Latest Developments, October 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Prison torture
The Guardian reports on allegations of forced drug injection and electroshocking at a South African jail run by British security firm G4S:

“Prisoners, warders and health care workers said that involuntary medication was regularly practised at the Mangaung Correctional Centre near Bloemfontein. G4S denies any acts of assault or torture.

[A former G4S employee] admitted using an electric shield on inmates to make them talk. ‘Yeah, we stripped them naked and we throw with water so the electricity can work nicely … Again and again. Up until he tell you what you want to hear, even if he will lie, but if he can tells you what I want to hear. He can tell the truth but if that’s not the truth that I want, I will shock him until he tells the truth that I want even if it’s a lie.’ ”

Money to go
Haaretz reports that the Israeli government plans to “more than triple” the money if offers African migrants to leave the country and promise never to return:

“Over the past few months, hundreds of migrants, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, have accepted the previous offer [of $1,5000], which also included a free plane ticket.
Ever since mid-September, when the High Court of Justice overturned a law that allowed illegal migrants to be jailed for up to three years, the state has been scrambling to find a new solution to the migrant problem.

Aside from the grants, the interior and justice ministries are also discussing other measures to deal with the migrant problem. [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has given approval in principle to establishing an open detention center for illegal migrants and enacting new legislation that would allow them to be jailed for 18 months instead of three years.”

Held without charge
Agence France-Presse reports that the International Criminal Court has ruled that ex-Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo must remain in detention even though he still has not been formally charged with crimes against humanity:

“The ICC has yet to confirm the charges against Gbagbo for his role in the bloody election standoff nearly three years ago.
Judges said in June that they needed more evidence before charging the former Ivory Coast strongman, who has been held by the ICC for almost two years.”

Sustainable listings
The Guardian’s Jo Confino wants the world’s stock exchanges to demand companies divulge “basic data” about the social and environmental impacts of their business:

“A new study benchmarking sustainability disclosures on the world’s stock exchanges points to a worrying levelling off in the number of companies that are reporting on six basic ‘first generation’ metrics; employee turnover, energy, greenhouse gases (GHGs), lost-time injury rate, payroll, waste and water.

It also does not take a great deal of intelligence to see that regulators need to get their acts together if we are to significantly change the current situation in which only 3% of the 3,972 world’s largest listed companies and 0.04% of the world’s small listed companies (20 out of 56,710) offer their stakeholders complete first generation sustainability reporting.”

Domestic rights
Inter Press Service reports that domestic workers from around the world have gathered in Uruguay to “speak for ourselves”:

“ ‘For many years only non-governmental organisations spoke for us, through studies and research…but we domestic employees and our unions have done the day-to-day hard slogging,’ said [Ernestina] Ochoa, vice president of the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN), which changed its name to Federation at the congress.
‘Now we have said “enough’s enough”, let’s found a large federation that unites us, let’s work together to organise ourselves, defend our rights, create unions, improve the laws and help countries where there are no laws, empower domestic workers, train leaders and have a voice vis-à-vis governments and employers,’ she said in an interview with IPS.

The basic rights established by the [International Labour Organisation Convention No.189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (C189)] include weekly days off, limits to hours of work, a minimum wage, overtime compensation, and social security.
So far, C189 has been ratified by Bolivia, Germany, Guyana, Italy, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa and Uruguay.”

Treating symptoms
The Sydney Morning Herald’s Matt Wade writes that current efforts to control migration tend to ignore “the global economic forces that drive the mass movement of people”:

“The global income gap has become common knowledge among the world’s 7 billion people and that has fuelled the motivation for migration. Surveys have found that more than 40 per cent of adults in the poorest quarter of the world’s countries would like to move permanently to another country if they had the opportunity. Hundreds of millions of people see migration as their only hope of improving their economic standing.
Economists call this a ‘disequilibrium phase’ – a huge mismatch between supply and demand. Because migration is one of the only mechanisms to fix this disequilibrium, migration pressures will exist until the income gap between countries becomes much smaller.”

Avoidance mechanisms
The World Bank’s Otaviano Canuto writes that Switzerland’s financial industry may bear substantial responsibility for depriving poor countries of the “means to finance development”:

“Switzerland, whose financial sector manages $2.2 trillion of offshore assets according to Boston Consulting Group, happens to be one of the main global transaction hubs for the oil, gas and mining sector, which in many developing countries dominates production and exports. Companies in this sector, it has been claimed, frequently dodge billions of dollars in taxes payable to developing countries by shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions.

In many developing countries, these practices take place in a tax environment that is already heavily tilted towards the private sector, particularly in the form of large tax incentives for oil and mining multinationals.”

US inequality
CNN’s John Sutter writes on the correlation between income inequality and a range of social and health problems:

“When the researchers plotted income inequality against an index of social problems that included infant mortality, mental health and others, they got the chart below, which shows that more unequal places tend to have more of these issues. The United States, the most unequal of the developed countries, for example, also has the world’s highest incarceration rate and a higher infant mortality rate than comparable nations. Sweden, meanwhile, has a low level of income inequality and fares much better on these social measures.
When the researchers plotted the same data according to average income, the correlation dissolved — the poorer societies were not more likely to suffer the social ills.”

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Latest Developments, July 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Migrant deaths
Reuters reports that 54 people have died of thirst while trying to cross illegally from Libya to Italy by boat, leaving only one survivor:

“The incident is the latest in a long series of disasters which have killed thousands of migrants attempting to reach southern Europe from North Africa in small, unstable and frequently overcrowded boats.
According to the UNHCR, around 170 people have died this year trying to reach Europe from Libya. Around 1,300 have reached Italy by sea since the beginning of 2012 and another 1,000 people have reached Malta.”

Account closures
The CBC reports that TD Bank has decided to close the accounts of a number of Iranian-Canadians, citing the need to comply with sanctions against Iran:

“ ‘It’s…given no explanation as to why this has happened and made some cryptic reference to the sanctions. But anytime they’ve sought some further explanation, they’ve been stonewalled and treated very, very badly,’ [according to the Iranian Canadian Congress’s Kaveh Shahrooz.]
He couldn’t say exactly how many people have been affected. He said at this time it appears TD is the only bank sending out these letters.”

Democratic deficit
The US is “not seen as promoting democracy in the Middle East,” according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Pakistan:

“The U.S. receives mixed reviews in Tunisia. Overall, 45% have a favorable and 45% an unfavorable view of the U.S. However, President Barack Obama gets mostly poor marks – 57% say they have little or no confidence that Obama will do the right thing in world affairs. And there is no consensus among Tunisians about how the U.S. has handled the political changes taking place in their country – 31% believe the American response has had a positive effect, 27% say it has been negative, and 25% volunteer that the U.S. has had no impact.”

Criminalizing bank fraud
Michel Barnier, the EU commissioner in charge of financial reform, plans to table new rules that would make it a criminal offense to manipulate benchmarks such as Libor:

“ ‘We need to draw lessons from the Libor case,’ a spokesman for Barnier said. ‘We intend to close the regulatory gap in our proposed market-abuse legislation by including the direct manipulation of market indexes such as Libor.’
As it stands, the market-abuse proposal, which is now being negotiated with the European Parliament and EU member governments, defines insider dealing and market manipulation as criminal offences and lays down minimum penalties.”

No to EO 79
ABS-CBN News reports that environmental groups in the Philippines have three major objections to the country’s new mining rules:

“First, they say it promotes the unconstitutional overriding of local environmental codes that prohibit destructive mining operations in their area.
Second, it allegedly disenfranchises legitimate small-scale miners in favor of multinational companies, validating some 1.1 million hectares of existing mining applications and operations.
Third, it contents itself with a so-called piecemeal increase in mining administrative fees instead of collecting a “rightful” share from taxes and revenues.”

Subsitence threatened
Sherpa reports that it and four other NGOs have lodged a complaint with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development over the activities of tire giant Michelin in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu:

“The development of this land, from a rural to an industrial zone, caused, in total, the destruction of 450 hectares of communal forest that surrounded the village and supported agricultural and pastoral activities, thereby depriving the people of their primary means of subsistence. Moreover, the land leased to Michelin is located in a watershed that feeds three natural lakes that irrigate Thervoy village and are the principal source of water for agriculture in the area.
And yet, since the start of the project, local residents have been mobilized, have demonstrated peacefully and have taken the state of Tamil Nadu to court on several occasions. Indeed, this project is violating the rights of 1,500 families living in Thervoy and threatens their subsistence. 18 other villages are also impacted directly by the construction of infrastructure necessary for the site.”
[Translated from the French.]

Private prisons
Bloomberg reports that the Canadian government is considering using the services of private companies to run certain aspects of the country’s prisons, prompting an opposition politician to accuse the ruling Conservatives of “opening the door to privatization”:

“If Canada turned to the private sector, it would follow countries such as the U.S., U.K. and Australia that have relatively larger prison populations.
There are 209 prison facilities managed by private companies worldwide, with 181 in the U.S., according to data from the Association of Private Correctional and Treatment Organizations. There were 44 privately-run facilities in the U.S. in the late 1980s, according to research by Management and Training Corporation, a closely held company that manages prisons.”

EU-Africa trade
Ten year-old trade negotiations between Africa and the EU are unlikely to bear fruit unless they are guided by a fundamental shift in thinking, according to the European Centre for Development Policy Management’s Sanoussi Bilal:

“Africa does not need a trade deal with Europe to grow, though it might help. What Europe and Africa both need, however, are stronger relations based on a more equal footing, where legitimate economic and political interests are openly acknowledged, not couched in benevolent, somewhat paternalistic, rhetoric on ‘development’.”