Inter Press Service » Energy News and Views from the Global South Sat, 30 Apr 2016 22:04:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 No Turning Back in the Global Fight Against Climate Change Fri, 22 Apr 2016 06:38:06 +0000 Marcia Bernicat Photo: Ambreblends

Photo: Ambreblends

By Marcia Bernicat
Apr 22 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

As people around the globe observe Earth Day today, world leaders are making history at the United Nations in New York. Over 100 countries will sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, representing their commitment to join it formally. This marks a turning point in the story of our planet and may set a record for the largest number of signers to an international agreement in a single day. Moreover, last month, President Obama announced with President Xi Jinping that our two countries will sign the Paris Agreement today and formally join this year. We are confident other countries will do so too, with the intention of bringing this historic and ambitious agreement into force as quickly as possible.

A greener future is already in sight. Leaders of countries and cities are adapting and innovating away from fossil fuels and business owners are investing in a clean energy economy. The United States is moving forward in its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. We are doing this through the strongest fuel economy standards in our history, through our twenty-fold increase in solar generation since 2009, and through proposed rules on everything from energy conservation standards for appliances to reduction in emissions of methane-rich gas from municipal solid waste landfills.

My home state, New Jersey, has undertaken ambitious programmes tackling climate change and promoting renewable energy. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has introduced the Sustainable Jersey programme to aid cities and towns in going green, saving money, and taking the steps necessary to ensure long-term quality of life. Sustainable Jersey provides guidance and financial incentives in support of the programme. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Clean Energy Programme encourages homeowners, businesses, and municipalities to incorporate clean energy into their lives. The Clean Energy Programme has received the 2016 Sustained Excellence Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for 15 years of success in promoting clean energy use.

While we are taking significant climate action domestically, the United States is also focused on international cooperation to address this global challenge. Our $500 million contribution last month to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – the first tranche of the $3 billion U.S. pledge to the GCF – will help developing countries reduce carbon emissions and prepare for climate impacts, while also advancing our commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – another major landmark agreement the world came together around last year.

One of the most successful environmental agreements of all time is the Montreal Protocol, which is phasing out ozone depleting substances globally. It set the ozone layer on a path to recovery and prevented tens of millions of cases of skin cancer among other health, environmental, and economic benefits. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – which replace many of the ozone-depleting substances – do not harm the ozone layer, but they are greenhouse gases that in some cases can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. The United States is working with partners to adopt an HFC phase-down amendment to the Montreal Protocol this year that could avoid half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

We also need international cooperation to change how we transport ourselves and goods. The aviation sector represents two percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organisation is aiming to achieve carbon neutral growth for international aviation by 2020. The United States is committed to reaching an agreement on a global market-based measure that will help move the airline sector toward this ambitious goal.

Bangladesh, located at the confluence of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Meghna rivers, is uniquely vulnerable to climate change. The 600 kilometre coastal zone faces considerable challenges: flooding, erosion, rising sea levels, and cyclonic storm surges. Bangladesh has risen to this challenge. From the establishment of the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009 and Climate Change Trust Fund to the continued dedication of over six percent of the annual budget to climate change adaptation, Bangladesh has been on the leading edge of environmental policy. For all of these reasons, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was awarded the United Nations’ Champion of the Earth award for Policy Leadership last September.

This Earth Day – with the signing of the Paris Agreement – is truly a cause for hope. It is also a reminder of our shared commitment to combat climate change. We must all seize upon the momentum from Paris to build a clean energy future for ourselves and our children and grandchildren.

The writer is the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Opinion: Unnoticed, We Are Close to Destruction of Our Planet Thu, 21 Apr 2016 07:45:25 +0000 Roberto Savio By Roberto Savio
ROME, Apr 21 2016 (IPS)

On the 17th of April, Italians were called to vote in a national referendum, on the extension of licenses to extract petrol and gas from the seas. The government, the media and those in the economic circles, all took a position against the referendum, claiming that 2000 jobs were at a stake. The proponents of the referendum (among them five regions), lost. Italy is following a consistent trend, after the Summit on Climate Change (Paris December 2015), in which all countries (Italy included) took a solemn engagement to reduce emissions.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Two weeks after the Summit, the British Prime Minister took the initiative to extend the licenses to extract coal, explaining that 10.000 jobs were at stake. Then it was India’s turn, to declare that licenses for coal powered stations would be increased, as the development of the country comes before protection of the environment.

On this, the Polish government declared that it had no intentions to reduce the use of Polish coal, in the short term. Then Hungary made a similar statement about its use of fossil energy.

Meanwhile, no significant initiative for emission’s control has been announced after Paris. And all the Republican candidates have announced that, once installed in the White House, they will declare null and void the agreements reached in Paris, where Obama played a crucial role. In fact, several Republican initiatives are seeking Supreme Court cancellation of measures taken by the administration to limit pollutions. And with different accents, all the xenophobe and right wing parties which are emerging everywhere in Europe, have indicated that they do not consider the Paris agreement as a priority in their agenda.

The main criticism of the scientific community, on the Paris agreements, was that while the accepted goal was to limit the increase of the global temperature to 2 degrees, compared with that of the beginning of the industrial revolution (while accepting that 1.5 degrees would have been an adequate target), in reality the sum total of all individual targets freely established by the countries, was coming to at least 3.5 degrees.

The idea was that with further negotiations, the target of 2 degrees would finally emerge, also thanks to new technologies. Now, an equally crucial flaw is emerging. No control of implementation of the agreement will take place before 2030. Until then, each country is responsible for implementing its target, and also for checking the implementation of its commitment.

It would have been interesting to see a similar philosophy, adopted on tax levels. Every citizen could decide how much tax he or she pledges to pay, and be responsible until 2030 to check that this engagement or commitment is met. Then only in 2030, mechanisms of verification would fall in place. And those mechanisms would bear no enforcements or penalties. They would only indicate public shaming of those who did not keep their engagements.

Of course, the fact that industrialized countries, like Italy and United Kingdom, far from reducing sources of pollution, is not a good example for developing countries, who are now coming into industrialization, and have to limit their emissions because since early 19th century industrialized countries have been polluting the world.

In fact, subsidies to the fossil industries, according to the World Bank, run now at 88 billion dollars per year. According to a report from the Overseas Development Institute G20 countries spend more than twice of what the top 20 private companies are spending on finding new reserves of oil, gas and coal, and do so with public money. Meanwhile, the Fund for helping underdeveloped countries to adopt new technologies, established at 100 billion in Paris, has yet to be completed. Of course a check up is due by 2030.

Well, every week we receive alarming data on how the climate is deteriorating much faster than we thought. I am not talking about the uninterrupted news on natural catastrophes. I am talking about the alarming cries by the scientific community from all over the world.

The National Centre for Climate Restoration from Australia has published a sort of summary about all those calls, in an alarming report by Prof. Kevin Andersen of the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in which it says:

…According to new data released by the US National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, measurements taken at the Marina Loa Observatory in Hawaii show that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration jumped by 3.08 parts per million (ppm) during 2015, the largest year-to- year increase in 56 years of research. 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2ppm.Scientist say that they are shocked and stunned by the “unprecedented NASA temperature figures for February 2016, which are 1.65”C higher than the beginning of the nineteen century and around 1.9”C warmer than the pre-industrial level…..

This means, according to Prof. Michael Mann “we have no carbon budget left for the 1.5 degrees target and the opportunity for holding the 2 degrees is rapidly fading unless the world starts cutting emissions rapidly and right now. The current el Niño conditions have contributed to the record figures, but compared to previous big El Niños, we are experimenting blowout temperatures.” For a glimpse into what lies in our future, we have only to look at Venezuela, where now public offices work three days per week to cut water and power usage.

Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Change Research says “In 2012, the US National Academy of Science analyzed in detail how a major drought in Syria – from 2007 to 2010 – was a crucial factor in the civll war that began in 2011. More than a million people left their farms to go to crowded and unprepared cities, where they were inspired by the Arab Spring to rise against a dictatorial regime which was not providing any help.

Journalist Baher Kamal, who is the Inter Press Service IPS Advisor for Africa and Middle, East did publish a two part series on the impact of Climate Change on the Middle East and North of Africa region, which makes clear the region, could become largely uninhabitable by the year 2040. Just to give an example, the Nile could lose up to 80% of its flow. Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are all at very high risk. But so are also Algeria, Iraq, Jordan Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

Dr. Moslem Shathout, deputy chairman of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space, considers that Arab North African countries are the most affected, by large, by the climate change impact.

In other words, we have to expect a mass of displaced people, on the shores of the Mediterranean, and therefore of Europe. The category of climate refugees does not exist in any legislation.

While it is a fact that Europe’s population was 24% at the beginning of the nineteen-century, it will be 4% at the end of the present one. Europe will lose 40 million people that will need to be replaced by immigrants, to keep productivity and pensions running.

The arrival of 1.3 million people, two thirds young and educated, has created a massive political crisis, and the unravelling of Europe.

The climate refugees will be of all ages, and many from the agricultural sector, the most conservative and uneducated in the Arab world.

Do Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and British Prime Minister David Cameron – who for electoral reasons play the chord of a few lost jobs from the fossil industry – have any idea on how to face this imminent future?

Probably not, but they do not care. This problem will not be during their tenure. So climate change is not in the political agenda as a very top priority. And media follows events, not processes, so no cries of alarm; yet, from one to the next, a continuation of disasters lead to catastrophes…

When, everybody will realize as the saying goes, God pardons, man does sometimes, but nature never.


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UN Chief Seeks Fast-Paced Ratifications for Climate Change Treaty Tue, 19 Apr 2016 19:27:02 +0000 Thalif Deen “Predictions are that the emission reduction pledges under the Agreement would lead to rise in temperatures beyond 3 degrees celsius, which would be catastrophic for the world,” Meena Raman told IPS. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS.

“Predictions are that the emission reduction pledges under the Agreement would lead to rise in temperatures beyond 3 degrees celsius, which would be catastrophic for the world,” Meena Raman told IPS. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS.

By Thalif Deen

Over 150 countries are expected to sign the Paris climate change agreement on April 22 but the historic treaty will not come into force until it has been ratified by 55 countries.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has hailed the agreement as “a landmark of international cooperation on one of the world’s most complex issues”, is hoping for fast-paced ratifications – perhaps before the end of the year so that it will also be considered as one of his lasting political legacies before he steps down in December.

And he may not be far off the mark.

“Early ratification and entry into force will send a strong signal to Governments, businesses and communities that it is time to fast-track climate action,” Ban said last week.

The real challenge lies ahead, he declared, describing it in a single word:  “Implementation.”

Dr Palitha Kohona, a former Chief of the UN Treaty Section, told IPS although signatories are important, the more significant aspect of any international treaty is ratification – some of them long drawn out because that action has to be taken by domestic legislatures.

The Paris Agreement (PA), he pointed out, will enter into force when 55 countries that produce at least 55 percent of the world’s Greenhouse Gas (GHGs) — “ratify, accede, approve or accept it.”

Signatures alone, even by a large majority, will not bring it in to force, he added. He said there are other treaties with similarly complex entry-in-to force provisions.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), he noted, has still not entered in to force despite having been signed by over one hundred countries on the first day it was opened for signature at a glittering ceremony at the UN headquarters over 20 years ago.

President Clinton was the first to affix his signature on behalf of the US, he said. That treaty has been ratified by 157 countries, but the holdouts include the US, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan.

“The critical element to entry in to force (of the Paris agreement) will be the key GHG producers. The US, China, Brazil, Russia and the European Union (EU) account for over 75 percent of the world’s GHG emissions and they could provide the main impetus for bringing the agreement in to force”, said Dr Kohona.

Asked if it is realistic to expect the treaty to come into force early, Meena Raman, Legal advisor of the Malaysia-based Third World Network, told IPS: “Well, if the United States and China both ratify early or even this year, then about 40 percent of the global emissions would have been covered but the remaining countries would have to account for the balance of the 15 percent of the emissions and at least 55 countries must have ratified the agreement.”

So it is not completely unrealistic for the early ratification of the agreement before 2020, said Raman, who was been monitoring all of the climate change negotiations as a member of civil society.

However, what is more important to consider, she argued, is the effect of the early ratification and entry into force of the agreement.

The contributions that Parties will make (referred to as ‘nationally determined contributions’) – as to how they would contribute to emission reductions and adaptation actions will only be effective from 2020 onwards, as that is what countries have stated they will do in their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), prior to Paris.

So, even if the PA comes into effect say in 2017 or 2018, the actual effect of actions by Parties will begin to materialise from 2020 to 2025/2030 onwards only under the agreement, she noted.

It is well known that the aggregate emissions reductions from the existing INDCs that have been communicated by Parties thus far which will translate to their contributions under the Agreement is grossly inadequate to keep temperature rise to well below 2 degree celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees, she said.

“Predictions are that the emission reduction pledges under the Agreement would lead to rise in temperatures beyond 3 degrees celsius, which would be catastrophic for the world.”

So, while the early entry into force of the PA may send some positive signals, the real issue is whether governments, especially in the developed world step up with their emission cuts even more ambitiously now and provide the necessary financial and technology transfer resources to developing countries to also act with urgency in the pre-2020 time frame – and not wait for actions after 2020, as they had agreed under the various decisions of the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the Kyoto Protocol.

Eliza Northrop, an Associate in the International Climate Initiative at the Washington-based World Resources Institute, told IPS the Paris Agreement, with the required ratifications,  could enter into force in 2017 or even earlier.

It certainly will happen faster than previous comparable agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, she pointed out.

“Not only is there greater political momentum behind the Paris Agreement but the conditions for entry into force are different to that of the Kyoto Protocol”.

Although the Kyoto Protocol followed a similar “55 Parties/55 percent of emissions” approach to the Paris Agreement – in the case of the Kyoto Protocol, the “55 percent of emissions” threshold was only based on the carbon dioxide emissions from developed country Parties.

By contrast, she said, the Paris Agreement takes into account all greenhouse gas emissions from all countries.

“Entry into force will require the support of a broad constituency of countries and broad support for climate action from the largest emitters to the most vulnerable island nations,” Northrop added.

Dr Kohona told IPS the policy of the US would be seminal.

While its past performance in this area of global law making has not been encouraging, and climate sceptics exert a disproportionate amount of influence on US policy making, it is to be hoped that the threat to the very existence of the human race that climate change poses will influence its decision making.

“Any dilution of the leadership provided so far by the US could provide the excuse for others to to lose their enthusiasm”.

The commitment of the administration of President Barack Obama to address the threat of climate change forcefully must remain unabated if the world is to deal with this problem effectively, he declared.

Meanwhile, the provisions of the agreement include reaffirming the goal of limiting global temperature increase well below 2 degrees celsius, while urging efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.

At the same time, the Paris Agreement calls for establishing binding commitments by all parties to make “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), and to pursue domestic measures aimed at achieving them; commits all countries to report regularly on their emissions and “progress made in implementing and achieving” their NDCs, and to undergo international review and submit new NDCs every five years, with the clear expectation that they will “represent a progression” beyond previous ones.

Additionally, the agreement reaffirms the binding obligations of developed countries under the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) to support the efforts of developing countries, while for the first time encouraging voluntary contributions by developing countries too, and extends the current goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year in support by 2020 through 2025, with a new, higher goal to be set for the period after 2025.

The writer can be contacted at

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A World Drowning in Oil Mon, 18 Apr 2016 12:37:16 +0000 N Chandra Mohan By N Chandra Mohan
DOHA, Qatar, Apr 18 2016 (IPS)

Thanks to tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, major oil producers couldn’t come to an agreement in Doha to freeze their output to January levels to raise oil prices. The current low oil prices have a lot to do with the grim outlook for global economic growth while supply is growing. China, the second largest economy in the world, is slowing down. Not surprisingly, global oil demand is much lower at 94.8 million barrels a day vis-à-vis supply of 96.3 million barrels a day in the first quarter of 2016 according to the International Energy Agency.

N Chandra Mohan

N Chandra Mohan

Low prices are no doubt hurting producers like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar, forcing them to run huge deficits as their oil revenues shrink while expenditures keep mounting. Iran, which is just free from US sanctions, too, wants to sell as much as possible to modernise its economy. Paradoxically, these talks to curb rather than cut output have failed when major oil producers are pumping as much oil as possible. Saudi Arabia, for instance, produced 10.2 million barrels a day in March, close to previous record highs. How then can prices start rising again?

For such reasons, a freeze – even if it did materialise — is unlikely to have made much of an impact in getting prices back up again. The current levels of Brent crude at $40 a barrel reflect excess supply. The global oil market is nervous that Saudi Arabia’s tension with Iran for dominance in West Asia can get out of hand. Geopolitical tensions in Syria, Libya and Iraq are also fast-escalating. Although prices can spike upwards, they are kept low by excess supply as demand is declining due to weaker global growth. But with lower US shale oil production, supply and demand may balance later this year.

Instead of a freeze, an excess supply situation normally ought to signal to dominant producers like Saudi Arabia or the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut production to avoid a build-up of stock and ensure higher prices. But this is exactly what they have chosen not to do for geopolitical reasons. One year ago, Ali Ali-Naimi, Saudi’s oil minister asked “Why should we cut production?” on the sidelights of a climate conference in Lima. The Saudis resistance to lowering oil output is to squeeze out high cost producers and rivals like shale oil producers in the US and Iran.

The House of Saud and allies like Kuwait and the UAE were ready for prices even as low as even $20 a barrel. There is no doubt that low prices adversely affect the economics of oil extraction from shale. The US is now self-sufficient for its energy requirements and has emerged as a major swing producer in the global oil market. But in recent months, there are signs that shale producers in that country are experiencing a boom-bust cycle and the decks are being cleared for a decline in shale oil production. The Saudis expect higher prices to reflect such factors on the ground.

Saudi Arabia’s compulsions of late have changed due to rapidly dwindling coffers and losing out in 9 out of 15 key markets where it sold oil from 2013 to 2015 according to Financial Times. Its share of China’s imports thus has dropped from 19.4 per cent to 15.4 per cent over this period. Today, the Saudis prefer oil prices in the range of $60 to $80 a barrel to encourage demand and discourage supplies from high cost non-OPEC producers. But the contradiction is that they are now stepping up than cutting production to shore up their budgets and contributing to the persistence of global excess supply.

All of this ensures Brent crude prices that are no different from 2015. In any case, a production freeze can only succeed if all the major oil producers, including Iran, agree to do so. Iran, for its part, did not participate in this meeting in Doha. When both oil producers pump up more and more oil, how will prices rise? Saudi Arabia needs oil at $95.8 a barrel for its budget to balance. Iran needs oil at $70.4 a barrel according to the International Monetary Fund. The yawning gap between the current Brent crude and fiscal break-even prices is the difference between reality and unrealistic budgetary hopes.

If global oil prices remain depressed, the Gulf economies need to envision a future beyond oil. as we have written earlier. This is bad news for the millions of expatriate workers from South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal who work in these economies. If the oil revenue-financed boom is over, many of them will be forced to return home. Already there are signs that remittances are declining. A world drowning in oil spells the end of the Gulf dream as major economies register slower growth in the rest of this year and beyond.


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Maquilas Help Drive Industrialisation in Paraguay Sat, 16 Apr 2016 01:59:21 +0000 Mario Osava Texcin, the garment plant built by Brazilian company Riachuelo near the airport in Asunción, under Paraguay’s maquila law, which offers tax exemptions and other incentives for export-oriented production. In the foreground a garment worker in training (“entrenamiento”). Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Texcin, the garment plant built by Brazilian company Riachuelo near the airport in Asunción, under Paraguay’s maquila law, which offers tax exemptions and other incentives for export-oriented production. In the foreground a garment worker in training (“entrenamiento”). Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ASUNCION, Apr 16 2016 (IPS)

“There were cases of people who stopped coming to work after receiving their first wages and then came back a few days later to ask if there was more work,” because they were used to casual work in the informal economy, said Ivonne Ginard.

Ginard, a human resources manager in the textile firm Texcin, was in charge of hiring the plant’s 353 employees and helping them make the transition from informal labour to working in a factory with set schedules, uniforms, safety measures and medical certificates to justify absences.

Texcin, a garment factory near the Asunción airport, is emblematic of the incipient industrialisation process in Paraguay, which is still an agriculture-based economy, where soy and beef are the main exports and informal employment is predominant in the cities.

The plant is a joint venture between members of the Paraguayan business community and Riachuelo, one of the biggest clothing brands in Brazil, where it has 285 stores and two industrial plants. Riachuelo decided to take advantage of the incentives provided by the law on maquila export plants, in effect in Paraguay since 2000, to produce clothing in this neighbouring South American country instead of importing from Asia.

The aim is to increase the number of workers twofold by the end of 2016 and to continue to expand, since the company has the space to build a new plant.

“Paraguay offers abundant, young, easily trained workers, cheap energy, and tax incentives for maquilas and duty-free zones, which make it possible to import raw materials tariff-free,” said Andrés Guynn, one of the Paraguayan partners, who heads Texcin.

“Our production is competitive with costs similar to those of Asia, with a big advantage in terms of time: it takes 90 days for products to be shipped from China to Brazil, while ours get to (the Brazilian city of) São Paulo in 72 hours, by truck,” he said.

“Under the maquila regime, 108 companies set up shop in Paraguay, 62 of them in the last two years, and 80 percent of them come from Brazil,” the director of the maquila sector in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ernesto Paredes, told IPS.

Maquila or maquiladora plants are built by foreign corporations, generally in free trade zones. They import materials and equipment duty-free for assembly or manufacturing for re-export, and enjoy other tax breaks and incentives, as well as more flexible labour conditions.

Texcin human resources manager Ivonne Ginard (right), next to the woman who trains the garment workers, Rosa Prieto. “Texcin changed my life,” said Prieto, who was a self-employed seamstress in the informal sector of the economy for 15 years, before she was hired by the company in January 2015. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Texcin human resources manager Ivonne Ginard (right), next to the woman who trains the garment workers, Rosa Prieto. “Texcin changed my life,” said Prieto, who was a self-employed seamstress in the informal sector of the economy for 15 years, before she was hired by the company in January 2015. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The maquiladora industry is dynamic, but it does not accept trade union freedom, it does not allow unions to be organised in its factories, which violates constitutional rights,” the president of the Confederation of the Working Class (CCT) labour federation, Julio López, told IPS.

Auto parts factories are predominant in the industry, in terms of both revenue and jobs generated by maquiladoras in Paraguay, Paredes said. He said the sector uses the “just-in-time” delivery system developed by Japan’s auto industry, which is an inventory strategy employed to boost efficiency and reduce waste by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process, which cuts inventory costs.

The Japanese company Yasaki and Germany’s Leoni have recently set up plants in Paraguay, employing thousands of people, nearly all of them women, in the production of electrical car cables.

And Paraguay now has its first car assembly plant. A national company, Reimplex, began to assemble J2 cars for Chinese auto maker JAC Motors on the outskirts of Asunción on Mar. 28.

Clothing factories also employ large numbers of women.

In addition, the plastics industry is expanding fast in the eastern department of Alto Paraná, on the border with Brazil, Paredes said.

Cheap local labour, which he said is “low-cost not so much because of the wages paid, but due to the low social charges” and low taxes, are especially attractive for Brazilian companies. To that is added the cost of electricity, which is 63 percent cheaper than in Brazil, according to the head of the maquila sector.

One limitation is transport and energy infrastructure. “Roads, ports, highways, real estate – all of this is lacking, although Paraguay has been investing heavily in airports, hotels, and office buildings,” he said.

One solution would be to widen the two-lane highway between Asunción and Ciudad del Este, the country’s two main economic hubs. However, the plan is not to expand the existing road, but “to build a second highway exclusively for trucks and trade,” as well as a second bridge to Brazil, said Paredes.

Texcin’s textile warehouse seen behind a sign announcing the expansion of the plant which was built by Brazilian company Riachuelo with partners in Paraguay on the outskirts of Asunción. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Texcin’s textile warehouse seen behind a sign announcing the expansion of the plant which was built by Brazilian company Riachuelo with partners in Paraguay on the outskirts of Asunción. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Investment is also needed in another route for the transportation of heavy loads, the Paraguay-Paraná waterway, used to export soy.

“Better signalisation would double its capacity and speed up river traffic,” Gustavo Rojas, a researcher at the Center for Economic Analysis and Dissemination in Paraguay (CADEP), told IPS.

This land-locked country of 6.8 million people has the world’s third-largest river barge fleet, as well as shipyards that build them, which favours an increase in river traffic, Paredes said.

Electricity is, potentially, Paraguay’s biggest comparative advantage, since the country owns half of the energy from two huge hydropower dams: Itaipú, shared with Brazil, and Yacyretá, on the border with Argentina, with the capacity to produce 14,000 and 3,200 MW, respectively.

But it only began to use part of that energy when a power line from Itaipú to Villa Hayes, near Asunción, was completed in October 2013. The power line was financed by a Brazilian fund aimed at narrowing the development gap between countries in the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) trade bloc, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Without an adequate distribution network, however, the new energy supply did not eliminate problems like the February blackout that left 300,000 homes without power in Greater Asunción.

Achieving a more secure energy supply “is a question of time,” said Guynn, who tried to place his company near the new power line.

The problem is that the national power utility, ANDE, does not have investment capacity, and “distribution is not secure and steady,” said Fernando Masi, founding director of CADEP, which carries out research on public policies and provides graduate studies in economy.

But the broad availability of energy is a new element drawing industries to Paraguay, since the other advantages, such as low labour costs and tax incentives, already existed before.

Cheap energy also tempted the British-Australian multinational metals and mining corporation Rio Tinto, which studied the possibility of producing aluminum in Paraguay, even if it had to ship in the raw material, bauxite, from far away, because electric power is the main cost of the aluminum industry.

But a major public campaign, which collected more than 100,000 signatures, managed to block the project, “which would consume more energy than all of the national industries combined,” while requiring subsidies and employing a relatively small number of people, Mercedes Canese, an engineer who was deputy minister of industry during the government of Fernando Lugo (2008-2012), told IPS.

However, another engineer, Francisco Scorza, who studied the case, said the Rio Tinto project became unviable because “China began to produce very cheap aluminum, at 1,200 dollars a ton, 40 percent less expensive than here, and Paraguay can’t afford to subsidise energy.”

CADEP’s Masi said attracting small and medium-sized industries is better for development and employment, but the maquila sector has limits. The auto parts industry, for example, is limited to producing wiring, “because there is no bilateral agreement with Brazil on the car industry,” he said.

Brazil demands that Paraguay stop imports of used automobiles, “a very high cost for Paraguay to pay,” as it has a large fleet of used Japanese vehicles known as the “Vía Chile” cars because they come into Paraguay through that neighbouring country.

The maquila industry only exported 284 million dollars worth of goods in 2015 – very little in comparison to Paraguay’s overall industrial exports of 3.0 to 3.5 billion dollars, said Masi.

Industrialisation in Paraguay “has taken off, but not at the fast pace that was expected,” he said, adding that improving energy and logistics infrastructure could help.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Sri Lanka Braces for Extreme Heat Thu, 07 Apr 2016 05:34:35 +0000 Amantha Perera 1 Papua New Guinea First to Finalize National Climate Plan Under Paris Agreement Fri, 01 Apr 2016 13:23:30 +0000 Eliza Northrop Communities in rural Papua New Guinea install their own cost effective and energy efficient solar panels. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Communities in rural Papua New Guinea install their own cost effective and energy efficient solar panels. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Eliza Northrop

On March 29, Papua New Guinea became the first country to formally submit the final version of its national climate action plan (called a “Nationally Determined Contribution,” or NDC) under the Paris Agreement. The small Pacific nation’s plan to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 is no longer just an “intended” nationally determined contribution (INDC) – it is now the country’s official climate plan.

Papua New Guinea’s NDC marks a step forward in the process of implementing the landmark international climate agreement adopted at COP21 in Paris last year. In the lead up to COP21, countries submitted INDCs, setting out what climate actions they proposed to take to contribute to the global community’s collective effect to limit global warming. To date, 161 INDCs have been submitted representing the national climate plans of 188 countries and covering 98.7 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement provides a legal framework for these climate plans.

How Does an INDC become an NDC?

Under the Agreement, one of the essential next steps is for countries to finalize their national climate plans and formally submit them to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as NDCs, just as Papua New Guinea has done.

Countries will do this no later than when they formally join the Paris Agreement, which involves a process of signing the treaty and ratifying it. Only after at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions sign and ratify will the Paris Agreement officially take effect (learn more about the process here).

It is expected that for many countries, including Papua New Guinea, their NDCs will be the same as their INDCs. But countries could also increase the transparency and ambition of their climate plans before officially submitting them—a move that would get the world closer to preventing the worst impacts of climate change.

Once finalized by countries, these NDCs will be publicly available in the NDC Registry created by the UNFCCC Secretariat.

Why Are NDCs a Big Deal?

NDCs are at the core of the process established under the Paris Agreement to continually ramp up international climate action every five years. All countries are required to prepare, communicate and maintain successive NDCs, and pursue domestic mitigation measures to achieve their objectives. Countries will be required to regularly submit national emissions inventories and report on their progress. Every five years, collective progress towards achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement will be assessed, and countries will submit their new NDCs representing greater action than their previous plans. In short, the NDCs underpin the world’s ability to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement—including limiting temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees C—and prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

NDCs are also important for communicating information on adaptation, as Papua New Guinea has done. Adaptation components outline goals, activities and needs for countries to cope with increased drought, stronger storms, sea level rise and other consequences of a warming planet.

The Paris Agreement recognizes the submission and regular updating of these adaptation communications, either through NDCs or other means.

Papua New Guinea’s leadership in taking this important next step towards implementing the Paris Agreement should be widely noted and applauded.

We can now to look forward to many other countries formalizing their national climate action plans and further building the momentum for a low-carbon, climate-resilient world.


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Benefits of Backpack Biogas Thu, 31 Mar 2016 05:34:07 +0000 James Jeffrey 2 Argentina’s ‘Shale Capital’ Suffers from Slowdown Sat, 19 Mar 2016 05:34:33 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet Añelo, a Patagonian town in southwest Argentina that experienced explosive growth because it is next to the country’s biggest shale oil and gas field, is now starting to feel the impact on the development of these resources due to the plunge in international oil prices. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Añelo, a Patagonian town in southwest Argentina that experienced explosive growth because it is next to the country’s biggest shale oil and gas field, is now starting to feel the impact on the development of these resources due to the plunge in international oil prices. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
AÑELO, Argentina, Mar 19 2016 (IPS)

The dizzying growth of Añelo, a town in southwest Argentina, driven by the production of shale oil and gas in the Vaca Muerta geological reserve, has slowed down due to the plunge in global oil prices, which has put a curb on local development and is threatening investment and employment.

Vaca Muerta, a 30,000-sq-km geological reserve rich in unconventional fossil fuels in the province of Neuquén, began to be exploited in mid-2013 by the state-run oil company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales (YPF) in a joint venture with U.S. oil giant Chevron.

“We had an interesting growth boom thanks to the strategic development plan that we were promoting, to get all of the oil services companies to set up shop in Añelo. That really boosted our growth, and helped our town to develop,” Añelo Mayor Darío Díaz told IPS.

The population of this town located 100 km from the provincial capital, Neuquén, in Argentina’s southern Patagonian region, rose twofold from 3,000 to 6,000.

And that is not counting the large number of machinists, technicians, engineers and executives of the oil companies who rotate in and out of the area, along with the truckers who haul supplies to the Loma Campana oilfield eight km from Añelo.

“There were around 10 services companies operating in Añelo; now we have about 50, and some 160 agreements signed for other companies to come here,” the mayor said.

The shale gas and oil in Vaca Muerta has made this country the second in the world after the United States in production of unconventional fossil fuels.

Loma Campana, where there are 300 active wells producing unconventional gas and oil after a total investment of three billion dollars, currently produces 50 billion barrels per day of oil, according to YPF figures.

The shale oil and gas industry has fuelled heavy public investment in Añelo and nearby towns. The population of this town is expected to reach 25,000 in the next 15 years.

“We’re building two schools and a hospital,” Díaz told IPS. “The primary and secondary schools have been expanded. We are making town squares and a new energy substation. We built a water treatment plant and have improved the sewage service. In terms of public works we have really done a great deal, keeping our eyes on our goal: growth.”

But the expansion of the town has also brought problems.

The mayor pointed out, for example, that rent for a two-bedroom housing unit has climbed from 33 dollars to 100 dollars a month, and that a plot of land that previously was worth 1,700 dollars cannot be purchased now for less than 130,000 dollars.

“Those are abrupt changes brought by the oil industry,” Díaz said. “What us old-time residents of Añelo have suffered the most is the social impact of all of this movement, of so much vehicle traffic, so many people, which brings insecurity and other things that are typical of development in general.”

New complications

People in Añelo are now worried that despite the costs they are paying for the development boom, the promised progress will not arrive.

On Mar. 4, the outgoing president of YPF, Miguel Galuccio, announced in a conference with international investors that the cutbacks in the industry in 2016 would be reflected in slower progress in Vaca Muerta.

Workers in Loma Campana, a field with 300 shale oil wells in Vaca Muerta. The decision to slow down the development of unconventional fossil fuels in Argentina has led to lay-offs in the area. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Workers in Loma Campana, a field with 300 shale oil wells in Vaca Muerta. The decision to slow down the development of unconventional fossil fuels in Argentina has led to lay-offs in the area. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

In 2015, the company’s revenues shrank 49 percent, while investment grew less than four percent, below previous levels.

The costs of producing shale gas and oil, which requires an expensive technique known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, are not competitive in a context where international oil prices are hovering between 30 and 40 dollars a barrel.

In Argentina, the cost of extraction in conventional wells stands at 25 to 30 dollars a barrel, and in unconventional wells at around 70 dollars a barrel, oil industry experts report.

But the internal price of a barrel in Vaca Muerta is regulated at 67.5 dollars and in the rest of the country’s oilfields at 54.9 percent – an artificial price established to shore up the oil industry’s expansion plans, especially in this part of the country, although at a slower pace now.

YPF announced that in Vaca Muerta, it would cut oil production costs by 15 percent, which has led to lay-offs.

“The situation is very complicated,” said Díaz, who estimated that there will be 1,000 more unemployed people in the province, added to those who have already lost their jobs. “A reduction in activity,” has already been seen, he said, and “people are working fewer hours” and wages have fallen, which has a social impact, he added.

Oil worker unions in Vaca Muerta say 1,000 people have been laid off so far in the industry, as well as 1,000 in other areas.

Eduardo Toledo, an agricultural technician who decided to move from Buenos Aires to Añelo and invest his savings in a restaurant, is worried about the slowdown in oil industry activity in Vaca Muerta.

“When we started, we had just one stove with three burners and an oven,” said Toledo, whose customers are truck drivers, factory workers and other oil industry employees who have been drawn to this area by the relatively high wages paid by the industry.

Like Toledo, many people invested in hotels, rental housing, shops and small-scale service businesses. “Everyone wanted to come to what was going to be the shale gas and oil capital,” he said.

But now his restaurant is working at a “mid to low level of activity.”

“If people know they’re going to lose their jobs, they don’t want to spend money,” he said.

Toledo is still confident that interest in shale gas and oil will keep things moving, despite the plummeting prices.

In Vaca Muerta, 77 percent of the proven shale reserves are gas.

Besides, “there are major gas resources that have not yet become reserves,” Ignacio Sabbatella, who holds a PhD in social sciences from the University of Buenos Aires and is the co-author of the book “History of a privatization; How and why the YPF was lost”, told IPS. (YPF was renationalised in 2012.)

But experts and local residents are taking a long-term view.

Sabbatella stressed that it is important to keep in mind that beyond the current international oil price swings, the investments in Vaca Muerta “will yield fruit in the long term” – in five to 10 years.

He pointed out that shale oil and gas production only got underway in the area in 2011, “and especially after the recovery of state control of YPF, in a joint venture with transnational corporations like Chevron.”

YPF, Argentina’s biggest company, was in private hands from 1992 to 2012, when the government of Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) decided to renationalise it.

Sabbatella said the announced cutbacks in YPF have coincided with an overall “shift in policy” since the arrival to the presidency on Dec. 10 of the centre-right Mauricio Macri, who ended a period of centre-left governments under Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and later his wife and successor, Fernández.

“The previous government did everything possible to sustain the levels of investment, exploration and production, even in an unfavourable international context, and what we are seeing is that this government is only halfway maintaining that policy and is even pushing YPF to cut its investments,” said Sabbatella.

“The current administration believes that the best thing is to adjust domestic oil industry policy to external conditions. In a context of low prices, they believe the best idea is to not sustain domestic investment, and they have even shown some illustrations of this, by importing cheaper crude and fuel from abroad, for example,” he said.

But Toledo prefers to be optimistic, because otherwise, he said, “I have to close my restaurant.”

“I can’t afford to go somewhere else and I’m not interested anyway because it’s hard to set down roots again in a place like this.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Will the EU Become a Criminal Union Tomorrow? Thu, 17 Mar 2016 11:26:16 +0000 Jan Oberg Jan Oberg is TFF Director & Co-founder, peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.]]>

Jan Oberg is TFF Director & Co-founder, peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.

By Jan Oberg
Lund, Sweden, Mar 17 2016 (IPS)

The EUropean Union – a criminal?

The EU that has peace as its top goal and received Nobel’s Peace Prize?

The EU with Schengen and Dublin?

Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

The EU with “European” values, humanism and mission civilisatrice that tells others how to live in accordance with international law and in respect for human rights?

We live in times where little shall surprise us anymore. The answer to the question – will EU become a criminal in international law terms? – will be answered on March 17 and 18 when the EU Council meets to decide whether or not to carry through the agreement with Turkey about how to handle refugees.

Amnesty International knows what it is all about. AI uses words such as “alarmingly shortsighted”, “inhumane”, “dehumanising”, “moral and legally flawed” and “EU and Turkish leaders have today sunk to a new low, effectively horse trading away the rights and dignity of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

And “By no stretch of imagination can Turkey be considered a ‘safe third country’ that the EU can cosily outsource its obligations to,” says Iverna McGowan, Head of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

When Amnesty International expresses itself this way, we should listen very very carefully. I do and I’ve signed Amnesty’s Open Letter to Swedish prime minister Löfvén protesting that Sweden too may join this inhuman and law-violating agreement with Turkey.

Hurry up, it is tomorrow!

Behind every refugee stands an arms trade, stands militarism.

A huge majority of the refugees have fled the wars conducted by irresponsible and narrow-minded EU leaders who, thereby, have already violated international law.

They continue to do so – Denmark being the latest to join the tragedy.

EU countries combined make up the largest economy in the world.

How bizarre that the EU has the resources to fight one war after the other, has huge military budgets and nuclear weapons and puts unlimited resources into wars against terror (that is, to a large extent, a response to U.S./NATO/EU foreign policies) but cowardly believes it can’t find the resources to care for 1,2 million seeking refuge among its 500 million, i.e. 0,24%!

Precisely because EU countries have caused a major part of the refugees to flee, we have a special moral obligation to a) receive them and b) learn to not start wars just like that on somebody else’s territory.

Where there is a will, there is a way. Will the EU anything good, the time is now.

There is no refugee crisis in the EU. There are several other crises:

1) A crisis caused by years of militarism;

2) A crisis of crisis management;

3) A crisis of leadership – or, with the exception of Chancellor Merkel – no leadership for common policies at all; and

4) A crisis of solidarity, humanity and ethics.

You may add a 5) the Euro-racism expressed as Islamophobia.

I am pretty sure that the EU would have acted differently if there had been a huge natural catastrophe or a nuclear power plant meltdown in Israel and 1,2 million Jews had come to Europe or if an EU country had experienced something like that in its own midst.

If on March 16-17, 2016, the EU decides to implement this immoral and law-violating agreement with increasingly authoritarian, war-fighting, terror-supporting and refugee-unsafe country Turkey, the moral decay of the Western world will be obvious.

If not to itself, then to the 92% of the world’s people living outside it.

And the EU will deserve nothing better than it own dissolution. Because it wasn’t for a better but for a worse world.

And technically – what is left when the asylum right, the Schengen and Dublin conventions etc. will be violated by the Council itself?

Either the EU is for a better world or it’s time for another Europe after it!

Jan Oberg’s article was published on 16 March 2016 in: TFF – Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. Go to Original.

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A “Colombian Triangle” for Daesh in Libya? Wed, 16 Mar 2016 19:23:16 +0000 Baher Kamal By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Mar 16 2016 (IPS)

Besieged by US, UK, French, Russian and Syrian war crafts and ground intelligence, both in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Daesh from its original acronym in Arabic) has reportedly been searching for a new base in the North of Africa, specifically in Libya, in what has been called the “Colombian Triangle.”

A map of Libya with major cities and settlements.  Credit: United Nations

A map of Libya with major cities and settlements. Credit: United Nations

Located in the South-Western region, the new base would be installed on the borders of Algeria, Niger and Libya itself.

The area is currently controlled by extremist groups, drug dealers and weapons traffickers. This kind of operations represents a strong source of funding for Daesh, but not the only one — oil would be another huge source.

According to Libyan sources, the “Colombian Triangle” was not, however, Daesh’ first choice. In fact, the story began last year, with Daesh expanding its influence in the Northern Libyan region of Sirte, which hosts the largest oil reserves in the country.

There, Daesh carried out several military attacks and even occupied and controlled refineries and huge oil deposits, there and in other producing areas.

Daesh had, nevertheless, to re-think its initial plans which aimed at installing its new base in the Northern oil rich regions in Libya, due to a series of rapid developments, such as the efforts carried out by the UN former Special Envoy, Bernardino Leon, and continued later on by the new one, Martin Kobler, to form a new, national unity government headed by Libyan businessman Fayyez al Sarraj.

This new unity government has been in fact formed as a result of a UN sponsored agreement in Skhirat (Morocco) on mid December 2015.

Daesh’s fears that the new national unity government would be strongly supported, intelligence and militarily wise, by foreign powers, mainly the US-led NATO, especially in Derna, Sirte, Tripoli and Sabratha areas, forced the terrorist group to change plans.

The skies in these regions have been monitored by drones. Local sources could not confirm whether these surveillance operations are controlled the Libyan Armed Forces led by General Khalifa Haftar, or by other states monitoring the activity of extremists in the country.

Some voices spoke also of subsidiary control operations by the United Nations.

Libyan oil fields, pipelines, refineries and storage. Credit: NordNordWest, Yug | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Libyan oil fields, pipelines, refineries and storage. Credit: NordNordWest, Yug | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Anyway, since the end of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the successive new rulers failed to form a strong, stable central authority. Consequently the country was split between the army and several militias.

Sources of the first Libyan government installed in Tripoli after the 2011 military intervention led by NATO forces, estimated that there would be up to 25 million weapons out of state control in the country.

The increasing fragility of Libyan central authorities allowed extremist organizations, including Daesh, to seize control in several cities.

According to a Libyan retired military commander, the Southern town of Traghan already serves as the centre for the «Colombian Triangle”, being surrounded by mountains and sand dunes from almost all sides.

The area has been chosen by the smugglers because of the ease drug shipments across the border, according to this source, away from the eyes of neighbouring countries’ authorities, whether these are Algeria or Niger, with Mali as a first destination.

Mali itself became in recent years a safe haven for extremist groups, including the reportedly pro- Daesh Boko Haram in Nigeria. That area became an arsenal of military equipment, weapons and missiles that had been looted from Gaddafi’s regime military stores.

The retired military commander explained that this mountainous and rugged region, and is now the new headquarters for the pool of extremist groups from Libya and Africa.

Meanwhile, different well-informed sources have been speculating with the expected developments that should come from now on.

Some talk insistingly about an US-NATO-led military coalition’s intervention in Libya against Daesh. Others speak instead of “surgical” military operations against specific targets.

In the last days, a new version has circulated, citing “reports of Libyan intelligence services confirm the presence of intelligence officers from some countries supporting militias and liaising with terrorism in Libya.” In this sense, Dominique Sinclair on March 15, 2016 wrote the French paper Le Monde, a post in which the author asks: “What hides the UN proposal for the establishment of safe corridors to Benghazi?”

According to Sinclair’s post, the UN envoy to Libya [Martin Kobler] had called several times to take into account the need to put an end to military operations in Benghazi with the aim to create safe corridors to allow the exit of the families [trapped] in the fighting zones.

The UN has also spoken in the same direction since combat zones and military operations have been abandoned by all their inhabitants and their families from the beginning of military operations in May 2014, Sinclair adds.

And asks why then Kobler and the Nations United were interested in this question recently by multiplying calls to open safe corridors for the departure of family [trapped] in conflict zones?

According to these versions, other objectives motivate such requirements “such as the existence of reports by Libyan intelligence indicating the presence of intelligence officers from some countries supporting the militias and are in liaison with terrorism in Libya. There would probably be other Western states involved in this case.”

Anyway, should Daesh manage to install its base in the “Colombian Triangle” in Libya, who could ever prevent it from further liaising with Boko Haram in Nigeria and other terrorist groups?


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Can Europe Survive – Back to a Better Yesterday? Fri, 11 Mar 2016 16:52:16 +0000 Roberto Savio Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Mar 11 2016 (IPS)

The last formal act of European disintegration was the last negotiation between 28 European leaders and the Prime Minister of Turkey. The deal, against all international treaties, is a total capitulation to European values. Europe will give Turkey 6 billion dollars, and in exchange Turkey will keep refugees from coming to Europe. Or better, will screen everybody, and send to Europe only the Syrians who are eligible for political asylum.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

This is just a way to avoid a common position on the refugees. In fact, besides keeping people out, as the President of the EU, Donald Tusk, has explicitly warned “ keep out, you are not welcome”, there is no European policy on this issue at all. The 28 did approve by majority a plan of resettlement for 60 000 refugees (a drop in the more than a million stranded in Europe).
After seven months, a grand total of 600 refuges have been settled. And some countries, like Hungary and the Czeck Republic, have announced a referendum on the issue of accepting refugees. Clearly an illegal move, as the decisions of the Council of Ministers, once democratically taken, are binding for all members.

But Europe is facing three internal horses of the apocalypse, and a fourth external one, which is even more ominous. All this is coming together, and all the odds are against the dream of an integrated Europe.

The first is the divide between Eastern and Western Europe, which comes just after the North-South divide. The North-South divide was over the austerity that Germany and other protestant countries wanted to impose over the catholic and orthodox south. The chosen battleground was Greece, and the South lost. A very inflexible German Minister of Finance, Schauble, even went so far as to veto any program for growth at the last G20, and has just declared that Greece, flooded with refugees, “should not get distracted from its task of reforming its economy”.
Germany has been blocking any program of fiscal solidarity that could have meant a German contribution. Nothing has changed on this issue. The only exception will be for costs related to defence and security, following the terrorist attacks in Paris. But this divide has been totally superseded by the divide East- West.

The tide of migrants has made evident something that everybody has long and conveniently ignored: Eastern Europe joined European institutions to receive benefits, not obligations. They consider that Western Europe must give them the means to eliminate the economic and social gap, created by the Iron Curtain. And if Soviet domination has disappeared, it is due to the United States, and not Europe. Suddenly, Europe is asking to take refugees escaping from conflicts in which they are not directly involved like Syria and Libya, which are basically west European affairs?

What nobody wanted to see is that Eastern Europe is veering toward nationalism and xenophobia, or against the founding values of European integration. First we had the Hungarian government declaring its opposition to the democratic values of Europe. Then we had Poland, the single largest beneficiary of European funds in history, voting for an anti-European and authoritarian party, against homosexual and antichristian values of Europe.

And all over Eastern Europe, we have a clear tide of revolt against the supposed European values: solidarity, democracy, participation, social inclusion. Nato is the point of reference, as it is an American led alliance against an expansionist Russia. Nobody appears to give a thought to the absurdity of inviting Montenegro to the alliance, with its army of 3 000 soldiers. And in every single election in the last few years, the right wing parties have been consolidating. Last week a pro Nazi party obtained 14 seats in the Slovak elections.

But the decline of democracy is the second horse of the apocalypse riding European skies. In Germany this month it is possible that the Anti-europe party, ADF, will see a strong presence in the three regions where elections are being held, and in direct threat to the Socialist Party.

There is no single European country (with few exceptions like Spain, where the PP can encompass all right wing positions), where right wing and xenophobic parties have not grown since the 2009 crisis, and often are the tipping point in national parliaments. With coming elections, a tidal shift will happen all over Europe. The shift will be to the right, even in countries that have been examples of tolerance and inclusion, like the Nordic countries and the Netherlands.

Europe is now just a collection of 28 countries, each one with its own national agenda as a priority. Individually, they have resorted to a number of illegal measures, like building walls and barbed wire containment, without any European coordination. Austria has gone so far as to see if it can resurrect the old Austro-Hungarian empire, calling for an alliance between its old member countries, and the Balkans, with the exception of Greece, this last being currently and de facto the most involved in the subject of migration.
The sad episode of refugees trying to cross the border with Macedonia border, only to be repelled by a volley of tear gas grenades, was viewed with relief in Austria. And while individually every country tried to duck the issue of refugees, collectively they have made a deal with Turkey which has itself been condemned by the United Nations, and any number of legal experts. This deal occurred just a few days after Prime Minister Erdogan, sensing that Europe would have as priority her own comfort, would ignore his last attempt to take full control of Turkey, by taking over the largest daily newspaper, Zeman. He already controls the judiciary, the legislature, and the central bank, in a economy that is clearly run by his cronies.
Yet Europe has accepted to reopen the process of admission of Turkey to the EU, a country which was formerly considered too removed from European values, and that was before Erdogan’s rise to authoritarianism.

The third horse is clear to everybody. Europe has bent its rules to accommodate the UK’s David Cameron’s request to be an exception, in order to convince British citizens to remain in Europe. It is far from clear if that manoeuvre will succeed. And Cameron has declared that he will no longer recognize the European Court of Justice. He does not recognize either Europe as competent to assign refugees to the UK. But if the referendum on keeping the UK in Europe should fail, this would be total loss of legitimacy for Bruxelles, and the concessions to Great Britain would open a massive precedent that other members might be tempted to follow.

In all this there is an external threat, the forth horse of the apocalypse, which is over European heads. And is Europe in the world. In 1900, Europe constituted 24 percent of the global population. At the end of this century, it will make up only 4 percent. This is accompanied ofcourse by a decrease of European relevance in the world. In the United States of America, that has led to the unprecedented phenomenon of Donald Trump. Here, to the growth of right wing parties and movements. The winning argument is about a better yesterday…Let us go back to the time when we were powerful and rich…let us eliminate all those treaties which have reduced my power as a nation, and made me dependent on external banks, bureaucrats and values…Trump? Not at all, the Prime Minister of Poland…

The world, and especially Europe, is entering into a period of economic stagnation. That means that there is little to redistribute, and this is the basis of social democracy. Crisis plays into the hands of the right, as history tells us. The idea of an integrated Europe, with a strong social component, was somehow a progressive idea. Nationalism and xenophobia are returning. Let us thank the neoliberal vision of markets as the most important actors in society, the imposition of austerity and an end to solidarity as the new trends emerging from rich European countries.


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Central America Makes Uneven Progress in Clean Energy Tue, 01 Mar 2016 20:54:51 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz The Reventazón Hydroelectric Project, Costa Rica’s fifth hydropower dam, will begin to operate in the first half of this year. Credit: Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad

The Reventazón Hydroelectric Project, Costa Rica’s fifth hydropower dam, will begin to operate in the first half of this year. Credit: Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Mar 1 2016 (IPS)

Over the last decade, Central America has managed to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels for the production of electric power, while expanding coverage. But the progress made by each country varies widely.

“The question is not whether or not demand is met, but which sources we are using to generate electricity,” Diego Fernández, one of the researchers with the State of the Region Programme (PER) of the Consejo Nacional de Rectores (CONARE), which groups Costa Rica’s four public universities, told IPS.

Fernández pointed out that more and more Central Americans are connected to their national power grids. The electrification rate climbed from an average of 69 percent in 2000 to 90 percent in 2013, according to a joint study by PER and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

“The biggest advances in the region (in terms of energy) have been seen in the electricity sector,” says the October 2015 report.

However, the growth has not been uniform. In electrification, Nicaragua has only 75 percent coverage, much lower than the regional average, while coverage in Costa Rica has reached 99 percent.

The sources chosen to generate electricity are the clearest demonstration of the priorities in each country’s energy strategy.

Costa Rica is the leader in clean energy sources, which now account for 95 percent of the country’s electricity.

Meanwhile, Honduras and Nicaragua have the dirtiest power grids, with nearly half of their electricity coming from plants that run mainly on low-cost bunker fuel, which is the heavy, residual oil that is left over after gasoline, diesel and other light hydrocarbons are extracted from crude oil during the refining process. This low-quality fossil fuel has an impact on the health of local inhabitants.

The clearest evidence that decisions about electric power have a direct impact on local economies is what countries spend on oil – nations that use fossil fuels to generate electricity spend twice as much as those that rely more heavily on renewable sources.

“In countries that produce more electric power from renewable sources, like Costa Rica, the oil bill is less than five percent of GDP; in Honduras and Nicaragua, the oil bill is 12 percent,” the researcher said.

Central America, with a total population of 48 million, is a net importer of fossil fuels, which are used mainly for transportation, and to a lesser extent in power generation.

As a result, Central America’s oil bill climbed from 3.5 percent of GDP in 2000 to 8.5 percent in 2014, according to statistics provided by PER and ECLAC.

But overall, expansion in electricity generation in the region between 2003 and 2014 largely involved renewables.

There are major disparities in Central America, where Costa Rica’s electricity, for example, comes almost entirely from renewable sources, while half of Nicaragua’s power comes from fossil fuels. And coal has been making a comeback. Credit: State of the Region

There are major disparities in Central America, where Costa Rica’s electricity, for example, comes almost entirely from renewable sources, while half of Nicaragua’s power comes from fossil fuels. And coal has been making a comeback. Credit: State of the Region

“Thanks to regional accords and national policies, the share of renewable energies increased….from 57 to 64 percent,” Víctor Hugo Ventura, the head of ECLAC’s Energy and Natural Resources Unit, told IPS.

The Guatemalan expert said the region still puts a priority on hydroelectricity, but medium and large-scale projects are blocked and delayed by opposition from social and environmental activists.

However, it is difficult to generalise about the region in terms of electricity production, because of the differences between the countries.

Guatemala, for example, increased the share of renewable energy from 50.7 to 56.1 percent of its energy mix between 2009 and 2014, according to ECLAC, but it continues to invest in coal-fired power stations, the most highly polluting form of energy.

A coal plant belonging to Jaguar Energy Guatemala, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Ashmore Energy International, began to operate in Guatemala in 2014. Built at an estimated cost of 750 million dollars, it has an installed capacity of 300 MW, and is now the country’s biggest power plant.

However, Ventura said the plant does not necessarily mean the country intends to increase its dependence on coal. He argued that it was the result of a misguided decision taken when the price of oil skyrocketed in 2007. “Problems with the generators forced it to stop operating, and it is currently not producing electricity. Sometimes what’s cheap turns out to be expensive,” he said.

The ECLAC expert predicted a rise in consumption of natural gas, another fossil fuel, over the next decade in Central America.

But for years, this region, made up of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, has been urged to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Overall, the region has responded, although it has not stopped installing power stations that run on coal and bunker fuel, drawing criticism in reports by international bodies.

“The outlook has been very positive for wind power, whose capacity has grown by a factor of nearly 10 so far this millennium,” states the joint PER/ECLAC report.

Three countries have large wind power farms: Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua.

In Nicaragua, wind energy represented 14.8 percent of the country’s energy production in 2013.

These unconventional sources also make it possible to bring electricity to isolated rural areas, where community organisation plays a major role.

“We can mention several cases of solar panel projects, where the installation and maintenance has been put in the hands of local women sent for training to India,” said Ventura from the subregional ECLAC office in Mexico.

He said the countries of Central America must take climate change and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions into account in their long-term plans.

“Climate change represents major challenges for the region, where the effects and impacts of this phenomenon also have to be taken into consideration in terms of renewable resources and capacity to generate less polluting forms of energy,” Alejandra Sobenes, a lawyer who is an expert on sustainability, told IPS.

Sobenes, a former Guatemalan deputy minister of natural resources, said her country has recognised the need to take measures to prevent electricity shortages after 2026.

“But the commitment to reduce our emissions by at least 11.2 percent, or 22.6 percent in a more ambitious scenario, must be kept in mind, and the use of coal should be reconsidered,” she said from the Guatemalan capital.

Another problem is the variability of the most accessible clean energy sources: wind and the sun.

“In the case of solar and wind energy, the insertion of renewable sources in the region’s energy mix has been facilitated a great deal, but with one problem: these sources are variable,” Javier Orozco, director of electrical planning in the Costa Rican power utility, Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, told IPS.

Each country gets around this variability as best it can. One strategy is to turn to geothermal energy, which is abundant and relatively untapped in the region. Another alternative is to build enormous reservoirs to release water when sun or wind are in short supply. And then there is the option of burning fossil fuels.

“In Costa Rica we use the most adequate technological solution: hydropower dams. We store up energy, or water, and release it as needed,” said Orozco.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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UNDP Pledges to Help Eradicate Poverty, Hunger By 2030 Wed, 24 Feb 2016 22:45:15 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) celebrated its 50th anniversary this week with a pledge to help implement the UN’s post-2015 development agenda aimed at eliminating extreme poverty and hunger by 2030.

When the agency was founded in 1966, one in every three people was living in poverty. But that number has changed to one in eight, according to UNDP figures.

As the primary UN agency in the field of economic and sustainable development, it has vowed to help developing countries reach the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and help implement Agenda 2030 adopted by world leaders last September.

Addressing a high-level ministerial meeting Wednesday, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said for 50 years UNDP has been working on the frontlines of development, advocating for change and connecting countries to the knowledge, experience, and resources they need to help people build better lives.

“The world has changed immeasurably in that time, and UNDP has changed with it. But the core mission of UNDP is more relevant than ever – that is, to support countries to eradicate poverty in a way which simultaneously reduces inequality and exclusion, while protecting the planet on which we all depend.”

As the spreading refugee crisis threatens to destabilize national budgets of donor nations in Western Europe, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly appealed to the international community not to forsake its longstanding commitment for development assistance to the world’s poorer nations.

A new report by CONCORD, the European confederation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) representing all 28 European Union (EU) members, points out aid budgets are increasingly being used to cover refugee and asylum seekers costs: the Netherlands at 145%; Italy 107%; Cyprus 65%; and Portugal 38%.

And despite repeated promises, the EU, as a whole, did not deliver on its commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) as official development assistance (ODA) by 2015, said the study released last December.

Clark told the ministerial meeting: “We have already taken steps to ensure that UNDP is fit for purpose in the SDG era. We have a more focused Strategic Plan; we have restructured our headquarters to eliminate duplication and improve efficiency and effectiveness, and we have moved much more of our policy, programme, and other support closer to the field.”

She said UNDP has also implemented measures which have led to agency to be ranked “among the most transparent development organisations in the world.”

“Yet,” she said, “the ambition and breadth of Agenda 2030 will demand a great deal more of all of us.” To be truly fit for purpose in the SDG era, UNDP must be ever more proactive, responsive, and innovative.

“That is the reason we have invited Ministers here today. We want your strategic engagement on the key challenges before us. We want to hear your assessment of where we can be most helpful in support of your national development efforts,” she told the high level meeting.

Ban says experience has shown that a thriving economy is not enough to eradicate poverty and promote shared prosperity.

“Economies must be put at the service of people, through effective integrated social policies,” he told the UN Commission for Social Development in early February.

He pointed out that enormous social progress has been made in lifting people out of extreme poverty; in boosting food security; in advancing universal primary education and adult literacy; in promoting women’s empowerment, and in reducing maternal and child mortality.

Accessibility and the full inclusion of persons with disabilities has become a growing interest of decision makers, as has the critical importance of ensuring social protection for all. “Now we need to build on these successes,” Ban said.

Still, he said, “We are living in a world of turmoil and trouble.”

There may be fewer wars between countries, but there is more insecurity. Inequality remains too high, affecting poverty reduction efforts and social cohesion in both developed and developing countries.

“Too many people continue to face exclusion and are unable to realize their full potential. Too few economies have attained inclusive and sustainable growth and are unable to promote true social progress. People are frustrated. They are working harder and falling behind. Too often, instead of decisions, they see deadlock. And they wonder: are leaders even listening?,” he asked.

Clark told the ministerial meeting that UNDP’s work in support of SDGs include the following:

First, eradicating poverty; leaving no one behind – looking at the specific measures which lead to inclusive growth and the eradication of poverty in all its dimensions

Second, protecting the planet, sustaining development – the importance of balancing economic growth and improved livelihoods with the need to protect the environment;

Third, preventing violent conflict, building peaceful societies – ensuring governance, peace and security are durable and benefit all parts of society; and

Fourth, managing risk and building resilience – looking at how to identify risks and take appropriate action to prepare for disasters and adapt to climate change.

She told the ministers: “I invite you all to share your most ambitious visions of how UNDP can support member states in these areas.”

To move from agreement to action on the Sustainable Development Goals, UNDP must help to deliver results; and it must build and sustain new partnerships to tackle this complex agenda in these challenging times.

“Above all, UNDP must be relevant to you and your countries, and tackle the challenges which you identify,” Clark declared.

The writer can be reached at

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Fall in Commodity Prices Rings Alarm Bells in Papua New Guinea Wed, 24 Feb 2016 07:45:40 +0000 Catherine Wilson More than 80 per cent of Papua New Guinea's population is engaged in agriculture for subsistence and informal incomes. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

More than 80 per cent of Papua New Guinea's population is engaged in agriculture for subsistence and informal incomes. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Feb 24 2016 (IPS)

Resource-rich Papua New Guinea (PNG) is seen as an economic powerhouse in the Pacific Islands with a state-led focus on resource extraction initially expected to drive one of the world’s highest growth rates of 15 per cent last year. But in the wake of falling commodity prices, GDP growth has plummeted from 8.5 per cent in 2014 to a forecasted 3 per cent this year. As the government faces a growing deficit between revenue and expenditure, exacerbated by high public debt, experts in the country believe greater efforts to diversify the economy are essential.

“The development of the SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) sector and agriculture sector is crucial to cushion the economy from falling prices,” economist, Busa Jeremiah Wenogo, in the capital, Port Moresby, told IPS, adding that “there is already consensus from some experts that lower commodity prices will require the government to diversify the economy to reduce its dependency on foreign dollars generated through its exports. However, we will have to wait and see how it all plays out.”

The concerns of Wenogo and Hetha Yawas, Chair of the Rural Women’s Empowerment Association, are for many citizens who struggle for a living outside the formal economy with poor access to infrastructure and services.

The southwest Pacific Island state has significant resources, including oil, gas, copper, gold, silver and timber, and the extractive industry has been worth about K150 billion (US$49.3 billion) since Independence in 1975. But corruption and low corporate taxes are among the causes of the discrepancy between extractive wealth and persistent hardship. Forty per cent of the country’s 7.3 million people live below the poverty line, 12 per cent have access to electricity and less than 5 per cent to formal sector employment.

In 2014 construction of the PNG LNG, the nation’s largest extractive project to date in the highlands region was completed. The Exxon-Mobil operated joint venture is expected to produce 6.9 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year for export. Of the 21,220 workers employed on the project during its peak phase in 2012, an estimated 9,000 were Papua New Guinean.

But Yawas says the benefits for many families were temporary: “The little money that was given by husbands and other men in the family [who were employed] was used to buy store food for the family. However, that was short-lived and many mothers are now facing the reality of getting back to the basics of making traditional gardens to feed their families.”

Anticipated high revenues from the LNG project fuelled ambitious plans by the government to invest in infrastructure and services, such as an announcement in 2014 of K7 billion (US$2.3 billion) for road works over five years. But the price of Brent crude fell later that year from $76 per barrel to around $30 in January this year, while the natural gas index dropped from 101.6 to 58.8 in the same period.

National mining and petroleum tax revenues dropped last year from an initial estimate of K1.7 billion (US$559 million) to K300 million (US$98.6 million), triggering 20 per cent cuts in public spending on transport and education.

Developing non-mineral sectors is increasingly critical given finite mineral reserves, vulnerability of the economy to world price volatility and failure of the extractive industry to generate sufficient indigenous employment.

Agriculture is a clear choice for Wenogo, Yawas and Dr Odongo F Odhuno, senior research fellow in economic policy at the National Research Institute. Eighty per cent of the population with widespread access to customary land is already active in subsistence and semi-commercial agriculture. Ninety per cent of coffee production in Papua New Guinea, for instance, is produced by smallholders, involving an estimated 2.5 million people.

Wenogo also identifies the poultry industry as “among the biggest in PNG with a supply chain supporting tens of thousands of small poultry farmers in the informal economy.”

The government has stated its commitment to boosting the potential of agriculture and last year allocated around K141.3 million (US$46 million) to development of the sector and SMEs. But Wenogo claims that implementation remains a challenge and much more needs to be done to rehabilitate plantations, increase agriculture extension training and tackle constraints in the supply chain and value-addition.

Dr Jane Awi at the University of Goroka in Eastern Highlands Province also sees a bright future for the currently “under-developed” cultural industries.

“The creative or cultural industries is a sleeping giant which needs to be injected with adequate funding, appropriate infrastructure and good leadership…[it] has the potential to contribute immensely to the social wellbeing of people and boost economic development,” Awi claimed.

However, most people active in these sectors are informally employed and Wenogo says it is time that grassroots enterprise was recognized as a foundation upon which to build the private sector.

“When the government is considering stimulating growth of the SME sector, it cannot do that without first nurturing the informal economy, which is really at the elementary stage of the business cycle,” he elaborated.

Dr Odhuno agrees, advocating that “providing the appropriate infrastructure, utilities and services necessary for increasing productivity in the informal economy could, in turn, trigger private sector growth.”

Priorities include improving access to roads, affordable transport, electricity and the internet, particularly in rural areas where more than 80 per cent of people live.

“The cost of transport to go to the nearest market is often higher than what the mothers will get from selling their produce,” Yawas said. Rural women also need training in modern farming techniques, more incentives to start up small businesses and awareness about gender equality, she continued.

As the global economy remains fragile, local commentators consider a long-term investment in the human resources of this most populous of Pacific Island states vital to a more sustainable and equitable future.


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UNDP at 50 Seeks Broad Coalition Targeting Sustainable Development Mon, 22 Feb 2016 20:04:14 +0000 Helen Clark Helen Clark is Administrator, UN Development Progamme (UNDP) ]]>

Helen Clark is Administrator, UN Development Progamme (UNDP)

By Helen Clark

Fifty years ago, one in every three people around the world was living in poverty. It was against that backdrop that the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, was founded in 1966.

Ever since, UNDP has been a leader in working for a more fair and prosperous world for all. We have worked with governments, civil society, the private sector, and philanthropy to empower people and build resilient nations.

Helen Clark

Helen Clark

As UNDP begins its second half century, the numbers of people in poverty have decreased to around one in eight. UNDP is proud to have worked with many partners committed to poverty eradication.

Indeed, for fifty years UNDP has been at the forefront of work to eradicate poverty, hunger and disease, create jobs and livelihoods, empower women, support recovery from disasters and other crises, protect the environment, and more.

Most of the work happens because of our dedicated staff and the thousands of organizations we partner with around the world who do the daily work of development. I am proud to lead an organization that has transformed so many lives for the better, offering them opportunity, hope, and dignity.

But there remains much work to do. The world is not yet rid of poverty and hunger and a number of ecosystems are under great stress.

The good news is that our world has more wealth, more knowledge, and more technologies at its disposal than ever before to do something about these challenges.

Leadership is needed on finding the funding required. Money isn’t everything, but it certainly helps, including through Official Development Assistance.

Broad coalitions for sustainable development are needed. Governments acting alone can’t achieve the goals envisaged in the new global agenda, Agenda 2030; their leadership is vital, but insufficient. Civil society, the private sector, philanthropy, researchers – all hands are need for the task.

And leadership is needed more than ever from the multilateral system — including from UNDP. Our job is to support countries to eradicate poverty, and to do that in a way which also reduces inequality and exclusion, and avoids wrecking the ecosystems on which life depends.

Working together, using the newly created Sustainable Development Goals as our guide, a world where economies and societies are more inclusive can be built, and the planet can be protected from the worst effects of climate change and other forms of environmental degradation. As it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, UNDP recommits itself to this task.


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Costa Rica, UAE Cement Relations with Energy and Tourism Fri, 12 Feb 2016 23:23:10 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís (centre-right) received United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (centre-left) in the presidential palace in San José on Friday Feb. 12. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís (centre-right) received United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (centre-left) in the presidential palace in San José on Friday Feb. 12. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Feb 12 2016 (IPS)

A visit by United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Costa Rica paved the way for closer trade ties between the two countries, especially in the areas of tourism and sustainable energy.

During the first official visit ever to this Central American nation by a UAE foreign minister, Al Nahyan and his Costa Rican counterpart and host, Manuel González, signed two agreements.

One of them refers to air services, and will boost visits by Emirati tourists to Costa Rica.

They also agreed to immediately begin the process of negotiating and promoting investment in tourism.

“This agreement opens up opportunities to take better advantage of air services between the two countries,” Al Nahyan said in Costa Rica’s presidential palace, after an official meeting with this country’s president, Luis Guillermo Solis, at the start of his one-day visit to San José on Friday Feb. 12.

“I think you have a wonderful, beautiful country,” the minister said in a press conference at the end of his meeting with the president. “Of course, there is the problem of the distance between us, but I believe that after opening the air route between Dubai and Panama City, it will be easier to get back and forth between our countries.”

He was referring to the new Emirates airlines route that will begin to operate on Mar. 31 as the world’s longest flight – nearly 18 hours – according to the company.

Al Nahyan also announced that mechanisms would be sought to facilitate visas between the two countries, in order to expedite trade.

“We have a lot of work to do with my colleague, Costa Rica’s foreign minister, to talk to the airlines and make sure things work out,” he said.

A flight between Panama City and San José takes less than one hour, and more and more airlines are connecting the two cities.

United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (left) and his host, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González, in the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry after signing the agreements reached during the Emirati minister’s visit. Credit: Foreign Ministry of Costa Rica

United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (left) and his host, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González, in the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry after signing the agreements reached during the Emirati minister’s visit. Credit: Foreign Ministry of Costa Rica

“Emirates will fly from Dubai to Panama; this strengthens potential ties, not only between the UAE and Panama but with the entire Central American region, and particularly Costa Rica,” Foreign Minister González told IPS in an exclusive conversation about the visit.

The other agreement signed on Friday afternoon in Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry provides a framework for cooperation, accompanied by a mechanism for formalising bilateral political consultations, which will facilitate diplomatic relations between the federation of seven emirates and this Central American nation.

Costa Rica was the fourth and last country on Al Nahyan’s official Latin America tour, which began Feb. 4 in Argentina before taking him to Colombia and Panama.

The Emirati minister said a key area of cooperation between the two countries would be energy, where both countries are pioneers in complementary niches.

“I know Costa Rica wants and plans to use more renewable energy, and I know they have done a great deal in terms of legislating to strengthen that sector,” he said.

This country does not depend on fossil fuels for electricity, because 97 percent of its electric power comes from renewable sources. But the use of fossil fuels in transportation means they still represent around 80 percent of the total energy mix.

The UAE has committed nearly 840 million dollars to help other countries of the developing South produce clean energy.

“That’s why we’re in Costa Rica: to see what has been done in this area, and to create a legal foundation with respect to how we can cooperate,” Al Nahyan said in the news briefing.

Solís, of the centre-left Citizen Action Party, said the UAE invited this country to take part in an annual energy conference held early in the year in the Gulf nation.

“Costa Rica will be represented there with the highest-level technical teams, precisely to seek opportunities for cooperation in energy,” the president said.

In an opinion piece published by the La Nación newspaper, Al Nahyan explained that his country is “an important investor in a series of international commercial clean energy projects. And we are proud to be the host country for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).”

The Emirati minister also stressed that “like Costa Rica, we recognise that turning to clean energies is the most promising solution. The United Arab Emirates has been a major investor in clean energy sources for many years, both within the country and abroad.

“Costa Rica has been one of the most ambitious and progressive-thinking countries in the issues of climate change and sustainable development at the international level,” the minister concluded in his article.

Minister González explained in his dialogue with IPS that there are three major areas where his country and the UAE find points in common: human rights, the fight against climate change, and the struggle against people trafficking and in favour of associated labour rights.

With respect to ties in the field of energy, he explained that the Emirates have “an economy very focused on oil and gas, and with the drop in prices of fossil fuels, they have seen the need to focus on other sectors of the economy.”

This new openness and their traditional leadership in renewable energy “opens up opportunities for Costa Rica, which does not depend on oil and gas,” González said.

The Costa Rican minister sees the UAE as a key actor in the Middle East, a region “with which we are seeking closer ties.”

González said his guest “has expressed interest in Latin America, as demonstrated by this tour,” and noted that he was one of the promoters of the Global Forum on the Relationships between the Arab World, Latin America and the Caribbean Region.

“I met with him in the context of the United Nations General Assembly, in September of last year, and suggested that he consider making a visit to the region, and specifically to Costa Rica,” González added.

Costa Rica has consulates in Lebanon and Jordan and an embassy in Qatar. But it does not yet have a consulate or embassy in the UAE.

“We hope to boost to their maximum expression our relations with the Arab world,” González said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Argentina and United Arab Emirates Open New Stage in Bilateral Relations Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:42:58 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, outside the San Martín Palace in Buenos Aires at the start of their meeting on Friday, Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES , Feb 5 2016 (IPS)

With United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit to Argentina, the two countries launched a new stage in bilateral relations, kicked off by high-level meetings and a package of accords.

On Friday, Feb. 5 Al Nahyan and his host, Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra, signed five agreements on taxation, trade and cooperation in the energy industry, after a meeting with other officials, including this country’s finance minister, Alfonso Prat-Gay.

The meeting in the San Martín Palace, the foreign ministry building, addressed “important” aspects of ties with the Gulf nation made up of seven emirates, an Argentine communiqué stated.

Al Nahyan’s visit took the UAE’s contacts to the highest diplomatic level with the new Argentine government of Mauricio Macri, who received the minister Friday in Olivos, his official residence, less than two months after being sworn in as president on Dec. 10.

After the meeting in the foreign ministry, the Emirati minister also met with Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti, and visited the Senate.

The day before, Al Nahyan was named guest of honour in Buenos Aires by the city’s mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, with whom he met after the ceremony.

In the meeting between Al Nahyan and Malcorra, a tax information exchange agreement was signed, along with an accord between the Argentine Industrial Union and the UAE Federation of Chambers of Commerce aimed at “establishing a joint business council.”

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Susana Malcorra, and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, exchange tax agreements signed during their meeting in Buenos Aires on Friday Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Susana Malcorra, and the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, exchange tax agreements signed during their meeting in Buenos Aires on Friday Feb. 5. Credit: Government of Argentina

The governor of the southern Argentine province of Neuquén, Omar Gutiérrez, was also present at the meeting, where an agreement was reached to grant a loan to that region to finance the Nahueve hydroelectric project through the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), in the town of Villa del Nahueve.

A four-MW hydroelectric plant will be built in that town of 25,000 people in southern Argentina with an investment of 18 million dollars, through a soft loan, the secretary-general of the Argentine-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Walid al Kaddour, told IPS.

According to the Chamber, trade between the two countries stood at 228 million dollars in 2014, with Argentina exporting nearly 198 million dollars in mainly foodstuffs and steel pipe and tube products.

As Al Kaddour underlined, “there is a great deal of room to grow (in bilateral ties), especially taking into account that the United Arab Emirates is located at a strategic point linking the West with the East.”

He explained that products can be re-exported to all of Asia from the Emirati city of Dubai, because “it is a very important distribution hub.”

The population of the UAE is just barely over nine million, “but it can reach a market of 1.6 billion inhabitants, and it has major logistics infrastructure enabling it to re-export products,” he said.

Al Kaddour said the UAE’s chief interest is importing food, “which is what Argentina mainly produces,” although he said the Gulf nation could also buy raw materials as well as manufactured goods.

The UAE at one point imported up to 1,000 vehicles a year from Argentina, he pointed out.

According to Al Kaddour, another aim of the Emirati minister’s visit was “to meet Argentina’s new administration.”

Macri, of the centre-right “Cambiemos” alliance, succeeded Cristina Fernández of the centre-left Front for Victory, who had strengthened ties with the UAE during an official visit to Abu Dhabi in 2013, where an agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was signed.

“The UAE has pinned strong hopes on the new administration in Argentina,” said Al Kaddour. “The last few years have also been positive in terms of building a friendlier relationship.

“The idea now is to move towards concrete things, such as investment projects in different areas, like renewable energy and agriculture,” he added.

In an article sent to the Argentine daily Clarín, Al Nhayan stressed that “the ties of friendship between Argentina and the United Arab Emirates are strong” and the two countries “are united by shared economic interests.”

He added that “we hope to be able to work with the president, and we believe that together we can bring many benefits to our two countries and our people.”

He also emphasised that his country is seen as “the future gateway for access to Argentine products to the Middle East.”

Emirati sources told IPS that the UAE minister and the Buenos Aires mayor discussed questions such as sustainable urban development and solar energy – an area in which the Gulf nation is interested in cooperating with Argentina.

Although it is a leading oil producer, the UAE is considered a pioneer in the development of unconventional renewable energies, which it is fomenting as the foundation of clean development that will curb climate change.

In Argentina, Al Nahyan kicked off his Latin America tour that will take him to Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica through Feb. 12.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Europe is disintegrating while its citizens watch indifferent Thu, 04 Feb 2016 12:53:07 +0000 Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
Rome, Feb 4 2016 (IPS)

We are witnessing the slow agony of the dream of European integration, disintegrating without a single demonstration occuring anywhere, among its 500 millions of citizens. It is clear that European institutions are in an existential crisis but the debate is only at intergovernmental level.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

This proves clearly that European citizens do not feel close to Brussels. Gone are the 1950s, when young people mobilized in the Youth Federalist Movement, with activists from the Federal Movement led by Altiero Spinelli, and the massive campaign for a Europe that would transcend national boundaries, a rallying theme of the intellectuals of the time.

It has been a crescendo of crisis. First came the North-South divide, with a North that did not want to rescue the South, and made austerity a monolithic taboo, with Germany as its inflexible leader. Greece was the chosen place to clash and win, even if its budget was just 4 percent of the whole European Union. The front for fiscal discipline and austerity easily overran those pleading for development and growth as a priority and it alienated many of citizens caught in the fight.

Then come the East-West divide. It become clear that the countries which were under the Soviet Union, joined the EU purely for economic reasons, and did not identify with the so called European values, the basis for the founding treaties. Solidarity was not only ignored, but actively rejected, first with Greece, and now with the refugees. There are now two countries, first Hungary and now Poland, which explicitly reject the “European model and values”, one to defend an autocratic model of governance, and the other Christian values, ignoring any declarations emanating from Brussels.

At the same time, another ominous development emerged. British Prime Minister David Cameron used threats to get special conditions, or in order to leave the EU altogether. At Davos, he explicitly said that Britain was in the EU for the market, but rejects everything else, and especially any possible further integration. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been sending soothing signs, and all European countries are in the process of trying to recover as much sovereignty as possible. Therefore, whatever Britain may get in the end will serve as a benchmark for everyone else. It is revealing that in Britain, the pro-Europe lobby is run by the financial and economic sector, and there is no citizen’s movement.

All this is happening within a framework of economic stagnation that even unprecedented financial injections from the European Central Bank have not been able to lift.

The list of countries in trouble does not cover only countries from the South. Leaders of fiscal rectitude, like the Netherlands and Finland, are in serious difficulty. The only country which is doing relatively well, Germany, enjoys a positive trade balance with the rest of Europe, has a much lower rate of interest mainly due to its generally better performance; it has been calculated that over half of its positive budget comes from its asymmetric relations with the rest of Europe. Yet, Germany has stubbornly refused to use some of these revenues to create any pact to socialize its assets, like a European Fund to bail out countries, or anything similar. Hardly a shining example of solidarity….as its minister of finance, Wolfgang Schauble, famously said, “we are not going to give the gains that we have sweated for to those who have not worked hard the way we have…”

Finally, the refugee crisis has been the last blow to an institution which was already breathing with great effort. Last year, more than 1,3 million people escaping conflicts in Iraq, Libya and Syria, arrived in Europe. This year, according the High Commissioner for Refugees, at least another million are expected to find their way to Europe.

What has been happening, shows the European reality. The Commission determined that 40.000 people, a mere drop in the ocean, should be relocated from Syria and Ethiopia. This led to a furious process of bargaining, with the Eastern European countries flatly refusing to take part and in spite of threats by the Commission. As of today, the total number of people who have relocated is a mere 201.

Meanwhile Angela Merkel decided to open Germany up to one million refugees, mainly Syrians. But a smart interpretation of the Treaty on Refugees made clear that economic refugees (as well as climate) were excluded, and it was then declared that the Balkans were safe and secure, thereby excluding any Europeans coming to Germany by way of Albania, Kosovo and other countries not yet part of the EU.

It is interesting that, at the same time, Montenegro was invited to join Nato, which, by coincidence also serves to increase the containment of Russia, thanks to a standing army of 3.000. But of course, the flood of people made it difficult to process the paperwork required, and so each country was forced to resort to its own way of doing things, without any relation with Brussels.

Austria declared that it would admit only 37.500 asylum applications.

Denmark, besides creating a campaign to announce to refugees that they were not welcome, passed a law that delays family reunification for three years, and authorises the authorities to seize asylum seekers’ cash and jewels exceeding US$1.400.

Sweden announced that it would give shorter residence permits, and that strict controls will be imposed on trains coming from Denmark.

Finland and Holland have indicated that they will immediately expel all those who do not fit under strict norms as refugees. Great Britain, which was responsible together with the United States for the Iraq invasion (from which ISIS was born) has announced that it will take 27.000 refugees.

There has been a veritable flourishing of wall construction, constructed in Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria. Meanwhile Europe tried to buy the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with three billion euros, as a way to stop the flow of refugees but it didn’t work. Now Greece is the culprit, because it was not able to adequately process the nearly 800.000 people who transitted the country.

Austria has asked to exclude Greece from the Schengen agreement, and move European borders “further north” . This chapter is now being concluded by the German initiative to introduce, once again national border controls, for a period of two years. Last year, there were 56 million trucks crossing between countries, and every day 1,7 million people crossed between borders.

To eliminate the Schengen agreement for free movement of Europeans, would be a very powerful signal. But more critically are the imminent political changes which see anti-European and xenophobic parties all riding the wave of fear and insecurity crossing Europe.

In Germany, where Angela Merkel is increasingly losing support, the Party for an Alternative, which has been relatively marginal, could achieve representation in at least three provinces. Across Europe, from France to Italy, from Great Britain to the Netherlands, right wing parties are on the rise.

These parties all use some form of left wing rhetoric: Let us renationalize industries and banks, increase social safety nets, fight against neoliberal globalization…

Hungary has heavily taxed foreign banks to get them to leave, and Poland is using similar language. Their target is very simple: the unemployed, the under employed, retirees, all those with precarious livelihoods, those who feel that they have been left out of the political system and dream of a glorious yesterday. If it is working in the United States with the likes of DonaldTrump, it will work here.

Therefore, there is no doubt that at this moment a referendum for Europe would never pass. Citizens do not feel that this is ‘their’ Europe. This is a serious problem for a democratic Europe.

Will the European Union survive? Probably, but it will be more a kind of common market for finance and business rather than a citizen’s project. It will also hasten the reduction of European power in the world, and the loss of European identity, once the most revolutionary project in modern history.


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United Arab Emirates Strengthens Ties with Argentina’s New Government Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:20:02 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet The Four Seasons hotel in the upscale Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Recoleta was remodeled this decade with a multi-million dollar investment by the Dubai-based Albwardy Investment Group. This is just one example of investment in Argentina by the United Arab Emirates, which is expected to increase in different sectors as a result of the visit here by the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

The Four Seasons hotel in the upscale Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Recoleta was remodeled this decade with a multi-million dollar investment by the Dubai-based Albwardy Investment Group. This is just one example of investment in Argentina by the United Arab Emirates, which is expected to increase in different sectors as a result of the visit here by the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES , Feb 1 2016 (IPS)

The new government of Argentina and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are strengthening the relationship established by the previous administration, at a time when this South American country is seeking to bring in foreign exchange, build up its international reserves and draw investment, in what the authorities describe as a new era of openness to the world.

Bilateral ties will be boosted during a visit to the Argentine capital by the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on Feb. 4, the start of his Latin America tour which will also take him to Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica before he flies out of the region on Feb. 12.

After several high-level meetings on Feb. 5, the minister’s visit will end with the signing of five agreements on taxation, sports, cooperation between the state news agencies Telam (Argentina) and WAM (UAE), and an Emirati loan to the southern province of Neuquén.

Mauricio Macri, who was sworn in as president of Argentina on Dec. 10, already indicated his interest in stronger ties when he met on Jan. 20, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, withHamad Shahwan al Dhaheri, executive director of the private equities department of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).

ADIA, considered the second-largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, manages the excess oil revenues of the UAE, a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain.

The centre-right Macri, of the Cambiemos coalition, and Al Dhaheri“discussed the prospects opening up for Argentina and were enthusiastic about this new era for the country,” Telam reported from Davos.

The news agency was referring to the end of 12 years of government by the late Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and his widow and successor, Cristina Fernández (2007-2015), of the Front for Victory, the Justicialista (Peronist) Party’s centre-left faction, which defines itself as anti-neoliberal.

“Argentina has to position itself as a serious, predictable interlocutor,” this country’s foreign minister, Susana Malcorra, said in Davos.

“The question of economic opening, the search for investment and business opportunities is essential in our agenda,” she stressed.

According to a report from its embassy in Buenos Aires, the UAE has a significant presence in international capital markets through different investment institutions, such as ADIA, Dubai Ports World, Dubai Holding and Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Co.

The then president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández, with her host, United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at a January 2013 meeting in Abu Dhabi during her official visit to the Gulf nation when bilateral relations were given a major boost. Credit: Government of Argentina

The then president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández, with her host, United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at a January 2013 meeting in Abu Dhabi during her official visit to the Gulf nation when bilateral relations were given a major boost. Credit: Government of Argentina

The UAE is a timely interlocutor for Argentina, Luis Mendiola, an expert on the Middle East, the Arab world and Africa with the Argentine Council for Foreign Relations (CARI), underlined in an interview with IPS.

“Their biggest problem is the extraordinary abundance of capital…the question is where to put it to get the best returns on the extraordinary surplus capital they produced during nearly a decade and a half of high oil prices,” added Mendiola, who served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1996 to 2005.

New opportunities

As part of its strategy of strengthening ties with Latin America, the foreign ministry of the United Arab Emirates held a workshop in Abu Dhabi in December with diplomats from Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama, with the participation of some 70 UAE governmental, semi-governmental and private organisations.

At the workshop, the director of the foreign ministry’s department of economic affairs and international cooperation, Fahad al Tafaq, stressed the UAE’s interest in taking ties with Latin America “to a higher level” in order to serve common interests, WAM, the Emirates news agency, reported from Abu Dhabi.

The participants in the workshop discussed opportunities for investment and strategic alliances in sectors like energy, environment, technology, tourism, agriculture, mining, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, infrastructure and natural resources.

These funds, he said, could go into major infrastructure projects in areas like housing, energy, transport and communications.

In January 2015, the authorities in the southern Argentine province of Neuquén reported that they had secured an 18 million dollar loan from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, to finance the Nahueve Hydroelectric Project for the promotion of irrigation in new productive areas, among other aims.

The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1975 and opened embassies in 2008. But relations moved to a new plane when President Fernández visited Abu Dhabi in January 2013, where she met with UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan.

During that visit, cooperation agreements were signed in the area of food, with the opening of the Emirati market to non-traditional Argentine products, and this country opened its first business office in the UAE.

In 2014, as the Argentine-Arab Chamber of Commerce informed IPS, trade between Argentina and the UAE amounted to 228 million dollars, with this South American country enjoying a surplus, exporting 198.9 million dollars in mainly foodstuffs and steel pipe and tube products.

But Mendiola believes there is greater potential to tap because besides boasting one of the highest per capita incomes in the Gulf, the UAE is a business hub which re-exports products to third countries and large markets, such as Saudi Arabia, India, Iran and Pakistan.

Bilateral ties were reinforced in April 2014, with a visit to Argentina by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and emir of Dubai.

A memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy was signed during that visit.

On that occasion, Fernández emphasised the Argentina forms part of the “exclusive club” of nations “that can produce nuclear energy, but that do so on a non-proliferation basis.”

The then president also referred to the UAE’s “enormous interest” in investing in Argentina and financing projects aimed at bolstering food security.

In November 2015, with support from the local government, five family farming cooperatives from Argentina took part in an international specialty food festival in Dubai.

During the meeting in Buenos Aires, agreements were also reached to promote tourism initiatives and projects in renewable energy – an area in which the UAE, despite its status as one of the world’s largest oil producers, is considered a pioneer among the Gulf countries and even at the international level, Mendiola noted.

“The Emiratis are very good at forging ahead and moving into new areas, and in that sense they are a model, at least in the Gulf region,” he added.

During his visit to Argentina, Al Maktoum remarked that his country did not invest “according to preferences or political motives, but based on economic questions.”

For that reason Mendiola said he was not “surprised” by the UAE’s interest in Latin America “because the Gulf countries in general have always had extremely pragmatic foreign policies which are at the same time modest, in terms of maintaining a low profile.”

“I think the difference now is they are taking advantage of the fact that there is a new government in Argentina, which presents itself to the world as very different from the last one, and that is raising a lot of interest because they have an extraordinary level of reserves as well as investment abroad,” he said.

Mendiola pointed out that the UAE did not have a “clear” presence in Latin America until recently, unlike in Africa and Asia.

“Up to now, South America was a caboose for the Gulf countries, from the point of view of their economic interests. And the change in government without a doubt awakened curiosity and interest in seeing how to best take advantage of these opportunities,” he added.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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