International Affairs

Kenya:0.05% Tax on Bank Transactions Above U.S.$5000 Suspended - Thu, 19 Jul 2018
[Capital FM] Nairobi -The High court has suspended the implementation of the 0.05 per cent tax on the transfer of money more than Sh500,000 through banks and financial institutions pending determination of a case lodged by Bankers Association.

Africa:The Industrialization of Cybercrime - Thu, 19 Jul 2018
[IPS] Washington DC -Cybercrime is now a mature industry operating on principles much like those of legitimate businesses in pursuit of profit. Combating the proliferation of cybercrime means disrupting a business model that employs easy-to-use tools to generate high profits with low risk.

Kenya:Manufacturers Up in Arms Over High Power Bills - Thu, 19 Jul 2018
[Nation] Manufacturers have decried the high cost of power in the country, terming them as unsustainable.

Kenya:Cargo Train Derails at Kibarani, Mombasa - Thu, 19 Jul 2018
[Nation] A cargo train ferrying more 100,000 litres of petroleum from Mombasa port has derailed at Kibarani, causing traffic woes into the central business district of Kenya's second biggest city.

Nigeria:What Nigerians Think of the New National Carrier #NigeriaAir - Thu, 19 Jul 2018
[Premium Times] Mixed reactions on Wednesday trailed the unveiling of the name and logo of the proposed new national carrier by the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

Adrift in Afghanistan - Wed, 03 May 2017

As the war in Afghanistan drifts back into the public spotlight, Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon argues that five “urgent questions must be answered about the near- and long-term future of the fight.” The United States must clarify its definition of stability and success in Afghanistan, determine whether the Taliban, ISIS, or both is the enemy, discuss how many troops are needed on the ground, and create plans for stemming the loss of life among Afghan forces and for bringing an end to the war.

Making Chile Great Again - Wed, 03 May 2017

Since its return to democracy in 1990, Chile has been heralded as Latin America’s exception, writes Shannon O’Neil. But in the present, “this tranquillity has come to an end, and the economic and social consensus of the postauthoritarian years has crumbled.”

A Vision of Trump at War - Wed, 22 Mar 2017

Writing in Foreign Affairs, Philip Gordon offers a vision of howPresident Trump could stumble—through bluster, wishful thinking, and miscalculation—into war with Iran, China, and North Korea.

World Order 2.0 - Wed, 15 Feb 2017

There is growing tension between President Trump’s America First doctrine and building order in an interconnected world, writes CFR President Richard N. Haass.

Egypt’s Nightmare - Mon, 13 Feb 2017

The single-minded pursuit of the Muslim Brotherhood has become the guiding principle of Egypt’s foreign and domestic policies, writes CFR’s Steven A. Cook. These policies, however, are proving counterproductive and destabilizing to the lives of Egyptians as well as Gazans, Libyans, and Syrians.

Issue Guide: Fidel Castro - Sat, 26 Nov 2016

Fidel Castro, who died on November 25, was one of the most prominent figures of the Cold War and an adversary of ten consecutive U.S. presidential administrations. This reading list considers the legacy of his nearly fifty years in power, including the Cuban Missle Crisis, the U.S. economic embargo, and the years following the Cold War.

Iran Nuclear Deal’s ‘Implementation Day’ - Sun, 17 Jan 2016

The confirmation by UN monitors that Iran has complied with the deal to dismantle large parts of its nuclear program lifts major sanctions and ushers in a new era for the Middle East. This issue guide offers analysis and background.

Issue Guide: 2016 State of the Union Address - Mon, 11 Jan 2016

Catch up on the issues President Obama will focus on in his final year with this State of the Union reading list.

Issue Guide: Iran Nuclear Talks - Fri, 26 Jun 2015

As the deadline looms for the completion of a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program, this issue guide provides background on the diplomatic progress and stumbling blocks, and possible consequences of an agreement.

Issue Guide: Greece's Debt Crisis - Mon, 15 Jun 2015

Five years after the onset of its sovereign debt crisis, Greece once again finds itself on the precipice of default and a departure from the nineteen-member eurozone. This reading list provides expert background and analysis of the crisis.

Argentina learns to live with its inflation dragon - Sat, 14 Jul 2018
Mauricio Macri is all but ignoring stubbornly rising prices as he searches for growth

Economic reform risks being the loser in Brazil’s election - Thu, 12 Jul 2018
Candidates offer wide array of policies from privatisations to socialism

Brazil’s process of creative destruction - Fri, 06 Jul 2018
The country’s anti-corruption fight is a source of hope amid economic gloom and doom

Amlo as Lula? - Fri, 29 Jun 2018
There are differences between Mexico presidential candidate and ex-Brazil president

Wanted: politicians with the courage to reform Brazil - Thu, 28 Jun 2018
A truckers’ strike showed how complex the challenges are that the country faces

Comcast likely to be new owner of Sky - Thu, 19 Jul 2018
The US cable TV giant Comcast is likely to be the new owner of Sky after a lengthy takeover battle.

Poundworld to disappear from the High Street - Thu, 19 Jul 2018
The collapse means all 335 stores will have closed by 10 August with the loss of 5,100 jobs.

Trump in unusual criticism of US central bank - Thu, 19 Jul 2018
Mr Trump says he is "not happy" with rising interest rates which he argues put the US at a disadvantage.

Royal Mail hit by shareholder revolt over bosses' pay - Thu, 19 Jul 2018
Shareholders vote against the company's pay plan for top bosses after a row over their salary rises.

Burberry burns bags, clothes and perfume worth millions - Thu, 19 Jul 2018
The fashion firm destroyed £28m of unwanted stock last year in a bid to protect its brand.

France Should Face up to Azerbaijan’s Rights Record - Tuesday, March 1

In Paris this week on an official visit, Azerbaijan’s autocratic President Ilham Aliyev has already scored one photo op. Anyone reading yesterday’s Azeri media could see dozens of photos of Aliyev posing with leaders of top French companies, including Airbus, Suez, and Credit Agricole.

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev (L) shakes hands with his French counterpart Francois Hollande as they visit a local French school under construction in Baku, May 11, 2014.

© 2014 Reuters

Today, President Hollande will receive President Aliyev and host an official dinner at Palais de l’Elysee. Again, Parisian photo ops abound. But amid the flashing cameras, one has to wonder where Azerbaijan’s repression of critics and the jailing of opponents fits in the new relationship between Paris and Baku?

In the past few years, Azerbaijani authorities have aggressively gone after the country’s once vibrant civil society, jailing dozens of activists, journalists, and political opponents. It also adopted draconian legislation making it virtually impossible for independent non-governmental organizations to operate.

One year ago, as Azerbaijan’s economy started to suffer from falling oil prices, several of those detained on political grounds were released. That was an important first step, but hopes for progress were short-lived.

Many of those released face travel bans or obstacles to their activities. Dozens are still locked up on political grounds, including opposition activist Ilgar Mammadov, despite repeated calls by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe for his immediate release. And more activists have been thrown in jail. Recently, one of the country’s most popular journalists and bloggers, Mehman Huseynov, was sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly defaming the police, in response to his brave public denouncement of the police abuses he suffered.

When visiting Paris, Brussels, or other European capitals, President Aliyev hopes to get more business opportunities and investment in Azerbaijan. But he prefers to ignore that the people of Azerbaijan want human rights protections, transparency, and good governance. Those standing up for these values are routinely exposed to attacks and harassment.

Yet what more clear message that Azerbaijan’s crackdown cannot be ignored by potential investors than last week’s decision by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international coalition promoting better governance of resource-rich countries, to suspend Azerbaijan – precisely because of its actions against civil society.

President Hollande should reject a narrative that only finance and economy matter in Azerbaijan. Human rights should be as central to France’s foreign policy as other topics.

Hollande should publicly call for the release of Ilgar Mammadov and all those detained in retaliation for their activism and criticism. A failure to explicitly support human rights principles would be the worst message to those unjustly waiting behind bars.

Arvind Ganesan - Monday, May 25,

Arvind Ganesan is the director of Human Rights Watch’s Business and Human Rights Division. He leads the organization’s work to expose human rights abuses linked to business and other economic activity, hold institutions accountable, and develop standards to prevent future abuses. This work has included research and advocacy on awide range of issues includingthe extractive industries; public and private security providers; international financial institutions; freedom of expression and information through the internet; labor rights; supply chain monitoring and due diligence regimes; corruption; sanctions; and predatory practices against the poor. Ganesan’s work has covered countries such as Angola, Azerbaijan, Burma, China, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, India, Indonesia, the United States, and Nigeria. His recent research has focused on predatory lending practices and governance issues on Native American reservations in the United States. He has written numerous reports, op-eds, and other articles and is widely cited by the media.

Ganesan has also worked to develop industry standards to ensure companies and other institutions respect human rights. He is a founder of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights for the oil, gas, and mining industries and is a founding member of the Global Network Initiative (GNI) for the internet and telecommunications industries, where he also serves on the board. Ganesan has helped to develop standards for international financial institutions such as the World Bank, and regularly engages governments in an effort to develop mandatory rules or strengthen existing standards such as the Kimberley Process. He serves on the board of EGJustice, a nongovernmental organization that promotes good governance in Equatorial Guinea, and is a member of the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)’s steering committee.

Before joining Human Rights Watch, Ganesan worked as a medical researcher. He attended the University of Oklahoma.

The Toronto Declaration: Protecting the rights to equality and non-discrimination in machine learning systems - Tuesday, July 3,

Fueled by access to large data sets and powerful computers, machine learning and artificial intelligence can offer significant benefits to society. At the same time, left unchecked, these rapidly expanding technologies can pose serious risks to human rights by, for example, replicating biases, hindering due process and undermining the laws of war.

To address these concerns, Human Rights Watch and a coalition of rights and technology groups recently joined in a landmark statement on human rights standards for machine learning.

Known as the Toronto Declaration, the statement calls on governments and companies to ensure that machine learning applications respect the principles of equality and non-discrimination. The document articulates the human rights norms that the public and private sector should meet to ensure that algorithms used in a wide array of fields – from policing and criminal justice to employment and education – are applied equally and fairly, and that those who believe their rights have been violated have a meaningful avenue to redress.

While there has been a robust dialogue on ethics and artificial intelligence, the Declaration emphasizes the centrality and applicability of human rights law, which is designed to protect rights and provide remedies where human beings are harmed.

The Declaration focuses on machine learning and the rights to equality and non-discrimination, but many of the principles apply to other artificial intelligence systems. In addition, machine learning and artificial intelligence both impact a broad array of human rights, including the right to privacy, freedom of expression, participation in cultural life, the right to remedy, and the right to life. More work is needed to ensure that all human rights are protected as artificial intelligence increasingly touches nearly all aspects of modern life.

Drafted by rights groups, technologists, and researchers, the Toronto Declaration was finalized and announced on May 16, 2018 at the RightsCon conference in Toronto.

Jewelry Group Should Raise Bar for Supply Chains - Thursday, June 2

A girl works in an artisanal diamond mine in Sosso Nakombo, Central African Republic, near the border with Cameroon, in August 2015.

© 2015 Marcus Bleasdale for Human Rights Watch

(London) – The Responsible Jewellery Council, an international industry group, should strengthen its standard for responsible sourcing of gold, diamonds, and other minerals, 20 independent groups and trade unions said today in a letter to the group’s standards committee.

The organization is reviewing its core certification standard for its members, which include more than 1,000 companies in jewelry supply chains, including mining companies, refiners, manufacturers, and jewelry retailers. The public comment period on revisions to the standard closes on July 1, 2018.

“The RJC should make significant changes to its code to raise the bar for responsible sourcing in the jewelry industry and provide consumers with confidence that their jewelry is not tainted by human rights abuse,” said Jo Becker, an advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

The Responsible Jewellery Council’s certification standard, known as the Code of Practices, sets out business practices in regard to human rights, labor rights, environmental impact, mining practices, product disclosure and other issues in the jewelry supply chain. All members must be certified as compliant with the code through a third-party audit.

The letter recommended that the code should be brought fully into alignment with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High Risk Areas, including its five-step framework to identify and respond to human rights risks in the minerals supply chain. The OECD’s guidance is the most authoritative and widely accepted standard in the minerals sector.

The council plans to complete its review by the end of 2018. Reform may be particularly urgent for member companies now, as the European Union has made clear that it will recognize only refiners operating according to OECD-aligned standards as “responsible” for its minerals regulation entering into force in 2021. A recent assessment of the Responsible Jewellery Council by the OECD called for more robust due diligence measures.

The groups emphasized that the OECD due diligence should also be applied to diamond supply chains. Currently, Responsible Jewellery Council members are expected to avoid “conflict diamonds” that may be linked to abusive rebel groups, but many do not conduct due diligence for other human rights abuses such as child or forced labor.

The groups urged the council to require all members to report publicly on their efforts to address human rights and undergo more transparent and rigorous third-party audits. Currently, full audit results for individual companies are not even shared with the council.

Human Rights Watch examined responsible sourcing in the jewelry industry in a February 2018 report, The Hidden Cost of Jewelry. The report assessed 13 well-known jewelry and watch brands, as well as several global standards, including the RJC’s. The organization also is carrying out a campaign, called #BehindTheBling, to urge jewelry companies to source gold and diamonds responsibly.

“The RJC’s Code is full of loopholes and provides no guarantee that jewelry from a member is responsibly sourced,” Becker said. “With its current review process, the council should seize the opportunity to bring its code into line with international best practices.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the jewelry industry, please visit: The Hidden Cost of Jewelry

Please note additions have been made since original publication. 

Civil society call to tackle abuses, conflict, and lack of transparency in diamond supply chain - Friday, June 22,

An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale on September 19, 2010

© 2010 Reuters

The diamond industry continues to be tainted by links between diamonds and human rights abuses, conflict finance, and corruption. Although the diamond industry is not the only sector facing these threats, it is unique in its particular unwillingness and inability to take genuine steps towards responsible business conduct. We the undersigned, who represent a diverse range of civil society organizations, stand united in our efforts to break the links between diamonds and abuse, conflict, and corruption and to ensure that governments and industry engaged in the sector play their appropriate and necessary roles.

Advancing responsible sourcing, sustainable development, and transparency at all levels of the industry must be prioritized by a sector that has seen serious damage to its reputation in recent decades for its links to human rights abuse, conflict and corruption.

Jewelry Brands Should Come Clean

Jewelry Brands Should Come Clean

You should know what is #BehindTheBling. This Mother's Day tell global jewelry brands to ensure their jewelry is responsibly sourced and address human rights abuses in their supply chains.

Unfortunately, these links continue to flourish, as evidenced by the role of diamonds in the ongoing conflict in Central African Republic. We call upon governments, diamond industry associations, and all companies to tackle human rights abuse, conflict and corruption in the diamond supply chain by engaging in meaningful, transparent reform in line with international law and standards on human rights and responsible sourcing of minerals.

As a reform period for the Kimberley Process (KP), 2017-2018 brought hope of meaningful change. Unfortunately, however, the KP’s lack of transparency means that the public has no clarity on what to expect from a reform agenda that would propel the KP forward.

What has been made public about reform efforts demonstrates that the agenda is nearly identical to the agenda in 2012-13, the last time the KP took up reform. That is not the sign of an initiative moving forward or bringing meaningful progress on the ground, and we urge the EU, as 2018 Chair, and all participants to redouble their efforts to achieve meaningful and long-overdue reform.

More worryingly, little has been made public about the reform agenda or its broader activities because the KP is moving towards a greater focus on "confidentiality." No serious multi-stakeholder initiative should undermine public awareness of its work or inhibit those attempting to play a critical watchdog role, including and especially within the regions it is intended to benefit. We strongly urge participants to object to any such efforts.

Given the persistent failures of the KP to show any progression in its operations it is critical that the diamond sector strengthens its engagement in other responsible sourcing forums in pursuit of a comprehensive and harmonized approach to the full range of problems evident in the sector.

However, we also have concerns about the broader diamond industry. As underscored by the Human Rights Watch-led campaign launched earlier this year, initiatives like the Responsible Jewellery Council and company-specific efforts have failed to align sufficiently with international standards or to meaningfully advance responsible sourcing. Rather, our research and on-the-ground efforts reveal too many areas where companies are able to set their own agendas for what responsibility means, often at the expense of meaningful due diligence and origin tracing throughout the supply chain. This includes not allowing for the transmission of source of origin information through the supply chain and preventing assessment by stakeholders against transparent standards.

Moreover, whilst some major corporate players appear to have taken steps to advance responsible sourcing, we are concerned that their efforts lack serious engagement with the true task at hand. Not only do these initiatives not tackle serious human rights abuses associated with large-scale mining, but they fail to develop sourcing from artisanal communities that can positively impact local livelihoods by being scalable over time.

Given recent and past experience of industry engagement, we are concerned that such efforts are being used to distract from the need for meaningful industry-wide progress.

The industry as a whole - from mining to retail - needs to move toward responsible sourcing practices clearly and demonstrably aligned with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, as well as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It also needs to enable artisanal mining communities to work towards the achievement of sustainable development. These actors are woefully underrepresented in the membership or governance of industry bodies, and their interests and concerns need to be heard.

The conflict in the Central African Republic comes around two decades after diamond- fueled conflicts in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Democratic Republic of the Congo triggered the creation of the KP. Both the diamond industry and the international community should be extremely concerned that links between diamonds, human rights abuse, conflict, and corruption remain a reality and that current measures are failing to adequately address this unacceptable situation.

The diamond industry is lagging behind other mineral sectors in its responsible sourcing practices. Until it takes steps in line with the above, diamonds will likely continue to play a role in devastating the lives of local communities caught up in conflicts that are not of their making. The entire sector, including large companies, needs to demonstrate a willingness to take difficult decisions which advance the interests of all within the sector, including mining communities.

We look forward to more direct engagement with the industry and governments to achieve these goals.






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