brad brace

10/31/2008

Declaration of Maputo

Filed under: General,human rights,resource — admin @ 3:46 pm

Maputo, Mozambique, October 19-22, 2008

Declaration of Maputo: V International Conference of La Via Campesina

Food Sovereignty now! Unity and struggle of the people!

We are men and women of the earth, we are those who produce food for the world. We have the right to continue being peasants and family farmers, and to shoulder the responsibility of continuing to feed our peoples. We care for seeds, which are life, and for us the act of producing food is an act of love. Humanity depends on us, and we refuse to disappear.

We, La Via Campesina, are a worldwide movement of rural women, peasants and family farmers, farm workers, indigenous peoples, rural youth and afro-descendents from Asia, Europe, America and Africa, gathered together in Maputo, Mozambique from October 19 to 22, 2008, for our V International Conference. We were received in a warm and fraternal fashion by our hosts, the National Union of Peasants (União Nacional de Camponeses/UNAC) of Mozambique. We met to reaffirm our determination to defend peasant and family farm agriculture, our cultures and our right to continue to exist as peoples with our own identity. We are more than 550 people, including more than 325 men and women delegates, from 57 countries, representing hundreds of millions of farming families. We women represent more than half of the people producing food in the world and here we celebrate with energy and determination our Third Worldwide Assembly of Women. We are also celebrating our Second Youth Assembly of La Via Campesina, since only with the decisive participation of youth can a present and a future for rural areas be guaranteed. In this V International Conference we also ratified 41 organizations as new members of La Via Campesina, and we have the participation of many organizations and allied movements from all over the world, in our First Assembly with the Allies of Via Campesina.

Four years of struggle and Victories

In this V International Conference we have evaluated our main struggles, actions and activities since the IV International Conference that took place in Itaici, Brazil, in June of 2004. Among them we highlighted the massive mobilizations against the WTO, against Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in different parts of the world, and against the G8 in Rostock and Hokkaido. In 2005 La Via Campesina was very present in the days of struggle against the WTO Summit in Hong Kong, thus participating in the most recent of the actions with which we social movements have paralyzed the negotiations at WTO summits since Seattle in 1999. We have also played central roles in other mobilizations against the WTO over the last 4 years, from Geneva to India.

In 2007 we organized, with our principal allies, the International Forum on Food Sovereignty in Nyéléni, Mali. This was a crucial moment in the building of a broad and global movement for Food Sovereignty. More than 500 delegates from the most important social movements of the planet participated, and we defined a strategic agenda for the coming years. Both before and after Nyéléni we organized many national and regional meetings on Food Sovereignty. In recent years we have been able to get the concept sovereignty incorporated in national constitutions and/or laws in countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, Nepal, Mali, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Through our Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform, which is the expression of our struggles for land and in defense of territory, we co-organized the World Forum for Agrarian Reform in Valencia, Spain in 2004, and in 2006 we organized the International Meeting of the Landless in Porto Alegre, Brazil, before the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN). There we participated in the Brazilian women’s mobilizations against the ’green deserts’ of Eucalyptus monocultures of the TNC Aracruz, on March 8, and in the Parallel Forum, achieving important advances in the positions of the governments. In 2007 in Nepal we organized the International Conference on Food Sovereignty, Agrarian Reform and Peasant Rights.

In 2004 we held an international fair for exchange of local seed varieties, in the context of our IV Conference in Brazil. In 2005 we organized the International Conference on Seeds called “Liberate Diversity,” as part of our global struggle in favor of peasant seeds and against GMOs and terminator technology. Via Campesina Brazil organized powerful mobilizations during the International Conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-8) in March, 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil. We had major activities on these same issues in Mysore, India that same year, and in 2008 in Bonn, Germany, and in France where our hunger strike was key to achieving prohibition of Monsanto’s GMO maize. In Brazil in 2007, Keno, a leader of the MST, was assassinated by a gunman hired by Syngenta; but one year later we forced Syngenta to hand illegal areas used for GMO experimentation over to the government.

La Via Campesina, together with other social movements, organized the “Solidarity Village” as a parallel event to the Conference on Climate Change that the UN organized in Bali, Indonesia (2007), where we advanced the argument that peasant agriculture cools the planet.

In 2008 in Jakarta, Indonesia, we organized an international conference focused on our proposal for an International Declaration of Peasant Rights. Prior to this international conference we held an Assembly of Women on the Rights of Peasants

The commitment to solidarity of La Via Campesina was made evident in 2004 with our global efforts to channel alternative aid to the victims of the Tsunami, in 2007 with three delegations to meetings with the Zapatistas in Mexico, and every year with important actions in solidarity with those who are being victimized by the criminalization of social protest on all continents.

The displacement of rural peoples as a result of the neo-liberal model is provoking the mass movement of peoples, turning migration into a critical issue for Via Campesina. Since 2004 we have been developing strategies and actions on migration in our new International Working Group on Migration and Rural Workers. We have undertaken major actions against the ’wall of shame’ being built in the United States.

From town to town and country to country, we have taken up the struggles of La Via Campesina. Our movement is present in almost every place on the Earth, wherever neo-liberalism is being imposed on peasants and rural communities.

The struggle of La Via Campesina inspires, stimulates and generates resistance by social movements against neo-liberal policies. The number of countries with progressive governments is on the rise, gaining power as a result of years of popular mobilizations. A good number of local and national governments have accentuated their resistance, and their interest in the agenda of Food Sovereignty, as a result of popular mobilizations and as a response to the global crisis of the food prices.

The offensive of capital in the countryside, the multiple crises, and the displacement of peasant and indigenous peoples

In the current global context we are confronting the convergence of the food crisis, the climate crisis, the energy crisis and the financial crisis. These crises have common origins in the capitalist system and more recently in the unrestrained de-regulation in various spheres of economic activity, as part of the neo-liberal model, which gives priority to business and profit. In the rural zones of the world, we have seen a ferocious offensive of capital and of transnational corporations (TNCs) to take over land and natural assets (water, forests, minerals, biodiversity, land, etc.), that translates into a privatizing war to steal the territories and assets of peasants and indigenous peoples. This war uses false pretexts and deliberately erroneous arguments, for example to claim that agrofuels are a solution for the climactic and energy crises, when the truth is exactly the opposite. Whenever peoples exercise their rights and resist this generalized pillage, or when they are obliged to join migrant flows, the response is always more criminalization, more repression, more political prisoners, more assassinations, more walls of shame and more military bases.

Declaration of Peasant Rights

We see a future UN Declaration of Peasant Rights as a key tool in the international legal system to strengthen our position and our rights as peasants and family farmers. For this reason we are launching the Global Campaign for a Declaration of Peasant Rights.

Food Sovereignty: the solution to the crisis, and for the life of peoples

Nevertheless, the current situation of crisis is also an opportunity, because Food Sovereignty offers the only real alternative both for the life of peoples, as well as for reversing the current global crises. Food Sovereignty responds to the food, climate and energy crises with local food grown by peasants and family farmers, attacking two of the principle sources of greenhouse gas emissions, the long distance transportation of foods and industrialized agriculture. It also offers relief to a particularly nefarious aspect of the financial crisis, by prohibiting speculation in food futures contracts. While the dominant model truly means crisis and death, Food Sovereignty means the life and hope of the rural peoples and of consumers. Food Sovereignty requires the protection and re-nationalization of national food markets, the promotion of local circuits of production and consumption, the struggle for land, the defense of the territories of indigenous peoples, and comprehensive agrarian reform. It is also based on the transformation the production model toward agro-ecological and sustainable farming, without pesticides and without GMOs, based on the knowledge of peasants, family farmers and indigenous peoples. As a general principle, Food Sovereignty is built on the basis of our concrete local experiences, in other words, from the local to the national.

The crisis is causing incalculable suffering among our peoples and has eroded the legitimacy of the neo-liberal model of “free trade,” such that some progressive local, state and national governments have begun to seek alternative solutions. In La Via Campesina we must be capable of taking advantage of these opportunities.

We have to develop a working methodology that includes critical and constructive dialog to achieve successful cases of implementation of Food Sovereignty with these governments. We also need to take advantage of international spaces of “alternative integration,” such as ALBA and Petrocaribe, to advance in this terrain. But we must not only bet on governments, but rather build Food Sovereignty from below in the territories and other spaces controlled by popular movements, indigenous peoples, etc. The time has come for Food Sovereignty and we need to take the initiative to make progress in all of our countries. We peasants and family farmers of the world can and want to feed the world, our families and our communities, with healthy and accessible foods.

Multinational corporations and free trade

Our reflections have made it clear to us that multinational corporations and international finance capital are our most important common enemies, and that as such, we have to bring our struggle to them more directly. They are the ones behind the other enemies of peasants, like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the FTAs and EPAs, neoliberal governments, as well as aggressive economic expansionism, imperialism and militarism. Now is also the time to redouble our struggle against FTAs and EPAs, and against the WTO, but this time more clearly indicating the central role played by the TNCs.

The advance of women is the advance of La Via Campesina

One issue was very clear in this V Conference, that all the forms of violence that women face in our societies -among them physical, economic, social, cultural and macho violence, and violence based on differences of power – are also present in rural communities, and as a result, in our organizations. This, in addition to being a principal source of injustice, also limits the success of our struggles. We recognize the intimate relationships between capitalism, patriarchy, machismo and neo-liberalism, in detriment to the women peasants and farmers of the world. All of us together, women and men of La Via Campesina, make a responsible commitment to build new and better human relationships among us, as a necessary part of the construction of the new societies to which we aspire. For this reason during this V Conference we decided to break the silence on these issues, and are launching the World Campaign “For an End to Violence Against Women.” We commit ourselves anew, with greater strength, to the goal of achieving that complex but necessary true gender parity in all spaces and organs of debate, discussion, analysis and decision-making in La Via Campesina, and to strengthen the exchange, coordination and solidarity among the women of our regions.

We recognize the central role of women in agriculture for food self-sufficiency, and the special relationship of women with the land, with life and with seeds. In addition, we women have been and are a guiding part of the construction of Via Campesina from its beginning. If we do not eradicate violence towards women within our movement, we will not advance in our struggles, and if we do not create new gender relations, we will not be able to build a new society.

We are not alone: the building of alliances

By ourselves, we peasants and family farmers cannot win our struggles for dignity, for a just food and agrarian system, and for that other world that is possible. We have to build and reinforce our organic and strategic alliances with movements and organizations that share our vision, and this is a special commitment of the V Conference.

Youth provide our hope for a better future

The dominant model in rural areas does not offer any options to young people. Youth are our base for the present and the future, so we commit ourselves to the full integration and creative participation of young people in all levels of our struggle.

Education to strengthen our movement

In order to have greater success and victories in our struggles, we need to dedicate ourselves to the internal strengthening of our movement, by political formation to build our capacity to interpret and transform our realties, by training, and by improving communication and articulation among ourselves and with our allies.

Diversity and unity in the defense of peasant agriculture

As an international social movement, we can say that one of our greatest strengths is our ability to unite different cultures and ways of thinking in one single movement. La Via Campesina represents a common commitment to resist, and to struggle for life and for peasant and family farm agriculture. All the participants of the V Conference of La Via Campesina are committed to the defense of food and of peasant agriculture, the right to Food Sovereignty, to dignity and to life. We are here, the peasants and rural peoples of the world, and we refuse to disappear.

Globalize Struggle! Globalize Hope!

source: Via Campesina

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 5:58 am


Sandy Springs in Congo

Filed under: capitalism,congo,human rights,military,resource,sri lanka,usa — admin @ 5:53 am

Another glimpse of a disaster-apartheid future can be found
in a wealthy Republican suburb outside Atlanta. Its
residents decided that they were tired of watching their
property taxes subsidize schools and police in the county’s
low-income African-American neighborhoods. They voted to
incorporate as their own city, Sandy Springs, which could
spend most of its taxes on services for its 100,000 citizens
and minimize the revenue that would be redistributed
throughout Fulton County. The only difficulty was that Sandy
Springs had no government structures and needed to build
them from scratch-everything from tax collection to zoning
to parks and recreation. In September 2005, the same month
that New Orleans flooded, the residents of Sandy Springs
were approached by the construction and consulting giant
CH2M Hill with a unique pitch: Let us do it for you. For the
starting price of $27 million a year, the contractor pledged
to build a complete city from the ground up.

A few months later, Sandy Springs became the first “contract
city.” Only four people worked directly for the new
municipality-everyone else was a contractor. Rick Hirsekorn,
heading up the project for CH2M Hill, described Sandy
Springs as “a clean sheet of paper with no governmental
processes in place.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
reported that “when Sandy Springs hired corporate workers to
run the new city, it was considered a bold experiment.”
Within a year, however, contract-city mania was tearing
through Atlanta’s wealthy suburbs, and it had become
“standard procedure in north Fulton.” Neighboring
communities took their cue from Sandy Springs and also voted
to become stand-alone cities and contract out their
government. One new city, Milton, immediately hired CH2M
Hill for the job-after all, it had the experience. Soon, a
campaign began for the new corporate cities to join together
to form their own county. The plan has encountered fierce
opposition outside the proposed enclave, where politicians
say that without those tax dollars, they will no longer be
able to afford their large public hospital and public
transit system; that partitioning the county would create a
failed state on the one hand and a hyperserviced one on the
other. What they were describing sounded a lot like New
Orleans and a little like Baghdad.

In these wealthy Atlanta suburbs, the long crusade to
strip-mine the state is nearing completion, and it is
particularly fitting that the new ground was broken by CH2M
Hill. The corporation was a multimillion-dollar contractor
in Iraq, paid to perform the core government function of
overseeing other contractors. In Sri Lanka after the
tsunami, it not only had built ports and bridges but was,
according to the U.S. State Department, “responsible for the
overall management of the infrastructure program.” In
post-Katrina New Orleans, CH2M Hill was awarded $500 million
to build FEMA-villes and was put on standby for the next
disaster. A master of privatizing the core functions of the
state during extraordinary circumstances, the company was
now doing the same under ordinary ones. lf disasters had
served as laboratories of extreme privatization, the testing
phase was clearly over.

When we glance at the holocaust in Congo, with 5.4 million
dead, the clichés of Africa-reporting tumble out: this is a
“tribal conflict” in “the Heart of Darkness”. It isn’t. The
United Nations investigation found it was a war led by
“armies of business” to seize the metals that make our
21st-century society zing and bling.

At the moment, Rwandan business interests make a fortune
from the Congolese mines they illegally seized during the
war. Congo is the richest country in the world for gold,
diamonds, coltan, cassiterite, and more. Everybody wanted a
slice — so six other countries invaded.

These resources were not being stolen to for use in Africa.
They were seized so they could be sold on to the West. The
more we bought, the more the invaders stole — and
slaughtered. The rise of mobile phones caused a surge in
deaths, because the coltan they contain is found primarily
in Congo. The UN named the international corporations it
believed were involved: Anglo-America, Standard Chartered
Bank, De Beers and more than 100 others. (They all deny the
charges.)

The debate about Congo in the West — when it exists at all
— focuses on our inability to provide a decent bandage,
without mentioning that we are causing the wound. The 17,000
UN forces in the country are abysmally failing to protect
the civilian population. But it is even more important to
stop fuelling the war in the first place by buying
blood-soaked natural resources. Rwandan-backed militias only
have enough guns and grenades to take on the Congolese army
and the UN because we buy the loot. We need to prosecute the
corporations buying them for abetting crimes against
humanity, and introduce a global coltan-tax to pay for a
substantial peacekeeping force. To get there, we need to
build an international system that values the lives of black
people more than it values profit.

10/28/2008

Polarised Thailand to barter rice for oil

Filed under: government,resource,thailand — admin @ 3:55 am

THAILAND said it planned to barter rice for oil with Iran in the clearest example to date of how the triple financial, fuel and food crisis is reshaping global trade as countries struggle with high commodity prices and a lack of credit.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation said such government-to-government bartering – a system of trade not used for decades – was likely to become more common as the private sector was finding it hard to access credit for food imports.

“Government-to-government deals will increase in number,” said Concepción Calpe, a senior economist at the FAO in Rome.

“The lack of credit for trade could lead also to a resurgence of barter deals between countries,” she added. Officials and traders noted, however, that Iran was not typical because the US-led sanctions against its banks meant the country was facing difficulties financing agricultural trade even before the financial crisis.

Bangkok’s commerce ministry yesterday said it was sending a delegation to Tehran to discuss the barter deal. Thailand is the world’s largest rice exporter, controlling a third of the global market, while Iran is one of the top 10 importers.

Last year Iran bought some 600,000 tonnes of rice from Thailand, but so far this year it has bought only 60,000 tonnes as it has waited for prices to fall.

The price of Thai medium-quality white rice soared to an all-time high of above $1,000 (€ 798) a tonne in May but has since dropped to $660 a tonne.

These days, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra is being blamed for everything that is wrong with Thailand.

In polarised Thailand, the colour “yellow” symbolises the PAD (an anti-government movement that sees red in anything connected to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai premier who was ousted in a 2006 coup) while “red” represents the pro-government supporters.

The PAD crowd has a jaundiced opinion of Thaksin, blaming him for anything negative that happens to them or their country.

In case of a coup (which is highly likely after army chief Anupong went on television on Oct 16 to urge Somchai to resign), army major-general Khattiya Sawasdiphol vowed to welcome tanks with Molotov cocktails instead of roses that were offered to the soldiers after they deposed Thaksin without any bloodshed.

This will be the first and only time that the people have threatened a counter-coup, if tanks roam Bangkok streets. Tanks usually used in military coups, attached to the Fourth Cavalry Battalion, are old and vulnerable to catching fire.

The anti-PAD crowd said that in Thailand, the second “c” in “democracy” has been replaced with “z” – democrazy.

10/27/2008

World Press Freedom Index 2008

Filed under: General,human rights,ideology,media — admin @ 3:35 am

http://tinyurl.com/6acbpd

The news media advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders released their fifth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index this week, and it shows that the United States has dropped 9 places since last year, and is now ranked 53rd, alongside Botswana, Croatia and Tonga. The authors of the report say that the steady erosion of press freedom in countries like the US, France and Japan (two other countries that slipped significantly on the index) is “very alarming.”

The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index, in 2002. Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognize the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year.

The organization bases the index on responses to 50 questions about press freedom asked of journalists, free press organizations, researchers, human rights activists and others. Jurist reports that the organization received responses from 168 countries, and “compiled based on “the degree of freedom journalists and news organizations enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the state to respect and ensure respect for this freedom.”

The world’s worst violators of press freedoms remains unchanged from last year: North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China.

10/23/2008

Vanuatu declares dengue fever outbreak

Filed under: disease/health,global islands,vanuatu — admin @ 3:20 am

Vanuatu health authorities have declared a dengue fever outbreak and a nation-wide campaign to control the spread of the disease. The Non-Communicable Disease Manager, George Taleo says that of the 28 confirmed cases so far, more than 16 were recorded in the last week alone. He says the worst dengue outbreak in recent times was in 1987 when 30 people died, and they don’t want a repeat of this.

10/22/2008

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 5:23 am

Alaska to New Zealand non-stop

Filed under: wildlife — admin @ 3:14 am

Tracked bar-tailed godwits set new non-stop flight record for birds.

In an avian flight of epic proportions, a female bar-tailed godwit alighted from her Alaskan breeding ground and flew south 11,680 kilometers, nonstop, until she reached her winter home in New Zealand. Called E7 by the scientists who monitored her, she flew more than eight days without food, water or rest, on the longest direct flight by a bird ever documented, researchers report online October 21 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

A research team also tracked eight other bar-tailed godwits, a type of shorebird, on what researchers call extreme endurance flights. Seven females, which typically have a wingspan of 30 to 40 centimeters, flew an average 10,153 kilometers over, at most, 9.4 days, uninterrupted. That’s the equivalent of flying from Los Angeles to London with 1,000 kilometers to spare.

The two males tracked flew slightly shorter distances over, at most, 6.6 days. But even these godwits shattered the longest nonstop flight record (as far as humans know), previously held by a Far-Eastern curlew that flew 6,500 kilometers over three to five days from Australia to China.

A team of researchers headed by Robert Gill Jr. of the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center in Anchorage implanted tiny satellite trackers in female godwits near the Alaska coast. Males, which are typically smaller, were harnessed with external (and lighter) satellite trackers on their legs. Scientists then monitored the changing coordinates of the godwits as the birds made their long flight over the Pacific Ocean.

Assessing the weather patterns in Alaska, the team also found that the godwits timed their departures to coincide with favorable tail winds that helped them fly south. “All birds took off with favorable winds,” says Gill, who added that tail winds caught in Alaska can carry these birds 3,000 to 5,000 kilometers. “Some birds get carried almost to Hawaii,” says Gill.

10/19/2008

Police Brutality Protestors Found Guilty

Filed under: police,usa — admin @ 3:12 am

The tragic death of Sean Bell revisited New York City recently. This past Oct. 6, eight of the remaining protesters went to trial in a Manhattan courtroom for their participation in the protest of the New York Police Department’s killing of Sean Bell as he was driving a car.

On Nov. 25, 2006, the morning of Bell’s impending wedding, NYC police shot 50 bullets into Bell’s car. In addition to killing Bell, they also wounded Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman. None of the three men was armed. New York City has a history of its police targeting Blacks and Latinos in the form of racial profiling and killings.

People in New York City and nationally were outraged by the April 25 verdict acquitting all the officers of every charge in the shooting. On May 7, in New York City and elsewhere people expressed their extreme anger. Many hundreds took to the streets in a mass traffic action out of deep frustration and desperation, surrounded by thousands of supporters.

The protest action blocked bridges and tunnels at several different locations within New York City. The action, initiated by the National Action Network, was well organized. Approximately 250 participants were subsequently arrested for civil disobedience.

The bulk of those arrested had their cases adjourned in contemplation of dismissal at a later date. However, the Rev. Al Sharpton; Sara Flounders, International Action Center co-director; and six others were among the activists singled out for trial on Oct. 6th. One of the arrestees had himself been a victim of a brutal police attack.

Judge Larry Stephen, a former district attorney, refused to accept their “Not guilty—Necessity Defense” plea, and they were declared guilty. In essence, the Necessity Defense motion for dismissal argued that the conduct of the protesters was justifiable and not criminal.

The motion also argued that the desirability and urgency of avoiding further police misconduct and violence should outweigh the civil disobedience offense of blocking traffic; that there were no adequate legal means to prevent further police brutality; that there was an immediate need to break the pattern of police killings; and that the arrestees felt they had no other recourse against the precipitating injustices than the action they took.

On Oct. 8, all eight defendants were sentenced to “time already served in jail” and fined $95 each. Benefield, Guzman and Sean Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Bell, were in the courtroom. Despite no one going to jail, it was another example of justice being denied to the people.

In Flounders’ statement to the court she pointed out that “When the protesters’ defense of ‘justified necessity’ has no basis and the police’s long record and pattern of attacks is not relevant to the protesters’ actions, it only confirms the pervasiveness of police misconduct and that the courts have lost the ability to hear the rising anger.

“The traffic action by the many hundreds of people,” she added, “was a polite reminder to the powers in NYC of the people’s ability, in response to deep grievances, to bring the city to a halt, even if just for minutes. It also shows the enormous power and potential that people have when they are mobilized. None of us are guilty. The police guilt is what stands. While the police are found ‘not guilty’ there is no justice.”

10/18/2008

Scrap Metal Crime in Kenya

Filed under: china,kenya,resource — admin @ 4:13 pm

A demand for scrap metal by China is fuelling an unprecedented rate of crime in Kenya and vandalism of key installations to meet a growing demand for raw material. Electricity, phone cables and railway lines have been vandalized as the Chinese importers continue to pay premium prices for metal.

State corporations have as a result lost millions of shillings in stolen cables and structures as thieves go for valued copper steel and aluminum metals all of which are in high demand in the rapidly expanding Chinese economy.

But it is not only the big state corporations that are suffering abandoned houses in villages and town’s cattle dips, livestock inseminations centers and bus stops have all been stripped bare of iron sheet roofing.

Similar fate has befallen street lightning posts, sign posts as have roadside railings on highways endangering lives of motorists and other road users. Abandoned and broken down vehicles have not been spared either as the mad rush for scrap metal intensifies across the country.

Unemployment

In some extreme cases unemployed youths have stolen utensils such as cooking pots from their parents houses which they sell to dealers for about a dollar a kilo , money the spend on illicit booze heightening misery in poor families.

A number of youths have been found electrocuted and hanging from power installations as they tried to bring down power transformers valued for their copper casings.

In a recent incident on the outskirts of Nairobi a young man was killed and his body set on fire by an angry mob as he and 3 others tried to a uproot a steel gate from a compound which they intended to hack into small pieces and later on sell to merchants

Scrap buying yards have sprung every neighborhood, estate and village .Local merchants are profiting big-time buying scrap and selling it to Nairobi’s industrial area based traders, who in turn export to China making huge profits as the country suffers.

Highly valued of all the metals is copper which attracts the highest price the result of which is that Telkom Kenya the sole operator of fixed line phones has lost virtually all it’s infrastructure in parts of Nairobi and environs .

The company has been forced to set up a more aggressive security department as has the Kenya Power and Lightning Company (KPLC) spending millions of shillings on expensive security infrastructure, money that would otherwise have been spent on other priorities.

The youth

Idle youths are spending their daytime spying on where next to pounce on these valued metals after which they come at night to take the loot before selling it to traders who hardly care where such merchandise is coming from.

Sadly the millions of shillings earned by youths from sale of the metal is spent on drink to the last coin.

Some children in slums are as well dropping from school to engage in the trade with many spending their days collecting waste metal pieces .

Victims of the trade are blaming the police for not only laxity but for corruption as well , with hundreds of people mainly traders being arrested daily for buying stolen metal , but are soon set free after paying a bribe.

Peter Gikonyo a scrap dealer in Mukuru slums is one such a person, almost every other week police have raided his premises confiscating telecom cables but has never spent a night in cells after greasing hands.

“ All police are interested in is money “ he said arguing that the amount he pays them was peanuts compared to the more than 400% paid by exporters for prized copper.

Police now no longer arrest he adds but instead pass through his yard weekly to collect protection fees.

“ We must make the hay as the sun shines”, Gikonyo offers, adding that the boom will not last forever.

The government has tried to reign on the trade but little success so far has been realized.3 years ago a 100% export duty was imposed to apparently cushion local industry but the Chinese appetite for the metals and willingness to pay a premium hardly impacted on the trade .

This year the government proposed in the national budget read in July to ban scrap metal exports but the measure is yet to be approved by parliament and the Scrap Metal Dealers Association of Kenya is already up in arms, threatening court action to stop any such legislation.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has in the past complained that local factories unable to offer as high prices as the Chinese risked closure and loss of thousands of jobs.

Two years ago a local Auto battery maker Kenya Battery Manufacturers closed down blaming Chinese importers of starving it of lead, a critical component in batteries, by offering extraordinarily high prices.

10/16/2008

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 1:07 pm

Eat the Rich

People should start getting together in groups to work out collective responses
to the crisis, like making plans to share work and resources. Setting up food and
farming cooperatives and creating local networks for sourcing food is another possible
response. Organizing to push the government to support community production and work
sharing programs is another. The important point is to face the coming crash
collectively, not individually, which unfortunately is the way that capitalism has
socialized us to respond to crisis. The coming period, like the 1930’s, will probably
see a tremendous rise in mass organizing and the reemergence of progressive visions and
politics as a viable alternative to the system. People who have long been depoliticized
will start coming out of the woodwork. Crisis, as the Chinese say, is also opportunity.
•••

On World Food Day, UN urges rich donors to honour aid pledges.

Millions more are going hungry across the world as governments fail to deliver on promised aid, officials warned Thursday on World Food Day.

Only a tenth of the some 22 billion euros in assistance for food and agriculture pledged for 2008 has reached the UN food agency, its chief Jacques Diouf said Thursday.

“Despite enthusiastic speeches and financial commitments, we have received only a tiny part of what was pledged,” Diouf said as he marked World Food Day at the Rome headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

His comments came as an expert warned that soaring food prices had pushed up the number of people in the world classed as hungry to 925 million, while more than 100 million had been driven into extreme poverty.

Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said in a statement in Geneva that the whole system of food production needed to be radically overhauled to ensure an equitable outcome.

“The violation on a daily basis of the right to food for hundreds of millions of people worldwide has its roots in an outdated and inadequate production system, rather than in the actual quantity of food available,” he said.

In Dublin former UN secretary general Kofi Annan said aid for the world’s hungry must not be hit by the global financial crisis which cannot be “an excuse for inaction” at a “critical juncture”.

“We must maintain our resolve. We can end hunger and poverty. Doing so is critical to Africa and to a healthy and resilient global food system,” he told a conference Thursday aimed at highlighting global hunger and advocating better ways to combat it.

To underline his point FAO figures revealed Thursday that about a million Burundian children under the age of five suffered chronic malnutrition, while in Ethiopia World Food Programme officials said that 84,000 children were suffering from malnutrition in famine-hit regions of Ethiopia.

Nearly seven billion euros (9.5 billion dollars) were pledged at an emergency summit on the world food crisis that Diouf hosted in June.

“Only 10 percent of the 22 billion euros announced (overall) was disbursed,” Diouf said, adding that most arriving funds were earmarked for food aid rather than urgently needed investment in agriculture.

Diouf reiterated his fear that the global financial crisis is taking attention away from the continuing food crisis, saying the “number of malnourished, instead of diminishing, grew by 75 million in 2007.”

The figure could grow further this year, he added.

“The structural solution to the problem of food security is to raise the productivity and output of the farming sector in low-income countries,” he said.

Diouf lamented that aid to agriculture slumped by more than half between 1984 and 2005, from eight billion dollars to 3.4 billion dollars, while agriculture’s share in development aid also fell, from 17 percent in 1980 to three percent in 2006.

Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was honoured with the title of “patron” of FAO’s activities, echoed Diouf’s concern in a keynote speech, saying “falling stock markets have monopolised the world’s attention, turning it away from the poorest countries.”

Meanwhile Pope Benedict XVI blamed the persistence of world hunger on “the contemporary culture that favours only the race for material goods,” in a message to the FAO.

“The means and resources available to the world today can buy enough food to satisfy the growing needs of all,” he wrote, laying the blame on a lack of political will, “unbridled speculation” and corruption in some countries.
•••

Huge income gap grows

The gap between high and low wage earners has increased sharply in most countries,
according to a new United Nations report. It says the huge differences in pay were
counter-productive and damaging for most economies. The current global financial
crisis will widen the gap even further. The UN said top executives were earning
excessively more than average employees, with the chief executive officers of the
15 largest companies in the United States, for example, earning 520 times more than
the average worker in 2007. The huge income inequalities could be associated with
higher crime rates, lower life-expectancy, and in the case of poor countries
malnutrition and an increased likelihood of children being taken out of school to
work.

10/15/2008

Tok Pisin = English

Filed under: global islands,language,png,solomon islands — admin @ 3:19 pm

wok = work / job
de bilong wok = workday
hatwok = work hard
man bilong wok = good worker
wanwok = fellow worker
wok kaikai = work for board and keep
wok long = busy (doing something)
wok sip = stevedore
wokim = build (something)
wokim glas i go antap = wind up a window
wokim gut = repair (vb)
wokim / paitim bret = knead bread
wokman = worker / workman
woksop = workshop
loia / loya / loman / saveman long lo = lawyer
tisa = teacher

Kenya’s Domestic Workers Suffer at the Hands of Abusive Employers

Filed under: human rights,kenya — admin @ 11:59 am

Mary is 32 years old but her worn face and hands make her appear twice as old. Illiterate and living in Nairobi, Kenya’s most expensive city, she faces career opportunities that are limited to domestic work. She speaks softly and tends to avoid eye contact. But despite a voice that barely exceeds a whisper, she’s demanding to be heard.

For 16 months, Mary’s employer, a prominent woman who works for an international humanitarian organization and recently ran for public office, paid her every three months, on average. Each paycheck was around $45, a fraction of the salary she was supposed to earn.

Mary, who asked that her real name not be used for fear of reprisals, lived with her employer, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry by hand and caring for the children 12 hours each day, six to seven days a week, including holidays.

She was supposed to receive $75 per month and counted on that money to care for her two children, living in rural Kenya.

When she asked her employer about being paid, Mary says she was always told, “Be patient. You’ll get your money.” But the money never came. “I used to feel so bad at times,” she said. “My tears would just flow.”

Mary finally quit when her 13-year-old son was accepted into secondary school, an important but expensive educational milestone in Kenya. She saw her employer spending thousands of dollars on campaigning and entertaining, though she had not paid her in more than three months.

Mary knew she couldn’t stay. “I felt like a slave,” she said. “The thought that my kid was going to have to drop out of school and I was working so hard just didn’t make sense to me.”

Domestic Help Sought

Though there are Kenyans who treat their domestic workers well, Mary’s case is not an isolated one.

In Kenya, nearly everyone, except the very poor, hires domestic help. The Kenyan government and other groups studying the issue estimate that almost 2 million households in Nairobi employ nannies, cooks, maids and gardeners.

It’s a work force consisting of the poorest, least educated and, sometimes, most vulnerable Kenyans — almost all of whom are women or children. It’s an industry that drives much of Kenya’s underground economy, but also one that produces a modern-day “upstairs, downstairs” society. Domestic workers, regardless of age, are referred to as “house girls” and “house boys,” and are expected to be seen and not heard.

Abuse of these workers, ranging from paying virtual slave wages to sexual abuse, is rampant, says Edith Murogo, director of the Center for Domestic Training and Development, an organization that trains impoverished young Kenyan women and men in not only the skills they need to be productive domestic workers, but also their rights.

“House help workers don’t know they have any rights,” she said. “So when abuse happens, they keep quiet.”

There are problems with husbands, and sometimes sons, sexually harassing and even assaulting domestic workers. “It happens from a point of vulnerability that men take advantage,” Murogo said.

But she says it’s the women that often inflict the most abuse, yelling, beating and berating the “help” into submission. “Mostly it’s women that routinely mistreat house help,” Murogo said.

There are the stereotypes, some based in truth, that if the woman of the house doesn’t manage her “girl” right, she will steal from the family, mistreat the children and sleep with the husband.

“It is common whenever Kenyan women are talking, the conversation will go to house girls, and it’s usually negative,” Murogo said.

The relationship between the “woman of the house” and the “house girl” is a complicated one. On the one hand, women want and need the help to run the household, but at the same time, having another woman in the house taking care of the family is also seen as a threat.

The result is that domestic workers are dehumanized, often considered possessions of the family rather than employees. “The house help is like something to use,” Murogo said. “I know people who lock their help in during the day, who don’t give them any days off, who pay as little as 1,500 Kenyan shillings [$23] per month, much lower than the minimum wage.”

Kenya has a law that all domestic workers must be paid at least the equivalent of $75 per month, and have one day off per week, but it is rarely enforced. The minimum wage is higher than most Kenyans are willing to pay for help, and there’s no mandate from the government or nongovernmental organizations to change the situation.

“It’s really a hidden industry,” Murogo said.

But there have been high-profile cases in which employers were found to have bribed police to cover up abuse, and the plight of domestic workers often doesn’t fit into the traditional international programming of nongovernmental organizations.

Murogo says she has been frustrated by the lack of attention to the issue from international humanitarian organizations. “The NGO community is always talking about women’s rights, and that’s great,” she said, pointing to commonplace projects like access to water and school construction. “But what about women’s rights in our homes?”

Albert Njeru, who heads the Kenyan Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers, which represents domestic workers, says less than than 3,000 people are registered with the union, the result of little knowledge and education among workers. He also noted that many workers are underage, an illegal but common practice in Kenya.

The union, using numbers from Kenya’s Bureau of Statistics as well as its own research, estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of children working as domestic help illegally and being paid very little, if at all.

“Employers will provide the food, some clothing, work the children for seven days a week and never pay them,” Njeru said.

In 2001, the Kenyan government passed the Children’s Act, making it illegal to hire any child younger than 16, but, as with the minimum wage, the law has been difficult to enforce.

“An employer comes in and says this is my sister or a member of my family,” Njeru said. “It’s very hard to prove it’s not true. Workers fear reporting. There’s intimidation from the families, and sometimes from the police. And they fear that they will have to leave without being paid, even if their pay is just a little.”

While the union launched a campaign last year to educate Kenyans about the ills of employing children as domestic help and has found some nongovernmental organizations willing to partner on the issue of child labor in Kenya, he says that the overall human rights issues of domestic workers is too large a problem for the union to address alone.

“One or two organizations will not be able to penetrate the issue of domestic worker abuse,” Njeru said. “We need cooperation with other agencies, local and international.”

For Mary, silence is no longer an option. Her son sits at home, unable to go to school, and, after years of working with harsh detergents, her nail beds are now rotted. She can no longer do laundry and potential employers see her as “damaged goods.”

She needs the money her former employer owes her to survive. Working with the union and Murogo’s organization, Mary has been successful in getting her former employer to pay back some of the money, and was promised the rest by the end of August, which she says she still hasn’t received.

Now she plans to go back to her former employer’s home and demand the rest of the money, the equivalent of about $1,000, which is substantial by Kenyan standards. “Ukoloni Mamboleo,” she said, which loosely translates to “new colonizer” in Swahili, Kenya’s traditional language.

Although the existing form of domestic help was a concept brought in with British colonization, Mary said, “It’s not a Britain who’s colonizing me, but my own African sister.”

10/14/2008

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 8:10 am

Blackbirding

Filed under: global islands,human rights,png,solomon islands,vanuatu — admin @ 7:33 am

Not many people know that the sweet sugar industry in Australia was founded on the sweat of men and women enticed or kidnapped from the islands of Melanesia.

Mr Leo, who called himself Joe Malayta (Malaita) to identify his roots, knew his history well.

He recalled that between 1863 and 1904 about 60,000 Melanesians were transported to the colony of Queensland , where they toiled to create the sugar plantations.

Some of these islanders moved there willingly on the promise of income, whilst others were kidnapped from their island homes.

Now married to Monica, of Vanuatu ancestry, the couple said the ancestors of the South Sea Islands community in Queensland were ‘recruited’ from various islands including the Solomon Islands , Vanuatu , and the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia and to a lesser extent, Papua New Guinea .

This form of human trafficking is historically known as ‘black birding’.

There are possibly up to 20,000 Melanesians, recognised as South Sea Islanders currently in Australia , who lived mostly in the North and Central Queensland region.

They were brought to Queensland , mostly to work in the sugar industry, on three-year contracts of indenture.

According to Leo, this labour trade in Melanesians (or Kanakas as they are often termed) involved at least around 62,000 contracts being entered into over a 41year period.

Once underway, some 8,000 indentured Melanesians on average were in Queensland at any one time, whether as first indentured, reengaged, or as time-expired workers.

For the most part they were regarded as unwelcomed guests – a necessary but ultimately dispensable evil – and the new century had barely commenced before they fell tainted of the White Australia Policy.

With the enactment of the Pacific Islanders Labourers Act of 1901 by the newly created Commonwealth of Australia, recruiting was to cease in 1904 and the majority of Kanakas were compulsorily deported between 1906 and 1908.

Since then the descendants of those who legally, or illegally, remained have lived on the fringes of White Australia as a discriminated minority, a forgotten people.

But the evil winds of discrimination has changed at the turn of the 21st century as Australian leaders begun to realise how terrible it was to treat another human being as a slave.

The Melanesian community was recognised by the Federal Government as a unique minority group in 1994 following a report on the community undertaken by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

On 7th September 2000, Queensland State Premier Peter Beattie pushed further and presented in the Queensland Legislative Assembly a formal Recognition Statement of the Australian South Sea Islander community.

The Recognition Statement recognises Australian South Sea Islanders as a distinct cultural group acknowledging past injustices as well as significant contributions to the social, cultural and economic development of Queensland .

In that document, the Queensland Government acknowledged that the South Sea Islanders were brought to Australia as a source of cheap labour for Queensland ’s primary industries.

It acknowledged that “many people were tricked into coming; others were kidnapped or “blackbirded”.

Men, women and children were forced to work long hours at exhausting manual work for low or no wages while living in very poor conditions. Many were treated like “slaves”.

Poor working and living conditions contributed to the death of many islanders in those years.

The policy further acknowledged that “in the early 1880s, the death rate among South Sea Islanders was five times higher than the comparable European population”.

The Queensland Government then, immediately instructed its departments and other agencies to act on this commitment through their policies, programmes and services.

Leo and Matt Nagas, Melanesians of Vanuatu ancestry agreed that the Recognition by the Federal and State Governments is a huge break through for their status as Australian citizens of Melanesian origin.

“The recognition has slowly but surely shifted the injustices that we’ve been through over the last 100 years and we trust that our children and grand children will equally excel from here,” the gentlemen said.

Today, individual Australian South Sea Islanders have excelled in politics, government, religion, sports, art, business, health and education.

They have also served the nation as members of the defence force in times of peace and war.

The recognition continues to trickle down in the hearts of many Australians as hundreds of Melanesians gathered in Bundaberg last week to participate in a weeklong International Prayer and Cultural Festival.

Calling themselves “Spiritual Slaves”, around 200 young men and women from SSEC in Solomon Islands re-enacted the Christianisation of Melanesians and the arrival of the gospel in Solomon Islands .

Among many who witnessed the drama is Federal MP Paul Neville who acknowledged the unique spirituality of Melanesians which started in the cane fields of Queensland .

Australian South Sea Islanders’ unique spirituality, identity and cultural heritage enrich Queensland ’s culturally diverse society.

For more than a century their culture, history and contribution to Queensland have been ignored and denied.

Sharing similar sentiments, Rockhamton City Mayor, Brad Carter said his Regional Council is committed to ensure that present and future generations of South Sea Islanders have equal opportunity to participate in and contribute to the economic, social, political and cultural life of the State.

“I will ensure that Queensland becomes one of the most accommodating places in the world for people of different backgrounds and cultures including South Sea Islanders,”

Showing its obligation to recognise South Sea Islanders, the Queensland Government in 2001 has made a commitment to address areas of need identified by the community.

The Australian South Sea Islander Community Foundation is a partnership between the Queensland government and the corporate sector to create a permanent legacy to provide university scholarships for South Sea Islanders tertiary students.

Scholarships are awarded annually to the value of $5000 per year for full-time and $2500 for part-time students.

There are no more Melanesians in cane fields as many have moved up the socio-economic strata engaging in reasonably paid jobs and equal opportunities just like any other Australian citizen.

“Gone are the days when we were treated like plants and animals. I just want to thank God for that change,” said Mr Nagas.

Today, many Islanders through their own initiative created a substantial relinking with their families in Vanuatu , Solomon Islands , and Papua New Guinea .

Mr Leo has travelled to Vanuatu on four occasions with his wife and this has been made possible by improvements in having access to disposable incomes that can be spent on overseas holidays.

He said the process of relinking two sides of families separated for 60 years is both exciting and puzzling.

As a third generation Aussie Melanesian, Mr Leo and his grown up children own properties in Rockhamton and today he is still tracing his Solomon Islands roots.

He hopes that one day he will set foot on the land of his ancestors to give back the sweat and blood spilled on the cane fields of Queensland .

10/12/2008

Abolition of the death penalty

Filed under: human rights — admin @ 1:38 pm

With Asia executing more people each year than any other part of the world, Amnesty International called today, on World Day Against the Death Penalty, for India, South Korea and Taiwan to join the global trend and establish a moratorium on the death penalty immediately.

China, Iran, Saudia Arabia Pakistan and the USA accounted for 88 per cent of the 1,252 known executions that Amnesty International recorded in 2007.

In Asia, 14 countries still carry out executions but 27 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

“There is a window of hope and a chance for change in Asia. Today we are urging India, South Korea and Taiwan to join the global trend towards ending executions and set an example for the rest of the continent to follow,” said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

India has not executed anyone since 2004, although death sentences are still handed down — at least 100 in 2007 — often in trials where poorer defendants have inadequate legal representation.

South Korea last executed people in December 1997, when 23 people were put to death. On 31 December 2007, six people had their sentence commuted to life imprisonment by the President. However, 58 prisoners remain under sentence of death.

Taiwan has not carried out any executions since December 2005. This year two individuals have been sentenced to death, meaning Taiwan now has 30 people on death row.

“Death sentences continue to be imposed for a wide range of crimes and people executed often after unfair trials in a number of countries in Asia. There is also a terrible lack of transparency about the use of the death penalty,” said Irene Khan.

In Japan there have been 13 executions so far in 2008 — compared to a total of nine in 2007 — and more than 100 people are currently on death row. Hangings in Japan are typically shrouded in secrecy, with a prisoner being notified hours before the execution.

In Pakistan at present there are around 7,500 persons, including children, under sentence of death, mostly for murder, with at least 130 people executed in 2007 after trials that are often marked by their unfairness and lack of justice for defendants.

In Viet Nam, a total of 29 offences in the country’s Penal Code carry the optional death penalty, including drug trafficking crimes. Statistics on executions, by firing squads, are classified as a state secret but from January 2007 to the end of May 2008, Amnesty International documented, from media sources, 91 people, including 15 women, sentenced to death.

“A year ago the vast majority of countries voted in favour of a moratorium on the death penalty at the UN. This year we ask Asian leaders to take steps towards making this a reality,” said Irene Khan. “They should listen to the calls of people, worldwide, who are joining together today to demand an end to this cruel and inhumane punishment.”

Amnesty International believes the death penalty violates the right to life, has no clear deterrent effect on crime and has no place in a modern criminal justice system.

The organization recorded at least 1,252 executions in 24 countries in 2007, with at least 3,347 people sentenced to death in 51 countries. China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA executed the most people, with China the world’s leading state executioner.

Background
Amnesty International, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, the Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) and other anti-death penalty campaigning groups are organizing local actions around the world on 10 October. Founded in May 2002, the WCADP is a coalition of 74 human rights organizations, bar associations, trade unions and local and regional authorities which have joined together in an effort to rid the world of the death penalty.

In 2007, China executed at least 470 people, Iran 317, Saudi Arabia 143, Pakistan at least 135, Viet Nam 25, Afghanistan 15 and Japan nine.

More than two thirds of the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. At the end of June 2008, the figure stood at 137. Out of these 137 countries, 92 are abolitionist for all crimes, 11 are abolitionist for ordinary crimes only and 34 are abolitionists in practice.

In Asia the 27 countries to have abolished the death penalty in law or practice are Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federal States), Nepal, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are abolitionist for all crimes. Fiji is abolitionist for ordinary crimes only. Brunei, South Korea, Laos, Maldives, Myanmar, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Tonga are abolitionist in practice.

In December 2007 the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 62/149 “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty” by an overwhelming majority: 104 in favour, 54 against and 29 abstentions. This is how countries in the Asia region voted:
>

In favour (15): Australia, Cambodia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Nepal, New Zealand, Palau, Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Abstained (5): Bhutan, Fiji, South Korea, Laos and Viet Nam.

Against (18): Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Thailand and Tonga.

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 6:24 am

10/11/2008

ILLEGAL LOGGING ALARMING

Filed under: global islands,png,resource,solomon islands — admin @ 3:49 am

Landowners take companies to court

THE PARADISE FORESTS OF INDONESIA, PAPUA New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are falling at an alarming rate. Every year 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the logging of natural and ancient forests. Illegal and destructive logging in PNG is fuelling global warming which is melting icecaps, contributing to the drowning of Pacific Islands Countries and low-lying areas in PNG. PNG’s forests can either help fight climate change if left standing or put the foot on the accelerator of global warming if the destructive and illegal logging continues. In fact by protecting its forests from logging PNG could make hundreds of millions of dollars from carbon financing. But, as a University of Papua New Guinea report points out: “PNG’s forests could make a significant contribution to global efforts to combat climate change. “However, the current state of forest management and lack of effective governance means that PNG is a long way from being able to meaningfully participate in the carbon economy.” The World Bank estimates that up to 70 percent of logging in PNG is illegal. Greenpeace believes the figure is as high as 90 percent due to the fact that many timber licences are obtained without the proper prior and informed consent of landowners. “The PNG Government must put in place a moratorium on the allocation of any new logging concessions or extensions and conduct a review of all existing concessions. Any concession found to be in breach of the laws must be revoked. There should also be an immediate investigation into serious allegations of corruption between politicians and logging companies,” said Sam Moko, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. “Landowners are suffering while US$40 million allegedly sits in a Singapore bank account of a senior government minister from a logging company.”

Revelations: New revelations that K100 million have gone missing from the PNG National Forest Authority is further evidence that the governance surrounding forestry is out of control. In April this year, the current Forest Minister, Belden Namah, said, “I have noticed a lot of corruption going on within the forestry department. Most [forest] officers are not supporting the landowners with their issues and are not promoting government laws and policies that are already in place to penalise the logging companies”. Currently, there are 15 cases where landowners are taking logging companies to court for breaching forestry laws. Greenpeace crew from the ship Esperanza have visited remote areas of Papua New Guinea’s Gulf and Western Provinces during September to document what is going on. We found there were many social and environmental problems caused by industrial logging, as well breaches of the PNG Logging Code of Practice by logging companies. Local people tell of total disrespect from the company towards them. Examples of this include the destruction of sacred sites, lack of promised development, withholding royalty payments, logging too close to villages and endangering the food supply. Infrastructure like roads, airstrips and ports are rudimentary for the benefit of the logging operation and usually falls into disrepair once a company moves on. The schools and medical facilities do not have materials, equipment or medicines. The logging industry is involved in a deception where exploitation masquerades as development. The industry also makes over-inflated claims about the numbers of people it employs and its contribution to rural development. Foreigners do most of the skilled work, while PNG nationals are paid a pittance for dangerous work, usually done with no safety equipment.
Payslips obtained by Greenpeace from two Rimbunan Hijau (RH) concessions—Vailala and Wawoi Guavi—show workers working long hours for very little pay. Many camp workers are brought in from other areas and have no local fishing or hunting rights so must buy goods at inflated prices from the company’s canteen, the only store in the area. One fortnightly payslip showed a worker being paid K185.25 for 114 hours of work. After costs for food were deducted, he took home K5.
Forestry workers are trapped in a debt cycle with logging companies and have no option but to continue working. Ken Karere, from Vailala, an RH concession, told Greenpeace, “The workload it’s very big…You have no food. You have to go back to the store and buy food on credit and their prices are very high. All is recorded. So once I get paid, all that money goes towards the credit and you’re only left with maybe K10, K15. You have to survive on that for another two weeks but after one day that money’s finished. How are people supposed to invest in their and their family’s future on this type of wage? This is not gainful employment that benefits PNG’s future, this is induced indebtedness verging on slavery,” Moko said. “These people work incredibly hard and are still well below the poverty line. They don’t even have enough money to pay to leave the area.” The International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) in a diagnostic report released last year stated: “It is believed that the narrow focus of the PNG Forests Authority on exploitation of the forest resource for the primary financial benefit of the national government presents a conflict of interest which colours decisions made by the government at all levels.”

Moratorium: If the PNG Government is interested in participating in the International Carbon Market they must demonstrate a genuine commitment to saving the forests of PNG by introducing a moratorium on the allocation of all new and proposed logging concessions and extensions. This must be done to improve Papua New Guinea’s reputation as a forest manager and address the key forest carbon issues of ‘permanence’ and ‘additionality’ before they can be taken seriously for REDD financial incentives. PNG must be able to demonstrate that they have the capacity and willingness to monitor and enforce forest protection, the ability to monitor and independently verify emission reductions, and establish national carbon accounting, before engaging with the international community on carbon financing initiatives. PNG must also move to develop a legal and regulatory framework for carbon trading and financing and/or Payment of Ecosystem Services that ensures protection of the rights of the customary landowners as well as requiring multi-stakeholder governance and the development of national forest carbon standards.

10/10/2008

Fiscal Crisis: Migrating Global Spiritual Mess

The crisis is not Euro-centric as it is made out to be. It is global.
The crisis does not seem to affect Asia as much as human life is cheap
fodder in that segment of humanity.

The crisis is also not materialistic or fiscal as made out to be, it
is a spiritual crisis.

There seems to be no solution to the spiritual crisis from the
Eurocentric point of view with the deepest aspects and values of
Christianity having been denied and defaced consistently. Even as
the Judaic notion of Just Law and the Greek philosophical notions
of Quality and Moderation have been chucked into the dustbin of
militarism and consumerism.

As for the Asiatic spiritual solutions, they are multiple, mostly
kaleidoscopic odds and ends, throwbacks to primitivism and animism
and irrationalism or simply prescriptive of treating all crises as
illusion or delusion and reducing the task of salvation to yet another
selfish point of indulgence.

There seems no way out of the global spiritual mess all of which is
finally centred in the “self” of each individual, each tribe, each
ethnic group, each nation and any other human configuration you might
want to name.

Avy

•••

ENVIRONMENT:
Crises Likely to Spur Mass Migrations

As climate change, sea-level rise, earthquakes and floods threaten countries such as Bangladesh, Tuvalu, Vietnam and Tajikistan, the Tokyo-based U.N. University (UNU) warns that by 2050, some 200 million people will be displaced by environmental problems.

This estimated figure is roughly equal to two-thirds of the current population in the United States or the combined population of Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

“All indicators show that we are dealing with a major emerging global problem,” says Janos Bogardi, director of UNU’s Institute on the Environment and Human Security.

The issue of migration, he points out, represents the most profound expression of the inter-linkage between the environment and human security.

Unlike the traditional economically-motivated migrants of today, the environmentally-motivated migration is expected to feature poorer people, more women, children and elderly, from more desperate environmental situations, and possibly less able to move far.

A group of experts who did a two-year research study points out that existing human trafficking networks would gain strength and new ones could emerge as environmental deterioration, climate change and disaster uproot millions of people.

In Bangladesh, women with children, whose husbands either died at sea during cyclone Sidr or are away as temporary labour migrants, are easy prey for traffickers and end up in prostitution networks or in forced labour in India.

Bangladesh is also often considered “the country that could be most affected by climate change” due to projected sea-level rise and flooding from melting Himalayan glaciers. It is also heavily affected by sudden disasters, such as cyclones.

According to preliminary findings, Bangladesh may lose up to one-fifth of its surface area due to rising sea level. And this scenario is likely to occur, if the sea level rises by one metre and no dyke enforcement measures are taken.

Asked if there should be an international treaty to protect the new breed of environmental migrants, Bogardi told IPS: “Yes, there should be a convention or set of treaties and formal recognition of people displaced or migrating due to environmental causes.”

However, he said, such a treaty should be independent of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

The new refugees will also come from countries such as the Maldives, Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Palau: small islands in danger of being wiped off the face of the earth due to sea level rise triggered by climate change.

“An entirely different question is how to deal with the disappearance of a state? This is a legal question and international lawyers have already been contemplating ‘solutions’ like governments [in permanent] exile or the model of the Sovereign Order of Malta,” said Bogardi.

“While the submergence of an entire state is unique, we expect that the humanitarian [and economic] challenge [measured by the number of people affected] will be much greater in the deltas of Bangladesh, the Nile River, Mekong River or even the Rhine and Mississippi Rivers, than in small island states,” he added.

A three-day conference on environmental migrants, described as the largest ever conference on this issue, is expected to conclude next weekend in Bonn, Germany.

Hosted by UNU, the conference, which is being attended by officials and experts from about 80 countries, also serves as a platform to introduce the fledgling Climate Change Environment and Migration Alliance (CCEMA).

Meanwhile, addressing the high-level segment of the General Assembly sessions last month, the vice president of Palau, Elias Camsek Chin, told member states they must be guided by a single consideration: “Saving those small island states that today live in danger of disappearance.”

Palau and members of the Pacific Islands Forum, including Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Micronesia, “are deeply concerned about the growing threat which climate change poses not only to our sustainable development but also to our future survival,” Chin said.

“This is a security matter which has gone un-addressed,” he warned the General Assembly.

James Michel, the president of Seychelles, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, said: “It is not right that small island states have to run the risk of being submerged by rising sea levels, whilst some nations refuse to even acknowledge their responsibility for the high levels of environmental pollution which are now threatening the planet’s resources.”

Kiribati’s President Anote Tong told the General Assembly his country has only several decades before its islands become uninhabitable. The 100,000 people in his country must one day move elsewhere, he said.

Asked if any of the countries neighbouring these small island states have expressed their willingness to accommodate the new migrants, Bogardi told IPS: “There is no recognition [yet] of environmentally [forced] migrants, hence there is no specific expression of obligation to let in migrants who migrate due to sea level rise, frequent storm surges or other such environmental events.”

“It is one of our main goals to establish and have accepted three categories of environmental migrants [namely, environmentally motivated migrants, environmentally forced migrants and environmental emergency migrants],” he said.

The latter category of environmental emergency migrants would account for those displaced by natural hazard events like earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis etc.

Bogardi said the frequently reported Tuvalu-New Zealand deal on migrants does not refer to accepting migrants for environmental reasons but rather New Zealand providing a labour migration quota for people from Tuvalu through its Pacific Access Category migration programme.

Asked about the possible extinction of some of the low-lying small island states, Bogardi said some small island states could face “disappearance” in the case of more extreme sea level rise than expected in benchmark reports such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

Even if sea level rise exceeds expectations, he pointed out, the process is likely to be gradual over decades.

“Increasing sea level would threaten coastal aquifers, thus feasible life and economic activities would diminish much before the islands would disappear,” he said. Consequently, he added, “we expect migratory trends to emerge” or be stronger than at present in the years and decades to come.

“In summary, we expect depopulation as an ultimate coping measure to be implemented gradually before the physical disappearance of those islands. Time scale is decades, if not centuries.”

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