links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter


 
The ALBA Charge:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 28th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

IPU E-BULLETIN  N°21, 28 March 2013

IPU Calls for Greater International Support for Syrian Refugees – In the second resolution on Syria at an IPU Assembly in 12 months, IPU has urged all parties in the country to end violence immediately. It has also called on international and regional parties to help find ways to end the conflict peacefully whilst safeguarding Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as the security and human rights of its citizens. The resolution, which followed an emergency debate at the 128th IPU Assembly, focused particularly on the growing refugee crisis involving more than one million Syrians in neighbouring countries. IPU members have expressed concern that some countries may be forced to close their borders to new influxes of refugees. The organization is urging donor countries to fulfill pledges to provide US$ 1.5 billion to fund humanitarian assistance given only US$200 million has been received so far. In a separate development, the IPU Committee on International Humanitarian Law decided to send an urgent assessment mission to Jordan where many of the refugees have found shelter.

Parliaments Must Intensify Efforts to Protect Civilians - Parliaments must do everything they can to safeguard the lives of civilians in conflict, paying particular attention to women and children. A resolution on peace and security adopted on the closing day of the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito calls on parliaments to ensure governments protect their people against genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity through legislation, the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and by overseeing government action to combat terrorism. If national authorities fail to safeguard their population, then collective action should be applied in a timely and decisive manner through the UN Security Council on a case-by-case basis. The resolution also stresses the need for sustained peace-building assistance to post-conflict situations and urges parliamentarians to make sure their governments commit the necessary funds to the reconstruction of countries emerging from crisis.

Democratic Governance a Must-Have Goal for Post-2015 Development Targets – MPs from 121 countries participating at the 128th IPU Assembly have called for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone goal in a new development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. Defining participation, transparency and accountability as the core of democratic governance, they argued that true prosperity could not exist in any society without respect for the universal values of democracy, rule of law and human rights. Democratic governance should also underpin other future goals. The message came out loud and clear both in statements on the general theme of the Assembly “From unrelenting growth to purposeful development “Buen Vivir”: New Approaches, New Solutions, and from a survey carried out among MPs on the issue. IPU’s membership declared it was more important than ever for parliaments to assert their legitimate place in the decision-making process at national and international levels and for parliaments to be strengthened across the world to allow greater oversight and legislative authority.

Parliaments Urged to Take Tougher Action on Sexual Violence – Parliaments across the world have been urged to take a much tougher approach to sexual violence, in particular to rape. In a statement at the closing session of the 128th Assembly, Fernando Cordero, the President of the Assembly, expressed deep concern at the widespread crime with rape cases increasingly making the headlines in recent months. He called upon parliaments to scrutinize existing laws to ensure tougher punishment for sexual violence crimes, the enforcement of laws, the protection of victims as well as the provision of adequate resources to address the issue. Highlighting a common practice of punishing victims, President Cordero demanded the training of law enforcers so that the response to rape and other forms of sexual violence does not punish or stigmatize women.

Too Many MPs Under Attack and in Danger the World Over - Too many MPs in the world are being targeted, intimidated and harassed as an attack on democracy itself, according to IPU. Countries such as Afghanistan and Maldives are witnessing concerted direct violence against parliamentarians and at times also their families. As the 128th IPU Assembly concluded in Quito, Ecuador, IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians expressed concern at the recent suicide bombing attack on the family of the Speaker of the Lower House of parliament in Afghanistan. As part of a series of resolutions on cases on the human rights abuses of MPs around the world, IPU also voiced serious concern at the level of confrontation between the government and parliament of Maldives. The Indian Ocean Island nation has been in political crisis since February 2012. Significant intimidation and harassment of MPs has led to the IPU Committee following 21 cases of human rights abuses of parliamentarians, including that of Afrasheem Ali who was assassinated last October.  IPU has stated its deep concern that despite evidence, no-one has been held accountable for attacks on the MPs and at allegations that MPs may no longer be receiving the security protection they need. The IPU Committee examined the cases of 147 MPs in 24 countries during its latest session, pronouncing resolutions on cases involving 86 MPs in 17 countries.

Colombian Prosecutors committed to resolving murders of Patriotic Union MPs - A mission by IPU’s Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians to Colombia this month witnessed new efforts to shed light on the cases of 6 members of parliament from the Unión Patriótica (Patriotic Union) murdered between 1986 and 1994, as well as the death threats which forced fellow MP Hernán Motta into exile in October 1997. Colombia’s Chief Prosecutor and the Attorney General revealed the cases are now a priority with new methodology for gathering evidence developed. The Committee also learnt that the murder of one of the six Patriotic Union MPs, Manuel Cepeda, has been declared a crime against humanity in Colombia. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights concluded in May 2010 that the Colombian State bore responsibility for his murder. The IPU Committee has asked for detailed information from the Colombian authorities as to the exact steps being taken to find the perpetrators of all the crimes. It has called upon members of Congress to do their utmost to help in pursuing the cases.

IPU and Parliaments Should Play Pivotal Role in Advocating Fair Trade – Parliamentarians and IPU are being urged to take the lead in advocating fair trade as a means of ensuring sustainable development. A resolution submitted by the Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade at the 128th IPU Assembly, appeals to governments and MPs to support fair trade and to include it as an integral component of post-2015 sustainable development goals. In addition, it says parliaments and governments should explore more innovative, open and transparent financing mechanisms to allow for more effective funding of fair-trade projects. The Committee also appeals to governments to do more to combat corruption and to join forces in the fight against tax evasion, crucial to achieving increases in domestic revenue.

Record Number of Women MPs Attend 128th IPU Assembly – A record number of women MPs attended the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito, Ecuador, breaking the 200 mark for the first time ever. The 210 women MPs at the Assembly represented 33 per cent of all MPs attending. It was the first time the proportion of women MPs had been as high. The Quito gathering also witnessed a growing trend of better balanced delegations in terms of gender representation.  The trend in women’s representation at IPU assemblies echoed global parliamentary figures which in 2012 saw the highest percentage of women MPs in national parliaments. For the first time, the global average of women MPs broke the 20 per cent to reach 20.3 per cent. The Quito gathering also marked the first time women parliamentarians from Saudi Arabia participated at an IPU event with two newly-appointed women representatives from the Shura Council.

Using Social Media to Enhance Citizen Engagement and Democracy – Delegates to IPU’s 128th Assembly have adopted a resolution that calls on parliaments to both use social media to better inform and engage with their citizens but also to protect the right to freedom of expression on and off-line. The resolution also underscored that a free, open and accessible internet is both a fundamental human right and a tool for citizen engagement. Parliamentarians also needed to take on the responsibility for ensuring citizens’ access to free and secure online communications. The resolution followed IPU’s release of its first ever social media guidelines for MPs and parliamentary staff. Available freely online, it aims to encourage the more widespread and effective use of social media by parliaments and politicians, as well as provide guidance to those responsible for managing social media channels. The guidelines help to define the scope and purpose of social media for parliaments whilst also providing a benchmark for good practice in citizen engagement. The World e-Parliament Report identified that by the end of 2012, a third of all parliaments were already using social media with another third planning to.

 

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

INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION

NEWS RELEASE

Intensify Efforts to Protect Civilians in Conflict Including Syria, Urges IPU

Quito/Geneva 27 March 2013 – The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has called for a set of actions enforcing the responsibility to protect civilian lives during conflict on the closing day of its 128th Assembly in the Ecuadoran capital, Quito.

Adopting resolutions on the Syrian refugee crisis and on the role of parliaments in safeguarding civilian lives, the IPU Assembly urged parliaments to ensure governments protected their people from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity through legislation, the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and by overseeing government action to combat terrorism.

If national authorities fail to safeguard their population, then collective action should be applied in a timely and decisive manner through the Security Council on a case-by- case basis.   

Particular focus was put on the need for laws and measures to protect women and children, prevent and criminalize sexual violence and to provide redress for survivors in conflict.

Parliaments should also ensure they support governments in peace-building efforts through the allocation of necessary funds.

In the second resolution on the conflict in Syria in 12 months, IPU called for an immediate end to the violence there. Concerned by the displacement crisis which has left more than one million Syrian refugees seeking shelter and protection in neighbouring countries and stretching resources and capacity there, the Organization is urging donor countries to fulfil pledges to provide US$1.5 billion for humanitarian aid. So far, only $US200 million has so far been received.

IPU’s Committee on International Humanitarian Law in session during the 128th Assembly will send an urgent assessment mission to Jordan which hosts a large number of Syrian refugees.

The Quito Assembly, which brought together more than 1,250 delegates, including nearly 630 MPs from 121 countries, also called for a radically new way of tackling economic growth and sustainable development as the world begins work on an agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals.

Aiming for human well-being, IPU members highlighted the need for more attention to be paid to the nature of growth, the distribution of its benefits, prioritizing action on youth unemployment and job creation, better management of the world’s resources and eradicating gender inequalities once and for all.

As a result, IPU has called for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone goal in a new set of sustainable development targets post 2015.

Defining participation, transparency and accountability as the core of democratic governance, the Organization’s membership declared that it was more important than ever for parliaments to be strengthened in their oversight and legislative functions and to assert their place in decision-making processes at national and international levels.

The 128th IPU Assembly also adopted resolutions on the promotion of fair trade and innovative mechanisms for sustainable development and on the use of social media to enhance citizen engagement and democracy.  

Picture Editors can access photos from the Assembly from:

www.flickr.com/uip128ecuador

For further information, please contact:

IPU Press Office

Jemini Pandya, Tel: + 593 99 763 9725 or + 41 79 217 3374 or Email: jep@ipu.org

Leonie Guguen, Email: lg@ipu.org

Ecuadoran Parliament Press Office

Julia Ortega, Tel: +593 99 811 3863 or Email: julia.ortega@asambleanacional.gob.ec

Carolina Granda, Tel: +593 998 118 923 or Email: granda.carolina@gmail.com

UNION INTERPARLEMENTAIRE

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE

L’UIP demande que l’on protège davantage les civils pris dans les conflits, notamment en Syrie

Quito/Genève, 27 mars 2013 – A la clôture de sa 128ème Assemblée, qui s’est tenue à Quito, capitale de l’Equateur, l’Union interparlementaire (UIP) a appelé à une série de mesures destinées à faire respecter la responsabilité de protéger la vie des civils pendant les conflits.

L’Assemblée de l’UIP, qui a adopté des résolutions au sujet de la crise des réfugiés syriens et du rôle des parlements dans la protection des civils, demande instamment aux parlements de veiller à ce que leur gouvernement protège la population contre le génocide, le nettoyage ethnique, les crimes de guerre et les crimes contre l’humanité, en adoptant des lois, en ratifiant le Statut de Rome de la Cour pénale internationale et en contrôlant l’action menée par le gouvernement pour combattre le terrorisme.

L’Assemblée dit aussi que si les autorités nationales manquent à leur obligation de protéger leur population, la communauté internationale se doit  d’engager en temps voulu une action collective résolue, par le truchement du Conseil de sécurité et, ce, au cas par cas.

L’Assemblée insiste en particulier sur le fait qu’il faut des lois et des mesures pour protéger les femmes et les enfants, prévenir et criminaliser la violence sexuelle et assurer réparation aux victimes des conflits.

Elle appelle en outre les parlements à accompagner les gouvernements dans leurs efforts de consolidation de la paix, en votant les crédits nécessaires.

Par ailleurs, dans sa deuxième résolution en 12 mois sur le conflit syrien, l’UIP appelle à une cessation immédiate de la violence dans ce pays. Préoccupée par les déplacements massifs qui ont fait plus d’un million de réfugiés cherchant asile et protection dans les pays voisins et mettant à rude épreuve les moyens disponibles, l’Organisation engage les pays donateurs à tenir leurs engagements et à fournir 1,5 milliard de dollars E.-U. pour financer l’aide humanitaire. A ce jour, seuls 200 millions de dollars ont été reçus.

Le Comité de l’UIP chargé de promouvoir le respect du droit international humanitaire, qui s’est réuni à l’occasion de la 128ème Assemblée, va dépêcher d’urgence une mission d’évaluation de la situation en Jordanie, où se trouvent actuellement un grand nombre de réfugiés.

L’Assemblée de Quito, à laquelle ont participé plus de 1 250 délégués, dont près de 630 parlementaires de 121 pays, souhaite également que l’on trouve une toute nouvelle façon d’envisager la croissance économique et le développement durable, alors que la communauté internationale s’attèle à l’élaboration d’un programme destiné à succéder aux Objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement.

Ayant à l’esprit le bien-être de l’humanité, les Membres de l’UIP ont insisté sur la nécessité de se soucier davantage de la nature de la croissance, de la répartition de ses bienfaits, de donner la priorité à la création d’emplois et à l’emploi des jeunes, de mieux administrer les ressources de la planète et de mettre fin une bonne fois pour toutes aux inégalités entre hommes et femmes.

Forte de ces convictions, l’UIP décidé de demander que la gouvernance démocratique soit intégrée, comme un objectif à part entière, dans le nouveau programme de développement durable pour l’après-2015.

Les Membres de l’UIP, pour qui la participation, la transparence et la reddition de comptes sont les piliers de la gouvernance démocratique, ont déclaré qu’il était plus important que jamais de renforcer les fonctions législative et de contrôle des parlement et d’associer davantage les législateurs aux processus de prise de décision aux échelons national et international.

La 128ème Assemblée de l’UIP a également adopté des résolutions sur la promotion du commerce équitable et de mécanismes novateurs de développement durable, ainsi que sur l’utilisation des médias sociaux pour accroître la participation des citoyens et renforcer la démocratie.

Les secrétaires de rédaction iconographie peuvent accéder aux photos de l’Assemblée sur :

www.flickr.com/uip128ecuador

Pour plus ample information, prière de contacter :

Service presse de l’UIP

Jemini Pandya, Tél. : + 593 99 763 9725 or + 41 79 217 3374 ou Courriel : jep@ipu.org

Leonie Guguen, Courriel : lg@ipu.org

Service de presse du Parlement équatorien

Julia Ortega, Tél. : +593 99 811 3863 ou Courriel : julia.ortega@asambleanacional.gob.ec

Carolina Granda, Tél. : +593 998 118 923 ou Courriel : granda.carolina@gmail.com

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 www.economist.com/news/books-and-…

China, India and climate change.

Take the lead

Emerging markets are a big part of the problem; they are essential to any solution.

Feb 2nd 2013   THE ECONOMIST FRONT PAGE ARTICLE From the print edition

Some tricky turns up ahead

Greenprint: A New Approach to Cooperation on Climate Change. By Aaditya Mattoo and Arvind Subramanian.
Centre for Global Development; 150 pages; $17.99

Buy from: Amazon.com

MOST books about the environment take the West as their starting point. This is understandable. For decades America was the world’s biggest polluter, contributing more to the problem than any other country, whereas Europe—at least in its politicians’ minds—has model environmental laws and holds plenty of righteous talks to negotiate new solutions.

But Europe and America are becoming supporting actors in the world’s climate-change drama. The lead players are China and India. China is the world’s largest emitter, contributing nearly a quarter of current global emissions. With India it accounted for 83% of the worldwide increase in carbon emissions in 2000-11. Though global warming began with industrialised countries it must end—if it is to end—through actions in developing ones. All the more reason to welcome “Greenprint”, the first book on climate change to concentrate on this growing part of the problem. Written by Aaditya Mattoo, an economist at the World Bank, and Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development, the book offers an unflinching look at what one might realistically expect emerging markets to do.

From an environmentalist’s point of view, India and China elicit despair. They are obsessed with growth. To fuel it, they are building ever more coal-fired power stations, a filthy form of energy. Their cities fume. Their rivers catch fire. There is not much anyone can do about it.

But an attractive quality of this book is that it goes beyond such fatalism. The West, the authors argue, has failed to mitigate global warming, so developing countries will have to take over. This is necessary, they say, because global warming will affect developing countries more than rich ones, partly because tropical and subtropical lands are more sensitive to warming than cold or temperate ones, and partly because rich people can afford better flood controls and drought-resistant seeds than poor ones.

One estimate by William Cline, an economist, found that a rise of 2.5% in global temperatures would cut agricultural productivity by 6% in America but by 38% in India. In light of their disproportionate vulnerability, emerging giants will have to push rich countries to make more environmental compromises. To make these demands credible, they themselves will have to make some changes too.

The trouble, as the authors admit, is that emissions cuts will also be costly for China and India. Messrs Mattoo and Subramanian estimate that if the two countries were to reduce emissions by 30% by 2020 (compared with doing nothing), their manufacturing output would fall by 6-7% and their manufactured exports by more than that. As still relatively poor countries, they are less able to bear the pain.

These challenges help to explain why it is so difficult for India and China to take the lead on climate change. After considering different ways to allocate emissions cuts among nations, the authors concede that the fairest approach would be to allow developing countries to consume as much energy as rich ones did during their own industrial revolutions. But if the aim is to limit the rise in global temperatures to two degrees, which most scientists think necessary, this would allow developing-country emissions to rise by 200% whereas rich-country emissions would have to fall by an amount that is politically inconceivable.

The authors supply more reasonable solutions. They reckon that China and others could and should invest more in new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, in order to boost improvements in clean energy. They also provide a detailed and convincing case for rich countries to put a price on carbon by introducing a modest border tax on imports from developing countries.

The book does not quite provide the promised “greenprint” for developing countries to reduce emissions. But that would be a tall order. As a first stab at analysing one of the world’s most intractable problems, it provides a wealth of analysis and fuel for thought.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Coca Licensing Is a Weapon in Bolivia’s Drug War.

Meridith Kohut for The New York TimesAugustine Calicho, 45, separating the seeds from dried coca leaves in Villa Tunari in the Chapare region of Bolivia. More Photos »

By
Published in The New York Times: December 26, 2012

TODOS SANTOS, Bolivia — There is nothing clandestine about Julián Rojas’s coca plot, which is tucked deep within acres of banana groves. It has been mapped with satellite imagery, cataloged in a government database, cross-referenced with his personal information and checked and rechecked by the local coca growers’ union. The same goes for the plots worked by Mr. Rojas’s neighbors and thousands of other farmers in this torrid region east of the Andes who are licensed by the Bolivian government to grow coca, the plant used to make cocaine.

President Evo Morales, who first came to prominence as a leader of coca growers, kicked out the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2009. That ouster, together with events like the arrest last year of the former head of the Bolivian anti-narcotics police on trafficking charges, led Washington to conclude that Bolivia was not meeting its global obligations to fight narcotics.

But despite the rift with the United States, Bolivia, the world’s third-largest cocaine producer, has advanced its own unorthodox approach toward controlling the growing of coca, which veers markedly from the wider war on drugs and includes high-tech monitoring of thousands of legal coca patches intended to produce coca leaf for traditional uses.

To the surprise of many, this experiment has now led to a significant drop in coca plantings in Mr. Morales’s Bolivia, an accomplishment that has largely occurred without the murders and other violence that have become the bloody byproduct of American-led measures to control trafficking in Colombia, Mexico and other parts of the region.

Yet there are also worrisome signs that such gains are being undercut as traffickers use more efficient methods to produce cocaine and outmaneuver Bolivian law enforcement to keep drugs flowing out of the country.

In one key sign of progress in Bolivia’s approach toward coca, the total acres planted with coca dropped 12 to 13 percent last year, according to separate reports by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. At the same time, the Bolivian government stepped up efforts to rip out unauthorized coca plantings and reported an increase in seizures of cocaine and cocaine base.

“It’s fascinating to look at a country that kicked out the United States ambassador and the D.E.A., and the expectation on the part of the United States is that drug war efforts would fall apart,” said Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivian research group. Instead, she said, Bolivia’s approach is “showing results.”

Still, there is skepticism. “Our perspective is they’ve made real advances, and they’re a long way from where we’d like to see them,” said Larry Memmott, chargé d’affaires of the American Embassy in La Paz. “In terms of law enforcement, a lot remains to be done.”

Although Bolivia outlaws cocaine, it permits the growing of coca for traditional uses. Bolivians chew coca leaf as a mild stimulant and use it as a medicine, as a tea and, particularly among the majority indigenous population, in religious rituals.

On a recent afternoon, Mr. Rojas placed a few dried leaves into his mouth and watched the sun set over his coca field, slightly less than two-fifths of an acre, the maximum allowed per farmer here in this region, known as the Chapare.

“This is a way to keep it under control,” he said, spitting a stream of green juice. “Everyone should have the same amount.”

Mr. Rojas is a face of a changing region. He makes far more money growing bananas for export on about 74 acres than he does growing coca. But he has no intention of giving up his tiny coca plot. “What happens if a disease attacks the bananas?” he asked. “Then we still have the coca to save us.”

The Bolivian government has persuaded growers that by limiting the amount of plantings, coca prices will remain high. And it has largely focused eradication efforts, of the kind that once spurred strong popular resistance, outside the areas controlled by growers’ unions, like in national parks.

The registration of thousands of Chapare growers, completed this year, is part of an enforcement system that relies on growers to police one another. If registered growers are found to have plantings above the maximum allowed, soldiers are called in to remove the excess. If growers violate the limit a second time, their entire crop is cut down and they lose the right to grow coca.

Growers’ unions can also be punished if there are multiple violations among their members.

“We have to be constantly vigilant,” said Nelson Sejas, a Chapare grower who was part of a team that checked coca plots to make sure they did not exceed the limit.

But there is still plenty of cheating. Officials say they are going over the registry of about 43,000 Chapare growers to find those who may have multiple plots or who may violate other rules.

“The results speak for themselves,” said Carlos Romero, the minister of government. “We have demonstrated that you can objectively do eradication work without violating human rights, without polemicizing the topic and with clear results.”

Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Meri Pintas, 30, center, harvesting coca leaves with her children in the Yungas region of Bolivia. Thousands of legal coca patches are intended to produce coca leaf for traditional uses. More Photos »

Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

A counternarcotics agent explained the eradication process to coca growers whose patch was two rows over the legal limit. More Photos »

He said that the government was on pace to eradicate more acres of coca this year than it did last year, without the violence of years past. A government report said 60 people were killed and more than 700 were wounded in the Chapare from 1998 to 2002 in violence related to eradication.

But even as Bolivia shows progress, grave concerns remain.

The White House drug office estimated that despite the decrease in total coca acreage last year, the amount of cocaine that could potentially be produced from the coca grown in Bolivia jumped by more than a quarter. That is because a large amount of recent plantings began to mature and reach higher yields; new plantings with higher yields replaced older, less productive fields; and traffickers switched to more efficient processing methods.

Yet the glaring paradox of Bolivia’s monitoring program is that vast amounts of the legally grown coca ultimately wind up in the hands of drug traffickers and are converted into cocaine and other drugs. Most of those drugs go to Brazil, considered the world’s second-largest cocaine market. Virtually no Bolivian cocaine ends up in the United States.

César Guedes, the representative in Bolivia of the United Nations drugs office, said that roughly half of the country’s coca acreage produces coca that goes to the drug trade. By some estimates, more than 90 percent of the coca in Chapare, one of two main producing regions, goes to drugs.

Two Chapare farmers explained that they generally sell one 50-pound bag of coca leaf from each harvest to the government-regulated market. The rest, often 200 pounds or more, is sold to buyers who work with traffickers and pay a premium over the government-authorized price. One of the growers said he recently delivered coca leaf directly to a lab where it would be turned into drugs.

The central question is how much coca is needed to supply traditional needs. Current government policy permits about 50,000 acres of legal coca plantings, although the actual area in cultivation is much higher. The United Nations estimated there were 67,000 acres of coca last year.

Whatever the exact figure, most analysts agree that far more is produced than is needed to supply the traditional market.

The European Union financed a study several years ago to estimate how much coca was needed for traditional uses, but the Bolivian government has refused to release it, saying that more research is needed.

The push to reduce coca acreage comes as the Morales government is lobbying other countries to amend a United Nations convention on narcotics to recognize the legality of traditional uses of coca leaf in Bolivia. A decision is expected in January.

On a recent morning just after dawn, a squad of uniformed soldiers used machetes to cut down a plot of coca plants near the town of Ivirgarzama.

They had come to chop down an old coca patch that had passed its prime and measure a replacement plot planted by the farmer. The soldiers determined that the new plot was slightly over the limit and removed about two rows of plants before going on their way.

“Before, there was more tension, more conflict, more people injured,” Lt. Col. Willy Pozo said. “This is no longer a war.”

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky contributed reporting from Ivirgarzama, Bolivia.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 15th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The New York Times Op-Ed Contributor

We Need to Retreat From the Beach.

Henning Wagenbreth
By ORRIN H. PILKEY – From Durham, N.C. – Published in the New York Times : November 14, 2012


THE DEBATE – Should New York Build Sea Gates? How can we better protect New York City from flooding?


AS ocean waters warm, the Northeast is likely to face more Sandy-like storms. And as sea levels continue to rise, the surges of these future storms will be higher and even more deadly. We can’t stop these powerful storms. But we can reduce the deaths and damage they cause.

Hurricane Sandy’s immense power, which destroyed or damaged thousands of homes, actually pushed the footprints of the barrier islands along the South Shore of Long Island and the Jersey Shore landward as the storm carried precious beach sand out to deep waters or swept it across the islands. This process of barrier-island migration toward the mainland has gone on for 10,000 years.

Yet there is already a push to rebuild homes close to the beach and bring back the shorelines to where they were. The federal government encourages this: there will be billions available to replace roads, pipelines and other infrastructure and to clean up storm debris, provide security and emergency housing. Claims to the National Flood Insurance Program could reach $7 billion. And the Army Corps of Engineers will be ready to mobilize its sand-pumping dredges, dump trucks and bulldozers to rebuild beaches washed away time and again.

But this “let’s come back stronger and better” attitude, though empowering, is the wrong approach to the increasing hazard of living close to the rising sea. Disaster will strike again. We should not simply replace all lost property and infrastructure. Instead, we need to take account of rising sea levels, intensifying storms and continuing shoreline erosion.

I understand the temptation to rebuild. My parents’ retirement home, built at 13 feet above sea level, five blocks from the shoreline in Waveland, Miss., was flooded to the ceiling during Hurricane Camille in 1969. They rebuilt it, but the house was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (They had died by then.) Even so, rebuilding continued in Waveland.

A year after Katrina, one empty Waveland beachfront lot, on which successive houses had been wiped away by Hurricanes Camille and Katrina, was for sale for $800,000.

That is madness.

We should strongly discourage the reconstruction of destroyed or badly damaged beachfront homes in New Jersey and New York.

Some very valuable property will have to be abandoned to make the community less vulnerable to storm surges. This is tough medicine, to be sure, and taxpayers may be forced to compensate homeowners. But it should save taxpayers money in the long run by ending this cycle of repairing or rebuilding properties in the path of future storms. Surviving buildings and new construction should be elevated on pilings at least two feet above the 100-year flood level to allow future storm overwash to flow underneath. Some buildings should be moved back from the beach.

Respecting the power of these storms is not new. American Indians who occupied barrier islands during the warm months moved to the mainland during the winter storm season. In the early days of European settlement in North America, some communities restricted building to the bay sides of barrier islands to minimize damage.

In Colombia and Nigeria, where some people choose to live next to beaches to reduce exposure to malarial mosquitoes, houses are routinely built to be easily moved.

We should also understand that armoring the shoreline with sea walls will not be successful in holding back major storm surges. As experience in New Jersey and elsewhere has shown, sea walls eventually cause the loss of protective beaches. These beaches can be replaced, but only at enormous cost to taxpayers. The 21-mile stretch of beach between Sandy Hook and Barnegat Inlet in New Jersey was replenished between 1999 and 2001 at a cost of $273 million (in 2011 dollars). Future replenishment will depend on finding suitable sand on the continental shelf, where it is hard to find.

And as sea levels rise, replenishment will be required more often. In Wrightsville Beach, N.C., the beach already has been replenished more than 20 times since 1965, at a cost of nearly $543 million (in 2011 dollars). Taxpayers in at least three North Carolina communities — Carteret and Dare Counties and North Topsail Beach — have voted down tax increases to pay for these projects in the last dozen years. The attitude was: we shouldn’t have to pay for the beach. We weren’t the ones irresponsible enough to build next to an eroding shoreline.

This is not the time for a solution based purely on engineering. The Army Corps undoubtedly will be heavily involved. But as New Jersey and New York move forward, officials should seek advice from oceanographers, coastal geologists, coastal and construction engineers and others who understand the future of rising seas and their impact on barrier islands. We need more resilient development, to be sure. But we also need to begin to retreat from the ocean’s edge.

Orrin H. Pilkey is an emeritus professor of earth sciences at Duke University and a co-author of “The Rising Sea.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 23rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Amazon Farmers Seize Chevron Assets.

SustainableBusiness.com News October 17, 2012.

In a huge success for Amazon farmers that have been suing Chevron for 18 years, an Ecuadorian court ruled they can seize $200 million in assets from the oil company.

That includes $96.3 million the Ecuador government owes Chevron, money held in Ecuadorean bank accounts by Chevron, and licensing fees generated by the use of the company’s trademarks in the country, reports Reuters.

Chevron has been struggling to get out of paying $19 billion in damages to Ecuadorean villagers for polluting rivers with 16 billion gallons of oil sludge from 1964-1990.

This is a critically important case – the first time an indigenous community has prevailed against a multinational corporation. Oil companies are, of course, keeping close watch on this case as it provides an important precedent for communities to fight their pollution.

Shell has a similar case against it in Nigeria.

The company even took it to the US Supreme court, which last week rejected Chevron’s attempt to overturn the $19 billion judgment against it.


The suit was originally brought against Texaco (bought by Chevron in 2001). In February 2011, an Ecuadorean judge imposed damages for $8.6 billion – the fine has more than doubled since then because Chevron has not made the public apology the court required.

Instead, the company filed an appeal in New York to block the judgment, saying it was illegal and unenforceable under the state’s law – and a federal judge took its side in March 2011.

But earlier this year, an appeals court overturned that decision, noting US courts can’t interfere with courts from other countries.
So Chevron appealed again – this time to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s rejection of that appeal opened the door for this week’s ruling, issued in the Amazon town of Lago Agrio.


“This is a huge first step for the rainforest villagers on the road to collecting the entire $19 billion judgment,” Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the communities, told Reuters.

Chevron is fighting back again, charging racketeering against New York attorney Steven Donziger, a group of Ecuadoreans and the environmental groups that helped win the original judgment against it.

It is also bringing the matter to an international trade arbitration panel which is scheduled to begin hearings on the dispute in November, reports Reuters.

After the original judgment, Ecuador and the United Nations Development Program signed a historic deal to leave an estimated 846 million barrels of crude oil untapped beneath Yasuní National Park, a World Biosphere Reserve since 1989.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Venezuela Votes…and Latin America Catches a Cold.

By Estrella Gutiérrez

CARACAS, Oct 4 2012 (IPS) – Sunday’s elections in Venezuela will determine whether the era of President Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution will continue or come to an end. The result will have an impact not only on this country but on the rest of Latin America.

In the first decade of this century, Latin America saw “a nontraumatic epochal change, sometimes manifested as constituent assemblies (to rewrite a constitution), which sought to respond to the demands of the majority and bring about political change. Chávez is its most radical expression,” said Manuel Felipe Sierra, an analyst from the traditional left and a critic of the Venezuelan president.

“This trend, which Chávez claims to have authored although it has roots and leadership in each country, has already passed, and most governments have taken a more conventional democratic route with left-wing overtones,” he told IPS.

In the campaign, Capriles said that if elected, he would maintain membership of all the blocs, including ALBA.

However, he declared that there would be an end to the “freebies” and not a single barrel of oil would leave Venezuela for free, in a country where oil now represents 93 percent of exports, compared to 70 percent in 1998. He was referring to the agreements with countries in the region for oil and gas sales at preferential prices and on easy payment terms.

Asked who would lose the most in the region if Chávez lost, the analysts who spoke to IPS agreed that the Cuban and Nicaraguan governments would be most affected, because they are the most dependent on Venezuelan oil and other resources. “Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador would not be happy, either,” said Shifter.

Capriles promised to maintain good relations with Cuba, and said he would seek a meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro after he meets with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, his priority, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

But he said the current agreements, under which Havana receives between three billion and four billion dollars a year, must be revised.

Chávez, for his part, insists that if he is ousted from the presidency, “darkness will return to Latin American society” and “the empire (the U.S.) will win.”

In Sierra’s view, “Venezuela has a specific weight in the region, as the only country that is structurally a Latin American oil power, even though others also have oil, and it must recover that role and restore it to normal, whatever happens on Sunday.”

Bolivia and Ecuador are other examples of this current, which has as its political integration mechanism the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), led by Venezuela and made up of eight Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Cuba and Nicaragua.

But the regional reform movement has another major reference point, less ideological and radical: the process led by former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), whose programme was based on economic growth with social inclusion and a strengthening of democracy.

Both self-described left-wing and right-wing governments have expressed their support for the Brazilian model, including Venezuela’s opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who declares himself an “admirer and imitator” of Lula.

Capriles, supported by a variegated mix of 29 groups ranging from right to left, points as proof to the Zero Hunger plan he implemented as governor of the northwestern state of Miranda, modelled on Brazil’s anti-hunger strategy.

Most of the latest polls tip Chávez as the favourite to be re-elected for a third time. But growing support for his rival has made the election result uncertain.

Chávez’s style of diplomacy in Latin America has been one of confrontation with right-wing presidents, which polarised countries, governments and summits ever since he took power in February 1999, said experts consulted by IPS, including several close to the president.

“The export of the Bolivarian model, supported by the abusive use of Venezuela’s oil wealth, as well as Chávez´s style, are in decline, whatever happens on Sunday,” said Sierra.

“Furthermore, there is ‘Chávez fatigue’ in the region because of the behaviours and manners that stress even his allies, and that ceased to be useful for the collective interest,” he said.

But Roy Chaderton, Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), said that if Chávez exits the stage, “it would threaten Latin American independence,” especially from the United States, which Chávez refers to as “the empire.”

Chaderton said Venezuela had created in the region “a diversity of dependences, that make us more independent of others and more interdependent among ourselves.”

“In Latin America we created oxygen valves that help us breathe more freely, and that would close off” if Chávez loses, he said.

“These are not just any elections, for Venezuela or for the continent, because of the ideological primacy and polarisation promoted by Chávez, and because if he loses the elections it would confirm the demise of the left-wing neo-populist experiment he was trying to export,” said Teresa Romero, an expert in international relations.

In Romero’s view, even if Chávez is re-elected, “the regional climate has shifted towards the centre,” and within it “Brazil has won the leadership role, with progressive positions that are less strident and more efficient.”

Michael Shifter, the head of the Inter-American Dialogue, a U.S. think tank, said if Chávez left the government it would have “an enormous effect on the regional political scenario, because he has been the most aggressive and polarising voice in the hemisphere over the last decade.”

If change comes to Venezuela, “ideological conflicts will not disappear, but they will be less acute and better channeled,” he told IPS. In his view, Capriles would maintain normal relations with left-wing governments like those of Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua, “but not, as the phrase went in the 1990s, such carnal relationships.”

In addition to ALBA, the Chávez government promoted the foundation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), made up of the region’s 12 countries, and the oil aid organisation Petrocaribe. It also helped create the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) as an alternative to the OAS, which it considers to be dominated by Washington.

In August the government began a process of withdrawal from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which hands down binding rulings on human rights violations committed by states. The only precedent for withdrawal from the OAS human rights court was that of Peru, 20 years ago, during the regime of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000).

Capriles announced that, if he were elected, one of his first steps would be to reverse the process of withdrawal from the Inter-American Court. He also said Venezuela would rejoin the Andean Community, the regional bloc that this country belonged to since the 1960s, which the Chávez administration pulled out of in 2011. It is currently made up of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Chávez’s efforts in the past six years were directed towards Venezuela becoming a full member of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) trade bloc, which he finally achieved in June, after Paraguay’s temporary suspension from the group, made up also of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

“These are changes of alliances based on political and ideological foundations, not on economic reasoning or geographical location,” Sierra said.

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

And from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) backgrounder:

Stakes Are High for Venezuelan Presidential Elections

The October 7 presidential election between Hugo Chavez and Henrique Capriles Radonski holds significant implications for the direction of the country’s “socialist revolution,” its economy, and foreign policy.       Read the Backgrounder »

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


Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times

How Hugo Chávez Became Irrelevant

By FRANCISCO TORO
Published: October 5, 2012

Caracas, Venezuela

Jonathan Bartlett

AS Hugo Chávez, the icon of Latin America’s left, struggles to hang on to his job, it’s tempting to read tomorrow’s closely contested election in Venezuela as a possible signal of the region’s return to the right. That would be a mistake, because the question that’s been roiling Latin America for a dozen years isn’t “left or right?” but “which left?”

Outsiders have often interpreted Latin America’s swing to the left over the last dozen years as a movement of leaders marching in ideological lock step. But within the region, the fault lines have always been clear.

Radical revolutionary regimes in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua joined Cuba, the granddaddy of the far left, in a bloc determined to confront the capitalist world, even if that meant increasingly authoritarian government.

A more moderate set of leaders in Brazil, Uruguay and Guatemala put forth an alternative: reducing poverty through major social reforms without turning their backs on democratic institutions or private property rights.

As Fidel Castro’s favorite son, Mr. Chávez has always been the leader of the radical wing. And Brazil’s size and economic power made it the natural leader of the reformist wing.

Outwardly, the two camps have been at pains to deny that any divisions exist. There have been many pious words of solidarity and lots of regional integration accords. But behind closed doors, each side is often viciously dismissive of the other, with Chávez supporters seeing the Brazilians as weak-kneed appeasers of the bourgeoisie while the Brazilians sneer at Mr. Chávez’s outdated radicalism and chronic incompetence.

As recently as five or six years ago, there was a real ideological contest. A wildly unpopular American president prone to military adventurism helped Mr. Chávez rally the continent against Washington. One country after the next joined the radical axis. First Bolivia, then Nicaragua, Honduras and Ecuador, joined a growing roll call of radicals in 2005 and 2006.

Now the political landscape is almost entirely transformed. Barack Obama’s 2008 victory badly undermined the radicals’ ability to rally opposition to gringo imperialism. Meanwhile, the alternative was becoming increasingly attractive.

Brazil’s remarkable success in reducing poverty speaks for itself. Building on a foundation of macroeconomic stability and stable democratic institutions, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, oversaw the most remarkable period of social mobility in Latin America’s living memory.

As millions of Brazilians rose into the middle class, Mr. Chávez’s autocratic excesses came to look unnecessary and inexcusable to Venezuelans. Mr. da Silva and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, have shown that a country does not need to stack the courts, purge the army and politicize the central bank to fight poverty. Brazil proves that point, quietly, day in and day out.

It isn’t just democratic institutions that have suffered from Mr. Chávez’s radicalism; it’s the economy, too. Venezuela’s traditional dependence on oil exports has deepened, with 96 percent of export revenue now coming from the oil industry, up from 67 percent just before Mr. Chávez took office. Nationalized steel mills produce a fraction of the steel they’re designed for, forcing the state to import the difference. And nationalized electric utilities plunge most of the country into darkness several times a week. The contrast with Brazil’s high-tech, entrepreneurial, export-oriented economy couldn’t be more stark.

For all of Mr. Chávez’s talk of radical transformation, Venezuela’s child mortality and adult literacy statistics have not improved any faster under his government than they did over the several decades before he rose to power.

With oversight institutions neutered, the president now runs the country as a personal fief: expropriating businesses on a whim and deciding who goes to jail. Judges who rule against the government’s wishes are routinely fired, and one has even been jailed. Chávez-style socialism looks like the worst of both worlds: both more authoritarian and less effective at reducing poverty than the Brazilian alternative.

And the region has noticed. The key moment came in April 2011, when Ollanta Humala won the Peruvian presidency. Long seen as the most radical of Latin America’s new breed of leaders, Mr. Humala had run on a Chávez-style platform in 2006 and lost. By last year, he’d seen the way the wind was blowing and remade himself into a Brazilian-style moderate, won and proceeded to govern — so far, successfully — in the Brazilian mold.

Now, in a final indignity, Mr. Chávez is facing a tight re-election race against Henrique Capriles Radonski, a 40-year-old progressive state governor who extols the virtues of the Brazilian model.

Although Mr. Chávez’s government has done its best to paint a caricature of Mr. Capriles as an old-style right-wing oligarch, he is unmistakably within the Brazilian center-left mold: Mr. Capriles pitches himself as an ambitious but pragmatic social reformer committed to ending the Chávez era’s authoritarian excesses.

The rest of Latin America has already been through the ideological battle in which Venezuela remains mired. By and large, other nations have made their choices. The real question in this election is whether Venezuela will join the hemispheric consensus now, or later.

Francisco Toro is a journalist, political scientist and blogger.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 23rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In this release…

Source: Margaret Scott


CAFTA-DR Governments in Contrast to Small-Scale Owners Parcel Engines of Development

[THE CENTRAL AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT THAT INCLUDES THE US AND THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC OF THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS.]

After 8 years of free trade agreement between Central America and the United States, CAFTA-DR has brought increased dependency on international markets for the region. Whereas this development decision was potentially positive for the countries’ economy, it has hindered food security in the region, representing a huge risk to peasant’s lives.

This article was prepared by Mar Guinot Aguado, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

To read full article, click here.

parts of it say:

Historically dependent on their neighbor to the North as the engine for development, the Central American countries agreed to fully open their markets to the United States in the late 2000s. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), initiated in 2002 between El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and the United States, strove to liberalize Central American markets in an effort to increase investments and create economic opportunities throughout the region. The neoliberal policy was aimed at eliminating trade barriers and tariffs on guaranteed agricultural and manufactured goods, investments, and services, which traditionally have led to misery for vulnerable peasants in the agreement’s less developed countries. Central America is the third largest U.S. export market in existence, and up to now the neoliberal ideals imposed by the agreement have mainly benefited large corporations that have migrated to the region. The decision of these governments to establish a free market has hampered the Central American agricultural sector and has decreased food security. This process intensifies the area’s dependency on volatile international markets in a region already threatened by structural malnutrition.

Free-trade advocates had argued that CAFTA-DR would decrease poverty in rural areas and accelerate the development of Central America, substantially benefiting consumers by decreasing prices of consumer products and improving their purchasing power. But years after its implementation, CAFTA-DR has re-structured the countries’ economies by flooding their markets with subsidized grains coming from the Unites States. In fact, between 1995 and 2011, the U.S. government spent $277.3 billion USD in agricultural subsidies, exporting many of these products to Central America.[6] Since the free-trade agreement, Central American countries and the Dominican Republic have been transformed into net food importers, with their governments unable to dedicate as much investment to the agricultural sector. As a result of the international economic integration with trade liberalization, the region has dramatically increased its dependency on imports supplemented by diminishing amounts of aid, and thus has been exposed to the volatility of commodity prices. Yet, low food prices in Central America have not effectively mitigated hunger.

According to the 2008 State of the Region Report, “An increase of 15 percent in the price of food could mean 2.5 million more people in extreme poverty, particularly in Guatemala and Honduras.” The report shows “a model of rising imports (wheat, rice and corn went up to about 30 percent in available food between 1990-2003) with tripled prices for wheat and doubled prices for corn and rice (2008-2009),” which not only “leads to profits for the companies that import the goods, but growing malnutrition, especially among the region’s rural and indigenous poor.”[7] For example, El Salvador imports 79 percent of its rice and 43 percent of its corn. Similarly, Costa Rica imports 77 percent of its beans while Guatemala imports 100 percent of its wheat and 70 percent of its rice.[8] Food prices have risen internationally; wheat prices have grown 152 percent and maize prices have grown 122 percent between 2006 and 2008.[9] This price inflation, therefore, has negatively affected poor people in the region, who suffer from a huge dependency on agricultural imports promulgated by CAFTA-DR.

Instead of growing yields destined for local consumption, the trade agreement has led to a decrease in the diversification of production and a concentration on exportable crops in Central America. From the 1990s to 2005, local food production—such as rice, beans, and corn—shrank by 50 percent.[10] Prior to the agreement, 75 percent of Central American exports had free access to the U.S. market through bilateral agreements. This slashed CAFTA-DR’s developmental benefits for Central America.[11] Moreover, the huge size differences between the United States’ and the other countries’ markets seriously hindered Central America in seeking an equal negotiation.

Developed countries are promoting the cultivation of biofuel crops, such as palm oil in Guatemala, as a sustainable development project strategy. Yet, this expansion deepens food insecurity in this afflicted region by weakening rural sustainability.

According to USA Rice Federation Chairman Lee Adams, echoing the upbeat attitude of other unalloyed boosters, “support for CAFTA-DR means more jobs for rural America, and greater stability for U.S. agriculture.”[18] Their argument is that CAFTA-DR has positively impacted agriculture in the U.S., increasing its exports to the region by 84 percent from 2005 to 2011, which represented $4.2 billion USD in 2010.[19] For the United States, removing agricultural barriers to this market has thus created a beneficial solution to its overproduction of farming goods. In that sense, the trade agreement is destroying any possibility of balanced regional integration within a Central American common market. Yet, the Central American governments continue to push toward a developmental model through free trade agreements, signing the new Association Agreement with the European Union in June 2012.[20] Similar to CAFTA-DR, this economic integration allows at least some kind of cooperation within Central America. While other trade alternatives exist such as ALBA, based on a more cooperative perspective, Central American governments chose the CAFTA-DR approach for their countries, which appears to only support narrow development.

The neoliberal policies implemented in the region through the CAFTA-DR agreement have negatively impacted these less developed countries. Subsidized production from the U.S. and superficially sustainable biofuel projects from developed countries have repeatedly devastated rural economies

———————————————————————

Ecuador’s Correa Sounds The Bugle

Senior Research Fellow Sean Burges examines the political ramifications of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s decision to grant Wikileaks founder Julian Assange asylum. In this piece, Burges examines how Correa is expanding upon his tradition of a reformist populist agenda that confronts the established political orders of more Westernized countries. As the media focus on Assange, Correa is using the distraction to further implement his domestic agenda while using the splash tiny Ecuador has caused to solidify his leftist credentials.

This article was prepared by Sean Burges, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

To read full article, that explains the Correa Ecuador stand vis-a-vis the UK and the US please click here.

Some excerpts are:

The situation with respect to the US is not much different from the way Correa views the UK which has its entanglement with Latin America because of the Malvinas Islands. Correa can bank on Latin support versus the UK – this includes the strong Brazil. Relations with Washington remain stable despite sustained provocations. In 2009 Correa delivered a major blow to US drug interdiction policy by refusing to renew the Pentagon’s lease on the Manta airbase in southern Ecuador. This was followed last year with the expulsion of the US ambassador, ironically because of the material released in the WikiLeaks Cablegate.

These provocations and a habitually anti-imperialist rhetoric from Correa had little impact on trade with the US. From 2005 to last year, exports to the US grew by 20.5 per cent. More importantly for Correa’s strategic thinking, the US share of Ecuador’s exports fell from 49.7 per cent to 34.6 per cent, and this trade was concentrated in the fish, fruit and oil that have a ready Chinese market.

The foreign policy and economic cost of provoking Britain and US is thus remarkably low for Correa, allowing him to use Assange to further burnish his anti-imperialist credentials among his domestic political supporters. For Correa, maintaining credibility as a forceful voice against imperialism and a staunch rhetorical critic of the US is a domestic political necessity. His entire agenda is directed towards transforming the political and social structure of Ecuador, which automatically threatens the interests of the established political and economic elite.

Given that the three presidents elected before Correa were belted from office by massive indigenous popular protests or congressional conspiracy, it is hard to argue that there was not a need for constitutional reform in Ecuador. At issue were the twin problems of the near impossibility of electing a congress that would co-operate with the president and the systemic exclusion of the country’s indigenous peoples (25 per cent of the population) and the mixed-heritage mestizos (65 per cent) from real political participation.

Correa wasted little time in pursuing reform after his 2006 election. To facilitate inclusion and break gridlock, Correa called a constitutional convention in 2007, which duly drafted a new magna carta for Ecuador. In 2008, the document was put to a national referendum and approved by 64 per cent of the population as the country’s 20thconstitution. The established political and economic elite is not happy and is doing all it can to undermine Correa. Although poverty rates in Ecuador have dropped from 37.6 per cent to 28.6 per cent over the past five years, the political reality is that it is very easy to spin a quarter of the population remaining impoverished as a cataclysmic failure of governmental policy.



###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 14th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Columbia FDI Perspectives

Perspectives on topical foreign direct investment issues bythe Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment

No. 76   August 13, 2012


Editor-in-Chief: Karl P. Sauvant (Karl.Sauvant@law.columbia.edu)

Managing Editor: Jennifer Reimer (jreimer01@gmail.com)

A good business reason to support mandatory transparency in extractive industries

by Perrine Toledano and Julien Topal

Perrine Toledano (perrinetoledano@gmail.com) is the Lead Economics and Policy Researcher at the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC);

Julien Topal (Julien.Topal@eui.eu) is a PhD-researcher at the Department of Social and Political Sciences of the European University Institute, Florence, Italy, and a Research Associate at the VCC.

The authors wish to thank Laurent Coche, Matthew Genasci, Isabel Munilla, and Jessica van Onselen for their helpful peer reviews.

The views expressed by the authors of this Perspective do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Columbia University or its partners and supporters. Columbia FDI Perspectives (ISSN 2158-3579) is a peer-reviewed series.

The material in this Perspective is reprinted by permission of the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment. and is accompanied by the following acknowledgment: “Perrine Toledano and Julien Topal, “A good business reason to support mandatory transparency in extractive industries?”  -  Columbia FDI Perspectives, No. 76 August 13, 2012.  (www.vcc.columbia.edu).

————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Transparency demands in extractive industries are tied to the complex paradoxical correlation between significant resource endowment and poverty in many resource-dependent countries. Citizens of these countries and international investors alike only have limited means to scrutinize money-flows between governments and companies, disrupting accountability mechanisms.

Improving accountability and access to information is a step toward ending the resource curse. Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act, known as the Cardin-Lugar Transparency Amendment, requires extractive companies listed at US-securities exchanges to disclose all payments made to host country governments on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis. Amid corporate opposition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has only now, more than one year late and after Oxfam America started court proceedings and over 65 Congress members put pressure on the SEC, set a date to vote on the rules. [1] However, despite opposition, there is a business case to be made in support of such mandatory transparency demands.

The debate on the Transparency Amendment has, very broadly, two camps: the opponents — most expressively represented by the American Petroleum Institute — and the proponents, including civil society with Publish What You Pay (PWYP) as the main supporter, groups of investors and certain congressional members. While supporting the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), the corporate lobby opposes the SEC rules for allegedly causing high implementation costs, opposing legal demands and a comparative disadvantage for US-listed companies. The second camp has challenged these claims and has argued in favor of the amendment as a promising answer to the limitations of the voluntary EITI.

Companies maintain that implementation costs can exceed US$ 50 million since they will have to re-devise their accounting instruments to disclose project-based and non-material information. Civil society and even The Economist have contested the veracity of this claim, noting that much information is already collected and calculating that US$ 50 million is little more than 0.1% of ExxonMobil’s last year’s revenue.[2] The claims that demands of the Transparency Amendment contradict host country confidentiality laws are also ill placed. [3] Civil society rebutted this claim by demonstrating that most countries allow for exceptions based on stock exchanges’ disclosure demands.[4]

There is no denying that a certain short-term competitive disadvantage is created for impacted companies — although the European Council’s directive for mandatory payment disclosure limits the scope of not-covered competition. Companies contend they will lose bids either because host countries prefer non-disclosing companies or because disclosed information is commercially sensitive. Here is the reality-check: Angola just awarded deep water oil blocks to Statoil, Eni, Total, and BP, which are all EITI-supporters and covered by the Amendment, which incidentally only deals with non-commercially-sensitive fiscal information widely shared by the industry. Lastly, the competitive disadvantage argument is unduly cynical. Part of the complaint has to do with the limitations on bypassing the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act by “creatively” bribing through either “facilitators” or local partnerships. Bribery is illegal both in the US and Europe; “[k]eeping it hard to expose would not make it more legal.”[5]

Companies have a choice to play either destructive or constructive roles in the quest for transparency.

The choice consists of either accepting narrow capitalism — which prescribes short-term profitability and concomitant opposition to regulatory limitations on corporate operations — or believing in a forward-looking and long-term shared value approach to business. Through a shared value lens, companies seek out benefits for both shareholders and the communities in which they operate since the companies understand that they require a social license to operate to attain long-term success. Increasingly, investors seek out companies based on such long-term credentials.

Various studies by the Vale Columbia Center found that transparency — measured by companies’ country-by-country reporting — holds a promise for better corporate performance. One such study showed a clear correlation between transparency and better financial results along different measures.[6] Interestingly, those transparent companies are also associated with fewer cases of human rights abuse.

Corporate leaders should change tactics and transform a short-term comparative disadvantage into the comparative advantage of being first-movers. This means to follow in the footstep of BP’s former CEO[7] and support recent attempts by the US President to encourage the development of a global transparency regime, which will be achieved either by pushing other stock exchanges — starting with Europe — to follow suit or by improving on the disclosure demands of the current host country-led EITI. For their own sakes, companies should acknowledge that the transparency moment is now and the stakes are high.

——————————–

[1] The vote is scheduled for August 22, 2012. Securities and Exchange Commission, available at: www.sec.gov/news/openmeetings/2012/ssamtg082212.htm.

[2] “Extracting oil, burying data,” The Economist, February 25, 2012.

[3]Angola, Cameroon, China, and Qatar have such laws according to API and Shell. API’s letter, January 28, 2011: available at:www.sec.gov/comments/s7-42-10/s74210-10.pdf. PWYP US (www.sec.gov/comments/s7-42-10/s74210-29.pdf andwww.sec.gov/comments/s7-42-10/s74210-118.pdf) and the Cameroonian organization RELUFA (www.sec.gov/comments/s7-42-10/s74210-96.pdf) deny these claims.

[4] VCC’s memo to the SEC, available at: www.sec.gov/comments/s7-42-10/s74210-52.pdf.

[5] “Transparency rules,” Financial Times editorial, February 26, 2012.

[6] The results have been communicated to the SEC: www.sec.gov/comments/s7-42-10/s74210-115.pdf; VCC memos are available at www.vcc.columbia.edu/content/vcc-memos.

[7] John Browne, “Europe must enforce oil sector transparency,” Financial Times, April 24, 2012.

—————————–

For further information, including information regarding submission to the Perspectives, please contact: Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment, Jennifer Reimer, jreimer01@gmail.com or jreimer@lyhplaw.com.

The Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC – www.vcc.columbia.edu), led by Lisa Sachs, is a joint center of Columbia Law School and The Earth Institute at Columbia University. It seeks to be a leader on issues related to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the global economy. VCC focuses on the analysis and teaching of the implications of FDI for public policy and international investment law.

Most recent Columbia FDI Perspectives

  • No. 75, Alex Berger et al., “Attracting FDI through BITs and RTAs: Does treaty content matter?,” Columbia FDI Perspectives, July 30, 2012.
  • No. 74, M Sornarajah, “Starting anew in international investment law,” July 16, 2012.
  • No. 73, Lorenzo Cotula, “Law at two speeds: Legal frameworks regulating foreign investment in the global South,” June 29, 2012.
  • No. 72, Torfinn Harding and Beata Javorcik, “Roll out the red carpet and they will come: Investment promotion and FDI inflows,” June 18, 2012.
  • No. 71, Thomas Jost, “Much ado about nothing? State-controlled entities and the change in German investment law,” June 4, 2012.
  • No. 70, Terutomo Ozawa, “FDI, catch-up growth stages and stage-focused strategies,” May 28, 2012.
  • No. 69, Karl P. Sauvant, “The times they are a-changin’ — again — in the relationships between governments and multinational enterprises: From control, to liberalization to rebalancing,” May 21, 2012.
  • No. 68, Sophie Meunier et al., “Economic patriotism: Dealing with Chinese direct investment in the United States,” May 14, 2012.
  • No. 67, Paul Antony Barbour et al., “The Arab Spring: How soon will foreign investors return?,” May 7, 2012.
  • No. 66, Kalman Kalotay, “Does it matter who invests in your country?,” April 30, 2012.


Karl P. Sauvant, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow
Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment
Columbia Law School – Earth Institute
Columbia University
435 West 116th Street, Rm. JGH 638
New York, NY 10027
Ph: (212) 854-0689
Fax: (212) 854-7946

Please visit our website - www.vcc.columbia.edu

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 28th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Examining Capitalism Through Quantum Mechanics

Saturday, 28 July 2012 08:42By Michael OrtizTruthout | Op-Ed

As human beings, we don’t just construct social realities and social systems, but we literally help construct the physical universe of which we are a part. Therefore, understanding the relationship between human beings and the quantum reality of the universe becomes paramount if we seek to truly understand and transform the social and structural systems of inequality that we have created for ourselves.

According to quantum mechanics, the subatomic level of reality exists in an undifferentiated state of dynamic flux until a conscious observer measures it (or looks at it), thus, giving that matter a particular form. In other words, an atom is spread out all over the place as a wave of potential until a conscious observer localizes it as an actual particle through that very act of observation.

The famous double-slit experiment actually captured this protean nature of the quantum world. The double-slit experiment essentially launched particles through a single slit, whereby each particle left a residual mark on the back wall where it landed (creating a single band pattern). However, when particles were launched through two slits, they left a residual interference pattern on the back wall (which can only be created by waves that interfere with each other). Even when particles were launched through the two slits one at a time, they still created an interference pattern. (This occurrence is impossible according to classical quantum physics.) So, in order to figure out how this interference pattern was occurring, physicists placed a measuring device by the slits to observe the particles after they were launched. Astonishingly, when the particles were launched with the measuring device in place, they actually created a residual mark of a double band pattern (which was expected in the first place). What physicists determined was that, prior to being observed, each single particle actually existed as a wave of potentials that simultaneously went through both slits at the same time; thus interfering with itself and leaving a residual interference pattern. So in essence, conscious observation then collapses the quantum wave function of particles and thus localizes them at a fixed point.

Moreover, quantum superposition “holds that a physical system – such as an electron – exists partly in all its particular, theoretically possible states (or, configuration of its properties) simultaneously; but, when measured, it gives a result corresponding to only one of the possible configurations (as described in interpretation of quantum mechanics).”

The more we look at elementary particles, the more we realize that there is actually no such thing as one electron or one photon on its own. A particle exists only in relationship to the state that it finds itself in, with no generic or concrete form. So, the more we examine “solid matter” in great detail, the less solid it actually becomes.

Earth with cogs and wheels (Photo: Earth with cogs and wheels via Shutterstock)

Now, contradictory to contemporary quantum mechanics is the traditional conception of solid matter as the “substance” of the universe. Why is this important? Because “belief that the substance of the universe is matter (or physical material) sets the precedent for people to accumulate as many material possessions and riches as possible [especially under the system of capitalism],” says UK author David Icke. Most of us in contemporary Western culture have been socialized to view the world through a consumerist lens (among a plethora of other social lenses) which implies that a solid, material realm objectively exists. Furthermore, the system of capitalism creates the conditions necessary for more and more people to actively participate in practices that perpetuate the misconception that a solid, material world inexorably dictates our perceptions and belief systems. Maximized material conquest and material gain becomes the modus operandi of a capitalistic system.

Further illuminating the nature of capitalism, Chris Hedges states:

“The quest by a bankrupt elite in the final days of empire to accumulate greater and greater wealth is modern society’s version of primitive fetishism … When the most basic elements that sustain life are reduced to a cash product, life has no intrinsic value. The extinguishing of ‘primitive’ societies, those that were defined by animism and mysticism, those that celebrated ambiguity and mystery, those that respected the centrality of the human imagination, removed the only ideological counterweight to a self-devouring capitalist ideology.”

Here we see some of the characteristics of neoliberal capitalism which subscribe to the notion that the world be defined in “material” terms. The ruling ideology of capitalism has sought out to extinguish any alternative thought or knowledge that understands the world in immaterial terms and replace it with the narrow ideology of materialism, consumerism, commodification. The more people who are complicit in capitalist ideology (among other forms of dominant ideologies), the stronger the possibilities become to fetishize and develop the concept of “the material.” all while the expropriation of vast forms of land, wealth, resources and capital become normalized and accepted. Furthermore, once all “material” resources have become accessed (or more importantly not accessed by the majority of people), exploited and exhausted, then the majority of people become even more subjected to the harsh and misleading conditions that capitalism inflicts upon them.

So, as far as quantum mechanics is concerned, capitalism is based on the (false) assumption that an absolute “material” world actually exists “out there.” Traditional criticisms of capitalism typically focus on the exploitation of labor and human bodies, as well as massive class inequalities and social injustice; however, they leave out one crucial aspect in it all: that capitalist ideology and capitalist operation mislead us about the nature of the universe (which includes the nature of ourselves since we are part of the universe, as well). With that said, we can actually use our knowledge of quantum mechanics to transform our perceptions about the world around us, thus alleviating some of the conditions that capitalism creates for us. Even Einstein alluded to the idea that we can utilize science to “potentially change the world itself” by using “rational thinking and technology to improve the conditions in which we live.” (1) As Peter Dreier states:

“Einstein criticized capitalism’s ‘economic anarchy’ and the ‘oligarchy of private capital, the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by democratically organized political society.’”

If Einstein could apply his knowledge of science and the quantum reality to social injustice and systemic inequality, then there is no reason that we cannot do the same here and now.

Given the fact that the underlying premise of capitalism acts in opposition to the principles of quantum mechanics and, therefore, the nature of the universe itself (as understood through quantum mechanics), then we should not be confounded in the least when we experience the destructive consequences of a system that is based on prodigious wealth and material accumulation. This systemic discord or imbalance is bound to perpetuate the likes of environmental devastation and vast human suffering. Furthermore, one of the unspoken consequences of capitalistic operation is the alienation from one’s humanity and from nature. Not only are we inundated by a social and economic matrix of domination every single day, but that very matrix detaches us from the universe (or nature) in a sense. So, we should not just look to eradicate the deleterious conditions of capitalism, but rather, we should look to understand and work in accordance with the universe, so that destructive systemic conditions do not even come into existence in the first place.

Consequently, when we look at the world through the lens of quantum mechanics, we see that the economic systems of capitalism, socialism and communism actually have more in common with each other since they all are based on material acquisition and distribution and on the assumption that our world is a fundamentally material realm. However, we can use quantum mechanics to create an entirely new way of viewing and operating inside of the world, which would require a drastic philosophical and ideological change of epic proportion. Epic change, perhaps, is a concept that we may need to start entertaining.

Lastly, as if world hunger, poverty, class inequality, sickness and disease, permanent war and ecological ruination weren’t enough to present a critical case against capitalism, then consider the following. In relative terms to the rest of the entire universe, quantum mechanics shows us just how narrow, constrictive and destructive the system of capitalism actually is.

References:

(1) Dreier, Peter. 2012. “Albert Einstein: Radical Citizen and Scientist.” Truthout, June 25.

This article is a Truthout original.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 16th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Three weeks passed since the Rio 2012 Conference. We received mail from many sources, read newspaper articles and I participated at five de-briefings.

There seems to be a general acceptance of the reality that the United Nations is not capable to act in accordance to the Agenda 21, as it was agreed in Rio in 1992, and is not capable to come to any conclusive document that contains a plan of action that obligates all Member States. The UN will never agree that it failed this – let’s face it – because there are jobs involved and UN officials hate to contemplate the fact that they have not performed even if it was not their fault. Interesting, material that reached us from the UN, does not mention that the Commission on Sustainable Development, according to the Rio+20 final document, will have to be closed and lessons from the CSD will be passed to some new body to result from the deliberations of the Universal Membership High Level Political Forum. The fact that it is passed over in silence means to us that forces at the UN hope to undo above Rio decision.

The fact that Brazil probably had its draft document ready at the end of the New York part of the informal-informal is being lauded only by some, with the majority of opinions we heard saying this was not according to UN democracy standards – a term we do not understand. People saying such things seem to welcome blinders on their eyes – this as if they never saw those hundreds of pages of bracketed material that wasted time, money, and effort without getting us closer to positive action.

Furthermore, the UN description of “the-sky-is-blue” even on a rainy day has been accepted also by many diplomats stationed in New York by their home governments  - this gets truer the longer their appointment – and their reporting to home base echos the UN Secretariat rather then the real facts on the ground. This clearly can obfuscate home-office judgement if not for the special envoys that came to participate at the specific meetings. The latter are of real use only if they stayed at the meetings and fought in the trenches – coming  just for a couple of days does not allow for full understanding of the facts.

As we wrote in our first posting – which we include at the end of this posting – in our opinion – it was paragraphs 84-86 of the Brazilian “Our Common Vision” – that became the UN’s “Our Common Future” – that include the essence of the potential of progress starting with the UN General Assembly – September 2012. But it seems that those paragraphs, the reference to Future Generations, and the reevaluation at the UN General Assembly of Sustainable Development, are missing in the reporting by UN Missions to home base, in the major Press, and in evaluation by NGOs. We are left to ask who did not read the actual text and had a second hand position in their analysis? Judging by the five debriefings, we are left further wondering above those missing points.

My own debriefing was the first in the series. It was on July 3rd at a private home and organized by the Vienna chapter of the Society for International Development (SID) – a Rome based NGO. I had the chance to point out the potential value of the Brazilian Diplomats’ work and was able to correct the impression some of the participants got from reading the daily papers – the idea that RIO was a failure because it did not come up with exact figures of funding and targets.  Ambassador Thomas Nowotny was the de-briefer.


On July 5th there were two conflicting events: a meeting with students at UNIDO, and a meeting with NGOs at the Amerlinghouse – a Cultural Center in Vienna’s 7th District Stiftgasse . I had committed to go to the first meeting – went there just to excuse myself and, sure, people were present who heard my reporting the other day, left for the second meeting.

At the Amerlinghaus, the title of the event had a question mark – “Rio+20: Conference with meaning for Development and Environment?” The meeting was called by Ruth Picker, Director of Global Responsibility – Association for Development and Humanitarian Aid Ltd. (AG Globale Verantwortung) who chaired the event (I manage the Global Responsibility – Association for Development and Humanitarian Aid.  All info at: www.globaleverantwortung.at).

The other co-sponsor was the Catholic Aid organization Dreikoenigsaktion DKA.

The panel  included Mr. Werner Raza, Head of the Austrian Research Foundation for International Development OEFSE, Mr. Alexander Egit, Director of Greenpeace Austria, and Daniel Bacher, Spokesman for the Advocacy for Africa at the DKA – all members of the official Austrian Government delegation to the Rio Conference.

The questions posed were:

- What outcomes from the Rio Conference can be pointed out and how can they be evaluated/realized  politically?

- What perspectives open up in these conclusions? What new steps are projected?

- What is the relevance of the Rio conclusions to  NGO? Opportunities / challenges / approaches (starting points)?


Debriefing with representatives of Austrian organizations that were in Rio.

For more information: praktikant@globaleverantwortung.at
 www.rioplus20.at/terminliste.asp?…

[Werner Raza: Director Austrian Research Foundation for International Development / ÖFSE, CEO of Global Responsibility in Rio, part of the official Austrian delegation, Alexander Egit: CEO Greenpeace Austria, part of the official Austrian delegation, Daniel Bacher: Speaker advocacy and projects in Africa, Dreikönigsaktion / DKA, moderated by Ruth Picker: Managing Global Responsibility
De-briefing provides a framework for the exchange of the Austrian NGO representatives who were in Rio with it.]

The Austrian Greenpeace saw in the Rio outcome an “unbelievably great potential for Austria” in the follow up from Rio+20. He wants to see an alliance between the State sector and the NGO sector and points at the US as an example.
He looks at strategic questions.

The OeFSE said the preparation for the conference was good but the outcome document was not good – there is a new central theme but little concrete things to go by. He sees a crisis in multilateralism – countries like Venezuela could bloc results – there is not enough central mass for political capital to invest in. Already on Tuesday (June 19 – on the eve of the Conference) the final text was presented – all those things the EU worked on were taken out or blocked including the 2o/20, the High Commissioner, the UNEP Agency, the SDG Commission … etc.

The DKA Africa continues on the SDG and says new alliances are ready but the NGOs set out for the wrong themes and did not use the critical mass that was there. Colombia tried to mobilize an approach but there was missing the coalition to follow up. One must be strong to talk of a Green Economy. He was surprised at the Sustainability introduction and expected at least some reform there.

OeFSE sees the possibility for progress in Intergovernmental follow-up starting with the UN Secretary-General’s report. The SDGs – what are they? It all has still to be decided. The Arab States interferred with the document – specially on the issue of women.

Were there any surprises?

Greenpeace answered that section C (Engaging major groups and other stakeholders.) has a lot of points in it that are progress versus the Status Quo. Things like how much fish one can take from the sea – this is based now on the fish not on the number of ships anymore. Also, the consumption issue is now in the text. The negatives? Yes – the issues of subsidies and financing are missing teeth. Something  must happen now in the political process.

DKA on Surprises – on SD and HR – what is an Intergovernmental process? Nothing happened in Rio on these topics. The British NGOs are very critical. On SD financing strategy – there is a process but nothing concrete. The Global Compact, Responsibility to Protect – very little on these themes. The need for a commission – its name is ECOSOC.
On the positive side – the BIP is now on the discussion table.

On finances – the G20 were in Mexico and did NOT come to Rio – the document still talks of growth – and this is wrong.

OeFSE pointed out on the positive side the RioDialogues. On the negative side – the Green Economy for the Developing Countries is seen only as a way to achieve SD and as such expect financing from the outside in order to be able to employ new technologies. For the Europeans, the financial situation makes this impossible. He suggested that Austria look outside the general European situation.

Greenpeace picked up from this to separate look at Austria, the UN, and the multilateral system. Austria has a good thematic balance, the East Europeans have memories from international help 10-15 years ago.

OeFsSE says the question is the quality of growth – the Unions look at Brazil and see that there is no internal criticism on growth in Brazil by their Unions – though on environment there is criticism.

The chair asks DKA about growth when everyone looks at “what does it for us?” He answered that in coming years it will be SD and Energy, then from 2015 will kick in SDGs to replace the MDGs. So what can Austria achieve?

In the short general Q&A session I was also able to point out that there was enough material in what came out in the discussion to say that Austria can pick up topics and enlarge on Vienna’s role in the follow-up.  After all, many of the organizations that will be involved are already headquartered in Vienna.

OeFSE said that because of all this renewed attention projects should get faster and easier.

In conclusion, this was a very good discussion, but nevertheless I had to note that the people who participated were on the official Government delegation – funded in their trip to Rio by the government – so what about the NGO idea? What about points that were missing in their presentations that were also missing in direct government presentations? How different are now our official NGOs from those that came to  Rio as part of delegations from authoritarian regimes?         I know this comment will not get me friends – but let us stop and think for a moment so it does not get worse.


On July 9th again two conflicting events – a 5:30-7:00 PM event at the Tivolistrasse home of the Political Academy (PolAk) of the Austrian OEVP – the political party to which  Vice-Chancellor (and Foreign Minister) Mr. Michael Spindelegger, and the Life Minister (Forestry, Environment and Water Resources) Nicholas Berlakovich belong.  The Secretary of State Wolfgang A. Waldner, the Head of the Austrian Delegation to the Rio Conference gave the debriefing, Dr. Michael Schaller  of www.Sustainable.com doing the de-briefing .  Mr. Daniel Bacher of the Catholic Aid project DKA, an NGO member of the Austrian delegation, added from his own Rio experience as well. The third member of the panel was Mr. Josef Ober Head of “Vulkanland” – a Styria, Austria, NGO (he was not in Rio though originally intended to go there). PolAk/IUFE was ahead of the Rio meeting host to Ambassador Thomas Stelzer, at present the highest Austrian official working in the UN Secretariat who presented the UN expectations from the RIO+20 event.

The Chair/debriefer said that we are already looking at Rio+21 in order to see what is possible to achieve with what we have got out of RIO+20.

Mr. Waldner told us that the delegation to Rio numbered 23 people and it included members from three ministries – Foreign Affairs, LIFE, and Science – young people (three nominated by the LIFE Ministry as they had a Sustainable Deelopment project), NGOs etc. He said that the event was originally suggested by Brazil as a reminder of the 1992 meeting, but then increased in attention when the Green Economy idea surfaced and Colombia and Guatemala pushed the SDG concept.

- The EU wanted to strengthen UNEP, and it did happen in part.
- Austria wanted attention to the water subject and it happened.
- On the Green Economy Austria worked with the EU and though it did not come through, nevertheless there is the recognition that this is the way for SD, the Secretary of State said.

Mr. Bacher said that there was in parallel an official Summit on Africa that had 60 members of Catholic Aid organizations in Rio. The other topics he pinpointed were the Green Economy and Institutional Reforms.

Mr Ober in his opening statement said that Rio 1992 was a marker but had little results. He added that there is a vision in Europe that this is not the end and he feels a striving for a better World.

Mr. Waldner pointed out the Energy Day that was before the Conference and the hundreds of parallel events. He mentioned the IIASA study that was presented at the highest level – that will be the basis for energy policy in different countries. This alone was of special importance to Austria. All this happened on June 19th – the same day “we got” the document without discussion. The Brazilians did not want to have a broken conference without a document, he said. Mr. Waldner further mentioned that in the last day he met three Ministers from Bhutan.

Asked what he hopes to see as follow up, he said that not enough was yet explained to the people. He was at the “Sustainable Energy for All” event of the Secretary-General, and he was at an event were $50 billion were pledged in half an hour. So, there is hope. The follow up will be now in New York.

Mr. Ober said that we think Austria can be Energy autark, we can be more sustainable and economically right as well – but we must get targets (Ziele in German) – and he asked “Where is the Image (Geist in German) of Rio” and I assume he meant the RIO of 1992.

Mr. Bacher saw in the whole thing rather a disappointment as no new commitments came up, and as the Green Economy needs funds – with the current conditions in the EU, Canada, the US …  - nothing will be forthcoming he said. Further, he also remarked that the political forum is not with it, and no new organization will be acceptable to the US.

At the very short Q&A part I had a chance to say that I was happy the Secretary-of-State met with the Bhutanese as they besides the Brazilians were heroes of RIO+20, also I reminded him of the missing attention to the paragraphs on Future Generations as a vehicle for change. He anwered that these are part of the EU interest.

The other event that day was a 7:00-9:00 event at the OIIP with the participation of the Foreign Ministry representative to the Rio+20 process, Walter-Maria Stoyan and NGO member of the delegation Miroslav Polzer. Also on the panel Mr. Mathias Jurek, the Vienna representative of UNEP, Philipp Schoffmann of the UN Global Compact in Vienna and two further Vienna NGOs – Julia Rainer and Gabriele Pekny.

I ended up going first to the PolAk event (the Julius Raab Foundation and IUFE), then arriving one hour late to the OIIP event that went well overtime. I was pulled into the discussion by the Moderator/Chair – Professor Otmar Hoell. OIIP is The Austrian Institute for International Policy – an independent, non-academic, scientific research institute in Vienna – nevertheless – it works with ACUNS (The Academic Council on the United Nations System).

Mr. Schoffman, and from the floor Dr. Leo Gabriel, an anthropologist and Journalist, added that there was more to Rio then the official meeting. There were agreements in the side events – in the business area and also in the Peoples Sustainability Treaties. Mr. Gabriel spoke of the “La Cupola dos Povos” – the Alternate Meeting at Rio that was apart from the official meeting and involved indigenous people.

Please See The alternate summit was given $5m funding by the Brazilian government and is supported by many of the major charitable organisations such as Oxfam and Greenpeace, as well as the local Brazilian charities such as ITPA.

The counter conference was much less formal than the official summit, with negotiations taking place in marquees and tents. A variety of music was played in the background, from reggae to folk songs. The state of the art, air conditioned conference rooms of the Rio+20 summit seemed like they were a million miles away.
At the other end of the strip, green entrepreneurs displayed sustainable business ideas at two brightly illuminated showrooms. Among the ingenious ways to make money and save resources were Acquazero, a biowash for cars that its suppliers claim uses 99% less water than a power hose, and Ecomaquinas, which makes bricks from recycled construction waste and – at a pilot programme level – old money taken out of circulation.”  BY: Peter Leatherbarrow.


On July 14th there was the last debriefing of this series –  This was a special event organized by  left leaning intellectuals. It was titled “How do we go on from Rio+20?”- about the campaign against the “Green Economy” and the fight for new economy and social models.             It dealt with the main governments meeting as secondary to the “People’s” meeting that the Brazilian government arranged to be held 35 Km away from the main site of RioCentro.

The meeting at the Cultural Center Das Werk in Vienna was arranged for a date that was sandwiched between a day after a major left study event at the Albert Schweizer House – a panel on Social Transformation Perspectives  in Latin America and in Europe,  and was then followed by a 5 day, 4500 people world convention on Latin American studies (the 54 International Congress of Americanists (ICA).

The Moderator/de-briefer was Kristina Dietz of the Latin American Institute of the Free University of Berlin. At the ICA meeting this week, she will be speaking at a session organized by Mr. Werner Raza of OeFSE, who was mentioned earlier, the topic dealing with Socio-Environmental impacts of extractivism in the Andean-Amazonian countries.

The debriefing was sponsored by Attac, Eca Watch Austria, transform!at, The Green Education Workshop Austria, the Information group Latin America, the Papaya Media Association, and was also on the Karl Renner Institute information. This was thus a clear left event and we must note of very high level of content.

The panel included:
Iara Pitricovsky, co-director, the Institute for Socioeconomic Studies in Brazilia,

Jutta Kill of Fern, UK, Tom Kuchartz, Energy and ecology director at www.ecologistasenaccion.org

Edgardo Lander, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Transnational Institute, who at the ICA meeting will co-chair with the University of Vienna Ulrich Brand,  Thursday, July 19th the Symposium on Democratization and Transformation Perspectives. He works also at an institute in Amsterdam,

and Dr. Leo Gabriel of the the Institute for Intercultural Research and Cooperation (IIRC), who also spoke from the floor at the OIIP debriefing. He wrote in the “lateinamerika anders” Magazine the article: “‘Green Economy’ versus Social- and Environmentpact” that is very much along the lines of this debriefing.

These speakers believe that a lot has happened at RIO+20, but this happened not at the official meeting but at the meetings of the business people. Some of these meetings for neither advertised nor open to non-invited guests.

They are of the opinion that a Green Economy is out there in order to give value to nature so it can be monetized and sold as if it were a commodity. They reject the notion that it is supposed to improve human life while achieving an economic shift by resource efficiency and decoupling growth & resource use.

Their argument is that clean air and snow on a mountain are there and must be preserved – period – not because they have a financial value.

So what happened in Rio was on the one hand the extention of capitalism further into Commodification of Nature, while on the other hand there was the altenate meeting that brought together people that came to protest the above.  Iara was a coordinator of THE PEOPLE’s SUMMIT – and she told us that the Brazilian government provided some $14 million to help organize the meeting – albeit far away (35 km. away) from the official site of the RioCentro.

The participants at the Alternate Conference put the blame, quite equally, on the US, Germany, Japan, Brazil, and the emerging countries – this for not having ambitious goals for the future.

Iara participated in meetings with the UN Secretary-General and told him that it was frustrating to see the limping process. Twenty years ago we were at the top of neo-liberalism and Agenda 21 – we tried to build it and failed.

She said  the papers did not write right because they did not follow the process.

The panel consensus was that market economy is not the solution, and what is needed is a change in the capitalist system.

Jutta said that the private sector got most out from Rio and she sees a new wave of capitalism. She remarked that business even has now a new site called www.wave.org She was strengthened by the fact that highest level participants tracked to the alternate meeting – Brazil, Costa rica, Peru, Norway … for a dialogue on Nature Capital. Denmark said there is the need for a declaration on Nature Capital.

There is a lot of value that is priceless and these people want to put a price on it so they can be privatized?

They pointed at the power of language and said it needs to be explained – THE FUTURE WE DO NOT WANT. Eduardo  enlarged on this – new things start with new language. Critical economics started with things that did not take into account externalities, now the issue is this new commodification. We need a defense of the Commons, the Rights of Mother Earth is a different concept from the valorization of everything. Our actions have consequences – the planet has limits – the corporations have concluded that they have to take this into account, we see that the green sector will produce greater profits then the brown sector. The World Bank is ready to move now beyond the GDP and the new accounting – like the value of bees in fertilization of plants, will be turned into bonds and sold on the market.

The World Bank sees here a role for itself in conceptualizing this thing.

Jutta picked up at the business meeting she attended the phrase – “WE WILL TREASURE WHAT WE MEASURE” and says that this will be the new mantra of business in the effort to commodify nature.

Edgardo said that while Green Economy did not win in the text, Sustainable Development was mentioned 280 times in the document – and he finds  that this is intended to bring back the Green Economy. He sees here the revitalization of Sustainable Development with a purpose with no commitment whatsoever in regard to climate change.  Also, a last comment I picked up was – “We already live in a Post-Democratic World.

In the light of the above, my comment about the future generations became quite irrelevant, nevertheless, I decided to bring it up, though only after congratulating Iara for the great achievement of Brazilian diplomacy.

And yes, regarding the title of this posting and the question about Non-Governmental Organizations. Did you notice the number of government sponsored non-government participants? They came indeed from different angles, but all somehow were intended to legitimize government. So, the question we pose is – can we have the full accounting of facts if it is all brought to us by the by-nature short-sighted political system.

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

The First Posting Was:

    Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 2nd, 2012

    This is our own first attempt at writing about what went on at the Rio de Janeiro 2012 meeting – the so called RIO+20 event.

    I chose to start by displaying  selected events that happened in 1992  - a year which included a review in Rio de Janeiro of  the changes in humans’ behavior required so we achieve management of Planet Earth – after  bringing its human inhabitants to an understanding of sets of actions to be implemented, this if we want  to stop endangering our very existence as voyagers on this planet.

    1992 was a specially good year – the break-up of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, surely to different degrees, but all of this gave the feeling that good things can happen if we only try to make them happen. On the other hand, Europe started out on an experiment of unification that emerged from a century of internal warfare, two World Wars, and the Marshall Plan of revitalizing  its Nation States.

    UNCED seized on the 1987 Brundtland Commission’s Sustainable Development concept, and Maurice Strong, present everywhere, since the 1972 Conference on the Human Environment,  was able to maneuver the topic of Sustainability – the concept that bridges between our deeds now, and the needs of future generations, to the point that developing countries were able to see in their acceptance of the concept a way of obtaining funding for ongoing activities. But to be frank about it – they never measured up to the responsibility to future generations, as the developed and old industrialized States did not do in their own development either.

    In the US, 1992 was the year of the emergence of strong Democratic leadership in Congress – specially in the Senate – to the point that Rio saw two separate US delegations – The official delegation, and the Senate delegation with Al Gore and Timothy Wirth holding the reins.

    Europe also had two favorable delegations. The one anchored in the freshly signed Maastricht agreement for those countries that will be the first batch of EU member States, and the other group made up of Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Both of these groups were ready to link to the Al Gore US group, and the visions of conference leader Maurice Strong and Minister Klaus Toepfer, working for Germany, in order to shape up at Rio 1992 a UN position on the run.

    Those days the BRICS were not yet strongly positioned on the map, and the G77 where ready to accept the idea that money might come their way.  In the following list I marked the Rio chain of events with color green.

    A separate chain of events was happening in Europe – and that chain I marked in gold. That chain led from Maastricht to the creation of the EU, to the enlargement of the EU, and eventually to major miscalculations in the maturing process in terms of finances of EU States that were united only in name.  This, while the US and the EU exported their jobs, and their polluting industries,  to developing countries,  with the best of these countries becoming the BRICS on whom everything depends now.

    While the global track has led twenty years later to this RIO+20 event that was allowed freely to show the bankruptcy of the UN process, the people at the helm of the EU are still trying to bamboozle themselves into believing that their problem can be healed without resorting to main restructuring the flawed original structure – so they did not call for a Maastricht+20 meeting – only for Internal Summits.  This means the EU is far from reform, while as we shall see, my belief is that the Brazilian hosts – with supreme talent of diplomacy – where able to redirect the future of the Rio process to new avenues at the just concluded RIO+20 bazaar.

    I purport to try to show that without the EU looking into the mirror in order to restructure itself in a Maastricht+20 event, it will not be able to work with the UN reformers that are ready to talk Sustainability as a bridge between well-being in our society and full consideration of rights of future generations. This involves getting us to consider using less natural capital and finding a new yardstick for measuring growth that replaces the outdated GDP meter.

    The industrialized Nations, the Emerging Nations, and the genuine laggards, will all have to cooperate to create and sustain this new paradigm – and realizing that you cannot be helpful by finger pointing at Greece as a substitute for a MAASTRICHT+20.

    The last comment in this introductory section is our attention to what we call “TEAM B” – the States of Bhutan and Brazil – the States that led to positive results at the TOHU VAVOHU of the UN Preparatory meetings – in New York and at Rio.

    The Prime Minister of Bhutan and his aids introduced notions of substance – “Well-Being and Happiness,” while the  whole Administration of Brazil, President, Foreign Minister, the Diplomatic front man and his large staff, taught  us the potential of “Olympic Diplomacy” – the kind of Kissingerian diplomacy that can provide something to brag about to every participant in negotiations – so when an agreement is reached there was not even a single loser – everyone claimed he had something to win in the final document.

    The Brazilians titled their document “OUR COMMON VISION” and the Europeans at their just concluded Summit at Heads of State level (June 28/29, 2012, are still at the stage, as the “Wiener Zeitung”  of  30 June/1 July ” put it – “A ‘YES, MAYBE’ for a Europe-Vision.”

    To be fair, I think it important to say right here – the Brazilian “COMMON VISION” when accepted by the UN, was unchanged but was renamed “The Future We Want” in line of previous releases from the UN. This was not in backing of the Vision, but rather in attempt to forget the Vision – and stress from the document the points close to official UN positions – as if the vision just never happened. We do not expect that the UN  bodies will get away with this, as it is rather hard to subdue visions.  In due time, some Member State will ask the UNSG to act according to the Brazil sponsored Vision, so we do not worry about mailings that we receive and that deviate from the agreed upon vision.

    My choice of 1992 events follows:

    January 1 – Europe breaks down trade barriers

    January 1Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt becomes United Nations Secretary-General.

    January 15 – The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia begins to break up. Slovenia and Croatia gain independence and international recognition in some Western countries.

    February 6th - The Saami people of the Nordic countries have an official day celebrating their existence.

    January 26 – Boris Yeltsin announces that Russia will stop targeting cities of the United States and her allies with Nuclear Weapons.
    In return George H. W. Bush announces that the United States and her allies will stop targeting Russia and the remaining communist states with Nuclear Weapons.

    February 7 – The  Maastricht Treaty is signed, founding the European Union.

    February 26 – The Supreme Court of Ireland rules that a 14-year-old rape victim may travel to Englandto have an abortion.

    March 9 – The People’s Republic of China ratifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    March  17 - Russian manned space craft TM-14, launches into orbit

    March 18 – White South Africans vote in favour of political reforms which will end the apartheid regime and create a power-sharing multi-racial government.

    June 3 - World’s Summit opens (Rio De Janeiro Brazil) - THE UN CONFERENCE ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT – UNCED.

    June 8 – The first World Ocean Day is celebrated, coinciding with the Earth Summit held in Rio de JaneiroBrazil.

    June 8 – Thomas Klestil succeeds Waldheim as president of Austria.

    July 13 – Yitzhak Rabin becomes prime minister of Israel

    July 20 – Václav Havel resigns as president of Czechoslovakia.

    July 31 - The ex-Soviet Republic of Georgia becomes the 179th member of the United Nations.

    September 16 – Black Wednesday: The pound sterling and the Italian lira are forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

    October 12 – In the Dominican RepublicPope John Paul II celebrates the “500th anniversary of the meeting of 2 cultures,”
    or was this rather the belated recognition of the subjugation of the Western Hemisphere to Christianity?

    October 25 – Lithuania holds a referendum on its first constitution after declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

    October 31 – Pope John Paul II issues an apology, and lifts the edict of the Inquisition against Galileo Galilei.

    November 3 – United States presidential election, 1992Bill Clinton is elected the 42nd President of the United States.

    November 11 – The Church of England votes to allow women to become priests.

    November 25 – The Czechoslovakia Federal Assembly votes to split the country into the Czech Republicand Slovakia, starting on January 1, 1993

    December 22 – Archives of Terror discovered by Dr. Martín Almada detailing the fates of thousands of Latin Americans who had been secretly kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. This was known as Operation Condor. The Involvement of the CIA is obvious.

    December 29 – Brazil‘s president Fernando Collor de Mello is found guilty on charges that he stole more than $32 million from the government, preventing him from holding any elected office for 8 years.

    —————————————————————————–

    The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 2-14, 1992. It was held twenty years after the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) took place in Stockholm, Sweden.

    Government officials from 178 countries and between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals from governments, non-governmental organizations, and the media participated in this event to discuss solutions for global problems such as poverty, war, and the growing gap between industrialized and developing countries. The central focus was the question of how to relieve the global environmental system through the introduction to the paradigm of sustainable development. This concept emphasizes that economic and social progress depend critically on the preservation of the natural resource base with effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

    Held to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Stockholm Conference, the Rio Earth Summit became everything that an earlier ‘Stockholm plus ten’ conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya in 1982, could not. Indeed, it became more than even its proponents had hoped for.

    Instead of being the ‘second’ United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Rio was the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development; putting those two terms together, which had been so much at odds at Stockholm, might itself have been Rio’s most important achievement. In particular, it broadened the scope of global environmental diplomacy by adopting the notion of sustainable development, which had been advocated 5 years earlier in by the World Commission on Environment and Development as one of its key policy frameworks.

    The world at Rio was, of course, very different from the world at Stockholm. In the intervening two decades, the Cold War (the defining political framework at UNCHE) had disappeared, the level of public interest in the environment was greatly increased, environmental issues such as stratospheric ozone depletion and global climate changewere now squarely on the global policy map, and energy had become a major concern for economic security in  aftermath of the oil price shocks of 1973–74 and 1980–81.

    The results of the UNCED included the Rio Declaration enunciating 27 principles of environment and development, Agenda 21, and a Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests, which were all adopted by consensus (without vote) by the conference.

    The institutional innovation resulting from the conference included an agreement on the operating rules for the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the establishment of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) on the basis of an Agenda 21 recommendation. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity were products of independent, but concurrent, negotiating processes that were opened for signatures at UNCED.

    The problem we are facing twenty years later is that despite the high aspirations, the clear potential, and the basic correctness of the UNCED results, in practical terms, only little is there to show in terms of implementation, after these 20 years, of what was suggested in those UNCED results.

    So, when the UN decided to have a meeting 20 years later in order to find out what should be done with those unattained goals of the famed, and now forgotten, Agenda 21, it found out very fast that a majority of UN Member States were not ready to talk of Sustainable Development period. Agenda 21 was hardly being mentioned by the discussants, the scene was back about money – many speakers from the South were observing that the North  did not provide the funds for development of the South that it promised.

    At the Informal-Informal meetings of the Prepcom in New York, part of the RIO+20 Preparatory route, I sat in disbelief watching the Algerian Ambassador, spokesman for the G77, putting brackets on the word “Sustainable” when written next to Development – as in Sustainable Development – the official name of the RIO+20 Conference – UNCSD or the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Did the gentleman know where he was going and what he was doing?

    Clearly I must answer with a YES. He was there to get money from the North in order to “DEVELOP” the South – so it looks like the North. Sustainability had no place in his outlook. According to him, twenty years after UNCED, he still thinks in terms of the new Nations being entitled to repeat all the mistakes done previously by the old industrialized Nations of Europe and North America.

    I posted from New York articles about this, and kept remarking that the G77 are falling apart. In effect – countries like Bangladesh, and many of the Small Island Independent States  already spoke up for themselves realizing that they are already suffering from the effects of Climate Change, and that the political grandstanding does not do them any good.

    Mexico, the host for the 2012 G20 meeting, as well as Colombia, took positions to avoid this sort of useless confrontation, and countries of the South that do not belong to OPEC, had also  clear vision that supporting the Saudi Arabian claim for financial compensation for its loss of a market for the petroleum commodity has no place in their own National Interest in a world relying more on Renewable Energy.   Some countries, led by a man from Fiji, Vice President of the UN General Assembly, were ready to introduce to the UNGA the request to investigate the possibility to take the interest of future generations – yes, the yet unborn – to the International Court of Justice, as we are leaving the Future Generations with a spoiled environment depleted of Natural Resources.

    The Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Yoezer Thinley , with a large entourage of Ministers and Officials, came to New York, and as mandated by the UNGA, held a special meeting on April 2nd, 2012 on Well Being and Happiness as targets of intent when talking about Sustainability and Sustainable Development. The Bhutanese were active in New York for a full week and economists were helping them by showing that there is a basic – fundamental misconception, when measuring growth by the GDP yard-stick.

    Growth measured this way, not only that it does not increase happiness, but it actually causes losses to future generations by misusing natural resources. WARS ARE THE ULTIMATE MOVERS IN GROWTH WHEN GROWTH IS MEASURED BY GDP,  AS THE REBUILDING PROCESS USES UP RESOURCES SUCH AS NATURAL CAPITAL, AND HUMAN CAPITAL, WITHOUT NOTING THE EFFECTS ON THEIR AVAILABILITY FOR THE FUTURE (NATURAL RESOURCES) OR FOR ALTERNATE USES (LABOR).

    Here for our sanity, come in the notions of Well-Being and Happiness. The GDP yard stick does not measure these objectives. So what was the G77 leadership standing for?  Is this not a fair question? Would it not make more sense to come up with a joint effort that looks not only at the present imbalance between industrialization levels of  Nations, but also on the rights of Future Generations? This introduces a notion of ethics that was not introduced to the UN previously.  All this at a time that there is a clear lack of understanding between various groups of Nations in the UN.

    New alliances are possible – such as between the countries, mainly in the poor South,  that are already suffering from effects of climate change, and more visionary countries of the North, that have a civil society ready to switch gears in the economy and move to new industries that are less polluting, resources saving and create jobs – a win-win-win situation for all! But the structure of the UN is itself fossilized, and the RIO+20 Prepcom was frozen.  No outcome document could be hammered out. That is how it looked when the Informal-Informal meetings were moved to Rio, the Prepcom resumed, and the Brazilian platform accepted by acclamation as the conference outcome.

    We will not rehash the unsuccessful part of the event – but follow from here the Brazilian prepared options and the outcome document to show that it in effect changes the direction of the Sustainability Bridge from the 1992 construct to a new option that turns OUR COMMON VISION to the UN language operative THE FUTURE WE WANT.

    —-

    The Brazilians, hosts of 1992 and 2012, decided that their own good name is at stake, and descended on New York in full force.

    Led by Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguilar Patriota, a Former Brazil Ambassador to the United States (2007-2009), and chief operational Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, the Undersecretary for Environment, Energy, Science and Technology of the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil – Figueredo Machado, was surrounded by a total of 30 other Ambassadors and Ministers – made sure to speak to everybody who volunteered an opinion, and note the minimums of acceptance in a secret draft they kept revising

    Foreign Minister, Ambassador Patriota, is  graduate in philosophy from the University of Geneva and later international relations at he Rio Branco Institute – Brazil’s Diplomatic Academy;  he was also Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs of the Ministry of External Relations, and Secretary General of the Ministry and Cabinet Chief of Foreign Minister  Celso Amorim,  now Minister of Defence (whom I also spotted at the RioCentro conference Center), his predecessor from whom he took over in 2011.

    Ambassador Figueiredo Machado has a Law degree from the State University of Rio de Janeiro, and subsequently graduated in 1980 from Instituto Rio Branco. Mister Figueiredo Machado has taught Constitutional Law at Rio Branco.  His postgraduate thesis for the Advanced Studies Course at the Rio Branco Institute was published in 2000 under the title The Brazilian Continental Shelf and the Law of the Sea. Considerations for a political action.

    As a diplomat, Mister Figueiredo Machado has held overseas positions in the Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York where we met him, in the Embassies in Santiago, Washington and Ottawa, as well as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Mission to UNESCO, in Paris. Figueiredo Machado has also held numerous positions in the Ministry, handling multilateral issues, such as disarmament, oceans, Antarctica, space, health, and the environment.

    Ambassador Figueiredo Machado served as Director of the Department of the Environment and Special Affairs from 2005 to 2010. Promoted to the rank of Ambassador in 2009, he got his present position in 2011 to oversee all Brazilian Government negotiations on environmental, technology, energy, science, ocean and space issues. Ambassador Figueiredo Machado served as well, since 2005, as Brazils lead negotiator in the climate change regime process.

    —–

    Brazil, to play it safe, prepared a two parts defense-line around the Rio+20 negotiations. I enjoyed in New York the resistance of Ambassador Figueiredo Machado to accept the idea that the meeting should actually be called RIO-20 because of the need, at the end, to come up with a new paradigm to replace the Agenda 21 that nobody was actually talking about.  Ambassador Machado seemed self confident  - in the face of negotiations that seemed clearly bound in a direction of  - “NO CONCLUDING DOCUMENT”.  He once told me that this will not be the case and “don’t talk yet of a failed meeting.”

    The Brazilian diplomats, as said above, keeping their fingers on the pulse of the debate – and being present everywhere – had by the end of the New York meeting – that clearly had only a huge compendium of text and bracketed versions within other brackets with up to a dozen versions to a topic. At this stage I will not analyse the situation – it is all on the record and clearly that material did not amount to a statement that governments could have agreed upon as a final document. BUT a draft document on the ready was already in Amb. Figuereido Machado’s briefcase.

    The Brazilians, who were totally committed “not to see a Doha in Rio” – a failed meeting in their home, and the cadaver of their darling of 1992, laid down at their feet – not trusting completely the above first line of defense – set up very early a second defense line, which they called the RioDialogues, and which we described already in our posting -

    www.sustainabilitank.info/categor… (see another link bellow)

    That was an innovation at the UN.  Seeing that it was hard to work with governments, the Brazilians decided, within what the General Assembly allowed them to do, to offer as  well an alternative to the government process by creating a Civil Society process based on the UN Member States system, but using an internet voting method, and an illusion of real democracy.

    Our posting of June 7th saw these possibilities, but then the Brazilians were  afraid that the UN will not allow enough freedom of action to  their innovative scheme, and wedge in so that the UN mechanism directs the details of the Brazilian effort.

    Let’s see – Brazil picks ten topics and allows via the internet an inflow of free suggested recommendations to each one of these topics. Each topic is handled by a team of 100 appointed people managed by three scientists – one from Brazil, one from the North and one from the South. Internet backing allows in each topic an interplay with those recommendations, and eventually the 100 people pick out from the many recommendations ten that will be pushed forward to a two stage voting. After the second stage voting only three recommendations per topic survive.

    This total of 3 recommendations times 10 topics, that is 30 recommendations, then move on to four High Level Panels –  and it was expected that the outcome from this discussion among the high level panelists can then lead to a second document that could be viewed as a “New UN Age” outcome – very appropriate if the  Brazilian first line of defense fails – so this second line of defense produces a document nevertheless.

    The first stage via the internet, and the second stage during the RioDialogues days in Rio proper, are voting stages. These were the June 16-19, 2010 days that came in between the June 13-15, 2012 days left open to the government delegates to have another attempt at informal-informal culminating in a renewed short Prepcom meeting - that was the actual original route of RIO+20, before the RioDialogues start – and are then followed by the Conference proper scheduled just for three days June 20-22, 2012. Final meeting and concluding decisions-taking were planned for Friday June 22, 2012.

    At the RioDialogues, the chosen ten recommendations from each one of those 10 topics were presented by their designed teams and voted upon by the people allowed into the room. This particular issue, the UN mechanism intended to stymie in UN fashion and make it difficult for free participation. That old system that allows only to insiders to get a pass under rules that say half men – half women – half North – Half South and if you are genuinely proponent of UN change you find that you do not belong to any half – you are just the outside whole. Oh Well! But here we saw a clear rebellion by Brazil, they took back the initiative and shoved aside the notion that the UN Secretariat is responsible for dishing out Secondary Passes to those interested to participate in those meetings – including the voting.  They simply declared “THERE IS ENOUGH SPACE IN THOSE ROOMS AND ANYONE WHO WANTS TO COME SHOULD BE LET IN” – BRAVO BRAZIL!

    For instance, with my interest in the Energy panel, and my interest to participate in the Energy RioDialogue, I found that I would not get access if the NGO office of the Major Group office, had its way – then the Brazilians told me not to worry – that room will not be closed to anyone expressing an interest in the topic.  I eventually understood how the UN Secretariat framed the subject as the NGO spokesperson on the platform was not a climate related person, but a lady involved with business interests that would rather talk of cooking stoves then energy emissions in general.  The lady was also close to the organizers of the Major Groups structure that dominates the NGO office.  Nevertheless, I had no problem speaking up from the floor, and stressing that all energy with very few exceptions like geothermal, was energy that comes from the sun, and the recommendations do not go far enough to stress this point. Using Fossil Fuels is like living from the savings account and by definition non-sustainable.  Kerosene and LPG are not an acceptable way to dispense Energy for All. My comments were answered from the podium – so clearly the Brazilians were not losers in their effort to develop this second line of defense, though clearly the UN is yet far from opening up to the real issues at stake.

    Eventually, as said, the recommendations from the Dialogues moved up to the four Round Table Panels, and much more will have to be reviewed in what went on in this Brazilian second line.

    Ending this section with this “Much more” comment, I will just say that there was no need for this second document as the first Brazilian document “Our Common Vision” was eventually accepted by acclamation on June 22nd – leaving open the question how Brazil will now include the the outcome from the High Level Panel discussions as an appendix to the official outcome of the Conference.

    ————-

    In my last part I will thus try to pick up only the most important lines of thought from the UN officialTHE FUTURE WE WANT -  as per the RIO+20 Outcome Document based on Brazil’s OUR COMMON VISION:

    Going directly to the main point – please follow us to paragraphs 84-86 which have the secondary heading:

    “HIGH LEVEL POLITICAL FORUM.”

    and to make it even easier I marked red the most important operative linesMost of the remaining lines are plain UN “boiler plate important to this or other Rio negotiators and show the all inclusiveness of the Brazilian diplomats.

    84. We decide to establish a universal intergovernmental high level political forum, building on the strengths, experiences, resources and inclusive participation modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development, and subsequently replacing the Commission. The high level political forum shall follow up on the implementation of sustainable developmentand should avoid overlap with existing structures, bodies and entities in a cost-effective manner.

    85. The high level forum could:

    (a) provide political leadership, guidance, and recommendations for sustainable development;
    (b) enhance integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development in a holistic and cross-sectoral manner at all levels;
    (c) provide a dynamic platform for regular dialogue, and stocktaking and agendasetting to advance sustainable development;
    (d) have a focused, dynamic and action-oriented agenda, ensuring the appropriate consideration of new and emerging sustainable development challenges;
    (e) follow up and review progress in the implementation of sustainable development commitments contained in Agenda 21, Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, Barbados Programme of Action, Mauritius Strategy for Implementation and the outcome of this Conference and, as appropriate, relevant outcomes of other UN summits and conferences, including the outcome of the Fourth United NationsConference on the Least Developed Countries, as well as their respective means of  implementation;
    (f) encourage high-level system-wide participation of UN Agencies, funds andprogrammes and invite to participate, as appropriate, other relevant multilateral financial and trade institutions, treaty bodies, within their respective mandates andin accordance with UN rules and provisions;
    (g) improve cooperation and coordination within the UN system on sustainable development programmes and policies;
    (h) promote transparency and implementation through further enhancing the consultative role and participation of Major Groups and other relevant stakeholders at the international level in order to better make use of their expertise, while retaining the intergovernmental nature of discussions;
    (i) promote the sharing of best practices and experiences relating to theimplementation of sustainable development, and on a voluntary basis, facilitate sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges, and lessons learnt;
    (j) promote system-wide coherence and coordination of sustainable development policies;
    (k) strengthen the science-policy interface through review of documentation bringing together dispersed information and assessments, including in the form of a global sustainable development report, building on existing assessments;
    (l) enhance evidence-based decision-making at all levels and contribute to strengthen ongoing efforts of capacity building for data collection and analysis in developing countries.
    86. We decide to launch an intergovernmental and open, transparent and inclusive negotiation process under the General Assembly to define the high level forum’s format and organizational aspects with the aim of convening the first high level forum at the beginning of the 68th session of the General Assembly. We will also consider the need for promoting intergenerational solidarity for the achievement of sustainable development,taking into account the needs of future generations, including by inviting the Secretary General to present a report on this issue.

    * * * * *
    What above means is that the UN Secretary General is mandated to establish under UN General Assembly rules, that call for full UN Membership:
    (1) a universal inter governmental high level political forum to replace the existing non-functioning Commission on Sustainable Development.
    (2) though leaving the term Sustainable Development in place, the above looks at Developing Sustainability instead – this by mandating the UN Secretary General to look attaking into account the needs of future generations - “including by inviting the Secretary General to present a report on this issue.”

    We say therefore that the concept of Sustainable Development introduced to the UN lingo by the 1992 meeting by Mr. Maurice Strong, a Canadian with strong ties to the US, but who lives now in Beijing, is effectively being replaced by “Developing Sustainability” as he pronounced it on June 21, 2012, at the official ceremony of celebration of the passing of 20 years between RIO UNCED and RIO+20.

    The Brazilian Diplomats have accepted the need to consider Sustainability as the bridge to future generations when developing economies for the short sighted benefit of the current generation. This is in effect a negation of the common resources-grabbing
    reality by the 1% of the population in North and South, while the remaining 99% of the population remains in effect in relative poverty – as described by the evolving Global Occupy movements.

    Introducing the needs of FUTURE GENERATIONS does for the first time give the UN the needed sense of ethics required in full understanding of the term SUSTAINABILITY, that is intruding into the ongoing negotiations via a request to establish at the UN a “Small Office” of a HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS that we understand could  be modeled after the United States example of the US General Accounting Office.  The GAO  can be called by any Member of US Congress – House or Senate – to make public an evaluation of true facts regarding an issue that is in dispute. In the UN case, such a small office could answer questions of impact on future generations by any ongoing activity or negotiations at the UN.

    This idea has already working examples.

    Commissioners for future generations were tried by Parliaments of Israel and Hungary.

    The Israeli Knesset Commissioner,  a retired Judge, had the right to review impacts of all legislation. The experiment eventually was ended as political forces found this cumbersome. In the Hungarian Parliament case the experiment that could have an impact in all EU States, continues and was the base for the introduction of the subject to the negotiations of the run-up to RIO+20. Professor Sándor Fülöp is since 2008 the Hungarian Parliament’s Commissioner on Future Generations. We applaud the Brazilians for seizing up on this very important point.

    In effect we find this and the efforts by Bhutan to focus us on Well-Being and Happiness,the two most important driving forces that surfaced at the UN informal-informal negotiations.  They sum up the Ethics, and it is now up to representatives of the World Religions to seize the opportunity to enter UN negotiations. The rights of the yet to be born generations and the happiness of the present generations are not just Buddhist concepts – these are fundamentals to be found in any religious scriptures as evidenced by the religious leaders that the Prime Minister of Bhutan assembled at his most effective day at the UN in New York – April 2, 2012.
    Getting back to  the Brazilian drafted text, in the opening paragraph, it also says that Sustainable Development Goals, protecting and managing natural resources and ecosystems for present and future generations, are to be formulated by the UN in order to follow in 2015 from the Millennium Development Goals.
    Paragraphs 56-74 deal with rules and regulations of a Green Economy as needed for Sustainability and Justice for the people.

    Paragraphs 87-90 deal with strengthening the Environmental pillar of the three legged concept of Sustainable Development, by making UNEP all inclusive with Universal Membership in its Governing Council.

    We find that this section would benefit immensely had there been a UN Commissioner for Future Generations as UNEP has not enough of a handle on sovereign States to force them to take full responsibility over the environment in their own territory, but it could become possible to hold them responsible for damages to extraterritorial regions – specially those that are not covered by National Sovereignty claims, and belong thus to everyone as represented by the yet to be born in Future Generations.  In our opinion this facet of International Law has yet to be written with the establishing of a legal persona for the unborn – surely more important then the Corporate legal persona.

    Paragraphs 224-226  deal with Sustainable Consumption and Production. These reiterate past commitments, including the elimination of subsidies to fossil fuels, but are clearly short of recommendations for true evaluation of the effects of ongoing production and consumption patterns. We believe that a handle on this could eventually be formed when the impact on future generations is considered.

    Last Section – VI. Means of Implementation – including Finance, Technology, Capacity Building, Trade, and Registry of Commitments, is the obvious target of those that say the meeting came out empty handed. This, because if you were expecting a continuous flow of money from the North to the South, you simply did not look out your cell-window lately.

    The money is no more with the States of the North – it is rather to be found in the Southern New Emerging economies, so there is no real promises of money to be found except in the registry of free commitments – mainly by private enterprise and all sorts of partnerships.   This last part is a success story, but not what some pundits were fighting for.  We do not think that this should be viewed separately from the call for change.

    To summarize – RIO+20 as handled by Brazil – is a door to a new future that is going to rewrite the 1992 decisions that were not followed anyway.     As said – it will be rather DEVELOPING SUSTAINABILITY then SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, and in this respect the platform is only being developed and the eventual funding will be coming in major part from South-South cooperation. We will have to be patient and see the changes taking effect.

    Learning from the above, we hope for a MAASTRICHT+20 to replace the EU Summits that talk of a “Montillande” wrestling Merkel as replacement to “Merkozy” – we think this sort of talk does not fit the reality, and is no way to crawl out from under the avalanche that was caused by the lack of real growth following that good year of 1992. So let me repeat – if Europe cannot do it alone – it ought to invite the UN “B-Team” – Bhutan and Brazil – and ask them to rewrite the rules.

    —————-

    Following is the link to our posting of the RioDialogues and on Judge Shlomo Shoham of the Commission for Future Generations in the Knesset .

    Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 7th, 2012

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

    Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 27th, 2010

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

    To look further at the Hungarian example of  Professor Sándor Fülöp,  presently the only ongoing Parliament appointed Commissioner for Future Generations, please go to   www.jno.hu  and see also the involvement on this subject of the Hamburg based World Future Council.   [Mr Sándor Fülöp was elected to become Hungary’s first Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations in 2008. He holds a degree in law from the Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences (1982) and a degree in psychology (1987). Between 1984 and 1991 he has worked as a public prosecutor at the Metropolitan and the National Chief Prosecutor’s Office. Following a short period of private legal practice,  Mr Fülöp was also until his election as Commissioner, the director of Hungary’s principal non-profit environmental law firm: the Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA).  During that time he has  held a number of international positions.  He participated in the drafting of the 1998 UN ECE Convention on Access to Information, Access to Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention). Between 2002 and 2008 he was a member of the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention.  Mr Fülöp has been a university lecturer on environmental law since 1997.]

    • Print

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 2nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This is our own first attempt at writing about what went on at the Rio de Janeiro 2012 meeting – the so called RIO+20 event.

I chose to start by displaying  selected events that happened in 1992  - a year which included a review in Rio de Janeiro of  the changes in humans’ behavior required so we achieve management of Planet Earth – after  bringing its human inhabitants to an understanding of sets of actions to be implemented, this if we want  to stop endangering our very existence as voyagers on this planet.

1992 was a specially good year – the break-up of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, surely to different degrees, but all of this gave the feeling that good things can happen if we only try to make them happen. On the other hand, Europe started out on an experiment of unification that emerged from a century of internal warfare, two World Wars, and the Marshall Plan of revitalizing  its Nation States.

UNCED seized on the 1987 Brundtland Commission’s Sustainable Development concept, and Maurice Strong, present everywhere, since the 1972 Conference on the Human Environment,  was able to maneuver the topic of Sustainability – the concept that bridges between our deeds now, and the needs of future generations, to the point that developing countries were able to see in their acceptance of the concept a way of obtaining funding for ongoing activities. But to be frank about it – they never measured up to the responsibility to future generations, as the developed and old industrialized States did not do in their own development either.

In the US, 1992 was the year of the emergence of strong Democratic leadership in Congress – specially in the Senate – to the point that Rio saw two separate US delegations – The official delegation, and the Senate delegation with Al Gore and Timothy Wirth holding the reins.

Europe also had two favorable delegations. The one anchored in the freshly signed Maastricht agreement for those countries that will be the first batch of EU member States, and the other group made up of Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Both of these groups were ready to link to the Al Gore US group, and the visions of conference leader Maurice Strong and Minister Klaus Toepfer, working for Germany, in order to shape up at Rio 1992 a UN position on the run.

Those days the BRICS were not yet strongly positioned on the map, and the G77 where ready to accept the idea that money might come their way.  In the following list I marked the Rio chain of events with color green.

A separate chain of events was happening in Europe – and that chain I marked in gold. That chain led from Maastricht to the creation of the EU, to the enlargement of the EU, and eventually to major miscalculations in the maturing process in terms of finances of EU States that were united only in name.  This, while the US and the EU exported their jobs, and their polluting industries,  to developing countries,  with the best of these countries becoming the BRICS on whom everything depends now.

While the global track has led twenty years later to this RIO+20 event that was allowed freely to show the bankruptcy of the UN process, the people at the helm of the EU are still trying to bamboozle themselves into believing that their problem can be healed without resorting to main restructuring the flawed original structure – so they did not call for a Maastricht+20 meeting – only for Internal Summits.  This means the EU is far from reform, while as we shall see, my belief is that the Brazilian hosts – with supreme talent of diplomacy – where able to redirect the future of the Rio process to new avenues at the just concluded RIO+20 bazaar.

I purport to try to show that without the EU looking into the mirror in order to restructure itself in a Maastricht+20 event, it will not be able to work with the UN reformers that are ready to talk Sustainability as a bridge between well-being in our society and full consideration of rights of future generations. This involves getting us to consider using less natural capital and finding a new yardstick for measuring growth that replaces the outdated GDP meter.

The industrialized Nations, the Emerging Nations, and the genuine laggards, will all have to cooperate to create and sustain this new paradigm – and realizing that you cannot be helpful by finger pointing at Greece as a substitute for a MAASTRICHT+20.

The last comment in this introductory section is our attention to what we call “TEAM B” – the States of Bhutan and Brazil – the States that led to positive results at the TOHU VAVOHU of the UN Preparatory meetings – in New York and at Rio.

The Prime Minister of Bhutan and his aids introduced notions of substance – “Well-Being and Happiness,” while the  whole Administration of Brazil, President, Foreign Minister, the Diplomatic front man and his large staff, taught  us the potential of “Olympic Diplomacy” – the kind of Kissingerian diplomacy that can provide something to brag about to every participant in negotiations – so when an agreement is reached there was not even a single loser – everyone claimed he had something to win in the final document.

The Brazilians titled their document “OUR COMMON VISION” and the Europeans at their just concluded Summit at Heads of State level (June 28/29, 2012, are still at the stage, as the “Wiener Zeitung”  of  30 June/1 July ” put it – “A ‘YES, MAYBE’ for a Europe-Vision.”

To be fair, I think it important to say right here – the Brazilian “COMMON VISION” when accepted by the UN, was unchanged but was renamed “The Future We Want” in line of previous releases from the UN. This was not in backing of the Vision, but rather in attempt to forget the Vision – and stress from the document the points close to official UN positions – as if the vision just never happened. We do not expect that the UN  bodies will get away with this, as it is rather hard to subdue visions.  In due time, some Member State will ask the UNSG to act according to the Brazil sponsored Vision, so we do not worry about mailings that we receive and that deviate from the agreed upon vision.

My choice of 1992 events follows:

January 1 – Europe breaks down trade barriers

January 1Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt becomes United Nations Secretary-General.

January 15 – The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia begins to break up. Slovenia and Croatia gain independence and international recognition in some Western countries.

February 6th - The Saami people of the Nordic countries have an official day celebrating their existence.

January 26 – Boris Yeltsin announces that Russia will stop targeting cities of the United States and her allies with Nuclear Weapons.
In return George H. W. Bush announces that the United States and her allies will stop targeting Russia and the remaining communist states with Nuclear Weapons.

February 7 – The  Maastricht Treaty is signed, founding the European Union.

February 26 – The Supreme Court of Ireland rules that a 14-year-old rape victim may travel to England to have an abortion.

March 9 – The People’s Republic of China ratifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

March  17 - Russian manned space craft TM-14, launches into orbit

March 18 – White South Africans vote in favour of political reforms which will end the apartheid regime and create a power-sharing multi-racial government.

June 3 - World’s Summit opens (Rio De Janeiro Brazil) - THE UN CONFERENCE ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT – UNCED.

June 8 – The first World Ocean Day is celebrated, coinciding with the Earth Summit held in Rio de JaneiroBrazil.

June 8 – Thomas Klestil succeeds Waldheim as president of Austria.

July 13 – Yitzhak Rabin becomes prime minister of Israel

July 20 – Václav Havel resigns as president of Czechoslovakia.

July 31 - The ex-Soviet Republic of Georgia becomes the 179th member of the United Nations.

September 16 – Black Wednesday: The pound sterling and the Italian lira are forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

October 12 – In the Dominican RepublicPope John Paul II celebrates the “500th anniversary of the meeting of 2 cultures,”
or was this rather the belated recognition of the subjugation of the Western Hemisphere to Christianity?

October 25 – Lithuania holds a referendum on its first constitution after declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

October 31 – Pope John Paul II issues an apology, and lifts the edict of the Inquisition against Galileo Galilei.

November 3 – United States presidential election, 1992Bill Clinton is elected the 42nd President of the United States.

November 11 – The Church of England votes to allow women to become priests.

November 25 – The Czechoslovakia Federal Assembly votes to split the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, starting on January 1, 1993

December 22 – Archives of Terror discovered by Dr. Martín Almada detailing the fates of thousands of Latin Americans who had been secretly kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. This was known as Operation Condor. The Involvement of the CIA is obvious.

December 29 – Brazil‘s president Fernando Collor de Mello is found guilty on charges that he stole more than $32 million from the government, preventing him from holding any elected office for 8 years.

—————————————————————————–

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 2-14, 1992. It was held twenty years after the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) took place in Stockholm, Sweden.

Government officials from 178 countries and between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals from governments, non-governmental organizations, and the media participated in this event to discuss solutions for global problems such as poverty, war, and the growing gap between industrialized and developing countries. The central focus was the question of how to relieve the global environmental system through the introduction to the paradigm of sustainable development. This concept emphasizes that economic and social progress depend critically on the preservation of the natural resource base with effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Held to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Stockholm Conference, the Rio Earth Summit became everything that an earlier ‘Stockholm plus ten’ conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya in 1982, could not. Indeed, it became more than even its proponents had hoped for.

Instead of being the ‘second’ United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Rio was the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development; putting those two terms together, which had been so much at odds at Stockholm, might itself have been Rio’s most important achievement. In particular, it broadened the scope of global environmental diplomacy by adopting the notion of sustainable development, which had been advocated 5 years earlier in by the World Commission on Environment and Development as one of its key policy frameworks.

The world at Rio was, of course, very different from the world at Stockholm. In the intervening two decades, the Cold War (the defining political framework at UNCHE) had disappeared, the level of public interest in the environment was greatly increased, environmental issues such as stratospheric ozone depletion and global climate change were now squarely on the global policy map, and energy had become a major concern for economic security in  aftermath of the oil price shocks of 1973–74 and 1980–81.

The results of the UNCED included the Rio Declaration enunciating 27 principles of environment and development, Agenda 21, and a Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests, which were all adopted by consensus (without vote) by the conference.

The institutional innovation resulting from the conference included an agreement on the operating rules for the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the establishment of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) on the basis of an Agenda 21 recommendation. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity were products of independent, but concurrent, negotiating processes that were opened for signatures at UNCED.

The problem we are facing twenty years later is that despite the high aspirations, the clear potential, and the basic correctness of the UNCED results, in practical terms, only little is there to show in terms of implementation, after these 20 years, of what was suggested in those UNCED results.

So, when the UN decided to have a meeting 20 years later in order to find out what should be done with those unattained goals of the famed, and now forgotten, Agenda 21, it found out very fast that a majority of UN Member States were not ready to talk of Sustainable Development period. Agenda 21 was hardly being mentioned by the discussants, the scene was back about money – many speakers from the South were observing that the North  did not provide the funds for development of the South that it promised.

At the Informal-Informal meetings of the Prepcom in New York, part of the RIO+20 Preparatory route, I sat in disbelief watching the Algerian Ambassador, spokesman for the G77, putting brackets on the word “Sustainable” when written next to Development – as in Sustainable Development – the official name of the RIO+20 Conference – UNCSD or the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Did the gentleman know where he was going and what he was doing?

Clearly I must answer with a YES. He was there to get money from the North in order to “DEVELOP” the South – so it looks like the North. Sustainability had no place in his outlook. According to him, twenty years after UNCED, he still thinks in terms of the new Nations being entitled to repeat all the mistakes done previously by the old industrialized Nations of Europe and North America.

I posted from New York articles about this, and kept remarking that the G77 are falling apart. In effect – countries like Bangladesh, and many of the Small Island Independent States  already spoke up for themselves realizing that they are already suffering from the effects of Climate Change, and that the political grandstanding does not do them any good.

Mexico, the host for the 2012 G20 meeting, as well as Colombia, took positions to avoid this sort of useless confrontation, and countries of the South that do not belong to OPEC, had also  clear vision that supporting the Saudi Arabian claim for financial compensation for its loss of a market for the petroleum commodity has no place in their own National Interest in a world relying more on Renewable Energy.   Some countries, led by a man from Fiji, Vice President of the UN General Assembly, were ready to introduce to the UNGA the request to investigate the possibility to take the interest of future generations – yes, the yet unborn – to the International Court of Justice, as we are leaving the Future Generations with a spoiled environment depleted of Natural Resources.

The Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Yoezer Thinley , with a large entourage of Ministers and Officials, came to New York, and as mandated by the UNGA, held a special meeting on April 2nd, 2012 on Well Being and Happiness as targets of intent when talking about Sustainability and Sustainable Development. The Bhutanese were active in New York for a full week and economists were helping them by showing that there is a basic – fundamental misconception, when measuring growth by the GDP yard-stick.

Growth measured this way, not only that it does not increase happiness, but it actually causes losses to future generations by misusing natural resources. WARS ARE THE ULTIMATE MOVERS IN GROWTH WHEN GROWTH IS MEASURED BY GDP,  AS THE REBUILDING PROCESS USES UP RESOURCES SUCH AS NATURAL CAPITAL, AND HUMAN CAPITAL, WITHOUT NOTING THE EFFECTS ON THEIR AVAILABILITY FOR THE FUTURE (NATURAL RESOURCES) OR FOR ALTERNATE USES (LABOR).

Here for our sanity, come in the notions of Well-Being and Happiness. The GDP yard stick does not measure these objectives. So what was the G77 leadership standing for?  Is this not a fair question? Would it not make more sense to come up with a joint effort that looks not only at the present imbalance between industrialization levels of  Nations, but also on the rights of Future Generations? This introduces a notion of ethics that was not introduced to the UN previously.  All this at a time that there is a clear lack of understanding between various groups of Nations in the UN.

New alliances are possible – such as between the countries, mainly in the poor South,  that are already suffering from effects of climate change, and more visionary countries of the North, that have a civil society ready to switch gears in the economy and move to new industries that are less polluting, resources saving and create jobs – a win-win-win situation for all! But the structure of the UN is itself fossilized, and the RIO+20 Prepcom was frozen.  No outcome document could be hammered out. That is how it looked when the Informal-Informal meetings were moved to Rio, the Prepcom resumed, and the Brazilian platform accepted by acclamation as the conference outcome.

We will not rehash the unsuccessful part of the event – but follow from here the Brazilian prepared options and the outcome document to show that it in effect changes the direction of the Sustainability Bridge from the 1992 construct to a new option that turns OUR COMMON VISION to the UN language operative THE FUTURE WE WANT.

—-

The Brazilians, hosts of 1992 and 2012, decided that their own good name is at stake, and descended on New York in full force.

Led by Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguilar Patriota, a Former Brazil Ambassador to the United States (2007-2009), and chief operational Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, the Undersecretary for Environment, Energy, Science and Technology of the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil – Figueredo Machado, was surrounded by a total of 30 other Ambassadors and Ministers – made sure to speak to everybody who volunteered an opinion, and note the minimums of acceptance in a secret draft they kept revising

Foreign Minister, Ambassador Patriota, is  graduate in philosophy from the University of Geneva and later international relations at he Rio Branco Institute – Brazil’s Diplomatic Academy;  he was also Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs of the Ministry of External Relations, and Secretary General of the Ministry and Cabinet Chief of Foreign Minister  Celso Amorim,  now Minister of Defence (whom I also spotted at the RioCentro conference Center), his predecessor from whom he took over in 2011.

Ambassador Figueiredo Machado has a Law degree from the State University of Rio de Janeiro, and subsequently graduated in 1980 from Instituto Rio Branco. Mister Figueiredo Machado has taught Constitutional Law at Rio Branco.  His postgraduate thesis for the Advanced Studies Course at the Rio Branco Institute was published in 2000 under the title The Brazilian Continental Shelf and the Law of the Sea. Considerations for a political action.

As a diplomat, Mister Figueiredo Machado has held overseas positions in the Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York where we met him, in the Embassies in Santiago, Washington and Ottawa, as well as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Mission to UNESCO, in Paris. Figueiredo Machado has also held numerous positions in the Ministry, handling multilateral issues, such as disarmament, oceans, Antarctica, space, health, and the environment.

Ambassador Figueiredo Machado served as Director of the Department of the Environment and Special Affairs from 2005 to 2010. Promoted to the rank of Ambassador in 2009, he got his present position in 2011 to oversee all Brazilian Government negotiations on environmental, technology, energy, science, ocean and space issues. Ambassador Figueiredo Machado served as well, since 2005, as Brazils lead negotiator in the climate change regime process.

—–

Brazil, to play it safe, prepared a two parts defense-line around the Rio+20 negotiations. I enjoyed in New York the resistance of Ambassador Figueiredo Machado to accept the idea that the meeting should actually be called RIO-20 because of the need, at the end, to come up with a new paradigm to replace the Agenda 21 that nobody was actually talking about.  Ambassador Machado seemed self confident  - in the face of negotiations that seemed clearly bound in a direction of  - “NO CONCLUDING DOCUMENT”.  He once told me that this will not be the case and “don’t talk yet of a failed meeting.”

The Brazilian diplomats, as said above, keeping their fingers on the pulse of the debate – and being present everywhere – had by the end of the New York meeting – that clearly had only a huge compendium of text and bracketed versions within other brackets with up to a dozen versions to a topic. At this stage I will not analyse the situation – it is all on the record and clearly that material did not amount to a statement that governments could have agreed upon as a final document. BUT a draft document on the ready was already in Amb. Figuereido Machado’s briefcase.

The Brazilians, who were totally committed “not to see a Doha in Rio” – a failed meeting in their home, and the cadaver of their darling of 1992, laid down at their feet – not trusting completely the above first line of defense – set up very early a second defense line, which they called the RioDialogues, and which we described already in our posting -

 www.sustainabilitank.info/categor…  (see another link bellow)

That was an innovation at the UN.  Seeing that it was hard to work with governments, the Brazilians decided, within what the General Assembly allowed them to do, to offer as  well an alternative to the government process by creating a Civil Society process based on the UN Member States system, but using an internet voting method, and an illusion of real democracy.

Our posting of June 7th saw these possibilities, but then the Brazilians were  afraid that the UN will not allow enough freedom of action to  their innovative scheme, and wedge in so that the UN mechanism directs the details of the Brazilian effort.

Let’s see – Brazil picks ten topics and allows via the internet an inflow of free suggested recommendations to each one of these topics. Each topic is handled by a team of 100 appointed people managed by three scientists – one from Brazil, one from the North and one from the South. Internet backing allows in each topic an interplay with those recommendations, and eventually the 100 people pick out from the many recommendations ten that will be pushed forward to a two stage voting. After the second stage voting only three recommendations per topic survive.

This total of 3 recommendations times 10 topics, that is 30 recommendations, then move on to four High Level Panels –  and it was expected that the outcome from this discussion among the high level panelists can then lead to a second document that could be viewed as a “New UN Age” outcome – very appropriate if the  Brazilian first line of defense fails – so this second line of defense produces a document nevertheless.

The first stage via the internet, and the second stage during the RioDialogues days in Rio proper, are voting stages. These were the June 16-19, 2010 days that came in between the June 13-15, 2012 days left open to the government delegates to have another attempt at informal-informal culminating in a renewed short Prepcom meeting - that was the actual original route of RIO+20, before the RioDialogues start – and are then followed by the Conference proper scheduled just for three days June 20-22, 2012. Final meeting and concluding decisions-taking were planned for Friday June 22, 2012.

At the RioDialogues, the chosen ten recommendations from each one of those 10 topics were presented by their designed teams and voted upon by the people allowed into the room. This particular issue, the UN mechanism intended to stymie in UN fashion and make it difficult for free participation. That old system that allows only to insiders to get a pass under rules that say half men – half women – half North – Half South and if you are genuinely proponent of UN change you find that you do not belong to any half – you are just the outside whole. Oh Well! But here we saw a clear rebellion by Brazil, they took back the initiative and shoved aside the notion that the UN Secretariat is responsible for dishing out Secondary Passes to those interested to participate in those meetings – including the voting.  They simply declared “THERE IS ENOUGH SPACE IN THOSE ROOMS AND ANYONE WHO WANTS TO COME SHOULD BE LET IN” – BRAVO BRAZIL!

For instance, with my interest in the Energy panel, and my interest to participate in the Energy RioDialogue, I found that I would not get access if the NGO office of the Major Group office, had its way – then the Brazilians told me not to worry – that room will not be closed to anyone expressing an interest in the topic.  I eventually understood how the UN Secretariat framed the subject as the NGO spokesperson on the platform was not a climate related person, but a lady involved with business interests that would rather talk of cooking stoves then energy emissions in general.  The lady was also close to the organizers of the Major Groups structure that dominates the NGO office.  Nevertheless, I had no problem speaking up from the floor, and stressing that all energy with very few exceptions like geothermal, was energy that comes from the sun, and the recommendations do not go far enough to stress this point. Using Fossil Fuels is like living from the savings account and by definition non-sustainable.  Kerosene and LPG are not an acceptable way to dispense Energy for All. My comments were answered from the podium – so clearly the Brazilians were not losers in their effort to develop this second line of defense, though clearly the UN is yet far from opening up to the real issues at stake.

Eventually, as said, the recommendations from the Dialogues moved up to the four Round Table Panels, and much more will have to be reviewed in what went on in this Brazilian second line.

Ending this section with this “Much more” comment, I will just say that there was no need for this second document as the first Brazilian document “Our Common Vision” was eventually accepted by acclamation on June 22nd – leaving open the question how Brazil will now include the the outcome from the High Level Panel discussions as an appendix to the official outcome of the Conference.

————-

In my last part I will thus try to pick up only the most important lines of thought from the UN official THE FUTURE WE WANT -  as per the RIO+20 Outcome Document based on Brazil’s OUR COMMON VISION:

www.scribd.com/doc/97715740/Our-Common-Vision

Going directly to the main point – please follow us to paragraphs 84-86 which have the secondary heading:

“HIGH LEVEL POLITICAL FORUM.”

and to make it even easier I marked red the most important operative lines. Most of the remaining lines are plain UN “boiler plate important to this or other Rio negotiators and show the all inclusiveness of the Brazilian diplomats.

84. We decide to establish a universal intergovernmental high level political forum, building on the strengths, experiences, resources and inclusive participation modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development, and subsequently replacing the Commission. The high level political forum shall follow up on the implementation of sustainable developmentand should avoid overlap with existing structures, bodies and entities in a cost-effective manner.

85. The high level forum could:

(a) provide political leadership, guidance, and recommendations for sustainable development;
(b) enhance integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development in a holistic and cross-sectoral manner at all levels;
(c) provide a dynamic platform for regular dialogue, and stocktaking and agendasetting to advance sustainable development;
(d) have a focused, dynamic and action-oriented agenda, ensuring the appropriate consideration of new and emerging sustainable development challenges;
(e) follow up and review progress in the implementation of sustainable development commitments contained in Agenda 21, Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, Barbados Programme of Action, Mauritius Strategy for Implementation and the outcome of this Conference and, as appropriate, relevant outcomes of other UN summits and conferences, including the outcome of the Fourth United NationsConference on the Least Developed Countries, as well as their respective means of  implementation;
(f) encourage high-level system-wide participation of UN Agencies, funds andprogrammes and invite to participate, as appropriate, other relevant multilateral financial and trade institutions, treaty bodies, within their respective mandates andin accordance with UN rules and provisions;
(g) improve cooperation and coordination within the UN system on sustainable development programmes and policies;
(h) promote transparency and implementation through further enhancing the consultative role and participation of Major Groups and other relevant stakeholders at the international level in order to better make use of their expertise, while retaining the intergovernmental nature of discussions;
(i) promote the sharing of best practices and experiences relating to theimplementation of sustainable development, and on a voluntary basis, facilitate sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges, and lessons learnt;
(j) promote system-wide coherence and coordination of sustainable development policies;
(k) strengthen the science-policy interface through review of documentation bringing together dispersed information and assessments, including in the form of a global sustainable development report, building on existing assessments;
(l) enhance evidence-based decision-making at all levels and contribute to strengthen ongoing efforts of capacity building for data collection and analysis in developing countries.
86. We decide to launch an intergovernmental and open, transparent and inclusive negotiation process under the General Assembly to define the high level forum’s format and organizational aspects with the aim of convening the first high level forum at the beginning of the 68th session of the General Assembly. We will also consider the need for promoting intergenerational solidarity for the achievement of sustainable development, taking into account the needs of future generations, including by inviting the Secretary General to present a report on this issue.
* * * * *
What above means is that the UN Secretary General is mandated to establish under UN General Assembly rules, that call for full UN Membership:

(1) a universal inter governmental high level political forum to replace the existing non-functioning Commission on Sustainable Development.

(2) though leaving the term Sustainable Development in place, the above looks at Developing Sustainability instead – this by mandating the UN Secretary General to look at taking into account the needs of future generations - “including by inviting the Secretary General to present a report on this issue.”

We say therefore that the concept of Sustainable Development introduced to the UN lingo by the 1992 meeting by Mr. Maurice Strong, a Canadian with strong ties to the US, but who lives now in Beijing, is effectively being replaced by “Developing Sustainability” as he pronounced it on June 21, 2012, at the official ceremony of celebration of the passing of 20 years between RIO UNCED and RIO+20.

The Brazilian Diplomats have accepted the need to consider Sustainability as the bridge to future generations when developing economies for the short sighted benefit of the current generation. This is in effect a negation of the common resources-grabbing
reality by the 1% of the population in North and South, while the remaining 99% of the population remains in effect in relative poverty – as described by the evolving Global Occupy movements.

Introducing the needs of FUTURE GENERATIONS does for the first time give the UN the needed sense of ethics required in full understanding of the term SUSTAINABILITY, that is intruding into the ongoing negotiations via a request to establish at the UN a “Small Office” of a HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS that we understand could  be modeled after the United States example of the US General Accounting Office.  The GAO  can be called by any Member of US Congress – House or Senate – to make public an evaluation of true facts regarding an issue that is in dispute. In the UN case, such a small office could answer questions of impact on future generations by any ongoing activity or negotiations at the UN.

This idea has already working examples.

Commissioners for future generations were tried by Parliaments of Israel and Hungary.

The Israeli Knesset Commissioner,  a retired Judge, had the right to review impacts of all legislation. The experiment eventually was ended as political forces found this cumbersome. In the Hungarian Parliament case the experiment that could have an impact in all EU States, continues and was the base for the introduction of the subject to the negotiations of the run-up to RIO+20. Professor Sándor Fülöp is since 2008 the Hungarian Parliament’s Commissioner on Future Generations. We applaud the Brazilians for seizing up on this very important point.

In effect we find this and the efforts by Bhutan to focus us on Well-Being and Happiness, the two most important driving forces that surfaced at the UN informal-informal negotiations.  They sum up the Ethics, and it is now up to representatives of the World Religions to seize the opportunity to enter UN negotiations. The rights of the yet to be born generations and the happiness of the present generations are not just Buddhist concepts – these are fundamentals to be found in any religious scriptures as evidenced by the religious leaders that the Prime Minister of Bhutan assembled at his most effective day at the UN in New York – April 2, 2012.

Getting back to  the Brazilian drafted text, in the opening paragraph, it also says that Sustainable Development Goals, protecting and managing natural resources and ecosystems for present and future generations, are to be formulated by the UN in order to follow in 2015 from the Millennium Development Goals.

Paragraphs 56-74 deal with rules and regulations of a Green Economy as needed for Sustainability and Justice for the people.

Paragraphs 87-90 deal with strengthening the Environmental pillar of the three legged concept of Sustainable Development, by making UNEP all inclusive with Universal Membership in its Governing Council.

We find that this section would benefit immensely had there been a UN Commissioner for Future Generations as UNEP has not enough of a handle on sovereign States to force them to take full responsibility over the environment in their own territory, but it could become possible to hold them responsible for damages to extraterritorial regions – specially those that are not covered by National Sovereignty claims, and belong thus to everyone as represented by the yet to be born in Future Generations.  In our opinion this facet of International Law has yet to be written with the establishing of a legal persona for the unborn – surely more important then the Corporate legal persona.

Paragraphs 224-226  deal with Sustainable Consumption and Production. These reiterate past commitments, including the elimination of subsidies to fossil fuels, but are clearly short of recommendations for true evaluation of the effects of ongoing production and consumption patterns. We believe that a handle on this could eventually be formed when the impact on future generations is considered.

Last Section – VI. Means of Implementation – including Finance, Technology, Capacity Building, Trade, and Registry of Commitments, is the obvious target of those that say the meeting came out empty handed. This, because if you were expecting a continuous flow of money from the North to the South, you simply did not look out your cell-window lately.

The money is no more with the States of the North – it is rather to be found in the Southern New Emerging economies, so there is no real promises of money to be found except in the registry of free commitments – mainly by private enterprise and all sorts of partnerships.   This last part is a success story, but not what some pundits were fighting for.  We do not think that this should be viewed separately from the call for change.

To summarize – RIO+20 as handled by Brazil – is a door to a new future that is going to rewrite the 1992 decisions that were not followed anyway.     As said – it will be rather DEVELOPING SUSTAINABILITY then SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, and in this respect the platform is only being developed and the eventual funding will be coming in major part from South-South cooperation. We will have to be patient and see the changes taking effect.

Learning from the above, we hope for a MAASTRICHT+20 to replace the EU Summits that talk of a “Montillande” wrestling Merkel as replacement to “Merkozy” – we think this sort of talk does not fit the reality, and is no way to crawl out from under the avalanche that was caused by the lack of real growth following that good year of 1992. So let me repeat – if Europe cannot do it alone – it ought to invite the UN “B-Team” – Bhutan and Brazil – and ask them to rewrite the rules.



—————-

Following is the link to our posting of the RioDialogues and on Judge Shlomo Shoham of the Commission for Future Generations in the Knesset .

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 7th, 2012

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

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 27th, 2010

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

To look further at the Hungarian example of  Professor Sándor Fülöp,  presently the only ongoing Parliament appointed Commissioner for Future Generations, please go to   www.jno.hu  and see also the involvement on this subject of the Hamburg based World Future Council.   [Mr Sándor Fülöp was elected to become Hungary’s first Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations in 2008. He holds a degree in law from the Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences (1982) and a degree in psychology (1987). Between 1984 and 1991 he has worked as a public prosecutor at the Metropolitan and the National Chief Prosecutor’s Office. Following a short period of private legal practice,  Mr Fülöp was also until his election as Commissioner, the director of Hungary’s principal non-profit environmental law firm: the Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA).  During that time he has  held a number of international positions.  He participated in the drafting of the 1998 UN ECE Convention on Access to Information, Access to Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention). Between 2002 and 2008 he was a member of the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention.  Mr Fülöp has been a university lecturer on environmental law since 1997.]

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 7th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The commons cluster has settled on the three following demands:

Mother Earth is our home and source of life:


1. She should be accorded the rights to: life, regenerate biocapacity, continue the vital cycles and processes, among them the water cycle; maintain the diversity of components, be free of contamination or pollution, and be restored from harm.


2. Ecocide should be proclaimed the fifth Crime Against Peace, since Ecocide is the extensive damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severly diminished.


3. Since all people on earth contribute both to the problems with regard to sustainable development and to their solution, all people, must participate in decision making, not just Major Groups and “other” stakeholders.

==========

There was not a reference to FUTURE GENERATIONS and we consider this a weakness in the text even though it does include regeneration of  biocapacity.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 1st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

FINALLY, ATTENTION IS FOCUSED ALSO ON LOS CABOS – THE PLACE WHERE ALL HEADS OF STATES WITH POWER, AND SUFFERING SMALL ISLAND STATES – mainly from the CARICOM  - WILL BE ON THE EVE OF THE OPENING OF THE RIO CONFERENCE. COULD THEY TAKE A DECISION IN MEXICO AND BRING THAT DECISION TO RIO?

From: Will Bates - 350.org organizers@350.org            Dear Friends,


This is huge. - Two weeks ago we joined a diverse coalition to launch an all-out offensive to end fossil fuel subsidies, and we weren’t quite sure how it would turn out. Well, we’ve currently got 958,422 signatures on our combined global petition — almost a million people strong!

Will you help us get to a million by the end of the week? Sign on here: www.350.org

Once we get a million signatures, we’ll move on to phase two: a surround-sound campaign to put the pressure on world leaders at the G20 Summit in Mexico and at the “Rio+20 Earth Summit” coming up in Brazil.

We’ll be honest: we won’t win the campaign to end fossil fuel subsidies with a petition alone — and we won’t be able to wrap this up by the end of the Rio Earth Summit. But being a million strong is a powerful starting point, and our massive numbers will send an unignorable message to world leaders.

The truth is that ending these subsidies will take an ongoing and escalating campaign — which is why we’re digging deep on multiple fronts. As I type this, 350.org staff and volunteers are putting together a cutting-edge social media plan, planning a series of hard-hitting actions in countries around the world, and working on game-changing research that will expose just how massive the issue of subsidies is.

Our work on subsidies will continue in the weeks and months ahead — but with the global summits in Mexico and Rio happening in just a few weeks, we have a unique moment to shine a light on a topic that all too often gets hidden and ignored. And we can’t ignore it any longer — the issue of subsidies is just too important. New research shows that getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies would lead to massive reductions in the emissions that are super-heating our planet — and could help level the economic playing field and trigger a clean energy revolution around the world.

One more thing: we’re saving June 18 for something special. It’ll be the day when we’ll deliver our collective petition to world leaders, but also a day where we’ll try something a bit different — and a day to take our message to the halls of power in a brand new way.

We’ll keep you posted on the next steps, but for now please help us reach the 1 million mark before the week is up: www.350.org

Onwards,

Will Bates for the 350.org Team


Articles and Info

Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies ‘could provide half of global carbon target’ |The Guardian go.350.org


###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 27th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

His Holiness Meets the Austrian Chancellor, attends a Science Symposium and the European Rally for Tibet.

May 27th 2012     –     from   www.dalailama.com

———–

The 14th Dalai Lama mid-May 2012 Europe-trip took him to the UK (where he received The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities – in front of 2000 people at the St. Paul Cathedral in London and met in private with the Prime Minister and his Deputy), Slovenia, Belgium, and Austria (where he was received by two States – Koernten and Salzberg, and in private by the Federal Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor).

* * * *  This was added by Pincas Jawetz

———-

Vienna, Austria, 26 May 2012 – The sun shone and a small crowd of well-wishers smiled warmly as His Holiness arrived opposite St Stephen’s Cathedral to be met by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna. They were almost immediately joined by the Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann and the three went into a meeting together.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn in Vienna, Austria, on May 26, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHD

Standing at a balcony window nearby, Cardinal Schönborn took the opportunity to explain some of the restoration work that has been taking place at St Stephen’s, the most important religious building in Vienna, before the bells rang out calling him back to the cathedral. His Holiness and the Chancellor continued to discuss matters of mutual concern.

Next, His Holiness drove to the University of Vienna to attend a symposium on Buddhism and Science: Mind & Matter – New Models of Reality, where he was welcomed by the Rector of the University, Heinz Engl.

Describing it as a great honour for him to participate in the discussions, His Holiness noted that towards the end of the last century, scientists had begun to take a serious interest in the workings of our minds and emotions. He said he had been fascinated by how things work since he was a child and learned a great deal about how electricity functions from investigating the movie projector and generator that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama.

About 40 years ago he began to learn about cosmology, neuropsychology and quantum physics and for nearly 30 years has been conducting regular dialogues with scientists. The purpose of these dialogues is, firstly, to extend human knowledge, not only in the material field, but also the inner space of our minds, and, secondly, through exploring such phenomena as a calm mind, to promote human happiness.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and fellow panelists during the symposium on Buddhism and science “Mind and Matter – New Models of Reality” at the University of Vienna, in Vienna, Austria, on May 26, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
With Mr Gert Scobel moderating, Prof Dr Anton Zeilinger, Prof Dr Klaus-Dieter Mathes, Dr Patrizia Giampieri-Deutsch made their presentations, which explored aspects of quantum physics, Madhyamaka philosophy and psychoanalysis.

His Holiness hosted a lunch at his hotel for all the speakers that was also attended by Kalon Tripa, Dr Lobsang Sangay, social and human rights activist Bianca Jagger, former French Foreign Minister and co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, Bernard Kouchner and other friends who were in Vienna to attend the European Rally for Tibet. In the afternoon session of the Science symposium, Prof Dr Michael von Brück and Prof Dr Wolf Singer gave informative presentations on how the mind understands the structure of reality and the search for neuronal correlates of consciousness.

As the symposium came to an end, His Holiness expressed his appreciation, “Over the 30 or 40 years that I have been acquainted with scientists, I have noticed how many of them are acutely aware of the limitations of their knowledge. It is a good quality to recognise that our scope for learning is vast. They display an open-mindedness that is really admirable.”

A memorandum of co-operation was signed between Prof Geshe Ngawang Samten, Director and Vice Chancellor of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, Varanasi, India and the Rector of Vienna University, Heinz Engl, providing for an exchange of students and scholars of the two institutions. Geshe Tenzin Dhargye, Director of the Tibet Center that has organized the various functions His Holiness has attended in Austria on this visit, offered his thanks to His Holiness and everyone who has participated.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting the crowd of over 10,000 at the European Solidarity Rally for Tibet at the Vienna Heldenplatz in Vienna, Austria, on May 26, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL
In the warm, late afternoon, His Holiness drove to Vienna’s Heldenplatz where 10,000 people had assembled for the European Solidarity Rally for Tibet. Addressing his dear brothers and sisters in the crowd, he told them how happy he was to be there and that he would like to first say a few words in Tibetan to the Tibetans present.

“Our culture is under threat of destruction, therefore I want to take this opportunity to speak my own language. Archaeological findings indicate that Tibetan history dates back 3-4000 years. We Tibetans must not forget our identity, for our blood, flesh and bones come from Tibet. Since the 7th century we have employed the Tibetan written language in which the most complete and thorough translations have been made of Buddhist knowledge from the original Sanskrit. This is a treasure for the world, not only for Tibetans. And when we talk about preserving Tibetan Buddhist culture, I don’t mean just paying respects before a Buddhist image, but putting the teachings into practice and trying to live as good human beings.”

He talked about the urgent need to protect the Tibetan environment, which because it is the source of many of the rivers that run through Asia is of value not only to Tibetans but millions of others too. He expressed the fear that once environmental damage has taken place it will take a great deal of time to recover. Distinguishing Buddhist religion, which is the business of Buddhist practitioners, from Buddhist culture, which, as a culture of peace, honesty and compassion, is worth preserving for the good of the world.

Meanwhile, millions of Chinese are already showing interest in Tibetan Buddhist culture. His Holiness stressed that the damage and destruction of Tibetan Buddhist culture that has taken place was not because Tibetans were not interested, but because of the difficult political circumstances in which they find themselves.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at the European Solidarity Rally for Tibet at the Vienna Heldenplatz in Vienna, Austria, on May 26, 2012. Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

“Because of our Buddhist culture we are committed to the principle of non-violence. We are an example of a small community who have remained dedicated to pursuing our struggle through non-violent means, which is why your support is so extremely valuable and I want to tell you how much I appreciate it.

“Finally, I see how many of you are waving the Tibetan flag. Chinese hard-liners often refer to our flag as a symbol of splittist tendencies, but I want to tell you that when I was in China 1954-55, I met Chairman Mao Zedong and other leaders on several occasions. Once, Chairman Mao asked me, ‘Do you have a flag?’ I hesitantly answered, ‘Yes,’ and his reply was to say, ‘Good, it is important that you keep this flag and fly it next to the red flag of China. So I feel I received permission then to fly this flag from Chairman Mao himself.”

Tomorrow afternoon, following a meeting with the press to highlight inter-religious harmony and several private meetings during the morning, His Holiness will board a flight from Vienna to return to India.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

For almost half a century the Dalai Lama has been a headache for China’s communist leaders. Beijing regularly denounces the Tibetan spiritual leader as a traitor and a “splittist.”

Since fleeing to India in 1959, the Dalai Lama has brought world attention to the struggle to free Tibet from China’s grasp, winning the Nobel Peace Prize and international recognition in the process.

The Dalai Lama recognizes the Sovereignty of China and wants a peaceful resolution.

Tibetans Fear for Their Future after the Dalai Lama.

While Tibetans revere him, some worry that they have come to rely too heavily on the 66-year-old leader and that his death would deeply harm their cause. ”The institution of the Dalai Lama, it’s one of Tibet’s great strengths –  At the same time, it’s one of our weaknesses, because all of us are dependent on him,” said Thubten Samphel, information secretary for the exiled Tibetan government.

——–

The Dalai Lama (Ocean of Wisdom) is in Europe for a campaign of  TIBET NEEDS YOU NOW.  He speaks to the Tibetan diaspora but also to many local friends. Former High government officials have no problem being seen on stage with him and current Heads of State meet him in private so they do not infuriate the China government. The topic is – “Occupation is Unacceptable and Oppression is Unbearable.” The events got enhanced by the fact that 35 people did self-immolate in Tibet recently – this as all form of protest of the occupation by China is forbidden and facing  jail people rather would die and sacrifice themselves to the cause. The Dalai Lama believes in peaceful resolution but as religious person will pray for the dead. Nevertheless he mentions the start of the Arab Spring with the self immolation of a man in Tunisia – and he also said that hundreds of thousands of Muslims in China have accepted the Buddhist culture and are on the side of the Tibetans.

I saw his large indoor appearance in Klagenfurt together with former Chancellor Gussenbauer, and was present at his big outdoor event at the Heldenplatz with very recent French Foreign Minister Kouchner. I read in the papers that Chancellor Faymann, Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Spindellegger, and the Head Of the Catholic Church in Austria, Kardinal Schoenborn, will meet him in private. President Heinz Fischer on the other hand seems to have decided that the ONE-CHINA policy and the fact that he is here as the Head of a Religion, does not allow him to receive the Dalai Lama. In effect,  Mr. Spindelegger, the Foreign Minister, came to the indoor meeting the Dalai Lama had with 8,000 believers at the City Hall, where the topic was “Ethics in the Modern Society.” The Dalai Lama is no more the Head of  Tibet – that position was passed on to the DHARAMSALA, India, seated Prime Minister in Exile Lobsang Sangay who moved there from his Harvard Law School position.  The Dalai Lama sees himself now only as Religious leader and warden of Tibetan culture. He recognizes the Chinese Sovereignty and hopes for a peaceful resolution. On the flag the Tibetans are displaying he said that in 1954-1955 he stayed in Peking and Chairman Mao told him that preserving the flag next to the China red flag is important. He feels thus that displaying the flag is not an anti-China move and he denies the term “splittist.” The Dalai Lama even said that who loves Tibet has to love also China – that is the right way – he said – but it still did not insure him and austria from China Government wrath.

At the Heldenplatz the signs read The People Demand the safe return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and the event is titled – EUROPEAN RALLY FOR TIBET – to be followed on www.EuropeforTibet.com and  present on the lawn were people from all over Europe – Buddhists and non-Buddhists.

Tibet is not a theocracy – it rather is a democracy that has now a parliament and a secular Prime Minister, and Mr. Bernard Kouchner suggested a EU Special Coordinator be established and an EU delegation sent to Tibet. It is ridiculous that China with 1.3 billion people is afraid of  6 million Tibetans, he said.

Barbara Stoeckl, a TV Personality did the introductions, Bianca Jagger and Francesca von Habsburg, and a young Tibetan woman from Switzerland were on stage at the outdoor event. The young Buddhist said that starting in her baby carriage, she is part of this Buddhist of Tibet rallying for Tibet culture.

Actor Maximillian Schell read at the Heldenplatz the Hermann Hesse writing appropriate to the history of these grounds in the days of Nazism, outside the Austrian Presidential Palace – “Rather be killed by the fascists then be one myself – rather be killed by the communists then be one myself.”

Professor Nusbaumer, for nearly 20 years he had been Editor-in-Chief of the influential Austrian newspaper Kurier. In 1990-1999, he held the post of Press Secretary of the President of Austria. Since 2003, Heinz Nussbaumer has been issuing the religion Die Furche magazine, a backer of Tibet and  a friend of Heinrich Harrer (Seven Years in Tibet – 1952, Lost Lhasa – 1953, ” Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for Tibet.”) is the contact of the Tibetan soft advances and the Press.

The Dalai Lama made some further points with high relevance to our media:

Many rivers in Asia start in the Tibet snow mountains of the Himalaya – life in Asia depends on these waters. So, it is not only 6 million people’s interest, but of humanity in general. Tibetan’s involvement is important to China and India and many others. Damage to the ecology will take  a long period to recover, he said.

He went out of his way to distinguish between religion and culture. The Tibetan Culture of Peace and compassion – this is also not only a Buddhist interest – but of the whole world.

The world experiences hypocrisy and division into rich and poverty – the culture of Buddhism is one of honesty and peace and compassion – worthwhile to preserve.

Now we have it – it is about:  Positioned between two giants – India and China - PRESERVATION OF CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT AND POLITICAL RIGHTS – THIS IS THE ESSENCE OF THE PUSH OF TIBETAN BUDDHIST CULTURE.  A SMALL COMMUNITY OF 6 MILLION PEOPLE SHOWING AN EXAMPLE OF PEACE TO THE WORLD.

——————-

UDATES:

I found out that the 14th Dalai Lama arrived to Vienna on Friday evening after trips to Klagenfurt and Salzeberg.

Saturday morning he had breakfast with Chancellor Faymann and Kardinal Schoenborn at the Do&Co Restaurant across from the Cathedral,  then he met with 8,000 Tibetan Buddhists and European Friends where he spoke about Ethics and Mr. Spindelegger was there also – these two events, with the Kardinal present in the first event, and the address to his people of faith on ethics, turn his visit as a representation of him being a religious and cultural leader – not a Head of State, so it does not give the Chinese government clear reason to complain. Nevertheless, complain they did!

The reaction of Austria was just as swift – all Sunday newspapers lauded the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor for not having given in to the China-threat and the way it was done taking all levels of diplomacy in account.

The Oesterreich writes about the Joy that Surrounded the Dalai Lama.

Die Presse starts with half of its front page saying that Austria is proud for standing up to China. The paper applauds the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor and points a finger at the hesitancy of the President. I rather feel that these were not individual decisions – but a collective decision so built that the China protest will look ridiculous – and the Chinese obliged. By now protesting the Dalai lama has become a Chinese ritual and they seem to be stuck in their policy. The paper points at the China Tibet policy as a Nationalistic tool with which they stoke up the Han Nationalism fire – but then there is a danger that this same fire will also someday sweep out the Chinese leadership like in similar conditions it worked against Arab established governments.

The Kronen Zeitung points out the playfulness of the Dalai Lama that is contagious. The fact that at 4 years of age it was decided that he is a reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama his name changed to Tendzin Gyatsho, and he was physically moved to the Palace in Lhasa, and at age 15 declared Head of Tibet. At age 24 he had to escape to India and since then – to his present age of 66, he is fighting  against the oppression of his people.

And this is a Symbol as well, today is Pentcostal Sunday Pfingsten in German and Shawuot in Hebrew. This is Pentecost means “fiftieth day” since the Jewish Passover – or the Holiday of Freedom – the day Judaism celebrates the receiving of the laws and the covenant with God. Christianity changed this to 50 days from Easter and the arrival of the Holly Ghost. The Holly Spirit is also understood by buddhists and this law based spiritual behavior is what can link all three into a joint effort – to which the Dalai Lama insists at bringing in also the Koran obeying Muslims in which he sees allies in his homeland of Tibet as well as in the rest of the Muslim World.

The Kurrier did cover in several lines the fact that the Austrian President contended that it is his right to not be pushed into a China policy set by others. He rather wants the right to take his own correct decisions.

Tomorrow is Pentecostal Monday and we are not sure that there will be newspapers, so by Tuesday the comments about China objections may be forgotten. So might be what was said at the Sunday meeting at the Hilton hotel where The Dalai Lama and Kardinal Scoenborn discussed basically bridging-matters arising of religion. The third person at the table was moderator Professor Nusbaumer and as well an interpreter who mainly changed the English into German.

The discussion between the two star participants was mainly on personal experiences of  both being monastic monks dedicated to improving themselves and radiating these changes to the world, and help their coreligionists as well as others. The four or five questions from the audience were also about matters of faith, even if dealing with unemployed youth, the expectation of keeping a body in limbo before leaving it soul-less, the possibility of having the Buddhist Lama believe in Christ  (on this he answered that though this being a question of faith – he fully accepts the validity of the teachings of Christ) – in fairness – not my kind of questions.

Nevertheless, I had my chance, after the official meeting to ask His Highness the Dalai Lama about material relating to his statement of yesterday when he spoke about ecology, the importance of Tibet Water to the region and the whole of humanity,    and the divide between a few rich and much poverty?  I said I am asking this in context of the upcoming Rio+20 Conference and  I was promised that Mr. Tenzin Taklha, from the Office of his Holiness the Dalai Lama, will provide me the requested information. I hope to be able to present this in my next Update.

Following the Press Conference, The Dalai Lama was taken to the Vienna St.Stephen’s Cathedral – The Stephansdom. Then he was going to be returned to the Hilton hotel for two additional meetings – first for a reception with “Save the Children of Tibet” and after that to a closed meeting with the families of Mongolian Buddhists.

—————————-

europefortibet.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Press_Release_21_May_EN.pdf

journalism.berkeley.edu/projects/greaterchina/story-tibetans.html


###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Center of gravity in oil world shifts to Americas.

By , Published The Washington Post: May 25, 2012.

LOMA LA LATA, Argentina — In a desertlike stretch of scrub grass and red buttes, oil companies are punching holes in the ground in search of what might be one of the biggest recent discoveries in the Americas: enough gas and oil to make a country known for beef and the tango an important energy player.

The environment is challenging, with resources trapped deep in shale rock. But technological breakthroughs coupled with a feverish quest for the next major find are unlocking the door to oil and natural gas riches here and in several other countries in the Americas not traditionally known as energy producers

Graphic

A tectonic shift in oil supply

Click Here to View Full Graphic Story

A tectonic shift in oil supply

That is quickly changing the dynamics of energy geopolitics in a way that had been unforeseen just a few years ago.

From Canada to Colombia to Brazil, oil and gas production in the Western Hemisphere is booming, with the United States emerging less dependent on supplies from an unstable Middle East. Central to the new energy equation is the United States itself, which has ramped up production and is now churning out 1.7 million more barrels of oil and liquid fuel per day than in 2005.

“There are new players and drivers in the world,” said Ruben Etcheverry, chief executive of Gas and Oil of Neuquen, a state-owned energy firm that is positioning itself to develop oil and gas fields here in Patagonia. “There is a new geopolitical shift, and those countries that never provided oil and gas can now do so. For the United States, there is a glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency.”

Oil produced in Persian Gulf countries — notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq — will remain vital to the world’s energy picture. But what was once a seemingly unalterable truth — that American oil production would steadily fall while the United States remained heavily reliant on Middle Eastern supplies — is being turned on its head.

Since 2006, exports to the United States have fallen from all but one major member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the net decline adding up to nearly 1.8 million barrels a day. Canada, Brazil and Colombia have increased exports to the United States by 700,000 barrels daily in that time and now provide nearly 3.4 million barrels a day.

Six Persian Gulf suppliers provide just 22 percent of all U.S. imports, the nonpartisan U.S. Energy Information Administration said this month. The United States’ neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, meanwhile, provide more than half — a figure that has held steady for years because, as production has fallen in the oil powers of Venezuela and Mexico, it has gone up elsewhere.

Production has risen strikingly fast in places such as the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and the “tight” rock formations of North Dakota and Texas — basins with resources so hard to refine or reach that they were not considered economically viable until recently. Oil is gushing in once-dangerous regions of Colombia and far off the coast of Brazil, under thick salt beds thousands of feet below the surface.

A host of new discoveries or rosy prospects for large deposits also has energy companies drilling in the Chukchi Sea inside the Arctic Circle, deep in the Amazon, along a potentially huge field off South America’s northeast shoulder, and in the roiling waters around the Falkland Islands.

“A range of big possibilities for oil are opening up,” said Juan Carlos Montiel, as he directed a team from the state-controlled company YPF to drill while a whipping wind brought an autumn chill to the potentially lucrative fields here outside Añelo. “With the exploration that is being carried out, I think we will really increase the production of gas and oil.”

Because oil is a widely traded commodity, analysts say the upsurge in production in the Americas does not mean the United States will be immune to price shocks. If Iran were to close off the Strait of Hormuz, stopping tanker traffic from Middle East suppliers, a price shock wave would be felt worldwide.

But the new dynamics for the United States — an increasingly intertwined energy relationship with Canada and more reliance on Brazil — mean U.S. energy supplies are more assured than before, even if oil from an important Persian Gulf supplier is temporarily halted.

The fracking ‘revolution’

Perhaps the biggest development in the worldwide realignment is how the United States went from importing 60 percent of its liquid fuels in 2005 to 45 percent last year. The economic downturn in the United States, improvements in automobile efficiency and an increasing reliance on biofuels all played a role.

But a major driver has been the use of hydraulic fracturing. By blasting water, chemicals and tiny artificial beads at high pressure into tight rock formations to make them porous, workers have increased oil production in North Dakota from a few thousand barrels a day a decade ago to nearly half a million barrels today.

Conservative estimates are that oil and natural gas produced through “fracking,” as the process is better known, could amount to 3 million barrels a day by 2020.

“We have a revolution here,” said Larry Goldstein, director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation in New York. “In 47 years in this business, I’ve never seen anything like this. This is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.”

All of this has happened as exports from Mexico and Venezuela have fallen in recent years, a trend analysts attribute to mismanagement and lack of investment at the state-owned oil industries in those countries. Even so, there is a possibility that new governments in Mexico and Venezuela — Mexico elects a new president July 1, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has cancer — could open the energy industry to the private investment and expertise needed to boost production, analysts say.

“There’s a lot of upside potential in Latin America that will boost the oil supply over the medium term,” said RoseAnne Franco, who analyzes exploration and production prospects in the region for the energy consultant Wood Mackenzie. “So it’s very positive.”

Political elements

Much of the exploration, though, will not be easy, cheap or, as in Argentina’s case, free of political pitfalls. Price controls on natural gas and import restrictions have made doing business in Argentina hard for energy companies. And last month, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s populist government stunned oil markets by expropriating YPF, the biggest energy company here, from Spain’s Repsol.

But the prize for energy companies is potentially huge. Repsol estimated this year that a cross section of the vast Dead Cow formation here in Neuquen province could hold nearly 23 billion barrels of gas and oil. That followed a U.S. Energy Information Administration report that said Argentina possibly has the third-largest shale gas resources after China and the United States.

“All the top-of-the-line companies are here,” said Guillermo Coco, energy minister of Neuquen province, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell. Although only about 200 wells have been drilled, Coco said companies here talk of drilling 10,000 or more in the next 15 years.

Wells on the horizon

On a recent day here in a dusty spot called Loma La Lata, German Perez oversaw a team of 30 technicians from the Houston-based oil- services giant Schlumberger as they prepared to frack a well.

The operation was huge: Trucks lined up with revving generators. Giant containers brimmed with water. Hoses used for firing chemicals into wells littered the ground. Cranes hoisted huge bags of artificial sand into mixers. Then, 1,200-horsepower pumps blasted water, chemicals and sand nearly 9,000 feet into the earth. “This is a hard rock, so we create countless cracks and fissures, for the gas and oil to flow,” Perez said.

Staring at the stark landscape, broken up here and there by oil rigs, Perez said he thought many companies would one day arrive in search of oil and gas. “The projections are pretty good,” he said. “In our case, we have been here a year and a half and we have tripled the equipment we have. And we think we will double that in another year.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Inline image 1

This analysis was prepared by Elena Maffei, Research Associate at the Washington DC based Council on Hemispheric Affairs. We received the study on May 26, 2012.

The recent discovery of offshore oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico has given Havana new hopes of establishing rich deposits of its own, thereby decreasing Cuba’s present dependence on foreign energy sources.

Fidel Castro began to look for new energy suppliers immediately upon coming to power in 1959, and he soon found one. The Soviet Union was Cuba’s largest supplier of energy resources during the Cold War, but Moscow’s collapse in the early 1990s, coupled with the longstanding American embargo, drove the Cuban economy into a deep depression. Havana, in response, has begun implementing market-based reforms, including intensifying efforts to open the country to tourism,[1] as well as encourage strategic partnerships with other Latin American countries, most notably Venezuela.[2]

In 2011, Cuba produced about 55,000 onshore barrels of oil per day, mostly from the northern province of Matanzas, refining it at the island’s four refineries (in Cabaiguán, Cienfuegos, La Habana, and Santiago de Cuba).

Consumer needs, however, call for over 170,000 barrels per day, making the island a net importer of oil.[3] Currently, the bulk of these imports come from Venezuela, which meets two-thirds of Cuba’s daily requirements thanks to an energy agreement the two countries signed in October 2000. Cuba has become a crucial partner for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as reflected in both countries’ membership in the rising   “Alianza Bolivariana para Amèrica Latina (ALBA)” trade bloc.

In early 2012, a deepwater drilling rig was built in China by an Italian company, Saipem, which is owned by the oil and gas multinational Eni, and then leased to Spain’s Repsol. The Spanish company began offshore oil exploration 22 miles north of Havana, in the Jaguey block of the Cuban Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as early as 2004, and is hoping to find between 5 and 9 billion barrels in that area.[4]

Yet Repsol will hardly be the only foreign company operating in Cuban territory, as it will be working in just six blocks within the EEZ, and will be doing so in cooperation with Norway’s Statoil-Hydro and India’s Ongc.

22 other blocks, meanwhile, have been awarded to other foreign companies, including Petronas (Malaysia), PetroVietnam (Vietnam), Gazprom (Russia), Sonagol (Angola), PDVSA (Venezuela), and CNOOC (China).[5] While each is eager to hit black gold in the region, it would take three to five years of drilling before real production could begin even if the deposits live up to expectations.[6]

The United States, which is not taking part in the drilling because of its embargo against Cuba, could nevertheless not be more interested.

Washington, alarmed by the drilling site’s location just 60 miles from Florida’s coast, has been expressing its concerns about the potential environmental risks posed by the explorations, and has commissioned a panel of environmental and energy experts to discuss possible solutions to any potential disaster in the region. According to William K. Reilly, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under George H.W. Bush, “the Cuban approach to this is responsible and appropriate to the risk they are undertaking.”[7] But should an accident similar to the BP disaster of 2010 occur, the absence of a bilateral oil spill agreement between the U.S. and Cuba, in conjunction with strict American regulations freezing the transfer of technology between the two countries, would threaten American interests in the region, as well as pose a real environmental danger to the entire Gulf of Mexico. The matter is further complicated by the fact that offshore explorations are not taking place in U.S. territorial waters, within Washington’s legal reach, and are therefore not governed by the Clean Water and Oil Pollution Acts. Thus, any U.S. effort to take control of the situation in the event of an oil spill would be much more difficult, and would be bound to cause a diplomatic incident. Clearly, Washington must begin to consider a possible adjustment or elimination of the restrictions imposed upon the Caribbean country, and ask itself whether the embargo truly still represents American interests.

Economically, it must not be forgotten that if the investigations of Repsol and others reveal that there is a considerable amount of oil in the Cuban EEZ, Cuba could be transformed from an oil-importing country to one of Latin America’s largest oil producers almost overnight. Such a stark transition would undoubtedly affect relations between Havana, Caracas, and Washington, as well as completely change the geopolitical equilibrium of the region, possibly producing explosive results.

Another crucial issue is the conflict between the Argentine and Spanish governments over Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s nationalization of YPF, a now-former Repsol subsidiary.

On April 19th, the Castro administration announced its support for the takeover, stating that Argentina has the right to exercise permanent sovereignty over its natural resources. Such a controversial declaration, even if coherent once one takes into account Argentina’s alliance with Havana, could end up being a risky and counterproductive step for Cuba.

A potential geopolitical turning point for the region, the discovery of oilfields in the Cuban EEZ could represent Havana’s ticket to the further liberalization of Cuban institutions, an escape from poverty and underdevelopment, and the end of Washington’s disdain for their Caribbean neighbor. Still, the Cuban position on the Argentinian YPF seizure could prove problematic, and Havana would do well to reformulate its position in order to ease tensions with the Spanish oil company. At the same time, however, if the United States is interested in benefiting from this discovery and in staving off a potential ecological disaster mere miles from its southern coast, then it, too, must work to ease tension and adapt to the post-Cold War world.

The sources:

[1] large.stanford.edu/publications/coal/references/baker/work/docs/SoligoJaffe_EnergyCuba.pdf

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 25th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THIS IS AN EXCELLENT  SHORT OVERVIEW WE APPLAUD – IN WHICH THE UNSG PUTS FORWARD WHAT HE CALLED  THREE CLUSTERS AND ONE IDEA:

1.   A New Economy following up on the results of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)  of the UN – and based on a   “triple bottom line” — job-rich economic growth coupled with environmental protection and social inclusion.

2.  Put People First – specially women and children.

3.  Respect for Mother Earth – do not pollute and destroy oceans,  water, air and forests.                                                                                         Our cities must be in harmony with nature.

to these he added what he called - “my own Sustainable Energy for All initiative. The goal: universal access to sustainable energy, a doubling of energy efficiency and a doubling of the use of renewable sources of energy by 2030.”

We wish the UNSG luck with his 4 points and hope his UN underlings will let him be this time along the lines he pronounced here. By dealing with Sustainable Energy separately, the UNSG seemed to try to avoid his oil-States outflow of impediments to whatever positive is being attempted at the UN – YES WE  UNDERSTAND HIS POSITION THIS TIME.
===============================

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

The Future We Want.

By BAN KI-MOON
Published New York Times on-line: May 23, 2012

Twenty years ago, there was the Earth Summit. Gathering in Rio de Janiero, world leaders agreed on an ambitious blueprint for a more secure future. They sought to balance the imperatives of robust economic growth and the needs of a growing population against the ecological necessity to conserve our planet’s most precious resources — land, air and water. And they agreed that the only way to do this was to break with the old economic model and invent a new one. They called it sustainable development.

Two decades later, we are back to the future. The challenges facing humanity today are much the same as then, only larger. Slowly, we have come to realize that we have entered a new era. Some even call it a new geological epoch, where human activity is fundamentally altering the Earth’s dynamics.

Global economic growth per capita has combined with a world population (passing 7 billion last year) to put unprecedented stress on fragile ecosystems. We recognize that we can not continue to burn and consume our way to prosperity. Yet we have not embraced the obvious solution — the only possible solution, now as it was 20 years ago: sustainable development.

Fortunately, we have a second chance to act. In less than a month, world leaders will gather again in Rio — this time for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20. And once again, Rio offers a generational opportunity to hit the reset button: to set a new course toward a future that balances the economic, social and environmental dimensions of prosperity and human well-being.

More than 130 heads of state and government will be there, joined by an estimated 50,000 business leaders, mayors, activists and investors — a global coalition for change. But success is not guaranteed. To secure our world for future generations — and these are indeed the stakes — we need the partnership and full engagement of global leaders, from rich nations and poor, small countries and large. Their overarching challenge: to galvanize global support for a transformative agenda for change — to set in motion a conceptual revolution in how we think about creating dynamic yet sustainable growth for the 21st century and beyond.

= = = = = =

This agenda is for national leaders to decide, in line with the aspirations of their people. If I were to offer advice as U.N. secretary general, it would be to focus on three “clusters” of outcomes that will mark Rio+20 as the watershed that it should be.

First, Rio+20 should inspire new thinking — and action. Clearly, the old economic model is breaking down. In too many places, growth has stalled. Jobs are lagging. Gaps are growing between rich and poor, and we see alarming scarcities of food, fuel and the natural resources on which civilization depends.

At Rio, negotiators will seek to build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals, which have helped lift millions out of poverty. A new emphasis on sustainability can offer what economists call a “triple bottom line” — job-rich economic growth coupled with environmental protection and social inclusion.

Second, Rio+20 should be about people — a people’s summit that offers concrete hope for real improvements in daily lives. Options before the negotiators include declaring a “zero hunger” future — zero stunting of children for lack of adequate nutrition, zero waste of food and agricultural inputs in societies where people do not get enough to eat.

Rio+20 should also give voice to those we hear from least often: women and young people. Women hold up half the sky; they deserve equal standing in society. We should empower them, as engines of economic dynamism and social development. And young people — the very face of our future: are we creating opportunities for them, nearly 80 million of whom will be entering the workforce every year?

Third, Rio+20 should issue a clarion call to action: waste not. Mother Earth has been kind to us. Let humanity reciprocate by respecting her natural boundaries. At Rio, governments should call for smarter use of resources. Our oceans must be protected. So must our water, air and forests. Our cities must be made more liveable — places we inhabit in greater harmony with nature.

At Rio+20, I will call on governments, business and other coalitions to advance on my own Sustainable Energy for All initiative. The goal: universal access to sustainable energy, a doubling of energy efficiency and a doubling of the use of renewable sources of energy by 2030.

Because so many of today’s challenges are global, they demand a global response — collective power exercised in powerful partnership. Now is not the moment for narrow squabbling. This is a moment for world leaders and their people to unite in common purpose around a shared vision of our common future — the future we want.

Ban Ki-moon is secretary general of the United Nations.

——————————–

For Op-Ed, follow@nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow@andyrNYT.

Related in News - Times Topics: Sustainable DevelopmentUnited Nations

Related in Opinion - Op-Ed Contributor: The Greatest Challenge of Our Species (April 6, 2012),       Op-Ed Contributor: The Clock Is Ticking (November 1, 2011)


###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 23rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IFEX

Campaigns and Advocacy / Campañas y Defensa

22 May 2012

Seventeen states request respect for freedom of expression

SOURCE: Andean Foundation for Media Observation & Study (FUNDAMEDIOS)

(Fundamedios/IFEX) – 21 May 2012 – Seventeen states from the Americas, Europe and Asia suggested that the Ecuadorian government should respect and guarantee the freedoms of the press and of expression in the country.

They made these observations on 21 May 2012 during a session of the UN Human Rights Council, where the states assessed Ecuador using the mechanism known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Germany, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Estonia, United States, Slovakia, Latvia, Luxemburg, Norway, France, India, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom were the countries that presented observations to the Ecuadorian State that it should promote and respect freedom of expression and eliminate laws that criminalize opinion. Some of them also requested that Ecuador should make possible a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to examine the situation of freedom of expression in the country.

The European countries’ delegations were the most critical.
Sweden, for example, mentioned the case that led to the conviction of a former feature writer and the directors of the newspaper El Universo; and although President Correa abandoned the lawsuit, it recommended that the Ecuadorian State should protect freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, Switzerland emphasized that an atmosphere of censorship and self-censorship prevails in Ecuador and that the State has the obligation of respecting this fundamental right, while Luxembourg expressed concern for the intimidations against Ecuadorian journalists.

Among countries in the Americas, the United States was one of the most critical, showing its concern for attacks against journalists and because in Ecuador freedom of expression is not fully guaranteed. Canada and Costa Rica also issued recommendations to establish measures that guarantee the protection of this fundamental right in accordance with international regulations.

The criminalization of social protest and free association concerned Belgium, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia and Luxembourg, all of which recommended that guarantees should be in place to allow opposition groups and communities to protest freely, without being condemned as terrorists or saboteurs. In regard to this issue, Spain recommended reviewing the restrictive legislation against NGOs and the criminalization of social protest in the country.

Faced by these pronouncements, the Ecuadorian delegation, led by Vice-president Lenin Moreno; the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ricardo Patiño; the Minister of Justice Johana Pesántez and the National Communication Secretary Fernando Alvarado affirmed that the press is neither censored nor persecuted in the country and that there are no jailed journalists in Ecuador. “Freedom of expression is absolutely and wholly respected in Ecuador”, stated Minister Patiño.

The 17 observations exceed in number those issued against Venezuela during last October’s UPR, when 13 recommendations concerning freedom of expression were presented, all of them were eventually rejected by that government.

The official report will be presented on Friday 25 May and the Ecuadorian government will have to accept or reject the recommendations issued today, as well as those that the states present in writing.

Fundamedios will attend this session and will provide news coverage through its twitter accounts, @LoFundamental and @Fundamedios, and its Facebook pages Fundamedios and LoFundamental.

For more information:
Andean Foundation for Media Observation & Study (FUNDAMEDIOS)
Unión Nacional de Periodistas E2-32 e Iñaquito
Edificio UNP
Piso 4, Ofic. 403
Quito, Ecuador
info (@) fundamedios.org.ec
Phone: +593 2 2461622/ 2461636/ 2461642
Fax: +593 2 2230 821
www.fundamedios.org
@fundamedios



22 mayo 2012

Diecisiete estados piden respeto para la libertad de expresión

FUENTE: Fundación Andina para la Observación y el Estudio de Medios

(Fundamedios/IFEX) – 21 de Mayo de 2012 – Diecisiete estados de América, Europa y Asia realizaron sugerencias para que el gobierno de Ecuador respete y garantice de forma efectiva las libertades de expresión y de prensa en el país.

Esas observaciones se realizaron este 21 de mayo de 2012, durante la sesión del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU, en donde los Estados evaluaron al Ecuador bajo el mecanismo conocido como Examen Periódico Universal (EPU).

Alemania, Australia, Austria, Bélgica, Canadá, Costa Rica, Estonia, Estados Unidos, Eslovaquia, Letonia, Luxemburgo, Noruega, Francia, India, Suecia, Suiza, Reino Unido, fueron los países que plantearon observaciones al Estado ecuatoriano para que promueva y respete la libertad de expresión y que elimine leyes que criminalizan la opinión. Algunos de ellos también solicitaron que el Ecuador posibilite de forma real la visita del Relator Especial de Libertad de Expresión de la ONU, para que constate la situación de la libertad de expresión.

En este sentido, los países de las delegaciones europeas fueron los más críticos con este tema. Por ejemplo, Suecia mencionó el caso por el que se condenó al exarticulista y directivos de diario El Universo y, pese a que el Presidente desistió de aquel juicio, recomendó al Estado ecuatoriano la protección de la libertad de expresión.

Por su parte, Suiza fue enfático en señalar que el Ecuador se vive un clima de censura y autocensura y que el Estado tiene la obligación de respetar este derecho fundamental, mientras que Luxemburgo se mostró preocupado por las intimidaciones a periodistas ecuatorianos.

Del lado del continente americano, Estados Unidos fue otro de los Estados más críticos y que mostró su preocupación por los ataques a periodistas y porque en Ecuador no se garantiza plenamente la libertad de expresión. Canadá y Costa Rica también formularon recomendaciones para que se tomen medidas que garanticen la protección de este derecho fundamental, de acuerdo con las normas internacionales.

La criminalización de la protesta social y la libre asociación también fueron temas que preocuparon a muchos países como Bélgica, Canadá, Estonia, Francia, Alemania, Hungría, Letonia, Luxemburgo, quienes plantearon sus recomendaciones en el sentido de que deben existir garantías para que los grupos opositores, así como las comunidades puedan protestar libremente, sin ser condenados bajo figuras como el terrorismo y sabotaje. Al respecto España recomendó revisar la legislación restrictiva para ONG y criminalización de la protesta social en el país.

Frente a estas inquietudes, la delegación ecuatoriana, encabezada por el vicepresidente Lenin Moreno; el canciller Ricardo Patiño, la ministra de Justicia Johana Pesántez y el secretario nacional de comunicación Fernando Alvarado, aseguraron que en el país no se censura ni se persigue a la prensa y que tampoco existen periodistas encarcelados. “En Ecuador se respeta absoluta y totalmente la libertad de expresión”, mencionó el canciller Patiño.

Las 17 observaciones formuladas superan a las realizadas a Venezuela, en el EPU de octubre pasado, en dónde se plantearon 13 recomendaciones sobre libertad de expresión, todas las cuales fueron rechazadas por dicho Gobierno.

El próximo viernes 25 de mayo, se presentará el informe y el Gobierno ecuatoriano aceptará o rechazará las recomendaciones realizadas hoy, o aquellas que los estados presenten por escrito.

Fundamedios estará presente en esta sesión y acompañará la cobertura noticiosa a través de sus cuentas de twitter, @LoFundamental y @Fundamedios y sus páginas de Facebook, Fundamedios y LoFundamental.

Para mayor información:
Fundación Andina para la Observación y el Estudio de Medios
Unión Nacional de Periodistas E2-32 e Iñaquito
Edificio UNP
Piso 4, Ofic. 403
Quito, Ecuador
info (@) fundamedios.org.ec
Tel: +593 2 2461622/ 2461636/ 2461642
Fax: +593 2 2230 821
www.fundamedios.org
@fundamedios

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 17th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

An Avaaz.org campaign:

In three days, world leaders could agree to a plan that could stop climate change! The plan would transfer the $1 trillion our governments give to polluters every year and invest it in renewable energy. Key leaders including President Obama support ending these crazy payments, and he is hosting the G8 summit this weekend. Let’s build a massive public campaign for Obama to lead this plan that could literally save our planet! Sign the urgent petition:

Sign the petition

This weekend, the eight most powerful leaders in the world will meet at the G8 summit and could agree to a plan that could literally stop climate change!

It’s crazy, but right now, our governments give nearly $1 trillion a year of our taxpayer money to Big Oil and Coal to destroy our planet. Key leaders, including President Obama who is hosting the G8, have already agreed to stop these polluter payments. Now, if we demand they act on their word and divert this huge sum into renewable energy, experts say we could actually save our planet!

It’s a simple no-brainer that our leaders have already agreed to. Let’s hold their feet to the fire, and push President Obama to lead the world’s largest economies to turn these polluting subsidies green. Sign the urgent petition below and forward this to everyone — a massive campaign now can force them from talk to action:

www.avaaz.org/en/a_new_plan_to_save_the_planet/?vl

The only reason we shovel cash into the coffers of Big Oil is their lobbyists have a stranglehold on our governments. But if we demand that our leaders green our tax-money, we’ll increase total global green investment by 400% making solar and wind energy cheaper than oil and coal — in the process saving the planet by putting Big Oil out of business!

We’re rapidly reaching a point of no return on climate change and a treaty to prevent catastrophe is years off. Fortunately, momentum behind this new planet saving plan is building. New Zealand, Mexico and Switzerland are calling for an agreement now, and policy makers from 20 countries including the US, Brazil, and China have just voiced their support. All G8 leaders have publicly committed to ending these dirty subsidies, and right now President Obama is pushing for US legislation to stop them.

Our planet is being destroyed at a terrifying rate and this is our best chance to stop it. Now is the time for action, but without massive public support, the powerful polluters could stall the proposal. It’s up to us to counter the lobbyists with extraordinary people power. We have three days left to get Obama to lead. Sign the petition:

www.avaaz.org/en/a_new_plan_to_save_the_planet/?vl

For too long, progress on a global solution to climate change has been held back by self-interest and the profits of Big Oil, Coal and Gas. But, finally governments are realising that cutting subsidies will benefit the climate and help balance out the global economy. If we speak up now, together, our movement can force our leaders to action and free the world from the tyranny of fossil fuels.

With hope,

Iain, Joseph, Alice, Ricken, Diego, Kya and the rest of the Avaaz team

More information:

Hansen: Game Over for the Climate (New York Times):
www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/opinion/game-over-for-the-climate.html

A Congressional Push to End All Fossil Fuel Subsidies (The Nation):
www.thenation.com/blog/167831/congressional-push-end-all-fossil-fuel-subsidies

Obama says tax breaks for Big Oil need to end (Financial Post):
business.financialpost.com/2012/03/29/obama-says-tax-breaks-for-big-oil-need-to-end/?__lsa=7934943e

Fossil-fuel subsidies: Helping the richest get richer (Los Angeles Times):
articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/05/opinion/la-oe-mckibben-stop-oil-subsidies-20120404

Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies could provide half of global carbon target (The Guardian):
www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jan/19/fossil-fuel-subsidies-carbon-target

###