Latest Developments, August 15

In the latest news and analysis…

GMO fail
The Food & Environment Reporting Network’s Tom Laskawy writes that a supposedly worm-resistant seed developed by agri-business giant Monsanto is “basically backfiring” in the drought-hit American Midwest:

“Historically, farmers managed corn rootworms through traditional crop rotations. These rootworms eat corn exclusively, so by alternating a corn crop with soy or another alternative, farmers would deprive the insects of food and the rootworm larvae would die off. This, by the way, is an age-old technique (originally part of the Native American Three Sisters agricultural tradition) that generates profits only for the farmer — not for seed companies.
Indeed, this abandonment of crop rotation was the other ‘innovation’ of Monsanto’s Bt corn — aside from releasing its own pesticide, that is. Farmers could now grow corn season after season in the same field. At the time, it seemed like an amazing development to farmers across the country — and remains so to starry-eyed, tech-loving politicians and industry representatives.”

Reining in private security
Inter Press Service reports on the latest international attempts to make so-called private military security contractors accountable for their actions:

“The [UN] draft Convention on PMSCs identifies a set of inherent state functions, including detention, interrogation and intelligence that private companies could not perform.
The fact that major clients of PMSCs – most notably the U.S. and the U.K. – have employed contractors for a number of these functions poses questions about whether these states would back regulation that curtails their ability to outsource the use of force.
‘It’s a pie in the sky,’ according to [the trade association International Security Operations Association’s Doug] Brooks.
Instead, he is rallying his troops around the International Code of Conduct, which brings together stakeholders from industry, government and civil society in an effort to create a gold standard for industry providers who voluntarily commit themselves to abiding by the Code.”

Fracking omissions
Bloomberg investigates the effectiveness of a “voluntary website that oil and gas companies helped design amid calls for mandatory disclosure”:

“Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight U.S. states from April 11, 2011, when FracFocus began operating, through the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gaps reveal shortcomings in the voluntary approach to transparency on the site, which has received funding from oil and gas trade groups and $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Suggested fine
Bloomberg also reports that a Nigerian government agency wants oil giant Chevron to pay $3 billion over a deadly explosion that caused a 46-day fire earlier this year, just as a new spill has been spotted near an offshore Exxon facility:

“ ‘Having looked at the relevant literature and what happens in other countries, we recommended a fine of $3 billion for Chevron,’ National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency’s Director-General Peter Idabor said in an interview in Abuja, the capital, yesterday. For now, the planned penalty is only a suggestion and ‘still not conclusive’ as it requires the approval of lawmakers and President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, he said.

NOSDRA is also investigating a seven-week gas leak that started on March 20 at the Obite field operated by Total SA (FP)’s Nigerian unit to determine appropriate penalty, Idabor said. The agency had suggested to the government in July that Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) pay a $5 billion fine for an oil leak in December from its offshore Bonga field that caused the country’s worst spill in more than a decade. Shell said less than 40,000 barrels leaked.”

Banks on a diet
The Financial Times reports the number of European banks that are “either discontinuing investment funds linked to food commodities or ceasing to issue new ones” now stands at five:

“Food campaigners welcomed the steps, but said that banks needed to do far more. ‘Great news – but they are still keeping their investment vehicles on oil,’ said Christine Haigh of the World Development Movement, one of the most vociferous critics of speculation in commodities.
However, bankers said that the move was not an admission that speculation drives food commodity prices up but an attempt to protect their reputation amid fierce criticism.”

Redefining blood diamonds
IDEX Online reports that the Kimberley Process is considering new definitions of “conflict” to serve as a guideline for regulating the international diamond trade:

“The FAQ goes on to clarify that ‘Such a definition would not apply to individual or isolated cases. Neither would this apply to violence that is unrelated to diamonds.’
This clarification is apparently in response to concerns by countries worried that internal issues may be used as an excuse to exclude them from KP on political grounds. Among them are most large diamond countries – Russia, China, Israel and most African countries – all mine, trade or manufacture rough or polished diamonds.”

African drone war
Wired reports that it is now possible to “begin to define — however vaguely — the scope and scale” of America’s use of drones in Somalia:

“It took a surprise — and ultimately doomed — invasion of Somalia by regional power Ethiopia to open the door for a stronger U.S. presence in East Africa. American commandos followed along behind the Ethiopian tank columns as side-firing AC-130 gunships provided lethal top cover.
Where once the small U.S. force in East Africa had relied mostly on a single large base in Djibouti, just north of Somalia, in the wake of the Ethiopian blitz American bases sprouted across the region. The CIA and American security contractors set up shop alongside a U.N.-backed peacekeeping force at the shell-crated international airport in Mogadishu. American contractors quietly carved a secret airstrip out of a forest in Arba Minch, Ethiopia. Under the guise of tracking Somali pirates, the Pentagon negotiated permission to base people and planes on the Indian Ocean island nation of the Seychelles.
Soon all these bases would support drone aircraft being churned out at an accelerating rate by the U.S. aerospace industry.”

Feminism as counterterrorism
New York University’s Vasuki Nesiah writes that “security feminism” has become an increasingly integral, and not altogether unproblematic, part of US foreign policy over the last decade:

“Bringing a feminist agenda to foreign policy has been a fraught initiative. Indeed, those strands of feminism that have invested in the ‘securitizing’ project have done more to condemn feminism than redeem foreign policy. Foreign policy has been inextricably tied to the politics of counterterrorism and empire, so it is not surprising that such efforts towards convergence have been deeply troubled. The task of the moment is not formulating a common ‘feminist’ agenda. Rather we need to analyze the stakes of the national security paradigm and highlight divergences within feminisms.”

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Latest Developments, July 27

In the latest news and analysis…
 
Things left unsaid
Reuters reports on the commander of US Africa Command’s assessment of the current situation in Northern Mali and the role he sees for his country’s military within that context:

“[General Carter] Ham repeated U.S. offers to broadly assist regional efforts to try to resolve Mali’s crisis, which has displaced around 420,000 people, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
But he said putting U.S. troops on the ground could be counterproductive and refused to comment on the possibility of Washington using drones for air strikes similar to those carried out on militant targets in Yemen or Pakistan.”
 
Feeling fine
Reuters also reports that a Mexican investigation into HSBC’s “lax controls against money laundering” has ended with a fine that amounted to 0.16 percent of the bank’s 2011 profits:

“Last week, a [US] Senate panel alleged that HSBC acted as a financier to clients routing funds from the world’s most dangerous places, including Mexico, Iran and Syria, doing regular business in areas tied to drug cartels, terrorist funding and tax cheats.
The Senate report slammed a ‘pervasively polluted’ culture at the bank and said between 2007 and 2008, HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7 billion into the bank’s U.S. operations.”
 
Fishing deal
Agence France-Presse reports that, after 15 months of negotiations, the EU and Mauritania have signed a new accord on access for European fishing boats to Mauritanian waters:

“The EU will contribute an annual 113 million euros ($138 million) in financing to Mauritania’s fishing industry, up from the 76.5 million it gave under the previous accord, [Mauritanian negotiator Cheikh Ould Baya] said.
That four-year protocol agreement on fishing will expire Tuesday.

According to official statistics, the fishing sector represents over 20 percent of budget revenue and employs more than 36,000 people in Mauritania.”
 
Climate complicity
New York University’s Alex Evans explains what he meant when he tweeted earlier this week that Greenpeace was “part of the problem rather than part of the solution”:

“Land grabs aren’t just happening on the ground in poor countries around the world; they’re happening in the sky as well. Consider this: the global carbon market was in 2010 worth $142 billion. That’s $13 billion more than total global aid flows in the same year. A hugely valuable new asset class has been created – literally out of thin air. And low income countries haven’t been given any. Despite the fact that their per capita emissions are a tiny fraction of everyone else’s.
Meanwhile, as richer countries keep pumping out the emissions, the size of the carbon budget that we’ll have to share out once we do finally decide to talk about it, keeps getting a little smaller every day. And, breathtakingly, this approach is described by Greenpeace and others as fair.”
 
Dodging Robin Hood
Bloomberg reports on some of the ways investors are likely to try to avoid France’s new financial transaction tax, which is set to take effect next week and whose revenues will go towards AIDS research:
 
“To escape the tax, many institutional investors will turn to so-called contracts for difference, or CFDs, offered by prime brokers that let them bet on a stock’s gain or loss without owning the shares. Traders have used it successfully to skirt the U.K.’s stamp duty.

Those who want to stay invested in France will find a way to avoid paying the tax, said Sam Capital’s Dietmar Schmitt.
‘There will be enough options to avoid the stamp duty in France,’ he said. ‘There are many loopholes. The people who are making the laws don’t understand the business.’ ”
 
Imperial crimes
In the wake of the British government’s admission that Kenyan prisoners were tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion, independent journalist Emanuel Stoakes calls on Britain to acknowledge its “many imperial crimes” or stop pretending to care:
 
“But all that happened in the past, and Britain has progressively behaved in a more civilised manner, many would argue. This may be broadly true, despite the dirty tricks evinced in the 2009 cable. Nonetheless, in responding to the Mau Mau case the UK has an opportunity to demonstrate its growing commitment to human rights as a moral, not just a policy-based, obligation. By showing some rare magnanimity, to echo the sentiments of Bishop Tutu on the subject, the UK can somehow begin to apologise for its past. By contrast, to deploy legal technicalities or to claim that too much time has passed would be to yet again fall back on expedient cruelties to avoid doing what is right.
Yet that latter, ignoble choice appears to be the one that Britain has once again taken: representing the government, Barrister Guy Mansfield QC argued without irony that for the plaintiff’s case to proceed to trial would be ‘contrary to principle and the balance of fairness.’ Astonishing.”
 
Legal hoops
Legal Times reports that US federal lawyers are contending with legal obstacles in attempting to revive the prosecution against former Blackwater employees they believe “wrongly killed” at least a dozen Iraqi civilians in 2007:
 
“A federal judge in December 2009 dismissed the government’s high-profile, controversial manslaughter case, saying that the prosecution was unlawfully built on protected statements that the guards made after the shooting. The prosecution, [trial judge Ricardo] Urbina concluded, was tainted with information that the prosecutors should never have used.

The big issue in the case remains this: keeping the prosecution team walled off from any protected, confidential information the Blackwater guards provided after the shooting.
An assistant U.S. attorney, John Crabb Jr., is on the so-called ‘filter team,’ reviewing evidence and witness statements before the trial prosecutors can review the material. Prosecutors and filter team lawyers and investigators recently returned from Iraq. There, prosecutors did not interview witnesses before filter team members spoke with them, Crabb said.”
 
Extracting transparency
European parliamentary advisor Benjamin Fox argues that British Prime Minister David Cameron is not following through on the commitments he made in last year’s Nigerian speech on greater extractive industry transparency:
 
“The perversity of the government’s position is that developing nations would need far less aid if they were allowed to get a decent chunk of revenue from exploiting their own resources. Today, even in a climate where there are no reporting requirements for extractive companies, Africa’s income from its resources is six times the amount it receives in aid.
On political, economic and moral grounds, the case for project-by-project reporting is unarguable. We should be able to see where extractive companies are operating, whether they are paying a fair price and whether governments are selling their people short by giving their country’s mineral wealth away too cheaply.”

Latest Developments, July 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Debt speculation
The Guardian reports that the UK’s privy council has ruled that a “vulture fund” cannot collect $100 million on a DR Congo debt that was, before interest, a thirtieth of that amount:

“In an attempt to skirt British law, which bans ‘vulture funds’ from buying poor nations’ debts on the cheap before suing them for 10-100 times the amount paid, [FG Hemisphere’s Peter] Grossman took the case to Jersey, a crown dependency not covered by the UK law.

Before turning to the Jersey loophole, Grossman’s company had unsuccessfully tried to seize the DRC’s embassy in Washington as a downpayment on the debt.”

Fatal strike
The Globe and Mail reports Canadian-based First Quantum Minerals has temporarily shut down operations at a copper and gold mine in Mauritania due to an “illegal strike” that has already claimed the life of one worker:

“According to local reports, demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the Guelb Moghrein mine over the weekend as workers demanded better pay and conditions. One worker died in the clashes, although further details about the circumstances were muddied amid differing reports.”

Dogs of war
The Daily Maverick reports that a leaked UN document accuses private security companies of violating international arms embargoes against Somalia and Eritrea:

“During the course of the [UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea]’s mandate, this highly profitable business has expanded beyond the provision of armed escorts to the leasing of arms, ammunition and security equipment, and the establishment of ‘floating armouries’ that operate in international waters beyond the remit of any effective international regulatory authority. PMSCs are currently holding approximately 7,000 weapons in circulation, which are either owned or leased.”

Deposed despots beware
Reuters reports that the International Court of Justice is expected to hand down a ruling on Friday that could create new legal obligations for countries with exiled former dictators residing on their territory:

“The ruling could worry former rulers like Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president overthrown in January 2011 at the start of the Arab Spring and now in exile in Saudi Arabia.
But it could also deter other leaders facing mounting violence at home, such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, from going into exile despite promises or guarantees of amnesty.
‘If Belgium is successful, it will mean that third states would be able to oblige states on whose territory an accused war criminal resides to either prosecute such persons or extradite them to a state which can and wishes to prosecute,’ Malcolm Shaw, a law professor at Cambridge University, said in an email.”

Easing pressure
The Independent reports that the UK government is proposing to relax EU sanctions against Zimbabwe, whereas opposition MP Peter Hain is calling for more sanctions:

“Mr Hain said: ‘Let us be clear: Zimbabwean military-controlled blood diamonds are now sold within the EU and almost certainly within the UK, appearing on wedding rings. It is time for jewellery companies to stop hiding behind the façade of the Kimberley Process [to stop diamonds being used to finance military activity] and take responsibility for their own supply chains.’ ”

Let’s make a deal
Reuters reports the US wants a new trade deal with the 5-nation East African Community, comprising Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi:

“[US deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs Michael] Froman said the proposal by Obama for a new trade deal was meant to encourage [growing investment in East Africa] and support further EAC integration. The deal would seek to guarantee American investors that they would be treated fairly and that their investments would be secure.
‘It calls for a focus on trade facilitation to reduce the bottlenecks at the border, such as moving to a single border clearance and harmonising customs documentation, to reduce delays and unnecessary costs,’ he said.”

Watering down the ATT
Embassy Magazine reports that opposition MPs are accusing the Canadian government of trying to sabotage the Arms Trade Treaty, currently under negotiation at the UN, by adding loopholes:

[NDP trade critic Don Davies] and other treaty supporters point to the Harper government’s desire not to include the mandatory tracking of ammunition, or detailed reporting on high-volume trades. They say another example of Canada’s attempts to gum up the treaty is Canada’s suggestion that no new money go to the UN to police the agreement’s implementation.

Mr. Davies attended the first week of negotiations in New York, and said foreign delegations frequently asked him why Canada was trying to weaken the treaty by pushing for ammunition and other items to be exempt.
‘I got a lot of questions on Canada’s official position that not every transaction be recorded,’ he said. ‘They asked how we saw an effective arms trade treaty if from the outset, and by design, there are loopholes built into it.’ ”

Transparency hype
Using the example of Angola, Oxford University’s Ricardo Soares de Oliveira warns that transparency reforms can amount to little more than “upgrades of the status quo”:

“The contribution of the IMF and a number of Angolan technocrats towards macro-economic reform is undeniable. What is missing from the IMF’s assessment is the fact that the reforms have had next to no impact on the elite’s approach to development and the real lives of the poor.
tA lesson of the Angolan reform trajectory is self-evident yet frequently forgotten: transparency is merely a means to an end. By itself the transparency agenda is a technocratic exercise that savvy governments can easily game. You can have an oil-rich state tick all the boxes and come out on the other side without this having any implications whatsoever for the nature of governance and broad-based development.”

Latest Developments, July 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Drums of war
Reuters reports that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said a foreign military intervention in Mali is “probable” now that Islamist forces appear to be in control of the country’s north:

“ ‘In the north, at one moment or another there will probably be the use of force,’ Fabius said, noting that intervention would be African-led but supported by international forces.

Fabius said Paris would not lead a military intervention since its colonial past in the country would complicate matters.”

Export responsibility
The Guardian reports that a British parliamentary committee is calling on the government to alter its arms export policy so as to avoid selling military equipment to repressive regimes:

“Under the government’s own guidelines, licences cannot be issued if there is a clear risk that the equipment might provoke conflict or could be used to facilitate internal repression.
Records for last year show 97 licences were granted for sales to Bahrain for equipment including assault rifles, sniper rifles, body armour, gun silencers, shotguns, pistols, weapons sights and small arms ammunition.”

Outsourcing peacekeeping
Global Policy Forum has released a report detailing the UN’s growing reliance on private military and security companies, with an estimated 250% increase in field missions’ use of security services since 2006:

“In the absence of guidelines and clear responsibility for security outsourcing, the UN has hired companies well-known for their misconduct, violence and financial irregularities – and hired them repeatedly. These include DynCorp International, infamous for its role in a prostitution scandal involving the UN in Bosnia in the 1990s and, more recently, its participation in the US government’s “rendition” program; G4S, the industry leader known for its violent methods against detainees and deported asylum seekers; ArmorGroup, a G4S subsidiary singled out in a US Senate report for its ties to Afghan warlords; and Saracen Uganda, an offshoot of notorious mercenary firm Executive Outcomes with links to illegal natural resources exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Collateral damage
The New York Times asks if the killing of Osama Bin Laden may have come at the cost of the “global drive to eradicate polio”:

“In Pakistan, where polio has never been eliminated, the C.I.A.’s decision to send a vaccination team into the Bin Laden compound to gather information and DNA samples clearly hurt the national polio drive. The question is: How badly?
After the ruse by Dr. Shakil Afridi was revealedby a British newspaper a year ago, angry villagers, especially in the lawless tribal areas on the Afghan border, chased off legitimate vaccinators, accusing them of being spies.
And then, late last month, Taliban commanders in two districts banned polio vaccination teams, saying they could not operate until the United States ended its drone strikes. One cited Dr. Afridi, who is serving a 33-year sentence imposed by a tribal court, as an example of how the C.I.A. could use the campaign to cover espionage.”

Drone sales
Al-Monitor reports that the US Defense Department is looking to “boost profits for US manufacturers” by selling drones to Middle Eastern governments:

“In May, Iraq agreed to buy at least six unarmed US surveillance drones despite the protests from Iran. Turkey currently is haggling with the US for the purchase of $4 million hunter-killer Predator or $30 million Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs for use against the guerrillas of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party).

In a statement, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said ‘There are some technologies that I believe should not be shared with countries, regardless of how close our partnership.’
But in a speech at the US Institute for Peace last month (June 28), [US Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta said he would press for loosening the restrictions on arms sales, with or without the support of Congress.”

Leading from the sidelines
The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny makes his case for the US to allow a strong Arms Trade Treaty at the final UN negotiations which are currently underway:

“The silver lining is that a consensus approach that brings in all major players may not actually be necessary to make progress. The U.S., Russia, and China have yet to sign the 1997 landmine ban treaty, for example. Yet the treaty is largely responsible for a dramatic decline in the number of mines being used and the number of people being killed or injured by them.

So it would be better for the U.S. to shoot blanks and negotiate for a strong document that includes ammunition—even if everyone at the table understands it won’t sign the resulting agreement. If the U.S. wants to show leadership on stopping the global arms trade, the best thing it can do at this point is get out of the way.”

Shared responsibility
In the wake of the deaths at sea of 54 African migrants earlier this week, a Dutch politician is calling on European governments to take collective action to avoid future tragedies:

“ ‘Governments in Europe, and not only in the countries on the southern shores of Europe, must react, and take an equal share in the protection of asylum seekers arriving from Africa,’ said Tineke Strik, author of a report on ‘Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is responsible?’

‘It is still not safe in Libya and the boats will continue to arrive. Europe knows that.’ ”

Illegitimate roadmap
Independent consultant Ahmed Egal argues that British “nation-building” efforts in Somalia are not designed to provide the Somali people with a legitimate and representative government:

“For example, the intelligentsia are frustrated and deeply unhappy that, despite all the pious statements about the Somali ownership of the Roadmap at the various conferences, an illegitimate, externally financed and externally-driven process is being imposed upon them. The political elite (and their business community backers), comprising warlords, present and past ‘government officials’ and Diaspora carpet baggers, are girding up for the auction of political posts and ministerial seats as they eagerly anticipate the flow of riches and patronage to come. The vast majority of the long suffering population of Somalia, however, are apathetic about the entire enterprise since they have no say in the proceedings; they just desperately hope that some semblance of normalcy can be restored, even if they can hardly recognise it should it somehow arrive.”

Latest Developments, January 31

In the latest news and analysis…

PMC impunity
David Isenberg, author of Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq, argues that even after high-profile scandals in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the mechanisms for dealing with sexual violence committed by private military contractors (PMCs) remain toothless.
“What should be done in the future? [University of Illinois graduate student Angela] Snell calls for a three-fold solution: First, victims should file complaints against the United States in international courts, under the theory that the United States is liable for its contractors’ acts, because it has condoned them by failing to punish them and even actively discouraging their prosecution; second, victims should sue individual perpetrators in the United States under the [Alien Tort Statute], both to compensate victims and to deter contractors from future violence; third, and finally, the United States must act to close the jurisdictional gap that allows PMCs to escape prosecution by signing and supporting international treaties, developing its own stricter system of criminal liability for PMCs, and using contract mechanisms to enforce standards of conduct for PMCs.”

Poor forum
Despite its promise to focus on the Great Transformation, last week’s World Economic Forum was distinctly lacking in “radical new thinking” on sustainable development, according to the Global Institute for Tomorrow’s Chandran Nair.
“Although there were interesting sessions on Asia, rarely did they focus upon the need for the region to reject the current consumption-led growth model, which thrives on under-pricing resources and fails to acknowledge limits, and instead adopt an alternative developmental trajectory. Much of the discussion was based on a Western narrative, and therefore focussed on the political imperative of how to maintain lifestyles, whilst only addressing sustainability issues at the periphery.
This perspective seems to ignore the realities in Asia, where the challenges are very different. There, the priority is not to about how to maintain lifestyles but how, in 2050, five to six billion Asians will be able to live in the most crowded and resource constrained part of the world. Central to this is the need to alleviate poverty through fair and equitable access to vital resources.”

Fashion racism
A group of 31 public figures have signed an op-ed slamming the French edition of fashion magazine Elle for a recent article on the politico-sartorial statements of the “black-geoisie.”
“Elle magazine informs us that when it comes to fashion in 2012, the ‘the “black-geoisie” has internalized all the white codes.’ Moreover, ‘chic has become a plausible option for a community that had been stuck until now with its streetwear codes.’ Yes indeed, whereas Blacks spent decades dressing like ‘scum’ in a hood, they have finally understood, thanks to the teachings of Whites, that they were better off paying more attention to their appearance. Such is the substance of an article published Jan. 13 in the favourite weekly of housewives belonging to the ‘white-geoisie’ (since, apparently, we must now distinguish members of the bourgeoisie according to race) entitled ‘Black Fashion Power’ that tries to analyze the reasons behind the red-carpet success of African-American stars.” (Translated from the French.)

Worst-kept secret
The Independent reports that US President Barack Obama has admitted for the first time what everyone already knew, that the CIA is using drones for “very precise precision strikes” inside Pakistan.
“Washington’s use of drones in Pakistan has long been a source of anger for many Pakistanis. While US officials claim the strikes are an important tool in its arsenal, many in Pakistan say they undermine the country’s sovereignty and often hit innocent civilians. The New America Foundation, a US think-tank, estimates drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in the past eight years. Last year, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism said it believed that of those killed, as many as 775 were civilians, including 168 children.”

Drones for human rights
The Genocide Intervention Network’s Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Mark Hanis, on the other hand, argue drones can be used to protect innocents around the world, starting with Syria.
“Imagine if we could watch in high definition with a bird’s-eye view. A drone would let us count demonstrators, gun barrels and pools of blood. And the evidence could be broadcast for a global audience, including diplomats at the United Nations and prosecutors at the International Criminal Court.

Drones can reach places and see things cell phones cannot. Social media did not document the worst of the genocide in the remote villages of Darfur in 2003 and 2004. Camera-toting protesters could not enter the fields where 8,000 men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica in 1995. Graphic and detailed evidence of crimes against humanity does not guarantee a just response, but it helps.”

Staying grounded
But Daniel Solomon argues on his Securing Rights blog that using drones to document abuses could actually hamper human rights efforts over time by reducing the role of local populations.
“In a recent essay, Joshua Foust highlighted the relative decline of human intelligence (HUMINT) tradecraft and capacity as a decisive consequence of the Obama administration’s drone-heavy ISR operations. Human rights organizations confront a similar dilemma–often, relative to the official intelligence community, monitoring-and-reporting groups like Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, and Amnesty International operate more advanced, broader, and deeper human intelligence networks in conflict-affected states. Local partnerships, empowerment networks, and storytelling capabilities represent the life-blood of an effective human rights organization. It’s easy to see how, with an increased emphasis on drone technology, those capacities would wither, with unfortunate consequences for the crucial art of human rights advocacy.”

Technological salvation
Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs lays out a technological vision for reining in human injustice and destructiveness in the Anthropocene era before suddenly concluding that solving such problems may require more than reducing inefficiencies.
“Yet getting from here to sustainable development will not just be a matter of technology. It will also be a matter of market incentives, government regulations, and public support for research and development. But, even more fundamental than policies and governance will be the challenge of values. We must understand our shared fate, and embrace sustainable development as a common commitment to decency for all human beings, today and in the future.”