I would like to share with you the official report on my mission to Greece which I presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council last week. My report finds that after several years of adjustment policies, more than one million persons in Greece have fallen below income levels indicating extreme poverty. Unemployment, in particular youth unemployment has remained at unacceptable high levels. Unfortunately human rights obligations of Greece and its international lenders towards rights holders within the country continue to be sidelined, both in the design of adjustment policies and in the implementation of much needed structural reforms.
For over a decade now, various global initiatives have promoted the design and implementation of international standards for governments and companies in the extractive sector to publish detailed information about their output and revenues. In 2002, after major corruption scandals emerged in Angola, Publish What You Pay (PWYP; a global coalition of civil society organizations) demanded oil, gas and mining companies to publish what they paid governments.
From this global call for action, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)—a voluntary reporting regime—was launched in 2002 by then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The world of work is changing very rapidly. In the European Union, 11 million people are out of work, including 4.6 million young people. World-wide, the ILO speaks of almost 200 million unemployed people and almost half of the total workforce, or 1.5 billion people are in vulnerable employment. Governments are all in austerity mode and claim to have no other possibility than try and believe better skills and flexible labour markets will bring solutions.
Chances are minimal they will ever succeed.
Argentina signed an agreement in principle on 29 February 2016 with four “super holdout” hedge funds including NML Capital Ltd, Aurelius Capital, Davidson Kempner and Bracebridge Capital. Buenos Aires would pay them a total of about $4.65 billion, amounting to 75 percent of the principal and interest of all their claims of Argentina’s bonds that were defaulted on during the 2001 debt crisis. The payment is to be made in cash before 14 April 2016, provided that Argentina's Congress approves the repeal of Argentina's domestic laws, namely the Lock Law and the Sovereign Payment Law, which prohibit the country from proposing terms to the holdouts that are better than those Argentina offered to its creditors in earlier restructurings. This deal would allow the return of Argentina to the international capital market after more than 15 years of exclusion, something that is imperative for the government to try to put the economy on a more sustainable path even though this would mean having to use a substantial part of its foreign currency reserves to pay off the holdout bond holders. Nevertheless, there are systemic implications of this deal to future sovereign debt restructurings which deserve careful examination and remedial actions.
Having spent 15 years coordinating care in emergency rooms, I know something about setting priorities. And, right now, politicians in Washington have their budget priorities backward. Budget writers are still relying on service cuts to make their numbers add up instead of targeting hundreds of billions of dollars in unpaid corporate taxes. It’s time to reverse that pattern.
Working families have a hard enough time getting ahead without losing the essential services we have every right to expect from our government. Over the past five years of deficit reduction deals, we’ve absorbed $2.7 trillion in spending cuts—in everything from housing vouchers to preschool slots to meals for seniors. It’s time to restore and improve vital services by finally collecting the taxes big corporations owe us.
The success of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda is predicated on one underlying theme: no one should be left behind – and certainly not the world’s rural poor –in the fight to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2030.
Over 70 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and amongst indigenous communities which are deeply entrenched in rural environments.
The United Nations says these include subsistence farmers and herders, fishing communities and migrant workers, artisans and indigenous peoples – all of them struggling for economic survival.
African countries have been active in concluding international investment treaties. They are increasingly subject to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) cases, including claims that challenge regulatory actions of host countries in a wide range of areas, including public services and race relations. At the same time, African States have developed the ‘Africa Mining Vision’, which is aimed at introducing policy and regulatory frameworks intended to maximize the development of the region through the use of natural resources as catalyst for industrial development in order to diversify the economy.
This paper discusses the potential challenges that could arise out of rules established by international investment treaties and ISDS to policy space in African countries and the operationalization of the ‘Africa Mining Vision’. It provides an overview of the rising number of ISDS cases in the mining and extractive industries, including cases brought against African countries. It also reviews how investment treaties are increasingly imposing a wider net of prohibitions around performance requirements, which could potentially be crucial for the operationalization of the ‘Africa Mining Vision’.
The paper concludes that in the case of African countries, similar to other developing countries, the expansion of international investment agreements could carry significant risks to policy space and policy tools necessary for industrialization and development. In the case of African countries, this implies risks to the potential use of sectoral policies, such as policies in the extractive industries and the ‘Africa Mining Vision’, in order to support and promote African countries’ industrialization objectives.
The Investment Court System (ICS) proposed by the European Commission for all of the EU's ongoing and future investment negotiations to get around the massively unpopular Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system, would still empower corporations to sue governments over measures to protect the environment, health, workers and other public interests, according to a just released new report.
According to the report, the proposed ICS does not put an end to ISDS. Quite the opposite, it would empower thousands of companies to circumvent national legal systems and sue governments in parallel tribunals if laws and regulations undercut their ability to make money.
As geopolitical tensions escalate in the Middle East and the world teeters on the brink of a new Cold War, it’s clear that the only way to eliminate the threat of nuclear warfare is for governments to fulfil their long-held commitment to the “general and complete disarmament” of nuclear weapons – permanently. A bold and essential step towards this crucial goal is to decommission Trident, the UK’s ineffective, unusable and costly nuclear deterrent submarines. Renewing Trident would not only undermine international disarmament efforts for years to come, it will reinforce the hazardous belief that maintaining a functional nuclear arsenal is essential for any nation seeking to wield power on the world stage.
Ministers and senior officials of developed countries agreed major changes today to what can be counted as Official Development Assistance (ODA, or ‘aid’), opening the door for greater use of aid to subsidise private companies. A push by some states for greater aid spending on military and security costs was partly rebuffed, after strong campaigning from civil society organisations, while discussions on how to reduce the huge amount of foreign aid being diverted to cover spending in donor countries to support refugees will culminate later this year.
From February 21st-25th, La Via Campesina is holding its Midterm Conference, including the Women’s Assembly and the Youth Assembly, near Seferihizar in Turkey. Midterm Conferences are held between two and three years after the International Conferences and are the occasion for evaluating work and for following up on the actions and commitments that were decided upon at the preceding International Conference. The last International Conference took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2013. It is expected that more than 100 women and men representatives of peasants and small-scale farmers organisations from all over the world will take part in this Midterm Conference.