Saturday, July 25, 2015

Video: the Summit of Conscience | Why do I Care

People from many of the world’s religions and wisdoms met in Paris on July 21 for a World Summit of Conscience to answer the question "Why do I care about the planet?” and launch a “Call to Conscience for climate”.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Investing in Disaster Protection | Dukascopy TV (EN)

Globally, disasters caused by natural hazards such as storms, floods and earthquakes take a huge toll in terms of human life, destruction of crops and livelihoods, and economic losses. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) estimates that between 2000 and 2012 some 1.2 million people lost their lives as result of disasters, 2.6 billion people were affected and the cost of the damage was some US$ 1.7 trillion.

Reducing the risk of disasters is a crucial part of sustainable development strategies and nature can play an important role in helping to protect us. IUCN’s Radhika Murti explains how in a new web television series called GreenViews on Dukascopy TV

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Civil Society Sceptical Over “Action Agenda” to Finance Development | IPS News

By Thalif Deen, IPS News

Despite high expectations, the third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) ended on a predictable note: the United Nations proclaimed it a roaring success while most civil society organisations (CSOs) expressed scepticism over the final outcome.

Hours after the conclusion of the conference in the Ethiopian capital, the United Nations trumpeted the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) as a “ground-breaking agreement that provides a foundation for implementing the global sustainable development agenda that world leaders are expected to adopt this September.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sounded optimistic when he said the agreement was a critical step forward in building a sustainable future for all since it provides a global framework for financing sustainable development.

He added, “The results here in Addis Ababa give us the foundation of a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development that will leave no one behind.”

But Dr. Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of the Johannesburg-based CIVICUS, was blunt: “This week we saw a further sign that we are at the beginning of the end of the post-World War II (WWII) development world order.”

Rich countries seem unable or unwilling to increase official aid flows, which stand at a fraction of what they themselves promised years ago, he said.

“We are disappointed that the FfD process has not yielded new resources to fund the investments needed to end poverty or taken meaningful steps to address problems in the international financial system,” he said at the conclusion of the conference Wednesday.

He added: “The outcome will not deliver the reforms we need in areas like tax, that most in civil society had hoped for and, that are needed to increase the resources available for development.”

Asked about the failed proposal for the creation of a global tax body, ActionAid’s international tax power campaign manager, Martin Hojsik, told IPS: “The decision is an appalling failure and a great blow to the fight against poverty and injustice.”

He said it means that developing countries, which are losing billions of dollars a year to tax dodging, are not being given an equal say in fixing unjust global tax rules.

“This lost money could have gone to the provision of education, healthcare and other poverty-reducing public services. While the multinationals prosper, the poor and marginalised will suffer,” he said. “The fight for a fair global tax system should not and cannot falter.”

In a statement released here, Oxfam International said unresolved rigged tax rules and privatised development are the major drawbacks of the FfD outcome.

However, after such tense negotiations there can be no doubt that developing countries’ determination to call for true global tax reform and tax cooperation has been noted, and cannot go unheeded for long.

Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: “Today, one in seven people live in poverty and Addis was a once in a decade chance to find the resources needed to end this scandal. But the Addis Action Agenda has allowed aid commitments to dry up, and has merely handed over development to the private sector without adequate safeguards.”

She said developing countries held firm in Addis on the need to set up an intergovernmental tax body that would give them an equal say in how the global rules on taxation are designed.

“Instead they are returning home with a weak compromise meaning rigged rules and tax avoidance will continue to rob the world’s poorest people.”

Byanyima said fair taxation is vital in the fight against poverty and inequality.

“Citizens must be able to depend on their own governments to deliver the services they need. But it is just not logical to ask developing countries to raise more of their own resources without also reforming the global tax system that prevents them doing this,” she added.

Eric LeCompte, executive director of the Jubilee USA Network, told IPS “while compromised language on a tax committee was reached, we have the first global agreement that notes the harm of illicit financial flows and calls to stop them by 2030.”

Right now the developing world is losing a trillion dollars a year to corruption and tax evasion, he said, pointing out, “those are resources we need to end poverty.”

In a joint statement released late Wednesday, Global Financial Integrity (GFI), the Africa Progress Panel (APP) and Jubilee USA applauded the global commitment to reduce the massive flow of illicit funds from developing country economies.

For the first time international consensus was reached on the importance of an issue that has been at the forefront of efforts by hundreds of research and development organisations for the last 10 years.

Specifically, the FfD3 Outcome Document requires member states to “redouble efforts to substantially reduce illicit financial flows (IFFs) by 2030, with a view to eventually eliminate them, including by combatting tax evasion and corruption through strengthened national regulation and increased international cooperation.”

Additionally, the final text calls on “appropriate international institutions and regional organizations to publish estimates of IFF volume and composition”

The statement said the ability to measure illicit flows was at the heart of significant disagreement during the FfD3 preparatory negotiations in New York earlier this year with the 132-member Group of 77 developing countries calling for country-level estimates of illicit flow volumes.

In its statement, the United Nations said the Addis Ababa Action Agenda contains more than 100 concrete measures.

It also addresses all sources of finance, and covers cooperation on a range of issues including technology, science, innovation, trade and capacity building.

The Action Agenda builds on the outcomes of two previous Financing for Development conferences, in Monterrey, Mexico, and in Doha, Qatar.

Wu Hongbo, the Secretary-General of the Conference, said, “This historic agreement marks a turning point in international cooperation that will result in the necessary investments for the new and transformative sustainable development agenda that will improve the lives of people everywhere.”

Friday, July 3, 2015

Ecuador Moves From Money to Community to Measure Happiness | teleSUR

By teleSUR

The Ministry of Good Living will define new measures of well-being this month. Ecuador has planned to create new standards to measure well-being, including environment and community, moving away from income and economic growth as conventional markers.

To measure and define ‘Good Living’--or Buen Vivir in Spanish--experts from Latin America and Europe will come together to discuss the details on 2 and 3 July. The measures of happiness to be discussed will be based on three pillars: human beings, the environment, and community.

The new happiness index is based on the indigenous concept of "good living", or Sumak Kawsay in the indigenous Kichwa language. Good Living is protected and promoted under Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution.

According to the Minister of Good Living, Freddy Ehler, the way to measure progress shouldn’t be strictly based on economic income, but rather on what makes people happy and offers them ‘“inner peace.”

Currently international organizations like the United Nations and the OECD measure well-being based on a country’s GDP, purchasing powers and access to basic services.

For José Rosero, executive director of the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC), this is an “orthodox paradigm” linked to capital accumulation and economic growth. “You don’t need to acumulate wealth, but rather produce and consume the necessary amount,” Rosero said.

According to Rosero, Ecuador is also developing another form to measure poverty, which will include multiple aspects like health, education, and quality of life.

The ‘Good Living’ minister stressed that this requires individual change since ‘Sumak Kawsay’ is a personal choice to live in harmony with each other and with nature--not something that can be imposed by government, military, economic or political powers.

The project is inspired by the policy of Bhutan, a small country located close to the Himalayas, whose policy and development model is based on philosophy of gross national happiness (GNH ). This concept based on four pillars: sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development; the preservation and promotion of culture, environmental preservation and good governance .


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

UN climate deal will come too late for Kiribati, says leader | RTCC

By Ed King, RTCC

A proposed UN pact to address climate change will come too late for the population of Kiribati, the president of the tiny Pacific state told the UN General Assembly on Monday.

“No matter how ambitious it is – for us on low lying atoll islands it is already too late,” Anote Tong told an audience including UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon and government officials.

“King tides combined with strong winds wreak havoc among our people… in some parts whole villages have had to relocate.”

Tong said the country had already embarked on a plan to evacuate some of the Kiribati’s 32 atolls, adding: “We don’t have a lot of options.”

But he urged countries to use Kiribati’s plight as inspiration to develop an ambitious deal to radically cut greenhouse gas emissions and avert further consequences from rising temperatures.

“There have been times I have almost lost hope – there’s a limit to how many times you can tell a story people are not listening to,” he said. “We cannot afford to be paralysed into inaction.”

Tong’s intervention came on a day when the world’s top emerging economies warned promises from developed nations to help fund clean energy projects were not being kept.

The BASIC group of India, China, South Africa and Brazil said a 2009 promise to deliver US$100 billion a year by 2020 to poorer countries was well off course.

“There is still a clear expectation and so I hope the developing countries can fulfill their commitment before the Paris meeting,” said China’s climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua, in quotes reported by the Guardian.

Edna Molewa, South Africa’s environment minister, said the goal to deliver $100 billion was “very far” from what was needed.

“It is important therefore that this scaling up happens… there is still a lot of money that is required.”

According to Oxfam, less than $20 billion (£13 bn) a year is flowing from developed country public funds.

Of that, only $2.5-4.5 bn is being used to help countries prepare for future extreme weather events, a level the World Bank has warned is far too low to protect those vulnerable to future impacts.

Developing countries have long stressed that a clear financial package will be central to any agreement in Paris later this year, while the French hosts have made funding one of a proposed pact’s four “pillars”.

The funds are needed to both help countries invest in cleaner forms of energy and avoid long term fossil fuel investments, and also to prepare for future floods, droughts and rising sea levels that scientists say could intensify as a result of climate change.

UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon urged developed countries to work on a “credible” climate financing package in the coming months.

“I count on leaders to exercise political direction… now is when true leadership is needed from the highest level,” he said.

“Heads of state must give clear guidance to negotiators so that they take personal responsibility in Paris.”

Anote Tong says plans for migration advanced with rising sea levels already causing havoc in his country - See more at:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

U.N. Chief Backs New Int’l Decade for Water for Sustainable Development

By Thalif Deen, IPS News

As the United Nations continues its negotiations to both define and refine a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) before a summit meeting of world leaders in September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed support for a new “International Decade for Water for Sustainable Development.”

“It would complement and support the achievement of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals – for water,” he said.

The proposal for a new International Decade, which has to be eventually approved by the 193-member General Assembly, was initiated Tuesday by the president of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, at a ‘Water for Life” high-level international conference in the capital of Dushanbe.

Tajikistan, which has taken a leading role in highlighting the significance of water as a source of life, also sponsored the International Decade of Water For Life (2005-2015) “to raise awareness and galvanize action.”

The proposed new International Decade will be a successor to Water for Life which concludes in December this year.

Ban told delegates water’s place in the SDGs go well beyond access — taking into account critical issues such as integrated water resources management, efficiency of use, water quality, transboundary cooperation, water-related ecosystems, and water-related disasters.

“Water, like other areas of the post-2015 development agenda, is intricately interconnected with other challenges,” he noted.

John Garrett, senior policy analyst of development finance at the London-based WaterAid, told IPS: “We at WaterAid are glad to see U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighting in Tajikistan the human right to water and sanitation, and the enormous need that still exists for these essential services among the world’s poorest and most marginalised populations.”

The new SDGs, he pointed out, represent a once-in-a-generation chance to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water, decent toilets and a way to keep themselves and their surroundings clean.

“A new decade for action on Water for Sustainable Development would continue a much-needed focus on the enormous challenges ahead,” he said.

However, he cautioned, the action should also focus on sanitation and hygiene, because without these, clean water is neither achievable nor sustainable, and neither are the health benefits nor economic progress that results.

Over the years, the United Nations has continued to place water-related issues on its socio-economic agenda: the first-ever International Year of Water Cooperation; World Water Day commemorated every year on Mar. 22; and the annual World Toilet Day on Nov. 19.

Ban said the world achieved the Millennium Development Goal target for safe and sustainable drinking water five years ahead of schedule.

In the course of one generation, 2.3 billion people – one-third of humanity – have gained access to an improved drinking water source.

The United Nations General Assembly declared access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation to be a human right, he pointed out.

Torgny Holmgren, executive director at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), told IPS his organisation welcomes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s strong support for water as a key ingredient in all efforts towards sustainable development.

It is clear that the global community increasingly realises the challenges caused by growing water stress and unwise water management, he added.

“A dedicated Sustainable Development Goal, explicitly addressing the multifaceted nature of water – as a social issue, an economic issue, an environmental issue, as well as the main cause of disasters on our planet – is an imperative, but by no means sufficient, step towards the world we want.”

It is therefore particularly inspiring, he said, to see Ban’s encouragement for a process beyond the SDGs – “a process that allows and requires the involvement of all sectors and actors, public and private, individuals and organisations to collectively take a giant leap towards a water wise world.”

Garrett of WaterAid told IPS progress in the next decade will be critical and “we welcome efforts to keep these issues in the spotlight”.

The Millennium Development Goals succeeded in halving the number of people in the world without improved water, but left many of those most in need without.

Sanitation is among the most off-track of those goals. “We must refocus efforts in the next decade to ensure no one is left behind.”

Ban said sanitation has also made progress during the Decade, with more than 1.9 billion people gaining access to improved sanitation.

“That is all good news. Yet we also know that even today, in the 21st century, some 2.5 billion people still lack access to adequate sanitation”, while some one billion people still practice open defecation.

Even today, in the 21st century, nearly 1,000 children under the age of five are killed each day by a toxic mix of unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and hygiene, he said.

And inadequate water supply and sanitation cost economies about 260 billion dollars worldwide every year.

Just 10 years from now, 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity, and two out of three people around the world could live under water-stressed conditions.

“It is little wonder that many global experts have called the ‘water crisis’ one of the greatest global risks that we face,” warned Ban.