from Duncan Douglas
Make a plan now to be part of Africa’s fastest-growing energy market: register to be part of the 7th #NAEE2017; the leading event of renewable energy event Nigeria covering in Solar, Wind, Gas, experts across Africa and beyond.
#NAEE2017 will be held from October 18 – 20, 2017 in Abuja Nigeria.
#NAEE2017 – Nigeria Alternative Energy eExpo 2017 – allows you to showcase your products and services and meet face to face with high-level buyers who come to NAEE to source for solutions to the challenges they face every day. The depth of the conference program and quality of the exhibition have a proven track record of attracting a high-quality and influential audience.
As an Exhibitor, you will:
Douglas Duncan info at nigeriaalternativeenergyexpo.org via lists.iisd.ca
The Advisory Board of the Nigeria Alternative Energy Expo (NAEE 2017) invites Energy experts to present a paper at the 7th NAEE in Abuja, from October 18 to 20, 2017. The 7th Edition of the Nigeria Alternative Energy Expo (NAEE 2017) aims to provide an international forum to facilitate discussion and knowledge exchange of findings of current and future challenges and opportunities in all aspects of renewable and sustainable energy.
Since its beginning in 2011, international attendees representing over 40 countries from all continents have participated in NAEE, internationally renowned keynote speakers have presented latest achievements in the transition to renewable energy.
The scope of NAEE2017 covers a broad range of hot topics like renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency, green energy, climate change, sustainable energy systems and smart grid.
Deadline to submit your abstract was Friday, February 24 2017.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation voices empty condemnations of crimes in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Egypt/Sinai, Nigeria, Pakistan, but shows actual diplomatic steps only on Israel and find Foreign Ministers’ time to propagate for Palestine. Today this is unacceptable. The West ought not to clean their houses for them.
OIC is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Its February 5, 2015 Weekly Newsletter (Issue #6 for 2015) notes the following:
· OIC Foreign Ministers delegation arrives in Norway to mobilize support for Palestinian cause
· OIC condemns the construction of 450 new settlement units
· OIC Secretary General strongly condemns killing of Jordanian pilot Mo’az Al-Kasasbah
· OIC Condemns Murder of Japanese Journalist
· OIC Secretary General Condemns Attack on Mosque in Pakistan
· OIC and IDB sign an MOU for the Management of Ebola Programme in West Africa
· OIC Secretary General Condemns Terrorist Attack in Sinai Peninsula
That is empty condemnation words of the subhuman tortured minds resulting in killings of a Jordanian, two Japanese, attacks in Pakistan and Sinai-Egypt, does not mention even the ongoing killings in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, and all what they concentrate on by employing their Diplomats – are the Issues of Palestine and Israel.
Though this website has never backed the Netanyahu line on the Palestinian issue – today – with the subhuman behavior sported in the Muslim World – honestly – the Palestinian issue was now pushed under our desk. Simply OIC and all other organizations – Governmental or Civil Society – Your first steps to regain credibility are to be taken against the beasts that otherwise will think that crime pays. If crime does pay the bystanders are becoming criminals themselves – the evolution of the rhinoceri.
Standing literally in the foot-prints of the WTC South Tower at the unveiling of the 9/11 Museum, President Obama remembered the greatest act of terrorism in mankind’s history by honoring one of the heroes of the day – young Wells Crowther – the red-bandana man of iron who lost his life saving others.
We posted recently the Kishore Mahbubani view of the world that points at US, CHINA, RUSSIA, INDIA, The EU, BRAZIL, and NIGERIA as the Seven Front-line leading powers of the World. Of these the US and a United Europe are the powers of the democratic west – something of the past – with China, Russia, India, Brazil, and Nigeria the rising powers of the future. Interesting – here a deviation from what the UN’s BRICS that has South Africa and not Nigeria, as representatives of the black African continent.
Both – Nigeria and South Africa are not typical of the rest of Africa – the one ruled by a Muslim majority and based on Petro-money, the other ruled by a Western oriented government that has no clear independent economic policy but was seen for years as the bridge for Africa’s development. Mahbubani, who has clear leaning towards the Islamic world, likes to believe that eventually it will be Nigeria that will emerge as Africa’s main power. Whatever – Africa is the weakest BRIC and in many fora represented well by Brazil. I pick on this as a side issue to today’s interesting news of a Putin backed attempt at placing Russia, via South Africa, at the center of an effort to create a non-Western hub for the World economy and wrestle away the Western economic hegemony from a shriveling North Atlantic alliance anchored at Washington. The New York Times article that brought these latest news to our attention is obviously a US inspired reporting exercise.
Whatever – the facts are that the money is now mainly with China and the two big Western blocks, the United States of America, and the “not-yet-united” States of Europe, depend on China money, and as these last few weeks – the Greek tragedy in Greece and Cyprus – showed that eventually the Europeans might yet ask for hand-outs in Moscow. This was not wasted on the established BRICS and Mr. Putin moved on. The International Monetary system built after WWII – The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – can be pushed aside in major parts of the Developing World.
It is not ingenious to point at the five BRICS that they are very different States – surely they are different among themselves – China, India, Russia, and Brazil have different political systems but are united in their interest to nudge aside the US from the position of manager of the world – and they see now their chance to do so.
Group of Emerging Nations Plans to Form Development Bank.
Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Tuesday in Durban, South Africa, just ahead of Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, South Africa’s defense minister.
Published: March 26, 2013
JOHANNESBURG — A group of five emerging world economic powers met in Africa for the first time Tuesday, gathering in South Africa for a summit meeting at which they plan to announce the creation of a new development bank, a direct challenge to the dominance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, all members of the so-called BRICS Group of developing nations, have agreed to create the bank to focus on infrastructure and development in emerging markets. The countries are also planning to discuss pooling their foreign reserves as a bulwark against currency crises, part of a growing effort by emerging economic powers to build institutions and forums that are alternatives to Western-dominated ones.
“Up until now, it has been a loose arrangement of five countries meeting once a year,” said Abdullah Verachia, director of the Frontier Advisory Group, which focuses on emerging markets. “It is going to be the first real institution we have seen.”
But the alliance faces serious questions about whether the member countries have enough in common and enough shared goals to function effectively as a counterweight to the West.
“Despite the political rhetoric around partnerships, there is a huge amount of competition between the countries,” Mr. Verachia said.
For all the talk of solidarity among emerging giants, the group’s concrete achievements have been few since its first full meeting, in Russia in 2009. This is partly because its members are deeply divided on some basic issues and are in many ways rivals, not allies, in the global economy.
They have widely divergent economies, disparate foreign policy aims and different forms of government. India, Brazil and South Africa have strong democratic traditions, while Russia and China are autocratic.
The bloc even struggles to agree on overhauling international institutions. India, Brazil and South Africa want permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council, for example, but China, which already has one, has shown little interest in shaking up the status quo.
The developing countries in the bloc hardly invest in one another, preferring their neighbors and the developed world’s major economies, according to a report released Monday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Just 2.5 percent of foreign investment by BRICS countries goes to other countries in the group, the report said, while more than 40 percent of their foreign investment goes to the developed world’s largest economies, the European Union, the United States and Japan.
Africa, home to several of the world’s fastest-growing economies, drew less than 5 percent of total investment from BRICS nations, the report said. France and the United States still have the highest rate of foreign investment in Africa. Despite China’s reputation for heavy investment in Africa, Malaysia has actually invested $2 billion more in Africa than China has.
Still, 15 African heads of state were invited to the summit meeting in South Africa as observers, a sign of the continent’s increasing importance as an investment destination for all of the BRICS countries.
China is in many ways a major competitor of its fellow BRICS member, South Africa. South African manufacturers, retail chains, cellphone service providers, mining operations and tourism companies have bet heavily on African economic growth and in some ways go head-to-head against Chinese companies on the continent.
South Africa is playing host for the first time since becoming the newest member of what had been known previously as BRIC. Many analysts have questioned South Africa’s inclusion in the group because its economy is tiny compared with the other members, ranking 28th in the world, and its growth rates in recent years have been anemic.
In an interview last year with a South African newspaper, Jim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs executive who coined the term BRIC, said South Africa did not belong in the group.
“South Africa has too small an economy,” Mr. O’Neill told the newspaper, The Mail & Guardian. “There are not many similarities with the other four countries in terms of the numbers. In fact, South Africa’s inclusion has somewhat weakened the group’s power.”
But South Africa’s sluggish growth has become the rule, not the exception, among the onetime powerhouse nations. India’s hopes of reaching double-digit growth have ebbed. Brazil’s surging economy, credited with pulling millions out of poverty, has cooled drastically. Even China’s growth has slowed.
And once welcome, Chinese investment in Africa is viewed with increasing suspicion.
On a visit to Beijing last year, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa warned that Chinese trade ties in Africa were following a troubling pattern.
“Africa’s commitment to China’s development has been demonstrated by supply of raw materials, other products and technology transfer,” Mr. Zuma said. “This trade pattern is unsustainable in the long term. Africa’s past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies.”
Mr. Zuma appeared to have a change of heart before the summit meeting, saying Monday that China does not approach Africa with a colonial attitude.
But other African leaders are not so sure. —– Lamido Sanusi, governor of Nigeria’s central bank, wrote in an opinion article published in The Financial Times this month that China’s approach to Africa is in many ways as exploitative as the West’s has been.
“China is no longer a fellow underdeveloped economy — it is the world’s second-biggest, capable of the same forms of exploitation as the West,” he wrote. “It is a significant contributor to Africa’s de-industrialization and under-development.”
This article appeared in print on March 27, 2013, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Group of Emerging Nations Plans to Form Development Bank.
In Preparation for the large Washington Mall Climate Rally of February 17th, Andy Revkin of Dot Earth.com told us that it is the importation of oil from places where – production and the sale to us of that oil (i.e. Nigeria) cause a lot of local damage – that should be stopped first when reducing the use of oil. The Guardian reports from Boston that some US scientists believe the attainment of the Obama Climate Change goals is dependent on replacing coal with gas using the “Fracking” technology.
ANDREW C. REVKIN , February 14, 2013, www.DotEarth.com
I’ve got nothing against the passions of those — including friends of mine — pushing hard to persuade President Obama not to let the Keystone XL pipeline move forward and carry bitumen from Canadian deposits to United States Gulf Coast refineries. More were arrested this week.
But that effort misses the reality that as long as oil demand is high in the United States and elsewhere, there will be environmental risks and often terrible social costs in farflung and loosely governed places.
A case in point is the Niger River delta, which for decades has been tapped for its large crude reserves. Even though United States oil imports from Nigeria have been dropping, the country still vies with Iraq for fifth place on the Energy Department’s top-ten list of importers. The country is an absolute mess when it comes to the impacts of the oil boom on both nature and people.
This is illustrated starkly in a slide show and post on the Lens Blog showcasing photographer Samuel James’s images of communities that illegally tap pipelines and refine fuels from pirated oil. (There are more in Harper’s Magazine). Here’s one photo:
Samuel James for Harper’s Magazine In a dying swamp forest in the Niger Delta, a worker pours crude oil on a fire to begin the refining process. Entire camps can easily, and often do, explode when the fumes produced during the refining process catch fire.
Read the Energy Information Administration briefing on Nigeria and you’ll see that all that production hasn’t done much for the citizens of the country. More than 80 percent of energy still comes from burning wood or other biomass despite the oil and gas boom.
And please look back at the powerful feature story written for The Times by Adam Nossiter in 2010, when the oil concern here in the United States was not Keystone, but the Gulf of Mexico rig disaster and gusher. Here’s a relevant excerpt, focusing on the views of those living in the Niger River delta:
Following his State of the Union address, the president outlined fresh steps to curtail American demand for oil, along with increased domestic production.
I think this approach makes sense. There’s much, much more that can be done to cut energy waste here on many fronts and there are plenty of signs that most Americans strongly support such a push — if someone leads the way. Obama can do that, if he moves from the occasional speech to making this a prime imperative for the nation.
And I would rather have the oil that we do use coming increasingly from responsibly managed and regulated sources here than the ends of the Earth and countries where oil wealth benefits few and the costs of extraction are borne by many.
Climate Change February 13, 2013. ANDREW C. REVKIN
On energy and human-driven global warming, President Obama’s State of the Union address (and the background sheet providing detail behind the talking points) had something for everyone, making it hard — outside of a couple of specific proposals — to figure out how much action might follow the smoothly delivered rhetoric.
He included strong, and predictable, language pledging to use executive authority on various fronts to restrict greenhouse gases in the absence of new laws from Congress. (The best primer on what’s possible using that power is by Bill Becker and the Presidential Climate Action Project.)
As Obama hit the road to press his agenda on Wednesday, Americans were posting thousands of questions through a White House “Ask Obama” invitation to participate on Thursday in a Google+ “Fireside Hangout” with the president. Here’s the question I posted tonight:
A Dot Earth Question for President Obama on Energy and Climate
What would you ask?
Feb. 16, 4:13 p.m. |Update
President Obama’s Hangout took place and includes references to climate change (noted via Climate Progress):
Here’s a relevant line: The truth is if you produce power using old power plants, you’re going to be emitting more carbon — but to upgrade those plants, energy’s going to be a little bit more expensive, at least on the front end. At the core, we have to do something that’s really difficult for any society to do, and that is to take actions now where the benefits are coming down the road, or at least we’re avoiding big problems down the road.
Fracking is the only way to achieve Obama climate change goals, says senior scientist.
Boosting natural gas production could provide a ‘bridge fuel’ and cut carbon emissions
A coal-fired power plant, in Winfield, West Virginia, US. Photograph: Paul Souders/Getty Images
America will only achieve the ambitious climate change goals outlined by President Barack Obama last week by encouraging wide-scale fracking for natural gas over the next few years. That is the advice of one of the nation’s senior scientists, Professor William Press, a member of the president’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Fracking – known officially as hydraulic fracturing – involves pumping high-pressure water through underground rocks to release natural gas trapped deep underground. It is believed that there are vast reserves of these subterranean gas fields across the US.
Thousands of wells have already been drilled in Texas, leading to a substantial rise in the use of natural gas in the US and a major decline in the burning of coal, a far more serious cause of carbon pollution. However, fracking is also controversial. Environmentalists say it can lead to the contamination of underground water reservoirs and the pollution of the surface with chemicals used to help to release subterranean gas stores. They also point out that burning natural gas releases carbon dioxide.
However Press, who is president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science , said last week that natural gas obtained through fracking had potential to help mitigate climate change. “Coal is burnt to provide the US with almost half its electricity. This is done in huge central power plants and the process is very dirty. By contrast, the burning of natural gas is clean and can be done in smaller, local, more efficient power station,” said Press.
“For the amount of heat you produce, coal is, effectively, three times more powerful an emitter of carbon dioxide than natural gas. Relying on gas will therefore cut our carbon emissions substantially.”
An astrophysicist by training, Press has turned to biology to use his talents at dealing with astronomical data in order to help researchers cope with the vast information sets generated by genome sequencing machines and other devices. He was speaking in Boston, where more than 8,000 delegates and 1,000 journalists have gathered for the association’s annual meeting this weekend.
His opening address focused on the need to provide proper funding for basic research – “the cornerstone of science”, as he put it. However, his remarks on climate change – made in a separate interview with the Observer – provided the most intriguing part of his message.
In his state of the union address on Tuesday, Obama said he intended to be resolute in curbing emissions of carbon dioxide in the US – something that he had failed to do in his first term.
“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change,” Obama said. “The fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods – all are now more frequent and intense.” And the culprit, he made clear, was the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by cars, power plants and factories.
Emissions would have to be cut back drastically, though Obama was not clear how this would be done. Republican intransigence makes it unlikely he will get congressional approval for cutbacks, as he acknowledged. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” he said. “I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future.”
The exact nature of that executive action was not defined. However, Press is convinced that encouraging fracking and boosting natural gas production would provide the US with “a bridge fuel” that would allow it to slash carbon emissions in the short term and give the nation time to build wind and other renewable energy sources. “The gas industry is straining to develop underground natural gas reserves across the nation and would love to know the exact rules and constraints by which it can carry out fracking in different states. Once they know that, they can get on with it.”
The president could use executive orders to outline those rules in the very near future and so initiate widespread gas fracking in the US, added Press. By ensuring there were powerful regulations to protect the environment from such drilling, he would also be able to reassure campaigners that it would not cause widespread damage. Fracking would become widespread as a result.
“Rising use of natural gas in the US has already produced a major effect,” said Press. “Our carbon emissions have been cut back to their 1994 level because gas is already taking over from coal as a fuel for generating electricity.” With more drilling for underground natural gas, deeper cuts in carbon emissions would give the US more time to introduce longer-term renewable energy sources.
The idea of using natural gas to remove coal as a power source has gone down badly with mining companies. But Press said: “In the past, when coal seemed cheap, they complained free market forces should allow them to expand. But those forces are turning on them. So they should have no complaints,” he said.
However, the claim that natural gas is helping to cut back on US greenhouse gas emissions is questioned by some environmentalists. Greenpeace says no proper analysis has been done on gas leakage from fracking sites. In particular, there is a fear that methane – which is a far more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – may be escaping from wells and adding to the warming of the atmosphere. Campaigners also claim that there have been more than 1,000 cases of groundwater contamination in the US because of fracking and have urged a moratorium on underground drilling.
UNSG Ban Ki-moon, who has difficulty doing business with the permanent missions in New York, finds it much more promissing when he travels to Davos, Switzerland. From Davos the UNSG also Addressed by video the Commemoration of the Holocaust and of Rescuers – those few that refused to denny their own humanity.
Take for instance the problem called Syria that after 60,000 people killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced, during 2011-2012 continuing now in the same way – or a two years of disaster – still does not move the UN Security Council seat-holders to find a way to control the centripetal forces in that Member State.
Arriving to Davos on Thursday morning – to the World Economic Forum – first action of Mr. Ban Ki-moon took was to deliver a special address focusing on Syria and the African Sahel region. The address was noticed by governments, business, and civil society. A unity must be found that allows meaningful action and humanitarian and political efforts must be given security cover. He met the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in this context. He also spoke at a meeting on water resources and connected the events in the North Africa – Middle East MENA States to active effects of drought and Climate Change and people migration that spill over to neighboring States that also suffer from environmental degradation.
On the one end of this arc of destruction – by fighting people and by disaster creating activities elsewhere – Mr. Ban Ki-moon met with the Prime Minister of Lebanon – H.E. Mr. Najib Milkati, and a large group of US Members of Congress from the Republican Party – Messrs. Eric Cantor (Virginia), Jeff Fortenberry (Nebraska), Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida), Darrell Issa (Californis), and Ms Kay Granger (Texas). With this unusual group questions of Human Rights and UN reform were as important as the Middle East Peace Process between Israel and its neighbors, as the unrest in the Sahel region on the other side of the MENA arc of destruction and its neighbors of the Horn of Africa, Central Africa, and West Africa.
Regarding Mali, Mr. Ban warned that the crisis is deepening with repeated reports of sexual violence, child soldiers, and reprisals by the Malian army against Tuareg and Arab populations. The African story repeats itself now also in the Western part of the Sahel. A toxic mix of poverty, extreme climatic conditions, weak institutions, drug smuggling, and the easy availability of weapons, is causing now also in this rather new region the dangerous insecurity we know from the other parts of MENA and its neighboring States.
The UNSG came to Davos in order to tell to whoever will listen that the problems of Mali engulf 18 million people of the Sahel, and if we want to address the problems – the whole set of problems will have to be addressed. Ditto when looking at Darfur and the region stretching into the Horn of Africa.
Mr. Ban took a look also at Egypt and Bahrain and expressed his wishes that these two States do not regress into difficult situations as well.
Regarding Mr. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq misadventure into Kuwait, the UN panel allocated from Iraq funds the equivalent of $1.3 billion as reparations to Kuwait.
While the UNSG was making these presentations to leaders, academics, and business tycoons in Davos, his Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr.Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal presented the Ban Ki-moon video address to the 2013 International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, in the UN General Assembly Hall at the New York City Headquarters of the UN. This year’s Memorial Ceremony was held under the secondary title: “THE COURAGE TO CARE.”
The Holocaust, though a very special event without anything in human history to compare it with, according to Mr. Jan Karski, one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Jerusalem Yad Vashem, for his efforts to inform the World of the extermination of the Jews activities of the Nazis of the German Reich, ought nevertheless be remembered when watching crimes performed in full TV light before our eyes and right in front of us.
Jan Karski was awarded posthumously, by President Obama in 2012, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom. and the UN lobby has now an exhibit on display about him as his book “Story of a Secret State” was released this year with details of US inaction while he provided information of what was going on in Europe during WWII. He started out as a Polish Nationalist, but even though faced with the dismemberment of the Polish State – he recognized that what was happening to the Jews was immensely worse.
The US Lobby is displaying as well material about the Holocaust, the extermination machine and the Righteous people who even by saving the life of just one Jew – got themselves the right to be considered as if they saved the whole world. Considering that the UN is ever so often visited by Holocaust deniers, and the UN continuously watching crimes being committed by member States – the event at Headquarters was at least just as important, if not more, as what the UNSG was trying to achieve in Davos.
We bring thus the text of the UNSG video presentation to those assembled at the UN General Assembly Hall on Friday, January 25, 2013.
25 January 2013
Secretary-General, in Memorial Message for Holocaust Victims Day, Hails‘Unsung Heroes’ Who Risked All to Help Targets of Persecution.
The original title was:
VIDEO MESSAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF COMMEMORATION IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST.
Airing 25 January 2013
It is a great pleasure to greet all the good friends of the United Nations who have gathered for this observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. I welcome in particular the Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans who have joined this solemn ceremony.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Courage is a rare and precious commodity. Today, we celebrate those who had the courage to care. Throughout the Second World War, Jews, Roma and Sinti, Soviet prisoners of war and others who failed to conform to Hitler’s perverted ideology of Aryan perfection were systematically murdered in death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.
But some were able to avoid the slaughter. They escaped because a few brave souls risked their lives and their families to rescue Jews and other victims of persecution from almost certain death. Some sheltered the intended victims in their homes; others helped families to obtain safe passage.
Some of the accounts of the rescuers have achieved iconic prominence. But many are known only to those whose lives were saved. This year’s observance is meant to give those unsung heroes the regard they deserve. I thank the Righteous among the Nations Programme at Yad Vashem, which is celebrating its fiftieth year, for identifying and rewarding them. The Holocaust and the United Nations programme has produced an education package on the rescuers that will be used in classrooms around the world.
I also congratulate another crucial partner, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on its twentieth anniversary. Its theme of “Never Again: What You Do Matters” resonates deeply.
Acts of genocide illustrate the depths of evil to which individuals and whole societies can descend. But the examples of the brave men and women we celebrate today also demonstrate the capacity of humankind for remarkable good, even during the darkest of days.
On this International Day, let us remember all the innocent people who lost their lives during the Holocaust. And let us be inspired by those who had the courage to care — the ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to defend human dignity. Their example is as relevant today as ever.
In a world where extremist acts of violence and hatred capture the headlines on an almost daily basis, we must remain ever vigilant. Let us all have the courage to care, so we can build a safer, better world today.
Barely through with the “Worlds Within Reach – From Science to Policy” Vienna Hofburg celebration, IIASA, GFSE, UNIDO – three Vienna based Institutions that are helping the UNSG Initiative SE4All are backing the Accra, Ghana “Sustainable Energy for All” ECOWAS event October 29-31, 2012, as a step towards the Vienna Energy Forum of late Spring 2013. All this puts on fast track the Post-Rio 2012 process with an Africa-first approach.
The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional group of fifteen countries, founded in 1975. Its mission is to promote economic integration in “all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial questions, social and cultural matters”
Barely finished with its 40th birtday, IIASA together with Vienna based UNIDO and GFSE (Global Forum on Sustainable Energy) these institutions will have people travel t0 Accra, Ghana in order to team up with ECOWAS in order to launch the SE4All project that is spearheaded for the UN by Mr. Yumkella – the Director of UNIDO.
This summer we received the following:
It said – Before the Austrian summer is over I would like to inform you about recent developments and major up-coming events –
Many good wishes and best regards
GFSE has entered a commitment to “Sustainable Energy For All”
The GFSE continues to support the UN-SG’s Initiative “Sustainable Energy for All” and has entered a commitment at www.sustainableenergyforall.org . The commitment is “to raise awareness for and commitment to SE4ALL in Austria, to lobby for an Austrian nation SE4ALL action plan, to foster partnerships around concrete implementation proposals and to liaise with international processes”.
ECOWAS High Level Forum: “Towards Sustainable Energy for All in West Africa” 29 – 31 October 2012 , Accra
The ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), the Global Forum for Sustainable Energy (GSFE), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) are jointly organizing a three-day High Level Forum “Towards Sustainable Energy for All in West Africa” from 29 to 31 of October 2012, in Accra, Ghana.
SE4ALL press release: UN Secretary-General Announces Significant Commitments to Action in support of Achieving Sustainable Energy for All
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that more than one hundred commitments and actions have been already mobilized in support of his Sustainable Energy for All initiative, demonstrating powerful early momentum from governments, private sector companies and civil society organizations to achieve Sustainable Energy for All by 2030.
29 October 2012 – 31 October 2012
The Accra International Conference Centre, Accra, Ghana
ECOWAS-GFSE-GEF-UNIDO High Level Energy Forum
The Energy Forum, organized jointly by ECOWAS, GFSE and UNIDO, will feature the Global Energy Assessment from the 29-31 October, 2012 in Accra, Ghana.
The ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), the Global Forum for Sustainable Energy (GSFE), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) are jointly organizing an ECOWAS-GFSE-UNIDO High Level Energy Forum on “Paving the Way for Sustainable Energy for All in West Africa through Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency” from the 29–31 October 2012, in Accra, Ghana. The event is hosted by the Government of Ghana.
The High Level Energy Forum aims at the following objectives:
For further information and registration to the Forum, please visit the ECREEE website.
Indigenous People living in the Ecuadorean Amazon are Human Beings and Should Be Protected Against Predatory International Big Oil. The US Supreme Court Came Down Against Chevron whose properties will thus be seized by Ecuador.
Amazon Farmers Seize Chevron Assets.
SustainableBusiness.com News October 17, 2012.
In a huge success for Amazon farmers that have been suing Chevron for 18 years, an Ecuadorian court ruled they can seize $200 million in assets from the oil company.
That includes $96.3 million the Ecuador government owes Chevron, money held in Ecuadorean bank accounts by Chevron, and licensing fees generated by the use of the company’s trademarks in the country, reports Reuters.
This is a critically important case – the first time an indigenous community has prevailed against a multinational corporation. Oil companies are, of course, keeping close watch on this case as it provides an important precedent for communities to fight their pollution.
The company even took it to the US Supreme court, which last week rejected Chevron’s attempt to overturn the $19 billion judgment against it.
The suit was originally brought against Texaco (bought by Chevron in 2001). In February 2011, an Ecuadorean judge imposed damages for $8.6 billion – the fine has more than doubled since then because Chevron has not made the public apology the court required.
Instead, the company filed an appeal in New York to block the judgment, saying it was illegal and unenforceable under the state’s law – and a federal judge took its side in March 2011.
But earlier this year, an appeals court overturned that decision, noting US courts can’t interfere with courts from other countries.
The Supreme Court’s rejection of that appeal opened the door for this week’s ruling, issued in the Amazon town of Lago Agrio.
“This is a huge first step for the rainforest villagers on the road to collecting the entire $19 billion judgment,” Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the communities, told Reuters.
Chevron is fighting back again, charging racketeering against New York attorney Steven Donziger, a group of Ecuadoreans and the environmental groups that helped win the original judgment against it.
It is also bringing the matter to an international trade arbitration panel which is scheduled to begin hearings on the dispute in November, reports Reuters.
After the original judgment, Ecuador and the United Nations Development Program signed a historic deal to leave an estimated 846 million barrels of crude oil untapped beneath Yasuní National Park, a World Biosphere Reserve since 1989.
Wole Soyinka tells it as it is – at the UN before the opening of the 67 Session of the General Assembly – RELIGION AGAINST HUMANITY. A Nobel Prize Winner for literature – on a UNESCO Panel on the Culture of Peace.
Intervention by Wole Soyinka, Member of UNESCO’s International High Panel, at the 2012 Conference on the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence, United Nations Hdqrs, New York, Sept. 21 2012
RELIGION AGAINST HUMANITY.
To such a degree has Religion fueled conflict, complicated politics, retarded social development and impaired human relations across the world, that one is often tempted to propose that Religion is innately an enemy of Humanity, if not indeed of itself a crime against Humanity. Certainly it cannot be denied that Religion has proved again and again a spur, a motivator, and a justification for the commission of some of the most horrifying crimes against humanity, despite its fervent affirmations of peace. Let us however steer away from hyperbolic propositions and simply settle for this moderating moral imperative: that it is time that the world adopt a position that refuses to countenance Religion as an acceptable justification for, excuse or extenuation of – crimes against humanity.
While it should be mandatory that states justify their place as members of a world community by educating their citizens on the entitlement of religion to a place within society, and the obligations of mutual acceptance and respect, it should be deemed unacceptable that the world is held to ransom for the uneducated conduct of a few, and placed in a condition of fear, apprehension, leading to a culture of appeasement. There are critical issues of human well-being and survival that deserve the undivided attention of leaders all over the world. Let us recall that it is not anti-islamists who have lately desecrated and destroyed – and with such fiendish self-righteousness – the tombs of Moslem saints in Timbuktoo, most notoriously the mausoleum of the Imam Moussa al-Khadin, declared a world heritage under the protection of UNESCO and accorded pride of place in African patrimony . The orientation – backed by declarations – of these violators leaves us with a foreboding that the invaluable library treasures of Timbuktoo may be next.
The truth, alas, is that the science fiction archetype of the mad scientist who craves to dominate the world has been replaced by the mad cleric who can only conceive of the world in his own image, proudly flaunting Bond’s Double-0-7 credentials – Licensed to Kill. The sooner national leaders and genuine religious leaders understand this, and admit that no nation has any lack of its own dangerous loonies, be they known as Ansar-Dine of Mali, or Terry Jones of Florida, the earlier they will turn their attention to real issues truly deserving human priority. These cited clerics and their ilk are descendants of the ancient line of iconoclasts of Islamic, christian and other religious moulds who have destroyed the antecedent spirituality and divine emblems of the African peoples over centuries. Adherents of those African religions, who remain passionately attached to their beliefs, all the way across the Atlantic – in Brazil and across other parts of Latin America – have not taken to wreaking vengeance on their presumed violators in far off lands.
These emulators are still at work on the continent, most devastatingly in Somalia, with my own nation Nigeria catching up with mind-boggling rapidity and intensity. Places of worship are primary targets, followed by institutes of education. Innocent humanity, eking out their miserable livelihood, are being blown to pieces, presumably to relieve them of their misery. Schools and school pupils are assailed in religion fueled orgies, measured, deliberate and deadly. The hands of the clock of progress and social development have been arrested, then reversed in widening swathes of the Nigerian landscape. As if the resources of the nation were not already stretched to breaking point, they must now also be diverted to anticipating the consequences – as in numerous nations around the world – that would predictably follow the cinematic obscenities of a new entrant into the ranks of religious denigrators, who turns out – irony of ironies – to have originated from the African continent.
In sensible families, while every possible effort is made to smooth the passage of children through life, children are taught to understand that life is not a seamless robe of many splendours, but prone to the possibility of being besmirched by the unexpected, and unpredictable. A solid core of confidence in one’s moral and spiritual choices is thus sufficient to withstand external assaults from sudden and hostile forces. That principle of personality development is every bit as essential as the education that inculcates respect for the belief systems and practices of others. The most intense ethical education, including severe social sanctions, has not eradicated material corruption, exploitation, child defilement and murders in society, not even deterrents such as capital punishment. How then can anyone presume that there shall be no violations of the ideal state of religious tolerance to which we all aspire, or demand that the world stand still, cover its head in sackcloth and ashes, grovel in self-abasement or else prepare itself for earthly pestilence for failure to anticipate the occasional penetration of their self ascribed carapace of inviolability.
It is time to demand a sense of proportion, and realism. Communication advance has made it possible for both good and evil to transcend boundaries virtually at the speed of light, and for the spores of hatred to travel just as fast, and as widely as the seeds of harmony. The world should not continue to acquiesce in the brutal culture of extremism that demands the impossible – control of the conduct of millions in their individual spheres, under different laws, usages, cultures and indeed – degrees of sanity.
What gives hope is the very special capacity of man for dialogue, and that arbiter is foreclosed, or endures interminable postponements as long as one side arrogates to itself the right to respond to a pebble thrown by an infantile hand in Papua New Guinea with attempts to demolish the Rock of Gibraltar. I use the word ‘infantile’ deliberately, because these alleged insults to religion are no different from the infantile scribble we encounter in public toilets, the product of infantilism and retarded development. We have learnt to ignore, and walk away from them. They should not be answered by equally infantile responses that are however incendiary and homicidal in dimension, and largely directed against the innocent, since the originating hand is usually, in any case, beyond reach. With the remorseless march of technology, we shall all be caught in a spiral of reprisals, tailored to wound, to draw virtual blood. The other side responds with real blood and gore, also clotting up the path to rational discourse. What we are witnesses to in recent times is that such proceeding is being accorded legitimacy on the grounds of religious sensibility. It is pathetic to demand what cannot be guaranteed. It is futile to attempt to rein in technology: the solution is to use that very technology to correct noxious conceptions in the minds of the perpetrators of abuse, and educate the ignorant.
I speak as one from a nation whose normal diet of economic disparity, corruption, marginalization, ethnic and political cleavages has been further compounded by the ascendancy of religious jingoism. It is a lamentable retrogression from the nearly forgotten state of harmonious coexistence that I lived and enjoyed as a child. One takes consolation in the fact that some of us did not wait to sound warnings until the plague of religious extremism entered our borders. Our concerns began and were articulated as a concern for others, still at remote distances. Now that the largest black habitation on the globe has joined the club of religious terror under the portentous name, Boko Haram – which means ‘The Book is Taboo’ – we can morally demand help from others, but we only find them drowning in the rhetoric and rites of anger and/or contrition. Today it is the heritage and humanity of Timbuktoo. And tomorrow? The African continent must take back Mali – not later but – right now. The cost of further delay will be incalculable, and devastating.
The spiral of reprisals now appears to have been launched, what with the recent news that a French editor has also entered the lists with a fresh album of offensive cartoons. To break that spiral, there must be dialogue of frank, mature minds. Instant, comprehensive solutions do not exist, only the arduous, painstaking path of dialogue, whose multi-textured demands are not beyond the innovative, as opposed to the emotive capacity, of cultured societies. So let that moving feast of regional dialogues – which was inaugurated by former President Khatami of Iran in these very chambers – be reinforced, emboldened, and even-handed. The destination should be a moratorium, but for this to be strong and enduring, it must be voluntary, based on a will to understanding and mental re-orientation, not on menace, self-righteous indictments and destructive emotionalism. Perhaps we may yet rescue Religion from its ultimate indictment: conscription into the ranks of provable enemies of Humanity.
Sept. 21, 2012, United Nations Hdqrs, New York.
WOKE SOYINKA was awarded the The Nobel Prize in Literature 1986.
From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1986, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1987:
Wole Soyinka was born on 13 July 1934 at Abeokuta, near Ibadan in western Nigeria. After preparatory university studies in 1954 at Government College in Ibadan, he continued at the University of Leeds, where, later, in 1973, he took his doctorate. During the six years spent in England, he was a dramaturgist at the Royal Court Theatre in London 1958-1959. In 1960, he was awarded a Rockefeller bursary and returned to Nigeria to study African drama. At the same time, he taught drama and literature at various universities in Ibadan, Lagos, and Ife, where, since 1975, he has been professor of comparative literature. In 1960, he founded the theatre group, “The 1960 Masks” and in 1964, the “Orisun Theatre Company”, in which he has produced his own plays and taken part as actor. He has periodically been visiting professor at the universities of Cambridge, Sheffield, and Yale.
During the civil war in Nigeria, Soyinka appealed in an article for cease-fire. For this he was arrested in 1967, accused of conspiring with the Biafra rebels, and was held as a political prisoner for 22 months until 1969. Soyinka has published about 20 works: drama, novels and poetry. He writes in English and his literary language is marked by great scope and richness of words.
As dramatist, Soyinka has been influenced by, among others, the Irish writer, J.M. Synge, but links up with the traditional popular African theatre with its combination of dance, music, and action. He bases his writing on the mythology of his own tribe-the Yoruba-with Ogun, the god of iron and war, at the centre. He wrote his first plays during his time in London, The Swamp Dwellers and The Lion and the Jewel (a light comedy), which were performed at Ibadan in 1958 and 1959 and were published in 1963. Later, satirical comedies are The Trial of Brother Jero (performed in 1960, publ. 1963) with its sequel, Jero’s Metamorphosis (performed 1974, publ. 1973), A Dance of the ForestsKongi’s Harvest (performed 1965, publ. 1967) and Madmen and Specialists (performed 1970, publ. 1971). Among Soyinka’s serious philosophic plays are (apart from “The Swamp Dwellers“) The Strong Breed (performed 1966, publ. 1963), The Road ( 1965) and Death and the King’s Horseman (performed 1976, publ. 1975). In The Bacchae of Euripides (1973), he has rewritten the Bacchae for the African stage and in Opera Wonyosi (performed 1977, publ. 1981), bases himself on John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera and Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera. Soyinka’s latest dramatic works are A Play of Giants (1984) and Requiem for a Futurologist (1985).
Soyinka’s poems, which show a close connection to his plays, are collected in Idanre, and Other Poems (1967), Poems from Prison (1969), A Shuttle in the Crypt (1972) the long poem Ogun Abibiman (1976) and Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems (1988).
Soyinka has strongly criticized many Nigerian military dictators, especially late General Sanni Abacha, as well as other political tyrannies, including the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. Much of his writing has been concerned with “the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it”. During the regime of General Sani Abacha (1993–1998), Soyinka escaped from Nigeria via the “Nadeco Route” on motorcycle. Living abroad, mainly in the United States, he was a professor first at Cornell University and then at Emory University in Atlanta, where in 1996 he was appointed Robert W. Woodruff Professor of the Arts. Abacha proclaimed a death sentence against him “in absentia”. With civilian rule restored to Nigeria in 1999, Soyinka returned to his nation. He has also taught at Oxford, Harvard and Yale.
From 1975 to 1999, he was a Professor of Comparative Literature at the Obafemi Awolowo University, then called the University of Ife. With civilian rule restored in 1999, he was made professor emeritus. Soyinka has been a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In the fall of 2007 he was appointed Professor in Residence at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, US.
The United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Slovakia to the United Nations (Vienna), EKOTOPFILM International Festival of Sustainable Development Films and the Slovak Institute, invite you to –
The Sustainable Development Film Week at the Vienna International Centre
14-18 May 2012
A selection of award winning films from the EKOTOPFILM International Festival of Sustainable Development Films will be screened throughout the week:
for the opening day – 14 May 2012, at 12:00 Noon, Opening of the Film Week
VIC (The Vienna International Center – or the UN Headquarters in Vienna) Rotunda
Introductory remarks by:
Janos Tisovszky, Director, UNIS Vienna
Ambassador Marcel Pesko, Slovakia
Peter Lim, Executive Director, EKOTOPFILM
Followed by a musical and culinary programme courtesy of the Slovak Cultural Institute and SL’UK then the 14 May 2012, 13:00 Screening of a selection of short films in UNIS Cinema Room G0575:
2086 – Director: Olena Maksymenko (Ukraine, 2010, 5 min) A possible future of the earth without air…
99% Rust – Director: Nenko Genov (Bulgaria, 2010, 4 min) About 70% of all metal is used just once and then it is discarded.
Tomatoes Eat You! Director: Nenko Genov (Bulgaria, 2010, 1 min) For generations they were cooked, mashed, canned, eaten alive… or even worse! And now they strike back! Prepare for a horror beyond your imagination! This summer tomatoes eat you!
Africa: Digital Graveyard: A UNTV film. Director: Mary Ferreira (2011, 10 min) Mobile phones and computers have transformed the lives of many – yet billions of discarded electronic devices are ending up in landfills in the world’s poorest countries, posing a potentially lethal toxic threat. But one African country is finding innovative ways to handle this so called e-waste.
We posted the UN in Vienna activity originally on May 8-th and the UPDATE is after the first day of the Vienna showings – May 14-th.
We learned from Dr. iur Hana Kovacova, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the International Organizations in Vienna, that Ekotopfilm is a Slovak organization based in Bratislva that holds yearly film and documentary showings on topics of Sustainable Development and the environment.
This year the show and judging of the films will take place in Bratislava in October in a five days film festival. This will be followed by a 3-4 days event in November in Kosice where the films will get a commercial preview.
The May event in Vienna is to honor both – the preparations for RIO+20 and the colleagues at the UN Headquarters in Vienna.
Last year’s winner in the Bratislava International Competition was the film on Africa which was the last that was shown today – the opening day in Vienna. I picked up from the internet:
Ekotopfilm, based in Slovakia, awarded the top prize to a film, “Africa: Digital Graveyard”, produced by me for my employer, United Nations Television, UNTV – said Mary Ferreira, who made this film . The film is part of UNTV’s monthly series 21st Century and won first place out of 20 contenders in the Current Affairs category.
“Africa: Digital Graveyard” addresses the growing problem of electronic waste or “e-waste” as developed nations ship obsolete and second-hand electronics to countries like Ghana. Most of the items are worthless and end up in dumpsites in Accra. The film also depicted action taken by innovators in South Africa who have found creative ways to recycle, refurbish and reprocess elements from old electronics for use as raw materials in the manufacture of new products. Link to film –goo.gl/IWqEc
Now, why should one send what is considered garbage in Developed countries, to lesser developed countries – even under guise of extracting value from them -? Will this allow for a modicum of self-esteem.
The 15 May 2012, 12:00 Film screening: Trou de Fer – The Iron Hole UNIS Cinema Room G0575.
Director: Pavol Barabas (Slovakia, 2011, 55 min) Trou de Fer is a unique and majestic natural phenomenon sitting in the heart of the National Park on Reunion Island. Volcanic eruptions made the Earth sink into a void and continuous and heavy rain showers formed a place like no other. Because of its inaccessibility nature has been left untouched and untamed. The depths of the canyon have been visited only by a few individuals.
The 16 May 2012, 12:00 Film screening: Architects of Change: Nothing is Lost UNIS Cinema Room G0575
Director: Jean Bourbonnais (France, 2009, 52 min) The trash we generate, our outmoded or broken gadgets, the water we waste – it is all thrown out into the environment after we have used it. Far from being satisfied with managing the accumulation of electronic waste, most of which contain toxic materials that are harmful to the environment and human health, Fernando Nilo also wanted Recylca to provide jobs for socially disadvantaged people.
This film shows how bad our relation is to the environment and to ourselves. How the throw-away society is losing its treasures and making the land inhabitable by throwing away as pollution resources we could use as further inputs to industry.
Water is a recurrent topic – we use it and rather then clean it up and reuse it, we throw it into the pool of man-made pollution.
The other recurrent topic is electronics waste that literally harbors gold.
The target of the film is us and it tries to tell s that we will gain even financially by doing the right think of harvesting the present polluting waste.
14-18 May 2012 Exhibition in the VIC Rotunda
The film week will be accompanied by an exhibition on EKOTOPFILM International Festival of Sustainable Development Films.
The exhibition will also present finalists of the Drop by Drop – the Future We Want Ad Competition, launched by the UN Regional Information Centre in Brussels (UNRIC), in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme and UN information offices in Europe with the support of the Nordic Council of Ministers. In the competition Europeans were asked to create a newspaper ad that inspires others to preserve water now and for future generations.
REGISTRATION was REQUIRED for those who do not hold a valid VIC Grounds Pass
A system was in place at the time but the UN in Vienna does not want us to continue providing that information.
OPEN DEMOCRACY has Two Interesting Articles on Bangladesh.
Partnership or PR? Chevron in Bangladesh.
Katy Gardner, 17 April 2012 Discordant Development: Global Capitalism and the Struggle for Connection in Bangladesh (Anthropology, Culture and Society) was published earlier this year by Pluto Press. You can read more about Katy’s work at:katygardner.co.uk/
Chevron are investing in communities and promoting human rights in Bangladesh, claiming that partnership with communities is not just good business practice, but crucial for social progress. But are these real partnerships – publishing what they pay, supporting anti-corruption measures and being accountable?
What do such corporate ‘partnerships’ involve? Viewed in the unflattering light of reality rather than the shimmery vista of PR, is there any evidence that relationships with communities could be described as involving the shared goals, co-operation, mutual respect and equality that the term implies? In research in the villages surrounding the Bibiyana Gas Field in Bangladesh, we found few people who would refer to Chevron as partners. Instead, the majority spoke of their fears of corruption, environmental damage and their sense of injustice at the profits made by foreign multinationals exploiting local resources.
The research involved two villages close to the gas field where, after large scale protest against the loss of land as the installation was being constructed, Chevron were now investing in health, education and alternative livelihoods projects as part of their Community Engagement Programme. In their Dhaka offices, the executives involved were keen to talk the talk: the initiatives were to be sustainable, the poor were to be ‘helped to help themselves.’ As one official put it, “we want to empower people.”
It sounds good. But before rushing to congratulate multinational energy corporations for their progressive investments, we need to look closely at the relationships they glibly describe as ‘partnerships’. If the ability to hear and be heard is a basic component of a healthy partnership, we saw little in the way of Chevron hearing the concerns of the poor. People told us that although initially there were ‘community consultation meetings’, once the land acquisition process was complete, community liaison staff retreated behind the high wire fence of the enclave and only the elite leaders had any means of contacting them. There are no grievance procedures and no open meetings. Whilst the company did respond to farmers’ complaints of damage to the environment, they acted without consulting the farmers. The main issue was the installation’s high banked roads, which prevent water from flowing evenly over rice fields during the wet season. Chevron built culverts in the roads, but these were too small and became blocked with weeds. A year later, no further action had been taken.
Meanwhile, whilst officials talk of ‘empowerment’ they have no experience of social development and show little awareness of the root causes of poverty: inequality, injustice and a lack of rights. Though the support given to small rural businesses is useful, the programmes are carried out via Village Development Organisations that are composed of self selected leaders from the local elite, thus strengthening rather than challenging local hierarchies. It was these leaders who were informed of the controlled flaring that was to take place one night. Community Engagement officials imagined that they would spread the message to the wider population. They didn’t and the result was mayhem. When people woke to the huge flames, they assumed there had been an accident and panicked, running from their homes in terror.
Even more worrying are issues of transparency. Whilst Chevron has a relatively good reputation for its levels of disclosure ‘at home’, the company’s record with regards to its overseas operations leaves much to be desired. This is all the more disappointing when it has enthusiastically signed up to the core aims of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. According to a report published by Revenue Watch / Transparency International, Chevron scored 88% for organisational disclosure (compared to the industry average of 65%), but only 8% for country level disclosure (compared to the industry average of 16%).
Within Bangladesh, the details of deals made with the government are secret, as are the company’s environmental, social and health impact assessments. Yet speak with ordinary Bangladeshis and they will tell you that government corruption and lack of transparency in deals with the extractive industries are of vital importance to the national interest. This surely, is where multinationals could make a real contribution to social progress: publishing what they pay, supporting the government and other agencies in anti-corruption measures and being accountable to the populations where they work, would be real steps towards supporting human rights and justice, rather than funding NGOs to carry out small scale projects that provide plenty of photo opportunities for the PR machine, but little in the way of real partnership.
Bangladesh: journey of fear towards an uncertain future.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, 17 April 2012
About the author: Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of the Bangaldeshi tabloid, The Weekly Blitz, a columnist, author and peace activist who won the PEN USA Freedom to Write award in 2005, the first of a series of awards for moral courage in the media.
The two large parties in Bangladesh have already turned to the worst sort of dynastic politics. At the same time, Islamist influences and left wing groups are becoming ever more involved with the dominant political forces. Alongside this, parliament has become totally ineffective.
The Arab Spring has brought the issue of constitutional rights, and their violation, to the fore in Egypt, Tunisia, and most recently in Syria. Now this problem is affecting a country further East, Bangladesh, for the first time since it gained independence. Bangladesh’s ruling party, Awami League, claims to espouse Abraham Lincoln’s vision of government for, by and of the people, but has instead shown the worst face of autocratic leadership. It has used its own party hooligans as enforcers and made the capital Dhaka into a dangerous place.
The government has also imposed restrictions on all electronic media and used its intelligence forces to hinder the broadcasting of a major speech by the Leader of the Opposition. He had addressed a mammoth rally of at least five hundred thousand people, gathered to express their frustration and anger at a series of failures by the government. Three private television channels were switched off by the intelligence agencies without any prior notice simply because these channels were broadcasting footage of the rally in Dhaka. Through these actions, which violate articles 36 and 37 of the Bangladeshi constitution, the Awani League has finally revealed itself as an opponent of the people.
Following these incidents on March 12 of this year, Mahfuz Anam, a respected journalist and editor of The Daily Star, wrote a front page editorial expressing anger over these violations of rights of the country’s citizens. In an article titled “Awami League’s Moral Defeat”, he wrote:
“When does a government strangulate its capital city by preventing almost all modes of transport from reaching it? When does a government bring to a virtual halt almost all internal city movements? When does a government create such a panicky situation that traders do not open shops out of fear of vandalism? When does a government prevent its own citizens from carrying out their day to day activities? When do government leaders tell blatant lies on television while the truth is clearly the opposite? When does a ruling party let loose its goons upon normal citizens on suspicion that they might attend the opposition rally? When does an elected government adopt the most oppressive measure to prevent the opposition from holding a public rally?”
“Only when it is unsure of itself. A party confident of its popular base, sure of its public support, certain of the efficacy of its policies and surefooted about its public record would never have done what the ruling Awami League did yesterday to prevent the BNP from holding its public rally. What the ruling party did over the last two days to prevent mass participation in the opposition rally reveals a political party frightened of the strength of the opposition and loath to allow it to show it. In its massive show of strength the Awami League looked its weakest.”
Return of the hartal ghost to a troubled economy:
While journalists, think tanks, other members of civil society and the general populace are angered at the hostility of the ruling party towards the citizens of the country, they are also unhappy with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP] and its coalition partners for calling a general strike on March 29. General strikes, known as hartal, are the most disruptive and destructive activities undertaken by opposition parties in Bangladesh. When the Awami League was in opposition, it also followed the same route of calling regular hartals day-after-day, causing tremendous damage to the country’s economy in the process.
It is worth noting that the Bangladeshi economy is in a worse state than it has been for several years, due to a major decrease in foreign exchange earnings as well as a lack of foreign investment in the country caused by an acute power crisis. The current government has totally failed to cope with the power shortage in the country over three and half years, and has not delivered on the specific promises made in its electoral manifesto made before winning a landslide victory. (Opposition parties have always rejected this huge victory, saying the election was ‘engineered’ by the policymakers of the military controlled interim regime, which now evidently enjoys a cosy relationship with the ruling party.
Even the foreigners are not safe:
For the duration of the current government’s administration, the law and order situation in the country has gone from bad to worse. Incidences of campus violence perpetrated by the ruling party’s student front, extortion, abduction, murder, extra-judicial killing, rape, oppression of religious minorities, and harassment of citizens have each surpassed all previous records. In one recent incident, the ruling party failed on all counts to properly investigate the murder of a journalist couple in Dhaka. Though the Home Minister and the Prime Minister repeatedly made commitments to investigate the case fully, there have in reality been no developments, which has already forced the journalistic community in Bangladesh to unite in demanding an investigation aimed at targeting the perpetrators. It was rumoured in the media that influential members of society were behind this brutal murder, with the blessing of the ruling party.
The worst insight into the country’s current law and order situation came to light when a Saudi diplomat was murdered in the diplomatic enclave in the capital city. Khalaf bin Mohammed Salem al-Ali (45), was killed by unidentified gunmen during the late hours of March 5, 2012. This is the first time in the history of the country that a foreign diplomat has been killed in the capital. Referring to the diplomat’s killing, opposition chief Khaleda Zia once again claimed that the law and order situation in the country is in a bad way. “The country is in a very precarious condition today. The lives and properties of the people are not safe. There is no security at our homes or outside. Even the foreigners are not safe,” she said.
Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation, enjoys good relations with Saudi Arabia, which is a top destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest donors to Bangladesh. Following the murder of the Saudi diplomat, a real crisis is feared, if the government fails to identify the culprits within a short space of time. Should the government demonstrate the same inability or unwillingness to progress this investigation as they did with the murder of the two journalists earlier in the year, the primary concern is that the Saudi authorities will be offended and expel the two million plus Bangladeshi workers currently working in their country.
Since the current government came to power in January 2009, the flagrant robbery of small investors is taking place on the Bangladesh stock exchange. The government has not taken any action against the culprits, again believed to hail from the inner circles of the ruling party. Another scheme to embezzle wealth comes from the fraudulent multi-level marketing companies now in operation in the country. To give a sense of the scale of this embezzlement, one of the biggest multi-level marketing companies in Bangladesh, Destiny 2000 Limited, is believed to have already robbed $8bn from the people by selling fake schemes.
A huge question mark hangs over what happens next in Bangladesh and what the fate of the country’s democracy will be. People were already frustrated with the political parties, which fail to impose due democratic processes even in their own internal setups. The two large parties in Bangladesh have already turned to the worst sort of dynastic politics. At the same time, Islamist influences and left wing groups are becoming ever more involved with the dominant political forces. Alongside this, parliament has become totally ineffective due to the opposition’s year-long boycott of the sessions. There is a bleak set of circumstances at play, and the people of Bangladesh are journeying towards a future of uncertainty and fear.
TWO NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIALS of JANUARY 10, 2012:
The Republican presidential hopefuls with backgrounds in ordering layoffs and lobbying Congress can’t relate to struggling voters.
The Arab League is failing to do all it can to encourage a peaceful solution. It needs to get tougher with President Bashar al-Assad.
The Corporate Candidates
Published: January 9, 2012
The more Mitt Romney pretends to empathize with the millions of Americans who are struggling in this economy, the less he seems to understand their despair. And the rest of the Republican field seems to have no more insight into the concerns of most voters than he does.
Mr. Romney claims his background as a businessman provides him with an understanding of the economy and the ability to fix it. His opponents — particularly Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Rick Perry — say their political experience provides the same advantage. In truth, none have offered anything but tired or extremist economic prescriptions, providing little evidence that they can relate to those at the middle or bottom of the ladder.
The problem with Mr. Romney’s pitch is the kind of businessman he was: specifically, a buyer of flailing companies who squeezed out the inefficiencies (often known as employees) and then sold or merged them for a hefty profit. More than a fifth of them later went bankrupt, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. This kind of leveraged capitalism, which first caught fire in the 1980s, is one of the reasons for the growth in the income gap, tipping the wealth in the economy toward the people at the top.
Mr. Romney doesn’t like to talk about the precise nature of his business experience. Instead, he prefers to claim his occupation as a leveraged buyout king actually benefited ordinary workers, even casting himself as one of them. “I know what it’s like to worry whether you’re going to get fired,” Mr. Romney said, astonishingly, on Sunday. “There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.” Mr. Romney, the son of privilege and power, has never known personal economic fear, and said laterthat he was referring to his early days at Bain Capital, the investment firm he would later run.
He has, however, been responsible for issuing many a pink slip while leading Bain. The firm bought Dade International, a medical supplier, and collected eight times its investment but laid off 1,700 workers, The New York Times has reported. Reuters reportedlast week that a steel mill in Kansas City, Mo., was shuttered less than a decade after Bain bought it, and its 750 laid-off workers got no severance pay.
Mr. Romney dismisses these layoffs, and thousands more, as the cost of capitalism. He claims that, over all, Bain’s investments produced a net gain of 100,000 jobs. But his campaign and his former firm have refused to provide any documentation for that number, showing exactly how many people were laid off and how many hired as a result of Bain’s investments during his period there. The claim cannot be taken seriously until he does so.
Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Perry have sharply criticized Mr. Romney for his buyout work, but some of those attacks ring hollow. Mr. Gingrich himself was on an advisory board for Forstmann Little, another private equity firm with a business model similar to Bain’s. Mr. Perry simply seems opportunistic. He criticized Mr. Romney for ruthlessly practicing modern-day capitalism a day after he called Mr. Obama “a socialist.”
Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum have avoided talking about their own financial histories, having become multimillionaires by peddling their influence to big corporations after leaving Congressional office. For voters worried about the economy, neither a past record of buyouts nor lobbying should inspire any confidence.
Violence Continues in Syria
Published: January 9, 2012
The Arab League is failing the Syrian people. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria grudgingly agreed to the league’s peace plan last month, but his brutal 10-month crackdown against mostly peaceful protesters shows no signs of easing. To have any chance of stopping the bloodshed, the league — backed by the international community — needs to get tougher with the butcher in Damascus.
We always suspected that the manipulative Mr. Assad would pay only lip service to the plan. He promised to end the violence, withdraw troops from residential areas and talk to the opposition. He also agreed to allow the league to monitor progress. But Syrian activists say that in the two weeks since 100 or so monitors arrived, at least 400 more civilians have been killed, in addition to the 5,000 dead already counted by the United Nations.
Independent accounts are hard to come by because Syria also reneged on its promise to allow greater news media access. Still, the reports are credible enough to unnerve many Arabs; last week, the Arab Parliament, which advises the league, questioned whether the monitoring mission should be abandoned since Mr. Assad seemed clearly to be using it as cover for further repression.
Yet the Arab League’s official response has been pathetically weak. Meeting in Cairo on Sunday, Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani of Qatar, the chairman of the league’s committee on Syria, and other officials did little more than plead with Mr. Assad to end the bloodshed and let the monitors operate freely.
This won’t work. The only meaningful course is for the Arab League to enforce theeconomic sanctions it approved in November. These include a freeze on Syrian government assets in Arab countries and a ban on transactions with Syria’s central bank.
In addition, Arab League members should insist that the United Nations Security Council — stymied for months by Mr. Assad’s enablers, Russia and China — condemn his behavior and impose tough sanctions of its own that would also bring pressure to bear on his allies. And they should lean on Turkey, which promised sanctions against Damascus, to follow through.
League officials have agreed to continue the monitoring mission (at least until they reassess later this month) and boost its size. There is also talk of United Nations-led training for monitors, who are very inexperienced.
In theory, these are good ideas. But they assume that Mr. Assad is not playing for time and playing the Arab League for a fool as he clearly is. People across the Arab world are horrified by the bloody events in Syria and fears of broader war. Their leaders and the major powers must do all they can to peacefully stop the violence.
Palestine at the UN Security Council. A September vote could make it easy for the Nigerian chairperson Ms. Joy Ogwu to abstain and by doing so avoid the need for a US veto. That might thus be an argument in favor of haste.
Joy Uche Angela Ogwu was appointed Foreign Minister by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on August 30, 2006 and she is the Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations since April 2008 when it became evident that Nigeria will join the UN Security Council.
Joy Ogwu was the President of the UN Security Council in July 2010 and again right now – for October 2011.
We bring this up as it seems quite probable that if the Palestinian issue will be brought before the UN Security Council this month – it is a good guess that Nigeria , as President of the UNSC, will abstain and decrease by this tremendously the chance of the Palestinians to attain the minimum of 9 votes, and avoid the need for a veto by the US and possibly France.
In the meantime – what is known, is that this coming Friday the first meeting of the Committee at the Experts’ level of the UNSC will take up the issue and the full UNSC will be then updated after two weeks hence. This brings the possibility for a first vote by the full Security Council to October 21st – the earliest. As such the Nigerian position could not simply lean on principles if the vote is pushed over to November.
UNEP “Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland“
The information reached us from an NGO/CSO Liaison office and WAS FIRST POSTED by us August 16, 2011 – This is a revisited version.
Resource Curse Revisited – A Nigerian Nightmare
Natural resources, particularly oil, can give rise to the so-called resource curse affecting resource-rich countries, where large parts of the population live in poverty and where there are high corruption rates. A comprehensive assessment of the consequences of oil operations in Nigeria now reveals another aspect of this resource curse: The extent of environmental contamination in Ogoniland outlined by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is nothing less than shocking. As Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for over 50 years, but many Nigerians have paid a high price, as this assessment underlines.”
UNEP scientists identify severely contaminated underground areas, which appear unaffected at the surface. In at least ten Ogoni communities, drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons. As a consequence, the organization asked for immediate action to protect human health and to reduce the risks of affected communities. An alarming example is the case of a community in Nisisioken Ogale. Here, families are drinking water from wells that is contaminated with the carcinogen benzene, which is obviously caused by a nearby petroleum pipeline. The respective levels are more than 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines.
So, what to do? UNEP suggest a combination of activities. Whereas the clean-up of selected contaminated land areas in Ogoniland can happen within five years, the restoration of other heavily-impacted mangrove stands and swamplands will take up to 30 years. The report recommends establishing new institutions in the country to support a comprehensive environmental restoration exercise. Among them are an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority to oversee implementation of the study’s recommendations and an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland, equipped with initial funding of US$1 billion. The oil industry and the government should provide the respective initial funding, according to UNEP. This would be a first step toward stopping the resource curse in this region. Prospects for further action may not be negative: The company Shell funded the independent assessment by UNEP. (Dennis Taenzler)
For more information, please see www.unep.org/nigeria
To read Shell’s response to the report, please see here.