Archive for July, 2014

For the love of…

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

…tadpoles in springtime, snorkelling, swallows, coffee, cricket, coffee, chocolate…  

For the love of…’ is asking us what we hold dear that is threatened by climate change.  

Coordinated by The Climate Coalition, the campaign started a few month ago and is aiming to raise awareness on climate change, to encourage people to show that they care in order to push politicians to act.  

The Climate Coalition has been involved in lots of political lobbying, much of which has been successful, but it knows that in order to achieve political change now, our governments need to see that society is passionate about stopping climate change.  

People can take up the campaign themselves, and indeed many have already: the website is full of people’s personal stories of things they love, and the many member organisations of the Climate Coalition have been producing their own videos and posters based on the theme.  

What is also interesting is the thinking behind the campaign: the Climate Coalition aims to avoid a perhaps typical and somewhat abstract rhetoric on ‘environmental issues’ and instead looks to be more tangible, highlighting personal concerns and the effect climate change will have for these, embracing the diversity of interests of our population instead of projecting a single unifying voice.  

For the moment, ‘For the love of’ has been primarily UK based, but it is looking at expansion into other countries as it continues to motivate people to show why they care.

You can visit their website here, find out about what others love and add your own story.

Apartheid Did Not Die

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action, Weekly news

A lot has been written and said about the Israel- Palestine conflict since ages. The current air strikes by Israeli forces on Gaza have dominated the headlines recently in media and it did get people’s attention especially after the World Cup fever was over. It is true that we are filtering realities on daily basis in our lives. Some realities go viral and Israel- Palestine conflict is one of them especially after Germany’s astounding victory in the World Cup. Just to mention the conflict started late 1940s in that part of the world is ongoing even as we breathe at this very moment.

In some places there are one sided stories highlighted in the media where the link between the victim and perpetrator has been blurred. In other places the hatred against one ethnic group over another strikingly stands out, from debates like to whom this land belongs to or who has been entitled this land by God. Undoubtedly the heart of the conflict here is a struggle for land, for the precious water, for the fertile soil and the valleys and hills of Palestine. This struggle overshadows the ordinary lives and how these lives have become a maze of control, checkpoints and road blocks. This bizarre struggle is like a cancer that is eating the lives of poor people.

It was sad to see on social media how some people started glorifying what Hitler did in Germany. Moreover when a debate was raised on humanitarian grounds many hushed the debate by saying that it is a religious issue and Muslims or for that matter Jews will take control of the land one day as it inherently belongs to them. These debates boggle my mind. This hatred deliberately induced by the propaganda machines of the powerful has blinded the people to see the real picture.

I remember once I got an opportunity to listen to a Christian Palestinian friend, Mike Haymour, who was from Bethlehem and he spoke about the plight of Palestinian people as any Muslim Palestinian would do. I still remember the anger and passion in his eyes. There was also one incidence in which during a UN meeting in Malta, an Israeli Jewish friend started to talk about her solidarity movement and she was not well received by the Arab world participants who discouraged her by saying that she should not be too bothered about the Palestinians as she herself is a Jew. That broke my heart and I still feel that we need to shake away this thought that glorifies divisions. Because I am a Muslim hence only I can feel for the other Muslims or I am a Christian hence only I can feel for the other Christians. Similarly there are a number of other religious and ethnic groups and if we start thinking like that we deliberately create divisions and mental borders.

We have been victims of these borders and boundaries all our lives. The divides what do they give us? Have these divides ever done any good in our lives? These walls which we have built have only stopped us from getting to know the other; the possibility of peaceful coexistence has been minimized by these mental barriers. We all want the occupation to end be it Muslims, Christians or Jews. Our ignorance should not stop us from distinguishing between the ordinary people and the games being played by the powers for more control.

So today I would like to share with you what my friend Sara Benninga has been doing in East Jerusalem. She inspires me and there are many like her around the world fighting for a cause not bothered about the distinctions and marching for just peace. Sara Benninga is one of the founders and main organizers of Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement. She can be seen every week walking back and forth with a bull horn in her hand and a determined look in her eyes, surrounded by Israelis and Palestinians of all stripes demanding justice for the Palestinians whose lives are constantly squeezed by Israeli settlement policies. Sara Benninga exhorts the marchers leading them in chants in Hebrew and Arabic, keeping everyone moving forward their eyes on the prize that is a shared future for all Israelis and Palestinians. Occasionally they go to other neighborhoods, other towns, other fronts and battles for genuine peace and true coexistence.

I have watched the ebb and flow of emotions surrounding Israel and the Jewish community over the years and today the only best way to support Israel is to encourage her governments and people to find a path to peace, trying to be a force for good in conflict. These are words however that are easy to say and presumably aren’t sometimes well received by even like minds like the example I gave earlier of a UN meeting. If Israeli and the Palestinian people are to ever achieve peace and security it will require action. Action that truly shakes up what’s gone before, action that tells the truth more powerfully that even our words can’t.

Sara Benninga and her fellow activists are continuing the legacy of Israeli activism that was pioneered by certain groups in the history and Rabbis for human rights. They have told the truth. Sheikh Jarrah movement is also telling the truth with their feet. They are telling the truth that Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians or Muslims need not fear or hate each other on the contrary they can march, work and build together towards a future in which everyone finds hope. Sara Benninga and many other activists are facing arrests and trials on the charge of illegal assembly and a libel suit for chanting slogans but they are not afraid by the vulgar threats of the forceful.

This is what Sara has to say:

coteret.comPhoto Source: coteret.com

“If you would have met me a few years ago and asked me what I think about the occupation, the most you would have gotten out of me would have probably been a few vague utterances, expressing a bit of shame and a bit of distress but mostly confusion and unawareness. There can be many reasons for this but one of the main ones is that the occupation had not touched upon me personally, at least not directly. It was so easy growing up in West Jerusalem without knowing of the injustice taking place a few hundred yards away in the Eastern part of the city.

A curtain of ignorance was and still is part of the methods of concealment in which I as a Jewish Israeli woman grew up. Like many of the young people who protest weekly in Sheikh Jarrah I was raised on democratic and egalitarian values. High school civics classes taught us that while Israel does not have a constitution, its declaration of independence is our bill of rights. We learned that the founders of Israel vowed that the Jewish state and I quote ‘ will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants, that it would be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel. That it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex. That it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture. Safeguard the holy places of all religions and will be faithful to the principles of the charter of United Nations.’

I ask you how would you react if your government treated the constitution as empty words? I have chosen to fight. I have chosen to fight against injustice in Sheikh Jarrah, to fight for the Israel that could have been, to fight for the Israel that still can be.

Witnessing the ways in which my country disposes individuals of one ethnic affiliation and privileges those of another, seeing the blatant injustice and discrimination perpetrated by my own government opened my eyes to a reality I did not know and generated in me and many others a determination to create a different future. Difficult as it has been my Sheikh Jarrah experience is not one of despair or resentment. Alongside injustice I found new hope and purpose, the commitment of thousands of fellow Israelis to justice and equality and the renewed ability to bridge over ideological and national divides in favor of a shared vision restored my faith in the possibility of change. Since those days in 2009 these initial impressions have not faded but rather have been reinforced. In every town and village where our movement is active, whether it is Lod, Tayibe and Beit She yan or Silwan we encounter alongside dispossession and discrimination, willingness and enthusiasm and meaningful partnerships. In a small compound in Sheikh Jarrah 30 families face the threat of eviction. A disturbing alliance between Israeli custodian of absentees’ properties, a state agency and the American millionaire Irving Moskwitz allows Jews to reclaim properties they owned prior to 1948. We know that Jewish families who left the compound during the war received abandoned Palestinian properties in West Jerusalem as compensation for their loss. And yet they return today to claim back the land. The Palestinians living in the compound used to own property inside the green line but Israeli law doesn’t allow them to reclaim their houses or request compensation.

 Thus a young generation of Palestinians learns that the law is just a reflection of national and racial prejudices. They learn that the first time refugees can easily become refugees a second time and now it is all done under the auspices of Israeli law. While it is clear that this inequality before the law is morally and politically intolerable, we believe that mere condemnation is not enough. Together with a growing number of young Jewish Israelis I have come to the understanding that these times call for Jewish Palestinian cooperation and it is both our duty and our interest to work together with Palestinians.  We have chosen a path of non violent resistance to the occupation. This is the only way to build a tolerable future for all of us in Israel and Palestine, a future that recognizes the dignity of every human being but we discovered that Israel treats our peaceful Jewish Arab solidarity as a serious threat.   

We are committed to direct engagement, when and where injustice occurs. Solidarity believes in the transformative potential of Jewish Arab cooperation. We know for a fact that the artificial barriers between Arabs and Jews are surmountable. We uphold the moral permissibility of non violent civil disobedience in the proud tradition of the American Civil Rights movement. We believe that privilege corrupts and that systematic discrimination is incompatible with democracy. Our critics portray us as enemies of Jewish state but it is ironic that a country claiming to be a victim of a campaign of delegitimization shamelessly delegitimizes sections of its own citizenry. We reject the false dichotomy between security and democracy. We refuse to settle for anything less than a true end of occupation that is necessary but not a sufficient condition for realizing our goal of substantive equality and genuine democracy in Israel.

There is much work ahead of us and I am sure that together we can make it happen.

Listening to her makes me wonder where does that positivity and hope come from. In the backdrop of dead bodies piled up and bombs being dropped to kill terrorists in fact killing innocent civilians she still manages to keep her optimism intact not ready to give up yet.

As Sara mentioned the American civil disobedience movement carrying with it the moral permissibility of non violent civil disobedience, I also believe that the best strategy to end the bloody occupation is to target Israel with some kind of a global movement that did put an end to apartheid in South Africa.

The noted civil rights leader and a Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the apartheid regime that discriminated against blacks in South Africa. Tutu criticized the policies of Israelis towards Palestinians as humiliating.  To him the humiliation looks familiar to the black South Africans who were corralled and harassed by the security forces of the apartheid government. Tutu believes that in achieving democracy in South Africa people around the world have helped by using non violent means and similarly the international community needs to come together in trying to end Israel’s decades long occupation.  Tutu says, “It doesn’t matter where we worship or live. We are members of one family, the human family, God’s family.” The words uttered by Desmond Tutu explain the principles of Ubuntu which we need to learn today. A belief we need to adopt to the core that talks about the universal bond of sharing that unites the human kind.

It is not difficult to adopt the belief of humanity and love and compassion for the fellow beings. I remember once being told the story of Binti, the gorilla. The story was about how Binti saved a three years old boy who fell in her enclosure in the zoo. Binti not only held the boy in her arms but also protected him from the male gorilla from causing any harm to the boy.  Binti did go against her instincts and so can we.

 Here is a short introduction to the Israel-Palestine conflict from jewishvoices.org.        

Environmental Sustainability in Fiji

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

2014 is the year that the UN celebrates the contribution of Small Island Developing States. This group of 39 countries characteristically host a range of biodiversity often including endemic species, one of the drivers for their often flourishing tourist economies, they have an important relationship with the seas that surround them, but are also threatened by the same waters, as they are acutely vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters [1]. Fiji is no exception to any of these features: the rich range of biodiversity hosted over its 332 islands is among the attractions for the numerous tourists who visit the country, but the tourism industry itself, and many other sectors, put considerable pressure on the island, all of which is exacerbated by the effects of climate change.  

Fiji’s coastal and marine environments are of much importance in both economic and social terms; they are key to tourism, transport and food provision and also hold significant cultural values. However marine biodiversity is endangered by unsustainable fishing practices (the use of poisons and explosives for example) [2], overfishing and the introduction of alien species [3]. Pollution in these environments is also a threat, to which various sectors contribute: agricultural chemicals escape into waterways through run-off [2], solid waste accumulates on beaches and coastal areas in part due to a lack of municipal waste collection strategies [4], irresponsible management of tourist developments means sewage and other waste is dumped into the sea along with industry and mining waste [2], and given Fiji’s importance as a transport hub, oil spills can be observed almost daily around the large ports, with shipwrecks and abandoned marine vessels not uncommon [4].  

Moreover, the degradation of mangrove ecosystems and coral reefs, important habitats and homes for biodiversity in themselves, is set to intensify the country’s environmental concerns. Both of these environments provide protection against coastal erosion and mangroves absorb excess nutrients from treated sewage effluence, thereby reducing the impact of waste water. WWF has deemed Fiji’s coral reefs “historically healthy” but notes the threat posed to them by activities such as pollution, bleaching and coastal development. Mangrove ecosystems are also threatened by coastal development and by waste disposal and firewood collection [5].  

With the degradation of these natural coastal protection systems, the effects of climate change are all the more severe. Sea level rise is already a reality; some crop areas have already been contaminated by salt water and the government has moved populations from certain islands to the mainland [6]. The lack of coastal protection also makes Fiji increasingly vulnerable to the extreme weather events associated with climate change. Many reports point out that island nations like Fiji are the first to suffer from climate change, despite being insignificant contributors.  

On land, both tourist development and urbanisation put stress on Fiji’s environment, all the more so when unplanned as rapid urbanisation this has led to the emergence of squatter settlements [7]. The widespread practice of waste incineration is a major contributor to air pollution in the country, as are vehicle emissions in urban areas [8]. Deforestation and soil erosion have also been significant problems; a contributory factor to erosion is the clearing of land by bush burning, a widespread practice which awareness campaigns have seemingly been unable to prevent and which threatens bird species and the endemic ground frog [9].  

Of course, these issues of environmental sustainability cannot be abstracted from their social, economic and political context. Environmental practice has a significant impact upon the economy and social situation, and vice-versa.  

Fiji remains highly dependent on the tourism industry, and environmental degradation threatens to spoil the paradisiac beauty that attracts foreigners, and with it the source of income for a significant part of the Fijian population. The obvious irony is that much environmental damage is caused by the tourist industry itself, as it feeds the coastal erosion and associated loss of tourist developments and homes, the pollution and aesthetic degradation of coastal areas and the damage to the exotic biodiversity so attractive to tourists. Clearly unsustainable, even self-destructive, practice is not unique to the tourism industry: unsustainable agricultural and fishing techniques jeopardise the resources for future generations.  

And not only is environmental degradation detrimental to the economy, it also poses a social risk. Coral reefs, for example, constitute an important source of food and income for many people globally and their loss thus threatens livelihoods. Water contamination is a risk to the health of Fiji’s population.  

Fiji shows some signs of moving towards a more sustainable environment. Its potential capacity for renewable energy generation is promising and currently over 50% of its electricity is supplied from hydropower [10]. There have also been initiatives to promote the use of biofuels [11]. The island of Koro, the sixth largest in Fiji [12], hosts one of the country’s Biofuel Mills; the biodiesel it produces, cheaper than straight diesel, is enough for the entire island and allows increased energy independence, meaning communities can still access fuel and electricity if boats do not arrive from the capital Suva [13]. The country has benefited from ecotourism and from conservation initiatives by resorts and tour operators, in some cases facilitated by the Fijian government [9], as well as signing numerous international protocols.  

But efforts towards sustainability have been hampered especially by political and economic instability. Fiji’s weak growth rate has led the country to focus more on economic recovery than on environmental issues [11]. It has often relied on overseas aid to realise environmental programs [11], but this is arguably made difficult by international isolation as a result of political instability and weak democratic structures [14]. The country underwent 4 coups in 20 years, the last of which in occurred in 2006, led by the current ‘Interim Prime Minister’ whom the United States currently refuses to recognise as leader. Racial tensions run high in the country and there is much animosity between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians. Just as income inequalities in society create barriers to sustainability by hindering the capacity for collective action, so it would seem logical that racial tensions impede collaboration.  

In a context where the marine environment seems so key to Fiji’s sustainability, Nektarina is proud to be supporting ‘Sustainable Sea Transport in the Pacific Talanoa’ as part of our partnership with the University of South Pacific. This 5-day conference, which concludes today and is the second event of its kind, is taking place in Fiji with the theme “Celebrating the Past – Sailing into the Future”. It brings together those connected with seafaring (stakeholders such as seafarers, communities, NGOs, government agencies and industry) in order for them to share expertise and research, celebrate the region’s seafaring heritage and plan for a sustainable future [15].  

References:
1. UN SIDS Information
2. Presentation by Malakai Finau, Fiji Ministry of Lands and Minerals Resources at International Workshop on Environmental Management Needs for Exploration and Exploitation of Deep Seabed Minerals (2011)
3. WWF on Fiji Barrier Reef
4. Integrated Coastal Management Plan (2011)
5. WWF leaflet
6. New York Times report on sea level rise (2014)
7. Fiji entry on Encyclopaedia Britannica
8. Information on air pollution from Fiji Department of Environment
9. Thomas 2007, Fiji Department of Environment 2007, Davies 1998 referenced in Integrated Coastal Management Plan
10. Review of the Fiji National Energy Policy (Draft Energy Policy – July 2013)
11. Fiji National Assessment Report
12. Information on Koro Island
13. UNDP Report on Koro island’s biofuel project
14. 2010 report on MDG progress in Fiji
15. SSTT Page from University of South Pacific

Crowdfunding to provide bicycles and school supplies for children in Thakarwadi, India

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

As many of you know we are running a lot of activities in India, as part of our Education for Sustainability project.

You can see some of the best moments from the project so far on our flickr page.

We are currently fundraising for children in the community of Thakarwadi in Maharashtra state, India. Money raised will enable us to buy materials for school such as books, shoes, clothes and study materials to enable children to benefit from school, as well as bicycles so that the children can travel the 6km to school more easily. Our crowdfunding page can be found here

Please help us reach our goal by donating, if you are able to; or by spreading the word about this campaign to your friends, family and colleagues. We would be very grateful for any support.
 

Dutch Citizens Holding the Government Accountable

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action

With the soaring temperatures and power outages in many places, the developing world in particular is dreading the future. It is not a very positive sight and is a call to take right actions.The Chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Rajendra Pachauri states that the kind of action should be taken on global scale and sooner than later.

 Natural disasters due to climate change won’t keep in mind the global South or North before causing havoc even in the past the developed and the developing world was treated alike by the calamities sent by nature. Climate science and the 195 signatory states to the UN Climate Convention affirm that every emission of anthropogenic greenhouse gases contribute to the change in climate. They also acknowledge that a two degree Celsius rise in Earth’s average temperature should be considered a threat to mankind and world’s ecosystems. Then why are we blinded and not able to see the true picture? Why can’t we have a telescopic view enabling us to understand that we are setting the world on fire and there is a dire need of policy reforms when it comes to curtailing carbon emissions and reducing the factors that contribute to climate change?

 A new United Nations report warned that to control the effects of climate change the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources. Two reports have been released by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that deal with the certainty and impacts of climate change and how to come to terms with it. The reports released by IPCC and other bodies have time and again stressed that the greenhouse gases must be cut by 40 to 70 percent to avoid the severe and shocking weather conditions in a warmer world. To keep the climate safe a handful of things like renewable energy, reducing deforestation, planting more trees, energy efficiency and moving from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources could help the world to get back on track. Nathaniel Koehane who leads international efforts to address climate change at Environmental Defense Fund says that the solutions are within reach. He added that there is gap that needs to be bridged, a wide chasm to be filled to make a switch from fossil fuel to cleaner energy. This chasm exists between the international efforts and what needs to be done.

 These various reports coming from the governmental and non-governmental sectors have stressed similar concerns in the past. Each time the reports have made it clear that the longer the delay in controlling emissions the greater the cost to environment and public health. Nathaniel Koehane said that voters must tell their governments that climate change does matter. The governments have also added a separate sheet for sustainable development in its manifestos but the challenge remains the same and that is to translate the paper work into reality that can be seen and experienced by the public to be believed.

foreignpolicyPhoto Source: www.foreignpolicy.com

 This provides a window of opportunity to the world community to act. We can only remain optimistic if we get to see a political will going in the right direction. It is about everybody coming together and acting on it. We all know that the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to curb global carbon emissions, has expired in 2012. UN negotiators are working on a new international agreement and it is hoped that it will soon be in place and effective to the cause of climate justice.

The temperatures in the south are rising far above average and in other places falling far below giving a hard time to the climate change skeptics. Adding to that the recent hurricanes in the Philippines and US, energy crisis and water shortage in the developing world it is evident that the weather is becoming increasingly fickle.

What  if we ought to broaden our understanding of greenhouse gas emissions? What if we are aware of how replenishing the earth’s resources will affect our lives? What if we hold governments accountable for doing injustice to the environment and us? What if the people could sue the governments for not taking the right actions? All these fancy questions posed here are patently leading us to one thing and that is a change in situations. Change in the current difficult situations experienced by the people be it food crunch, credit crunch and environmental degradation. Yes we voted for the governments to come into power and yes we have the right to hold the governments accountable for not doing their job properly. In an attempt to get politicians to do something about carbon emission levels associated with climate change, the Urgenda action committee turned to The Hague District Court last November.

When it comes to sustainable development the educated and economically prosperous population of the Netherlands was at one time among the most progressive in European Union. Now the country has the highest carbon emissions per capita in the world. Because of its geography the Netherlands will reap what it sows more quickly unlike other developed countries. 90 percent of the country is built on reclaimed land and its major cities lie at or below sea level.

The European leaders supported the 2007 findings of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which stated that climate change can be avoided if greenhouse gas emissions are controlled. Apparently the Dutch government had taken a back seat. According to Urgenda, a Dutch action organization for sustainability, not a single candidate brought up the threat of climate change during the recent election campaign. Urgenda filed a lawsuit against the Dutch state seeing the diminutive efforts on climate change issue by the Dutch government especially radical reduction of carbon emissions.

Urgenda stated that during a climate change conference in 1992 the Netherlands along with other 190 countries ratified a treaty to avoid dangerous anthropogenic influences on the climate. According to Urgenda the Netherlands ratified the treaty but did not act according to it making the Dutch climate policies de facto negligent and hence unlawful. The Climate Case was initiated in November 2012 when a letter was sent to the Dutch government by Urgenda asking for action and a call in which Dutch citizens could support the cause and join as co-plaintiff known as crowd pleading. The Dutch government acknowledged in a letter to Urgenda that it is not making adequate efforts and its actions are insufficient when it comes to dealing with the issue of climate change. After a year in November 2013 Urgenda and more than 800 co-plaintiffs filed the cased against the Dutch Government.

Urgenda concludes that the Netherlands is deliberately exposing its citizens to dangerous situations. This is a wrongful and an illegal act of the State in legal language. The Dutch government can be held accountable legally for not taking sufficient action to prevent harm declares the Dutch Supreme Court. The Urgenda Foundation and its co-plaintiffs believe that preventing climate change is not just morally right thing to do but also a legal obligation binding on the state that cannot be ignored. The hearing of the Climate Case is expected to be in April 2015 before the District Court in Hague. For more information regarding the legal summaries and letters the official website of Urgenda can be visited, www.urgenda.nl.

The case is the only one of its kind in the world so far considering the size and nature. It will be interesting to see the decision of the court regarding this unique case. Seeing the progressive climate policies enforced through court would be a step forward making it legally binding on the governments to take necessary steps. It is early to say what the decision of the court will be but it is hoped and believed that it will be effective as the scientific evidence gathered by 2500 scientists in 150 countries by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is indisputable.

Urgenda Foundation like some other like minded organizations around the globe aims for a sustainable society with a circular economy. The step taken by Urgenda, holding the government accountable for failing to meet the Europeans Commission’s climate goals is a step forward. Other nations can learn from it. Protecting the earth making it safe for the future generations and viewing climate change as one of the biggest challenges of our times is not a selfish objective. However big corporations favoring profits without caring for the planet is a indeed selfish. It is not very difficult to distinguish between selfish and selfless, isn’t it?

The Co-founder of Urgenda, Marjan Minnesma stated that part of the case is about demonstrating the economic incentive. She stated that to protect the inhabitants and infrastructure against the inevitable flooding the government has to invest billions more. Waiting will only endanger the entire population and the country’s economy she added. The Netherlands has more in common with Maldives than with its European neighbors in climate terms. So it is wise to prevent that instead of spending billions more to try to overcome it.

It is interesting to note that Urgenda based its case on a legal standard the “cellar hatch criteria” known in Dutch legal circles. A man who fell down an open cellar sued the Coca-Cola Co and the Coca-Cola delivery man for leaving the hatch open. The Dutch Supreme Court gave a ruling in his favor. In United States and the English common law systems this standard is known as prudent man. It is obligatory for a person, business or government to protect others from harm. Urgenda’s attorney Roger H.J. Cox wanted this applied to climate change. Cox stated that by not acting on the fact presented by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the governments endanger their citizens and violate human rights.

Roger Cox wrote in a comment piece for the Guardian said that seeing the inaction by governments justifies the pursuit of legal route. Preventing dangerous climate change has become all but inevitable that puts the western countries at serious risk of human rights violations on a scale nobody can comprehend; it will be nothing less than seeing world war two. This leaves the judiciary with the task to step in and avert the catastrophe. In a democracy issues tend to be more than just being political when they start giving rise to human rights violations and endangerment.

This unique Climate Case is not only a source of inspiration rather it is an example set by Urgenda for other countries to act accordingly.The likely outcome of Urgenda’s case against the Dutch government is to be speculated. The important point is that the governments are held accountable. There needs to be a big transition in public thinking. The public most of the times is diverted from the big issues that hold the governments accountable. It should be about not letting the governments off the hooks and creating an obligation.  As stated by Marjan Minessma it is a lawsuit out of love and desperation.

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 Photo Source: Zpilavdzia

 

 

Pobreza a pesar del crecimiento en la Republica Dominicana: la relación entre la igualdad y la sostenibilidad

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

For the English version of this post, please click here

A nivel nacional, las señales económicas para la República Dominicana parecen alentadoras. Es un país adinerado en relación a otros en la región y ha disfrutado de un crecimiento rápido; la tasa promedio anual de crecimiento durante los últimos 48 años ha sido un impresionante 5,4%. La economía se ha diversificado, librándose de una dependencia de la agricultura, hoy en día el país es una de las destinaciones turísticas más populares en el Caribe, tiene fuertes vínculos comerciales con los EEUU, se beneficia de los acuerdos comerciales y el PIB aumentó casi un 50% de 2000 a 2011.

Sin embargo, un informe del Banco Mundial dado a conocer a principios de este año subraya las características paradójicas de este crecimiento rápido: a pesar de estos avances, las cifras de pobreza no han disminuido tanto como lo previsto y los niveles de pobreza extrema siguen siendo altos. De hecho, según cifras de 2011, la tasa de pobreza se sitúa en torno al 40,4%, más que el nivel en 2000 de 32%, una tasa debida en parte a un incremento a raíz de la crisis bancaria de 2003-4; aunque el crecimiento se reanudó posteriormente, no se ha reducido en gran medida la pobreza.

Además, el informe del Banco Mundial señala que la sociedad dominicana sufre de mucha desigualdad, sobre todo en las zonas urbanas. El informe describe un país en el que los pobres siguen siendo pobres, atrapados con pocas oportunidades de escaparse. La sociedad dominicana es sumamente inequitativa aún en el contexto de la región latinoamericana, conocida por sus divisiones crudas entre rico y pobre; durante la década, mientras que un promedio de 41% de la población en Latinoamérica y el Caribe avanzó a un grupo de ingreso más alto, la cifra era un mero 2% en la Republica Dominicana. Y esto a pesar de que se juzga que una parte importante de la población definida como pobre tiene los medios de generar un ingreso más alto.

La desigualdad parece ser un tema importante hoy en día; líderes desde Barack Obama hasta el Papa se han pronunciado sobre el asunto y el movimiento 1% ha buscado destacar la locura de una elite rica y no responsable en los países occidentales. Además, los líderes mundiales y los medios empiezan a reconocer la relación entre la igualdad y la sostenibilidad. El año pasado, el secretario-general de las Naciones Unidas, Ban Ki-moon dijo que “Si las desigualdades siguen ampliándose, puede que el desarrollo no sea sostenible”, comentando que “la equidad surge como punto central en las discusiones sobre el programa de desarrollo post-2015”.

Es evidente la conexión entre la desigualdad de ingreso y el desarrollo social. Una polarización de rico y pobre que ofrece pocas oportunidades de movilidad económica suscita un círculo vicioso de pobreza. Y los efectos psicológicos de la pobreza deben de aumentarse no solo dada la presencia de una elite rica, sino también, en el caso de la Republica Dominicana, a causa de la llegada constante de extranjeros acaudalados que buscan disfrutar del esplendor turístico de la isla.

Lo que es quizás menos manifiesto, pero no menos importante, es el efecto que surte la desigualdad en el desarrollo sostenible. Un informe de 2013 subrayó las múltiples maneras en las que una sociedad inequitativa contribuye a la degradación ambiental, entre las cuales la posibilidad reducida para la acción colectiva y la capacidad de los ricos de ‘externalizar’ practicas destructivas al medio ambiente a zonas más pobres. Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson discuten la idea de que la competencia, como resultado de la desigualdad, empuja a un nivel de consumo insostenible y aumenta la importancia social del dinero. Aunque se concentran en los países más económicamente ricos, sus conclusiones parecen ser aplicables en cierta medida a todos países y mantienen que una sociedad más desigual es una sociedad más egoísta, menos preocupada por la acción colectiva para el bien común.

Tras la reciente crisis financiera, se han cuestionado las perspectivas hacia el crecimiento económico. Mientras que se ha identificado tradicionalemente al crecimiento como señal de una sociedad floreciente, y se lo ha considerado necesario para el progreso, los comentaristas han comenzado a preguntar si el crecimiento permanente es sostenible. Cuando no va acompañado de un aumento importante en la calidad de vida para la población de un país, habrá que preguntar nuestra obsesión con el crecimiento y considerar si es sano o deseado.

Entonces ¿por qué la Republica es un país con tanta desigualdad? Los juicios de grupos tales como Christian Aid o Social Watch atribuyen la situación a un nivel bajo de gastos públicos sociales y un acceso inadecuado a los servicios básicos, además de un sistema de impuestos ineficaz. El consenso general es que existe una relación importante entre un gasto social reducido y la desigualdad. Así que un gasto publico más alto y dirigido parecería una manera de comenzar a abordar el problema. El informe del Banco Mundial apela también a más acceso al mercado laboral para los pobres y más demanda para su trabajo, además de “política fiscal equitativa, eficaz y sostenible”.

Cualquiera que sea la manera para lograrla, parece esencial una reducción de la brecha entre rico y pobre en la Republica Dominicana, no solo para mejorar la calidad de vida inmediata de su población, sino también para promulgar la sostenibilidad a largo plazo. Y la coyuntura de este país es un indicio de los problemas de desigualdad a escala nacional en otros países y de los desafíos globales representados por la diferencia entre ricos y pobres.  

Fuentes / vínculos para más información

1. Informe del Banco Mundial (2014): Cuando la Prosperidad no es Compartida Los Vínculos Débiles entre el Crecimiento y la Equidad en la República Dominicana

2. Introducción por Christian Aid a la República Dominicana

3. Informe de Christian Aid (2012): The Scandal of Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean

4. Evaluación de UNICEF (2011): Global Inequality: Beyond the bottom billion

5. Informe de Social Watch (2012): Inequality is the biggest obstacle

6. Artículo del Christian Science Monitor Article (2012): The beach: sun, sand, and inequality in the Dominican Republic

7. Informe de la ONU sobre el progreso hacia las ODM en la República Dominicana (2013)

8. Artículo del Independent por Toby Quantrill y Richard Wilkinson (2009): How global and societal inequality heats the planet

9. Éloi Laurent (2013): Inequality as pollution, pollution as inequality

10. Resumen del país por el PNUD

11. Reportaje del Centro de Noticias de la ONU (2013)

12. Guardian Poverty Matters Blog (2011): Global inequality: tackling the elite 1% problem

13. Guardian poverty Matters Blog (2014): Mind the gap: why UN development goals must tackle economic inequality

Poverty despite growth in the Dominican Republic: the links between equality and sustainability

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

Para la versión española de este artículo, pulse aquí.

At a national level, economic signs for the Dominican Republic seem highly promising. It is a relatively wealthy country compared to others in the region and has enjoyed rapid economic growth; its average annual growth rate for the past 48 years has been an impressive 5.4%. The economy has diversified, escaping a dependence on agriculture, the country is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, it has strong trade links with the US, benefits from Trade Agreements and its GDP rose nearly 50% from 2000 to 2011.  

However, a World Bank report released earlier this year highlights the paradoxical nature of this rapid growth: despite these advances, poverty has not fallen as much as expected and extreme poverty levels remain high. In fact, 2011 figures put poverty levels at around 40.4%, higher than the 2000 level of 32%, due in part to an increase as a result of the 2003-4 banking crisis: although growth resumed healthily following the crisis, poverty has not been greatly reduced.  

Moreover, the World Bank report points out that Dominican society suffers from much inequality, particularly in urban areas. The report paints a picture of a country in which the poor remain poor, trapped in their situation with little chance of escaping. Dominican society is highly unequal even in the context of the Latin American region, well-known for its gaping divisions; whilst over the decade an average of 41% of the overall population in Latin America and the Caribbean moved up to a higher income group, this figure was a mere 2% in the Dominican Republic. And this despite the fact that a significant proportion of the population defined as poor is judged to have the means to generate higher income.  

Inequality seems to be very much a focus topic of current times; leaders from Barack Obama to the Pope have commented on the subject and the 1% movement has aimed to highlight the absurdity of a rich and unaccountable elite in Western countries. Moreover, world leaders and media commentators, are recognising the links between equality and sustainability. Last year, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that “If inequalities continue to widen, development may not be sustainable”, commenting that “equity is emerging as a central plank in discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.”  

The links between income inequality and social development are clear. A polarisation between rich and poor which offers little chance of economic mobility creates a vicious cycle of poverty. And the psychological effects of deprivation must be heightened not only by the presence of a rich elite, but also in the case of the Dominican Republic by the constant influx of wealthy foreigners eager to enjoy the touristic splendours of the island.  

What is perhaps less evident, but no less important, is the effect that such inequality has on sustainable development. A 2013 paper highlighted the multiple ways in which an unequal society contributes to environmental degradation; among these were the reduced capacity for collective action and the ability of the rich to ‘outsource’ environmentally harmful practices to poorer areas. Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson discuss the notion that competition stemming from inequality drives an unsustainable level of consumption and increases the social importance of money. Although focusing on economically rich countries, their conclusions seem to be applicable at least in some measure to all countries around the world and they maintain that a more unequal society is a more selfish society, less concerned with collective action for the common good.  

In the wake of the recent financial crisis, perspectives on economic growth have been questioned. Whilst growth seems to have been traditionally identified as a marker of a flourishing society, and seen as necessary for progress, commentators have begun to question whether permanent growth is really sustainable. Surely when it is unaccompanied by a significant increase in quality of life for a country’s population, we must question our obsession with growth and consider whether it is really healthy or desirable.  

So what makes the Dominican Republic such an apparently unequal country? Assessments from groups such as Christian Aid and Social Watch attribute the situation to low social spending by the government, inadequate access to basic services, as well as an inefficient tax system. There is a general consensus that low social spending and inequality are very much linked. It would thus seem that increased and targeted social spending by the government would go some of the way to challenging the situation. The World Bank report also calls for increased access to labour markets for the poor and more demand for their labour, as well as “equitable, efficient and sustainable fiscal policy”.  

However it is achieved, a reduction of the gap between rich and poor in the Dominican Republic seems essential, not only to improve the more immediate quality of life of its population, but also to promote long-term sustainability. And the issues demonstrated by this country are indicative not only of the problems of inequality on a national scale in other countries, but also of global challenges presented by the gap between rich and poor.

Sources / Links for further information:

1. World Bank Report (2014): When Prosperity is not Shared: The Weak Links between Growth and Equity in the Dominican Republic.

2. Christian Aid’s Introduction to the Dominican Republic

3. Christian Aid Report (2012): The Scandal of Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean

4. UNICEF Review (2011): Global Inequality: Beyond the bottom billion

5. Social Watch Report (2012): Inequality is the biggest obstacle

6. The Christian Science Monitor Article (2012): The beach: sun, sand, and inequality in the Dominican Republic

7. UN report on MDG progress in the Dominican Republic (2013) (in Spanish)

8. Independent article by Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson (2009): How global and societal inequality heats the planet

9. Éloi Laurent (2013): Inequality as pollution, pollution as inequality

10. UNDP Country Summary

11. UN News Centre Report (2013)

12. Guardian Poverty Matters Blog (2011): Global inequality: tackling the elite 1% problem

13. Guardian poverty Matters Blog (2014): Mind the gap: why UN development goals must tackle economic inequality