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The Cuba Deal: why now?

On Wednesday, Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced the most profound change in relations between the United States and Cuba in decades.

Why now? What explains the timing of this historic change to a policy in place for over half a century? The short answer is that the decision to restore diplomatic ties between the two countries was driven by a surprising convergence of biology and technology. Biology dictated the aging of the Castro brothers and other leaders of their revolutionary generation in Cuba, as well as the graying of the Cuban exile population in Florida. This dynamic altered old political balances both inside the Cuban regime and in U.S. electoral politics. Technology—especially innovations in the extraction of shale oil and gas—allowed the United States to upend the world’s energy map and push down the price of oil, thus undermining the ability of Venezuela, a major oil-exporter, to continue providing a lifeline to Cuba’s bankrupt economy. Cuba needed an economic alternative, and the U.S. became one.

Social Watch challenges PPPs at UN

Corporations should be carefully vetted for their fiscal responsibility and human rights record before being allowed to use the UN name and logo or join any partnership with the international organizations, argued Roberto Bissio, from the Social Watch secretariat during a panel on global economic governance on December 11 in New York.

Former US congressman Barney Frank, co-author of the Frank-Dodd Act to regulate financial corporations, passed after the 2008 global crisis, was a panel member and agreed with many of the points raised by civil society organizations.

The panel also included Chilean Ambassador Eduardo Gálvez, who defended a central role for the UN in global economic governance, an IMF executive director, and representatives of the US Treasury and of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Several government representatives intervened in the debate, asking for details about the critique and analysis of Private-Public-Partnerships (PPPs) by Social Watch.

See Roberto Bissio's intervention here.

See the whole debate here.

Is a Global FTT a Sound Solution?

The Brisbane G20 Summit offered civil society groups an opportunity to renew demands for a financial transaction tax (FTT). But in the end it proved a missed opportunity to build international cooperation on financial reform.

A global financial transaction tax - dead or alive?

Crime, Corruption, Tax Evasion Drained a Record US$991.2bn in Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Economies in 2012

Illicit Flows from Developing & Emerging Countries Growing at 9.4% per Year

US$6.6 Trillion Stolen from Developing World from 2003-2012; Trade Misinvoicing Responsible for 77.8% of Illicit Outflows

China, Russia, Mexico, India, Malaysia—in Declining Order—Are Biggest Exporters of Illicit Capital over Decade; Sub-Saharan Africa Still Suffers Biggest Illicit Outflows as % of GDP

Study Calls for UN Sustainable Development Goals to Halve Annual Trade-Related Illicit Flows by 2030; Recommends Public Registries of Beneficial Ownership; Urges Public Country-by-Country Reporting for Multinationals

Read the full report


The Hidden Hand behind Natural Disasters

Floods and droughts in many parts of the world are getting ever more frequent and intense. Scientists have long warned that a changing climate is making such weather events more extreme. What is often neglected in the public debate is that the impacts of climate change on flood and drought disasters are exacerbated by environmental destruction.

A new report by Wetlands International argues that "damaged ecosystems are the hidden hand behind many supposedly natural disasters. They can be what turns extreme weather into human calamity." The new report, Downstream Voices, was authored by the eminent environmental journalist Fred Pearce.

Corporate Conquistadors

Very interesting report on the many ways multinational companies both drive and profit from environmental destruction ... and participate in the climate negotiations.

Why Sharing is a Common Cause for All

Given that a call for sharing is already a fundamental (if often unacknowledged) demand of engaged citizens and progressive organisations, there is every reason why we should embrace this common cause that unites us all.

Across the world, millions of campaigners and activists refuse to sit idly by and watch the world’s crises escalate, while our governments fail to provide hope for a more just and sustainable future. The writing is on the wall: climate chaos, escalating conflict over scarce resources, growing impoverishment and marginalisation in the rich world as well as the poor, the looming prospect of another global financial collapse. In the face of what many describe as a planetary emergency, there has never been such a widespread and sustained mobilisation of citizens around efforts to challenge global leaders and address critical social and environmental issues. A worldwide ‘movement of movements’ is on the rise, driven by an awareness that the multiple crises we face are fundamentally caused by an outmoded economic system in need of wholesale reform.


TTIP or Climate

Trade liberalization policies and the extension of investors’ rights strengthened the international division of production systems, gave predominance to investors’ rights over environmental law and democracy, and ignored climate requirements.

In a recent article on trade liberalisation versus climate justice, both French associations make clear you cannot have both!

Global Wage Report

ILO's New Global Wage Report:

Wage growth around the world slowed in 2013 to 2.0 per cent, compared to 2.2 per cent in 2012, and has yet to catch up to the pre-crisis rates of about 3.0 per cent. Even this modest growth in global wages was driven almost entirely by emerging G20 economies, where wages increased by 6.7 per cent in 2012 and 5.9 per cent in 2013.

By contrast, average wage growth in developed economies had fluctuated around 1 per cent per year since 2006 and then slowed further in 2012 and 2013 to only 0.1 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively. “Wage growth has slowed to almost zero for the developed economies as a group in the last two years, with actual declines in wages in some,” said Sandra Polaski, the ILO’s Deputy Director-General for Policy. “This has weighed on overall economic performance, leading to sluggish household demand in most of these economies and the increasing risk of deflation in the Eurozone,” she added.

The Road to Dignity by 2030

The somewhat disappointing synthesis report of UN's Secretary-General on the post-2015 development agenda.

The Psychology of the World Bank

It is now more than 25 years ago that the World Bank declared it had a dream: a world free of poverty. And because it was and remains a dream, poverty is still with us.

But the dream had some nasty consequences: it buried all research and all theories on development economics. In its World Development Report of 1990 the WB started to build its new knowledge. The title of the report was ‘Poverty’, but in fact it concerned the new economics, the new state, the new social paradigm.

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