Inter Press Service » Europe News and Views from the Global South Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:34:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Leading Powers to Double Renewable Energy Supply by 2030 Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:45:29 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz China has become the world leader in wind energy, although it is still surpassed by many European countries in terms of per capita wind power generation. Credit: Asian Development Bank

China has become the world leader in wind energy, although it is still surpassed by many European countries in terms of per capita wind power generation. Credit: Asian Development Bank

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSÉ, Nov 12 2015 (IPS)

Eight of the world’s leading economies will double their renewable energy supply by 2030 if they live up to their pledges to contribute to curbing global warming, which will be included in the new climate treaty.

A study published this month by the World Resources Institute (WRI) analysed the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) of the 10 largest greenhouse gas emitters to determine how much they will clean up their energy mix in the next 15 years.

Eight of the 10 – Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and the United States – will double their cumulative clean energy supply by 2030. The increase is equivalent to current energy demand in India, the world’s second-most populous nation.

“We looked at renewable energy because it’s a leading indicator for the global transition to a low-carbon economy. We won’t get deep emissions reductions without it,” WRI researcher Thomas Damassa, one of the report’s authors, told IPS.

More than 150 countries have presented their INDCs, most of which commit to actions between 2020 and 2030. They will be incorporated into the new universal binding treaty to be approved at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris.

Since energy production is the main source of greenhouse gases (GHG), accounting for around 65 percent of emissions worldwide, efforts to curb emissions are essential and must lie at the heart of the new treaty, especially when it comes to the biggest emitters, experts say.

Of the 10 largest emitters, Russia and Canada were not included in the study because they have not announced post-2020 renewable energy targets.

Currently, one-fifth of global demand for electric power is covered by renewable sources, according to a report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), and their cost is swiftly going down. Hydroelectricity still makes up 61 percent of all renewable energy.

But fossil fuels continue to dominate the global energy supply and power generation, making up 78.3 percent and 77.2 percent, respectively, according to REN21.

Studies indicate that in countries like India, where there are serious challenges in terms of access to energy, wind power is now as cheap as coal, and solar power will reach that level by 2019.

“The INDCs collectively send an important financial signal globally that renewables are a priority in the next two decades and a viable, pragmatic solution to the energy challenges countries are facing,” said Damassa.

Coordination between industrialised and emerging countries is crucial, especially the powerful BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc.

That is because industrialised nations are historically responsible for GHG emissions but the BRICS and other emerging countries now produce a majority of global emissions.

Part of what will be the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant’s turbine room in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. The dam will be the third-largest in the world when it is completed in 2019. Climate change experts are worried about the impact of the megaproject in the vulnerable Amazon rainforest. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Part of what will be the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant’s turbine room in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. The dam will be the third-largest in the world when it is completed in 2019. Climate change experts are worried about the impact of the megaproject in the vulnerable Amazon rainforest. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

China is the leading emitter of GHG emissions and the biggest consumer of energy. But it is also the largest producer of renewable energy, accounting for 32 percent of the world’s wind power production and 27 percent of hydroelectricity, followed in the latter case by Brazil, which produces 8.5 percent of the world’s hydropower.

The Asian giant aims to increase the proportion of non-fossil fuel sources by 20 percent by 2030. The country currently uses coal for 65 percent of its energy, while mega-dams represent just 15 percent.

In the first meeting of energy ministers of the Group of 20 industrialised and emerging nations, held Oct. 5 in Istanbul, the officials acknowledged the importance of renewable sources and their long-term potential and pledged to continue investing in and researching clean energy.

Of the 127 INDCs presented as of late October – the EU presented the commitments of its 28 countries as a bloc – 80 percent made clean energy a priority.

“They certainly help but clearly countries still need to go farther, faster – and in sectors outside of energy as well – to drive emissions down to the level that is needed,” said Damassa.

The pledges made so far would keep global warming down to a 2.7 degree Celsius increase, according to the UNFCCC secretariat, although other studies are more pessimistic, putting the rise at 3.5 degrees.

To avoid irreversible effects for the planet, global temperatures must not rise more than two degrees C above preindustrial levels, although even with that increase, severe effects would be felt in different ecosystems.

Because of that it will be essential to reassess the national pledges during the climate talks in Paris, and establish a clear mechanism for ongoing follow-up of the actions taken by each country.

“I see all of the BASIC (the climate negotiating group made up of Brazil, South Africa, India and China) pledges as ‘first offers’ that will have to be reassessed after the Paris deal is finalised,” Natalie Unterstell, the negotiator on behalf of Brazil at the UNFCCC, told IPS.

The expert, who is now a Louis Bacon Environmental Leadership Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in the U.S., points to key differences between these four countries and Russia, the fifth member of BRICS.

She also explained that while these four countries agreed to reduce the proportion of fossil fuels in their energy mix, there are differences in how they aim to do so.

Adaptation is a large component in South Africa’s INDCs – a signal that the carbon-based economy understands the need to build a more resilient future. India is putting a strong emphasis on solar energy, and Brazil pledged to raise the share of renewable sources in its energy mix to 45 percent by 2030.

Brazil’s proposal is based partly on large hydropower dams, some of which are in socially and environmentally sensitive areas, like the Amazon rainforest.

Meanwhile, the actions that China takes can, by themselves, facilitate or complicate the talks. According to Untersell, the country “has a comparative advantage as it has committed itself to develop renewables technology and is delivering its promise.”

Ties between these emerging economies and the industrialised powers were strengthened over the last year by a series of bilateral accords that began to be reached in November 2014, with the announcement that China and the United States had agreed on joint actions in the areas of climate and energy.

“These agreements are good signals for the industry to transition (to a cleaner model). However, the private sector needs more than aspirational goals to base their operations,” said the expert.

But she said it was a good thing that the agreement between the two countries was based on actions on an internal level, because this shows concrete changes in the energy policies of both nations.

Besides the agreement with Washington, China has signed another with France, Brazil did the same with Germany, and India did so with the United States, in an effort by these countries to speed up their internal transition before COP21.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Kurdish Highlanders Fear the Sky Fri, 06 Nov 2015 07:01:06 +0000 Karlos Zurutuza 0 Turkey Elections: AKP Strategy Pays Off, Kurds Continue to Struggle Wed, 04 Nov 2015 07:10:18 +0000 Joris Leverink 0 Analysis: Turkey at a Crossroads Prior to Sunday’s Snap Elections Tue, 27 Oct 2015 21:37:56 +0000 Joris Leverink

Joris Leverink is a writer and political analyst based in Istanbul. He is an editor for ROAR Magazine and a columnist for TeleSUR English, where he frequently reports on Turkish and regional politics.

By Joris Leverink
ISTANBUL, Oct 27 2015 (IPS)

This Sunday, November 1, Turkey heads to the polls for the second time this year, to elect the 550 members of its Grand National Assembly. The snap elections were called for by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in late August when the different parties failed to form a coalition government after the June elections, in which the Justice and Development Party (AKP) had lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since its 13 years in power.

Joris Leverink

Joris Leverink

Polls suggest that the outcome of the upcoming elections will differ only slightly from the previous one. This means that AKP will come in first, followed by the republican opposition party CHP, then the ultra nationalist MHP and finally the “new kid on the block,” the HDP, a leftist democratic party with its roots in the Kurdish political movement.

Even though it’s the same quartet of parties that is most likely to pass the exceedingly high election threshold of 10 percent, the socio-political environment in which the elections are being held is entirely different from the situation in June. In the months between the elections, two of the deadliest terror attacks in Turkey’s history killed a total of more than 130 people, leaving scores more wounded; Turkey joined the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria; and, the breakdown of the peace process between the Turkish state and the Kurdish guerrillas of the PKK has led to the escalation of violence in the country’s southeast.

On the eve of the elections, Turkey stands at a crossroads. The path it takes will determine whether the high hopes of the international community in the first years after the AKP came to power – when Turkey, with its roots in Islamic culture on the one hand and its economy guided by a neoliberal agenda on the other, was perceived as the ideal bridge between the West and the Middle East – were well-founded, or not.

As reasons for the country’s current troubles, opposition figures point to Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, the worrying demise of press freedom, a slumbering economic crisis, Turkey’s awkward disposition towards the Kurds in Syria while it maintains its support for Syrian opposition groups with much more dubious reputations, and the targeting of civilian populations in the country’s southeast in an attempt to crack down on the PKK.

The June elections saw the AKP’s number of seats in parliament decline from 311 to 258, meaning that for the first time since the party came to power in 2002 it had to look for a coalition partner. This result came as a severe blow to the AKP, which had aimed to win a two-thirds majority in order to be able to change the constitution and introduce a so-called “presidential system.” After being elected president with 52 per cent of the votes only 10 months earlier, Erdogan made it no secret that he imagined an entirely new role for the president, from a ceremonial head of state to powerful leader, heavily involved with the day-to-day rule of the country.

However, after managing to take only 258 seats in the 550-seat parliament, the AKP was not only short of a two-third majority needed to change the constitution, but also 18 seats short of the simple majority it required to rule on its own.

From the onset, any possible coalition between each of the four parties in parliament seemed an impossible feat to accomplish. A deep-rooted mistrust between the ultra nationalist MHP and the pro-Kurdish HDP made any coalition between the three opposition parties practically impossible. The two most likely options – a coalition between the AKP and either the CHP or the MHP, respectively – never came to pass due to opposition demands to reopen a controversial corruption case that would see many senior AKP members compromised, and the opposition’s refusal to cooperate with any plans to empower the position of the president.

New elections were the most likely outcome of all the coalition talks, and few were surprised when on August 24 the official announcement came that Turkey would return to the polls on November 1.

While talks were going on in Ankara, the clock in the country’s east was set back by 20 years. The re-escalation of the conflict between Turkish armed forces and the PKK reminded many people of the 1990s – a period also referred to as “Turkey’s lost decade” – when the fighting killed thousands and displaced millions, leaving entire villages burned and a population on the move.

On July 20, an IS-suicide bomber, originally from the Turkish town of Adiyaman, blew himself up in the middle of a group of activists that had traveled to Suruc, on the Syrian border, to help with the rebuilding of Kobane. In the attack 32 people lost their lives.

Even though IS never claimed responsibility for the attack, few have any real doubts that it was the terrorist organization based in Syria and Iraq that was behind it. Nevertheless, fingers were pointed at the government in Ankara for failing to protect its citizens and allowing IS to gain a foothold on Turkish territory. In retaliation, two police officers were murdered by a group with links to the PKK, to which the Turkish government responded with full force and launched an all-out bombing campaign on PKK positions both in Turkey and northern Iraq.

More recently, on October 10, another IS attack caused the deaths of over a hundred people in Ankara, when two men with links to the terrorist organization blew themselves up in the middle of a crowd that had gathered to demonstrate for peace. Again, public anger was directed at the government for failing to take sufficient security measures, while AKP-party leader Ahmet Davutoglu and president Erdogan both tried to turn the events to their advantage by accusing all enemies of the Turkish state – from Syrian security forces to the PKK, and the Syrian Kurds to IS – to be behind this attack.

This Sunday’s elections will take place in a climate of social and political tension. For the past few months the country has been held hostage by a political impasse that has to be broken in order for the country to move forward. It is very likely that the results will be more or less the same as in June. When this happens, it will be up to the people in Turkey to make clear to their party leaders that they have to put aside their egos and disagreements, and show the courage necessary to put Turkey on the right track once again.


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Opinion: From European Union to Just a Common Market Tue, 20 Oct 2015 12:15:17 +0000 Roberto Savio

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Oct 20 2015 (IPS)

The success in the recent Swiss elections of the UDC-SVP, a xenophobic, anti European Union, right wing party, opens a number of reflections.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Seventy years ago Europe came out from a terrible war, exhausted and destroyed. That produced a generation of statesman, who went about creating a European integration, in order to avoid the repetition of the internal conflicts that had created the two world wars. Today a war between France and Germany is unthinkable, and Europe is an island of peace for the first time in its history.

This is the mantra we hear all the time. What is forgotten is that in fact a good part of Europe did not want integration. In 1960, the United Kingdom led the creation of an alternative institution, dedicated only to commercial exchange: the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), formed by the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, then later Finland and Iceland. It was only in 1972 that, bowing to the success of European integration, the UK and Denmark asked to join the EU. Later, Portugal and Austria left EFTA to join the European Union.

The UK was never interested in the European project and always felt committed to “a special relation” with United States. Union would mean also solidarity and integration, as the various EU treaties kept declaring. The UK was only interested in the market side of the process.

Since 1972, the gloss of European integration has lost much of its shine. Younger generations have no memory of the last war. The EU is perceived far from its citizens, run by unelected officials who make decisions without a participatory process, and unable to respond to challenges. Where is the external policy of the EU? When does it take decisions that are not an echo of Washington?

Since the financial crisis of 1999, xenophobic, nationalistic and right wing parties have sprouted all over Europe. In Hungary, one of them is in power and openly claims that democracy is not the most efficient system. The Greek crisis has made clear that there is a north-south divide, while Germany and the others do not consider solidarity a criterion for financial issues. And the refugee crisis is now the last division in European integration. The UK has openly declared that it will take only a token number of 10,000 refugees, while a new west-east divide has become evident, with the strong opposition of Eastern Europe to take any refugee. The idea of solidarity is again out of the equation.

Germany moved because of its demographic reality. It had 800,000 vacant jobs, and it needs at least 500,000 immigrants per year to remain competitive and keep its pension system alive. But that mentality is even more clear with the East European countries, which experience increasing demographic decline. At the end of communism in 1989, Bulgaria had a population of 9 million. Now it is at 7.2 million. It is estimated that it will lose an additional 7 per cent by 2030, and 28.5 per cent by 2050. Romania will lose 22 per cent by 2050, followed by Ukraine (20%), Moldova (20%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (19.5%), Latvia (19%), Lithuania (17.5%), Serbia (17%), Croatia (16%), and Hungary (16%). Yet, all Eastern Europe countries have followed the British rebellion, and take a strong stance on refusing to accept refugees.

Now the idea of European integration is reaching a crucial challenge: the United Kingdom will hold a referendum by the end of 2017 to decide if remain in the European Union or not. The prime minister David Cameron, has invented this referendum, in order to renegotiate with EU the terms of British participation, get enough concessions to appease the Euro-skeptics and thus win the referendum in favor of Europe.

Only 10 years ago, such a maneuver would have gone nowhere. But now things are different, and there is a general tendency among European countries to take back as much as possible space given to the EU. Germany has already indicated that it is open to debate, and it wants to avoid a Brexit as much as possible. Cameron has not yet indicated the detail of his requests to remain in the EU. But it is widely believed that they will be about unhitching from European political integration, requesting exceptionality for the British financial sector, demanding a voice in decisions in the Eurozone (of which the UK is not a member), eliminating social benefits for European immigrants and giving to the British parliament a strong say over European decisions. Cameron has already indicated that he will withdraw from the European Court of Justice.

Once Great Britain obtains these concessions or even part of them, other countries, beginning with Hungary, will follow. And this will be the end of the process of European integration. We will take the route of EFTA, not the one envisioned by the founding fathers: Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schumann, Paul-Henri Spaak and Alcide De Gasperi.

Meanwhile, Europe will have to accept that it is not going to be the homogenous and white society that the right wing and xenophobic parties dream of reestablishing. The lack of global governability has created a staggering figure of 60 million refugees. Of those, 15 million live in refugee camps. One of them, Dadaab, in Kenya, has now half a million people, more than the population of several members of the United Nations. It is estimated that climate change will create by 2030 another 10 million refugees. Solidarity or not, Europe demography will require the arrival of some million. What will be the Europe of 2030?


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Opinion: Recognize the Aspirations of ACP Group of Developing Countries Thu, 24 Sep 2015 21:36:09 +0000 Ousmane Sylla Dr. Ousmane Sylla

Dr. Ousmane Sylla

By Dr. Ousmane Sylla
BRUSSELS, Sep 24 2015 (IPS)

The significance of the issues covered in the post-2015 development agenda, to be adopted at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25-27 September, cannot be over-emphasized.

For the 79 countries that make up the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP Group), the post-2015 agenda not only recognizes the reality faced by hundreds of millions amongst its populations who live in poverty, but also takes into account the aspirations of these nations to innovate and industrialize, to be energy-efficient, and to attain sustainable economic development while protecting the environment and natural resources for generations to come.

For the first six months in 2014, I had the pleasure of chairing the ACP Group’s Ad-hoc Ambassadorial Working Group on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Our mandate at that time was to work closely with the European Commission to develop a Joint ACP-EU Declaration on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

It was indeed a milestone that after many informal and formal meetings with our EU colleagues, at the technical and ambassadorial levels, the ACP-EU Council of Ministers adopted a Joint Declaration on the Post-2015 Development Agenda last June – representing the views of 107 countries of the world.

This joint document underlined the persistent and unique vulnerabilities of ACP countries, including amongst its membership 37 Small Island Developing States (SIDS), 40 Least Development Countries (LDCs), 15 Land-locked Developing Countries (LLDCs) as well as those recovering from conflict and political instability.

While many countries have made significant progress in the achievement of the Millennium Development goals, others have not been so fortunate. It is for this reason, and many others, that the development agenda will have to be ambitious and transformative.

As the ACP Group, we expect that the development agenda will address, among other issues: 1) basic living standards and a life of dignity for all; 2) inclusive and sustainable economic growth; 3) the sustainable use, management and protection of natural resources; 4) good governance, equality and equity; and 5) peaceful and stable societies which are from violence.

Moreover, the adverse impacts of climate change poses immediate and long-term significant risks to the efforts of all developing countries, however this threat is particularly acute for SIDS, as evidenced by the devastation to the Commonwealth of Dominica, a small island in the Caribbean, after the passage of tropical storm Erika just last August. Any post-2015 framework must, therefore, take into consideration the SAMOA Pathway (concluded at the Third International Conference on SIDS) to ensure that specific attention is given to the most vulnerable, in this respect.

In addition, the post-2015 development agenda must address issues related to science, technology and innovation. Technology development, the transfer of technology on mutually agreed terms and capacity building must be addressed.

It is my belief that, in order to ensure that the development agenda is implemented by developing countries, especially those of the ACP Group, adequate and predictable financing from a variety of sources is critical and must be forthcoming.

There is need to address in a comprehensive manner avenues for financing such as domestic and international public resource mobilization, debt sustainability, innovative financing and mobilization of private financial and investment flows.

It is also a fact that, for many ACP countries, official development assistance will remain an important source of financing and in that sense developed countries must fulfill their commitments of providing 0.7 percent of Gross National Income as Official Development Assistance.

At the same time, we must also be willing to think out of the box and engage in non-traditional ways of approaching development strategies, which can complement the North to South flow of development assistance.

In this regard, South-South Cooperation – which refers to the exchange of resources, knowledge, technology and experience between or amongst developing countries – is gaining increasing interest in global discussions on fighting poverty and promoting sustainable development. In the same vein, Triangular Cooperation engages a third party – usually a developed country – which also enters the partnership by sharing its own resources and expertise.

The ACP expects a successful and ambitious outcome at the Summit, and we call for an inclusive and effective global partnership to underpin the post-2015 development agenda. This is integral for the international community to be able to address in a coherent, integrated and balanced manner, the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development.

We stand ready to work in collaboration with relevant stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, including inter alia, civil society and the private sector, to ensure the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda with the aim of improving the lives and livelihood of our peoples.

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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U.S., Russian Arms Supplies to Iraq, Syria a Blessing to Rebel Groups Thu, 24 Sep 2015 20:54:25 +0000 Thalif Deen Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Thalif Deen

The United States and Russia are escalating arms sales to two of their major allies in the Middle East – Iraq and Syria – despite fears that some of these weapons may ultimately wind up, ironically, in the hands of armed rebel groups battling government forces.

The proposed U.S. sales to Iraq include 175 additional Abrams battle tanks and about 1,000 Humvee armoured vehicles, along with fighter jets, attack helicopters and laser-guided missiles – all worth over 15 billion dollars.

The Russians, meanwhile, have recently bolstered the beleaguered regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with jet fighters, helicopter gunships and transport helicopters – along with six T-90 battle tanks, 15 howitzers and 35 armoured personnel carriers, according to published reports.

But the ultimate beneficiaries may be rebel groups, including the Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda and the Nusra Front, who may inherit these weapons – either capturing them in battle or confiscating them from regular armed forces, who are known to abandon weapons and flee the battle field, as in several previous occasions.

The Wall Street Journal says some U.S. lawmakers, conscious of the risks, are conditioning any approval of arms sales to Iraq on “assurances the weapons won’t fall into enemy hands.”

Since both U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be at the United Nations to address the high level annual debate, the two leaders are expected to hold bilateral talks – specifically on the future of Syria.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the Syria’s five-year old military crisis can be resolved only politically – not with weapons.

The United States has protested the infusion of new arms to the Assad regime but Russia maintains it is only honouring existing military contracts with Syria, a longstanding military ally going back to the days of President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president.

According to U.S. intelligence sources, Russia is also continuing a military buildup in the port city of Latakia establishing new barracks that could accommodate up to 2,000 people, presumably Russians advisers.

Patrick Wilcken, Researcher, Arms Control, Security Trade and Human Rights on the Global Thematic Issues Programme at Amnesty International, told IPS the majority of weapons with rebel groups have been gained from “battlefield capture” — particularly, though not exclusively, of Iraqi military stocks, especially during IS’s advances in 2014, taking military bases/ stores from Falluja, Mosul, Tikrit and Ramadi – and also in Syria, from bases in Raqqa City and Tabaqa Airbase;

While it is virtually impossible to trace chains of custody of arms and ammunition in use by IS and other armed groups in Iraq and Syria, he said, it is possible to make a few general statements from evidence available (images, video and limited amounts of physical evidence collected by Conflict Armament Research (CAR).

Wilcken said the bulk of the weapons currently in circulation in Syria and Iraq are of Soviet/Warsaw Pact design/production, e.g. AK assault rifle variants, which have been produced around the world. It reflects the fact that both the Syrian and Iraqi militaries have a long history of Russian/Soviet supply.

But many of the weapons are over 20 or 30 years old, some dating back to the weapons build-up during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), or even earlier.

He said some NATO-standard (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) weapons had begun to appear, as the Iraqi army under the U.S. had begun to convert over to NATO-standard small arms.

When the Islamic State captured a treasure trove of U.S. weapons from fleeing Iraqi soldiers last October, one of the rebel leaders was quoted as saying rather sarcastically: “We hope the Americans would honour their agreements and service our helicopters.”

As fighter planes continued attacking IS targets, some of the U.S. airstrikes were, paradoxically, aimed at U.S.-made helicopters, Humvees, armoured personnel carriers and anti-aircraft artillery guns originally supplied to the Iraqi armed forces and currently deployed by the rebel group.

Not surprisingly, they are all under U.S. warranties for maintenance, repair and servicing.

AI’s Wilcken also told IPS the black market has thrived in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and continues to thrive; there is some evidence of Syrian army corruption and supply of armed groups; recently manufactured Russian ammunition, for instance, has found its way into IS stocks, either through sale or capture.

“A lot of weapons interchange has come about through army defections and mergers of armed groups.”

And there appears to be a remarkable level of consistency in the armouries of all the main armed groups (i.e. mainly former Soviet stock with a smattering of NATO standard U.S. equipment) while early (2012-13) supplies of the so-called moderate armed groups in Syria came from Gulf states and Turkey and quickly proliferated to IS and others through battle field capture, affiliations or corruption, he noted.

In summary, he said “regional arms proliferation has a long pedigree – at least on the Iraqi side – and any future supplier states need to exercise extreme caution to prevent further regional proliferation and its catastrophic consequences.”

Meanwhile, according to the Washington-based Defence News, U.S arms sales to Iraq last year also included 681 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 40 truck-mounted launchers, Sentinel radars, three Hawk anti-aircraft batteries with 216 Hawk missiles, 50 Stryker infantry carriers, 12 helicopters, and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of maintenance and logistical support for thousands of U.S.-made military vehicles.

Additionally, Washington also struck arms deals for the sale of Hellfire missiles, M1A1 Abrams battle tanks, machine guns, sniper rifles, grenades and ammunition – all worth billions of dollars.

How much of this will wind up with rebel forces is anybody’s guess.

The writer can be contacted at

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Brazil and Germany Take Lead in Tackling Climate Change Wed, 23 Sep 2015 20:00:09 +0000 Britta Schmitz By Britta Schmitz

Brazil and Germany, the two largest national economies within their respective continents, are taking the lead in tackling climate change through outstanding policies and bilateral relations, according to experts.

In a joint statement on Aug. 20 in Brasilia, during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit, the two countries vowed to work together for a successful outcome of the Paris Climate Change Conference later this year.

The statement said: “Mindful of the positive impacts of a strong Brazil-Germany cooperation on climate change for the two countries’ bilateral relations and for the multilateral regime under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), President Rousseff and Federal Chancellor Merkel decided to strengthen the bilateral partnership on climate change, by working together towards a successful outcome of the Paris Climate Change Conference later this year and by expanding bilateral cooperation on areas of common interest.”

Such an agreement is part of a new model of international cooperation that is emerging, according to experts.

“International cooperation on climate change needs to occur at many levels; on the multi-lateral level we need a new international agreement under the UNFCCC; smaller groups of countries can come together that wish to go further faster than the UNFCCC allows and bi-lateral relations can build upon the strengths of individual countries and focus in efforts where they have particular interests,” Jennifer Morgan, Global Director of the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute (WRI), told IPS.

Brazil and Germany “both […] very much value their forests and both have vast potential for renewable energy,” Morgan said.

In the Brazilian-German joint statement, the two countries discuss the details of their cooperation in areas of common interest, including environment, trade and investment in the Latin American country. The focus is clearly on combating climate change, especially by way of reforestation in Brazilian’s Amazon rain forest, climate finance and exchange of knowledge and technologies.

While experts underline that bilateral climate talks are a step in the right direction, they express criticism in respect of the scope of climate efforts.

“It would have […] been helpful to have more details from Brazil on its national climate plan, but it will likely announce that later. Having a mixture of negotiation issues and national implementation is helpful,” Morgan said.

“A lot of the content is positive, but we would call it rather timid,” Mark Lutes, Global Climate Policy Advisor at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Brazil, told IPS.

“It falls short of what is required and it falls short of what the potentials of the two countries are to contribute to the problem, to contribute to the solution. We would have liked to see Brazil announce their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions).”

One of the main commitments of the 22 point joint statement is maintaining the global average temperature below 2.0 °C (35.6 °F) above preindustrial levels.

Brazil and Germany have vast potential for renewable energy and have already made great progress in that field. They use different approaches, while both are quite successful.

By 2030, Brazil wants to restore and reforest 12 million hectares of forest land and reduce deforestation to zero. So far, the country has reduced deforestation in the Amazon biome by 82 percent since 2004, more than any other country.

According to a study conducted by the Californian Earth Innovation Institute, in 2014, the Latin American country achieved remarkable success through public policies, monitoring systems and beef and soy supply chain interventions.

“Brazil has already made excellent progress by dramatically slowing deforestation and protecting land in the Amazon region. Brazil’s commitment to restore 12 million hectares of forests by 2030 will also help reduce emissions and generate economic opportunities,” Nigel Sizer, Global Director Forest Program of the WRI, said in a statement.

Germany has also taken important steps against global warming. The term ‘Energiewende’ describes Germany’s goal to achieve an energy transition from the use of coal and other non-renewable sources to renewable sources only. By 2025, 40 percent to 45 percent of Germany’s energy should come from renewable source.

The current share of renewable sources in Germany’s electricity mix is 27 percent, whereas the country aims at gaining at least 80 percent of its electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2050.

Brazil and Germany are both keen to make COP21 a success. For instance, Germany’s ambitions to reduce emissions are higher than those of the European Union.

“Until now, Brazil is one of the first large developing countries that supports a target like a de-carbonization target or zero emissions […] and we hope this will be precedent for other larger countries to get behind that and have an ambitious long-term target, that can be included in the Paris agreement,” WWF’s Lutes told IPS.

“We hope that as more countries get on board, they can be more ambitious and talk about decarbonizing or zero emissions or 100 percent renewables […], targets like that, that are all necessary, but they’re necessary by around mid-century, not the end of the century,” Lutes pointed out.

“Now is when true leadership is needed from the highest levels,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement at the Opening of the General Assembly High-Level Event on Climate Change on Jun. 29.

“I pledge to you that I will spare no effort to ensure that the world leaders who are responsible for an ambitious agreement in Paris – and the financing needed to implement it – are directly engaged.” (END)

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U.N. to Host Meeting of World Leaders on Refugee Crisis Tue, 15 Sep 2015 20:41:19 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The 28-member European Union (EU), which was sharply divided over the Greek bailout financial crisis last year, is facing its biggest test of unity over the growing refugee crisis unfolding in European borders.

At an emergency meeting in Brussels Monday, the EU hesitantly agreed to share some 40,000 refugees – mostly fleeing from war zones in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – but only on a voluntary basis, even as Germany, Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands imposed new border control measures to ward off the tidal wave of hundreds and thousands of displaced people flowing into Europe.

The restrictive measures include razor wire fences across land borders and pronouncements by some Eastern and Central European countries that only Christians will be welcomed, triggering strong condemnations by the United Nations.

Conscious of the spreading crisis, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be hosting a meeting of world leaders on the margins of the General Assembly session – to specifically discuss international migration.

The meeting is scheduled to take place Sep. 30 immediately following a meeting to approve the U.N’s new socio economic agenda for the next 15 years: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targeted to be achieved by 2030.

And of the 17 SDGs, Goal 16 is on international migration.

Ben Phillips, Campaigns and Policy Director at ActionAid told IPS that governments need to remember that what they have called the migrant crisis is first and foremost a crisis suffered by vulnerable people who flee their homes as a last resort.

“The response of too many governments has been to protect borders and neglect people. But it cannot be solved with higher walls. Most governments’ responses to date have tended to be brutal, panicked, and ineffective even in their own terms. They need urgently to shift to a smarter, kinder, approach.”

The Secretary-General has already appealed to European leaders “to be the voice of those in need of protection” and to quickly find a joint approach to the refugee and migration crisis that shares responsibilities equitably, as Germany and Austria continue to welcome thousands of people fleeing their war-torn homelands.

He has also spoken by telephone with several European leaders to discuss the migration crisis.

Recognizing the challenges that large-scale refugee and migration flows pose to Member States, the U.N. chief appealed to the leaders to be the voice of those in need of protection and to quickly find a joint approach to share responsibilities equitably.‎”

The Secretary-General also commended the leaders for having voiced concern about increasing xenophobia, discrimination, and violence against migrants and refugees in Europe.
“He hoped that any manifestation of these phenomena would be addressed firmly and without delay,” he said.

Ban is expected to meet with EU leaders when they arrive in New York to address the General Assembly beginning Sep. 28.

Phillips told IPS that ActionAid has called upon governments to address three key challenges: “Governments need, firstly, to respond in the spirit of the solidarity and welcome that has shown by ordinary people; secondly, to tackle the specific vulnerabilities faced by women and girls travelling across borders; and, thirdly, to address the root causes driving the mass movement of people, through sustainable solutions to conflict, inequality and climate change.”

“The spontaneous acts of kindness shown by human beings helping human beings offer a ray of hope, and show that once again the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”

He also said ActionAid, which is working on the ground across the world to support people who have fled, has seen first hand the damaging consequences of governments’ dehumanising response and failure to address the root causes driving the mass movement of people.

Asked whether the new law in Hungary that would allow the government to arrest migrants and imprison them is a violation of international humanitarian law, U.N. Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters “I think one of the points that’s clearly needed — and that’s exactly what the High Commissioner for Refugees said — is that we need to have comprehensive measures that apply throughout Europe.”

“A situation where different countries at different borders have different procedures creates chaos, both physical, as well as legal chaos.”

He said it is clear that those who are on the move, whether they be refugees or migrants, have rights. Countries also have responsibilities towards their own citizens in order to ensure national security.

“But, it is clear that international law, especially as it relates to refugees, needs to be respected. And more importantly, people, migrants, refugees, need to be treated with human dignity and I think that has been lacking in some places,” he added.

Dujarric also said migration with a “small m” has existed ever since we as humans were able to walk.”

“I mean, populations move, have always been on the move. The issue is that Member States need to deal with the migration flows in a way where we avoid forcing, whether it’s refugees or economic migrants, into the hands of criminal gangs, which is what we’re seeing across the Mediterranean and in Asia in the Andaman Sea, where there are no proper… enough proper avenues to deal with the migration issue — even with economic migration issue”.

And that’s one of the reasons, he said, the Secretary General will be bringing Member States together as part of goal 16 which talks about international migration, “but for that, we need a dialogue between the countries of origin, the transit countries and the destination countries.”

“And sometimes they’re the same. You know, different people migrate to different countries,” he added.

The writer can be contacted at

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Countries Using Child Soldiers Join UK Arms Fair Tue, 15 Sep 2015 11:58:33 +0000 a Global Information Network correspondent Credit: Stop the Arms Fair

Credit: Stop the Arms Fair

By a Global Information Network correspondent
LONDON, Sep 15 2015 (IPS)

Human rights and citizen activist groups are criticizing one of the world’s largest arms bazaars, which opened at London’s Docklands Tuesday.

Participants in what is officially known as the Defense and Security International (DSEI) include 61 countries that violate human rights, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Angola and Algeria. According to the website, some 30,000 visitors are expected.

More than 1,500 companies will exhibit their military wares, including the U.S. and UK giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and BAE Systems. Forty foreign governments will have pavilions. Sponsors and co-sponsors of the event include Turkey, South Africa, Northrup Grumman and Hewlett Packard.

The four-day fair has drawn furious debate between human rights activists and those who say the arms industry provides thousands of jobs and valuable exports.

Citizen activist groups using Twitter and other social media have jumped into action to condemn the fair. Traders at previous arms fairs, they note, have been able to buy and sell equipment used for torture including electric shock stun guns and batons, leg-irons, and belly-, body- and gang-chains. There has also been a range of illegal cluster-munition weaponry advertised at the fair.

Nine, companies which have attended the DSEI fair between 2005 and 2013, have breached UK law, according to human rights campaigner Amnesty International.

This year’s DSEI comes as the UK government ramps up its effort to sell weapons to countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, by far its most lucrative single arms market.

Ryvka Barnard, senior military and security campaigner for the activist group War on Want, took issue with organizers giving Israel a national pavilion where Israeli arms companies exhibit ‘battle tested’ military technology used on Palestinians.

The UK headquarters of Amnesty also spoke up: “In the past, torture equipment has been on offer right on our doorstep. Things like illegal leg irons and electric-shock batons have been shamelessly advertised and it’s blindingly obvious the law needs tightening up.

“We need strengthened laws – and crucially we need proper enforcement – to stop Britain being used as a showroom for torturers to advertise their disgusting wares…” the group said.

Groups organizing on Twitter against arms sales include Stop the Arms Fair!, Stop DSEI, Pax Christi and the Campaign Against Arms Trade, among others.

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Strong Climate Deal Needed to Combat Future Refugee Crises Thu, 10 Sep 2015 15:32:35 +0000 Andreas Sieber

Andreas Sieber, who has worked for several NGOs and the Saxon State Chancellery in Germany, is part of the #Climatetracker project.

By Andreas Sieber
STRASBOURG, Sep 10 2015 (IPS)

Climate change has been held responsible many of the social and economic woes affecting mainly the poorest in the global South and now many are seeing it as one of the root causes of refugee crises.

In his State of the Union speech here Sep. 9 to the European Parliament, even European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said that an “ambitious, robust and binding“ climate treaty is needed to prevent another refugee crisis.Climate change has been held responsible many of the social and economic woes affecting mainly the poorest in the global South and now many are seeing it as one of the root causes of refugee crises

Climate change is one the root causes of a new migration phenomenon,” said Juncker. “Climate refugees will become a new challenge – if we do not act swiftly.”

Calling on the European Union and its international partners to be more ambitious about climate protection, Juncker warned that “the EU will not sign just any deal” at the United Nations climate change conference (COP21), scheduled to be held in Paris in December.

The COP21 meeting is expected to come up with a climate treaty with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

Climate change marked by longer-lasting droughts, more violent storms and rising sea levels is worsening the living conditions of hundreds of millions. Particularly in the poorest countries, climate change has the effect of forcing people who are unable to adapt to leave their homes.

In the Sahelian countries, Bangladesh and in the South Pacific people have already had to flee because of climate impacts.

According to Jan Kowalzig from Oxfam, “climate change is already causing a lot of damage in the global South. It could ruin all progress which has been made in the fight against global poverty over the last decades.”

However, it is the relationship between climate change and the refugee phenomenon that is attracting the attention of many experts.

Earlier this year, a study by a research team from Columbia University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) held global warming partly responsible for the civil war in Syria.

The study noted that between 2006 and 2010, Syria faced the “worst drought in the instrumental record”, leading to crop failures and mass migration within the country. According to climate models, this drought would have been highly improbable without climate change.

“For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to political unrest,” the study concluded.

The number of refugees entering Europe this year is the highest on record and Syrians are by far the largest group – an estimated nine million Syrians have left their homes so far.

Besides the Syrian crisis, the United Nations warns that, worldwide, climate change could increase the number of refugees dramatically.

Srgjan Kerim, president of the United Nations General Assembly, has estimated that global warming could cause up to 200 million refugees until 2050. “Tomorrow we will have climate refugees and we have to know that,” Juncker told the European Parliament.

Oxfam’s Kowalzig explains what needs to be included in a climate treaty to mitigate a potential refugee crisis: “Climate change expels people from their homes and this is where a potential climate treaty in Paris comes in: first, we need to cut emissions and keep global warming below two degrees; secondly, people in poor countries need support to adapt to climate change; and thirdly, a climate treaty in Paris has to lay down rules for damages and losses caused by global warming where adaption is not possible.”

In his speech in Strasbourg, Juncker also admitted that the European Union “is probably not doing enough” to tackle climate change. The EU has announced greenhouse gas emission cuts of 40 percent by 2030 as part of its ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC).

INDCs are the commitments every country is supposed to announce before the climate conference in Paris.

However, because a treaty in Paris based on the INDCs will not be enough to keep global warming below 2oC, many organisations and countries from the global South are demanding a five-yearly “review and improve” process to make climate commitments more ambitious over time.

Any agreement reached in Paris should at least offer a perspective for effective climate protection and this depends heavily on the process of creating a regular built-in review that would enable countries to improve that agreement.

Last week, formal negotiations ahead of COP21 in Paris were held, but while there was support for long-term goals, short-term commitments seemed to be far less popular.

An agreement in Paris with short-term commitments and five-year cycles without a concrete long-term goal might not be perfect. It would lack a perspective beyond 2030, but it would enhance climate protection and greenhouse gas reduction in the next 15 years.

On the other hand, an agreement with an ambitious long-term goal but no effective short-term measures would allow countries to fall far behind with their greenhouse gas reductions and many would just not be able to catch up after 2030.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Western Double Standards on Deadly Cluster Bombs Wed, 09 Sep 2015 18:26:15 +0000 Thalif Deen Ta Doangchom, a Laotian cluster bomb victim, beside homemade prosthetic limbs in the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) National Rehabilitation Centre in Vientiane. Credit: Irwin Loy/IPS

Ta Doangchom, a Laotian cluster bomb victim, beside homemade prosthetic limbs in the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) National Rehabilitation Centre in Vientiane. Credit: Irwin Loy/IPS

By Thalif Deen

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) banned the use of these deadly weapons for two primary reasons: they release small bomblets over a wide area, posing extended risks beyond war zones, and they leave behind unexploded ordnance which have killed civilians, including women and children, long after conflicts have ended.

As of last month, 117 have joined the Convention, with 95 States Parties (who have signed and ratified the treaty) and 22 signatories (who have signed but not ratified).“The protection of civilians must be non-political. By picking and choosing when it wishes to condemn the use of cluster bombs, the UK is playing politics with the protection of civilians." -- Thomas Nash of Article 36

At the First Review Conference of the CCM in Dubrovnik, Croatia, which began early this week, three States Parties – the UK, Canada and Australia – expressed reservations on a draft declaration on the use of cluster munitions.

In a selective approach to the implementation of the treaty, the three countries argued they could not accept or endorse text that condemned any use of cluster munitions because they contend that doing so would interfere with their ability to conduct joint military operations with states outside the convention.

The UK, which condemned the use of cluster bombs in Sudan, Syria and Ukraine this year, has refused to censure the use of the same deadly weapons by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia is a lucrative multi-billion-dollar arms market for the UK, which has traditionally provided sophisticated fighter planes, missiles and precision-guided bombs to the oil rich country.

Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch and the Cluster Munition Coalition said if the Convention is to succeed, States Parties must condemn any use of cluster munitions, by any actor, anywhere.

“States Parties cannot be selective about condemning, based on their relationship with the offender, or based on the type of cluster munition used,” he said.

If a State Party remains silent about confirmed use, one can argue that it is in effect condoning use, and thereby failing its obligations under the Convention, he noted.

The Cluster Munition Coalition believes the changes to the Dubrovnik Declaration sought by the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada are contrary to the aims of the Convention, and would be a setback to efforts to stigmatise the weapon, and to prevent future use; thus, such changes could have the effect of increased casualties and other harm to civilians, Goose added.

Thomas Nash, director of the UK-based weapons monitoring organisation Article 36, told IPS the UK has tried to block international condemnation of these banned weapons at a gathering of states who are parties to the treaty banning cluster munitions.

The UK has condemned the use of cluster bombs in Sudan, Syria and Ukraine, he pointed out, but it refuses to condemn the use by Saudi-led forces in Yemen.

“The protection of civilians must be non-political. By picking and choosing when it wishes to condemn the use of cluster bombs, the UK is playing politics with the protection of civilians,” Nash said.

He said UK efforts to water down international condemnation of cluster bombs show a callous disregard for the human suffering caused by these weapons.”

According to Article 36, prior to signing the Convention in 2008, the UK used cluster munitions extensively during the Falklands War (1982), in Kosovo (1998-1999) and in Iraq (1991-2003).

The UK also sold cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia prior to 2008, but it is not clear whether these transfers included the types of cluster munitions used in Yemen.

Asked for a rationale for the UK decision, Nash told IPS the UK says that it doesn’t want to condemn any use of cluster bombs by any actor because this might discourage some countries from joining the treaty in the future. “But this makes no sense.”

The UK has a legal obligation to discourage use of cluster bombs by any country and condemning the use of these banned weapons is the best way to do that, he argued.

Nash said the UK has come under close scrutiny over its arms sales to Saudi Arabia and there are numerous concerns over that country’s compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law.

Whether or not the UK refusal to condemn use of cluster bombs by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is directly linked to UK arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, clearly, UK policy in this area is highly dubious, he noted.

“The best way for the UK to clarify this would be for it to condemn the use of cluster bombs by Saudi-led forces in Yemen,” he said.

He also pointed out that the UK has historically been heavily influenced by the United States on the question of cluster munitions and, like Saudi Arabia, the U.S. would no doubt be displeased by the UK condemning any use of cluster munitions by any actor.

“So this is likely to be a factor as well,” Nash added.

The U.S., he said, continues to finds itself on the wrong side of history when it comes to cluster bombs and the UK, having signed and ratified the ban treaty, needs to choose which side it wants to be on.

Nicole Auger, Middle East & Africa Analyst and International Defense Budgets Analyst at Forecast International, a leading U.S. defence research company, told IPS Saudi Arabia remains a critical market for the UK, “and I believe last year Saudi Arabia was the UK’s biggest arms export market at about 2.4 billion dollars. “

Saudi operates the Eurofighter Typhoon and Tornado fighter planes. Under BAE (British Aerospace) Systems’ Saudi Tornado Sustainment Program, BAE recently upgraded Saudi’s Tornado IDS (Interdictor/Strike fighter bombers) and air defense Tornado F3 fighters to extend service life through 2020.

Both the Typhoon and the Tornado are frontline fighter planes and have been playing a central role in the Yemen bombing campaign. Meanwhile, the air force also operates Hawk 65/65A trainers.

They have the Paveway IV precision-guided bomb from U.K.-based Raytheon Systems and the Storm Shadow air-to-surface cruise missile from MBDA, a French-Italian-British defense contractor.

She said Saudi Arabia was described as the first export customer for the MBDA Meteor missile in February this year, having signed a contract worth more than 1.0 billion dollars.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at

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Rich Gulf Nations Tight-Lipped on Growing Refugee Crisis Tue, 08 Sep 2015 14:39:54 +0000 Thalif Deen A woman waits with her son outside the registration centre in Kos, just kilometres from the Turkish coast. For Syrians, the process is now easier, thanks to a ship-based registration centre docked at the island. For others, like this woman, the wait continues. So far in 2015, 160,000 migrants have arrived in Greece, already almost four times more than in the previous year. Credit: Photo: Stephen Ryan/IFRC

A woman waits with her son outside the registration centre in Kos, just kilometres from the Turkish coast. For Syrians, the process is now easier, thanks to a ship-based registration centre docked at the island. For others, like this woman, the wait continues. So far in 2015, 160,000 migrants have arrived in Greece, already almost four times more than in the previous year. Credit: Photo: Stephen Ryan/IFRC

By Thalif Deen

As Western and Central European nations seem overwhelmed by the growing refugee crisis – triggered mostly by the inflow of hundreds and thousands of displaced people largely from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq – one lingering question remains unanswered: why aren’t some of the rich Arab Gulf nations reaching out to help these hapless refugees?

The U.N. Committee on the Protection of Migrant Workers, the lead United Nations body dealing with issues relating to migrants, says millions of people have been forced to migrate from their homeland in search of safe havens abroad due to the on-going war in Syria.“The central question for Europe is: In the coming years will the migrants and their families be successfully integrated into European societies?” -- Joseph Chamie

“While neighbouring States have opened their borders to millions of Syrian migrants, other countries, especially in Europe and elsewhere, notably the Gulf States, should do more to address one of the most tragic mass displacements of people since World War II,” says the Committee.

Joseph Chamie, an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division, told IPS some neighbouring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, have accepted very large numbers of refugees (according to U.N. figures, over 3.5 million people).

However, other nearby countries, notably Israel and the Arab Persian Gulf countries, have not been willing to accept the current refugees, he said.

The primary reason for the non-acceptance, he pointed out, is apparently the refugees are viewed as politically destabilising.

“The Gulf countries have admitted large numbers of South Asians and North Africans who are not considered immigrants, but temporary foreign workers who are expected to return to their homes. Also, Israel has accepted refugees in the past, but virtually all have been Jewish,” said Chamie, who has worked at the U.N. on population and migration issues for more than a quarter century and was also a former director of research at the Center for Migration Studies in New York and editor of the International Migration Review.

The Gulf nations which have virtually ignored the refugee crisis include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

However, in a statement issued Tuesday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said Kuwait, under the leadership of Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, has hosted three annual pledging conferences since 2013.

As a result, billions of dollars have been raised in order to support the humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis, with the participation of 78 member states and 38 humanitarian organisations.

In 2015 alone, donors at the Kuwait 3 conference pledged 3.8 billion dollars, IOM said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already declared that Israel is a “very small country that lacks demographic and geographic depth”, but pointed out Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of the refugees from Syria and Africa.

“We have already devotedly cared for approximately 1,000 wounded people from the fighting in Syria, and we have helped them to rehabilitate their lives. We must control our borders, against both illegal migrants and terrorism,” he said.

With about eight million people, Israel has been described as a country founded mostly by refugees. But it is now building a new fence, about 18 miles long, along its border with Jordan to ward off “illegal migration and hostile infiltrations.”

“We must control our borders, against both illegal immigrants and terrorism,” Netanyahu said after a Cabinet meeting last week.

His statement drew strong criticism from Isaac Herzog, head of the main opposition Zionist Union party, who recounted the history of the Jewish people seeking safe haven from persecution: “Our people experienced first-hand the silence of the world. You have forgotten what it is to be Jews: Refugees. Persecuted.”

“The prime minister of the Jewish people would not shut his heart and the gates when people are fleeing for their lives, with babies in their arms, from persecutors,” said Herzog.

In a statement released Monday the U.N. Committee said Syrian migrants, pushed to take extreme action in search of secure and decent lives for their families, are literally putting their lives at risk to reach Europe.

“Hundreds of men, women and children have died while trying to reach safe shores. This is unconscionable in the view of the Committee.”

“We are once again shocked and dismayed at the appalling loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea”, Committee Chair Francisco Carrion Mena said following the latest drowning of Syrian migrants off the coast of Turkey last week – even as the Committee was meeting in Geneva.

Chamie told IPS It should come as no surprise that people are migrating. Given the current state of the world, the question should be: “Why aren’t more people migrating?”

In addition to globalisation, communication technologies and social media, powerful push/pull forces are operating to produce the current migration flows: poverty, violence, corruption, unemployment, repression and rapid population growth on the one side versus wealth, jobs, safety, social services, freedom and population decline on the other, he added.

While everyone has the right to leave their country, Chamie said, they do not have the right to enter another country. This paradox is the “Catch-22” that the growing numbers of migrants and destination nations are confronting.

The supply of potential migrants, who are free to leave their homelands, simply greatly exceeds the demand for migrants, which is set by the receiving countries. If people cannot enter a country as legal migrants, then many are choosing to enter illegally or overstay their legal visit, he noted.

“Today many migrants are indeed refugees as they are coming from worn-torn countries. And there are large numbers who are not strictly refugees, but are seeking improved economic opportunities and more secure living conditions for themselves and their families.”

He said many are wondering what will be the consequence of the current migration flows. These migratory flows are not going to stop any time soon and with them will come significant demographic, social, economic, political and cultural changes.

“The central question for Europe is: In the coming years will the migrants and their families be successfully integrated into European societies?” Chamie said.

And for the international community the key question is how to effectively address the root causes of the recent migration surges. In the recent past, the receiving countries have largely been unwilling to address these matters at the global level.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at

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Migrants Waiting Their Moment in the Moroccan Mountains Fri, 04 Sep 2015 16:22:35 +0000 Andrea Pettrachin Migrants looking down from the mountain behind the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in Morocco. Credit: Andrea Pettrachin/IPS

Migrants looking down from the mountain behind the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in Morocco. Credit: Andrea Pettrachin/IPS

By Andrea Pettrachin
CEUTA, Sep 4 2015 (IPS)

In the middle of the mountains behind the border fence of Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Morocco, and eight kilometres from the nearest Moroccan village of Fnideq, an uncertain number of migrants live in the woods. No one knows exactly how many they are but charity workers in Melilla, Spain’s other enclave in Morocco, say they could be in their thousands.

Ceuta is one of the main (and few) ‘doors’ leading from northern Africa to the territory of the European Union, and is a ’door’ that has been closed since the end of the 1990s, when the Spanish authorities started to build a tripe six-metre fence topped with barbed wire that surrounds the whole enclave, as in Melilla.

In the past, those waiting in the mountains for their turn to try to reach Spain had been able to build something resembling a normal life. They put up tents and at least were able to sleep relatively peacefully at night.Today, the migrants are forced to remain mostly hidden in small groups among the trees or in small caverns, and they know that all attempts to pass the Spanish border are almost certain to fail and end up with arrest by the Moroccan authorities

That all ended after 2012, when the Moroccan police started to burn down the camps and periodically sweep the mountainside, arresting any migrants they found, charged with having illegally entered the country.

These actions were the result of agreements between the Moroccan and Spanish governments, after Spain had asked Morocco to control migration flows.

The most tragic raid so far by the Moroccan police took place last year on Gurugu Mountain which looks down on Melilla. Five migrants were killed, 40 wounded and 400 removed to a desert area on the border with Algeria. According to the migrants, the wounded were not cured and were left to their own destiny.

Today, the migrants are forced to remain mostly hidden in small groups among the trees or in small caverns, and they know that all attempts to pass the Spanish border are almost certain to fail and end up with arrest by the Moroccan authorities.

They live, in their words, “like animals” and when speaking with outsiders are clearly ashamed by their condition, apologising for being dirty and badly-dressed.

The first thing many of them tell you in French is that they are students and that before having to leave their countries they were studying mathematics, economics or engineering at university.

Many of them are from Guinea, one of the countries most seriously affected by the Ebola epidemic, others come from Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, all countries characterised by political turmoil of various types.

All of them have been forced to live in these woods for months or even years, waiting for their chance to pass the border fence.

The statistics show that some of them will certainly die in their attempts to reach Spain – either on the heavily fortified fences which encircle the enclaves or out at sea in a small boat or trying to swim to a Spanish beach.

Some of them will finally make it to Spain, perhaps after five or six failed attempts. In that case they will have overcome the first hurdle, escaping the “push-back operations” by the Spanish Guardia Civil, but they will still face the possibility of forced repatriation, particularly if they come from countries with which Spain has a repatriation agreement.

Many of them, however, will finally give up and decide to remain somewhere in Morocco, destined to a life of continuous uncertainty due to their irregular position in the country. You can meet them and listen to their stories in the main Moroccan cities, especially in the north. In most cases, they had escaped death in their attempts to reach Spain and do not want to risk their lives any longer.

Meanwhile a report on ‘Refugee Persons in Spain and Europe” published at the end of May by the non-governmental Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR), denounces how sub-Saharan migrants are dissuaded from seeking asylum in Spain, even if coming from countries in conflict such as Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo or Somalia, once they realise that they are likely to be forced to remain for months in a Centre for Temporary Residence of Immigrants (CETI) in Ceuta or Melilla.

In Melilla, for example, those who apply for asylum cannot leave the enclave until a decision has been taken on their application. Unlike Syrian refugees whose application takes no more than two months, CEAR said the average time to reach a decision for sub-Saharan Africans is one and a half years.

The CEAR report is only one of a long list of recent criticisms of the Spanish government’s migration policies from numerous NGOs and international organisations.

The main target of these criticisms has been the Security Law (Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana) passed this year by the Spanish Parliament with only the votes of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party. The aim was to give legal cover to the so called devoluciones en caliente, the “push-back operations” against migrants carried out by the Spanish frontier authorities in Ceuta and Melilla in violation of international and European law.

On the Spanish mainland, said the CEAR report, migrant’s right of asylum is seriously undermined by the bureaucratic lengths of application procedures and the political choices of the Spanish authorities.

Calls from CEAR and other NGOs to end “push-back operations” seem very unlikely to be taken into consideration soon by the Spanish government and Parliament, in view of the general elections later this year.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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European Residents Offer Support, Homes to Refugees Thu, 03 Sep 2015 21:01:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage Many Syrian cities have been reduced to piles of rubble, as a civil war that is now well into its fifth year shows no signs of abating. Desperate refugees are fleeing to Europe to escape the fighting. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

Many Syrian cities have been reduced to piles of rubble, as a civil war that is now well into its fifth year shows no signs of abating. Desperate refugees are fleeing to Europe to escape the fighting. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

As the migration crisis in Europe continues to grow and government response remains slow, European citizens have taken it upon themselves to act by opening up their homes to those in need.

In a Facebook group entitled ‘Dear Eygló Harðar – Syria is Calling’, over 15,000 Icelanders have signed an open letter calling on their government to “open the gates” for more Syrian refugees.

The open letter, initiated by author and professor Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir on Aug. 30, addresses Iceland’s Minister of Welfare Eygló Harðar and calls on the government to reconsider capping the number of refugees at a mere 50.

The week-long campaign, which ends on Sep. 4, aims to gather information about available assistance and to create pressure on the government to increase its quota.

“Refugees are our […] best friends, our next soul mate, the drummer in our children’s band, our next colleague, Miss Iceland 2022, the carpenter who finally fixes our bathroom, the chef in the cafeteria, the fireman, the hacker and the television host. People who we’ll never be able to say to: ‘Your life is worth less than mine’,” the open letter states.

Many have posted their own open letters, offering their homes, food, and general support to refugees, to enable them to integrate into Icelandic society.

One Icelander posted on the group: “I’m a single mother with a six-year-old son […] we can take a child in need. I’m a teacher and would teach the child to speak, read and write Icelandic and adjust to Icelandic society. We have clothes, a bed, toys, and everything a child needs. I would of course pay for the airplane ticket.”

The open letter has sparked more people around the world to express words of support and to offer their homes to those in need.

One mother of a 19-month-old baby from Argentina wrote in the group: “I want you to know that I would like to help in any way I can, even if it is looking at the possibility of hosting some boy or girl in my house […]. I don’t have a comfortable financial position, but I can provide what is necessary and a lot of love.”

Similar efforts to house refugees have begun in other parts of Europe.

Refugees Welcome, a German initiative, matches refugees from around the world with host citizens offering private accommodation.

Once hosts sign up to offer their homes, Refugees Welcome works with local refugee organizations to reach out to find a “suitable” match.

Though only Germany and Austrian residents can currently be hosts, over 780 people have already signed up to help and more than 134 refugees from Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Iraq, Somalia, and Syria have been matched with families in the two countries.

Refugees Welcome also stated that the initiative has been picked up and may be expanded to the United States and Australia.

“We are convinced that refugees should not be stigmatized and excluded by being housed in mass accommodations. Instead, we should offer them a warm welcome,” says Refugees Welcome on its website.

European Union’s border agency Frontex revealed that in July 2015 alone, over 100,000 people migrated into Europe. Germany has stated that it expects up to 800,000 asylum seekers by the end of the year.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Europe Invaded Mostly by “Regime Change” Refugees Thu, 03 Sep 2015 20:23:40 +0000 Thalif Deen The migrants photographed here were being loaded on to a cargo plane in Kufra, located in southeastern Libya. Credit: Rebecca Murray/IPS

The migrants photographed here were being loaded on to a cargo plane in Kufra, located in southeastern Libya. Credit: Rebecca Murray/IPS

By Thalif Deen

The military conflicts and political instability driving hundreds of thousands of refugees into Europe were triggered largely by U.S. and Western military interventions for regime change – specifically in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria (a regime change in-the-making).

The United States was provided with strong military support by countries such as Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain, while the no-fly zone to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was led by France and the UK in 2011 and aided by Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Canada, among others.

“[European leaders] stay silent about the military intervention and regime change in which Europeans were major actors, interventions that have torn the refugees’ homelands apart and resulted in civil war and state collapse.” -- James A. Paul, former executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum
Last week, an unnamed official of a former Eastern European country, now an integral part of the 28-nation European Union (EU), was constrained to ask: “Why should we provide homes for these refugees when we didn’t invade their countries?”

This reaction could have come from any of the former Soviet bloc countries, including Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Latvia – all of them now members of the EU, which has an open-door policy for transiting migrants and refugees.

The United States was directly involved in regime change in Afghanistan (in 2001) and Iraq (in 2003) – and has been providing support for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad battling a civil war now in its fifth year.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who says he is “horrified and heartbroken” at the loss of lives of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean and Europe, points out that a large majority of people “undertaking these arduous and dangerous journeys are refugees fleeing from places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

James A. Paul, former executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum, told IPS the term “regime change refugees” is an excellent way to change the empty conversation about the refugee crisis.

Obviously, there are many causes, but “regime change” helps focus on a crucial part of the picture, he added.

Official discourse in Europe frames the civil wars and economic turmoil in terms of fanaticism, corruption, dictatorship, economic failures and other causes for which they have no responsibility, Paul said.

“They stay silent about the military intervention and regime change in which Europeans were major actors, interventions that have torn the refugees’ homelands apart and resulted in civil war and state collapse.”

The origins of the refugees make the case clearly: Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan are major sources, he pointed out.

Also many refugees come from the Balkans where the wars of the 1990s, again involving European complicity, shredded those societies and led to the present economic and social collapse, he noted.

Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College, Connecticut, and the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History, told IPS the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention was dated.

He said the Covenant “was written up for the time of the Cold War – when those who were fleeing the so-called Unfree World were to be welcomed to the Free World”.

He said many Third World states refused this covenant because of the horrid ideology behind it.

“We need a new Covenant,” he said, one that specifically takes into consideration economic refugees (driven by the International Monetary Fund) and political (war) refugees.

At the same time, he said, the international community should also recognize “climate change refugees, regime change refugees and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] refugees.”

The 1951 Convention guarantees refugee status if one “has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

Asked about the Eastern European reaction, Prashad said: “I agree entirely. But of course one didn’t hear such a sentiment from Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and others – who also welcomed refugees in large numbers. Why say, ‘Why should we take [them]?’ Why not say, ‘Why are they [Western Europe and the U.S.] not doing more?’” he asked.

While Western European countries are complaining about the hundreds of 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 – none of which invaded any of the countries from where most of the refugees are originating.

Paul told IPS the huge flow of refugees into Europe has created a political crisis in many recipient countries, especially Germany, where neo-Nazi thugs battle police almost daily, while fire-bombings of refugee housing have alarmed the political establishment.

The public have been horrified by refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, deaths in trucks and railway tunnels, thousands of children and families caught on the open seas, facing border fences and mobilized security forces.

Religious leaders call for tolerance, while EU politicians wring their hands and wonder how they can solve the issue with new rules and more money, Paul said.

“But the refugee flow is increasing rapidly, with no end in sight.  Fences cannot contain the desperate multitudes.”

He said a few billion euros in economic assistance to the countries of origin, recently proposed by the Germans, are unlikely to buy away the problem.

“Only a clear understanding of the origins of the crisis can lead to an answer, but European leaders do not want to touch this hot wire and expose their own culpability.”

Paul said some European leaders, the French in particular, are arguing in favour of military intervention in these troubled lands on their periphery as a way of doing something.

Overthrowing Assad appears to be popular among the policy classes in Paris, who choose to ignore how counter-productive their overthrow of Libyan leader Gaddafi was a short time ago, or how counter-productive has been their clandestine support in Syria for the Islamist rebels, he declared.

Paul also said “the aggressive nationalist beast in the rich country establishments is not ready to learn the lesson, or to beware the “blowback” from future interventions.”

“This is why we need to look closely at the ‘regime change’ angle and to mobilize the public understanding that this was a crisis that was largely ‘Made in Europe’ – with the active connivance of Washington, of course,” he declared.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Italy Joins Internet Rights ‘Club’ Thu, 03 Sep 2015 19:01:31 +0000 Andrea Pettrachin By Andrea Pettrachin
ROME, Sep 3 2015 (IPS)

Italy has finally joined the restricted club of states in the world that have chosen the constitutional path for regulating the Internet – or at least has taken a significant step in that direction – by adopting a Declaration of Internet Rights.

It is now looking to present the Declaration at the Internet Governance Forum scheduled for November in João Pessoa, Brazil.

The drafting process lasted more than one year, which is quick by normal Italian bureaucratic standards, and observers were surprised that it had seen the light of the day given what they says is the backwardness of the country’s digital infrastructures.Many questions related to access and use of the Internet go well beyond national borders because of the very nature of the Internet and therefore call for a coordinated effort at the international level

A number of progressive Italian media hailed the Declaration as of “historical significance” in view of the visibility and prestige that it will give Italy on internet governance issues within the global community.

Unlike other countries, where proposals for Internet Bills of Rights or Declarations have been promoted mainly by scholars, associations, dynamic coalitions, enterprises, or groups of stakeholders, the Declaration’s promoters have stressed that the drafting process was characterised by “peer-to-peer relations between institutions and citizens, so that the whole construction has become horizontal.”

In fact, the Declaration is the outcome of a complex and open multi-stakeholder process, which ended with the direct involvement of Italian citizens through a four-month public consultation on the Internet.

Nevertheless, momentum for the Declaration is closely associated with the figures of Laura Boldrini, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and former spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and Stefano Rodotà, an Italian jurist and politician and long-time advocate of a “Magna Carta” for the networked society who headed the committee of experts which drafted the document.

Explaining the contents of the Declaration, Rodotà said that unlike almost other similar initiatives,  the Italian Declaration : “does not contain specific and detailed wording of the different principles and rights already stated by international documents and national constitutions” but attempts to “identify the specific principles and rights of the digital world, by underlining not only their peculiarities but also the way in which they generally contribute to redefining the entire sphere of rights.”

The Declaration covers a wide range of issues, from the “fundamental right to Internet access” and net neutrality to the notion of “informational self-determination”. It also includes provisions on the security, integrity and inviolability of IT systems and domains, mass surveillance, the right to anonymity and the development of digital identity. It also deals with the highly-debated idea of granting online citizens the “right to be forgotten”.

The Declaration is critical of the opacity of the terms of service devised by digital platform operators, who are “required to behave honestly and fairly” and, most of all, give “clear and simple information on how the platform operates.”

Rodotà pointed out that the set of rights recognised in the Declaration “does not guarantee general freedom on the Internet, but specifically aims at preventing the dependency of people from the outside” through, for example, “expropriation of the right to freely develop one’s personality and identity as may happen with the wide and increasing use of algorithms and probabilistic techniques.”

The importance of needs linked to security and the market are taken into consideration but, according to the promoters of the initiative, there cannot be a balance on equal terms between these interests and fundamental rights and freedoms. In particular, “security needs shall not determine the establishment of a society of surveillance, control and social sorting.”

Renata Avila of Guatemala, who heads the “Web We Want” campaign launched by the World Wide Web Foundation, expressed her satisfaction with the section of the Declaration dedicated to net neutrality and free software, but said that it should have had more explicit and stronger recognition of “the right of people to communicate in private and the right to anonymity.”

The next step for the Italian Declaration concerns it status. It is currently simply a political document with no legal value, although Boldrini has said that it will be the subject of a parliamentary “motion” in the coming months.

As the basis for a legally-binding document, it has much in common with national legislation concerning the Internet in Brazil and the Philippines. However, it promoters note that the Italian declaration was created with an international framework in mind.

Its rationale, they say, is that “the many questions related to access and use of the Internet go well beyond national borders because of the very nature of the Internet and therefore call for a coordinated effort at the international level.”

According to the promoters, the main aim of the Declaration is not limited to being a text for the creation of new national legislation, but aims at being a contribution to public debate that points to possible legislative developments at all levels, “from national legislation to international treaties.”

For his part, Rodotà hoped that the Italian Declaration of Internet Rights would serve as an instrument for the “consolidation of a common international debate and of a culture highlighting common dynamics in different legal systems”.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Despite Treaty, Conventional Arms Fuel Ongoing Conflicts Tue, 01 Sep 2015 20:36:26 +0000 Thalif Deen SPLM-N soldiers clean weapons they say they took from government forces. Credit: Jared Ferrie/IPS

SPLM-N soldiers clean weapons they say they took from government forces. Credit: Jared Ferrie/IPS

By Thalif Deen

Despite last year’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the proliferation of conventional weapons, both legally and illegally, continues to help fuel military conflicts in several countries in the Middle East and Africa, including Syria, Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.

Described as the first international, legally binding agreement to regulate the trade in conventional arms, the ATT was also aimed at preventing the illicit trade in weapons.

“Arms transfers are still continuing – transfers that states know will contribute to death, injury, rape, displacement, and other forms of violence against human beings and our shared environment." -- Ray Acheson, Director, Reaching Critical Will, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
But the first Conference of States Parties (CSP1) to the ATT, held in Cancun, Mexico last week, was the first meeting to assess the political credibility of the treaty, which came into force in December 2014.

Ray Acheson, Director, Reaching Critical Will, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), told IPS the failure of CSP1 to adopt robust, comprehensive reporting templates that meet the needs of effective Treaty implementation is disappointing and must be corrected at CSP2, which is to be held in Geneva in 2016.

She said the working group process leading up to CSP2 must be more transparent and inclusive with regards to civil society participation than the process that lead to the provisional reporting templates.

“CSP1 is over, but implementation of the Treaty is just beginning,” she said.

“Arms transfers are still continuing – transfers that states know will contribute to death, injury, rape, displacement, and other forms of violence against human beings and our shared environment,” said Acheson who participated in the Cancun meeting.

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a senior fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, who also attended the Cancun conference, told IPS that CSP1 was intended to provide the administrative backbone for the implementation of the ATT.

States Parties (the countries that have completed the ratification or accession process) largely succeeded in this effort, she said.

Goldring said CSP1 accomplished a great deal, but the real tests still lie ahead.

The Conference agreed on the basic structures for the new Secretariat to implement the Arms Trade Treaty, but that’s simply a first step.

She said full implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty requires action at the national, regional, and global levels.

One indication of countries’ commitment to the ATT will be the extent to which the countries with substantive and budgetary resources help the countries that lack those capacities, said Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute at the United Nations on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

Some of the world’s key arms suppliers are either non-signatories, or have signed but not ratified the treaty. The ATT has been signed by 130 states and ratified by 72.

The United States, Ukraine and Israel have signed but not ratified while China and Russia abstained on the General Assembly vote on the treaty – and neither has signed it.

The major arms suppliers to sign and ratify the treaty include France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain.

The ATT Monitor, published by WILPF, quotes a U.N. report, which says South Sudan spent almost 30 million dollars last year on machine guns, grenade launchers, and other weapons from China, along with Russian armoured vehicles and Israeli rifles and attack helicopters.

The conflict in South Sudan has been triggered by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar: a conflict “which has been fueled with arms from many exporters,” according to the Monitor.

China told the Cancun meeting it would never export weapons that do not relate to its three self-declared principles: that arms transfers must relate to self-defence; must not undermine security; and must not interfere with internal affairs of recipients.

Acheson said the ATT can and must be used as a tool to illuminate, stigmatise, and hopefully prevent arms transfers that are responsible for death and destruction.

By the end of the Conference, she said, States Parties had taken decisions on all of the issues before it, including the location and head of the secretariat; management committee and budget issues; reporting templates; a programme of work for the inter-sessional period; and the bureau for CSP2.

The CSP1 voted for Geneva as home of the treaty’s permanent Secretariat – against two competing cities, namely Vienna, Austria; and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago – while Dumisani Dladla was selected to head the Secretariat.

Acheson said while most of these items are infrastructural and procedural, they do have implications for how effectively the Treaty might be implemented moving forward.

On the question of transparency, unfortunately, states parties failed to meet real life needs, she added.

States parties also did not adopt the reporting templates that have been under development for the past year. But this is a relief, she added.

States that want to improve transparency around the international arms trade, and most civil society groups, are very concerned that the provisional templates are woefully inadequate and too closely tied to the voluntary and incomprehensive reporting practices of the U.N. Register on Conventional Arms.

“As we conduct inter-sessional work and turn our focus to implementation, we must all act upon the ATT not as a stand-alone instrument but as a piece of a much bigger whole,” she noted.

ATT implementation must be firmly situated in wider considerations of conflict prevention, resolution, and peacebuilding.

Acheson also said the ATT could be useful for confronting and minimising the challenges associated with transparency and accountability.

“It could help prevent atrocities, protect human rights and dignity, reduce suffering, and save lives. But to do so effectively, states parties need to implement it with these goals in mind.”

Commenting on the prepared statements at the high level segment of the conference, Goldring told IPS the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies could save a great deal of time if countries submitted their opening statements electronically in advance of the relevant meetings instead of presenting them orally in plenary sessions.

States Parties were not successful in developing agreed procedures for countries to comply with the mandatory reporting requirements of the ATT.

The group was only able to agree on provisional reporting templates, deferring formal adoption to the second Conference of States parties. This is an extremely important omission.

Goldring said countries reporting on the weapons that were imported or exported or transited their territory is a critical transparency task.

She said reporting needs to be comprehensive and public, and the data need to be comparable from country to country and over time.

“The current templates do not meet these tests,” she said pointing out that another important task will be trying to convince leading suppliers and recipients to join the treaty.

In a pleasant contrast to many U.N. meetings, NGOs were included in both the formal plenary and informal working group sessions.

The Rules of Procedure focus on consensus, but provide sensible options if it’s impossible to achieve consensus. This is a welcome development, as it will make it much more difficult for a small number of countries to block progress, she said.

“But in the end, the most important measure of success will be whether the ATT helps reduce the human cost of armed violence. It’s simply too early to tell whether this will be the case,” Goldring declared.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Stop Food Waste – Cook It and Eat It Mon, 31 Aug 2015 18:39:32 +0000 Silvia Boarini 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 Die Sun, 30 Aug 2015 16:06:20 +0000 Thalif Deen 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

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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