Latest Developments, June 17

In the latest news and analysis…

War plans
The Telegraph reports on increasing American willingness to get involved in Syria’s civil war, while some US allies remain skeptical:

Reports from The Times on Friday night claimed that 300 US Marines have already been deployed to northern Jordan, along with a Patriot anti-aircraft missile, ahead of plans to arm the rebels.

Sweden opposed the US move to provide greater military support. Carl Bildt, the foreign minister, warned that the US decision could set off an arms race with Russia, which is already considering whether to supply its advanced S300 air defence systems. ‘I don’t think the way forward is to get an arms race going in Syria,’ he said, ‘There’s a risk that that would undermine the conditions for a political process.’

The option of enforcing a limited no-fly zone to protect rebel training bases in Jordan, is also being considered, according to US officials. However, the French government indicated that it would be almost impossible to secure the necessary international agreements.

Diplomatic spying
The Guardian reports that British intelligence agencies monitored the computer and phone communications of foreign officials during G20 summit meetings in London in 2009:

“The disclosure raises new questions about the boundaries of surveillance by [Government Communications Headquarters] and its American sister organisation, the National Security Agency, whose access to phone records and internet data has been defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. The G20 spying appears to have been organised for the more mundane purpose of securing an advantage in meetings. Named targets include long-standing allies such as South Africa and Turkey.

The documents suggest that the operation was sanctioned in principle at a senior level in the government of the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, and that intelligence, including briefings for visiting delegates, was passed to British ministers.”

UK tax havens
Christian Aid and the IF campaign have released a new report underlining the importance of UK-controlled territories to a global financial system that “encourages crime, corruption and aggressive tax avoidance” in poor countries:

“The report reveals that the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Gibraltar, Anguilla and Turks and Caicos – all British Overseas Territories – together with the Crown Dependencies of the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey are now the largest source of Foreign Direct Investment in developing countries.”

Making amends
The University of London’s Lutz Oette highlights the importance of the UK’s recent agreement to compensate Kenyan victims of colonial-era torture but calls on the government, which refused to apologize, to make “much more fundamental changes”:

“Given the historical context, this reparation is a small price to pay for a country that greatly benefited from colonialism. Rather than oppose or undermine such claims, the UK – both the government and the public at large – should welcome these developments. They provide an overdue opportunity to confront Britain’s past, to live up to the rule of law and notions of justice, and to show that it respects victims and their suffering. This includes addressing lingering colonial power imbalances.

The UK government should therefore take immediate steps to make publicly available all records about abuses committed in all former British territories and to cooperate with any interested parties, including survivors’ organisations. Where sufficient evidence is available, the UK should provide adequate reparation to the victims, which should also comprise a full apology.”

Presidential plea
Guinean President Alpha Condé calls on rich countries to do their bit in the global fight against corruption:

“What we need now is the support of developed countries in building a global business climate that permits those who play by the rules to prosper and locks out those who do not. Too many of the world’s finance centres enable the predators who rely on offshore corporate vehicles to mask their identities; loop their finances through offshore jurisdictions; and use prestigious law firms, accountants, financial advisers and public relations firms to give their destructive behaviour a false veneer of respectability.”

Cosmetic CSR
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that an Edo state government official has said that so-called corporate social responsibility projects by oil companies often do little or no good:

“[Orobosa Omo-Ojo, the Commissioner for Special Duties, Oil and Gas] said such actions by oil firms amounted to insulting the sensibilities of their host communities.
‘Most of the CSR projects by oil companies have not amounted to anything tangible to the host communities.
‘Apart from digging one bore-hole here, a three-classroom block there and a cottage hospital somewhere, the host communities have never benefited enough from oil companies.
‘Yet, they extract crude oil from the host communities for over 15 to 20 years and when the oil wells dry up, they move on leaving the community more impoverished than they met them.’ ”

What would Hippocrates do?
The Overseas Development Institute’s Yurendra Basnett calls on G8 countries to prioritize the duty to do no harm when drawing up international trade agreements:

“In the murky and complex areas of standards and technical requirements, there is a thin line between expanding and restricting trade. Most developing countries lacking capacities are likely to find themselves facing costs not benefits. The World Trade Organization ministerial conference follows the G8 later this year and needs to consider updating the rules that govern such agreements. Perhaps the notion that some benefit – but that others are not left worse-off – needs to be established as a minimum when advanced economies enter into such agreements, with the burden of proof placed on members of the exclusive arrangement. At the very least we need to keep an eye on how this plays out for developing economies that are not a part of these agreements.”

First UN war
The Economist wonders whether the United Nations really knows what it is getting itself into with its first ever combat mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“This is the first time that the UN will send its own troops into battle. In the past the Security Council has authorised the use of ‘all necessary force’ but has delegated the fighting to posses from willing nations. In the Korean war the Americans were in command. In Afghanistan and Libya NATO took charge. In Congo, however, the UN itself will be responsible for artillery fire, helicopter gunships—and the inevitable casualties. Should the UN really be doing this?”

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Keeping the status quo in Western Sahara

On Thursday, the UN Security Council voted to maintain MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping mission established in Western Sahara in 1991, after the US backed down from a proposal that human rights monitoring be included in any new mandate. The following is an unpublished piece written in Laayoune, Western Sahara in December 2006 about human rights monitoring, or the lack thereof, in the disputed territory. Some of the specific details may have changed in the intervening years but, depressingly, the essence of the problem remains the same…

In Laayoune, a small city more than 1,000 km south of Casablanca, things are not always exactly as they may seem.

Last month, Moroccan identity was proudly on display all over town. On building after building, lone green stars danced on red backgrounds, driven by a desert wind. An even 40 flags on the local waterworks building alone.

Not to be outdone, pictures of King Mohammed VI fuelled the patriotic fervour. Instead of just hanging discreetly behind store counters, His Majesty’s likeness was now plastered on billboards all along the main streets and squares: looking dapper in a three-piece suit, sitting magisterially on his golden throne or striking a fine balance between Saddam menace and Top Gun glamour.

It was a time to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s independence from France and Laayoune looked more than happy to join in the party.

Except that this place was never French and is not necessarily Moroccan.

At least, not according to most maps, it is not. Not according to the African Union or close to 50 of the world’s countries either. And most emphatically not, according to the rebel Polisario Front which has fought for independence against Spain, Mauritania and Morocco at various times since its formation in 1973. By their reckoning, Laayoune is actually the main city and would-be capital of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a.k.a. Western Sahara. And Morocco is the illegal occupier of Africa’s last colony, eager to exploit the territory’s wealth of phosphates, offshore fishing and possibly oil.

Ridiculous, responds Morocco. This sandy strip of land the size of Great Britain is an integral part of the kingdom, only separated from the whole by the wheeling and dealing of imperialist Europe. It was 31 Novembers ago, as Morocco prepared to celebrate two decades of independence, that 350,000 unarmed civilians crossed the border into Spanish Sahara and righted an historical wrong by reclaiming the territory for the motherland. The Green March, as it was called, not only earned its own national holiday but is depicted today on the 100-dirham bill, complete with the green star of the national flag Escher-morphing into a dove: Morocco is peace.

This difference of opinion is why Western Sahara is home to Africa’s oldest UN peacekeeping mission. It is why, more than three decades into the dispute, 160,000 refugees are still waiting in camps across the border in southwestern Algeria. It is why a 2,000 km landmined sand wall, dividing Moroccan-controlled and rebel-held areas, keeps the people in those camps from seeing their families in towns like Laayoune, Smara and Dakhla. And it is why allegations of torture, police brutality, and a general lack of freedoms abound.

A number of international delegations, including one by the UN human rights agency (OHCHR), visited Western Sahara and the camps in the wake of a series of violent protests which took place in Laayoune and elsewhere in the territory in 2005. When the dust had settled, one man was dead and many more wounded and arrested. Some of the perceived ringleaders were sentenced to prison terms before benefiting from royal pardons. But other activists remain behind bars and there has been serious criticism of police action and the functioning of the justice system by both Moroccan and international NGOs as well as the authors of the confidential but leaked OHCHR report.

Morocco, in turn, accuses its critics of ignoring human rights violations committed by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front. Based in the refugee camps, the group functions as the government in exile of the SADR, the state which it proclaimed three months after the Green March. Morocco contends that the Polisario is mistreating refugees and holding them in the camps against their wil, a view supported by the somewhat controversial European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center.

While the OHCHR report’s authors direct most of their criticism at Morocco, they do point out that the Polisario enjoys a political monopoly in spite of the multiparty democracy enshrined in the SADR’s constitution. Moreover, civil society organizations are invariably affiliated with this single party and work in the camps is compulsory and unpaid. All of which is justified by the Polisario as the unfortunate but unavoidable result of life in exile. The report’s authors avoid judging the merits of this argument and simply call for further study of the situation in the camps where, according to a recent World Food Programme appeal, two-thirds of women are anaemic and one-third of children under five are chronically malnourished.

The main message of the OHCHR report is the need to respect the Sahrawis’ right to self-determination, which the UN General Assembly has recognized since the days of Spanish occupation. This concern underlay the establishment of MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping mission’s French acronym in which the ‘R’ stands for the referendum on the territory’s status that was supposed to be held in 1992. Fracesco Bastagli, the mission’s former head, recently blamed Morocco for blocking the peace process by refusing to risk a vote in favour of independence. He further denounced France’s unconditional support of Morocco and American ambivalence on the issue.

But in the world of realpolitik, Morocco is a precious gem as a moderate Arab nation occupying prime real estate along both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. And in a national address on the most recent anniversary of the Green March, the king argued that tampering with current borders could destabilize the region and create a weak microstate unable to control terrorists and traffickers. Given the disaster that was neighbouring Algeria in the 1990s and the belief of some experts that Africa will be al-Qaeda’s next stronghold, this line is likely not a hard sell in some very significant circles.

In the end, the UN Security Council voted unanimously at the end of October in favor of yet another mandate extension for a peacekeeping mission that has succeeded in upholding a ceasefire but failed to move the parties closer to dispute resolution. What is more, the latest resolution makes no mention of concerns over human rights abuses in the territory, a blow to those who ask that the monitoring of such rights be included in MINURSO’s mandate.

The king is currently reviewing a new proposal that would grant autonomy to the south within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty. For now the details remain shrouded in secrecy but the document should be presented to the UN Security Council within the next few months. What such autonomy will actually entail, in a country where virtually all power rests with the king, is not clear. But in any event, the Polisario wants outright independence. Period.

And so, another November has passed, marking one more year that Morocco has enjoyed independence and Western Sahara has not. In Laayoune, most of the flags have come down and the billboards of the king are gone, replaced by a Superman impersonator peddling financial services. But the thousands of Moroccan security forces, dressed in green or blue or plain clothes, have not gone anywhere. A handful of well-intentioned UN workers continue to drive about in shiny white Toyota 4Runners and Land Cruisers, unable to do anything about reports of disappearances and police brutality. The sand wall still stands. And on the other side, 160,000 undernourished refugees are left to wonder why nothing ever changes.

Latest Developments, April 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Endless mission
Reuters reports that France’s foreign minister has expressed the desire to have a permanent French military presence in Mali:

“ ‘France has proposed, to the United Nations and to the Malian government, a French support force of 1,000 men which would be permanent, based in Mali, and equipped to fight terrorism,’ [French Foreign Minister Laurent] Fabius said before leaving Bamako after a one-day visit.
A diplomatic source in Paris said France hoped to have the [UN] peacekeeping force approved by the Security Council within three weeks, and to have it deployed by the end of June or early July in time for scheduled presidential elections.
A clause in the U.N. resolution will allow [UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon] to request the rapid intervention of France’s 1,000 troops, which would be deployed under a bilateral deal with Mali, the source said.”

Gitmo scolding
The UN News Centre reports that UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has said she is “deeply disappointed” by the failure of the US government to fulfill its promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay:

“ ‘Some of [the prisoners] have been festering in this detention centre for more than a decade,’ Ms. Pillay said. ‘This raises serious concerns under international law. It severely undermines the United States’ stance that it is an upholder of human rights, and weakens its position when addressing human rights violations elsewhere.’

‘We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold. When other countries breach these standards, the US – quite rightly – strongly criticizes them for it.’ ”

Uranium discontent
Agence France-Presse reports on a protest held by about 2,000 students against French nuclear giant Areva in Niger’s capital:

“Marchers held aloft placards saying ‘No to exploitation and neo-colonialism’ and ‘No to Areva’.
‘The partnership in the mining of uranium is very unbalanced to the detriment of our country,’ said Mahamadou Djibo Samaila, secretary general of the Union of Niamey University Students that organised the protest.

The government of Niger, one of Africa’s poorest countries, complained late last year that its four-decade-old deal with Areva to mine its vast uranium deposits was unfair and should be changed.”

Robot wars
The University of Sheffield’s Noel Sharkey explores the potential limitations and dangers of “fully autonomous robot weapons”:

“Is anyone thinking about how an adaptive enemy will exploit the weaknesses of robot weapons with spoofing, hacking or misdirection?
Is anyone considering how unknown computer programs will interact when swarms of robots meet? Is anyone considering how autonomous weapons could destabilize world security and trigger unintentional wars?
In April this year in London, a group of prominent NGOs will launch a large civil society campaign to ‘Stop Killer Robots.’ They are seeking a new legally binding preemptive international treaty to prohibit the development and deployment of fully autonomous robot weapons.”

Toothless treaty
Former Reuters columnist Bernd Debusmann writes that the recently approved UN arms trade treaty is not at all certain to succeed in “throttling the flow of arms to the world’s killing fields”:

“Russia and China, the world’s second- and fourth-largest arms exporters respectively, abstained. So did 22 other countries that have misgivings about the agreement. Iran, North Korea and Syria – all subject to arms embargoes – voted against.
So did, in a manner of speaking, a domestic American pressure group, the National Rifle Association, whose extraordinary influence on the U.S. Congress is almost certain to result in the senate blocking ratification of the treaty.

The United States is by far the world’s largest arms exporter and if it stayed on the sidelines, along with Russia and China, the Arms Trade Treaty would lack teeth.”

Segregated cities
The Guardian’s Gary Younge argues that the uneven and unfair distribution of wealth in US cities means “chaos will spread randomly and episodically”:

“The problem starts with poverty. Infant mortality rates for black families in Pittsburgh are worse than in Vietnam; male life expectancy in Washington, DC is lower than it is the Gaza Strip.
Poverty rates in some black and Latino neighbourhoods in almost every city are higher than 50%. In some, violence is rampant. By one estimate, between 20% and 30% Chicago school children have witnessed a shooting. The US now has more people in its penal system than the Soviet Union did at the height of the gulag system.”

Poverty makers
Alnoor Ladha and Martin Kirk of /The Rules and Joe Brewer of Cognitive Policy Works argue that global poverty is created by an “industry that includes private companies, think tanks, media outlets, government policies, and more”:

“This isn’t to suggest that there’s a dark, smoky room somewhere in which a small cabal plots to cause immeasurable misery just because they can. This isn’t a conspiracy theory. In truth, it happens in big boardrooms and political conferences, where people create rules and execute strategies to ‘maximise self-interest’ as economists say, by extracting wealth from others. This is largely driven by a maniacal focus on short-term profit or advantage while ignoring one of its primary effects – the impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people. Wilful ignorance, though, as any legal scholar will tell you, is no defence in law. It’s about time we applied the same standard to our economic rules and realities.”

Latest Developments, March 26

In the latest news and analysis…

UN peacemaking
Reuters reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommended a peacekeeping force for Mali as well as the creation of a parallel combat force:

“In a report to the 15-member Security Council, Ban recommended that the African force, known as AFISMA, become a U.N. peacekeeping force of some 11,200 troops and 1,440 police – once major combat ends.
To tackle Islamist extremists directly, Ban recommended that a so-called parallel force be created, which would work in close coordination with the U.N. mission.
Diplomats have said France is likely to provide troops for the smaller parallel force, which could be based in Mali or elsewhere in the West Africa region.
‘Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the U.N. mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations,’ Ban wrote.
The parallel force would not have a formal U.N. mandate, though it would be operating with the informal blessing of the Security Council. The report did not specify a time limit for the mission.”

Cataract of weaponry
The New York Times reports that the CIA is helping arm Syria’s rebels:

“From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The scale of shipments was very large, according to officials familiar with the pipeline and to an arms-trafficking investigator who assembled data on the cargo planes involved.

These multiple logistics streams throughout the winter formed what one former American official who was briefed on the program called ‘a cataract of weaponry.’ ”

Old habits
Agence France-Presse reports that France sent an additional 300 troops “to ensure the protection of French and foreign citizens” in the Central African Republic as rebels toppled President François Bozizé over the weekend:

“A tactical command post has been set up in the capital Bangui.
There were already 250 French troops stationed in the Central African Republic.
France has a military base in Gabon, home to a reserve of prepositioned forces regularly deployed during regional crises. Reinforcements had already been sent to Bangui in December during the first rebel offensive.” [Translated from the French.]

Big mistake
Agence France-Presse also reports that France has offered “sincere condolences” after a fatal incident in the Central African Republic’s capital where French troops guarding the airport opened fire:

“Two Indian citizens were killed. The injured Indians and Chadians received immediate assistance from French troops who took them to a medical unit, a defense ministry statement said.
In all, five Indians and four Chadians were injured, according to military spokesman Thierry Burkhard. The Indians are civilians who were working for foreign companies in the Central African Republic and the Chadians are police officers, members of the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC), he said.” [Translated from the French.]

Investing in Africa
Reuters reports that new UN data reveals a surprising picture of foreign direct investment in Africa:

“Malaysia was the third biggest investor in Africa in 2011, the latest year for which data is available, behind France and the United States, pushing China and India into fourth and fifth positions.
France and the United States also have the largest historical stock of investments in Africa, with Britain in third place and Malaysia in fourth, followed by South Africa, China and India.”

Unintended consequences
The New York Times reports that back in 2011, the European Union “planted a time bomb” in Cyprus’s banking system that led to this week’s bailout/austerity agreement:

“[Former Cyprus finance minister Kikis Kazamias] was in Brussels as European leaders and the International Monetary Fund engineered a 50 percent write-down of Greek government bonds. This meant that anyone holding these bonds — notably the then-cash-rich banks of the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus — would lose at least half the money they thought they had. Eventual losses came close to 75 percent of the bonds’ face value.

‘We Europeans showed tonight that we reached the right conclusions,’ Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany announced at the time.
For Cypriot banks, particularly Laiki Bank, at the center of the current storm, however, these conclusions foretold a disaster: Altogether, they lost more than four billion euros, a huge amount in a country with a gross domestic product of just 18 billion euros. Laiki, also known as Cyprus Popular Bank, alone took a hit of 2.3 billion euros, according to its 2011 annual report.”

Sovereignty delayed
Jeune Afrique reports that France, which tested chemical weapons in the Algerian Sahara well into the 1970s, has signed a secret agreement to clean up the contaminated area:

“The existence of this facility for testing chemical and biological weapons was first revealed by the French press in October 1997. But, at the time, information highways were less efficient. The news had no effect on Algerian public opinion. In France, it led only to a superficial discussion on the use of chemical weapons. Fifteen years later, the return of B2-Namous in the news is having a far greater impact, stoking interest in an old state secret that neither Paris nor Algiers want to declassify. Algeria, whose ‘restored sovereignty’ long served to legitimize those in power, only recovered all of its territory 16 years after independence. Until 1978, about 6,000 sq km of its Saharan land, in the Beni Ounif region, on the border with Morocco, remained under French military control.”
[Translated from the French.]

Orphan MDG
The Guardian reports on new hope for the “global partnership” of the neglected eighth Millennium Development Goal:

“Devoid of clear targets, MDG8 talks in general terms about an open, rule-based trading and financial system, dealing with debt burdens, providing access to affordable essential medicines, and increasing access to new technologies. Goal eight also mentions fostering links between the public and private sector to drive better development.

Taxation has emerged as a key issue in terms of global partnerships as rich countries have failed to deliver on trade – the Doha trade round that was supposed to have benefited developing countries remains moribund – and development assistance is shrinking because of austerity in the west. The sums at stake are enormous.”

Latest Developments, March 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Off the hook
The UN News Centre reports that the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is dropping charges against Francis Muthaura who was charged with crimes against humanity in the wake of Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence, but charges remain against president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta:

“[Fatou Bensouda] said that she had explained to the judge that several people who may have provided important evidence in the case have either died or are too afraid to testify for the Prosecution.
Ms. Bensouda also noted that the Prosecution lost the testimony of its key witness ‘after this witness recanted a crucial part of his evidence, and admitted to us that he had accepted bribes.’

‘Let me be absolutely clear on one point – this decision applies only to Mr. Muthaura. It does not apply to any other case,’ the Prosecutor said in her statement.
She added that, while aware of political developments in Kenya, ‘these have no influence, at all, on the decisions that I make as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.’ ”

Shoot first
Reuters reports that the UN is contemplating sending “a 10,000-strong force” with an unusually aggressive mandate to Mali ahead of elections scheduled for July:

“A heavily armed rapid-reaction force, similar to the unit proposed for a U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, would be a departure from its typically more passive peacekeeper operations.
In practical terms, U.N. diplomats say, troops in the rapid-response force would have more freedom to open fire without being required to wait until they are attacked first, a limitation usually placed on U.N. peacekeepers around the world.”

Contentious referendum
The Buenos Aires Herald reports that Argentina’s government is dismissing a referendum in which inhabitants of the Falklands/Malvinas voted overwhelmingly to remain British subjects:

“ ‘It’s a referendum organized by the British and for the British with the only purpose of having them saying that the territory must be British. It was neither organized nor approved by the United Nations,’ [Argentina’s ambassador to London] Castro told FM Millenium.

‘Self-determination is a fundamental principle contemplated by the international law that’s not granted to any settlers of a certain territory, but only to the original natives that were or currently are being subjugated to a certain colonial power, and this is not the case of the Malvinas Islanders.’
‘The Islanders are not a colonized people, but inhabitants of a colonized territory.’ ”

Illegal deal?
The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has signed an offshore oil deal with ExxonMobil that does not meet her country’s legal requirements:

“The deal will come under intense scrutiny given controversy over the contracts signed by the government in the extractive industries in recent years. The terms appear to be more beneficial to the state than other contracts in the oil sector, but still fall short of the country’s standard tax terms. The government will receive a US$50m signing bonus up-front, a 10% equity stake and royalties of 5-10% when production starts. According to Reuters, the country’s law requires a minimum royalty rate of 10% and a minimum equity stake of 20%.”

Double standard
Foreign Policy reports that the US State Department has accused Syrian rebels of “terrorism” for carrying out “attacks against folks who are not in the middle of a firefight”:

“One reporter pointed out that the United States routinely targets and kills members of various groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan who are not physically engaged in the fight at the time they are targeted. [State Department spokeswoman Victoria] Nuland declined to comment on the perceived double standard.

Nuland also declined to confirm or deny a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel that Americans are training Syrian anti-regime forces in Jordan.”

Cyberwarriors
The Washington Post asks under what circumstances the US will use its planned “military force to defend the nation against cyberattacks”:

“In fact, said Michael Schmitt, chairman of the International Law Department at the U.S. Naval War College, ‘the law of self-defense does not allow you to strike at a state merely because they have the capability to attack you.’

Georgetown University law professor Catherine Lotrionte said that if states start to take more aggressive measures at a lower threshold, the risk of escalation and ‘tit for tat’ goes up. ‘There needs to be international agreement on rules to prevent that escalation,’ she said, ‘or we’re looking at a really ugly world.’ ”

Bad role model
Tax Justice Network-Africa’s Alvin Mosioma and political scientist Hakima Abbas argue that Kenya should not be looking to the UK for help mapping out its financial future:

“Human rights, democracy and justice movements across the land have fought to keep political and economic elites in check. Yet, the reality is that greed surfaces whenever citizens rest. This was true with the recent send-off package that the outgoing parliament gave themselves despite the growing inequality of our society. This will be true if we allow our financial models to be based on the same systems that have stolen Africa’s wealth for centuries.

It is time we amplify African voices in the call for an end to the secrecy in the City of London and within the global financial system. We must call on our new public officers as they come into office in March to not allow Kenya’s future to be tied to the same rules of corruption and tax evasion.”

Mining ethics
Doug Olthuis of United Steelworkers and Ian Thomson of KAIROS argue the Canadian government has turned its back on the only useful component of its overseas corporate social responsibility strategy:

“Binding regulations are the only way to deal with the worst offenders in the industry. Providing access to Canadian courts for those who have been harmed in the most egregious cases is urgently needed, particularly for abuses committed in countries with no rule of law or weak judiciaries.
We were willing to engage in the [Centre for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility] even though we see CSR as an extremely limited concept. All too often, CSR amounts to little more than public relations to promote a better corporate image without substantive commitment to change on the part of companies. Reliance on CSR alone, in the absence of enforceable standards, represents a model of corporate ‘self-regulation’ that leaves communities and workers without legal recourse to defend their rights and advance their collective interests.”