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Posted on on March 16th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


We would like to invite those based in Washington DC to “Mekong Days” –  CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, IUCN, and the Goethe Institute have jointly organized during 22-27 March, 2013.
The week includes a number of panel discussions and talks with a focus on the recently released movie “Mekong” produced and directed by Douglas Varchol with funding support from CPWF, IUCN and Sida. To learn more about the film go to
Please see attached a flyer describing this exciting program of activities.
I would be really grateful if you could share this with your colleagues or those whom you think might be interested to attend.

“Mekong” examines the issues of hydropower development and its impact on Mekong citizens’ lives. Filmed in four countries, and produced in five languages, it includes footage of China’s Mekong [Lancang] dams, as well as on-site footage of the controversial Xayaburi dam in Laos.

The Mekong Region is a massive ecosystem that is the lifeline for more than 60 million people across six countries: Cambodia, China, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

For the people in the Lower Mekong Basin, it provides more fish to more people than any other river in the world. With an estimated commercial value exceeding US$2 billion per year, it is the world’s most valuable inland fishery. At the same time, more than 140 dams are currently planned, under construction or commissioned for different rivers in the basin. If constructed, this will radically alter the basin’s hydrology, its ecology and, consequently, the lives of millions who depend upon it.

How can two seemingly opposite demands be met – sustainable development of a region and the rising demands for energy and economic growth?

The purpose of this project is to open up the debate on hydropower development in the region through the use of innovative communication tools.

The film examines the issues of hydropower development and its impact on Mekong citizens’ lives. It features stories of Mekong citizens up and down the river, from fishers on the Tonle Sap, activists still fighting at the Pak Mun dam in Thailand, to a vice minister from Laos convinced he can build the region’s most “river-transparent” dam. Filmed in four countries, and four languages, it includes footage of China’s Mekong [Lancang] dams, as well as on-site footage of the controversial Xayaburi dam in Laos.

This independent film was produced and directed by Douglas Varchol and funded by CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, IUCN’s Mekong Water Dialogues, and Sida.

Michael Victor Communication Coordinator

CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food
Mobile International :  +94 773 950 713 (Sri Lanka)    M (Laos): +856-20-5552-6693
E :  S : michaelpenvictor
P.O. Box 2075, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Mekong Days March 22 – 26, 2013 in Washington DC:

Friday, March 22, 5:30 pm | Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St. NW

Opening ceremony for Mekong Days

Art works by Phan Thao Ngyuen (Vietnam), Lim Sokchanlina (Cambodia), Piyaporn Wongruang (Thailand). The US premiere of Mekong (director: Douglas Varchol) captures footage of China’s Mekong (Lancang) dams, as well as the controversial Xayaburi Dam in Laos. Followed by a reception hosted by the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Devel- opment, and a screening of Mekong, the Mother (director: Peter Degen) Tickets: $7

Sunday, March 24, 2 – 5 pm | Goethe-Institut

artists Give a Voice to Nature

Sound installation by Phan Thao Ngyuen (Vietnam).
Southeast Asian Student Documentary Film Award presentation with films by Panida Sanatem, Maiphone Phommachan (Laos), Narong Srisopap (Thailand), Chum Sophea (Cambodia) and more.
Followed by a discussion of the role of the arts in the perception of social and environ- mental issues.
rSVP:  rsvp at

Monday, March 25, 2 – 3:30 pm | Woodrow Wilson center, 1300 Pennsylvania ave. NW, 5th floor

Balancing act on the Mekong: Building Linkages for More

Sustainable hydropower Development

Film clips and panel discussion hosted by Jennifer L. Turner, Woodrow Wilson Center Panelists: Douglas Varchol, film director, Mekong
Robert Mather, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Michael Victor, CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food

rSVP:  cef at

Monday, March 25, 6:30 pm | Goethe-Institut
Whose river, Whose choice? hydropower, Governance and environment in the Mekong

Screening of the film Mekong, followed by a discussion.
Participants: Asterio Takesy, Ambassador from Micronesia; Felix Leinemann EU Delega- tion; Erik Stokstad, AAAS; Robert Mather, IUCN; Michael Victor.
rSVP:  rsvp at

Tuesday, March 26, 6:30 pm | goethe-Institut

Up the Yangtze

Screening of this film from China conveying the human dimension of the wrenching changes facing the world at large. Tickets: $7

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Posted on on June 4th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


UNEP Announces Winners of 2008 Sasakawa Prize –
Bringing Renewable Energy to Remote Communities: Projects from Peru and Lao PDR Share Prestigious Environment Award.

NAIROBI/WELLINGTON, 4 June 2008 – Two projects bringing renewable energy to
villages in Peru and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic have been awarded
the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Sasakawa Prize for 2008.

The two winning projects are Sunlabob Rural Energy Ltd (Lao PDR) and
Practical Action (Peru). Both projects are bringing clean power – solar
and hydro – to remote rural communities that do not have access to grid
electricity, on the eastern slopes of the Andes and in the farthest-flung
regions of the Lao PDR.

The UNEP Sasakawa Prize, worth $200,000, is awarded yearly to individuals
or institutions which have made a substantial contribution to the
protection and management of the environment. The winners, who will each
receive $100,000, were chosen by a five-member jury from a shortlist of six
projects at a meeting in Tokyo.

The Prize acts as an incentive for grassroots environmental efforts that
are sustainable and replicable. It recognizes extraordinary initiatives
from around the world that make use of innovation and groundbreaking
research and ideas and empower people at the local level.

This year’s theme for the award was “Moving towards a low carbon economy”,
the theme of World Environment Day 2008. The shortlist included four other
outstanding projects bringing clean energy to thousands of people, from
families in the Philippines to rural households in south India and prisons
in Rwanda.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director,
said: “Addressing the monumental energy challenge of the 21st century
involves practical projects at ground level that bring tangible changes to
the way people live. Sunlabob and Practical Action are showing tremendous
leadership in bringing clean energy to remote communities in Peru and the
Lao PDR, and in doing so they are setting further examples of the energy
alternatives available to the developing but also the developed world.”

The Winners

Sunlabob Rural Energy Ltd., set up in 2001, is bringing energy to remote
rural communities in the Lao PDR, a country where just 48 per cent of the
population has access to grid electricity, mostly in cities and town.
Through Sunlabob, over 1,800 solar-home-systems (SHS) and 500 solar
lanterns are being rented to families in 73 different villages across the

In an area where most people rely on highly polluting kerosene lamps, the
initiative rents out solar lighting at a lower price than kerosene,
providing families with a real incentive to switch to the cleaner energy.
The cheapest solar systems costs 35,000 kip per month ($3.80) to rent,
while households typically spend 36,000 to 60,000 kip per month ($4 to
$6.60) on kerosene for lighting. As well as being far less sustainable
than solar energy, kerosene lamps can be dangerous, causing burns, starting
fires and polluting the air indoors.

The equipment is rented through Village Energy Committees (VEC) selected by
the whole community; this puts the community in control of setting prices,
collecting rents and performing basic maintenance.

The potential for growth in the use of solar PV in the Lao PDR is huge.
Sunlabob is installing systems at a rate of 500 per year, and a new
investment this year will allow it to scale up to 2,500 systems per year,
and 5,000 per year after that.

The project is also highly replicable. Sunlabob is already starting work
in Cambodia and Indonesia, and is exploring possibilities with interested
potential partners in Bhutan, East Timor, Eastern Africa and Latin America.
(See…, for more information.)

Practical Action, founded in 1966, is working in Peru’s eastern Andes where
68 per cent of the population – around 5 million people – do not have
access to electricity. The project makes use of the region’s vast
potential for hydroelectricity: to date, 47 micro-hydro schemes have been
installed in the area through Practical Action, bringing clean power to
about 30,000 people.

Through this project, Practical Action is also boosting local industry, as
most of the turbines are manufactured by small companies in Peru to
Practical Action designs – with each company making three or four turbines
a year. Practical Action says it sees local manufacture as a key step
towards widespread use of renewable energy.

The electricity supply is boosting the development of the remote
communities. Previously, people moved away to start businesses in places
where the infrastructure was better, but the electricity from the
micro-hydro schemes has brought them back. Some villages have doubled in
size, with people returning and others starting or expanding businesses
including restaurants, bakeries, furniture makers, welders and internet
cafes. (See, for more information.)

The UNEP Sasakawa Prize was originally created in 1982 by the late Ryoichi Sasakawa.

The Prize wasre-launched in its current format in 2005, and is currently chaired by Mr.
Sasakawa’s son, Yohei Sasakawa of Japan’s Nippon Foundation.

The five members of the 2008 UNEP Sasakawa Prize jury are UNEP Executive
Director Achim Steiner, Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa, 2004
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai, 1995 Nobel Chemistry
Prize Laureate Professor Mario Molina, and Ms Wakako Hironaka, Member of
Japan’s House of Councillors.

As well as the two winning projects, the 2008 shortlist also included four
other projects bringing renewable energy to remote communities in Africa
and Asia.

The Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management has
brought biogas power to six prisons in Rwanda, halving the need for
firewood and improving sanitation for 30,000 prisoners.

The AlternativeIndigenous Development Foundation is installing hydro-powered water pumps
for poor communities in the Philippines.

The Mwanza Rural Housing Programme is training villagers in northern Tanzania to make high-quality
bricks from local clay, fired with agricultural residues rather than wood.

And SKG Sangha has set up a biogas programme in southern India to replace
fuelwood with biogas for cooking in rural households, and also to increase
household income by making a saleable fertilizer from biogas residue and
other unmanaged agricultural organic waste.

For more information, please visit the UNEP Sasakawa Prize website at: or e-mail:  sasakawaprize at

To find out more about World Environment Day, go to:


Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson/Head of Media, UNEP on Tel: +41-79-596-5737,
E-mail:  nick.nuttall at
Or Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer, at tel:
+254-20-762-3088, Mobile: +254-728-600-494, or e-mail:
 anne-france.white at

Jim Sniffen
Information Officer
UN Environment Programme
New York
tel: +1-212-963-8094/8210
 info at


Posted on on May 23rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Fukuda pledges full support for planned ASEAN unified market.

By REIJI YOSHIDA, The Japan Times onlline, Staff writer, Friday, May 23, 2008.

Echoing his late father’s message more than three decades ago, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Thursday that Japan will seek closer ties with Southeast Asian countries by supporting the planned creation of a single integrated market in the region.

In his speech to a symposium in Tokyo, Fukuda reconfirmed Japan’s support for the establishment of an economic community by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by 2015, while noting Japan’s alliance with the United States will continue to provide security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Fukuda’s father, the late Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, is best remembered for his Fukuda Doctrine of 1977, which declared to Southeast Asian countries that Japan would build closer ties with the region and never again become a military aggressor.

“My first promise to you is that Japan will emphatically support ASEAN’s efforts to realize a community,” Fukuda told the “The Future of Asia” symposium, which was attended by several leaders from Asian nations, including Thailand, Malaysia, Laos and Indonesia. “I am determined to cooperate with the efforts of ASEAN, which is aiming to establish the ASEAN Community by 2015,” he said.

Fukuda meanwhile argued that the security situation in Asia remains unstable, singling out North Korea as one example.

The Japan-U.S. military alliance thus helps stabilize the region and “serve as the cornerstone for Asian prosperity,” he argued. “The Japan-U.S. alliance is now much more than a means for ensuring the security of Japan; rather, it also serves as an instrument for the stability of Asia and the Pacific as a whole.”

The 1977 Fukuda Doctrine was warmly welcomed and is believed to have favorably altered the sentiment of ASEAN countries toward Japan.

At that time, memories of Japan’s wartime aggression were still fresh in the region, which saw Japan’s postwar rise into an economic powerhouse as a cause for concern.

Fukuda also pledged Thursday make Japan a “peace-fostering nation.”

He cited Japan’s Indian Ocean refueling support for U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism and pirates in the Strait of Malacca, as well as Japan’s contributions to regional efforts to cope with natural disasters and the spread of avian influenza.


Posted on on April 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

UN blunders with human rights logo resembling robes of the Dalai Lama.

By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor, The Independent of London.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time – redesigning the UN logo to mark the 60th anniversary of the world’s most translated document, the UN Human Rights declaration.

After a long search for a new design, a South African artist was commissioned after the UN decided to ditch its blue and white logo in favour of one which the high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour, believed would have more resonance in the developing world.

The successful design was unveiled in December last year, when the UN launched a year-long promotion for the 60th anniversary, which is to culminate with ceremonies on 10 December. Nobody noticed any particular significance of the orange and amber logo, showing a person with outstretched arms. When the design was unveiled the artist, Yolande Mulke, said: “I think what the UN likes about it is the continuity of using the wreath device from the UN logo and the feeling of peace and welcoming that the man with his arms wide open projects.”

But four months later, after weeks of protests by the amber-robed Buddhist monks in Tibet as China prepares to hold the Beijing Olympics, the UN has been embarrassed by the logo’s distinctive colours which are also those favoured by the Dalai Lama, the symbol of Tibetan resistance. “It’s a complete accident, we had no idea that the colours were those of Tibet,” said a UN official. The problem for the UN – which recognises China as the ruler of Tibet – is that the logo has been chosen to replace the official UN Human Rights one not only throughout this year but on a permanent basis.

Susan Curran, a spokeswoman for Mrs Arbour, said no UN member state had complained about the logo. Chinese embassy officials in London did not return calls yesterday. But Ms Curran stressed that the decision was taken long ago and that there was “nothing specific” about the logo’s chosen colours. “The criteria were that we wanted to show colours that were grounded and indigenous,” she said.

The UN is enlisting artists, filmmakers and cartoonists to raise awareness of the human rights declaration under the slogan “Dignity and justice for all of us”. A website, has been set up to promote the campaign.

The Nobel peace prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for Mrs Arbour to be allowed to visit Tibet in order to “report to the international community the events which led to this international outcry for justice”. During the height of the protests last month, she urged China to allow peaceful protests in Lhasa.

However, Amnesty International has issued a strong criticism of the international community’s response, saying that unless Gordon Brown and other world leaders speak out strongly and in public, “they risk giving tacit endorsement to China’s repressive policies”.

China has kept up the pressure by accusing Tibetan groups of planning suicide attacks, and it announced the seizure of guns, bullets and explosives in some Tibetan monasteries. China’s Ministry of Public Security said it had arrested “key members” of an underground network in Lhasa working with foreign-based pro-Tibet independence groups to spark a “Tibet People’s Uprising Movement”.

“We now have sufficient evidence to prove that the Lhasa incident is part of the Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement organised by the Dalai clique,” a ministry spokesman, Wu Heping, told a Beijing news conference. “Its purpose is to create crisis in China by staging co-ordinated sabotage activities. To our knowledge, the next plan of the Tibet independence forces is to organise suicide squads to launch violent attacks.”

The accusation was swiftly denied by an aide to the Dalai Lama, who leads a government-in-exile in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala.

The US state department also weighed in. A spokesman said: “The Dalai Lama is a man of peace. There is absolutely no indication that he wants to do anything other than have a dialogue with China to discuss how to deal with some of the serious issues there.”

About 90 Tibetan exiles and monks protested yesterday in two waves in front of the Chinese embassy in Nepal, but they were quickly detained by Nepalese police who have stopped similar protests in the past few days.

The Dalai Lama, described as a “separatist” by Beijing, has upset China by deciding to make a brief stopover in Japan on the way to the US from India next week. “We have all along opposed him using any excuse or in any capacity going to any country to engage in separatist activities,” said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.


Blue and White might also be seen as the post World War II struggle of the Jewish people that eventually led to a free state. If now, 6o years later, the Gold and White is seen as a symbol of the struggling Buddhism, perhapse by the time of the 70’s celebration the turn will come for a Green And White coloring to honor an expected feredom effort in the Muslem World. What colors are there for the struggle of the African People – who knows, their time may also arrive   eventually.


Posted on on January 13th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Jan. 13, 2008, The Japan Times, Kyodo News: Japan to give ¥6 billion in aid to four Mekong River nations – Former Indo-China’s Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Japan will provide a combined ¥6 billion in aid to four nations in the Mekong River region for various projects, including the construction of two highways that will traverse the Indochina Peninsula, government sources said Saturday. Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura will pledge the official development assistance to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam at a meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday, the sources said.

The meeting, the first of its kind, will bring together Komura’s counterparts from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos.

Japan wants to place emphasis on funneling ODA resources into the Mekong region, which has been lagging behind other Southeast Asian regions in economic development, they said. The aid is expected to help Japanese companies increase business activity in the Mekong.

The projects covered by the aid will include one to build two highways linking Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar that have been dubbed the “Indochina East-West Economic Corridors,” the sources said.

Japan plans to disburse ¥2.2 billion over the next three years to help the Mekong region build road transportation bases from which truck cargo can be shipped to various destinations, and to train local customs officials how to conduct proper customs procedures, they said.

Separately, Japan will provide ¥2.2 billion to help Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam build schools and power generation facilities for poor people in areas traversing the nations, the sources said.

Japan will also provide ¥1.7 billion to support Cambodian poverty-reduction efforts, the sources said.

Komura will hold bilateral talks with the foreign ministers of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos on Wednesday, and with the foreign ministers of Myanmar and Thailand on Thursday.