Latest Developments, November 15

In the latest news and analysis…

Suspicious behaviour
Radio France Internationale asks if France, despite official denials, is preparing for military intervention in the Central African Republic:

“A French Navy vessel, the projection and command ship Dixmude, is slated to sail soon from Toulon with approximately 300 troops for a position in the Gulf of Guinea. This large amphibious ship will also be carrying vehicles and helicopters.

And from the port of Douala, Bangui is only 1,400 kilometres away. French military commanders know the route well, since their troops passed through Cameroon during the 2008 European Union Force mission in Chad and CAR.” (Translated from the French.)

Lowering the bar
The Guardian reports on trouble at the COP 19 climate talks as rich, polluting countries seem to be losing their appetite for reducing carbon emissions:

“The UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland, were faced with a new crisis on Friday, after Japan, the world’s fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter, slashed its plans to reduce emissions from 25% to just 3.8% on 2005 figures.
The move was immediately criticised as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unambitious’ by developing countries and climate groups at the talks.

The Japanese announcement follows open criticism by Australia and Canada of policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their countries, and reluctance from the US and Europe to aim for more ambitious emissions cuts.”

More migrant deaths
Reuters reports that 12 migrants have drowned off the Greek coast, “adding to the hundreds of deaths this year” as people try to reach Europe via the Mediterranean:

“The coastguard found fifteen survivors on the shore opposite the Ionian island of Lefkada and recovered 12 bodies, four of them children aged between three and six, another official said.

Crisis-hit Greece, Italy and Malta, the EU’s gate-keepers, have repeatedly pressed European Union partners to do more to solve the migrant crisis, which the Maltese prime minister said was turning the Mediterranean into a ‘cemetery’.”

History matters
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues that rich countries must start viewing development finance as “reparation for damage done” rather than aid:

“Furthermore, it is widely known that trade rules and conditions past and present, set by rich countries, continue to have devastating effects on poor countries and poor people within them. Even Bill Clinton, the former US president, has publicly apologised for policies that ruined rice production in Haiti, to the benefit of US producers.
Rather than making a song and dance about how much aid we are sending countries where production has been decimated by rules serving rich-country interests, such money should be offered in compensation for harm done (most importantly, of course, the rules on protection, subsidies and quotas should be urgently changed).

Now it is an accepted UN principle that the west should fund the investments required in other countries to respond to climate change, it is logical that the same principle should be extended to other areas, including not only other forms of environmental damage such as overfishing, but also slavery, colonisation and unfair trade and finance rules.”

Developed economies?
Mongabay reports on the release of new data that suggests G8 countries account for three of the world’s four top deforesters since 2000:

“Dan Zarin, program director of the Climate and Land Use Alliance, an association of philanthropic foundations, says trading natural forests for planted forests represents a net loss for the planet.
‘You can’t “net out” deforestation by planting trees,’ said Zarin, ‘because newly planted forests are far less valuable for carbon, biodiversity and forest-dependent people than standing native forests.’
Malaysia’s rate of forest loss during the period was nearly 50 percent higher than the next runner up, Paraguay (9.6 percent). Its area of forest loss ranked ninth after Russia, Brazil, the United States, Canada, Indonesia, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Australia.”

Drone decline
The Federation of American Scientists reports that the US military’s investments in drones are on “a distinctly downward slope”:

“The FY 2014 budget request included $2.3 billion for research, development, and procurement of unmanned aerial systems, a decrease of $1.1 billion from the request for the fiscal year 2013.
‘Annual procurement of UAS has gone from 1,211 in fiscal 2012 to 288 last year to just 54 in the proposed FY14 budget,’ according to a recently published congressional hearing volume.”

Not good enough
Human Rights Watch calls on Western clothing brands to do more to prevent worker deaths in Bangladeshi garment factories:

“Seven people died in the fire at Aswad Composite Mills on October 8. Aswad supplied fabric for other Bangladeshi factories to turn into garments for North American and European clients such as Walmart, Gap, H&M and Carrefour. The Bangladesh government and one of the retailers, Primark, said they had uncovered safety violations at the factory prior to the fire but no action was taken. Other companies said they had not inspected Aswad because they did not have a direct relationship with it.

In the wake of the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex, which killed more than 1,100 garment workers in April 2013, most foreign retailers operating in Bangladesh have pledged to help improve the fire and building safety standards of hundreds of factories that directly make their clothes. But their commitments do not extend to subcontractors and suppliers like Aswad that play a major part in the supply chain.”

Dangerous delay
EurActiv reports on concerns that a proposed EU law on conflict minerals could end up getting shelved after delays for “undisclosed reasons”:

“The EU’s trade directorate had been expected to publish a regulation that would secure uniform compliance across the bloc – and beyond – by the end of this year.
Brussels is known to have been in contact with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) about creating a list of internationally recognised and audited smelters for use by European mineral extraction firms.

Some fear that the proposal could wither in the Berlaymont building’s corridors, if it does not bear fruit before the institutional changing of the guard that will follow European elections next May.”

Advertisements

Latest Developments, July 21

In the latest news and analysis…

The World Bank has released a report on the challenge posed by the theft of public assets from poor countries, which it describes as “an immense problem with a staggering development impact.” The report’s authors estimate that about $5 billion in assets have been recovered over the last 15 years, which amounts to 1/1,500th of the World Bank’s lowest estimate of the total stolen over that time. But the Tax Justice Network argues the real proportion of repatriated assets may be more like 1/3,800th of illicit financial flows out of the Global South.

Four Kenyans claiming to have been tortured by British soldiers during the Mau Mau uprising of the 1950s have taken a major step towards obtaining reparations, as a British judge has ruled the plaintiffs have sufficient grounds to pursue a lawsuit. “This is not about money,” their lawyer said. “It is about restoring people’s dignity.” The UK’s Foreign Office argues it is not responsible for any wrongdoing during the colonial period and Kenya’s government should take care of compensating victims, an argument the judge termed “dishonourable.”

The UN has “strongly welcomed” new data providing further evidence that male circumcision is an effective way of preventing HIV in men. “Scaling up voluntary medical male circumcision services rapidly to young men in high HIV prevalence settings will help reach the 2015 goal of reducing sexual transmission of HIV by 50 per cent,” according to UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé. One of the leaders in this trend is Tanzania which “plans to circumcise at least 2.8 million men and boys between the ages of 10 and 34 over a five-year period.” Meanwhile, in San Francisco where HIV/AIDS was the fourth leading cause of death among men aged 25-54 in 2007, the battle is heating up over a proposed measure that would ban the circumcision of boys under the age of 18. The so-called Male Genital Mutilation Bill will be put to the California city’s voters in November.

Global Financial Integrity’s Tom Cardamone has announced the imminent launch of an international petition to fight perceived efforts by the US Chamber of Commerce and Wisconsin congressman Tom Sensenbrenner to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the 34 year-old piece of legislation aimed at punishing individuals and corporations who pay bribes overseas.

The Economist appears to have coined a new acronym, MIFF, to describe the “the emergence of a group of middle-income but failed or fragile states” that, despite moderate prosperity at the national level, account for 17 percent of the world’s people living on less than $1 a day. That figure has skyrocketed from one percent in 2005. “Anybody concerned with alleviating world poverty must reckon with the MIFFs,” the author argues.

Peru’s ambassador to the UN Gonzalo Gutiérrez makes a similar point in arguing “the cold figure of GDP per capita does not reflect the actual state of development in a particular country.” He is calling on the donor community to change the criteria it uses when devising aid policy and to recognize that most of the world’s poor live in so-called middle-income countries. “It is illogical to leave 70 percent of those who suffer most in the world, simply because a general index says that they are already in the medium-income countries,” he said.

And in a Project Syndicate piece entitle “Debt and Delusion,” Yale University economist Robert Shiller warns of the dangers of obsessing over economic indicators, such as debt-to-GDP ratios. Fear of “some magic threshold” beyond which a country will become insolvent is causing a stampede towards austerity measures which are likely to do more harm than good. “We should worry less about debt ratios and thresholds, and more about our inability to see these indicators for the artificial – and often irrelevant – constructs that they are.”

The Royal United Services Institute’s Knox Chitiyo says the relationship between Europe and Africa has moved beyond “handouts and hoopla” and the “scramble for Africa.” In fact, he believes we are now seeing the beginning of “Africa’s scramble for the world.” Now that Africa can boast some of the world’s fastest growing economies, Chitiyo says Europe needs its southern neighbour in order to dig out of its recession.

Washington-based economist Thomas Palley makes the case for a global minimum wage to counteract “globalization’s undermining of the income generation process.” Palley does not suggest introducing a rich-country level of wage floor to poor countries, but rather “establishing a global set of rules for setting country minimum wages.” Rather than calculating specific wage levels that would then rise with inflation, he proposes agreeing on a fixed percentage of median wages that would vary according to national and regional economic conditions. “Just as globalization demands global trade rules for goods and services and global financial rules for financial markets, so too labor markets need global rules,” Palley argues.

Recapping the events of last week’s Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, Transparency International’s representatives at the meetings say they are “delighted” by the apparent broad support – from investors, industry and governments – for including anti-corruption language in the agreement. And Oxfam’s Scott Stedjan refutes US gun lobby objections to the proposed treaty, saying an ATT would have “no impact on the Second Amendment freedoms.”