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Foreign bribery rages unchecked in over half of global trade
by Transparency International
Sep. 2018
There are many losers and few winners when companies bribe foreign public officials to win lucrative overseas contracts. In prioritising profits over principles, governments in most major exporting countries fail to prosecute companies flouting laws criminalising foreign bribery.
What is missing is active enforcement. Transparency International’s new report, Exporting Corruption, finds that only 11 major exporting countries - accounting for about a third of world exports - have active or moderate law enforcement against companies bribing abroad in order to gain mining rights, contracts for major construction projects, purchases of planes and other deals.
Country by country, the report names the top offenders as well as the flaws in national legal systems that allow this crime to continue unchecked. One of the most shocking examples exposed in recent years is the massive foreign bribery scheme carried out by the Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht involving about US$788 million in bribes to government officials and political parties in at least 12 countries.
The cost of foreign bribery
Foreign bribery has huge negative consequences for the economies of the nations targeted. Money gets wasted on deals that are overpriced or do not yield real benefits. Limited resources are diverted to benefit a few individuals while citizens are denied vital public services, such as access to clean water, safe roads or basic health services.
Around the world, competitors that offer better products lose out in an unfair marketplace and this triggers a race to the bottom, with some companies choosing to engage in bribery because others are doing it.
This is why the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention requires parties to criminalise bribery of foreign public officials and introduce related measures, such as investigating suspicious cases. Its goal is to create a corruption-free level playing field for global trade.
The Exporting Corruption report rates the performance of 44 leading exporters, including 40 of the OECD Convention signatories. For the first time, it rates four non-OECD Convention exporters: China, the world’s largest exporter, as well as Hong Kong, India and Singapore, accounting for about 18 per cent of world exports.
Not enough progress
The good news is that eight countries accounting for 7.1 per cent of world exports have improved their performance since the last report in 2015. Seven countries are now in the active enforcement category, compared with four in 2015. They are Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, the United States and the United Kingdom.
The bad news is that there is still a long way to go. Four countries, accounting for 6.7 per cent of world exports, have deteriorated in their performance and a total of 33 exporters, accounting for about 52 per cent of world exports, still have limited or little to no enforcement against foreign bribery. That includes all four of the exporters not party to the Convention — China, Hong Kong, India and Singapore — all of which get the lowest rating of little or no enforcement.
The results show that we are far from bringing enforcement against foreign bribery to a tipping point. Governments must scale up their foreign bribery enforcement. This means investigating allegations and pressing charges, as well as courts convicting guilty individuals and companies, and imposing substantial sanctions where appropriate.
What needs to be done
The enforcement gap that exists in China, Hong Kong, India and Singapore needs to be closed by joining the OECD Convention and, along with all other countries involved in global trade, stamping out foreign bribery with the necessary legislation and enforcement.
Transparency International also recommends that governments:
Address weaknesses in their legal frameworks and enforcement systems, including inadequate resources for cross-border enforcement;
Ensure settlements of foreign bribery cases are reached transparently, accountably and through appropriate processes, with dissuasive and even-handed sanctions;
Improve accountability and deterrence, by publishing up-to-date statistics and information on court cases; Assist cross-border investigations by sharing more information with other countries.
In addition, the OECD Working Group on Bribery should make greater use of public announcements to name and shame countries that are not enforcing against foreign bribery, just as Transparency International is doing in this report. It should also create a public database of enforcement data and case information, and conduct a cross-country study of information sharing performance across all parties.
To learn more about foreign bribery - globally and relating to 45 exporters - and how to prevent it, read Exporting Corruption - Progress report 2018: assessing enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

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Rising carbon emissions make crops less nutritious, threaten global health
by Samuel S. Myers
Planetary Health Alliance, agencies
27 Aug. 2018
Around the world, food security is being threatened by man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Some of the threats to our food system are relatively clear: warmer temperatures and changing climates bring about droughts, heat waves, sea level rise and more frequent and intense extreme weather events —all of which can disrupt food production.
But hidden in the biochemistry of the crops themselves lies another major threat to our public health and food supply. As CO2 concentrations rise, the levels of some key nutrients in staple food crops are lowered. In other words, by emitting historically high levels of carbon pollution, we are literally making our food less nutritious.
Food crops grown at higher carbon dioxide levels have lower amounts of protein, zinc, and iron, all of which are essential nutrients for human health. Specifically, on average, food grown at CO2 levels expected by 2050 will contain 10 percent less protein, 6 percent less iron, and 7 percent less zinc.
This is particularly concerning as over 2 billion people worldwide are already thought to be deficient in one or more of these nutrients with very significant consequences for their health.
Our new research, published in Nature Climate Change, puts the massive scale of these nutrient deficiencies into stark perspective. We found that, as concentrations of CO2 approach 550 parts per million by midcentury, hundreds of millions of people are likely to become newly susceptible to chronic deficiencies of protein and zinc. And billions more are likely to suffer from a worsening of their existing nutrient deficiencies.
In the most tragic of ironies, the poorest, who have been least responsible for elevating CO2 levels, will be most vulnerable to these nutrient losses because their diets are less diverse and generally contain lower levels of iron, zinc, and protein.
Just how bad could it be for the most vulnerable populations? By 2050, we estimate that nearly 2 percent of the global population, or 175 million people, could be pushed by anthropogenic CO2 emissions into zinc deficiency.
That’s on top of 1.5 billion who are already deficient in zinc intake. Another 122 million (or 1.3 percent) would join the 662 million who are already protein deficient. And while it’s more complicated to project iron deficiencies, we found that nearly 1.4 billion highly vulnerable people — children under the age of 5 and women of childbearing age — will live in regions that we identified as having the highest risk.
What do these numbers mean? They mean more children dying of pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea, and other infections as their immune systems are compromised by lack of zinc. They mean more women dying in childbirth and infants failing to survive because of iron deficiency. They mean reduced IQs and chronic stunting and wasting in children, and reduced work capacity in adults.
The most vulnerable people are those who are consuming simple, plant-based diets. Specifically, the populations of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East are most vulnerable to CO2-driven nutrient losses. But the impacts of nutrient loss would be felt all over the world, even in the United States, where core crops like wheat and rice would deliver less nutrition per calorie after being processed into bread, pasta, cereals, and other products that wind up in cabinets and on kitchen tables.
Some critics may argue that CO2 is “plant food” and claim the loss in nutrients will be balanced out by increased crop production. This works in theory — a phenomenon often referred to as CO2 fertilization — but not in reality. This small anticipated increase is more than offset by the very real impacts of climate change, which are already disrupting systems of food production and lowering crop yields, through changes in temperature, soil moisture, and extreme weather events.
Additionally, even if a population were able to increase caloric intake enough to offset CO2-driven nutrient losses, the change in the ratio of calories-to-nutrients consumed would ensure new health problems including obesity and metabolic diseases.
This isn’t to say that all hope is lost. We hope that our research will be used by countries to better prepare for what could be a dangerous drop in nutrition from their typical diets. Governments can and should monitor their crops over time to track nutrient levels as CO2 emissions increase.
Beyond that, there’s potential for encouraging dietary diversification or the use of different cultivars of certain crops — such as rice and legumes — some of which have shown different sensitivities to elevated CO2. Focusing on these more nutrient-resilient cultivars could help lessen the health risks to local populations, as could bio-fortification of crops with added nutrients and the simple (but expensive) deployment of nutrient supplementation programs for particularly vulnerable populations.
Stepping up research in each of these areas is imperative for governments around the world, particularly those with the highest carbon footprints who have been most responsible for creating this new public health threat.
Of course, the best and most certain way to ensure the healthiest and most nutrient-rich crops, and to protect the most vulnerable populations, is to rapidly reduce CO2 emissions from human activity.
* Samuel S. Myers, MD, MPH, is a principal research Scientist at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the director of the Planetary Health Alliance. This article was featured in the publication The Hill. Access the study (subscription required):

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