Stories written by Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate, is a member of Kenya’s Parliament and the founder of the Green Belt Movement (www.greenbeltmovement.org).

AS PROTESTS ENGULF NORTH AFRICA, WHERE IS THE VOICE OF THE AFRICAN UNION?

As the world discusses the protests and battles sweeping North Africa -most recently in Libya- where is the African Union (AU)? Numerous multilateral bodies have called for respect for human rights and an end to state-sponsored violence, including the European Union (EU), the Arab League, and the United Nations.

SUDAN REFERENDUM AND THE FUTURE FOR SUDANESE WOMEN

Southern Sudanese are at the polls to decide whether they want to remain part of a united Sudan or to break away and become Africa's newest country. The referendum is taking place from 9 to 15 January, but official turnout figures are not expected until the beginning of February. The outcome, which is largely expected to result in an independent South, will have an enormous impact in both the South and the North.

THE WORLD NEEDS WOMEN TO MAKE PROGRESS ON CLIMATE CHANGE

A year after much-touted climate change summit in Copenhagen, country negotiators from around the world are together again to work out an international response to climate change. While many believe we should lower our expectations for this year's climate change summit underway in Cancun, this would be a mistake. As global temperatures rise, so do the challenge's for the world's poorest citizens- women, especially those living in developing countries.

THE AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT AND THE FUTURE OF SUDAN

The African Union has declared 2010 the Year of Peace and Security in Africa, and will soon launch the African Decade of Women. What better opportunity to act on these pledges than at the 15th African Union Summit, being held later this month in Kampala, Uganda? The upcoming referendum in Sudan gives African leadership an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to improving the lives of women on this continent by ensuring that they actively and freely participate in the referendum. Southern Sudanese will go to the polls to decide whether to remain a part of a unified Sudan or secede and become AfricaÂ's newest country. Given that Sudan is AfricaÂ's largest country ­bordered by nine countries, also plagued by conflict, rampant corruption and stunted development­ it behooves our leaders to prioritize Sudan. News coming out of Sudan in the last few months paints a bleak picture: the security situation in Darfur is deteriorating, the Darfur peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar are barely limping along, and the recent national elections were well below international standard. There are just six months remaining to the referendum that will impact the future of millions of Africans. Recently the Sudanese government appointed the African Union High Level Panel for Implementation in Sudan led by former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki to facilitate negotiations on SudanÂ's referendum. Mbeki and the Panel are charged with leading negotiations between the ruling National Congress Party and the Southern Sudanese Liberation Movement in the South on all outstanding issues in the lead up to the referendum. Mbeki and the Panel have a big responsibility. They must support the Sudanese government and the Sudanese people to ensure an inclusive, transparent, and comprehensive process. The referendum will be dealing with issues that are of vital consequence to the people of Sudan, including the division of national economic resources, the redefining of citizenship, and border demarcation. The process must be, above all, inclusive. And an integral part of the responsibility to be inclusive is ensuring that those most affected by the referendum have a voice ­namely, Sudanese women. Achieving lasting peace and security in Sudan is not possible without womenÂ's full inclusion and especially within decision-making processes. Yet, up to now, women are almost invisible.

Wangari Maathai: 'Africa needs to learn to deal with issues honestly and fairly.' Credit: Martin Rowe/Wikicommons

Q&A: ‘True African Leaders Have Nothing to Fear From ICC’

As the first Review Conference of the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court takes stock of the ICC's achievements and considers amendments to strengthen the pursuit of justice around the world, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize is one of its strongest defenders.

DARFUR PEACE TALKS: WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?

While the normalization of diplomatic relations between Chad and Sudan and the signing of a cease fire and framework for peace negotiations between the Sudan government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) are being heralded as critical steps towards peace in Darfur, there is still a long way to travel to resolving the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

CLIMATE CHANGE: ACT NOW, BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE

It's clear that climate change poses severe environmental, economic, and social risks. But it also presents a challenge of leadership the likes of which the world has never seen. Can heads of state and governments meet it when they gather in Copenhagen in December to hammer out a new international climate agreement?

LET THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT DO ITS WORK

Representatives of African States will meet in Addis Ababa (June 8-9) to "exchange views" on the International Criminal Court (ICC). Prompted by the war crimes indictment of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, the meeting will provide a platform for the Court's dissenters in Africa, and aim to sew discord among ICC supporters.

AFRICA: TREES VS DESERTS

Conserving the Congo forest, and indeed all of our forests in Africa, and accelerating forestation efforts is vital to our survival on a continent where the Sahara Desert is expanding to the North and the Kalahari Desert expands to the Southwest, writes Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate, Goodwill Ambassador for the Congo Forest, and founder of the Green Belt Movement. In this article, Maathai writes that for this reason the Congo Basin Forest Fund was launched in London on June 17. The Congo Basin Forest is the world\'s second largest forest ecosystem and considered the planet\'s second lung, after the Amazon. It provides food, shelter, and livelihood for over 50 million people. Covering 200 million hectares and including approximately one-fifth of the world\'s remaining closed-canopy tropical forest, it is also a very significant carbon store with a vital role in regulating the regional climate.Today, in the Congo Basin rainforest increased logging, changing patterns of agriculture, population growth, and the oil and mining industries are all leading to ever greater deforestation.

AFRICA MUST BE HEARD ON CLIMATE CHANGE

While in wealthy countries, the looming climate crisis is a matter of concern, in Africa, which has hardly contributed to climate change, it is a matter of life and death, writes Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate and a member of Kenya's Parliament and the founder of the Green Belt Movement. In this analysis, the author writes that therefore, Africa must not remain silent in the face of the realities of climate change, and its causes. African leaders and civil society must be involved in global decision-making about how to address the climate crisis in ways that are both effective and equitable. Unfortunately, the generation that destroys the environment may not be the one that pays the price. Politically, it is more expedient to sacrifice the long-term common good and intergenerational responsibility for the convenience and opportunities of today. But, morally, we are required to act for the common good of all. The global challenge of climate change requires that we ask no less of our leaders, or ourselves

THE ENVIRONMENT IS CENTRAL TO FIGHTING POVERTY IN AFRICA

While the new focus on Africa\'s development is welcome, the essential role of the environment is still marginal in discussions about poverty, writes Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate and Kenya\'s Assistant Minister for Environment and Member of Parliament. In this article, Maathai writes that while we continue to discuss these initiatives, environmental degradation, including the loss of biodiversity and topsoil, accelerates, causing development efforts to falter. Without better management of resources the achievement of the MDGs, especially the elimination of poverty, could easily remain a dream. Africa lags behind other regions in progress toward the MDGs. If we do not acknowledge that the environment is central to sustainable development and ending poverty, we run the risk degrading the resource base on which future development depends. To make poverty history, we have to put the environment at the centre of policy and decision-making.

THE CHALLENGE OF AIDS IN AFRICA

The devastation that HIV/AIDS is wreaking in Africa in the midst of abject poverty and abandonment is of a severity and scale found nowhere else. It silent, misunderstood, and overwhelming threat to peace and security on the continent, writes Wangari Maathai, recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. We in Africa must encourage a freer and more enlightened debate on the HIV/AIDS threat, the author writes in this article. We must at the same time learn from our own successes in the fight against the disease. In Uganda 15 years ago the fear was that HIV/AIDS could destroy the whole society; today we see a dramatic improvement, largely because of the responsible political leadership of President Museveni. HIV/AIDS is a global challenge for both political and religious leaders. While we need the encouragement, support, and cooperation of the rest of world, we also need the respect and trust that some of the solutions will emerge from our own value systems.



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