A continuing Climate Lobby: Energy Policy & Climate Program at Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC and the German Ecologic Think Tank with offices in Berlin, Brussels and Vienna in the EU, and Washington DC and San Mateo, CA in the US. The Climate Action Network (CAN) is a worldwide network of over 850 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in more than 90 countries.
Ecologic Institute: An International Think Tank for Environment and Development.
Climate Action Network (CAN) is a worldwide network of over 850 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in more than 90 countries, working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.
CAN members work to achieve this goal through information exchange and the coordinated development of NGO strategy on international, regional, and national climate issues. CAN has regional network hubs that coordinate these efforts around the world.
CAN members place a high priority on both a healthy environment and development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Commission). CAN’s vision is to protect the atmosphere while allowing for sustainable and equitable development worldwide.
Ecologic Institute is a private not-for-profit think tank for applied environmental research, policy analysis and consultancy with offices in Berlin, Brussels and Vienna in the EU, and Washington DC and San Mateo, CA in the US.
Ecologic Institute was founded in 1995 as an independent research institute. Since its founding, Ecologic Institute has built a reputation for excellence in transdisciplinary and policy-relevant research. Through its participation in large-scale international collaborations, Ecologic Institute increases the relevance of its project results and improves communication among scientists, policymakers and the public. Ecologic Institute also provides ongoing expert advice on emerging issues through its framework agreements with the European Parliament
The insights of Ecologic’s staff provide practical ways forward for policymakers seeking to address complex challenges. Over the years, Ecologic’s work has informed the decision-making processes of a wide variety of international institutions, national ministries, sub-national and local authorities and non-profit organizations.
43/44 Pfalzburger Strabe
Phone: +49 (30) 86880-0
Matthias Duwe of the German Think Tank Ecologic recently spoke on the future of European climate policy making as part of our EPC Forum Speakers Series. The presentation is available on our You Tube channel: www.youtube.com/watch?
Dr. Wil Burns, Associate Director
Master of Science, Energy Policy & Climate Program
Johns Hopkins University
1717 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
Skype ID: Wil.Burns
Blog: Teaching Climate & Energy Law & Policy, www.teachingclimatelaw.
If the goal is to reduce CO2 Emissions – Trading in Permits to Pollute was born at a dead-end and today’s European trading in such permits shows above to be true. New free thinking – that is outside the banking system – is being called for.
In Europe, Paid Permits for Pollution Are Fizzling.
Andrew Testa for The International Herald Tribune
By STANLEY REED and MARK SCOTT
Published: April 21, 2013
LONDON — On a showery afternoon last week in West London, a ripple of enthusiasm went through the trading floor of CF Partners, a privately owned financial company. The price of carbon allowances, shown in green lights on a board hanging from the ceiling, was creeping up toward three euros. That is pretty small change — $3.90, or only about 10 percent of what the price was in 2008. But to the traders it came as a relief after the market had gone into free fall to record lows two days earlier, after the European Parliament spurned an effort to shore up prices by shrinking the number of allowances.
“The market still stands,” said Thomas Rassmuson, a native of Sweden who founded the company with Jonathan Navon, a Briton, in 2006.
Still, Europe’s carbon market, a pioneering effort to use markets to regulate greenhouse gases, is having a hard time staying upright.
This year has been stomach-churning for the people who make their living in the arcane world of trading emissions permits. The most recent volatility comes on top of years of uncertainty during which prices have fluctuated from $40 to nearly zero for the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide.
More important, though, than lost jobs and diminished payouts for traders and bankers, the penny ante price of carbon credits means the market is not doing its job: pushing polluters to reduce carbon emissions, which most climate scientists believe contribute to global warming.
The market for these credits, officially called European Union Allowances, or E.U.A.’s, has been both unstable and under sharp downward pressure this year because of a huge oversupply and a stream of bad political and economic news. On April 16, for instance, after the European Parliament voted down the proposed reduction in the number of credits, prices dropped about 50 percent, to 2.63 euros from nearly 5, in 10 minutes.
“No one was going to buy” on the way down, said Fred Payne, a trader with CF Partners.
Europe’s troubled experience with carbon trading has also discouraged efforts to establish large-scale carbon trading systems in other countries, including the United States, although California and a group of Northeastern states have set up smaller regional markets.
Traders do not mind big price swings in any market — in fact, they can make a lot of money if they play them right.
But over time, the declining prices for the credits have sapped the European market of value, legitimacy and liquidity — the ease with which the allowances can be traded — making it less attractive for financial professionals.
A few years ago, analysts thought world carbon markets were heading for the $2 trillion mark by the end of this decade.
Today, the reality looks much more modest. Total trading last year was 62 billion euros, down from 96 billion in 2011, according to Thomson Reuters Point Carbon, a market research firm based in Oslo. Close to 90 percent of that activity was in Europe, while North American trading represented less than 1 percent of worldwide market value.
Financial institutions that had rushed to increase staff have shrunk their carbon desks. Companies have also laid off other professionals who helped set up greenhouse gas reduction projects in developing countries like China and India.
When the emissions trading system was started in 2005, the goal was to create a global model for raising the costs of emitting greenhouse gases and for prodding industrial polluters to switch from burning fossil fuels to using clean-energy alternatives like wind and solar.
When carbon prices hit their highs of more than 30 euros in 2008 and companies spent billions to invest in renewables, policy makers hailed the market as a success. But then prices began to fall. And at current levels, they are far too low to change companies’ behaviors, analysts say. Emitting a ton of carbon dioxide costs about the same as a hamburger.
“At the moment, the carbon price does not give any signal for investment,” said Hans Bünting, chief executive of RWE, one of the largest utilities in Germany and Europe.
This cap-and-trade system in Europe places a ceiling on emissions. At the end of each year, companies like electric utilities or steel manufacturers must hand over to the national authorities the permits equivalent to the amount gases emitted.
Until the end of 2012, these credits were given to companies free according to their estimated output of greenhouse gases. Policy makers wanted to jump-start the trading market and avoid higher costs for consumers.
Beginning this year, energy companies must buy an increasing proportion of their credits in national auctions. Industrial companies like steel plants will follow later this decade.
Companies and other financial players like banks and hedge funds can also acquire and trade the allowances on exchanges like the Intercontinental Exchange, based in Atlanta. Over time the number of credits is meant to fall gradually, theoretically raising prices and cutting pollution.
The reality has been far different because of serious flaws in the design of the system. To win over companies and skeptical countries like Poland, which burn a lot of coal, far too many credits have been handed out.
At the same time, Europe’s debilitating economic slowdown has sharply curtailed industrial activity and reduced the Continent’s overall carbon emissions.
Steel making in Europe, for instance, has fallen about 30 percent since 2007, while new car registrations were at their lowest level last year since 1995.
Big investments in renewable energy sources like wind and solar also reduced carbon emissions, which have fallen about 10 percent in Europe since 2007.
As a result, there is a vast surplus of permits — about 800 million tons’ worth, according to Point Carbon. That has caused prices to plunge.
The cost of carbon is far too low to force electric utilities in Europe to switch from burning coal, a major polluter, to much cleaner natural gas. Just the opposite: Britain increased coal burning for electricity more than 30 percent last year, while cutting back gas use a similar amount, and other West European nations increased their coal use as well.
“The European energy scene is not a good one,” said Andrew Brown, head of exploration and production at Royal Dutch Shell. “They haven’t got the right balance in terms of promoting gas.”
Fearing that prices might go to zero because of the huge oversupply, the European authorities proposed a short-term solution known as backloading, which would have delayed the scheduled auctioning of a large portion of the credits that were supposed to be sold over the next three years. But the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted the measure down on April 16.
Lawmakers were worried about tampering with the market as well as doing anything that might increase energy costs in the struggling economy.
“It was the worst possible moment to try to implement something like that,” said Francesco Starace, chief executive of Enel Green Power, one of the largest European green-energy companies, which is based in Rome.
The European authorities, led by Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate change, have not given up on fixing the system. But analysts like Stig Scholset, at Point Carbon, say that there is not much the authorities can do in the short term and that prices may slump for months, if not years.
That means more tough times for financial institutions. Particularly troubled is the business of investing in greenhouse gas abatement projects like wind farms or hydroelectric dams in developing countries like China. JPMorgan Chase paid more than $200 million for one of the largest investors in these projects, EcoSecurities, in 2009.
Financiers say these projects used to be gold mines, generating credits that industrial companies could use to offset their emissions elsewhere. But so many credits have been produced by these projects — on top of the existing oversupply of credits in Europe — that they are trading at about a third of a euro.
Market participants say they see many rivals pulling back from world carbon markets. Deutsche Bank, the largest bank in Germany, has cut back its carbon trading. Smaller outfits like Mabanaft, based in Rotterdam, have also left the business.
Anthony Hobley, a lawyer in London and president of the Climate Market and Investors Association, an industry group, estimates that among the traders, analysts and bankers who flocked to the carbon markets in the early days, half may now be gone.
But carbon trading is unlikely to fade completely.
For one thing, European utilities and other companies now must buy the credits to comply with the rules. And they can buy credits to save for later use, when their emissions increase and the price of credits rises.
Despite Europe’s sputters, carbon trading is beginning to gain traction in places like China, Australia and New Zealand.
In London, Mr. Rassmuson concedes that the business has turned out to be more up-and-down than he anticipated when he and his partner set up their firm in a tiny two-man office in 2006.
But he said his firm was benefiting from others’ dropping out. He is also branching out into trading electric power and natural gas.
Like many in the carbon markets, he says what he is doing is not just about money.
“Trying to make the world more sustainable is important to us,” he said. “It is a good business opportunity that makes us proud.”
THE ISSUE IS NOW – HOW DO YOU STIMULATE INDUSTRIES THAT HELP REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS WITHOUT RESORTING TO THE ABOVE GIMMICK OF CARBON-POLLUTION TRADING-in-CERTIFICATES?
WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN BETTER A SYSTEM THAT IS BASED ON ORDERING THE POLLUTING INDUSTRIES IN A DIRECT WAY? DESPITE ANYTHING THAT IS BEING SAID BY THE BANKING FINANCIAL TRADING COMPANIES – MUCH MORE OF THE TRADING SYSTEM WAS BASED ON EXPORTING POLLUTION OVERSEAS – “ON THE HOT AIR BALLOONS THAT RESULTED BY CLOSING INEFFICIENT INDUSTRIES” and on FOREIGN AID PROJECTS THAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED ANYWAY. WE HOPE THAT BIG MARKETS LIKE THE EU, the US, and CHINA, ESTABLISH NOW INTERNAL SYSTEMS, MODELED IN PART BY THE THE COASTAL USA PROGRAMS in CALIFORNIA AND THE EAST COAST – AND ESTABLISH COUNTRY-WIDE PENALTIES PER TONE OF CO2 – and yes – penalty always hurts initially but change in behavior eventually bears fruit.
Chasing Islamists in the Mountains of Mali, or is it the Dunes? What goes on in Sahelistan – Is this a new Islamistan? Is it a fight for resources? A World of Multi-Partnerships? Will there be an AZAWAD?
Back at the end of January 2013 we posted – based on an article in “Der Spiegel” – that reached us via the UN Wire – that there was in the making an Islamistan, much more dangerous to the West then the AfPak (Afghanistan & Pakistan) region. This will be a Sahelistan ranging from Mauritania to Somalia, right there as a second southern complete layer to the Mediterranean shore Arab States that stretch from Morocco to Egypt. We call this the SAHELISTAN. Its front line is in Mali, Niger, and Chad.
This layer of Islamism is a combination of conservative Islam used as mortar to bind together locally inspired aspirations to free themselves of the Arab century old imposed rulers and like in the Maghreb States and Libya and Egypt, is supported by the religious leaders out of pure opportunism.
Our old posting is:
Now, in Vienna, I realize further the influence of this newly evolving threat and the reality that Europe is happy to let France, the former Colonial power in that region, shoulder the problem by itself. Further, it is France that running its National energy network on nuclear power, is totally depended on the Uranium they get from those countries, while other Members of the EU have no such dependence.
Further, as we noted last month, at the time of the Vienna Conference of the “Alliance of Civilizations” – as shown by the regional division among the Workshops in that meeting, the Central European States have sort of distanced themselves from the Mediterranean States by showing their economic interest as an extension from Central Europe to Central Asia – that is the Black Sea – Caspian Sea and beyond to the other smaller Muslim States that were part of the former Soviet Union. This leaves the Southern EU States to worry about the Muslim MENA region (Middle East – North Africa) and Turkey – if it has to be.
We also suggested a third tier – the Northern tier – and that is the line that connects the Scandinavian countries – Germany – Poland – with Russia.
But that is not where Vienna left this part of the world.
In March I participated further at two wide scope events:
(1) March 11, 2013, the Austrian Institute for International Politics (OIIP) where Editor Walter Haemmerle of the Wiener Zeitung, was the moderator between three Members of OIIP – all Professors at the University but coming from different areas of interest – Prof. Heinz Gaertner – a political Scientist, Prof. Jan Pospisil for the Arab Space – in particular North Africa, and Prof. Cengiz Guenay, for the Near East/ Middle East Space.
The topic was USA – Near East – Mali – in context of Changes of International Applications of Power.
(2) March 21, 2013, the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) - www.VIDC.org – using the space at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialog – dealt with a more limited topic – and therefore could go down to quite some depth – “Mali: Perspectives for the Political Come-Back.”
The two Malians were – Ismaeel Sory Maiega, Director of the study Center of Languages and African Cultures, and the European Representative of the Tuareg-organized Insurgency MNLA – Mouvement National de Liberation de l’Azawad – National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, Mr. Moussa Assarid.
Ms. Biloa is also the President “Club Millennium” in Paris – an African Think Tank and training place for leadership.
From the OIIP event:
The issue is the US – it is retrenching from the Reagan – G.W. Bush (the son) days of overextended global involvements – so issues like the insurgency in Mali and other Islamization aspects of North Africa, are to be from now on pure European problems. Even the Middle East will have to take care of itself – the most the US will do is to express encouragement for others to act. Professor Gaertner studied the US elections and his view of the Obama II Administration is very similar to what we wrote on our website. The US is readjusting to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – with China its main focus, so much of what goes on in the Muslim Space will have to be filled in by others. Europeans will have to look across the Mediterranean for their own sake.
Dr. Jan Pospisil did his PhD thesis on US-German military cooperation and then looked at East Africa and Sri-Lanka. Like Prof. Gaertner he sees in Syria the biggest problem for the topic of human rights and both think that this is an area that Austria will pay attention as well. With this background it becomes interesting to note that the Austrian participation in Mali is with 9 people.
Dr. Cengiz Guenay wrote his PhD thesis on “Islam as a political factor in Turkey” and found Libya, Egypt, and now Syria as his main fields of interest and he is called in quite often to explain the situation to the media.
The two main points I marked myself from this discussion were:
A. that Turkey is now a TRADING STATE and will do whatever Mr. Erdogan finds opportune for the literal moment.
B. The World – Instead of Multi-polarity – now it will be MULTI-PARTNERSHIPS.
Then at the VIDC/Bruno Kreisky Forum event we got to know Mr. Assarid a full blooded Tuareg, dressed to prove it, who speaks about the Azawad State they want to carve out from the Northern half of Mali – the five towns – Timbuktu, Lere, Hombori, Gao, and Kidal. His bio says he is a writer, journalist and comedian – living in Paris since 1999. He has appeared on TV in several series as actor. He was saying that the Tuaregs have a National movement that is secular. They are not part of an Islamic uprising and their problem is rather that the other side – the present government in Bamako – that took over from an elected government by military coup – is the one that may help the North Africa Al-Qaeda – not the Tuaregs.
Listening to him, and to his opponent, Professor. Maiega, who is an intellectual – head of a Bamako Institute to promote indigenous languages and African Civilizations, it seems that in effect both of them are more interested in traditional African culture then in Islam, and in effect it is France’s interest in holding on to its previous Colony that is the most problematic aspect of this entanglement. Is it all because of the Uranium, coal, and other natural resources found in Mali? Will this move on to Niger and Chad? What would happen if Mali is allowed to split amicably into two States? Could this be worse then seeing it unravel in fighting that allows other groups to mix the boiling pot?
The French say they want to bring down their fighting troops from 4,000 to 1,000 by the end of April, and have by that time trained the Mali government troops, and the West African troops, that offered to help. I say – Do not hold your breath – I say.
The problem with the desert people maybe much more complicated then what was presented. There is money to be made from those natural resources, and from kidnapping people for ransom. The desert is big and people rather unemployed – so the few can muster the rest, and bamboozle with religion cooked up with social, ethnic, tribal arguments to boot – this works in a world that thinks very little of terrorism, as an accepted tool for those that feel downtroden, and the passage to the world here-after as a move to step up an imagined personalized ladder.
Recent History as reported today – April 1, 2013: The fighting reflected the difficulty of securing Mali after a French intervention in January that pushed the rebels out of their northern strongholds.
“Things are quiet this morning. The markets are open, traffic is on the streets, and people are out of their houses,” Timbuktu resident Garba Maiga said by telephone.
Malian military sources said soldiers were sweeping parts of the town to ensure there were no remaining rebel fighters.
At least one Malian soldier was killed in the clashes, along with more than 20 insurgents, according to a government statement on Sunday night. Residents said at least five civilians were killed in the crossfire.
An army spokesman said that groups of rebels had entered the town after setting off a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint, diverting the military’s attention.
Paris is keen to reduce its current 4,000-strong troop presence to 1,000 by the end of the year as it hands over its mission to a regional African force.
By coincidence – the following arrived in our Inbox and I find this relevant as it stresses US-Senegal relations. Senegal is a Muslim State.
04/01/2013 03:58 PM EDT
Remarks at Luncheon in Honor of Four African Democratic Partners.
William J. Burns
Martin Van Buren Dining Room
March 29, 2013
Good afternoon. It is truly an honor to be here today with all of you. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Carson for hosting this luncheon. As you know, despite our best efforts to change his mind, Johnnie is leaving the State Department after a nearly four decades of exemplary public service. We are all deeply indebted to Johnnie for his leadership and stewardship of the U.S.-Africa relationship.
I would like to welcome President Banda of Malawi, Prime Minister Neves of Cape Verde, Foreign Minister Ndiaye of Senegal, and Foreign Minister Kamara of Sierra Leone. It is a pleasure to host you here at the Department of State.
Like Johnnie, I am an Africa optimist. I am an optimist because the tide of wars and civil strife is receding. I am an optimist because the continent continues to make steady progress in political reform — more than half of the countries in Africa have embraced democratic, multiparty rule and elections and term limits are now widely accepted norms. And I am an optimist because Africa’s growth rate will soon surpass Asia’s and seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are African.
The credit for this transformation belongs to leaders like you and courageous citizens across the continent. Looking back over the past two decades, the United States is proud of its modest contribution and steady support.
President Clinton worked with Congress to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. President George W. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, programs that saved millions of lives and brought hundreds of thousands of Africans out of poverty. Over the last four years, President Obama has built on this foundation by forming partnerships based on mutual respect and responsibility with governments, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, promote opportunity and development, and advance peace and security.
Each of you illustrates the potential of these partnerships.
President Banda – in one year, you led Malawi out of a deep abyss, moving swiftly to stabilize the economy and elevate human rights. And as you did, the United States was pleased to restore its partnership with your government, including lifting the suspension of our $350 million MCC Compact. We look forward to continuing to work together further to strengthen Malawi democracy, address hunger and improve food security.
Prime Minister Neves – under your leadership, Cape Verde reached middle-income country status, joined the WTO, attracted significant foreign investment, and solidified its social safety net. We value our cooperation on maritime security and in countering narcotrafficking and are pleased to launch a second five-year MCC compact to accelerate economic growth.
Senegal is one of the United States’ strongest partners and a leading democracy in Africa. We applaud the Senegalese government’s commitment to improve governance, regional security, and bilateral cooperation. We deeply appreciate President Sall’s efforts for peace in the Casamance and his leadership on peacekeeping and regional security.
Last year, Sierra Leone held fair, free, and credible elections. We thank President Koroma and his government for their commitment to strengthening Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions. Predictably, the economy responded to your efforts, expanding by 30% in 2012. Let me also note our deep appreciation for your government’s troop contribution to the Somalia peacekeeping force.
There is no doubt that we face many challenges in the coming years – from the Horn to the Great Lakes, and the Sahel. This is why our partnership has never been more important. Fortunately, it has never been stronger.
Thank you very much.
According to the Scottish explorer and scientist Robert Brown, Azawad is an Arabic corruption of the Berber word Azawagh, referring to a dry river basin that covers western Niger, northeastern Mali, and southern Algeria. The name translates to “land of transhumance“.
On 6 April 2012, in a statement posted to its website, the MNLA declared the independence of Azawad from Mali. In this Azawad Declaration of Independence, the name Independent State of Azawad was used (French: État indépendant de l’Azawad, Arabic: Dawlat Azaw?d al-Mustaqillah).
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine – an Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda – announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state; according to the media the new long name of Azawad was used in this pact. But this new name is not clear – sources list few variants of it: the Islamic Republic of Azawad (French: République islamique de l’Azawad), the Islamic State of Azawad (French: État islamique de l’Azawad), the Republic of Azawad. Azawad authorities did not officially confirm any change of name.
The MNLA has unveiled the list of 28 members of the Transitional Council of the State of Azawad (Conseil de Transition de l’Etat de l’Azawad, CTEA) serving as a provisional government with President Bilal Ag Acherif to manage the new State of Azawad.
The Economic Community of West African States, which refused to recognise Azawad and called the declaration of its independence “null and void”, has said it may send troops into the disputed region in support of the Malian claim.
Ansar Dine later declared that they rejected the idea of Azawad independence. The MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of the city, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali.
On 14 February 2013 the MNLA renounced their claim of independence for Azawad; it asked the Malian government to start negotiations on its future status.
All of this points at a very confusing situation that in effect backs what we heard at the meeting of March 21, 2013 here in Vienna.
Above map suggests that the presence of Tuaregs which were nomads, is not limited to the north of Mali alone, but they are found in neighboring States as well. The history of the region involved wars that extended to Algeria and to larger Morocco. The area was part of empires that existed in Timbuktu and Gao.
Under French rule
After European powers formalized the scramble for Africa in the Berlin Conference, the French assumed control of the land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, South-West Chad, bounded in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Azawad region was French in name, the principle of effectivity required France to hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government, and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On 15 December 1893, Timbuktu, by then long past its prime, was annexed by a small group of French soldiers, led by Lieutenant Gaston Boiteux. The region became part of French Sudan (Soudan Français), a colony of France. The colony was reorganised and the name changed several times during the French colonial period. In 1899 the French Sudan was subdivided and the Azawad became part of Upper Senegal and Middle Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Moyen Niger). In 1902 it was renamed as Senegambia and Niger (Sénégambie et Niger), and in 1904 this was changed again to Upper Senegal and Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Niger). This name was used until 1920 when it became French Sudan again.
French Sudan became the autonomous state of Mali within the French Community in 1958, and Mali became independent from France in 1960. Four major Tuareg rebellions took place against Malian rule: the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962–64), the rebellion of 1990–1995, the rebellion of 2007–2009, and a 2012 rebellion. This alone should tell the world that the situation is not stable and that it can be adjusted only if autonomy is granted the Tuareg region.
In the early twenty-first century, the region became notorious for banditry and drug smuggling. The area has been reported to contain great potential mineral wealth, including petroleum and uranium.
On 17 January 2012, the MNLA announced the start of an insurrection in Azawad against the government of Mali, declaring that it “will continue so long as Bamako does not recognise this territory as a separate entity”.On 24 January, the MNLA won control of the town of Aguelhok, killing around 160 Malian soldiers and capturing dozens of heavy weapons and military vehicles. In March 2012, the MNLA and Ansar Dine took control of the regional capitals of Kidal and Gao along with their military bases. On 1 April, Timbuktu was captured. After the seizure of Timbuktu on 1 April, the MNLA gained effective control of most of the territory they claim for an independent Azawad. In a statement released on the occasion, the MNLA invited all Azawadis abroad to return home and join in constructing institutions in the new state.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared Azawad an independent state on 6 April 2012 and pledged to draft a constitution establishing it as a democracy. Their statement acknowledged the United Nations charter and said the new state would uphold its principles.
In an interview with France 24, an MNLA spokesman declared the independence of Azawad:
In the same interview, Assarid promised that Azawad would respect the colonial frontiers that separate Azawad from its neighbours; he insisted that Azawad’s declaration of independence had international legality.
No foreign entity recognised Azawad. The MNLA’s declaration was immediately rejected by the African Union, who declared it “null and no value whatsoever”. The French Foreign Ministry said it would not recognise the unilateral partition of Mali, but it called for negotiations between the two entities to address “the demands of the northern Tuareg population [which] are old and for too long had not received adequate and necessary responses”. The United States also rejected the declaration of independence.
The MNLA is estimated to have up to 3,000 soldiers. ECOWAS declared Azawad “null and void”, and said that Mali is “one and [an] indivisible entity”. ECOWAS has said that it would use force, if necessary, to put down the rebellion. The French government indicated it could provide logistical support.
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine announced a pact to merge to form an Islamist state. Later reports indicated the MNLA withdrew from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine. MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao and Timbuktu on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of Gao, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of Timbuktu and Kidal, the three biggest cities of northern Mali. Ansar Dine continued its offensive against MNLA positions and overran all remaining MNLA held towns by 12 July with the fall of Ansogo.
In December 2012, the MNLA agreed on Mali’s national unity and territorial integrity in talks with both the central government and Ansar Dine.
Most are Muslims, of the Sunni or Sufi orientations. Most popular in the Tuareg movement and northern Mali as a whole is the Maliki branch of Sunnism, in which traditional opinions and analogical reasoning by later Muslim scholars are often used instead of a strict reliance on ?adith (coming directly from the Mohammed’s life and utterances) as a basis for legal judgment.
Ansar Dine follows the Salafi branch of Sunni Islam, which rejects the existence of Islamic holy men (other than Mohammed) and their teachings. They strongly object to praying around the graves of Malikite ‘holymen’, and burned down an ancient Sufi shrine in Timbuktu, which had been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The people living in the central and northern Sahelian and Sahelo-Saharan areas of Mali are the country’s poorest, according to an International Fund for Agricultural Development report. Most are pastoralists and farmers practicing subsistence agriculture on dry land with poor and increasingly degraded soils. The northern part of Mali suffers from a critical shortage of food and lack of health care. Starvation has prompted about 200,000 inhabitants to leave the region.
Refugees in the 92,000-person refugee camp at Mbera, Mauritania, describe the Islamists as “intent on imposing an Islam of lash and gun on Malian Muslims.” The Islamists in Timbuktu have destroyed about a half-dozen historic above-ground tombs of revered holy men, proclaiming the tombs contrary to Shariah. One refugee in the camp spoke of encountering Afghans, Pakistanis and Nigerians among the invading forces.
The Algemeiner, March 24, 2013 6:32 pm 10 comments
Passover. This week we will all eat more matzo then we ever thought possible, hear more commentary about the Haggadah and its multiple messages for our time, and sit back in awe and (hopefully) love at the site at of our extended family circle.
But this Pesach, let’s leave some space for one young Muslim who deserves the world’s attention and support. He is not a martyr and desperately wants to avoid becoming one. But as of now, he and his family are in hiding in an undisclosed location in the Netherlands, because of death threats.
His name is Mehmet Sahin, a doctoral student, who has volunteered to reach out to street youth in the city of Arnhem. A few weeks ago he interviewed a group of Dutch-Turkish youth on Nederlands TV2 during which several declared their unabashed hatred of Jews and open admiration of Hitler. “What Hitler did to the Jews is fine with me,” said one. “Hitler should have killed all the Jews,” said another.
While these teens knew all about the fate of iconic Holocaust child victim, Anne Frank, that knowledge did nothing to deter them from expressing their outright hatred of Jews over and over again, and insisting that everyone at their school harbored similar views. When you view the clip you will see that their smirks and body language confirm a deeply-embedded hatred. Watch the video as one boy smiles as he declares: “What Hitler said about Jews is that there will be one day when you see that I am right that I killed all the Jews. And that day will come.”
From where does such bigotry emanate? Here’s a hint. When Mehmet Sahin reprimanded the youngsters and committed to spend however much time it would take to debunk and remove their ignorance and hate, here is how his neighbors reacted: They collected signatures to demand he leave the area. When Mehmet began to receive death threats, the Mayor of Arnhem, Pauline Krikke, urged him to go into hiding.
And that is where he and his family are today.
Is this the best solution that democratic Netherlands can come up with? A Witness Protection Program for a man guilty of fighting anti-Semitism and standing up for the truth? Are there no consequences for the hate and threats emanating from adults? Are authorities going to question the student’s parents or teachers?
One member of the Dutch Parliament, Ahmed Marcouch says he will raise the scandal in Parliament. “It is horrible that someone has to be afraid because he has done something that we all should do – teach children not to hate.”
Against the backdrop of Anne Frank’s legacy, how today’s Netherlands deals with such deeply embedded hatred of Jews will impact not only on the future of Dutch Jewry but also on the future of Dutch society. SimonWiesenthal, the late Nazi hunter was much revered by the post-WWII generation in the Netherlands. In the 21st century some have forgotten his oft-repeated warning: warned: “Hate often begins with Jews, but history proves, it never ends with the Jews.”
Mehmet Sahin has written these words; “Within a couple of days, I will move to another city of the Netherlands. My personal situation/story is a shame of the European civilization because it is inconceivable that such barbarism can occur in this country. After what happened in the last three weeks, I understood the eternal loneliness and pain of the Jewish population. In the rest of my life, I will tell the whole world that we all must resist this aggression…”
Dayenu – enough good guys being martyred. We don’t need another martyr. Those kids in the Netherlands and their peers in Europe need Mehmet Sahin and other heroic messengers of truth, peace and tolerance. While me may not be able to guarantee his future we can let him know today, he is not forgotten. Push the pause button on our Matzoth marathon and take a moment to send a message of solidarity to Mehmet c/o email@example.com and together we will let him know he is not alone.
Rabbi Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
This is serious – a professional clown is a good man trying to make a living. A clown impersonator is something else. While Bepe Grillo is fighting for the cause of change in Italy and everywhere else, it is Mr. Berlusconi who used the facade of government and wealth in order to create a court of clowns to his kingdom and rule. True Conservatives reject his behavior but corralled to save him because he was in their service.
March 4th, 2013 the Karl Renner Institute of the Socialist Party of Austria had a reassessment of the Italian elections with the participation of two Journalists from Italy – Tonia Mastrobuoni from La Stampa in Turino, and Franz Koessler who was for many years the foreign policy commentator at the Austrian “Falter” and is now a freelance in Rome.
I learned that Monti who was seen by the European banking institutions as the man who will save them and Italy, and was seen as having the baking of over 50% of the Italians – just came in as a poor fourth with 10%. It is the 25% that Grillo’s movement got .and the fact that the other two parties that have less then 30% each – that make it impossible to form a government that is supported by a clear majority.
The popular thinking is that new elections will favor Mr. Grillo and put him in the position to dictate the rules for a coalition government.
Conventional thinking believes that if he has not put forward a real plan, and is not ready to join another party, this is a sign that his group will eventually break up. But why? His Grillini want to see change, and not being politicians that live by having a political job, they may actually relish the idea of having brought about change and be very calculated in their support of any government.
I suggested that the original individuals that started out like them, could actually be the example for the Grilini – and the warning being that eventually politicians from the right got hold of their movement and turned the Tea Party that started out as “Taxes we had enough” ended up backing all sort of ideas that had nothing to do with their original rebellion.
On the other hand, if the Grillini manage to avoid the fate of the Tea Party, they may become the toast of all those in the EU that would want to change the rullling strata in most of the EU Member States.
The New York Times Editorial
Italy Chooses None of the Above
First Published: February 27, 2013
Italy’s voters surprised and frightened governments and financial markets across Europe with their repudiation of austerity and much of the Italian political establishment.
Related: Inconclusive Vote in Italy Points to Fragmenting of Political System (February 27, 2013)
Europe’s fears of an ungovernable Italy and renewed euro-zone crisis may prove justified. With no party holding a majority in the new Parliament, there is little chance for renegotiating the economic straitjacket demanded by European lenders or enacting needed reforms.
For decades, the political establishment, regardless of party, has failed to deal with Italy’s well-known problems — excessive bureaucracy, official corruption, organized crime, unequal and regressive taxes and anemic economic growth. The past 15 months of growth-crushing austerity policies under Prime Minister Mario Monti have mainly added to the pain. Italy’s borrowing costs declined (at least until the election returns came in).
A protest vote driven by public anger is not so surprising. The big losers were centrist supporters of Mr. Monti, who came in a dismal fourth, and the center-left Democratic Party, led by Pier Luigi Bersani, which won only a slim plurality in the lower house and ran a disappointing second in the regionally apportioned Senate. These two blocs were expected to form a coalition government with policies not very different from Mr. Monti’s. That would have pleased Europe, but is now impossible.
The winners were the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, founded just three years ago by the comedian Beppe Grillo, and the People of Liberty led by the disgraced former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Mr. Berlusconi’s slate won the largest number of Senate seats and the second largest contingent in the lower house. Mr. Berlusconi, who bears much responsibility for Italy’s economic and political dysfunction, brought his party back from near oblivion by shamelessly restyling himself as an anti-establishment, anti-austerity populist. He even promised to refund the homeownership tax, offering to dip into his personal fortune to do so.
As the top vote-getter, the Democratic Party gets the first chance to form a new government. Recognizing how tough that will be, Mr. Bersani has begun setting forth a limited legislative program that he hopes can attract support from beyond his own ranks. Mr. Grillo declared Wednesday that his supporters would not form an alliance with Mr. Bersani, or Mr. Berlusconi, who gets to try next if Mr. Bersani fails. But he did leave open the option of backing specific reform measures proposed by other parties. That is not a prescription for stable government and could force another election later this year. But it is probably the best hope for enacting at least some of the political reforms and anti-corruption laws Italy desperately needs and so many fed-up Italian voters desperately want.
Poland is addicted to Coal and they think that hosting the 2014 Climate Change Conference makes for good tourism business. The visitors better view also the dirty skies. ‘Coal-aholics’ Poland – can they save Save-the-Climate? Asks SPIEGEL ONLINE – December 21, 2012.
SPIEGEL ONLINE – December 21, 2012Poland is addicted to coal. That is the message the country has been sending both domestically and internationally as Warsaw prepares to host the global climate summit next year. In Europe, the Poles are isolated in their fight for looser emissions reduction goals and against fixes to the EU’s cap-and-trade system. By Joel Stonington more… [ Forum ]
‘Coal-aholics’ Poland Wages War on Efforts to Save the Climate
By Joel Stonington, with Spiegel on line, Germany.
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It is not everyday that a small legal practice receives a visit from a domestic security agency. So Tomasz Wlodarski, the director of Environmental Law Service Poland, said he was surprised when Poland’s equivalent of the FBI paid him a visit in the fall. Even stranger, the officers asked for nothing that hadn’t been previously published about the organization.
“Harassment is a big word,” said Wodarski, “But these are actions that may cause people to feel pressure.”His organization was not the only one to have been called on. And government officials have done their part via the press. In October, Poland’s Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski criticized an anti-coal environmental organization by telling a local newspaper that the NGO “should accept that there are limits to its activities,” and that “they have exceeded their limit.” Those statements caused about two dozen NGOs to write a scathing letter to Prime Minister Donald Tusk regarding what they called an “unprecedented attack” on Polish society, according to the European news website EurActiv.
The apparent pressure on environmental groups, while concerning, does not seem inconsistent with Warsaw’s approach to issues relating to climate change. On Monday, coal-dependent Poland continued its virtually solitary opposition to a widely-supported — and badly needed — short-term fix for Europe’s carbon-trading system, the continent’s flagship policy in the fight against global warming. Such obstreperousness, however, has not led to Poland’s being internationally ostracized. On the contrary, even as the country helped block Europe’s ability to present a unified front at the recent climate change conference in Doha, Poland was chosen to host the next conference in 2013.
The pessimism is born of Poland’s ongoing addiction to coal — and of the government’s own interest in the status quo. Recently, Tusk told a press conference that “energy is the key to politics.” And in Poland, there is little difference between the two. Despite communism having crumbled almost two-and-a-half decades ago, much of the energy industry in Poland remains under government control. Though many of the largest energy companies have been ostensibly privatized, the Polish treasury often retains a significant stake.
“There is a vested interest in maintaining the current power system, so the renewable energy system is too dispersed to benefit the right players in the system,” said Michael LaBelle, a professor at Central European University in Budapest who teaches energy policy. “They are coal-aholics, that’s the best term to use, it’s horrible but it’s true.”
Poland is the 10th largest consumer of coal in the world and produces 92 percent of its electricity from coal, according to the World Coal Association. And despite EU targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, Poland is pressing forward with plans replace old coal plants with massive new ones.
That doesn’t mesh well with Europe’s CO2 emissions reduction plans. As Europe’s emissions trading system grows and becomes more comprehensive, carbon should get more expensive. But Poland has responded by both fighting against making fixes to the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) — which has been crippled by chronically low prices for emissions certificates — and against more ambitious goals for reducing carbon emissions. Warsaw has also pushed to get extra pollution allowances for new and existing plants.
“This is a situation in Poland, now, where the government is pushing state-owned companies to build new coal-fired power stations,” said Marcin Stoczkiewicz, a lawyer with ClientEarth, a leading environmental law organization in Europe. “Sometimes those investments are not developing in line with environmental law, especially with EU environmental law.”
‘An Attack on Our Organization’
ClientEarth has not made too many friends in the Polish government. While Stoczkiewicz said his organization’s offices in the Polish capital have not been visited by the police, the group was the target of Treasury Minister Budzanowski’s October comments.
“This represented an attack on our organization and other civil organizations,” Stoczkiewicz said. “The climate of the conversation changed. It seems that the government is trying to push for coal, for dirty investments, even if they are investments which break the law.”
The push is also an international one. This year, Poland has twice vetoed new greenhouse gas reduction targets. And while those vetoes may ultimately be circumvented, Poland is also standing in the way of making the European Emissions Trading System work. The system involves gradually lowering the number of carbon emissions certificates on the open market, thus slowly making it more expensive to release carbon into the atmosphere. But the market is currently glutted, leading to a price-per-ton of emissions of just €7.13 on Friday, well below where it needs to be to act as a disincentive.
There is a united front across Europe — one that includes not just leading European politicians, but also large utility companies and oil firms including Shell — which agrees that a fix is necessary. And a short-term fix, involving the temporary reduction of emissions systems on the market, is on the table.
Poland, though, is not part of that broad front. On Monday, Poland claimed that the proposal to amend the ETS, known as “back-loading,” would cost the country more than €1 billion over the next seven years, according to the news site European Voice. It is a statement consistent with Poland’s outspoken stance that the ETS should not be tampered with, even as the need to fix the system has become more urgent.
“The Emissions Trading System is working as a tax with the highest burden on countries like Poland,” Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec said in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. “We are already at the limit of what our industry and citizens can pay.”
Still, it seems unlikely that Poland can avoid facing up to the problem on the long term. Even as CO2 emissions are currently cheap, the price will almost certainly rise in the future, putting pressure on Poland to lower its own output of the pollutant. The current situation, which sees the country relying on power from dirty, Soviet-era coal-fired power plants that have long since been paid for and are cheap to operate, cannot continue indefinitely.
Yet a greater emphasis on natural gas, which is cleaner than coal despite still being a fossil fuel, is problematic for the country. Much of Europe’s supply of natural gas comes from Russia, a country that Poland historically distrusts. What willingness exists in Poland to pursue natural gas is focused primarily on drilling for shale gas in the country.
More Coal Plants on the Way
And when it comes to developing renewable energies, there is frustration in the environmental community. Many say that Poland’s stance on renewable energy seems to come more from ideological issues than from a studying long-term economics and viability. Julia Michalak, a policy officer for Climate Action Network Europe, said that the strong mining lobby aligned with government combined with Warsaw’s emphasis on energy security add up to a policy of blocking and fighting climate policy from Brussels.
“What is needed is a very robust and detailed analysis of both costs and benefits,” Michalak said. “So far I haven’t seen it.”
Coal, in short, appears to be Warsaw’s only strategy when it comes to energy. And the Polish government is moving forward with major investments in coal-fired power plants, planning to spend €24 billion in the energy sector over the next eight years with much of that earmarked for 11,300 megawatts of new coal plants — an amount equivalent to Israel’s peak electricity usage during a heat wave.”Our economy is dependent on electricity produced by coal,” said Stoczkiewicz. “This is the fact. But the policy should be to change this bad energy mix and try to find cleaner sources of energy.”
Such a change, though, doesn’t seem to be in the country’s near future.
Related SPIEGEL ONLINE links
Nick Jacobs grew up in the UK and moved to Brussels in 2008. He works on agri-food, trade and development issues within the team of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, after having spent three years as journalist for Agra Europe.
What if, instead of saying that Europe must get back to growth, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso decided to say the opposite?
For all of its bluster, the current EU budget battle is being waged over fairly narrow stakes: whether Europe will get back to growth more quickly by spending a little more or a little less at the EU level. The stakes are narrow, firstly because what is spent at EU level is only a fraction of public spending in the 27 member states, and secondly because all of the bickering is focused on how to get growth, and not on whether it is actually necessary or desirable.
Do alternatives to growth really exist? The debate remains on the margins of the public political sphere, but in Europe and elsewhere serious academic theories and grassroots movements are building around the idea of a ‘steady state economy’ with zero growth, or even ‘sustainable degrowth’.
What is degrowth?
The degrowth movements believe that producing more year on year will not make us truly better off, and cannot go on infinitely due to ecological limits.
US ‘steady state economy’ advocate Herman Daly argues that we have already hit a threshold where growth no longer brings net gains even in purely economic terms, i.e. the costs of all the damage done by additional growth (e.g. paying for environmental clean-up and health afflictions linked to pollution) already outweighs the benefits.
Degrowth theorists also rubbish the idea that economic growth can realistically be decoupled from growth in resource use and carbon emissions. According to UK economist Tim Jackson:
What’s more, this growing body of thinkers and activists does not believe that additional growth in advanced economies is socially desirable. Data used by degrowth theorists point to rising wellbeing up to modest per capita income levels of around $20,000, after which it depends much more on other factors such as love, family and friendships. So the extra things that extra growth produces, and our extra per capita income allows us to buy, do not lead to extra wellbeing.
Nudging into the mainstream?
How significant is this movement? Mainstream political parties have been reluctant to debate, let alone to defend, a concept that runs so deeply against the grain of current political discourse. The Greens, in several European countries, are a notable exception (see previous blog on green parties).
The closest that degrowth has come to the corridors of political power was the publication in 2009 of a report drawn up by Tim Jackson for the UK Sustainable Development Commission, an advisory body to the government that was subsequently abolished by David Cameron. Jackson’s ‘Prosperity Without Growth‘ report drew plaudits but has remained on the margins of the debate as politicians in the UK and elsewhere have gone firmly into recession-mode, asking only the old, familiar question: how can we get back to growth?
Meanwhile, grassroots movements have been growing in strength. Over the last two months alone the 3rd International Conference on Degrowth, Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity has taken place in Venice, while the Global Women’s Forum in Deauville held debates centred on degrowth. Meanwhile the local initiatives that underpin the movement are flourishing. In Italy, where a strong Decrescita Felice (‘happy degrowth’) movement has sprung up, the ‘Cittaslow’ network has brought together dozens of towns and communes in the interests of slowing the pace of urban life and repurposing urban space away from commercial uses – a movement that has now spread to more than 20 countries.
Why should this be the EU’s battle?
But why should EU policy-makers pay attention to these alternative voices if they barely feature in the political debate at national levels?
Firstly, because they can. The EU executive is used to raising the uncomfortable questions and being blamed by national politicians who are themselves more constrained by the short-termism of electoral cycles. ‘Bonkers Brussels wants to ban growth’ and other such headlines would of course abound from the British tabloids if the EU were even to open a reflection on degrowth. But headlines like this are business as usual, and unfortunately are the price that must be paid for bringing a new and sensitive debate into the mainstream.
Secondly, the European Commission should embrace the degrowth debate because disillusionment with growth-based strategies is Europe-wide, and is growing. Across Southern Europe determined protest movements are building against the price of past growth (mountains of debt) and the prescribed remedy for returning to growth (austerity).
The whole bloc is facing hard questions about how to squeeze more growth out of its factories, farms and financial centres. The answers all point towards an unappetising race to the bottom: Europe must work more, work longer, and regulate and spend less for health, wellbeing and the environment.
For many, these are necessary compromises. After all, what are the alternatives? Without more growth, and with an expanding population, everyone’s piece of the pie gets smaller – meaning reduced employment and reduced income.
This, however, is not the whole story. Jackson’s ‘Prosperity Without Growth’ theory openly acknowledges the need to shift to labour-intensive, resource-light activities, where existing work is shared around and people have more time for leisure, volunteering, and tending to themselves and their relationships.
As a result we would earn less, but we would not necessarily be less wealthy – even in strictly monetary terms. Debating growth vs degrowth can help us to understand the cycles we are in: we need lots of money so we work hard; but we also need that money because we work hard.
Paying for crèches, stress and fatigue-related medical expenditure, commuting expenses, on-the-road snacking, comfort purchases, insurance payments for our comfort purchases, expensive getaways… it turns out that many of our financial ‘needs’ are contingent in some way on working (too) hard. Of course if we weren’t taxed so much we wouldn’t need to earn so much in the first place… and yet much of this tax is levied to fund the public services whose need arises from our individual over-working and over-consuming (e.g. healthcare) and our collective over-working of the environment (e.g. the clean-up of water courses from agricultural and industrial run-off).
Can these cycles be broken? Can there be another way? Could it be the European way? Surely this is too important a debate not to have?
Jill Stein, Green candidate for the US presidency, wants full employment as well as environmental action
At last month’s Rio+20 summit, world leaders chalked up what for many people was a failure too far on the environment. The lack of binding agreements on anything, and the general lack of urgency shown by governments, led Greenpeace chief Kumi Naidoo to call for “civil disobedience” in the face of a failing political process.
For those who agree with the general premise, it is perhaps still worth asking whether all political means have truly been exhausted before blockading oil refineries and boycotting the polluters. What about voting Green first?
The environmental battle often feels like it is being waged between mainstream political parties and climate activists from outside the process. For the millions who believe that mainstream parties are failing abjectly on the environment, but find the protests of climate activists too radical, surely voting Green should provide a happy medium?
Why, then, are Green parties not more visible and more widely supported? Are they too ‘hippyish’? Are they single-issue parties without an economic programme? Or are these stigmas thoroughly out of date?
The first thing to bear in mind is that Green parties have in fact been making modest headway in recent years. The Greens-European Free Alliance took a record 55 seats in the 2009 European Parliament elections, making them the fifth-largest party. The German Greens, having been junior partner in red-green government coalitions from 1998-2005, won a historic victory in the Baden- Württemberg 2011 regional elections and now have their first minister-president.
Within the last two years the UK Greens have had their first MP elected to Parliament – party leader Caroline Lucas – and in Brighton took control of a local council for the first time. Even the US Green party had its own diminutive breakthrough last month, raising enough campaign money to qualify for ‘matching funds’ from federal government for the first time.
So who are these Green parties, and what do they believe in?
A criticism often levelled at them is that they do not have a serious policy programme beyond advocating environmental conservationism and cuts in GHG emissions. Quizzed in a recent BBC interview about whether the UK Greens were still a “single-issue party”, Lucas replied that the problem was that the media had only ever paid attention to them on that single issue.
A scan of speeches and manifestos by Green parties in various countries suggests that Lucas is right. In modern Green manifestos the holy grail seems to be not full decarbonisation but full employment. The outsourcing of jobs, the privatisation of healthcare and income inequality are vilified just as forcefully as polluting power plants and unambitious GHG targets. The five policy areas highlighted on the UK Green Party’s website are in fact all socio-economic: Banking, Housing, Jobs, Health and Pensions.
Green New Deal in the US?
Meanwhile, the centrepiece of the ‘Green New Deal’ proposed by US Green candidate Jill Stein is a programme to pick up slack in the private sector by taking up to 16 million unemployed workers into “community-based direct employment”. The sectors to which state-subsidised labour would primarily be made available – organic agriculture, public transportation, renewable energy – are indeed those traditionally earmarked as ‘green’, but the scheme would also divert labour to public education, health care, child care and other services with no visible ecological dimension.
This goes to show that the raison d’etre of the scheme is strongly socio-economic. It is a public works programme with a green tinge, rather than the other way around. Even when Stein moves onto the more familiar ground of raising tax on “the rich agribusiness corporations and the oil, mining, nuclear, coal and timber giants”, the primary justification given is to “keep the wealth created by local labour circulating in the community rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors”. Again it is the distaste for globalisation, and the vocabulary of the financial crisis, that takes centre stage. The environmental content is still there, but is slotted into a narrative which is first and foremost about people’s jobs, livelihoods and communities.
France’s Europe-Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) continues to define itself primarily in its opposition to nuclear power and its advocacy of a domestic energy transition, but like in the US, economic planning ideas are nonetheless present and specific. The EELV eyes full employment and identifies specific tax loopholes it would close in order to finance the creation of thousands of ‘green jobs’ – although in this case the definition would not necessarily stretch to Stein’s social infrastructure jobs.
United and coherent?
While the emphasis and the vocabulary differs, Green parties from various countries appear to gravitate towards the same core policy programme. And far from being fixated on climate change, this programme in fact amounts to a wide-reaching, comprehensive – and fairly coherent – vision for the economy and society.
By and large it involves: shifting financial and human resources away from the military, fossil fuels, nuclear power and polluting industries, and towards renewable energy and labour-intensive, community-focused services; cracking down on tax havens and shifting to more progressive taxation; channelling finance through development banks rather than speculative investors; taking a zero tolerance approach to corporate lobbying and backhanders; supporting unions, cooperatives and companies that choose not to outsource; instituting a living wage (defined by the UK Greens as 60% of average earnings) in place of a minimum wage; providing free or highly subsidised university education; reclaiming public ownership of utilities and transport. All of this sits alongside the policy with which Greens are traditionally associated: going much further and faster than mainstream parties in cutting GHG emissions.
Unrealistic promises – according to who?
So there is a programme, but how realistic is it? The UK Greens claim that their huge public spending promises would be paid for by axing Trident (the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent) and thus saving £78 billion over thirty years. Stein’s Green New Deal would meanwhile be part-financed by closing America’s foreign military bases.
But, their critics would argue, plans of this type are essentially unrealistic. Here the battleground is political discourse. What is ‘realistic’ and ‘unrealistic’ surely depends on global political realities, which are themselves shifting. Is it more unrealistic and unthinkable to envisage withdrawal of the UK’s nuclear capacity, or to envisage continued inaction in the face of catastrophic global warming, resource depletion and environmental degradation, not to mention growing income disparities and structural unemployment?
Playing both sides
The response of mainstream parties is to navigate disingenuously between the two ‘unthinkables’. Since the onset of the financial crisis, many mainstream politicians have touted their own ‘green new deals’ and have railed against the excesses of dirty industries and dirty financiers, promising to use stimulus packages as an opportunity to stimulate green investment, and to shift resources towards the wholesome, hard-working, sustainable parts of the economy.
Yet despite the rhetoric, the vast majority of public money has been ploughed back into banks with few or no strings attached – and therefore the impetus has been handed back to markets to decide where to allocate these resources. Schemes such as ‘cash for clunkers’ in the US are about as ambitious as state interventionism has got, but even here the goal was basically to stimulate automobile sales, rather than to durably shift resources towards greener production methods.
Politicians have talked about systemic problems, hinting at the need to fundamentally change the way that capital is allocated. But at best what they have provided are piecemeal, sectorial actions which are by definition unfit for the challenge. At worst they have recapitalised and left basically unchanged a market system which has proved itself unable to allocate capital to sustainable mortgage arrangements, let alone to environmentally sustainable outcomes.
This is why, even if people do not vote for the Greens, it is crucial to the political process that their voice be heard. They have been honest about the fact that a transition to a sustainable economy has to be holistic and far-reaching, and has to involve big trade-offs (e.g. with military spending).
Does this mean it is time to vote Green? It is certainly time to redefine what is ‘unrealistic’, and to make all political parties emulate the honesty of the Greens by acknowledging the true trade-offs, and pinning their true colours to the mast. If they fail to do so, then voting Green may well be the least unrealistic option.
Another year, another dire health warning about fast food.
This time the sector is under fire from the influential American Institute of Medicine. The dangerous obesity epidemic engulfing America – and many other countries – cannot be put down to personal choice alone, the report states. Washington is advised to consider a tax on sugary drinks, and to ensure that healthy options – and not merely fast food – are available at shopping malls and sports facilities.
In short, it is the obesogenic environment that must change – and nothing characterises this environment more than fast food outlets and the cheap and abundant calories they offer.
How has fast food survived so long, and what future does it have, when McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC are the public face of a public health crisis? Judging by the figures, the fast food industry is in much ruder health than its customers. Fast food sales remained steady in the US through the worst of the economic crisis, and actually increased in Britain, France and Japan, while whole swathes of the restaurant and retail sectors fell by the wayside.
But while individuals can still afford a Big Mac, the public purse can no longer afford to pay for the fallout. The costs of fighting diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are becoming untenable: obesity in the US – now afflicting 34% of people – is responsible for an additional $190 billion (€241 billion) per year in healthcare costs, according to Reuters. In this climate, all avenues for tackling overeating will be explored, and fast food will be subject to more scrutiny than ever.
However, recent evolutions in the sector demonstrate just how resilient and adaptable it has proved itself to be. For many years now, a combination of public opinion and regulatory pressure have forced the sector into an ongoing process of rebranding and reinvention. Offering salads and smoothies alongside burgers and coke is no longer an eccentric marketing ploy – it is effectively a prerequisite for chains that wish to stay in business. Burger King fell behind its competitors during the recession, but is bouncing back this year largely on the basis of revamping its menus to include new healthy options. There is, presumably, no healthy way to produce fried chicken – but KFC has nonetheless signposted its own commitment to de-stodgifying its output by bringing in the Kentucky Grilled Chicken range. McDonald’s, through its McCafé experiment, has gone furthest and fastest in its bid to associate itself with Starbucks-style modern consumerism: quick but healthy, snack and beverage-driven, young professional.
From nutritional greenwashing to real change
Often these healthy branding offensives are the nutritional equivalent of ‘green-washing’. McDonald’s new UK kids’ beverage, Fruitizz, contains twelve spoonfuls of sugar – and yet promotional campaigns highlight how it delivers one of the requisite ‘five a day’. Subway, which now holds more franchises worldwide than McDonald’s, goes to lengths to convince customers that it is a fresh sandwich company rather than a fast food outlet. Yet stacks of processed meat, melted cheese, abundant sauce, and the possibility for the sandwich to be 12 inches (30 centimetres!) long, make its offerings nutritionally akin to fast food.
Even when the healthy options are genuinely healthy, expanding and adapting the menu in the way McDonald’s and Burger King have done is a relatively painless rebranding process: the core items remain as fatty, salty, sugary – and cheap – as ever, and continue to drive business.
Only rarely have the ingredients and preparation processes of these core items come under genuine scrutiny – and it is only then that the real change starts to happen.
Following a Jamie Oliver-led campaign, McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell recently declared that they would no longer use ‘pink slime’ – beef containing ammonium hydroxide-treated ground connective tissue – to fill out their burgers. Following a similar outcry in the early 2000s, the leading fast food chains moved to scale back or eradicate trans fats in their cooking oils. Meanwhile the Happy Meal, and similar offerings aimed squarely at children, have been revamped to reduce calories, add fruit and vegetable snacks, and generally pre-empt regulation to this effect – none of which would have occurred had the threat of regulation not been real.
Evolution or revolution?
None of this is enough to stem the negative health outcomes of what remains a food offering based around fried, processed items. But the gradual eradication of the most harmful ingredients and practices does go to show that slowly, surely, with the right mixture of political carrot and stick, and sustained consumer scrutiny, fast food can move towards detoxifying its brand – and the arteries of its customers.
Since the inception of McDonald’s in 1940, fast food restaurants have undoubtedly played a role in democratising the experience of dining out. But healthier options are now available in the same price bracket. A shish kebab – freshly grilled chicken or lamb in pitta bread with ample fresh veg – will generally have a better nutritional profile than the pre-made, pre-frozen burgers that pass through the industrial-scale supply chains of major fast food retailers.
Will consumers eventually abandon the Big Mac in favour of healthier convenience food? Or will McDonald’s and co ditch the Big Mac altogether in favour of wraps, salads, smoothies and coffee? What, then, will be their unique selling point?
Fast food will not reform itself out of existence, whatever the pressures brought to bear on it. But more likely is that it continues along its current path towards a slow death – in the form of gradually eradicating the corner-cutting, obesity-fuelling practices that define fast food as we know it.
Humankind has degraded its environment and stretched the planet’s ecological limits beyond the point of no return. The food supply is threatened, and the world’s top scientists embark on a race against time to develop novel means of producing food.
This may sound like a science fiction plotline, but it is effectively the thinking behind the massive real life research efforts now being undertaken to secure the food supply of the future. The 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 food price spikes have intensified existing efforts to rethink food production, in the face of rapidly escalating demographic and environmental challenges.
Here are four of the candidates – two well-established, and two recent arrivals on the scene – to lead the technological revolution and become the face of futuristic food.
1. Genetic modification (GMOs) and the ‘climate gene’
Genetic modification involves pre-programming a plant to respond to its environment in targeted ways, by inserting external genes into a plant’s genome. Twenty years in, food safety concerns have been largely assuaged, but the industry has failed to shrug off concerns that wide-scale GMO cultivation leads to ultra-resistant pests, unpredictable impacts from gene leakage, and patent battles over what is, ultimately, a proprietary technology.
There is likely to be an added premium on developing drought-tolerant and flood-tolerant crop types over the coming years. GMO uptake to date has been mostly limited to maize, soybean and cotton cultivation in the Americas, but the quest to ‘climate-proof’ crops will target other staples such as wheat and rice, in other parts of the world. Drought-resistant qualities are not conferred by a single gene but by several, meaning that whole sequences will need to be patented. Expect controversies on a greater scale.
Cloning, like GMOs, is a technological heavyweight for which the scientific processes – if not public acceptance – are already well advanced. This is a form of animal breeding where nothing is left to chance. The goal is to yield an animal with identical qualities (e.g. lactation, disease-resistance) to the source animal, and subsequently to use the clone as a breeder.
On the back of welfare concerns for the cloned animal, the EU is primed to place a moratorium on the process. However, Brussels is, by its own admission, powerless to prevent imports of meat/dairy derived from the offspring of clones reaching consumers. Climate change, and the need to breed resilience into our food systems, will once again provide an impetus for wide uptake.
3. Test-tube meat
Dutch scientists unveiled the first test-tube meat tissue to the world last month, raising the possibility that the future of meat production lies in the lab. Using stem cells from adult cattle, the scientists developed strips of beef muscle in a petri dish, and will soon produce an entire burger, to be served up to a celebrity by gourmet chef Heston Blumenthal.
Conventional livestock rearing involves extensive land, GHG emissions and eventual slaughter, not to mention the huge inputs, in the shape of land, water, fertiliser and pesticide, required to produce animal feed. Test-tube meat could offer the diner a taste of flesh, without the fallout. Should the technology become financially viable on a mass scale, and should the taste be to consumer liking, the approach could start to gain serious momentum.
4. Skyscraper farms
Vertical farming is also on the cusp of moving from science fiction to practical application. The attraction of layered ‘skyscraper farms’ – normally envisaged as multi-storey greenhouses – is that every drop of water and nutrient would be recycled within a closed system, while light and temperature would be optimised for plant development. By growing upwards, rather than outwards, we would be squaring the circle and producing more food without consuming more resources. Until recently, the concept had existed only in the imagination of architects. But now a 17-storey conical greenhouse is set to enter the construction phase in the Swedish town of Linköping. Drawing on energy from local power plants, the structure will carry rotating pots of fruit and veg slowly around a central helix, and will sell harvested produce direct to local urban populations. This could be the first of many – or a costly experiment that starts and ends in Linköping.
The opportunity cost
All of these solutions are promising when held up against the initial premise: that conventional food production techniques, working within nature’s self-sustaining cycles, are a spent force. But the danger of promoting these technologies is that they reinforce this very message. It is as if we have over-stepped nature’s self-sustaining capacities, and instead of looking for ways to restore the balance, we are trying to circumvent nature altogether.
The real danger is therefore the opportunity cost. The first test-tube burger will have set scientists back €250,000 euros, while the cost of the biggest vertical greenhouse model (25 storeys) is estimated at $280-$555 million. The cumulative costs of twenty years of public and private GMO research are astronomical, while cloning-related innovation could become an equally bottomless pit.
What if this money were ploughed into simple solutions with a proven track record of restoring and maintaining the ecological balance and biodiversity that must underpin all productive farming in the long term? What if the real funding priority were not food innovation, but the dissemination of existing, highly effective techniques? What if the innovation that did occur was focused on advanced breeding techniques (e.g. marker assisted selection and bio-fortification of crops) that raise less ethical issues, and can be kept free of patents? What if we were to improve agricultural infrastructure in Africa, where more than 30% of crops are spoiled in post-harvest storage and transportation? And what if consumers stopped wasting nearly half of their food, and consumed a bit less meat?
Organic-style solutions cannot feed a world of 9 billion people, critics say. And they are right – not while demand is so wastefully high, and supply so infrastructurally crippled. And not while the custodians of degraded or abandoned farmland are deprived of the know-how to keep this land productive. If climate change is allowed to force farming into ever-more-restricted fertile bands, then we will indeed have to rely on miracle, yield-raising technologies. But sooner or later we’ll be confronted, once again, with the resource pressures that intensive farming entails – in all of its incarnations.
Innovation is crucial. But it must come in addition to, not instead of, much-needed investments in simple, low-tech, non-proprietary solutions which can be used freely and effectively by farmers across the world. With food, as with climate change, there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution, and the sci-fi allure of new innovations should not be an excuse for deferring the key decisions about how to live within our limits.
MEPs 9the Members of the European Parliament) elected Martin Schulz to be the new European Parliament president with 387 votes in favour out of 670 cast. The 56-year old German MEP will lead the European parliament for two and half years, until the beginning of the next legislature in July 2014. This happened January 17, 2012 and his time in office ends July 2014.
“Wem Gehört Europa?”
Martin Schulz, Präsident des Europäischen Parlaments und Erich Foglar, ÖGB-Präsident, im Gespräch über die Zukunft der Demokratie in Europa.
11. Oktober 2012, 18:30 Uhr
ÖGB, Gewerkschaftshaus Catamaran,
Johann-Böhm-Platz 1, 1020 Wien
ÖGB Internationales Referat: firstname.lastname@example.org
Der ÖGB/ÖGfE-Europadialog wird dieses Mal in Kooperation mit dem Informationsbüro des Europäischen Parlaments in Österreich veranstaltet.
Martin Schulz (S&D, Germany) replaces the outgoing President Jerzy Buzek (EPP, Poland).
In a brief address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg immediately after the vote, Mr Schulz said: “We must grasp the fact that people in Europe have little time for institutional debates because they are too busy worrying about their future, their jobs, their pensions (…). This Chamber is the place where the interests of the people are defended”.
President Schulz warned that “for the first time since it was founded, the failure of the European Union is a realistic possibility” adding that, our interests can no longer be separated from those of our neighbours; on a shared understanding that the EU is not a zero-sum game, in which one person must lose so that another can win. The reverse is true: either we all lose – or we all win. The fundamental basis for this is the Community method. It is not a technocratic concept, but the principle at the heart of everything the European Union stands for!”.
Over the past two years, summits of the Heads of State and Government meant “the representatives of the peoples of Europe have essentially been reduced to the role of rubberstamping agreements reached between governments in backrooms in Brussels: the European Parliament will not stand idly by and watch this process continue”, Mr Schulz said, adding that “the intergovernmental agreement on a new fiscal union will be the first test”.
“Whoever breaches the values enshrined in our Charter of Fundamental Rights must reckon with us as adversaries. That is our duty as Members of the European Parliament”. He also announced the presence of Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban tomorrow in plenary to discuss his country’s controversial constitutional provisions.
A full version of the President’s address will be available via the link next to this article.
Full result of the vote for the President of the European Parliament
Under Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, to be elected President, a candidate must win an absolute majority of the valid votes cast, i.e. 50 per cent plus one.
The result of the first ballot was as follows:
Votes cast: 699
Blank or invalid votes: 29
Valid votes cast: 670
Absolute majority of votes cast required to be elected: 336
Votes for the candidates:
Martin Schulz (S&D, DE) 387: Mr Schulz duly elected President of the European Parliament
Nirj Deva (ECR, UK): 142
Diana Wallis (ALDE, UK): 141
Right after the speech by the newly-elected President Schulz, political groups’ leaders took the floor to comment on the outcome. Most groups expressed the hope that his presidency would reinforce the Union and Parliament’s role, while a few others stressed disagreements with his first speech as President.
On Behalf of EPP, chair Joseph Daul (FR), after congratulating Mr Schulz on his election said “You must, in our view, have three priorities: defending the Community method, advocating the Community method and safeguarding the Community method”, stressing that “nothing is more important than showing our citizens that the Euro is a strong and sustainable currency, as long as we do what we should have done at its creation, i.e. provide political and economic governance”.
S&D Vice-President Maria Badia i Cutchet (ES), said “There is a great need for the new President to strengthen the role of the Parliament. In the light of the latest discussions around a new inter-governmental treaty, this is of ever greater importance. We need to ensure that any future action is based on the principle of democratic participation and thus the Community method “.
Guy Verhofstadt (BE), leader of the ALDE group, said “I want a President who fights in favour of the EU, (…) who explains to Member States the truth, that only through a political economic and fiscal union we can save the Union” with a Parliament able “to show the way out of the crisis and that Europe is the solution”.
Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA, DE), said with regard to the next challenges facing Parliament that “A new approach is needed to press on to the goals set”. She suggested that Mr Schulz should “not give in to diplomacy but take that rough along with you when discussing with Barroso, Van Rompuy, Merkel and Sarkozy”.
Martin Callanan (UK), on behalf of the ECR group, told Mr Schulz that although “We did not agree with many things you said this morning (…), we will ensure fair cooperation with you”, stressing that his first duty will be to represent the Parliament at the next European Summit.
Kartika Tamara Liotard (NL), Vice-Chair of the GUE/NGL group, told Mr Schulz “It is a shame you’re not a woman”. She added that “Some people elected you because they know you are a tough fighter and I believe Parliament has a big role to play in crisis”, urging him to “make sure there is more transparency in these negotiations” on the fiscal compact.
Nigel Farage (UK, EFD), wondered “What kind of President Schulz are we going to get? A calm speaker (…) or the Schulz we got to know: angry, intolerant of everybody with a different point of view, anti-British and who does not like the free market?” He concluded “We want a Europe of trade (…), not a superpower”.
The votes to choose Vice-Presidents and Quaestors will take place on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.
Columbia FDI Perspectives
Perspectives on topical foreign direct investment issues by – the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment
No. 76 August 13, 2012
Editor-in-Chief: Karl P. Sauvant (Karl.Sauvant@law.columbia.edu)
Managing Editor: Jennifer Reimer (email@example.com)
A good business reason to support mandatory transparency in extractive industries
by Perrine Toledano and Julien Topal
Perrine Toledano (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Lead Economics and Policy Researcher at the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC);
Julien Topal (Julien.Topal@eui.eu) is a PhD-researcher at the Department of Social and Political Sciences of the European University Institute, Florence, Italy, and a Research Associate at the VCC.
The authors wish to thank Laurent Coche, Matthew Genasci, Isabel Munilla, and Jessica van Onselen for their helpful peer reviews.
The views expressed by the authors of this Perspective do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Columbia University or its partners and supporters. Columbia FDI Perspectives (ISSN 2158-3579) is a peer-reviewed series.
The material in this Perspective is reprinted by permission of the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment. and is accompanied by the following acknowledgment: “Perrine Toledano and Julien Topal, “A good business reason to support mandatory transparency in extractive industries?” - Columbia FDI Perspectives, No. 76 August 13, 2012. (www.vcc.columbia.edu).
Transparency demands in extractive industries are tied to the complex paradoxical correlation between significant resource endowment and poverty in many resource-dependent countries. Citizens of these countries and international investors alike only have limited means to scrutinize money-flows between governments and companies, disrupting accountability mechanisms.
Improving accountability and access to information is a step toward ending the resource curse. Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act, known as the Cardin-Lugar Transparency Amendment, requires extractive companies listed at US-securities exchanges to disclose all payments made to host country governments on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis. Amid corporate opposition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has only now, more than one year late and after Oxfam America started court proceedings and over 65 Congress members put pressure on the SEC, set a date to vote on the rules.  However, despite opposition, there is a business case to be made in support of such mandatory transparency demands.
The debate on the Transparency Amendment has, very broadly, two camps: the opponents — most expressively represented by the American Petroleum Institute — and the proponents, including civil society with Publish What You Pay (PWYP) as the main supporter, groups of investors and certain congressional members. While supporting the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), the corporate lobby opposes the SEC rules for allegedly causing high implementation costs, opposing legal demands and a comparative disadvantage for US-listed companies. The second camp has challenged these claims and has argued in favor of the amendment as a promising answer to the limitations of the voluntary EITI.
Companies maintain that implementation costs can exceed US$ 50 million since they will have to re-devise their accounting instruments to disclose project-based and non-material information. Civil society and even The Economist have contested the veracity of this claim, noting that much information is already collected and calculating that US$ 50 million is little more than 0.1% of ExxonMobil’s last year’s revenue. The claims that demands of the Transparency Amendment contradict host country confidentiality laws are also ill placed.  Civil society rebutted this claim by demonstrating that most countries allow for exceptions based on stock exchanges’ disclosure demands.
There is no denying that a certain short-term competitive disadvantage is created for impacted companies — although the European Council’s directive for mandatory payment disclosure limits the scope of not-covered competition. Companies contend they will lose bids either because host countries prefer non-disclosing companies or because disclosed information is commercially sensitive. Here is the reality-check: Angola just awarded deep water oil blocks to Statoil, Eni, Total, and BP, which are all EITI-supporters and covered by the Amendment, which incidentally only deals with non-commercially-sensitive fiscal information widely shared by the industry. Lastly, the competitive disadvantage argument is unduly cynical. Part of the complaint has to do with the limitations on bypassing the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act by “creatively” bribing through either “facilitators” or local partnerships. Bribery is illegal both in the US and Europe; “[k]eeping it hard to expose would not make it more legal.”
Companies have a choice to play either destructive or constructive roles in the quest for transparency.
The choice consists of either accepting narrow capitalism — which prescribes short-term profitability and concomitant opposition to regulatory limitations on corporate operations — or believing in a forward-looking and long-term shared value approach to business. Through a shared value lens, companies seek out benefits for both shareholders and the communities in which they operate since the companies understand that they require a social license to operate to attain long-term success. Increasingly, investors seek out companies based on such long-term credentials.
Various studies by the Vale Columbia Center found that transparency — measured by companies’ country-by-country reporting — holds a promise for better corporate performance. One such study showed a clear correlation between transparency and better financial results along different measures. Interestingly, those transparent companies are also associated with fewer cases of human rights abuse.
Corporate leaders should change tactics and transform a short-term comparative disadvantage into the comparative advantage of being first-movers. This means to follow in the footstep of BP’s former CEO and support recent attempts by the US President to encourage the development of a global transparency regime, which will be achieved either by pushing other stock exchanges — starting with Europe — to follow suit or by improving on the disclosure demands of the current host country-led EITI. For their own sakes, companies should acknowledge that the transparency moment is now and the stakes are high.
 The vote is scheduled for August 22, 2012. Securities and Exchange Commission, available at: www.sec.gov/news/openmeetings/2012/ssamtg082212.htm.
 “Extracting oil, burying data,” The Economist, February 25, 2012.
Angola, Cameroon, China, and Qatar have such laws according to API and Shell. API’s letter, January 28, 2011: available at:www.sec.gov/comments/s7-42-10/s74210-10.pdf. PWYP US (www.sec.gov/comments/s7-42-10/s74210-29.pdf andwww.sec.gov/comments/s7-42-10/s74210-118.pdf) and the Cameroonian organization RELUFA (www.sec.gov/comments/s7-42-10/s74210-96.pdf) deny these claims.
 “Transparency rules,” Financial Times editorial, February 26, 2012.
 John Browne, “Europe must enforce oil sector transparency,” Financial Times, April 24, 2012.
For further information, including information regarding submission to the Perspectives, please contact: Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment, Jennifer Reimer, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC – www.vcc.columbia.edu), led by Lisa Sachs, is a joint center of Columbia Law School and The Earth Institute at Columbia University. It seeks to be a leader on issues related to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the global economy. VCC focuses on the analysis and teaching of the implications of FDI for public policy and international investment law.
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The Belgian Rogge – Palestinian Arab Rajoub – Olympia duet – did not allow for that memorial minute of silence for those killed by terrorists 40 years ago in Munich (1972). Christian Ortner of Austria’s “Die Presse” wants us to take notice of this subordination before the official closing of the 2012 Olympics.
Olympia 2012: Wo Ex-Terroristen über Gedenken an Terror-Opfer bestimmen.
CHRISTIAN ORTNER (Die Presse, Vienna, Austria) – Friday, August 10, 2012 – the original German language article.
Dass der Toten der Münchener Olympiade 1972 nicht bei der Eröffnung von London 2012 gedacht wurde, ist der opportunistischen Feigheit des Internationalen Olympischen Komitees zu danken.
Wenn am Sonntag die Olympischen Spiele in London zu Ende gehen, dann ist es fast genau 40 Jahre her, dass in München (September 1972) arabische Terroristen ein Blutbad unter israelischen Sportlern anrichteten, bei dem 17 Menschen zu Tode kam.
Das zeitliche Zusammentreffen der Spiele und des runden Jahrestages war freilich für das „Internationale Olympische Komitee“ (IOK) und dessen Präsidenten, Jaques Rogge, noch lange kein Grund, die Erfordernisse menschlichen Anstandes und Taktgefühls einzuhalten und der Toten von München mittels einer kurzen Trauerminute im Rahmen der Eröffnungszeremonie zu gedenken; stattdessen wurde das Gedenken in eine eigene – durchaus gelungene – Veranstaltung outgesourct wie ein Callcenter nach Indien. Dass der Deutsche Bundestag, das Kanadische Parlament und die Knesset, Präsident Obama und der belgische Sportminister um eine symbolische Geste gebeten hatten, ließ den Belgier Rogge unbeeindruckt.
Noch unguter als diese posthume Missachtung der Opfer des Anschlages von München ist freilich der tiefere Grund dieser Fehlentscheidung. Denn als ruchbar geworden war, dass deutsche und israelische Parlamentarier eine derartige Schweigeminute monieren würden, drohten mehrere arabische Staaten und das „Palästinensische Olympische Komitee“ (ja, so was gibt es tatsächlich) mit einem Boykott der Spiele von London. Nicht sehr glaubwürdig – den Palästinensern war extrem wichtig, ihre Fahne in London wehen zu sehen – aber der Belgier knickte wie gewünscht ein und untersagte das Gedenken für die Toten im Rahmen der Eröffnung.
Es ist dies eine Form des mutlos-opportunistischen vorbeugenden Nachgebens, die seit dem Streit um die Mohammed-Karikaturen einer dänischen Tageszeitung im Westen immer wieder zu beobachten ist: im Zweifelsfall die eigenen zentralen Werte zur Disposition zu stellen, um Ärger mit übellaunigen und leicht erregbaren Gegnern dieser Werte zu vermeiden. Genau das machte auch der Präsident des Internationalen Olympischen Komitees: Um Ärger mit der arabischen Welt, der noch dazu höchstwahrscheinlich eh ausgeblieben wäre, ja nicht zu riskieren, opferte Rogge die angemessenere Form des Totengedenkens. Das ist nicht gerade sehr anständig.
Leider wissen wir nicht, ob Rogge wenigstens ein wenig peinlich war, dass Jibril Rajoub, Chef des Palästinensischen Olympischen Komitees, diese Unanständigkeit in einem persönlichen Brief an ihn überschwänglich gelobt hat. Sport, schrieb der Palästinenser da, sei „…eine Brücke der Liebe und dazu da, Frieden zwischen den Nationen“ zu befördern.
Mit Brücken der Liebe und Frieden zwischen den Nationen dürfte sich Rogges neuer Bewunderer Rajoub ganz gut auskennen: israelischen Medienberichten zufolge ging der palästinensische Olympia-Funktionär in seiner Jugend dem in diesem Milieu beliebten Beruf des Terroristen nach. Offenbar nicht ganz erfolglos, denn dafür verknackten ihn die Israelis zu insgesamt 20 Jahren Knast.
Dass Herr Rajoub angesichts dieser Biografie kein überbordendes Interesse hatte, dass im Rahmen einer Schweigeminute auch nur indirekt an die Schweinereien seiner (früheren?) Gesinnungsgenossen erinnert wird, ist nachvollziehbar. Dass jedoch der Präsident des IOC dem nachgegeben hat, spricht nicht für ihn.
(“Die Presse”, Print-Ausgabe, 10.08.2012)
Turkey is moving to further dismantle laws and the Constitution that have in it guarantees for the Press and Human Rights. Seemingly the ruling Party is trying to bring Turkey more in line with the Arab States neighborhood.
IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi echoed that assessment. Turkey has rightfully received widespread international criticism over the course of the past year as a result of a disturbing deterioration of media freedom. With nearly 100 journalists currently in prison – apparently the most in any country on Earth – on what look to be spurious terrorism charges, the country needs to take strong steps to demonstrate its commitment to freedom of the press and to democratic principles. These proposals, if adopted, would do exactly the opposite.
Turkey?s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission is working on a new Constitution to replace one adopted by a military government in 1982 – following a coup two years earlier.
IPI/SEEMO Press Release: IPI Urges Turkey to Reject Proposed Changes to Constitutional Media Freedom Protections.
VIENNA, 28 July, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), today urged a commission responsible for writing a new Constitution for Turkey to reject proposed amendments that would severely weaken current language protecting media freedom.’Bianet reported that Turkey’s Constitutional Reconciliation Commission is set to vote Wednesday on a proposal advanced by the Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led government that would, among other effects, carve out numerous exceptions to an existing article on – “The Freedom of Press and Publication.”
The news website, citing an article from the daily newspaper Milliyet, said the proposed changes would include a provision that “The freedom of press can be restricted to protect national security, public order, public morals, others? rights, private and family life; to avert crimes; to ensure the independence and impartiality of the judiciary; to prevent warmongering and the propogation [sic] of every sort of discrimination, hostility or rancor and hatred.”
IPI’s Turkish National Committee, Basn Enstitüsü Dernei, sharply criticised the proposal, saying the change would represent a step backward for press freedom in the country. “If the new Constitution is going to be issued with this anti-democratic mentality which may create worse conditions than the present Constitution, it is better that [the new Constitution] is not issued, the group saidin a statement posted on its website.”
According to Bianet, other changes proposed by the AKP-led government would include clauses mandating that “No publications intended to violate the presumption of innocence can be issued? and requiring the state to take measures to protect minors from publications that involve child abuse, sexuality and violence.”
The proposed changes, which would place all provisions related to the press in a single article of the new Constitution, would also reportedly eliminate current language preventing seizures, confiscations and operations bans against printing houses that were lawfully established as press institutions. Bianet said that the proposal, if adopted, would give authorities power to seize all instruments of the press, including printing presses, as ?tools of crime.
The proposed changes would also remove a current guarantee that those who wish to establish a printing house do not need to seek permission or provide financial assurances in order to do so.
Atilla Kart, a member of the commission from the main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP), labelled the proposed changes -unacceptable, Bianet reported.
The South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) supports this statement.
His Holiness Meets the Austrian Chancellor, attends a Science Symposium and the European Rally for Tibet.
May 27th 2012 – from www.dalailama.com
The 14th Dalai Lama mid-May 2012 Europe-trip took him to the UK (where he received The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities – in front of 2000 people at the St. Paul Cathedral in London and met in private with the Prime Minister and his Deputy), Slovenia, Belgium, and Austria (where he was received by two States – Koernten and Salzberg, and in private by the Federal Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor).
* * * * This was added by Pincas Jawetz
Vienna, Austria, 26 May 2012 – The sun shone and a small crowd of well-wishers smiled warmly as His Holiness arrived opposite St Stephen’s Cathedral to be met by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna. They were almost immediately joined by the Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann and the three went into a meeting together.
Next, His Holiness drove to the University of Vienna to attend a symposium on Buddhism and Science: Mind & Matter – New Models of Reality, where he was welcomed by the Rector of the University, Heinz Engl.
Describing it as a great honour for him to participate in the discussions, His Holiness noted that towards the end of the last century, scientists had begun to take a serious interest in the workings of our minds and emotions. He said he had been fascinated by how things work since he was a child and learned a great deal about how electricity functions from investigating the movie projector and generator that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama.
About 40 years ago he began to learn about cosmology, neuropsychology and quantum physics and for nearly 30 years has been conducting regular dialogues with scientists. The purpose of these dialogues is, firstly, to extend human knowledge, not only in the material field, but also the inner space of our minds, and, secondly, through exploring such phenomena as a calm mind, to promote human happiness.
With Mr Gert Scobel moderating, Prof Dr Anton Zeilinger, Prof Dr Klaus-Dieter Mathes, Dr Patrizia Giampieri-Deutsch made their presentations, which explored aspects of quantum physics, Madhyamaka philosophy and psychoanalysis.
His Holiness hosted a lunch at his hotel for all the speakers that was also attended by Kalon Tripa, Dr Lobsang Sangay, social and human rights activist Bianca Jagger, former French Foreign Minister and co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, Bernard Kouchner and other friends who were in Vienna to attend the European Rally for Tibet. In the afternoon session of the Science symposium, Prof Dr Michael von Brück and Prof Dr Wolf Singer gave informative presentations on how the mind understands the structure of reality and the search for neuronal correlates of consciousness. As the symposium came to an end, His Holiness expressed his appreciation, “Over the 30 or 40 years that I have been acquainted with scientists, I have noticed how many of them are acutely aware of the limitations of their knowledge. It is a good quality to recognise that our scope for learning is vast. They display an open-mindedness that is really admirable.”
A memorandum of co-operation was signed between Prof Geshe Ngawang Samten, Director and Vice Chancellor of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, Varanasi, India and the Rector of Vienna University, Heinz Engl, providing for an exchange of students and scholars of the two institutions. Geshe Tenzin Dhargye, Director of the Tibet Center that has organized the various functions His Holiness has attended in Austria on this visit, offered his thanks to His Holiness and everyone who has participated.
In the warm, late afternoon, His Holiness drove to Vienna’s Heldenplatz where 10,000 people had assembled for the European Solidarity Rally for Tibet. Addressing his dear brothers and sisters in the crowd, he told them how happy he was to be there and that he would like to first say a few words in Tibetan to the Tibetans present. “Our culture is under threat of destruction, therefore I want to take this opportunity to speak my own language. Archaeological findings indicate that Tibetan history dates back 3-4000 years. We Tibetans must not forget our identity, for our blood, flesh and bones come from Tibet. Since the 7th century we have employed the Tibetan written language in which the most complete and thorough translations have been made of Buddhist knowledge from the original Sanskrit. This is a treasure for the world, not only for Tibetans. And when we talk about preserving Tibetan Buddhist culture, I don’t mean just paying respects before a Buddhist image, but putting the teachings into practice and trying to live as good human beings.”
He talked about the urgent need to protect the Tibetan environment, which because it is the source of many of the rivers that run through Asia is of value not only to Tibetans but millions of others too. He expressed the fear that once environmental damage has taken place it will take a great deal of time to recover. Distinguishing Buddhist religion, which is the business of Buddhist practitioners, from Buddhist culture, which, as a culture of peace, honesty and compassion, is worth preserving for the good of the world.
Meanwhile, millions of Chinese are already showing interest in Tibetan Buddhist culture. His Holiness stressed that the damage and destruction of Tibetan Buddhist culture that has taken place was not because Tibetans were not interested, but because of the difficult political circumstances in which they find themselves.
“Because of our Buddhist culture we are committed to the principle of non-violence. We are an example of a small community who have remained dedicated to pursuing our struggle through non-violent means, which is why your support is so extremely valuable and I want to tell you how much I appreciate it.
Tomorrow afternoon, following a meeting with the press to highlight inter-religious harmony and several private meetings during the morning, His Holiness will board a flight from Vienna to return to India.
GDP is not a measure of people’s happiness – GDP as a measure of well-being is nothing but fraud. All GDP does is it measures the evolution of the volume of exchanges in the economy – without values attached.
Laurence Tubiana is the founder and director of the Institute of Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) based in Paris and Brussels, professor at Sciences Po Paris, and has previously served as senior adviser on environment to the French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. She was responsible for conducting some international environmental negotiations for the French government. She was also a member of the Conseil d’Analyse Economique in the French Prime Minister’s office and when mentioning basics – she says:
For more than three decades, GDP has been criticized as a poor indicator of social progress. As a pure accounting identity, GDP does not reflect changes in natural stocks. On the opposite, an upsurge in warfare expenses will add positively to the measure called GDP, while their impacts on well-being are more than controversial.
Second, the indicator is also blind to any changes beyond the mean.
GDP does not focus on distributional issues and growth can fail to reach majority of the population – this was the case in the USA from 1975 to 2000. As result, there is a widening gap between GDP increase and the perception of the increase in well-being among the population.
This realization is not new and is shared by a widening community of policy-makers and scholars.
Paradoxically, international organizations continue to use GDP as a measure for social progress in their reports.
It is necessary to move beyond this narrow conception of progress and International Organization and governments must commit to the use of another flagship indicator.
Use of GDP should be limited to comment on the evolution of the volume of exchanges in the economy.
The UN General Assembly should thus rather adopt an indicator – or a panel of indicators- to measure progress.
Above I picked up from the Brazil sponsored Dialogues on the RIO+20 runway – the panel of Sustainable development as an answer to the economic and financial crises where Prof. Laurence Tubiana is the principle leader.
To post further examples for the on-line deliberations pleas see:
Thu, May 3, 2012 at 11.56 am
In light of Ms. Tubiana’s questions raised to enrich the concept of sustainable development let me present some points of reflection:
- Increased / “aggressive” support to reforms in the field of democratic governance;
- Related institutional/functional capacity building measures
- Support to local economies (addressing economic diversification, rural development, regional disparity)
- Repair and expansion of poor infrastructure
- Integration of climate change adaptation in current plans for economic development (especially for energy production)
- Planning for low-carbon economy
- Improvement of water infrastructure
- Promotion of water and energy efficiencies in households, businesses, agriculture production
- Provision of agricultural extension services to help farmers adjust to climate change
- Mandate/encourage improved building designs/codes
- Increase natural disaster preparedness, prevention, mitigation capacities (including early warning systems)
Wed, May 2, 2012
In times of crisis, all the parameters that define ‘humanity’ are challenged and the extent to which positive outcomes may be manifested is a function of each individual’s stage of development and the collective consciousness of the Community of which they are part. It can be argued that both individually and collectively we ‘listen to’ and ‘engage’ with the world through multiple intelligences in the physical (PQ), emotional (EQ), mental (IQ) and spiritual (SQ) dimensions. At the heart of these intelligences is a shared consensus of Core Virtues,Values and Vision.
It is only through positive premeditated visioning that it is possible to develop this consciousness to build self-sustaining people, organisations and communities. We are approaching and some argue already in a time of crisis, where effective Response, Relief, Rebuild and Resilience strategies are required to deal with both natural and complex disasters. The same challenges are faced by those wishing to Terra-form countries from underdeveloped to developed status. This whole system approach integrates all the change vectors.
In order to deliver effective and sustainable change, it is necessary to fully understand the vectors involved. There are three primary inputs of Health, Education and Enterprise that are facilitated by Information, Resources, Psychology, Connectivity, Agriculture and Science & Engineering to deliver self-sustaining outcomes in Wealth, Citizenship and the Environment and consequent Harmonious Living. The three inputs of Health, Education and Enterprise must all be integrated to deliver the required outcomes, which are a bit like a three legged milking stool; you need all three legs for it to be stable.
Good Governance and Social Responsibility facilitate the ‘middle ground of balance’ between the rule based needs of ‘conformity’ and the outcome based needs of ‘flexibility’ based on inculcated Core Values and Delivered Outcomes. The top-down and bottom-up approaches need to be integrated in a twelve year strategic Change Plan to avoid social and economic morbidity.
The CMDC-SPOC approach has facilitated disadvantaged people, coming out of traumatic situations, including conflict, abuse, nature disaster, poverty etc. In Inner City areas, where trauma is often common, this provides an approach, whilst originally developed for 18-24 year old long-term unemployed youth that may have a powerful positive impact on those that have been ‘excluded’ from the Education system.
The UNESCO Task Force on Education for the 21st Century concluded that it takes place throughout life in many forms and is represented by four Pillars, which might be expressed in the form of the four intelligences:
CMDC-SPOC evidence suggests that Primary Education defines up to 80% of Life Outcomes and is the crucial period for investment to develop Self-sustaining People, Organisations and Communities and achieve Harmonious Living (South South News interview-youtu.be/qkgLgUaXFqE). We believe that it is only through Self-sustainability that the United Nations Millennium Goals may be achieved.
Dr Royston Flude
Mon, April 30, 2012
As Rio+20 will highlight, critical action is required from all major actors in business, government and society to build the foundation for a sustainable global economy, society and biosphere. In the educational sector, in particular business schools have been at the focus of the debate. Business schools, management-related academic institutions, and universities have a unique role to train current and future generations of business leaders. However, as a global sector, management education must make considerable change to be at the forefront of innovation and progress for sustainable development.
At Rio+20, the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative will convene the 3rd Global Forum for Responsible Management Education (www.unprme.org/global-forum/index.php) on 14-15 June 2012 as the official platform for management-related Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Outcomes of the discussions at the 3rd Global Forum will hopefully also inform the RioDialogues.
Sun, April 22, 2012
Economic growth can only happen within a stable society, and societies can only thrive when they are linked to vibrant ecosystems. Before we became aware of the interconnectedness of global coexistence, nations only cared about their isolated “sustainability”. Ignorance was bliss. Today we know better. If we pretend to achieve economic growth by degrading our ecosystem, we are digging a deeper hole therefore significantly reducing the likelihood of ecosystems to become vibrant again.
In terms of sustainable development, all countries are developing, none is developed. All human actions have two likely impacts on the ecosystem: degradation or regeneration. If the global economy obtains 100% of its industrial inputs from nature, then ecological degradation implies reduced economic value for all.
To solve economic crises and eradicate poverty all leaders of the world -public and private, corporate and social, political and cultural- must become bio-literate. That is, to be able to understand and explain the cycle of life of the global ecosystem. Only through this understanding will they be able to positively influence their communities towards the transformation that will help human civilization shift from being ecologically degradating to ecologically regenerative.
(This comment will also be posted on my blog, TransformConflict.)
I Post above few examples to show the importance of the platform unleashed by these RioDialogues. It becomes clear that much our system of administering National economies is based on concepts that show we believed in living in parallel bottles and must now realize that Globalization has broken those bottles and we stand in the midst of this broken glass and call for Mama Earth to save us – but she starts answering by telling us that all these years we disregarded her and we better start on a process of repairing our relations with her.
Please realize I write these thoughts in Vienna, actually on Mother’s Day – Saturday, May 12, 2012. First thing we must do is tell her we are ready to throw out the GDP yardstick that the economists class have sold us. We need another yardstick to measure our progress that thinks of growth as fulfillment of our interrelationships with Planet Earth and our recognition of our existence as Wardens of this Planet. A high Priest of this interrelationship must be a UN High Commissioner for Future Generations that we put up in his small office from which he can even review the activities of the UN Secretary General whose job is to make sure that we do not fight each-other as he was empowered to do by the UN Security Council.
The Informal -Informal meetings that are still busy trying to prepare the official intergovernmental outcome document for RIO+20, have brought to New York a large delegation from Bhutan with the purpose of teaching us that Happiness and Well Being are concepts that can help us cut to size our self-destructive drives for consumption that psychologists have long recognized as anal in nature.
Back in Vienna, in the last few days I had the opportunity to listen to great economists starting to nibble at the edges of their profession when seeing the effects of the ongoing and evolving crises. They still think of “how does one quantify Happiness?” – this by not realizing that it comes from WELL-BEING rather then from anal gratification that is connected to acquiring more and more … The highlight of these discussions here in Vienna was when I heard that the culprit is in that Economics 101 book that was used by all global economists. So, let us see what we can do to change these books – and I liked to repeat what I said at the end of the 1970s – that it was only in its 8-th edition that the book recognized Energy as an input at equal footing to labor, raw materials, and capital – it seems that SUSTAINABILITY must find its way in these books – NOW!
UPDATED: The Transatlantic Trade is still the biggest Trade Bloc in the World – dwarfing the trade with China. Remarks by Robert D. Hormats at the AmCham/TABD Conference in Brussels. Back in Washington his testimony in Congress says the future is with the Trans-Pacific trade.
THE AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE – AmCham / The Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) – in Brussels.
Remarks by Robert D. Hormats
Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs
AmCham EU, Avenue des Arts 53
March 23, 2012
As Prepared for Delivery
I am delighted to join you today.
When then-candidate Barack Obama spoke in Berlin in July 2008, he stated that one of the priorities of his presidency would be to strengthen even further strong trans-Atlantic relations. Citing the daunting political, security and economic challenges of the 21st century, he stressed then that
“America has no better partner than Europe.”
In the more than three years since, Europe remains America’s partner of first resort and its staunchest ally. The strategic alignment between the United States and Europe, rooted in shared history and values, has never been closer in addressing both international threats and internal challenges.
America, since the days of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, and Secretaries Marshall, Acheson and Dulles, has recognized that a united and prosperous Europe is of enormous importance to the United States.
And we have recognized, since the days of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, that closer economic integration in Europe is an essential underpinning to a stronger Europe and its ability to be a robust ally. We have always understood that a prosperous Europe is important to a prosperous America. That was true in the 1950s when we supported the Marshall Plan, and it is today.
Recognizing that slower growth and tighter budgets in Europe and the U.S. could have an impact on some of our foreign policy objectives, we are actively searching for more opportunities to leverage our individual and collective resources to advance our shared goals.
For example, Europe is an indispensable partner in promoting peace and prosperity through development assistance. The EU and its member states account for over 55% of global net Official Development Assistance to developing countries, with aid from the fifteen wealthiest EU member states rising by 6.7% in 2010 to just over $70 billion.
In Libya, NATO allies came together with Arab and other partners to support the Libyan people and prevent a catastrophe.
In Afghanistan, with nearly 40,000 European troops on the ground alongside our own, we have built and sustained NATO’s largest-ever overseas deployments. And we will continue to support the Afghans as they assume full responsibility for their own security by the end of 2014.
On Iran, along with our European allies, we share a deep and increasing concern about unresolved issues and Iran’s continued refusal to comply with its international nuclear obligations.
We remain committed to a dual-track policy that uses pressure to urge Iran to engage seriously on its nuclear program.
At the same time, we are engaging closely with major oil consuming and producing nations to assess the balance of supply and work to stabilize global markets.
Our aim is to reduce the revenue flowing to Iran’s illicit nuclear program, and not to endanger global economic recovery through higher energy prices.
We also recognize the need to work together with our European partners on a wide range of energy issues, including increasing the diversity and security of our energy sources, developing clean energy technologies and storage mechanisms, and constantly improving and refining our approaches to energy efficiency.
In these difficult economic times, we stand to benefit both our economies by ensuring that the brightest minds on both sides of the Atlantic are working together on these challenges and that our regulatory frameworks continue to foster innovation in this critical area.
Our interdependence makes it essential that we work together to coordinate trade and financial policy, an imperative that has only increased with the global financial crisis.
A healthy and robust transatlantic economy directly relates to our ability to address current and future global foreign policy challenges. Secretary Clinton has been quite clear on this point and has said: “We need to forge an ambitious agenda for joint economic leadership with Europe that is every bit as compelling as our security cooperation around the world.”
Secretary Clinton’s vision for Economic Statecraft involves using the tools of diplomacy abroad to support trade and the rights of U.S. investors. We will leverage the strengths and expertise of the U.S. private sector in our economic engagement overseas, and use our overseas presence to grow our economy at home by attracting foreign investment to the United States and increase trade.
The transatlantic economy is the largest in the world – with trade flows between the U.S. and EU exceeding $2.7 billion per day. To put this in perspective, the value of United States goods and services exports to the European Union is almost five times the value of our exports to China.
In previous discussions with you, I’ve outlined this shared vision for the transatlantic economy. Our transatlantic work is geared toward a common agenda of economic recovery and growth.
By reinforcing our mutual recoveries, we can bring emerging powers into the international rules-based system, and reorient the global economic architecture. Indeed, I think we have made significant progress in reorienting the TEC and the High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum towards these ends.
I’d like to review progress in what we’ve done to advance our goals in these areas, and leave ample time to discuss how you see prospects for intensifying work towards this common agenda.
The backdrop to this discussion, and foremost in the minds of policy-makers both in Brussels and Washington, is putting our recoveries on a sustainable path, recognizing the impact of Europe’s debt crisis on our intertwined economies.
We remain confident that the EU has the will and the means not only to manage its debt and build the necessary firewalls, but also to create growth and to restore liquidity and market confidence.
We welcome recent steps by European leaders to resolve the debt and banking crisis, including the “fiscal compact” treaty and summit commitments in January and again this month to facilitate job creation and to help member states pursuing pro-growth reforms.
We understand governments are reviewing the size of Europe’s financial firewall and look forward to the outcome of that review; we believe this will be a critical further milestone in arresting contagion while those reforms take root.
We welcome the disbursement of a second financial support program for Greece. Greek authorities are implementing a strong package of reforms that deserves our support and that of the international community.
As Secretary Geithner said earlier this week, fully restoring confidence and growth will take time and it is essential to give countries space to enact critical reforms while continuing to borrow at affordable rates.
There is clearly more hard work ahead with many difficult choices to make. But our European partners have laid a solid foundation on which to build.
Transatlantic Economic Council:
The business community, consumer organizations, and other stakeholders in the United States and in Europe have also been an active and vocal constituency in support of the Transatlantic Economic Council, or TEC. I would like to give an update on two areas where the business community has supported deeper engagement: investment and e-mobility.
[We are very close to finalizing a set of investment principles that we have developed with the EU as part of the TEC Investment Working Group. We are hopeful that these principles can be used in our joint efforts on investment in third countries, as well as with our multilateral efforts at the OECD, UNCTAD, and elsewhere. In the months ahead, we will keep you informed how we intend to operationalize this set of principles.]
We reference in the principles support for the OECD work on a preliminary set of criteria on State-owned and State-supported enterprises. You have told us is of concern to business as well.
This new breed of SOE can crowd out more innovative, smaller competitors, hurting both the host economy and foreign competitors.
We are working with the EU and others to push further work by the OECD Trade and Investment Committees to examine the cross-border impact of these practices and build on the existing work of the Corporate Governance and Competition Committees. We believe the investment and trade dimensions are particularly important and they are substantially interrelated.
On e-vehicles, I view launching the comprehensive workplan at the November TEC in 2011 as one of the highlights. We thank Audi and Ford for their leadership with us in this effort.
A key component of this work plan is a decision to establish “interoperability centers,” or living laboratories, allowing scientists from both sides of the Atlantic to share data, equipment, and testing methodologies.
This in turn should set a foundation for compatible approaches and regulations in both markets and lead to interoperable e-cars and related infrastructure, such as charging stations and smart grids. We hope these new models for working together on science-based cooperation will lead to more compatible regulatory approaches in other sectors, such as nanotechnology.
While we have a common purpose on electric vehicles, success is by no means assured. It will depend heavily on the work that is done in the private sector to prioritize and develop the standards adopted for and applied to these new technologies. The standards-setting process is very complex with vital roles for government, business, and standard-setters.
We urge private sector standards bodies to keep up the momentum achieved last year and identify priorities for standards-setting, and what governments can do to assist in the process.
If the EU and the United States can together promote the creation of compatible, high quality, transatlantic standards in a variety of sectors or product areas in the short-to- medium term, our countries can encourage other nations to adhere to them and reduce the clutter of disjointed, unilateral standards that would impede trade and serve as protectionist devices.
We look forward to discussing how business and government can create similar partnerships in the TEC to further our mutual agendas on raw materials, nanotechnology, and e-health.
High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth
At the U.S.-EU Summit in November 2011, President Obama and EU leaders pledged to make the U.S.-EU trade and investment relationship even stronger. They called upon the TEC to create a High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth, co-chaired by the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
The purpose of this group is to identify and assess options for strengthening the transatlantic economic relationship in areas including, but not limited to: conventional barriers to trade in goods; barriers to trade in services and in investment; opportunities to reduce or prevent unnecessary non-tariff barriers to trade; and, enhanced cooperation on common concerns involving third countries.
All options are on the table. USTR has had initial consultations with EU counterparts and continues to consult with all stakeholders, including Congress, in its work.
Several major private sector organizations have issued studies or reports that make compelling arguments for an ambitious agenda in this area. AmCham and TABD, in cooperation with others, have been instrumental in putting this on the U.S.-EU government agendas at the highest levels.
And now there is a shared consensus that a more ambitious mandate is needed, given the need to put our domestic economic recoveries on even sounder footing.
As the EU, like the United States, focuses on jobs and growth as a priority domestic goal, the Obama Administration sees a unique opportunity for even more intense collaboration to exploit the potential of the transatlantic market. But this will involve making tough political decisions on both sides and resisting the urge to give into a competitive, rather than collaborative, mindset. We hope that an ambitious, yet realizable, approach can be developed in the High Level Working Group.
In conclusion, I want to thank again AmCham and TABD for their leadership on the transatlantic economic agenda and look forward now to our discussion.
CENTRALITY OF THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION.
An Asia Pacific that is prosperous and integrated into the global economy is good for American growth, jobs, and competitiveness.
This is particularly true for the American agricultural sector which literally produces food for the world. While we are fortunate to live in a country that is food secure, by globalizing our agricultural sector, we are able to tap into larger markets and grow our exports. The U.S. agricultural sector will continue to benefit from Asia’s economic growth, as a new generation of consumers comes of age in the region.
Three initiatives, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), are critical to advancing U.S. economic interests and benefiting U.S. agricultural exporters in the region. I want to touch briefly on each one.
Part of this “Re-orientation West’ (that is looking from the Continental USA to the Pacific) is also the Pacific Partnership, created in response to the terrible tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in 2004, that will carry out its seventh annual mission from May to September 2012. The program was developed by the U.S. Navy, but has become a demonstrable example of the “whole of government” approach to American policy in the Pacific, including participation by the Department of State, USAID, NOAA, and all branches of the U.S. military. It strongly supports three key areas identified by Secretary Clinton in her Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) presented in 2010: global health, climate change, and humanitarian assistance.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet-sponsored Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12), is the largest 2012 humanitarian and civic assistance mission in the Asia-Pacific region, designed to strengthen regional relationships and increase interoperability between the United States, partner nations, and international humanitarian and relief organizations. At the invitation of host nations, the U.S. Navy will work with partner nations, international agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide health, dental, and veterinary care, as well as civil engineering projects and subject matter expert exchanges.
The 2012 mission platform is the USNS MERCY (T-AH 19). The hospital ship will deploy from San Diego at the beginning of May to visit Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
This year the U.S. is joined by 12 partner nations including Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Thailand.
Pacific Partnership is also proud to be joined by a number of NGOs and agencies including the East-West Center, Global Grins, Hope Worldwide, LDS Charities, Project Handclasp, Project Hope, UC San Diego Pre-Dental Society, University of Hawaii, World Vets; as well as, USAID, Dept of Justice, NOAA, and of course our joint partners – the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) vessel will accompany PP2012 and visit the Philippines and Vietnam, along with complete medical teams, helicopters, and Japanese volunteer organizations.