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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

<
unfccc.int/files/press/news_room/press_releases_and_advisories/application/pdf/pr20140106_ctcn.pdf
>

(Copenhagen/Bonn, 2 June 2014):

Developing countries are now beginning to make active use of the UN’s new global network for climate technology solutions, the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). This constitutes a promising signal that momentum for climate action is building ahead of a new, universal climate agreement in 2015.

So far this year, six countries have submitted eight requests for technology assistance to the CTCN, which is headquartered in Copenhagen.

These include – Afghanistan, Bhutan, Chile, Colombia, Honduras and Pakistan.

The requests for support relate to a broad range of climate action, from renewable energy policies to public transportation, and from biodiversity monitoring to saving mangrove forests for coastal protection.

Welcoming the development, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said:

“Innovation is the engine of development, and replacing current technologies
with cleaner, low-carbon alternatives is a vital part of tackling the
causes and effects of climate change. The Climate Technology Centre and
Network works to accelerate the use of new technologies in improving the
lives and livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries who are
dealing with the impacts of climate change on a daily basis.”

According to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the Bonn based UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the growing use of the
CTCN is encouraging and now needs the necessary finance.

“As countries work towards a universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015,
the CTCN provides yet another foundation upon which optimism and action is
being built. For it to fully flourish and provide maximum support to
developing country ambitions, the requests for support now need to be
matched with the finance required, most notably through swift and
sufficient capitalization of the Green Climate Fund,” she said.

Last week, the board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) completed the
essential policy requirements to make the fund operational. The GCF was
established as a prime global channel to deliver public funds and to
leverage private sector finance for developing country climate action.

Meanwhile, the CTCN has put all central requirements for the transfer of
technology in place.

Since its launch in late 2013, over 80 countries have established national
CTCN focal points (known as National Designated Entities) who work with
country stakeholders to develop and relay requests to the Climate
Technology Centre’s network of regional and sectoral experts from academia,
the private sector, and public and research institutions.

A side event on the progress to date of the Technology Mechanism and the
CTCN will be held on the margins of the upcoming Bonn Climate Change
Conference on 7 June 2014, 18.30-20.00.

This side event is organized collaboratively by the Technology Executive
Committee (TEC) and the CTCN. It will opened by UNFCCC Executive Secretary
Christiana Figueres, and will include presentations by the Director of the
CTCN, Mr. Jukka Uosukainen, and the Chairs of the TEC and the CTCN.

More information: goo.gl/PUK0Kp.

For more information, please contact:
Karina Larsen, CTCN Knowledge & Communications Manager
+45 4533 5373; karina.larsen@unep.org
Climate Technology Centre & Network (CTCN)
Website: www.unep.org/climatechange/ctcn/

Nick Nuttall, Coordinator, Communications and Outreach: +49 228 815 1400
(phone), +49 152 0168 4831
(mobile) nnuttall(at)unfccc.int
John Hay, Communications Officer: +49 172 258 6944 (mobile) jhay
(at)unfccc.int
Website: unfccc.int

About the UNFCCC
With 196 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997
Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC
Parties. For the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, 37 States,
consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the
process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission
limitation and reduction commitments. In Doha in 2012, the Conference of
the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol
adopted an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which establishes the second
commitment period under the Protocol. The ultimate objective of both
treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at
a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate
system.

About the CTCN
The Climate Technology Centre and Network promotes the accelerated transfer
of environmentally sound technologies for climate change mitigation and
adaptation in developing countries. The CTCN quickly responds with
potential solutions as well as tailored capacity building in order to
transfer valuable knowledge and practical advice from one country to
another in order to accelerate the pace of climate technology
implementation. The CTCN is the operational arm of the UNFCCC Technology
Mechanism and is hosted by UNEP in collaboration with the United Nations
Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and 11 independent, regional
organizations with expertise in climate technologies.

See also:  <unfccc.int/press/items/2794.php>
Follow UNFCCC on Twitter:  @UN_ClimateTalks
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres on Twitter: @CFigueres
UNFCCC on Facebook:  facebook.com/UNclimatechange

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Kerala bags an United Nations award for sustainable tourism initiatives.

Published on : Friday, January 24, 2014

Kerala Backwaters      Kerala, God’s own country is recognized for its sustainable tourism policies by the United Nations. Kerala tourism is awarded by the United Nations for creating innovative initiatives in sustainable tourism.

This is the first ever UN award for any state in India.

The coveted award from the United Nations was mostly influenced by the sustainable  development initiative in the world famous backwater resort of Kumarakom. According to a press release from the Kerala tourism, they received the award at the UNWTO Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism held in Madrid, Spain.

 

 

Kerala won the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance, the highest honour given to the government bodies for shaping global tourism policies through innovative initiatives.

Kerala Tourism was chosen for the honour for its path-breaking ‘Responsible Tourism’ project in Kumarakom, which has successfully linked the local community with the Hospitality industry and government departments, thereby creating a model for empowerment and development of the people in the area while sustaining eco-friendly tourism.

The Kumarakom initiative had earlier won the National Award for Best Rural Tourism Project in March last year and also the PATA Grand Award for Environment.

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Dr. Tej Vir Singh awarded the UNWTO Ulysses Prize for the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge.

Dr. Tej Vir Singh, professor and Founding Director of the Centre for Tourism Research & Development (CTRD) in India, has been named winner of the 2013 UNWTO Ulysses Prize for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge. The Award honors outstanding members of the academia for their significant contribution to the development of tourism education and research.

Dr. Singh, the Founding Editor of Tourism Recreation Research, the oldest and highly respected, international tourism journal in Asia, is a pioneer in introducing extensive tourism research in the region. A specialist in Himalayan tourism, Dr. Singh has produced several books on tourism and many papers on tourism development and its impacts.

“I would like to commend Dr. Singh´s lifelong dedication to tourism research and his pioneering the concept and practice of sustainability in the field of tourism. His work has inspired many other academicians to develop their own research in the field, contributing greatly to the advancement of tourism education and of the tourism sector as a whole,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

As the Founding Director of the Institute of Himalayan Studies and Regional Development at the University of Garhwal, Dr. Singh started the first Himalayan tourism training course. In 1976, he established the CTRD, a non-government organization devoted to the cause of tourism academics and research, with a special focus on India. Under his leadership, the Centre started an outreach programme that included education, training, research guidance, consultancy, curriculum design, and tourism programme initiation to several Indian universities, management institutions and colleges. Today, the CTRD is recognized for the generation and publication of valuable research on recreation and tourism, and is well-known as a leading organization for developing and disseminating scholarships in tourism in India.

The UNWTO Ulysses Prize for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge will be presented during the UNWTO Awards Ceremony to be held on 22 January 2014, within the framework of the International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR) in Madrid, Spain.

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Volatile Bangkok turns out positive for Indian tourism.

Published on : Thursday, January 23, 2014

bangkok-shutdown        While Bangkok faces a tourism fall due to the ongoing political crisis, Indian tourism reaps the dividends. Thailand government’s decision to impose emergency in Bangkok is supposed to cause a loss of almost B10 billion for the Thailand tourism industry. On the contrary, foreign tourists are preferring to book a holiday in India.
According to the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), the volatile political condition in Bangkok has spurred a huge interest of international travelers seeking holiday escapades in Indian. Political volatility has been on the rise in Bangkok, especially in the past few days. A couple of bomb blasts took place in the capital amidst wide protests. Protesters have been trying for more than two months to bring down the government. The Indian embassy in Thailand too is continuously tracking the situation and coming up with updates.
The global tourism industry has seen such shift of choices due to political and violent condition in a particular destination. To site an example, Spain tourism had a major share of international travelers last year owing to the political strife in Egypt. While Bangkok is one of the most popular destinations in Asia, India enjoys the advantage of volatile currency and a plethora of destination choices. In fact, domestic tourism also got a boost as many Indians are also going for home holidays rather than opting for Bangkok as every year about 500,000 Indians visit Bangkok.

 

 

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Tourism can foster sustainable development in Central America – UN General Assembly.

 

Published on : Friday, January 24, 2014

 

unwto GNSustainable tourism is an ally of poverty eradication in Central America and the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – as reflected in the UN resolution on “Sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central America”.

The 193-member UN General Assembly adopted the resolution unanimously during its 68th session. This represents an important step towards mainstreaming sustainable tourism in the international development agenda and the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (New York, USA, 22 December 2013).

 

Emphasizing that sustainable tourism in Central America is a cross-cutting activity with close linkages to other sectors and thus generating trade opportunities, the UN General Assembly recognizes tourism as a fundamental pillar of regional integration and an engine of social and economic development, income, investment and hard currency in the region. The resolution further “encourages giving appropriate consideration to the issue of sustainable tourism in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda”, which will follow the deadline of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Against this backdrop, the UN General Assembly invites States and other stakeholders, as well as the World Tourism Organization, to continue to support the activities undertaken by the Central American countries for the promotion of responsible and sustainable tourism and extend the benefits of tourism to all sectors of society, in particular the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of the population.

 

International tourism in Central America grew significantly in recent years. In 2012, Central America received almost 9 million international tourists who generated US$ 8 billion in revenues, up from, respectively, 4.3 million arrivals and US$ 3 billion in 2000. Today, international tourism accounts for as much as 17% of all Central American exports.

 

The UN resolution was sponsored by 51 Member States: Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Canada, Cape Vert, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, United States of America, Ukraine and Uruguay.

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Central America poised for tourism growth: SITCA

Published on : Sunday, September 15, 2013

centeral America          The Secretariat of Central American Tourism Integration (SITCA), along with the tourism authorities of the seven Central American countries – Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvado r, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama – have conducted a study on the evolution of the tourism sector in the region over the past 12 years and found a positive forecast of expected 6.1 per cent growth for this year.

       In the period between 2000 and 2012, tourism to Central America has grown by 122.8 per cent from 4.23 million visitors in 2000 to 9.39 visitors in 2012, an annual increase of seven per cent on average stated the study.


Domestic tourism from within the region accounts for 40 per cent while North America accounts for between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of visitors.
Costa Rica and Guatemala received the highest number of visitors, but Nicaragua and Panama have registered the biggest growth in the period covered by the study, moving from fifth and sixth position (in terms of the total number of visitors received) to fourth and third respectively.


The average spend by tourists has also grown considerably over the last 12 years, thanks to an increase in the amount of products consumed, moving from an average spend per person of US$700 in 2000 to US$1,016 in 2012.
Based on the results of the study, it is expected that the number of visitors will increase by 6.1 per cent this year compared to last year, with an expected total of 9.96 million visitors.


For 2013, the average spend per tourist is expected to reach US$1,016.63, compared to US$1,016.18 in 2012. Revenue from tourism revenue is expected to be highest in Panama and lowest in Nicaragua.
The data presented by SITCA shows that the tourism sector in Central America is becoming the main source of revenue for all seven countries and a true driver for the economic growth of the region.

 

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International tourism exceeds expectations with arrivals up by 52 million in 2013.

 

International tourist arrivals grew by 5% in 2013, reaching a record 1,087 million arrivals, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Despite global economic challenges, international tourism results were well above expectations, with an additional 52 million international tourists travelling the world in 2013. For 2014, UNWTO forecasts 4% to 4.5% growth – again, above the long term projections.

Demand for international tourism was strongest for destinations in Asia and the Pacific (+6%), Africa (+6%) and Europe (+5%). The leading sub-regions were South-East Asia (+10%), Central and Eastern Europe (+7%), Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+6%) and North Africa (+6%).

“2013 was an excellent year for international tourism” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “The tourism sector has shown a remarkable capacity to adjust to the changing market conditions, fuelling growth and job creation around the world, despite the lingering economic and geopolitical challenges. Indeed, tourism has been among the few sectors generating positive news for many economies”, he added.

UNWTO forecasts international arrivals to increase by 4% to 4.5% in 2014, again above its long-term forecast of +3.8% per year between 2010 and 2020. The UNWTO Confidence Index, based on the feedback from over 300 experts worldwide, confirms this outlook with prospects for 2014 higher than in previous years

“The positive results of 2013, and the expected global economic improvement in 2014, set the scene for another positive year for international tourism. Against this backdrop, UNWTO calls upon national governments to increasingly set up national strategies that support the sector and to deliver on their commitment to fair and sustainable growth”, added Mr Rifai.

2014 regional prospects are strongest for Asia and the Pacific (+5% to +6%) and Africa (+4% to +6%), followed by Europe and the Americas (both +3% to +4%). In the Middle East (0% to +5%) prospects are positive yet volatile.

 

Europe welcomes most of the new arrivals

Europe led growth in absolute terms, welcoming an additional 29 million international tourist arrivals in 2013, raising the total to 563 million. Growth (+5%) exceeded the forecast for 2013 and is double the region’s average for the period 2005-2012 (+2.5% a year). This is particularly remarkable in view of the regional economic situation and as it follows an already robust 2011 and 2012. By sub-region, Central and Eastern Europe (+7%) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (+6%) experienced the best results.

In relative terms, growth was strongest in Asia and the Pacific (+6%), where the number of international tourists grew by 14 million to reach 248 million. South-East Asia (+10%) was the best performing sub-region, while growth was comparatively more moderate in South Asia (+5%), Oceania and North-East Asia (+4% each).

The Americas (+4%) saw an increase of six million arrivals, reaching a total of 169 million. Leading growth were destinations in North and Central America (+4% each), while South America (+2%) and the Caribbean (+1%) showed some slowdown as compared to 2012.

Africa (+6%) attracted three million additional arrivals, reaching a new record of 56 million, reflecting the on-going rebound in North Africa (+6%) and the sustained growth of Sub-Saharan destinations (+5%). Results in the Middle East (+0% at 52 million) were rather mixed and volatile.

 

Russia and China – leading in growth in 2013

Among the ten most important source markets in the world, Russia and China clearly stand out. China, which became the largest outbound market in 2012 with an expenditure of US$ 102 billion, saw an increase in expenditure of 28% in the first three quarters of 2013. The Russian Federation, the 5th largest outbound market, reported 26% growth through September.

The performance of key advanced economy source markets was comparatively more modest. France (+6%) recovered from a weak 2012 and the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia all grew at 3%. In contrast, Germany, Japan and Italy reported declines in outbound expenditure.

Emerging markets with substantial growth in outbound expenditure were Turkey (+24%), Qatar (+18%), Philippines (+18%), Kuwait (+15%), Indonesia (+15%), Ukraine (+15%) and Brazil (+14%).

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Source: PATA

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 6th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

One of the two last side events on the last Friday of  the second Informal-Informal reading of the draft to Rio 2012 (RIO+20) was about the place of Mother Nature as seen by indigenous cultures that still respect the holiness of the Earth and by intellectuals that are ready to stop a minute and contemplate about the superiority of earth oriented cultures.

Moderated by Lisinka Ulatowska, Coordinator, Major Group Cluster on the Commons, this side event discussed a number of initiatives to create commons-based economies, and how these can be expanded and built upon.

Mario Ruales, Advisor to the Ecuadorian Minister of Coordination of Heritage, highlighted the adoption of a new constitution in 2008, which recognized the rights of Mother Earth. He emphasized the role of natural and indigenous peoples to respect and protect the ecosystem, saying that the constitution has a lot of processes that would allow this to be pursued. He noted Ecuador’s call for a new development architecture, saying that this has been proposed for Rio+20.

Leon Siu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hawaiian Kingdom, outlined his work for reinstating the independent nation state of Hawai’i, saying that should this occur, many of the traditional practices for land management, agriculture and conservation of natural resources will return. He lamented the marginalization of the indigenous peoples, saying that reinstating the independent nation state of Hawai’i would rectify this problem.

Rob Wheeler, Global Ecovillage Network, outlined that the commons-based approach is one where the land and its resources are cooperatively owned, managed and shared among those living on the commons. He noted that ecovillages, which are based on such a model, are among the most sustainable communities in existence. He noted that many lessons on sustainability can be learnt from ecovillages, underscoring their ability to minimize waste, promote clean, renewable energy and ensure the sustainable consumption of natural resources.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates addressed the different financing systems that could be used for implementing a commons-based model. They also discussed referencing the rights of nature in the Rio+20 outcome document.

Ecuador is a member of the ALBA group of Latin and Caribbean Nations like Bolivia. Both countries were left with strong lodes of indigenous people and the governments attempt to speak for them. The Kingdom of Hawaii does still exist even though Hawaii has become a US State and thus does not recognize a King. Nevertheless, You can still see a functioning royal House on the main Hawaii Island.

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As it happened, on the following day, Saturday May 5th, 2012, I had to be in Washington DC and made it also my business to go to visit the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian at 4th Street & Independence Avenue S,W. At the door I saw the announcement that the next weekend Saturday, May 12 – Sunday May 13, 2012, 10 am – 5:30 pm they will celebrate the BOLIVIAN SUMA QAMANA FESTIVAL – sponsored by the Embassy of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

“Discover Bolivia’s Magic, culture, Heritage, Joy of Living Well.”

The Museum doors are etched with sun symbols and open to the east to greet the rising sun as do many traditional Native houses. Native people honor the sun as a life-giver and calendar – instructing when to plant, harvest, conduct ceremonies. The American Indian is responding to Environmental Challenges and the Museum has established a special website for this – www.AmericanIndian.si.edu

At present the museum has two special exhibits. One is very appropriate to present American Indian culture as it evolved in the last 250 years – the interaction with horses and the way they viewed these large and friendly animals. The show is dedicated to “A SONG FOR THE HORSE NATION” and here this Nation are the horses themselves taken as if they were like humans.

The other show includes just one item and I stood there in state of shock. The title is HUICHOL ART ON WHEELS.” Its exhibition is planned from March 20 to May 6th 2012 – so let me say without any hesitation – good ridance before the Bolivian event next week.

Why am I quite angry at this exhibit covered with Huichol Art? Let me make sure that there should be no misunderstanding – it is not because of the Huichols. These are people from the West-Central Mexico who are known for their beadwork. Sometimes they take an object and cover it with colorful beads. The Huichol call themselves in their own language the Wixaritari people and I bought items from them years ago in a store they managed in Porto Vallarta, Jalisco.

The problem with this exhibition of one single item is that it is what they call – a VOCHOL – now that is a common Beetle Volkswagen that was completely covered in beads. Again – not that this car is bad looking – but why in this world in which the indigenous people do every possible effort to tell us that they understand the environment and suffer from climate change, and then bring into this interesting museum a common motor-vehicle that when operated uses gasoline?

WHY BEAD A BUG? asks the museum brochure and proceeds to answer:
The Vochol demonstrates the complex intersections of traditional and modern cultures. It serves as opportunity to bring attention to contemporary indigenous art while also highlighting Wixaritari culture and talent. The project is a collaboration between the Association of Friends of the Museo de Arte Popular, the Museo de Arte Popular, and the state governments of Nayarit and Jalisco, home to the Wixatari people. And let me add here that it must be also home of the assembly plants of Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico. Further – it must be friends of the US Oil industry and the US Auto Manufacturers that convinced that this big piece of art covering the auto-monster vehicle got into the American Indian Museum in order to soften our resistance to fossil fuels transportation – albeit by a reasonably small vehicle.

The Wixatari artist Francisco Bautista used 2,277,000 glass seed beads to cover this beetle, and he finished the work in 2010 according to the license plate attached to the car. Then, let me never forget what my friend Professor Jad Neeman from the Tel Aviv University told me when we went to see a particular exhibition of what looked to me as unused canvases – the main role of modern art is to make us angry so we are moved from our position of not caring. If that is what the exhibitors had in mind – so this was very great art, because it made me care very much – when I concluded that this did not belong into this particular museum.

In above context let me also write here what I found in the permanent exhibit on the 4-th floor – a stoty about another beetle:

This comes from the Cherokee Nation. They tell that “Long ago – all things existed above the sky, from horizon to horizon. The bird and animal people (you remember the horse people I mentioned earlier?) wondered about the water-covered world below and sent Water-Beetle to explore. He descended and returned with a small piece of mud that spread over the water.”

This obviously was another beetle – the one we like for itself.

Further, in a story from the Campo Indians North of San Diego. They ended up being the address where the San Diego garbage was sent for landfill that gave them the Golden Acorn Casino not far from the Mexico border. The local Amerindians did not agree but got it anyway.

The Environmentalists tell them that they show  who they are with appropriate ways of viewing their land as one of their greatest assets.

Their lands are being decimated under them, but the indigenous people make serious attempts to survive.

The IOWA say – Our Songs and Our Ceremonies Enable Us To Survive.

The Nahua state – Our Laws and way of thinking shall continue.

The Cherokees state simply – WE ARE STILL HERE!



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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 9th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Secretary Clinton’s Participation in “Brazil-U.S.: Partnership for the 21st Century” Conference.

Office of the Spokesperson
US Department of State
Washington, DC
April 9, 2012
Today Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participated in and delivered opening remarks at the “Brazil-U.S.:
Partnership for the 21st Century” conference, alongside Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota.

This conference takes place during Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s visit to the United States and reflects the depth and positive focus of the bilateral relationship.

The Partnership for the 21st Century conference is a joint effort to continue to grow commercial, economic, educational, and innovation ties between our two countries. The event includes panel discussions on business and trade advancements and on education and innovation cooperation, including President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas goal and President Rousseff’s Science without Borders initiatives.

Various documents and agreements were signed on the margins of the conference.

These included an Aviation Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (MOU),

an MOU on State and Local Cooperation,

an MOU on Trilateral Cooperation on Food Security in Haiti and Honduras,

an Action Plan on Science and Technology Cooperation,

an MOU between Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Brazil’s Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES),

and a Fulbright-Science without Borders Scholar and Distinguished Chair agreement between CAPES and the U.S.-Brazil Fulbright Commission to expand research exchanges.

Other interagency agreements related to education, culture, environment, sustainable development, and trade were also signed.

==============================================

Democracy in AmericaAmerican politics

Dilma Rousseff’s visit to America – Our friends in the South.

April 7th 2012, in THE ECONOMIST blog from Sao Paulo – in print Monday April 9, 2012 as “DILMA WHO?”

www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2012/04/dilma-rousseffs-visit-america?fsrc=nlw|newe|4-9-2012|1340212|37415992|

BRAZIL has probably never mattered more to America than it does now. America has probably never mattered less to Brazil. Not that relations are bad between the two countries—far from it; they are increasingly cordial and productive. But America has finally, belatedly, woken up to the fact there is a vast, stable country to its south as well as its north; a country, moreover, with a fast-growing and voraciously consuming middle class that seems to offer salvation to American businesses struggling in a moribund domestic market. Brazil, meanwhile, neither needs loans from American-dominated global financial institutions, nor is it otherwise beholden to the country. The United States is no longer even its biggest trading partner. China took that spot in 2009.

A more balanced relationship may be a more fruitful one too. Since Barack Obama’s visit to Rio de Janeiro and Brasília last year, America has delighted Brazil by removing import tariffs on its ethanol and piloting a scheme to make it easier for Brazilians to get visas—two long-standing bugbears. Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, makes a return visit to Washington in the coming week, and there is much to talk about still. What Brazil wants from America above all is endorsement for a seat on the UN Security Council. Britain has already backed its bid, and during his visit to Brazil Mr Obama made baby steps in the same direction, acknowledging Brazil’s “aspiration”, though stopping short of full support.

That support is unlikely to be forthcoming, at least in the near future. Though Brazil is hardly geopolitically troublesome, its worldview—a hard-to-pin-down blend of pragmatism, relativism and a seemingly indiscriminate willingness to be friends with everyone—is unappealing to the United States. The previous president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was flexible enough to be “my man” to Barack Obama and “our brother” to Fidel Castro.

In 2010 Lula stuck his neck out trying to co-broker, with Turkey, an anti-proliferation agreement with Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That infuriated countries far more important to Brazil’s strategic interests, and left Lula looking silly when Mr Ahmedinejad made no concessions in return. Ms Rousseff has rowed back from that friendship, but it reinforced an impression that Brazil is unpredictable and naive.

Mr Obama will surely want to know, too, what exactly Brazil means by its big new foreign-policy idea. That is to complement the UN’s justification for intervention in another country’s affairs under the rubric “Responsibility to Protect” with “Responsibility while Protecting” after it has gone in.

Since Brazil tends not to support going in in the first place, when would it want to see this new responsibility kick in? Even some experienced and sympathetic diplomatic observers in Brasília say they have no idea what concrete difference this would make on the ground.

For America, trade, not diplomacy, will surely be top of the agenda. Judging from the number of American investors turning up in São Paulo every week, Mr Obama must hear about the glowing opportunities Brazil presents in just about every time he meets businessfolk. But with the most overvalued currency of any big economy, Brazil’s own industrialists are prodding the government to keep imports out. It has hiked already-high tariffs on many imports even further, and is taxing foreign-currency inflows increasingly heavily to keep out speculative inflows. Brazil has made it clear it only wants long-term investment, and is only interested in foreign businesses that are willing to make whatever it is they want to sell in Brazil.

If Mr Obama tries to argue for freer trade, he will get short shrift.

Both Ms Rousseff and her finance minister, Guido Mantega, regard the floods of cheap money being pumped out by the Fed and the European Central Bank as a far worse trade distortion than Brazilian barriers, which they term “safeguards” rather than “protectionism”.

Brazil’s drift towards protectionism is in fact becoming a problem for its own economy. But that is an argument for another day. Mr Obama will surely be aware there is still a lot of mileage to be got out of helping American companies to set up shop in Brazil.


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Israeli-owned Ormat Technologies Inc. harnesses energy from water heated by chambers filled with molten rock deep beneath the ground. They put volcanoes or potential volcanoes to work.
The company has been operating two plants in Guatemala for three years and wants to expand but is weighing the risks of drilling more costly exploratory wells.

Reuters writes from Guatemala – “There’s a phase where you just have to drill and see,” Ormat’s representative in Guatemala, Yossi Shilon, said – The problem is that you risk a very expensive investment and are not always satisfied with the results.”

Ormat’s project is only a 20 MW station but Guatemala says the country has the potential to produce up to 1000 MW of geothermal energy, a third of projected energy needs in 2022.

Other Central American countries are already forging ahead in this emerging technology.

More than a fifth of El Salvador’s energy needs come from two geothermal plants with installed capacity of 160 MW and investigations are being carried out to build a third.

Costa Rica, which has 152 megawatts of capacity in four geothermal plants, is due to bring a fifth plant online in January 2011 and is looking into building two more.

Nicaragua generates 66 MW from geothermal energy and in the next five years plans an increase to 166 MW.

Guatemala only produces a tiny amount of its own oil and spends about $2 billion a year on imports. The aim is to save money on energy costs and join international efforts to cut green house gas emissions, issues that will be on the table at global climate change talks this November in Cancun, Mexico.

Dotted with active volcanoes, Central America is seeking to tap its unique geography to produce green energy and cut dependence on oil imports as demand for electricity outstrips supply.

Sitting above shifting tectonic plates in the Pacific basin known to cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the region has huge potential for geothermal power generated by heat stored deep in the earth.

Geothermal power plants, while expensive to build, can provide a long-term, reliable source of electricity and are considered more environmentally friendly than large hydroelectric dams that can alter a country’s topography.

Guatemala, Central America’s biggest country, aims to produces 60 percent of its energy from geothermal and hydroelectric power by 2022.

The government is offering tax breaks on equipment to set up geothermal plants and electricity regulators are requiring distributors buy greater proportions of clean energy.

Some 1,640 feet below the summit of Guatemala’s active Pacaya volcano, which exploded in May, pipes carrying steam and water at 347 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) snake across the mountainside to one of two geothermal plants currently operating in the country.

BETTER THAN DAMS

Central America, heavily dependent on agriculture, is feeling the effects of extreme weather. Tropical Storm Agatha killed nearly 200 people in the region earlier this year.

The largely poor countries are highly reliant on hydroelectricity, the number two source of energy after oil, but environmental activists and energy experts say harnessing geothermal energy has distinct advantages over dams.

Hydroelectricity depends on rainfall and is vulnerable to hurricanes that can wash mud and debris into rivers and clog dams. Such storms are expected to increase in the frequency and intensity as the planet warms.

“With climate change there’s uncertainty over the future behavior of water resources,” said Eduardo Noboa, a renewables expert at the Latin American Energy Organization, or OLADE. “We’re going to see a vulnerability in hydroelectric systems.”

Dams, which can flood vast areas of land during their construction, are unpopular in rural areas where families rely on farming and have trouble finding arable land.

In Guatemala, hydroelectric projects have a haunted past after hundreds of Mayan villagers protesting the building of a dam on the Chixoy river were massacred by security forces in 1978 at the height of the country’s civil war.

The dam and its reservoir, which now generates around 15 percent of Guatemala’s electricity, displaced thousands of people in the country’s central highlands.

Geothermal plants by contrast are compact and companies, learning from the mistakes of the past, say they are making an effort to provide nearby towns with easy power access.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 29th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Climate Extremes Fuel Hunger in Guatemala.
By Danilo Valladares

GUATEMALA CITY, Jul 28, 2010 (IPS) – “Three-quarters of the fields are still under water. Maize, plantains, okra and pasture are all lost,” José Asencio told IPS at the village of Santa Ana Mixtán in southern Guatemala, the area worst affected by tropical storm Agatha.

The villagers have been working for food in order to survive. “We’ve been shoring up the banks of the Coyolate and Mascalate rivers, and the mayor has been giving us food rations, although we haven’t received any for the past two weeks because supplies have run out,” he said.

Asencio said that food shortages and unemployment, caused by the extreme weather and the floods, have worsened the plight of the 373 families in the village, which is part of the municipality of Nueva Concepción in the department (province) of Escuintla, in the far south of the country.

The same dramatic situation is seen in Madronales, a village in the coastal municipality of Ocós in the southwestern province of San Marcos. “The fields sown with maize and plantain are flooded; we need food aid,” community leader Amparo Barrios told IPS.

Tropical storm Agatha flooded the crops that are the mainstay of 210 families, and “the little that was spared was destroyed by Atlantic storm Alex,” which hit the country a month later, she complained.

Agatha departed from Guatemala May 30, leaving behind 165 people dead and over 100,000 affected by destruction of their homes, crops or livelihoods. One month later, Alex added two more to the death toll and 2,000 to the number of material victims, according to the National Disaster Reduction Coordination agency (CONRED).

The storms also hit El Salvador and Honduras, where at least 29 people died and thousands were left homeless, according to disaster relief agencies.

But the worst hit by the double whammy of the storms was Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, where half the population live on incomes below the poverty line and 17 percent are extremely poor, according to United Nations statistics.

“Climate change is exacerbating the conditions of poverty and extreme poverty in the country, and above all is complicating the lives of the most vulnerable,” Carlos Mancilla, head of the Climate Change Unit at the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry (MARN), told IPS.

Flooding is not the only concern. Paradoxically, one of the main chronic problems in Guatemala is drought, in the “dry corridor” in the north and east of the country.

“Adapting to drought is not as easy as coping with floods. How can the social fabric destroyed by a drought be repaired? What happens when the head of a family has to migrate? In contrast, if a bridge is washed away by the rains, it can simply be rebuilt,” Mancilla said.

The General Directorate of Epidemiology reported that at least 54 children died of hunger in 2009 because of the drought, which was described as the worst in 30 years. Meanwhile, 2.5 million people went hungry due to the food crisis, the U.N. reported.

Just under 50 percent of children in Guatemala are malnourished, the highest rate in Latin America and one of the highest in the world, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

But in Mancilla’s view, adaptation to climate change must be broader in scope than just dealing with the food crisis, because inappropriate location of human settlements and the construction methods used compound the risks.

In addition to its economic vulnerability, Guatemala has unstable geology, with a high risk of disasters from volcanic activity, geological faults and its many mountains and rivers.

For example, the Pacaya volcano, 30 kilometres from the capital, erupted May 27 and rained ash over Guatemala City, killing one person and affecting thousands of others.

Among the government measures taken to adapt to the climate emergencies, Mancilla mentioned the creation of an inter-institutional Climate Change Commission, made up of 17 secretariats and ministries, that is “assessing the impact, including on food production, within the different sectors.” In this way “we examine how each one can contribute” to overcoming the challenge, he said.

Sucely Girón, coordinator of the non-governmental Observatory on the Right to Food Security (ODSAN), told IPS that the country “is not investing in prevention,” in spite of having passed a law on food and nutrition security.

“The main thrust of the reconstruction budget is replacing infrastructure. They forget that Agatha and Alex left people with no crops and no jobs that would enable them to buy food,” she said, referring to the announcement by the government of social democratic President Álvaro Colom that it needs one billion dollars to reconstruct the country.

Girón said that crop diversification and alternative economic activities need to be promoted, in order to reduce Guatemala’s dependence on agriculture.

She mentioned tourism, fish farming and craft making as possible ways of earning incomes for families whose crops have suffered from climate change impacts.

The programme on Strengthening Environmental Governance in the face of Climate Change Risks in Guatemala, an initiative of government and non-governmental organisations, community organisations and international aid agencies, aims at sustainable agriculture.

Leonel Jacinto, coordinator within the project for the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told IPS that food security for the population is being sought through agricultural best practices.

In the central province of Baja Verapaz, affected by drought, the programme encourages avoidance of slash-and-burn techniques, and promotes agroforestry (combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock) and preserving and making use of stubble, in order to improve water retention in the soil.

The project, which is to benefit 791 families directly and another 100,000 families indirectly, promotes the recycling of water used for washing clothes to irrigate vegetable plots. It also encourages energy generation in biodigesters, which produce biogas from organic waste materials.

Jacinto said programmes like this one can change the face of agriculture in Guatemala and make it more resistant to climate change. But it needs to be extended across the country and to be sustained over time, he stressed.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 15th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

CENTRAL AMERICA:  Doors Wide Open for Renewable Energy.
By Danilo Valladares

GUATEMALA CITY, Jul 15, 2010 (IPS) – Heavy reliance on petroleum imports, the need for electricity in rural areas, and the ongoing effort towards sustainable development have focused Central America’s attention on renewable energy. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t opposition.

This year, Honduras plans to have one of the largest wind energy farms in Latin America up and running, with an output of 100 megawatts of electricity.

Located in the municipality of Santa Ana, 24 kilometres from the Honduran capital, it cost 250 million dollars, according to owner Energía Eólica Honduras (Wind Energy Honduras), subsidiary of Mesoamerica Energy, made up of 15 business groups from the region.

In addition, Honduras will invest 2.1 billion dollars in 52 hydroelectric projects between 2010 and 2016, each with the capacity to generate five megawatts, announced the Honduran Association of Small Producers of Renewable Energy in early June.

“We based our efforts on three aspects: energy security by avoiding dependence on international petroleum prices, improving access to energy in rural zones, and sustainable development,” Association president Elsia Paz told IPS.

According to Paz, promotion of renewable energy has been important for achieving a balanced diversification of the Honduran energy matrix, as 70 percent comes from fossil fuels, “a resource that is imported and leads to capital flight.”

Honduras is typical of Central America’s high reliance on oil for generating electricity.

In the 1980s, about 75 percent of the region’s electricity came from renewable sources — primarily hydroelectric dams. That portion has now dropped to 50 percent, according to the non-governmental Energy Network Foundation BUN-CA, based in Costa Rica. The rest comes from hydrocarbon- based sources.

Nicaragua, meanwhile, through its Ministry of Energy and Mines, announced in May that all of the energy generated in 2016 would come from renewable sources through the implementation of the National Programme for Sustainable Electrification and Renewable Energies.

Similar to Honduras, 70 percent of Nicaragua’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels, and 30 percent from renewable resources, according to official figures.

To improve that ratio, construction is under way of the Tumarín hydroelectric dam, the largest in the country, in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region. Behind the project, which will produce 220 megawatts, is the Brazilian consortium Quieroz Galvão-Electrobras.

But Tumarín has come under fire from the surrounding communities, which say they were not consulted about the project and it will have negative consequences for the entire Río Grande de Matagalpa watershed. The dam, which requires an investment of more than 600 million dollars, will change hands to be administered by the Nicaraguan government in 30 years.

Meanwhile, the Amayo I and II wind park, with U.S., Guatemalan and Nicaraguan capital, is so far the largest operating in Central America.

Located along the shore of Lake Nicaragua, in the southern province of Rivas, it generates 63 megawatts of electricity.

Luis Molina, of the environmental control unit of Nicaragua’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, told IPS that his country aims to implement renewable energy projects in order to reduce emissions of greenhouse-effect gases, which cause global warming, and to decrease the portion of the national budget going to the purchase of fossil fuels.

He said that at the “macro” level, the main objective is to achieve 100 percent energy from renewable sources, while at the “micro” level the goal is to extend the electrical network in rural areas.

About 10 million people in Central America, of a total population of 40 million in the region, do not have electricity in their homes.


In El Salvador, which is already producing biofuels and has tapped into solar and geothermal energy, the Japan International Cooperation Agency will finance 1.5 million dollars for drafting a master plan for developing renewable energies, to begin at year’s end.

Approximately 60 percent of the region’s energy potential lies in possible hydroelectric dams.

Of the 22,000 megawatts of potentially exploitable hydro-energy, the Central American isthmus has developed just 17 percent, according to the Central American Electrification Council.

Costa Rica is the region’s leading producer of clean energy, with 80 percent coming from hydroelectric sources, according to the governmental Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE).

President Laura Chinchilla announced that she wants to make Costa Rica the first country in the world to run 100 percent on renewable energy.

But it is no easy task. Guatemala’s renewable energy coordinator at its Ministry of Energy, Otto Ruiz Balcárcel, told IPS that there is a great deal of misinformation about renewable energy, which limits investment in the sector.

“There are towns that think water gets contaminated from the hydroelectric turbines, and investors have not been able to communicate how it works,” he cited as one example.

However, he believes Guatemala is on the road to expanding clean energy, primarily through more hydroelectric dams.

Of a different opinion is Oscar Conde, activist with the group Madreselva de Guatemala, who told IPS that renewable energy projects like hydroelectric dams alter ecosystems and affect rural communities, who are not taken into account when the dams are built.

“They are transnational or national businesses that use the water for their own benefit, and the communities just watch it go by,” he said.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 24th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

UNEP leads 27 countries of the Wider Caribbean on  “land-based pollution” at an International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting in Panama City based on the ISTAC of Kingston, Jamaica (Interim Scientific, Technical and Advisory Committee to the Cartagena Convention. Will they touch nevertheless the menacing Deep-Water Oil-Well Blow-Out?

from: James Sniffen <sniffenj@un.org>

UNEP/CEP PRESS RELEASE: REGIONAL GOVERNMENT POLLUTION EXPERTS MEET IN PANAMA.

Panama City, 24th May, 2010:

Over 50 pollution control experts from 27 countries of the Wider Caribbean
gather today (Monday 24th May) in Panama City at the invitation of the
United Nations Environment Programme’s Caribbean Environment Programme
(UNEP CEP) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The gathering of experts for the 5th Meeting of the Interim Scientific, Technical and Advisory Committee (ISTAC) to the Protocol concerning pollution from land-based sources, commonly known as the LBS Protocol, will last for five days.  The CEP is the Secretariat for this Protocol and is based in Kingston, Jamaica.

The LBS Protocol is one of three agreements under the Convention for the
Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean
Region (the Cartagena Convention).  It establishes regional guidelines and
standards for reducing the impact of pollution on the coastal and marine
environment, and on human health.   Over 80% of the pollution of the marine
environment of the Wider Caribbean is estimated to originate from land
based sources and activities.

Panama, the host country, is one of only six countries to have ratified the LBS Protocol.  The others are Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Saint Lucia, France and the United States.  Discussions during the meeting will focus on measures to increase the region’s commitment to ratify the Protocol, and have it enter into force and become international law as soon as possible.

In support of regional cooperation, UNEP CEP is partnering with the IMO and their joint Regional Activity Centre for Oil Spills (RAC REMPEITC) to bring together experts from environmental agencies, maritime authorities and port administrations for this 5th LBS ISTAC.

Delegates are expected to identify practical measures to improve the implementation of marine environmental agreements including the IMO London Convention on the control of pollution from dumping of wastes at sea and the MARPOL Convention on the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships.

According to Nelson Andrade, Coordinator of UNEP CEP”   “It is vital that
Governments adopt a more integrated approach to reducing pollution from
land and marine based sources”.  He noted that the continued partnership
between UNEP and IMO will help to effectively implement the Cartagena
Convention and its three Protocols and to reduce marine contamination.

Meeting Participants are also expected to review recent achievements of the
UNEP CEP to reduce and control marine pollution and to endorse a new work
plan and budget for 2010-2011.

For additional information, please contact:

Christopher Corbin,Programme Officer,
Assessment and Management of Environment Pollution (AMEP),
Regional Co-ordinating Unit, UNEP CEP
Kingston, Jamaica
Telephone: (876) 922-9267 — Fax: (876) 922-9292
www.cep.unep.org; cjc@cep.unep.org;

About UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) –  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) in 1976 under the framework of its Regional Seas Programme.   It was based on the importance and value of the Wider Caribbean Region’s fragile and vulnerable coastal and marine ecosystems including an abundant and mainly endemic flora and fauna,

A Caribbean Action Plan was adopted by the Caribbean countries and led to the adoption, in 1983, of the only current regional, legally-binding agreement for the protection of the marine environment, the Cartagena Convention.  The Convention and its first Protocol (Oil Spill) entered into force in 1986.

Two other protocols were developed by the region – the Protocols on Special Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) and the Control of Pollution from Land Based Sources (LBS) in 1990 and 1999 respectively.

The SPAW Protocol entered into force in 2000, whereas three ratifying countries are still needed for the LBS Protocol.

The Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP-CAR/RCU) serves as the Secretariat to the Cartagena Convention and is based in Kingston, Jamaica.

Each Protocol is served by a Regional Activity Centre.  These Centres are
based in the Netherlands Antilles (Regional Marine Pollution Emergency
Information and Training Center for the Wider Caribbean, RAC/REMPEITC) for
the Oil Spills Protocol, Guadeloupe (RAC/SPAW) for the SPAW Protocol, Cuba
(Centre of Engineering and Environmental Management of Coasts and Bays) and
Trinidad & Tobago (Institute of Marine Affairs) for the LBS Protocol.

*****
Jim Sniffen
Programme Officer
UN Environment Programme
New York
tel: +1-212-963-8094/8210
info@nyo.unep.org
www.nyo.unep.org

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 1st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

As we wrote about Copenhagen, ALBA crystallized there as the clearest US opposing group of countries in the international arena. ALBA is led by four Latin American and two Caribbean Islands Heads of State. As expressed by Presidents Morales of Bolivia and Chavez of Venezuela, the Obama intervention on that final Friday the 18th was clearly not a UN consensus building move. Obama did not play democracy to non-Democratic States, but then there was something in his behavior that could also be likened to the battleship diplomacy of old empire building colonialism – you find your allies and you set the rules of the game for others to follow. We said it many times that we agreed with Obama’s moves, but we also had an ear to the Morales and Chavez statements, and we believe that the ALBA attack will continue until the day the US is ready to sit down with the individual countries of that group and effectively co-opt them into a new Western Hemisphere alliance that pays respect also to countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. In effect we believe that these countries do have also helpful ideas and not just the rhetoric for which they are famous. Further, Nicaragua and Honduras used to belong to this group and Brazil is also close to its leaders.

OK, so how is this related to our 2009/2010 New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City?

This story starts with my having picked up a Financial Times on the flight back from Copenhagen and in the Guide – Arts around the World section I saw mentioned – “New York – Noche Flamenca” and it said that from Christmas Eve until January 16, Noche Flamenca will be performed at the Lucille Lortel Theater in Greenwich Village and that judging by the reviews the company, with its stars dancers Ms. Soledad Barrio and Juan Ogalla, the star singer Manuel Gago and guitarist Eugenio Iglesias are the most authentic flamenco touring company.

Further, already with the above in mind, I saw the December 26th Alaistair Macaulay Dance Review in the New York Times “Drama Whose Subject Is Both Nothing and Everything.” He writes – “Ms. Barrio’s intensity is striking, even when she’s standing still or walking slowly around the stage… she seemed to be brooding on the darkest spiritual concerns … the attention of her face and upper body riveted on the floor. She might have been mourning the death of a child or contemplating the augury that announced the overthrow of her nation… Her face tends to be wonderfully bleak.”

I decided that I want to experience this Latin intensity, but then the clincher came when I read that the program includes a piece called “ALBA” choreographed by Ms. Marrio’s husband and partner in Noche Flamenca, Mr Martin Santangelo. Alba is about “some extremely unspecific aspect of the Spanish Civil War.” I sensed that I may find here some explanation to the Hugo Chavez anger and his ALBA.

Every other year me and my wife, we use to travel somewhere for the Christmas – New Year time span, as in her work she alternates with another person in her office, who will take of during those days. This year was actually her time to go away, but she chose to spend her vacation in New York and the difficulties with transport and flights were an important part of this decision. So I had to decide where we will be part of a community when slipping into twenty-ten. Going to see Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca was thus our decision – I had the further goal also to get some understanding about ALBA.

Having decided on the show, I went down to the Theater at 121 Christopher Street in the Village, and looked at the neighborhood restaurants and settled fortunately for HAVANA – ALMA DE CUBA at 94 Christopher Street, that promised excellent mojitos, great food, a bottle of CAVA Champagne, New Year eve paraphernalia, Cuban music and cigars. And that is important – Cuba is the first ALBA!

Looking now more closely at Noche Flamenca, which obviously has its home in Spain, I found that they see flamenco as a form of art that is based on song (cante), music (toque), and dance born of “ancestral cultural repression and racial expulsion.” and that 2009-2010 they launch an arts education program in New York City public schools that embodies the three flamenco disciplines: dance, guitar, and song. Their target are the culturally diverse communities of New York City, and they have already lined up a very impressive list of backers to this experiment.

Andalucia in southern Spain absorbed throughout the centuries Romans, Jews and Moors. As far as flamenco is concerned, the most significant arrival was in the 15th century when tribes of nomadic Gypsies settled her. Their arrival coincided with Ferdinand and Isabella’s conquest of Granada, the last bastion of the Moors, and the subsequent expulsion of Jews and Arabs, from Spain – the Jews were massacred, the Gypsies humiliated and persecuted, the Arabs exterminated, the Moriscos (converted Arabs) expelled, and the Andalucians generally exploited – if we do not relate the music to brutality, repression, hunger, fear, menace, inferiority, resistance, and secrecy, then we shall not find the reality of cante flamenco – it is a storm of exasperation and grief. This is the background of the evolution of flamenco as per historian Felix Grande’s review of the 15th-17th centuries.

In the 19th century there were two types of singing in Andalucia – the cante gitano and the cante andaluz, then an Andaluz of Italian orifin, Silverio Franconetti, at first a singer of cante gitano, proceeded in combining the two shaping what became the cante flamenco.

The “deep song” or the cante jondo, resembles the mournful wail of the chant of the exiled Sephardic Jews and its poetry is that of existential angst and philosophical questioning common in Arabic poetry. The dance that evolved and fully blossomed by 1840s combines the repetitive key symbol prevalent in Islam, the trance-inducing rhythms of Africa and the stubborn search of Jewish music as mentioned above.

With the above in mind, let us see now what the Noche Flamenca say about their creation called ALBA:

Choreographer Martin Santangelo says that the piece was inspired by the archives of The Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Now let us remember that the Spanish Civil War 1936 – 1939 was the training ground for what became WWII.

45,000 people from over 50 different countries, ignoring their own governments’ failure to respond to the threats of fascism, volunteered to support democratic Spain. The US volunteers came to be known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, but Franco, backed by Hitler and Mussolini defeated the democrats – eventually fascism was defeated by 1945 but Franco was left to rule over Spain.

The program notes that many of the Abraham Lincoln Brigaders that survived remained lifelong activists and have continued to support progressive causes, including the Civil Rights Movement in the US and protests against the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Spain of today feels a profound gratitude for these heroic individuals.

The song used by the choreographer in setting ALBA is a poem by Miguel Hernandez To the International Soldier Fallen in Spain:

If there are men who contain a soul without frontiers
a brow scattered with universal hair
covered with horizons, ships, and mountain chains,
with sand and snow, then you are one of those.

Fatherlands called to you with all their banners,
so that your breath filled with beautiful movements.
You wanted to quench the thirst of panthers
and fluttered full against their abuses.

With a taste of suns and seas,
Spain beckons you because in her you realize
your majesty like a tree that embraces a continent.

Around your bones, the olive groves will grow,
unfolding their iron roots in the ground,
embracing men universally, faithfully.

What the choreographer Martin Santangelo tried to convey with the members of his troupe – all male – singers, guitarists and dancers, and a bunch of walking sticks as props, was sort of a Greek corus telling about the travel of those that came from afar and the fact that their spirits were not broken. They did not give up even when beaten and continued a life of walking and fighting.

That is what I saw in that piece and I wonder how dance reviewer Alastair Macaulay saw nothing of this with his own eyes. All what he says is that it “is about some extremely unspecific aspect of the Spanish Civil War. Flamenco isn’t enriched by tackling any one particular drama; it’s diminished.” Then he adds later – “No. ‘Alba’ is not a disaster; it’s just nebulous, unclear, earnest. Obviously, though, it’s small fry compared with the greater meat of the evening.”

Sorry Mr. Macaulay, you did not understand the sonnet or you did not read it. You also did not notice those walking sticks or just did not ask yourself why walking sticks? You may think that art is only technique, but some of your readers are also capable of relating to content and to this readership the Spanish Civil War has meaning beyond plain dance. Granted that you are a dance critic and not a political pages reporter, nevertheless, you just saw an honest attempt, as you say yourself, of tackling content, so you should have given the credit these artists deserve for trying to use their art form in order to inspire the public of their theater in ways that are no different from what they will be attempting to do in our public schools with children that can be helped by art to become better citizens. In the ALBA case, I feel that understanding the Lincoln brigade volunteers could actually help in formulating opinions about issues of these days when we continue to see injustice in the world and dictators encroaching upon democracy and human rights. Yes, I am aware that there was also a Stalin involvement in Spain, and I read “The God That Failed” but all of that is secondary to my disagreement with this part of your review – the issue is really the meaning and purpose of art – I believe that there can be a purpose and you clearly disagree.

Further, in the second half of the program there was a second topical choreography by Martin Santongelo titled “Refugiados” that included the whole company. It was inspired by literature and poetry of refugee children from Somalia and Zimbabwe identified by UN agencies and receiving emergency assistance. You did not mention this piece and I wonder if your choice for criticism was rather dependent on content as this latter piece may be dealing with a subject that is less open for criticism – you do not kick children but politics are made for kicking. Sorry, and please forgive if I am here on the wrong track.

But then back to our declared real interest in Noche Flamenca as said was the title ALBA of that particular dance about the Spanish Civil War – why was it called ALBA?

Aha – I found!

Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives
A non-profit organization devoted to the preservation and dissemination of the history of the North American role in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
 www.alba-valb.org

So ALBA means ABRAHAM LINCOLN BRIGADE ARCHIVES and ALBA is the name of the group of countries in Latin America that have a bone with the US of America.

Could one say that Hugo Chavez sees himself as a continuation of the progressive Americans that went to Spain to fight fascism? This is an intriguing idea! Is it not?

But then there is also a second meaning for ALBA

Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas – Wikipedia, the free … – 12/19/09
The meeting in congress for the removal of Honduras from the ALBA is still … ” ALBA pasa a ser Alianza Bolivariana de los Pueblos de América” (in es). …
 en.wikipedia.org

So here we talk of Alianza Bolivariana or in short ALBA – this based on the Spanish form of the Bolivarian Alliance.

and even –

ALBA: Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean …
Teresa ArreazaA summary of the basic ideas behind Venezuela’s alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
 www.venezuelanalysis.com › Documents

So, let us attach here what we gleaned from the web about the group of ALBA:


The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Spanish: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, or ALBA) is an international cooperation organization based on the idea of social, political, and economic integration between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is associated with socialist andsocial democratic governments and is an attempt at regional economic integration based on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid, rather than trade liberalization as with free trade agreements. ALBA nations are in the process of introducing a new regional currency, the SUCRE. It is intended to be the common virtual currency by 2010 and eventually a hard currency.
The name initially contained “Alternative” instead of “Alliance”, but was changed on June 24, 2009. ALBA also means “dawn” in Spanish.

Member states

Common name
?
Official name Date joined
?
Population
?
Area (km²)
?
GDP PPP (US$ bn)
?
Capital
?
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda 24 June 2009 85,632 442 1.546 St. John’s
Bolivia Plurinational State of Bolivia 29 April 2006 9,119,152 1,098,581 43.424 Sucre
Cuba Republic of Cuba 14 December 2004 11,451,652 110,861 108.2 Havana
Dominica Commonwealth of Dominica 20 January 2008 72,660 754 .72 Roseau
Ecuador Republic of Ecuador 24 June 2009 14,573,101 256,370 106.993 Quito
Honduras Republic of Honduras 9 October 2008 7,483,763 112,492 32.725 Tegucigalpa
Nicaragua Republic of Nicaragua 23 February 2007 5,891,199 129,495 15.89 Managua
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 24 June 2009 120,000 389 1.085 Kingstown
Venezuela Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela 14 December 2004 28,199,825 916,445 358.623
ALBA Totals 9 Countries 73,453,238 2,625,829 669.206
Observer states of the organisation include Haiti, Iran and Uruguay
—————————–

main page

November 27, 2008
08:30

NEWS

CARACAS.Dmitry Medvedev took part in a meeting of the leaders of the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America.

The organisation was set up at the end of 2004 on the initiative of Cuba and Venezuela. This association also includes Bolivia, Honduras, Dominica and Nicaragua; Haiti, Iran, Uruguay and Ecuador are among its observers.

During the meeting Mr Medvedev raised the question of developing cooperation between Russia and Latin American countries.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, President Evo Morales of Bolivia, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit, and Vice President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba Ricardo Cabrisas took part in the meeting.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 1st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This amazing article was penned by Fidel Castro himself, then later we watched how Presidents Morales of Bolivia and Chavez of Venezuela spoke in the Copenhagen plenary similar words to these, in the name of the ALBA group of Latin and Caribbean States, on that very important Friday-the eighteenth.

Today, when finally writing about this, I also wonder if besides Simon Bolivar and Jose Marti, Chavez is not ready to accept also Abraham Lincoln as a third member of a historic triumvirate intended to set the Western Hemisphere apart from global machinations, provided President Obama does indeed stretch out a friendly hand to Cuba? I believe that this is within the realm of possibilities, and perhaps the easiest way for the US to free itself of the tyranny of oil and the influence of the oil lobby of Washington. I believe that our times start looking more and more like the pre-WWII days. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade that went to Spain had among its people some of the best the US had to offer. They were not stupid and recognized the Stalinist stealth-riders, as well as the fascist opponents, and remained true to democracy ideals that brought them there. Climate change provides the world the same opportunity as fighting for democracy did in those years. If Obama is ready to rein in the US extremists when it comes to economic relations with the countries of the Southern part of the Western Hemisphere, new line-ups are possible based on new agreed common goals of helping in the sustainable development of these countries, rather then continuing to regard them only as source of raw materials. Had the US done so earlier the world might have been a friendlier place to America – at least in that part that fell into the geopolitical Western Hemisphere Monrovian design.

Clearly, Castro and Chavez will criticize the US when being held at bay by the stick of US corporations, but when approached as partners for change they might actually be ready for political compromise. The reality is that even though they do not apply democracy to their States, the did eradicate analphabetism, hunger, and established health care systems, ahead of the US. Venezuela can help fund such positive activities thanks to its income from oil, but they seem ready to help fund also other positive activities if offered a place at the American table. The way they show pride in their baseball culture that derived from the US via Cuba, shows to me that I am not dreaming about pie in the sky.

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 monthlyreview.org/castro/2009/10/…

Reflections of Fidel: The ALBA and Copenhagen.

The festivities associated with the 7th ALBA Summit, held in the historic Bolivian region of Cochabamba, showed the rich culture of the Latin American peoples and the joy elicited in children, young people and adults in general by the singing, the dancing, the costumes and rich expressions of the human beings of all ethnic groups, colors and shades: aborigine, black, white and mixed people. We could see there thousands of years of human history and precious culture that explain the determination with which the leaders of various Caribbean, Central and South American peoples convened that summit.

The meeting was a great success. Bolivia was the venue. I recently wrote on the excellent prospects of that country, an heir to the Aymara-Quechua culture. A small group of peoples from that area are bent on proving that a better world is possible. The ALBA – created by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Cuba, inspired by Bolivar’s and Marti’s ideas, as an unprecedented example of revolutionary solidarity- has showed how much could be done in barely five years of peaceful cooperation. This started shortly after Hugo Chavez’s political and democratic victory. Imperialism underestimated him, and deliberately tried to oust him and remove him. The fact that for a good part of the 20th century Venezuela had been the world’s largest oil-producer, practically owned by the Yankee transnationals, made the chosen path particularly rough to pursue.

The powerful adversary had neoliberalism and the FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas]; two instruments of domination always used after the Cuban Revolution to crush resistance in the hemisphere.

It is irritating to think of the shameless and disrespectful way in which the US administration imposed the government of millionaire Pedro Carmona and tried to have elected President Hugo Chavez removed, at a time when the USSR had disappeared and the People’s Republic of China was a few years away from becoming the economic and commercial power it is today, after two decades of over 10 percent growth. The Venezuelan people, like that of Cuba, resisted the brutal thrust. The Sandinistas recovered, and the struggle for sovereignty, independence and socialism gained ground in Bolivia and Ecuador. Honduras, which had joined the ALBA, was the target of a brutal coup d’etat inspired by the Yankee ambassador and propelled from the US military base in Palmerola.

Today, there are four Latin American countries that have completely eradicated illiteracy: Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. A fifth country, Ecuador, is quickly advancing towards that goal. The comprehensive healthcare programs are underway in the five countries at an unprecedented pace in the Third World. The programs of economic development with social justice have become projects of these five states, which already enjoy great prestige in the world for their brave position in the face of the empire’s economic, military and media power. Three English speaking Caribbean countries of black ancestry, determined to fight for their development, have also joined the ALBA.

This alone would be a great political merit if in today’s world that were the only big problem of man’s history.

The economic and political system that in a short historical period has led to the existence of more than one billion hungry people, and many more hundreds of millions whose lives are hardly longer than half the average of those in the wealthy and privileged countries, was until now the main problem for mankind. But, a new and extremely serious problem was strongly discussed at the ALBA Summit: climate change. A danger of such magnitude had never been known in human history.

As Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Daniel Ortega waved the people goodbye in the streets of Cochabamba yesterday, Sunday, that same day, according to news spread by BBC World, Gordon Brown was chairing in London a session of the Major Economies Forum mostly made up by the highest developed capitalist countries, the main culprits for the carbon dioxide emissions, that is, the gas causing the greenhouse effect.

The significance of Brown’s remarks is that they have not been made by a representative of ALBA or one of the 150 emerging or underdeveloped countries on the planet but of Great Britain, the country where industrial development started and one of those which have released most carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The British Prime Minister warned that if an agreement is not reached at the UN Summit in Copenhagen, the consequences will be ‘devastating.’

Some of the ‘catastrophic’ consequences would be floods, droughts and lethal heat waves claimed the environmental group Nature World Fund referring to Brown’s assertion. “The climate change will be out of control within the next five to ten years if the CO2 emissions are not drastically cut down. There will not be a plan B if Copenhagen fails.”

The same news source claims that: “BBC specialist James Landale has explained that not everything is happening as expected.”

Newsweek reported that “it seems more unlikely every day that the states will commit to something in Copenhagen.”

According to reports from the major American press outlet, the chairman of the session, Gordon Brown, said that “if no agreement is reached, there is no doubt that the damage of the uncontrolled emissions will not be repaired with a future agreement.” He then went on to mention such conflicts as “unchecked migration and 1.8 billion people afflicted by water shortage.”

Actually, as the Cuban delegation claimed in Bangkok, the United States led the highest industrialized countries most opposed to the necessary reduction of emissions.

At the Cochabamba meeting, a new ALBA Summit was convened. The timetable will be: December 6, elections in Bolivia; December 13, ALBA summit in Havana; December 16, participation in the UN Copenhagen Summit. The small group of ALBA nations will be there. The issue is no longer “Homeland or Death”; it is truly and without exaggeration a matter of “Life or Death” for the human race.

The capitalist system is not only oppressing and plundering our countries; the wealthiest industrial nations wish to impose to the rest of the world the bulk of the burden in the struggle on climate change. Who are they trying to fool with that? In Copenhagen, the ALBA and the Third World countries will be struggling for the survival of the species.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 19, 2009
6:05 PM

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 10th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

You see, while one US dollar buys you one Florida orange, you get for one US dollar now 5 bananas from Colombia – up from 4. Attention!  This is the only produce that has fallen in price.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 6th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Within the framework of SNV – WWF project “Sustainable biofuel value chain development in an Existing African Oil Palm Plantation in Honduras” we are looking for a graduate student to do a 80-100 days study to better Hondupalma’s competitiveness of its African palm value chain (north coast of Honduras).

Interested candidates are requested to contact  wbron at snvworld.org.

Please feel free to share these ToR with any other contacts you may have.

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Willem A. Bron
Advisor Territorial Competitiveness / Bioenergy
Program leader Biofuels/Bioenergy CA
SNV – Netherlands Development Organisation
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, C.A.

Tel:       + 504 2369233   Fax:     + 504 2324997
Email:    wbron at snvworld.org

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