Inter Press Service » Europe http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Tue, 01 Sep 2015 03:54:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.7 Stop Food Waste – Cook It and Eat Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/stop-food-waste-cook-it-and-eat-it/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-food-waste-cook-it-and-eat-it http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/stop-food-waste-cook-it-and-eat-it/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 18:39:32 +0000 Silvia Boarini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142201 Customers enjoy a ‘Pay As You Feel Lunch’ at The Armley Junk-Tion, Armley, Leeds, where food destined to waste and intercepted by volunteers is cooked into perfectly edible and nutritious meals. Credit: Silvia Boarini/IPS

Customers enjoy a ‘Pay As You Feel Lunch’ at The Armley Junk-Tion, Armley, Leeds, where food destined to waste and intercepted by volunteers is cooked into perfectly edible and nutritious meals. Credit: Silvia Boarini/IPS

By Silvia Boarini
LEEDS, England, Aug 31 2015 (IPS)

A new grassroots initiative born in the northern England city of Leeds has set itself the ambitious goal of ending food waste, once and for all.

Founded in December 2013, ‘The Real Junk Food Project’ (TRJFP), is the brainchild of chef Adam Smith.

It consists of a network of ‘Pay As You Feel’ cafés where food destined to waste and intercepted by volunteers is cooked into perfectly edible and nutritious meals that people can enjoy and give back what they can and wish, be it money, time or surplus food.

TRJFP is run on a volunteer basis through customers’, crowdfunding and private donations and with only a handful of paid positions at living wage level.

Sitting at a table in the first café opened by TRJFP, The Armley Junk-Tion in the struggling suburb of Armley, Leeds, 29-year-old Smith is still infectiously enthusiastic about it all.

Adam Smith, a chef from Leeds, northern England, who founded The Real Junk Food Project in December 2013. Credit: Silvia Boarini/IPS

Adam Smith, a chef from Leeds, northern England, who founded The Real Junk Food Project in December 2013. Credit: Silvia Boarini/IPS

“It’s the right thing to do and it’s something that has a positive impact,” he told IPS. “We believe that we can empower people and communities and inspire change across the whole system through the organic growth of these cafés.”

In under two years, TRJFP has grown into a worldwide network of 110 cafés: 14 in Leeds, one of which in a primary school, 40 across the United Kingdom and the rest in countries as diverse as Germany, Australia, South Africa or France.

“So far,” explained Smith, “the Armley Junk-Tion alone has cooked 12,000 meals for 10,000 people using food that would otherwise have gone to landfill.” As a network, in 18 months it has fed 90,000 people 60,000 meals and saved 107,000 tonnes of food from needless destruction.

TRJFP volunteers are out every day and at all hours intercepting food from households, food businesses, allotments, food banks, wholesalers, supermarkets and supermarket bins.“The [U.K.] government is spending million and millions of pounds on campaigns to stop people from wasting food but all we are doing is just feeding it to people. We say, ‘if you know it’s safe to eat, why don’t you eat it?’ That’s all it takes, it didn’t cost us any money“ – Adam Smith, founder of ‘The Real Junk Food Project’

TRJFP has also been able to secure surplus chicken from the Nando’s restaurant chain and part of the food ”waste” generated by local Morrisons supermarket branches.

“We ignore expiry dates or damage and use our own judgment on whether we think the food is fit or safe for human consumption,” said Smith.

The number of tonnes of food intercepted, though, pales in comparison with the amount of food that is still wasted each year. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates food wastage globally at one-third of all food produced – that is 1.3 billion tonnes each year. This means that one in four calories produced is never consumed. On the other hand, FAO also reports that 795 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished.

‘Food waste’ is often described as a “scandal” and yet top-down actions seeking to put an end to it still treat the above statistics as two separate problems requiring two separate solutions – recycle more in rich countries and produce more food in and for developing countries – that effectively leave a faulty system intact and the interests of a multi-billion dollar industry unchallenged.

According to Tristram Stuart, campaigner and author of ‘Waste – Uncovering the Global Food Scandal’, “all the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.”  

But our short-sightedness and unwillingness to change our habits are laid bare in laws such as the one approved last May by the French parliament. In France, large supermarkets will be forbidden from throwing away unsold food and forced to give it to charity or farmers.

Although hailed as a breakthrough in the fight against food waste, critics such as food waste activists ‘Les Gars’pilleurs’ say that such laws only circle around the problem, offering a quick fix. For starters, supermarkets are hardly the only culprits. For example, as the U.K. charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) reports, they produce less than two percent of U.K. food waste, while private households are responsible for roughly 47 percent of it and producers 27 percent.

“The government is spending million and millions of pounds on campaigns to stop people from wasting food but all we are doing is just feeding it to people,” Smith cut short. “We say, ‘if you know it’s safe to eat, why don’t you eat it?’ That’s all it takes, it didn’t cost us any money.“

As a grassroots and independent initiative, TRJFP does not categorise food waste as an environmental, economic or social malaise. It tackles it holistically and works to educate the public but also lobbies ministers and parliamentarians to develop relevant policies.

“We have been to Westminster (seat of the U.K. parliament) a few times already to talk about this problem. There are many interests at stake but we will keep working until there is no more waste,” Smith said, adding that he hopes to prepare a waste-food lunch for members of parliament.

In Armley, the café fills up for lunch. On the menu are delicacies such as meat stew, steak and lentil soup. The clientele represents a cross-section of society that normally travels on parallel paths. Hipsters, homeless, professionals or unemployed all eat the same food, sit at the same tables and enjoy the same service. No referrals needed, no stigma attached, as often happens with other such services.

Richard, a recovering alcoholic, has been having lunch at The Armley Junk-Tion for a few months. “The café has been a real focus point for the community to come and eat together irrespective of background,” he told IPS. “It doesn’t matter what you want to eat. There’s always something on the menu for everybody.”

For 36-year-old Paul, with a history of mental illness, TRJFP offers an important safety net not guaranteed by social services. “Where I stay, my cooking facilities are restricted to a microwave. Due to cut backs and lack of support services, the only help I get is coming to places like this,” he told IPS.

Nigel Stone, one of the café’s volunteer co-directors, had no doubt the idea would catch on. “It is such an unbelievably common sense solution and the best part of it is how it brings the community together, especially in times of need.”

Slowly but steadily, TRJFP is changing norms around food waste and hopes to make it socially unacceptable for anyone to waste food. First off, though, they are proving that we must stop calling it waste, it just isn’t, it’s perfectly good food that every day we decide to throw away.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Europe Squabbles While Refugees Diehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/europe-squabbles-while-refugees-die/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-squabbles-while-refugees-die http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/europe-squabbles-while-refugees-die/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 16:06:20 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142190 North African immigrants near the Italian island of Sicily. Credit: Vito Manzari from Martina Franca (TA), Italy. Immigrati Lampedusa/CC-BY-2.0

North African immigrants near the Italian island of Sicily. Credit: Vito Manzari from Martina Franca (TA), Italy. Immigrati Lampedusa/CC-BY-2.0

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 30 2015 (IPS)

As tens of thousands of refugees continue to flee conflict-ridden countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, Western European governments and international humanitarian organisations are struggling to cope with a snowballing humanitarian crisis threatening to explode.

Hungary is building a fence to ward off refugees.  Slovakia says it will accept only Christian refugees, triggering a condemnation by the United Nations.

“We have to remember [refugees] are human beings. Often they have no choice but to leave their homes. And they must have unhindered access to basic human rights, in particular the right to protection and health care." -- Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross
The crisis was further dramatized last week when the Austrians discovered an abandoned delivery truck containing the decomposing bodies of some 71 refugees, including eight women and three children, off a highway outside of Vienna.

Sweden and Germany, which have been the most receptive, have absorbed about 43 percent of all asylum seekers.

But in Germany, despite its liberal open door policy with over 44,000 Syrian refugees registered this year, there have been attacks on migrants, mostly by neo-Nazi groups.

The crisis is likely to get worse, with the United Nations predicting over 3,000 migrants streaming into Western Europe every day – some of them dying on the high seas.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says more than 2,500 refugees have died trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe this year.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has come under fire for dehumanizing migrants as “a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain”.

Harriet Harman, a British lawyer and a Labour Party leader of the opposition, shot back when she said Cameron “should remember he is talking about people and not insects” and called the use of “divisive” language a “worrying turn”.

The three countries with the largest external borders – Italy, Greece and Hungary – are facing the heaviest inflow of refugees.

The 28-member European Union (EU) remains sharply divided as to how best it should share the burden.

While Western European countries are complaining about the hundreds and thousands of refugees flooding their shores, the numbers are relatively insignificant compared to the 3.5 million Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon

The New York Times Saturday quoted Alexander Betts, a professor and director of the Refugees Studies Centre at Oxford University, as saying: “While Europe is squabbling, people are dying.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the EU is facing one of its worst crises ever, outpacing the Greek financial meltdown, which threatened to break up the Union.

In a hard-hitting statement released Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is “horrified and heartbroken” at the latest loss of lives of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean and Europe.

He pointed out that a large majority of people undertaking these arduous and dangerous journeys are refugees fleeing from places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“International law has stipulated – and states have long recognized – the right of refugees to protection and asylum.”

When considering asylum requests, he said, States cannot make distinctions based on religion or other identity – nor can they force people to return to places from which they have fled if there is a well-founded fear of persecution or attack.

“This is not only a matter of international law; it is also our duty as human beings,” the U.N. chief declared.

Meanwhile, international organisations, including the United Nations, have been calling for “humanitarian corridors” in war zones – primarily to provide food, shelter and medicine unhindered by conflicts.

Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross, told IPS: “On our side, we ask for humanitarian corridors, respect for human dignity and respect for Geneva Conventions [governing the treatment of civilians in war zones] for reaching everyone suffering.”

Regarding people on the move – and people fleeing from these conflicts – “we have to remember they are human beings. Often they have no choice but to leave their homes. And they must have unhindered access to basic human rights, in particular the right to protection and health care,” he said.

Rocca said these people don’t want to escape; they love their homes, their teachers, their schools and their friends.

“But these are terrible stories of people who have been driven from their homes by violence in Syria, Sudan and other conflicts. For almost three years we have asked for humanitarian corridors,” but to no avail, he said.

“I strongly support the Red Cross EU Office position on migration and asylum in the EU, which clearly recommends respecting and protecting the rights of migrants whatever their legal status, respecting the dignity and rights of all migrants in border management policies, sharing responsibility in applying a Common European asylum system.”

As far as the Italian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) are concerned, he said: “We urge for a humanitarian approach to tackling the vulnerabilities of migrants, rather than focusing on their legal status.”

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

 

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UK, France Agree to New Measures to Tackle Migration Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/uk-france-agree-to-new-measures-to-tackle-migration-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uk-france-agree-to-new-measures-to-tackle-migration-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/uk-france-agree-to-new-measures-to-tackle-migration-crisis/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 20:22:13 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142087 By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 2015 (IPS)

In response to the rapidly growing numbers of refugees and asylum seekers flooding European shores, France and the UK have announced new measures to crack down on English Channel crossings.

The deal consists of a new joint command and control centre in the northern French port city of Calais that aims to “relentlessly pursue and disrupt the callous criminal gangs that facilitate and profit from the smuggling of vulnerable people, often with total disregard for their lives,” Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May stated during a press conference Thursday.

Calais has become the focal point of a growing migration crisis, largely fueled by wars, hunger and political repression driving hundreds of thousands of desperate civilians out of countries like Syria, Libya, Sudan and other states across the Middle East and Africa.

An estimated 3,000 refugees live in makeshift tents in French port city.

The agreement also includes tough security measures such as increased police numbers, fencing, and CCTV to secure the Channel’s tunnel. The UK government has also pledged to establish a fast-track asylum process and to fund return flights for migrants. Britain plans to contribute 11.2 million dollars to the effort.

“Our joint approach rests on securing the border, identifying and safeguarding the vulnerable, preserving access to asylum for those who need it and giving no quarter to those who have no right to be here or who break the law,” said May and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in the 6-page agreement.

However, Calais is only one of many regions seeing increased migration.

The European Union’s border agency Frontex declared on Aug. 18 that in the month of July alone, some 107,500 migrants crossed into Europe, more than triple the figure in July 2014, representing the first time since the agency began keeping records in 2008 that new arrivals surpassed the 100,000 mark in a single month.

What will the new agreement mean for Eritreans?

Many of the migrants that make the perilous crossing into Europe are from Eritrea. Each month, approximately 5,000 Eritreans leave the small country of six million people in the Horn of Africa, reported a U.N. commission of inquiry on June 2015.

In a migration pattern report, Frontex found that Eritrean refugees were the second largest group in 2014 to have migrated to Europe, after Syrians.

Eritreans flee to escape gross human rights violations committed by the Eritrean government.

In the 2015 inquiry report, the U.N. commission found cases of extrajudicial killing, arbitrary arrest and detention, forced labour, enforced disappearance, as well as restrictions on speech, religious expression, and movement.

The commission also detailed the Eritrean government’s policy of military conscription, which forces men and women into national service indefinitely. This has prompted thousands of young Eritreans to flee the country.

Though the U.N. commission recognised that military conscription of citizens is a “prerogative of sovereign States,” it stated that it still involves the unlawful denial of freedoms and rights.

The commission concluded that the Eritrean government’s human rights restrictions could constitute crimes against humanity.

As a result, Eritreans migrate to Europe via neighboring countries of Sudan and Egypt. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth, expressed concern over the human rights abuses in Eritrea to the General Assembly in 2013, stating, “The fact that they have crossed borders is indicative of the scale of despair these children are facing at home.”

The journey is not without its risks. Human Rights Watch has reported the brutal trafficking and torture of Eritreans for ransom money. Refugees also face the threat of treacherous boat accidents such as the 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck that killed over 350 Eritreans.

But many are willing to face such dangers. While speaking to the Guardian, an Eritrean refugee discussed the decision to migrate to Europe, stating: “I have two choices – one is to die, the other is to live. If I die at sea, it won’t be a problem – at least I won’t be tortured.”

Such sentiments are heard often among refugees and asylum seekers who are increasingly risking hazardous journeys on makeshift vessels to escape brutal, degrading or even deadly conditions in their home countries.

In response to the situation in Calais, Amnesty International UK’s Refugee Programme Director Steve Symonds said that May must drop “tough” rhetoric on refugees and discuss “how the UK can save lives and protect the vulnerable.”

According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, over 3,000 asylum seekers entering the UK in the first three months of 2015 were Eritrean, constituting the majority of applicants.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: Misinformation Hides Real Dimension of Greek “Bailout”http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-misinformation-hides-real-dimension-of-greek-bailout/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-misinformation-hides-real-dimension-of-greek-bailout http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-misinformation-hides-real-dimension-of-greek-bailout/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 11:14:47 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142057

In this column, Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News, writes that the purpose of Greece’s third bailout is clear – all but seven percent of the 86 billion euros will go to pay debt with the other European governments, recapitalize Greek banks, pay interest on Greece’s debt and pay the debt of the state with Greek enterprises, while the country’s citizens will see none of it.

By Roberto Savio
SAN SALVADOR, Aug 20 2015 (IPS)

The long saga on Greece is apparently over – European institutions have given Athens a third bailout of 86 billion euros which, combined with the previous two, makes a grand total of 240 billion euros.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

There is no doubt that the large majority of European citizens are convinced that this is a great example of solidarity, and that if Greece is not now able to walk on its own feet, the responsibility will lie solely with Greek citizens and their government.

But this is only due to the fact that the media system has, by and large, ceased to provide alternative views … and some people even ignore that the bailout is a loan, and therefore increases the country’s debt.

In fact, the productive economy of Greece saw very little of that money because the bailouts were merely financial operations and Greek citizens, not only did not see anything, they have even had to pay a brutal price.

The truth behind the operation has been aptly described by Mujtaba Rahman, the respected chief Eurozone analyst for the London-based Eurasia Group, who said: “The bailout is not really about a growth plan for Greece, but a plan to make sure the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) get paid, and the euro area does not break up.”

And the purpose of this third bailout is clear. Of the famous 86 billion, 36 billion will go to pay the debt with the other European governments (and first of all Germany). Another 25 billion will go to recapitalize the Greek banks, because much capital left the country, heading for safer European banks. Another 18 billion will go to pay interest on the debt which Greece has been piling up. And, finally, seven billion will go to pay the debt of the state with Greek enterprises.“How could any economist, even in the first year of studies, fail to understand that, by cutting consumption and raising taxes you are bound to depress an already depressed economy?”

So, seven will go to the real economy and nothing to the citizens, who will have now to go through several new drastic measures of austerity, which will further depress their standards of living and their ability to spend.

Financially, the bailouts have been a success. All the losses and bad exposure of European institutions have been passed on to Greece. Before the first bailout, French banks were exposed with bad bonds for 63 billion euros, now only for 1.6 billion with no losses. German banks have gone from 45 to five billion.

What is intriguing is that a number of studies show that until the very last moment, when it was widely known that Greece was in deep crisis, European banks and investors continued to buy Greek bonds.

Were they certain that Greece would pay? No, but they were confident that the Greek government would be rescued, and that they would therefore recover their investments, which is exactly what happened.

The financial system has now a life of its own and has nothing to do with real economy, which it dwarfs by being 40 times larger (if we judge by the volumes of daily financial transactions against the production of goods and services). Capital is untouchable and circulates freely in Europe, unlike its citizens. And now there is a great wave of legislation to introduce lower taxation for the richest one percent!

During the negotiations, one frequent accusation levelled against the Greeks was that they were unable to have their rich ship-owners pay their share of taxes. Of course, ship-owners place their money where it cannot be reached.

But is this not hypocritical when we know that there are at least two trillion euros stashed in fiscal paradises, and that, just to give one example, nobody has got Ryanair to really pay taxes? Not to mention the fact that when he was prime minister of Luxembourg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker granted secret tax rebates to over a hundred international companies?

Now Agence France Press has circulated a new astonishing study from the German Leibnitz Institute of Economic Research, which says that Germany has profited from the Greek crisis to the tune of 100 billion euros, saving money through lower interest payments on funds the government borrowed amid investor “flights to safety” and “these savings exceed the cost of the crisis – even if Greece were to default on its entire debt.”

Meanwhile, a large number of studies point out how, by having a positive balance of trade with its European partners, Germany is in fact sucking capital from Europe.

Interpreting the third bailout and its conditions of austerity as a mere economic operation would be to commit a great error.

No economist can believe that Greece will be able to pay back and not only because it has always had a fragile economy, with little industry and with tourism as its main source of income (aggravated by decades of mismanagement and the corruption of its traditional parties, the very parties that European leaders would like to see come back).

Greece is already in recession and now the doubling of VAT is going to compress consumption further, also because there will now be further reductions in pensions and public salaries (which have been already cut by 20 percent).  It is widely believed that the Greek debt will now reach 200 percent of its GDP, up from 170 percent prior to the bailout.

How could any economist, even in the first year of studies, fail to understand that, by cutting consumption and raising taxes you are bound to depress an already depressed economy?

Well, it is no coincidence that the IMF, which is the Rotary Club of conservative economists, has refused to join this bailout. The IMF has said it will not put in any money unless European creditors (which is a diplomatic way of saying Germany) accept a restructuring of the Greek debt.

It is clear that the bailout has not been a technical but a political operation. Many European leaders, starting with Juncker himself, intervened in last month’s internal Greek referendum, asking Greeks to vote against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. They indicated clearly and openly, in a campaign that the Wall Street Journal repeated in the United States, that the revolt against austerity and the neoliberal economy should be stopped dead in its tracks to avoid political contagion.

For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared on German television that she has come to the conclusion that °Tsipras has changed°. This has an air of dejà vu … was it not then British Prime Margaret Thatcher who, intent on destroying the trade unions, launched her famous TINA slogan – There Is No Alternative?

And is there no alternative to this kind of Europe? (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

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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Time to Work Out a Plan C for Greecehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/time-to-work-out-a-plan-c-for-greece/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-to-work-out-a-plan-c-for-greece http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/time-to-work-out-a-plan-c-for-greece/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 16:14:04 +0000 Pavlos Georgiadis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142029 Original illustration courtesy of Stéphane Roux

Original illustration courtesy of Stéphane Roux

By Pavlos Georgiadis
ATHENS, Aug 18 2015 (IPS)

Just over a month ago, Greek citizens were asked to go to the polls for a referendum that posed the country with an unprecedented existential dilemma and challenged the EU with the possibility of its collapse.

The question that shook the world was a choice between a Plan A – more of the same, evidently failed austerity policies that made the country lose 25 percent of its GDP in five years – and a Plan B – a poorly designed Grexit, with unpredictable consequences that could mean the country’s sudden death.Instead of viewing Greece as a scapegoat, Europe should take this unique opportunity to capitalise on the solutions created by the civil society in the country.

It is an indisputable fact that Greece requires major reforms and Greeks know this better than anyone else. These are related, among others, to major existing legislative gaps, the country’s geography which generates huge transaction costs, a cultural gap between cities and rural areas, and the decision making processes in the country.

Such reforms are of systemic nature, something that no politician in Greece seems able to grasp or advocate. The old guard that still rules the country’s affairs, despite being fully aware of its own failure, is still opting for quick and flaky solutions that hardly address the causes of this crisis.

The same goes for Europe’s leaders, who seem to be more cloistered than ever, limited to their national egos and political clientele. They seem to lack the capacity, both morally and intellectually, but above all the vision to steward Europe’s human face, while addressing this crisis.

A project of “unity in diversity” is threatened by its outdated, largely opaque decision making structures that govern its economics. This explains why European leaders, in the past years, instead of solutions have been offering no more than a narrative based on the worst possible stereotypes.

A top-down approach that plundered Greece into depression and made Greeks, especially the youth, feel like little hamsters in some sort of sick socio-economic experiment.

The Birth of a New Solidarity Economy

Some impressive civil society projects are already being implemented at the local grassroots level, piloting a parallel solidarity and needs-based economy and participa-tory governance.

Every day, a community kitchen called “The Οther Ηuman” is supplying free meals to hundreds of Greeks in need, and lately to immigrants from Syria and Afghanistan, camping in the parks of Athens.

The Metropolitan Community Clinic at Helliniko near the old Athens airport, a 1.2 hectare plot of prime land on the beachfront of Athens, set to be privatised in a scan-dalous low price, is delivering free medicine, health check ups and preventive treat-ments to citizens with no insurance.

Both initiatives have no legal structure nor bank accounts, basing their operations in a currency that survives the capital controls: solidarity and humanity. Speaking of new ways of transaction, a bartering system is making a comeback in response to the closed banks, especially in rural areas.

Open access technologies are driving this transition, as they always do with initiatives promoting public dialogue, knowledge exchange, political participation and account-ability between citizens and politicians.

Politeia 2.0, a grassroots initiative for citizens’ engagement which is pioneering methods for participatory design of a new constitution and Vouliwatch, an independ-ent parliament watchdog, are just two of them.

With such prototypes launched, tested and operating at different levels, the challenge now is to scale and communicate them in every neighbourhood, village and city of the country.

This crisis never had its crisis manager, exposing the EU’s deficiencies and the distance that splits the politicians’ realities with those of citizens. This is not only evident in the way political leaders handle the Greek case, but other challenges too, such as the TTIP, climate change and immigration.

A new political arena is thus emerging within the EU, that has nothing to do with traditional ideological divides of the left or the right. This new political arena struggles to balance top-down versus bottom-up approaches to our ways of making decisions and planning the future.

Based on this recognition, it is clear that besides a “Plan A” (a politically humiliating and financially unsustainable agreement) and a “Plan B” (the risk of a Grexit), Greece is in dire need of working out a “Plan C”.

A roadmap for advancing towards a real transition back to the Commons, based on civil engagement for participatory mapping and collective management of the assets that influence what is currently under attack: the everyday lives of the people.

Greece needs to put in an unprecedented effort in order to overcome an unprecedented challenge, engaging the best actors in key social fields such as health, food, education and social welfare, just to name a few. At this point, this is absolutely necessary in order to maintain social cohesion and explore systemic solutions during the difficult times to come.

The starting point should probably be in the fields, which a recent study by Endeavor Greece identified as the only dynamic sectors that survive the crisis: agriculture, product manufacturing and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

The food sector, especially, can pave the way since it is already an integral part of the country’s cultural fabric. With around 13 percent of the Greek workforce engaged in agriculture (the EU average is just over 5 percent), a carefully structured plan for a transition towards agroecology can become an extremely powerful vector of change and a drive for Greece’s new economy.

Community gardens like Per.Ka., located inside an abandoned army camp in Thessaloniki, and peer to peer networks like Peliti -Europe’s largest seed-swap community- are already carving out new food system paradigms.

This new process can only be led by the youth of Greece. Highly skilled, socially networked and internationally educated, many of them are looking back to the land to seek ways out of unemployment.

All these years, these young Greeks have been deprived access to bank loans, while others were transferring 250 billion euros outside the country. Should they be connected with food business incubators, seed funding opportunities and open source technologies, they could catalyse this transition towards a quality, climate-friendly agrifood system which connects the land with health, education, tourism, energy, transport and other services.

Of course, this would require the types of reforms against existing institutional barriers and an outdated legal framework in Greece. Unfortunately, in the last five years, such reforms have never been put on the table by successive Greek governments nor their creditors.

Agrifood is only one example of the few sectors that can generate considerable social, economic and environmental benefits which are necessary towards a more resilient future for the country.

Moreover, it is possibly one of the very few ways to create jobs for the youth, who are challenged by a staggering 52.4 percent unemployment rate, the highest in the EU. Citizens are in need of new options and new development indicators need to be considered in rebuilding the country’s economy.

This change needs to start at the local level, leveraging the potential of the aforementioned initiatives and many more that are acting at the grassroots.

The conditions are ripe, as the 2014 municipal elections brought staff with fresh ideas into office in Greek local authorities. The cities of Athens and Thessaloniki, home to half of the country’s population, received the Mayors Challenge and 100 Resilient Cities awards respectively.

Each one offers one million euros to their budgets for delegating, implementing and scaling strategies for civic participation and urban regeneration. It remains to be seen whether the tools and opportunities offered by those grants and networks will be used efficiently, and not from obsolete mismanagement attitudes and the nepotism of the past.

The challenge is also huge for the citizens of the rest of Europe, who are largely misinformed by reporters of mainstream media, landing in Athens with a mandate from their editors to mainly report on horror stories and misery icons.

This is the time to change this agenda of shame, and instead of viewing Greece as a scapegoat, Europe should take this unique opportunity to capitalise on the solutions created by the civil society in the country.

Again, the youth can play a major role in strengthening the vision of a unified Europe, despite the power games that unfold at the political level. After all, we are the first true European generation.

Evidently, Greece was turned into an experiment in suffocating austerity. But what if Greece became the testing ground for visualising, prototyping and scaling a new economic paradigm that is socially inclusive, climate friendly and economically viable?

I am not sure whether the “Plan C” is the right name for this process. It is quite likely that populist politicians in Greece and Europe might abuse the term, like they did with so many others.

But the essence remains: this is a plan of solidarity, collaboration and resilience. And it is time that this dialogue opened all over Europe, if it wants to remain a Union, and maintain its leading role in the world.

Follow Pavlos Georgiadis on  Twitter: @geopavlos

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: Fair Justice Requires Incontrovertible Evidence in Airline Tragedyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-fair-justice-requires-incontrovertible-evidence-in-airline-tragedy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-fair-justice-requires-incontrovertible-evidence-in-airline-tragedy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-fair-justice-requires-incontrovertible-evidence-in-airline-tragedy/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 16:49:53 +0000 Andrey Klishas and Aslan Abashidze http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141934 Liow Tiong Lai, Minister of Transport of Malaysia, addresses the U.N. Security Council on July 29, 2015. The Council failed to establish a tribunal on the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 due to a veto by Russia. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Liow Tiong Lai, Minister of Transport of Malaysia, addresses the U.N. Security Council on July 29, 2015. The Council failed to establish a tribunal on the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 due to a veto by Russia. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Andrey Klishas and Aslan Abashidze
MOSCOW, Aug 10 2015 (IPS)

We refer to the IPS article posted by Mr. Somar Wijayadasa, a former Representative at the United Nations.

Now that the tribunal fiasco is over, let us examine the legal aspects of the inquiry into the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 still being conducted by Dutch experts.Here the question arises: why demand the establishment of an international tribunal, when results of the investigations are still not complete?

As Mr. Wijayadasa correctly pointed out, the toxic game of political football has, unfortunately, dragged this on for over a year without any honest attempt to find out what happened.

The United States and its allies are ever ready to use any excuse to blame Russia. They often abhor any moral imperatives.

There are many questions that demand clarification from a legal point of view.

(a) What rules should be applied in situations of such tragic incidents?
(b) What legal steps should be taken by the State in whose airspace the tragedy took place?
(c) What is the legal status of ongoing investigations?

First, the tragic incident (in which all 298 people on board were killed) took place in the Ukrainian airspace. Therefore, the Ukrainian authorities must bear full responsibility for whatever happened in Ukrainian airspace and/or inside its territory.

From an international law perspective, the incident affected the interests of the State of Ukraine, in whose airspace the tragedy took place; the State of Malaysia as owner of Malaysia Airlines; the Netherlands and other States whose nationals died in the tragic incident. Thus, it should be stressed that this tragedy does not affect Russia at all.

In such tragic situations the rules of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, adopted on 7 December 1944 in Chicago, U.S. (Chicago Convention) are to be applied. All U.N. Member States are parties to this Convention, including those affected by this tragedy.

Article 9 of the Convention states that “each contracting State may, for reasons of military necessity or public safety, restrict or prohibit uniformly the aircraft of other States from flying over certain areas of its territory.”

A vivid example is the tragedy that occurred in 2001 in international airspace over the Black Sea, when Ukrainian air defence forces fired a missile and shot down a Russian plane TU-154 with passengers on board.

In this case, the Ukrainian authorities were obliged to follow the Convention requirements of preventive character by immediately providing the description of restricted areas to other contracting States and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Article 9 of the Convention further requires each contracting State establishing such restricted area to require any aircraft entering such areas to effect a landing at a designated airport within its territory.

But the Ukrainian authorities announced a no-fly zone only after this tragic event occurred on 17 July 2014.

Article 26 of the Convention states that “In the event of an accident to an aircraft of a contracting State occurring in the territory of another contracting State, and involving death…, the State in which the accident occurs will institute an inquiry into the circumstances of the accident, in accordance, so far as its laws permit, with the procedure which may be recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).”

However, the Ukrainian authorities did not initiate an inquiry into the circumstances of the accident, and they did not appeal to ICAO regarding the procedure for the investigation into the tragedy.

Article 26 further states that “The State in which the aircraft is registered shall be given the opportunity to appoint observers to be present at the inquiry, and the State holding the inquiry shall communicate the report and findings in the matter to that State.”

It is evident that Malaysian authorities could not appoint observers because the Ukrainian authorities failed to establish an investigation into the tragedy.

Also, the Convention does not provide for another State the right (other than the State in which the tragedy occurred) to conduct inquiry into its circumstances. If so, what is the legal basis for Netherlands to make any investigation into the Malaysian Airline tragedy?

Furthermore, Article 82 of the Convention states: “The contracting States accept this Convention as abrogating all obligations and understandings between them which are inconsistent with its terms, and undertake not to enter into any such obligations and understandings.”

Therefore, any agreements between the authorities of the Ukraine and the Dutch authorities, including those related to the inquiry into the circumstances of the catastrophe of the Malaysian airplane – inside Ukraine’s airspace – are contrary to the rules of the Convention.

Article 83 of the Convention states that even arrangements “not inconsistent with the provisions of this Convention shall be forthwith registered with the ICAO Council, which shall make it public as soon as possible.”

Notably, the ICAO Council did not publicise any such agreement. We wish to stress that even with such “secret” agreement between the Ukrainian and the Dutch authorities, the latter do not have the right to investigate the circumstances of the tragedy.

The whole irony of the situation lies in the fact that visiting the crash site by experts from the Netherlands and other countries, picking up debris and other evidence to shed light on the causes of the tragedy was made possible only thanks to the support of the militia of Donetsk People’s Republic.

What is surprising here is the lack of professionalism on the side of the Dutch experts who selectively chose some wreckage, dismembered it into several parts, and took them to study, which is categorically unacceptable in terms of the methods of collecting and studying of material evidence of a catastrophe.

This case is further complicated by the fact that many important aspects of the investigation are not conducted by the Dutch experts (who lack appropriate qualification), but in the laboratories of the UK, which has no relation to the case.

Here the question arises: why demand the establishment of an international tribunal, when results of the investigations are still not complete? And how is it possible to rely on the findings of the investigation, if the process itself raises concerns regarding the controversial actions (and omissions) of those who have usurped the right to investigate the circumstances of the disaster?

Against the background of the hypocritical policy exercised by the U.S. and its allies, what surprises us most is that the Dutch authorities, acting under the written scenario of the United States, are not being shy of their mockery targeting the victims of the disaster of the Malaysian airlines in the airspace of Ukraine.

It should be remembered that such actions commensurate not only with the imperatives of international law and morality, but also the canons of God.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: Security Council Resolution on Airlines Disaster Debases U.N. Charterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-security-council-resolution-on-airlines-disaster-debases-u-n-charter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-security-council-resolution-on-airlines-disaster-debases-u-n-charter http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-security-council-resolution-on-airlines-disaster-debases-u-n-charter/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 12:51:11 +0000 Somar Wijayadasa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141849 U.N. Security Council members observe a minute of silence at the start of the meeting to establish tribunal on downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. The draft resolution failed to be adopted due to the veto by Russia. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

U.N. Security Council members observe a minute of silence at the start of the meeting to establish tribunal on downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. The draft resolution failed to be adopted due to the veto by Russia. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Somar Wijayadasa
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3 2015 (IPS)

On July 29 Russia vetoed a draft U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution on the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight over eastern Ukraine last year – killing all 298 people on board.

Of the 15 UNSC members, 11 voted in support of the Malaysia-proposed draft resolution, with Angola, Venezuela and China abstaining.The toxic game of political football has, unfortunately, dragged this on for over a year without any honest attempt to find out what happened.

Vetoing the draft UNSC resolution, the representative of Russia to the U.N., Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, noted that Russia had repeatedly said that it wouldn’t support the tribunal “due to the fact the UNSC resolution 2166 [of 2014] didn’t qualify the Boeing tragedy as a threat to international peace and security.”

While all sponsors of the draft resolution and the United States had harsh words condemning Russia’s veto, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said: “There can be no reason to oppose this [draft resolution] unless you are a perpetrator yourself.”

That is a preemptive judgement to blame Russia, ignoring the basic legal tenet that one is innocent until proven guilty.

The Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down on July 17 as it was flying over a war zone, where Ukrainian armed forces and rebels were fighting using military aircraft.

The Ukrainian authorities and Western allies accuse the rebels in eastern Ukraine of downing the plane with a surface-to-air missile allegedly provided by Russia. But Moscow has rejected accusations it supplied the rebels with missile systems. The rebels too deny these accusations.

Meanwhile, Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ukraine are conducting a criminal inquiry into the cause of the crash but they have not yet established responsibility for the tragedy.

Separately, the Dutch Safety Board is due to release their official report on the cause of the crash by the end of this year.

It is regrettable that Russia was never allowed to participate in these investigations. Moscow has repeatedly warned against putting blame on anyone before these investigations into the crash have been completed.

Despite the veto, Churkin said, “Russia stands ready to cooperate in the conduct of a full independent and objective investigation of the reasons and circumstances of the crash”.

From the outset, the draft resolution was doomed to fail for three reasons: First, since these reports are still pending, Russians maintain the position that it was premature to set up an international tribunal.

Secondly, the U.N. Security Council last year unanimously adopted a resolution on this issue. And thirdly, the new draft resolution craftily claimed that the tragic downing of the Malaysian plane is a threat to international peace and security.

On July 21, 2014, the Security Council unanimously adopted the resolution 2166 that demanded that those responsible “be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability”.

Therefore, it is surprising that a new draft resolution on the same subject surfaced this year with the contentious terminology “a threat to international peace and security”.

As Churkin clearly pointed out, “It is difficult to explain how the event, which wasn’t considered a threat to international peace and security a year ago, now suddenly becomes one.”

Churkin said that “This, in our view, indicates the fact that political purposes were more important for them than practical objectives. This of course is regrettable.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “the idea to create such a tribunal is aimed at punishing those whom Washington considers to be guilty.”

Furthermore, Chapter VII, Articles 39 to 51 of the U.N. Charter do not provide for the establishment of international tribunals to investigate civil aviation catastrophes of this nature – whether deliberate or accidental.

In the past, there have been similar incidents with civilian aircraft, such as the explosion of the Pan American flight 103 by the Libyans in 1983; downing of Iran Air flight 655 by the U.S. in 1988; and the downing of Korean Air Lines flight 007 by Soviet Union in 1983.

These were investigated according to internationally accepted rules, and the Security Council was not involved in investigations. Therefore, the call for an international tribunal on any pretext is nothing but confrontational.

According to the established rules and regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), it is the responsibility of the airline (Malaysian Airlines) as well as the country (Ukraine) in which the accident occurred to investigate as to what exactly happened.

Dutch investigators admit that the plane was shot down while flying over the conflict zone near Donetsk. It is not only an ICAO requirement but a well recognised international practice to inform ICAO and civilian airlines not to use airspace over conflict zones.

Both Ukraine and Malaysian Airlines failed to adhere to elementary rules. Ukraine warned civilian airlines not to use its airspace only after this accident occurred.

With my experience in the U.N. system for over 25 years, I am confident that the U.N. and ICAO could help establish an Independent Committee of International Aviation Experts to conduct a completely independent and transparent investigation – without undue political pressure – to find out who should be held responsible for this grave tragedy.

But the toxic game of political football has, unfortunately, dragged this on for over a year without any honest attempt to find out what happened.

All countries should bury their hatred and differences, and assist in the ongoing investigations to deliver justice to the families of the 298 innocent victims of the crash.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: The Sad Historical Consequences of the Greek Bailouthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-the-sad-historical-consequences-of-the-greek-bailout/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-sad-historical-consequences-of-the-greek-bailout http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-the-sad-historical-consequences-of-the-greek-bailout/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 16:59:06 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141832

In this column, Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News, writes that what lies behind the recent convoluted negotiations over Greek debt is nothing other than a dramatic demonstration that Europe is no longer about solidarity, which was the original European dream, but all about fiscal and monetary considerations.

By Roberto Savio
SAN SALVADOR, Aug 1 2015 (IPS)

In recommendations to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of July, the German Council of Economic Experts outlined how a weak member country could leave the Eurozone and called for strengthening the European monetary union.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble wants Greece out because he does not believe that it will ever be able to refund the loans it has received so far, and because he thinks it is question of principle to be strict. In an interview with Der Spiegel a few days after the historical date of Jul. 13, at the end of negotiations on Greece, he said: “My grandmother used to say: benevolence comes before dissoluteness.”

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Explaining the recommendations of the Council of Economic Experts, however, its chairman Christoph M. Schmidt expressed another opinion. “To ensure the cohesion of monetary union, we have to recognise that voters in creditor countries are not prepared to finance debtor countries permanently … A permanently uncooperative member state should not be able to threaten the existence of the euro.”

This is the best illustration of Germany’s Europe. Any country which does not fit into the German scenario will have to quit. Europe is no longer a question of solidarity, it is all about fiscal and monetary considerations.

Germany now says that federalism has exceptions – whenever a member of the Eurozone is perceived to be challenging the rules of the monetary union, it will be subject to complete annihilation of its state sovereignty and national democracy. This is the kind of federalism that Germany has now proclaimed.

This German position on its vision of Europe, where political and ideal considerations are no longer the basis of the European project, has triggered a strong response from a normally obedient France.“We should all realise that the idea of Europe as a political project, based on solidarity and mutual support, is on the wane. Monetary union is no longer just a step towards a democratic political union”

President François Hollande, who appears to have suddenly woken up, has come out with a call to reinforce European integration through the establishment of a “Eurozone government”, which run in the opposite direction from that of Berlin.

Germany will of course go ahead and pursue its own course, but the Paris-Berlin axis which was conceived as the fulcrum of European integration has now been seriously weakened after Germany’s imposed agreement on Greece on Jul. 13. So we have now a major realignment.

France has been the country which has always blocked any substantial progress on European integration, by continually voting against any radical step towards integration in order to preserve as much of its national sovereignty as possible.

Now it is Germany which is intent on changing the course of integration, from a political project to a fixed exchange monetary system based on creditor countries – a system in which some democracies are more equal than others.

Schäuble has been reported as expressing concern over the European Commission’s increased political role, interfering in political issues for which it has no mandate. And it is a stark fact that the Jul. 13 Brussels agreement has sought to remove politics and discretion from the functioning of the monetary union, an idea that has long been very dear to the French, and now are the French who want more European integration as protection from a German Europe.

We should all realise that the idea of Europe as a political project, based on solidarity and mutual support, is on the wane.

Monetary union is no longer just a step towards a democratic political union, as Helmut Kohl and François Mitterand sought at the reunification of Germany, and the creation of the Euro.

We are, in fact, going back to a more toxic version of the old exchange-rate mechanism of the 1990s that left countries trapped in a mechanism which worked primarily for Germany, and which led to the exit of the British pound and the temporary exit of the Italian lira.

But the euro, as Nobel laureate in economics Paul Krugman says, “has turned into a Roach Motel, a trap that’s hard to escape.” Once you’re in, you cannot get out, and you have to accept the diktat of the creditors.

Another Nobel laureate in economics, Joseph Stigliz, who was Chief Economist of the World Bank, says that the current European policy of austerity at any cost, is like going back to a “19th century debtors’ prison. Just as imprisoned debtors could not make the income to repay, the deepening depression in Greece will make it less and less able to repay.”

Of course, what is never said openly (except by Stigliz) is that in the Greek bailout one central reason for the extremism of the new package of conditions was to teach a lessons to a radical left-wing party, Syriza, and to the Greek people who had had the audacity to reject the calls from European leaders to vote against that party.

It is not by chance that countries like Poland, which were asking to be admitted to the Eurozone, have withdrawn their applications.  The euro has become a rallying political issue, with parties from all over Europe asking to withdraw. It has become the first line of action for those who oppose European integration.

Until now, the answer of European governments has been that withdrawal is impossible under the European constitution. But now that the German Council of Economic Experts has come out with a concrete proposal on how to do that, that line of defence is crumbling.

According to many analysts, Angela Merkel is playing with fire. Germany cannot remain a credible leader of a coalition of Northern and Eastern European countries and ignore the realities and needs of Southern Europe. This is unsustainable, even in the medium term.

Meanwhile, the world goes on. Within seven years India will have overtaken China as the most populous country in the world, while within a few decades Nigeria will have a larger population than the United States.

And Europe? Europe will have become the continent with most old people and lower productivity, and will have to face its four horses of the apocalypse:

  • a solution to relations with Russia;
  • common agreement on how to deal with the dramatic flow of immigrants, when countries are not even able to relocate 40,000 people in a region of 450 million;
  • a real policy on the explosive Middle East and terrorism; and soon
  • the request of United Kingdom for a new agreement on the European Union, or else it will exit Europe.

We can safely bet that those negotiations, which will be based purely on economic issues, will be the kiss of death for the original European dream. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

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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Even the Rich Have Not Harnessed Full Potential of Digital Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/even-the-rich-have-not-harnessed-full-potential-of-digital-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=even-the-rich-have-not-harnessed-full-potential-of-digital-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/even-the-rich-have-not-harnessed-full-potential-of-digital-economy/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 23:04:51 +0000 Jaya Ramachandran http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141808 The ICT sector employed more than 14 million people in OECD countries in 2013, almost 3 percent of jobs in the 34-country bloc. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

The ICT sector employed more than 14 million people in OECD countries in 2013, almost 3 percent of jobs in the 34-country bloc. Credit: Kristin Palitza/IPS

By Jaya Ramachandran
PARIS, Jul 30 2015 (IPS)

The digital economy permeates countless aspects of the world economy, impacting sectors as varied as banking, retail, energy, transportation, education, publishing, media or health. But the full potential of the digital economy has yet to be realised even in the world’s most advanced and emerging countries, says a new report.

On the one hand, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are transforming the ways social interactions and personal relationships are conducted, with fixed, mobile and broadcast networks converging, and devices and objects increasingly connected to form the Internet of things.

On the other hand, none of the 34 countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has a national strategy on protecting online privacy or funding research in this area, which tends to be viewed as a matter for law enforcement authorities to handle, says the report.

The OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2015, which covers areas from broadband penetration and industry consolidation to network neutrality and cloud computing in the OECD and its partner countries like Brazil, Colombia and Egypt, also stresses the need to do more to offer information and communication technology (ICT) skills training to help people transition to new types of digital jobs.

In a 2014 OECD survey, 26 out of 29 countries considered building broadband infrastructure as their top priority and 19 of 28 countries put digital privacy and security second and third, observes the report.

Asked about the future, countries placed skills development as their top objective, followed by public service improvements and digital content creation.

Other surveys cited in the report suggest that two-thirds of people are more concerned about their online privacy than a year ago and only a third believe private information on the Internet is secure. More than half fear monitoring by government agencies, adds the report.

Other important findings in the Digital Economy Outlook are:

Of 34 countries surveyed, 27 have a national digital strategy. Many were established or updated in 2013 or 2014. Most focus on telecoms infrastructure, broadband capacity and speed. Few cover international issues such as internet governance.

Seven of the OECD’s 34 member countries count more than one mobile broadband subscription per person. Around three-quarters of smartphone use in OECD countries occurs on private Wi-Fi access via fixed networks.

All OECD countries have at least three mobile operators and most have four. Prices for mobile services fell markedly between 2012 and 2014 with the biggest declines in Italy, New Zealand and Turkey. Prices rose in Austria and Greece, however.

The ICT sector employed more than 14 million people in OECD countries in 2013, almost 3 percent of jobs in the 34-country bloc. ICT employment ranges from above 4 percent of total employment in Ireland and Korea to below 2 percent in Greece, Portugal and Mexico.

ICT venture capital is on the rise again and is now back at its highest level in the U.S. since the dot-com bubble.

China is the leading gross exporter of ICT goods and services, but the U.S. is the top exporter when trade is calculated in value-added terms, due in part to the high presence of U.S. ICT services embodied in final products. Embodied ICT services also contributed to higher shares for India and the UK in value-added terms.

Korea is the most specialised of OECD and partner countries in computer, electronic and optical products; Luxembourg is strongest in telecoms; while Ireland, Sweden and the UK are most specialised in IT and other information services.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

 

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Opinion: European Federalism and Missed Opportunitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/opinion-european-federalism-and-missed-opportunities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-european-federalism-and-missed-opportunities http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/opinion-european-federalism-and-missed-opportunities/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 07:32:41 +0000 Emma Bonino http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141694

In this column Emma Bonino, a leading member of the Radical Party, former European Commissioner and a former Italian foreign minister, argues that serious problems affecting Europe, like the Greek crisis and waves of migration, could have been addressed more quickly and efficiently if the European Union had embraced federalism.

By Emma Bonino
ROME, Jul 24 2015 (IPS)

“A serious political and social crisis will sweep through the euro countries if they do not decide to strengthen the integration of their economies. The euro zone crisis did not begin with the Greek crisis, but was manifested much earlier, when a monetary union was created without economic and fiscal union in the context of a financial sector drugged on debt and speculation.”

Emma Bonino

Emma Bonino

These words, which are completely relevant today, were written by a group of federalists, including Romano Prodi, Giuliano Amato, Jacques Attali, Daniel Cohn-Bendit and this author, in May 2012.

Those with a federalist vision are not surprised that the crisis in Greece has dragged on for so many years, because they know that a really integrated Europe with a truly central bank would have been able to solve it in a relatively short time and at much lower cost.

In this region of 500 million people, another example of the inability to solve European problems was the recent great challenge of distributing 60,000 refugees among the 28 member countries of the European Union. Leaders spent all night exchanging insults without reaching a solution.

Unless the federalist programme – namely, the gradual conversion of the present European Union into the United States of Europe – is adopted, the region will not really be able to solve crises like those of Greece and migration.

It can be stated that European federalism – which would complete Europe’s unity and integration – is now more necessary than ever because it is the appropriate vehicle for overcoming regional crises and starting a new phase of growth, without which Europe will be left behind and subordinated not only to the United States but also to the major emerging powers.“Unless the federalist programme – namely, the gradual conversion of the present European Union into the United States of Europe – is adopted, the region will not really be able to solve crises like those of Greece and migration”

Furthermore, its serious and growing social problems – such as poverty, inequality and high unemployment especially among young people – will not be solved.

Within the federalist framework there is, at present, only the euro, while all the other institutions or sectoral policies (like defence, foreign policy, and so on) are lacking.

Excluding such large items of public spending as health care and social security, there are however other government functions which, according to the theory of fiscal federalism (the principle of subsidiarity and common sense), should be allocated to a higher level, that of the European central government.

Among them are, in particular: defence and security, diplomacy and foreign policy (including development and humanitarian aid), border control, large research and development projects, and social and regional redistribution.

Defence and foreign policy are perhaps considered the ultimate bastions of state sovereignty and so are still taboo. However, the progressive loss of influence in international affairs among even the most important European countries is increasingly evident.

To take, for instance, the defence sector: as Nick Witney, former chief executive of the European Defence Agency, has noted: “most European armies are still geared towards all-out warfare on the inner-German border rather than keeping the peace in Chad or supporting security and development in Afghanistan.

“This failure to modernise means that much of the 200 billion euros that Europe spends on defence each year is simply wasted,” and “the EU’s individual Member States, even France and Britain, have lost and will never regain the ability to finance all the necessary new capabilities by themselves.”

It should be noted that precisely because the mission of European military forces has changed so radically, it is nowadays much easier, in principle, to create new armed forces from scratch (personnel, armaments, doctrines and all) instead of persisting in the futile attempt to reconvert existing forces to new missions, while at the same time seeking to improve cooperation between them.

Why should it be possible to create a new currency and a new central bank from scratch, and not a new army?

Common defence spending by the 28 European Union countries amounts to 1.55 percent of European GDP. Hence, a hypothetical E.U. defence budget of one percent of GDP appears relatively modest.

However, it translates into nearly 130 billion euros, which would automatically make the E.U. armed forces an effective military organisation, surpassed only by that of the United States, and with resources three to five times greater than those available to powers like Russia, China or Japan.

It would also mean saving an estimated 60 to 70 billion euros, or more than half a percentage point of European GDP, compared with the present situation.

Transferring certain government functions from national to European level should not give rise to a net increase in public spending in the whole of the European Union, and could well lead to a net decrease because of economies of scale.

Taking the example of defence, for the same outlay a single organisation is certainly more efficient than 28 separate ones. Moreover, as demonstrated by experiences with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the Cold War, efforts to coordinate independent military forces always produced disappointing results and parasitic reliance on the wealthier providers of this common good. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Translated by Valerie Dee/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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Will the New BRICS Bank Break with Traditional Development Models, or Replicate Them?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/will-the-new-brics-bank-break-with-traditional-development-models-or-replicate-them/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-new-brics-bank-break-with-traditional-development-models-or-replicate-them http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/will-the-new-brics-bank-break-with-traditional-development-models-or-replicate-them/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 21:10:17 +0000 Kanya DAlmeida http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141467 The heads of state of three of the five BRICS countries - Russia, India and Brazil – pose for a photograph during the 2014 BRICS Summit. Credit: Official Flickr Account for Narendra Modi/CC-BY-SA-2.0

The heads of state of three of the five BRICS countries - Russia, India and Brazil – pose for a photograph during the 2014 BRICS Summit. Credit: Official Flickr Account for Narendra Modi/CC-BY-SA-2.0

By Kanya D'Almeida
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2015 (IPS)

Just days ahead of a summit of the BRICS group of emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in which the five countries are expected to formally launch their New Development Bank (NDB), 40 NGOs and civil society groups have penned an open letter to their respective governments urging transparency and accountability in the proposed banking process.

“In terms of the type of development the bank delivers, we don't have signs yet that the NDB will go in a qualitatively different direction than the Washington Consensus institutions." -- Gretchen Gordon, coordinator of Bank on Human Rights
The NDB is expected to finance infrastructure and sustainable development in the global South.

With an initial capital of 100 billion dollars, it was born from a combination of circumstances including emerging economies’ frustration with the largely Western-dominated World Bank Group (WBG) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to a 2014 Oxfam Policy Brief, another factor leading to the creation of the BRICS Bank was a major gap in financing for infrastructure projects, with official development assistance (ODA) and funding from multilateral institutions meeting just two to three percent of developing countries’ needs.

Strained by economic sanctions as a result of the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow has been particularly keen to bring the fledgling lending institution to its feet and has been pushing international rating agencies to rate the bank’s debt, as a necessary first step for it to begin operations.

Even without counting the contributions of its newest member – South Africa – the four BRIC nations represent 25 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and 41.4 percent of the world’s population, or roughly three billion people.

In addition, the borders of these countries enclose a quarter of the planet’s land area on three continents.

But even as the five political leaders prepare to take centre stage in the Russian city of Ufa on Jul. 9, citizens of their own countries are already expressing doubts that the nascent financial body will truly represent a break from traditional, Western-led development models.

“The existing development model in force in many emerging and developing countries is one that favors export-oriented, commodity driven strategies and policies that are socially harmful, environmentally unsustainable and have led to greater inequalities between and within countries,” said the statement, released on Jul. 7

“If the New Development Bank is going to break with this history, it must commit itself to the following four principles: 1) Promote development for all; 2) Be transparent and democratic; 3) Set strong standards and make sure they’re followed; 4) Promote sustainable development,” the signatories added.

Gretchen Gordon, coordinator of Bank on Human Rights, a global network of social movements and grassroots organisations working to hold international financial institutions accountable to human rights obligations, told IPS, “[Although] the Bank’s Articles of Agreement have an article on Transparency and Accountability […] thus far we haven’t seen any indication of operational policies on transparency or anything relating to accountability mechanisms.”

“And unfortunately,” she added, “there is no open engagement with civil society on these questions.”

“In terms of the type of development the bank delivers, we don’t have signs yet that the NDB will go in a qualitatively different direction than the Washington Consensus institutions,” Gordon told IPS in an email.

“That is why civil society groups in BRICS countries are calling for a participative and transparent process to identify strategies and policies for the NDB that can set it on a different path and actually deliver development.”

A primary concern among NGOs has been that the BRICS bank will replicate the old “mega-project” model of development, which has proven to be a failure both in terms of poverty eradication and increased access to basic services.

A recent international investigation revealed that in the course of a single decade, an estimated 3.4 million poor people – primarily from Asia, Africa and Latin America – were displaced by mega-projects funded by the World Bank and its private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Though these projects were ostensibly aimed at strengthening transportation networks, expanding electric grids and improving water supply systems, they resulted in a worsening of poverty and inequality for millions of already marginalised people.

Following closely on the heels of this damning expose, a major report by the international watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that the Bank’s lax safeguards and protocols resulted in a range of rights violations against those who spoke out against the economic, social and environmental fallout of Bank-funded projects.

Behind this track record, rights groups and NGOs are concerned that a new development bank operating on within a broken framework will contribute to the spiral of violence and poverty that has marked the age of mega-projects.

At a time when one billion people lack access to an all-weather road, 783 million people live without clean water supplies and 1.3 billion people are not connected to an electricity grid, there is no doubt that the developing world stands to gain greatly from a Southern-led financial institution.

What remains to be seen is to what extent the new bank will move away from the old model of financing and truly set a standard for inclusive and pro-poor development.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: The End of the Greek Tragedy?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/opinion-the-end-of-the-greek-tragedy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-end-of-the-greek-tragedy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/opinion-the-end-of-the-greek-tragedy/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 11:54:24 +0000 Joaquin Roy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141452

In this column, Joaquín Roy, Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration and Director of the European Union Centre at the University of Miami, argues that the decisive result of the Greek referendum has opened a new chapter not only for the future of Greece, but also in terms of the essence of the European Union itself, which will have to abandon its eternal habit of brinkmanship and coming to last-minute arrangements.

By Joaquín Roy
BARCELONA, Jul 7 2015 (IPS)

The decisive result of the Greek referendum held Jul. 5, in which voters overwhelmingly rejected (61.3 to 38.7 percent) the terms of an international bailout, has opened a new chapter not only for the future of Greece, but also in terms of the essence of the European Union itself.

Paradoxically, the future of the euro may become a secondary issue.

Joaquín Roy

Joaquín Roy

In the coming week, the pages will be turned on some chapters of European history that had been regarded as a fixed part of the script.

The fact that, in their time, previous Greek governments blatantly misrepresented the country’s financial situation in order to secure entry into the euro zone will have to be put aside.

The authorities in Brussels will have to be forgiven for turning a blind eye so that the country using the world’s oldest existing currency, and that had founded a mythical democracy, should not be excluded from the inaugural party of Europe’s spectacular expansion.

The eternal European habit of brinkmanship and coming to last-minute arrangements – so that summits produce neither winners nor losers, but everyone can go home feeling vindicated – will have to be given up for practical reasons.

This battle may still cause significant damage and a high number of casualties.

In the first place, although the voting reflects clear overall rejection of E.U. impositions, Greek society remains dangerously divided on the choice presented to it by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The problems the Greek people face in their daily lives will not disappear after the referendum.“If there is no new bailout or a massive debt write-off, the [Greek] government may be forced by its inability to satisfy the citizenry’s demands to choose between two evils … the humiliation of urgent humanitarian aid from the European Union … [or] the dangerous path of seeking protection from external interests”

Those who voted in favour of accepting the conditions of the European institutions and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will blame those who backed Tsipras for the costs they will all have to bear. Those who voted No and “won” the contest may well feel disappointed when they see the economic situation worsening, or not noticeably improving.

The referendum results indicate that conservatives and the middle classes decided to support the bailout conditions because they at least had some assets. On the other hand, the majority of people who have nothing, or who have lost nearly everything, preferred to carry on the struggle and reject E.U. pressures.

It is worth noting that the proportion of No votes in the referendum was higher than the proportion of ballots cast for the left-wing Tsipras in the recent elections that propelled his party to power.

If there is no new bailout or a massive debt write-off, the government may be forced by its inability to satisfy the citizenry’s demands to choose between two evils. On the one hand it may have to accept the humiliation of urgent humanitarian aid from the European Union, as has been suggested at the eleventh hour. On the other hand, it might take the dangerous path of seeking protection from external interests, as recent overtures towards Moscow appear to indicate.

E.U. leaders may pursue the threats they made in the final hours of the referendum campaign. The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, might have found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to take action to back up his last-minute arguments about the dire consequences of exiting the euro. Now, however, he has backed down and appears to be leaning toward negotiation.

Other E.U. leaders are also in awkward positions. Where will European Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker be if Berlin’s hard line prevails?

Or conversely, where will everyone be if traditional negotiation and classic compromise are now being reconsidered?

A traditional forecast is that the European leaders in Brussels, backed by the IMF, will opt for negotiation, because they do not want to go down in history as participants in a conflict with unpredictable consequences. It does not suit the Greek prime minister to overstep the mark, either, and he could therefore make the European Union an offer it cannot refuse. For their part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other holders of the enormous debt know that if Greece exits the euro, repayment will be impossible.

In the distance, the United States has expressed concern over the development of this process. Economic convulsion in Europe is not in the interests of Washington; moreover, from its standpoint, two issues are crucial for preventing damage from spilling over into other vital dimensions.

The first is the threat that Greece may be tempted to drift into the sphere of Russia’s protection.

The second is the disturbing sight of the European Union under a divided leadership and with damaged financial underpinnings at the height of negotiations for the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States.

Indecisive leaders in Europe will make it very difficult for U.S. President Barack Obama to exercise his negotiation mandate granted by Congress, increasing the likelihood that the project will be delayed until a new U.S. president takes office.

In conclusion, the decisions taken now in Brussels and other European capitals will determine whether or not there will be further harm to the essence of the European Union – and to the euro, the jewel in the crown and the cause of the whole drama. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Pablo Piacentini/Phil Harris   

Translated by Valerie Dee

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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Opinion: Love & Mercy, the Croatian Wayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/opinion-love-mercy-the-croatian-way/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-love-mercy-the-croatian-way http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/opinion-love-mercy-the-croatian-way/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 16:43:10 +0000 Emina Cerimovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141435

Emina Ćerimović is a Koenig fellow at Human Rights Watch and carried out research in 2014 on institutionalization of people with disabilities in Croatia.

By Emina Ćerimović
NEW YORK, Jul 6 2015 (IPS)

Last week, I went to see the new flick “Love & Mercy,” about the life of Brian Wilson, a singer, songwriter, and the genius behind The Beach Boys. I hadn’t heard much about the film. In fact, I was expecting a summer movie about surfing and fun; The Beach Boys playing Kokomo, Good Vibrations, and Surfin’ U.S.A. on sunny California  beaches.

Emina Ćerimović. Photo Courtesy of HRW

Emina Ćerimović. Photo Courtesy of HRW

I was wrong. Instead, lives of hundreds of people I’ve met unfolded on the screen.

Love & Mercy depicts Wilson in two narratives: in the first, he is portrayed at the height of his fame as the leader of The Beach Boys in the 1960s. The second features a middle-aged Wilson misdiagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia by Eugene Landy, Wilson’s therapist and legal guardian.

In the movie, Landy keeps Wilson heavily medicated as he controls every aspect of his life, including his finances, residence, family relationships and social interactions, and other basic life decisions. In one scene, Wilson talks about not speaking to his mother and daughters for years because Landy “doesn’t think it is a good idea.”

In another, Landy tells Wilson when and how much he should eat and whom he should date. Landy himself explains his influence:  “I’m the control. He is a little boy in a man’s body… It is my job, my duty to approve everyone Brian is spending time with.”Ivan and Tatjana told me that they did not consent to their confinement to an institution. They were, in fact, never asked about their preferences, wishes and wants.

Wilson did not argue against Landy taking charge for fear that Landy would have him committed to an institution. As Wilson explains in the movie: “I can’t do that [disobey Landy]. He is my legal guardian. He can do things to me… He can send me away… There’s no way out.”

As the movie unfolded, it wasn’t solely Wilson’s story that I saw on the screen. I was reminded of Tatjana and Ivan, whom I met in Croatia. They are among the 18,000 people with disabilities placed under guardianship there and denied their right to make decisions about their lives.

More than 90 percent live under full guardianship, under which the guardians – often nominated by the government – make all life decisions for them.

Tatjana was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her early 30s, deprived of her legal capacity and placed under guardianship. She is now 47 but can’t visit her daughter or her mother without the permission of her guardian – in her case, a social worker.

It is the same if she wants to move to another house, get married, sign an employment contract, make health care decisions, or even officially publish her poems. Tatjana lived for nine years in an institution against her will because her legal guardian placed her there.  

Ivan is 30 and was diagnosed with mild mental health problems. He was just 16 when he was placed indefinitely in Lopaca, a psychiatric hospital where 168 people, including 20 children, are confined. He still lives there.

Ivan and Tatjana told me that they did not consent to their confinement to an institution. They were, in fact, never asked about their preferences, wishes and wants. Both of them were stripped of their right to make decisions about their lives and appointed legal guardians.

Neither Tatjana nor Ivan was present during the court proceedings determining their legal capacity so they could  provide their input for this major decision about their life.  While guardians are supposed to only oversee decisions with legal consequences, such as signing contracts, in Croatia – just like what was depicted in Love & Mercy –guardians can monitor and control every move a person makes.

I saw firsthand that people with disabilities trapped in institutions in Croatia can experience a range of abuses including verbal abuse, forced treatment, involuntary confinement in hospitals, and limited freedom of movement.

At a pivotal point in the movie, Landy forbids Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter, his current wife, from seeing each other. That triggers Ledbetter, the true heroine of the movie, to intensify her efforts to free Wilson from Landy’s control. She learns that Wilson’s will would have awarded the vast majority of his wealth to Landy. The good news: Wilson’s family files a lawsuit successfully challenging the guardianship.

Sadly, there are no heroines to free Tatjana or Ivan of their guardians. There is a chance of a happy ending though. Croatia, unlike the U.S., has ratified the U.N. Disability Rights Treaty, which requires governments to move away from guardianship and instead provide a system of assistance and support for decision-making that respects the autonomy, will, and preferences of the person with the disability. Croatian laws, however, don’t reflect this.

Key policymakers in the Croatian government should see “Love & Mercy.” Maybe then they will abolish Croatia’s guardianship regime and provide a wide range of support measures. Who knew that The Beach Boys’ influence could go so far beyond their music?

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: If You’re Against Coal Mining, Walk In and Stop Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/opinion-if-youre-against-coal-mining-walk-in-and-stop-it/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-if-youre-against-coal-mining-walk-in-and-stop-it http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/opinion-if-youre-against-coal-mining-walk-in-and-stop-it/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 17:06:07 +0000 Dorothee Haussermann and Martin Weis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141394 Citizens plan to stop the giant coal excavators in the Rhineland coal mines, the world’s biggest land vehicles. Photo credit: ausgeCOhlt

Citizens plan to stop the giant coal excavators in the Rhineland coal mines, the world’s biggest land vehicles. Photo credit: ausgeCOhlt

By Dorothee Haussermann and Martin Weis
BERLIN, Jul 2 2015 (IPS)

“If you’re against coal mining, why don’t you just walk into a coal mine and stop the excavators?”

It’s a late June evening in the German town of Mayence and about 40 people are gathered to discuss a coal phase-out and degrowth.

“It’s possible,” continues the speaker. “You just walk up to the excavator and it will stop – at least temporarily. So, if you take the threat of climate change seriously, what keeps you from stopping the destruction right on the spot?”“Large sections of the climate justice movement no longer believe that U.N. negotiations or lobby-ridden governments will come up with the urgent solutions needed to solve our socio-ecological crisis”

To keep coal in the ground and not burn it in order to avert catastrophic climate change, we now know that we cannot rely on the German government. Yesterday, Jul. 1, the partners of the ruling coalition scrapped a proposed climate levy, an instrument that had been proposed by energy minister Sigmar Gabriel to still reach the national climate goals for 2020, an overall emissions reduction of 40 percent.

As it stands, the energy sector is behind on its targets, largely due to the continued use of lignite or brown coal. Four of Europe’s five largest emitters are German lignite power plants and coal accounts for one-third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The climate levy proposed a cap on CO2 emissions for individual power plants, which would have primarily affected the oldest and dirtiest lignite power stations. The measure was backed by climate scientists and economic experts. It also enjoyed huge public support, with the overwhelming majority of Germans in favour of a coal phase-out.

However, powerful interests mobilised against the measure. These included members of the governing parties, the big power suppliers RWE and Vattenfall which would have been most affected, and IGBCE, the mining industry trade union.

Playing the ‘jobs-will-be-lost’ card, they introduced an alternative proposal, which has been criticised for seeking smaller emission cuts at a higher cost to consumers and taxpayers. Yet, the government agreed yesterday to drop the climate levy in favour of the industry proposal.

Two points are particularly infuriating and in fact quite worrying. There seems to be an absolute disconnect between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s earlier rhetoric of the ‘decarbonisation of the worldwide economy’ at the Jun. 7-8 G7 Summit in Elmau, and the actions of her government at home only a few days later. Secondly, the influence of the coal industry in the democratic process is staggering. Their hastily compiled alternative actually carried the day and the big polluters are let off the hook.

The German example is a case in point of why large sections of the climate justice movement no longer believe that U.N. negotiations or lobby-ridden governments will come up with the urgent solutions needed to solve our socio-ecological crisis.

This is why we are taking the creation of an equitable and ecological society into our own hands instead of relying on promises of green growth or paying lip service to the G7.

This summer, the German and European anti-coal movement will take the fight to a new level. A coalition of grassroots groups and NGOs have called for a mass act of civil disobedience that is intended to bring operations in the Rhineland coalfields – the biggest source of Europe’s CO2 emissions – to a halt.

From Aug. 14 to 16, hundreds of people from across Europe plan to enter an open-pit lignite mine with many more standing outside the mine in solidarity. Under the banner Ende Gelände, which translates into ‘this far and no further’, they will aim to block the mining infrastructure.

During the G7 summit, four people already showed that it can be done when they scaled one of the monstrously huge excavators and stopped work in the mine for two days.

The action this summer is part of a growing and diverse movement against lignite mining, ranging from local citizens’ initiatives against poisonous air pollution, to fights for divestment and the occupation of an old-growth forest that stands to be cleared for the extension of the mines.

Those participating in the discussion in Mayence were convinced that this upcoming action in August is a moral imperative.

“Of course, it’s illegal but civil disobedience is our emergency brake,” said one. “If people thirty years from now were to ask us what we did to prevent the mass extinction of species, heat waves, crop failures, the melting of glaciers and wildfires, can we say: I could have stopped coal mining, but I didn’t because there was a sign saying ‘No Trespassing’?”

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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Opinion: The ACP at 40 – Repositioning as a Global Playerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-the-acp-at-40-repositioning-as-a-global-player/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-acp-at-40-repositioning-as-a-global-player http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-the-acp-at-40-repositioning-as-a-global-player/#comments Sun, 28 Jun 2015 16:25:36 +0000 Patrick I. Gomes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141340 ACP Secretary-General Patrick I. Gomes, who sees the group’s role as “a global player defending, protecting and promoting an inclusive struggle against poverty and for sustainable development in a world enmeshed in inequality”. Photo credit: ACP Press

ACP Secretary-General Patrick I. Gomes, who sees the group’s role as “a global player defending, protecting and promoting an inclusive struggle against poverty and for sustainable development in a world enmeshed in inequality”. Photo credit: ACP Press

By Patrick I. Gomes
BRUSSELS, Jun 28 2015 (IPS)

In his memoirs, Glimpses of a Global Life, Sir Shridath Ramphal, then-Foreign Minister of the Republic of Guyana, who played a leading role in the evolution of the Lomé negotiations that lead to the birth of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, pointed to the significant lessons of that engagement of developed and developing countries some 40 years ago and had this to say:

“As regards the Lomé negotiations, the process of unification – for such it was – added a new dimension to the Third World’s quest for economic justice through international action. Its significance, however, derives not merely from the terms of the negotiated relationship between the 46 ACP states and the EEC, but from the methodology of unified bargaining which the negotiations pioneered.

Never before had so large a segment of the developing world negotiated with so powerful a grouping of developed countries so comprehensive and so innovative a regime of economic relations. It was a new, and salutary, experience for Europe; it was a new, and reassuring, experience for the ACP States.

“Forty years later, that lesson remains retains its validity. Unity of purpose and action remains the touchstone of ACP’s meaning and success.”

With a conscious appreciation of that founding unity of purpose and action, the ACP Group convened a high-level symposium at its headquarters in Brussels on Jun. 6. The event marked the milestone of four decades of trade and economic cooperation, vigorous and contentious political engagements and a range of development finance programmes – all aimed at the eradication of poverty from the lives of the millions of people in its 79 member states.“The ACP will craft its future path to continue the struggle against power, inequality and injustice, the core purpose for which it was established in 1975”

In 1975, it was 46 developing countries that met in the capital city of Guyana, to sign the Georgetown Agreement and give birth to the ACP Group. They had recently embarked on their post-colonial path of independence following successful negotiations of non-reciprocal trade arrangements with the then nine-member European Economic Community (EEC) in February.

Known as the Lomé Agreement, after the capital of Togo where it was signed, this legally-binding, international agreement had a life-span of 25 years to 2000. Essentially, it comprised three pillars of trade and economic cooperation, development assistance – mainly through grants from the European Development Fund (EDF) – and political dialogue on issues such as human rights and democratic governance.

During that period, the preferential trade and aid pact undoubtedly gave an impetus to various aspects of economic and social development in the ACP Group. Substantial revenue was received from preferential access to the European market for exports of clothing, banana, sugar, cocoa, beef, fruit and vegetables, for example, and with the accompanying aid programmes.

The benefits were seen in the economies of Mauritius, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Namibia, Guyana and Fiji, to name a few. Member states of the ACP Group, less-developed countries (LDCs), landlocked states and small island developing states (SIDS), had access to returns from trade for improved social services and in this sense, the first decades of Lomé were certainly gains for development in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific.

But these gains entrenched an aid-dependency of commodity export economies with minimal structural transformation through value-added manufacturing and related service sectors in ACP countries.

The fierce trade-liberalising world of the late 1990s, rising indebtedness due to enormous increase in the cost of energy and pressure from the challenge of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to the European Union’s discriminatory practice of preferential trade and aid to this exclusive set of developing countries meant that post-Lomé ACP-EU trade relations had to be WTO-compatible.

Finding compatibility for “substantially all trade” between the economies of the ACP’s 79 members – grouped in six regions of Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific – and Europe, and ensuring that development criteria take precedence over tariff reductions and WTO rules have proven contentious in this long-standing partnership.

With this overhang of tensions in its troubled access to its principal market, the ACP faces the conclusion of the 20-year Agreement signed in Cotonou, the Republic of Benin, in 2020.

A soul-searching and vigorous process to be repositioned as a global player defending, protecting and promoting an inclusive struggle against poverty and for sustainable development in a world enmeshed in inequality is the singular task on which the ACP now concentrates.

Such a task has entailed a series of actions that are informed by the report of the Ambassadorial Working Group on Future Perspectives for the ACP Group of States that was approved by the Council of Ministers in December 2014.

The main thrust of the transformation and repositioning of the ACP is captured in the strategic policy domains identified in the report.

These are in five thematic areas that address:

a) Rule of Law & Good Governance;

b) Global Justice & Human Security;

c) Building Sustainable, Resilient & Creative Economies; and

d) Intra-ACP Trade, Industrialisation and Regional Integration;

e) Financing for Development.

In each of these, and in ways that are mutually reinforcing, very specific programmed activities of an annual action plan are being prepared and will be executed.

For example, the annual plan will address the thematic area of “sustainable, resilient and creative economies” through the mechanism of an ACP Forum on SIDS with financial resources, mainly from the intra-ACP allocation of the EDF and the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), one of the partner agencies of the UN system with which the ACP Group works very closely.

Conceptualised so as to address systemic and structural factors affecting sustainable development, the ACP emphasises South-South and triangular cooperation as a major modality for implementation of its role as catalyst and advocate.

The current stage of rethinking and refocusing provides an opportunity for 40 years of development through trade by which the ACP Group and the European Union could recast the world’s most unique and enduring North-South treaty of developed and developing countries to effectively participate in a global partnership where no one is left behind.

The ACP has social and organisational capital accumulated from a rich experience on trade negotiations with the world’s largest bloc of Europe and its 500 million inhabitants.

Undoubtedly marked by contentious issues on trade provisions to satisfy the WTO’s non-discriminatory behaviour among its member States, ACP-EU relations reveal the persistent battle of poor versus rich with a view to finding common ground on issues of mutual interest.

The 40th anniversary celebration by the ACP Group at a High-Level Inter-regional Symposium on Jun. 4 and 5 witnessed reflections on achievements and failures, as well as limitations in the performance of the ACP Group, in itself as a group and among its member states, as well as in its partnership with the European Union and the wider global arena.

The theme of the symposium covered the initial Georgetown Agreement and the ambitious objectives that were set in 1975. The high point was the keynote address by H.E. Sam Kutesa, President of the UN General Assembly.

Interestingly, discussions revealed how relevant and timely they remain and of special note was the “promotion of a fairer and more equitable new world order”.

This retrospective conversation has been recognised as fundamental for how, and in what direction, the ACP will craft its future path to continue the struggle against power, inequality and injustice, the core purpose for which it was established in 1975.

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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Rome March Celebrates Pope’s Call for Urgent Climate Actionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/rome-march-celebrate-popes-call-for-urgent-climate-action/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rome-march-celebrate-popes-call-for-urgent-climate-action http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/rome-march-celebrate-popes-call-for-urgent-climate-action/#comments Sun, 28 Jun 2015 13:06:28 +0000 Sean Buchanan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141337 March by people of faith, civil society groups and communities impacted by climate change in Rome on Jun. 28 to express gratitude to Pope Francis for the release of his Laudato Si encyclical on the environment. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka/350.org

March by people of faith, civil society groups and communities impacted by climate change in Rome on Jun. 28 to express gratitude to Pope Francis for the release of his Laudato Si encyclical on the environment. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka/350.org

By Sean Buchanan
ROME, Jun 28 2015 (IPS)

People of faith, civil society groups, and communities affected by climate change marched together in Rome Sunday Jun. 28 to express gratitude to Pope Francis for the release of his Laudato Si encyclical on the environment, and call for bolder climate action by world leaders.

Under the banner of ‘One Earth One Family’, the march brought together Catholics and other Christians, followers of non-Christian faiths, environmentalists and people of goodwill. The march ended in St. Peter’s Square in time for the Pope’s weekly Angelus and blessing.“The truth of the matter is that all of humanity needs to stand united in addressing the crisis of our times. Climate change is an issue for everyone with a moral conscience” – Arianne Kassman, climate activist from Papua New Guinea

The celebratory march was animated by a musical band, a climate choir and colourful public artwork designed by artists from Italy and other countries, whose work played a major role in the People’s Climate March in New York City in September last year.

“As we stand at this critical juncture in addressing the climate crisis, we are particularly grateful to the Pope for releasing this encyclical as an awakening for the world to understand how climate change impacts people across all regions,” said Arianne Kassman, a climate activist from Papua New Guinea who took part in march to speak about the reality of climate change in the Pacific.

“The truth of the matter is that all of humanity needs to stand united in addressing the crisis of our times. Climate change is an issue for everyone with a moral conscience,” she added.

Among the messages relayed to the Pope during the march was a request to make fossil fuel divestment part of his moral message in the urgent need to address the climate crisis.

“The fossil fuel divestment campaign is hinged on the same moral premise communicated by Pope Francis in his encyclical,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines.

“The campaign serves to highlight the immorality of investing in the source of the climate injustice we currently experience. This is why we hope that moving forward and building on this powerful message, Pope Francis can make fossil fuel divestment a part of his moral argument for urgent climate action.”

A petition urging Pope Francis to rid the Vatican of investments in fossil fuels has already gathered tens of thousands of signatures.

Over recent months, dozens of religious institutions have divested from coal, oil and gas companies or endorsed the effort, including the World Council of Churches, representing half a billion Christians in 150 countries.

In May 2015, the Church of England announced it had sold 12 million pounds in thermal coal and tar sands and just this week the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) announced that it will exclude fossil fuel companies from its investments and call on its member churches with 72 million members to do likewise.

More than 220 institutions have commitments to divest from fossil fuels, with faith institutions making up the biggest segment.

As world leaders prepare to meet in Paris later this year for U.N. climate talks, the growing divestment movement will continue to fuel the ethical and economic revolution needed to prevent catastrophic climate change and growing inequality, a key message from Pope Francis’ encyclical.

“The clear path required to address the climate crisis is one that breaks humanity free from the current stranglehold of fossil fuels on our lives and the planet,” said Hoda Baraka, Global Communications Manager for 350.org, one of the organisers of the march.

“This encyclical reinforces the tectonic shift that is happening – we simply cannot continue to treat the Earth as a tool for exploitation.”

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Opinion: Torgersen Has Died, but His Case Won’t Lie Downhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-torgersen-has-died-but-his-case-wont-lie-down/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-torgersen-has-died-but-his-case-wont-lie-down http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-torgersen-has-died-but-his-case-wont-lie-down/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 12:43:48 +0000 Fredrik S. Heffermehl http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141278

In this column, Fredrik S. Heffermehl, a Norwegian lawyer and author who has published books on the Nobel Peace Prize and established the Nobel Peace Prize Watch (nobelwill.org), takes the legal case of Fredrik Fasting Torgersen to argue that courts around the world often fail to see the difference between similarities and probabilities, compounded by the lack of training for assessing probabilities correctly.

By Fredrik S. Heffermehl
OSLO, Jun 24 2015 (IPS)

When he died at the age of 80 on Jun. 18 in Oslo, Fredrik Fasting Torgersen had divided Norway for 56 years and the “Torgersen case” had attracted international interest in forensic science circles, among them the U.S.-based Innocence Project.

The case has a lot to tell us about evaluation of evidence, and how to avoid wrongful convictions.

At 24, Torgersen was convicted as the murderer of a 16-year-old woman found brutally killed in a basement in the house where she lived. He served 16 years in jail, but always insisted on his innocence and enjoyed a wealth of support.

Fredrik S. Heffermehl

Fredrik S. Heffermehl

Norway’s chief prosecutor (Riksadvokaten) and the judiciary have time and again turned down appeals for a reversal, but they are increasingly alone in their view; criticism from scientists, authors and the general public has grown steadily.

Torgersen had a prior record with the police when, just after midnight on Dec. 6, 1957, he was arrested in the centre of Oslo, suspected of having stolen a bicycle. During interrogation, the police station received a report of a young woman found dead in the same area. The police immediately suspected Torgersen and, in the coming weeks and months, collected everything that could appear to prove their theory.

The police were so convinced of his guilt that obvious exculpatory evidence, such as the lack of blood splatter on Torgersen´s clothing, was ignored.

Today, it is generally recognised that police must not focus on one suspect too early, and that material deemed “uninteresting” by the police must be made available to defence attorneys and the court.

Yet, the aspect of the case that seems to call for a revolution, in no way limited to Norway, has to do with evaluation of evidence. Courts lack training essential for assessing probabilities correctly.“Judges (and defence attorneys) must be trained in basic scientific methodology, logics and elementary statistical principles. Only then will they be able to unmask apparently impressive expert testimony not underpinned by empirical research on the real world and its variations”

At the original trial of Torgersen in 1958, the prosecutor presented three forms of technical evidence and a series of experts who told the court that unique aspects of this evidence (a bite mark, traces of faeces, and some spruce needles) amounted to total probability, indisputable proof, that Torgersen had been at the crime scene and left a bite mark on the breast of the murdered woman. The court relied on “likenesses” as conclusive evidence against him.

It applies all over the world – courts fail to see the difference between similarities and probabilities.

A bite mark tells that the killer had teeth, meaning it could be anyone. Unique traits are needed. When a dentist testifying against Torgersen told the court that the teeth had met “edge-to-edge” and that this clearly pointed to Torgersen, the defence attorney asked: “How unusual, one in two, in ten, in fifty, or one in a thousand?” The dentist could not tell, but the court did not understand what was at issue.

If the court had understood, this type of question would have been asked not only once, but again and again in the case, in all other cases in all courts, everywhere. Likeness in itself tells nothing. To draw conclusions about probability and uniqueness, one always needs to know normal frequencies.

This was the key discovery made in 2001 by the Oslo professor of criminal law, Ståle Eskeland, who, after 20 years on the case, leads a very broad effort for reversal of the Torgersen conviction.

Eskeland has explained this elementary rule of conclusions theory to the courts repeatedly, but they seem unable to grasp it. Courts have continually upheld the Torgersen conviction without even the smallest comment on the probability argument.

In a recent debate, a leading defender of Torgersen, Professor Per Brandtzæg, Norway´s most internationally quoted scientist, supported Eskeland. In a rebuttal, the former director of the Norwegian Courts Administration, Tor Langbach, insisted that the courts are critical, they ask questions.

He seems to miss the point. Not only must the courts ask the experts questions, says a professor of law in Oslo, Leif Petter Olaussen, they must ask the right questions.

To do so, judges (and defence attorneys) must be trained in basic scientific methodology, logics and elementary statistical principles. Only then will they be able to unmask apparently impressive expert testimony not underpinned by empirical research on the real world and its variations. 

Olaussen refers to an example of the horrific consequence of not asking the right question. Ten years ago a court found an employee in a kindergarten guilty of sexual abuse. Some rumours had circulated (children are fanciful) and, based on testimony from two doctors about unusual red marks around the vaginas of the small girls, the court concluded that improper conduct had occurred. Someone must have done it, and the most likely was Mr. NN (!), who was then whisked off to jail.

The court should have inquired about the research basis for calling red marks unusual. There was no such research at the time, only ten years later. Red marks are normal. The judgment was reversed.

Torgersen died in peace, he felt acquitted by both public and experts and knew that a solid group would continue to take his case forward. Just one week before he died, a new request for reversal was submitted by two heavyweight attorneys, Cato Schiøtz and Pål W. Lorentzen.

After 64 years, the file is enormous, but the case is still very simple – the lawyers found no valid evidence against Torgersen, but a whole lot that exculpates him.

One day, Norway and the world will thank Torgersen for a lifelong effort in the service of justice. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

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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Corporate Interests Dominate Lobbying With EU Policy-Makershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/corporate-interests-dominate-lobbying-with-eu-policy-makers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=corporate-interests-dominate-lobbying-with-eu-policy-makers http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/corporate-interests-dominate-lobbying-with-eu-policy-makers/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 12:23:42 +0000 Sean Buchanan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141275 By Sean Buchanan
LONDON, Jun 24 2015 (IPS)

The overwhelming majority of lobby meetings held by European Commissioners and their closest advisors are with representatives of corporate interests, according to an analysis published Jun. 24 by Transparency International (TI).

The finding was revealed by EU Integrity Watch, a new lobby monitoring tool launched by TI, which “works with governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals.”

Today’s assessment of the situation of lobbying in Brussels follows the publication in April of TI’s report on lobbying in Europe. That report analysed lobbying in 19 European countries and in the three European Union institutions and showed examples of undue influence on politics across the region and in Brussels.

At the time, Elena Panfilova, Vice-Chair of TI, said: “In the past five years, Europe’s leaders have made difficult economic decisions that have had big consequences for citizens. Those citizens need to know that decision-makers were acting in the public interest, not the interest of a few select players.”"There is a strong link between the amount of money you spend and the number of meetings you get [with European Commission officials]. Those organisations with the biggest lobby budgets get a lot of access, particularly on the financial, digital and energy portfolios” – Daniel Freund, Transparency International EU

According to Tl’s new analysis, of the more than 4,300 lobby meetings declared by the top tier of European Commission officials between December 2014 and June 2015, more than 75 percent were with corporate lobbyists. Only 18 percent were with NGOs, four percent with think tanks and two percent with local authorities.

Google, General Electric and Airbus were reported to be among the most active lobbyists at this level, and Google and General Electric were also said to some of the biggest spenders in Brussels, each declaring EU lobby budgets of around 3.5 million euros a year.

Of the 7,908 organisations which have voluntarily registered in the EU Transparency Register – the register of European Union lobbyists – 4,879 seek to influence political decisions of the European Union on behalf of corporate interests.

Exxon Mobil, Shell and Microsoft (all 4.5-5 million euros) are the top three companies in terms of lobby budgets, according to their declarations made to the Register.

“The evidence of the last six months suggests there is a strong link between the amount of money you spend and the number of meetings you get,” said Daniel Freund of Transparency International EU. “Those organisations with the biggest lobby budgets get a lot of access, particularly on the financial, digital and energy portfolios.”

According to Transparency International EU, the portfolios for climate and energy (487 meetings), jobs and growth (398), digital economy (366) and financial markets (295) currently receive most attention from lobbyists.

The Commissioners in charge of the latter three – Finland’s Jyrki Katainen, the United Kingdom’s Jonathan Hill and Germany’s Günther Oettinger – are reported to have particularly low numbers for meetings with civil society – three, three and two respectively, representing between four and eight percent of the total number of their declared meetings.

While large global NGOs, such as World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Greenpeace, are in the Top 10 of organisations with most meetings, TI said it was notable that meetings with civil society are often held as large roundtable events with multiple participants.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who issued instructions In November 2014 that “Members of the Commission should seek to ensure an appropriate balance and representativeness in the stakeholders they meet". Photo credit: CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who issued instructions In November 2014 that “Members of the Commission should seek to ensure an appropriate balance and representativeness in the stakeholders they meet”. Photo credit: CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In November 2014, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker issued instructions on the Commission’s working methods: “While contact with stakeholders is a natural and important part of the work of a Member of the Commission, all such contacts should be conducted with transparency and Members of the Commission should seek to ensure an appropriate balance and representativeness in the stakeholders they meet.”

The new data also reveals that 80 percent of the 7,821 organisations currently registered did not have a single meeting reported with a Commissioner or their teams, demonstrating the limitations of the European Commission’s new transparency provisions that only cover the highest ranking top one percent of E.U. officials and only 20 percent of the registered lobby organisations.

Lower-level officials, such as the team negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States, are not covered.

“The European Commission should be congratulated on providing this insight into lobbying of high-level officials, but this is just part of the picture,” said Carl Dolan, Director of Transparency International EU. “Officials are lobbied at all levels and greater transparency is required to reassure the public about the integrity of EU policy-making.

Transparency International EU also found that many organisations still remain absent from the register. This includes 14 of the 20 biggest law-firms in the world that all have Brussels offices, such as Clifford Chance, White & Case or Sidley Austin. Eleven out of these 14 law firms have registered as lobby organisations in Washington DC, where registration is mandatory.

“Much of the information that lobbyists voluntarily file with the lobby register is inaccurate, incomplete or outright meaningless,” said Freund, adding that over 60 percent of organisations that lobbied the European Commission on the EU-US trade agreement do not properly declare these activities.

Further, on the broad reform package of financial services entitled ‘Capital Markets Union’, many banks – including HSBC, BNP Paribas and Lloyds – that have had meetings on this topic fail to declare in the lobby register that they are active in this area.

The findings of EU Integrity Watch also reveal hundreds of completely meaningless declarations, with some organisations claiming to spend more than 100 million euros on E.U. lobbying or having tens of thousands of lobbyists at their disposal, showing the need for more systematic checks and verification by the Commission and ultimately a mandatory register.

Freund said that “all E.U. institutions should publish a ‘legislative footprint’ – a public record of all lobby meetings and other input that has influenced policies and legislation.”

Recognising that the European Commission has started moving in the right direction, TI says that the measures introduced so far need to be extended to everyone involved in the decision-making process, including the European Parliament and Council.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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U.N. Names Winners of First Nelson Mandela Prizehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/u-n-names-winners-of-first-nelson-mandela-prize/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-names-winners-of-first-nelson-mandela-prize http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/u-n-names-winners-of-first-nelson-mandela-prize/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 17:54:11 +0000 Kitty Stapp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141250 Nelson Mandela, Deputy President of the African National Congress of South Africa, raises his fist in the air while addressing the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall, June 22, 1990. Credit: UN Photo/Pernaca Sudhakaran

Nelson Mandela, Deputy President of the African National Congress of South Africa, raises his fist in the air while addressing the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall, June 22, 1990. Credit: UN Photo/Pernaca Sudhakaran

By Kitty Stapp
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 2015 (IPS)

The winners of the first-ever United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize were announced Monday by General Assembly President Sam Kutesa, 25 years to the day that Mandela addressed the U.N. General Assembly to denounce apartheid in his home country of South Africa.

They are Dr. Helena Ndume of Namibia, and Jorge Sampaio of Portugal.

Kutesa said that the winners were chosen from about 300 applicants for the prize from a variety of sources, including member states as well as observer states of the U.N., institutions of higher education, intergovernmental organisations and NGOs.

The Prize was established in June 2014 by the General Assembly to recognise the achievements of those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity by promoting the purposes and principles of the United Nations, while honouring and paying homage to Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary life and legacy of reconciliation, political transition, and social transformation.

Dr. Ndume is a Namibian ophthalmologist, widely renowned for her charitable work among sufferers of eye-related illnesses in Namibia. Dr. Ndume has ensured that some 30,000 blind Namibians have received eye surgery and are fitted with intra-ocular lens implants free of charge.

She is currently the head of the ophthalmology department at Windhoek Central Hospital, Namibia’s largest hospital, and is one of only six Namibian ophthalmologists. Ndume has also set up eye camps in Angola, working with international organisations to bring eye surgery to the country’s poor.

Jorge Sampaio is a Portuguese lawyer and politician who was president of Portugal from 1996 to 2006. He became a leader in the struggle for the restoration of democracy in his country, and also served as deputy minister for external cooperation and as mayor of Lisbon from 1989 to 1995.

He is a strong advocate of the European integration project, actively supported its enlargement to all democratic countries in Europe as well as to Turkey, and played an active role in engaging ordinary people, in particular youth, in public debates on European affairs.

Sampaio is now a member of the Club de Madrid, a grouping of more than 80 former democratic statesmen that works to strengthen democratic governance and leadership worldwide by drawing on the experience of its members.

In May 2006, Sampaio was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General as his first Special Envoy for the Global Plan to Stop Tuberculosis, where he raised the international visibility of this poverty disease’s scale and its impact on the Millennium Development Goals’ agenda.

In April 2007, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon designated him as High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, a position he held till September 2012.

Ban said the United Nations hoped to carry on Mandela’s “lifelong work through this meaningful prize.”

Chaired by the President of the General Assembly, the United Nations selection Committee for the Prize this year was composed of the Permanent Representatives of Algeria, Latvia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Sweden, representing the five United Nations geographical regional groups.

The Permanent Representative of South Africa was an ex-officio member of the Committee. The U.N. Department of Public Information served as the secretariat.

The award ceremony will take place on July 24 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. It will be part of the annual commemoration by the General Assembly of Nelson Mandela International Day.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: Ethical Challenges to Advertisinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-ethical-challenges-to-advertising/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-ethical-challenges-to-advertising http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-ethical-challenges-to-advertising/#comments Sat, 20 Jun 2015 10:00:04 +0000 Hazel Henderson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141230

In this column, Hazel Henderson, president of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) and author of 'Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age' and other books, writes that advertising need not necessarily be manipulative – it can be a powerful force for educating, inspiring and showcasing the best innovations for growing more inclusive, greener, knowledge-rich and sustainable societies.

By Hazel Henderson
ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida, Jun 20 2015 (IPS)

Challenges to advertisers and marketers arose in the past century. Critics deplored the role of cigarette marketers who exploited the aspirations of women by associating smoking with liberation. 

Such manipulations were explored by Vance Packard in The Hidden Persuaders (1957), along with Marshal McLuhan’s The Medium is the Message (1967) and Stuart Ewen’s Captains of Consciousness (1974).  The use of subliminal advertising (rapid flashing of product images faster than human cognition) was challenged and the public discussion led to its disuse.

Hazel Henderson

Hazel Henderson

By the 1980s, Ian Mitroff and Warren Bennis described the “deliberate manufacturing of falsehood” in The Unreality Industry (1989), followed by William Schrader’s Media Blight and the Dehumanizing of America (1992), Naomi Klein’s No Logo (1999) and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death (2005).

Fast forward to today’s ethical challenges.

Political advertising of candidates was likened to selling toothpaste as it emerged in the 1970s and summarized by Charles Lewis in The Buying of the President (1996) and James Fallows in Breaking the News (1996). Today, the gutting of restrictions on money in U.S. elections has led to the well-financed blizzard of attack ads that lead millions of voters to turn off their TV sets in disgust. Media corporations and their TV channels have come to rely on such financial bonanzas during elections.

What this confirms is that advertising influences media owners and the content of programmes and often distorts news coverage, leading to subtle commercial censorship rarely recognised as a threat to free speech in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Civic groups’ limited funding precludes challenging false and misleading advertising and the “greenwashing” of many companies’ poor environmental records. “Civic groups’ limited funding precludes challenging false and misleading advertising and the “greenwashing” of many companies’ poor environmental records”

I summarised these issues a few years ago in an interview in Forbes magazine on why I founded the EthicMark Awards for “advertising that uplifts the human spirit and society”.

These Awards recognise that advertising, a global 500 billion dollars a year  industry, can be a powerful force for good beyond consumerism, in educating, inspiring and showcasing the best innovations for growing more inclusive, greener, knowledge-rich and sustainable societies.

The newest challenge to advertisers comes from Silicon Valley with the many apps that allow users to skip and block ads, including AdBlockPlus (downloaded 400 million times), as well as add-ons to Chrome and Firefox browsers.  Ad block users have grown to 200 million a month, according to PageFair and The Economist.

Advertisers could redeem their reputations and business models via Truth in Advertising Assurance Set Aside (TIAASA) which would disallow their tax exempt funds on false advertising and then award these funds to civic challengers to hire ad agencies to prepare counter-advertising campaigns.

All this highlights the growing vulnerability of media business models in the United States, other industrial societies and worldwide.

Many new media business models which no longer rely on advertising are debated in The Death and Life of American Journalism (2010) by Robert McChesney and John Nichols who compare media access policies in many countries which subsidise investigative journalism, such as Britain’s BBC.

In the United States, foundations support news organisations such as the National Geographic, the Center for Public Integrity and ProPublica, and media outlets such as the Columbia Journalism Review. The American Prospect and The Nation are largely funded by subscribers as well as PBS and NPR in broadcasting, along with many internet-based media such as The Real News Network.

Google banned ad-blocking apps in 2013, yet alternative web-browsers such as UC Browser already claims 500 million users, mostly in China and India, and Eyeo launched its ad-blocking browser available for mobile devices running Google’s Android.  These battles will rage on until legal systems – always lagging behind technology – catch up.

Two reports from the Aspen Institute’s Communications and Society Program led by Charles Firestone – “Navigating Continual Disruption” and “The Atomic Age of Data” – discuss the digitisation of ever more sectors of industrial societies and the internet of things (IOT).

In the United States, the monopolising of internet access by Comcast, AT&T and Verizon has restricted broadband access to millions in less affluent, rural communities and prevented small towns from competing with public broadband systems, as reported by the Center for Public Integrity and Susan Crawford in Captive Audience (2013).

The good news follows the analysis and proposals of Kunda Dixit in DatelineEarth: Journalism as if the Planet Mattered (IPS, 1997) and includes Dan Gillmore’s We the Media (2004) on grassroots journalism; David Bollier’s In Search of the Public Interest in the New Media (2002); Democratizing Global Media (2005); Making the Net Work: Sustainable Development in a Digital Society (2003) from Britain’s Forum for the Future; and Jaron Lanier’s Who Owns the Future? (2013). (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

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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