Latest Developments, October 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone investigation
New York University’s Sarah Knuckey provides a brief summary of the new interim report on the UN’s investigation into drone strikes and targeted killings:

“There is ‘strong evidence’ that between 2004 and 2008, Pakistani intelligence and military officials consented to US strikes, and that senior government officials acquiesced and at times gave ‘active approval’ (¶53). However, the report states that only the democratically elected Government of Pakistan can provide legal consent to US strikes, and (now) only in accordance with consent procedures announced in a 2012 parliamentary resolution. Any current cooperation ‘at the military or intelligence level’ does not ‘affect the position in international law’ (¶54). On this basis, the report finds that there is currently no legal consent, and thus that the continued US use of force in Pakistan violates Pakistani sovereignty (absent valid US self-defence).”

African test case
The New York Times reports that the US military, eager for new missions after Iraq and Afghanistan, is using its Africa Command to try out “a new Army program of regionally aligned brigades”:

“The first-of-its-kind program is drawing on troops from a 3,500-member brigade in the Army’s storied First Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One, to conduct more than 100 missions in Africa over the next year. The missions range from a two-man sniper team in Burundi to 350 soldiers conducting airborne and humanitarian exercises in South Africa.
The brigade has also sent a 150-member rapid-response force to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa to protect embassies in emergencies, a direct reply to the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed four Americans.

Before deploying, the troops in Kansas receive six days of cultural training and instruction from Africa-born graduate students at nearby Kansas State University.”

Françafrique redux
In an interview with La Voix du Nord, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian indicates that France is also looking to increase its military capacities in Africa:

“We can carry out two or three [UN-led] operations simultaneously. We do, after all, have 280,000 troops and there are only 3,000 in Mali, as far as I know. I would even say that, with the changes to the military budget I’ve undertaken, we could do another Mali alone, without the Americans. With drones – the first two Reapers will arrive in Niamey by the end of the year –, the transport planes and the supplies that have been ordered. The puny little French army I’ve been hearing about will be able to do another Mali all by itself in the years to come.
The key is our reactivity in Africa between the prepositioned forces and, shall we say, the long-term foreign operations. If we succeeded in Mali, it’s because we had troops in Ouagadougou. We’re on the ground in Dakar, Abidjan, Bangui, Libreville, Bamako, N’Djamena, Niamey. The time has come to think about improved reactivity, particularly with regards to managing the Sahel question.” [Translated from the French.]

Migrant deaths
The Miami Herald reports that a boat carrying Caribbean migrants has capsized off the Florida coast, killing at least four:

“ ‘It was difficult to ascertain truly how many people were on this overloaded vessel,’ said Commander Darren Caprara, chief response officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Miami.

Once in U.S. custody, Haitian and Jamaican migrants may ask for asylum, after which asylum officers would determine whether each one has a ‘credible fear’ of being returned home.
If they pass the credible-fear test, the migrants would have their cases heard in front of immigration judges. A win there would allow them to be freed and to apply for a green card after a year in the United States. If they lose, including appeals, they would be deported.
A separate policy known as wet foot/dry foot applies to undocumented Cuban migrants. Those caught at sea are generally returned to the island nation, while those who reach U.S. land can stay.”

Saudi no
Al Jazeera reports that Saudi Arabia has turned down a two-year stint on the Security Council, accusing the UN of “double standards”

“ ‘Work mechanisms and double-standards on the Security Council prevent it from carrying out its duties and assuming its responsibilities in keeping world peace,’ the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.
‘Therefore Saudi Arabia… has no other option but to turn down Security Council membership until it is reformed and given the means to accomplish its duties and assume its responsibilities in preserving the world’s peace and security,’ it added.”

Illegal texts
The BBC reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has backed an “illegal-immigrant text message campaign” despite some wrong numbers:

“The Home Office says just 14 people out of a total of 58,800 contacted were mistakenly asked if they had overstayed their visas.
But campaigners say the true number of people wrongly contacted is far higher.
Labour described the government’s tactic as ‘shambolic and incompetent’

Originally, [the texts] had included the phrase: ‘You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain.’ ”

Kyrgyz pullout
Foreign Policy reports that the US military has announced it will return the Manas airbase to Kyrgyzstan by next July, after years of bumpy relations with the host government:

“The Defense Department instead will expand its use of an air base in eastern Romania called Forward Operating Site Mihail Kogalniceanu, or ‘MK,’ which now serves as a logistics hub for U.S. European Command. MIK is already used to house as many as 1,350 troops at any one time, typically for rotational use for troops deployed to Romania. Now that will be used for troops leaving Afghanistan.”

Casting stones
The Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders suggests it is problematic for Canada to apply “the ‘G’ word” to countries like Turkey when its own past may be no less genocidal:

“The UN Genocide Convention, which Canada ratified more than six decades ago and has applied against other countries, defines the crime as including ‘any of’ a list of acts committed against an identifiable group, including not just mass killing and mass physical or mental harm but also ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part,’ ‘imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group,’ and ‘forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’ You can find sustained examples of many of these in Canadian history, plus acts of cultural destruction such as forcing thousands of Inuit to replace their names with metal number plates.”

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Latest Developments, September 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Glimmer of hope
The Washington Post reports on what it calls “the first indication that a diplomatic solution may be possible” over Syria’s chemical weapons:

“President Obama on Monday called a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors in order to avoid a military strike a ‘potentially positive development,’ that could represent a ‘significant breakthrough,’ but he said he remains skeptical the Syrian government would follow through on its obligations based on its recent track record.

On Monday, while meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] said his country would ask Syria to relinquish control of its chemical weapons to international monitors to prevent a U.S. strike. Lavrov also called on Syria to sign and ratify the Convention on Chemical Weapons, which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.

Moualem said Syria ‘welcomes the Russian initiative,’ but he did not say whether his country would agree to what Russia was asking. ‘We also welcome the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is trying to prevent American aggression against our people,’ Moulaem said.”

Re-homing
Reuters has published a five-part investigative series into “America’s underground market for adopted children”:

“No authority tracks what happens after a child is brought to America, so no one knows how often international adoptions fail. The U.S. government estimates that domestic adoptions fail at a rate ranging from ‘about 10 to 25 percent.’ If international adoptions fail with about the same frequency, then more than 24,000 foreign adoptees are no longer with the parents who brought them to the United States. Some experts say the percentage could be higher given the lack of support for those parents.

The story of the Easons and the girls and boys they have taken through re-homing illustrates the many ways in which the U.S. government fails to protect children of adoptions gone awry. It shows how virtually anyone determined to get a child can do so with ease, and how children brought to America can be abruptly discarded and recycled.”

Throwing bombs
The Globe and Mail reports that Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has spoken out against multiculturalism and in favour of her proposed “charter of values”:

“She told [Montreal’s Le Devoir] that her government is leaning towards the French model of secularism, blasting what she called the English model of multiculturalism.
‘In England, they get into fights and throw bombs at one another because of multiculturalism and people get lost in that type of a society,’ she said.

The Quebec government is planning to lay out a series of ‘orientations’ and ‘proposals’ for its Charter next week, while a full bill will be tabled only after a consultation period, likely later in the fall.”

Anti-graft suggestions
The Wall Street Journal reports that efforts to tackle corruption at last week’s G20 summit were largely of the non-legally binding variety:

“In a progress report, the [anti-graft] working group said it endorsed the non-binding ‘G20 Guiding Principles on Enforcement of the Foreign Bribery Offense’ and ‘Guiding Principles to Combat Solicitation,’ both of which it said identify measures that have been successful at enforcing anti-foreign bribery law.

In addition, a 27-page declaration issued by the G-20 said it established a network to ‘share information and cooperate’ to deny corrupt officials entry into a member country.”

Tracking inequality
Newcastle University’s Peter Edward and King’s College London’s Andy Sumner have written a paper looking at trends in global inequality, both between and within countries, since 1990:

“Not surprisingly, but little noted, is the ‘China effect’ or the role of China in determining
these trends. Indeed, the picture looks rather different when China is excluded: in the rest of the world outside China between-country inequality rose in the 1980s and 1990s but has then stayed relatively constant since 2000. Throughout this entire period within-country inequality has overall been remarkably constant – as some countries have become less equal, others have become more so. In short, in the last 20 to 30 years, falls in total global inequality, and in global between-country inequality, and rises in global within-country inequality are all predominantly attributable to rising prosperity in China.”

Pacific pivot
Ateneo De Manila University’s Richard Heydarian says that the US push for a greater military presence in the Philippines could be “a game-changer” in the South China Sea:

“The proposed agreement provides a framework for the semi-permanent ‘rotational’ stationing of American troops and military hardware in the Philippines and once implemented will provide new strategic ballast to the US’s efforts to counterbalance China’s influence in the region

The US has pushed for a 20-year rotational presence agreement, which would most likely raise some legal debates over its constitutionality.”

Cheaper AFRICOM
The US Government Accountability Office has released a report in which it suggests the Pentagon should consider sending more personnel from its Africa Command, currently based in Germany, to “forward locations”:

“In discussions with GAO, officials from the Central and Southern Commands stated that they had successfully overcome negative effects of having a headquarters in the United States by maintaining a forward presence in their theaters. In sum, neither the analysis nor the letter announcing the decision to retain AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart explains why these operational factors outweighed the cost savings and economic benefits associated with moving the headquarters to the United States. Until the costs and benefits of maintaining AFRICOM in Germany are specified and weighed against the costs and benefits of relocating the command, the department may be missing an opportunity to accomplish its missions successfully at a lower cost.”

P5 problems
Veteran journalist Ian Birrell hopes that the international diplomatic standoff over Syria will finally lead to “reforms that are so essential and universally acknowledged” at the UN Security Council:

“Should a corrupt oligarchy have carte blanche in perpetuity to determine the rules of international engagement? And indeed, [does the UK] deserve a permanent seat round the table as our power wanes and we demonstrate a new reluctance to engage in punishing those who break global rules on war? Especially when there is no such authority given to the world’s biggest democracy, India, or to a Muslim nation, or any of the 54 countries in Africa whose continent accounts for more than three-quarters of the council’s debates.

The most hopeful solution is to bring in a second tier of permanent members, then slowly strip away the right to veto of the fractious five through majority voting.”

Latest Developments, March 27

In the latest news and analysis…

Violent peace
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council is preparing a resolution authorizing a “search and destroy” brigade and surveillance drones to supplement the peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

“According to the draft, [UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO] would ‘carry out targeted offensive operations through the Intervention Brigade … either unilaterally or jointly with the (Congo army), in a robust highly mobile and versatile manner … to prevent expansion of all armed groups, neutralize these groups, and to disarm them.’

The draft Security Council resolution outlines MONUSCO’s role in monitoring a U.N. arms embargo on Congo that would now include using unmanned surveillance drones to ‘observe and report on flows of military personnel, arms, or related materiel across the eastern border of the DRC.’ It will be the first time the United Nations has used such equipment.”

Cradle of revolution
Al Jazeera reports that tens of thousands of activists have turned up in Tunis for the “counter-hegemonic meet” known as the World Social Forum:

“From Cairo to Dakar, from Wall Street to Nicosia, protesters can shake and occasionally even oust politicians, but contesting the global economic status quo is a far greater challenge.
The slogan of this year’s forum, which runs from March 26 to 30, in keeping with the spirit of Tunisia’s January 2011 uprising, is dignity.

‘We need to have economic reforms that work for the people, not for the global economy,’ Mabrouka Mbarek, a member of Tunisia’s constituent assembly, told Al Jazeera.”

UK in Mali
The BBC reports that British troops have begun arriving in Mali as part of an EU mission to train the West African country’s military for the fight against an insurgency which, according to the UK defense secretary, “poses a clear threat to our national interests”:

“The UK is also providing surveillance and logistical support to French troops who are helping the west African nation counter an Islamist insurgency.

The training will take place north-east of Mali’s capital Bamako, under the control of French Brigadier General François Lecointre and is expected to continue for around 15 months.
More than 200 instructors will be deployed in total, as well as mission support staff and force protection, making a total of around 500 staff from 22 EU Member States.”

Alone against the world
The Canadian Press reports Ottawa is pulling out of a UN desertification convention to which every other UN member is party:

“Canada signed the [UN Convention to Combat Desertification] in 1994 and ratified it in 1995. Every UN nation – 194 countries and the European Union – is currently a party to it.

A spokesman for International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino said in an e-mailed statement that ‘membership in this convention was costly for Canadians and showed few results, if any for the environment.’
Mr. Fantino’s office refused to answer follow-up questions, including how much money was being saved by the move, and when Canada planned to notify the UN of its decision.
Government documents show Canada provided a $283,000 grant to support the convention from 2010 to 2012.”

Almost there
Reuters reports that there is considerable optimism at UN headquarters that member countries will adopt the arms trade treaty whose final details are being hashed out:

“But [Amnesty International’s Brian Wood] made clear that there were problems with the text, including an overly narrow scope of types of arms covered. It covers tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers and small arms and light arms.
Predator drones and grenades are among the weapon categories that are not covered explicitly in the draft treaty.

Rights groups complained about one possible loophole in the current draft involving defense cooperation agreements. Several diplomats who also oppose this loophole said it could exempt certain weapons transfers from the treaty.”

Mining dispute
The Financial Times reports that a Canadian mining company is refusing to pay millions in fines levied by the government of Kyrgyzstan:

“The government, which holds 33 per cent of the equity, wants to renegotiate the agreement to run the mine signed with Canada-based Centerra in 2009 under what the government says was then a corrupt regime.
Alongside the moves towards renegotiation, two government agencies have hit Centerra with separate fines of $152m and $315m for alleged environmental damage.
The Kyrgyz parliament has also instructed the public prosecutor to investigate whether the company deliberately understated some reserves.”

Leaky economies
Quartz’s Naomi Rovnick highlights the role of tax havens – often European countries or their dependents – in siphoning money away from even the world’s rising economic powers:

“The clearest sign that BRICs are leaking tax revenues is that each country’s biggest source of outside investment is a tax haven. China counts the tiny Caribbean bolthole of the British Virgin Islands as its biggest source of foreign investment (not including the Chinese territory of Hong Kong). India has Mauritius, Russia has Cyprus, and Brazil has the Netherlands.

As this presentation from lawyers at international law firm Clifford Chance illustrates, setting up an intermediate Dutch company that appears to own a Brazilian business gives big tax advantages. For example, Dutch companies do not have to pay local taxes on dividends earned from a Brazilian investment.
This structure is known as the ‘Dutch sandwich’ in accounting circles. The name describes how a Netherlands company (think of it as a slice of Edam) is inserted between the real source of investment and the real investment destination (they are the bread).”

Jekyll & Hyde
The Guardian reports on calls for corporations to look beyond job creation when assessing the impacts they have on communities:

“The debate on jobs and taxes reflects the Jekyll and Hyde approach of the private sector. [UK International Development Secretary Justine] Greening neatly – if inadvertently – encapsulated this in her London speech, when she praised SAB Miller, the brewing giant, for working with 1,200 farmers in South Sudan to supply its brewery in the capital, Juba; according to ActionAid, governments in Africa may have lost as much as £20m through SAB Miller’s non-payment of tax.
‘You do see companies with a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) that do everything to avoid taxes,’ said one business representative who did not want to be named. ‘They will say it is within the law but, if they have aggressive tax avoidance, how does that sit with their CSR declaration?’ ”

Latest Developments, December 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Warpath
The Globe and Mail reports on concerns that foreign military intervention in Mali, which has just received unanimous backing from the UN Security Council, could have “unintended consequences”:

“The rebel takeover of the north has already forced nearly 500,000 people to flee their homes or become refugees in neighbouring countries, and a new confidential UN report has warned that another 400,000 people could be pushed out of their homes if there is military intervention in the north.
‘No clear plan exists to ensure that a military intervention would not exacerbate the already disastrous humanitarian situation,’ said Alexandra Gheciu, a University of Ottawa professor who specializes in international security.
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has warned that the military intervention would have a high humanitarian cost that has been largely ignored so far.”

No way back
Think Africa Press’s James Wan takes issue with a European court ruling that Chagos Islanders, who were evicted from their homeland by the British to make way for a military base, relinquished their right to return 30 years ago when a group of them accepted $6 million in compensation:

“Firstly, the argument does not hold for the several hundreds of islanders deported to the Seychelles rather than Mauritius where the compensation was paid. ‘We were completely excluded from compensation’, Bernadette Dugasse told Think Africa Press earlier this year. ‘Chagossians from Seychelles were not even given half a penny, not even a teaspoonful of land.’ The full ruling barely acknowledges this.
Secondly, the suggestion that the exiled Chagossians could have pursued the matter in the courts had they ‘preferred’ is dubious at best. According to Mark Lattimer, executive director of Minority Rights Group, ‘it is frankly ridiculous to expect that a people from the Indian Ocean, some of who were illiterate, and who have been thrown into abject poverty, to have the means and the wherewithal to pursue the British government in the English court’.
In fact, even the notion that Chagossians who did get compensation renounced their right to return rests on shaky ground. Putting aside the fact that the compensation was derisory, it is notable that the documents were in English, which most Chagossians did not speak, and that many were illiterate and had to sign with thumbprints. Although the UK government claims that lawyers were present to explain the documents, many islanders have long insisted they had no idea they were signing away their right to return, and that had they known they would never have accepted the compensation.”

First Nations rising
The Dominion’s Martin Lukacs writes that the Idle No More protests currently taking place in Canada have the potential to “reset aboriginal-state relations”:

“Billions have indeed been spent – not on fixing housing, building schools or ending the country’s two-tiered child aid services, but on a legal war against aboriginal communities. Every year, the government pours more than $100m into court battles to curtail aboriginal rights – and that figure alone went to defeating a single lawsuit launched by two Alberta First Nations trying to recover oil royalties essentially stolen by bureaucrats.

Parliament will soon debate a bill that would break up reserves – still, mostly, collectively held – into individual private property that can be purchased by non-native speculators. The undeclared agenda of government policy is the same as it was a century ago: a grab for resource-rich lands, and the assimilation of aboriginal nations.”

Death to capital punishment
Amnesty International reports on the latest UN General Assembly vote on the death penalty, in which 111 states voted for abolition:

“New votes in favour included Central African Republic, Chad, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Tunisia. As a further positive sign, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia moved from opposition to abstention. Regrettably, Bahrain, Dominica and Oman changed their abstention to a vote against the resolution, while Maldives, Namibia and Sri Lanka went from a vote in favour to an abstention.”

Investment dangers
Paint Our World’s Priya Virmani is not convinced that the arrival in India of global supermarket chains will help the country’s farmers:

“Yet if the intervention of big supermarket chains lifts farmers, why do American and European farmers need to be heavily subsidised? Predatory pricing – the precedent set by the biggest supermarkets – threatens smaller retailers as monopolistic practices take place.

More [foreign direct investment] brings with it the promise of improving India’s growth figures. But these indicate the overall temperature of an economy and not the temperature of its disparate parts. When the temperature of India’s bottom of the pyramid, at around 800 million people, is at an opposite end of the spectrum to that of the other much more opulent India then growth in itself cannot be considered an indication of the health of the majority.”

Lump of coal
The Guardian reports that protesters dumped coal outside the London offices of GCM Resources over its plans to develop a massive open-pit mine in Bangladesh:

“An official complaint to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has been made by the World Development Movement and the International Accountability Project, saying the company would forcibly evict up to 130,000 people if the project went ahead. The complaint mentions a UN report from earlier this year warning that ‘access to safe drinking water for some 220,000 people is at stake’.
The company claims the mine will displace 40,000 people but create 17,000 jobs.”

Miner changes
Bloomberg reports that South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has decided against nationalizing mines, but is considering a number of other ways to increase the country’s benefits from mining:

“The party is considering a ‘resource rent’ tax or higher royalties to extract more revenue from the industry, said Enoch Godongwana, head of the ANC’s economic transformation committee.

The ANC agreed today to classify certain minerals as strategic, which the government wants to manage through measures including targeted export controls in order to ensure security of supply, Godongwana said. Iron ore, coal, copper, copper, zinc and nickel are amongst minerals being considered for classification, according to the ANC’s document.”

Death traps
EarthPeople’s Anna Clark argues that the US has outsourced much of the injustice it has eliminated from its own economic system:

“Due to the relentless pursuit of low-cost labour and the lack of accountability inherent in a global supply chain, companies will have to learn to work with labour rights groups to mandate and track compliance.
Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, for example, agreed to work with watchdog groups to introduce new fire safety standards at their supplier factories. Gap Inc, which operates the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta brands, instead decided to go it alone with its own corporate-controlled programme.
With limited oversight by worker organisations and no transparency, such measures are not good enough to protect vulnerable workers.”

Latest Developments, May 25

In the latest news and analysis…

Global leadership failure
Amnesty International has released its 50th annual global human rights report, in which it describes the UN Security Council as “tired, out of step and increasingly unfit for purpose.”
“ ‘Failed leadership has gone global in the last year, with politicians responding to protests with brutality or indifference. Governments must show legitimate leadership and reject injustice by protecting the powerless and restraining the powerful. It is time to put people before corporations and rights before profits,’ said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General.

‘The language of human rights is adopted when it serves political or corporate agendas, and shelved
 when inconvenient or standing in the way of profit.’

The UN meeting to agree an Arms Trade Treaty in July will be an acid test for politicians to place rights over self-interest and profit. Without a strong treaty, the UN Security Council’s guardianship of global peace and security seems doomed to failure; its permanent members wielding an absolute veto on any resolution despite being the world’s largest arms suppliers. ”

Indifference in the time of cholera
The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that the rainy season is causing an intensification of Haiti’s cholera crisis, whose origins lie in UN peacekeepers’ sewage discharge into a source of drinking water.
“The cholera death toll is up to 7,155, with 543,042 infections over 586 days (and no UN apology so far), according to a new ‘cholera counter’ created by advocacy group Just Foreign Policy.

But so far, even this new danger [of an evolving second strain] doesn’t seem to be enough to make fighting cholera in Haiti a cause célèbre. Maybe a viral ‘Kolera 2012’ campaign would do the trick?”

FCPA questions
The Huffington Post reports that two American congressmen are looking into the motives behind the US Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to water down a 35-year-old piece of anti-corruption legislation.
“In a letter to the Chamber released Tuesday, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) — the ranking Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, respectively — describe how committee staff looked through the institute’s tax filings and found that 14 of the group’s 55 board members between 2007 and 2010 ‘were affiliated with companies that were reportedly under investigation for violations or had settled allegations that they violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.’

In their letter, the congressmen request information from the Institute for Legal Reform, including any documentation of board discussions about FCPA and ‘documents relating to companies that have provided funds to the Chamber or the ILR for work related specifically to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.’ ”

Bribery rising
The Wall Street Journal reports on a new survey that suggests business executives worldwide are increasingly willing to engage in unethical practices.
“Of the more than 1,700 executives polled by Ernst & Young for its annual fraud survey, 15% said they were prepared to make cash payments to win business, up from 9% in the previous survey.

The study found that 47% of the 400 chief financial officers surveyed felt they could justify potentially unethical practices to help business survive during an economic downturn. Those practices included giving cash payments, using entertainment and giving personal gifts to win business. And, 16% of CFO respondents said they did not know that their company can be held liable for the actions of third-party agents.”

Ending slave labour
The Associated Press reports that Brazilian lawmakers have approved a constitutional amendment that will mean those “who force people into slave-like working conditions” will face harsher punishments.
“The amendment allows the government to confiscate without compensation all the property of anyone found to be using slave labor, which is most common on remote farms but also occurs in urban sweatshops in places like Sao Paulo, South America’s largest city.”

Land fever
Reuters AlertNet reports on the growing enthusiasm among foreign-owned companies for setting up industrial palm plantations on Cameroonian land.
“Six foreign-owned companies are currently trying to secure over 1 million hectares (about 2.5 million acres) of land for the production of palm oil in the country’s forested southern zone, according to a coalition of environmental organisations.

In a recent letter addressed to Cameroon’s Prime Minister Philemon Yang, the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations in Cameroon called on the government to reject the projects, which they argue will destroy a critical forested zone linking five national parks and protected areas.
‘In addition to the direct destruction of flora and fauna, these projects will bring hunger and frustration to the local population,’ the coalition argued.”

Stock exchange accountability
British MP Lisa Nandy has explained in parliament a proposed legal amendment that would require UK companies to report on the human rights and sustainable development impacts of their business.
“As some Members may be aware, the [London Stock Exchange] is currently host to a number of companies that have been found guilty of gross violations of human rights, particularly in countries that are in conflict or deemed high risk, yet very few companies have been held properly to account for such actions.

Our amendment would clarify rather than rethink the purpose of the stock exchange, allowing the [Financial Conduct Authority] to take into account an applicant’s respect for human rights and sustainable development, in protecting the integrity and respectability of the exchange. That has been done elsewhere, such as in Hong Kong, and Istanbul, Brazil, Indonesia, Shanghai, Egypt, Korea and South Africa have all taken steps in that direction.”

Defining green
The World Development Movement asks a fundamental question in the lead-up to the Rio+20 Summit: what exactly does the oft-used term “green economy” actually mean?
“However, industrialised countries like the UK, alongside banks and multinational companies, are using the phrase ‘green economy’ as a smokescreen to hide their plan to further privatise the global commons and create new markets in the functions nature provides for free.
Out of this Trojan horse will spring new market-based mechanisms that will allow the financial sector to gain more control of the management of the global commons.
Instead of contributing to sustainable development and economic justice, this corporate green economy would lead to the privatisation of land and nature by multinational companies, taking control of these resources further away from the communities which depend on them.”