Inter Press Service » Conferences News and Views from the Global South Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:11:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Dying for the News: Media Call for Help from Gov’t and Public against Attacks Mon, 08 Feb 2016 07:03:06 +0000 A. D. McKenzie 0 Media Come Together to Discuss Safety of Journalists, Fight Against Impunity Wed, 03 Feb 2016 06:33:10 +0000 A. D. McKenzie By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, Feb 3 2016 (IPS)

Amid continuing attacks on journalists, media representatives from around the world will meet in the French capital this week to discuss how to reinforce the safety of those working in the sector.

Organized and hosted by the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, this “unprecedented” meeting between media executives and the agency’s members states on Feb. 5 is an attempt to “improve the safety of journalists and tackle impunity for crimes against media professionals”, UNESCO said.

Journalism is one of the deadliest professions in the world. Credit AD Mckenzie/IPS

Journalism is one of the deadliest professions in the world. Credit AD Mckenzie/IPS

“As everyone knows, the problem has been increasing over the past five years of killing of journalists in different parts of the world, and the UN system as a whole has become more concerned about this in parallel,” said Guy Berger, director of UNESCO’s Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development.

He told IPS that the UN has been putting “a lot of effort” into trying to get more action against these killings and that UNESCO has been working to create greater cooperation among various groups concerned with journalists’ safety.

But Berger said that the conference wanted to focus on what media organizations themselves could do “to step forward” and bring attention to the matter.

The day-long meeting – titled “News organizations standing up for the safety of media professionals” – will “foster dialogue on security issues with a view to reducing the high number of casualties in the profession”, UNESCO said.

The number of media workers killed around the world totaled 112 last year, according to the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), whose president Jim Boumelha will speak at the conference.

The IFJ, which represents some 600,000 members globally, said that among the deaths, at least 109 journalists and media staff died in “targeted killings, bomb attacks and cross-fire incidents”. This number marks a slight decrease from 2014 when 118 media personnel were killed.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a group that defends freedom of expression, said in its report that the deaths were “largely attributable to deliberate violence against journalists” and demonstrates the failure of initiatives to protect media personnel.

The slayings included those of cartoonists working for the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. Following those attacks, UNESCO organized a conference then as well, under the heading “Journalism after Charlie”.

In the year since, many other media workers have lost their lives, in both countries at peace and those experiencing civil war.

Calling on the UN to appoint a special representative for the safety of journalists, RSF’s Director General Christophe Deloire says that the creation of a specific mechanism for enforcing international law on the protection of journalists is “absolutely essential”.

Deloire will present a safety guide for journalists at the conference, in association with UNESCO. This is part of the aim to “share good practices on a wide range of measures including safety protocols in newsrooms … and innovative protective measures for reporting from dangerous areas”, according to the UN agency.

Some 200 media owners, executives and practitioners from public, private and community media are expected to attend the conference, UNESCO said.

“The diversity of media represented, in terms of geography, size and type of threat encountered, is unprecedented and should contribute to the conference’s ability to raise awareness of and improve preparedness for the full range of dangers the media face worldwide,” the agency added.

Berger will moderate the first session, while debates in the second will be led by Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent for the broadcaster CNN and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression and Journalism.

Diana Foley, founder and president of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, is also scheduled to be among the speakers. The institution honours the work of American journalist James Foley, her son, who was abducted while covering the Syrian war and brutally killed by his captors in 2014.

One of the conference’s high-level sessions will focus on “ending impunity together” and will comprise “dialogue” between the media industry and UNESCO member states, according to the programme.

UNESCO says it has been advocating and implementing measures to improve the safety of journalists and to end impunity for crimes against media workers. The agency’s Director-General issues press releases to condemn the killing of journalists and media workers, for instance.

In addition, UNESCO publishes a biennial report that takes stock of governments’ replies to the organization’s request for information about “actions taken to pursue the perpetrators of these crimes”.

In its 2015 report, “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development”, UNESCO noted that some member countries were not submitting requested updates on investigations into attacks against the media. However, the response rate had still risen to 42 percent (24 out of 57 countries) from 22 percent in 2014.

One of the issues not on the agenda at the conference is the number of UNESCO member states that imprison journalists or attempt to suppress freedom of expression. Experts acknowledge that this is also a topic that needs addressing, but some say that a distinction between the issues needs to be made.

“You can have freedom of the press and journalists are not safe,” Berger told IPS. “And in other places, you can have a lack of freedom of the press, and journalists are safe, even if they face consequences under laws that may be out of line with international standards.”

He said that governments have “the primary responsibility to protect everybody and to protect their rights,” but that not all governments live up to this task.

“That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t,” he added. “If you sign up to these international declarations, you actually have to match your words with your actions.”

The public, too, could be more aware of the challenges that media workers face and support the calls for safety and protection.

“Nobody wants to be out of line with public opinion, and the stronger public opinion is, the more governments actually see that it’s important to act,” Berger said. “Governments need journalists, even if they don’t like them, and they need them to be safe.”


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Africa, Only If It Bleeds It Leads? Wed, 20 Jan 2016 18:03:17 +0000 Baher Kamal Seven Top Challenges Facing African Women.  Credit: Courtesy of the African Union Commission

Seven Top Challenges Facing African Women. Credit: Courtesy of the African Union Commission

By Baher Kamal
Cairo, Egypt, Jan 20 2016 (IPS)

Africa is clearly one of the most negatively impacted regions in the world, not helped by the increasing trend of the mainstream media to focus on tragic news, following a self-imposed rule: “if it bleeds it leads”.

Famine; hunger; malnutrition; indebtedness; piracy; wars; massacres; tribal fights; terrorist attacks; Boko Haram; Al Qaeda Maghreb; IS; western military interventions; corruption; human rights abuses, and repeated operations of humanitarian assistance, among others, are pure adrenalin for most media outlets.

Africa also jumps to the top of the headers when it comes to announcing massive oil purchases by China. Western politicians and media tend to denounce the lack of human rights in the Asian giant.

Regardless of what and why, the very fact is that this continent seems sentenced to be the source of negative news.

Not that all these facts are entirely false—Africa has indeed been the scene for a lot of “bad news”.

Meanwhile, a number of experts, analysts and activists attempt to systematically remind us of the deep roots laying beneath most African dramas.

This is the case of centuries-long colonialism; slavery; massive depletion of natural resources by voracious multinational corporations; big sales of western weapons to parties in conflicts; extensive land grabbing and the heavy impact of climate change caused far away from Africa by industrialised states, just to mention some.

Yet, their voices have never received the attention they deserve. And when they have this attention, it was temporary and did not produce any effective action to help put an end to all the problems.

Against this backdrop, the African continent has been moving ahead in spite of the recent strong falls seen in international markets of its main sources of income, such as oil, commodities and minerals.

An Agenda 2063 for Africa

When in 2013 the leaders of 54 African countries adopted Agenda 2063 to achieve socio-economic transformation of the continent in half a century, they probably did not expect that the market value of some key resources would fall so sharply in a very short period of time.

Nevertheless, this vast continent extending over 30,221.000 km2, home to 1,2 billion people speaking up to 2,000 different native languages, is taking several steps to move forward.

For instance, the theme of the 26th Summit of heads of African states (Addis Ababa, January 21-31, 2016) is human rights with a particular focus on the Rights of Women.

In fact, African women face seven major challenges: economic exclusion; financial systems that perpetuate their discrimination; limited participation in political and public life; lack of access to education and poor retention of girls in schools; gender-based violence; harmful cultural practices, and exclusion of women from peace tables, among others.

The Addis Ababa based African Union Commission (AUC) underlines that “Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.”

Top Aspirations

Seven top African Aspirations shape Agenda 2063. These aspirations “reflect our desire for shared prosperity and well-being, for unity and integration, for a continent of free citizens and expanded horizons, where the full potential of women and youth, boys and girls are realized, and with freedom from fear, disease and want,” AUC underlines.

The aspirations as defined by the AUC are:

Aspiration 1: A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

“We are determined to eradicate poverty in one generation and build shared prosperity through social and economic transformation of the continent.”

Aspiration 2
: An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance.

Since 1963, the quest for African Unity has been inspired by the spirit of Pan Africanism, focusing on liberation, and political and economic independence. It is motivated by development based on self-reliance and self-determination of African people, with democratic and people-centred governance.

Aspiration 3: An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

Africa shall have a universal culture of good governance, democratic values, gender equality, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

Aspiration 4
: A peaceful and secure Africa.

Mechanisms for peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts will be functional at all levels. As a first step, dialogue-centred conflict prevention and resolution will be actively promoted in such a way that by 2020 all guns will be silent. A culture of peace and tolerance shall be nurtured in Africa’s children and youth through peace education.

Aspiration 5: An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics.

Pan-Africanism and the common history, destiny, identity, heritage, respect for religious diversity and consciousness of African people’s and diaspora’s will be entrenched.

Aspiration 6: An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children.

“All the citizens of Africa will be actively involved in decision making in all aspects. Africa shall be an inclusive continent where no child, woman or man will be left behind or excluded, on the basis of gender, political affiliation, religion, ethnic affiliation, locality, age or other factors”

Aspiration 7: Africa as a strong, united and influential global player and partner.

“Africa shall be a strong, united, resilient, peaceful and influential global player and partner with a significant role in world affairs. We affirm the importance of African unity and solidarity in the face of continued external interference including, attempts to divide the continent and undue pressures and sanctions on some countries.”

Whether the continent will manage to achieve all these objectives or not is something that belongs to the future. The point is that the aspirations of a whole, huge continent have never made the main headlines in western mainstream media.


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CoP 21: The Start of a Long Journey Thu, 14 Jan 2016 14:58:45 +0000 Rajendra Kumar Pachauri

Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, is the Director General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), and Former Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2002-2015

By Rajendra Kumar Pachauri
NEW DELHI, Jan 14 2016 (IPS)

The agreement reached in December, 2015 at the 21st Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a major step forward in dealing with the challenge of climate change. The very fact that almost every country in the world signed off on this agreement is a major achievement, credit for which must go in substantial measure to the Government of France and its leadership. However, in scientific terms, while this agreement certainly brings all the Parties together in moving ahead, in itself the commitments that have been made under the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are quite inadequate for limiting temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century relative to pre-industrial levels.

Rajendra Kumar Pachauri

Rajendra Kumar Pachauri

Any agreement on climate change has to take into account the scientific assessment of the impacts that the world may face and the risks that it would have to bear if adequate efforts are not made to mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Scientific assessment is also necessary on the level of mitigation that would limit risks from consequential impacts to acceptable levels. The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has come up with a clear assessment of where the world is going if it moves along business as usual. The AR5 clearly states that without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st Century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally. Adaptation and mitigation are complementary strategies for reducing and managing the risks of climate change. Correspondingly, substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades can reduce climate risks in the 21st Century and beyond, increase prospects for effective adaptation, reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation in the longer term and contribute to climate-resilient pathways for sustainable development.

In the AR5, five Reasons For Concern (RFCs) aggregate climate change risks and illustrate the implications of warming and of adaptation limits for people, economies and ecosystems across sectors and regions. The five RFCs are associated with: (1) Unique and threatened systems, (2) Extreme weather events, (3) Distribution of impacts, (4) Global aggregate impacts, and (5) Large scale singular events. These RFCs grow directly in proportion to the extent of warming projected for different scenarios.

Substantial cuts in GHG emissions over the next few decades can substantially reduce risks of climate change by limiting warming in the second half of the 21st century and beyond. Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Limiting risks across RFCs would imply a limit for cumulative emissions of CO2. Such a limit would require that global net emissions of CO2 eventually decrease to zero and would constrain annual emissions over the next few decades. But some risks from climate damages are unavoidable, even with mitigation and adaptation. This results from the fact that there is inertia in the system whereby the increased concentration of GHGs in the earth’s atmosphere will create impacts which are now inevitable.

The Paris agreement is an extremely significant step taken by the global community, but to deal effectively with the challenge ahead, a much higher level of ambition would be required by all the countries of the world than is currently embodied in the INDCs. A review of the INDCs is due to take place only in 2018 and 2023. This may be too late, because a higher level of ambition will need to be demonstrated urgently, if the world is to reduce emissions significantly before 2030. Delaying additional mitigation to 2030 will substantially increase the challenges associated with limited warming over the 21st century to below 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels. And, if the global community is serious about evaluating the impacts of climate change within a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, then stringent mitigation actions will have to be taken much earlier than 2030. If early action is not taken, then a much more rapid scale up of low carbon energy over the period 2030 to 2050 would become necessary with a larger reliance on carbon dioxide removal in the long term and higher transitional and long term economic impacts.

In essence, Paris has to be seen as the beginning of a journey. If the world is to minimize the risks from the impacts of climate change adequately, then the public in each country must demand a far more ambitious set of mitigation measures than embedded in the Paris agreement. That clearly is the challenge that the world is facing, and the global community must take in hand urgently the task of informing the public on the scientific facts related to climate change as a follow up to Paris. Then only would we get adequate action for risks being limited to acceptable levels.


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Syria: Minding the Minds II Tue, 12 Jan 2016 19:03:04 +0000 Johan Galtung Johan Galtung is professor of peace studies, founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives’]]>

Johan Galtung is professor of peace studies, founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives

By Johan Galtung
OSLO, Jan 12 2016 (IPS)

Baher Kamal, in … And All of a Sudden Syria!: “The “big five,” the United Nations veto powers, have just agreed United Nations Resolution 2254 of 18-12-2015, time to end the Syrian five-year long human tragedy; they waited until 300,000 innocent civilians were killed and 4.5 million humans lost as refugees and homeless at home, hundreds of field testing of state-of-the-art drones made, and daily U.S., British, French and Russian bombing carried out.” No Chinese bombing.

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

One term in the resolution, road map, already spells failure. There is another reason: missing issues. But something can be done. Roads twist, turn and may be far from straight. Traveling a road is a linear, one step or mile-stone after another, process, by the map. The West loves linearity; as causal chains, (falling dominoes,) from a root cause; as deductive chains from axioms; as ranks from high to low.

However, is that not how the world is, moving in time, causes-effects, axioms-consequences, rank, power, over others? Are roads not rather useful? They are. Is there an alternative to a road map? There is.

One step after the other in time is diachronic. An alternative would be synchronic; at the same time. Let us call it a cake map.

A cake is served, cut in slices, each party takes a slice, waits till all are served to start together. By the road map, first come first served first to eat. Or, highest rank eats first, down the line. The cake map stands for togetherness, simultaneity, shared experience. Not necessarily good: it was also used by the West to carve up Africa.

The cake is an issue; the slices are aspects. How it is defined, how it is cut, who are invited is essential. Basic to the cake map is equality among parties and slices: all get theirs at the same time.

For the Syria issue the Resolution lists the aspects on the road:
• 25 January 2016 (in two weeks) as the target date to begin talks;
• immediately all parties stop attacking civilians;
• within one month: options for a ceasefire monitoring mechanism;
• within 6 months “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance”;
• within 18 months “free and fair elections–by the new constitution”.

Kamal mentions many actors and crucial problems with this agenda. The focus here is on the linearity: ceasefire-governance-constitution-free and fair elections. Why stop attacking civilians who can become or are combatants? Why should actors agree to a ceasefire before their rights are guaranteed in a constitution? Why non-sectarian “governance” in a sectarian country? Each step presupposes the next. The “peace process” can be blocked, at any point, by any one party. Like a road.

Proposal: On 25 January, appoint four representative commissions– one for each of the four aspects–with mechanisms of dialogue for all six pairs and plenaries. Then report on all aspects on the agenda.

Back to the cake, “Syria.” Does “Syria” exist? Once much of the Middle East, the name was used for the French “mandate” carved out of the vast Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1916 when ended by Sykes-Picot. A commission on the Ottoman period, exploring millets for minorities, is indispensable. So is a commission on the Sykes-Picot trauma, also with Turkey as a member; hopefully with UK-France-Russia apologizing.

We have seen it before. The US was a major party to the conflict and the UN conference manager 2013-14. There are now more parties: Jordan has identified up to 160 terrorist groups (Kamal), probably not counting state terrorists. And today the UN is the conference manager.

This column at the time (27 Jan 2014) identified seven Syria conflicts:
1 Minority/majority, democracy/dictatorship, Assad/not Assad in Syria;
2 Sunni/Shia all over, also with “Sunni Islamic State Iraq-Syria ISIS”;
3 Syrians/minorities “like Turks and Kurds, Maronites and Christians”;
4 Syria/”those who, like USA and Israel, prefer Syria fragmented”;
5 Syria/Turkey with “neo-Ottoman expansionist policies”;
6 USA-UK-France/Russia-China “determined to avoid another Libya”;
7 Violent perpetrators of all kinds/killed-bereaved-potential victims.

All seven are still there. They have become more violent, like the second, between Saudi Arabia–also financing IS–and Iran. But the resolution focuses on the first and the last. All parties mentioned should be invited or at least consulted publicly. Last time Iran was excluded, defined as the bad one; this time IS(IS), today called Daesh.

A process excluding major process parties is doomed in advance.

However, imagine that the cake is defined as, “the conflict formation in and around Syria”; that the slices are the seven conflicts indicated with one commission for each; that around the table are the actors mentioned, some grouped together. The Resolution aspects are on their agendas; with commissions on the Ottoman Empire and Sykes-Picot.

What can we expect, what can we reasonably hope for, as visions?

“Mandate”, “colony”: there is some reality to Syria (and to Iraq). The borders are hopeless and should be respected, but not for a unitary state. For something looser, a (con)federation. Basic building-blocs would be provinces from Ottoman times, millets for smaller minorities, and cantons for the strip of Kurds along the Turkish border. The constitution could define a national assembly with two chambers: one territorial for the provinces, and one non-territorial for nations and faiths with some cultural veto in matters concerning themselves.

There is also the Swiss model with the assembly being based on territorially defined cantons, and the cabinet on nations-faiths: of 7 members 3 speak German, 1 Rheto-roman, 2 French and 1 Italian (4 Protestant and 3 Catholic?). Not impossible for Syria. With the Kurds as some kind of Liechtenstein (that is where con-federation enters).

In addition to parallel NGO fora. There is much to articulate.

Assad or not? If he is excluded as punishment for violence, there are many to be excluded. A conference only for victims, and China?

Better see it as human tragedy-stupidity, and build something new.

The violent parties will not get what they want. The victims can be accommodated peacefully in this looser Syria. Moreover, the perpetrators should fund reconstruction proportionate to the violence they wrought in the past four years. As quickly as humanly possible.

Syria offered a poor choice between a minority dictatorship with tolerance and a majority dictatorship–democracy–without. Violence flourished, attracting old suspects for proxy wars. “Bomb Syria” was the panacea, after “bomb Libya”. What a shame. Bring it to an end.

*Johan Galtung’s editorial originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 11 January 2016: TRANSCEND Media Service – TMS: Syria (Minding the Minds II)

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Cash for the Climate Please, Caribbean Leaders Lament Fri, 08 Jan 2016 15:52:31 +0000 Desmond Brown 4 Caribbean Journalists Prepare to Report on Climate Change Wed, 06 Jan 2016 03:09:45 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez Dominican journalist Amelia Deschamps addressing a workshop in Santo Domingo on the role of reporters with regard to climate change. Researchers and journalists from Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic took part in the event. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Dominican journalist Amelia Deschamps addressing a workshop in Santo Domingo on the role of reporters with regard to climate change. Researchers and journalists from Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic took part in the event. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

By Ivet González

Environmentally committed journalists in the Caribbean point to a major challenge for media workers: communicating and raising awareness about the crucial climate change agreement that emerged from the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris.

“Scientific information must be published in clearer language, and we must talk about the real impact of climate change on people’s lives,” journalist Amelia Deschamps, an anchorwoman on the El Día newcast of the Dominican channel Telesistema 11, told IPS.

She was referring to the communication challenges posed in the wake of COP21 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris to produce the first universal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and curb the negative impacts of global warming.

“So far good intentions abound, but there are few practical steps being taken in terms of mitigation and adaptation,” said Deschamps.

In the view of this journalist who specialises in environmental affairs, media coverage of global warming “has been very weak and oversimplified,” which she said has contributed to the public sense that it is a “merely scientific” issue that has little connection to people’s lives.

“People are more concerned about things that directly affect them,” said Deschamps, who is also an activist for risk management in poor communities, and considers citizen mobilisation key to curbing damage to the environment.

The 195 country parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in the French capital adopted a binding universal agreement aimed at keeping a global temperature rise this century “well below 2 degrees Celsius” with respect to the pre-industrial era.

Scientists warn that the planet is heating up as a result of human activity, and this is causing extreme weather events such as heat waves, lengthy droughts and heavy rainfall. In addition, clean water, fertile land and biodiversity are all being reduced.

Coastal areas are already suffering the consequences of rising sea levels, a process that according to scientific sources began 20,000 years ago, but has been accelerated by global warming over the last 150 years.

Small island nations such as those of the Caribbean are among the most vulnerable to climate change, while their emissions have contributed very little to the phenomenon.

“As journalists and communicators we have not managed to identify the right messages to make the public feel involved in this issue,” said Deschamps at a workshop organised by the Cuban Environmental Protection Agency, the Dominican Chapter of the Nicolás Guillén Foundation, the Norwegian Embassy and the Inter Press Service (IPS) international news agency.

Marie Jeanne Moisse, a reporter and environmental educator who works in the climate change office in Haiti’s Environment Ministry, spoke during a workshop in Santo Domingo about the media’s role in reporting on and raising awareness about global warming. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Marie Jeanne Moisse, a reporter and environmental educator who works in the climate change office in Haiti’s Environment Ministry, spoke during a workshop in Santo Domingo about the media’s role in reporting on and raising awareness about global warming. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

To train reporters from the Caribbean, a group of experts from Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic offered a Nov. 23-26 course on “Social Communication for Risk Prevention, Gender and Climate Change” in the Dominican capital.

The course was attended by 41 journalists from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It included three talks that experts gave to students from two rural schools and to a group of 25 Haitian-Dominican women.

“The media need to be trained to provide more information at a national level on the phenomenon and about the agreement reached at COP21,” said Marie Jeanne Moise, an official in the climate change office in Haiti’s Environment Ministry.

According to Moise, a communicator and educator on the environment, “there is alarming talk today about global warming, and people are scared. But that doesn’t mean they know about the phenomenon or about how to protect themselves, to reduce the impacts on their lives.”

Moise urged journalists and reporters to “go to the roots of the problem.”

“News coverage focuses on catastrophes and on how vulnerable we are. But little is said about what contribution the media should make to help bring about a positive change in attitude towards the environment.”

The Haitian official said COP21 “created greater unity among the Caribbean as a vulnerable region that needs to adopt a common position.”

The countries in the region that took part in COP21 are negotiating as part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), made up of 15 mainly island nations, and as part of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

Ahead of COP21, CARICOM launched the “1.5 to Stay Alive” campaign to raise awareness on the effects of climate change, especially on small island states, while strengthening the region’s negotiating position.

CARICOM estimates that inaction could cost its member countries 10.7 billion dollars in losses by 2025, or five percent of GDP, and some 22 billion dollars by 2050, or 10 percent of GDP.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola, are on the list of the 10 countries most vulnerable to natural disasters, according to the Climate Change and Environmental Risk Analytics report published in 2012 by Verisk Maplecroft, a global risk analytics and forecasting company based in Britain.

Besides physical and economic exposure to events like earthquakes and hurricanes, these countries are vulnerable due to social inequality, a lack of preparedness, and unequal distribution of local and regional capacities, said the study, which compared 197 countries using 29 indices and interactive maps analysing major natural hazards worldwide.

Dominican blogger and human rights activist Yesibon Reynoso said that in his country “quite a lot is known and talked about, with regard to the environment, because of the current circumstances.”

But, he said, “for example, deforestation is not always punished. Impunity reigns through exploitation with the support of corruption in the state.”

In his view, “environmental rights are not addressed in accordance with how essential they are to life, in the country and around the globe. There is no traditional social and political respect for the environment.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Hail to the Cowpea: a Blue Ribbon for the Black-Eyed Pea Tue, 05 Jan 2016 14:48:42 +0000 Nteranya Sanginga

Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

By Nteranya Sanginga
IBADAN, Nigeria, Jan 5 2016 (IPS)

2016 is the International Year of Pulses, and we at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture are proud to be organizing what promises to be the landmark event, the Joint World Cowpea and Pan-African Grain Legume Research Conference.

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

The March event in Zambia should draw experts from around the continent and beyond and offer an opportunity to share ideas into the edible seeds – cowpeas, common bean, lentils, chickpeas, faba and lima beans and other varieties – now enjoying their well-deserved 15 minutes of fame as nutritional superstars.

Pulses may look small, but they are a big deal.

Nutritionists consistently find that their low glycemic profiles and hefty fiber content help prevent and manage the so-called diseases of affluence, such as obesity and diabetes. And the protein they pack holds great potential to assist the world in managing its livestock practices in a more sustainable way, so that more people can enjoy better and more varied middle-income diets without placing excess strains on natural resources.

First and foremost, we must make more pulses available. Global per capita availability of pulses declined by more than a third in the four decades following the 1960s. But production has been growing sharply since 2005, especially in developing countries. Cowpeas have been one of the specific leaders of this trend, which has been marked by very welcome increases in yield as well as more hectares being planted.

Importantly, almost a fifth of all pulses today are traded, up almost three-fold from the 1980s, a pace that vastly outstrips the growing trade in cereals. Moreover, while North America is an exporting powerhouse, so is East Africa and Myanmar; more than half of all pulses exports now come from developing countries.

There is a serious opportunity to scale up these protean protein sources.

The good news for the millions of small family farmers is that this may be more about reclaiming a traditional virtue than revolution. After all, the prolific Arab traveler Ibn Battuta wrote about Bambara nuts fried in shea oil while on a trip to Mali and the Sahel back in 1352. The cowpea fritters, known as akara in Nigeria and often seen at roadside stands around West Africa, are their direct descendants, and the elder siblings of acarajés, declared part of the cultural heritage of Brazil – where they are eaten with shrimp – and where their Yoruba name survived the dreadful middle passage of the slave trade.

We at IITA have been cowpea champions for decades. Just this month Swaziland’s Ministry of Agriculture released to local farmers five new cowpea varieties we developed – seeds that mature up to 20 percent faster and yield up to four times more. That latest success comes in great measure, thanks to IITA’s gene bank, which holds, for the world community, 15,112 unique samples of cowpea hailing from 88 countries.

Why so many cowpeas? Our question is why aren’t more being grown!

After all, cowpea contains 25 percent protein, is an excellent conveyor of vitamins and minerals, adapts to a broad range of soil types, tolerates drought as well as shade, grows fast to combat erosion, and as a legume pumps nitrogen back into the soil. We can eat its main product – sometimes known as black-eyed peas – and animals enjoy the residual stems and leaves.

So why don’t we hear more about it? Well, perhaps the world wasn’t listening, but it’s about to have another chance.

Seriously, though, cowpeas come with problems. First of all, the plant is subject to assault at every point in its life cycle, be it from aphids, mosaic virus, pod borers, rival weeds, or the dreaded weevils that fight with fungi and bacteria to consume the seeds while in storage. These are things IITA scientists try to combat, through seed breeding or spreading innovative technologies such as the PICS bags that keep the weevils out.

There is much more to learn, about the plant, how to grow it, and how to bolster its role in the food system. I’lll wager that in the Year of Pulses much will be learned about processing, a critical phase, and one that is already allowing many Nigerian businesses to prosper. Perhaps big global food manufacturers will find new ways to grind pulses into their grain products to produce healthier foods with more complete proteins.

As for farming cowpea, the plant can serve to reduce weeds and fertilizer for the cash crops. It is also harvested before the cereal crops, offering food security and also flexibility, as farmers can choose to let the plants grow, reducing bean yields but increasing that of fodder.

The plant’s epicenter – genetically and today – is West Africa. Nigeria is the big producer, but is also the main importer from neighboring countries. Niger is the world’s biggest exporter. But its ability to deal with dry weather and help combat soil erosion might be of interest elsewhere, such as in Central America’s dry corridor.


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… And All of a Sudden Syria! Tue, 05 Jan 2016 11:21:54 +0000 Baher Kamal By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Jan 5 2016 (IPS)

The “big five” – i.e., the most military powerful states on earth (US, UK, France, Russia and China) have just agreed that it would be about time to end the Syrian five-year long human tragedy.

Baher Kamal

Baher Kamal

Before reaching such a conclusion, they waited until 300,000 innocent civilians were killed; tons of bullets shot; 4.5 million humans lost as refugees or homeless at home; hundreds of field testing of state-of-the-art drones made, and daily US, British, French and Russian bombing carried out.

So, with these statistics in hand, they on 18 December 2015 adopted United Nations Resolution 2254 (2015) endorsing a “road map” for peace process in Syria, and even setting a timetable for UN-facilitated talks between the Bashar al Assad regime and “opposition” groups.

They also set the outlines of a “nationwide ceasefire to begin as soon as the parties concerned had taken initial steps towards a political transition.”

“The Syrian people will decide the future of Syria,” the Resolution states.

The UN Security Council also requested that the UN Secretary-General convenes representatives of the Syrian Government and opposition to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process “on an urgent basis”, with a target of early January for the initiation of talks.

“Free and Fair Elections”

The “big five” then expressed support for a Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations which would establish “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance” within six months and set a schedule and process for the drafting of a new constitution.

Furthermore, the Security Council expressed support for “free and fair elections, pursuant to the new constitution, to be held within 18 months and administered under United Nations supervision,” to the “highest international standards” of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians — including members of the diaspora – eligible to participate.

And they requested that the UN Secretary-General report back on “options” for a ceasefire monitoring, verification and reporting mechanism that it could support within one month. They of course also demanded that “all parties immediately cease attacks against civilians.”

The road-map says that within six months, the process should establish a “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance,” with UN-supervised “free and fair elections” to be held within 18 months.

The whole thing moved so rapidly that the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan di Mestura, has already set the 25 January 2016 as the target date to begin talks between the parties.

All That Is Fine, But…

… But the resolution gives no specific answer to a number of key questions:

To start with, the Syrian National Coalition (SCN) has dismissed the whole idea as “unrealistic,” Deutsch Welle reported. The Coalition objects to a fact that the Security Council’s Resolution carefully “omits”: what future President Assad has.

According to Deutsch Welle, the SNC expressed annoyance that the UN language talked of ISIS terrorism but not of the “terrorism” of the Assad government. Russia has called for the transition to leave the question of governance up to the Syrians, while France and at times the US have demanded Assad’s immediate ousting as a condition of the deal.

If so, which “opposition” should sit to talk with the Syrian regime? While the US, UK and France support what they decided to consider as “rebel” or “opposition” groups, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia would have different criteria.

In this regard, it was decided to work out a mechanism for establishing which rebel groups in Syria will be eligible to take part in the peace process. For this purpose, Jordan, which was tasked with listing terrorist organisations in Syria, has reportedly presented a document that includes up to 160 extremist groups.

Even though, would President Bashar al-Assad be able to run for office in new elections?

How will the UN monitor the requested ceasefires, and control so many different sides involved in the armed fighting, including the US, UK, France and Russia? And what if the ceasefires do not work? More Syrian civilians to die, flee, migrate? How to control DAESH and so many diverse terrorist groups operating there? What to do with those millions of Syrian refugees, scattered in the region, mainly in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, while hundreds of thousands of them are being “trafficked” by organised crime bands, reportedly including DAESH itself?

And last but not least, which Syria will exist at the end of the 18 months which has been fixed as a target to hold free, fair elections?

Will it be the current Syria or a new, refurbished one after cutting part of it to establish a brand new “Sunni-stan” that US neo-con, neo-liberal, Republican “hawk” and former George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, has recently recommended to create on the territories to be “liberated” from DAESH in Syria and Iraq?

Too many key questions without and clear answers. And too may gaps for this road-map to gain credibility. Unless the idea is to implement a Libyan-style solution, that’s for another Western-led military coalition, under NATO’s umbrella, to attack Syria, let Assad be murdered, and leave the people to their own fate. Exactly what happened in Libya in 2011.


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Water, Water Everywhere but Too Much or Too Little Fri, 01 Jan 2016 15:43:52 +0000 Francesco Farne Water is at the core of Sustainable Development and it is crucial in Climate Change adaptation and mitigation strategies. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Water is at the core of Sustainable Development and it is crucial in Climate Change adaptation and mitigation strategies. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Francesco Farnè
ROME, Jan 1 2016 (IPS)

“Water is at the core of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), but it is true that for a long time water and oceans issues have been marginalized in climate conferences, considering that 90 per cent of natural catastrophes are linked to water and 40 per cent of global population will face water scarcity from now to 2050,” stated Marie-Ségolène Royal, French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, during the press conference at the launch of the #ClimateIsWater initiative at COP21. “It is through water that it is possible to measure climate change impacts,” she said.

On 2 December, “Resilience Day,” the international water community gathered in Paris Le Bourget for the launch of the #ClimateIsWater initiative. A series of events and a press conference took place with the aim of increasing visibility and raising awareness on how water is key to addressing climate change. The initiative brought together several organizations representing civil society and stakeholders.

Sustainable water management is fundamental for addressing climate change. “Actors across all sectors should contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies integrating water into future climate architecture.” In order to meet this goal, financing is a crucial aspect, declared Torgny Holmgren, of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), during the press conference.

Water is at the base of all forms of life on earth, and its existence on the planet created the preconditions for the origin of life and the billion years of evolution. Through the history of humanity many civilizations flourished depending on a water source. Mesopotamia, (land between the rivers in ancient Greek), and known as the “cradle of civilization” depended on the Tigris and Euphrates. Ancient Egypt developed on the Nile, the Chinese empire prospered along the Yellow and Yangzi basins and developed a complex administrative machine based on water management for agricultural irrigation.

It is possible to say that human development is water-driven, and this crucial resource is vital to economic and social prosperity. Today in many countries water is a common good, underlining the importance of its universal access. On the other hand, especially in western countries, water is often taken for granted. But without being able to either control its abundance as in floods and bursting sea levels and extreme weather or its scarcity with drought and desertification, water can be catastrophic.

In 2015, the World Economic Forum ranked water as the highest risk affecting global society. According to World Water Council (WWC), one in eight people live without safe drinking water and two people in five do not have adequate sanitation globally. Moreover, nearly 3.5 million deaths from water related diseases are registered every year. Unfortunately, the most affected people live in the global south.

In addition to these shocking facts, directly linked to our so called “water crisis,” there are very strong connections between water and some of the core areas of sustainable development, such as agriculture and food security, demography and urbanization, as well as climate and the environment.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agricultural irrigation accounts for 70 per cent of global water withdrawals, an impressive ratio considering demographers’ preoccupations for population growth projections. Indeed, food demand is expected to increase by 60 per cent and energy by 100 per cent by 2050.

Water is inextricably connected to energy. It is necessary not only for hydropower, but also for cooling power plants, for oil and gas hydraulic fracturing or fracking, and for biofuels. Some 1.3 billion people, mainly in Africa, have no access to electricity.

New urban development from 2010-30 is expected to equal what was built in all of human history. This will increase water withdrawals from municipalities, implying issues of access, infrastructure, sanitation and safety from extreme water hazards.

Surprisingly, in spite of all the above evidence, for a long time water has not been at the top of global agenda. It is not highlighted in climate issues, even though “the effects of climate change will be felt mainly in the water cycle, “ said Benedito Braga, President of WWC, during the press conference. Water management has a great potential for both Climate Change adaptation and mitigation, he said.

According to WWC estimates, there have already been 2.5 trillion dollar economic losses from disasters 70 per cent related to floods and droughts so far this century. And other key issues such as migration and infrastructure damage are connected to climate disasters related to water.

Even though water is not specifically mentioned in the final Paris Agreement, it is possible the international water community is gaining momentum. At the seventh World Water Council held in Daegu & Gyeongbuk last April, the Republic of Korea was a notable participant. This council also brought water into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a goal completely dedicated to water.

SDG 6 aims at ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. SDG 6 covers the entire water cycle, including the management of water, wastewater and ecosystem resources, and have strong linkages to all of the other SDGs. In fact, its realization would mean a huge step towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

There is further evidence that civil society plays a crucial role in mainstreaming water in the Global Agenda. In fact, the LPAA that brought water at the centre of discussions in Paris, involves national governments, cities, regions and other sub national entities, international organizations, civil society, indigenous peoples, women, youth, academic institutions, as well as businesses. And over 300 organisations signed Paris pact on water and adaptation to climate change in river basins at COP21.

The Eighth Water Council will be held in Brasilia, Brazil in 2018. The fact that a developing country and one of the countries most affected by the water crisis will host the event puts once again the attention on the central role of emerging economies in addressing climate and water issues.


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‘Good, But Not Perfect’, Pacific Islands Women on Climate Deal Fri, 01 Jan 2016 11:09:27 +0000 Catherine Wilson Coastal communities in the Solomon Islands in the southwest Pacific Islands are already threatened by climate change with rising seas and stronger storm surges. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Coastal communities in the Solomon Islands in the southwest Pacific Islands are already threatened by climate change with rising seas and stronger storm surges. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Jan 1 2016 (IPS)

Women leaders in the Pacific Islands have acclaimed the agreement on reducing global warming achieved at the United Nations (COP21) Climate Change conference in Paris as an unprecedented moment of world solidarity on an issue which has been marked to date by division between the developing and industrialized world. But for Pacific small island developing states, which name climate change as the single greatest threat to their survival, it will only be a success if inspirational words are followed by real action.

“It’s a huge step forward and I don’t think it would have been possible without the voices of indigenous Pacific Islanders banding together and demanding action and justice…. I am very optimistic about the future,” Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, climate activist and poet from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, who attended the historic meeting, told IPS.

Intense negotiations and compromise between the interests of 195 countries, plus the European Union, which make up the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the climate change convention, marked its 21st meeting in Paris last month.

Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the regional Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), said that “while not all the issues identified by Pacific Island countries were included in the final outcome and agreement, there were substantive advances with recognition of the importance of pursuing efforts to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the inclusion of loss and damage as a separate element in the agreement and simplified and scaled up access to climate change finance.”

Claire Anterea of the Kiribati Climate Action Network in the small Central Pacific atoll nation of around 110,000 people added that the outcome was “good, but not perfect,” highlighting that the new temperature goal and call to boost climate finance were particularly important.

The World Meteorological Organisation predicted this year will be the hottest on record with average global temperatures expected to reach 1 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial age. Meanwhile Pacific Island countries are bracing for further rising temperatures, sea levels, ocean acidification and coral bleaching this century. Maximum sea level rise in many island states could reach more than 0.6 metres, reports the Pacific Climate Change Science Program.

Due to rising seas in the Marshall Islands “a simple high tide results in waves flooding and crashing through sea walls built of cement and rocks and completely destroying homes. The salt from the flooding also destroys our crops and food,” Jetnil-Kijiner said..

In the best case scenario, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea could experience a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, but under high emissions this might soar to 2.9 degrees Celsius by 2090.

Global warming could result in yields of sweet potato, a common staple crop, declining by more than 50 per cent in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands by 2050, estimates the Asian Development Bank. The burden of crop losses will fall on the shoulders of Pacific Islands’ women who are primarily responsible in communities for growing fresh produce, producing food and fetching water.

Pacific Islanders led a campaign in Paris this year to recognize a new temperature rise threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is critical, they argued, to stem future climate shocks and mitigate forced displacement as islands become increasingly uninhabitable due to loss of food, water and land.

And in a sign of shifting views in the industrialized world, Pacific Islanders were joined in their campaigning on this issue by numerous developed and developing nations in a ‘Coalition of High Ambition’ which emerged during the second week of COP21. Solidarity was demonstrated by, amongst others, Mexico, Brazil, Norway, Germany, the European Union and United States.

The final Paris agreement which seeks to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius and ‘pursue efforts’ to further reduce it by another 0.5 degree was a win for the coalition.

“1.5 degrees Celsius wasn’t even on the table before the conference began, so hearing it first announced that it even made it into the text made me cry with relief. That being said, the vague wording definitely has me worried and I know it’ll take a continued push from all of us to actually reach 1.5,” Jetnil-Kijiner said.

This will not decrease the immense challenges the region already faces in adapting to extreme weather, which cannot be met by small island economies without access to international climate finance. This year island leaders called for the international community to honour its pledge to raise 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 to fund adaptation in developing countries, an objective first conceived in Copenhagen in 2009. Assessments since then of how much has been raised vary, but the World Bank claimed in April there was a serious shortfall of 70 billion dollars.

Taylor believes “there is a positive outlook for climate financing post-2020 with Article 9 of the Paris Agreement identifying that, for Small Island Developing States, financing needs to be public and grant-based resources for adaptation.” There has been debate about whether finance mechanisms, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), should issue free grants or concessional loans.

Anterea emphasised that, to be effective, funding “needs to reach grassroots people through a simple processing method.”

Recognition of loss and damage caused by extreme weather and natural disasters in the final pact was also a milestone, the PIFS Secretary General added, even though it does not provide for vulnerable nations to claim liability or compensation from big polluters.

“The legal right of countries to test the liabilities of other Parties using other avenues has not been diminished by this decision,” she said.

But the greatest hope is being invested in the binding commitment by nations to set emission reduction targets and be subject to a process of long term monitoring and review, a move which would accelerate the global transition toward renewable energy and make the burning of fossil fuels, the greatest driver of greenhouse gas emissions, increasingly unviable.

“We need the five-year review as a crucial step to keeping countries’ governments accountable to our targets and goals,” Jetnil-Kijiner emphasised. If nations are not emboldened to better their goals every time, the planet may continue toward a devastating temperature increase of 2.7 degrees Celsius or more, experts conclude.

The most pressing question, after the euphoria of the global accord demonstrated in Paris has died down, is how will these lofty promises be implemented? Pacific Islanders are depending on it.


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WTO: Giant Steps in the World Conference Wed, 23 Dec 2015 18:50:42 +0000 Roberto Azevedo

Roberto Azevêdo is the director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

By Roberto Azevêdo
NAIROBI, Dec 23 2015 (IPS)

World Trade Organization (WTO) members concluded the Tenth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi on 19 December by securing an historic agreement on a series of trade initiatives. The “Nairobi Package” pays fitting tribute to the Conference host, Kenya, by delivering commitments that will benefit in particular the organization’s poorest members.

Roberto Azevêdo

Roberto Azevêdo

The decision on export competition is truly historic. It is the WTO’s most significant outcome on agriculture.

The elimination of agricultural export subsidies is particularly significant.

WTO members, ¬especially developing countries,¬ have consistently demanded action on this issue due to the enormous distorting potential of these subsidies for domestic production and trade. In fact, this task has been outstanding since export subsidies were banned for industrial goods more than 50 years ago.

WTO members’ decision tackles the issue once and for all. It removes the distortions that these subsidies cause in agriculture markets, thereby helping to level the playing field for the benefit of farmers and exporters in developing and least-developed countries.

This decision will also help to limit similar distorting effects associated with export credits and state trading enterprises.

And it will provide a better framework for international food aid ¬ maintaining this essential lifeline, while ensuring that it doesn’t displace domestic producers.

There are also important steps to improve food security, through decisions on public stockholding and towards a special safeguard mechanism, as well as a package of specific decisions for Least Developing Countries (LDCs).

This contains measures to enhance preferential rules of origin for LDCs and preferential treatment for LDC services providers.

And it contains a number of steps on cotton, such as eliminating export subsidies, and providing duty-free-quota-free market access for a range of LDC cotton products immediately.

In addition, we have approved the WTO membership of Liberia and Afghanistan, and we now have 164 member countries.
And I think we are all committed to supporting these two LDCs to boost their growth and development.

We also saw continued commitment to help build the trading capacity of LDCs through the excellent support shown at the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) pledging conference.

And, finally, a large group of members agreed on the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). Again, this is an historic breakthrough. It will eliminate tariffs on 10 per cent of global trade ¬ making it our first major tariff cutting deal since 1996.

While we celebrate these outcomes, we have to be clear-sighted about the situation we are in today.

Success was achieved here despite members’ persistent and fundamental divisions on our negotiating agenda – ¬ not because those divisions have been solved.

We have to face up to this problem.

The Ministerial Declaration acknowledges the differing opinions. And it instructs us to find ways to advance negotiations in Geneva.

Members must decide, the world must decide, about the future of this organization.

The world must decide what path this organization should take.

Inaction would itself be a decision. And I believe the price of inaction is too high.

It would harm the prospects of all those who rely on trade today ¬ and it would disadvantage all those who would benefit from a reformed, modernized global trading system in the future ¬ particularly in the poorest countries.

So we have a very serious task ahead of us in 2016.

We came to Nairobi determined to deliver for all those we represent ¬ and particularly for the one billion citizens of Africa.

At the outset, I warned that we were not looking at a perfect outcome. And what we have delivered is not perfect. There are still so many vital issues which we must tackle.

But we have delivered a huge amount. The decisions taken in Nairobi this week will help to improve the lives and prospects of many people ¬ around the world and in Africa.

When we left Geneva, the international media had already written their headlines:

-‘WTO talks break down’

-‘Another failure at the WTO’

That’s exactly how it was in the Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali two years ago. And we saw it again this year.

Well, we’re getting used to proving those catastrophic headlines wrong.

In the past, all too often, WTO negotiations had a habit of ending in failure.

But, despite adversity ¬ despite real challenges ¬ we are creating a new habit at the WTO: success.


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Accord Calls for First Global Conference on Peace Tue, 22 Dec 2015 07:49:30 +0000 Vasu Gounden Vasu Gounden, ACCORD's Chief, addresses high level expert group on climate and migration.

Vasu Gounden, ACCORD's Chief, addresses high level expert group on climate and migration.

By Vasu Gounden
DURBAN, Dec 22 2015 (IPS)

On 21 November 2015, during ACCORD’s 2015 Africa Peace Award celebration, I made a call for the United Nations to convene the first ever UN Global Conference on Peace.

The call was made during the presentation of the Africa Peace Award to the African Union Commission (AUC), in recognition of its central role in contributing to peace and promoting development in Africa. The award was made at a gala dinner by the Chairperson of ACCORD, Madame Graca Machel, and received on behalf of the AUC by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the AUC.

Over the past few months, our television screens and social media have again exposed us to the graphic nightmares currently plaguing humanity. Terrorism, violent uprisings, and devastating conflicts now afflict several parts of the world, with no corner of our planet immune to either these challenges or their consequences.

Conflicts throughout the world have multiplied in complexity and intensity. The previous paradigm of warfare, where two nations fight one another across borders, is no longer the norm. Today internal conflicts around a number of grievances dominate, and are complicated by the rapid expansion of amorphous groups of radicalised and militant individuals.

As evidenced by the current challenges in Syria and Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Yemen and Ukraine, the consequences of the violence are devastating and will scar these societies for generations to come. Our global community can no longer afford to pursue exclusively military-oriented responses, nor can states afford to remain indifferent to situations that are beyond their immediate concerns or borders. We need a new paradigm for peace.

With an exponentially growing population, unprecedented urbanisation often into unplanned cities, destabilising climate change, a shaky global financial system, growing unemployment, mass migration, and expanding wealth inequality, our planet is in a race against time to create a sustainable future and prevent these global challenges from accelerating and entrenching global instability.

As our work on climate change has shown, challenges such as these can trigger conflict and so even adaptation measures need to be conflict sensitive. While humanity is equipped with unprecedented technological advancements and incredible demographic opportunities to build a better future, we must channel the collective expertise of our global community to find sustainable and transformative pathways forward. The need for sustainable global peace is urgent and the stakes are rising as the challenges deepen. The choice of inaction could close the door on the future for which many strive. We must act quickly!

Collective political dialogue is the only true pathway to begin addressing inter-connected challenges in a sustainable and holistic manner. Over our 23-year history and through engagements with governments, armed groups, civil society, and regional, continental, and multi-lateral bodies, ACCORD has found this maxim to be true.

Our global systems for peace have grown more fragile and stressed just as our conflicts and challenges have evolved with ever increasing complexity. Our dialogue must focus on strategies to resolve current crises, prevent future deterioration, and ensure that peace and prosperity finally take root equitably and sustainably. Further, an urgent need exists to promote critical reflection, earnest debate and mutual solidarity amongst all people. We must underpin these efforts by shepherding a collective shift from an exclusive focus on ‘national interest’ to a collective focus on ‘global responsibility’. There are no easy answers, and no nation on its own has the solution for the challenges of today and more importantly the challenges of tomorrow.

Since its inception the United Nations has convened a number of World Conferences. However, to this day there has not been a UN-sponsored World Conference focused explicitly on peace. Bringing the entire community of humanity under one forum to deliberate earnestly has in the past contributed to tangible landmark global commitments from governments, the private sector and non-state actors alike. Our institutions and processes often limit discussion but a global conference creates a space where all are placed on an equal footing. Many of the current achievements on human rights, social development, climate change, and gender were built on the fresh foundations created by global conferences and dialogue. Such foundations create paradigm shifts, which then lead to practical outcomes.

It is our hope therefore that the Republic of South Africa, in collaboration with other African nations and under the auspices of the African Union, can propose to the UN General Assembly to host the first ever UN Global Conference on Peace in 2019 in Durban, on the 25th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy.

In advance of such a UN Global Conference on Peace and to support a global debate on peace we intend to assemble a multi-disciplinary gathering of experts from around the world in 2017, two years prior to the UN gathering.

As we face our future together we remember that South Africa’s peaceful transition was the result of collective global action and the struggle and outcome gave inspiration and courage to many. Unanimous and collective opposition to apartheid, from Africa and beyond, were critical in supporting the emergence of a peaceful and democratic South Africa against expectations and great odds. We therefore call the entire world to join once more in a free and peaceful South Africa, in the same spirit of collective unity, to begin charting a way forward to deliver global peace.

Now is the time!


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COP21 Solved a Dilemma Which Delayed a Global Agreement Mon, 21 Dec 2015 06:26:19 +0000 Mario Lubetkin By Mario Lubetkin
ROME, Dec 21 2015 (IPS)

One of the most significant aspects of the international conference on climate change, concluded in Paris on December 12, is that food security and ending hunger feature in the global agenda of the climate change debate.

The text of the final agreement adopted by the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change recognizes “the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger and the special vulnerability of food systems production to the impacts of climate change.”

Indeed, of the 186 countries that presented voluntary plans to reduce emissions, around a hundred include measures related to land use and agriculture.

The approved programme of measures constitutes a sector-by-sector program to be implemented by 2020, which implies there will be ongoing focus on agricultural issues and not just about energy, mitigation or transportation, which drew so much of the attention in Paris.

In the next years the commitments must be implemented, which will require helping developing countries make necessary adaptations through technology transfer and capacity building.

The Green Climate Fund, comprising 100,000 million per year provided by the industrialized countries, will be a key contributor to this process. Contributions of additional resources to the Fund for the Least Developed Countries and the Adaptation Fund, among others, have also been announced.

The issue of future food production, long saddled with a low profile in the media, is increasingly a major concern and poses a challenge to governments.

A recent World Bank report estimated that 100 million people could fall into poverty in the next 15 years due to climate change. Agricultural productivity will suffer, in turn causing higher food prices.

According to Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “climate change affects especially countries that have not contributed to causing the problem” and “particularly harms developing countries and the poorer classes.”

The facts speak for themselves. The world’s 50 poorest countries combined, are responsible for only one per cent of global greenhouse emissions, yet these nations are the ones most affected by climate change.

Approximately 75 per cent of poor people suffering from food insecurity depend on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods. Under current projections, it will be necessary to increase food production by 60 per cent to feed the world’s population in 2050.

Yet crop yields will, if current trends continue, fall by 10 to 20 per cent in the same period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and higher ocean temperatures will slash fishing yields by 40 per cent.

One of the least-mentioned problems associated with climate change are the effects of droughts and floods, which have become a near constant reality. On top of the destruction of resources and huge losses brought by these phenomena, they also cause increases in food prices which in turn affects mainly the poor and most vulnerable.

Rising food prices have a direct relation to “climate migrants”, as the drop in production and income is one of the factors that triggers displacement from rural areas to cities, as well as from the poorest countries to those where there are potentially more opportunities to work and have a dignified life.

For example, migration in Syria and Somalia are not driven by political conflicts or security issues alone, but also by drought and the consequent food shortages.

This is why FAO argues that we must simultaneously solve climate change and the great challenges of development and hunger. These two scenarios go hand-in-hand. The dilemma is to make sure that measures adopted to address the former do not generate a constraint on the latter. Production capacity, particularly of developing countries, must not be jeopardized.

This is why developing countries argue that, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they need technologies and support that they cannot fund with their own resources without hobbling their own development plans.

And since the most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions are the industrialized nations, the countries of the South insist, and have done so long before the COP21, that richer nations contribute to funding the changes needed to preserve the environment.

It was therefore natural that this dilemma was at the center of discussions in Paris and that efforts were made to find an agreement.

The creation of the Green Climate Fund was one of the keystones for an agreement that practically binds the whole world to the goal of keeping average temperatures at the end of the century from rising more than two degrees Celsius. The agreement will enter into force in 2020 and will be reviewed every five years. In that period, many problems will arise and need to be resolved.

Yet beyond the difficulties we will face on the way, it now seems legitimate to expect that the big problem will be addressed and the future of the planet will be preserved.


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Paris Agreement Leaves Climate Funding in Limbo Mon, 14 Dec 2015 20:43:35 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who described climate change as one of the “defining priorities” of his nine-year tenure as UN chief, went into raptures over the Paris agreement concluded on Saturday.

“It’s a monumental triumph for people and planet”, he said – even as civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from developing countries expressed strong reservations over an agreement which left the key role of climate funding in political limbo.

“It is a health insurance policy for the planet”, Ban told reporters at a news briefing Monday.

As a first step in implementing the agreement, the UN will host a high-level signing ceremony by world leaders on April 22 next year, followed by a summit meeting of government, business and civil society leaders on May 5-6.

Ban summed up the agreement as having “solid results on all key points.” The agreement demonstrates solidarity, he said, and “it is ambitious, flexible, credible and durable.”

All countries have agreed to hold global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. And recognizing the risk of grave consequences, you have further agreed to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, he declared.

But what was left unsaid was one of the key challenges in fighting climate change: how soon will the international community, and specifically the world’s rich nations and the private sector, succeed in raising the estimated 100 billion dollars per year needed by 2020.?

Prerna Bomzan, policy advocate at LDC Watch, representing the interests of the 48 least developed countries (LDCs), told IPS the key obligation under the 1992 climate convention of “new and additional” climate finance no longer exists in the agreement.

“This is a major loss for developing countries, considering that climate finance should not be clubbed together with official development assistance (ODA).”

She said paragraph 54 of the agreement states that “developed countries intend to continue their existing collective mobilization goal through 2025″ and prior to 2025, shall set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of 100 billion dollars per year.

“This means no money on the table pre-2020, just intention of mobilization. The agreement doesn’t even mention the 100 billion dollars,” she pointed out.

The only mention of the much-touted 100 billion dollar figure is in the preamble to the agreement—reducing it to a passing political footnote.

A critical component of the Paris agreement was always that finance for developing countries would be ramped up, according to civil society groups.

In concluding the talks, French President Francois Hollande spoke proudly about the 100 billion “floor” in finance, but observers have pointed out that the reality doesn’t match the rhetoric.

Meena Raman, Legal Adviser at the Malaysia-based Third World Network said the 100 billion per year by 2020 is now extended to 2025 and a new goal is to be set after that.

“So developed countries have obtained another five years to deliver what they agreed to do. It is regrettable that this has happened as it delays action in developing countries who are in need,” she said.

Ban said the Paris agreement ensures sufficient, balanced adaptation and mitigation support for developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

Developed countries, he said, “have agreed to lead in mobilizing finance and scale up technology support and capacity building.”

And developing countries have assumed increasing responsibility to address climate change in line with their capabilities, the secretary-general added.

Doreen Stabinsky, Visiting Professor of Climate Change Leadership, Uppsala University, Sweden and Professor of Global Environmental Politics, at College of the Atlantic, Maine, USA, said the price tag for climate damages this century will be in the trillions, with much of that damage in poor and vulnerable countries.

“The US is responsible for much of that toll, but they don’t care and they won’t pay. With arm twisting of developing countries, they have language now protecting the richest and heaping devastating costs onto the poorest,” she said

In a statement released Monday, Oxfam International said the Paris climate deal has brought the world’s powers together but has short-changed the poorest and most vulnerable people as they struggle with the burgeoning reality of rising sea-levels, floods and drought.

The deal is a land-mark step but has not done enough to ensure that a 3°C world will be avoided or secure sufficient climate funding for vulnerable communities to adapt to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather.

More than 190 countries have for the first time committed to climate action and the summit has created momentum throughout the year, with countries and parts of the business community making announcements toward tackling climate change, Oxfam added.

But the ambitious speeches from world leaders opening the summit were not sustained to the end game, it said.

Oxfam Executive Director Helen Szoke said: “This deal offers a frayed life-line to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

Only the vague promise of a new future climate funding target has been made, while the deal does not force countries to cut emissions fast enough to forestall a climate change catastrophe, she added, pointing out that “this will only ramp up adaptation costs further in the future.”

The final Paris agreement is a nail in the coffin for justice for LDCs”, said Azeb Girmai, climate lead for LDC Watch.

“We have gradually seen the text change from the long-standing ‘polluter pays principle’, where developed countries are obliged to finance adaptation and mitigation to help developing countries deal with climate chaos to one where the wealthiest countries simply refused to commit any climate finance.

In the final agreement, she said, “new and additional” climate finance committed in the 1992 Convention has now been dropped out”.

In a statement released Monday, the world’s 48 poorest nations classified as LDCs, said: “So we see a future in which, if there is no meaningful change by developed countries, the LDCs will be submerged, flooded, made into arid deserts, with no money to prevent or compensate this”.

LDCs being least responsible for the climate mess are thus unjustifiably bearing the brunt of being most impacted.

“However, while this is a very sad day for LDCs, we are determined to continue working for climate justice. While we may have lost this battle, we have not lost the war,” LDC Watch declared.

The writer can be contacted at

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Paris Delivers Historic Climate Treaty, but Leaves Gender Untouched Sun, 13 Dec 2015 10:34:00 +0000 Stella Paul UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figures with the COP21 President Celebrate the Adoption of Paris Agreement. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figures with the COP21 President Celebrate the Adoption of Paris Agreement. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
PARIS, Dec 13 2015 (IPS)

After 2 weeks of intense negotiations, on Saturday evening, the 21st UN climate conference (COP21) in Paris finally delivered a historic agreement that, for the first time, promises to keep the global warming under 2 degrees Celsius. The treaty, consisting 31 pages and signed by by 196 countries, include the big five steps of climate action:

Climate Change Mitigation (Article 2 and 4): The agreement includes a series of goals to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius to accompany the current hard limit of 2 degrees. Following this treaty, countries will pursue the mitigation plans laid out in their domestic climate commitments, which will go into effect in 2020.

Long-Term Goal (Article 4): The overall aim specified in the agreement is to peak global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and undertake rapid reductions so as to achieve a balance between emissions by anthropogenic sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century.

The specificity of this long term goal is such that, when coupled with the goal of limiting warming to 2 Celsius countries would be de facto required to completely decarbonize the global electric sector by 2050, according to the IPCC.

Adaptation (Article 7): Developed countries will provide financial and technological support to help developing countries adapt to impacts of climate change, building resilience and preventing further damage (also in COP Decision Section III, Paragraphs 42-47).

Loss and Damage (Article 8): The Paris Agreement includes a section directing countries to create a special process to address the losses and damage that stems from unavoidable climate impacts which overwhelm the limits of adaptation (e.g. sea level rise), as well as follow the procedures laid out in the Warsaw Mechanism. The COP Decision explicitly excludes liability or compensation for losses and damages (COP Decision Section III, Paragraph 52)

Finance (Article 9): The COP Decision text reiterates a global finance pledge with a floor of 100 billion dollars per year in climate financing from developed countries by 2020 (Section III, Paragraph 54), and expands the donor pool post-2020 to encourage other countries to voluntarily provide additional financial support (Article 9.2). Countries have agree to set a new global, collective climate finance goal for 2025 that increases upon the 100 billion dollar target for 2020 (COP Decision Section III, Paragraph 54.

Scientists at the COP approved the agreement. Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre called the agreement a “turning point” that would ensure a “1.5-2 Celsius safe operating space on Earth”.

“To have a good chance of staying below 2 degrees, we need to aim for 1.5 degrees anyway, and it is sensible to acknowledge that 2 degrees itself is hardly safe. So, all told, a great outcome,” said Miles Allen, scientist from the Oxford University.

Women’s leaders recognized the progress but said that there were still miles to go to make the fight against climate change truly gender inclusive.

Titi Gbemisola Akosa, Executive Director of the Centre for 21st Century Issues in Lagos, Nigeria said that under the agreement developed and industrialized countries are not held liable for global warming and will not pay any compensation to those who are the victims of climate change. This will drive women, especially those from the climate vulnerable regions of Africa into deeper poverty.” The provision of liability and compensation could have helped women mitigate some of the climate change affects, but now their future become more uncertain,” said Akosa.

Both Akosa and Cherry however agreed that the agreement gave a foothold for women leaders to demand greater equality. “It’s a work in progress. In next COP, we will have to keep pushing for greater inclusion of women in all process – in negotiation, and in the climate agreement text,” said Cherry.

Gender was earlier mentioned only in the preamble. This time, they have mentioned in the main text of the draft – in the Adaptation (of climate change) and in the “capacity building” sections. This is good. But we still need inclusion of gender in several key areas, especially in finance, said Flavia Cherry of St. Lucia who represents 17 Caribbean nations for CAFRA (Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action).

But for Indigenous groups, the agreement has been more of a disappointment than a hope.

“The Paris accord is a trade agreement, nothing more. It promises to privatise, commodity and sell forested lands as carbon offsets in fraudulent schemes such as REDD+ projects. These offset schemes provide a financial laundering mechanism for developed countries to launder their carbon pollution on the backs of the global south,” Said Alberto Saldamando, Human Rights expert from Alaska.

The next climate conference will be held in Morocco in 2016.


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Paris Delivers the Promised Climate Deal to Resounding Cheer and Applause Sun, 13 Dec 2015 10:20:00 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz 1 Climate Change and Women Across Three Continents Sat, 12 Dec 2015 09:05:02 +0000 Dizzanne Billy, Domoina Ratovozanany, and Sohara Mehroze By Dizzanne Billy, Domoina Ratovozanany, and Sohara Mehroze Shachi
PARIS, Dec 12 2015 (IPS)

The link between women in climate change is a cross-cutting issue that deserves greater recognition at climate negotiations. It is pervasive, touching everything; from health and agriculture to sanitation and education.

Women from developing countries witness the nexus between climate change and gender issues on a first-hand basis. They are oftentimes highly dependent on the land and water resources for survival and are left in insecure positions. Climate change is not just an environmental issue, but links to social justice, equity, and human rights, all of which have gender elements.

A female perspective is critical to the success of the 2015 Climate Conference (COP21), which strives to find a global agreement to tackle climate change. In order for it to be effective, it must integrate gender equality, particularly women’s empowerment and gender responsiveness to the vulnerability of rural women.

During the back-and-forth iterations of the climate agreement’s draft, of which several versions were published in the last two weeks, gender was treated as an accessory element that could be removed and bargained with, and all but a handful of parties ignored it. They are wrong.

Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa are three of the most climate vulnerable continents in the world and although they contribute the least to climate change, the women in their countries endure the brunt of its severe impact.

Millions of people in Asia are extremely vulnerable to climate change, especially women because of their traditional, gender-prescribed roles. In many rural areas the mobility of women is very limited, as women working outdoors is often frowned upon due to conservative social perceptions. So while men from climate change-affected areas often migrate to cities and less climate vulnerable regions in search of work, women are left to take care of the homes and children. This confinement to houses translates to economic dependence and lack of access to information such as early warning, which contributes to increasing women’s vulnerability.

Women in Asia usually have more climate sensitive tasks, such as fetching water and preparing food, which increases their vulnerability in the context of climate change. The UN Development Program (UNDP) field research has shown that fetching water involves women and girls commuting over long distances. With the increasing frequency and intensity of floods, women regularly have to navigate through waterlogged areas for fetching water and cooking, which exposes them to the risks of drowning, snakebites, and skin diseases.

Halfway around the globe, women face similar climate-related issues. Caribbean households are largely matriarchal and women find themselves at the frontline of the need for climate adaptation and mitigation.

Women have the prime responsibility of taking care of everyone in the home and are affected by food security and water scarcity. Rural women are particularly vulnerable, especially smallholder producers, marginalised farmers, and agricultural workers living in rural areas.

Whether the food or water shortages are due to the increased amount and intensity of hurricanes or drought, their chances of living decent lives are not high and aren’t getting better. Understanding this point of view is important for successful formulation and execution of climate adaptation strategies.

According to Mildred Crawford, President of the Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers,” Agriculture needs more visibility in the negotiations. Women are actors in the food chain and need finance to assist small farmers to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Women groups are already organised; so incentives can be given to them to control carbon from waste in their community.”

The Caribbean is in its worst drought in the past five years. According to Mary Robinson, former Prime Minister of Ireland, and also former head of t UN’s High Commission on Human Rights, the climate draft needs to have a sharper gender focus in order to ensure that women have greater access to climate finance, renewable technologies and adaptation capacity. Indeed, climate campaigning should not be narrowed to emissions reductions, carbon trading and transfer of technology, but it should strive to go beyond.

Along with these, it should take note of the fact that most farmers in developing countries are women and therefore adaptation applies strongly to them. Gender applies across the board, it is not something to be used conveniently.
Women from developing countries need to be empowered to play major roles in the climate change fight as they stand to lose so much.

Kalyani Raj, member in charge of All India Women’s Conference, argues that it is crucial to give vulnerable women a voice and include them in policy planning.

“A lot of women have developed micro-level adaptation approaches, indigenous solutions and traditional knowledge that are not being replicated at the macro level,” she said. “So policies should be focused on upscaling these instead of proposing one-size-fits-all measures for climate change adaptation.”

In Africa, the climate change impact on gender issues is mainly linked to agriculture, food security and natural disasters. According to the 2011 Economic Brief of the African Development Bank (AFDB), out of Africa’s 53 countries, women represent 40 percent or more of the agricultural workforce in 46 of them. This sector is characterised as vulnerable because generally it does not comprise formal sector jobs with contracts and income security.

“The poor are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are women,” pointed out UNFPA in the 2009 State of World Population report. Furthermore, in a sample of 141 countries over the period 1981–2002, it was found that gender differences in deaths from natural disasters are directly linked to women’s economic and social rights. In inequitable societies, more women than men die from disaster.

As young women from these three vulnerable continents, we are calling for proper representation of women in the climate agreement. The cry of the rural woman is a reality that we must all face. However, we must recognise that women are not just victims, we are powerful agents for change. Therefore, women need to be included in the decision-making processes and allowed to contribute their unique expertise and knowledge to adapt to climate change, because any climate change intervention that excludes women’s perspective and any policy that is gender blind, is destined to fail.


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Hidden Hunger, Hidden Danger Access to generic vitamin and mineral supplements in developing countries constrained by trade rules Fri, 11 Dec 2015 22:41:42 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Jomo Kwame Sundaram is the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
ROME, Dec 11 2015 (IPS)

The latest estimates are that over two billion people in the world suffer some micronutrient deficiencies, often referred to as “hidden hunger.” The main sustainable solution is to ensure adequate public health interventions, including clean water, sanitation and hygiene as well as healthy, diverse diets for all.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

In the short term, however, it will be necessary to provide supplements of vitamins, minerals and trace elements to those especially vulnerable, e.g. due to displacement and emergency situations. There is a general consensus that such needs of pregnant and lactating mothers should be especially prioritized due to the intergenerational consequences of child stunting for such reasons.

Developing countries should be able to affordably access locally produced or imported generics of the vitamin and mineral supplements they require. Many current options associated with public-private partnership will instead strengthen the vested interests of the lucrative, large and fast-growing industry for nutrition supplements.

The need for supplementation to address urgent, short-term micronutrient deficiencies should qualify as part of the public health exception to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This has not been fully recognized ostensibly because people do not drop dead immediately due to “hidden hunger.”

TRIPS and generics production for developing countries

Under the TRIPS agreement, intellectual property rights (IPRs) — for copyright, trademark, geographical indication, industrial designs and patents — are extended to all signatory countries. Patents, most relevant to public health and access to medicines, give twenty years of protection to inventions.

In the current language, there are no explicit provisions for generic production of patented nutrition supplements. However, there is supposed to be a great deal of flexibility on the basis of public health needs, which could be extended to minerals and vitamins for supplementation.

The TRIPS Agreement provides space for countries taking measures to protect public health. Under Article 31, countries can issue compulsory licenses allowing firms or individuals to produce generic copies of patented products or processes for the domestic market without the owner’s consent in “case of a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency or in cases of public non-commercial use.” The government can also determine adequate payment to the IPR holder.

At the Doha WTO conference in 2001 launching the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations, the Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health affirmed the right of countries to protect public health, enable access to medicines, and determine the criteria for issuing a compulsory license. It emphasized that each country “has the right to grant compulsory licenses” and “the right to determine what constitutes a national health emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency.”

This new text corrected the false impression that some health emergency was needed to justify compulsory licensing. It also spelt out that “public health crises, including those relating to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics, can represent a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency.”

Technology transfer

Under Article 66.2 of TRIPS, developed country governments are obliged to actively promote technology transfer in establishing manufacturing capabilities for patented processes in developing countries. The 2001 Declaration also reaffirmed the developed countries’ commitment to provide incentives to their corporations to enable technology transfer to the least developed countries. This was part of the original bargain for developing countries to provide protection of IPRs.

Developing countries also have the right to import generics if they lack manufacturing capabilities. A 2003 waiver allows countries unable to domestically produce pharmaceuticals to import them instead. Hence, under compulsory licensing, such countries can import externally produced patented drugs. Thus, while compulsory licensing allows countries to import cheaper generics from countries already producing them, to take advantage of TRIPS Agreement flexibility, countries need to legislate accordingly.

However, exemptions to pharmaceutical patent protection to the least developed countries, enabling them to import without issuing a compulsory license, were only extended until 2016. The upcoming Nairobi WTO ministerial should extend this exemption beyond next year.

While there appears to be legal space under TRIPS for developing countries to use compulsory licensing, they have effectively be prevented from doing this by complicated rules and procedural requirements. Consequently, use of compulsory licensing by developing countries has been largely limited to HIV/AIDS medicines, and almost exclusively used by middle-income countries. LDCs have not issued any compulsory licenses while the total number of applications has declined significantly in the last decade.

Needed actions

Existing TRIPS texts do not preclude compulsory licensing for local generic production in developing countries. However, extension of the right to use compulsory licensing and other such flexibilities to vitamin and mineral supplements is not explicit. While explicit permission is given to AIDs, malaria, tuberculosis and epidemics, even this is rarely used.

In light of the foregoing, the following revisions to WTO provisions to protect developing countries’ right to produce generic vitamin and mineral supplements should be introduced. This will also be in line with the July 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda’s commitment to facilitate technology transfer:

• Developing appropriate model legislation to facilitate development of the national legislation needed for compulsory licensing, etc.
• Provide free legal services to developing country governments interested in accessing TRIPS facilities.
• Identify and investigate relevant national vitamin and mineral supplement production needs in partnership with other governments to enable developed countries to meet their technology transfer obligations.

Developing countries need to act to overcome three major constraints to issuing compulsory licenses and bypassing patent legislation for public health. First, the governments must be strong enough to withstand business and political pressures. Second, it is necessary to have enabling legislation in place. Third, these countries need to have production capacity and distribution arrangements in place.
Also, the UN system should offer appropriate technical expertise to advance progress.


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Tackling Climate Change in Africa: Europe’s Solution to the Migrant Crisis? Fri, 11 Dec 2015 12:00:04 +0000 Friday Phiri By Friday Phiri
PARIS, France, Dec 11 2015 (IPS)

As thousands of Africans arrive in Europe every month, often risking their lives aboard shaky boats to get to a better life, lack of access to energy could be one of the reasons for their exodus.

Africa’s poverty challenges are well documented. In recent years there has been much discourse around how climate change worsens these challenges and could reverse the continent’s economic fortunes.

Lack of access to energy, for example has been mentioned here at COP 21 as one of the reasons why Africa’s young people leave the continent in search of opportunities, mostly in Europe.

While the International Organisation for Migration outlines that the linkages between human mobility and climate impacts are highly complex, it is critical to point out that, in most situations, people choose or are forced to migrate due to a number of factors and climate change could be the primary one or the key to many secondary factors.

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank agrees with this reasoning by highlighting lack of electricity in Africa as a reason for young Africans’ mass movement to Europe.

“Droughts all across Africa, the Sahel is burning, Lake Chad is dried-up, livelihoods are devastated, young people across Africa are jumping on boats, jumping to go to Europe because there are no economic opportunities,” Dr. Adesina told IPS at the COP 21 talks in Paris, France.

He says Africa’s lack of access to electricity is stopping the continent’s industrialization, costing Africa up to 4 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Africa has no electricity. And therefore, industrialization is not happening, the small and medium enterprises are not functioning at their full capacity. As a result, Africa today loses 3 to 4 per cent of its GDP for lack of electricity,” he said.

Linking his argument to migration, the AfDB President believes lighting-up Africa could transform the continent’s economic fortunes thereby according young people massive opportunities within their own countries.

“It’s also linked to migration by the way…if you turned off this light and it is dark, and you go to an area where there is light, even insects move from where there is dark to where there is light.

“So by lighting up and powering Africa, our young people will be staying on the continent because they can use electricity to do many things. Nobody works in the dark and succeeds, you walk in the dark you always stumble, you fall, that’s why we must light up and power Africa,” he said of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative which was launched at the COP 21 talks, targeting 10 gigawatts in the next five years and 300 gigawatts by 2030.

This massive initiative dubbed Africa’s commitment to an ambitious outcome of the COP 21 climate deal will require billions of dollars to materialize.

Juxtaposing Europe’s migrant crisis that is set to cost as much as 5 billion dollars, and the cost of climate financing for Africa, there could be an opportunity for longer term investment in Europe addressing the migrant problem at its source.

Niclas Hällström, Director of What Next, a Swedish think-tank, says the renewable energy initiative provides an opportunity for Europe to make serious investments in its own interest.

“It is a moral imperative for developed countries to support Africa’s climate adaptation, but it is also in their interest.

“Take the newly launched Africa Renewable Energy Initiative. This bold effort by African countries is set to reach universal access for all Africans by latest 2030…It requires billions of dollars in climate finance, but will create jobs and enhanced well-being for people across the whole continent. Apart from the need to handle the refugee situations acutely, this is the best longer-term action one can think of,” said Hällström.

Climate finance has remained a sticking point in the climate negotiations for years. With few days to go before the end of COP 21, the trend has not changed much.

Dan Bodansky, Foundation Professor of Law and Faculty, Co-Director of the Center for Law and Global Affairs at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, shares insights on day 8 of the negotiations.

“Of the ‘crunch issues,’ finance is the most difficult…unlike the other issues, it may not be possible to paper over through artful wording, although the use of terms like “should” and “strive” may provide a middle ground,” he said, pointing out that the negotiating text that emerged from the ADP over the weekend still has many other brackets and options.

As negotiations enter the final frenzy hours with the text expected on Day 9, the African Group of Negotiators and other key stakeholders’ anxiety is reaching tipping points.

“The present reality at the conference confirms that countries have spent the first week restating their old positions leaving most of the key debates unresolved,” said Sam Ogallah of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), calling on Ministers to urgently inject energy into the process for a fair deal that would reflect the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility-CBDR and addresses the issues of loss and damage, finance for adaptation and mitigation and keeping the global warming well below 1.5 Celsius.

In adding impetus to the climate change and migration nexus, a report released by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at the COP 21 Talks, accuses world’s top media of failing to identify climate change as a contributor to some of the world’s biggest crises, including migration, food insecurity and conflict.

IFAD President, Kanayo Nwanze, said “If the world becomes aware of how climate change threatens our food security or why it is a catalyst for migration and conflict, then we can expect better support for policies and investments that can pre-empt future crises.”

Will developed countries at COP 21 recognise this argument? The world will know in a matter of hours.


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