Latest Developments, September 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Systemic change
In assessing the performance of Britain’s outgoing international development minister, the Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues that “aid is not very important for development”:

“The aid effectiveness agenda has had some successes in turning the tide of donor arrogance and aligning external funds with domestic endeavours, but its lasting and unfortunate impact has been to divert the world’s attention towards technocratic tinkering and away from what really matters: systemic change.

Better regulation of companies and fairer trade with poorer nations has long since dropped from the agenda in favour of better terms for UK companies and investors. And does anyone remember climate change? Rather than focus on the major issues – sustainable development and poverty reduction – we are exhorted to focus on aid, sold as the generosity of a kind-hearted nation.”

Anti-bribery enforcement
Transparency International has released a new report assessing the commitment of the world’s richest countries to fighting foreign bribery:

“The report assesses the progress of 37 of the 39 countries signed up to the [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery] Convention, placing them in four enforcement categories: Active, Moderate, Little and No enforcement.

Eighteen countries have little or no enforcement at all, having not yet brought any criminal charges for major cross-border corruption by companies. Together these countries represent 10 per cent of world exports. Only seven out of 37 countries are actively enforcing bribery law.”

Land-grab greenwash
A new report by the Oakland Institute looks at a US-owned company’s “strategy to deceive the public into believing that there is logic to cutting down rainforests to make room for palm oil plantations” in Cameroon:

“[SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon] is 100 percent owned by the American company Herakles Farms, an affiliate of Herakles Capital, which is an Africa-focused private investment firm involved in the telecommunications, energy, infrastructure, mining and agro-industrial sectors. The Chairman and CEO of Herakles Farms, Bruce Wrobel, is also the Chairman and Executive Director of All for Africa, a ‘development’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).

The expected negative social and environmental impacts of the plantation are numerous, including loss of livelihoods, small returns for local communities, and massive deforestation. The involvement of All for Africa, ostensibly a ‘development’ NGO, is deceptive. While partnering in the development of a plantation that will destroy existing and valuable tropical rainforest, All For Africa’s main stated goal, to plant one million trees for sustainability, does not match up with sustainable development goals.”

Torture revelations
Human Rights Watch has released a report containing new evidence on waterboarding and other forms of torture in CIA prisons, which suggests “just how little the public still knows about what went on in the US secret detention program”:

“The United States played the most extensive role in the abuses, but other countries, notably the United Kingdom, were also involved.

Five former [Libyan Islamist Fighting Group] members told Human Rights Watch that they were detained in US run-prisons in Afghanistan for between eight months and two years. The abuse allegedly included: being chained to walls naked – sometimes while diapered – in pitch dark, windowless cells, for weeks or months at a time; being restrained in painful stress positions for long periods of time, being forced into cramped spaces; being beaten and slammed into walls; being kept inside for nearly five months without the ability to bathe; being denied food and being denied sleep by continuous, deafeningly loud Western music, before being rendered back to Libya. The United States never charged them with crimes.”

Spill fallout
The Associated Press reports that local residents are claiming they have not received adequate help following a toxic spill at a Peruvian mine run by four global corporate giants:

“At least 350 Cajacay residents were sickened by the spill of 45 tons of copper concentrate, a mineral stew of volatile compounds. At least 69 were children.
The mine’s owner, Antamina, has not responded to repeated AP phone and email requests to identify the toxic components of the slurry and details on medical care it is providing for the spill victims. A document obtained by the newspaper La Republica shortly after the spill described the mixture as ‘highly toxic.’

Antamina is the world’s third-largest zinc mine and eighth-biggest producer of copper. It is owned by a consortium including Australia-based BHP Billiton Ltd., Xstrata of Switzerland, Teck-Cominco Ltd. of Canada and Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan.”

Hello to arms
Reuters reports that France may be considering supplying heavy artillery to rebel-held “liberated zones” in Syria:

“European powers have also said they will not supply weapons to lightly-armed Syrian rebels, who have few answers to attacks by Assad’s planes and helicopter gunships. However, the source implied there may be a shift in Paris’ thinking.
‘It’s not simple. There have been transfers of weapons which then ended up in different areas such as in the Sahel so all that means we need to work seriously, build a relationship of trust to see who is who so that then an eventual decision can be taken. It takes time,’ the source said.”

Forests for sale
Global Witness reports that “a quarter of Liberia’s total landmass has been granted to logging companies in just two years”:

“The new logging contracts – termed Private Use Permits – now cover 40 percent of Liberia’s forests and almost half of Liberia’s best intact forests.

Designed to allow private land owners to cut trees on their property, Private Use Permits are being used by companies to avoid Liberia’s carefully-crafted forest laws and regulations. Companies holding these permits are not required to log sustainably and pay little in compensation to either the Liberian Government or the people who own the forests for the right to export valuable tropical timber.”

Puntland guns
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that an Australian citizen with a shady past is helping to set up a large militia force that “fundamentally changes the balance of power in the north-east of Somalia” despite a UN arms embargo:

“[Lafras Luitingh] is using a string of companies registered around the world, but according to UN investigators, Australia plays a central part in their operations.
Australian records show Mr Luitingh registered the company – Australian African Global Investments – in 2006.
It has branches in South Africa, Uganda and other African countries and is involved in logistics, transport and chartering planes and ships.
The Australian company was registered by Taurus Financial Services in Sydney.”