Inter Press Service » Natural Resources http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Sun, 23 Nov 2014 05:02:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 The Future of the Planet and the Irresponsibility of Governmentshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/the-future-of-the-planet-and-the-irresponsibility-of-governments/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-future-of-the-planet-and-the-irresponsibility-of-governments http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/the-future-of-the-planet-and-the-irresponsibility-of-governments/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:23:09 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137866

In this column, Roberto Savio – founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News – argues that governments are unwilling to take steps to do something concrete to halt climate change because of their incestuous relations with energy corporations and because they are unable – or unwilling – to see beyond their immediate existence.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Nov 21 2014 (IPS)

Less than a week after everybody celebrated the historical agreement on Nov. 17 between the United States and China on reduction of CO2 emissions, a very cold shower has come from India.

Indian Power Minister Piyush Goyal has declared: “India’s development imperatives cannot be sacrificed at the altar of potential climate change many years in the future. The West will have to recognise we have the needs of the poor”.

This is also a blow to the Asia policy of U.S. President Barack Obama, who came back home from signing the CO2 emissions agreement in Beijing, touting his success on establishing U.S. policy in the region.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

But, more importantly, will give plenty of ammunition to the Republican Congress, which has been fighting climate control on the grounds that the United States cannot engage on climate control unless other major polluters make similar commitments. This was always directed to China, which had refuse to make any such commitment until President Xi, to the surprise of everybody, did so by signing an agreement with Obama.

India is a major polluter, not at the level of China, which has now reached 9,900 metric tons of CO2, against the 6,826 of the United States. But India is coming up fast. “The incestuous relations between energy corporations and governments are out of the public's eye. It is yet further proof that, even when nothing less than survival is at stake for islands and coastlines, agriculture and the poor, governments are unable – or unwilling – to see beyond their immediate existence”

Goyal has promised that India’s use of domestic coal will rise from 565 million tons last year to more than a billion tons by 2019, and he is selling licences for coal mining at a great speed. The country has increased its coal-fired plants by 73 percent in just the last five years. In addition, Indian coal is of poor quality, polluting twice as much as coal in the West.

Nevertheless, newly-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that he will embark on a major programme of renewable sources of energy, and there is an apparent paradox in the fact that many of the climate scientists who form the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control (IPCC) are from India. Its Director-General is an Indian, Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, who is also chief executive of the Energy Resources Institute in New Delhi.

The IPCC’s last report was much more dramatic than previous ones, stating conclusively that climate change is due to the action of man, and providing an extensive review of the damage that the agricultural sector is bound to face, especially in poor countries like India. At least 37 million people would be displaced by rising seas.

Indian towns are by far the most polluted in the world, surpassing several times each year the worst polluted day in China.

But what is more worrying is that governments are reacting too slowly. It would take a very major effort, which is not now on the cards, to keep temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees Centigrade, and therefore to start to reduce emissions by 2020. Emissions in 2014 are expected to be the highest ever, at 40 billion tonnes, compared with 32 billion in 2010.

The consensus is that to limit warming of the planet to no more 2 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels, governments would have to restrict emissions from additional fossil fuel burning to about 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide.

But, according to the IPCC report, energy companies have booked coal and petroleum reserves equal to several times that amount, and they are spending some 600 billion dollars a year to find more. In other words, governments are directly subsidising the consumption of fossil fuel.

By contrast, less than 400 billion dollars a year are spent to reduce emissions, a figure that is smaller than the revenue of one just one U.S. oil company, ExxonMobil.

The last meeting of the G20 in Brisbane earlier this month gave unexpected attention to climate, but the G20 alone is spending 88 billion dollars a year in subsidies for fossil fuel exploration, which is double that which the top 20 private companies are spending to look for new oil, gas and coal.

The G20 spends 101 billion dollars to support clean energy in a clear attempt to make everybody happy but, according to the International Energy Agency, if G20 governments directed half of their subsidies, or 49 billion dollars a year, to investment for redistributing energy from new sources, we could achieve universal energy access as soon as 2030.

Another good example of the total lack of coherence from Western governments is that they have pledged an amount of 10 billion dollars for a Green Climate Fund, whose task is to support developing countries in mitigating and adapting to climate change. That amount is two-thirds of what those countries have been asking for and, since its creation in 1999, the fund has still to become operational.

And it was only after the last G20 meeting that the United States pledged three billion dollars and Japan 1.5 billion, bringing the total so far to 7 billion dollars – one-third is still missing.

And now we have the upcoming Climate Conference in Lima, in December, where opinion is that governments will once again fail to reach a comprehensive agreement on climate change – and the amount of time left for the planet will reduce even further.

Besides the fight to be expected from the Republican Congress in the United States, there will be also be opposition from countries that depend on fossil fuels, such as Russia, Australia, India, Venezuela, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.

So, governments show a total lack of consensus and responsibility. If a referendum could be held asking citizens if they would prefer to pay 800 billion dollars less in taxes to avoid subsidising pollution, there are few doubts what the result would be. And there would be same result if they were asked if they would prefer to invest those 800 billion dollars in clean energy or continue to pollute.

But the incestuous relations between energy corporations and governments are out of the public’s eye. It is yet further proof that, even when nothing less than survival is at stake for islands and coastlines, agriculture and the poor, governments are unable – or unwilling – to see beyond their immediate existence. We are direly in need of global governance for this kind of globalisation. (END/IPS COLUMNIST SERVICE)

(Edited by Phil Harris)

 

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Proposal for International Anti-Corruption Court Seeing “Significant” Momentumhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/proposal-for-international-anti-corruption-court-seeing-significant-momentum/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=proposal-for-international-anti-corruption-court-seeing-significant-momentum http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/proposal-for-international-anti-corruption-court-seeing-significant-momentum/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 01:28:00 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137864 By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Nov 21 2014 (IPS)

The key U.S. advocate of a proposal to create a multilateral body mandated to investigate allegations of political corruption says the idea is receiving significant interest from civil society, politicians and major business leaders.

Mark L. Wolf, a U.S. federal judge, first proposed the idea of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC) in two articles this summer (available here and here). Since that time, Wolf told a recent briefing at the U.S. Congress, the proposal has seen “remarkable progress”.“In the developed world we can make the mistake of seeing corruption as merely stealing money, but in fact political corruption kills more people than war and famine put together – 140,000 children a year, by our estimates.” -- Akaash Maharaj of GOPAC

“There are, of course, challenges to refining the concept of an IACC,” Wolf told a House of Representatives committee last week. “However, since July 2014 significant support has developed for meeting these challenges.”

Wolf reported ongoing meetings with U.S. officials and the World Bank, and reported that the new United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, has made the IACC proposal a “personal priority”. Hussein was a key force in the creation of the International Criminal Court, a potential model for the IACC.

This week, Wolf is addressing representatives of major global companies.

“American companies generally want to behave ethically and, in addition, are significantly deterred by the threat of prosecution,” Wolf stated. “They know they would benefit from the more level playing field an IACC would provide.”

Indeed, many say the speed with which the congressional committee moved to hold last week’s briefing is remarkable. It underscores a uniquely broad consensus, both domestically and internationally, around the need to crack down on what is referred to as “grand corruption” – the abuse of political office for personal gain.

Increasingly, this issue is being seen as less one of theft than of basic human rights.

“Today’s briefing seeks to foster an understanding that human rights and anti-corruption efforts are inseparable,” James McGovern, the member of Congress who chaired the committee’s discussions, stated in opening remarks.

“Currently, there is a lack of reference to human rights in international anti-corruption commitments and, conversely, the lack of reference to corruption in international human rights instruments.”

140,000 children a year

Grand corruption is today thought to eat up more than five percent of global gross domestic product. According to estimates cited by Judge Wolf, illicit financial flows out of developing countries are 10 times larger than the foreign assistance those countries receive – losses that have direct human consequences.

“In the developed world we can make the mistake of seeing corruption as merely stealing money, but in fact political corruption kills more people than war and famine put together – 140,000 children a year, by our estimates,” Akaash Maharaj, the executive director of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC), told IPS.

“If a political actor were to kill that many people, there would be very few people who wouldn’t say that we have to deal with this problem. But those who bring about human suffering through political corruption are no less guilty.”

GOPAC, which includes legislators from almost every country, has been mobilising around the need for concerted international action against corruption for the past three years. Maharaj says that his organization’s membership has lost faith in the ability of many countries to deal with political corruption at the national level.

While there are international mechanisms that threaten penalties for egregious human rights abuse, for the most part corruption continues to fall into a nebulous zone of national responsibility. Existing multilateral agreements, including the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which came into effect in 2003, lack substantive enforcement mechanisms.

Yet while anti-corruption legislation exists in almost every country, advocates note that many of the most corrupt officials are often able to use their wealth and power to subvert these laws. These figures are typically the least likely to face domestic justice, and thus can come to expect impunity.

“There are certain crimes so beyond the pale and beyond state capacity to prosecute that it becomes appropriate for the international community and for international law to become engaged. Certainly the harm grand corruption causes in many developing countries is enormous,” Zorka Milin, a legal adviser with Global Witness, a watchdog group, told IPS.

“An international court would be a good mechanism for trying to translate that momentum into meaningful accountability, which we haven’t really seen so far. It’s important to frame the discussion in terms of ending impunity, and this court would be one piece of that, together with other legal anticorruption tools at the domestic level.”

Under Wolf’s proposal, an IACC would be mandated to investigate and prosecute officials from countries that are unable or unwilling to undertake such actions on their own. He suggests making acceptance of the proposed court’s jurisdiction a pre-condition for membership under the Convention Against Corruption or at the World Trade Organisation, or for obtaining loans from multilateral banks.

Inevitable, unclear action

The global discussion today is increasingly conducive to some sort of concerted global action against political corruption. In part, this trend is driven by strengthened concern around the effects that tax evasion is having on public coffers in both developed and developing countries.

“Unquestionably, there is today more momentum and awareness on the issue of grand corruption, and that’s the major reason these issues are rising on the international agenda,” Milin says.

GOPAC’s Maharaj agrees. “I’m struck by the extraordinary level of consensus across the world,” he says. “This is absolutely inevitable. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”

Exactly what should be done about the issue, however, remains highly contentious. There are multiple potential options, after all, with an international court being just one.

Others include expanding the purview of the International Criminal Court or other regional human rights courts. Likewise, the jurisdiction of national judicial systems could be enlarged to be able to deal with allegations of corruption in other countries.

Another possibility could be to coordinate national legislation – and priority – in developed countries, aimed at seizing the assets of or denying visas to corrupt officials. While this would not result in jail time, it would make it harder to spend ill-gotten wealth while simultaneously emphasising international disapproval.

Importantly, some countries have become increasingly aggressive in this regard in recent years, particularly the United States and Switzerland. Watchdog groups say these nascent initiatives are important and already having impact.

“Over the last eight years there’s been growing official action against kleptocracy in the U.S. and elsewhere,” Arvind Ganesan, the head of the business and human rights programme at Human Rights Watch, told IPS.

“Strengthening those efforts now – meaning fully resourcing and expanding them, and pushing other countries to put in place similar policies – will build momentum towards an International Anti-Corruption Court.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

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Can China’s Silk Road Vision Coexist with a Eurasian Union?http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/can-chinas-silk-road-vision-coexist-with-a-eurasian-union/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-chinas-silk-road-vision-coexist-with-a-eurasian-union http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/can-chinas-silk-road-vision-coexist-with-a-eurasian-union/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 00:03:26 +0000 Chris Rickleton http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137833 Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a signing ceremony of bilateral documents during the APEC summit in Beijing on Nov. 9. The two big powers are looking separately toward Central Asia to expand trade, economic, and political relations. Credit:  Russian Presidential Press Service

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a signing ceremony of bilateral documents during the APEC summit in Beijing on Nov. 9. The two big powers are looking separately toward Central Asia to expand trade, economic, and political relations. Credit: Russian Presidential Press Service

By Chris Rickleton
BISHKEK, Nov 20 2014 (EurasiaNet)

There is a good chance that economic jockeying between China and Russia in Central Asia will intensify in the coming months. For Russia, Chinese economic expansion could put a crimp in President Vladimir Putin’s grand plan for the Eurasian Economic Union.

Putin has turned to China in recent months, counting on Beijing to pick up a good portion of the trade slack created by the rapid deterioration of economic and political relations between Russia and the West. Beijing for the most part has obliged Putin, especially when it comes to energy imports. But the simmering economic rivalry in Central Asia could create a quandary for bilateral relations.At the APEC gathering, Xi and Putin were all smiles as they greeted each other, dressed in summit attire that was likened by journalists and observers to Star Trek-style uniforms. Yet, the public bonhomie concealed a “complicated relationship."

Chinese President Xi Jinping elaborated on Beijing’s expansion plans, dubbed the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, prior to this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which concluded Nov. 12.

The plan calls for China to flood Central Asia with tens of billions of dollars in investment with the aim of opening up regional trade. Specifically, Xi announced the creation of a 40-billion-dollar fund to develop infrastructure in neighbouring countries, including the Central Asian states beyond China’s westernmost Xinjiang Province.

An interactive map published on Chinese state media outlet Xinhua shows Central Asia at the core of the proposed Silk Road belt, which beats a path from the Khorgos economic zone on the Chinese-Kazakhstani border, through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, before snaking into Uzbekistan and Iran. Turkmenistan, already linked to China by a web of pipelines, would not have a hub on the main route.

The fund’s aim is to “break the bottleneck in Asian connectivity by building a financing platform,” Xi told journalists in Beijing on Nov. 8. Such development is badly needed in Central Asia, where decaying Soviet-era infrastructure has hampered trade among Central Asian states, and beyond.

No matter the need, Russia, which is busy promoting a more protectionist economic solution for the region in the form of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), may not share Beijing’s enthusiasm for the Silk Road initiative.

At the APEC gathering, Xi and Putin were all smiles as they greeted each other, dressed in summit attire that was likened by journalists and observers to Star Trek-style uniforms. Yet, the public bonhomie concealed a “complicated relationship,” according to Bobo Lo, an associate fellow at the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House.

The Silk Road Economic Belt is a case in point, explained Lo. The “mega project”, much like the original Silk Road, could eventually encompass several routes and benefit Russia’s own infrastructurally challenged east, he noted. But it might well dilute Russian influence in its traditional backyard of Central Asia.

“If you are sitting in Moscow, you are hoping that Russia will be the main trunk line [of the belt], but it seems likely it will be more of an offshoot,” said Lo. “[The belt’s] main thrust will be through Central and South Asia.”

Chinese leaders are intent on linking their Silk Road initiative to a broader project, the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), which they touted during the APEC gathering.

FTAAP and the Silk Road Economic Belt, along with a similar strategic plan called the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, are pro-trade in the broadest sense, seeking to break “all sorts of shackles in the wider Asia-Pacific region to usher in a new round of higher level, deeper level of opening up,” according to Li Lifan, an associate research professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Under the Chinese vision, its “grand idea” would seek to “absorb the Eurasian economic integration [project] led by Russia,” Li told EurasiaNet.org via email.

In contrast to the expansive Chinese vision for Eurasia, early evidence suggests a Russia-led union, with its tight border controls and levied tariffs, could end up stifling cross-border trade among members and non-members. Under such conditions, Central Asian states could experience a decline in their current level of trade with China. The existing Kremlin-dominated Customs Union is set to evolve into the Eurasian Economic Union on Jan. 1.

At least since the build-up to the 2013 summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a Central Asia-focused security organisation of which China and Russia are both members, Beijing has been very public about wielding its economic might in the region. Back then, Xi jetted across the region speaking of the belt for the first time as he signed deals worth tens of billions of dollars, most notably energy contracts with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Ever since, discussions of how to turn the belt into a reality have been uncomfortable. Moscow is reportedly steadfastly opposed to the idea of turning the SCO – which also comprises all four Central Asian countries positioned along the proposed belt’s route – into an economic organisation.

Uzbekistan has refused to join the Customs Union, which also excludes China. But the Kremlin expects Kyrgyzstan to join at the beginning of next year and Tajikistan to follow. Currently, the bloc’s only members other than Russia are Kazakhstan and Belarus.

For countries that have already been on the receiving end of Chinese largesse, the prospect of deeper economic integration with Russia may begin to seem like a limitation.

During a Nov. 7 meeting in Beijing ahead of the APEC summit, Xi and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon signed agreements securing Chinese credit for a railway to connect Tajikistan’s north and south, a new power plant and local agricultural projects. They also agreed on investments for the state-owned aluminium smelter Talco, an entity that once enjoyed close ties with the Russian conglomerate RusAl. Bilateral trade for the first eight months of this year increased by 40 percent compared with the same period last year, reaching 1.5 billion dollars.

“If we compare something like the Customs Union to the Silk Road Economic Belt, then of course the belt is preferable for Tajikistan,” Muzaffar Olimov, director of the Sharq analytical centre in Dushanbe, told EurasiaNet.org in a telephone interview. Tajikistan “has not decided” if it wants to join the economic bloc [the EEU], he added.

Editor’s note:  Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist. This story originally appeared on EurasiaNet.org.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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A Game-Changing Week on Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/a-game-changing-week-on-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-game-changing-week-on-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/a-game-changing-week-on-climate-change/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 00:55:41 +0000 Joel Jaeger http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137813 UN Climate Wall at COP 15, Copenhagen. Credit: Troels Dejgaard Hansen/cc by 2.0

UN Climate Wall at COP 15, Copenhagen. Credit: Troels Dejgaard Hansen/cc by 2.0

By Joel Jaeger
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 19 2014 (IPS)

- In recent days, two major developments have injected new life into international action on climate change.

At the G20 summit in Australia, the United States pledged 3 billion dollars and Japan pledged 1.5 billion dollars to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), bringing total donations up to 7.5 billion so far. The GCF, established through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will distribute money to support developing countries in mitigating and adapting to climate change."While the figures might sound big, they pale in comparison to the actual needs on the ground and to what developed countries spend in other areas – for instance, the U.S. spends tens of billions of dollars every year on fossil fuel subsidies.” -- Brandon Wu of ActionAid USA

The new commitments to the GCF came on the heels of a landmark joint announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, creating ambitious new targets for domestic carbon emissions reduction.

The United States will aim to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China will aim to reach peak carbon emissions around the year 2030 and decrease its emissions thereafter.

The two surprising announcements “really send a strong signal that both developed and developing countries are serious about getting to an ambitious climate agreement in 2015,” said Alex Doukas, a climate finance expert at the World Resources Institute, a Washington, DC think tank.

The GCF aims to be the central hub for international climate finance in the coming years. At an October meeting in Barbados, the basic practices of the GCF were firmly established and it was opened to funding contributions.

The 7.5 billion dollars that have been committed by 13 countries to the GCF bring it three quarters of the way to its initial 10-billion-dollar goal, to be distributed over the next few years. The gap may be closed on Nov. 20 at a pledging conference in Berlin. Several more countries are expected to announce their contributions, including the United Kingdom and Canada.

While the fund is primarily designed to aid developing countries, it has “both developed and developing country contributors,” Doukas told IPS. “Mexico and South Korea have already pledged resources, and other countries, including Colombia and Peru, that are not necessarily traditional contributors have indicated that they are going to step up as well.”

The decision-making board of the GCF is split evenly between developed and developing country constituencies.

“For a major, multilateral climate fund, I would say that the governance is much more balanced than previously,” Doukas said. “That’s one of the reasons for the creation of the Green Climate Fund, especially from the perspective of developing countries.”

As IPS has previously noted, the redistributive nature of the GCF acknowledges that the developing countries least responsible for climate change will often face the most severe consequences.

Advocates hope that the United States’ and Japan’s recent contributions will pave the way for more pledges on November 20th and a more robust climate finance system in general.

According to Jan Kowalzig, a climate finance expert at Oxfam Germany, the unofficial 10-billion-dollar goal for the GCF was set by developed countries, but developing countries have asked for at least 15 billion dollars.

The 10-billion-dollar goal is “an absolute minimum floor for what is needed in this initial phase,” he told IPS.

Brandon Wu, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA and one of two civil society representatives on the GCF Board, asserts that the climate finance efforts will soon need to be scaled up drastically.

“While the figures might sound big, they pale in comparison to the actual needs on the ground and to what developed countries spend in other areas – for instance, the US spends tens of billions of dollars every year on fossil fuel subsidies,” he told IPS.

The GCF may run into problems if countries attach caveats to their contributions, specifying exactly what types of activities they can be used for.

“Such strings are highly problematic as they run against the consensual spirit of the GCF board operations,” Kowalzig said.

He also warned that some of the contributions may come in the form of loans which need to be paid back instead of from grants.

After the pledging phase, much work remains to be done to establish a global climate finance roadmap towards 2020.

“The Green Climate Fund can and should play a major role,” Kowalzig said, “but the pledges, as important and welcome as they are, are only one component of what developed countries have promised to deliver.”

The other major development of the past week, Obama and Xi’s carbon emissions reduction announcement, also deserves both praise and scrutiny.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made clear the historic nature of the agreement.

“Two countries regarded for 20 years as the leaders of opposing camps in climate negotiations have come together to find common ground, determined to make lasting progress on an unprecedented global challenge,” he wrote.

While Barack Obama may be committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Congress has expressed reservations. Mitch McConnell, soon to be the Senate majority leader, has called the plan “unrealistic” and complained that it would increase electricity prices and eliminate jobs.

On the Chinese side, Xi’s willingness to act on climate change and peak carbon emissions by 2030 was a substantial transformation from only a few years ago.

Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, said in a press release that China’s announcement was “a major development,” but noted that a few years difference in when peak emissions occur could have a huge impact on climate change.

“Analysis shows that China’s emissions should peak before 2030 to limit the worst consequences of climate change,” he said.

Researchers have said that China’s emissions would have peaked in the 2030s anyway, and that a more ambitious goal of 2025 could have been possible.

Still, the agreement indicates a new willingness of the world’s number one and number two biggest carbon emitters to work together constructively, and raises hopes for successful negotiations in December’s COP20 climate change conference in Lima, Peru.

Héla Cheikhrouhou, executive director of the GCF, was unapologetically enthusiastic about the new momentum built in recent days.

“This week’s announcements will be a legacy of U.S. President Obama,” she announced. “It will be seen by generations to come as the game-changing moment that started a scaling-up of global action on climate change, and that enabled the global agreement.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Shale Oil Fuels Indigenous Conflict in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/shale-oil-fuels-indigenous-conflict-in-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shale-oil-fuels-indigenous-conflict-in-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/shale-oil-fuels-indigenous-conflict-in-argentina/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 16:57:06 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137811 Jorge Nahuel, a spokesman for the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén, in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region, complains that local indigenous communities were not consulted about the production of unconventional oil in their ancestral territories. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Jorge Nahuel, a spokesman for the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén, in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region, complains that local indigenous communities were not consulted about the production of unconventional oil in their ancestral territories. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
CAMPO MARIPE, Argentina, Nov 18 2014 (IPS)

The boom in unconventional fossil fuels has revived indigenous conflicts in southwest Argentina. Twenty-two Mapuche communities who live on top of Vaca Muerta, the geological formation where the reserves are located, complain that they were not consulted about the use of their ancestral lands, both “above and below ground.”

Albino Campo, ”logko” or chief of the Campo Maripe Mapuche community, is critical of the term “superficiary” – one to whom a right of surface occupation is granted – which was used in the oil contracts to describe the people living on the land, with whom the oil companies are negotiating.

“We are the owners of the surface, and of what is above and below as well. That is the ‘mapu’ (earth). It’s not hollow below ground; there is another people below,” he told IPS.

Nor is it hollow for the oil companies, although the two conceptions are very different.

Three thousand metres below Campo Maripe lies one of the world’s biggest reserves of shale gas and oil.

The land that the community used for grazing is now part of the Loma Campana oilfield, operated by the state-run YPF oil company in partnership with U.S. oil giant Chevron.

“More or less 160 wells have been drilled here,” Campo said. “When they reach 500 wells, we won’t have any land for our animals. They stole what is ours.”“The company should respect our constitutionally recognised right to participate in the management of natural resources. Those rights have been completely violated by the oil company’s arrival.” – Mapuche leader Jorge Nahuel

Because of the urgent need to boost production, YPF started a year ago to make roads and drill wells in the Campo Campana oilfield in the southern Patagonian province of Neuquén.

The Mapuche chief and his sister Mabel Campo showed IPS what their lands had turned into, with the intense noise and dust from the trucks continuously going back and forth to and from the oilfield.

They carry machinery, drill pipes and the products used in hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a highly criticised technique in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure to fracture the shale and release natural gas and oil trapped in the underground rocks.

“They say fracking and everything aboveground doesn’t pollute…maybe it’ll be a while but we’ll start seeing cancer, skin cancer, because of all the pollution, and we’ll also die of thirst because there won’t be any water to drink,” said Mabel Campo.

YPF argues that it negotiated with the provincial government to open up the oilfield, because it is the government that holds title to the land.

However, “we try to have the best possible relations with any superficiary or pseudo superficiary or occupant, in the areas where we work, Mapuches or not,” YPF-Neuquén’s manager of institutional relations, Federico Calífano, told IPS.

The families of Campo Maripe have not obtained title to their land yet, but they did score one major victory.

After protests that included chaining themselves to oil derricks, they got the provincial government to recognise them legally as a community in October.

“Registration as a legal entity leaves behind the official stance of denying the Mapuche indigenous identity, and now the consultation process will have to be carried out for any activity that affects the territory,” Micaela Gomiz, with the Observatory of Human Rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Patagonia (ODHPI), stated in a communiqué released by that organisation.

According to ODHIP, as of 2013 there were 347 Mapuche people charged with “usurpation” and trespassing on land, including 80 lawsuits filed in Neuquén and 60 cases in the neighbouring province of Río Negro.

In the case of Vaca Muerta, Jorge Nahuel, spokesman for the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén, told IPS that the local indigenous communities were not consulted, as required by International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which Argentina ratified 25 years ago.

Convention 169 requires prior consultation of local indigenous communities before any project is authorised on their land.

“What the state should do before granting concessions to land is to reach an agreement with the community over whether or not it is willing to accept such an enormous change of lifestyle,” he said.

Furthermore, said Nahuel, “the company should respect our constitutionally recognised right to participate in the management of natural resources. Those rights have been completely violated by the oil company’s arrival.”

The Mapuche leader said similar violations are committed in the soy and mining industries. “Indigenous people are seen as just another element of nature and as such they are trampled on,” he complained.

In this South American country of 42 million, nearly one million people identified themselves as indigenous in the last census, carried out in 2010. Most of them belong to the Mapuche and Colla communities, and live in Neuquén and two other provinces.

Nahuel noted that of nearly 70 Neuquén indigenous communities, only 10 percent hold legal title to their land.

“The logic followed by the state is that the weaker the documentation of land tenure, the greater the legal security enjoyed by the company,” he said. “It’s a perverse logic because what they basically believe is that by keeping us without land titles for decades, it will be easier for the companies to invade our territory.”

Some have cast doubt on the real interests of the Mapuche.

Luis Sapag, a lawmaker of the Neuquén Popular Movement, triggered the controversy last year when he remarked that “some of them have been doing good business…YPF didn’t go to the Mapuches’ land to set up shop….some Mapuches went to put their houses where YPF was operating, to get this movement started.”

“Until Loma Campana was developed, there were never any demands or complaints from a Mapuche community,” said YPF Neuquén’s manager of unconventional resources, Pablo Bizzotto, during a visit by IPS and correspondents from other international news outlets to the oilfield in the southwestern province of Neuquén.

Nahuel compared that reasoning to “the arguments used by the state when it invaded Mapuche territory, saying this was a desert, we got here, and then indigenous people showed up making demands and claims.

“They’re using the same logic here – first they raze a territory, and then they say: ‘But what is it that you’re demanding? We hadn’t even seen you people before’,” he said.

Nahuel said the production of shale gas and oil, an industry in which Argentina is becoming a global leader, poses “a much greater threat” than the production of conventional fossil fuels, which he said “already left pollution way down in the soil, and among all of the Mapuche families in the area.”

“It is an industry that has a major environmental and social – and even worse for us, cultural – impact, because it breaks down community life and destroys the collective relationship that we have with this territory, and has turned us into ‘superficiaries’ for the industry,” Nahuel said.

He added that as the drilling moves ahead, the conflicts will increase.

He said the country’s new law on fossil fuels, in effect since Oct. 31, will aggravate the problems because “it serves the corporations by ensuring them the right to produce for 50 years.”

The logko, Campo, said: “When YPF pulls out there will be no future left for the Mapuche people. What they are leaving us here is only pollution and death.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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G20 Seeks to Streamline Private Investment in Infrastructurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/g20-seeks-to-streamline-private-investment-in-infrastructure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g20-seeks-to-streamline-private-investment-in-infrastructure http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/g20-seeks-to-streamline-private-investment-in-infrastructure/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 02:00:43 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137803 Water pouring through the sluice gates at Gariep Dam in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Credit: Bigstock

Water pouring through the sluice gates at Gariep Dam in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Credit: Bigstock

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Nov 18 2014 (IPS)

Industrialised countries have agreed to collaborate on a new programme aimed at funnelling significant private-sector investment into global infrastructure projects, particularly in developing countries.

The Global Infrastructure Initiative, agreed to Sunday by governments of the Group of 20 (G20) countries, will not actually be funding new projects. But it will seek to create investment environments that are more conducive to major foreign investors, and to assist in connecting governments with financiers.In developing countries alone these needs could require up to a trillion dollars a year of additional investment, though currently governments are spending just half that amount.

The initiative’s work will be overseen at a secretariat in Australia, the host of this weekend’s G20 summit and a government that has made infrastructure investment a key priority. This office, known as the Global Infrastructure Hub, will foster collaboration between the public and private sectors as well as multilateral banks.

“With a four-year mandate, the Hub will work internationally to help countries improve their general investment climates, reduce barriers to investment, grow their project pipelines and help match investors with projects,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey said Sunday in a joint statement. “This will help improve how infrastructure markets work.”

Some estimate the undertaking could mobilise some two trillion dollars in new infrastructure investment over the next decade and a half. This would be available to be put into electrical grids, roads and bridges, ports and other major projects.

The G20 has emerged as the leading multilateral grouping tasked with promoting economic collaboration. Together, its membership accounts for some 85 percent of global gross domestic product.

With the broad aim of prompting global economic growth, the Global Infrastructure Initiative will work to motivate major institutional investors – banks, pension funds and others – to provide long-term capital to the world’s mounting infrastructure deficits. In developing countries alone these needs could require up to a trillion dollars a year of additional investment, though currently governments are spending just half that amount.

In recent years, the private sector has turned away from infrastructure in developing countries and emerging economies. Between 2012 and last year alone, such investments declined by nearly 20 percent, to 150 billion dollars, according to the World Bank.

“This new initiative very positively reflects a clear-eyed reading of the evidence that there are infrastructure logjams and obstacles in both the developing and developed world,” Scott Morris, a senior associate at the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank, told IPS. “From a donor perspective, this indicates better listening to what these countries are actually asking for.”

Still, Morris notes, it remains unclear what exactly the Global Infrastructure Initiative’s outcomes will be.

“The G20 clearly intends to prioritise infrastructure investment,” he says, “but it’s hard to get a sense of where the priorities are.”

Lucrative opportunity

The Global Infrastructure Initiative is the latest in a string of major new infrastructure-related programmes announced at the multilateral level in recent weeks.

In early October, the World Bank announced a project called the Global Infrastructure Facility, which appears to have a mandate very similar to the new G20 initiative. At the end of the month, the Chinese government announced the creation of a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Many have suggested that the World Bank and G20 announcements were motivated by China’s forceful entry onto this stage. As yet, however, there is little clarity on the G20 project’s strategy.

“With so many discreet initiatives suddenly underway, I wonder if the new G20 project doesn’t cause confusion,” Morris says.

“Right now it’s very difficult to see any division in responsibilities between the G20 and World Bank infrastructure projects. The striking difference between them both and the AIIB is that the Chinese are offering actual capital for investment.”

The idea for the new initiative reportedly came from a business advisory body to the G20, known as the Business 20 (B20). The B20 says it “fully supports” the new Global Infrastructure Initiative.

“The Global Infrastructure Initiative is a critical step in addressing the global growth and employment challenge, and the business community strongly endorses the commitments of the G20 to increase quality investment in infrastructure,” Richard Goyder, the B20 chair, said Monday.

“The B20 estimates that improving project preparation, structuring and delivery could increase infrastructure capacity by [roughly] 20 trillion dollars by 2030.”

Goyder pledged that the business sector would “look to be heavily involved in supporting” the new projects.

Poison pill?

Yet if global business is excited at the prospect of trillions of dollars’ worth of new investment opportunities, civil society is expressing concern that it remains unclear how, or whether, the Global Infrastructure Initiative will impose rules on the new projects to minimise their potential social or environmental impacts.

“Private investment in infrastructure is crucial for closing the infrastructure funding gap and meeting human needs, and the G20 initiative is an important move by governments to catalyse that private investment,” Lise Johnson, the head of investment law and policy at the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment at Columbia University, told IPS.

“It is key, however, that the initiative and the infrastructure hub develop procedures and practices not only to promote development of infrastructure, but to ensure that projects are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable for host countries and communities.”

Prominent multilateral safeguards policies such as those used by the World Bank are typically not applied to public-private partnerships, which will likely make up a significant focus of the G20’s new infrastructure push. Further, regulatory constraints could be too politically thorny for the G20 to forge new agreement.

“In the 2013 assessment of the G20’s infrastructure initiative by the G20 Development Working Group, only one item of the whole infrastructure agenda ‘stalled’ – and that was the work on environmental safeguards,” Nancy Alexander, director of the Economic Governance Program at the Heinrich Boell Foundation, a think tank, told IPS.

“I’ve always gotten the feedback from the G20 that such policies are matters of national sovereignty.”

The G20 is now hoping that trillions of dollars in infrastructure spending will create up to 10 million jobs over the next 15 years, spurring global economic growth. Yet Alexander questions whether this spending will be a “magic bullet” or a “poison pill”.

“Some of us are old enough to remember how recklessly the petrodollars of the 1970s and 1980s were spent – especially on infrastructure … Then, reckless lenders tried to turn a quick profit without regard to the social, environmental and financial consequences, including unpayable debts,” she says.

“Seeing the devastation wrought by poorly conceived infrastructure, many of us worked to create systems of transparency, safeguards and recourse at the multilateral development banks – systems that are now considered too time-consuming, expensive and imperialistic.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

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How a Small Tribe Turned Tragedy into Opportunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/how-a-small-tribe-turned-tragedy-into-opportunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-a-small-tribe-turned-tragedy-into-opportunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/how-a-small-tribe-turned-tragedy-into-opportunity/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 11:59:20 +0000 Malini Shankar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137736 An Irula couple fishes in the creeks of the Pichavaram Mangrove Forest in Tamil Nadu. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

An Irula couple fishes in the creeks of the Pichavaram Mangrove Forest in Tamil Nadu. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

By Malini Shankar
PICHAVARAM, India, Nov 13 2014 (IPS)

When the Asian tsunami washed over several Indian Ocean Rim countries on Boxing Day 2004, it left a trail of destruction in its wake, including a death toll that touched 230,000.

Millions lost their jobs, food security and traditional livelihoods and many have spent the last decade trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. But for a small tribe in southern India, the tsunami didn’t bring devastation; instead, it brought hope.

Numbering some 25,000 people, the Irulas have long inhabited the Nilgiri Mountains in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and have traditionally earned a living by ridding the farmland of rats and snakes, often supplementing their meagre income by working as daily wage agricultural labourers in the fields.

“If we were not included in the [Scheduled Tribes] List we would never have benefited from [development] schemes. We would have remained hunter-gatherers, eating rats and hunting snakes." -- Nagamuthu, an Irula tribesman and tsunami survivors
Now, on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the tsunami, the Irulas in Tamil Nadu are a living example of how sustainable disaster management can alleviate poverty, while simultaneously preserving an ancient way of life.

Prior to 2004, the Irula people laboured under extremely exploitative conditions, earning no more than 3,000 rupees (about 50 dollars) each month. Nutrition levels were poor, and the community suffered from inadequate housing and sanitation facilities.

But when the giant waves receded and NGOs and aid workers flocked to India’s southern coast to rebuild the flattened, sodden landscape, the Irulas received more than just a hand-out.

They were finally included on the government’s List of Scheduled Tribes, largely thanks to the efforts of a government official named G.S. Bedi from the tsunami-ravaged coastal district of Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu.

Inclusion on the list enabled the community to become legal beneficiaries of state-sponsored developmental schemes like the Forest Rights Act and other sustainable fisheries initiatives, thereby improving their access to better housing, and bringing greater food and livelihood security.

More importantly, community members say, the post-tsunami period has marked a kind of revival among Irulas, who are availing themselves of sustainable livelihood schemes to conserve their environment while also increasing their wages.

Bioshields conservation – the way forward for sustainable development

Under the aegis of the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Irulas are now part of a major livelihood scheme that has boosted monthly earnings seven-fold, to roughly 21,000 rupees or about 350 dollars in the Pichavaram Mangrove Forest of Tamil Nadu where their traditional homes are located.

Some 180 Irula families are directly benefitting from training programmes and subsidies granted to their tribal cooperatives, also known as self-help groups.

Members of the tribe are sharpening their skills at fishing, sustainable aquaculture and crab fattening, gradually moving further and further away from a life of veritable servitude to big landowners.

Perhaps most importantly, Irulas are incorporating mangrove protection and conservation into their daily lives, a step they see as necessary to the long-term survival of the entire community.

Indeed, it was the Pichavaram Mangrove Forest, located close to the town of Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, that spared the community massive loss of life during the tsunami, protecting some 4,500 Irulas, or 900 families, from the full impact of the waves.

Snuggled between the Vellar estuary in the north and Coleroon estuary in the south, the Pichavaram forest spans some 1,100 hectares, its complex root system and inter-tidal ecosystem offering a sturdy barrier against seawater intrusion, waves and flooding.

According to statistics provided by Dr. Sivakumar, a marine biologist with the MSSRF in Chennai, the unlucky few who perished in the tsunami were those who were caught outside of the ecosystem’s protective embrace – some seven people from the Kannagi Nagar and Pillumedu villages, as well as 64 people who were stranded on the MGR Thittu, both located on sandbars devoid of mangroves.

The experience opened many tribal members’ eyes to the inestimable value of mangroves and their own vulnerability to the vagaries of the sea, sparking a grassroots-level conservation effort under the provisions of India’s Forest Rights Act.

“Until we were enlisted in the Scheduled Tribes List we did not know our rights, we were neither successful as hunter-gatherers nor as daily wage agricultural labourers,” says 55-year-old Pichakanna, an Irula tribal man who has happily exchanged agricultural employment for fishing and aquaculture activities that allow him to participate in mangrove conservation efforts in Tamil Nadu.

His salary now comes from prawn farming in the biodiverse mangrove forests, he tells IPS.

Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, chairman of the MSSRF, believes that “by conserving mangrove forests [we are] protecting the most productive coastal ecosystem that guarantees […] livelihood and ecological security.

“Bioshields are an indispensable part of Disaster Risk Resilience,” he adds.

This union between job creation and disaster management has been a stroke of unprecedented good fortune for the Irula people.

Thirty-three-year-old Nagamuthu, an Irula member whose parents – hailing from the Pichavaram forests – survived the tsunami, tells IPS, “If we were not included in the [Scheduled Tribes] List we would never have benefited from [development] schemes. We would have remained hunter-gatherers, eating rats and hunting snakes.

“Now we have developed a mangrove plantation on forest land granted to us by the government, and the Forest Rights Act has also given us fishing rights in the Protected Area of the Pichavaram Mangroves.”

Such developments are crucial at a time when mangroves are disappearing fast. According to a new study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “mangroves are being destroyed at a rate three to five times greater than the average rates of forest loss.”

By 2050, South Asia could lose as much as 35 percent of its mangroves that existed in 2000. Emissions resulting from such losses make up about a fifth of deforestation-related global carbon emissions, the report says.

Irulas now harvest minor forest produce from the rich waters around the mangroves, such as clusters of natural pearl oysters, which are very high in protein, for their own consumption.

“We have also learnt the skill of crab trapping, and we have installed crab fattening devices close to our homes deep in the mangrove creeks,” Nagamuthu tells IPS. “This has helped us carve out a sustainable livelihood.”

Tribe members have also been taught to dig canals in the eco-friendly ‘fish bone’ pattern that helps bring tidal creeks directly to their doorstep, where they can catch fresh fish for breakfast.

This canal system, now recommended by the Government of India, also helps in decreasing soil salinity, prevents mangrove degradation, and improves fish yields.

This, in turn, has improved livelihood security. Coupled with the acquisition of new and improved equipment – such as nets, boats, oars, engines, hooks and traps – many fisher families have completely turned their lives around.

Residents of villagers such as Killai, Pillumedu, Kannaginagar, Kalaingar, Vadakku, T.S. Pettai, and Pichavaram have now created a community fund that gathers 30 percent of each families’ monthly income; the savings have been used to construct a village temple, a school and drinking water facilities for 900 families from some seven villages.

Pichakanna, who is now the village elder for the newly established MGR Nagar Township, tells IPS proudly that the community fund has also helped establish an ‘early warning helpline’, which uses voice SMS technology to inform fisherfolk about wave height and wind direction, as well as provide six-hourly weather forecasts and early warnings of approaching cyclones.

A voice SMS broadcast aimed at women also passes on information about health and hygiene, maternity benefits and minimum wages.

While heads of states and development experts fly around the world to discuss the post-2015 ‘sustainable development’ agenda, here in Pichavaram, a forgotten tribe is already practicing a new way of life – and they are pointing the way forward to a sustainable future.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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How SADC is Fighting Wildlife Crimehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/how-sadc-is-fighting-wildlife-crime/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-sadc-is-fighting-wildlife-crime http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/how-sadc-is-fighting-wildlife-crime/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 10:10:55 +0000 Mabvuto Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137719 South Africa’s white rhinoceros recovered from near-extinction thanks to intense conservation efforts. Credit: Kanya D’Almeida/IPS

South Africa’s white rhinoceros recovered from near-extinction thanks to intense conservation efforts. Credit: Kanya D’Almeida/IPS

By Mabvuto Banda
LILONGWE, Nov 12 2014 (IPS)

“We are underpaid, have no guns and in most instances are outnumbered by the poachers,” says Stain Phiri, a ranger at Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve — a 986 km reserve said to have the most abundant and a variety of wildlife in Malawi —  which also happens to be one of the country’s biggest game parks under siege by poachers.

Phiri’s fears probably sum up the reason why there has been a surge in poaching of elephants tusks and rhino horns in southern Africa in recent years.

“We can’t fight the motivated gangs of poachers who are heavily armed and ready to kill anyone getting in their way,” Phiri tells IPS.

He says he is paid a monthly field allowance equivalent to about 20 dollars dollars, which is not enough to take care of his family of six.

“My colleagues and I risk our lives everyday protecting wildlife and it seems we are not appreciated because even when we arrest poachers, the police release them,” says Phiri.

Malawi’s Wildlife Act, he says, also needs serious amendments to empower and protect ranges and to also impose stiffer penalties if the government is serious about tackling wildlife crimes.

Phiri’s story resonates across southern Africa and gives insight into the challenges the region is facing maintaining transfrontier parks and managing wildlife crime.

TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network that looks at trade in animals and plants globally, says well-equipped, sufficiently resourced rangers are needed on the ground to protect the animals and prevent poaching in the first instance.

Dr Richard Thomas, the global communications co-ordinator of TRAFFIC, tells IPS that most countries in southern Africa have increasingly become the target for poachers because it is a region that has the most rhino and elephants in the world.

“Southern Africa is home to more rhinos than any other region in the world, with around 95 percent of all white rhino and 40 percent of all black rhino,” he says.

According to TRAFFIC, 25,000 African elephants were killed in 2011, while 22,000 were killed in 2012 and just over 20,000 in 2013. This, TRAFFIC says, is out of a population estimated between 420,000 and 650,000.

Last year, Zambia lost a total of 135 elephants to poaching. In 2012 the country lost 124 elephants and in 2011 96 elephants were killed by poachers, according Zambian Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo.

The same is true for Mozambique. The country’s local media have quoted Tourism Minister Carvalho Muaria as saying that the elephant population has declined by about half since the early 1970s. There are currently only about 20,000 left.

The Niassa Reserve, an area of 42,000 square km and home to about two-thirds of Mozambique’s elephants, now has about 12,000 elephants. Poachers killed 500 elephants last year and have wiped out Mozambique’s rhinos, Muaria says.

TRAFFIC says between 2007 and 2013 rhino poaching increased by 7,700 percent on the continent. There are only estimated to now be 5,000 black rhino and 20,000 white rhino.

Last month, South Africa reported that it had lost 558 rhinos to poachers so far this year.

But not all hope is lost. Southern Africa is responding to the threats to its wildlife by collaborating between countries that share borders and protected areas for wildlife.

A case in point is this year’s anti-poaching agreement between Mozambique and South Africa, which aims to stop rhino poaching mostly in the Kruger National Park, which shares a border with Mozambique. The two countries agreed to share intelligence and jointly develop anti-poaching techniques to curb rhino poaching.

Mozambique, said to be a major transit route for rhino horn trafficked to Asia, this year approved a new law that will impose heavy penalties of up to 12 years on anyone found guilty of poaching rhino.

“Previous laws didn’t penalise poaching, but we think this law will discourage Mozambicans who are involved in poaching,” Muaria tells IPS.

South Africa, according to press reports, is also considering legalising the rhino horn trade in an attempt to limit illegal demand by allowing the sale of horns from rhino that have died of natural causes.

Ten years ago the 15-member SADC regional block established the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR) directorate. Since then regional protocols, strategies and programmes have been developed and passed, among them the SADC Transboundary Use and Protection of Natural Resources Programme.

Under the SADC Transboundary Use and Protection of Natural Resources Programme is the Regional Transfrontier Conservation Area Programme (TFCA) and Malawi and Zambia have benefited from this arrangement so far.

Malawi’s Minister of Tourism and Wildlife Kondwani Nakhumwa tells IPS that the Nyika Transfrontier Conservation Area project has helped reduce poaching in Nyika National Park, the country’s biggest reserve.

The Malawi-Zambia TFCA includes the Nyika-North Luangwa component in Zambia situated on a high undulating montane grassland plateau rising over 2000m above the bushveld and wetlands of the Vwaza Marsh.

During summer a variety of wild flowers and orchids bloom on the highlands, making it one of Africa’s most scenic views unlike any seen in most other game parks.

“Through the project, Vwaza has managed to confiscate 10 guns, removed 322 wire snares and arrested 32 poachers,” Nakhumwa tells IPS.

Humphrey Nzima, the international coordinator for the Malawi-Zambia TFCA, says that since the project was launched there has been a general increase in animal populations.

“Significant increases were noted for elephant, hippo, buffalo, roan antelope, hartebeest, zebra, warthog and reedbuck,” says Nzima citing surveys conducted in the Vwaza Marsh and Nyika national park.

The escalating poaching crisis and conflicts on the ground occurring in many national parks across Africa will be one of the topics of discussion at this year’s International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress 2014, which is currently taking place in Sydney, Australia.

“In Sydney, we will tackle these issues in the search of better and fairer ways to conserve the exceptional natural and cultural richness of these places,” says Ali Bongo Ondimba, president of Gabon and patron of the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

Edited by: Nalisha Adams

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U.N. Chief Eyes Upcoming Summits to Resolve Development Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/u-n-chief-eyes-upcoming-summits-to-resolve-development-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-chief-eyes-upcoming-summits-to-resolve-development-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/u-n-chief-eyes-upcoming-summits-to-resolve-development-crisis/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 18:31:42 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137713 IPS U.N. Bureau Chief Thalif Deen interviews Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands/IPS

IPS U.N. Bureau Chief Thalif Deen interviews Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 11 2014 (IPS)

The continued widespread economic recession – aggravated by the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa – is threatening to undermine the U.N.’s highly-touted post-2015 development agenda.

Still, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is placing his trust and confidence on two key upcoming summit meetings: a G20 gathering of world leaders in Brisbane, Australia later this week, and the International Conference on Financing for Development (ICFD) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next July.

In an interview with IPS, just before his departure to Brisbane, he described the G20 as “the world’s primary global economic forum”, while the ICFD, he predicted, will be “one of the most important conferences in shaping sustainable development goals (SDGs).”

Ban has already cautioned world leaders of the urgent need for “a robust financial mechanism” to implement the proposed SDGs – and such a mechanism, he said, should be put in place long before the adoption of these goals in September 2015.

In a letter to G20 leaders, he says the successful implementation of the growth and sustainable development agendas will depend largely on mobilising “all sources of financing”.

“It is difficult to depend on public funding alone,” he told IPS, stressing the need for financing from multiple sources – including public, private, domestic and international.

The G20, a rare mix of both developed and developing countries, includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus the European Union.

Overall, the G20 represents about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85 per cent of global gross domestic product and over 75 per cent of global trade.

The G20 president, this time around Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, usually invites several guest countries to participate in the summit. The presidency rotates on a geographical basis.

The countries which previously hosted the G20 summit include the United States (in 2008 and 2009), the United Kingdom (2009), Canada (2010), the Republic of Korea (2010), France (2011), Mexico (2012) and Russia (2013).

At the meeting in Brisbane Nov. 15-16, Abbott will welcome Spain as a permanent invitee; Mauritania as the 2014 chair of the African Union; Myanmar as the 2014 chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN); Senegal, representing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development; New Zealand; and Singapore.

The ICFD, scheduled for July 2015, is billed as a U.N. conference and will be attended by all 193 member states.

Speaking of financing for development, Ban said official development assistance (ODA), from rich nations to poorer ones, “is necessary but not sufficient.”

According to the latest available statistics, only five countries – Norway (1.07 percent), Sweden (1.02), Luxembourg (1.00), Denmark (0.85) and the United Kingdom (0.72) – have reached the longstanding target of 0.7 of gross national income as ODA to the world’s poorer nations.

Meanwhile, the economic recession is taking place amidst the millions still living in hunger (over 800 million), jobless (more than 200 million), water-starved (over 750 million) and in extreme poverty (more than one billion), according to the United Nations.

Asked about a proposal for innovative sources of financing for development – including a tax on foreign exchange transactions – Ban said he has appointed a former French cabinet minister, Philippe Douster-Blazy, as his special adviser to explore these funding sources.

The proposal for innovative financing was approved at the 2002 ICFD in Mexico and it has raised about 2.0 billion dollars so far.

Ban’s most formidable task will be to ensure that rich countries deliver on their pledges, made in 2009, to provide a staggering 100 billion dollars by 2020 for a Green Climate Fund to prevent the most disastrous consequences of climate change.

“I need at least 10 billion dollars to operationalise the fund,” he said. So far, about 2.5 billion dollars have been made available.

Meanwhile, in his letter to the G20 leaders, Ban says new threats, including geopolitical tensions and the Ebola crisis, “have emerged to create further uncertainty” for the U.N.’s development agenda.

“The G20 Brisbane summit is well timed to provide the leadership that will translate into strong global growth and positive change in people’s lives,” he wrote. “Therefore, I urge you and your fellow leaders to seize the moment in Brisbane and set the stage for success in our shared work to build a more sustainable and prosperous world for all.”

The United Nations, he said, “stands ready to partner with you in your endeavour in Brisbane – and beyond.”

But a lingering question remains: how many of the world leaders will respond to the call?

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Why Are G20 Governments Subsidising Dangerous Climate Change?http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/why-are-g20-governments-subsidising-dangerous-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-are-g20-governments-subsidising-dangerous-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/why-are-g20-governments-subsidising-dangerous-climate-change/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 10:33:33 +0000 Shelagh Whitley http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137696 Governments continue to subsidise exploration for fossil fuels despite pledges to support the transition to clean energy. Credit: Flickr/Leszek Kozlowski

Governments continue to subsidise exploration for fossil fuels despite pledges to support the transition to clean energy. Credit: Flickr/Leszek Kozlowski

By Shelagh Whitley
LONDON, Nov 11 2014 (IPS)

Just a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave its starkest warning yet that the vast majority of existing oil, gas and coal reserves need to be kept in the ground, a new report reveals that governments are flagrantly ignoring these warnings and continuing to subsidise exploration for fossil fuels.

The report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Oil Change International (OCI) shows that G20 governments are propping up fossil fuel exploration to the tune of 88 billion dollars every year through national subsidies, investment by state owned enterprise and public finance.

Shelagh Whitley, Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

Shelagh Whitley, Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

And this is only a small part of total government support to producing and consuming fossil fuels, which is estimated at 775 billion dollars a year.

The G20 continues to provide these subsidies – mostly hidden from public view – in spite of repeated pledges to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, address climate change, and support the transition to clean energy.

The subsidies provided to exploration by the G20 alone are almost equivalent to total global support for clean energy (101 billion dollars), tilting the playing field towards oil, gas and coal.

The report also shows that G20 governments spend more than double what the top 20 private companies are spending to look for new oil, gas and coal reserves. This suggests that companies depend on public support for their exploration activities.“Fossil fuel exploration subsidies are fuelling dangerous climate change; this support is increasingly uneconomic; and oil, gas and coal will not address the energy needs of the poorest and most vulnerable”

As finding fossil fuels gets more risky, expensive and energy intensive, and the prices of oil, gas and coal continue to fall, companies are only likely to become more dependent on tax payers’ money to continue exploration.  This was also demonstrated by the recent request by the United Kingdom’s oil and gas industry for further tax breaks to address rising operating costs in the North Sea.

Some will claim that although these subsidies are uneconomic, exceptions can be made. After all, the arguments go, we need fossil fuels to provide energy access – and we can keep burning oil, gas and coal if we just use carbon capture and storage.

This simply isn’t true. Doing so will drive dangerous climate change, with the impacts falling first on the most vulnerable people in the poorest countries and regions.

First, when it comes to energy access, it is actually through clean energy that we will be able to provide heat and electricity to the poorest.

According to the International Energy Agency, most new investment needs to be in distributed energy, including in mini-grid and off-grid options that most often rely on renewable energy sources. If G20 governments redirected 49 billion dollars a year – just over half of what they currently provide in support to fossil fuel exploration – we could achieve universal energy access as soon as 2030.

Second, there has only been very limited application of carbon capture technology so far.

The first and only full-scale ‘commercial’ carbon capture and storage project, launched this year in Canada, relies on government subsidies and sells the captured carbon to the oil industry, which uses it to extract even more fossil fuels. It is not a sustainable model.

In short: fossil fuel exploration subsidies are fuelling dangerous climate change; this support is increasingly uneconomic; and oil, gas and coal will not address the energy needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.

The G20 countries have the resources to support a transition to clean energy. They can set an example for the world by shifting national subsidies, investment by state-owned enterprise and public finance away from fossil fuels and toward renewables and efficiency.

G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane this week must recognise this and make good on their existing pledges. Immediately phasing out fossil fuel exploration subsidies would be the right place to start.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Fishing for Peace in Koreahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/fishing-for-peace-in-korea/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fishing-for-peace-in-korea http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/fishing-for-peace-in-korea/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 10:21:38 +0000 John Feffer and Michal Witkowski http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137695 The disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) that forms the maritime border between North and South Korea in the Yellow Sea cuts through a number of small islands and winds through rich fishing grounds. Credit: lamoix/CC-BY-2.0

The disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) that forms the maritime border between North and South Korea in the Yellow Sea cuts through a number of small islands and winds through rich fishing grounds. Credit: lamoix/CC-BY-2.0

By John Feffer and Michal Witkowski
WASHINGTON, Nov 11 2014 (IPS)

Environmental problems, by their nature, don’t respect borders. Air and sea pollution often affect countries that had nothing to do with their production. Many extreme weather events, like typhoons, strike more than one country. Climate change affects everyone.

These environmental problems can aggravate existing conflicts among countries. But they can also bring countries together in joint efforts to find solutions. A case in point is the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in Korea.

The NLL is the oft-disputed border between North and South Korea in the Yellow Sea off the west coast of the peninsula. Although the two countries agreed to a territorial boundary at the 38th parallel following the Korean War armistice, they have never agreed on the maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea, which threads between a number of islands and through rich fishing grounds.

Over the years, North and South Korea have exchanged artillery fire across the NLL, and naval vessels as well as fishing boats have clashed in the area on a number of occasions.

Various environmental challenges have only sharpened the conflict. But with a new imperative to address these environmental problems, the NLL can offer the two Koreas an opportunity to chart a new relationship for the 21st century.

Anatomy of a Dispute

North Korea maintains six naval squadrons on the [Northern Limit Line]. The North’s fleet consists of approximately 430 combat vessels. The South’s fleet is smaller in numbers, with about 120 ships and 70 aircraft. But it has the military edge, due to the size of the vessels and their technological superiority.
The NLL region has been a zone of contention between North and South Korea for more than six decades. It has been the site of several clashes between the Koreas.

Among the most notable are the naval confrontations of 1999 and 2002, the 2009 gunboat incident near Daecheong Island, the 2010 artillery shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, and the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean navy ship.

This maritime border is heavily militarised. North Korea maintains six naval squadrons there. According to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, the North’s fleet consists of approximately 430 combat vessels—around 60 percent of which are stationed around the coastal borders.

Due to the decline of the North Korean economy, the fleet mostly consists of smaller vessels used for covert operations and for escorting fishing boats around the NLL.

The South’s fleet is smaller in numbers, with about 120 ships and 70 aircraft. But it has the military edge, due to the size of the vessels and their technological superiority. It’s further reinforced by the presence of the U.S. Seventh Fleet in nearby Yokosuka, Japan.

South Korean troops, along with their American counterparts, carry out annual drills in the region, which always raise tensions along the disputed maritime border.

North Korea does not recognise the present border arrangement. Furthermore, the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) regime set by the U.N. – which grants states special resource exploration rights in a sea zone stretching 200 miles from their land borders – cannot be applied in a close-quarter situation such as the NLL.

The fishing zones that lie within the NLL are the source of fierce contention between both South and North Korea.

One of the major arguments that North Korea has made around the disputed NLL is that South Korea has access to the majority of fisheries within the current boundaries, while the North occupies far less territory than it potentially could.

When the NLL was being drawn up, the international standard for territorial water limits was three nautical miles; by the 1970s, however, 12 nautical miles became the norm. The North’s argument is that the current setting prevents it from accessing neighbouring sea areas, which, in Pyongyang’s view, should belong to the North.

Such a border set-up fails to acknowledge that small islands, such as Yeonpyeong Island, are not equivalent to continental masses in terms of generating maritime boundaries.

Environmental issues

Overfishing and other destructive fishing practices that have continued for decades have had perhaps the greatest impact on the NLL’s environmental situation. Such activities have caused habitat destruction and biomass change in the Yellow Sea.

For instance, due to overfishing between the 1960s and the 1980s, the number of invertebrates and fish dropped by over 40 percent. With the decrease in fish populations, more effort is required to maintain the desired catch capacity, and many commercially significant species have been severely depleted. As a result, the species composition and the relative proportions of the fish found in the region have been altered.

One country alone cannot ensure the region’s sustainability. The trans-boundary nature of these issues requires a cooperative approach.

The nature of the Yellow Sea – and in particular the seabed on which the NLL is located – limits water circulation, increasing the amount of harmful sediments and aggravating the quality of the water. This has decreased the sea’s ability to “cleanse itself,” making the area around the NLL even more vulnerable to pollution and the harmful effects of human activities on land.

Habitat depletion can greatly affect local communities as well as cause problems for the fishing industry. Development projects on the South Korean side have been a major factor in this process.

More than 30 percent of marshland fields have been lost in South Korea between 1975 and 2005 due to dam construction, embankment, and dikes. Rice paddy fields have been lost as a result of reclamation and the lowering of water tables in nearby lakes.

An ever-increasing market demand for seafood boosts the profitability of short-term-oriented fishing activities. Insufficient pollution prevention only aggravates the situation.

Possible Solutions

As a result of the tense security situation and the unresolved border – along with the lack of a peace treaty between the Koreas to formally end the Korean War – any sort of consensus on the matter of the NLL in the context of inter-Korean relations is difficult to achieve.

One proposed solution is the establishment of a joint fishing zone between the two countries. This zone would boost the North’s fishing industry and could serve as a start to a trust-building process between the neighbours.

Such a process would be based on increased economic cooperation in the NLL region that could lead to further improvements in relations and make future collaboration more likely.

The “Sunshine Policy,” a period of North-South engagement in the late 1990s and early 2000s, was an attempt at establishing such cooperation. In the negotiations regarding the NLL during that period, North Korea demanded changes in the border situation that had to be met before it could agree to participate in the 2007 inter-Korean summit.

The South reportedly agreed to this condition. However, the summit failed to bring any real closure to the matter: concrete decisions were left to be discussed in the future.

The overall framework dating back to the Sunshine Policy’s prime is still in place. For instance, the Kaesong Industrial Park – a joint North-South venture on the northern side of the DMZ – is still operational. Ties between the Koreas could be further enhanced by cooperation around the NLL region.

Some ideas have already been put forward and were initially agreed upon by both sides. In 2000, for example, the two countries came to an agreement along the maritime boundary on the east side of the peninsula where South Korean boats shared the profits from their squid fishing in Northern waters.

Also in 2000, the two sides agreed to create a special peace and cooperation zone around the west coast of the Korean Peninsula.

Another proposal was to combine a joint fishing zone with a common industrial complex in Haeju, a port city on the Northern side. Finally, the Koreas agreed to establish a “peace sea” from the island of Yeonpyeong right to the estuary of the Han River.

No military presence would be allowed in this area. With the South’s withdrawal from the Sunshine Policy framework under the right-wing President Lee Myung-Bak, however, the joint projects were put on hold.

A resuscitation of such joint projects could potentially move cooperation beyond the issue of the NLL to other areas of both business and policy-making. Two major obstacles would need to be overcome in order for such a solution to work.

First, an independent body to monitor the area would need to be appointed to prevent breaches of the agreement and to ensure that both parties follow environmental rules. This mechanism would have to recognise the specificity of the issues surrounding the NLL and formulate policies accordingly.

Second, the two sides would have to agree on a peaceful dispute resolution mechanism.

A universal solution that can resolve the NLL issue does not exist. A carefully devised policy that takes into account the political and economic tensions between the two Koreas may be the answer.

Importantly, the NLL would have to be gradually demilitarised to reduce the probability of any unwanted conflict that could destabilise the area. However, there is minimal possibility that the two countries will agree to reduce their military positions given that the two countries signed the armistice nearly six decades ago but never agreed on a peace treaty.

Thus, for such a solution to become possible, economic cooperation must come first.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS-Inter Press Service. Read the original version of this story here.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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As TPP Trade Talks Miss Third Deadline, Opponents Claim Momentumhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/as-tpp-trade-talks-miss-third-deadline-opponents-claim-momentum/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=as-tpp-trade-talks-miss-third-deadline-opponents-claim-momentum http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/as-tpp-trade-talks-miss-third-deadline-opponents-claim-momentum/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 00:53:49 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137691 Rally outside the TPP talks in Sydney, Oct. 25, 2014. Credit: SumOfUs/cc by 2.0

Rally outside the TPP talks in Sydney, Oct. 25, 2014. Credit: SumOfUs/cc by 2.0

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Nov 11 2014 (IPS)

For the third year in a row, government negotiators for 12 Pacific Rim countries have missed an internal deadline to reach agreement on a controversial U.S.-led trade deal.

And though negotiators for the accord, known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), say the process is nearing completion, critics of the deal are expressing optimism that both public opinion and political timing are increasingly against the deal.“TPP proponents know they’re under the clock. The resistance against the TPP is as strong as it’s ever been, and is only growing stronger.” -- Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign

“The reason the Obama administration keeps missing deadline after deadline, year after year, is that it’s pushing an extremely unpopular agenda that benefits a handful of big corporations at the expense of the economy, environment and public health in each TPP country and beyond,” Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of the Citizens Trade Campaign, an advocacy group that opposes the TPP, told IPS.

“People and parliaments across the Pacific Rim are starting to realise that the TPP would be bad news for their countries. That includes here in the U.S.”

TPP negotiators confirmed the news on Monday at a regional summit in Beijing. President Barack Obama’s administration, which has been spearheading the TPP talks, had set the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping as a key target for agreement.

President Obama has made the TPP a central part of his attempt to reorient the United States towards Asia – and to economically circumscribe China, which isn’t party to the talks. On Monday, the president himself was in Beijing, where he acknowledged that the TPP process now needed additional political pressure.

“During the past few weeks, our teams have made good progress in resolving several outstanding issues regarding a potential agreement. Today is an opportunity at the political level for us to break some remaining logjams,” the president told trade ministers in Beijing.

“To ensure that TPP is a success, we also have to make sure that all of our people back home understand the benefits for them – that it means more trade, more good jobs, and higher incomes for people throughout the region, including the United States.”

The president said the TPP talks have the possibility of resulting in a “historic achievement”. A statement released by the 12 countries party to the talks suggested that “the end” of the negotiations is “coming into focus”.

Yet disagreements remain, with media reports pointing to agricultural protectionism as proving to be particularly thorny. Others say that substantive frustration remains over a raft of disparate issues, many far from traditional trade concerns – including environmental impact, labour safeguards, medicinal pricing, patent rules and investors’ ability to circumvent national law, among other concerns.

In many ways, it is the broad scope of issues on which the TPP touches that is responsible for strengthening public concern. Now, with President Obama down to his final two years in office, critics are increasingly confident in their ability to stave off agreement.

With the U.S. 2016 president elections likely to heat up as early as the middle of next year, passage of any major trade agreement by U.S. lawmakers would be improbable until 2017 at the earliest.

“TPP proponents know they’re under the clock,” the Citizen Trade Campaign’s Stamoulis says. “The resistance against the TPP is as strong as it’s ever been, and is only growing stronger.”

Corporatist concerns

Last week’s national election here in the U.S. did change the discussion around one issue that would be key for any eventual TPP agreement: whether President Obama is allowed to negotiate unilaterally, or whether he would need Congress’s point-by-point approval of a proposed accord.

Because trade agreements typically touch on so many domestically sensitive issues, U.S. presidents in the past have asked for approval to negotiate without input from lawmakers. Such “fast track” authorities then allow Congress only a single up-or-down vote at the end of the process.

Yet due to concern among U.S. constituents over the potential impact of the TPP on the domestic economy, both houses of the U.S. Congress has been reluctant to approve President Obama’s requests for these authorities. Still, last week’s election some have suggested that this could change.

The issue could now come down to a debate that is taking place within the Republican Party, which increased its majority in the House of Representatives and in January will take over control of the Senate. Yet while the House has consistently opposed passage of fast track authorities for President Obama, the new Republican Senate leadership has suggested that such legislation could now be a key priority early next year.

“Most of [President Obama’s] party is unenthusiastic about international trade. We think it’s good for America,” Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate and the figure who will set the body’s agenda this coming year, said at a press conference following last week’s election.

“And the president and I discussed that … and I think he’s interested in moving forward. I said, ‘Send us trade agreements. We’re anxious to take a look at them.’”

The new potential movement on fast track authorities has sparked a furious debate among conservatives, particularly between those who have traditionally supported big business and those increasingly concerned about globalisation’s impact on U.S. workers. This division has strengthened since the 2008 economic downturn.

“It’s only in the past few years that we’ve seen a small cabal of internationalist, Big Business-allied Republicans emerge, and it is this corporatist wing that has pushed for free trade,” Curtis Ellis, a spokesperson with the American Jobs Alliance and executive director of ObamaTrade.com, a conservative watchdog site, told IPS.

“If we’re going to move all of our factories overseas, the American people are going to get stuck with the short end of stick. And really, even supporters of the TPP admit that it’s not about trade but rather about investment – about securing overarching global governance rules on investment.”

Indeed, of the TPP’s 29 proposed chapters, just five deal directly with trade, according to Public Citizen, a consumer interest group here.

“[T]he non-trade provisions would promote lower wages, higher medicine prices, more unsafe imported food, and new rights for foreign investors to demand payments from national treasuries over domestic laws they believe undermine the new TPP privileges they would gain,” Lori Wallach, the head of the group’s Global Trade Watch programme, said Monday.

“Despite the intense secrecy of the negotiations … many TPP nations have woken up to the fact that the deal now on offer would be damaging to most people, even if the large corporations pushing the deal might improve their profit margins.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

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A Fair Climate Treaty or None at All, Jamaica Warnshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/a-fair-climate-treaty-or-none-at-all-jamaica-warns/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-fair-climate-treaty-or-none-at-all-jamaica-warns http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/a-fair-climate-treaty-or-none-at-all-jamaica-warns/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 19:43:14 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137688 Huge boulders have been used to protect Jamaica's Palisadoes road which connects Port Royal and the Norman Manley International Airport. The road was previously blocked by storm surges. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Huge boulders have been used to protect Jamaica's Palisadoes road which connects Port Royal and the Norman Manley International Airport. The road was previously blocked by storm surges. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Nov 10 2014 (IPS)

As the clock counts down to the last major climate change meeting of the year, before countries must agree on a definitive new treaty in 2015, a senior United Nations official says members of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) “need to be innovative and think outside the box” if they hope to make progress on key issues.

Dr. Arun Kashyap, U.N. resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative for Jamaica, said AOSIS has a significant agenda to meet at the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Lima, Peru, and “it would be its creativity that would facilitate success in arriving at a consensus on key issues.”"We think that if we walk away it will send a strong signal. It is the first time that we have ever attempted such type of an action, but we strongly believe that the need for having a new agreement is of such significance that that is what we would be prepared to do.” -- Jamaica’s lead climate negotiator, Clifford Mahlung

Kashyap cited the special circumstances of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and their compelling need for adaptation and arriving at a viable mechanism to address Loss and Damage while having enhanced access to finance, technology and capacity development.

“A common agreed upon position that is acceptable across the AOSIS would empower the climate change division (in all SIDS) and reinforce its mandate to integrate implementation of climate change activities in the national development priorities,” Kashyap told IPS.

At COP17, held in Durban, South Africa, governments reached a new agreement to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases. They decided that the agreement with legal form would be adopted at COP21 scheduled for Paris in 2015, and parties would have until 2020 to enact domestic legislation for their ratification and entry into force of the treaty.

Decisions taken at COP19 in Warsaw, Poland, mandated the 195 parties to start the process for the preparation and submission of “Nationally determined Contributions”. These mitigation commitments are “applicable to all” and will be supported both for preparing a report of the potential activities and their future implementation.

The report should be submitted to the Secretariat during the first quarter of 2015 so as to enable them to be included in the agreement.

AOSIS is an inter-governmental organisation of low-lying coastal and small island countries established in 1990. Its main purpose is to consolidate the voices of Small Island Developing States to address global warming.

In October, Ngedikes “Olai” Uludong, the lead negotiator for AOSIS, outlined priorities ahead of the Dec. 1-12 talks.

She said the 2015 agreement must be a legally binding protocol, applicable to all; ambition should be in line with delivering a long term global goal of limiting temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees and need to consider at this session ways to ensure this; mitigation efforts captured in the 2015 agreement must be clearly quantifiable so that we are able to aggregate the efforts of all parties.

Uludong also called for further elaboration of the elements to be included in the 2015 agreement; the identification of the information needed to allow parties to present their intended nationally determined contributions in a manner that facilitates clarity, transparency, and understanding relative to the global goal; and she said finance is a fundamental building block of the 2015 agreement and should complement other necessary means of implementation including transfer of technology and capacity building.

Sixteen Caribbean countries are members of AOSIS. They have been meeting individually to agree on country positions ahead of a meeting in St. Kitts Nov. 19-20 where a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) strategy for the world climate talks is expected to be finalised.

But Jamaica has already signaled its intention to walk out of the negotiations if rich countries are not prepared to agree on a deal which will reduce the impacts of climate change in the Caribbean.

“We have as a red line with respect to our position that if the commitments with respect to reducing greenhouse gases are not of a significant and meaningful amount, then we will not accept the agreement,” Jamaica’s lead climate negotiator, Clifford Mahlung, told IPS.

“We will not accept a bad agreement,” he said, explaining that a bad agreement is one that does not speak adequately to reducing greenhouse gas emissions or the provision of financing for poorer countries. It is not yet a CARICOM position, he said, but an option that Jamaica would support if the group was for it.

“We don’t have to be part of the consensus, but we can just walk away from the agreement. We think that if we walk away it will send a strong signal. It is the first time that we have ever attempted such type of an action, but we strongly believe that the need for having a new agreement is of such significance that that is what we would be prepared to do,” Mahlung added.

The Lima talks are seen as a bridge to the agreement in 2015.

SIDS are hoping to get developed countries to commit to keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, but are prepared to accept a 2.0 degrees Celsius rise at the maximum. This will mean that countries will have to agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Jamaica’s climate change minister described the December COP20 meeting as “significant,” noting that “the decisions that are expected to be taken in Lima, will, no doubt, have far-reaching implications for the decisions that are anticipated will be taken next year during COP 21 in Paris, when a new climate agreement is expected to be formulated.”

Pickersgill said climate change will have devastating consequences on a global scale even if there are significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is clear to me that the scientific evidence that climate change is a clear and present danger is now even stronger. As such, the need for us to mitigate and adapt to its impacts is even greater, and that is why I often say, with climate change, we must change.”

But Pickersgill said there are several challenges for Small Island Developing States like Jamaica to adapt to climate change.

“These include our small size and mountainous terrain, which limits where we can locate critical infrastructure such as airports as well as population centres, and the fact that our main economic activities are conducted within our coastal zone, including tourism, which is a major employer, as well as one of our main earners of foreign exchange,” he said.

“The agriculture sector, and in particular, the vulnerability of our small farmers who are affected by droughts or other severe weather events such as tropical storms and hurricanes, and our dependency on imported fossil fuels to power our energy sources and drive transportation.”

Pickersgill told IPS on the sidelines of Jamaica’s national consultation, held here on Nov. 6, that his country’s delegation will, through their participation, work towards the achievement of a successful outcome for the talks.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at destinydlb@gmail.com

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Responding to Climate Change from the Grassroots Uphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/responding-to-climate-change-from-the-grassroots-up/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=responding-to-climate-change-from-the-grassroots-up http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/responding-to-climate-change-from-the-grassroots-up/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 19:09:08 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137651 By Desmond Brown
GUNTHORPES, Antigua, Nov 7 2014 (IPS)

As concern mounts over food security, two community groups are on a drive to mobilise average people across Antigua and Barbuda to mitigate and adapt in the wake of global climate change, which is affecting local weather patterns and by extension, agricultural production.

“I want at least 10,000 people in Antigua and Barbuda to join with me in this process of trying to mitigate against the effects of climate change,” Dr. Evelyn Weekes told IPS.

Bhimwattie Sahid picks a papaya in her backyard garden in Guyana. Food security is a growing concern for the Caribbean as changing weather patterns affect agriculture. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Bhimwattie Sahid picks a papaya in her backyard garden in Guyana. Food security is a growing concern for the Caribbean as changing weather patterns affect agriculture. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

“I am choosing the area of agriculture because that is one of the areas that will be hardest hit by climate change and it’s one of the areas that contribute so much to climate change.

“I plan to mobilise at least 10,000 households in climate action that involves waste diversion, composting and diversified ecological farming,” said Weekes, who heads the Aquaponics, Aquaculture and Agro-Ecology Society of Antigua and Barbuda.

She said another goal of the project is “to help protect our biodiversity, our ecosystems and our food security” by using the ecosystem functions in gardening as this would prevent farmers from having to revert to monocrops, chemical fertilisers and pesticide use.

Food security is a growing concern, not just for Antigua and Barbuda but all Small Island Developing States (SIDS), as changing weather patterns affect agriculture.

Scientists are predicting more extreme rain events, including flooding and droughts, and more intense storms in the Atlantic in the long term.

Weekes said the projects being proposed for smallholder farmers in vulnerable areas would be co-funded by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP).

“Our food security is one of the most precious things that we have to look at now and ecologically sound agriculture is what is going to help us protect that,” Weekes said.

“I am appealing to churches, community groups, farmers’ groups, NGOs, friendly societies, schools, etc., to mobilise their members so that we can get 10,000 or more people strong trying to help in mitigating and adapting to climate change.”

Dr. Weekes explained that waste diversion includes redirecting food from entering the Cooks landfill in a national composting effort.

“Don’t throw kitchen scraps in your garbage because where are they going to end up? They are going to end up in the landfill and will cause more methane to be released into the atmosphere,” she said.

Methane and carbon dioxide are produced as organic matter decomposes under anaerobic conditions (without oxygen), and higher amounts of organic matter, such as food scraps, and humid tropical conditions lead to greater gas production, particularly methane, at landfills.

As methane has a global warming potential 72 times greater than carbon dioxide, composting food scraps is an important mitigation activity. Compost can also help reconstitute degraded soil, thus boosting local agriculture.

Pamela Thomas, who heads the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), said her organisation recently received approval for climate smart agriculture projects funded by GEF.

“So we intend to do agriculture in a smart way. By that I mean protected agriculture where we are going to protect the plants from the direct rays of the sun,” Thomas, who also serves as Caribbean civil society ambassador on agriculture for the United Nations, told IPS.

“Also, we are going to be harvesting water…and we are going to use solar energy pumps to pump that water to the greenhouse for irrigation.”

CaFAN represents farmers in all 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. Initiated by farmer organisations across the Caribbean in 2002, it is mandated to speak on behalf of its membership and to develop programmes and projects aimed at improving livelihoods; and to collaborate with all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to the strategic advantage of its farmers.

“If a nation cannot feed itself, what will become of us?” argued Thomas, who said she wants to see more farmers moving away from the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides and begin to look towards organic agriculture.

Antigua and Barbuda led the Caribbean in 2013 as the biggest per capita food importer at 1,170 dollars, followed by Barbados at 1,126 dollars, the Bahamas at 1,106 dollars and St. Lucia at 969 dollars.

Besides the budget expense, import dependency is a source of vulnerability because severe hurricanes can interrupt shipments. As such, agriculture is an important area of funding for the GEF SGP.

GEF Chief Executive Officer Dr. Naoko Ishii, who met with the Caribbean delegation during the United Nations Conference on Small Islands Developing States held in Apia, Samoa from Sep. 1-4, had high praise for the community groups in the region.

“I was quite impressed by their determination to fight against climate change and other challenges,” Ishii told IPS. “I was also very much excited and impressed by them taking a more integrated approach than any other part of the world.”

The GEF Caribbean Constituency comprises Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname.

Ishii was also “quite excited” about the participation of eight countries in the Caribbean Challenge Initiative, a large-scale project spurred on by the Nature Conservancy, which has invested 20 million dollars in return for a commitment from Caribbean countries to support and manage new and existing protected areas.

Member countries must protect 20 percent of their marine and coastal habitats by 2020. The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Saint-Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint-Lucia, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda as well as Saint-Kitts and Nevis are already involved in the project.

Ishii said that a number of countries involved in the Caribbean Challenge have been granted GEF funds and there are four GEF projects supporting the Caribbean Challenge.

These are durable funding and management of marine ecosystems in five countries belonging to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS); building a sustainable national marine protected area network for the Bahamas; rethinking the national marine protected area system to reach financial sustainability in the Dominican Republic; and strengthening the operational and financial sustainability of the national protected area system in Jamaica.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at destinydlb@gmail.com

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Extractives Companies “Not Ready” for Transparency Requirementshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/extractives-companies-not-ready-for-transparency-requirements/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=extractives-companies-not-ready-for-transparency-requirements http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/extractives-companies-not-ready-for-transparency-requirements/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 22:12:45 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137641 Children playing in mining tailings in Morococha, Peru. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

Children playing in mining tailings in Morococha, Peru. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Nov 6 2014 (IPS)

The world’s largest corporations continue to publicise scant information about their global operations, according to new analysis that warns that extractives companies in particular are unprepared for pending disclosure requirements.

The findings come from the global watchdog Transparency International, which looked at 124 of the world’s largest companies. Using publicly available information, the researchers ranked each corporation based on three concerns: anti-corruption measures, transparency around global operations and subsidiaries, and disclosure of country-by-country and project-level finances.“Industry resistance to this kind of regulation has been pretty strong, so it’s not surprising that companies aren’t voluntarily disclosing this information and instead waiting until they’re forced to do so.” -- Alexandra Gillies

While the level of anti-corruption activities is relatively high and growing, the current state of the latter two metrics is far weaker. Indeed, the average score for country-by-country reporting, seen as a transparency lynchpin, is a dismal six percent – and 50 companies have scored zero.

In introducing the study on Wednesday, Transparency International’s chair, Jose Ugaz, noted that the power of multinational companies in today’s global economy rivals even the biggest countries.

“With greater economic power comes greater responsibility,” he said. “Bad corporate behaviour creates the corruption that causes poverty and instability.”

In general, British companies fare best in the new index, Chinese and Asian companies more broadly fare worst, and the U.S. technology sector receives special criticism for its lack of transparency. Transparency International has been reporting on corporate governance since 2008, with the last such study being released in 2012.

The weak results for country-by-country reporting, in particular, will worry anti-poverty advocates and proponents of public sector spending. Such disclosure would, for instance, allow governments to efficiently compare crossborder information with the aim of cutting down on tax evasion as well as outright theft of revenues.

Developing countries may have lost an estimated six trillion dollars in the decade before 2011 due to tax evasion and other shady financial dealings, according to the Washington watchdog group Global Financial Integrity.

“Domestic resource mobilisation is seen as key to unlock economic development,” Koen Roovers, the E.U. advisor for the Financial Transparency Coalition, a global network that funded the new Transparency International report, told IPS.

“Publicly available [country-by-country reporting] information would enable citizens of developing nations to determine whether the taxes paid by the transnational companies that trade in their countries is in line with their activities. The apparent absence of this information gives reason for suspicion.”

Industry resistance

With the aim of ensuring that lucrative natural resources-related revenues are safeguarded in developing countries, the global extractives industry has been a special focus for disclosure requirements.

The United States, European Union and Canada in recent years have all passed project-by-project disclosure requirements, mandating reporting on all payments made by extractives companies to foreign governments.

And while the U.S. legislation is currently held up in court due to a lawsuit brought by the oil industry, the E.U.’s requirements are set to go into effect by the middle of next year. Canada’s new rules could be implemented even sooner.

Yet Transparency International warns that extractives companies are “not ready” to comply with these new rules.

“Even though country-by-country reporting was first introduced in the extractive sector, the 19 oil and gas companies in the study only scored an average of 10 per cent,” the report states. “Six companies in this industry scored zero.”

Not all of these companies did poorly on country-by-country reporting. For instance, the Norwegian oil company Statoil scored highest of all of the 124 companies on this metric, with a score of 66 percent.

Other strong performers included the Indian companies Oil & Natural Gas Corporation and Reliance, as well as the Australian-headquartered BHP Billiton, by certain calculations the world’s largest mining company.

Yet overall the sector still appears to be biding its time until the new requirements in the U.S., E.U. and Canada go into effect. For supporters of stricter disclosure, the findings underscore just how transformative those new legal regimes will be.

“Industry resistance to this kind of regulation has been pretty strong, so it’s not surprising that companies aren’t voluntarily disclosing this information and instead waiting until they’re forced to do so,” Alexandra Gillies, the head of governance at the Natural Resources Governance Institute (NRGI), a think tank, told IPS.

“While there are a few smaller companies that have taken this step, the big players certainly haven’t. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how the same data looks in another two years.”

Indeed, the U.S. and E.U. disclosure requirements alone would cover an estimated 65 percent of the global extractives sector in terms of value, according to Publish What You Pay, a global advocacy group. And the new Canadian rules, formally tabled late last month with the aim of implementation by April, would likewise affect the world’s largest national mining industry.

Further, at a summit next week, the Group of 20 (G20) industrialised countries are expected to approve a new country-by-country reporting standard that would cover all multinational companies. The Financial Transparency Coalition’s Roovers says the new findings from Transparency International will “up the ante” for the G20 discussions.

Still, he notes that, as currently envisioned, the G20 reports would likely not be made public due to concerns over commercial “sensitivities”.

On to contracts

For many advocates, non-public disclosure would defeat an important purpose of stricter transparency requirements: empowering citizens and civil society to engage in local-level oversight.

“The real innovation around project-level data is that citizens or journalists or parliamentarians would be able to understand the deals that their government has entered into. Right now all we have are highly aggregated figures,” NRGI’s Gillies says.

“If someone is dealing with, say, a huge mine in their community, that data can help them to understand how much money the government is collecting for that project – and whether the disruption they’re facing is worthwhile.”

Nonetheless, with country-by-country reporting requirements now on the horizon, Gillies and others are already turning their attention to a corollary data set: contract-level disclosure. Indeed, certain countries – including Liberia, Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo and others – as well as some companies are already making all information on contracts related to natural resource extraction publicly available.

“If you have good revenue or payment data, it’s still difficult to understand what those figures mean unless you know what agreements have been signed,” Gillies says.

“But contract disclosure is already becoming more widely accepted, with a few countries and companies taking the lead. It hasn’t yet become standard practice and what is being done remains piecemeal, but it’s enough to show that this activity isn’t commercially dangerous.”

Within a few years, advocates hope to see the disclosure of both payments and agreements signed with foreign governments become standard procedure.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

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UNIDO Comes a Long Wayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/unido-comes-a-long-way/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unido-comes-a-long-way http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/unido-comes-a-long-way/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:31:16 +0000 Ramesh Jaura http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137623 UNIDO Director General LI Yong at the Second ISID Forum, Nov. 4-5, 2014. Credit: Courtesy of UNIDO

UNIDO Director General LI Yong at the Second ISID Forum, Nov. 4-5, 2014. Credit: Courtesy of UNIDO

By Ramesh Jaura
VIENNA, Nov 6 2014 (IPS)

The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has come a long way since 1997, when it faced the risk of closure in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War.

At that time, it was threatened with the withdrawal of Canada, the United States – its largest donor – as well as Australia on the grounds that the private sector was better suited to foster industrial development than an inter-governmental organisation.

Nearly one-and-a-half year after UNIDO’s 53-member Industrial Development Board appointed LI Jong – who had served as China’s Vice-Minister of Finance since 2003 – as Director General, the organisation is set to respond to post-2015 global development priorities by treading the path to inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID).

“We have a vision of a just world where resources are optimised for the good of people. Inclusive and sustainable industrial development can drive success" – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
It was not surprising therefore that some 450 participants from 92 countries, including Heads of State and government, ministers, representatives of bilateral and multilateral development partners, agencies of the United Nations system, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and academia, joined hands to interact at UNIDO’s Second ISID Forum on Nov. 4 and 5 at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna.

The first Forum was convened in June 2014, at which government officials and key policy-makers exchanged views on policies and ISID instruments and examined what had worked in one country and could inspire another.

“The promotion of inclusive and sustainable industrial development is a very clear mandate given by our Member States at the General Conference of UNIDO in Lima, Peru, last December,” LI told the Forum on Nov, 4.

“Since then, we have been implementing the new mandate in various ways … Today we send a strong statement: technical assistance cannot remain isolated from the main forces that shape the course of progress in your countries. We have to combine our efforts to enhance the developmental impact of our endeavours. Together we will grow; the partnership will make us stronger.”

The rationale behind the UNIDO Director General’s thinking is obvious. Strategic partnerships are the best response to increasingly complex development challenges because there is no single development strategy and no single actor that can address all the social, environmental and economic challenges the world faces today.

“Integrated and multi-actor responses are required to tackle problems like climate change, economic recovery, rising youth unemployment, conflict, and emerging problems such as global health pandemics,” argues Ll.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also believes that “the overarching imperative for our planet’s future is sustainable development.” In opening remarks to the Second Forum, Ban said:  “We have a vision of a just world where resources are optimised for the good of people. Inclusive and sustainable industrial development can drive success.”

Amid applause, Ban added that among the main area of action – climate change – presents an opening for inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

“Smart governments and investors are exploring innovative green technologies that can protect the environment and achieve economic growth. For industrial development to be sustainable it must abandon old models that pollute. Instead, we need sustainable approaches that help communities preserve their resources,” he said.

The UNIDO forum closely examined and endorsed new pilot programmes for country partnerships to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Ethiopia and Senegal.

The programmes are based on close analysis and insights gained by UNIDO experts during visits to the two countries in the course of the previous months. They have identified a number of strong partners, both local and international, and accordingly designed the two partnership programmes.

From left to right: Ethiopia's Prime Minister, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UNIDO Director General LI Yong and Senegal's Prime Minister at UNIDO’s Second ISID Forum, Nov. 4-5, 2014. Credit: Courtesy of UNIDO

From left to right: Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UNIDO Director General LI Yong and Senegal’s Prime Minister at UNIDO’s Second ISID Forum, Nov. 4-5, 2014. Credit: Courtesy of UNIDO

UNIDO’s work in the field of inclusive and sustainable industrialisation in Africa was lauded by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Senegalese Prime Minister Mahammed Dionne.

Commending the creation of the new partnership approach, Prime Minister Desalegn said that inclusive and sustainable industrialisation would help his country develop. He said Ethiopia was looking forward to enhancing its economic transformation and that such a partnership model will help implement this vision.

Prime Minister Dionne said economic growth must lead to the eradication of poverty and address the problem of unemployment, adding that inclusive and sustainable industrialisation would help implement Senegal’s development plan by providing the collective action needed to make it happen.

Director General Ll assured the two prime ministers that “UNIDO is fully committed to supporting the governments of Ethiopia and Senegal in implementing the two programmes.”

“These pilot programmes,” he said, “mark the beginning of a larger, more comprehensive and ambitious approach to how UNIDO undertakes technical cooperation with and for Member States to support their industrialisation agenda.”

“If we want to achieve the scale of development needed, we have to explore the full potential of inclusive and sustainable industrial development,” Ll added.

“We have to strengthen productive capacities. We must build enterprises. We must reach out to farmers and entrepreneurs, and promote economic diversification and structural transformation based on adding value to the natural resources of these countries.”

The need for moving away from activities that are low value-added and low-productivity to activities that add more value and boost productivity was explained by the U.N. Secretary-General at the high-level thematic roundtable of the United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) on Nov. 3 in Vienna.

There, Ban said: “Think of a coffee bean, just a simple coffee bean. All LLDCs can sell just a coffee bean as it is. But more developed creative countries … grind this coffee bean and sell as a manufactured product at a much higher price.

“The same with unprocessed minerals. Lots of developing countries … sell minerals just as they are. Many foreign companies come and bring all these minerals, and then they sell back with processed manufactures, [at a] much higher [price]. Then with their own mineral resources they have to buy, they have to pay a lot of money.”

ISID takes into account factors such as the structural and knowhow bottlenecks faced by developing countries by “the mobilisation of partners and their resources to synergise with UNIDO’s technical cooperation”, LI told the ISID Forum.

Commenting on the agreed cooperation with Ethiopia and Senegal, he said: “I would say that these two pilot programmes for country partnership mark the beginning of a larger, more comprehensive and more ambitious approach of how UNIDO undertakes technical cooperation with and for Member States to support their industrialisation agendas.”

“Together with our partners, we will finalise the planning of the partnership country programmes, based on the inputs we receive in this Forum.”

Those inputs included recognition that the concerns and development objectives of countries seeking international support must be taken into account and that there is no alternative to public-private partnerships.

These partnerships, participants agreed, must aim at eradication of poverty and not maximisation of the profits of the private corporations involved in such partnerships.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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Inside Pakistan’s Untapped Fishing Industryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/inside-pakistans-untapped-fishing-industry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inside-pakistans-untapped-fishing-industry http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/inside-pakistans-untapped-fishing-industry/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 10:40:41 +0000 Zofeen Ebrahim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137573 According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Pakistan, nearly 400 million gallons per day of untreated waste from Karachi goes into the sea, making a fisherman’s job an extremely dirty one. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Pakistan, nearly 400 million gallons per day of untreated waste from Karachi goes into the sea, making a fisherman’s job an extremely dirty one. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

By Zofeen Ebrahim
KARACHI, Nov 4 2014 (IPS)

If you want to know what ‘sea traffic’ looks like, just go down to the Karachi Harbour. Built in 1959, the dockyard houses close to 2,000 big and small boats anchored in the grey sludge at the edge of Pakistan’s southern port city, which opens into the Arabian Sea.

Life on the jetty, an all-male domain, is anything but dull. The air is thick with the smell of fish. With anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 men working here on a given day, mornings are crowded and noisy with vendors auctioning and buyers inspecting the catch.

Loading and unloading of goods continues uninterrupted well into the afternoon; boats are being geared up for the voyage – rations are inspected, fuel, water and ice are stocked, last minute checks of the nets, the ropes and the engines are underway.

Fishermen operating off the Karachi Harbour in southern Pakistan can earn up to 15,000 rupees (about 145 dollars) per month, but their income is dependent on their catch. As a result, many fisher families live in poverty. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Fishermen operating off the Karachi Harbour in southern Pakistan can earn up to 15,000 rupees (about 145 dollars) per month, but their income is dependent on their catch. As a result, many fisher families live in poverty. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

At one end of the harbour, mammoth-sized wooden arks lie in various stages of completion. Close by, fishing nets are being newly woven or repaired. A medium-sized boat (45 to 55 feet in length) carries anywhere from 20 to 25 fisherman; they go deep into the sea for a maximum of a month.

The income fluctuates – if the catch is good each fisherman can earn as much as 15,000 rupees (about 145 dollars) that month, but there is no fixed salary. These men only get a percentage based on their haul. There is a ban imposed by the government during the months of June and July because it is the best season for prawns, the mainstay of the fishery industry here in Pakistan.

Every day some 2,000 boats jostle for space in the murky waters of one of Pakistan’s oldest harbours. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Every day some 2,000 boats jostle for space in the murky waters of one of Pakistan’s oldest harbours. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers an area of about 240,000 sq km and the maritime zone of Pakistan, including the continental shelf, extends up to 350 nautical miles from the coastline.

Thus the country has the potential to become a major producer of seafood, not only for local consumption but for the global market as well. Currently, nearly 400,000 people are directly engaged in fishing in Pakistan and another 600,000 in the ancillary industries.

A fisherman walks in front of one of the many half-constructed wooden arks that lie strewn about the Karachi harbour. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

A fisherman walks in front of one of the many half-constructed wooden arks that lie strewn about the Karachi harbour. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

However, an industry that can earn valuable foreign exchange and create a huge job market contributes a dismal one percent to Pakistan’s GDP, with annual exports touching just 367 million dollars in 2013-2014, primarily to countries like China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Korea.

The average annual catch is almost 600,000 metric tons of more than 200 commercially important fish and shellfish species, found in and around the Karachi Harbour.

Illegal nets made of fine mesh end up trapping small, commercially unviable fish in massive quantities. Between 70 and 100 trucks, each loaded with 10,000 kg of trash fish, leave Karachi’s harbour each day. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Illegal nets made of fine mesh end up trapping small, commercially unviable fish in massive quantities. Between 70 and 100 trucks, each loaded with 10,000 kg of trash fish, leave Karachi’s harbour each day. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

“This includes the catch from other harbours, even from Balochistan [located on the south-western coast], all of which comes here to be sold inland or exported,” says Sagheer Ahmed, spokesperson for the Karachi Fisheries Harbour Authority (KFHA).

One way to increase the role of fisheries in national GDP, says Muhammad Moazzam Khan, ex-director general of the Marine Fisheries Department, is to put a stop to over-exploitation of fish stocks.

The harbour is an all-male domain. Anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 men work here on any given day. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

The harbour is an all-male domain. Anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 men work here on any given day. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

What was once an indigenous occupation, small fishermen say, has turned into a greedy enterprise, resulting in overharvesting of marine resources.

Kamal Shah, spokesperson for the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, a non-governmental organisation working for the rights of the local fishing community, says, “The indigenous people know how to recharge the marine life; they respect nature and follow the principles of sustainable livelihood, which seems lost on those who want to get rich quick.”

Before heading out to sea, fishermen gather in groups to see to the final details of their voyage: stocking up on food, checking the engines and repairing their nets. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Before heading out to sea, fishermen gather in groups to see to the final details of their voyage: stocking up on food, checking the engines and repairing their nets. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Khan, currently a technical advisor to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Pakistan, worries about extinction of several marine species. He lamented the depletion of shrimp, lobster, croaker, shark and stingrays due to over-exploitation.

“Recovery of these resources is very slow and even if these fisheries are closed down, it would still take decades to restore their stock,” he says.

Nearly 400,000 people are directly engaged in fishing in Pakistan and another 600,000 are involved in the ancillary industries according to the Karachi Fisheries Harbour Authority (KFHA). Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Nearly 400,000 people are directly engaged in fishing in Pakistan and another 600,000 are involved in the ancillary industries according to the Karachi Fisheries Harbour Authority (KFHA). Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Activists, like Shah, say a major problem is the use of illegal (fine mesh) nets that end up catching juvenile fish as opposed to the government-approved nets for deep sea and creek fishing.

These illegal nets literally sieve undersized fish that are economically not viable, but nevertheless important for keeping the marine ecosystem balanced.

Ahmed of the KFHA says Pakistan exported 50 million dollars worth of “trash fish” in the last financial year. “As many as 70 to 100 trucks each loaded with 10,000 kg of trash fish leave the KFHA every day,” he explains.

The WWF-Pakistan is worried about the extinction of several marine species. Experts are particularly concerned about the depletion of shrimp, lobster, croaker, shark and stingrays due to over-exploitation. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

The WWF-Pakistan is worried about the extinction of several marine species. Experts are particularly concerned about the depletion of shrimp, lobster, croaker, shark and stingrays due to over-exploitation. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Shah also blames the “industrial waste from factories and organic waste from the cattle colony” that goes untreated into the sea. According to the WWF-Pakistan, nearly 400 million gallons per day of untreated waste from Karachi goes into the sea.

But there is some good news for Pakistan’s fishing industry.

After blocking fish exports for six years, last year the European Union (EU) de-listed two of the more than 50 Pakistani companies and this year it is hoped another five will get the green signal. “More than 20 percent of the fish export went to the EU,” according to KFHA’s Ahmed.

Male children are roped into their father's occupation very early in life, when they are taken onboard the ships as helpers. Few fisher families send their kids to school. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Male children are roped into their father’s occupation very early in life, when they are taken onboard the ships as helpers. Few fisher families send their kids to school. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

An ineffective cold chain and low standards in traceability (tracking the supplier, date and time of transactions) were identified as major issues.

“Boats did not meet the specifications. Often the wooden floor and the wooden containers where catch was stored did not meet the hygiene standards, machines used to haul the net often leaked oil on the floor and the fish hold was found to be rusty,” Ahmed says.

Today nearly 1,000 boats have been modified. Fiberglass cladding in the fish-holds and the increased use of plastic crates have replaced wooden containers. This has also helped maintain the temperature required to keep the catch fresh.

The fishermen perform multiple tasks on the boat. This man makes fresh rotis (flat bread) from whole-meal flour, which the men eat with the fish they catch.  Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

The fishermen perform multiple tasks on the boat. This man makes fresh rotis (flat bread) from whole-meal flour, which the men eat with the fish they catch. Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

In addition, processing and packaging factories have started tracking the catch to adhere to the EU’s condition of traceability of the catch.

While Pakistan is slowly reclaiming the EU market and has found its foothold in newer ones, it has a long way to go before establishing itself as a world-class fisheries hub.

Perhaps most importantly it will have to tackle increasing pollution that has decimated some of the most important fishing grounds along the Karachi coast. Similarly, it will have to combat the kind of environmental degradation caused by land reclamation and mangrove denudation, both of which reduce natural levels of productivity along the coast, especially in the Sindh province.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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U.N. Favours Changeover from Landlocked to ‘Land-linked’http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/u-n-favours-changeover-from-landlocked-to-land-linked/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-favours-changeover-from-landlocked-to-land-linked http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/u-n-favours-changeover-from-landlocked-to-land-linked/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 00:51:53 +0000 Julia Rainer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137562 Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), called for actions “that match the magnitude of the challenges of being landlocked”. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), called for actions “that match the magnitude of the challenges of being landlocked”. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Julia Rainer
VIENNA, Nov 4 2014 (IPS)

Some 440 million people are living in 32 countries that are among the world’s poorest, most of them least developed, and geographically isolated from world markets not only because they have very few commodities to export, but also because they have no direct territorial access to the sea.

These landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) – 16 of which are located in Africa, 10 in Asia, four in Europe and two in Latin America – are drawing the focus of the United Nations at a conference in Vienna, the capital of Austria, which is also landlocked but does not suffer the disadvantages of LLDCs because of its membership in the 28-nation bloc of European countries.“The LLDCs can count on the United Nations to transform their geographical disadvantages into platforms for great innovation and progress.” -- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The gathering in Vienna from Nov. 3 to 5 is the Second U.N. Conference on LLDCs. The first conference was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2003, which adopted the Almaty Programme of Action.

The Vienna conference is set to approve an action plan that would stress the need to provide adequate aid to the least developed countries in pursuing their goals for greater economic development to transition from being landlocked to what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon termed “land-linked”.

“We need to forge an even more ambitious, comprehensive and results-oriented plan,” he added. Only through comprehensive improvements in trade would such nations be best prepared to tackle the post-2015 agenda, Ban told some 1,000 delegates.

Echoing the expectations of several heads of state and government in the opening session, Ban said: “This conference is also a critical part of the U.N.’s broader campaign for a more sustainable future. We want to turn landlocked countries into land-linked countries – integrated with the global economy in a way that connects both markets and people.

“The United Nations will continue to help landlocked developing countries to achieve a life of dignity for all,” he added. “The LLDCs can count on the United Nations to transform their geographical disadvantages into platforms for great innovation and progress.”

U.N. General Assembly President Sam Kutesa, a Ugandan national, said while “notable progress” had been made in several key areas outlined in the Almaty Programme of Action, deep-rooted and multifaceted structural challenges still remain.

“Export volumes, compared to imports, are still low, and are predominantly raw materials and commodity based. Critical physical infrastructure, such as roads, railways and energy, is either lacking or inadequate. Energy, a basic requirement for industrialisation and production, including the facilitation of ICT-based infrastructure, remains inadequate and expensive,” Kutesa added.

He referred to the secretary-general’s report that provides a sobering assessment of the task at hand.

It points out: “In 2012, the trade volume of ‘LLDCs’ was 61 percent that of coastal countries… the World Bank estimated that the basic import and export costs of ‘LLDCs’ were nearly twice those of their transit neighbours. LLDCs spent, on average, $3,204 to export a standardized container of cargo, whereas transit countries spent $1,268. Furthermore, while it cost LLDCs $3,884 to import a container of merchandise, their coastal neighbours incurred a cost of just $1,434 for the same.”

“With such statistics,” the General Assembly president added, “it may be an understatement to say that LLDCs are swimming against the tide. And while LLDCs have the primary responsibility for their own development, even with their best efforts, they cannot meet their development objectives on their own.”

LLDCs needed sustained and unwavering cooperation from transit countries; financial and technical support from bilateral and multilateral partners; and firm commitments from the international community, he added.

Engagement with the private sector was also essential, including through foreign direct investment and public-private partnerships.

He urged the new Programme of Action to be adopted in Vienna to support LLDCs to enhance their competitiveness, stimulate productive capacities, diversify exports, strengthen their resilience to external and internal shocks, and most importantly, ensure a better future for their citizens.

In his remarks to the conference, Gyan Chandra Acharya, the U.N. High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, called for actions “that match the magnitude of the challenges of being landlocked”.

Urging greater synergy between the LLDC development agenda and the ongoing discussion around the next generation of development goals, Acharya said: “We have all agreed that the post-2015 development agenda would be transformative, inclusive and should ensure a life of dignity for all. LLDCs issues therefore rightly deserve due consideration in the formulation of the next global agenda.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Using Phytotechnology to Remedy Damage Caused by Mininghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/using-phytotechnology-to-remedy-damage-caused-by-mining/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=using-phytotechnology-to-remedy-damage-caused-by-mining http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/using-phytotechnology-to-remedy-damage-caused-by-mining/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 17:42:54 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137550 The decontamination technique consists of using biological systems that act as digesters to counteract the polluting effects of mining. Credit: Courtesy University of Santiago

The decontamination technique consists of using biological systems that act as digesters to counteract the polluting effects of mining. Credit: Courtesy University of Santiago

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Nov 3 2014 (IPS)

Combating the negative effects of its own production processes is one of the challenges facing the mining industry, one of the pillars of the Chilean economy.

Now, thanks to a novel scientific innovation project, mining, which is highly criticised by environmentalists, could become a sustainable industry, at least in some segments of its production processes.

The phytotechnology project was created by Claudia Ortiz, a doctor in biochemistry from the University of Santiago. Using native plants, she and her team of researchers are working to treat, stabilise and remedy soil and water affected by industrial activities, a process known as “phytoremediation”.

“These technologies can make a significant contribution to the environment because they make it possible to advance towards industrial development in a sustainable manner, while also contributing on the social front by making it possible to confront the undesired effects of production by involving the community,” the Chilean scientist said in an interview with Tierramérica.

“We want to become a global reference point for these kinds of innovative environmental solutions,” she added.

Doctor in biochemistry Claudia Ortiz, coordinator of the phytotechnology project of the University of Santiago, which remedies soil using native plants. Credit: Courtesy University of Santiago

Doctor in biochemistry Claudia Ortiz, coordinator of the phytotechnology project of the University of Santiago, which remedies soil using native plants. Credit: Courtesy University of Santiago

Phytotechnologies are based on the use of native plants and microorganisms, which are selected for their process of acclimatisation in economically exploited areas. In Chile, the plants used include naturalised phragmites australis and species from the baccharis and atriplex genuses.

Ortiz’s research, which began in the early 2000s, initially focused on determining why some species of plant are able to grow in difficult conditions, such as poor quality soil.

“We focused on tolerance of metals, and a line of research emerged that allowed us to determine that some species of plants and microorganisms had certain capacities to tolerate difficult conditions while at the same time improving the substrates or the places that were affected,” she said.

In other words, the project emerged from basic research that in the end became applied research with a concrete use, she added.

“In the tests that we have made on the ground, we determined that there has been an improvement in the amount of organic matter in some substrates that are chemically inert, which don’t intervene in the process of absorption and fixing of nutrients,” Ortiz explained.

In this case, she said, “the improvement goes from zero to five percent, or from zero to one percent, depending on how long the plants have been incorporated in the system.”

“There are improvements in the physical and chemical properties of the places where the plants are installed, and that is thanks to the contribution of the microorganisms and plants that have the capacity to release some compounds that are beneficial to the environment,” she added.

The technology developed by Ortiz also applies to treatment of water, where plants are capable of capturing metals such as copper in the roots.

“The bacteria can reduce by up to 30 percent the sulphate content in a liquid residue that has high concentrations of sulphate,” she said.

So far, the pilot studies carried out by Ortiz and her team have been exclusively applied to tailing substrates. However, in the greenhouse laboratory, experiments have also been conducted in mixes of different kinds of substrates.

“With respect to water, we have worked in clear water, in the tailings dams, but today we are also carrying out experiments on the ground, with leachate of water from garbage dumps,” she said.

The technology developed by Ortiz is already being used in Chile, particularly in some of the processes of the state-run Codelco copper company and National Mining Company.

It is also undergoing validation in Bolivia, Colombia and Canada.

The preliminary results obtained in the pilot studies “are very encouraging,” Sergio Molina, the manager of sustainability and external affairs in Codelco’s Chuquicamata division, told Tierramérica.

“Codelco is especially concerned with permanently incorporating new technologies aimed at minimising the impacts on the environment,” said the official at the Chuquicamata mine, the world’s largest open-pit mine and the country’s biggest producer of copper.

“Based on that we have generated alliances with research institutions such as the University of Santiago to carry out pilot projects along the same lines, with which we have obtained excellent results,” he said.

Lucio Cuenca, an engineer and the director of the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts, pointed out to Tierramérica that the technology developed by Ortiz addresses only a segment of the extractive process, but does not resolve all of the environmental problems caused by mining.

“What it does is replace some chemical substances like sulphuric acid, but it doesn’t resolve, for example, the high quantities of water extracted in the mining process,” he said.

A real-life example: In just six months the sulphate levels in waste water from mining were reduced 30 percent. Courtesy University of Santiago

A real-life example: In just six months the sulphate levels in waste water from mining were reduced 30 percent. Courtesy University of Santiago

Copper mining uses more than 12,000 litres of water per second. International institutions have found a considerable drop in the availability of surface water in this South American country.

Mining is essential to Chile’s economy. In 2013, the industry accounted for just over 11 percent of GDP and generated nearly one million direct or indirect jobs in this country of 17.5 million, while exports totaled 45 billion dollars.

Chile is the world’s leading producer and exporter of copper and also mines molybdenum, and gold, silver and iron on a smaller scale.

The research of Ortiz and her team is also focusing on the desalination of seawater using biofilters, an encouraging alternative for the mining industry.

“In this first stage we are treating water with high levels of chloride which are associated with other elements like ions, also associated with saline water.

“We are working with halophyte plant species, which are very tolerant of high levels of salinity and are very good at capturing and absorbing those salts, which they store in their tissues,” Ortiz explained.

“We have been experimenting and we have quite good results, for applying the technique specifically to leachate from landfills,” she added.

Simultaneously, the research team is developing two projects sponsored by Chile’s state economic development agency, Corfo, involving algae and nanotechnology, to eliminate the particularly saline elements found in seawater or water with high concentration of salt.

“Our aim is for this technology to make it possible to use seawater in mining production,” she said. “We have found that under certain conditions, where saltwater is diluted, we could work with techniques that are much less costly than the ones used today in desalination.”

“These projects are still being developed, with very promising results, and they will be completed next year, which means we will be able to offer new technologies,” Ortiz said.

* This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Canada Accused of Failing to Prevent Overseas Mining Abuseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/canada-accused-of-failing-to-prevent-overseas-mining-abuses/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=canada-accused-of-failing-to-prevent-overseas-mining-abuses http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/canada-accused-of-failing-to-prevent-overseas-mining-abuses/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 00:09:17 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137497 By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Oct 31 2014 (IPS)

The Canadian government is failing either to investigate or to hold the country’s massive extractives sector accountable for rights abuses committed in Latin American countries, according to petitioners who testified here Tuesday before an international tribunal.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) also heard concerns that the Canadian government is not making the country’s legal system available to victims of these abuses.“Far too often, extractive companies have double-standards in how they behave at home versus abroad.” -- Alex Blair of Oxfam America

“Canada has been committed to a voluntary framework of corporate social responsibility, but this does not provide any remedy for people who have been harmed by Canadian mining operations,” Jen Moore, the coordinator of the Latin America programme at MiningWatch Canada, a watchdog group, told IPS.

“We’re looking for access to the courts but also for the Canadian state to take preventive measures to avoid these problems in the first place – for instance, an independent office that would have the power to investigate allegations of abuse in other countries.”

Moore and others who testified before the commission formally submitted a report detailing the concerns of almost 30 NGOs. Civil society groups have been pushing the Canadian government to ensure greater accountability for this activity for years, Moore says, and that work has been buttressed by similar recommendations from both a parliamentary commission, in 2005, and the United Nations.

“Nothing new has taken place over the past decade … The Canadian government has refused to implement the recommendations,” Moore says.

“The state’s response to date has been to firmly reinforce this voluntary framework that doesn’t work – and that’s what we heard from them again during this hearing. There was no substantial response to the fact that there are all sorts of cases falling through the cracks.”

Canada, which has one of the largest mining sectors in the world, is estimated to have some 1,500 projects in Latin America – more than 40 percent of the mining companies operating in the region. According to the new report, and these overseas operations receive “a high degree” of active support from the Canadian government.

“We’re aware of a great deal of conflict,” Shin Imai, a lawyer with the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a Canadian civil society initiative, said Tuesday. “Our preliminary count shows that at least 50 people have been killed and some 300 wounded in connection with mining conflicts involving Canadian companies in recent years, for which there has been little to no accountability.”

These allegations include deaths, injuries, rapes and other abuses attributed to security personnel working for Canadian mining companies. They also include policy-related problems related to long-term environmental damage, illegal community displacement and subverting democratic processes.

Home state accountability

The Washington-based IACHR, a part of the 35-member Organisation of American States (OAS), is one of the world’s oldest multilateral rights bodies, and has looked at concerns around Canadian mining in Latin America before.

Yet this week’s hearing marked the first time the commission has waded into the highly contentious issue of “home state” accountability – that is, whether companies can be prosecuted at home for their actions abroad.

“This hearing was cutting-edge. Although the IACHR has been one of the most important allies of human rights violations’ victims in Latin America, it’s a little bit prudent when it faces new topics or new legal challenges,” Katya Salazar, executive director of the Due Process of Law Foundation, a Washington-based legal advocacy group, told IPS.

“And talking about the responsibility for the home country of corporations working in Latin America is a very new challenge. So we’re very happy to see how the commission’s understanding and concern about these topics have evolved.”
Home state accountability has become progressively more vexed as industries and supply chains have quickly globalised. Today, companies based in rich countries, with relatively stronger legal systems, are increasingly operating in developing countries, often under weaker regulatory regimes.

The extractives sector has been a key example of this, and over the past two decades it has experienced one of the highest levels of conflict with local communities of any industry. For advocates, part of the problem is a current vagueness around the issue of the “extraterritorial” reach of domestic law.

“Far too often, extractive companies have double-standards in how they behave at home versus abroad,” Alex Blair, a press officer with the extractives programme at Oxfam America, a humanitarian and advocacy group, told IPS. “They think they can take advantage of weaknesses in local laws, oversight and institutions to operate however they want in developing countries.”

Blair notes a growing trend of local and indigenous communities going abroad to hold foreign companies accountable. Yet these efforts remain extraordinarily complex and costly, even as legal avenues in many Western countries continue to be constricted.

Transcending the legalistic

At this week’s hearing, the Canadian government maintained that it was on firm legal ground, stating that it has “one of the world’s strongest legal and regulatory frameworks towards its extractives industries”.

In 2009, Canada formulated a voluntary corporate responsibility strategy for the country’s international extractives sector. The country also has two non-judicial mechanisms that can hear grievances arising from overseas extractives projects, though neither of these can investigate allegations, issue rulings or impose punitive measures.

These actions notwithstanding, the Canadian response to the petitioners concerns was to argue that local grievances should be heard in local court and that, in most cases, Canada is not legally obligated to pursue accountability for companies’ activities overseas.

“With respect to these corporations’ activities outside Canada, the fact of their incorporation within Canada is clearly not a sufficient connection to Canada to engage Canada’s obligations under the American Declaration,” Dana Cryderman, Canada’s alternate permanent representative to the OAS, told the commission, referring to the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the document that underpins the IACHR’s work.

Cryderman continued: “[H]ost countries in Latin America offer domestic legal and regulatory avenues through which the claims being referenced by the requesters can and should be addressed.”

Yet this rationale clearly frustrated some of the IACHR’s commissioners, including the body’s current president, Rose-Marie Antoine.

“Despite the assurances of Canada there’s good policy, we at the commission continue to see a number of very, very serious human rights violations occurring in the region as a result of certain countries, and Canada being one of the main ones … so we’re seeing the deficiencies of those policies,” Antoine said following the Canadian delegation’s presentation.

“On the one hand, Canada says, ‘Yes, we are responsible and wish to promote human rights.’ But on the other hand, it’s a hands-off approach … We have to move beyond the legalistic if we’re really concerned about human rights.”

Antoine noted the commission was currently working on a report on the impact of natural resources extraction on indigenous communities. She announced, for the first time, that the report would include a chapter on what she referred to as the “very ticklish issue of extraterritoriality”.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

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