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Colombia:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 21st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Colombia Minister of Environment, Housing and Social Development Carlos Rufino Costa Posada – in short H.E. Carlos Costa is the fourth Latin America/Caribbean nominee out of the eleven nominees for the post of Executive-Secretary of  the UNFCCC – the position so called Climate Chief. With such eagerness on the part of Latin America it is quite clear why Brazil preferred not to put forward a delegate.

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Adopt A Negotiator UNFCCC Perspectives: Grace Akumu, Kenya Delegate – see vodpod.com/watch/2454614-grace-ak… {How to read Africa’s move trackback from post: Many of you might have heard of the African Group’s strategic move to block the Kyoto track of negotiations on Monday afternoon. Yesterday’s press conference and some interviews revealed, how this can be understood. Nov 5, 2009} is the Kenya recommendation.

That is the second African we know about besides the South African nominee who is a Cabinet Minister.

An outspoken Kenyan, Akumu’s work has focused on the disproportionate effects that global warming is having on African nations. Akumu is executive director for Climate Network Africa, where she has worked since 1992. In her role, Akumu has witnessed firsthand the way climate change has blindsided African states through floods, drought, and famine – affecting every aspect of life, industry and interstate relations.

The unintended consequences are many. Akumu says the snow on Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro is melting away. By 2015, there will be no snow on Mt Kenya. That’s not only an aesthetic and spiritual loss – it’s a threat to Kenya’s way of life.

Hydroelectric power, which is how 70 percent of Kenya’s electricity is generated, is threatened. As the snowmelt continues, the streams fed by Mt. Kenya – which power the plants – are drying up.

“Agricultural communities, who are 80 percent of Kenya’s population, have become seriously water stressed,” Akumu says. “Rivers are drying up and their survival is our top priority, considering that they also live on less than $1 per day.”

Through her work with Climate Network Africa, Akumu has coordinated efforts to raise and address these issues over the past two decades.

Years of work  earned a Webster University, Geneva, Switzerland, campus 1986 alumna, the Nobel Peace Prize. Grace Akumu, who earned her B.A. in international relations, she was, a member and lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 prize with former U.S. vice president Al Gore.

Climate Network Africa (CNA) is a Non-profit Non-governmental Organization registered in Kenya. Started in 1991, CNA seeks to improve the chances for environmentally sustainable and socially equitable development in Africa in light of the serious danger of climate change, desertification and biodiversity loss. Among CNA’s major activities are policy analysis, research, EIA, public education and awareness, advocacy, campaigns, CDM training, natural resources management, promotion of sustainable energy development and services with the objective of poverty alleviation. CNA also facilitates information exchange with the aim of strengthening Africa’s many voices at local, national and international fora. CNA targets policymakers, researchers, scientists and key NGOs working on environment and development issues. Membership to CNA is open to all NGOs and any institution which subscribes to its objectives. CNA information services are available to all groups and individuals interested in environment and development issues.

An NGO is a very unusual nominee, but then Ahim Steiner, now the very successful head of UNEP, was also a very unusual nominee at the time. Perhaps this might turn out to be a winning formula? This time it may turn out that Africa is the winner after all.

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Despite what was said previously by others – not by us – Indonesia was believed to have a nominee – as per official words they have  not provided a name to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office for a nominee to the UNFCCC position.

This, in addition to the previously SustainabiliTank.info posted seven nominees leaves us now with a total of 9 nominees.

WE ARE STILL MISSING TWO NOMINEES AND THEREFORE WE WILL EVENTUALLY HAVE TO RESORT  TO MAKING WILDEST GUESSES FOR WHO ARE THE FURTHER TWO STEALTH NOMINEES. WE SAY STEALTH BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT THE UN DOES NOT RELEASE ANY NAMES OF NOMINEES OR OF THE COUNTRIES THAT DID THE NOMINATIONS.

Judging from the presence of Colombia on the list, and our recent posting on the Washington meeting of the  Major Economies Forum

 www.sustainabilitank.info/2010/04…

we are now taking the guess that Yemen might be one of the missing two, but then looking also at the list of the 11 members of the Bureau of the UNFCCC, we might be inclined to think that Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, or Korea might be the missing two. Saudi Arabia has moved  to institute nuclear energy and renewable energy activities, while South Korea is taking green business initiatives.

Yemen is the chair of the G-77 and could claim interest in all of the above. Iran has had people involved in Sustainable Development and with its involvement in nuclear issues might also believe to have a claim to this position. As said – our guess is wild.

The eleven Bureau-of-the-COP of UNFCCC members are from:
Australia, Bahamas, Denmark, South Korea, Mali, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Sudan and Russia.

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Also, we learned that the travel itinerary of the UNFCCC COPs from Poznan (COP 14), Copemhagen (COP15),  Cancun (COP16), is now causing a fight on Asia’s turn of this circus – between Doha, Qatar and Seoul, Korea for the COP17 show.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Small economies make Major Economies Forum list

By Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post blog Post Carbon, April 19, 2010.

The Major Economies Forum–the occasional meeting that tries to hash out international climate policy in an informal setting–invited some small economies to attend the session the U.S. hosted Sunday night and Monday.

{The 17 major economies participating in the MEF, launched on March 28, 2009, are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Denmark, in its capacity as the President of the December 2009 Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the United Nations have also been invited to participate in this dialogue – www.MajorEconomiesForum.org}

Colombia, Yemen and Grenada were there, along with the 17 usual attendees and a representative from the United Nations. This amounted to a peace offering, because the U.S. and other industrialized countries came under fire in Copenhagen for cutting deals without an adequate number of representatives from the developing world.

Each of the countries represented a certain constituency: Yemen is the head of the G-77, the group that represents developing nations within the U.N.; Grenada represents small island nations; and Colombia brings the concerns of Latin American countries to the table, though it’s far friendlier to the U.S. than critics such as Bolivia and Ecuador.

Denmark, which chaired last year’s U.N.-sponsored talks, also participated in the session.

Both Deputy National Security Adviser Michael Froman and U.S. special climate envoy Todd Stern said the meeting was helpful, but did not divulge many details on how much progress the delegates made. Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh and several others had to participate via videoconference because of flight problems stemming from last week’s volcanic eruption in Iceland.

“Today’s conversation was candid and constructive,” Froman said. “There were areas where there was convergence and areas where further work remains to be done.”

Stern said much of the talk focused on the “fast-start” funding rich countries have pledged to give poor ones between this year and 2012 to cope with climate change. The U.S. even handed out a fact sheet detailing its pledge.

“There is an appreciation, really by everybody in the room, that it is important to make good on that commitment,” Stern said of the short term funding.

views.washingtonpost.com/climate-change/post-carbon/2010/04/small_economies_make_mef_list.html

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Statement of the Chair of the Leaders’ Representatives of the
Major Economies Forumon Energy and Climate on
Global Partnership Technology Action Plans and Clean Energy Analysis

In July 2009 at L’Aquila, Italy, the Leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) announced a Global Partnership to drive transformational low-carbon, climate-friendly technologies. The Leaders welcomed efforts among interested countries to advance actions on a range of important clean technologies. It was noted that lead countries would develop action plans.

On behalf of the MEF Leaders’ representatives, we are pleased to announce the development of these Technology Action Plans (TAPs), along with an executive summary. The Global Partnership TAPs focus on: Advanced Vehicles; Bioenergy; Carbon Capture, Use, and Storage; Energy Efficiency – Buildings; Energy Efficiency – Industrial Sector; High-Efficiency, Low-Emissions Coal; Marine Energy; Smart Grids; Solar Energy; and Wind Energy.

Leaders also agreed in L’Aquila to dramatically increase and coordinate public sector investments in research, development, and demonstration of transformational clean energy technologies. To help inform this effort, the International Energy Agency developed a preliminary analysis titled, “Global Gaps in Clean Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D).”

Following the agreement in L’Aquila and building on these Technology Action Plans and clean energy analysis, efforts can now move toward the consideration of activities to promote technology development, deployment, and transfer. The United States is planning to invite energy ministers and other relevant ministers from MEF countries, as well as other countries actively working to advance climate-friendly technologies under the Global Partnership, to meet and discuss how to promote progress in these areas.

The MEF Technology Action Plans and Executive Summary, and the clean energy analysis are available at: www.majoreconomiesforum.org.

Technology Action Plans:

Executive Summary

Advanced Vehicles

Bioenergy

Carbon Capture, Use & Storage

Cross Cutting R&D

Energy Efficiency – Buildings Sector

Energy Efficiency – Industrial Sector

High-Efficiency, Low-Emissions (HELE) Coal Technologies

Marine Energy

Smart Grids

Solar Energy

Wind Energy

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views.washingtonpost.com/climate-change/ is the Washington Post Planet Panel blog to which the  Post Carbon views.washingtonpost.com/climate-… is a staff blog run by Juliet Eilperin.

We recommend these as best informed sources of Washington DC information.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

CHILEAN JOURNALIST TORTURED UNDER DICTATORSHIP WINS UN PRESS FREEDOM PRIZE.

A Chilean journalist whose investigative reporting led to her torture by the country’s military dictatorship 25 years ago today won a United Nations prize that honours those promoting freedom of expression, especially at the risk of their own lives.

Mónica González Mujica was declared laureate of the 2010 UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, named in memory of a Colombian newspaper publisher murdered in 1987 for denouncing the activities of powerful drug barons in his country.

“Mónica González Mujica has undergone years of hardship defending freedom of expression, one of the core values UNESCO was created to uphold. She now shows equal commitment to education, which is another main priority of our Organization,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said.

Born in 1949, Ms. González spent four years in exile following the military coup of 1973. She returned in 1978 to Chile, where harassment from the secret services made her lose jobs repeatedly as she investigated human rights violations as well as the financial doings of the coup leader, General Augusto Pinochet, and his family.

She was imprisoned and tortured from 1984 to 1985 for this work. Yet, upon her release she went back to investigative reporting, publishing articles and books about the abuses of the military dictatorship. She was detained again and numerous court cases were brought against her.

Since Chile’s return to democracy in 1990, she has continued working as a newspaper editor and journalist. She has been directing the Centre of Journalism and Investigation in Santiago, the capital, since 2007, while conducting workshops on investigative journalism at home and abroad.

Ms. González was recommended by an international jury of 12 professional journalists from all over the world.

“Throughout her professional life, Mónica González Mujica has shown courage in shining the light on the dark side of Chile,” the president of the jury, Joe Thloloe, Press Ombudsman of the Press Council of South Africa, said. “She has embodied the very spirit of the Award. She has been jailed, tortured, hauled before the courts but has remained steadfast.

“Ms. González is now ploughing her experience back to the younger generation through her work at the Centre of Journalism and Investigation and her workshops on investigative journalism in various countries.”

Ms. Bokova will present the $25,000 Prize to Ms. González in a ceremony on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, which UNESCO will celebrate this year in Brisbane, Australia.

Created in 1997 by UNESCO’s Executive Board, and financed by the Cano and Ottaway family foundations and by JP/Politiken Newspaper LTD, the prize is awarded annually to honour the work of an individual or an organization defending or promoting freedom of expression anywhere in the world, especially if this action puts the individual’s life at risk. Candidates are proposed by UNESCO Member States and regional or international organizations that defend and promote freedom of expression.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 7th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Happiest People: Hmmm. You think it’s a coincidence? Costa Rica is one of the very few countries to have abolished its army, and it’s also arguably the happiest nation on earth.

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, New York Times, OP-ED Columnist.

Published: January 6, 2010
from – SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica

Hmmm. You think it’s a coincidence? Costa Rica is one of the very few countries to have abolished its army, and it’s also arguably the happiest nation on earth.

There are several ways of measuring happiness in countries, all inexact, but this pearl of Central America does stunningly well by whatever system is used. For example, the World Database of Happiness, compiled by a Dutch sociologist on the basis of answers to surveys by Gallup and others, lists Costa Rica in the top spot out of 148 nations.

That’s because Costa Ricans, asked to rate their own happiness on a 10-point scale, average 8.5. Denmark is next at 8.3, the United States ranks 20th at 7.4 and Togo and Tanzania bring up the caboose at 2.6.

Scholars also calculate happiness by determining “happy life years.” This figure results from merging average self-reported happiness, as above, with life expectancy. Using this system, Costa Rica again easily tops the list. The United States is 19th, and Zimbabwe comes in last.

A third approach is the “happy planet index,” devised by the New Economics Foundation, a liberal think tank. This combines happiness and longevity but adjusts for environmental impact — such as the carbon that countries spew.

Here again, Costa Rica wins the day, for achieving contentment and longevity in an environmentally sustainable way. The Dominican Republic ranks second, the United States 114th (because of its huge ecological footprint) and Zimbabwe is last.

Maybe Costa Rican contentment has something to do with the chance to explore dazzling beaches on both sides of the country, when one isn’t admiring the sloths in the jungle (sloths truly are slothful, I discovered; they are the tortoises of the trees). Costa Rica has done an unusually good job preserving nature, and it’s surely easier to be happy while basking in sunshine and greenery than while shivering up north and suffering “nature deficit disorder.”

After dragging my 12-year-old daughter through Honduran slums and Nicaraguan villages on this trip, she was delighted to see a Costa Rican beach and stroll through a national park. Among her favorite animals now: iguanas and sloths.

(Note to editor of the New York Times: Maybe we should have a columnist based in Costa Rica?)

What sets Costa Rica apart is its remarkable decision in 1949 to dissolve its armed forces and invest instead in education. Increased schooling created a more stable society, less prone to the conflicts that have raged elsewhere in Central America. Education also boosted the economy, enabling the country to become a major exporter of computer chips and improving English-language skills so as to attract American eco-tourists.

I’m not antimilitary. But the evidence is strong that education is often a far better investment than artillery.

In Costa Rica, rising education levels also fostered impressive gender equality so that it ranks higher than the United States in the World Economic Forum gender gap index. This allows Costa Rica to use its female population more productively than is true in most of the region. Likewise, education nurtured improvements in health care, with life expectancy now about the same as in the United States — a bit longer in some data sets, a bit shorter in others.

Rising education levels also led the country to preserve its lush environment as an economic asset. Costa Rica is an ecological pioneer, introducing a carbon tax in 1997. The Environmental Performance Index, a collaboration of Yale and Columbia Universities, ranks Costa Rica at No. 5 in the world, the best outside Europe.

This emphasis on the environment hasn’t sabotaged Costa Rica’s economy but has bolstered it. Indeed, Costa Rica is one of the few countries that is seeing migration from the United States: Yankees are moving here to enjoy a low-cost retirement. My hunch is that in 25 years, we’ll see large numbers of English-speaking retirement communities along the Costa Rican coast.

Latin countries generally do well in happiness surveys. Mexico and Colombia rank higher than the United States in self-reported contentment. Perhaps one reason is a cultural emphasis on family and friends, on social capital over financial capital — but then again, Mexicans sometimes slip into the United States, presumably in pursuit of both happiness and assets.

Cross-country comparisons of happiness are controversial and uncertain. But what does seem quite clear is that Costa Rica’s national decision to invest in education rather than arms has paid rich dividends. Maybe the lesson for the United States is that we should devote fewer resources to shoring up foreign armies and more to bolstering schools both at home and abroad.

In the meantime, I encourage you to conduct your own research in Costa Rica, exploring those magnificent beaches or admiring those slothful sloths. It’ll surely make you happy.

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Our further take: The US had to build a stronger military in the belief it must safeguards the supply of oil and other natural resources to keep up a military hardware production needed to strengthen that military. Does that sound like a chicken and egg cycle? Does this explain lack of time and resources to do something about social issues, education, and the environment? Are people really happier even when provided with a longer car and wider highway? We refer our readers to www.CultureChange.org – a site that followed this for years.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 10th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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 August 13th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Bolivian hillside village in Los Yungas, in the tropical Andes. Credit:Diana Cariboni/IPS

 

ENVIRONMENT-SOUTH AMERICA: Mapping the Riches of the Tropical Andes
By Humberto Márquez*

 
CARACAS, Aug 8 (Tierramérica) – The Ecosystems Map of the Northern and Central Andes could serve as a guide for environmental conservation of this South American area covering 1.5 million square kilometres and holding the world’s highest concentration of biodiversity.

The tropical Andes, the stretch of the mountain range that includes the Central Andes (Bolivia and Peru) and Northern Andes (Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela), were dubbed the “global epicentre of biodiversity” by British ecologist Norman Myers. 

The zone holds 45,000 types of plants (20,000 of which are endemic) and 3,400 vertebrate animal species (more than 1,500 of which are endemic) on just one percent of the planet’s land surface, according to figures from Conservation International. 

These riches “are distributed among 133 specific ecosystems that we have inventoried for our map of areas at more than 500 metres of altitude, of which 77 are in Peru, 69 in Bolivia, 31 in Ecuador, 22 in Colombia and 21 in Venezuela,” environmentalist Eulogio Chacón-Moreno, head of the project in Venezuela, told Tierramérica. 

The map, initially presented in April, was conceived as a tool to “identify gaps and priorities for conservation in the national agencies for protected areas, and to develop a set of indicators that allows us to assess the state of conservation of the Andean ecosystems,” said Chacón-Moreno. 

Such is the case of the “páramos”, treeless high plateaus “with a high percentage of endemic species, unique diversity for the way the species interrelate, and a highly important source of freshwater,” Vanessa Cartaya, of the regional Andean Páramo Project, sponsored by the Global Environment Facility, told Tierramérica. 

Cartaya underscored that the intensification of land use, expansion of the agricultural frontier, growing urbanisation and increased demand for potable water, as well as climate change, “affect the páramos to a great extent, making it essential to determine which areas are the priority for action.” 

The páramos are situated between 3,000 and 4,500 metres above sea level in the Northern and Central Andes, with temperature, humidity, sunshine, rain and wind factors that make them quite different from the lower altitude tropics that surround them. 

The high altitude flower known in Spanish as “frailejón” (Espeletia neriifolia) is emblematic of this ecosystem. 

“The páramo functions like a sponge, absorbing rainwater before filtering and releasing it” into other ecosystems, states the text that accompanies the map. The mountaintops hold remnants of glaciers and lakes that feed streams and springs. 

The project was based on studies and maps available from national institutes, standardising their data. Some of the maps used are: the Vegetation Map of Bolivia, Map of Ecosystems of the Colombian Andes, Map of Ecuador’s Continental Ecological Systems, Forest Map of Peru, and the Map of Ecological Units of Mérida, Venezuela. 

Plans are in the works to publish an atlas in 2010, with a preliminary version already available on the Internet. 

The mapping effort is a contribution to the Environmental Agenda of the Andean Community trade bloc (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) as a guide to design and coordinate policies among the national environmental agencies, focusing on three themes: biodiversity, climate change and water resources. 

Backing the project are the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, Spain’s Ministry of the Environment, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The work has been coordinated by NatureServe, a non-profit conservation organisation, and the Consortium for Sustainable Development of the Andean Eco-Region. 

Chacón-Moreno said the mapping will pave the way for studies “to identify ecosystems with more intense dynamics and patterns of fragmentation, which will serve as input to guide conservation policies.” 

Furthermore, experts will be able to “assess the vulnerability of Andean ecosystems through vegetation distribution models in scenarios of climate change and land-use change,” he added. 

For example, the Institute of Environmental and Ecological Sciences at the Venezuelan University of the Andes, led by Chacón-Moreno, has studied the spread of the mountainous cloud forest to the heights of the páramos in the highest sierras of southwest Venezuela, with records from 1952 to 1999 “showing how the páramo area has been reduced with the passing of the decades.” 

“The changes in vegetation cover demonstrate the effects of climate anomalies. In this respect, the map and the studies that support it allow the study across an entire region using a single standardised system of classification,” said the expert. 

A database will be a “planning tool that contains information about biodiversity,” communities and ecosystems, according to Chacón-Moreno. 

Of the 133 ecosystems identified, the most extensive is the High Andean Wet Scrubland (Puna Húmeda), covering nearly 10 million hectares in Peru and Bolivia, just 6.8 percent of which is officially protected. 

“Human use has greatly influenced the structure of these landscapes, subjected over the centuries to tree cutting and cyclical burns, so criteria need to be developed to better evaluate the natural landscapes,” which would lead to better understanding of the conservation of the Central Andes ecosystems, says the report that accompanies the map. 

The Tropical Andes run 4,000 km north-south. Few mountaintops are lower than 2,000 metres in altitude, and most of the landscape is steep inclines, deep gullies, vast valley floors, and sharp peaks. 

In the Central Andes, a vast “altiplano” or high plain is formed at more than 3,500 metres above sea level in southern Peru and western Bolivia. 

The altiplano’s towns and villages are home to more than 40 million people who rely heavily on the natural goods and services of the Andean ecosystems, including grains, fruit and vegetables produced in the area. 

“The map has also been proposed as an information and education tool for communities about the potential of their surroundings and the importance of preserving it, in order to obtain clean water and sustenance, as well as enjoying the beauty of the landscape,” said Cartaya. 

(*This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.) 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 25th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Why the Amazon is important

Page last updated: 14 May 2008

By BBC’s Latin America Analyst James Painter

The Amazon Paradox

080509airpollution187
The rainforests are essential for removing carbon dioxide from the air.

As concerns grow about global warming and the future of the planet, much more international attention is being paid to the Amazon region.

There are three fundamental reasons why the region is important to the rest of the world.

The Amazon and the world’s climate

It is not surprising that the Amazon region is often called the “lungs of the world,” as it plays a critical role in the global carbon cycle that helps to shape the world’s climate.

About 200 billion tonnes of carbon are locked up in tropical vegetation around the world, of which about 70 billion tonnes are estimated to be in Amazon trees.

Rapid rates of deforestation cause more carbon to be converted into carbon dioxide, either when the trees are burnt down or more slowly by the decomposition of unburned wood.

And once the forests are gone, they cannot soak up the carbon from cars, power plants and factories. At the moment the Amazon is thought to absorb about 10 per cent of global fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions.

080509forestfires187

Burning is leading to a vicious circle of carbon release

The build-up of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is one of the key causes of global warming. About 20 per cent of annual global greenhouse emissions is estimated to come from the clearing of tropical forests around the world.

According to the Stern Report on the economics of climate change, the loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector.

Brazil, for example, is ranked in the top five of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, not because of its high emissions from fossil fuels but because of deforestation.

Tipping Point

A study released in February 2008 by a team of international scientists from Oxford University, the Potsdam Institute and others concluded that the Amazon rainforest was the second most vulnerable area in the world after the Arctic.

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The loss of the Amazon is leading to the loss of the Arctic

The essential idea is that the drying of the Amazon and/or increased deforestation could cause what is called “dieback” of the rain forest and a vicious cycle – a large reduction in the area of Amazon rainforest could cause a significant rise in CO2 emissions, which in turn would raise global temperatures – which in turn would cause more drying of the Amazon.

Scientists and climate change modellers disagree how soon a tipping point might happen or how likely it is. But however low the probability, changes to the Amazon are likely to be a “high impact” event on the world’s climate.

Biodiversity

The Amazon is the world’s largest tract of tropical rainforest, containing the Earth’s greatest biological reservoir – around 30 percent of all terrestrial species are found there.

The region is the main reason why Brazil is the most bio-diverse country in the world, with more than 50,000 described species of plants, 1,700 species of birds and between 500 and 700 different types each of amphibians, mammals and reptiles.

All this rich biodiversity is now being threatened by the destructive combination of stress from climate change and deforestation. Even though there are many unknowns about the Amazon’s future and its effect on the world’s climate, scientists agree that because of its biodiversity and the crucial role the region plays in shaping the climate, it is a matter of great urgency to find the right policy mix to conserve enough of the forest.

ws_amazon_banner4

080515mato_grosso187

Brazil is also the biggest exporter of soya beans in the world

Who should decide the fate of the Amazon rainforest? The people who live there? The Brazilian government? The international community? Or individuals all over the world?

A remote tribe in the Brazilian Amazon says illegal loggers have already cleared around 40 per cent of their land, while the government has ignored their pleas for help.

The Tembe indians say that as the authorities failed to act, some of their community also became involved in selling wood illegally, but for now this has stopped.

Now they say the authorities should recognise they too have the right to make some money from the wood that surrounds their reserve by providing a plan for sustainable development.

The BBC’s Gary Duffy has been to the state of Para in northern Brazil to meet one of the leaders of the small Tembe indian community: Listen to Gary Duffy’s report (4 mins 13 secs)

080507amazon_map_303_1

The Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world, covering approximately seven million km² (40% of South America). Much of the global carbon cycle that is crucial to the world’s ecology and climate goes through the Amazon, earning it the label “the lungs of the Earth”.

The Amazon is a rich store of biodiversity, containing around a quarter of all terrestrial species. At 6,400km, the Amazon river is the second longest in the world, and accounts for one fifth of all fresh water drained into the world’s oceans.

The Amazon basin is also home to more than 30 million people of nine nations; Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. Two-thirds of the Amazonian population are Brazilian, and more than half live in urban centres.

The Amazon by country

Explore BBC country briefings, reports, audio, and video using the interactive map.

The Brazil part of the Amazonas is a follows:

2143726_amazon_brazil

Brazilian Amazon surface area: 4,776,980 km²
Estimated deforestation: 700,000 km² since 1970
Brazil Population: 191.8 million (UN, 2007)
Forest cover: 56%

Brazil is South America’s most influential country, an economic giant and one of the world’s biggest democracies.

Brazil also contains 65% of the Amazon, yet it is estimated that 700,000km² has been lost through deforestation since 1970. This is an area larger than Afghanistan, and accounts for 80% of recent deforestation in the whole of the Amazon basin.

Despite the destruction, the Brazilian Amazon remains the largest continuous area of tropical forest in the world.

Cattle ranching accounts for around 70% of all forest loss. Soya production and illegal logging are the other main culprits. The construction of new hydroelectric dams and the building of roads across the region are also blamed for deforestation as they open access to low-cost land and attract new migrants.

Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of soya and beef, much of it driven by growing demand from the rapidly-expanding Asian economies, particularly China.

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Then please the following to the bottom of the piece

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One Planet: best of the Amazon Paradox

February saw 200 troops go into Para to crack down on logging

The Amazon Paradox

BBC World Service’s One Planet programme presents a special edition bringing you the very best of the Amazon Paradox.

Listen
Listen (27 mins 04 secs)

Download (mp3)
The programme includes:
An in-depth report from the heart of Para, following Operation Arc Of Fire – the major police effort to stop deforestation across three major Amazon states.
A look at how the government of Amazonas State is trying to save its forests by building up other economic institutions, including a free trade zone, industrial capacity, and thriving cultural institutions – with everything from Roger Waters to operettas about chocolate cake.
The factors putting a sustainable Amazon under sustained pressure – the people who say they do not want to log, but cannot survive if they do not; the lobbying of the agriculture ministry and land reform agency; and the sceptics calling for “broader discussion” and more food production.
An exclusive interview with the British Prince Of Wales, calling for a better integrated rural development programme which “makes forests more valuable alive than dead.”
And a look at one beef farmer successfully avoiding impacting on the forest – while at the same time still making a profit.

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BBC correspondents’ Amazon reports  The Amazon Paradox

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The rainforests are essential for removing carbon dioxide from the air.

As concerns grow about global warming and the future of the planet, much more international attention is being paid to the Amazon region.

There are three fundamental reasons why the region is important to the rest of the world.

The Amazon and the world’s climate

It is not surprising that the Amazon region is often called the “lungs of the world,” as it plays a critical role in the global carbon cycle that helps to shape the world’s climate.

About 200 billion tonnes of carbon are locked up in tropical vegetation around the world, of which about 70 billion tonnes are estimated to be in Amazon trees.

Rapid rates of deforestation cause more carbon to be converted into carbon dioxide, either when the trees are burnt down or more slowly by the decomposition of unburned wood.

And once the forests are gone, they cannot soak up the carbon from cars, power plants and factories. At the moment the Amazon is thought to absorb about 10 per cent of global fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions.

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Burning is leading to a vicious circle of carbon release

The build-up of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is one of the key causes of global warming. About 20 per cent of annual global greenhouse emissions is estimated to come from the clearing of tropical forests around the world.

According to the Stern Report on the economics of climate change, the loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector.

Brazil, for example, is ranked in the top five of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, not because of its high emissions from fossil fuels but because of deforestation.

Tipping Point

A study released in February 2008 by a team of international scientists from Oxford University, the Potsdam Institute and others concluded that the Amazon rainforest was the second most vulnerable area in the world after the Arctic.

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The loss of the Amazon is leading to the loss of the Arctic

The essential idea is that the drying of the Amazon and/or increased deforestation could cause what is called “dieback” of the rain forest and a vicious cycle – a large reduction in the area of Amazon rainforest could cause a significant rise in CO2 emissions, which in turn would raise global temperatures – which in turn would cause more drying of the Amazon.

Scientists and climate change modellers disagree how soon a tipping point might happen or how likely it is. But however low the probability, changes to the Amazon are likely to be a “high impact” event on the world’s climate.

Biodiversity

The Amazon is the world’s largest tract of tropical rainforest, containing the Earth’s greatest biological reservoir – around 30 percent of all terrestrial species are found there.

The region is the main reason why Brazil is the most bio-diverse country in the world, with more than 50,000 described species of plants, 1,700 species of birds and between 500 and 700 different types each of amphibians, mammals and reptiles.

All this rich biodiversity is now being threatened by the destructive combination of stress from climate change and deforestation. Even though there are many unknowns about the Amazon’s future and its effect on the world’s climate, scientists agree that because of its biodiversity and the crucial role the region plays in shaping the climate, it is a matter of great urgency to find the right policy mix to conserve enough of the forest.

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Brazil is also the biggest exporter of soya beans in the world

Who should decide the fate of the Amazon rainforest? The people who live there? The Brazilian government? The international community? Or individuals all over the world?

A remote tribe in the Brazilian Amazon says illegal loggers have already cleared around 40 per cent of their land, while the government has ignored their pleas for help.

The Tembe indians say that as the authorities failed to act, some of their community also became involved in selling wood illegally, but for now this has stopped.

Now they say the authorities should recognise they too have the right to make some money from the wood that surrounds their reserve by providing a plan for sustainable development.

The BBC’s Gary Duffy has been to the state of Para in northern Brazil to meet one of the leaders of the small Tembe indian community: Listen to Gary Duffy’s report (4 mins 13 secs)

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The Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world, covering approximately seven million km² (40% of South America). Much of the global carbon cycle that is crucial to the world’s ecology and climate goes through the Amazon, earning it the label “the lungs of the Earth”.

The Amazon is a rich store of biodiversity, containing around a quarter of all terrestrial species. At 6,400km, the Amazon river is the second longest in the world, and accounts for one fifth of all fresh water drained into the world’s oceans.

The Amazon basin is also home to more than 30 million people of nine nations; Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. Two-thirds of the Amazonian population are Brazilian, and more than half live in urban centres.

The Amazon by country

Explore BBC country briefings, reports, audio, and video using the interactive map.

The Brazil part of the Amazonas is a follows:

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Brazilian Amazon surface area: 4,776,980 km²
Estimated deforestation: 700,000 km² since 1970
Brazil Population: 191.8 million (UN, 2007)
Forest cover: 56%

Brazil is South America’s most influential country, an economic giant and one of the world’s biggest democracies.

Brazil also contains 65% of the Amazon, yet it is estimated that 700,000km² has been lost through deforestation since 1970. This is an area larger than Afghanistan, and accounts for 80% of recent deforestation in the whole of the Amazon basin.

Despite the destruction, the Brazilian Amazon remains the largest continuous area of tropical forest in the world.

Cattle ranching accounts for around 70% of all forest loss. Soya production and illegal logging are the other main culprits. The construction of new hydroelectric dams and the building of roads across the region are also blamed for deforestation as they open access to low-cost land and attract new migrants.

Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of soya and beef, much of it driven by growing demand from the rapidly-expanding Asian economies, particularly China.

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Then please the following to the bottom of the piece

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One Planet: best of the Amazon Paradox

February saw 200 troops go into Para to crack down on logging

The Amazon Paradox

BBC World Service’s One Planet programme presents a special edition bringing you the very best of the Amazon Paradox.

Listen
Listen (27 mins 04 secs)

Download (mp3)
The programme includes:
An in-depth report from the heart of Para, following Operation Arc Of Fire – the major police effort to stop deforestation across three major Amazon states.
A look at how the government of Amazonas State is trying to save its forests by building up other economic institutions, including a free trade zone, industrial capacity, and thriving cultural institutions – with everything from Roger Waters to operettas about chocolate cake.
The factors putting a sustainable Amazon under sustained pressure – the people who say they do not want to log, but cannot survive if they do not; the lobbying of the agriculture ministry and land reform agency; and the sceptics calling for “broader discussion” and more food production.
An exclusive interview with the British Prince Of Wales, calling for a better integrated rural development programme which “makes forests more valuable alive than dead.”
And a look at one beef farmer successfully avoiding impacting on the forest – while at the same time still making a profit.

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BBC correspondents’ Amazon reports  www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 24th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From THE AMERICAS SOCIETY/Council of the Americas, New York City Headquarters – A discussion on – The Risks of Deforestation in the Amazon with Bruce Babbitt, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Andrew Revkin of The New York Times. Thursday, July 23, 2009. The moderator was Christopher Sabatini, Editor-in-Chief of the Americas Quarterly and Senior Director of Policy, of AS/COA.

The IIRSA initiative was created in the year 2000, during a summit of South American presidents in Brazil. Its official goal is South American regional integration through infrastructure related to transportation, energy and telecommunications. This initiative is coordinated by 12 South American governments with the technical and financial support of the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) and the Del Plata Basin Development Fund (FONPLATA), as well as other development banks, likely including the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Environmental groups saw from the IIRSA inception that the proposed megaprojects will endanger the environment.

The Friends of the Earth, International) (FOEI) wrote about IIRSA:

Why is IIRSA a risk for communities and the environment?

1. Because its transport, waterways and agribusiness network projects crossing ecologically fragile areas, will have a negative effect on biodiversity. For example, the impact in the Andes, the Amazon Basin, the Mato Grosso, the Pantanal, and the Paraguay and Paraná rivers, will be significant, and in many cases irreversible.

2. Because these projects are likely to put the products of peasant communities at a great disadvantage. IIRSA roads and waterways aim to facilitate the transport of export products like soy, while doing little to strengthen food security and sustainable livelihoods for local citizens.

3. Because the mega- infrastructure projects have been drawn up with excessive focus on the needs of the private sector compared to the needs of the local economy and nearby communities.

4. Because of the failure to incorporate appropriate environmental, social and cultural considerations in IIRSA’s large infrastructure projects.

5. Because IIRSA projects are now set up to follow previous large infrastructure projects financed by international financial institutions. These projects continue to cause harm to indigenous communities (for example the Camisea gas pipeline) and the environment (Bolivia-Brazil gas pipeline), and can rack up devastating national debts (Yacyreta hydroelectric plant).

6. Because the role played by European transnational corporations in Latin America has already generated conflicts between consumers of public services, putting access to basic services (such as water, electricity, telecommunications) at risk, and promoting the privatization of public services. Giving these companies a greater role, as envisaged by IIRSA, is potentially very harmful.

7. Because IIRSA offers little public access to information about their projects and related policy reforms.

8. Because IIRSA does not have monitoring and evaluation programs in place to demonstrate that poverty will be reduced or that sustainable economies are being promoted.

9. Because IIRSA does not make concrete connections between its projects and the reduction of poverty or improvement of the environment.

10. Finally, and in summary, because IIRSA has a logic that is purely economic instead of a logic that is about sustainable integration and healthy local economies.

 www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/global…

 www.iirsa.org/index.asp?CodIdioma…

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Andrew Revkin, besides being the Science Editor of the New York Times, has also written: “The Burning Season: “The Murder of Chico Mendes and the Fight for the Amazon Rain Forest” (Paperback – Sep 30, 2004) that allowed him an added insight into the social and economic drivers that destroy the Amazonas.

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The base material for the presentation by Bruce Babbitt – was published in: The Americas Quarterly SUMMER 2009.       AMERICASQUARTERLY.ORG

BY BRUCE BABBITT who has served as Governor of Arizona and as U.S.secretary of the interior. He is currently researching IIRSA (?Iniciativa para la Integracion de la Infraestructura Regional Suramericana). as a fellow of the Blue Moon Fund.

IN THE AMAZON BASIN THE PLANNED TRANS-SOUTH AMERICAN HIGHWAY WILL WREAK MASSIVE DAMAGE ON THE FRAGILE ECOSYSTEMS OF THE AMAZON AND THE ANDES. WORSE YET, IT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE ECONOMIC SENSE. SO WHY IS IT BEING BUILT?

Brazil is an Atlantic nation in search of its Pacific destiny. Although it has long nurtured the dream of becoming a two-ocean, continental power, much as a young and expanding America was drawn across the continent to the Pacific by the call of Manifest Destiny, South America’s largest country has for most of its history faced eastward to European and North American markets. But as global markets shift toward China and the emerging economies of Asia, the dream of westward expansion has been revived by one of the world’s biggest and most improbable construction projects.

The Interoceanica, a highway stretching a thousand kilometers across the Amazon Basin, up the 15,000-foot-high face of the Andes and down to the Pacifi c in Peru, is as worrying as it is ambitious. With additional branches already planned, it has emerged as a serious threat to the human and natural ecology of the greatest expanse of rainforest on the planet. What makes it especially worrying is that construction of the highway, estimated to cost $4 billion, has received almost no attention and little debate. Its origins trace back to September 2000, when a meeting of South American presidents convened by Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso endorsed a plan called the Initiative of the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America, known as IIRSA. At the time, the topic of the day was regional economic integration. In the minds of many of its leaders South America was falling behind in the global economy as regional trade blocs, such as NAFTA and the expanding European Union (EU), seemed to grab the economic initiative. The U.S. proposal for a Free Trade Area of the Americas was perceived by Brazil as a threat to its claims of leadership.

The presidents endorsed a sprawling plan, the centerpiece of which was the Interoceanica highway, reviving an earlier idea for a transborder corridor that would facilitate Brazilian trade with China. Then called Transoceanica, but quickly dubbed the “Road to China,” the idea languished for more than a decade until it was reconceived as part of the sprawling IIRSA project, which pulled together national wish lists of no less than 350 infrastructure projects, including highways, bridges, railways, ports, airports, and transmission corridors. Should the full plan be realized, the greatest remaining expanse of tropical forests on the planet will be transformed into the industrial heartland of South America. Highway corridors converging inward from the Atlantic coast and from the Andean countries will meet and cross in the Amazon, drawing and concentrating settlement and development into the green heart of the continent. Yet in the nine years since the South American presidents met, the IIRSA blueprints for transforming the Amazon have attracted surprisingly little attention. That may have been because the presidential directives setting the plan in motion bypassed normal procedures of public hearings and legislative debate in each of the affected countries. It may also be that IIRSA was dismissed by many as yet another dreamy Bolivarian scheme for continental unity, destined to fade away like so many other continental visions extending back in time to the Great Liberator himself.

For better or worse, the dream is coming to life. Construction of the main road is expected to be completed as early as 2010, ensuring that the Interoceanica will play a key role in the ultimate goal of regional economic integration.

The architects of the project are proud of their achievement, which may be one reason I was invited by Constructora Norberto Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company, to see how far they have come. That’s how I came to find myself last fall in Puerto Maldonado, a once-languid Peruvian frontier town on the Amazon, the jumping-off point for a trip deep into the heart of the continent to witness the final phase of construction. The trip proved a jarring contrast with a visit I made to the area in 1991, when I first became acquainted with the trans-Amazon corridor project. Puerto Maldonado itself was an introduction to the conflicting images of the future embodied by the new highway. Roadside billboards advertise the town as a gateway to an ecotourism paradise. One boasts:

“Puerto Maldonado, Capital of Biodiversity;” another, more grandly, claims the town as the “Biological Capital of the World and Ecological Patrimony of Humanity.”

But signs of another, darker vision are everywhere as the surrounding forests come under siege from forest clearing and burning, illegal logging and land speculation. On the first morning, accompanied by the two guides assigned to me by the company, Gabriel and Devey, we left Puerto Maldonado heading west. A passing logging truck made clear that commerce was already flourishing. The pavement soon gave way to a narrow red-dirt track baked hard by the intense tropical sun. African Zebu cattle grazed among blackened stumps in pastures where the forest has been cleared and burned back from the roadway.

The tension between the vision of an ecological paradise and reality has already triggered violence.

In Februar y2008, a local municipal official, Julio García Agapito, spotted a truckload of illegally harvested mahoganylogs. In the process of reporting the sighting to federal officials, he was accosted by gunmen and shot dead. Several months after García’s death, demonstrators converged in Puerto Maldonado to protest a presidential decree authorizing the sale of communal lands. In the ensuing violence the town hall was burned to the ground. Such violence has been an all-too familiar characteristic of Amazon commercial development in the recentpast. But the contrast between ecological aims and commerce is all the more intense here, because the headwaters region represents the last possibility for preserving the wild pre-settlement Amazon.

The centerof this extraordinary ecological patrimony is nearby Manu National Park, world-renowned for its profusion of Amazon wildlife—a region where visitors encounter nearly 1,000 species of birds (10 percent of the world’s species), troops of monkeys clambering through the tree canopies, huge mixed flocks of green parrots and red and green macaws swarming to nearby salt licks, tapirs crashing through the forest toward mud wallows, giant otters surfacing in the oxbow lakes, and, if one is lucky, a jaguar or anaconda.Elsewhere in the Amazon, such scenes are a rarity. Wildlife has been heavily hunted or disrupted by generations of rubber tappers, gold miners and forest settlers in much of the rainforest. The exception is the western headwaters region, where long stretches of rapids and waterfalls pouring off the mountains have blocked access.

The pristine qualityof the western Amazon, in effect, has been cradled and protected by the ramparts of the Andes. But for how much longer? Just beyond the ceja de montaña (the brow of the mountain), we reached the Peruvian village of Santa Rosa. Above this village, the construction zone looms into sight. Work crews here are widening and grading the road and laying a base course with gravel.The sheer scale of the construction effort becomes vividly clear. According to Gabriel, about 6,500 men and women are on the job during the dry season, mobilizing 1,500 trucks, bulldozers, earth movers, and other pieces of heavy machinery. As we pass through Masuko, a wildcat gold-mining camp set in a moonscape of rock and gravel, we encounter some older Amazon realities. Gold buyers occupy most of the storefronts. Masuko may be remote, but gold travels well from all locationsin all seasons. Looking across the wasteland, Gabriel shrugs and states the obvious: “the government does not have the capacity to control this gold mining.”The construction zone resumes beyond Masuko, where a narrow bridge takes us to a precarious track cut from near-vertical slopes that rise upward into the mist. On our left, far below, a river cascades downward, continuous whitewater thundering through the boulder-filled channel.Roadwork here has created a traffic jam, as local drivers jockey with heavy equipment and trucks for their turn to thread the maze. A Peruvian policeman stands by passively as workers unscramble the traffic. Gabriel explains that the policeman, who is on the Odebrecht payroll, is on duty simply to lend the color of authority to traffic management. Toward nightfall we are again heldup by workers and heavy machinerycontending with an ancient landslideof giant boulders and rock slabs thatseem about ready to resume their downward descent. Workmen are jackhammering boulders, preparing to blast a way through. Several yards up the track, a vehicle emblazoned with a red cross is parked alongside the road. Our driver radios the supervisor: the machines move, a grader pushes away a pile of rock and we weave our way through.Night descends quickly in the tropics. As the sky darkens, lights up the canyon to the left signal that we have reached the main construction camp. Checking in through a security gate, we pass a large maintenance yard,rows of prefab dormitories and the administrative center. At a meeting hall large enough for 100 participants, Sergio, the project manager, gives us a sophisticated PowerPoint presentation of the project, complete with a map showing IIRSA projects throughout the South American continent, statistics about the Interoceanica, a description of hiring and personnel policies and training programs, and even information on the medical clinic staffed by a physician, along with a summary of economic benefits accruing to local communities. Listening to this talk, I am beginning to realize that this is not just another construction company that managed to be the low bidder. Odebrecht is a powerful agent of Brazilian expansion. As long ago as 1991, when I first encountered the project, Odebrecht depicted its “Road to China” as a boost for trade: by eliminating the need to ship goods through the Panama Canal, the highway would speed the process of transforming Brazilian soybeans into Asian tofu.

THE ECONOMICS OF TOFU TRANSPORT the road to China, however compelling as a vision of national destiny, has never been supported by economic reality. Trucking bulk commodities over land, never mind up and down the Andes, is expensive. Shipping by sea costs less than onetenthof land transport.

Cutting out a few thousand kilometers of ocean distance would be nothing against the costs of trucking over the Andes. That’s not just my conclusion. Mato Grosso’s governor, Blairo Maggi , who is also Brazil’s largest soy farmer and a fervent advocate of Amazon development, observed that a road over the Andes would be “too expensive,” declaring that he would continue to ship through Atlantic ports. But the advocates of IIRSA make another claim for the project’s economic viability. They argue that the Interoceanica is needed to access the oil and gas fields now being developed in headwater regions of thewestern Amazon.

Indeed, an oil and gas boom is underway along the easternface of the Andes, reaching from Bolivia into Peru and northward into Ecuador and Colombia, with profound consequences for the future of the Amazon. In Peru, a huge gasstrike at Camisea, close to Cuzco, is under development. Camisea, however, is not an argument for road building. In fact, it makes exactly the opposite case, that roads are not necessary for modern oil and gas development. After international outcry over the Camisea project’s potential impact on indigenous forest, the company has sought to use helicopters instead to lay the pipeline down to the coast. The airborne delivery was an alternative to building roads and opening the forests up to destruction. If neither soybeans nor oil and gas are likely to repay the huge investment in the Interoceanica, there is one export commodity that assuredly will. The export of timber products, mahogany, cedar, and other high-value tropical hardwoods will benefit from new roads. Even now, without roads, mahogany is being illegally harvested, with logs cut to dimension timber and flown outfrom small airstrips to Lima. The road to China, it turns out, will be a fine all-weather logging road, opening access to still more of the Amazon forest.

Neither Odebrecht nor IIRSA any longer advances the “Road to China”argument for the Interoceanica. The billboards in Puerto Maldonado, inaddition to their biodiversity boasts,now proclaim simply “Progress and Development—Brazil and Peru.”

Even the new name, Interoceanica, suggests a more limited use: travel and development across the Brazil-Peru region.

The winding mountain road takes our group into the cloud forests, the tall canopy giving way to tangles of low trees and shrubs. Clouds drift down to the ground, leaving the land perpetually misty and wet. Far above us, earthmoving machines are perched on the slopes, so high up they look like tinker toys, as workers struggle to dig diversion channels to drain the incessant rains away from the exposed cuts. I wonder aloud how long it will be before this road goes the way of many Amazon roads that are pushed through the forests, then left to melt away in the rain, becoming nearly as impassable as the pioneer routes they were meant to improve. “That won’thappen here,” Gabriel insists. “We have a long-term concession contract that obligates Odebrecht to maintain the road for the next 25 years.” It is a public-private concession, he adds,what in the U.S. is called B.O.T.: build, operate, transfer. The Interoceanica will be operated by Odebrecht as aprivate toll road, with revenues going to repay construction costs and to finance ongoing maintenance. How much will the tolls be, and how does the construction financing work? Gabriel and Devey are vague. Highway finance is for the experts in Brasília and Lima, they say. Maintenance costs and profitability aside, the Interoceanica is an impressive example of Brazilian engineering, creative financing and international cooperation. Only time will tell whether the road is an optimal investment of public resources, for there was little economic analysis put forward by IIRSA, Odebrecht or the governments of Brazil and Peru. The financing scheme calls for construction costs to be paid through bonds sold into international markets. In theory, the bonds are to be paid down over time from tolls collected by Odebrecht as the concession operator. In fact, all parties concede there will not be sufficient traffic for tolls to repay the construction outlays. So to achieve a bondrating sufficient for the markets, the bonds are guaranteed by the Peruvian government. This means that, in the end, the road is being paid for by the Peruvian government.

MORE TO COME?  Why such an elaborate financing mechanism, when it is understood by all participants that the bonds are essentially drawing on the public purse of Peru? The likely answer is that by structuring the financing through an intermediary, IIRSA and its private sector partners have been able to circumvent the Peruvian planning process and the constraints of that country’s national budget.However lacking in transparency and national accountability, and whatever the human and environmental costs and lack of economic logic, the Interoceanica was probably inevitable. The Andes could not serve forever as a Great Wall holding back Brazilian expansion.

What’s more surprising is that IIRSA plans on building more roads. According to public documents, IIRSA believes that one road is not nearly enough. The Interoceanica is just the beginning. IIRSA plans call for at least two more transportation corridors across the western Amazon: IIRSACentral and IIRSA Norte.

IIRSA’s bold ambition raises a number of questions about the costs: economic and environmental. Is one highway corridor, whose economic rationale is still to be proven, across the western Amazon and over the Andes sufficient? Is there any reason for additional road corridors that put forests at risk and threaten the existenceof native forest communities? Rather than build new roads, what is sorely needed is an international plan to conserve and protect the remaining western Amazon headwaters.         But that doesn’t seem to be in IIRSA’s plan.

– The IIRSA Central will roughly parallelthe Interoceanica, much as the east-west interstate highways run inparallel corridors across the United States. It will branch off from the Interoceanica in Rio Branco, the capital of the Brazilian state of Acre. From RioBranco the road corridor will run west across the international border to thePeruvian city of Pucallpa, connecting from there to existing road corridors down to the Pacific. On the Brazilian side, the IIRSACentral corridor will cut a swath through the forests of Serra do Divisor National Park, renowned for its diversity of local species that have evolved along divergent paths in the isolated foothill elevations of the Andean region.The area is so isolated and so little known that bird species new to science are still being discovered and described. Ironically, even as IIRSA planners, with Brazilian leadership, are readying to invade the park, the Brazilian government has nominated Serra do Divisor Park for the UNESCO register of World Heritage Sites. Across the border in Peru, IIRSA Central will slice through and open up a reserve established to protect the largest remaining sanctuary of uncontacted indigenous groups on theplanet, who live in voluntary isolation from contemporary society. How such a redundant and destructive plan for a second transportationcorridor across the Amazon headwatersand over the Andes can take form with a minimum of discussion reveals much about the IIRSA process, or rather, lack of process. IIRSA projects have been designed and imposed from the top down, given aircover by presidential endorsementsand validation by the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) and other international agencies. The cross-border section of IIRSA Central, through the Serra do Divisor, has not yet gone out to bid, and there may yet be significant opposition within Brazil to the destruction of agreat national park, as well as protest from increasingly vocal indigenous rights groups within Peru.

– The third transportation corridorin this Amazon-Pacifi c integrationplan, IIRSA Norte, embodies a novel concept, possibly refl ecting some latent IIRSA capacity for enlightened planning. It is a bimodal land-water transportation corridor extending up Amazon River tributaries from Iquitos to the Peruvian city of Yurimaguas where vessels would disembark passengers and payloads to continue via a modern highway over the Andes and down to the Pacific coast.

Iquitos needs a transportation solution.It is by many measures the most remote city on the planet. There is no road access from the outside world. A visitor reaches Iquitos only by air or by ocean vessels coming nearly 4,000 kilometers upriver from the Atlantic. Iquitos has benefited from its isolation. It has become the ecotourism center of Peru and increasingly of the entire Amazon, by virtue of its close integration with natural surroundings, wildlife and native forest inhabitants. A bimodal river corridor would preserve the ambience of a city connected to the natural forest and riverine world. Employing the Amazon river system for the greater length of the transportation corridor would eliminate, or at least slow, the unnecessary road-building and deforestation, displacementof indigenous peoples and land-invasions that always follow. The highway anchor of IIRSA Nortefrom the Pacific over the Andean crest to the frontier city of  Yurimaguas is now under construction. The cast of players is familiar: 25-year toll road concession; financing from the Andean Development Corporation (CAF); guarantees from the Peruvian government; and a construction consortium led by Odebrecht. As this highway portion of IIRSA Norte nears completion, however, there is no sign of planning, much less actual work, along the river-corridor from Yurimaguas down to Iquitos. There are no improvements to the rudimentary port facilities, no upgrades to the primitive boats that operate on irregular schedules. The stark reality suggests that the “bimodal” concept is not a serious proposal, but rather a façade to justify the road to Yurimaguas with the hope of extending the highway down to Iquitos and beyond, through Brazil across to the Atlantic. Should the highway corridor proceed to Iquitos, and eventually into Brazil, the intended beneficiary, the city of Iquitos, will not be the only loser. Other threatened areas include the Pacaya Samiria NationalReserve, Peru’s largest national park, and the expanses of undisturbed forest stretching north and west toward Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park.

A NOT-SO-MODESTPROPOSAL

IIRSA has initiated a new era of infrastructure development inSouth America. It has built a political and economic structure that bypasses local and national governments, transcending them with a virtual organization shaped by the dark energy of Brazilian dynamism and held together with informal networks of public-private collaboration. The momentum of IIRSA projects wil lundoubtedly slow in the headwinds of a global recession. But, having demonstrated its capacity to deliver, IIRSA is not likely to disappear. Going forward, the issue is how best to bring transparency, accountability and a sense of geospatial integrity into a deeply flawed process. In past decades, human rights organizations, environmentalists, scientists, and sustainable development advocates, have typically taken their concerns to, and found a hearing at, the World Bank and the IDB. Recently, however, a new generation of regional development banks such as the CAF and the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) has taken the lead in financing the Interoceanica and other IIRSA projects. And these institutions have proven impervious to environmental and human rights concerns. If IIRSA is to be reformed, environmental, native rights and economicreform groups within theSouth American continent, will need to bulk up with technical expertise, funding and broader public support from within the national boundaries of their member countries, and from abroad.

At the international level, pressure for IIRSA reform must be generated from a broader base of governmental, private-sector, and multilateral institutions, including aid and finance agencies within the U.S. government and the European Union. The World Trade34 Americas Quarterly SUMMER 2009 AMERICASQUARTERLY.ORG Organization must be drawn into an expanded role that supports trade insustainable goods and services and penalizes products that do not meet such standards.

Consumers and corporations must be induced to adopt truly sustainable purchasing and procurement practices. The financial sector should raise its standards for project financing and underwriting, Even as IIRSA continues on a path likely to transform the Amazon into an ecological desert, a new economic  alternative is emerging with the potential to change direction. Global warming is now the most urgent international threat of our time.

Thedestruction of tropical forests contributes an astonishing 20 percentof the CO2 emissions causing globalwarming. And the emergence of an international carbon trading systemcould give economic value to tropical forests, compensating communities for the global ecosystem services provided by standing forests.

Brazil is the world’s number-one source of atmospheric carbon dioxide emitted from forest clearing and burning. Recently, Carlos Minc, the newly appointed environmental minister, pledged that Brazil will reduce its rate of deforestation by 50 percentby the year 2017, widely seen as the first step toward qualifying Brazil to participate in world carbon markets, thereby providing an economic incentive for forest protection. But a better way to preserve the fragile natural treasures that would be affected by the three transcontinental highways would be the creation of an internationally protected area, straddling both sides of the borderbetween Brazil and Peru. If transborder road-projects such as the Interoceanica can be brought into being by international agreement, then it is time for international parks to be established by the same process. If highways can be fi nanced through the IDB and other international financial institutions, then it is past time for those institutions to negotiate provisions for transborder protected areas in their planning and financing. Andthe national presidents who have so casually given credibility to the IIRSA process should be called to account by their own people for the protection of their national patrimony.Brazil’s emerging national policy,which envisions an eventual end to deforestation, cannot exist alongside IIRSA plans for an Amazon Basin carved up by an internationa lnetwork of road corridors. Now thatBrazil has at last reached the Pacific, it is time for this great nation to lead, domestically and internationally, by creating a coalition of presidents and governments to confront these contradictions of regional development policies and to establish an international plan that can protect the unique natural resources that lie across its borders. It would be an effort that would match the economically questionable and environmentally disastrous ambitions of IIRSA but promises far greater long-term returns.

Bruce Babbitt has served as Governor of Arizona and as U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Clinton. He is currently researching IIRSA as a fellow of the Blue Moon Fund.

—————-

The above terrific article leads us to the point were we see clearly that trees standing will be much more of value to their host country then choped up and sold for timber – this in particular for the Amazonas that does not have land quality that will lend itself easiliy to agriculture once the trees are gone.

It thus boggles my mind how National governments do not realize that being paid for leaving resources in place, is actually a much better guarantee for future income. Obviously – this requires also that outside governments understand that at meetings like the upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen,  they must make adequate offers to countries like Brazil and the Anden Countries, to make it possible for them to become part of the solution to the Global Warming requirements, rather then propelling themselves, and the rest of the world, on this down-hill treck they started with the construction of the trans-Andean highways, whose main purpose could only be the export of native hard-woods.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 28th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

CARTAGENA DE INDIAS SERÁ SEDE
DE LA CUMBRE REGIONAL
DE MICROCRÉDITO 2009

La Cumbre Regional de Microcrédito para América Latina y el Caribe 2009,
será el foro por excelencia para analizar el uso de las microfinanzas como instrumento eficaz para combatir la pobreza.

Este evento contará con la presencia del Premio Nobel de la Paz,
Muhammad Yunus y de aproximadamente 1.000 líderes y expertos
en microfinanzas de la región.

Bogotá, abril de 2009. Colombia ha sido seleccionada como país sede de la Cumbre Regional de Microcrédito para América Latina y el Caribe 2009, como reconocimiento al compromiso del Gobierno del Presidente Uribe en promover el microcrédito como herramienta eficaz de la lucha contra la pobreza, y por los excelentes resultados del programa Banca de las Oportunidades.

La Cumbre, de cara a la coyuntura económica mundial, adquiere especial relevancia y se constituye en el foro más importante para debatir y compartir experiencias exitosas del uso de las microfinanzas en la lucha por la erradicación de la pobreza.

La Cumbre Regional de Microcrédito para América Latina y el Caribe 2009 – CRMALC, que se llevará a cabo en Cartagena del 8 al 10 de junio, es organizada por la Campaña de la Cumbre de Microcrédito y Banca de las Oportunidades de Colombia.

La Cumbre Regional de Microcrédito para América Latina y el Caribe constituye, una gran oportunidad para hacer visible el activo compromiso de su organización en la promoción y ampliación de cobertura de las microfinanzas. Los patrocinadores e inversionistas tienen la oportunidad de posicionar su organización como líder dentro del movimiento para usar el poder de las microfinanzas en la lucha contra la pobreza. Para mayor información sobre las oportunidades de patrocinio contactar a:
 ursula.borrero at bancadelasoportunidade…

Si usted tiene alguna inquietud sobre inscripciones puede contactar a:
SUGEY PAJARO al e-mail:  pajaros at overgematours.com.co

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From:  mcastillo at caf.com
Date: November 25, 2008
Subject: Call for Offers VER (Transport Sector)

TransMilenio public transport system in Bogotá (Colombia, South America) is the first mass transit system in the world to be considered as a project activity in the frame of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The project was approved by the Executive Board of the CDM on December 2006, included the phases II to IV.

The phase I of the project reduces emissions that can be considered in the voluntary markets.   These are the first voluntary emission reductions in the world coming from a mass transit system project.

Corporación Andina de Fomento – CAF, on behalf of Transmilenio S.A., has the exclusive right to sell the Verified Emission Reductions – VERs – generated by the BRT BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA: TRANSMILENIO PHASE I PLUS PARTIAL PHASE II Project.

In order to sell these VER, CAF is sending this Call for Offers – CFO – to potential purchasers who may be interested in presenting offers for the purchase 880,506 VERs produced by the Project for the period 2001 – 2006.   Please find more details in the enclosed document.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

U.S. agrees to debt-for-nature swap to preserve Peru rainforests.

In a bid to preserve some of Peru’s biologically diverse rainforests, the United States agreed this week to a $25 million debt-for-nature swap with the country, Peru’s second since 2002. Over the next seven years, in exchange for erasing millions of their debt, Peru will fund local non-governmental organizations dedicated to protecting tropical rain forests of the southwestern Amazon Basin and dry forests of the central Andes.

“This agreement will build on the success of previous U.S. government debt swaps with Peru and will further the cause of environmental conservation in a country with one of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet,” said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Other debt-for-nature agreements have already been brokered with Bangladesh, Belize, Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, and the Philippines.

This week’s swap makes Peru the largest beneficiary of such deals with the U.S., with more than $35 million dedicated to environmental conservation in the country.

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

18306_large.gif


Freed Colombian hostage withdrawn from EU parliament prize

Ingrid Betancourt, who spent six years as a hostage in Colombia’s jungles, has been withdrawn from parliament’s Sakharov prize competition.

A spokesman for the Socialist group, which nominated the dual Colombian-French citizen, confirmed on Tuesday that her name had been withdrawn for what he called “technical reasons”.

He said a meeting of the group had decided that she did not meet the requirements of the prize, which is designed to honour people who have been actively engaged in the struggle for human rights.

“As she had been incarcerated and out of circulation for some time, it was felt she did not qualify,” he said.

“However, I want to stress that this decision is not intended as a slight against Betancourt.”

Betancourt, who was freed by the Colombian military in July along with 14 other hostages in a covert military rescue operation, has become a world symbol of freedom and human resistance in the face of the toughest adversities.

She has been invited to address the plenary in Brussels on 8 October and, while in the city, will be asked to address the Socialist group.

Meanwhile, three nominees have now been shortlisted from a seven-strong list for the prize. The winner will be chosen in mid-October.

The three finalists are Hu Jia, a Chinese campaigner for civil rights, environmental protection and AIDS advocacy; Alexandr Kozulin, a former Belarusian presidential candidate and Abbot Apollinaire Malu Malu, chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Democratic Republic of Congo.

In addition to the title, the winner receives the sum of €50,000.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Sakharov Prize, which was first awarded in 1988 in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Thirty-five Years Ago, Latin America Experienced Its Own September 11.

by: Teo Ballve, Colombian Writer, The Progressive, September 9, 2008.

In 1970, Salvador Allende became the democratically elected president of Chile. On Sept. 11, 1973, the Chilean military, supported by Washington, overthrew Allende and in his place a US-financed 17-year regime of terror took over. Latin America, which experienced its own September 11 thirty-five years ago, is no longer under Washington’s thumb.

On Sept. 11, 1973, the Chilean military, supported by Washington, overthrew the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende. It was a day that was burned in the memories of millions of people across the continent.

Allende had come to power in 1970 as a democratic socialist, and his victory raised hopes among Latin Americans that peaceful social change was possible.

But three years later, when military tanks and fighter jets blasted the presidential palace where Allende had taken refuge, those hopes were dashed. Allende took his own life during the attack, and in his place a U.S.-financed 17-year regime of terror took over. The junta, led by Augusto Pinochet, murdered more than 3,000 people and tortured and detained thousands more.

Now, 35 years after Allende’s overthrow, a lot has changed in Latin America. For starters, Chile’s current president (Michelle Bachelet) is not only a woman, but also a member of Allende’s Socialist Party.

And Washington, once the unofficial arbiter of the politics and economies of Latin America, has been sidelined, as progressive reformers have claimed victory in an ever-growing number of countries.

***



The political waters began turning in 1999 in Venezuela. The country’s leftist president, Hugo Chavez, came from the most unlikely of sources: the military.

Today, left-leaning leaders control almost every country of South America. These leaders are by no means a uniform bunch. But they all share the popular mandate of addressing the needs of the most disadvantaged citizens of Latin America, where nearly half the population of 550 million lives in grinding poverty.

Fulfilling campaign promises, many of these leaders have defied Washington’s economic and political strictures – first introduced in post-Sept. 11 Chile – in trying to lift millions out of poverty.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa have moved to take a larger share of profits from their nations’ vast oil and gas reserves to reinvest the money in anti-poverty programs.

Morales also plans to use windfall gas profits in Bolivia – the poorest country in South America – to strengthen its faltering social security system.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former union organizer, has similar plans for the profits expected from newly discovered massive oil reserves.

***

When Allende made similar reforms in Chile, President Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger famously sneered, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” The Nixon administration’s next move was to cut off all multilateral and bilateral foreign aid to Chile, fulfilling Nixon’s order to “make the economy scream.”

Despite persistent U.S. meddling, it’s hard to see how Washington could once again so recklessly block the desperately needed reforms now sweeping Latin America. When it has recently tried to impose its will, Latin American governments have fended off Washington by banding together.

The region’s new leaders finally are implementing policies that make real improvements in people’s lives. Allende tried to do so, but he was not allowed to see them through to fruition.

From his tragedy, new hope has arisen.

——–

Teo Ballve is a freelance journalist and editor based in Colombia. He can be reached at  pmproj at progressive.org.

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

The Americas Society / Council of the Americas will have in September, in New York City, events with the Presidents of – Brazil (H.E. Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva – September 22, 2008), Paraguay (H.E. Fernando Lugo – September 23, 2008), Colombia (H.E. Álvaro Uribe Vélez), and Argentina (H.E. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner – September 25, 2008).

It is only natural that Americas Society and the Council follow very closely the US elections – this because of the fact that definite need for improving the US position among the States of the Western Hemisphere is in order, and many are worried about business an d security issues – specially in the light of efforts to bring back Cuba into the Organization of American States.

The following is an article from the Society’s website, and we look forward onto reporting on the meetings with the Presidents.

Vice Presidential Choices, Latin America Policy, and the Hispanic Vote.
Carlos Macias and Carin Zissis, The Americas Society / Council of the Americas.
September 2, 2008

While the U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain secure their nominations and announce running mates, questions arise over what the vice presidential candidates could contribute in terms of winning the Hispanic vote and U.S. policy toward the Western Hemisphere. Obama’s choice of longtime Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) as a vice presidential candidate could bolster the Democratic ticket because of his strong foreign policy credentials. Meanwhile, little is known about where Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin—embroiled in controversy over her teenage daughter’s pregnancy—stands on subjects such as immigration, trade, or U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Winning the Latino voting bloc has emerged as crucial for both camps, with the Democratic and Republican campaigns hiring special advisors to court Hispanic voters. According to a survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, Latino voters prefer Obama over McCain by a 2 to 1 ratio. Dallas Democratic State Representative Rafael Anchía said support for former candidate Hillary Clinton showed that Latinos did not need a Hispanic politician on the ticket to make a choice, responding to a question in a Dallas Morning News article as to whether Obama should have selected New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as a running mate.

Some within the Democratic party fear that Latinos who supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries won’t vote for Obama in November. A National Journal article says that even though Latinos appear to lean toward the Democratic ticket, they lack a deep connection with Obama. Meanwhile, Alaska Governor Palin’s strong opposition to abortion could help with conservative Catholic Latino voters, suggested one expert to the Sacramento Bee.

Yet Palin’s position on the issue of immigration—an important matter to the Latino electorate—remains unclear. On the other hand, Obama and Biden stand aligned. Both emphasize the importance of securing American borders while supporting a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. Additionally, they voted in support of the “Secure Fence Act of 2006,” which approved construction of a 700 mile-long fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Palin faces criticism for her lack of foreign policy experience and she has not been vocal on regional matters, including U.S. policy toward Cuba. Meanwhile, the island’s political transition has already sparked debate between Obama and McCain. Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has demonstrated support for the U.S. embargo against Cuba. He voted in favor of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which opened the door to suing foreign companies that benefit from confiscated American property in Cuba. Following the resignation of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the Delaware senator proposed easing restrictions on travel and remittances from the United States, establishing direct mail, and supporting the creation of small businesses in the island without relaxing the embargo.

On the subject of trade, Biden has proven wary of Free Trade Agreements (FTA). He voted against FTAs signed with Oman, Singapore, Chile, and Central America. Biden also rejected the U.S.-Peru FTA in December 2007, saying, “[T]he Bush Administration has not proven that it will effectively enforce labor and environmental provisions.” When running for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Biden voiced support for revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, echoing Obama’s pledge to renegotiate the pact’s terms. However, Biden supported the extension of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which provides preferential trade with Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru for some 5,600 products as part of efforts to eradicate drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, Palin has voiced support for international trade as Alaska’s governor, saying, “We are helping our economy and economies around the world through trade.” Although Palin has not been vocal on specific trade pacts in the Americas, Mexico and Chile stand among Alaska’s top ten export markets.

A new column by the Washington Post’s Marcela Sanchez takes a closer look at what an Obama-Biden victory could mean for U.S. policy toward Latin America and ponders whether it could help restore Washington’s standing in the region.

Send questions and comments for the editor to:  ascoa.online at as-coa.org.

To find better links to this article please go to:

 www.americas-society.org/article….

See more in: United States, North America, U.S. Policy, Democracy & Elections

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

ICC Prosecutor Visits Colombia.

The Hague, 21 August 2008

From 25 to 27 August, the ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, will conduct an official visit to Bogota at the invitation of the Government of Colombia and the country’s Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor paid an earlier visit to Colombia in October 2007.
Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo will participate in the opening session of the seminar “Reflections on Judicial Investigations in Colombia from an International Perspective” organised for prosecutors and judges. He will also meet with senior officials from the Government, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court of Justice as well as representatives of Colombian civil society in the context of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s ongoing analysis of the situation in Colombia. During his stay in the country, he will also pay tribute to the victims and accompany the Public Prosecutor’s Office on an exhumation in Urabá.

In accordance with the Rome Statute, Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo and his team will continue the ongoing examination of the investigations and proceedings in Colombia, focusing particularly on the people who may be considered among those most responsible for crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

As stated by the Prosecutor during his last visit: “With the International Criminal Court, there is a new law under which impunity is no longer an option. Either the national courts must do it or we will.”

The Prosecutor will seek further information on the investigations and proceedings being conducted in Columbia against soldiers and politicians   – members of Congress among them – allegedly involved in crimes committed by paramilitaries and guerillas. In this context, he will seek further information on the extradition of 15 former paramilitaries being tried under the Justice and Peace Law to the United States of America in May 2008.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor is also looking into allegations on the existence of international support networks assisting armed groups committing crimes within Colombia that potentially fall within the jurisdiction of the Court. Letters requesting information have been sent to Colombia’s neighbours, to other States and to international and regional organisations.

The International Criminal Court is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely. The Office of the Prosecutor is currently investigating in four situations: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, and the Central African Republic, all of which are still engulfed in various degrees of conflict with victims in urgent need of protection.

————-

International Criminal Court monitoring events in Georgia, Prosecutor says Luis Moreno-Ocampo International Criminal Court Prosecutor.
20 August 2008 – The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court confirmed today that his Office is analysing information related to alleged crimes committed in Georgia in recent weeks that fall under the Court’s jurisdiction. Heavy fighting began earlier this month in South Ossetia between Georgian and South Ossetian forces, with Russian forces becoming involved there and in the separate region of Abkhazia and other parts of Georgia in the following days. The violence has uprooted almost 160,000 people in recent weeks.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said today that his Office is analying information alleging attacks on civilians in Georgia, which is a State Party to the Rome Statute that established the Court.

“My Office considers carefully all information relating to alleged crimes within its jurisdiction – war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide – committed on the territory of States Parties or by nationals of States Parties, regardless of the individuals or groups alleged to have committed the crimes,” he said.

The Office has been closely monitoring all information on the situation in Georgia since the outbreak of violence, including information from public sources, according to a news release from the ICC.

In addition, both the Georgian and Russian Governments have offered information to the Court on the situation. “The Office will proceed to seek further information from all actors concerned,” the news release added.

Other situations under analysis by the Office of the Prosecutor include Colombia, Afghanistan, Chad, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire.

The Office is currently conducting investigations in four situations – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, and the Central African Republic.

The ICC is the first independent, permanent court to investigate and prosecute persons accused of the most serious crimes, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

How The HPI is calculated:

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

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

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

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

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

screenshot_2.png

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

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

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

picture1.jpg
It’s not genetics that makes Danes happy and Russians gloomy, according to the World Values Survey which, for thirty years, has been sending out questionnaires to people in 95 countries to ”know how others experience the world”. (NEWSCOM)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 31st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Climate change could cost Andean countries 30 billion dollars a year, study reveals – as per press release from Comunidad Andina Headquarters in Lima, Peru.

 

Lima, May 9, 2008.- Losses in the four Andean countries as a result of climate change could add up to 30 billion dollars a year by 2025. This figure, equivalent to 4.5% of their GDP, could place Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru’s potential for development in jeopardy.

This is only one of the revealing figures unveiled in the study “Climate Change knows no borders,”* prepared at the initiative of the Andean Community General Secretariat by a team of researchers from Universidad del Pacífico del Perú with the collaboration of other academic and research centers and authorities of Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador and the support of Spain’s Environment Ministry and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

During the presentation of the report, the research team coordinator, Peru’s former Agriculture Minister, Carlos Amat y León, insisted that “climate change is already happening,” as shown by glacial loss, more frequent flooding and stronger and more frequent occurrences of El Niño.

“Floods, droughts, landslides, frosts, and landslips virtually doubled between 2002 and 2006, as compared with the five-year period 1987-1991. Since 1970, every single province in the CAN countries has experienced at least one hydrometeorological disaster,” the coordinator pointed out.

He stated that climate change has been evident in the subregion for over three decades. “While changes in global temperature have amounted to 0.2 ºC per decade since 1990, in the central Andean region the rise in temperature between 1974 and 1998 was 0.34 ºC –in other words, 70% more than the global average.”

Amat y León warned that if the temperature rises over 2 °C, the Andean countries will find themselves in a serious situation. “The Amazon could begin to collapse as glacial retreat intensifies, jeopardizing the supply of water,” he announced.

Even if this does not happen, he cautioned, “by 2020, deglaciation in the Andes could put close to 40 million people at risk of losing their water supply for drinking, hydroenergy and farming, particularly in Quito, Lima and La Paz.

A fact that should be considered, he stated, is that the people who will witness the effects of climate change are already alive and under the age of 33; they make up 64 percent of the population today.

Amat y León emphasized that in order to be able to address this common challenge, the international community must have a strong interest in cooperating in the efforts of Andean countries to cope with the effects of climate change and learn from this experience.

He went on to add that it is essential to have an action plan in place that contains substantive measures like transferring technology to produce clean energy; sharing knowledge and capacities; receiving financial contributions proportional to the size of the problem; making changes in production processes to bring them into line with the new parameters imposed by climate change; and reinforcing the capacity for governance, particularly the capacity of local governments to design and implement economic and social infrastructure.

The Secretary General of the Andean Community, Freddy Ehlers, for his part, pointed out that because the current development model is incompatible with the planet’s sustainability, it is necessary to define a new development model that will guarantee man’s integral development and his harmonious relationship with nature.

He also emphasized the need to take more coordinated action to mitigate and adjust to climate change, including the adoption of commitments to reduce emissions and to develop new mechanisms and incentives for conserving forests and biodiversity, as stipulated in the Bali working plan on climate change and the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Ehlers revealed that a recent study based on data taken from the Stern Report, the Ecological Footprint and the World Bank states that Andean countries could receive billions of dollars from industrialized countries in return for the environmental services provided to the entire world by Amazon tropical forests. “These forests are a basic bargaining chip of the Andean countries with the international community,” he concluded.

* The complete document can be seen at the CAN’s following website address:  

 
 
 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 26th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Americas in the Mercer Ranking of 143 world cities in regard to cost of living for expatriates with New York City as a benchmark at 100 points.

The only North American city to feature in this year’s top 50 is New York in 22nd place – score 100 – dropping seven places – from 15th place – in one year.

All other US cities have also experienced a significant decline in the rankings. For example, Los Angeles has moved from 42nd to 55th place (score 87.5), Miami from 51st to 75th place (score 82) and Washington, DC, from 85th to 107th place (score 74.6).

“The decline in the ranking of all US cities is due to the weakening value of the US dollar against most major world currencies,” said Mitch Barnes, principal at Mercer in the US. “The dollar has been declining steadily for the past several years, which has resulted in an overall decrease in the cost of living in 19 US cities, relative to other major global cities studied.

“On the bright side, the US dollar’s loss of value may serve to attract globally mobile executives to business centres such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The difference in cost of living can be significant, particularly for those executives with families.”

In 54th place (score 88.1), jumping 28 places from last year, Toronto is the most expensive city for expatriates in Canada. All other Canadian cities in the survey have experienced similar rises, with Vancouver moving from 89th to 64th (score 85.8), Calgary from 92nd to 66th (score 85.4) and Montréal from 98th to 72nd with a score of 83. This reverses last year’s trend which saw Canadian cities decline, and places them back where they have traditionally been rated. The Canadian dollar has appreciated nearly 15% against the US dollar, the main reason for these movements.

The two top-ranking cities in South America are São Paulo in 25th place (score 97) and Rio de Janeiro in 31st place (score 95.2), jumping 37 and 33 places, respectively. The Brazilian real appreciated nearly 18% against the US dollar last year, causing these Brazilian cities to rocket up the list. Another high-riser in this region is Caracas, jumping 40 places from 129th to 89th (score 79.3). High inflation in Venezuela has caused a sharp increase in the price of food and household products.

South America also has some of the lowest ranking cities globally. Asunción is the least expensive city for the sixth consecutive year (score 52.5), followed by Quito in Ecuador in 142nd (score 54.6), Buenos Aires in 138th (score 62.7) and Montevideo in 136th (score 63.2).

The UK currency has changed the least among the European currencies in relation to the US dollar – this led to decreases in the cost of living ratings of British cities’ ranking in the list of 143. Thus, from the London point of view:

Worldwide Cost of Living survey 2008 – City rankings.

United Kingdom, London, 24 July 2008

Moscow is still the most expensive city for expatriates; Asunción in Paraguay is the cheapest for the sixth consecutive year.
European and Asian cities dominate the top 10.
Weakening of US dollar causes significant changes in rankings.
London drops one place to rank third, with Tokyo climbing to second place.

Moscow is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates for the third consecutive year, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from Mercer. Tokyo is in second position climbing two places since last year, where as London drops one place to rank third.

Oslo climbs six places to 4th place and is followed by Seoul in 5th.
With New York as the base city scoring 100 points, Moscow scores 142.4 and is close to three times costlier than Asunción which has an index of 52.5. Contrary to the trend observed last year the gap between the world’s most and least expensive cities now seems to be widening.

Mercer’s survey covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. It is the world’s most comprehensive cost of living survey and is used to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees.

Yvonne traber, a principal and research manager at Mercer, commented: “Current market conditions have led to the further weakening of the US dollar which, coupled with the strengthening of the Euro and many other currencies, has caused significant changes in this year’s rankings.”

She added: “Although the traditionally expensive cities of Western Europe and Asia still feature in the top 20, cities in Eastern Europe, Brazil and India are creeping up the list. Conversely, some locations such as Stockholm and New York now appear less costly by comparison.

“Our research confirms the global trend in price increases for certain foodstuffs and petrol, though the rise is not consistent in all locations. This is partly balanced by decreasing prices for certain commodities such as electronic and electrical goods. We attribute this to cheaper imports from developing countries, especially China, and to advances in technology.

“Keeping on top of the changes in expatriate cost of living is essential so companies can ensure their employees are compensated fairly and at competitive rates when stationed abroad,” Ms traber observed.

“In some cases, cost of living increases may be correlated to countries with a high rate of economic growth. Companies may assign high priority to expansion in these economies but may have to deal with inflationary pressures due to competition for expatriate-level housing and other services, as observed in our surveys,” she noted.

For example, Latvia had real GDP growth of 10.2% in 2007, well above the global average growth rate of 5.2%, and its capital, Riga, jumped to 46th place in the latest Mercer ranking, up from 72nd a year ago. Cities in India all rose in the cost of living ranking, with New Delhi climbing to 55th place from 68th a year ago, as India posted a real GDP growth rate of 9.2% in 2007. Bogota jumped to 87th place from 112th, reflecting Colombia’s 7% real GDP growth.

Top 50 cities: Cost of living (including rental accommodation costs)
Base City: New York, US (= 100)

The Cost of Living Indices below have been prepared specifically for the purpose of the press release.
The indices are based on Mercer’s cost of living database and are modified to include housing,
and to reflect constant weighting and basket items.

Rank March
2008

Rank
March 2007


  color=”#ffffff”>City

  color=”#ffffff”>Country
Cost of living Index
March 2008
Cost of living Index
March 2007
1 1 Moscow Russia 142.4 134.4
2 4 Tokyo Japan 127.0 122.1
3 2 London UK 125.0 126.3
4 10 Oslo Norway 118.3 105.8
5 3 Seoul South Korea 117.7 122.4
6 5 Hong Kong China 117.6 119.4
7 6 Copenhagen Denmark 117.2 110.2
8 7 Geneva Switzerland 115.8 109.8
9 9 Zurich Switzerland 112.7 107.6
10 11 Milan Italy 111.3 104.4
11 8 Osaka Japan 110.0 108.4
12 13 Paris France 109.4 101.4
13 14 Singapore Singapore 109.1 100.4
14 17 Tel Aviv Israel 105.0 97.7
15 21 Sydney Australia 104.1 94.9
16 16 Dublin Ireland 103.9 99.6
16 18 Rome Italy 103.9 97.6
19 19 Vienna Austria 102.3 96.9
21 22 Helsinki Finland 101.1 93.3
23 38 Istanbul Turkey 99.4 87.7
25 25 Amsterdam Netherlands 97.0 92.2
25 62 São Paulo Brazil 97.0 82.8
29 49 Prague Czech Rep. 96.0 85.6
31 31 Barcelona Spain 95.2 89.2
31 23 Stockholm Sweden 95.2 93.1
35 67 Warsaw Poland 95.0 82.4
37 39 Munich Germany 93.1 87.6
39 44 Brussels Belgium 92.9 86.5
40 40 Frankfurt Germany 92.5 87.4
41 33 Dakar Senegal 92.2 89.0
43 43 Luxembourg Luxembourg 91.3 87.0
45 31 Bratislava Slovakia 90.6 89.2
46 72 Riga Latvia 90.4 81.5
49 59 Zagreb Croatia 90.0 83.5

Mercer is a leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues, designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. It is a leader in benefit outsourcing. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting and multi-manager investment management. Mercer’s 18,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago and London stock exchanges. For more information, visit www.mercer.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 17th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We find the story appalling – also the fact that someone was so inept as to release/sell (?) an indicting photo. But then, the Red Cross did nothing in the matter of these hostages, for so many years – neither did the Swiss officials – hosts of the Red Cross – their creation. The world press will now continue to dig in this surrealistic wound. Shame on all those that saw what we would rather not want to see – we would rather expect a word of wisdom from the Swiss Foreign Minister.

see it all at:

 www.nytimes.com/2008/07/17/world/…

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

Colombia hostage rescue: the Israeli angle – July 4, 2008
Based on Yossi Melman from Haaretz

Former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was released after six years in captivity on Wednesday, compared her “impeccable” rescue operation to Israeli commando operations.

Perhaps she did not know it, but Israel indeed contributed to the elaborately-planned, daring rescue mission.

Betancourt, who was kidnapped in 2002 by Marxist rebels in Colombia (FARC), was rescued without a shot being fired. Colombian military agents, who had penetrated FARC’s leadership, instructed her guards to transfer her to another rebel group.
Her captors put her on a helicopter that arrived as scheduled, little knowing that their comrades-in-arms were undercover Colombian soldiers. Betancourt and 14 other hostages who had been held in the jungle, including three Americans, were freed.

Since word of the dramatic rescue spread, speculation in the world media has attributed the success to people trained by Israeli intelligence. But an Israeli figure familiar with the military aid to Colombia said there was “no need to exaggerate” Israel’s involvement in the operation.

The Israelis involved in the operation feel it is important to accord the credit to Colombia.

The Israeli activity, involving dozens of Israeli security experts, was coordinated by Global CST, owned by former General Staff operations chief, Brigadier General (res.) Israel Ziv, and Brigadier (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser.

“It’s a Colombian Entebbe operation,” Ziv said Thursday when he returned from Bogota. “Both regarding its national and international importance. Betancourt has become a symbol of the struggle against international terror. This is an amazing operation that wouldn’t shame any army or special forces anywhere in the world.”

Asked about the Israeli involvement in it Ziv said there is “no need to exaggerate.” “We don’t want to take credit for something we didn’t do,” a company source said. “We helped them prepare themselves to fight terror. We helped them to plan operations and strategies and develop intelligence sources. That’s quite a bit, but shouldn’t be taken too far.”

Israelis may not have taken part in the rescue, but they advised and guided, sold equipment and intelligence technology. {In effect, we saw Israeli Uzzis in the hands of Colombia security – and not just in Colombia}

Melman says that the Israeli involvement began a year and a half ago, when Colombia asked Israel for help in its struggle against FARC, which had become a militia specializing in kidnapping civilians and military figures for ransom and drug trading. In effect we think it was earlier then that.

Israel has over the years sold Colombia planes, drones, weapons and intelligence systems. At the Defense Ministry’s suggestion, Global CST won the $10 million contract to work with Colombia.

Ziv and Kuperwasser did not take part in the fighting, at the Defense Ministry’s instructions.

They hired experts who had worked for the Mossad, Shin Bet security service and IDF in various capacities.

“Well, I have to say that this operation was exclusively carried out by the Colombian Army,” Colombian ambassador to Israel Juan Hurtado Cano said in an interview with Infolive TV, Jerusalem.

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Believe it or not, it is quite sure that even Arab states used Israeli experts as advisers for their security when it comes to keep checks on their own potential terrorists – “C’est La Vie!” Some Arab Heads of State were even saved by Israeli tips!

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Monday, July 7th, 2008
Colombia, In the News, In the News-Front Page – Hostage rescue will reinforce U.S. ties.
By Bennett Roth, on COHA.

WASHINGTON — Colombia’s commando operation that freed 15 hostages including Ingrid Betancourt is likely to strengthen the Andean country’s already close economic and security ties with the United States, experts said.

Additionally, the approach employed by the Colombians to gain the hostages’ freedom — using intelligence-gathering techniques to locate the guerrillas and tricking them into handing over the captives without a shot fired — suggests a new model is emerging in the region, they said.

For the past four decades, Colombia has been scorched by a civil war that has killed tens of thousands of fighters and civilians.

“I think this does show that carefully calibrated military actions are better than the old kill, kill, kill technique,” said Roger Atwood, a spokesman for the Washington Office on Latin America.

The U.S. has provided more than $5 billion in military and economic assistance to help Bogota fight drug traffickers protected by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Its guerrillas held Betancourt, three American military contractors and 11 other Colombians freed by the commandos.

Good for Uribe

“This is a coup for (President Alvaro) Uribe and his armed forces,” said Riordan Roett, a Latin America specialist at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

The rescue, Roett said, “validates to a great degree Plan Colombia,” the United States’ joint project with Colombia to cut down on the trafficking of cocaine and other drugs.

Congress recently renewed the aid package.

Adam Isacson, a Colombia scholar at the Center for International Policy, said that critics of Uribe’s hard-line strategy to destroy or disarm the rebels were dealt a setback by the rescue operation.

“The rescue certainly strengthens those who support a military solution to this conflict,” he said.

U.S. officials have told reporters that the American military flew thousands of surveillance flights over the Colombia jungle in an effort to locate the hostages, that the FBI sent investigators and hostage negotiators on countless trips to Bogota and that a Defense Intelligence Agency unit that usually tracks missing soldiers also worked on the case of the three American military contractors held with other so-called “high-value hostages” in the jungle, including soldiers and politicians.

But some critics said they feared the success of the rescue operation will embolden Uribe, who has been accused of allowing human rights abuses by right-wing paramilitary units.

“While it was perfectly appropriate for Uribe to act to free the hostages, we should not lose sight of the fact that he is one of the more authoritarian presidents in Colombia’s history and that presently Colombia is a democracy in form, not substance,” said Larry Birns of the liberal Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Crackdown is popular

One of Uribe’s biggest fans is GOP presidential contender John McCain, who was visiting the country as the rescue operation was under way.

McCain, who said Uribe informed him of the plan the night before rescue efforts started, has backed not only U.S. financial aid to the country but the controversial Colombia free trade agreement now stalled in Congress.

Last spring, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, refused to schedule a vote on the pact, saying the Bush administration had not sufficiently dealt with criticism of violence against union workers in Colombia.

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama has cited allegations of human rights abuses in Colombia for his opposition to the agreement.

At the same time, Obama agreed with Bush and McCain on Uribe’s tough approach to the FARC.

In a statement issued after the release of the hostages, Obama said, “I strongly support Colombia’s steady strategy of making no concessions to the FARC, and its targeted use of intelligence, military, law enforcement, diplomatic and political power to achieve important victories against terrorism.”

colombia001.gif

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