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News

In brief

by D+C / E+Z

In brief

Many people celebrated the judgement: women in Delhi.

Many people celebrated the judgement: women in Delhi.

News in our October edition:

Four rapists in India on death row

In September, a district court in New Delhi sentenced four men to death in the rape case that made international headlines last winter. The victim was a 23-year-old physiotherapy student who died of severe injuries few weeks after the attack.

The Indian Supreme Court has reserved the death penalty for the “rarest of rare” cases. Earlier, a fifth suspect had been found dead in his prison cell. The sixth perpetrator, who was juvenile at the time of the attack, was given three years in detention. The atrocity changed public attitudes in India. Like in many developing countries, the crime of rape did not get much attention in India earlier.

Many people celebrated the judgement (our picture was taken in Delhi). Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde welcomed the firm sentence, stating the hope it will deter future perpetrators. The national daily The Hindu, however, stated in an editorial that the penalty would hardly prevent sexual crimes because rape was too common in India. The verdict would only distract from urgently needed political and legal reforms. In a different article the paper rejected the death penalty on principle, which is also the EU’s position. (mh)

 

Donors pledge further support to Somalia

The EU and other international donors have pledged further support for reconstruction in Somalia.

At a conference in Brussels in September, they agreed to provide aid worth € 1.8 billion, which was more than had been expected. The EU pledged € 650 million, with member countries pledging additional sums. Sweden promised € 170 million, Germany € 90 million and Britain € 90 million.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud expressed great ambitions. Within three years, he wants to re-establish an effective state in his country, which has been devastated in 20 years of civil war. In return for international funding, Somalia’s president promised to implement reforms. The priorities, according to him, are restoring security, reforming the legal system, building a public-finance system and promoting economic growth.

Mohamud took office a year ago. The security situation has since improved somewhat, but the Islamist Al Shabaab militia is still doing what it can to undermine Somalia’s federal government.

Mohamud narrowly escaped an assassination attempt last year. In August this year, Médicens sans Frontièrs, the international non-governmental organisation, withdrew from the country stating that it feared for the lives of its staff. (sb)

 

State of emergency extended in Egypt

Egypt’s interim government has extended the state of emergency it declared in August for another two months until mid-November.

On 14 August hundreds of people died when the police used force to clear protest camps of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, 14 provinces have observed a curfew from 11 pm to 6 am.

The police and the authorities have far-reaching powers to arrest suspects. They are allowed to disperse public meetings. Officials of the interim government say the state of emergency’s extension was necessary because the security situation was still bad. Attacks are occurring frequently in the country. Early in September, Mohammed Ibrahim, the interior minister, survived an attack close to his home. More than 70 persons were injured. The Sinai Peninsula has seen many clashes between armed forces and Islamist fundamentalists. Suicide bombers killed six soldiers. The army and police forces started an offensive against militant Islamists. In the meantime a court in Suez has acquitted 14 followers of Hosni Mubarak, the former president, of killing 17 protestors in 2011. (mh)
 

 

New Trade and ­Development Report

Five years after the onset of the global financial crisis, industrialised and emerging economies have not yet recovered. The recently launched “Trade and Development Report 2013” by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shows that expansive monetary policies and strict austerity have barely promoted growth.

Global trade is growing at a slower rate than before the crisis and is likely to remain static, according to the report. The crisis especially afflicted developing countries. Between 2002 and 2007 their export volume grew at an annual rate of 11.3 %. But that rate fell to an annual 3.5 % between January 2011 and April 2013. Strong consumer demand in developed countries, especially in the USA, had encouraged developing nations to pursue export-oriented growth models. Those strategies turned out to be unsustainable when demand dropped. The UN experts therefore argue that developing countries should focus more intensely on boosting domestic demand and south-south trade.Furthermore, the report states that the financial system still dominates the real economy. The experts call for reforms at national and global levels in order to facilitate more financing of industry, agriculture, services and infrastructure. (mh)

Link:
UNCTAD Trade and Development Report 2013
 

 

Budding friendship

Russia and the USA have surprisingly emerged as partners in global governance after the G20 summit in St. Petersburg in September. During the summit Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama (photo) had cultivated a sense of animosity. While Obama called for a military strike against Syria as a punishment for the use of chemical weapons, Putin vehemently opposed that idea.

Shortly after the summit, however, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, picked up an idea his American counterpart John Kerry informally put forward in a press conference. If Syria would dispose of its chemical weapons voluntarily, Kerry said, there was no need to intervene. Russia immediately urged Syria to accept that proposal. Soon after, Syria applied for membership in the UN Chemical Weapons Convention. This step means that the country must renounce its chemical weapons programme. When D+C went to press in late September, it was clear that there would be a corresponding resolution by the UN Security Council. Security Council members, however, still disagreed on whether that resolution would include the threat of force should Syria not comply.

In St. Petersburg, the heads of state and government from the group of 20 major economies also discussed economic issues. Among other things, they agreed on a 15-point plan to fight tax evaders. In the future, companies are supposed to pay taxes where they produce their goods. Multi­national corporations have benefitted massively in recent years from declaring their profits in countries with low tax rates rather than in the countries they mostly operate in.

To implement the new prin­ciple, tax regulations have to be reformed all over the world. Bilateral agreements similarly need to be revised. The G20, moreover, want to improve cross-border cooperation of tax authorities in order to tackle tax evasion at an international level.

Slow progress was made on regulating financial markets. The G20 merely decided on a schedule to regulate the shadow banking system. There was discord, however, about how rigorous the rules should be that will apply to hedge funds and other non-bank financial institutions. Germany was in favour of stringent legislation, whereas Britain and the US wanted a softer approach.

The leaders of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) decided to create a joint monetary fund with a capital of $ 100 billion. They want the new institution to be able to intervene in financial crises independently of established economic powers. No decision was made, however, on when the new fund should become operational. (dem/mh)