Category Archives: Editorial
Some 11% of shareholders rebel against pay scheme, which includes £2m bonus for chief executive Stuart Gulliver
HSBC suffered an embarrassing 11% shareholder rebellion against its executive pay report on Friday.
Douglas Flint, chairman of the bank, said just 89% of investors voting ahead of its annual meeting supported its pay scheme, which handed chief executive Stuart Gulliver a near £2m annual bonus despite the bank’s involvement in a string of high profile scandals, including helping Mexican drug barons launder money.
The bank said Gulliver’s bonus was awarded in recognition of his “strong leadership” and “personal behaviour” in tackling the revelations that led to the bank being fined £1.2bn by US authorities for allowing at least $880m (£582m) of drug trafficking money to be laundered throughout the bank’s accounts.
Gulliver’s total pay and benefits for 2012 came in at £7.4m – more than 500 times that earned by the bank’s lowest paid workers.
A total of 204 HSBC staff collected more than £1m in pay and benefits last year.
Britain’s biggest union, Unite, described the scale of the pay as an “outrage” given that some of its members at HSBC take home £14,000 a year and are facing changes to their pension schemes and holidays.
The bank did not immediately state how many of its investors abstained from the pay vote, which could increase the proportion of shareholders failing to back the remuneration report. It will report the full numbers to the London stock exchange this afternoon.
Earlier on at the AGM in the Barbican centre, in central London, Flint apologised to shareholders for the bank’s role in a series of “extremely damaging” scandals, including rigging the Libor interest rate, PPI mis-selling and money laundering for Mexican drug cartels and terrorists.
Flint said the bank had already “apologised unreservedly” to stakeholders and has paid “huge penalties both in monetary cost and reputational damage”. But said he wanted to “apologise again in person”.
“As you will all be acutely aware, the last two years have been extremely damaging to HSBC’s reputation and to our own perception of ourselves,” he said. “We experienced serious historical failings both in the application of our standards and in our ability to identify, and so prevent, misuse and abuse of the financial system through our networks.”
He said the bank had been given a “huge wake-up call” and HSBC was “determined to play a leading part in restoring the reputation of the industry and thereby regaining society’s trust”.
“We need to prove that a strong economy needs a strong banking sector,” he said. “More important than apologies, however, are the steps being taken to prevent recurrence.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform banking and the broader financial industry.
“We need to demonstrate that the business model of banking is fair, transparent, sustainable and meeting its core purpose of serving society.”
The bank has created a new financial system vulnerabilities committee of five experts to “identify areas where HSBC may become exposed to financial crime or system abuse”.
“Their expertise includes the combating of organised crime, terrorist financing, narcotics trafficking, tax evasion and money laundering as well as expertise in intelligence gathering and international payments systems,” Flint said.
The bank agreed in December last year to pay a $1.9bn fine to US authorities to settle money laundering charges, but the deal has been delayed by a row between the justice department and the judge overseeing the case.
The deal – known as a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) – meant HSBC was exempt from prosecution and triggered a storm of criticism. Judge John Gleeson is now believed to be considering rejecting the deal, a move that could leave HSBC facing a criminal prosecution and the threat that its charter to do business in the US could be revoked.
US authorities reached the deal with HSBC last December after uncovering evidence that the bank had illegally conducted transactions on behalf of Mexican drug lords, terrorists and customers in Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma – all countries that were subject to US sanctions.
• Application rejected first in 1999 and most recently 2007
• Victories in court of arbitration for sport paved way for move
Gibraltar has become Uefa’s 54th member nation after the European ruling body voted for its inclusion at its congress in London.
There had been opposition from Spain but the Gibraltar FA won a case at the court of arbitration for sport obliging Uefa to accept the British overseas territory as a member.
The Uefa president Michel Platini said that Gibraltar would be kept apart from Spain in qualifying for Euro 2016. “Gibraltar will not play qualifying matches with Spain – we also have this situation with Armenia and Azerbaijan,” he said.
“This is a momentous occasion for football in Gibraltar,” said Gareth Latin, president of the Gibraltar Football Association. “Uefa membership means that we can begin the next chapter of Gibraltarian football.”
He added: “At last we’ll be able to show the whole of Europe that we can match the best with football of a high standard and entertaining style.
“It will open up a whole new world of opportunities for our highly skilled young footballers. This is one of our greatest ever sporting moments.”
Gibraltar’s first application, in 1999, had been rejected in the face of intense opposition from Spain, who feared that that if Gibraltar were to be admitted to Uefa, it would set a precedent that could inspire similar claims from separatist Basque or Catalan teams.
The last vote was in 2007 when only three countries supported Gibraltar’s application and Spain threatened to withdraw all its teams from Uefa competition if Gibraltar were admitted.
Using his iPhone 4S, Mark Hirsch photographed a tree in Platteville, Wisconsin, every day for a year
Analysis shows royals crowding out coverage of global warming, as Prince Charles makes his strongest climate warning yet
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, made one of his strongest speeches yet on the dangers of a warming planet when he warned this month that climate change is “the greatest risk we have ever faced”. Action must be taken now, the Prince said, because the risk of doing nothing is “too great.”
It is therefore a little ironic to look at the latest results from a study by the monitoring organisation Media Matters for America and find that the goings-on of the British royal family – but not their comments on the dire state of the planet – feature far more prominently on the major US networks than any topic related to climate change.
“Even during the warmest year on record in the US, the nightly news programmes combined devoted only 12 full segments to climate change,” Media Matters reports. “By contrast, these programmes dedicated over seven times more coverage to the royals in 2012.”
One programme, ABC World News, devoted 43 segments to the British royal family in 2012 and only one to climate change, says Media Matters.
Earlier this month, as scientists announced the amount of CO² in the atmosphere had gone beyond 400 parts per million, two of the major US news programmes ignored the story, preferring instead to cover the visit to the country of Prince Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles.
“In 2012, the US experienced record-breaking heat, a historic drought, massive wildfires in the West, and Hurricane Sandy,” Media Matters says. “Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice extent shattered the previous record low and the Greenland ice sheet saw the greatest melt in recorded history…
“Yet despite these illustrations of climate change, the broadcast news outlets devoted very little time to climate change in 2012, following a downward trend since 2009.”
Evidence suggests the paucity of reporting on climate change is not limited to the US alone. An ongoing study of various media outlets around the world by the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado-Boulder charts global climate change media coverage, noting a peak at the Copenhagen climate summit in late 2009.
A separate study found that more than 3,200 climate-related stories appeared in the world’s mainstream newspapers concerning events at the ill-fated Copenhagen meeting. By the time of the climate summit in Durban two years later, the number of stories had shrunk to a quarter of that amount.
Meanwhile, the scientific consensus on the causes and impacts of climate change seems never to have been stronger.
Despite the lack of media coverage, it seems that public perceptions about climate change are also changing − perhaps influenced by a rise in extreme weather events around the world.
The subject of climate change and its causes continues to be hotly debated in the US. However, an analysis carried out late last year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that nearly 70% of Americans now say there is solid evidence that the world has been getting warmer over recent decades, with more than 40% saying it is caused by human activity – up from 34% in 2010.
A petition, which already has more than 70,000 signatures, has been organised by Media Matters, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. It urges the major broadcast networks to give more attention to climate change and allow scientists the opportunity to explain the connections between humanity activity, climate change and extreme weather events.
To celebrate Africa day on the anniversary of the birth of the Organisation of African Unity, 25 May 1963, we have put together this quiz. No Googling now, says David SmithDavid SmithJudith Soal
Forward is working with young women in Africa to give them a voice and provide policymakers with first-hand evidence
Teenage women are the focus of Forward – the NGO has worked with adolescent women in Africa to tackle issues around their sexual and reproductive health and rights for almost two decades.
While its initial projects were carried out in partnership with established civil society organisations, over the years it became apparent that there was a missed opportunity to create change by partnering with emerging organisations led by young women.
Despite the trend towards encouraging participatory approaches within the sector, Forward’s experience has been that organisations led by young women were failing to receive the support they needed. All too often young women were simply the subject of assistance and not the drivers of change themselves.
The organisation’s Africa programmes manager, Elizabeth King, was born in Ethiopia and has worked for a number of international NGOs in the country, yet she says that her most valuable learning on how to address the issues faced by adolescent women has come from the young women themselves.
“My knowledge of girls in villages like Gonder in rural Ethiopia is based on what the girls have taught me. They taught me what it feels like to get married at 10 years old or the emotions you experience when you have to sleep with someone when you don’t even know what sex is.”
The ability to segment a project’s target audience has proved to be the key to ensuring the organisation can effectively meet the needs of young women. Unlike projects that are designed to reach women of all ages, Forward and its project partners specifically deal with adolescent women.
Because of the distressing experiences that many of these young women have, it is easy to forget how young they are. While a girl may be a domestic violence survivor, have suffered from fistula and have a family to support the fact that she is still a teenager needs to be addressed.
Greater participation and encouraging a consultative approach can sometimes be interpreted as simply encouraging local partners to be part of the process. Yet this still fails to put adolescent girls into the picture. Gathering the thoughts of a local civil society organisation is not the same as specifically encouraging the young women to share their experiences and insights.
“You avoid the traditional hierarchies when you involve girls from the village and hear directly from them,” says King.
“We forget that we were young once and that we need to leave the space to give young women the chance. These girls have unique insights but what they lack is the chance and capacity to lead.”
One of the methods that Forward uses to facilitate this learning is participatory ethnographic evaluation and research. The benefit of this qualitative method is that it empowers young women to understand and resolve the issues from their own perspective. They are trained to be the experts and the organisation argues that these young women are best placed to give an insight into the problems they face.
The young women get extensive training to develop their research skills. They are fully involved in the initial research design so as to be at the centre of the project and to ensure that the interview questions are relevant to their peer group. They conduct the surveys and, while the original design called for university students to act as supervisors, Forward’s experience has been that is more effective to use adolescent women from the local community who have strong literacy skills.
A key part of the process involves reviewing the information with the young women before it is shared with a wider audience. Local organisations and authorities listen to the report findings in the women’s own words. The experience not only empowers the women by sharing the findings in their voice but also provides local officials and policy makers with first-hand evidence of the girls’ experiences and challenges any assumptions they may have held.
Despite the appeal of the rhetoric of participation, the reality is that bottom-up approaches are both time-consuming and costly. People have to wait as the partner organisations are the ones who decide what action should be taken. Yet the organisation is adamant that the results have laid a solid foundation for future work. “The best approach to learning about adolescent girls is to approach them with a blank piece of paper and an open mind,” says King.
Africa has come a long way since the formation of what became the AU, but even more needs to be done. Solomon Dersso suggests a path to unification – in word and in deed
In his famous speech, in which he made the case for the formation of a strong union of the continent, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, described as “the great crusader of African unity” by Mualimu Julius Nyerere, told his peers on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa that “unite we must. Without necessarily sacrificing our sovereignties, big or small, we can here and now forge a political union based on defence, foreign affairs and diplomacy, and a common citizenship, an African currency, an African monetary zone and an African central bank.”
He went on: “We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent. We need a common defence system with African high command to ensure the stability and security of Africa … We will be mocking the hopes of our people if we show the slightest hesitation or delay in tackling realistically this question of African unity.”
Fifty years on, the unification of Africa remains beyond the horizon. While it has come a long way since the hey days of independence from colonial rule and the formation of the Organization of African Unity, the progress that the continent has made towards “tackling realistically this question of African unity”, as Nkrumah put it, leaves a lot to be desired.
As the AU and member states mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the OAU under the theme Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance, it is imperative that we heed the counsel of former South African president Thabo Mbeki – that in the context of the 50th anniversary of the OAU: “We must answer some questions honestly: what progress have we made towards the achievement of the objectives set by the OAU, African Union and New African Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad)? What shall we do in this regard?”
In his book, The Wretched of the Earth, published in 1961 at the height of the triumphant years of the liberation of the countries of the continent from colonial rule, the great revolutionary and thinker Frantz Fanon observed about the raging political rhetoric of African unity:
“We may understand why keen-witted international observers have hardly taken seriously the great flights of oratory about African unity, for it is true that there are so many cracks in that unity visible to the naked eye that it is only reasonable to insist that all these contradictions ought to be resolved before the day of unity can come.”
The transformation of the OAU to the AU is indeed a major development in the evolution towards achieving the ideals of pan-Africanism.
Compared to the OAU years, Africa indubitably registered some commendable progress under the AU. This is particularly true with regard to peace and security as well as economic growth and in countries’ economic performance. A number of countries that went through a violent conflict in the 1990s, including Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have made remarkable progress.
Although the focus of much of the news headlines remain on conflicts and violence, an increasing number of countries have enjoyed stability during the past decade, even in parts of the continent that are generally regarded as being conflict prone. By any standard of measurement, these are very promising achievements.
However, the promises unfulfilled are far more than those realised and the cohesion and leadership of the founding years of the OAU is now fading. Africa exhibits frightening levels of disunity in various spheres. There are two major factors that account for this: weak ideological and political foundation of African unity and the lack of the key factors of economic integration on the continent.
‘This question of African unity’ has encountered betrayals, failures of catastrophic consequences, missed opportunities and currently under the AU a situation that appears to be a false dawn.
There is a need for re-articulating and reaffirming the commitment for African unity at all levels and more so at the level of the political leadership.
In order to avoid the AU becoming a false dawn for the continent, it is imperative that the emerging trend in the management of the affairs of the continent should be reversed. The major challenges to be overcome include:
• the deficit in the ideological conviction of the political classes of the countries of the continent
• the lack of sustainable political commitment
• the current dearth of political leadership on the continent particularly on the part of major countries of the continent, and
• the poor supply of the key factors of economic integration
To this end, the AU should mobilise its member states and take the necessary steps to overcome these challenges. The steps to be taken include reinvigorating the ideological conviction for the unification process, not only among the political leadership of the continent but also within the wider public, through a rigorous articulation of African unity as a path for development and transformation.
Creating societal wide awareness of and constituency for African unity and to this end changing the framework of African unity from “we the heads of state and government” to “we the peoples of Africa”.
Various policies adopted at the level of the AU not to be incorporated into domestic frameworks and practices through incentives and alliances with grass root actors.
The emergence of a coalition of countries with dedicated political leadership and commitment for pursuing the dream of African unity has to be encouraged.
Prioritising the speedy development of key factors of economic integration – more particularly the communication, transport aand regulatory infrastructure for free movement of peoples, goods and services and the diversification of the structure of African economies.
A realistic and incentivised roadmap and strategy with benchmarks and realistic timelines must be created, as well as follow-up mechanisms for economic integration.
A process needs to be started for rationalising and aligning the role and activities of member stateswithin the framework of the AU.
Solomon A Dersso is a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He tweets as @SolomonADersso
This is an abridged version of Solomon’s essay ‘This question of African unity – 50 years after the founding of the OAU.’ Click here to read the full version.
Government to examine if extra powers needed in wake of soldier’s murder as minister defends role of security services
The government will examine if extra powers are needed in the wake of the Woolwich attack but none of the measures in the “snooper’s charter” bill would have prevented the savage murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, has said.
The cabinet minister, who attended yesterday’s emergency Cobra meeting, defended the role of the security services, saying they had been “very successful at stopping a number of similar plots”.
But he also confirmed that a thorough investigation would be held into what, if anything, went wrong with the monitoring of the two men arrested, who had been known to MI5 for eight years but dismissed as peripheral threats.
Pickles’s clear rejection of any immediate attempt to revive the draft communications data bill, or “snooper’s charter”, is significant.
The bill, which would lead to monitoring of everyone’s email, text and mobile phone use, was dropped from the Queen’s speech in the face of strong objections from the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, but a battery of former home secretaries and security ministers have demanded its revival over the past 48 hours.
The public pressure is believed to reflect the hopes of the home secretary, Theresa May, to put it back into the government’s legislative programme.
Pickles told the BBC Today programme: “What I am certain about is a free society is vulnerable to an unexplained, heavy violent attack, whether it was, as our dear friends in Norway faced a couple of years ago, a white supremacist or whether what we faced on the streets of Woolwich, a blasphemy and distortion of Islam,” he said.
“I know of nothing that would suggest that provisions that were in that bill would have made any difference in this case or would have saved the life of the young member of the armed forces.
“I think it’s probably too soon to assess the powers we need but, once the investigation is through, both aspects of the security services and aspects of the policing of these two individuals will be thoroughly investigated and no doubt recommendations will come out of that,” he said.
Pickles’s view that the communications data bill would not have helped prevent the Woolwich murder echoed a similar view expressed by Liberal Democrat sources on Thursday. It follows David Cameron promise that although the need for extra counter-terrorism measures would be examined, he was not in favour of a knee-jerk response. A second cabinet minister, Baroness Warsi, has also said it would be wrong to pass legislation on the back of such a tragedy.
The former home secretary, Jack Straw, has called for a parliamentary investigation into whether the ‘snooper’s charter’ would have made a difference. Others, including former Home Office ministers Lord Reid and Lord West and the former government reviewer of terrorism laws, Lord Carlile, have asked for the the government to reconsider its decision to shelve the bill.
David Anderson QC, the current official reviewer of terrorism laws, has tweeted: “We have strong laws, excellent intelligence and enforcement – the attackers want us to panic, let’s hold our nerve.”
On this week’s programme, John Plunkett and Roy Greenslade discuss the graphic front pages of the national press in the aftermath of the Woolwich killings – were they justified in printing the photo? Did ITV handle their exclusive footage in the right way?
Also in the podcast, Helen Zaltzman and Paul Robinson discuss the Competition Commission’s disastrous ruling for Global Radio –- should heads roll?
Former – and founder – editor of Loaded magazine James Brown discusses how the Sabotage Times is run (more also available in this video).