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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 2nd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Unknown-1

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 11th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

This posting comes as a correction of our previous postings that said that President Obama had in reality only three choices when trying to show solidarity with African democrats. now we are left only with two SubSaharan States that qualify – this at a time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is trying to drum up interest in democracy by traveling through further seven states that showed once promise for democracy but have hit harder times now.
Also, western interest in stable governments in Africa should not be viewed as merely an economist’s decision on who provides safety for his investments. This is the view that allowed China to look away from the Sudanese atrocities – will this sort of thinking provide excuse now for French views about Niger?
The remarks come after Niger authorities said 92.5 percent of people in a recent referendum voted in favour of keeping the president in power until at least 2012 and potentially for life.

 

Opposition groups say just five percent of the population even took part. But pro-democracy campaigner Morou Amadou has landed in jail after calling for a general strike.”

 

The seven states visited by Secretary Hillary Clinton are: Kenya, South Africa, Congo (DRC), Angola, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde. We wish to note that only two of the seven, Angola and Nigeria, export oil to the US.


 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 27th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 Training course in using climate information for adaptation decision making, Cape Town, July 2009.      
from  A.Stanley at ids.ac.uk

The Climate Systems Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town and the Stockholm Environment Institute, partners in weADAPT and the Global Climate Adaptation Partnership, are offering a 2-week ‘winter school’ in the use of climate information for developing adaptation strategies, plans and policies.

The winter school will take place from 13 to 26 July 2009, and is designed to provide a balance between seminar style teaching and hands-on training, supported by leading climate scientists and adaptation experts, using the weADAPT platform for developing the curriculum. We aim to provide an overview of the latest relevant climate science as well as working through sector specific case studies and experiences of the application of this knowledge in acting to reduce risks. The winter school is supported financially by UNITAR and SENSA.

 Objective:
One of the largest limiting factors behind appropriate regional response to climate change is the misunderstanding or lack of knowledge about core climate science concepts, access to climate information, and the use of climate change data. While globally there is a significant amount of published material and online forums, these are often not appropriate to a given activity, lack the important element of engagement with experts in the field, fail to make the link between the biophysical and the social, and sometimes do not provide effective access to core knowledge. This training course aims to fill some of those gaps, providing participants with the knowledge and skills to use regionally appropriate climate information in their work on adaptation.

Content:
Training will cover the following core topics:

Concepts of natural and anthropogenic climate change, vulnerability and adaptation
Analyzing data for climatic change and variability (changes in time and space; periodicity; trends and shifts in climate)
Regional climate change scenarios (methods of generating scenarios; strengths and weaknesses; limitations of current products; future developments)
Uncertainty, probability and climate envelopes
Extreme events and threshold analysis
The course will use case studies that illustrate vulnerability, impacts, risk assessments and adaptation measures in key sectors (including water, agriculture, the urban environment); and the interpretation of climate information will be covered in framing discussions on social networks, risk perception, adaptation choices, adaptation knowledge platforms and climate risk screening tools.

Topics will be adapted to accommodate participant learning goals.

Further information:
The winter school will take place 13 – 26 July 2009.

There is no fee for the course, but participants will need to cover their own travel and living expenses.

Expressions of interest from potential participants are being solicited and should be sent to  winterschool at csag.uct.ac.za

To apply, please provide your current affiliation and position, and a 1-page letter outlining your experience in the field of climate change and adaptation. Include a brief statement of your goals in taking the course and, where possible, a short description of one specific climate change case study related to adaptation which you have worked on.

Note: In order to provide hands-on learning, space will be limited to 20 participants.

Further information will be emailed in due course to applicants, as well as being made available on the course website at: www.csag.uct.ac.za/winterschool20….

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The US Chamber of Commerce has commissioned from Baird’s Communications Management Consultants (Baird’s CMC) in partnership with the Africa Business Initiative, an “inside-the-boardroom survey of attitudes toward corporate investment in Africa among leading U.S. corporations.” The information was gathered between January and November 2008 in a series of closed door interviews with senior officers of 30 American Fortune 100 corporations.

The report can be found at:   www.usafricainvestment.com

Among the conclusions I found:

“USA Inc. is more interested in Africa than before, because the African market appears increasingly attractive, but Africa has tough competition and high hurdles for US investment. Education is at the top of the US corporate wish list for Africa; ‘educate your people so that we can employ them.’

The African countries that hold most interest are South Africa and some countries in the North, like Egypt; there are also some pockets of interest in West Africa, most notably Ghana, Nigeria and to some extent Angola; while some in the South (Botswana and Mozambique) and East (Uganda and Kenya), are also being watched.”

——-

The report is in two parts:

Part One: Understand how US corporations view Africa as an investment destination and what their requirements are for investing in Africa on the same scale as their investments in the rest of the developing world.

Part Two: The response of African political and government leaders to these private sector views will be telling; what is the conversation about FDI behind government’s closed doors, when policy is made?

——-

Why has Africa not attracted more interest from the U.S. business community?

Rule of law — The rule of law does not prevail to the degree required to make Africa an attractive investment destination. This applies to corporate, societal, and criminal law

Attraction — While the enormous natural resources are an attraction, Africa does not offer a sufficiently large middle class of consumers or show consistent economic growth that could promise a future market. Most African countries are small and have poor markets, and there are barriers to regional markets–such as taxes and the freedom of movement of people and goods

Risks versus rewards— Given the currently perceived risks in Africa, the rewards have to be very high to make it worthwhile to invest. Presently, U.S. corporations say that there are very few visible promises of future returns high enough to justify significant interest in investing

Supportive business framework–Transportation and communications infrastructure, trained or trainable human resources, and equitable trade and employment practices are insufficient to support corporate investment

A welcoming environment— African countries are not doing a sufficient job of providing education and health services to the potential workforce, which makes the potential hire-able local insufficient to support investment.

———

From the www.SustainabiliTank.info   angle we found the most important comment to be:  

“Africa may want to consider the benefits of encouraging US Corporations whose stated desire is to employ Africans, unlike others who merely exploit African mineral resources without contributing to local employment. Africa may also benefit in the long term from the US approach of skills transfer and technology development, provided that its intellectual property is protected.” This obviously requires African leaders to help educate their people which might then also lead to the obvious requirement to allow in new spirits such as more democratic stiles of government and distribution of wealth produced from this more intimate interaction with the outside world and we hope that this can be agreed upon for a true benefit of Africa.

If this study could open African eyes to such potentialities, then the study might indeed provide the positive basis for moving Africa away from the present dead point where the export of commodities such as oil, minerals, and diamonds, are the one way connections that masquerades as business relations between African governments and US corporations. On the other hand, the US public will have to allow also the opening of the US market to goods manufactured in Africa.All of this while US corporations become also investors in the creation of a more developed African internal market.

The report was brought to our attention by   Fabiane Dal-Ri   –  fabianedalri at usafricainvestment.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

“INNOVATION AFRICA”

The volume (405 pages) was edited by Pascal C.Sanginga, Ann Walter-Bayer, Susan Kaaria, Jemimah Njuki, and Chesha Wetlasinha.

Earthscan, is a publishing house for a sustainable future, based in Dunstan House, 14a St. Cross st., London EC1N 8XA, UK – with a branch at 22883 Quicksilver Derive, Sterling, VA, USA.

www.earthscan.co.uk

The project, meeting and book, were sponsored jointly by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under the roof of the “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The goal is tp promote African agricultural development through capacity-building, research and pilot testing of interventions.

At the Kampala meeting participated 140 practitioners and the best 24 articles appear in the 5 parts of this volume.

The conclusions led to five observations,   and I will mention here just the fifth – that says that real innovation emerges by encouraging creativity, and that is not achieved by over-engineering a multiple level of bureaucracy that poses the risk of stifling real discovery. So, it is better to create enabling conditions and incentive structures that encourage information exchange, cooperation and policy changes that unleash bottom-up or lateral innovation.

The first article is of 26 pages on “Conceptual and Methodological Developments in Innovation,” presented by Niels Roeling.

I found interesting his use of “innovation” as a noun – denoting a technology or even a product i.e. hybrid maize. Then he talks about the “diffusion curve” of introducing this innovation for gain by the users. That was the way the subject was taught in the American Mid-West. Eventually he mentions that his thinking was affected by the observation from Landcare in Australia, that “erosion, salination, desiccation and other environmental problems” resulted from the introduction of European farming practices to a continent to which they were not suited. Thus we reach out to grassroots innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the book presents many ways of organizing this sort of development of agricultural knowledge and information systems.

The book ends up presenting many conceptual and methodological developments in promoting innovation by showcasing on-the-ground experiences in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria.

The volume mentions the changes in global agriculture, the use of biofuels, the increase in meat consumption, droughts and extreme weather caused by climate change, and the resulting increase in the price of food, and asks if those events will make African smallholders competitive in African urban markets. The author is nevertheless not over optimistic. It is the global “treadmill” that prevents African farmers from contributing to global food security and African countries from gaining food sovereignty. The imports of food haveinterfered with the marketting of the local produce beyond the subsistence level.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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SANERI Awarded Southern Africa Regional Secretariat for REEEP

Johannesburg, October 20, 2008.

The South African National Energy Research Institute (SANERI) has been awarded the rights to host the Southern African Regional Secretariat for the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP). REEEP was formed in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg as a multilateral partnership, to promote the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency, particularly in developing countries and economies in transition. REEEP currently consists of over 260 partners of which 40 are governments.

REEEP has successfully supported over 80 policy, regulatory, business and finance initiatives in developing countries. In Southern Africa, projects have been developed in Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique and South Africa. REEEP facilitates market conditions in developing countries in order to accelerate deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency through introduction of suitable policies and measures as well as business models and finance facilities.

Regional priorities will be developed by a Regional Steering Committee guided by SANERI for the selection of projects for funding. REEEP’s International Secretariat in Vienna and its Governing Bodies, are responsible for project approval. For the coming year, REEEP will disburse over € 4 million to more than 35 projects across the developing world.

SANERI will take a leadership role in the development of a framework for projects in the region. Regional workshops and an electronic information platform called REEGLE ( www.reegle.info )   will contribute to sharing of information and development of regional priorities. The Southern Africa Regional Secretariat will also be responsible for coordinating regional inputs into the strategic direction of REEEP’s international programme of work.

Dr. Marianne Osterkorn, REEEP’s International Director, expressed her support for SANERI: “I am delighted that we are forging a partnership with a national entity of such caliber as SANERI, which has established itself as a major player in the energy R&D sector in South Africa. Moving our Regional Secretariat from Cape Town to Johannesburg will allow REEEP to enhance its significant role in the drive towards global greenhouse gas reduction while supporting the Southern Africa region in its path to sustainable economic development.”

SANERI takes over this responsibility from Agama Energy, an energy consultancy based in Cape Town. The CEO of SANERI, Mr. Kadri Nassiep indicated the significance of this award to the region: “Becoming part of an international partnership that is accelerating the transition to a lower carbon future means taking responsibility for local measures that will build more supportive mechanisms for renewable energy and energy efficiency. SANERI is a key funder of energy R&D in South Africa, and the spin-off benefits of these projects will find their way into the region. It is therefore vital that a strong linkage is developed between technology-driven R&D and policy and regulatory studies that work together to facilitate implementation.”

SANERI takes over responsibilities in October 2008.

For further information on this and related REEEP activities visit the REEP and REEGLE websites www.reeep.org and www.reegle.info. To contact the new secretariat in Johannesburg please email Ms Amanda Luxande at amandal@saneri.org.za

Agata Gago
Media Relations
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP)
International Secretariat
Wagramerstrasse 5
1400 Vienna, Austria
Tel: +48 503 180 791
www.reeep.org

Florian Bauer
REEGLE Product Manager

Tel:       + 43 1 26026 3714
Fax:       + 43 1 21346 3714
Mobile: + 43 664 418 21 06
 florian.bauer at reeep.org

Internet: www.reeep.org and www.reegle.info

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 10th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

SOUTH AFRICA – Musical Stars to Stage Concert Against Human Trafficking – South African musical stars will be taking to the stage in Newtown, Johannesburg to play their part in raising awareness of human trafficking on Saturday 11 October 2008.

The Human Trafficking Awareness Concert will be a free open-air event rounding up a series of activities as part of the country’s annual Human Trafficking Awareness Week, which kicked off on 5 October.             Thrilling performances are expected from artists such as MXO, Peggy, Sliq Angel, Wax and Ras, while top DJs such as Naked and Hudson will spin the decks for the audience.

The week-long event this year has seen the participation of civil society, religious bodies, government departments and international organizations engaging in several activities such as workshops, media campaigns and exhibitions to raise awareness of the crime nationwide.

METRO FM, South Africa’s largest urban radio station, has been instrumental in the Week, partnering with IOM to produce and air Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that encourage people to find out more about human trafficking and report suspected cases on IOM’s toll-free helpline: 0800 555 999.

“Children and women are the most vulnerable to this heinous crime” says Metro FM Station Manager, Matona Sakupwanya. “METRO FM has partnered with the IOM in order to demystify human trafficking and enable our listeners to understand the problem, decrease their vulnerability, and prevent it from spreading.”

“Human trafficking is a problem that cannot be looked at in isolation. This week demonstrates what can be achieved when government, civil society, international organizations and the commercial sector work together towards the achievement of a common goal,” explains Malebo Kotu-Rammopo, of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), one of the key contributors to the Week.

“By continuing to raise awareness of human trafficking through events such as these, we hope that other sectors of the South African community will come forward to lend their support. The more involvement there is in countering human trafficking, the more we are likely to succeed,” says IOM’s Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Hans-Petter Boe.

In June 2007, South Africa’s Human Trafficking Awareness Week was named a “BEST GLOBAL PRACTICE TO COMBAT TRAFFICKING” by the US Department of State in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

For more information: Contact Nde Ndifonka at IOM Pretoria on  nndifonka at iom.int or +27 71 689 9966 METRO FM:  matona at metrofm.co.za, 011 714 3485 NPA –  tip-pcu at npa.gov.za, 012 8456153

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Sugarcane ethanol: a sweet solution for Europe’s fuel addiction?

Corporate Europe Observatory ?? {we would like to know what Observatory and What Corporations it Represents}

Brazil’s agribusiness is lobbying to make the case, but people and the environment are paying the price.

{This last   title is correct – Brazil agribusiness does lobby in Europe for opening the door to exports of ethanol for the octane-boosting market as an additive to gasoline. The subject must be understood in this context. As we were involved in this for 30 years, we learned to smell rat when articles do not present the full truth. Sorry Roberto Savio, we like you, but this time you represent the wrong cause. We rather smell here petroleum and not cachaca. Our comments will be presented in this type of paratheses – Pincas Jawetz – of www.SustainabiliTank.info}
In spite of overwhelming criticism of agrofuels as a ‘solution’ to climate change, sugarcane ethanol is often seen as the one more positive exception. The Brazilian government is lobbying hard in Brussels in favour of high EU agrofuel targets and for better market access for sugarcane ethanol.

However, sugarcane is far from a sustainable source of energy. {this per coment in the article – that we regard as not even a half backed truth.}

Certification initiatives such as the ‘Better Sugarcane Initiative’ are top down approaches that lack support from small producers or affected communities. {??}

***

In July, responding to high profile concerns, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted in favour of cutting the proposed 10% target down to 4% by 2015. Many calls are now going out to the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee to drop the proposed 10% agrofuel target in their upcoming vote on the issue on 11 September.

That same ITRE Committee however voted on 1st September to significantly dilute proposals for fuel efficiency standards for cars. Car manufacturers will be able to use agrofuels as a ‘get out clause’ to avoid having to abide by standards. This shows clearly that agrofuels are being promoted in the EU largely to make up for the lack of real measures to reduce emissions from cars and fuels, or to change the transport model. EU decision makers have turned agrofuels into an escape route for the car and the oil industry, who will have to invest less in more efficient cars, or in a clean-up of oil operations.

{yes, but these arguments have nothing to do with the Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol and its use as an octane boosting additive to gasoline. The last comment is related to the fact that in a replacement of 10% low octane gasoline part of the total gasoline pool, one increases the octane value of the gasoline by 3 points. Had one prepared the octane boosting component of that gasoline from petroleum alone, that would have required higher petroleum crude inputs – and there is here a factor equal to 1.6 in favor of the ethanol. So, by replacing 10% of that gasoline one saved X1.6 in terms of crude. If ones target is to displace fossil fuels, we have here a built in X1.6 factor when the ethanol is used this way. Now, folks from that “Corporate Observatory” – please go back to your drawing boards and ask Mr. Savio to retract your diatribe, so he is not accused for your lack of sincerity. You must figure that the achievements of the renewable energy biofuel are in their use – and that must be a “cradle-to-grave” analysis if you want to convey your ideas about efficiency of fossil fuel replacements.}

***

Brazil’s push for EU target:

Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane and its government has been at the forefront in pushing sugarcane onto the agrofuel agenda. Backed by the sugarcane industry, Brazil is keen to see the EU introduce higher targets for agrofuels. It claims that Europe can fuel its cars on ethanol made from sugarcane, reducing greenhouse gas emissions without affecting food prices; and without deforestation or damage in rural communities.

The Brazilian government is keen to see EU tariff barriers for ethanol swept aside, and is pushing for this in WTO negotiations, in order to allow ethanol from sugarcane to become a competitive alternative to gasoline. Brazil is also expected to push for EU and US tariff reductions on ethanol from sugarcane at the International Biofuels Forum scheduled to take place in Sao Paulo in November.

Since these attempts to slash tariff barriers have failed so far, Brazil has turned to bilateral accords of various kinds with EU member states like the Netherlands and Germany. And in January this year, the Swedish government applied for EU approval to import Brazilian ethanol at a lower tariff rate than the present tariff.[1]

Ethanol from sugarcane is presented as a climate-friendly source of fuel – but the indirect effects of expanding sugarcane plantations in Brazil are overlooked. And what are the other impacts of this monoculture crop? Can sustainability standards really address the fundamental problems, and are current initiatives in this respect mainly serving business, or communities?   {I cannot check that reference, but it is clear to us that if it has any relevance it belongs to next section and not to this one.}

***

The dark side of sugarcane:

Sugarcane is grown as a monocrop, predominantly in southern and central Brazil as well as in parts of Asia and Africa. It relies on heavy quantities of inputs, particularly fertilizer. Harvesting is often done by hand, and working conditions are notoriously harsh.

A number of studies in Brazil have shown that demand for land for sugarcane is leading to the conversion of grasslands and wooded savannah for crops, releasing stored carbon dioxide, and displacing previous users like cattle farmers who move into tropical forests.

One recent study has estimated that, if of the effect of land conversion was taken into account, it would take sugar cane ethanol sourced from previously wooded Cerrado lands in Central Brazil 17 years to repay its climate debt – that means that for those 17 years, the level of greenhouse gases emitted because of land conversion will be higher than the emissions from burning fossil fuels. Given the rate at which sugarcane depletes the soil, there is no guarantee that converted land will still be supporting sugarcane in 17 years time – this carbon debt may in fact never be paid.[2]

Sugarcane also has devastating effects on biodiversity – with the Cerrado savannah of Central Brazil, where sugarcane is grown, being one of the world’s most biodiverse and also most threatened habitats. Sugarcane expansion is also affecting Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, and indirectly the Amazon, as cattle farmers move into the forest in the search for new pasture.

Sugarcane expansion is leading to land conflicts, as rural communities are forced off land to make way for the plantations. Small-scale farming has become unviable in the plantation areas and many small farmers feel they have no financial choice but to sell up.[3] Sugar plantations are displacing small farms, food crops and subsistence food systems – leading to food shortages and price rises.[4]

In a report by Maria Luisa Mendonca, farmer Gaudino Correia explains the problems with leasing out the land. “The contracts are for 12 years, and after that the sugarcane has destroyed everything. The mill uses heavy machines to prepare the land, and it causes soil erosion. They burn sugarcane, and the ashes spread throughout the region. I did not want to lease out my land, and now I’m surrounded by sugarcane. Here there is no more land for farming, and therefore food prices have risen a lot. My neighbours have stopped producing corn, beans, coffee, and milk, and leased out their lands. I still plant corn, beans, and produce milk, but for small producers the price did not increase, only for the middleman and for consumers.”[5]

Indigenous leaders say that their traditional lands are being taken for plantations, despite a programme to recognise indigenous territories.[6] The Fact Finding Mission of NGOs to Brazil, organised by the organisation FIAN in spring 2008, found that “..the process of expansion of sugar cane plantations has postponed the demarcation of indigenous lands in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, further worsening the violations of the right to land and food of indigenous peoples, particularly the Guarani Kaiow, are subjected to.”[7]

Working conditions on the plantations are harsh, with poor accommodation and food, little health care and in some remote areas effective imprisonment. There are reports of workers dying because of overwork, of plantations using slave labour and child labour at harvest time.[8]

The heavy reliance on nitrogen fertilisers adds to sugarcane’s climate impacts and results in water pollution, leading to eutrophication of coastal waters and estuaries. Pesticides also increase the pollution, building up in rivers and streams. Sugarcane cultivation damages the soil, depleting the nutrients and leading to erosion.

Burning of sugarcane fields is widespread, causing damage to the soil, adding to greenhouse gas emissions as well as causing serious problems for the local population including respiratory diseases related to smoke and ash, fire risk, heat, air pollution.[9]

Furthermore, for every litre of ethanol, 10-13 litres of a residue called vinhoto or stillage are produced. At least 170 billion litres of stillage are deposited in Brazil’s sugar growing regions, contaminating rivers and groundwater.[10]

Certifying “Better” Sugarcane ethanol?

Given the problems associated with many sources of agrofuel, certification schemes have been put forward as a way of identifying “sustainable” sources of the fuel. A number of voluntary schemes have been developed by the private sector, sometimes in partnership with some NGOs.

Round tables on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Responsible Soy (RTRS) are still being developed, while there are also proposals for a Round Table on Sustainable Biofuels. But such initiatives appear to provide little guarantee that the accredited feedstocks are in fact “sustainable”; they often lack involvement of affected communities or small scale producers.[11] By providing the new ‘sustainable’ agrofuel market, as well as the traditional markets (that are often growing too) with green labels, they even facilitate and legitimise the overall monocrop expansion.

The so far little known “Better Sugar Cane initiative” (BSI) – a partnership of a number of producers, retailers, traders and investors, is less active and has a lower profile than the Round Tables. Founded in 2005 by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), it appears to have made little progress in defining what constitutes “better sugarcane”.

[12] The push for agrofuels has nevertheless provided a new dynamic for the BSI. The Initiative has been put forward by some within the EU as a suitable platform for developing sustainability criteria for sugarcane. It has recently gained three new members from the energy sector, BP, Shell and Greenergy. Another recent member is UNICA, a lobby group that represents the interests of some major sugar cane producers and distributors.[13] As we will see, UNICA is currently undertaking strong lobbying efforts in Brussels to push for the 10% agrofuel target in the EU.

BSI was set up to develop baseline criteria for sourcing and producing sustainable sugar cane, although, like the other Round Tables, it is a voluntary scheme. As yet, however, it has not published any standards or any form of framework for monitoring the chain of custody. Nor do its staff appear to be particularly qualified in issues concerning sustainable agriculture.

BSI’s project manager, David Wilders, previously worked as an overseas representative for the South African Sugar Association (SASA), representing the interests of the South African sugar industry. The heads of two of the technical working groups in charge of formulating standards were consultants for SASA.

Most of BSI’s members come from industry and the steering committee is dominated by big companies including Cargill, Tate and Lyle, Coca Cola, British Sugar, and the oil giants Shell, and BP, alongside European and American NGO’s such as WWF and Ethical Sugar. No trade unions or rural community organisations from sugar-growing areas are involved. Ethical Sugar in the past claimed to be trying to engage with grassroots organisations, but with little sign of success.

Power with a price tag:

One reason for this limited involvement could be the considerable cost. Joining the BSI Steering Committee, and therefore having voting rights, costs US$25,000, and becoming a ‘Special Advisor’ is US$10,000. This is extraordinarily undemocratic and unheard of in any of the other Roundtables.

The only Brazilian stakeholder wealthy enough to get involved is UNICA. UNICA’s executive board members include Bioenergia, the Brazilian representative of Louis Dreyfus (a global commodity processing and trading company), and two powerful sugar conglomerates in Brazil, the Santa Elisa and Cosan groups.

It is in fact perhaps unlikely that grassroots organisations would chose to sit down with multinational like Cargill, currently vice chair of the steering committee. In 2007, 900 sugar cane workers and peasants lead a protest against Cargill’s CEVASA operations in Sao Paulo State, which they said were responsible for the death of 17 women working on the plantations, as well as having destroyed opportunities for subsistence farming in the rural communities.[14] Shell, another member of the steering committee, has a number of lawsuits pending in the US and the UK for its involvement in human rights and environmental violations in Argentina and Nigeria, including torture and murder.[15]

 { as we debunked the energy question above, we must also look at this seeming NGO proposed criticism that we smell rather comming from the economy sector that is reased by fossil carbon oil. Like decent NGOs we also think that corporations must be held accountable for their deeds, but we also think that people must get employment – so having a sugar-cane agriculture is important if you have a poor, unschooled population that must find employment. Checking into the working conditions – YES, cutting the employment from under their feet – NO.

Further, we talk here about sugar-cane in Brazil, not palm tres in Malaysia, so please stick to the point. We also do not talk here about Genetically Engineered plantations – the world has many problems – but the one and only problem the Brazilians came to Brussels to fight for – is their right to make money from displacing some of the reliance on fossil carbon   spewing petroleum fuels, with much more benevolent biologically recycled CO2 that its efficiency is calculated in cradle to grave arithmetics.}

***

GM ‘better’ sugarcane?

There is little clear indication of the BSI’s position on genetically modified sugarcane. GM sugar cane varieties are currently being tested in Brazil. [16] If the experience of the other Roundtables is anything to go by, industry is unlikely to accept the exclusion of GM crops from ‘sustainable’ certification, regardless of environmental and social impacts of GM crops.

A number of BSI members, including BP, Shell, and Cargill are involved in collaborations or have investments in the biotech companies such as Monsanto, Du-pont, and Bayer [17] – while SASA has been linked to open field trials of GM sugar cane.[18]

***

Promoting sugarcane in Brussels:

The Brazilian government and the producers’ organisation UNICA have been actively lobbying in Brussels ahead of key votes on agrofuels.

UNICA hired the lobby consultancy firm Fleishman-Hillard in May 2008 to help push its call on the EU to stick to the original Commission proposal for a 10% agrofuel target by 2020. In a press release, the newly appointed UNICA representative in Brussels, Emmanuel Desplechin, declared that “Sugarcane ethanol, produced with environmental and social care, will quickly become a global energy commodity. Sugarcane production can boost economies in developing nations and contribute significantly in the search for solutions to the global challenges of energy security and climate change”.[19]

With Brazilian interests expanding into African countries (who have privileged access to the EU market), the Brazilian government has also mobilised African farmers and government representatives to help make their case to MEPs.

The Argentinean, Brazilian, Indonesian, Malawian, Malaysian, Mozambican and South African embassies to the EU sent a joint letter to members of the Environment Committee saying that the sustainability criteria “should not disproportionately penalise countries rich in biodiversity with unjustified, wide-ranging restrictions on the sustainable use of their territories”. Due to the ‘uncertainties’, the letter argues that the crucial issue of indirect land use change should be postponed to a ‘future stage’. Whereas the European Commission (EC) has always refused to include social impacts, most environmental impacts and indirect land use change in the Renewables Directive, these embassies claim in their letter that the EC has “convincingly demonstrated” that the 10% target can be “reached on a sustainable basis”.

One UNICA representative, who gave a presentation at a seminar on agrofuels in the European Parliament, despite not being on the panel, argued that sugarcane ethanol would mean a democratisation of production and access to energy, and denied that it contributed to deforestation and arguing that food production was continuing to increase alongside increasing production of sugarcane in Brazil.

Using full-page advertisements in the Brussels weekly paper European Voice ahead of key votes in July and in September, UNICA supported their claims that a 10% target would “help fight climate change” by arguing that sugarcane captured more carbon than pasture land – overlooking scientific evidence on the quantity of carbon dioxide stored and released from the soil, and not looking at indirect impacts.

The advertisement also claimed that sugarcane production had no impact on the Amazon, despite the strong evidence that it is displacing other types of agriculture and cattle ranching into the Amazon basin. In addition, other agrofuel monocrops that Brazil could export to the EU, in order to meet this agrofuel target, are directly impacting the Amazon, in particular soy expansion. At the same time, sugarcane production is damaging other precious ecosystems, like the Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest – earlier this year Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc fined 24 sugar and ethanol mills in the North East of the country, declaring them an environmental “disaster of disasters” responsible for the loss of 85,000 hectares of Atlantic rain forest.[20]

The Brazilian sugarcane industry is taking various other steps to improve its image, like promoting a privately-run scheme encouraging small farmers to produce “sustainable” ethanol in the State of Sao Paulo – by reducing chemical use, harvesting mechanically and not using child labour. But the scheme, the first to have included small producers, will apply to just 50 suppliers and cover 3,500 hectares [21] – out of a total area of some 7.05 million hectares of sugarcane in Brazil, over half of which is used for ethanol.

***

Conclusions:

The Brazilian government and the Brazilian sugarcane industry have a lot to gain from the EU agrofuel market and they have spared little expense in promoting their case. But the reality of sugarcane ethanol in Brazil reveals a rather grim picture. Climate benefits are assumed often without taking into account indirect land use change.

EU targets will further promote sugarcane monoculture expansion. Sustainability criteria cannot address indirect impacts resulting from this expansion. However, certification schemes are now used to legitimise EU agrofuel targets. The “Better Sugar Initiative” promotes itself as a credible platform, but is in fact dominated by the interests of the sugar business and does not include small farmers, landless people and labour organisations.

The car and oil industry should not be given an escape route in the form of agrofuels. The European Parliament should not be seduced to support a 10% target by sweet promises of ‘sustainable’ sugarcane ethanol.

{Politics aside, we agree with the last item in these conclusions – the fact that efficiency and conservation come ahead of the effort to provide fuel for the existing infrastructure. We also agree wholeheartedly that a change in lifestyles is required so we need less liquid fuels – period. But, when it comes to replacing 10% of the gasoline pool with ethanol, and this provides a 1.6 times higher replacement value then as presented by simple volumetric replacement calculations – this is a winner. we do not see how Roberto Savio gave his hand to this whynning diatribe.}

Notes {given by the original article – please look them up at your own peril}:

1. www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/10165/a/96….
2. Land Clearing and Biofuel Carbon Debt, Joseph Fargione et al, Science, February 2008.
3. De-polluting Doubts, p.4, Lucia Ortiz, FoE Brazil.
4. Fact-Finding Mission Report on Impacts of the Agrofuels Expansion on the Enjoyment of Social Rights of Rural Workers, Indigenous Peoples and Peasants in Brazil, May 2008, www.fian.org.
5. Sugarcane plantations destroy the Cerrado in Brazil, Maria Luisa Mendon�a, Brasil de Fato, July 2 2008.
6. Fact Finding Mission Report.
7. Fact Finding Mission Report.
8. De-polluting Doubts; Fact Finding Mission report; Martinelli and Filoso .
9. Expansion of sugarcane ethanol production in Brazil: environmental and social challenges, Martinelli and Filoso, 2008; De-polluting Doubts.
10. Human Rights in Brazil 2007, A Report by the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights, MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from “www.corporateeurope.org” claiming to be www.social.org.br/relatorioingles2007.pdf.
11. Paving the Way for Agrofuels, TNI 2007, www.tni.org.
12. www.bettersugarcane.org.
13. www.bettersugarcane.org
14. www.viacampesina.org/main_en/inde….
15. findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn….
16. www.financialexpress.com/news/GM-….
17. www.grain.org/seedling/?id=488.
18. www.biosafetyafrica.net/portal/DO….
19. www.investegate.co.uk/Article.asp….
20. Brazil Environment Minister Fines Cane Mills, Reuters 2 July 2008.
21. uk.reuters.com/article/environmen….

Source:   TNI www.tni.org

 www.other-net.info/index.php

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From www.FT.com

Africa mourns loss of a leader unafraid to speak his mind

One Sunday in late June, Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president who died yesterday aged 59, was on the eve of the most momentous day of his career.He had been the first…
Aug 20 2008, By Tom Burgis, Financial Times
Zambian president dies in France

Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president who was laid low by a stroke hours before he was…would like to inform the nation that our president, his Excellency Dr Levy Mwanawasa, died this morning at 10.30am at Percy Military Hospital,” Rupiah Banda…
Aug 19 2008, By Tom Burgis in Johannesburg, FT.com site
Zambian leader’s health worsens

The health of Levy Mwanawasa, the ailing Zambian president who has been a sharp critic of Robert Mugabe, his Zimbabwean counterpart, has deteriorated, his deputy…
Aug 18 2008, By Tom Burgis in Johannesburg, FT.com site
Zambian mystery

The fate of Levy Mwanawasa, Zambia’s president, was last night shrouded in confusion amid reports that he had died in a Paris hospital after suffering a stroke…
Jul 04 2008, By Tom Burgis in Johannesburg, Financial Times
Zambia refutes rumours of president’s death

Zambia on Thursday moved to end the confusion surrounding the fate of Levy Mwanawasa, dismissing reports that the president had died in a Paris hospital after suffering a stroke.”These are false and malicious rumours…
Jul 04 2008, By Tom Burgis in Johannesburg, FT.com site
International pressure on Mugabe grows

…Mugabe if he claims victory in Friday’s poll.In some of the toughest words on Zimbabwe yet from an African leader, Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president and current chairman of the Southern African Development Community, described the situation…
Jun 24 2008, By James Blitz, Tom Burgis and William Wallis, Financial Times
International pressure to replace Mugabe grows

…Mugabe if he claims victory in Friday’s poll.In some of the toughest words on Zimbabwe yet from an African leader, Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president and current chairman of the Southern African Development Community, described the situation…
Jun 24 2008, By James Blitz, Tom Burgis and William Wallis, Financial Times
Global pressure to replace Mugabe grows

…Mugabe if he claims victory in Friday’s poll. In some of the toughest words on Zimbabwe yet from an African leader, Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president and current chairman of the Southern African Development Community, described the situation…
Jun 23 2008, By James Blitz, Tom Burgis and William Wallis, FT.com site
Africa must act to avoid being engulfed by Zimbabwe’s disaster

…President Paul Kagame is among the first to raise his head above the parapet, joining Botswana’s Ian Khama and Zambia’s Levy Mwanawasa in a growing band of African leaders who are prepared to condemn a tyrant. Not only has Robert Mugabe put southern…
Jun 25 2008, By Michael Holman and Greg Mills, FT.com site
Harare buffeted by winds of change blowing through region

…sea-change in the thinking of the 14- nation Southern African Development Community.Regional diplomats indicate that Levy Mwanawasa, Zambia’s president, and Ian Khama, Botswana’s new leader, are impatient with the region’s traditional reverence for…
May 01 2008, By Alec Russell in Cape Town, Financial Times

***

Africa mourns loss of a leader unafraid to speak his mind.

By Tom Burgis

Published: August 20 2008 03:00 | Last updated: August 20 2008 03:00

One Sunday in late June, Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president who died yesterday aged 59, was on the eve of the most momentous day of his career.

He had been the first to break the longstanding deference of African rulers towards Robert Mugabe, condemning the abuses that had culminated in the Zimbabwean autocrat claiming victory in a discredited election. As early as March last year, Mwanawasa had referred to the “sinking Ti-tanic” that was Zimbabwe’s inflation-battered economy.

Now, as the serving chair of the southern African bloc, the retiring former lawyer would carry the hopes of many Zimbabweans into an African Union summit in Egypt at which Mr Mugabe would try to stare down his counterparts into legitimising his flawed triumph.

For a man most at ease in small gatherings, assiduously reading his briefing papers or escaping to the family farm for the planting season, the ordeal ahead was immense. Alphabetical seating by country was to have put him next to Mr Mugabe.

It proved too much. Always in poor health since the car crash 17 years earlier that left him with slurred speech, Mwanawasa suffered a stroke. Even as he was flown to the Paris hospital where he would die seven weeks later, the summit was welcoming Mr Mugabe back to the fold, thwarting the efforts of a handful of Mwanawasa’s like-minded peers.

The second son of 10 siblings, Mwanawasa was born in Mufulira, near the Congolese border, in 1948, 16 years before Zambia’s independence from Britain.

A crusading legal career established his public profile. When the one-party state of Kenneth Kaunda unravelled into elections in 1991, Frederick Chiluba, the victorious leader of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, appointed Mwanawasa as vice-president.

In 2001, disillusioned with the pervasive corruption of the Chiluba regime, Mwanawasa turned on – and ousted – his mentor. Within weeks he had stripped his predecessor of immunity from prosecution. A London court later found that Mr Chiluba had salted away $46m (€31m, £25m) of public funds.

Mwanawasa’s anti-graft offensive won him the allegiance of international donors who flooded state coffers with aid. China came calling too, tempted by some of the world’s richest copper deposits. Economic growth rose from just over 3 per cent a year when he took office to 6 per cent last year.

Yet, as his critics point out, about seven in every 10 Zambians still live on less than $2 a day. “Wealth has trickled downwards but it has not trickled outwards to the rural areas,” said a European diplomat in Lusaka. “That challenge is only just beginning.”

It is not clear who will take up that challenge. Mwanawasa avoided anointing an heir. His death has thrown his party into turmoil as cabinet ministers who thought they had three more years to jockey for position face an election within three months. The discord may open a window for Michael Sata, the opposition leader who came second when Mwanawasa won a second term in 2006 and who has lambasted the government’s fiscal orthodoxy.

Those who knew Mwanawasa, who had six children with his wife Maureen and two from a previous marriage, describe a man whose unspectacular oratory masked a deep conviction.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition, yesterday lamented the death of “a good friend and comrade”. He added: “Sadly, he has left us at this most trying time.”

zambia032.gif

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 7th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Let the diplomatic Beijing Games begin… but which leaders are taking part?
The Independent – Thursday, 7 August 2008.

(Photo) Torchbearer Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets basketball team holds the torch as he runs through the Tiananmen Gate during the 2008 Beijing Olympics torch relay.


WHO’S COMING!

*George Bush

A quiet confirmation from the White House on Independence Day helped turn the tide for China. Mr Bush is believed to have accepted a personal invitation from his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, and Japan and Russia quickly followed suit. He said a snub would insult the people of China. Covering his bases, Mr Bush got his criticism of Beijing out of the way yesterday.

*Sonia Gandhi

When it came to its rival developing superpower, China did not send an invitation to either the Indian head of state Pratibha Patil or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, inviting instead Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born head of India’s Congress Party and widow of the assassinated prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. She wasted little time in accepting.

*Nicolas Sarkozy

Unsurprisingly he has been the one to generate the most controversy. First flirted publicly with a boycott before thinking harder about the true cost of such a snub. Later realised that selling the Airbus and nuclear technology were greater priorities – whatever his human rights critics said. And he’s curried favour by shying away from meeting the Dalai Lama during the Games.

*Kevin Rudd

The Australian Prime Minister has told the Chinese some awkward truths in their own language. The former diplomat and Mandarin speaker called on Beijing to engage with the Dalai Lama in March and followed it up with a candid visit in April. He stopped short of boycotting the opener in a move which might have threatened trade links.

———————

Who’s not going:

*Gordon Brown

He is a realist over relations with China, having agreed fresh trade deals with Beijing this year, but he was unable to resist the temptation to hint at dissent and opted to stay away from the opening ceremony after the crackdown in Tibet. Mr Brown insists the two are not connected. For a politician in his parlous situation, he might regret opting for the closing ceremony instead.

*Angela Merkel

The most straightforward of Europe’s leaders on issues that China finds uncomfortable, she risked the ire of Beijing by welcoming the Dalai Lama to Berlin last year – something her predecessor Gerhard Schröder hadn’t dared to do. She has been equally blunt in pointing out that the Olympic opener clashes with her holiday, so she will not be attending.

*Stephen Harper

Canada’s prime minister appeared to be swimming with the mainstream when he confirmed in April that he would not attend the Bird’s Nest show. Looking around the G8 he had the Italians, Germans, Brits and, he thought, the US with him. A few months later the snub looks more costly and Canada’s trade minister has been forced to assure the public that it won’t hit exports.

*Hans Gert-Pöttering

The president of the European Parliament is the only leading political figure to formally boycott the ceremony. Without a trade portfolio to defend – or at least with others to do that job, he felt free to take a stand over China’s treatment of the Dalai Lama. It remains a moot point whether the invitation list ever included the German politician.

———————–

And who wasn’t welcome !!!!

*Robert Mugabe

The embattled Zimbabwean leader got his refusal in first, saying that talks to resolve the political crisis prevented him from going. However, Beijing had already made it clear in private that he was not wanted. While Mr Mugabe does not usually do as he is told, he was not willing to embarrass his Chinese backers, at a time when he needs them more than ever.

*Omar Al-Bashir

While he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, he has not been invited by Beijing. The Sudanese leader can count on Chinese support so long as he keeps the oil exports coming, but his is not a friendship Beijing wants to project. Darfur has been rivalled only by Tibet as a negative factor in China’s international image.

*Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The unpredictable Iranian leader was among the few leaders the rest regard as a pariah who was offered a seat at Beijing. He politely refused the invitation in May but said he might show up for the Paralympics. Despite Tehran’s insistence to the contrary, some sources insist that China had made an offer it wanted the man in Tehran to refuse.

*Kim Jong-Il

It’s hard to know whether the North Korean leader’s decision to stay at home has been greeted with greater relief in Beijing or Washington. A public encounter with Kim was not a prospect to thrill the White House – or his South Korean counterpart. Instead, his right-hand man Kim Yong Nam will be a “guest of honour”.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 6th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Q&A: ‘Israel In a Weak Parallel with Apartheid’ –
An IPS Interview with Judge Dennis Davis, High Court Judge in Cape Town.

JERUSALEM, Jul 31 (IPS) – In Israel’s control of Palestinian movement, Dennis Davis sees a “stark” parallel with the old, apartheid South Africa of which he was an outspoken critic. But Davis, a Justice of the High Court in Cape Town and a prominent member of the South African Jewish community, strongly rejects those who “run from that into an immediate conclusion” that Israel is an apartheid state.

Davis, who was also involved in drafting the constitution of post-apartheid South Africa, recently visited Israel and the Palestinian territories as part of a delegation of prominent South African civil rights activists. In its closing statement, the group said it had not come “to bring solutions, or to spend our time here debating solutions,” but that it wanted “to learn, and to witness first-hand the suffering, pain, anger and human rights abuses.”

The Israel-South Africa comparison is one that is increasingly used by Israel’s critics and by those who question the very legitimacy of the Jewish state. It is a comparison that incenses Israelis and many Jews around the world. But it is also a comparison that some of Israel’s leaders have invoked in an attempt to convince Israelis that ceding territory to the Palestinians is vital to the country’s future survival.

Davis, who is a former chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and a former head of the Centre for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, spoke to Peter Hirschberg from IPS about the “apartheid” parallel and about the political impotency that he senses on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.



IPS: Israel has been accused of adopting policies that are reminiscent of apartheid South Africa. Is this a fair comparison?

Dennis Davis: I think the only issue is with the movement of people. This is remarkably similar to certain forms of influx control (in the old South Africa). And it’s so much more sophisticated. We didn’t have computers. And the separate roads and separate number plates (for Palestinians and Jews in the West Bank) is unquestionably a more sophisticated form of restriction of movement of the kind that we had. The fact that you’ve got those definitions at some of those controls, of what constitutes an Israeli and what constitutes somebody else, is not entirely unreminiscent of what we had. I was deeply disturbed by that because I hadn’t realised how stark that parallel was.

IPS: So you feel the comparison is valid?

DD: It is unfortunate that people now run from that into an immediate conclusion that this is an apartheid state. We met Israel’s Chief Justice and what is clear is that there is a pretty relaxed form of (judicial) standing by which Palestinians can petition the High Court of Justice in Israel. That’s impressive. That obviously didn’t exist in South Africa. And within Israel itself, there aren’t zones the way we had group areas (for blacks and whites). Arabs who live here can also vote and have rights of citizenship.

This is not so much a discrimination based on ethnic identity in the broad sense of Arab versus Jew. It does seem to me to be a very intricate form of social control.

IPS: Apartheid was based on racial superiority.

DD: There’s no racial superiority here. There’s no pervading ideology that confirms the inferiority of Palestinians.

Both sides play the victim. There is tremendous competition over who the victim is. When you have a notion of victimhood what you tend to do is to dehumanise the other. I think there is a lot of dehumanising of the other on both sides. If I was a Palestinian I’d probably be very, very angry. If I was an Israeli who had suffered suicide bombings I’d be incredibly angry as well.

The one group that impressed me most of all was the Parents Circle (made up of bereaved parents on both sides). I was incredibly moved by them. That sort of group and others perhaps are the beginnings of what in South Africa became a much more non-racial movement. In South Africa, the prefiguring of the society in which whites and blacks could live together began a very long time ago. The Communist Party. The trade unions. There’s much less of that here. There is such an absence of integration here.

When you separate populations like this and lock them into an almost fatal embrace then there’s a dehumanising aspect to it. What’s good about the Parents Circle is that it does show there is at least some movement toward seeing the humanity in the other. I look at the soldiers. I look at these kids. It’s got to dehumanise them. You can’t be policemen at border posts like this, having to question people, and not have your humanity affected. I cry for them.

But I think it’s incredibly unhelpful to say you can simply take this to be apartheid and therefore the South African struggle is the same and the South African solution is the same. That’s a very lazy form of reasoning.

IPS: One of the problems for Israel with the apartheid analogy is that its own leaders use it, albeit with very different intentions to those who challenge the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has invoked the comparison, warning Israelis that if they don’t relinquish the territories they will find themselves in a South Africa-type situation in which a minority of Jews rules over a majority of Palestinians, and that will spell the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

DD: But the paradox of it for an outsider is this: that argument is very compelling but also bizarre, because at the same time that you’re making it, you then drive through the West Bank and you are struck by the permanency of settlements. So what worries one is that successive Israeli governments have made it more difficult to get to a two-state solution.

For somebody who really wants the state of Israel not only to exist but to flourish, which is me, I’ve got to say that I’m deeply disturbed by the fact that they’re trying to keep two contradictory balls in the air at the same time. It doesn’t work. If you continue to strengthen West Bank settlement for another five years, lord alone knows what will happen. You can’t do that and talk the demographic game at the same time.

IPS: When it comes to finding a way to unlock the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, can the South African paradigm be applied?

DD: If you are going to work within the paradigm that’s being argued at present in Israel, which is the two-state solution, then you are dealing with a divorce, whereas in the South African context you were dealing with a marriage. So in the South African context the entire struggle was about the terms of a marriage, whereas here it seems to be about the distribution of property after the divorce. That inherently puts you in an entirely different business.

But there is one parallel. I really do believe that if an Israeli prime minister had the courage tomorrow morning to say ‘Fine, we are going to talk about a comprehensive two-state solution and we’ll even deal with the refugee problem through compensation,’ then I think what you’d notice in the South African experience is that at some point the momentum is too great to claw it back.

When De Klerk unbanned the ANC in 1990, no way did he say there would be an ANC government. He hoped he could unban the ANC, normalise politics and cobble together a coalition that would enable him to retain power. At some point it became clear to him that he wasn’t going to be able to do it. It was too late to put the genie back in the bottle. I think that’s possible here as well. But where is this impetus going to come from?

IPS: With Olmert embroiled in a corruption scandal that seems to have ended his term in office, the current Israeli government doesn’t have the political will to take such a dramatic step?

DD: No, the government doesn’t have the political will. And the Americans (aren’t pushing). Unless there is going to be a dramatic change with Obama, if he gets in. And your economy isn’t suffering. So where is the impetus to do this? And given the divisions amongst the Palestinians at the moment, Israel could happily see them off for years to come.

This is not South Africa 1985. This is not a situation where you can say, ‘Sanctions are biting and the resistance is showing no sign of dying down.’

But it can’t work when you reach the point when you’re actually suppressing the majority of the population. How ironic it would be if all my (South African) friends who live here will then be living under something they sought genuinely to escape from.

IPS: Another difference between the two situations is that unlike the ANC, Palestinian leaders seem hopelessly ineffective when it comes to galvanising their people around a single vision and crafting a coherent political strategy.

DD: Hugely ineffective. You do not need to persuade me about the quite chaotic nature of Palestinian politics, which strikes you on a visit like this. The most impressive groups are the ones where you go to the villages and they really are dealing only with local politics. Where they have been almost totally left alone by Fatah and Hamas. But it’s simply local politics: ‘Give us back our field.’

There’s no broader vision. There’s no sense of political vision. Both Fatah and Hamas are pretending they’re totally in control and that the other one isn’t. What Hamas is able to show is that if you deal with the social question — not that they’ve done it very well — you can grab hold. But is there anything that cements and holds the Palestinian people together as the ANC did in South Africa? No.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 5th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Why your happiness matters to the planet: Surveys and research link true happiness to a smaller footprint on the ecology.

By Moises Velasquez-Manoff, Staff Writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 22, 2008
From New York, Reporter Moises Velasquez-Manoff discusses the correlations between happiness, material goods, and ecological footprints.

Overall, people around the world have grown happier during the past 25 years – this according to the most recent World Values Survey (WVS), a periodic assessment of happiness in 97 nations.

On average, people describing themselves as “very happy” have increased by nearly 7 percent. The findings seem to contradict the view, held by some, that national happiness levels are more or less fixed.

The report’s authors attribute rising world happiness to improved economies, greater democratization, and increased social tolerance in many nations. Along with material stability, freedom to live as one pleases is a major factor in subjective well-being, they say.

But the survey, based at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, also underscore that, beyond a certain point, material wealth doesn’t boost happiness.

The United States, which ranked 16th, and has the world’s largest economy, has largely stalled in happiness gains – this despite ever more buying power.

Americans are now twice as rich as they were in 1950, but no happier, according to the survey.

Other rich countries, the United Kingdom and western Germany among them, show downward happiness trends. For psychologists and environmentalists alike, these observations prompt a profound question. Rich countries consume the lion’s share of world resources.

Overconsumption is a major factor in environmental degradation, global warming chief among them.

Could a wrong-headed approach to seeking happiness, then, be exacerbating some of the world’s most pressing environmental problems? And could learning to be truly content help mitigate them?

In the past decade, a cadre of psychologists has directed its attention away from determining what’s wrong with the infirm toward quantifying what’s right with the healthy. They’ve christened this new field “positive psychology,” and what they’re discovering perhaps shouldn’t be all that surprising. At the core, humans are social beings. While food and shelter are absolutely essential to well-being, once these basic needs are fulfilled, engagement with other human beings makes people happiest.

For Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the problem in the US is not consumption per se, but that as a society we consume in ways that don’t make us happy. He divides the pursuit of happiness into three categories: seeking positive emotion, or feeling good; engagement with others; and meaning, or participating in something larger than oneself.

People, he notes, are often happiest when helping other people, when engaged in “self-transcendent” activities. What does this mean?

Rather than making a gift of the latest iPhone, buy someone dancing lessons, he says. Instead of taking a resort vacation, build a house with Habitat for Humanity.

“The pursuit of engagement and the pursuit of meaning don’t habituate,” he says, whereas trying to feel good is like eating French vanilla ice cream: The first bite is fantastic; the tenth tastes like cardboard.

By definition, happiness is subjective. And yet, scientists find measurable differences in people who describe themselves as happy. They’re more productive at work. They learn more quickly. Strong social networks – a large predictor of happiness – also have health effects, researchers say.

One study found that belonging to clubs or societies cut in half members’ risk of dying during the following year. Another found that, when exposed to a cold virus, children with stronger social networks fell ill only one-quarter as often as those without.

For psychologists, social networks explain one of the seeming paradoxes of WVS findings: While relatively rich Denmark took the top spot, much less wealthy Puerto Rico and Colombias are second and third. In fact, relatively poor Latin America countries often score high on WVS rankings. This may underline the value of community, family, and strong social institutions to well-being.

Scientists say this need for community may be a result of humanity’s long evolution in groups. Living together conferred an advantage, they say. In the hunter-gatherer world, relatedness, autonomy, curiosity, and competence – the very things that psychologists find make people happy – “had payoffs that were pretty clear,” says Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester in New York. “Aspiring for a lot of material goods is actually unhappiness-producing,” he says. “People who value material good and wealth also are people who are treading more heavily on the earth – and not getting happier.”

High consumption fails to make us happy, and it comes at a cost. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) 2006 Living Planet Report, humanity’s ecological footprint now exceeds earth’s capacity to regenerate by about 25 percent.

Furthermore, with only 5 percent of the world’s population, North America accounts for 22 percent of this footprint. The US consumes twice what its land, air, and water can sustain. (By contrast, WWF calculates that Africa, with 13 percent of earth’s population, accounts for 7 percent of its footprint.) America’s outsize footprint results in part from its appetite for stuff – what psychologists now say is the wrong approach to lasting well-being.

“The pursuit of happiness can drive environmental degradation, but only a degraded type of happiness pursuit leads to that outcome,” says Kennon Sheldon, professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia, in an e-mail. “The standard western focus upon economic utility as the highest good (exemplified by the US) seems to encourage that kind of degraded pursuit.”

Worse, so-called “extrinsic” values (wealth, power, fame), as opposed to “intrinsic” values (adventure, engagement, meaning), seem to go hand-in-hand with more environmentally destructive behavior.

Tim Kasser, an associate professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., has found that people who are more extrinsically oriented tend to ride bikes less, buy second-hand less, and recycle less.

Nations with more individualistic and materialistic values also tend to be more ecologically destructive.

“The choice of sustainability is very consistent with a happier life,” Professor Kasser says. “Whereas the choice to live with materialistic [values] is a choice to be less happy.”

The idea that what’s good for humanity is also good for the planet is central to environmentalist Bill McKibben’s book “Deep Economy.” His prescriptions for lowering carbon emissions – living closer together, relocalizing food production, consuming less – line up with what psychologists say promotes happiness.

In fact, although painful in the short term, high fuel prices may result in happier Americans in the long run, says Mr. McKib ben. This year, Americans drove less than they did the year before – probably for the first time since the car was invented, he says. They also bought double the vegetable seeds this year compared with last. “These are signs of a new world,” he says by e-mail.

For their part, psychologists are advocating that policymakers use indicators other than the Gross National Product (GNP) to make decisions. What’s the purpose of an economy, they ask, if not to enhance the well-being of its citizenry?

“It’s because growth for growth sake” says Nic Marks, founder of the Centre for Well-beong at the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in London. It’s got its own internal logic, but it’s not serving humanity. So why are we doing it?”

Bhutan uses Gross National Happiness as a measure of its success. Although small and undeveloped, the largely Buddhist nation is the happiest in Asia, according to BusinessWeek.



Psychologists also have specific recommendations to promote national happiness, based on their findings about what makes people happy. Insecurity fosters a materialistic approach to life, they say. Policies that combat insecurity – universal healthcare, say, or good, affordable education – promote happiness. Many link social policies like these to Scandinavian nations’ consistently high happiness rankings.

Kasser has more ideas: Limit – and tax – advertising, he says. To promote consumption, ads foster insecurity, he says. That hinders self-acceptance, which is another predictor of lasting well-being.

NEF’s Happy Planet Index (HPI), meanwhile, has developed a new measure of a nation’s success. How efficiently does it generate happiness? HPI takes a country’s happiness and average life span and divides it by its ecological impact to measure how much it spent in achieving its well-being. On this scale, the Pacific archipelago nation of Vanatu comes in first place, Colombia second. Germany is twice as efficient at producing happiness as the US, which ranks 150th by that measure. Russia, with its low happiness scores and relatively low life expectancy, is 178th. And Zimbabwe, plagued by poverty and political turmoil, is the least efficient at producing happiness on Earth.

How The HPI is calculated:

The HPI reflects the average years of happy life produced by a given society, nation or group of nations, per unit of planetary resources consumed.

Put another way, it represents the efficiency with which countries convert the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens.
The Global HPI incorporates three separate indicators: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy. Conceptually, it is straight forward and intuitive:

HPI = [ (Life satisfaction x Life expectancy) /(Ecological Footprint + α) ] x ß

(For details of how alpha and beta are calculated, see the appendix in the full Happy Planet Index report)

The World Values Survey is available at: www.worldvaluessurvey.org www.happyplanetindex.org

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Download the reports
Download the Happy Planet report (2006, pdf)
Download the European Happy Planet report (2007, pdf)

See the Global HPI map:  www.happyplanetindex.org/map.htm

The article appeared in The Christian Science Monitor – features.csmonitor.com/environmen…

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It’s not genetics that makes Danes happy and Russians gloomy, according to the World Values Survey which, for thirty years, has been sending out questionnaires to people in 95 countries to ”know how others experience the world”. (NEWSCOM)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 5th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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Man who would be President in Bid to Quash Corruption Charges: Jacob Zuma Charged with Soliciting and Receiving Bribes.
By Basildon Peta in Johannesburg, Tuesday, 5 August 2008, for The Independent of London.

We, at www.SustainabiliTank.info, were given all sorts of information from South Africa a year ago. The idea was – don’t have high hopes for the immediate replacement for Mbeki – there is not yet in the cards a new generation that can pick up the Mandela mantle – the future is bleak.



No Zuma, no country. This was the stark warning to the South African judiciary yesterday from Jacob Zuma’s supporters as the ANC leader launched a court attempt to quash corruption charges that could thwart his ambition to become president.

Mr Zuma, who defeated President Thabo Mbeki for the leadership of the ANC last year, is all but assured of becoming president when Mr Mbeki’s second and final term expires in eight months. But he still faces the obstacle of a long-running corruption case in which he is accused of, among other things, soliciting and receiving £300,000 in bribes from a French company and a businessman involved with South Africa’s multibillion-pound arms procurement deal.

State prosecutors scored a major victory against Mr Zuma last week when the Constitutional Court ruled that they could use evidence seized during raids on Mr Zuma and his lawyers in 2006 in any trial of the ANC leader.

But Mr Zuma was back in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal province yesterday, seeking an order scrapping all the charges against him on the ground that prosecutors failed to follow due process when they charged him. Outside, some 3,000 supporters demonstrated, singing, chanting and waving placards to denounce the charges as trumped up. Many burst into song as Mr Zuma made his way into court.

Although Mr Mbeki is reviled over his controversial foreign policy, which has seen him supporting dictators in Zimbabwe and Burma, he is hailed for his stewardship of the South African economy which has experienced sustained growth during his tenure.

“Long live Jacob Zuma” and “viva the president in waiting”, supporters sang as the hearing was adjourned until this morning.



The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has vehemently dismissed Mr Zuma’s legal action as a desperate attempt to evade trial on the corruption, fraud, money-laundering and racketeering charges. That view is shared by many who cannot understand why, after having declared that he wants his day in court, Mr Zuma has done all he can to avoid standing trial on the substantive charges against him by repeatedly filing applications challenging technical aspects of his case. He has gone as far as filing court applications in foreign countries to stop the NPA from accessing documents needed as evidence against him.

The Independent understands that, after a 15-year sentence was handed down on Mr Zuma’s financial adviser Schabir Shaik over the same charges, raising the possibility that Mr Zuma himself might also be convicted, his strategy is to delay his prosecution as long as possible until he becomes president next year. The ANC, which is assured of a two-thirds majority because of the continued non-existence of a viable opposition party, would then change the constitution to give immunity from prosecution for any sitting president.

Mr Zuma’s die-hard communist supporters who see all attempts to prosecute him as a carefully orchestrated judicial and political conspiracy by Mr Mbeki to stop their man becoming president, are solidly standing behind Mr Zuma. They have even gone as far as accusing South Africa’s respected judiciary of bias against Mr Zuma.

Veteran anti-apartheid fighters in the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) said any defeat for Mr Zuma in the courts “will not be tolerated”. “We are going to make sure that Zuma becomes president of this country no matter what. No Zuma, no country,” said Ramatuku Maphuta, a senior MKMVA leader.

The business sector is nonetheless fearful of Mr Zuma, a populist who is barely educated and, as some allege, semi-literate. Fears abound that his communist ties might undo Mr Mbeki’s pro-business policies and wreak havoc on the South African economy. Mr Zuma has tried hard to play down such fears, saying that he will not institute radical reforms that will kill growth. The case continues today.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

An Austro-Hungarian firm with licence to print Mugabe’s money.

The Mugabe regime’s final lifeline is a small Vienna-based software company that helps it to keep printing the money it relies on for its survival, was revealed July 24, 2008, by   The Independent of London, as per information from Zurich.

Jura JSP, an Austro-Hungarian firm with just 50 employees, has been dealing with the pariah government in Harare, enabling it to keep ahead of its hyperinflation crisis. Officials at the company confirmed yesterday that it supplied the licences and software used to design and print the Zimbabwe dollar, but would review this position if required to do so by the EU.
Fresh EU sanctions announced yesterday do not cover all companies dealing with the Mugabe regime, but other firms named and shamed for profiting from the Zimbabwe crisis have cut all links. The software company enables the regime to print the money it uses to pay the army, police and security agents which keep Zanu PF in power. Without access to paper money, Mr Mugabe would face an immediate crisis.

Inflation is running at nearly three million per cent and the country issued a 100 billion dollar banknote this week, worth only about 7p. The economist say John Robertson said inflation was the greatest threat to the ruling party and the rate was likely to climb to 100 million per cent within the next month. “If the software is withdrawn there is no language to describe what would follow,” he said.

Paper is running out at the state-run mint Fidelity Printers and Refiners after the Bavarian company Giesecke and Devrient stopped deliveries last week following pressure from the German government. Now Austria and Hungary are expected to come under diplomatic pressure to follow Berlin’s lead.

After withstanding years of intense international criticism, targeted sanctions and domestic pressure, a move against the software supplier could be a decisive blow against Mr Mugabe, analysts said. And with crucial negotiations getting under way in South Africa today between the government and the opposition, the timing could be critical. David Coltart, an opposition senator, said: “If the company does stop supplying then that will show the regime that there is no place to hide and that the game is up… That may then even assist the negotiations.”

In Harare, supplies of paper money are already running out. The embattled Central Reserve Bank has capped daily withdrawals to 100 billion dollars per person, but this is barely enough to buy a bus ticket or a loaf of bread. Long queues appear from first light at banks throughout the country in a daily battle to survive.



The regime’s answer to economic meltdown – driven by its own looting of state and private assets – has been to print more and more worthless money, creating unprecedented hyperinflation and the prospect of trillion or quadrillion dollar notes in the coming months.

While Mr Mugabe and his circle of cronies have proven deaf to international calls to hold free and fair elections, his government continues to rely on its control of the central bank and the Fidelity money presses which until recently ran 24 hours a day to keep up with the crisis. Trades union leaders appealed to the government yesterday to lift the cap on withdrawals of Z$100bn, describing it as a “joke”. As recently as 2006 the central bank was still issuing a Z$50 note.



A new list of Zimbabwean targets for sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, by the European Union includes the central bank governor, Gideon Gono, the attorney general Bharat Patel and the cricket chairman Peter Chingoka.

Most of the 37 targets posted on the EU website are security officers, “directly involved in the terror campaign” waged around the disputed elections.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 23rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The UN has pushed on the African Union to get involved in Darfur, but the Arab dominated AU leadership will stand till the bitter end by the Sudanese leaders. If there is any relenting in fighting it is because of the simple mathematics of a genocide in progress and Sudan is refusing the UN rule of “Responsibility to Protect” its citizens. They actually set up the militias that do the extermination and are responsible for driving the people off their land. China had part in this because it coveted the oil of Sudan.

So what use for an understuffed AU army in Sudan? This simply to have a new target for the fighting militias? Does the UN not realize that it is here on very thin ice? Actually it is being used by South Africa, Egypy, China, as an excuse for not having a real intervention.

We write the above because of the self congratulatory nonsence that is promoted by the press releases from the UN. The UN Secretary-General has really nothing to be proud of here – he better tell the world the truth that is known to him.  

The folllowing is from UN DAILY NEWS – the UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE
22 July,  2008. Not very different from other daily UN condemnations of things the UN does not touch:

DARFUR: AU-UN MISSION CONDEMNS ATTACK ON SECURITY OFFICER BY SUDANESE
MILITARY

A security officer working with the joint African Union-United Nations
peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) today condemned an assault on one
of its security officers in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.

“Although this could be said to be an isolated incident, UNAMID condemns in
the strongest terms such attacks on its staff members, who are here to help
bring peace to the people of Darfur,” the mission said in a statement.

The security officer went to the market area in El Fasher yesterday to
investigate a road accident involving a UN staff member, a military vehicle
and a taxi, according to UNAMID. He had just started taking pictures of the
scene when a small group of military personnel assaulted him, despite the
intervention of UNAMID civilian staff.

After his release he was taken to a UNAMID hospital in El Fasher to be
treated for his injuries.

Meanwhile, the mission reports that its police advisers conducted their
first helicopter patrols over five camps housing internally displaced
persons (IDPs) in Darfur. The three-hour test flight on Sunday was part of
an initiative to use helicopters to reach selected camps as an alternative
to long-distance road patrols which have proven to be dangerous for the
unarmed police advisers.

In a related development, the Joint AU-UN Special Representative Rodolphe
Adada met today with the Governor of North Darfur, Mohammed Osman Yousif
Kibir. The Governor reiterated the commitment of the Sudanese Government to
provide security and protection to UNAMID and its full support for the full
deployment of the mission.

UNAMID also reported that a contingent of 250 Egyptian engineers is
expected to arrive in El Fasher tomorrow.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 23rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 16th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

UN Lets China Import African Ivory As It Did For Japan In 1999.

ELIANE ENGELER, Associated Press, July 15, 2008 from GENEVA.

A U.N. panel granted China permission today to import elephant ivory from African government stockpiles despite opposition from some countries and environmental groups.

The standing committee overseeing the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, voted 9-3 with two abstentions that China qualified for the exception needed for the one-time auction because it has dramatically improved its enforcement of ivory rules.



Ivory trade was banned globally in 1989, but reviving elephant populations allowed African countries to make a one-time sale a decade later to Japan, the only country which had previously won the right to import. Now, about after another 10 years, China joins the infamy.

Last year, CITES authorized Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to make a second sale of 108 tons of government stocks.

The body’s spokesman, Juan Carlos Vasquez, said after today’s vote that China and Japan would bid for their share of ivory at an auction later this year.

The stocks approved for sale include around 44 tons from Botswana, 9 tons from Namibia, 51 tons from South Africa and 4 tons from Zimbabwe.

CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers said the body will closely supervise the sale.

“We will continue monitoring the Chinese and Japanese domestic trade controls to ensure that unscrupulous traders do not take this opportunity to launder ivory from illegal origin,” he said in a statement.

China was pleased with the decision. “China has strived for this status for a long time,” said Wan Ziming, a member of the Chinese delegation.

Still, there was opposition to China’s inclusion in the latest auction from African countries Ghana and Kenya, which joined Australia in trying to block the decision. Those in favour included Britain, the European Union and Japan.



“It’s very evident that China has made an enormous commitment,” Tom Milliken, a senior investigator at Traffic, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitor, said Monday. “Seizures are occurring at a very fast clip these days. The government is putting a lot more in enforcement efforts.”

Mr. Wan said the Chinese would do their best to ensure that “illegal ivory cannot enter into the legal market.”

But some environment groups disagreed and said their case was strengthened by the Chinese government’s revelation that it lost track of 121 tons of ivory over a dozen years that probably was sold on illegal markets.

China told the CITES in 2003 that the “shortfall” – equal to the tusks from about 11,000 dead elephants – was accumulated between 1991 and 2002. The Associated Press obtained the document last week from the Environmental Investigation Agency, a watchdog based in Washington and London that was seeking to prevent China from gaining permission to trade ivory.

Allan Thornton, the agency’s chairman, said last week that China had left too many questions unanswered to be given the right to import. He said trading of ivory – a booming black market commodity, with tusks, jewellery and trinkets bringing in millions of dollars for smugglers and sellers since the 1989 ban – was “out of control.”

The agency said more than 20,000 elephants a year are killed illegally in Africa and Asia for the ivory black market, and that Chinese nationals have been implicated in illegal ivory seizures in more than 20 African nations.

Mr. Milliken, who was part of CITES’ original mission to China in 2005, disagreed.

“Does illegal trade continue? Yes. But that’s probably inevitable,” Mr. Milliken said, adding that Japan showed that one-time ivory sales had no correlation with a rise in illegal smuggling.

Trade in elephant ivory far eclipses any demand for other animals’ tusks.

Much of the ivory destined for China is carved into jewellery and ornaments bought by tourists from other parts of Asia.

After the sale, the four southern African countries will not be allowed to export ivory again for nine years and must use the sale proceeds for programs to protect their elephant populations.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who decades ago forged ties between the exiled African National Congress and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, has so far failed in his bid to ease the longtime leader into retirement. He now Jeoperdizes more then his own legacy, he in effect has “low-jacked” the future of all of Africa.

Connection to Mugabe Threatens South African President’s Legacy.
By Craig Timberg, Washington Post Foreign Service , Tuesday, July 15, 2008.

JOHANNESBURG — At first glance they are nothing alike. Zimbabwe’s aging president, Robert Mugabe, is, at 84, among the last of a generation of African Big Men, clinging to power through brutal repression. South Africa’s suave President Thabo Mbeki, nearly two decades younger, rules by popular mandate as the elected leader of one of the continent’s most robust democracies.

But Mbeki’s long — and so far, failed — diplomatic bid to ease Mugabe into retirement after 28 years has tied the legacies of the two men together, and badly damaged Mbeki’s reputation as the exemplar of a new kind of African president. The leader President Bush described as “the point man” on solving the Zimbabwe crisis in 2003 now is widely regarded as an obstacle to freeing that nation from its steep descent into political and economic ruin.

“I think he’s part of the problem at the moment,” said Willie Esterhuyse, a Mbeki friend and a professor of political philosophy at the University of Stellenbosch.

Mbeki is one of a dwindling number of African leaders unwilling to publicly distance himself from Mugabe. The two men are products of strikingly similar worlds. Both are Christian-school-trained products of African liberation movements and have deep roots in communist ideology. Both have advanced degrees from British universities and rose within their parties on the strength of wits and political savvy rather than prowess on battlefields. Neither favors the traditional African dress worn by many of the continent’s leaders, appearing almost invariably in dark, tailored suits. And both enjoyed periods as favorites of Western powers, which for a time regarded each as skilled and cerebral alternatives to the populists common on much of the continent.
Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned commercial farms in 2000 also struck a profound chord in southern Africa, where much of the best land and businesses remain in the control of descendants of European settlers. At Mbeki’s second inauguration, in 2004, the crowd of friends, supporters and dignitaries loudly cheered Mugabe.

Such a reaction would be unlikely today, as rising repression in Zimbabwe chills even those sympathetic to Mugabe’s efforts to redistribute wealth and undo the legacy of colonialism. Mbeki is almost alone among southern African leaders in not publicly voicing outrage.

Biographer Mark Gevisser, in his book “Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred,” tells an anecdote that suggests an almost familial bond between the two men.

In 1980, shortly after Mugabe took power in Zimbabwe, Mbeki was there as an emissary for South Africa’s exiled African National Congress. One night, he stayed out late drinking in Harare, the capital. His frantic wife reported Mbeki missing, a worrisome development at a time when South Africa’s apartheid government was attempting to assassinate its opponents.

The next time the two men saw each other, Mugabe delivered a paternalistic scolding, waving his finger as he said, “Young man, you must tell us next time you don’t sleep at home.”

The African National Congress had traditionally favored a rival of Mugabe’s in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. But Mbeki, in those days in exile, forged a new relationship between the party and Mugabe’s new government. That connection still has a powerful hold on Mbeki, according to Gevisser, who said Mbeki remains convinced that he is essential to keeping Mugabe from growing still more brutal.

“Whatever happens, he has got to keep the door open,” Gevisser said in an interview.

Officials in Mbeki’s administration also have expressed deep reservations about Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Zimbabwean opposition. The former miner and union activist, though very popular in his country, has little formal education and has tried to organize the kind of internal political resistance that Mbeki’s African National Congress used to bring down apartheid.

Mbeki long has enjoyed closer relations with other, more-polished opposition leaders in Zimbabwe, including Tsvangirai’s rival, Welshman Ncube, a law professor.

In the just-finished election season, South African support was seen as crucial to the emergence of independent candidate Simba Makoni, Mugabe’s former finance minister, who broke from the ruling party to run for president. Tsvangirai was able to maintain his position as Zimbabwe’s dominant opposition leader — Makoni ended up with only 8 percent of the vote — but relations with Mbeki deteriorated further.

Mbeki “respects Mugabe,” said Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change, Tsvangirai’s party. “He’s personally indebted to Mugabe because he looked after him during the struggle” against apartheid.

“Whatever exists between Mbeki and Mugabe doesn’t exist between Mbeki and Tsvangirai,” Biti said.

Mbeki’s approach has produced some moments that caused even supporters to cringe.

On April 12, when southern African regional leaders gathered in neighboring Zambia for an emergency meeting on the Zimbabwean crisis, Mugabe refused to attend but Mbeki met with him anyway, in Harare. Photographers captured the two men, dressed almost identically in suits, wearing necklaces of fresh blossoms, smiling broadly as they clasped hands like old friends. In a news conference that day, Mbeki questioned whether there was a “crisis” in Zimbabwe at all.

Also damaging was Mbeki’s attempt to host a mediation session on July 5, a week after Mugabe had declared victory in a reelection campaign that left nearly 100 opposition activists dead and thousands of others injured. Tsvangirai withdrew from the election and said there could be no negotiations until the attacks on his supporters ended.

Mbeki ignored that condition and invited Tsvangirai to meet with Mugabe at his official residence, a setting that opposition leaders said would have conveyed an air of legitimacy to the election. Tsvangirai boycotted the meeting.

Swazi election observer Marwick T. Khumalo, a member of the Pan-African Parliament, said that proposing talks at Mugabe’s residence showed “bad taste” on Mbeki’s part.

Despite the failure of that meeting, negotiations of sorts have begun in Zimbabwe, under the oversight of South Africa. Though the opposition dismisses the talks as having no promise until Mugabe ends his campaign of state-sponsored violence, both sides acknowledge that in a nation with annual inflation measured in the millions of percent, there may be no other course.

Yet Mbeki’s time for brokering a solution — and removing the stain of Mugabe from his own legacy — is rapidly dwindling. Mugabe, who continues to look remarkably vigorous for his age, could easily remain in office longer than Mbeki, whose second and final term as president is due to end in mid-2009.

Mbeki’s legacy in Africa is “in tatters,” said Karima Brown, political editor of the South African newspaper Business Day. “Thabo Mbeki is really yesterday’s man. He’s done.”

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African Union: Suspend Sudan genocide charge.
By Steve Bloomfield in Nairobi, for The Independent, Tuesday, July 15, 2008.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court charged Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, with genocide yesterday, accusing him of masterminding a campaign to “destroy” three tribes in Darfur, killing 35,000 people and persecuting 2.5 million refugees.

Sudan’s state television promptly showed footage of Mr Bashir dancing at a traditional ceremony, and dismissing the charges. “Whoever has visited Darfur, met officials and discovered their ethnicities and tribes … will know that all of these things are lies,” he said.

His efforts at building up a coalition of African, Arab and Asian support against the ICC also seemed to be paying dividends. Tanzania, which is chairing the African Union, called yesterday for the ICC to suspend the move “until we sort out the primary problems in Darfur and southern Sudan”.

“If you arrest Bashir, you will create a leadership vacuum in Sudan. The outcome could be equal to that of Iraq,” Tanzania’s Foreign Minister, Bernard Membe, said.

Arab foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the charges and Sudan will also seek the support of close allies on the Security Council, including China, Russia and South Africa. It is the first time the ICC, based The Hague, has sought the arrest of a sitting head of state. In his landmark case, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor, said a three-year investigation had proved that ultimate responsibility for crimes in Darfur rested with the President. “The decision to start the genocide was taken by Bashir personally,” he said. “Bashir is executing this genocide without gas chambers, without bullets, without machetes. It is a genocide by attrition.”

Mr Ocampo charged the Sudanese President with three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and rape, and two counts of war crimes.

Armed groups from the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes launched a rebellion in Darfur in 2003, protesting at their marginalisation. Sudan’s response was a brutal counter-insurgency, in which civilians were routinely targeted by government forces and Janjaweed militia. While President Bashir did not directly carry out attacks himself, he was the mastermind with “absolute control”, the prosecutor said.

Hours after the charges were revealed, the BBC reported that the United Nations would withdraw all of its non-essential staff from Darfur. Prior to the indictment, there had been fears of a violent backlash against aid workers following protests in Khartoum.

Human rights activists welcomed the indictment. “Charging President Bashir for the hideous crimes in Darfur shows that no one is above the law,” said Richard Dicker of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

But some analysts felt that the prosecutor was “over-reaching”. Alex de Waal, a Sudan analyst at the Social Science Research Council in New York, said: “It will be very hard to prove he directly authorised these crimes.” Others said the formal genocide charge might give the UN additional leverage to hammer out a peace deal. “The Security Council now has the option of saying if there are substantial steps towards peace we can put the prosecutions on hold,” said Nick Grono, the deputy president of the International Crisis Group, a conflict analysis think-tank. “There is an incentive to the regime where there hasn’t been in the past.”

The onus now falls on the three pre-trial judges, from Brazil, Ghana and Lithuania, who will consider the evidence which Mr Ocampo’s team have collected and, if they agree, will issue an arrest warrant.

The charges against Bashir

*Three counts of genocide for killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.

*Five counts of crimes against humanity for murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape.

*Two counts of war crimes for attacks on civilian populations in Darfur.

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Mary Dejevsky: The UN fiasco over Zimbabwe is a re-run of Iraq – There was the touching faith in the miracles that can be wrought by drafting.

The Independent, Tuesday, 15 July 2008

No wonder a bit of an inquest is in progress. When Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, they pitched many weeks of painstaking British diplomatic planning straight into the fetid waters of the East River. And if anything could have been worse for the British government than defeat, it was that Gordon Brown and his ministers had clearly banked on victory.

Surprise-avoidance being one of the prime objectives of diplomacy, this was a signal failure. A cardinal rule – and not only at the UN, but in parliaments everywhere – is that that if you are not confident of getting your way, you do your utmost to prevent a vote. And if a vote really cannot be forestalled, then you reword the document to make it harmless. Ministers and diplomats can spend many happy hours, days and even months in such prophylactic procrastination. This is part of their job.

So it is understandable that the search is on for culprits, and that those in the immediate firing line are busy looking for other targets. The Foreign Office minister, Lord Malloch-Brown – who, by the way, as a former deputy secretary general of the UN surely knows to the last dot and comma how the organisation works – extricated himself with particular ingenuity. The vote, he said, had exposed the real positions of Russia and China and was, therefore, not a bad outcome at all.

Now that the immediate shock of the vote has passed, two things have crystallised. The Government has – as it so often encourages the voters to do – “moved on”, and is taking its argument for sanctions to the European Union, a body for which the Prime Minister, who famously refused to be photographed signing the Lisbon Treaty, appears suddenly to have found a use. And the blame has settled – as it so often does – on the Russians as the real villains of the piece.

According to this, their new President, Dmitry Medvedev, was all too pleased to tag along with the rich world when it censured Zimbabwe at last week’s G8 summit, but when it came to the broader forum of the UN, then Moscow suddenly had other interests to consider. The Russians are therefore guilty at very least of changing their mind.

A more Machiavellian interpretation might be that they deliberately misled the British into believing that they would accept the imposition of sanctions, when, in fact, they were plotting to do the very opposite. There are several reasons why this rationalisation is unsatisfactory. The first is that, from the Russian perspective, signing up to the G8 condemnation and rejecting the UN resolution, are not actually incompatible positions. The second is that China, too, wielded its veto – and, given its interests in many African countries, including Zimbabwe, could hardly have been expected not to. But we don’t want to get on the wrong side of China, do we?

Especially not on the eve of Beijing’s showcase Olympics. And the third is that, in the matter of misreading the mood of the UN and its Security Council, Britain has rather distressing form.

Think back five years to the weeks before the invasion of Iraq and the frantic efforts applied by the British government to securing UN backing for the war. The warning resolution, 1441, was so expertly drafted – by Britain’s then UN ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock – that it allowed both supporters and opponents of war to vote for it.

Squaring the circle, however, only postponed the inevitable split and made the failure of the crucial “second resolution” that much more painful for Britain when it came.

All the very same weaknesses that combined to frustrate the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe were there for all to see over Iraq. There was the touching faith in the miracles that can be wrought by drafting – a skill on which Britain’s civil servants pride themselves, but which, if done too well, can come back to bite the author. There was the ill-tempered vilification of one country as the author of Britain’s misfortune: five years ago, it was France. As coincidence would have it, there was also an almost identical misreading of how Russia would cast its vote.

Defeat at the UN on Zimbabwe sanctions is both less and more serious for Britain than the failure to agree on a “second resolution”. It is less serious because sanctions are almost always of questionable effectiveness, and because the lack of the “second resolution” forced Tony Blair, fatefully, to choose between the UN and the US. But it is more serious because defeat last Friday broke what had been a promising international consensus on Zimbabwe and allowed an illegitimately elected President to exult in a victory over his old enemies. We had a chance to forge a common stance on democracy in Zimbabwe, and we failed – not because of Russian perfidy or the inadequacies of the UN, but because, once again, we did not appreciate how others see the world.

 m.dejevsky at independent.co.uk

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Leading article: Save the elephant from China – Britain poised to approve China ivory licence.
An Editorial – The Independent, Tuesday, 15 July 2008

If the People’s Republic of China is licensed as an official buyer of elephant ivory at a UN meeting in Geneva today, it will be one of the biggest setbacks to have occurred in international wildlife conservation, and a dire threat to the future survival of elephants in the wild both in Africa and in Asia.

China wants to be allowed to bid for ivory from four southern African countries – South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe – which were given permission to trade in ivory in 1997 in a misguided decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – only eight years after Cites member states, including Britain, had agreed to ban the ivory trade completely all around the world.

The 1989 total ban was seen as the only way to choke off the demand for ivory that was sending African elephant populations plunging at the hands of poachers. And it worked, and poaching declined sharply thereafter. The partial lifting of the ban in 1997 was a worrying development but, at least in the subsequent auction of 50 tons of ivory, the sale was limited to one country – Japan – as the other potential buyer, China, was regarded as having insufficient safeguards against illegal trading. Now another auction is in prospect, and China wants to join in, claiming that it has cleaned up its act.

To allow it to do so would be disastrous. It does not matter how tight China’s enforcement procedures now are. Overnight the world market for ivory would balloon, providing myriad opportunities for illicit ivory to be laundered into the legal stock, and offering temptation to poachers right across Africa, where at least 20,000 elephants a year are currently being illegally killed.

Disturbingly, the British Government, which has a vote in the meeting, looks as though it will go along with China’s wishes. Yet ministers will not come clean about Britain’s voting intentions. Yesterday they were engaged in that shabbiest of official procedures, hiding behind officials, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) claiming that the matter rested on the judgement of the Defra official at the meeting, Trevor Salmon.

To pretend that the British Government’s policy on a question of major international importance is dependent solely on the view of a mid-ranking civil servant from Bristol is laughable. The Biodiversity minister, Joan Ruddock, needs to spell out what her position is, as does her boss, the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn. Britain should vote firmly against allowing China to buy ivory. If it does not, and the bad times return for yet another threatened species, at least we will know where responsibility lies.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 14th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

UN’s Ban Slams Zimbabwe on Bias, But Lets Slide Russia’s Kosovo Critique and North Korea’s Lack of Voting and Human Rights

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, Saturday July 13, 2008 — Minutes after the UN Security Council’s draft resolution to impose sanctions on the Robert Mugabe government failed on July 11, subject to a rare double veto by both Russia and China, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the UN Boniface Chidyausiku told the Press that the office of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has shown it cannot “be an impartial arbiter of the situation in Zimbabwe.”

Inner City Press asked him why the resolution’s proponents had insisted on calling a vote, even once they knew that there would be not only an abstention by Indonesia and five votes against, from South Africa, Viet Nam, Libya and Russia and China with their vetoes. It was “the arrogance of the Americans,” Chidyausiku said. Video here, from Minute 2:37.

 

  On the evening of Saturday, July 12, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Michele Montas, issued a statement that “we strongly regret the highly inappropriate and unacceptable comments by the Permanent Representative of Zimbabwe questioning the Secretary-General’s impartiality toward events in Zimbabwe.” The response was at odds with the usual position, that the Secretary-General defers to and does not comment on the Security Council or member states.

    On July 9, about other Council member comments critical of Ban Ki-moon, Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas

Inner City Press: Yesterday at the stakeout, Russian Ambassador Churkin said the Secretary-General had overstepped his bounds in the reconfiguration in Kosovo, and he specifically took issue with this idea that the EULEX force would not be reporting either to UNMIK or to the UN in New York.   Is there any response to what Churkin said?

Spokesperson Montas: This is the position, of course, of the Russian Ambassador and he expressed his opinion and that’s all I can say.

  But when Zimbabwe’s Ambassador similarly questioned the Secretariat’s actions, this same Spokesperson did not let it go as one Ambassador’s opinion and “that’s all I can say.” Rather, the Zimbabwean’s comments were strongly criticized as “highly inappropriate and unacceptable.”

  The question arises: what’s the difference?

 


Mugabe and Ban, questions of outside influence and bias not shown.

 

  Is it, as some close observers opine, that while the U.S. and to a lesser extent UK / European Union shape Ban Ki-moon’s policies both on Zimbabwe and Kosovo, it was considered to have less political cost to lash back at Zimbabwe than at Russia? Is it that Russia is a Permanent Five member of the Security Council, with veto power not only over resolutions but over a possible second term for Ban Ki-moon?



Until the vetoes were cast, South Africa’s Mbeki was viewed as Mugabe’s main supporter, and the U.S. has signalled that with Jacob Zuma waiting in the wings, critique of Mbeki, and in this case of Zimbabwe, can be ratcheted up.

    Others contrast Ban Ki-moon’s approach to Zimbabwe with, for example, his approach to North Korea, another government which widely violates human rights, and which doesn’t even purport to have elections. In the past week, Inner City Press conducted an informal but wide-spread poll in the UN, whether people would rather live in Zimbabwe or North Korea. The results were similar to those in Equatorial Guinea, which Ban Ki-moon has not criticized — an over 90% win, in this this case for Zimbabwe as a comparatively better place to live than North Korea. But compare the UN’s statements.

  Here is what Zimbabwe’s Ambassador said on July 11:

“We believe that the office of the Secretary-General is good offices for the resolution of any political situation in the world.   He must have the perception that, that office is impartial.   What we have witnessed in Zimbabwe, all the reports that have come from the Department of Political Affairs, are pro-opposition and they never say anything positive about the government of Zimbabwe.   We believe they are partisan and with that type of an approach, there’s no way they can be impartial arbiter in the resolution of the situation in Zimbabwe.”

    The critique is of the Department of Political Affairs and “they,” that is, Team Ban. When the Secretariat has been making statements in recent weeks about Zimbabwe, a question was muttered, who is writing this stuff? Some pointed at the nationality of the head of the Department of Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, a former U.S. State Department official. Mr. Pascoe was slated, along with fellow American Robert Orr, to appear with Ban Ki-moon at his July 10 press conference.

  Perhaps concerned with how it would look, to finally appear for a sit-down press conference flanked by two senior advisers both from the same country, Ban ended up appearing accompanied on the rostrum only by his Spokesperson, who once again controlled the question-asking in such a way that none of these issues, including Kosovo and objectivity, were inquired into or addressed.

 Relatedly, in a small but telling detail, the Spokesperson’s daily summaries of press converage of the UN and Ban Ki-moon systemically omit certain critical and investigative coverage. In light of an interesting report of Ban reading in the Mugabe-controlled Herald of Harare of Chidyausiku’s critique, and laughingly commenting, I guess he doesn’t like me much, the shrill Saturday slap-down is all the more surprising.

  To be charitable, since Mr. Ban seems pleasant and has long been a diplomat, some wonder if all of the above originates with him.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 6th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

“Avaaz” means “Voice” in many Asian, Middle Eastern and Eastern European languages.

 www.AVAAZ.org – The World In Action -7,222,100 actions taken since it was established January   2007.

In just one year, Avaaz has grown to over 3.2 million members in every nation of the world.
Avaaz.org is a new global web movement with a simple democratic mission: to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want.

Across the world, most people want stronger protections for the environment, greater respect for human rights, and concerted efforts to end poverty, corruption and war. Yet globalization faces a huge democratic deficit as international decisions are shaped by political elites and unaccountable corporations — not the views and values of the world’s people.

Technology and the internet have allowed citizens to connect and mobilize like never before. The rise of a new model of internet-driven, people-powered politics is changing countries from Australia to the Philippines to the United States. Avaaz takes this model global, connecting people across borders to bring people powered politics to international decision-making.

Coming together in this way, Avaaz has become a   community of people from all nations, backgrounds, and ages brought together by our care for the world, and a desire to do what we can to make it a better place.
In just one year, Avaaz has grown to over 3.2 million members in every nation of the world.

The core of this model of organizing is the email list, operated in 13 languages. By signing up to receive the alerts, you are rapidly alerted to urgent global issues and opportunities to achieve change. Avaaz members respond by rapidly combining the small amounts of time or money they can give into a powerful collective force. In just hours we can send hundreds of thousands of messages to political leaders telling them to save a crucial summit on climate change , hold hundreds of rallies across the world calling for action to prevent a genocide, or donate hundreds of thousands of euros, dollars and yen to support nonviolent protest in Burma. Their web gives the list of campaigns and impacts in 2007.

In just one year AVAAZ has begun to make a real impact on global politics. The Economist writes that Avaaz is poised to deliver “a deafening wake up call” to world leaders, the Indian Express welcomes “the biggest web campaigner across the world” and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore says “Avaaz is inspiring, and has already begun to make a difference.”

This weekend AVAAZ has taken a full page add in The Financial Times in which African leaders: Mandela, Koroma, Tutu, Merafhe, Mwanawama, Johnson-Sirleaf call for the non-recognition of Mugabe’s Presidency of Zimbabwe. It also notes that todate only Sudan and Iran have recognized the Zimbabwe power-grab as legitimate government.

AVAAZ says: After a terror campaign and a sham ‘election’ Robert Mugabe has declared himself President of Zimbabwe. The country is in crisis and its fate depends on talks between Mugabe and the winner of the first round election — Morgan Tsvangirai.

If Governments from around the world do not recognise Mugabe, his position will be weakened, and he could be pressured into a deal with Tsvangirai that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people.

Also,   Avaaz will attend the July 7th Summit to deliver a worldwide public outcry to G8 leaders for strong climate commitments. This is our chance to urge rich country leaders for bold action on climate change – they say.

The Avaaz community is served by a small team of global campaigners working in many countries to identify and develop opportunities for members to take action. Our campaign team consults with Avaaz.org members to develop campaigns and set the priorities of the organisation. Avaaz also relies on teams of expert advisors to help develop our campaigns, and often Avaaz members volunteer to work with the team on specific projects. We currently have staff based in Rio de Janeiro, Geneva, New York, London, and Washington DC. Our core campaign team members are:

Ricken Patel – Co-Founder and Executive Director (Canada)
Paul Hilder – Campaign Director (UK)
Ben Wikler – Campaign Director (US)

Milena Berry – Chief Technical Officer (Bulgaria)
Galit Gun – Campaigner (Mexico)
Iain Keith – Campaigner (UK)
Graziela Tanaka – Campaigner (Brazil)
Pascal Vollenweider – Campaigner (Switzerland)

Avaaz.org was co-founded by Res Publica, a global civic advocacy group, and Moveon.org, an online community that has pioneered internet advocacy in the United States.

The co-founding team was also composed of a group of global social entrepreneurs from 6 countries, including our Executive Director Ricken Patel, Tom Perriello, Tom Pravda, Eli Pariser, Andrea Woodhouse, Jeremy Heimans, and David Madden.

Avaaz is lucky to have the founding partnership and support of leading activist organizations from around the world, including the Service Employees International Union, a founding partner of Avaaz, GetUp.org.au, and many others.

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