Latest Developments, July 10

In the latest news and analysis…

ICC first
Reuters reports that the International Criminal Court in The Hague has handed down its first ever sentence:

“Delivering its first sentence, the International Criminal Court jailed Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for 14 years on Tuesday for recruiting child soldiers.
Lubanga was found guilty in March of abducting boys and girls under the age of 15 and forcing them to fight in a war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).”

Arms Trade Treaty talks
IRIN reports on the key discussion points as the second of four weeks kicks off at UN talks intended to produce an international agreement regulating the trade in conventional weapons:

“The meeting will tackle three overriding issues in formulating a conventional arms treaty: Scope – to determine which categories of weapons will be included; criteria – establishing a minimum threshold for the transfer of weapons and taking into account UN arms embargos, as well as the potential for an arms shipment to be denied if weapons could be used in violation of international human rights law; and implementation – covering the establishment by each potential signatory of transparent and competent regulating authorities.”

Obama’s inequality focus
The Globe and Mail reports that US President Barack Obama has chosen income inequality as a central theme in his reelection bid, by pushing for increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans:

“[Obama] is asking Congress to pass a one-year extension of lower tax rates for households earning under $250,000 (U.S.). The cuts, first passed in 2001 under George W. Bush, were prolonged in 2010 and are now set to expire on Dec. 31.
But while the middle-class would get tax relief for at least another year under Mr. Obama’s proposal, the 2 per cent of U.S. households earning more than $250,000 would see their income taxes rise by thousands of dollars in 2013 in an effort to tame the deficit.
‘We’ve tried it their way. It didn’t work,’ Mr. Obama said Monday of the ‘trickle-down’ economic theory that inspired the Bush-era reduction in income tax rates on top earners. ‘The wealthy got wealthier, but most Americans struggled.’

In the name of development
The Oakland Institute has released a new report on the human impact of a massive land deal between US-based AgriSol Energy and the Tanzanian government:

“The project initiated in 2007-2008 has moved forward without public debate or consent, and will evict more than 160,000 long-term residents of Katumba and Mishamo, who remain in the dark over compensation and relocation plans. The AgriSol land deal is a part of Kilimo Kwanza, or Agriculture First, the Tanzanian government’s scheme to promote agricultural development through public-private partnerships.

‘Caught in the crossfire of this egregious land deal are more than 160,000 newly naturalized Tanzanians–former Burundian refugees who fled civil war more than 40 years ago. Initially promised citizenship, the residents still await their papers, conditional on them vacating their homes and lands in order to make way for the foreign investor. The residents have been banned from cultivating crops including perennial crops such as cassava or building new homes and businesses, leaving them with no other option but to consider moving. This is how the situation will be resolved for AgriSol,’ said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute and coauthor of the report.”

Thirst for tourism
Tourism Concern has released a new report on the water impacts of foreign visitors in vacation hotspots Zanzibar, Goa, Kerala, The Gambia and Bali:

“All regions are highly dependent on tourism as a means to generate jobs and economic growth. However, tourism cannot fulfil its potential as a contributor to poverty alleviation and sustainable development while it so often causes the unsustainable depletion and inequitable appropriation of freshwater.

On average, households across the three villages [on Zanzibar] consume some 93.2 litres of water per day. The types of tourist accommodation in each village varies, but average consumption per room ranges from 686 litres per day for guesthouses, to 3,195 litres per day for 5-star hotels. This gives an overall average consumption of 1,482 litres per room per day: 16 times higher than average household daily usage.”

The mining minefield
The McLeod Group has released a new paper on the development impacts of the Canadian extractive sector’s overseas activities:

“Who will stand up for the rights of local communities when a bad government joins forces with a ruthless and impatient company? This is where international oversight is indispensable.
These are challenging issues that have too often been overlooked by companies and policy makers. This needs to change. Developing countries should no longer be seen as a place of expedient profiteering, where foreign companies can operate in ways that would never be tolerated in their home countries.”

IP recalibration
Intellectual Property Watch reports that the UN Human Rights Council has expressed support for the continued work of a specially appointed expert on cultural rights who recently produced a report on access to “the benefits of scientific progress”:

“ ‘[T]he Special Rapporteur proposes the adoption of a public good approach to knowledge innovation and diffusion, and suggests reconsidering the current maximalist intellectual property approach to explore the virtues of a minimalist approach to IP protection,’ the May 2012 report said. ‘Recalibrating intellectual property norms that may present a barrier to the right to science and establishing greater coherence among them seem to be necessary steps. The Special Rapporteur stresses the need to guard against promoting the privatization of knowledge to an extent that deprives individuals of opportunities to take part in cultural life and to enjoy the fruits of scientific progress, which would also impoverish society as whole.’ ”

More special economic zone
The Economist reports that China is planning to take one of its grandest experiments to the next level in a currently vacant 15-square-kilometre chunk of the Shenzen Special Economic Zone:

“The zone has licence to try policies that are ‘more special’ than those prevailing even in an SEZ. It aims to attract ‘modern service industries’ rather than big-box manufacturers. It will charge only 15% corporate-profit tax and levy no income taxes on the finance professionals, lawyers, accountants and creative people it hopes eventually to attract.

Its firms will be given help in raising yuan offshore. Hong Kong banks will be allowed to enter the zone more easily. The ground will also be laid for greater cross-border lending. ‘Since the mainland is targeting the gradual achievement of full yuan convertibility, Qianhai should be a pioneer for progress,’ said Zhang Xiaoqiang of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s planning body.”