colonial; it exacerbated it by negation. The Arab Spring has overcome them both.”