DGI Brief - Sep 16, 2016
- Clashes in the disputed INDIA-controlled Kashmir region continue, with months of violent protests where at least 80 people were killed. This week, Indian authorities prohibited prominent activist Kurram Parvez to leave the country when he wanted to travel to Geneva to address the United Nations. Only few days after that decision, local police arrested Mr. Parvez. Why it matters: actions like this will only fuel the local resentment towards Indian rule & could prolong the violence. Not a very tactical move on India’s part.
- USA: In 2015, Italian citizen Giovanni Lo Porto and American Warren Weinstein were killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan where they were held hostage by al-Qaeda. The US government acknowledged the accidental killing & announced it would make a condolence payment to both families. Records now show that the US government issued a payment – first know & documented of its kind –to a victim of a drone strike killed outside a ‘declared warzone’. This is also the first payment directly involving the United States. Previously, condolence payments were made through national governments. The agreement does include the standard stipulation that abdicates the US of responsibility. Why it matters: Is this a shift in policy for families of victims outside of declared warzones? That would have an impact on other victim cases. The Obama administration reports it launched 473 drone strikes between 2009 & 2015, killing between 2,372-2,481 terrorist “combatants” and 64-116 civilians (criticized as too low a figure) – many of which in Pakistan & Yemen, but Lo Porto’s family is the only one to have received such a payment or even an acknowledgement. Likely to stay this way.
- WORLD: UNHCR partnered with Accenture for a study that finds mobile phone & internet access have critical impact on the wellbeing of refugees. They are shown to be a lifeline for safety & security, and markedly improve access to information & essential services like food/water/shelter for displaced populations. One of the main obstacles are affordability & coverage. Why it matters: the study offers recommendations for investment in availability of mobile networks, improving affordability, & providing access to training, digital content & services. It encourages partnerships between tech & comms companies, investment in infrastructure & systems delivery. Very crucial investment areas, ones that are both profitable & socially impactful.
- A EUROPEAN watchdog group Public Eye issued a new report accusing Swiss commodity trading companies of blending cheap & dirty fuel (diesel, petrol) additives containing sulfur levels far higher than allowed in Europe to sell to West Africa. These dirty fuels are proven to cause health & environmental hazards – respiratory diseases & staggeringly high air pollution to name a few. These practices are not illegal but they certainly take advantage of the weak regulations in these developing nations. Why it matters: These trading companies claim raising fuel standards would be expensive, but research shows that when one West African country – Ghana – implemented stricter laws in 2014, there were no increased costs for any of the traders when they complied. Profits over people & planet?
- #GoodStoryFriday The INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT published a new policy paper outlining a priority focus on environmental crimes – illegal land seizures, destruction, illegal exploitation of the environment & natural resources. Why it matters: This is a paramount step for environmental justice as the criminal activities of one actor against the environment truly affect us all. There is some skepticism about how the ICC – already overstretched - will select its cases in particular where large corporations operating in countries with weak national environmental standards are concerned. But as these policies are worked out & implemented, the new focus is highly laudable.
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