Monthly Issue Update - October 31, 2005

Stale Government Response to SCFAIT Mining and Human Rights Recommendations
"Balderdash!" summed up New Democratic Party MP Ed Broadbent's thoughts on the government's response to a set of recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT) on the issue of Mining and Human Rights. Although the Government's response, released October 18th, acknowledged a need for action to address the often devastating impacts of the mining sector, it dismissed the majority of the Committee's recommendations. Citing a number of challenges that prevent more concrete action, the government focused on purely voluntary measures.

The SCFAIT report had urged the government to develop clear legal norms for holding Canadian mining companies to account for violations abroad, to conditioning government support (e.g. through Export Development Canada) on compliance with human rights and environmental standards, and to working with like-minded countries to mainstream human rights within the international financial institutions (IFIs).

The SCFAIT recommendations came in the wake of several hearings held in the Committee on the activities of various Canadian mining companies and the path of environmental destruction and human rights violations some have left behind. Recent hearings focused on the activities of TVI Pacific in the Philippines and their use of armed security forces that threatened, intimidated and shot at protesters.

Instead of any concrete proposals to address these issues, the Government committed itself to holding five multi-stakeholder roundtables over the year, and to issuing a report to the Committee at the end of the dialogue. Civil society groups see this simply as a way to stall any firm action with yet more talk.

Additional Information

SCFAIT Report on Mining and Human Rights:

Government Response:

Civil Society Press Release:

Nigerian gets a deal on debt, but the creditors get the best of it
Nigeria spent three days mid-October negotiating a deal with the Paris Club, a cartel of creditor nations, to reduce its external debt stock, the largest in Africa. Of the US$30 billion agreed to be written down, Nigeria will pay Paris Club creditors US$12 billion, in exchange for a US$18 billion write-down.

The Paris Club creditors, however, are the real winners in this deal. Over the years, creditors have propped up successive Nigerian military dictators through loans it knew would simply be squandered. Not surprisingly, the odious and onerous nature of this debt led Nigeria's Parliament to recently pass a non-binding motion threatening to repudiate the debt, possibly one factor in the Paris Club's recent interest in ensuring some form of payback from Nigeria.

And payback they got. Of the US$30 billion in debt stock that makes up the Paris Club deal, original loans amounted to US$16.7 billion. Nigeria has paid US$11.6 billion since 1985. The US$30 billion on the books comes from approximately US$14 billion accrued from penalties charged when Nigeria could not service its debt, compounded by floating commercial interest rates. Now Paris Club creditors are getting US$12 billion in cash - US$6 billion up front, and US$6 billion assuming the IMF gives a thumbs up to government policies to among other things, ironically, keep spending down.

Nigeria ranks 151st out of 174 in the Human Development Index. To meet poverty reduction targets set by the UN for 2015, Nigeria needs to spend about US$11 billion per year on social services. In 2006, as US$12 billion goes to Paris Club creditors, the government has pledged an extra US$1 billion to meet poverty reduction targets.

Additional Information

Drops of oil in a sea of poverty - The case for a new debt deal for Nigeria:

Press Release: IMF approves two-year Policy Support Instrument for Nigeria:

UN Calls on World Bank, IMF and WTO to Respect Human Rights
A report to the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights by Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Representative on the right to food, has told the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organisation (WTO) that they "should recognize [their] binding responsibilities towards human rights, including the right to food."

The annual report produced by Mr. Ziegler notes that food shortages persist throughout the world, despite the efforts of these institutions and increased global trade. The Report argues that projects financed by the World Bank sometimes cause people to move from their land, ending access to traditional lands and livelihoods, and that economic models of development currently promoted and imposed by the Bank, the IMF and the WTO, threaten the right to food of small farmers across the world. The report calls on governments to take urgent action to halt global under-nourishment and respond rapidly to the food crises.

In November, the UN Special Representative on business and human rights will be holding consultations on the Extractive Industries and Human Rights (See below and Issue Update 7, July 31, 2005)

Additional Information:

For the full story, go to atname=Services&newscode=719207866

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New discussion papers (HI Members or Associates, government) on IFI issues:

  • Canada's Voice in Global Governance - A Civil Society Handbook, Friends of the Earth Canada. The guide focuses on the Group of Eight (G8); World Bank Group; the World Trade Organization (WTO); the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the Organization of American States (OAS); the International Labour Organization (ILO); the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). On-line at
  • Diverging Paths: What future for export credit agencies in development finance, World Resources Institute. To date, public resources directed via ECAs to support export promotion have contributed very little to sustainable development. This report proposes a number of structural and governance reforms that can enable ECAs to make modest but significant contributions to sustainable development outcomes, through efforts to "do no harm" and "do good." On-line at:

Upcoming IFI-related conferences or meetings

  • Fourth Summit of the Americas, "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance," November 4-5, Mar del Plata, Argentina.
  • Closed multi-stakeholder consultation with John Ruggie, UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, on "Human Rights in the Extractive Industries," November 10 and 11, Geneva.
  • Global decision-making and national realities: where next on aid and debt Eurodad Annual Conference, Dublin, Ireland, November 30 to December 2. Spanish and French, interpretation available

JUST THE FACTS - The Doctrine of Odious Debt: by Alexander Sack, 1927

When a despotic regime contracts a debt, not for the needs or in the interests of the state, but rather to strengthen itself, to suppress a popular insurrection, etc, this debt is odious for the people of the entire state. This debt does not bind the nation; it is a debt of the regime, a personal debt contracted by the ruler, and consequently it falls with the demise of the regime. The reason why these odious debts cannot attach to the territory of the state is that they do not fulfill one of the conditions determining the lawfulness of State debts, namely that State debts must be incurred, and the proceeds used, for the needs and in the interests of the State. [L]enders "cannot expect a nation, which has freed itself of a despotic regime, to assume these odious debts, which are the personal debts of the ruler."

For more on odious debt, see