Posts Tagged ‘Earth Charter’

This Earth Day, Stand up for Youth Engagement

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, Regions, Take Action

first-photograph-of-the-entire-earth-nasa-apollo-8-1968Photo Source: Google

It is true that the most celebrated photograph in the world is of Earth, famously called Earthrise. In 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 mission took a photograph of Earth from space. The photograph of a beautiful azure planet floating peacefully changed our perspective of Earth as not just a mere dump. Humanity started viewing it as a delicate living planet where millions of species live together, sharing this vast space and calling it home.

The photograph is also credited for initiating the environmental movement and giving birth to 22 April as Earth Day. For once I am happy to know that Earthrise is the most celebrated photograph in the world and it is not of a woman. Knowing how a woman’s body is objectified these days and is used to sell everything from men razors to boxer shots. This restored my faith in humanity.

We can’t take the earth for granted especially given the fast deteriorating condition of the global environment. Sustainable lifestyle choices are the need of the time. With youth making up half of the population, it is important to raise awareness among young people on how to take care of the earth so that life may persist.

This Earth Day we need to stand up for youth engagement. The Earth Charter Principle 12c stresses the importance of youth engagement.

 “Honor and support the young people of our communities, enabling them to fulfill their essential role in creating sustainable societies.”
Education for Sustainability, a project of Nektarina Non-Profit, believes that to establish a just and sustainable society it is important to engage youth, empower them and work to build their capacity. In the past, Nektarina Non-Profit has worked closely with the Earth Day Network, keeping in mind the Earth Charter principles. Nektarina Non-Profit has been offering platforms to youth to learn the values of a sustainable way of life in India, Ghana, Cameroon , Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.  It plans to continue supporting youth, encouraging them to embrace the sustainability vision of Earth Charter.

To celebrate World Environment Day 2014 in India, Nektarina Non-Profit organized a rally in Pune. Students from different institutions, universities, schools, and colleges; representatives of civil society organizations, companies, and political parties were gathered at one event to celebrate World Environment Day. It did manage to raise awareness among young people about the environmental issues and how to make sustainable lifestyle choices, care for the Earth and be an active participant in the environment movement. This year again Nektarina Non Profit will be holding an event in India in June.

Youth engagement is not just a buzzword in the development field. The term has more to do with youth involvement in challenging unsustainable norms and taking responsible actions to create positive change. Instead of waiting for a grand cataclysmic change it is time to give our little contribution, whenever and wherever possible. So this Earth Day let’s stand up for youth engagement and put the planet Earth in the hands of informed citizens of tomorrow.

“You Have Not come here to just enjoy Lima”

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Cameroon, General Information, Ghana, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Regions, Sierra Leone, Take Action, Trinidad and Tobago

1017932Manuel Pulgar Vidal , President of COP20 addressing the audience in Lima

Photo Source: Google

“This is the time to take decisions…we want to give a clear and strong message that we want to take this process forward…you have not come here to just enjoy Lima…we must not accept to leave Lima with empty hands ” Manuel Pulgar Vidal said in a passionate appeal to the negotiators on the second last day of COP 20.

Vidal who was acting as the President of the conference or COP 20 (Conference of Parties) shared the disappointed of many that no progress was made on the negotiating text. With just one more day to go till the end of the conference and negotiations it was indeed saddening to see another deadlock looming on the horizon.

When we talk about global climate agreement one question that pops out is; with the global political crisis, where most countries are at war with each other both physically and otherwise, will they ever be able to negotiate in terms of climate justice?  I have been asking this question a lot and have never come across a sane explanation. In an extremely unjust world ruled by people who value profit is it even possible to talk about climate justice? Are we just fooling ourselves trying to make a difference by attending these important meetings visited by the many heads of states who are good at posing for photographs with the delegates but not drafting sound agreements?

Climate talks have remained deadlocked be it Brazil or Lima. Defeated in Brazil we thought we have a battle to fight in Lima where we may win and now we are looking forward to Paris in 2015. Is it just about wasting another year? When it comes to climate can we really afford to waste these many years? What are we waiting for?

These glorious opportunities that bring so many countries together should be made use of properly without wasting too much time, money and energy. There was an Ad-hoc Working Group on Durban Platform (ADP) at the COP 20 that was supposed to decide how various countries will contribute in the fight against climate change. The contributions that will be determined nationally are called Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDCs). The INDCs will form the backbone of the global climate agreement that is expected to be finalized at the next climate conference in Paris in 2015.

Unfortunately there are disagreements existing on several issues related to INDCs. Regarding the actions that have to be taken by developed countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions before 2020 there isn’t a clear understanding. By using the jargons many countries try to get away without presenting a clear action plan. The mitigation/adaptation debate over the INDCs and whether these contributions should be put to an international review had been slow.

The frustrating slow pace of the Lima negotiations does disappoint many around the globe including the developing world that is mostly on the receiving end. Developing world is most affected by the decisions made by the developed world that even ship its waste to the global South. Also some countries in the developing world  clearly have other priorities.

According to Al Jazeera “China has said emissions will peak by 2030, while India chose to put economic growth ahead of emissions caps.”

How many more conferences and drafts do we need to understand and acknowledge the unforeseen adversity in the years to come?

AlJazeera reported :

 “ In Peru, the venue for this year’s crucial climate change conference, illegal logging continues at unprecedented rates.”

 “The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, is a city under threat as it is sinking at a rate of seven centimetres every year. By 2030, according to experts, half of the city will be below sea level. Step Vassen reports from the Indonesian capital.”

 “In South Sudan, many people are chopping down trees just to exist. The country’s oilfields generate billions of dollars a year, but all the oil is exported, leaving millions of people to rely on wood and charcoal for fuel. The current rate of deforestation will mean no forest will be left in South Sudan within three or four decades.”

And the list goes on. The empty slogans made by the politicians demanding actions against climate change in not enough. Someone rightly said that with great power comes great responsibility. Here I would like to make an urgent appeal to the world leaders/politicians to take up this responsibility without wasting more time.

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.        

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

 

 

Kick-starting India

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

More than 170 million Indian voters chose Narendra Modi as the country’s 15th prime minister in the world’s largest democratic election. Apparently people wanted to get rid of Congress considering the many scams and corruption scandals that worked against the Congress for example Commonwealth Games scam, telecom scam, discreet distribution of coal mines to cronies etc. It was also said that the Aam Aadmi party was very new in the political arena hence had few chances of victory. So it was BJP the Bhartya Janta Party that came on the front with a sweeping victory. The sentiments were mixed definitely. While some celebrated the success others were infuriated. I guess this is what democracy is all about. The only thing that concerned me was regarding a fair democratic election in place not backed by any agenda so to say. A genuine and transparent voting system in place, allowing people to question the propositions made by the participating parties and then deciding whom to vote for.

Reuters mukesh guptaIndia’s Election 2014 : Modi’s supporters rejoicing in the victory

Photo Source: Reuters/Mukesh Gupta

A lot of people were surprised to see the results where Congress was badly mauled. In the Northern Uttar Pradesh state alone BJP won more seats than the Congress won in the entire country. By dividing the electorate on religious lines and by making use of religious polarization along with communalism like in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and adjoining areas in Bihar and describing Azamgarh, a predominantly Muslim town, as den of terrorists it ran an election campaign that proved to be of its advantage.

So the elections are over now and the truth is that BJP is in power hence I would not like to waste my time debating who should have won. People have a right to choose what they think is best for them. As growth in India flagged, the Congress lost support ending their legacy. The leadership of Monmohan Sigh was lackluster. The Congress party needed to be more inclusive and hard working by not treating the party as a hereditary right of the Gandhis.

So should India’s minorities especially Muslims be afraid keeping in mind the 2002 Gujarat communal riots? The Hindu nationalists and BJP should ensure the safety and justice for the minorities considering them citizens of India who are not unequal. The sooner BJP realizes it the better it is for Narendra Modi’s longevity as the leader of India. Also keeping in mind the Gujarat model that focused on growth, this time BJP needs to have an outward thinking focusing on the inequality of access to economic and social opportunities, resources and justice as growth goes hand in hand with the well being of all.

Narendra’s Modi echoing victory offers reasons to hope that his government will promote prosperity and development for all Indians. Legislating with majority should facilitate socio economic reforms that would prove beneficial in the longer run for the country. Modi faces higher expectations than his predecessor given the election campaign.

Termed as ‘Development Man’ during his mammoth election campaign Narendra Modi the chief of India’s ruling party plays a vital role in the fight against climate justice and trying to make the sustainable development goals a reality. Pushing a vision of prosperity with more electrified cities and wealthier citizens, his promise will undoubtedly have profound implications for the planet over the years to come.

AFPWomen going to vote during the democratic elections in India 2014

Photo Source: AFP

For the developing world like India there are three factors that lie at the heart of sustainability. That would be electricity generation, use of land in agriculture and deforestation and protection of water resources especially when it comes to agriculture. These three factors are intertwined making it challenging for the government to enact with other necessary reforms. The first customary address by the President Pranab Mukherjee struck an ambitious tone on sustainable development.

Looking at the BJP manifesto the importance is given on how much energy they are going to be able to produce, the focus in not on how. The manifesto promises to make the most of gas, oil, coal, ocean, wind, nuclear and hydel power, looking at the diverse supply of energy. Keeping in mind Modi’s pro-business attitude some are optimistic that he will be a force for good in contributing to India’s developing renewable market. Krishna Pallassana the executive director of Climate Group India stresses that Modi believes and has also publicly stated many times that he wants to embrace a clean energy model. Krishna Pallassana is expecting a huge boost to this sector with Modi as a prime minister. Modi’s tenure will overlap with the UN’s attempt in 2015 to sign a legally binding global climate deal and hence Modi has to familiarize himself with the international politics of climate change. There are many issues that need to be smoothed out between India and other big emitters such as US and EU and India’s stance at the talks so far has been less than pacifying. Adaptation and taking on mitigation actions should remain a priority for the new government equaling to those of developed countries. The developed countries are the largest per capita contributors to the grave problem of carbon emissions and until they make a dent in their emissions this issue will not be resolved. This opinion is shared by a large segment of Indian and surely Modi’s government will not differ from that no matter how testing it might seem. By raising awareness among the masses on the impact of climate change will save this grave issue from going into the back seat after elections. It is not an easy subject but more emphasis can be put on it to raise awareness among people.

Gail India Limited, India’s largest natural gas distributors, recently announced that it would purchase natural gas from American Henry Hub, this does indicate that the new government is serious about expanding India’s natural gas grid infrastructure and Nehru National Solar Mission. All the policies and agreements must incorporate the well being of the masses who are often neglected and sidelined in favor of making profits. The governments elected by the people with a hope to see a better future are and should be answerable to the public.

Trimming deforestation that has affected communities with regards to land use must be incorporated in drafting a national policy to reverse deforestation. Critics like Greenpeace India say that environmental considerations often take a back seat to economic development priorities. The Modi government has made it clear that this would not be the case this time. The new government has also stressed on prioritizing water. Water one of the most threatened resources is of particular concern to a country that relies on agriculture. The new government focuses on improving infrastructure of irrigation projects to tackle drought and flood.  The dispute over water rights among Indian states in previous years should be kept in mind and dealt with diligence.

If the priorities laid down by the new government remain true to the cause then it is to be commended as an indication of smart policy. The BJP’s election manifesto offers hints of methods to tackle climate change and deal with the issues regarding development. That includes efficient waste management practices, research and development of environmental sector and guidelines for green building. Reform will be challenging for the government to keeping in mind the lumbering bureaucracy. To achieve growth in order to reduce the ranks of India’s extremely poor in a way that preserves the environment and slows down the contribution to global greenhouse emissions will dominate the debates over India’s development plans for the coming years.

For any government an agenda that centers on development is indeed a boon for the planet. The question however is how we define development? Instead of a microscopic vision it should be about a telescopic vision that keeps in mind the well being of human species. In today’s globalized world the moves made by one country affects the other. We all are in it together and therefore an outward approach in needed that link the development agenda to a climate agenda. In the ailing economy where many issues are there to be dealt with, climate justice might not draw immediate attention.  It should however be considered of huge importance when designing policies as it is directly affecting us in many ways we don’t want to consider important.

Seeing the new government already beginning to make the link is a smart move. Trying to tap the opportunities in various areas of development has raised hopes of many. With the new regime in charge, the environmental minister has talked about project approvals beginning by the end of June. Modi seeking to press on a ferocious agenda of national development that looks great on paper by putting sustainability at the centre of thoughts and actions  has left experts wondering how much to expect from this new leader and his regime. Only time will tell whether the new regime is capable of delivering the promises it made. Ensuring growth while keeping an eye on the environment would prove to be an intelligent move. We have seen in the past and still experiencing that stubbornness and blinding oneself to grave issues threatening the human race has proved fatal. Instead of being a frog finding himself in a bowl of comfortably lukewarm water while actually sitting on a slow flame should be considered a red flag by the governments. With the benefit of hindsight it would be smart not to let the temperature in the bowl reach the boiling point because it would be too late to jump out.  It is better to prevent environmental disasters than wait till it’s too late.

Time will tell the efficiency and diligence of the new regime in India. With the hope to see the manifesto of the new government becoming a reality it would be fair on the masses to push for it, constantly reminding the government of the promises they made.

The Invisible Child Soldiers

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

Guy Oliver IRINPhoto Source: Guy Oliver/IRIN

Becoming a soldier at the age of seven on the orders of his uncle, a chief in the North Kivu Province in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Dikembe Muamba* stole his first gun at the age of 10. Dikembe Muamba* told IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) that he led 50 people both children and adults as a captain at the age of 14.

Spending few years as his uncle’s bodyguard he was later enlisted into PARECO (Alliance of Resistant Congolese Patriots) which emerged in 2007 from diverse and varied communities of North Kivu province like Hutu, Hunde, Nande, Nyanga and Tembo .

Muamba and many other children, having the right to live a decent living, can tell you how many battles they have fought without hesitation. For Muamba it was 45 but he is not sure how many people he killed, he reluctantly adds that the youngest person he ever killed was a girl who was about 6 years old and she was shooting at him.

Formerly known as Zaire, Democratic Republic of Congo is no stranger to instability and conflict. For decades the political violence has wrecked the country. After the Rwandan Civil war in 1994 the violence intensified.  Extraordinarily complex the conflict that involved huge numbers of rebel groups fighting each other, children are being  snatched by rebel groups from their parents to become soldiers. The estimates given by UN states that 15 to 30% of all newly conscripted combatants are under the age of 18 in the DRC army. It is also estimated that one in ten children or 30,000 child soldiers are found in DRC. Scarring them mentally and physically for life the child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo are forced to commit the most appalling acts of murder. Female child soldiers are frequently used as sexual slaves by the commanders.

When we talk about the military use of children it should be noted that there are around 120,000 child soldiers in Africa according to UNICEF. That comprises half the total of 300,000 around the world including countries like Colombia, Myanmar, Afghanistan and many other places. The dangers for children have been heightened by the recent developments in warfare. During the last decade the estimated figures of child victims killed, physically and psychologically traumatized and left homeless have crossed millions.

Is this the civilized world we dreamt of?  With numerous other injustices spread across the globe the facts and figures related to child soldiers come as an abysmal truth, very hard to face. Maybe it is very easy for me writing about it by quoting these statistics, how difficult it would have been to live the hell which these children have been forced to live. This unimaginable truth makes me cringe and once again I am haunted by the stories of decapitation and mutilation done by young children. Instead of a pen and paper they were introduced to weapons. When they were supposed to learn to love, they were taught to hate. The never ending cycle of violence didn’t solve any problem so far it just made the situation worse with each passing day.

We have many examples in history where child soldiers have been extensively involved in military campaigns and combats. Since 1970s a number of international conventions came into effect trying to limit the participation of children in armed conflicts nevertheless it has been reported that the participation of children in armed conflicts is widespread.  According to UNOCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) half of the world’s child soldiers are in Africa. Many of these children are forced into conflict due to poverty, sold by their parents, tricked and kidnapped.  In Burundi hundreds of child soldiers served in an armed rebel Hutu group in 2004. Children younger than 16 were also recruited in the Burundese military. In Central African Republic between 2001 and 2003 children served in armed rebel groups. In Chad child soldiers are fighting with Chadian military and rebel forces. In Cote d’Ivoire during 2002 civil war, children were recruited by both sides. Child soldiers were also used by Rwandan government forces and paramilitaries in 2002. Visiting Sierra Leone and Liberia during the rebuilding phase made me visit some camps with war amputees, young people without arms and legs told their stories of rapes, murders and other tortures. Years of their lives have been wasted by the wars. This war talk which makes some label many other like myself as idealists and irrational beings, just because we think that war is not a solution and it fuels misery, should visit these places and listen to the stories of these invisible people.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is rich in natural resources and has the world’s second largest rain forest. This second largest country in Africa with 75 million falls at the bottom of two major indices. Languishing at the bottom of 2012 UNDP Human Development Index and Global Hunger Index, Democratic Republic of Congo is struggling with the issues of HIV and AIDS. With all these serious issues affecting the nation the child soldiers coming in the backdrop makes Democratic Republic of Congo a vulnerable state in need of stability and reforms. Having one of the highest rates of child soldiers all over the world Democratic Republic of Congo has ratified a number of international treaties protecting the rights of children yet the figures indicating child victims to war and abuse tell a different story.

In 2001 Democratic Republic of Congo ratified UN Security Council Resolution 1341 which called for an end to recruitment of children, ensuring their rehabilitation and reintegration. All the ratifications proved nothing but a public relations exercise.  The UN Security Council convenes regularly to discuss reports and pass resolutions under the title of children in armed conflicts. These various resolutions being passed in the late 2000 that request action plans for monitoring, reporting and compliance are not enough. With regards to Article 77.2 of the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions which was adopted in 1977 it was mentioned that the parties should take “feasible” measures to ensure that children under the age of 15 don’t take part in armed conflicts. Instead of stating the “feasibility” there should be a complete ban on the recruitment of children in armed forces. The various written documents endorsing child protection should not just be a matter of closed room discussions and written documentation. The difficulty is in the implementation of all these laws. With the lawlessness in the affected countries and rising corruption the proper implementation is nowhere in sight.

In an October 2013 report of UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) it was mentioned that in the past five years about 10,000 children have been separated from armed groups. In the same period nearly 1000 more children were conscripted and their use in the armed groups has remained “systemic”.

AFPPhoto Source: AFP

Use of children in armed forces is one of the most repugnant practices around the world and according to UNICEF’s definition of a child soldier the minimum age has now been changed from under 15 to less than 18 years of age. The phenomenon of having children in combat is not new in the history and throughout history we can find many examples where child combatants have wasted their lives in this malice. A notable example in the history can be of Hitler Jugden (Hitler Youth) during World War II.

As a human race, presumably we have evolved from our barbaric stage many years ago and as we embark on the 21st , more civilized century we should sign a pact where we promise to let go our old savage ways. With the technological and other advancements where the human species have discovered so many hidden secrets these same species fail to acknowledge and understand a basic truth about life. That truth is very simple and does not need an equation to decipher and it states that we need to live in peace with each other. We need to instill love and empathy for each other. Let us for once try to put the broken pieces together when we can.

Let us take a step forward honoring Article 12 of Conventions on the Rights of the Child which calls on states to recognize the right of children to participate in the processes that affect them. Their right is currently snatched away from them even in the reintegration programs of the former child soldiers. It is about moving past the dominant view of the child soldiers as passive victims to their meaningful participation. It should be about looking past their identity as victims and asking them about the complexity of their past and envisioning a future that builds on the positive and negative experiences they had in the past. When it comes to reintegration of child soldiers it is important to look beyond the victim-perpetrator binary. These children should be given space to discuss the feelings of guilt and remorse placing it in the context of war, insecurity and poverty. It is about putting a positive and productive approach into practice. The life changing experiences of war are a complex subject to deal with and no doubt need sound programs and initiatives.

The International Criminal Court’s 2012 conviction of militia leader Thomas Lubanga for recruiting child soldiers under the age of 15 years in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo between 2002 – 2003 sends a strong message. The message is clear that those who will recruit children in armed conflicts will be held accountable. There are many Thomas Lubangas out there who need to be held accountable for their misdeeds.

Since the war ended in 2002 the armed conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo involving national army and various other armed groups have unlawfully recruited boys and girls using them in various hostilities. The intensification of the conflict in late 2011 to early 2012 led to new waves of child recruitment in armed groups.

There is a need to deal with this growing issue where many national and international forces are working in solidity with the mafia warlords. The use of small arms should also be monitored and curtailed which makes it easier for young children to use weapons. The source of the entire problem is the illegal arms trade that gives power to this growing militia everywhere. Through willingness from national and international community and proper check and balance this issue can be dealt and the suffering of thousands of invisible children can be brought to an end.

*A pseudo name used

“No One Chooses to be a Refugee”

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, Uncategorized

587266-afghanrefugeesafp-1375815158-401-640x480Afghan Refugees

Photo Source : Google

World Refugee Day is marked each year on the 20 June as forced displacements globally reaches dramatic magnitude. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in a special message for the day said that the number of refugees has reached an alarming number with more than 45 million internally displaced people and refugees, making it highest in nearly 20 years.

Every year conflict tears apart the lives of thousands of families who have to leave homes forcibly by the chaos of conflict and war.  How would it feel if today I am asked to leave home along with my family? I cannot even think of a place I can go to. What are the things I would keep and what would be the things I would leave back? These few basic questions make me understand and empathize with all those millions of refugees scattered around the globe still fighting for their right to inclusion.

Established in the late 2000 by the UN General Assembly, World Refugee day aims to highlight the plight and suffering of world’s forcibly displaced. The UN body particularly working in that area is UNHCR that stands for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also known as UN Refugee Agency. A lot of people will already know about it considering that the Special Envoy for UNHCR is the famous Angeline Jolie. She was in Jordan for this year’s World Refugee Day to draw attention to the millions of Syrian refugees suffering because of a civil war in the country with no political resolution in sight. Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed the need for the war in Syria to be stopped, asking those with political responsibilities to come together and take action. Sadly it seems that nobody is willing to take action be it Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and the list goes on.

These forcibly uprooted communities by persecution and conflict include 16 million refugees outside their countries and the remaining 26 million others are internally displaced. The global displacement statistics mentioned here were compiled at the end of 2008 by UNHCR and since then these figures are increasing with the insatiability of power hungry people all over the globe.

A noticeable and worrisome situation is the long term displacement leaving refugees in exile for more than five years.  This leaves the communities living in limbo with no future ahead of them. What worsen this already massive displacement problem is the global economic crisis, climate change, growing xenophobia and North and South disparities.

Developing nations host some 80 percent of the world’s internally displaced people and refugees, making them in need for more international support as some countries can least afford the burden. Some major refugee hosting nations in the year 2008 according to UNHCR include Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Germany, Jordan, Chad, Tanzania and Kenya. The countries of origin for the refugees include Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Columbia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Most of the countries included in the list are the developing nations. With various other ills plaguing the developing nations the refugee problem is not looked after properly leaving many in need for help and support. How easy it is to go to war and how difficult it is to face the aftermath. The ones who take decisions are not the ones affected by these conflicts. They have their safe abodes to go to anyway. The ones affected by the decisions of this war prone populace are asking for help as they need to be protected in the long term. It is not about providing them with the basic short term shelter facilities. It is about giving them their basic rights and looking after their needs in the long term. There is a need to look for sustainable solutions to this problem. If I am the one to make decisions, I would definitely think twice before going to war, no matter the difficulty of situation, through dialogue looking for solutions is the best answer in my mind so far. Some may disagree by saying that some parties don’t believe in dialogue and the use of arms and weapons becomes inevitable. There is always a room for bringing the two or more conflicting parties together at the dialogue table provided that everyone agrees on the fact that war leads to destruction and is not a solution. The undercover political agendas should also be kept in mind here when dealing with such crucial issues.

In a report by UNHCR released in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, it was disclosed that by the end of 2013 Pakistan continued to host the largest number of refugees in the world. Pakistan has hosted the world’s largest refugee population for nearly three decades mostly from Afghanistan with the help of international community. This developing nation facing power crisis, where a lot of money is allocated on the defense budget does need to focus on other issues like health, housing and education of not only the citizens but also the refugee population. If we see the various reports presenting innumerable data it clearly shows that many in Pakistan roughly 46 percent of the rural population is living below the poverty line. This is a striking figure and does make one question whether Pakistan is capable of hosting millions of refugees or not?

The reasons for conflicts that force people to leave their homes might be many but the end is nearly the same for every refugee. The refugee issue should not just be confined to a single day where rallies and events are being held around the world talking about and promoting the rights of refugees. It should be about working on minimizing the reasons for going to war and forcing people into exile. The report by UNHCR for the year 2013 clearly states that number of refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and asylum seekers worldwide in the post World War II era has exceeded 50 million people.

Besides looking after the refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan is grappling with the issue of internally displaces people (IDPs) from the tribal areas where military operations are being carried out to wipe out the terrorists. Last week a military operation known as Zarb-e-Azb was launched after a dramatic attack on Karachi’s airport and failed dialogue attempts to negotiate a peace deal with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a militant organization.

internally-displaced-peoples-idp-pakistan-war-imperialism-terrorism-taliban-us1IDPs from tribal areas in Pakistan

Photo Source: Pulsemedia.org

How militant organizations including TTP were born in Pakistan is not a secret anymore and hence I won’t go into that. What I know for a fact is that this has caused unrest in the country and has defamed the country to a great extend. My only question is, if this is Pakistan’s war then why somebody else is paying the bills?

I remember being asked a lot of questions, coming from Pakistan, after Malala was hit by a bullet. People asked me how the situation was like in my country for girls/women. It was indeed a tragic incident in the history and there are many Malalas out there still crying for help, not known to the world. Well it is the same country that had the woman Prime Minister. The country has also produced many successful women pilots, scientists, politicians, educationists, thinkers, musicians, writers and so on. It is the politics coupled with egotism that incite all the problems leaving us with nothing but despair, tragedy and a loss of hope.

The militants whoever they are led to a lot of people being displaced in the country. When this military operation was launched just a week ago I read many articles talking about eradicating the evil and people showing support to the military. To me it was a show where the killers and the ones being killed were living beings. I somehow think that it was not the solution as killing some will result in giving birth to more who spread hate and animosity. It is an endless cycle. That thought was excruciating. Sometimes I feel the need of a superhero/heroine to fix the world of all the wrong doings. Maybe that superhero/heroine is in each one of us, asleep. Buddha was right when he said that we don’t need more successful people in this world rather we need healers, peace builders and lovers of all kinds.

During this extended insurgency in the tribal areas thousands of innocent people have been killed in bombings and gun attacks. I read that during the military operation started a week ago the Cobra gunship helicopters pounded three militant hideouts, killing 12 suspected terrorist and the number of civilians fleeing that area passed 200,000. For these few mad people many suffered.

The current fighting in the North Waziristan triggered a huge exodus of civilians into nearby cities like Peshawar, Kohat and Bannu and also across the border into Afghanistan. The Disaster Management Authority of Federally Administered Tribal Areas also reported that around 157,000 people arrived in Bannu from North Waziristan, where the military operation is being held. Thousands of women and children were also seen travelling by foot.

I don’t know yet where the number would go by the end of the military operation in the tribal areas. I also don’t know the plight of all those children who opened their eyes to war. Pakistan is just one country and many places around the world face similar circumstances albeit the different reasons of conflict. I understand that the international organizations must be doing their best to provide assistance to the refugees and IDPs spread across the globe. It is not just about dispatching relief items and providing short term shelter. When we try to look at it through the lens of sustainable solutions the refugee issue is more complicated than it looks on the surface. I call out to all the important people including the decision makers to look for political resolutions to stop this. Undoubtedly prevention is better than cure.

The international community that felt obligated to spend hundreds of billions to aid the crippling financial system should also feel the same need to rescue the most vulnerable people on earth, the refugees and IDPs. The amount spent on financial bailouts is way more and only a fraction of that is needed besides finding solutions for these millions forced to flee their homes. It might be difficult but it is not impossible. The suffering of the world’s uprooted people and their exile can be brought to an end with the necessary political will from the international community besides humanitarian support.

Syrian children try to stay warm near an open fire in front of tPhoto Source: Valentina Petrova/AP