Latest Developments, August 1

In the latest news and analysis…

ATT postponed
Inter Press Service reports that six years of preparatory meetings were not enough for the US, China and Russia, as they requested “more time” in the quest for an international accord on regulating the global arms trade:

“The ‘killed’ Arms Trade Treaty is now to be referred to the U.N. General Assembly’s First Committee in October, where it will be submitted to a majority vote.
The process will take a long time, [Amnesty International’s Alberto] Estevez warns.
‘It might well take two to three years at least, and that would mean that the ATT would not enter into force until 2014 or 2015,’ he told IPS.
‘A key question remains whether the largest exporter of arms – the U.S. – wants to be part of the game,’ Estevez added.”

The future of development
Agence France-Presse reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has named the 26 members of a panel established to recommend a “new development vision” to replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015:

“Ban on Tuesday named personalities ranging from Queen Rania of Jordan and German former president Horst Kohler to Tawakel Karman, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her activism in the uprising in Yemen, and the mayor of Istanbul Kadir Topbas.

The corporate world is represented by Paul Polman, the Dutch chief executive of Unilever and Betty Maina, chief executive of Kenya’s Association of Manufacturers.”

Robin des Bois
Sky News reports that France is today becoming the first EU country to introduce a financial transaction tax:

“It was first proposed by the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who suggested a 0.1% levy on all share purchases involving France’s biggest companies.
The country’s new leader, Francois Hollande, has been sharply critical of the financial services industry and decided to double the tax to 0.2%, while applying it to all publicly traded businesses with a market value over 1bn euros.
That means anyone buying shares, including credit default swaps, in 109 companies will have to shell out the extra euros to the French Treasury.”

Security focus
Reuters reports that, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to talk publicly about democracy and economic potential during her trip to Africa this week, her real concern will be security:

“Instead, attention has focused on AFRICOM, the unified U.S. Africa Command that the Pentagon established in 2007. It is playing an increasingly important role as the United States pumps resources into training African militaries.

J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa program at the Atlantic Council, said Washington’s emphasis on security, coupled with the lack of new economic initiatives, had shifted the balance in U.S. ties with Africa.
‘It is militarization by default,’ Pham said. ‘Part of the reason is the U.S. interest in fighting al Qaeda, and part of it is because of the weakness of our African partners which are unable to contain these threats themselves.’ ”

Looting Africa
The UN Economic Commission for Africa reports on a new study that accuses foreign multinationals of illicitly transferring back to rich countries most of the $1.5 trillion they make in Africa each year, thereby “draining hard currency reserves from the continent, stimulating inflation, reducing tax collection and deepening income gaps”:

“The report on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa: Scale and Developmental Challenges is adamant about the role of multinational corporations in what some call Africa’s greatest economic sabotage, because it ‘perpetuates Africa’s economic dependence on other regions’, it says.
It adds the depletion of investments and stifling of competition caused by these illicit transfers actually undermine trade and worsen the socio-economic fabric of poor communities in Africa, leading to shorter life expectancy due to limited spending in providing social services such as health care, according to the Information and Communication Service of ECA.”

Compliance Week reports that the British government is looking into following the US lead on so-called deferred prosecution agreements, which “require corporate reforms and other penalties in exchange for holding off on pursuing a conviction”:

“The U.K. Ministry of Justice published a much-anticipated consultation paper recently on whether to adopt DPAs in an effort to fight corporate bribery and corruption without having to win a conviction in every case.

The U.K.’s Solicitor General and Serious Fraud Office are firmly in support of adopting the use of DPAs in Britain. As the consultation paper points out, enforcement agencies often rely on companies to self-report wrongdoing due to a lack of tools and resources. Without the ability of prosecutors to offer a plea deal, however, companies have little incentive to self-report, especially if doing so may result in a criminal conviction.”

Ease of doing business
The Associated Press reports that “liberal company laws” make New Zealand an attractive place for shady business enterprises:

“Like those before him, [American fraudster and launderer Jeffery Lowrance] found that about $130 and a little online paperwork let him set up a shell company in New Zealand without stepping foot in the country or having any financial presence. He registered First Capital Savings & Loan to an Auckland address but ran his scheme from Panama.

Some say New Zealand has yet to get serious about stopping abuse. Financial blog naked capitalism has repeatedly accused New Zealand of playing the equivalent of the arcade game ‘Whac-a-Mole’ by knocking down illegitimate operators as they pop up but not dealing with the systemic problems that give rise to the abuse.”

Haitian gold
Al Jazeera reports that with 15 percent of Haitian territory under license to North American mining companies or their partners, there are concerns over who will reap the benefits Haiti’s potential gold rush:

“Many Haitians we spoke to are divided on the issue. Some locals like Jean Igo, who has been unemployed for months, says he would welcome a job working in a mine. However, after he allowed a Canadian company to drill on his land he is now having second thoughts about doing business with foreigners.
‘I don’t trust doing business with them. They did not give us a good guarantee. They gave us a little cash but it was nothing. They promised they would give people jobs operating the machines and they did not fulfill any of their promises.’ ”

Latest Developments, December 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Climate loopholes
The Guardian reports that India is taking wealthy countries to task at the climate change talks in Durban, insisting they need to get serious about cutting emissions.
“To bolster its argument that rich countries must do more, India referred to a recent study by the Stockholm Environment Institute of the pledges made last year in Cancún by all countries. It shows that developing countries are pledging 30%-50% more cuts than the rich, and that the rich may be able to avoid taking any action whatever to meet their pledges by taking advantage of accounting loopholes.
Sivan Kartha and Peter Erickson of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) said: ‘Developing countries pledges amount to more absolute mitigation than all developed countries. Unless accounting rules for Annex 1 countries are made more stringent, then Annex 1 countries will be able to formally comply with their pledges with very little actual mitigation and possibly none at all.’”

Climate debt
The Inter Press Service reports on opposition in Nepal to the government’s acceptance of millions of dollars in loans for climate change mitigation projects.
“‘Nepal has one of the lowest greenhouse gas emission levels in the world due to its low industrialisation,’ [secretary of the All-Nepal Peasants’ Federation, Hari] Parajuli adds. ‘It also has forests covering nearly 40 percent of its land. Yet, the developed countries that cause pollution are now seeking to make Nepal take loans and pay them interest.’
Parajuli says the protests are also against the involvement of the World Bank.
‘We don’t regard it positively,’ he says. ‘It is not service-oriented but works for profit.’”

Naming land grabbers
A new Oakland Institute report argues that at while the EU and US give food and emergency aid to victims of famine and war, their development and energy policies harm Africa’s people and environment.
“Development agencies including USAID and the World Bank Group are often the architects of these [unregulated land] deals that promise benefits for Africans but fail to deliver. Furthermore, the research shows that US and EU energy policies that tout the benefits of agrofuels and carbon credits–key elements of these land deals–are actually making climate change a bigger problem.

[The Oakland Institute’s Anuradha] Mittal noted that people can follow the supply chain to identify the bad actors–who claim benefits for Africa but seldom deliver: so-called developers who determine how land will be used (such as Iowa-based based AgriSol Energy and Texas-based Nile Trading Development), companies that grow non-food crops on the land (including Sun Biofuels and Addax Bioenergy), and groups that buy up agrofuels and timber (including major western airlines such as Lufthansa).”

Food speculation
A new report by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) argues for regulation of “purely financial speculation in commodity derivatives markets” that has spiralled out of control in recent years and is contributing to soaring food prices.
“SOMO calls on European governments to respect the precautionary principle enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty and to act decisively to bring back financial speculation in commodity derivatives markets. The European Parliament currently has an opportunity to do just this by strengthening the proposed Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and Regulation (MiFID and MiFIR).”

Calling out Soros
The FCPA Professor, the alter ego of Butler University’s Mike Koehler, accuses billionaire philanthropist George Soros of not walking his talk on foreign bribery.
“If the Soros funded Open Society Foundations believe that all corporations involved in [a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] enforcement action have a “bad or wrongful purpose,” that current standards “simply do not permit successful prosecution of innocent, mistaken or unknowing persons” and that companies involved in an FCPA enforcement action are corrupt, then why does Soros Fund Management LLC invest in so many FCPA violators or companies subject to FCPA scrutiny?
The Fund’s recent 13F filing (in a 13F filing institutional investment managers disclose fund holdings) indicates substantial investments in the following companies that have recently resolved FCPA enforcement actions or are otherwise the subject of current FCPA scrutiny:  Alliance One International, El Paso, Flowserve, Halliburton, Hewlett-Packard, KBR, Motorola Solutions, Parker Drilling, Pfizer, Tidewater, Weatherford International, Tyco International, and Lyondellbasell Industries.”

Drone boom
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Trevor Timm argues that, with the unmanned aircraft market worth nearly $100 billion across more than 50 countries, the debate about drones needs to extend well beyond their use or misuse by the US military.
“Whether they are being used for surveillance or all-out combat, drones will soon pose serious risks for all of the world’s citizens. They can offer governments, police departments, or private citizens unprecedented capabilities for spying, and given their security vulnerabilities, the potential consequences could be endless.”

Treating symptoms
Dean Chahim, a University of Washington student and co-founder of the Critical Development Forum, calls on young people to engage in more political activism at home in order to change the global order.
“My generation has been sold a dogma of the individual as the solution to inequality and poverty. The older generation glorifies our individual achievements as “social entrepreneurs” while brushing the total failure of our economic system under the rug. Is it any wonder our youth think that if they start enough NGOs, go abroad two weeks at a time, design a new widget, or send a few bras – all will be well in the world?”

Spam tax
Oxfam’s Duncan Green mines the comments section of a Financial Times blog to provide a “lovely analogy” for a proposed financial transaction tax (Tobin/Robin Hood tax).
“Think of spam email: when sending emails is essentially free, sending out millions of spam emails can be profitable even if a fraction of respondents would take the bait. But if you had to pay even a nominal charge, even less than a penny, per email sent, that ‘business model’ would essentially become loss making in many cases. The Tobin tax would have a similar effect on a lot of this ‘phantom liquidity’ we get across many markets through high frequency traders – who, after all, are playing a zero sum game mostly, with their profits essentially being losses for a lot of other players. A small transaction cost might just be enough to discourage a lot of this socially useless activity.”

Latest Developments, November 3

In the latest news and analysis…

G20 futility
The Res Publica Foundation’s Julien Landfried argues that despite the apparent multilateralism of G20 summits, competing interests stand in the way of actual progress.
“Everything is happening as though it were inconceivable to neutralize the predations of the financial system on the economy. US President Obama has disappointed his most devoted supporters with his concessions to American financial lobbyists. Financial institutions are calling the shots and dictating the terms, for the most part, of bank bailout plans past and future. They have not just escaped the costs of the crisis, but have taken the ascendancy over states thanks to the public debt crisis, even though its causes lie in the private debt crisis. Nothing will be possible as long as a dismantling of the “financial complex” has not been undertaken. Let’s wager a government that summoned the courage to stand up to financial interests would retrieve not only its own dignity but the respect of the people as well. (Translated from the French.)

Bill Gates & Robin Hood
The Guardian reports Bill Gates has thrown his weight behind a proposed EU financial transaction tax – the so-called Robin Hood tax – despite concerns, particularly in London’s financial sector, that the tax would be bad for business.
“The City has been lobbying the government hard to resist an FTT but Gates said he hoped the prime minister would allow other members of the G20 to press ahead even if Britain remained opposed. ‘It doesn’t seem that the UK should have an objection when it has a settlement tax of its own,’ Gates said, referring to stamp duty levied on share deals. He added: ‘Hong Kong and the UK, which are both big financial centres, have settlement taxes. At the same rate levels it could be adopted by more countries and raise a fair amount of revenue.’”

Amazonas 2030
The Inter Press Service reports on the Colombian government’s decision to reconsider mining titles in its Amazon region, as well as the release of a new index that attempts to measure “the quality of life of ecosystems.”
“The Ministry of Mines and Energy’s announcement that it is studying the cancellation of mining concessions was made on Oct. 26 at the presentation of the Amazonas 2030 Index, developed by an alliance of the same name which collects social, environmental and economic data on the Colombian portion of this rainforest that constitutes the heart of South America.
The study is innovative in that it grants the same importance to the dimensions of the environment and indigenous communities as it does to economic, social and institutional dimensions. Each has a weight of 20 percent.”

Limited protectionism
The Fondation Jean-Jaurès’s Gérard Fuchs has some suggestions – involving land title, agricultural imports and market speculation – that he believes the G20 should adopt to tackle world hunger without having to promise new funds.
“The other threat to food production is the importation of agricultural products which countries in the South have been compelled to accept. Local agriculture has suffered as a result, leading to an uncontrolled rural exodus and mushrooming slums, and when the prices of imported products skyrocket, food riots erupt. It is necessary then to regulate food imports to provide local farmers with the protection they still need to improve productivity, but this position runs counter to free trade. A second proposal, therefore, should be debated within the World Trade Organization to allow regional groupings like ECOWAS [the Economic Community of West African States] or the EU to adopt protective measures aimed at maintaining as much food self-sufficiency as possible. (Translated from the French.)

Fair trade caution
The Landless Workers Movement’s Janaina Stronzake makes the case against treating food as a commodity and argues that fair trade is not automatically a good thing.
“Fair trade is one of the components that can help cure the world’s hunger. Nevertheless, some data from 2009 pointed to a large concentration of commerce in cacao, coffee and tea, so seeing fair trade without seeing food sovereignty in these countries can also bring a problem of monocultures and the concentration of leadership of one or a few NGOs that rule over these fair trades.
Relationships between people in this fight to end hunger cannot be based purely on commerce.”

The nature of foreign policy
The University of Texas, Austin’s Robert Jensen calls for the US to “shift to policies designed not to allow us to run the world but to help us become part of the world.”
“Whether it was Latin America, southern Africa, the Middle East, or Southeast Asia, the central goal of US foreign policy has been consistent: to make sure that an independent course of development did not succeed anywhere. The ‘virus’ of independent development could not be allowed to take root in any country out of a fear that it might infect the rest of the developing world.”

Paying the piper
The Broker provides a mid-point roundup of the Busan debate it is hosting in the run-up to this month’s aid effectiveness conference, in which it highlights, among other things, the power imbalance inherent in the aid industry.
“Touching on the conversation about new donors, Akemi Yonemura also argues that national development plans and local priorities need to be given top priority. Both traditional and new approaches, she argues, are not necessarily needs-based. Ideas often come from donors. Recipients provide the information that donors want to hear and implement projects that donors recommend (or exclusively fund) until the donor money is exhausted. Thus some local concerns remain neglected, a sentiment echoed by Sundar Kumar Sharma. Both the donors and recipients are uncomfortable with the extent to which development is donor-driven, but phasing out this relationship is remarkably difficult once it has been established.”

Latest Developments, September 28

In the latest news and analysis…

The new containment
David Eaves, “public policy entrepreneur” and blogger, argues the Open Government Partnership, which officially launched last week, is widely misunderstood as a “do good project” when it is actually motivated by geopolitical considerations.
“The OGP is part of a 21st century containment policy. And I’d go further, it is a effort to forge a new axis around which America specifically, and a broader democratic camp more generally, may seek to organize allies and rally its camp. It abandons the now outdated free-market/democratic vs. state-controlled/communist axis in favour of a more subtle, but more appropriate, open vs. closed.”

Double non-taxation
The European Network on Debt and Development’s Alex Marriage writes about efforts underway in Europe to stem the “race to the bottom” in corporate taxation and the practice of “treaty shopping” which often leads to “double non-taxation.”
“There is a constant stream of double taxation agreements being signed between developing and developed countries which in the current global regulatory environment frequently lead to double non taxation. This amendment will not help developing countries directly but acknowledgement of the problem is surely welcome.”

Co-opting Robin Hood reports that European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has announced plans for a Financial Transaction Tax or “Robin Hood tax,” saying it was time for the continent’s banks to give back to society after the trillions in public funds they have received since the financial crisis began.
“The FTT is moving from rhetoric to reality but a significant part of the revenues should be used as Bill Gates suggested, to help poor countries facing chilling reductions in aid, trade, and investment – not just shore up the EU budget,” according to Oxfam’s Nicolas Mombrial.
“An FTT is not a ‘Robin Hood tax’ unless clear commitments are made to use the revenues for tackling climate change, and poverty at home and abroad.”

The poor feeding the rich
Greenpeace has released a new report entitled How Africa is feeding Europe which describes the local impacts of European “fisheries partnership agreements” off the coast of West Africa.
“In European waters, the level of overfishing is higher than the global average, with an estimated 88% of European fish stocks in a poor state. Rather than solve this problem, the EU has progressively been increasing their capacity in seas beyond its own to meet the growing global demand for seafood and to keep their fleets in business. Several of Europe’s largest vessels are currently operating in waters of some of the world’s poorest nations through fisheries partnership agreements or joint ventures, undermining local food security by failing to adequately consider the local communities need for local fish as a source of protein and income.”

Good and bad refugees
Romero House’s Mary Jo Leddy imagines how history will judge Canada’s current treatment of would-be Tamil migrants and criticizes a proposed piece of immigration legislation the Conservative government describes as an effort to stop human smuggling.
“Bill C-4 is another attempt by stealth to prevent refugees from coming to Canada. A series of pieces of legislation have effectively divided refugees into two groups: the “bad” refugees who have the audacity to come to Canada on their own, and the “good” refugees who are in camps overseas and who will stay there until they are among those chosen to come to Canada.”

Absurd orthodoxy
Clarity Economics’s Phil Thornton reports on last month’s Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings where participants considered the possibility that the dominant economic model of the past few decades has failed.
“According to [Joseph] Stiglitz, the models used by central banks and many in the private sector created a policy framework that was clearly at the centre of the crisis: ‘It said you don’t need regulation. It said all you need for monetary policy is low inflation and that would suffice to ensure stable growth. In retrospect, these ideas seem absurd.’”

3Ds peril
The Guardian reports on the difficulties, including deportations and delayed shipments, faced by foreign aid agencies operating in Pakistan in the aftermath of revelations the CIA had used a fake vaccination scheme in its hunt for Osama bin Laden.
“Others complain of regular visits to their offices from intelligence officials seeking detailed information about their staff. One intelligence document, inadvertently left behind at one aid agency and seen by the Guardian, directs operatives to investigate the ‘covert funding’ and ‘covert operations’ of international NGOs.”

Humanitarian G-spot
On Motherhood and Sanity’s Angelica, guest blogging on Tales from the Hood, suggests the development industry is not walking its gender talk.
“You know I’m right. You just cannot (and certainly should not) have a document, meeting, program or strategy that does not address gender. Depending on the place and theme it can range from anything along the lines of combating FGM to increased political representation and decision making.  As aid practitioners we are acutely aware of the pitfalls and structural biases that leave women vulnerable to abuse and dependency. We ignore the local’s arguments that link these forms of discrimination to culture or tradition, and demand equality be treated as a basic human right.
So why is it we are failing so miserably to achieve gender balance at home?”

Latest Developments, September 21

In the latest news and analysis…

The problem with nation states
The Institute of Development Studies’ Lawrence Haddad looks at the lessons the recent and ongoing global crises hold for development thinking on issues such as economic growth, civil society and nation states.
“Several case studies showed how national self interest will continue to undermine collective action that is in the long-term interest of all. From the G8 to the G20 to the G193, issue-specific coalitions of countries (there are 193 states recognised by the UN), and the membership of those coalitions, is probably best explained by national politics. We need to understand these national coalitions more than ever.”

Debt-collection dangers
British House of Lords member Robert Skidelsky sees in the history of interwar Europe an argument for debt forgiveness in the eurozone.
“Germans today would say that, unlike reparations, the Greek and Mediterranean debts were voluntarily incurred, not coerced. This raises the question of justice, but not the economic consequences of insisting on payment. Moreover, there is a fallacy of composition: if there are too many debt collectors, they will impoverish the very people on whom their own prosperity depends.”

The scramble for goals
The Overseas Development Institute’s Claire Melamed argues that simply replacing the Millennium Development Goals with a new set of post-2015 goals would be missing the opportunity to rethink global cooperation and development for a world that has changed substantially since the 1990s.
“The MDGs can be seen as an agreement between donor and recipient countries about a set of priorities for collaboration and a monitoring framework. The goals and targets approach worked well for that.  But the world is different now. Most poor people live in countries that are both donor and recipient, or neither. Why should their governments be interested in a global agreement? What would be in it for them? Something that was all about aid would probably bypass the majority of the poorest people in the world.”

Robbing the rich to give to the bureaucrats?
Oxfam’s Max Lawson writes that the European Financial Transactions Tax, or Robin Hood Tax, now looks like a sure thing but the battle over where the resulting revenue will be channelled is heating up.
“Controversially, the Commission wants to use the FTT to finance the [European Commission] budget, none of the revenue raised would be used for climate change or development. Given the unpopularity of EU bureaucrats, this has won no support from France or Germany. Instead [French] President Sarkozy, in a speech the week after the joint Franco-German announcement [that the two countries would push for a European FTT at November’s G20 summit], again reiterated his belief that the revenue should help fight poverty and climate change.”

EU migrant abuse
Human Rights Watch has released a new report that accuses the EU’s border security agency of contributing to “inhuman and degrading” treatment of migrants.
“Frontex has become a partner in exposing migrants to treatment that it knows is absolutely prohibited under human rights law,” according to the group’s refugee program director, Bill Frelick. “To end this complicity in inhuman treatment, the EU needs to tighten the rules for Frontex operations and make sure that Frontex is held to account if it breaks the rules in Greece or anywhere else.”

Silicosis lawsuit
The BBC reports 450 former South African gold miners are alleging in a UK lawsuit that mining giant Anglo American is responsible for their lung diseases.
“Black miners at South African mines undertook the dustiest jobs, unprotected by respirators or – unlike their white counterparts – with access to on-site showers,” according to the miners’ London lawyers.
“Dust levels were high and they suffered massive rates of silicosis, a known hazard of gold mining for the last century.”

NCD baby steps
University of Toronto political scientist John Kirton says world leaders took “baby steps” towards tackling non-communicable diseases at this week’s UN summit but argues a comprehensive strategy would be good for both the world economy and its people’s health.
“The next opportunity to act comes in early November, at the G20 summit in Cannes. It’s tailor-made to address and advance the prevention and control of NCDs. The G20 summit governs critical interconnected economic, development and health issues through a comprehensive, coherent approach. It must control NCDs and thus soaring health-care costs to meet the commitments made at the 2010 Toronto summit to cut their fiscal deficit in half as a share of GDP by 2013 and to contain the global sovereign debt crisis erupting in Europe, too.”

The G20’s fifteen minutes
The McLeod Group’s John Sinclair asks if an “overconfident” G20, which initially seemed to embody a new era of greater international cooperation, is already in decline.
“It has quickly slipped into the flawed G8 mode of endless technical debate between finance and central bank officials. It has fallen into a quagmire of competing plans for avoiding a repeat banking crisis, with Americans and Europeans squabbling over whose regulations are the best (or rather, the least bad).”

Bad aid in Afghanistan
The International Crisis Group’s Sophie Desroulieres argues that heavily militarized international aid to Afghanistan is in urgent need of a rethink if it is actually going to help the country and its people.
“A decade of investment in security, of development aid and humanitarian assistance – $57 billion spent between 2002 and 2010 over and above the war effort, according to Afghanistan’s finance ministry – has not resulted in a politically stable or economically viable country. State institutions remain fragile, unable to provide good governance. Instead of going through Afghan institutions and reinforcing their legitimacy, 80 percent of aid went around the Afghan state. In 2010, Kabul and donors agreed that at least half of reconstruction and development aid should go though Afghan institutions by 2012. But the loss of credibility, the corruption and the nepotism corroding the regime of President Hamid Karzai have already undermined that agreement.” (Translated from French)

Selective principles in Libya
Embassy Magazine’s Scott Taylor argues NATO seems to have forgotten, or never believed in, the humanitarian values it cited to justify its Libyan intervention.
“Frustrated at their inability to make advances against the city of Bani Walid, former rebel commanders have told reporters they intend to shell the city with heavy artillery. Given the fact that there are still an estimated 75,000 civilians living there, this act would inevitably result in the death of many innocent Libyans. This, of course, is exactly what NATO claims it intended to prevent.”