Latest Developments, November 28

In the latest news and analysis…

Beyond aid
The Center for Global Development’s Owen Barder argues that over the past decade, “there has been very little overall progress in the policies of rich countries which affect prospects in poor countries”:

“But people from developing countries are clear that development policy today must mean more than giving aid. With growing economic success, they want to benefit more from the resources and services which they supply to the world. They do not want aid as compensation for global trade rules which are stacked against them: they want the rules changed. They do not want merely to be compensated for the damage done to the environment by industrialised countries; they want the destruction of our shared planet to stop.

Aid agencies and campaigners make a powerful case for increases in aid, and for improving its quality. But many have neglected the other issues which developing countries are increasingly demanding must be addressed and which are likely to be at least as important. This paralysis in the face of a changing agenda should come as no surprise. All aid agencies have to spend their budget wisely and avoid waste (or worse). But working to improve the policies on fisheries, patents or tax is always discretionary, however important it might be. Nobody in the government department responsible for these policies will complain if the development ministry leaves them alone. The people who stand to lose are in developing countries: and they have no voice and no vote when these priorities are set.”

US exceptionalism
The Hill reports that US President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill that will exempt US airlines from EU carbon fees:

“The White House had been under pressure from environmental groups to veto the bill. Those advocates want Obama to address climate change more forcefully in his second term, and said the emissions bill provided an opportunity to chart a new course.

‘However, there is a silver lining here — the administration has appointed high level representatives to pursue a global solution for aviation and climate,’ [the World Wildlife Fund’s Keya] Chatterjee said. ‘The White House now must endorse a global, market-based measure to rein in carbon pollution from aviation. If they do, we are optimistic that the U.S. can work with [International Civil Aviation Organization] to develop a package of policies that will reduce our share of global emissions.’ ”

Right to development
350.org’s Bill McKibben, the Environmental Rights Action’s Nnimmo Bassey and Focus on the Global South’s Pablo Solon call the COP 18 climate talks currently underway in Doha “the time to act for the future of humanity and Nature”:

“Rich countries who have poured most of the carbon into the atmosphere (especially the planet’s sole superpower) need to take the lead in emission reductions and the emerging economies have also to make commitments to reduce the exploitation of oil, coal and gas. The right to development should be understood as the obligation of the states to guarantee the basic needs of the population to enjoy a fulfilled and happy life, and not as a free ticket for a consumer and extractivist society that doesn’t take into account the limits of the planet and the wellbeing of all humans.”

Killer fashion
Al Jazeera provides a roundup of the global clothing lines who were customers of the Bangladeshi garment factory where a fire killed “at least 110 people” over the weekend:

“Survivors and witnesses told AFP that workers, most of them women, tried to escape the burning factory, which supplied clothes to international brands including Walmart, European chain C&A and the Hong Kong-based Li & Fung company.
Order books and clothing found at the site show the company was also making clothing for Disney Pixar, Sears and other Western brands.
The Associated Press news agency reports that blue and off-white shorts from ENYCE, the label now owned by Hip Hop mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, were piled and stacked in cartons on the floor.”

Pipeline colonialism
A First Nations group in Canada’s westernmost province has issued a letter to “the illegitimate colonial governments of Canada and British Columbia, and to all parties involved in the proposed Pacific Trails Pipeline project” warning against attempts to bring a natural gas pipeline through their territory:

“Under Wet’suwet’en law, the people of these lands have an inalienable right to their traditional territories, and the right to defend it. Even by Canadian law, the Supreme Court Dalgamuukw case decision explicitly recognizes the authority of hereditary chiefs, not elected Indian Act bands or councils. As such, any further unauthorized incursion into traditional Wet’suwet’en territory will be considered an act of colonialism, and an act of aggression towards our sovereignty.”

Tackling offshoring
Global Witness’s Rosie Sharpe argues that the opacity of the global financial system is a major contributor to the perpetuation of poverty:

“Why don’t Congolese citizens know who bought the rights to six of their country’s best copper and cobalt mines? Because they were bought by anonymous firms registered in the British Virgin Islands. And, what’s more, these companies bought them at a snip – in some cases just a 20th of their estimated value – and then sold some of them on for much, much more. Someone pocketed a fortune, but hidden company ownership means neither we, nor Congolese citizens, can know who.

If we want to make poverty history, we have to make corruption history. And if we want to make corruption history, we have to make anonymous companies history. Global Witness has been calling for the names of the true, beneficial owners of companies and other corporate vehicles to be made public. Nominee directors and shareholders should have to declare themselves as such and say who they’re working for.”

Minimum tax
Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett makes the case for a minimum tax on America’s wealthiest people:

“I would suggest 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultrarich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.”

Latest Developments, November 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Cholera compensation
Al Jazeera reports a US-based human rights group is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in reparations from the UN for those affected by a deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti.
“‘The cholera outbreak is directly attributable to the negligence, gross negligence, recklessness and deliberate indifference for the health and lives of Haiti’s citizens by the United Nations and its subsidiary, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH),’ the petition said.
It said numerous studies, including those by the UN, traced the virus to UN personnel from Nepal.
‘Until MINUSTAH’s actions incited the cholera outbreak, Haiti had not reported a single case of cholera for over 50 years,’ the petition said.”

Development as right
The UN News Centre reports that on the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, some of the organization’s top officials conceded the principle had “languished” in practice.
“‘The fact that almost three billion people live in poverty and that 20 per cent of the world’s people hold 70 per cent of its total income means that we have not kept our promises,’ said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.”

R2P’s uncertain future
Embassy Magazine reports that, while a number of Responsibility to Protect proponents have pointed to the NATO intervention in Libya as a successful implementation of the doctrine, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan argues the “jury is still out.”
“When the council voted to effectively unleash the air power of western countries like the United States, France and Britain against Libyan military infrastructure and equipment, Brazil, China, India and Russia all abstained, sending a “powerful message” that the UN’s top body was divided, said Mr. Annan.
‘Therefore, when you go to implement that resolution, you have to be very careful to stick to that resolution,’ he said.
That powerful message is reverberating in another failed council effort. An Oct. 5 resolution, that would have condemned Syria for the killing of thousands of people the UN says was at the hands of Syrian government authorities, was vetoed by China and Russia under the auspices that it didn’t explicitly rule out another foreign military intervention.”

Open-pit ban
MiningWatch Canada reports the government of a Philippine province has issued a ban on open-pit mining over the objections of Canadian mining company TVI Pacific, which has vowed to take legal action.
“‘The destruction of our land and natural resources through open pit mining is irreversible and the forced displacement of communities contradicts the real meaning of development, or should we ask “development for whom?”’ says Daniel Castillo, Director of the Dipolog Committee on Mining Initiatives, a Church-based support group in Zamboanga del Norte.”

Benefits of conservation
The UN Environment Program’s Achim Steiner makes the economic case for protecting animal species from extinction, using the example of Palau which recently became the first country to declare its waters a shark sanctuary and now earns an estimated eight percent of its GDP through shark-diving tours.
“Nature should never be prized merely for its economic value. But, in a world of competing demands and limited resources, economic considerations can help to tip decisions in favor of conservation rather than degradation. This kind of strategic thinking can help to ensure that the world’s 10,000 migratory species continue their journeys, so that future generations can also marvel at these nomads of the natural world.”

Learning from others
The University of Cambridge’s Tarak Barkawi argues that because we live in “a jingoistic age, when Westerners, Asians and Muslims are all convinced of their own superiority,” new ideas and solutions are impeded by a reluctance to learn from and co-operate with others.
“And so, when we look upon the Arab Spring, we should not interpret it as a matter of Arabs having finally read John Locke and Thomas Jefferson and applied Western ideas. We should look instead for the new ideas, the new possibilities, the new politics created up by the protesters, activists and ordinary people who have made revolution.
We should be cognizant too that the Arab Winter will be a university of counter-revolution, as new forms of repression, of neo-imperialism and of exploitation are developed in response to novel circumstances.”

Othering and torture
The University of Edinburgh’s Tobias Kelly writes about the long-standing Western tradition of viewing torture as something that is only committed by uncivilized “others”, with the result that no British citizen has ever stood trial for the crime of torture.
“The problem is that too much is at stake for the British government to admit its complicity in torture. They will always try and find other words to describe the brutal ill-treatment of detainees. Assault, disobeying orders, dereliction of duty, even murder, but not torture.
Once torture has been used to make the distinction between the civilised and the barbarous, it is just too difficult for the British government to imagine that it stands on the wrong side of that line.”

Durban showdown looming
Democratic Republic of Congo negotiator Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu tells the Independent Online what he is expecting from rich countries at the upcoming climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.
“They seek to tear down the Kyoto Protocol, now or later, and to replace it with a different architecture.
A few have said they will not participate in a second commitment period, despite their legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, while others have said the next commitment period should be ‘transitional’ to a new regime.
In other words, they seek to ‘transition’ out of their legally binding obligations under the Kyoto Protocol into a new regime we have not designed yet.
One country seems to prefer an altogether weaker system via a ‘pledge-based’ rather than ‘science-based’ system of emission reductions that applies ‘symmetrically’ to rich and poor countries.
So it is not merely a question of who will remain inside or outside the multilateral process, but, more fundamentally, what that process will be. This is the big question for Durban.”