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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 24th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

“First, the Secretary-General should appoint a Special Representative on Climate and Security to analyze the projected security impacts of climate change so that the Council and Member States can better understand what lies ahead.

“Second, the Secretary-General should assess the capacity of the United Nations system to respond to the likely security impacts of climate change, so that vulnerable countries can be assured that it is up to the task. These two proposals are the absolute minimum necessary to prepare for the greatest threat to international security of our generation.”

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PACIFIC ISLAND STATES CALL FOR UN MEASURES TO HELP COUNTRIES FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE

The leaders of three Pacific Island countries called on the United Nations today to take a series of measures to help them and other small island nations combat the effects of climate change.

“Climate change threatens to undo all of our recent development gains if the major biggest polluters continue down the path of business as usual,” Nauru’s President Marcus Stephen told the General Assembly annual general debate.

He stressed that it is essential that the international community recognizes climate change as a peace and security issue, not just an environmental one, and called for further measures to ensure the issue was addressed by the Security Council.

“First, the Secretary-General should appoint a Special Representative on Climate and Security to analyze the projected security impacts of climate change so that the Council and Member States can better understand what lies ahead.

“Second, the Secretary-General should assess the capacity of the United Nations system to respond to the likely security impacts of climate change, so that vulnerable countries can be assured that it is up to the task. These two proposals are the absolute minimum necessary to prepare for the greatest threat to international security of our generation.”

Mr. Stephen also urged Member States to honour their commitments made in existing environmental accords such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Cancún Agreements so that further progress can be made on sustainable development goals.

Micronesian President Emanuel Mori echoed Mr. Stephen’s remarks by saying that a special category for Small Island Developing Countries (SIDS) is imperative if the UN is to improve the lives of people who live in these states.

He also remarked that climate change as a security threat is not new, but should be taken even more seriously now by Member States.

“We cannot help but notice the persistent failure and reluctance by some countries to address the security aspect of climate change even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence.

“We believe that those who opposed the debate in the Council and those who doubted the security implications of climate change simply ignored the obvious,” he said.

President of Kiribati Anote Tong noted that climate change is a threat that his country faces every day and this will be true for other countries in the future.

“In Kiribati, many young people go to sleep each night fearing what will happen to their homes overnight especially during the high tides,” he said.

“Accelerated and continued erosion of our shorelines is destroying settlements and as I speak some communities are relocating elsewhere on the island. I was glad that the Secretary-General was able to understand and feel for himself the sense of threat which our people and those of similarly vulnerable countries experience on a daily basis,” he said, referring to the Secretary-General’s recent visit to Kiribati earlier this month, which marked the first time ever that a Secretary-General visited the country.

* * *

SURINAME URGES SPEEDY CREATION OF UN-BACKED CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION FUND

Suriname has urged the international community to move quickly to create the United Nations-backed climate change adaptation fund to support vulnerable developing countries that risk losing their peoples’ livelihoods to the effects of climate change.

“Our understanding of the climate change suggests that our planet will undergo considerable changes over the next 50 years, impacting all areas of society,” President Desiré Delano Bouterse told the General Assembly.

“For Suriname and its low-lying coastline, this means a vulnerable exposure to a rising sea level, risking inundation of our fertile soil and fresh water reservoirs.” An estimated 80 per cent of the South American country’s population lives in coastal areas.

The climate change adaptation fund was established by the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries.

Mr. Bouterse also stressed that the upcoming Conference of Parties to UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa, must reach concrete agreement on limiting emissions of the harmful greenhouse gases that are blamed for global warming.

“We owe this to our present and future generations. We call upon parties concerned to reach agreement,” he said.

* * *

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 21st, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

to open the UN General Assembly. “It is with personal humility, but with my justified pride as a woman, that I meet this historic moment,” said Rousseff as she opened the general debate. “I share this feeling with over half of the human beings on this planet who, like myself, were born women and who, with tenacity, are occupying the place they deserve in the world. I am certain that this will be the century of women.”   —-    Rousseff can also be found on the cover of this week’s Newsweek, with a profile by Mac Margolis.

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l aunched the Open Government Partnership (OGP) while in New York on Tuesday. The OGP’s goal is to give citizens tools to monitor   elected leaders and achieve more transparent governance. Mexico is one of the additional six founding members and other Latin American countries that have pledged to sign on to the partnership are: Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Uruguay.
This is a smart program for U.S. policy in the hemisphere and a great leadership role for Brazil to play,” reports Bloggings by Boz, who links to commitments and plans from Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

—-

Colombia, a member of the Security Council, is very important in this because an attempt is being made to negate to the Palestinians a simple majority in the SEcurity Council in order to avoid a US veto.
This attempt revolves around three Member States and Colombia is one of them.  Rather then attending President Obama’s speech to the General Assembly, Mr. Netanyahu  was at that time in a meeting with the President of Colombia promoting such a move.

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drilling for oil in the Florida Straits between the Florida Keys and Cuba as early as mid-December. It is estimated Cuba may hold anywhere from 5 billion to 20 billion barrels of oil in offshore reserves.

In a piece for CNN’s Global Public Square program and blog, Fareed Zakaria warns: “Our trade embargo on Cuba not only prevents us from doing business with our neighbor but it also bars us from sending equipment and expertise to help even in a crisis. So, if there is an explosion, we will watch while the waters of the Gulf Coast get polluted.”

We watched that program on Sunday, September 18th and it is crystal clear that the US has now to end the embargo on Cuba. We know that election season in the US has just started – but it seems that moves by President Obama on this issue would be right in place and would improve relations within the Western Hemisphere where all countries now side with Cuba.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 11th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) says it has a membership of 57 States on four continents with a total population of 1.3 billion people. Having seen its map we realize it has also at least three “blocked States” – India, Thailand, and The Philippines  though it has the Moro National Liberation Front as an observer State, a withdrawn State – Zimbabwe, and at least one non-State – Israel that was replaced by Palestine as a member State. Cote d’Ivoire was the last member to enter – it joined in 2001. Russia became an Observer in 2005.

Afghanistan was suspended during the years of Soviet occupation 1980 – March 1989 and Egypt, the fifth largest Islamic population, was suspended May 1979 – March 1984 when it tried for peace in the Middle East.

The organisation attempts to be the collective voice of the Muslim world (Ummah) and the official languages of the organisation are ArabicEnglish, and French.

The flag of the OIC has an overall green background (symbolic of Islam). In the centre, there is an upward-facing red crescent enveloped in a white disc. On the disc the words “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “The Almighty God”) are written in Arabic calligraphy.

 

The OIC attracted attention at the opening session of the meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on 16 October 2003, where Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad of Malaysia in his speech argued that the Jews control the world: “They invented socialismcommunismhuman rights, and democracy, so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power.” He also said that “the Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” The speech was very well received by the delegates, including many high ranking politicians, who responded with standing ovations.”

India, a country that has 161 million Muslim, only Indonesia with 203 million and Pakistan with 174 million have larger Muslim populations then India, was not welcome even as an observer to OIC – this because of its conflict with Pakistan where India would like to have a referendum of the local population as a means to decide the future of Kashmir.

Most OIC member countries are non-democratic. There are no OIC countries which are rated as a “Full Democracy” under the Democracy Index guidelines, and only 3 of the 57 members are rated as high as a “Flawed Democracy.” The rest are rated either an “Authoritarian Regime” or a “Hybrid Regime.”

Only 3 OIC member states were rated as Free in the Freedom in the World report in 2010 based on Political Rights and Civil Liberties in the member countries.

Reporters Without Borders in its 2011 Press Freedom Index rated only Mali and Suriname among the OIC members as having a Satisfactory Situation. All other members had worse ratings ranging from Noticeable Problems to Very Serious Situation.

Freedom of religion is severely restricted in most OIC member states. In 2009, the US Department of State cited OIC members Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan as being Countries of Particular Concern, where religious freedom is severely violated.

On August 5, 1990, 45 foreign ministers of the OIC adopted the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam to serve as a guidance for the member states in the matters of human rights in as much as they are compatible with the Sharia, or Quranic Law  www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/cai… )

OIC created the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. While proponents claim it is not an alternative to the UDHR, but rather complementary, Article 24 states, “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah.” and Article 25 follows that with “The Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration.” Attempts to have it adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council have met increasing criticism, because of its contradiction of the UDHR, including from liberal Muslim groups.  Critics of the CDHR state bluntly that it is “manipulation and hypocrisy,” “designed to dilute, if not altogether eliminate, civil and political rights protected by international law” and attempts to “circumvent these principles [of freedom and equality].”

Human Rights Watch says that OIC has “fought doggedly” and successfully within the United Nations Human Rights Council to shield states from criticism, except when it comes to criticism of Israel. For example, when independent experts reported violations of human rights in the 2006 Lebanon War, “state after state from the OIC took the floor to denounce the experts for daring to look beyond Israeli violations to discuss Hezbollah’s as well.” OIC demands that the council “should work cooperatively with abusive governments rather than condemn them.” HRW responds that this works only with those who are willing to cooperate; others exploit the passivity.

The OIC has been criticised for diverting its activities solely on Muslim minorities within majority non-Muslim countries but putting a taboo on the plight, the treatment of ethnic minorities within Muslim-majority countries, such as the oppression of the Kurds in Syria, the Ahwaz inIran, the Hazars in Afghanistan, the Baluchis in Pakistan, the ‘Al-Akhdam‘ in Yemen, or the Berbers in Algeria.

The formation of the OIC happened shortly after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Leaders of Muslim nations met in Rabat to establish the OIC on September 25, 1969.

OIC is run out of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, its first Secretary General was Tunku Abdul Ramman of Malaysia (1971-1973) and its current Secretary General, since 2005, is Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of Turkey.

 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisatio…

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Muslim_population

We found the following map of substantial interest for understanding if there is a realistic chance for change in the Arab world and in the Islamic world at large.

Much of the attention of observers of UN debates on terrorism was on how Contradictions between OIC’s and other U.N. member’s understanding of terrorism has stymied efforts at the U.N. to produce a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. The world must be reassured that new leaderships of Islamic States will not equivocate on terrorism – whatever true sentiments they may harbor – it is important to agree that terrorism is not an acceptable tool for attainment of political goals.

 upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/64/OIC_map.png

The list of OIC Member States: Afghanistan · Albania · Algeria · Azerbaijan · Bahrain · Bangladesh · Benin · Burkina Faso · Brunei ·

 Cameroon · Chad · Comoros · Côted’ Ivoire · Djibouti · Egypt · Gabon · Gambia · Guinea · 
Guinea Bissau · Guyana · Indonesia · Iran · Iraq ·
 Jordan · Kuwait ·Kazakhstan · Kyrgyzstan · Lebanon · Libya · 

Maldives · Malaysia · Mali · Mauritania · Morocco · Mozambique · Niger · Nigeria ·Oman · Pakistan · 

Palestine · Qatar · Saudi Arabia · Senegal · SierraLeone ·

 Somalia · Sudan · Suriname · Syria · Tajikistan ·Turkey · Tunisia · Togo · Turkmenistan · Uganda · 

Uzbekistan · United Arab Emirates · Yemen

The Observers are: Bosnia and Herzegovina · Central African Republic · Russia · Thailand · Northern Cyprus (asTurkish Cypriot State), Moro National Liberation Front, Russia.



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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 3rd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

I just watched Spain win in Johannesburg Ellis Park stadium, by 1:0 its game with Paraguay. This leaves Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Uruguay still standing,  and we dare now to make our own predictions about the  Semi-final and Final games.

July 4th and 5th there are no games.

Tuesday July 6th, in Cape Town’s new Green Point Stadium, Netherlands will play Uruguay and we predict a Netherlands win.

Wednesday July 7th in Durban’s new Moses Mabhida Stadium, Germany will play Spain and we predict a German win.

Saturday, July 10th in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth – The Port Elizabeth Stadium – we predict a Spain – Uruguay game and a Spain win for the third place in the 2010 World Cup.

Sunday, July 11th in the new Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium near Soweto, in the iconic shape of the African calabash, there will be the final game of the 2010 World Cup.

We predict that the game will be between Germany and The Netherlands – and we predict The German team wins.

Above means that the final standing, we predict, will be: Germany, The Netherlands, Spain.
An unexpected European ending of the 2010 World Cup that came about with the elimination of Brazil and Argentina in the quarter finals, and after the presence of five teams from the Latin American cone region among the 8 remaining teams when they entered the quarter-finals. Astonishing indeed.

On the European side, the early elimination of France, England and Italy was also considered by many as surprising.

 www.fifa.com/worldcup/destination…

A Disclaimer: The 2010 South Africa FIFA Football, though strange, but being still rather round, allows for the unexpected – so we take no responsibility for the case our predictions are duds! Do not blame us if you execute the wrong bets.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 3rd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from: www.ft.com/cms/s/0/08d6fc3a-8600-…

we learned the following – “Argentina in Cup dilemma.”

a short article by Jude Webber from Buenos Aires that appeared in the Financial Times (in print) of July 3, 2010.

“”No one in Argentina wants the national team to fail to make the World Cup final – except, perhaps, the planners at the foreign ministry trying to get a visit to China back on track.

Cristina Fernández, the president, abruptly cancelled a trip to Beijing in January at the height of a row over the use of central bank reserves to pay off debt because she did not want to leave her estranged vice-president in charge.


The cancellation of the visit, in which she had been due to meet her counterpart Hu Jintao, went down like a tonne of bricks in Beijing and the ill-feeling was widely seen as contributing to China’s subsequent decision to tighten restrictions on imports of soya oil from Argentina, a key supplier.

Ms. Fernández apologised profusely for the faux-pas and the trip was rescheduled – but officials in this football-mad country must have momentarily taken their eyes off the ball: the visit was rearranged for mid-July.

That seriously complicates the presidential agenda: diplomatic sources expect Ms Fernández to attend the World Cup final on July 11, if Argentina make it. But that would mean she would have to race to China for a meeting now pencilled in for July 13-15, and would potentially miss being homecoming queen in Buenos Aires if Argentina triumph.

Commentators are already speculating that Ms Fernández and Néstor Kirchner, her husband, predecessor and likely presidential candidate in 2011, are dreaming of appearing on the balcony of the presidential palace beside football legend Diego Maradona, the national coach.

If Argentina win their third World Cup, a pragmatic solution is bound to be found, but Mr Kirchner knows first-hand the dangers of putting football over business: he once kept former Hewlett-Packard boss Carly Fiorina waiting because he was engrossed in conversation with Mr Maradona. The computer group reportedly returned the snub by switching key investments to Brazil.

A senior Chinese source in Argentina admits the timing is tricky and the dates “are an issue we are discussing with the foreign ministry”.”

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Having seen above article earlier today, that is before watching the Argentina-Germany game, played in Cape Town, on ABC in New York, I clearly thought of the political pickle the Kirchner Argentinian internal politics came up with because of some policy vision confusion. Please, you do not push around China when you want their money – just because of internal dissensions!

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME:

With Germany and Argentina saying NO TO RACISM – on South Africa’s anti-racism day –  the Argentinians in the crowd dancing to their anthem, and just about half of the Germans singing their anthem,  under the watchful eyes of Chancellor Angela Merkel, present to encourage them, the game started very fast – and the first German goal came about after less then 6 minutes.

The non-anthem singing members of the German team had names like Khedira and Boateng, but to my surprise I learned that even the Argentinians had an Ibrahim that was born in France, but clearly must have been of North Africa lineage. Whatever – this is the globalization of the football game that nevertheless is clearly anchored now in West Europe and in the Southern American cone. These games may now come up with a picture that further narrows it to one anchor – and it is Western Europe. But the last words were not said yet. What is clear nevertheless, is that Japan, China, the Koreas, or anyone else of Asia, will still have to practice for years before having an impact on the World Cup and in Europe the football field has lost some of its evenness – France, England, Italy were the early flunkies.

But this article is really about China – and not because it is great in football. They surely have the money to buy players if they wish to do so. We rather believe they will develop a speedy game and enter it with their own people – but who knows? Surely they will not be left out for long. For one thing – Argentina could help by sending to them Diego Maradona and help this as a joint start-up effort. Maradona will not be needed in South Africa beyond today either.

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FT EDITOR’S CHOICE:

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 4th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was down in the Gulf again this week. He said that if we all saw what he saw — pelicans struggling to fly under the weight of globs of oil, dolphins swimming through oil slicks — we’d be storming Washington D.C. calling for leadership and action.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to do — we’re launching a bold new campaign to move our nation Beyond Oil.

Watching the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history unfold has been infuriating — it’s clear that there is no quick fix to clean up this mess. We need to make sure this type of disaster never happens again.

Are you fed up? Sickened by what you’re seeing in the Gulf? This is the time to join together and help break our nation free from Big Oil’s stranglehold.

The Sierra Club will be holding rallies and events, running ads, and engaging people all across the country to generate a movement to move Beyond Oil. We have never needed President Obama’s visionary leadership more than we do right now — it’s time to stop letting the oil industry call the shots, and to start embracing clean energy, he said.


But nay, this is not the attitude of everyone, not even from among those most afflicted by the disaster.

We just saw on CNN the lady President of Lafourche Parish of Louisiana defending the drilling for oil because 60% of the people there are employed by the oil industry and 60 years there was no major problem she said.

The Nation must understand that we need to continue drilling she said. If you put on a hold on drilling the rigs may move to West Africa and never come back here. This will only cause more foreign oil that will be coming here.

That also echoes what I heard the other night from a US Department of State official. State is actively out after a list of over ten countries that are being encouraged to look for oil and start develop their resources. This is not a matter of foreign aid – but of security he said, though I wondered if we speak the same language – if we both understand the same thing when uttering security.

The countries mentioned are: Papua New Guinea, Timor L’Este, Uganda, Suriname, Guiana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Vietnam.

I remarked that except for Vietnam all of theses countries are countries in conflict and thought to myself that an influx of oil money will surely re-inflame civil strife and government suppression. That is what you get for having oil!

This seems the sequel to our posting – www.sustainabilitank.info/#15735

(Ligeti’s “Le Grand Macabre” of gluttonous Breughelland, explains the Louisiana suffering and Washington’s long standing lack of care. Amazing indeed!)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 25th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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.

080509meltingarctic187

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.

——————

BBC correspondents’ Amazon reports  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.

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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

——————

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.

——————

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 29th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Indigenous Wisdom Against Climate Change

By Stephen Leahy*
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Apr 28 (Tierram̩rica) РWhile industrialised countries like Canada continue to emit ever-higher levels of greenhouse-effect gases, indigenous peoples around the world are working to survive and adapt to an increasingly dangerous climate.

Over millennia, indigenous peoples have developed a large arsenal of practices that are of potential benefit today for coping with climate change, including some holistic and refreshingly practical ideas.

“Why not give automobiles and planes a day of rest? And then later on, two days of rest. That would cut down on pollution,” suggested Carrie Dann, an elder from the Western Shoshone Nation, whose ancestral lands extend across the western United States.

Dann, winner of the 1993 Right Livelihood Award – known as the Alternative Nobel Prize – for her efforts to protect ancestral lands, made her proposal before the 400 delegates gathered in Anchorage, Alaska, Apr. 20-24 for the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change.

Dann warned that Mother Nature is getting warmer and the “fever” needed to be cured. “We see many range (grassland) fires in my territory, it is getting so hot,” she said.

To prevent similar uncontrolled wildfires that have burned up large portions of Australia and killed hundreds of people in recent years, the Aborigines of Western Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory, are using traditional fire practices to reduce such wildfires.

Preventing these fires also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and, for the first time in the world, these Aborigines have sold 17 million dollars’ worth of carbon credits to industry, generating significant new income for the local community, according to a report presented in Anchorage.

Australia’s Aborigines have traditionally used controlled burning following the rainy season to create barriers to stop the intense wildfires later during the dry season.

Wildfires account for a substantial portion of Australia’s carbon emissions and have been very destructive. However, in recent years few Aborigines live on the land any more so there have been fewer controlled burns. But now there is a new role to play in the fight against global warming.

According to Sam Johnston, of the Tokyo-based United Nations University, a summit co-sponsor, it is in the world’s best interest to take into account indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge.

In Asia, indigenous people are developing diverse crop varieties and utilising different cropping patterns, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Filipina leader and chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, told the delegates.

They are also involved in sustainable agro-forestry and energy production based on small-scale biomass and micro-dam projects.

On the Indonesian island of Bali, indigenous peoples are doing reef rehabilitation work and protecting mangroves. In the Philippines, they are mapping ancestral waters and developing an integrated management plan.

“Many are doing these things on their own, with no support,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

In Honduras, faced with increasing hurricane strikes and drastic weather changes, the Quezungal people have developed a farming method that involves planting crops under trees so the roots anchor the soil and reduce the loss of harvests during natural disasters.

Indigenous peoples in Guyana have adopted a nomadic lifestyle, moving to more forested zones during the dry season, and are now planting manioc, their main staple, in alluvial plains where it was previously too moist to grow crops.

Farmers in Belize are returning to traditional agricultural practices and moving up to higher ground, other delegates reported.

In Africa, the Baka Pygmies of southeast Cameroon and the Bambendzele of Congo have developed new fishing and hunting methods to adapt to a decrease in precipitation and an increase in forest fires.

Although indigenous peoples have great capacity to adapt, many treaties and international laws guarantee their rights to food and traditional livelihoods, but climate change threatens all of this, according to Andrea Carmen, a member of the Yaqui Indian Nation, of the U.S. southwest.

When the chiefs of the tribes in the western Canadian province of Alberta declared that there should be no more oil production from tar sands, they were ignored, said Carmen who is also executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council.

Alberta’s tar sands oil projects are the major reason why Canada’s latest greenhouse gas inventory increased four percent from 2006 to 2007. That increase puts the country 33.8 percent over its commitments established in the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, in force since 2005.

But indigenous peoples are also wary of recent actions by governments and industries undertaken in response to climate change, such as building wind farms and biofuel plants, because these are often located on or directly affect their lands and livelihoods, says Gunn-Britt Retter, of Finland’s Saami Council.

“We have the knowledge of how to live through these climate changes. We need to use traditional knowledge to help all our cultures live through these changes,” Retter said.

“Our message to the world is that we need full and effective participation at the national and international levels in order for our cultures to survive these changes,” he added.

It has been 17 years since the first U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meetings were held to solve the climate crisis, said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the former head of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

“We must act quickly… This is the last chance to take control,” she told the delegates by videoconference from her home in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. “The world needs the wisdom of our cultures.”

(*Correspondent Stephen Leahy’s travel to Alaska was financed by the United Nations University and Project Word, a U.S.-based non-governmental organisation for media diversity. 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 October 29th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Eyes Wide Open.

By Mario Osava from Brazil, October 29, 2008.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 28 (IPS) – The reaction by South America’s Mercosur trade bloc to the current global financial crisis is limited for the time being to observing “possible impacts” on stock markets, production and unemployment, and “maintaining fluid and agile communications” regarding any measures taken by each member country. The bloc convened its Common Market Council — composed of the members’ ministers of economy and foreign affairs and their central bank presidents — Monday in the Brazilian capital, to discuss the crisis and how they could act to mitigate its effects. Mercosur (Common Southern Market), South America’s biggest trade bloc, is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Venezuela in the process of becoming the fifth full member. The proposals presented at the Seventh Extraordinary Meeting of the Council will be considered, along with future recommendations, at a new meeting scheduled for Dec. 15, on the eve of the Latin American and Caribbean Summit organised by Brazil for Dec. 16-17 in Salvador, capital of the northeast state of Bahi a.

Brazil suggested calling a ministerial meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which this country’s diplomats are seeking to strengthen, while Venezuela, for its part, proposed a world summit of heads of state and government, according to the joint press release issued by the Common Market Council.

Chilean Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley was in favour of the Group of Eight (G8) most powerful economies increasing the capital of multilateral development and financial institutions, in particular the Inter-American Development Bank, to provide assistance to Latin America.

With the presence of representatives from the bloc’s full and associate members, in addition to observers from Guyana and Suriname, the meeting included delegates from all of South America.

The consensus expressed in the final statement underlines “the need for an in-depth and comprehensive reform of international financial structures” and “establishing more prudent regulations for capital markets.” The Council also called for a “balanced” conclusion of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Doha Round of multilateral trade talks, which was suspended indefinitely in July after failing to reconcile differences between negotiators, in particular, India and the United States.

The Mercosur statement admits that today South America is “better prepared than in the past” to face a financial crisis, thanks to its “sound macroeconomic fundamentals.” Strengthening integration, expanding trade and enhancing financial cooperation in the region could prove “crucial” to “preserve and further the economic and social gains made in recent years,” it adds.

“Fortifying our integration will lessen the impact of the crisis” by maintaining trade and capital flows, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said at a press conference after the meeting.

Foxley rejected “protectionist policies” as a way to respond to the crisis, arguing that they would only exacerbate social problems.

Brazilian Senator Aloísio Mercadante, an economist with the governing Workers’ Party (PT), warned against protectionist temptations, arguing that individual solutions are no solution at all.

The statements by the Brazilian and Chilean authorities were aimed at the Argentine government, which tends to respond with tariffs, as it has on several opportunities in the last few years, to defend its market from being flooded by imported goods. One of the proposals put forward by Buenos Aires was an increase in the Mercosur Common External Tariff.

The steep depreciation of the Brazilian real, which has fallen more than 30 percent against the dollar since August, heightened Argentina’s fear that the imbalance in bilateral trade will worsen.

From January to August, Brazil had a 3.6 billion dollar surplus in its trade with Argentina, a 40 percent increase as compared to the same period of 2007, despite the growing overvaluation of Brazil’s local currency, a trend that has been reversed since August.

Mercosur “should adopt common decisions,” but if is unable to, it should at least establish “guidelines” of some sort for the measures implemented by each country to counter the effects of the financial crisis that originated in the United States, Tullo Vigévani, director of the School of Philosophy and Sciences at the Sao Paulo State University, told IPS.

Recalling the “acute crisis” suffered by Mercosur back in 1999, when the Brazilian currency fell sharply and the integration process reached its weakest point, he pointed out that the “bloc did not lose its viability.”

Today the situation is more severe, with the Mercosur integration process largely stagnant, but the member countries now understand that integration is key to achieving individual development and “they must also realise that preventing the weakening of each and every member is in everyone’s interest,” said Vigévani.

The international affairs expert, who closely follows the Latin American integration process, noted that an agreement signed by Mercosur in 2005 stipulates the principle of balanced commercial relations between members of the bloc.

The present crisis and the depreciation of the real could turn out to be an opportunity to set limits for trade imbalances, such as a “band” of tolerance and countervailing measures in favour of the country suffering the deficit, he said.

The greatest obstacle to such a strategy is that an economic slowdown in Brazil, expected to set in next year as a result of the global financial turmoil, will have a brutal effect on neighbouring countries with much smaller economies, while the South American giant will barely feel any repercussions from their troubles, he observed.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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.com)

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 July 26th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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 May 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Now, this is about forests and their inhabitans, bioresources and climate change.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 29th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Water Privatization:

Tomorrow, April 30, 2008, COHA will issue a research finding entitled “One of History’s Greatest Atrocities: The Corporate Theft of Public Water,” which explores the concept of water privatization. The article investigates the importance of water to the public good as well as depicts the horrors of the decentralization of water resources in countries such as Canada, The United States, and throughout South America. Along with this article is a contrasting piece by Andrea Arango, which will also be issued on Wednesday April 30th. Arango explores water commodification as a beneficial factor for society, which entirely differs from COHA’s viewpoint.
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 www.coha.org/2008/04/29/pope-bene…

Pope Benedict’s Holy War Against Liberation Theology in South America: Pontiff and Conservative Church Face a Rollback.

by NIKOLAS KOZLOFF, COHA Senior Research Fellow.

COHA is The Washington DC based Council On Hemispheric Affairs.

The recent election of former Bishop Fernando Lugo as President of Paraguay poses a sticky dilemma for the Vatican and underscores the hostile political environment facing incoming Pope Benedict XVI in South America. Lugo, who was known to his constituents as the “Bishop of the Poor” for his support of landless peasants, advocates so-called Liberation Theology, a school of thought which took shape in Latin America in the 1960s.

Recognizing the pressing need for social justice, Liberation Theology was minted by Pope John XXIII to challenge the Church to defend the oppressed and the poor. Since its emergence, Liberation Theology has consistently mixed politics and religion. Its adherents have often been active in labor unions and left-wing political parties. Followers of Liberation Theology take inspiration from fallen martyrs like Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and Dorothy Mae Stang, an American-born nun who was murdered by ranching interests in Brazil.

Romero, an outspoken voice for social change, was gunned down in 1980 by a right wing death squad during a Mass in the chapel of San Salvador’s Divine Providence hospital. Stang, an advocate of the poor and the environment, was shot to death in the Brazilian Amazon in February 2005; her assailants were later linked to a powerful local landlord.

Joseph Ratzinger: Doctrinal Czar

During the 1980s and 1990s Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, acted as John Paul II’s doctrinal czar. At the time, John Paul was in the midst of a fierce battle to silence prominent Church liberals. “This conception of Christ as a political figure, a revolutionary, as the subversive of Nazareth,” the Pontiff once said, “does not tally with the church’s catechism.”
In 1983 the Pope wagged his finger at Sandinista government minister and Nicaraguan priest, Ernesto Cardenal on a trip to Managua, warning the latter to “straighten out the situation in your church.” Cardenal was one of the most prominent Liberation Theologians of the Sandinista era.

Originally a liberal reformer, Ratzinger changed his tune once he became an integrant in the Vatican hierarchy. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog agency, Cardinal Ratzinger warned against the temptation to view Christianity in an exclusively political light. Liberation Theology, he once said, was dangerous as it fused “the Bible’s view of history with Marxist dialectics.”

Calling Liberation Theology a “singular heresy,” Ratzinger went on the offensive. He blasted the new movement as a “fundamental threat” to the church and prohibited some of its leading proponents from speaking publicly. In an effort to clean house, Ratzinger even summoned outspoken priests to Rome and censured them on grounds that they were abandoning the church’s spiritual role for inappropriate socioeconomic activism.

As Pope, Ratzinger has not sought to hide his lack of esteem for Liberation Theology. During a recent trip to Brazil, he was pressed by reporters to comment on Oscar Romero’s tragic murder in El Salvador. The Pope complained that Romero’s cause had been hijacked by supporters of liberation theology. Commenting on a new book about the slain archbishop, the Pope said that Romero should not be seen simply as a political figure. Hoping to avoid any meaningful political discussion on the matter, Benedict said “He was killed during the consecration of the Eucharist. Therefore, his death is testimony of the faith.”

How to Handle Lugo?

Despite his best efforts however, Benedict has not been able to impede the rise of the Bishop of the Poor in Paraguay. Lugo has had long time differences with the Vatican, which could now create some political friction between Paraguay and the Papal See. When Lugo left the priesthood to pursue politics, the Vatican refused to accept his resignation, arguing that the Bishop already made a “lifetime commitment.” Defying the Pope, Lugo formed the center left Patriotic Alliance, which brought together leftist unions, indigenous people and poor farmers.

When Lugo announced his intention to run in what turned out to be his victorious presidential race, the Vatican sent him a letter declaring that the Holy See had “learned with surprise” that some political parties “have the intention of presenting him as a candidate in the coming Presidential election in Paraguay.” It added: “The acceptance of that offer would be clearly against the serious responsibility of a bishop … Canon Law prohibits priests from participating in political parties or labor unions.” The letter asked Lugo “in the name of Jesus Christ” to “seriously reflect on his behavior”.

Lugo replied tartly, “The Pope can either accept my decision or punish me. But I am in politics already.” Hardly amused, the Vatican suspended Lugo from his duties “a divinis,” meaning that he could no longer say Mass or carry out other priestly functions such as administering the sacraments. This was enough to enable Lugo to stand in the Presidential elections, but his victory now presents the Vatican with a dilemma over whether to “reduce him to lay status.” Vatican officials said it was up to the Pope to decide, and that Benedict would “take time to study the situation”.

Brazilian Challenge:

Though Benedict has long opposed Liberation Theology, it’s unclear what he might do at this point to halt its spread. Unlike the 1980s when South America was in the midst of right-wing military rule, the region has now undergone a decided shift to the left which is confounding the Papacy.

In Brazil, the world’s most populous Roman Catholic nation, some 80,000 “base communities,” as the grass-roots building blocks of liberation theology are called, are flourishing. What’s more, nearly one million “Bible circles” meet regularly to read and discuss scripture from the viewpoint of the theology of liberation.

Liberation Theology advocates have strong links to the labor movement which helped propel the current regime into power; this history turned President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva into being a long time ally. The movement has been particularly strong in poorer areas of the country such as the Amazon, the hinterlands of northeast Brazil and the outskirts of large urban centers like São Paulo, which has a population of 20 million people.

In the latter city, the followers of liberation theology prominently display their politics. For example, during last year’s May Day celebration, liberation theologists draped a wooden cross with black banners labeled “imperialism” and “privatization” and applauded when the homily criticized the government’s “neoliberal” economic policies, the kind backed by Washington.

Chávez and Pope Benedict:

Try as he might, Benedict has been unable to halt the re-emergence of Liberation Theology, and Paraguay and Brazil are just the tip of the iceberg. For years Venezuela has been a religious battleground, with President Chávez pursuing a combative relationship with the Catholic Church. Unlike some other Latin American countries which had a stronger liberation theology movement, the Venezuelan Church never had a leftist tendency except among diocesan priests.

A clash between the government and the Church was probably inevitable, and shortly after taking office Chávez started to chastise Venezuelan bishops, accusing them of complicity with the corrupt administrations that preceded his rule. The Venezuelan leader accused the Vatican’s former representative in Venezuela, Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, of allying himself with the country’s “rancid oligarchy.” Memorably, Chávez suggested that priests such as Castillo Lara ought to subject themselves to an exorcism because “the devil has snuck into their clerical robes.” Incensed, the cardinal compared Chávez to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

During the April 2002 coup, prominent Catholics such as Cardinal Ignacio Velasco sided with the opposition against the president. Velasco was even accused of offering his residence as a meeting place for the coup plotters. What is more, he signed the “Carmona decree” that swept away Venezuela’s democratic institutions. Senior Catholic bishops themselves attended the inauguration ceremony for Pedro Carmona, Venezuela’s Dictator-For-a-Day.

But when Chávez was able to quickly overturn the coup and return to power, the hard line Church establishment was humiliated. Relishing his triumph Chávez launched a rhetorical broadside on the Vatican, calling on the Pope to apologize, on behalf of the Catholic Church, for the “holocaust” of the indigenous peoples of Latin America during the colonial era, and for the imposition of Christianity. The Pope, who is close to Castillo Lara, is reportedly anti-Chávez but has met with the Venezuelan leader at the Vatican.

Hoping to neutralize the power of the Catholic Church, Chávez frequently quotes from the Bible. Puckishly, he also tells his supporters in his public addresses that Christ was an anti-imperialist. Even as Chávez spars with the Church, Protestants have provided a key pillar of the president’s political support. Over the last few years, Chávez has done his utmost to cultivate the support of Protestants, which make up 29% of the population. He even declared that he was no longer a Catholic, but a member of the Christian Evangelical Council.

In The Andes, Pope Faces Hostile Political Environment:

In the Andes, the situation is not much more promising for Pope Benedict.
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa is a Catholic Socialist and has called for a “new Catholicism” in the 21st century which would challenge globalized capitalism. The President has said that his real education came from working as a lay Salesian missionary in the mid-1980s in the largely indigenous province of Cotopaxi. During his speeches, Correa invokes the words of Leonidas Proaño, probably Ecuador’s most famous liberation theologian.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales has never been a fan of ecclesiastical authority and has said that Catholic bishops “historically damaged the country” by functioning as “an instrument of the oligarchs.” What’s more, Morales tapped Rafael Puente Calvo, an ex-Jesuit and a staunch liberation theologian, to be his Deputy Minister of the Interior.

In Paraguay, Brazil, Venezuela, and up and down the Andes Pope Benedict faces a very changed political climate from the 1980s. A new generation of leaders, allied to the Pope’s ideological foes, has to be making life difficult for the conservative church hierarchy. If he wants the Vatican to maintain its influence in the region, Pope Benedict is going to have to be creative, diplomatic and extremely cautious in his regional initiatives.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The 7th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) started today its meetings at the UN in New York.

The topic is: CLIMATE CHANGE, BIO-CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND LIVELIHOODS: THE STEWARDSHIP ROLE OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND NEW CHALLENGES.”

 www.UN.org

The keynote speaker at the opening of the session was the President of Bolivia, H.E. Evo Morales Ayma. Other speakers included the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of ECOSOC, Mr. Leo Merores from Haiti, the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development (UN), Mr. Jomo Sundaram, the Deputy Secretary for Indigenous Affairs of Australia, and the Executive Director of UN IFAD., Ms. Gunilla Olsson.

President Morales had later a Press Conference and surprisingly this turned out a very lively exchange. Also, let us remember that today there is a promise of one more state of Latin America, Paraguay, switching from plain capitalist leadership to a more people-oriented leadership – so Morales speaking at the UN got an extra echo.

Some of what was said by President Morales at the two events follows: The topic is Indigenous and the land. The indigenous people have the claim to keep on to Mother Earth. We were told that it is “capitalism or death” and that is not the case. What capitalism did to us is that man will have now to find a budget to paint the mountain-tops white in order to keep the tourists.

for 23 years, at this UN, the indigenous had to fight to have the Declaration for the Rights of the Indigenous People. In Bolivia we make now laws to implement this and we would like to have this done in all Nations.

Speaking about Bolivia he noted further that in Colonial times and in Neo-Liberal times, we kept up the fight for our rights – we do not want to lose the privileges of the indigenous people.

Morales did not make any reference to the UN Declaration on Human Rights. That declaration applies also to the Indigenous People as human beings, but did nothing for them to help them with their call for rights of their cultures. Clearly, he did not mention the fight of the Tibetans these days to be allowed to cling to their own culture.

Without the rights given to them by the Declaration of Rights to their Indigenous Culture, the Indigenous People were just a ghost in their own world. They were thus taken advantage off and their goods and ideas considered fair findings for others to appropriate to themselves.

Morales did nevertheless say that what we are looking at now in Latin America are liberating democracies and this is something that will apply probably soon also to Paraguay.

In the Constitution of Bolivia, he said, “we call now for indigenous autonomy – it existed before but was disregarded.” We will see how it is implemented on the basis of the Declaration and the Constitution.

To a question about the use of the coca-leaf in Bolivia and Peru he said that this was an unjust way of penalizing the culture. “We hope that our culture will be recognized by the UN. This is part of the Declaration of the Indigenous people. One must study what the people say – not what the empires say.”

Mathew Lee from Inner Press Asked about FIFA (the Federation of International Football Associations) the highest body for the European Football – or soccer as it is called in the US. They did forbid playing international games at the altitude of Bolivia. Morales answered that sooner or later they will recognize their mistake and will allow games at our altitude. “If FIFA dictates that we cannot play football they are stronger then the UN – this because the UN will say that it is discrimination because of altitude.” He is rather for FIFA defending the universality of football. This was just a mistake like the issue of chewing coca leaf was an uninformed mistake.

And on CLIMATE CHANGE: I am sure that in many countries there is a way to live together. I always wanted to see land that is just of the community. Our cattle is on the common land.

We lived in comity with Mother Earth. We must understand that Planet Earth is not a commodity, a business. Some people think only about money – not the future. It is important to think about life and humanity and equality and justice – not to concentration of land in the hand of a few. We will not get away if the environment gets so bad. Let us use the money for saving the land.

 

And then on BIOFUELS: “A very serious Impact.” At the conference of MarcoSul I lstened to what some were saying. So What do they mean by “BIOFUELS?” THEY TOLD ME IT IS AGRO-FUELS.

For who? These are agricultural products – if mother earth is to feed engines? Cars come ahead of people? The machines are more important then life-form?

For us it is clear – life is first. But these policies already have negative imputs. The price of wheat, internationally has caused inflation in our country. This is extremely serious These policies are very harmful to poor people – even in the US.

BASIC PROBLEMS OF JUSTICE AND LIFE AEW THE CONCENTRATION OF MONEY IN THE HANDS OF A FEW – PRESIDENT MORALES SAID.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The ruling party concedes power after six decades. Left-leaning Fernando Lugo ran on a platform of ‘change.’

By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, April 20, 2008.
ASUNCION, PARAGUAY — A former Roman Catholic bishop who championed the downtrodden and challenged the long-entrenched political elite was elected Paraguay’s president Sunday, ending six decades of one-party rule in this South American nation.

Fernando Lugo, 56, dubbed “the bishop of the poor,” was leading by 10 percentage points with more than 90% of the results in, electoral officials said. He had about 41% of the vote to about 31% for his chief opponent, Blanca Ovelar of the ruling Colorado Party. Ovelar called the margin of victory “irreversible” and conceded defeat in the evening.

Lugo’s victory was historic in Paraguay, where the Colorado Party has held power even longer than the communist regimes of China, North Korea and Cuba.

Spurring his triumph was widespread discontent with the ruling party’s long record of corruption, cronyism and economic stagnation.



The election of Lugo was the latest triumph by a left-leaning leader in Latin America, where a so-called pink tide of democratically elected presidents has altered the region’s political map in recent years.

“The humble citizens are the ones responsible for this change,” Lugo said at a downtown news conference as his lead grew. “Paraguayans have taken a great step toward civic maturity. . . . We have opened a new page in this nation’s political history.”

Thousands of Lugo’s backers, many waving Paraguayan flags, gathered Sunday evening in the streets of this tropical capital to celebrate. Joyous supporters sang, banged drums, set off fireworks and honked vehicle horns as word spread that the upstart ex-cleric was headed for victory.

The bearded, bespectacled Lugo, who has never held political office, ran on the same “change” motto that has become a buzzword of the U.S. presidential race.

Lugo vowed to alter the course of his landlocked nation of 6.6 million best known in much of the world for its rampant contraband, crushing poverty and bleak history of dictatorship under a former Colorado Party leader. Many Paraguayans immigrate to neighboring Argentina and Brazil, as well as to Europe and the United States, in search of economic opportunities.

Lugo said he would fight endemic corruption, institute long-delayed agrarian reform, invest in education and social needs, and renegotiate Paraguay’s income from two huge hydroelectric projects with Brazil and Argentina. He argued that Paraguay was failing to benefit from the massive amounts of excess electricity its dams produce.

The days of relying on ruling-party contacts for jobs and other needs will end, Lugo declared. Supporters said his time as a priest and bishop cemented his honest image in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation.

“This country needs a change,” said Natalia Talavera, 26, a first-time voter and mother of two who cast her ballot at a public school downtown. “I voted for change, for Fernando Lugo. I just hope they let him have the victory he deserves.”

Lugo had been leading in polls, but many experts had doubted that he could overcome the Colorado Party’s well-oiled political machine. However, the Colorados suffered a divisive primary fight that weakened support. And Ovelar, a former education minister, lacked charisma and the political skill of other party stalwarts.

Lugo survived a nasty campaign during which opponents tried to link him to terrorists, guerrillas, kidnapping gangs and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Lugo denied any links to armed groups and denied that he would be a puppet of Venezuela’s leftist leader.

The U.S. Embassy kept a low profile during the heated campaign, as diplomats sought to avoid any hint that Washington was meddling in Paraguayan affairs.

Even before Lugo’s election seemed assured, international observers said the voting appeared clean and without disruptive incidents, apart from some scuffles at polling sites. Lugo and others had voiced fears that ruling-party operatives would attempt widespread fraud.

“My congratulations go out to Paraguayans,” said former Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Emma Mejia, who headed an observation mission from the Organization of American States. “People were able to exercise their democratic right to vote. This is a historic day for Paraguay and for Latin America.”



Lugo, who stepped down from the priesthood to seek the presidency, is believed to be the first former Catholic bishop to be elected a chief of state.

Despite his rhetoric, he has refused to be labeled a leftist, saying he is a centrist responding to the needs of the downtrodden and the teachings of Liberation Theology, a Catholic doctrine favoring the poor and subjugated.

The Vatican has assailed Liberation Theology for Marxist tendencies.

The Vatican also contends that Lugo remains a priest and has violated church law by seeking political office. But Lugo says he is no longer a priest. How that dispute will be resolved remains unclear. Rumors have swirled here that some resolution is in the works between Rome and Asuncion.

The election is a clear rebuke of outgoing President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, who is barred by the constitution from seeking reelection. He pushed for the controversial candidacy of Ovelar, who will go down in Paraguayan history as the Colorado Party’s biggest loser. She would have been the country’s first female president.

The Colorado Party’s time in power includes the 35-year dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, the anti-communist strongman who was ousted in 1989. But the party survived Stroessner and went on to dominate almost two decades of shaky democracy — until Sunday’s stunning defeat.

Once his victory is certified, Lugo will take office Aug. 15 for a five-year term.

 patrick.mcdonnell at latimes.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 27th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Million acres of Guyanese rainforest to be saved in groundbreaking deal.

Daniel Howden

guyana_21382t.jpg
The Iwokrama reserve, part of one of the last four intact rainforests in the world

By Daniel Howden, Deputy Foreign Editor
Thursday, 27 March 2008

A deal has been agreed that will place a financial value on rainforests – paying, for the first time, for their upkeep as “utilities” that provide vital services such as rainfall generation, carbon storage and climate regulation.

The agreement, to be announced tomorrow in New York, will secure the future of one million acres of pristine rainforest in Guyana, the first move of its kind, and will open the way for financial markets to play a key role in safeguarding the fate of the world’s forests.

The initiative follows Guyana’s extraordinary offer, revealed in The Independent in November, to place its entire standing forest under the protection of a British-led international body in return for development aid.

Hylton Murray-Philipson, director of the London-based financiers Canopy Capital, who sealed the deal with the Iwokrama rainforest, said: “How can it be that Google’s services are worth billions but those from all the world’s rainforests amount to nothing?” The past year has been a pivotal one for the fast- disappearing tropical forests that form a cooling band around the equator because the world has recognised deforestation as the second leading cause of CO2 emissions. Leaders at the UN climate summit in Bali in December agreed to include efforts to halt the destruction of forests in a new global deal to save the world from runaway climate change.

“As atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide rise, emissions will carry an ever-mounting cost and conservation will acquire real value. The investment community is beginning to wake up to this,” Mr Murray-Philipson added.

Guyana, sandwiched between the Latin American giants Venezuela and Brazil, is home to fewer than amillion people but 80 per cent of its land is covered by an intact rainforest larger than England. The Guiana Shield is one of only four intact rainforests left on the planet and at its heart lies the Iwokrama reserve, gifted to the Commonwealth in 1989 as a laboratory for pioneering conservation projects.

Iwokrama, which means “place of refuge” in the Makushi language, is home to some of the world’s most endangered species including jaguar, giant river otter, anaconda and giant anteater.

Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo, a former economist, has appealed for state and private sector help for the country to avoid succumbing to the rampant deforestation currently blighting Brazil and Indonesia, in an effort to raise living standards in one of Latin America’s poorest countries.

“Forests do much more for us than just store carbon … This first significant step is in keeping with President Jagdeo’s visionary approach to safeguarding all the forests of Guyana,” said Iwokrama’s chairman, Edward Glover.

The deal, drawn up by the international firm Stephenson Harwood, is the first serious attempt to pay for the ecosystem services provided by rainforests.

“We should move beyond emissions-based trading to measure and place a value on all the services they provide,” said Mr Glover.

In addition to providing shelter to half the world’s terrestrial species and one billion of the earth’s poorest people, forests such as Iwokrama act as pumps, drawing water from the Atlantic Ocean inland to the Amazon and Guiana Shield where they help to seed clouds and deliver moisture over vast distances.

The Amazon generates the rain that falls on the vast soya estates of Sao Paulo, helping to make Brazil the second biggest agricultural exporter in the world.

Guyana’s attempt to secure its entire standing forest has received the backing of the British environment minister Phil Woolas and Downing Street has told The Independent that it is “considering the offer”. President Jagdeo met with Gordon Brown on the sidelines of a recent Commonwealth Summit in Uganda where they discussed the proposal. The UN road map to a deal to replace the Kyoto protocols foresees payments from wealthy climate-polluting nations to developing countries to compensate for potential income lost through avoiding deforestation. But there are fears that this formula may simply displace the demand for timber and cheap agricultural land.

Andrew Mitchell, head of the Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of rainforest scientists, said: “The decision on forests at December’s conference in Bali is a major step in tackling climate change but it fails to reward countries such as Guyana that aren’t cutting down their forests.”

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

Kyodo News Reports, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2008

Japan selects 41 countries for priority climate aid: The government has selected 41 priority countries for assistance under its “financial mechanism” on climate change for developing countries in hopes of taking a lead in the battle against global warming, government sources said Saturday.

China and India, two of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, are included among the 41, which are mainly in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America, the sources said.

Eleven of the countries, including Kenya, have been designated as “early implementation” countries.

By demonstrating the effectiveness of the mechanism in helping developing nations, Japan hopes to gain international support for initiatives on dealing with global warming.

The government is planning to speed up consultations with each country to hammer out the details, such as how to provide assistance and how much, the sources said.

The financial mechanism on climate change for developing countries is aimed at supporting developing countries that have the “will and ambition” to combat global warming by implementing energy-saving projects and specific action plans, among other steps.



In selecting the 41 priority countries, the government took into account their funding needs, their own undertakings to combat global warming, their international influence, and the degree of their understanding of and cooperation with Japan’s initiatives. China and India are expected to be key to Japan’s plan.

“It is impossible to resolve the problem of global warming without the active participation of both countries,” a Foreign Ministry official said of the two rapidly developing powerhouses. “It is important to show a cooperative stance on the financial aspect.”

Divided by region, the 11 “early implementation” countries are:

Kenya, Ethiopia, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Madagascar;

Indonesia and Malaysia;

Guyana and Mexico;

and Micronesia.

Japan and Indonesia have already reached a basic agreement on the framework for financial assistance, the sources said.

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Six of the countries are in Africa, then there are Guyana and Micronesia, but what is most important is that Japan will cooperate with China, India, Mexico, Indonesia, and Malaysia – all upper tier countries that have high growth rates.

The key for doing anything on climate change revolves around these countries and starting with them cooperative programs before the July G8 meeting, will be very significant for the success of that meeting.

Also, interesting to see that Japan intends to cooperate with Mexico – a country member of NAFTA – thus in the backyard of the US.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 27th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Guyana’s President flies in as Britain considers rainforest offer.
By Daniel Howden and Colin Brown, 27 November 27,   2007. The Independent.
The Government says it is considering an offer from Guyana to secure the future of its entire standing forest in return for a package of green technology and development aid from Britain.

Guyana’s President, Bharrat Jagdeo, has proposed placing his country’s entire 50 million-acre tropical forest under a British-led international body in return for talks with London on securing aid for sustainable development and technical assistance in switching to green industries.

An official spokesman for the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said last night: “We have received a letter from the President and we are considering it.”

The plan, revealed in The Independent on Saturday, has won strong backing from opposition parties. The shadow Environment Secretary, Peter Ainsworth, said tropical deforestation was not getting the attention it deserved and that the Government should take the proposal seriously.

“If we don’t sort out deforestation, we can forget changing the lightbulbs,” Mr Ainsworth said yesterday. “Deforestation is the neglected piece of the jigsaw. There must be a way into this and Guyana are offering what could be a model for how to do it.”

Guyana, a former British colony, set an important precedent in 1989 when it gifted one million acres of rainforest to the Commonwealth, setting up the Iwokrama international reserve which has become a successful model for managing tropical forests. Britain has already lent its backing to a similar venture in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a £50m grant was awarded for forest protection.

The Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, Chris Huhne, joined those backing the plan: “This is a very interesting development. We need to work on the proposals that Guyana have made at an international level and roll it out to cover not just Guyana but also Brazil, Venezuela and other rainforest nations.”

Mr Huhne, a challenger for the leadership of his party, added: “This is a major issue globally and we very much support individual or any bilateral international negotiations to protect the rainforests, which are the most important carbon sinks in the world.”

Mr Jagdeo, who will speak on climate change at the House of Commons today, said: “Our offer to partner with the UK to make this happen remains – we want to sit around a table and start to work out the precise details of how we can make progress.”

Guyana is home to one of only four remaining intact forests. The world’s tropical forests act as a thermostat, regulating rainfall and acting as a buffer for the climate, while sheltering 1.6 billion of the poorest people on earth. Guyana is among the poorest countries in South America and its forest, which acts as a “sink” for billions of tons of carbon, is under pressure from logging and mining.

With a high-profile UN climate change conference coming in Bali next month, it is understood that Downing Street is wary of appearing to question the sovereignty of any country over its rainforest. “There are very complex issues that are involved,” said Mr Brown’s spokesman.

But Mr Jagdeo said its sovereignty was not at issue and that he was looking for a partner to send a “bold signal” ahead of Bali. “Many problems in implementation will be identified,” he said. “However, future generations will not forgive us if we do nothing in the face of these problems and fail to provide leadership.”

The President said he does not expect long-term support from the British taxpayer and is open to private-sector initiatives. Payments from British firms for so-called voluntary carbon credits are one of the solutions being considered.

Mr Ainsworth said backing developing countries such as Guyana was also a moral issue: “I think it’s the right thing to do, and if Gordon Brown wants to take it on we would be very happy.”

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