French SRI: Vive la France !

Part I

EVERY DAY ONE HEARS THE UNENDING MARCH OF THE CHINESE ECONOMY.  China is large, powerful and growing quickly.

However, it will be a long time coming before it leads in Socially Responsible Investing.  For now, the baton remains in Europe, particularly Northern Europe, which controls the largest amounts of SRI assets.  However, when it comes to the spirit & soul of SRI, the French are second-to-none.

France is the world's 4th largest economy, and its influence is even larger; as it has the second largest number of diplomatic missions in the world.  Its Revolution inspired motto is: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.  In plain English, the "jist" of this motto is having one's citizen's treated fairly, with freedoms as we have in the States, and that one looks out for the common good.  Ah, could this be the roots of modern SRI?

France is the 14th ranked on the Human_Development_Index.  Countries in this index tend to also have the most advanced SRI initiatives.  The Netherlands is ranked even higher (number 7).  It also happens to manage one of the highest levels of SRI assets in Europe, at EUR 130 billion.

Size & Growth of French SRI:
French involvement in Socially Responsible Investing is large, at EUR 50.7bn, and growing quickly. SRI assets grew 70% in 2009 (latest available data) on top of 37% growth in 2008.  The 2008 growth, while smaller is spectacular considering it occurred in the midst of the global Financial Crises.   This data is sourced from (which is part of the French pension system).  While 2010 data is yet to be published, we expect another double-digit growth number given recent trends.

Source: Novethic SRI Research Center
By Asset Type:
Drilling down, the largest growth came from Mutual Funds, which Novethic labels Collective Management.  Within Mutual Funds, the largest growth area was to Retail investors.  Employee Savings was also a very large contributor.  This includes 401K type plans.  Note that while the Retail Investor grew rapidly, Institutional Investors still dominate the French SRI market (69% vs 31% for retail investors).

Employee Savings examined:
SRI employee savings benefited from the conversion of bond and money market funds, with those assets nearly doubling.  The proportion, or share, of employee savings funds in SRI rose from 8% to 13%.  As US readers probably already noticed, few United States savings plans offer such options.

Given that capital markets were so strong in 2009, one wonders whether the sharp growth was due to strong markets.  Well, Novethic has broken this down too!  According to their study, most of the growth came from fund conversions, inflows, and lastly (least significant) being performance & gains from the stock and bond markets.

Source: Novethic

Drilling down again..within these two, the growth in Retail investors was attributed to the growing awareness of SRI in the retail banking network.  Secondly, the growth was attributed to popularity in employee savings plans.

Breakdown of Investments:
A big surprise was the huge amount of money invested in non-equities.  SRI is typically thought of as stocks/equities in the United States.  However, given the nature of European investing (and the older demographic profile) it makes sense that most monies are invested in non-equities.  These include Bonds and Money Market accounts.  There were several money-market accounts that converted into SRI type funds.
Source: Novethic

Investing Approach:
ESG Screening, or what's called Positive Screening on this website, was the most popular approach in French SRI.  I consider this true socially responsible investing.  So readers, please take note...Though Negative Screening was also utilized by several asset managers.  This is far less popular in the States where asset managers are drawn towards ESG Screening/positive screening and Engagement/Shareholder Activism.  In the US, shareholder activism amounted to $1.5 trillion, or about 50% of the total monies invested in SRI ($3.1 trillion). The Shareholder Activism style seems to fit well with the US's "cowboy" culture.

French SRI versus U.S.
There are some key differences between how US asset managers invest in socially responsible companies, and those of our friends across the pond.

  • the French are ardent believers of Positive Investing
  • we, on the other hand, are focused on Shareholder Activism (see above) 
  • the French aren't really convinced that SRI will bring extra-positive ("high Alpha") returns to their portfolios, but are convinced it's the right thing to do.
  • on the other hand, Americans usually tout that such investing brings higher returns.  In fact, there are now Hedge Funds --> link that employ quantitative  SRI techniques to earn extra-returns on their investments.  Some HF/asset managers don't even care about it being the ethical thing to do, so long that returns are good.
  • the French have huge amounts of Euros behind the SRI strategy
  • in America, SRI, while in the trillions of $$, hasn't yet reached mainstream, though it's catching on quickly.
  • French SRI, while grass-roots oriented, has also been motivated by the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, as well as the French government.
  • American SRI is, of course, "laissez faire" - the American-way; and free from state/government intervention.
  • the French aren't too keen on "green investing"
  • the opposite's true on the streets of America, where people sometimes think that "green investing" is SRI.  In fact, green investing has grown rapidly as its easily understood and can be marketed via exchange-traded (ETFs) and sector funds.  (We will be publishing a piece/list on all of the ETFs available to both US and overseas investors.)
    Then, where are the similarities?
    Surprisingly, despite cultural differences, and several shades of gray in the definition of SRI, the United States and France have similar definitions of SRI.  Please review our SRI trends articles for background information.  Overall, we both strive to invest in companies that are doing good, either for their employees or their larger communities.  We also agree on the various categories of SRI (e.g., Best in Class/Positive Screening) though each country tends to favor one category over another.

    French SRI versus European ESG:
    Thanks to Eurosif (in partnership with Novethic) 251 European investors were surveyed for the first time on their use of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria into asset management.  Eurosif (the European Sustainable Investment Forum) is a think tank whose mission is to develop Sustainability through European financial markets.  Note that we are using SRI and ESG interchangeably, though ESG in this context/survey is a tad more broader, and less strict (the methodology is used more on a case-by-case basis than SRI which is more regimented).

    Eurosif's survey spanned nine countries during 2010 (totaling EUR 7.5trillion), with the largest being Denmark with huge SRI related assets of EUR 144bn.  For comparison, the US market totals about $3.1 trillion (or about EUR 2.3 trillion).  See our Update on SRI for additional information. Based on Eurosif's survey, below are the key differences (and similarities):

    • Both France and pan Europe overall have a strong understanding and definitions of what it means to invest for ESG.  More than 90% of the asset owners surveyed believe that Positive/Best in Class Screening is SRI.
    • France (along with Belgium) was the only country that didn't associate ESG with investing in green companies/"clean tech."
    Source: ESG Perceptions and Integration Practices, Eurosif, Novethic

    •  About 84% of asset owners believe that there is no contradiction between integration of ESG criteria and their fiduciary responsibility.  France, like most European countries has changed considerably in this area versus 5 years earlier, due to the release of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investmentwebsite and due to government regulations.
      • For comparison, in the US, we are still trying to figure out if SRI fits under ERISA's Prudent Man Rule
      • I am not aware of any case law regarding SRI and (complimenting) the Prudent Man Rule.
          • Click here for an interesting article on Fiduciary duties to pension funds and SRI.
    • Most European asset owners surveyed believed that integrating ESG into their management contributes to long-term performance.  The French don't believe this, or invest for improved performance.

    Source: ESG Perceptions, Eurosif, Novethic
    • The French way of SRI was, as said earlier, investing in ESG positive screening, rather than Shareholder Engagement, which was more popular among Northern European investors.
    •  In terms of total Euros going to SRI, France was about in the middle of the pack compared to the other countries, led by Denmark.  The Northern European countries dominated SRI assets, while southern countries such as Italy had smaller amounts of assets (EUR 13Bn)

      Sources:  Belsfi, Novethic, Social Investment Forum, Eurosif, Paris Europlace

      De Nieuwe Franse Filosofie

      Nieuw Bij Boom 
      Ik schreef de hoofdstukken over Emmanuel Levinas en Régis Debray

      The Rubber Duckies: Two United Nations giants of junk

      CLICK HERE FOR STORY ON Financial-Post
      By Peter Foster

      This year, we award a special joint Rubber Duckie to two giants of junk, Achim Steiner and Rajendra Pachauri. Together they are collectively responsible for uncountable thousands of reports, initiatives, policies, statements, comments, studies and panels that are based on science that is politically motivated, either in content or objective.

      Mr. Steiner is head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), a font of untenable science, including his enthusiastic support for the idea that 50 million refugees would plague the world to escape climate change by 2010.

      A long-term shill for junk environmental science and the green energy industry, Mr. Steiner is also an expert at sophistry. Following the 50 million refugee debacle, he took to the editorial pages of The Guardian to cover the issue with rhetoric. “Imagine if the world acted only when 100% scientific proof was in place,” he declared. “We would still be insulating buildings with cancer-causing asbestos and fuelling cars with lead additives, damaging babies’ brains.”

      See the logic? Those who question “official” junk science are baby killers.

      Mr. Steiner’s rhetorical arsenal also includes the reductio ad absurdum. When he was head of the IUCN, the World Conservation Union, Mr. Steiner was part of the pack ­attack on Bjorn Lomborg’s book The Skeptical Environmentalist. “Mr. Lomborg,” he wrote, “is wrong to suggest that species extinction, climate change and pollution are imaginary environmental problems.”

      Mr. Lomborg had suggested none of these things.

      Since UNEP is one of the parents of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Mr. Steiner has stoutly defended the IPCC, even as that institution’s credibility sinks to zero. He has suggested that questions about the stewardship of his colleague at IPCC — Rajendra Pachauri — amounted to a “witch hunt.” The IPCC’s claim that all the glaciers of the Himalayas might disappear by 2035 was, he said, a “typographical error.”

      Mr. Steiner, who accuses skeptics of being “ideologically driven,” is another global bureaucrat whose priority is reformulating humanity. “We have a misdirected economic compass,” he has said. “We have arranged our economies in a way that they destroy their environmental foundations.”

      Over at the IPCC, meanwhile. Mr. Pauchauri has dug himself another hole. On top of Climategate, through which he clung to power, we now have Mr. Pachauri positioning Greenpeace as lead author on a global energy report that, amazingly, endorsed Greenpeace’s global energy plan — a plan for which Mr. Pachauri had written a glowing introduction.

      All in all, Mr. Pachauri and Mr. Steiner have turned in very fine performances worthy of a rarely awarded joint Rubber Duck.

      Leaked Documents Suggest UN Backing Off Khmer Rouge Genocide Trials

      click here for this story on SCOOP.CO.NZ

      Report – By Selwyn Manning and Alastair Thompson.

      Scoop Media, New Zealand: Documents leaked to Scoop suggest the United Nations-led tribunal may be backing off fully investigating crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge during the period from 1975 through to January 1979.

      The documents show attempts by the Co-Investigating Judges, You Bunleng and Siegfried Blunk, to exclude testimonial information of New Zealand national Rob Hamill from being considered as evidence in Tribunal investigations.

      [Scoop Editor's Note: The documents (see links to pdf files below) were not leaked by Rob Hamill, nor Keith Locke. The source will remain confidential.]

      On Thursday June 23 2011, Scoop understands the documents were given to the New Zealand Parliament's foreign affairs select committee by New Zealand Green Party MP, Keith Locke. It is unclear whether the Foreign Affairs select committee will accept the documents or allow public access to the documents.

      Scoop has decided to publish the documents on the basis that they are highly important from a justice point of view, also due to the fact that the decisions made by the two Co-Investigating Judges relate to the murder of a New Zealand national, Kerry Hamill, by members of the Khmer Rouge regime.

      The Judges' decisions (contained in the documents) communicate a ruling on how relevant, from an evidential viewpoint, are victim impact testimonies. In particular the Judges have rejected an application by Rob Hamill to give testimony to Case 03 and 04 on the basis that the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge against his brother did not “directly” affect Rob Hamill.

      Clearly, these issues are matters of high public and national interest.

      Document 1 (pdf) details the application of New Zealand national Rob Hamill requesting to be party to the proceedings in Case 003 and Case 004 “for the injury he suffered as the alleged direct consequence of crimes... further to the death of his brother Kerry Hamill.

      The Co-Investigating Judges ruled out Rob Hamill's application due to their definition of the word 'directly', stating that they “cannot follow the reasoning... that the applicant has shown that his 'harm was a direct consequence of the crimes...'”

      The Judges also state in the documents that they were “aware that they admitted the Applicant as a Civil Party in Case 002...” but that their earlier decision regarding Case 002 was “not binding”.

      Scoop understands that there are moves for Case 003 and 004 to be concluded or abandoned, perhaps without full and relevant evidence being admissible nor examined. As this aspect of the Tribunal's considerations involves a New Zealand national, Scoop believes it is vital that Rob Hamill's application to have his testimony considered be accepted and be relevant to proceedings.

      Document 2 (pdf) and Document 3 (pdf) detail the reasons for the Co-Investigating Judges' decision.

      Other documents (Cambodia Second-Introductory Submission.redacted.pdf and Cambodia-Third Introductory Submission.redacted.pdf) published here are important as they provide a summary of crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge during its reign of terror in Democratic Kampuchea (later renamed Cambodia) between 1975 and 1979. Millions died as a result of the Khmer Rouge's extreme policies which have been deemed crimes against humanity.

      The Introductory Submissions summarise the Khmer Rouge era as:

        From 17 April 1975 until 6 January 1979, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), commonly referred to as the Khmer Rouge, sought to fundamentally alter Cambodian society along ideological lines through forcible economic and social change. As set forth in the Co-Prosecutor’s First Introductory Submission dated 18 July 2007 (paragraphs 5 through 10), a common criminal plan existed amongst CPK leaders to establish a classless, atheistic and ethnically homogenous society, abolishing all ethnic, national, religious, class and cultural differences.

        The CPK’s criminal policies called for the evacuation of cities, and the virtual enslavement of the entire population of Democratic Kampuchea (DK) in ruthlessly run and inhumane agricultural co-operatives, factories and worksites. Anything or anyone that the CPK perceived as a threat or an obstacle to its policies and ideology would be killed or destroyed, including all religions, ethnic differences, the “feudalist,” “capitalist,” and “bourgeoisie” classes and all perceived “enemies” or “traitors” in the population or amongst the CPK cadre.

      Security Concerns Delay Completion of Capital Master Plan

      By Herve Couturier | Jun 15, 2011

      The increased protections from possible "blasts" will add only six months to the project.

      Security concerns, stemming from recent terrorist attacks against United Nations compounds around the world, will mean at least six months’ delay in the renovation of New York headquarters, says the head of the project.

      Michael Adlerstein, UN assistant secretary-general and executive director of the Capital Master Plan, as the project is known, said in a recent interview with The InterDependent that the concerns were raised by the U.S. government, the UN's own security service and the City of New York.

      Adlerstein would not give many details about the nature of the security anxieties but said that "there were assumptions about the level of blast that might be experienced."

      He also said that those returning to work in the Secretariat building when it was finished would be rethought as to who needed to be near the secretary-general the most.

      The new security scrutiny led to a pause of about six months in the restoration of two of the headquarters buildings, that of the Conference building and the General Assembly hall, delaying completion of the whole project to 2014, instead of 2013, as previously planned. The extra cost, about $100 million, was paid by the U.S. in February.

      The UN complex, situated on 17 acres along the East River in Midtown Manhattan, includes the landmark 39-story glass and steel Secretariat tower, the domed General Assembly hall and the conference building with its many large meeting rooms. The complex was completed in 1950, but the Dag Hammarskjold Library and the South Annex were added later.

      Six decades since the headquarters’ original construction, the entire compound had leaking roofs, was riddled with asbestos and lacked adequate fire detectors, a sprinkler system and other emergency safety devices.

      The enormous overhaul, begun in May 2008, aims to make the buildings more energy efficient and bring them into conformity with New York City health and safety codes, while improving security. The initial renovation plan was for the project to be done in five years to the tune of nearly $1.9 billion.

      Isabella Penney for UNA-USA
      The renovation of the Secretariat building at New York headquarters is on schedule, says the UN. Here, an early-morning shot in June.

      Adlerstein stressed that the work on the Secretariat building "is moving very well, right on schedule."

      "It was supposed to be finished in early 2012, and it will be finished within a few months of when we originally said it would," he said.

      He added that the work on the conference building and the General Assembly hall had also been on schedule "until we had to pause for several months."

      "The host country, along with the UN security service and the host city, determined that the risks to the UN had elevated in recent years and that the UN needed to protect itself a little better on the perimeter, to stiffen the perimeter of the compound," he said.

      Aware of the delicate nature of any UN-related financing, Adlerstein quickly noted that "the host country also stated that they would pay for it."

      "It took a few months for them to secure the funding, but now that's done", he said. "In the process we lost some time, so for the Conference building and the General Assembly portion of the project, which are sequential, we will finish in 2014."

      Elaborating on the issues of security, he said: "Over the years since the beginning of the project, the UN has been attacked several times, in Baghdad, in Algiers, in other places, and there have been incidents in New York where terrorists were able to almost achieve success, in Times Square and other incidents. So there was a concern that we should raise the level of protection, and that means making the building stiffer from a larger blast from outside, from the roadways around the four sides of the UN.

      “We are taking care of the blast within the compound, and we count on the host city and the host country to protect us from blast from outside the compound. So we needed to stiffen up and they have provided the funding for us to do that."

      Adlerstein’s goal is to have the General Assembly back in its renovated hall for the yearly general debate of September 2014, thereby limiting to only one year the inconvenience of member countries’ having to meet in temporary quarters in the windowless structure on the North Lawn of the UN.

      He also explained that they were aiming to finish the Conference building at the end of 2012; it is now operating in swing space in the North Lawn building. That space will then become the temporary home for the General Assembly, where it will hold its 2013 annual debate.

      "Everyone understands we had a delay for a little while," he added, noting that the member countries are pleased that the project is so far staying close to budget. "We're about 4 percent over budget. When we started the project, we were about 10 percent over budget,” but they have been “gaining on that every year and getting better."

      Alma Hidalgo for UNA-USA
      When the Secretariat is done, it will accommodate about 3,700 people, as before, but the staff will be prioritized to include under secretaries-general and assistant secretaries-general.

      When everything is done, the Secretariat building, which housed about 3,700 people before the renovation, will accommodate roughly the same number. But "it might not be the same people," Adlerstein said, adding, "We are moving back to what's called the leadership concept, so that the leadership of the UN will be in the Secretariat."

      The UN began with everyone in the Secretariat, but over time, departments established afterward were put into rental space, and the Secretariat staff -- the Department of Field Support, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and others -- "grew exponentially outside the compound."

      "So this is our opportunity to intelligently restack the Secretariat with the people that the secretary-general needs."

      All personnel, he pointed out, are valuable to the secretary-general, "but some of them need to be on call very quickly all the time,” so they are bringing back all the under secretaries-general and assistant secretaries-general into the Secretariat to make that building, as many corporate and governmental headquarters are, “the leadership of the organization."

      Those who cannot be brought back into that area will be set up in rental space. "We only fit half our organization inside the compound; the question for the CMP is which half comes into the compound, so it will be the leadership half," he said.

      Adlerstein joined the UN when the renovation project started in 2007 and has had a career in historic preservation, including working as chief architect for the Department of Interior, mainly restoring national parks like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

      A primary goal of the UN project is to make it as "green” as possible. "We're going to cut the energy consumption by 50 percent, cut the water consumption by 45 percent, cut our operations so that we continue to use less fuel and less energy in the future," he said.


      김정일 큰 가슴을 찾습니다

      Project Open Hand: The Peanut Story

      Readers of this blog know that I tend to be a culinary adventurer, and one of my current obsessions is San Francisco ice cream parlor Humphrey Slocombe, the kind of innovative and very offbeat place where you're more likely to find foodies gobbling down flavors like Strawberry Black Olive, Sour Cream and Prosciutto than, say, your typical Chocolate, Vanilla or Rocky Road.

      Earlier this week, a tweet from Humphrey Slocombe caught my eye. It seems that the business has become a supporter of Project Open Hand, a non-profit that provides groceries and hot meals to HIV/AIDS sufferers, seniors and others with homebound illnesses throughout San Francisco and Alameda.

      Recently, the chefs and volunteers in the kitchens of Project Open Hand noticed that the recent spike in food prices - particularly for a staple of theirs, peanut butter - had taken a big bite out of their resources, so they decided to try grinding their own peanut butter.

      The crunchy, and surprisingly healthy, result became such a hit that neighbors, friends and volunteers started asking to purchase containers for their own use. Whole Foods and several local markets soon began stocking it at their stores, and Humphrey Slocombe made it the preferred peanut butter for use in zany ice cream flavors like FlufferNutter and Peanut Butter Curry. Now Project Open Hand Peanut Butter has become a popular staple at stores and businesses throughout the Bay Area. As you might guess, the bulk of the proceeds go back into funding Project Open Hand's services. Not a bad way to turn generate revenue and grow the organization, right?

      Check out this fantastic documentary short about the peanut butter innovation:

      Teken tegen de afschaffing van het PGB

      Laat deze regering haar zieke plannen niet uitvoeren, onderteken deze petitie tegen de afschaffing PGB. Deze regering denkt uitsluitend in negatieve termen, ze ziet mensen met een handicap als een last voor de samenleving, in plaats van dat ze mensen wil stimuleren en faciliteren om een rol in de samenleving te hebben.

      Naar de petitie

      How Benevity's "Spark" Transforms Workplace Giving

      More from my conversation with Jana Taylor of Benevity.www, This time we talked more specifically about their newest product Spark, an online platform for employee giving and volunteering.

      Employee engagement is a big buzz world for companies in general. It takes time to build that kind of engagement, to give employees a voice  in a many areas of their worklife, but certainly not in workplace giving programs. Companies are asking employees to give and it is from their heart and yet they haven't been given the opportunity to express what it is they care about.

      We have been around for three years now. Spark workplace giving has been around only for a short while. We are very interested in the whole concept of engaging employees in corporate philanthropy.

      When we were talking to companies about how to engage their employees and consumers in giving Companies told us that they really like the idea of workplace giving and even told us what were the challenges.Some of the challenges that the companies have told us about is that they are struggling to deliver workplace programs that are truly engaging, that have broad adoption and generate interest with their employees.

      Likewise on the employee side, there is quite a lot research that links giving with employee engagement. So they don't want to just give their money away to charity they want to engage their company employees in doing this. Employees have increasing expectations from their companies to help them give back and they also have increasing expectations that they live in a web based world . They want a seat at the table and they want to participate more proactively in giving back.
      Unfortunately a lot of the programs that are in existence are really for status quo, check the box off kind of thing. But they are very top down, they don't even involve the passion of the employees. A lot of times they outsource programs to charity aggregators for the workplace giving programs, simply a digital touch form, That doesn't really align with the web based world their employees live in.

      I think when companies look at their goals then,yes, they want to be good corporate citizens and they want to engage their employees, if they really want to boost their employee participation and engage their employees and move the needle on other employee related issues, When you look at the metrics on attracting, motivating and retaining of great talent, then they have to do workplace giving in a new way.

      The tool that we built for employee giving and volunteering, it's called Spark. It allows the company a tool that is already built and it is a very engaging way to get employees involved with company volunteering and giving, and it can be done in a way that aligns with the companies charities that they support. Using Spark they can enable their employees to give to any registered charity and they can create any campaigns around individual charities or campaigns around funds. They can create the company fund, for whatever cause, a real time matching campaign where an employee can donate to any charity or to the company fund and the company can match that.

      There is a reporting section within Spark that the administrators can see, where they can create reports on any different aspect of the programs and they can see the result of the campaigns so that they will be able to look at and track the metrics and success. And for employee giving a lot of companies have an internal or external employee engagement survey and where they can ask questions around how well they are we doing with employee engagement.

      There are many ways the platform can be used and we continue to spark their imagination in terms of how it can be used. But there are specific opportunities and whenever a company uses the Benevity platform, so that is why we developed Spark on top of the Benevity platform, in a sense we built our own car on top of the engine.

      Giving is personal, it is from the heart. People need a way to tap into supporting the causes that resonate with them personally. At the same time it gives companies the software that's their own brand. They can roll out their own program and at the same time have the ability to create the cause funds. They have the ability to create campaigns that align company giving with employee giving. It is an easy way to communicate with employees what causes the company supports.

      It really inspires employees. One person told me recently that when she saw Spark it had shifted her thinking. She said the way that they had been doing it it was a chore and a process. Spark makes it more of an experience.

      We are building a volunteering model that will give companies' opportunities to communicate internal or external volunteering opportunities and will be able to create campaigns around volunteering, where employees can then select the opportunities that resonate with them, create accounts and then track them. And for employee giving a lot of companies have an internal or external employee engagement survey and where they can ask questions around how well they are we doing with employee engagement.

      Development team is working on right now the ability for companies to reward for volunteerism, with donor dollars in an employees account.

      We are very passionate about helping companies with their corporate giving programs.

      Hello again, from Kathmandu, Nepal

      As I sit down to write about my experiences, I cannot decide where I should begin. There are so many events I want to talk about that my outline for this blog itself is becoming a blog.

      Looking for a needle in a haystack (the struggle to locate a case precedent)

      Previously, I had mentioned that I was buried in stacks of books locating case precedents. To my awe, I found out that these reported cases are just a few of the cases from the Supreme Court which are selected as important cases by a committee (still awestruck as to what really is the committee’s basis for the selection of cases). However, there are many cases which remain unreported and the only way to find them is by networking. Even with networking, it is impossible if one is not aware of the decision number, party name or date decided and yet, here we are just talking about Supreme Court cases. The district court or appellate court’s precedents are near to impossible to locate. More and more, I am starting to believe that my possibility of getting on-board a flight to the moon might be better possibility than locating these cases. I feel like I am Nancy Drew trying to solve a mystery. Now! Really? Does it really have to be that hard to locate cases?

      But, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. I found two Supreme Court cases which admitted that the defendants were victims of Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS). Even though the court’s mention of BWS is literally two sentences which are the definition of BWS in English, then the translation in Nepali. So now, I am unsure if it is still considered as two sentences. The defendants were found guilty but received reduced sentences because they were victims of BWS. At least, these cases are some basis for me to further explore so that I can write a suggestive and persuasive memorandum advocating recognition of such defenses.

      The value of life according to ……..

      The inequality in terms of number of years to be served by defendants of different genders who committed similar crimes behind bars somehow is shocking even though I should have expected this. There is a hierarchy in value of life. The most valuable are men, a little less valuable are women and the least valuable are children. After reading so many precedents, I discovered a common trend. I can almost create a nice, colorful and pretty pie chart to demonstrate the significant difference in value of life amongst the three classes of human race; the only problem is that the numbers are nowhere near being nice, colorful or pretty. Simple illustrations:

      1. Murder of MAN: Wife killing husband in a fight (provocation by husband) gets 15 years even though the murder was almost accidental. Here are the fascinating sets of facts. Husband tries to hit wife with a log of wood while quarrelling. Wife snatches the log and hits the husband with the log. Husband sustains a head injury, denies seeking medical treatment and dies after twelve days due to the injury being infected.

      2. Murder of WOMAN: Husband killing wife and staging it as a suicide gets 9 years imprisonment.

      3. Murder of CHILD: Women killing their new born child (infanticide) get 2 to 5 years imprisonment. For some reason there are so many of those infanticide cases in the Nepal Supreme Court precedent. It almost looks as if these are the only types of cases NSC is interested in deciding.

      The need to protect the most vulnerable (Children) is almost nonexistent.

      My mid way

      My midway to the weeks of my internship is fast approaching. My days here have been somewhat entertaining in ways one cannot even imagine. In the past three weeks, I have managed to slip and fall on a banana peel in the middle of a major street on my way back from work. Too bad I cannot file a slip and fall TORTS claim. No broken bones, just slightly bruised knees and arms but have since healed. Thanks to the scarce supply of water, I managed to get my first food poisoning since my arrival two days ago. Yet, I find these experiences amusing and simply refreshing. They are priceless experiences because they make me realize how much we take our lives for granted back in the United States. It is a win, win situation because I am learning about law and life at the same time.

      I am happy to report that my researches are finally coming together and the outline for my memorandum is almost ready.

      Follow-up on the District Court

      For those of you who wanted to know what happened to those shackled kids charged with possession, use and selling of illegal narcotics, I am happy to report that they were set free on bail. The bail amount was very small. All thanks to the well trained ILF-Nepal defense attorney for he presented a very compelling argument backed with evidence. The case is far from being over but at least, these kids are free from the unruly detention centers.

      My ending note

      I think I have written enough for two weeks. I will report back in a fortnight, hopefully with a more enlightening, entertaining and engaging blog.

      Rina Gurung

      Kathmandu, Nepal