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, October 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Military solutions
The BBC reports that the European Commission is calling for migrant-intercepting sea patrols “covering the whole Mediterranean, from Cyprus to Spain”:

“The move by Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem was prompted by the deaths of at least 274 migrants whose boat sank off Italy’s Lampedusa island.

[The EU’s Frontex border agency] is currently helping Italy to intercept migrant boats, but the two EU operations in the southern Mediterranean have limited resources – a total of four ships, two helicopters and two planes.
The search and rescue patrols would ‘help better tracking, identification and rescue of boats, especially migrants’ boats’, the commissioner’s spokesman Michele Cercone said.”

Watery graveyard
The Danish Institute for International Studies’ Hans Lucht argues that European policies on migration and refugees have led to “a massacre by negligence”:

“Countries like Italy routinely send rescue boats into the Mediterranean to pick up migrants stranded off the coast, but this is only a belated Band-Aid. Europe’s professed commitment to human rights, including, in principle, a duty to give refuge to those escaping persecution and misery, has not been matched by meaningful policies.

For all of Europe’s economic woes, it is well within the capacity of the European Union to resettle these migrants. The real barrier is the devaluation of African lives. For this there is no quick fix. A unified, humane policy on refugees and asylum seekers is needed. So is a long-term commitment to social and economic transformation in sub-Saharan Africa, to which Europeans owe a moral debt.

There is a growing acceptance that a watery graveyard is a necessary evil for the maintenance of a free and prosperous Europe. This is a disgrace: the suffering in the chilly waters off Sicily calls into question the moral integrity of the entire border system (to the extent it can be called one).”

Cholera compensation
The Associated Press reports that the UN’s top human rights official has called for the “right” to compensation for victims of the cholera epidemic triggered by UN peacekeepers in Haiti:

“ ‘I have used my voice both inside the United Nations and outside to call for the right — for an investigation by the United Nations, by the country concerned, and I still stand by the call that victims of — of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation,’ [U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay] said at an awards ceremony for human rights activists in Geneva.
The U.N. maintains it has legal immunity from such compensation claims.”

Immediate surrender
Agence France-Presse reports that Libya’s parliament has officially demanded that the US return a Libyan citizen “snatched” by American forces in Tripoli over the weekend:

“A [General National Congress] statement read out by spokesman Omar Hmidan stressed ‘the need for the immediate surrender’ of Abu Anas al-Libi and described the US operation as a ‘flagrant violation of (Libya’s) national sovereignty.’
The text, which was passed by the GNC, also calls for the ‘need to allow the Libyan authorities and their families to get in touch with him (Libi) and guarantee them access to a lawyer.’

[Libi] is reportedly being held aboard a US naval ship in the Mediterranean.”

Interrogations at sea
NPR explains why the US appears to be holding alleged terrorist Abu Anas al-Libi on a ship in the Mediterranean:

“The U.S. could send al-Libi to the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, where he could be questioned and held indefinitely while awaiting a military trial.
But President Obama wants to close the Guantanamo prison and therefore is unlikely to add to its population. The president has also barred the use of ‘extraordinary rendition,’ or sending suspects to secret prisons in third countries.

Human rights groups say the shipboard detention is just another version of Guantanamo and the secret prisons that delay or prevent fair trials from taking place. But the intelligence agencies argue that they need to question suspects to break up terror networks and guard against future attacks.
There’s no time limit for how long the U.S. could hold al-Libi on a ship outside the U.S.”

Deadly blaze
Reuters reports on another fatal fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh:

“Gazipur’s firefighting chief, Abu Zafar Ahmed, said nine employees including three company managers had died in the blaze that originated in the knitting section of Aswad Composite Mills factory, a sister concern of Paul Mall Group.

The recent string of accidents has put the government, industrialists and the global brands that use the factories under pressure to reform an industry that employs four million and generates 80 percent of Bangladesh’s export earnings.”

Unequal partnership
iPolitics reports that Canada’s top First Nations leader has described the federal government’s approach to his people as “paternalistic at best and assimilationist at worst”:

“[Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo] outlined what he’d like to see in the throne speech, set for Oct. 16. The AFN, he said, wants four things: predictable and sustainable funding based on First Nations control; First Nations authority over education; a commitment to a full national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women; and reform of the comprehensive claims policy, which he says is ‘deeply flawed.’ ”

Boys club
Inter Press Service reports on calls to remedy the absence of women in top UN positions:

“Despite adopting scores of pious resolutions on gender empowerment over the last 67 years, the 193-member General Assembly has failed to practice in its own backyard what it has vigourously preached to the outside world.
So far, the U.N’s highest policy making body has elected only three women as its president since 1946: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969) and Sheikha Haya Rasheed al-Khalifa of Bahrain (2006).
In a letter addressed to over 160 world leaders, who were at the United Nations last week, the New York-based Impact Leadership 21 has called for meaningful steps in establishing ‘the rights of women and the equality of their participation at all decision-making levels’.
More specifically, the letter makes a strong case for a woman as the next U.N. secretary-general (UNSG) when Ban Ki-moon finishes his current term at the end of 2016.”

Latest Development, October 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Two raids
France 24 reports that US claims regarding the legality of the twin military operations in Libya and Somalia over the weekend have left some experts unpersuaded:

“But while the Libya operation may have been permitted under the US’s own statutes, this does not make it acceptable under international law, argues Marcelo Kohen, a professor of international law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
‘The US operation in Libya is a clear violation of the fundamental norms of international law, namely the respect of a country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,’ he told FRANCE 24.
‘A state cannot remove a foreign citizen, from inside a foreign territory, to be judged in its own country while disregarding international law,’ he said. ‘You need permission. There are existing legal structures among states to address this kind of situation.’
Nevertheless there is little risk of the US facing legal repercussions for the military operation in Libya, said Kohen.
‘No mechanism exists that would allow Libya to go beyond a simple protest, while knowing that this will have no effect.’ ”

Day of tears
Agence France-Presse reports that the deaths of “hundreds of Africans” in a ship that sank off the Italian coast is unlikely to lead to improvements in EU immigration policy:

“For years now, the EU’s executive, the European Commission, has struggled to rouse interest in a single approach to the divisive issue of migration, time after time coming up against a brick wall of national self interest.
‘We need a new policy at the European level,’ said Michele Cercone, spokesman for home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.
‘Migration policies are fragmented, inward-looking, left in the hands of member states and subject to domestic political considerations,’ he added. ‘Immigration is viewed as a threat, a problem, never as a potential benefit.’
The Commission wants to open new avenues of legal migration while also sharing the burden among all 28 member states as the floods of impoverished refugees wash up on the shores of southern Europe — in Italy, Malta, Greece, Spain and Cyprus.”

Oversight gaps
The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights has released a report alleging that a Bangladeshi supplier for US retail clothing giants Gap and Old Navy is forcing workers to put in over 100 hours a week and “shortchanging” them by over $400,000 per year:

“The revelations come in the wake of a series of deadly factory fires and the Rana Plaza building collapse to which Gap has responded with promises to police its suppliers more conscientiously. ‘It is hard to believe that after decades of doing business in Bangladesh and claiming to monitor its suppliers closely, that Gap was unaware of its supplier’s practices and the horrifying conditions imposed upon the people sewing their clothing lines. The best one might say is that Gap is incompetent and failed to supervise its monitors adequately, but it is far more likely that Gap simply ignored and suppressed what its monitors reported. Either way, it calls into question the reliability of any of the company’s recent promises,’ said Charles Kernaghan, IGLHR’s director.”

Canadian spying
As a diplomatic row flares between Brazil and Canada, the Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian government’s habit of sharing intelligence with corporations “is not news”:

“In 2007, then-Natural Resources minister Gary Lunn told the International Pipeline Security Forum, an industry gathering, ‘We have sponsored over 200 industry representatives in obtaining Secret Level II security clearance. This enables us to share information with industry and their associations so that the appropriate security enhancement measures can be adopted.’
This initiative appears to have begun as a way to allow energy companies access to government intelligence on threats to infrastructure, but grew into a broader sharing of information on industry critics, according to Keith Stewart, the Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator for the environmental organization Greenpeace, who has studied the question of who is getting access to this intelligence.”

Enemy’s enemy
The Washington Post reports that the CIA is “ramping up” its efforts to train Syrian rebels it considers moderate:

“The CIA’s mission, officials said, has been defined by the White House’s desire to seek a political settlement, a scenario that relies on an eventual stalemate among the warring factions rather than a clear victor. As a result, officials said, limits on the agency’s authorities enable it to provide enough support to help ensure that politically moderate, U.S.-supported militias don’t lose but not enough for them to win.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the agency has sent additional paramilitary teams to secret bases in Jordan in recent weeks in a push to double the number of rebel fighters getting CIA instruction and weapons before being sent back to Syria.”

California driving
The Guardian reports that California has adopted new legislation allowing people who are in the US illegally to drive legally:

“ ‘This is only the first step. When a million people without their documents drive legally with respect to the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice,’ said [California Governor Jerry Brown], who officially signed the bill earlier Thursday. ‘No longer are undocumented people in the shadows, they are alive and well and respected in the state of California.’ ”

Free at last
The Associated Press reports that a Louisiana man, known as one third of the Angola Three, has died three days after being released from 41 years of solitary confinement:

“[George Kendall, one of Herman Wallace’s attorneys,] said his client has asked that, after his death, they continue to press the lawsuit challenging Wallace’s ‘unconstitutional confinement in solitary confinement for four decades’.
‘It is [Herman] Wallace’s hope that this litigation will help ensure that others, including his lifelong friend and fellow ‘Angola Three’ member, Albert Woodfox, do not continue to suffer such cruel and unusual confinement even after Mr Wallace is gone,” his legal team said in a written statement.”

Good intentions
Oxfam’s Ben Phillips argues that “posh white blokes”, even the well-intentioned ones, are “holding back the struggle for a fairer world”:

“The evidence is pretty damn conclusive. Posh white blokes aren’t just over-represented in the world of power and money – we’re over- represented in the leadership of the movements challenging that world.

Social movements exist to re-imagine the world and to challenge power relations, but their ability to do so outside is intimately connected with their ability to do so inside. Shifting power, so that decisions are increasingly shaped by people with lived experience of marginalisation, is no mere technical, instrumentalist fix. It goes to the roots of our purpose, it is central to the journey from ‘for’ to ‘with’ and ‘by’.”

Latest Developments, October 1

In the latest news and analysis…

State of hunger
A trio of UN agencies has released a new report suggesting that, despite a slight drop in global hunger, about an eighth of the world’s population is “still chronically hungry”:

“Despite the progress made worldwide, marked differences in hunger reduction persist. Sub-Saharan Africa has made only modest progress in recent years and remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with one in four people (24.8 per cent) estimated to be hungry.
No recent progress is observed in Western Asia, while Southern Asia and Northern Africa witnessed slow progress. More substantial reductions in both the number of hungry and prevalence of undernourishment have occurred in most countries of East Asia, Southeastern Asia, and in Latin America.”

Torture suit
Courthouse News Service reports that dozens of Iraqi plaintiffs are suing an American company in a US court over alleged war crimes at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison:

“The surviving Iraqi detainees and representatives from the estates of the dead sued CACI Premier Technology and CACI International under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act.

Detainees have sued CACI in the past for alleged torture. In June 2013, a federal judge found that CACI cannot be sued for its alleged role in the torture of Abu Ghraib prisoners. The ruling relies on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, a recent Supreme Court decision in which the justices effectively immunized corporations from claims under the Alien Tort Statute by foreign citizens.”

Red light
A group of UN experts is arguing that a steel project owned by South Korea’s Posco “must not proceed as planned” in India:

The project reportedly threatens to displace over 22,000 people in the Jagatsinghpur District, and disrupt the livelihoods of many thousands more in the surrounding area.

While India has the primary duty to protect the rights of those whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by the project, the experts underlined that ‘POSCO also has a responsibility to respect human rights, and the Republic of Korea, where POSCO is based, should also take measures to ensure that businesses based in its territory do not adversely impact human rights when operating abroad.’

‘People should not be impoverished in the name of development; their rights must take precedence over potential profits,’ stressed the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda.

UN scolded
The Caribbean Journal reports that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said the UN’s handling of the cholera epidemic it caused in Haiti threatens the organization’s “moral authority and credibility”:

“Gonsalves said there was ‘no longer any scientific dispute’ that the UN was responsible for the outbreak, which has killed more than 8,000 people in Haiti and infected more than 600,000.
‘I continue to be deeply disturbed by the UN’s callous disregard of the suffering it has wrought in a fellow CARICOM country, and by the shameful, legalistic avoidance of what is a clear moral responsibility on the part of the UN,’ he said. ‘I call on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to acknowledge unambiguously, and apologize for, this organization’s role in the tragedy, and to take immediate steps to compensate the victims and their families.’ ”

Climate refugee
Agence France-Presse reports on a man from Kiribati who is seeking refugee status in New Zealand due to the impact of rising sea levels on his native island:

“Legal experts consider the man’s case a long shot, but it will nevertheless be closely watched, and might have implications for tens of millions of residents in low-lying islands around the world.

In a transcript of the immigration case obtained by The Associated Press, the Kiribati man describes extreme high tides known as king tides that he says have started to regularly breach Kiribati’s defences — killing crops, flooding homes and sickening residents.”

Dirty business
The Tyee reports that a murder in Mexico fits into a pattern of violence faced by people who oppose Canadian mining companies around the world:

“Far from an isolated event, this kind of story has played out across Latin America, Africa and beyond when Canadian mining firms set up shop. When, occasionally, violence at distant mining sites comes to the attention of Canadian investors or the public, corporate officers typically deflect responsibility onto ‘pre-existing conflicts’ — old rivalries or local power struggles given fresh fuel by the injection of mining money.
What we found in Oaxaca, however, was that those ‘pre-existing’ conflicts are far from petty or ancient feuds. Instead, they reveal serious and deep differences of opinion in affected communities about whether the kind of industrial development a mine offers is a driver for community benefit, or a threat to traditional culture and more sustainable livelihoods. As the lure of personal gain subverts authentic community priorities, local democratic processes are often among the first to fall victim.”

Naming & shaming
Voice of America reports that the International Labour Organization may have problems carrying out its plan to get a bit tougher with abusive garment factories in Cambodia:

Beginning in January, the ILO will publicly release information on factories that fail to comply with the most important elements of the country’s labor laws.

‘In the last three years we’ve seen the factories’ compliance with the Labor Law has been declining – it’s getting worse. Working conditions are deteriorating. That’s not true in every factory, but on the whole this is what we’ve seen. And we’re returning to an old practice – something we did in the early years of the project – to create some gentle public pressure on factories to improve working conditions,’ said [the ILO’s Jason] Judd.

As a result, [the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia] will send letters to its members advising them that they are no longer obliged to let [ILO] inspectors enter their factories.”

Teeth required
SOMO writes that NGOs are “sceptical” about the Dutch government’s latest plans to improve the overseas behaviour of the country’s companies:

“What if companies do not want to cooperate and don’t stick to the agreements? MVO Platform feels that in addition to the commitment of the involved companies, monitoring and regulations from the side of the government will be necessary. The efforts should not be free of obligation and there should be supervision of the covenants. Companies that do not adhere to their agreements should experience real consequences, as should companies that are not entering into such agreements.”

Latest Developments, September 17

In the latest news and analysis…

Offense first
The Hill reports that the US, which was already sending weapons to Syria’s rebels, has now also cleared obstacles to sending them defensive equipment:

“The United States is prevented from shipping gas masks and other ‘non-lethal’ protective equipment related to chemical weapons use under mandates in the Arms Export Control Act.
Obama’s announcement effectively eliminates those rules for ‘international organizations… [and] select vetted members of the Syrian opposition, including the Supreme Military Council,’ [National Security Council Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden] said in a statement Monday.”

Global corporate accountability
Ecuador’s government has announced that nearly 100 countries supported its call for a “binding international instrument” concerning transnational companies and human rights:

“The Declaration led by Ecuador and adopted by the African Group, the Group of Arabic Countries, Pakistan, Kirgizstan, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Peru, gathers up the concerns of the countries from the South regarding the flagrant human rights violations caused by the operations of transnational corporations, that in many countries, they have left as large debts, large effects on local communities and populations, including many indigenous peoples.

This joint Declaration constitutes a milestone within the Human Rights Council of the UN, since for the moment; Ecuador has been the only country that has defended the idea of generating an international instrument about businesses and human rights. Nevertheless, after a hard work of lobbying carried out by the Ecuadorian delegation in Geneva, it has been possible to add support, especially of countries from the South which demand more equity and responsibility on behalf of the great transnational forces.”

ICC backlash
Reuters reports that the International Criminal Court could lose a big chunk of its membership due to its perceived lack of balance:

“Officials say suggestions are being made in the African Union for a pullout from the Hague court by the 34 African signatories to the Rome Statute that created it.
‘There is a proposal in the African Union, which will likely come in January, for all AU member countries to withdraw from the ICC because the court is seen to be targeting only African leaders,’ Tanzania’s government spokesman Assah Mwambene said.
The walk-out proposal could come even sooner, possibly at an extraordinary AU summit before the year end, following expected criticism of the ICC at the U.N. General Assembly this month.

All 18 cases so far before the ICC are against Africans, in eight countries. Most were either initiated or supported by the governments of those states.”

No number, no list
The Blog of Legal Times reports that the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the US government’s claim that divulging even the vaguest of information pertaining to drone strikes could threaten national security:

“[Justice Department lawyer Amy] Powell argued that the CIA’s ‘no number, no list’ response—where the government deems exempt from disclosure even the number of pages of any responsive document—is appropriate.
The ACLU lawyers said in their papers that the CIA failed to show why the government should be allowed not to describe the content of any single document.”

Crosses and veils
The Montreal Gazette reports the results of a public opinion poll on Quebec’s proposed “charter of values”, which suggest many of the Canadian province’s inhabitants share their government’s selective interpretation of secularism:

“Two proposals in the package do get large approval. Fifty-four per cent of Quebecers agree that the crucifix should remain over the speaker’s chair of the National Assembly. Thirty-eight per cent disagree.
And a big 90 per cent of Quebecers agree public servants giving services or Quebecers receiving services should do so with their faces uncovered.”

Oil displacement
The Monitor reports on the impacts of oil exploration on land tenure in Uganda:

“The discovery of oil and gas has also caused the appreciation of land value even in rural areas that are now getting transformed into urban centres. The resources have also attracted investors and speculators who are acquiring chunks of land to strategise how to profiteer from the nascent industry. The oil industry has also sparked off a scramble for land that at times has left some communities to be displaced by new landlords that are procuring pieces of land from individuals that were formerly owned communally.”

Miner threat
The Globe and Mail reports that a Canadian company is demanding Romania approve what would be Europe’s largest open-pit gold mine or face a massive lawsuit:

“ ‘If the lower house [of parliament] does reject the project, we will go ahead with formal notification to commence litigation for multiple breaches of international investment treaties for up to $4-billion,’ [Gabriel Resources CEO Jonathan] Henry said in a phone interview. ‘Our case is very strong and we will make it very public that Romania’s effort to attract foreign investment will suffer greatly.’

The Rosia Montana project has been held up by well-organized and well-funded protesters, ranging from local farmers who do not want their properties seized to make way for the enormous mine to billionaires such as George Soros and celebrities such as Vanessa Redgrave, for about 15 years.”

Expendable labour
The Guardian reports that a number of Western clothing brands are being accused of doing too little for the victims of Bangladesh’s deadliest industrial accident:

“The international union IndustriALL has called for brands to contribute $33.5m to those injured and the families of those who died in the accident with a further $41m to come from the Bangladeshi government and factory owners. While all the brands which met in Geneva said they were prepared to put up at least some cash, no agreement was reached on the structure or scale of compensation, partly because 20 brands which were invited did not attend including Walmart, Mango and the Zara owner, Inditex.
Samantha Maher of campaign group Labour Behind the Label, who attended the talks, said: ‘It is almost six months since Rana Plaza collapsed. After all the hand-wringing, workers are still facing a life of desperation when half of those brands whose products they were making have turned their back on them.’”