Archive | April, 2010

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Voice of Civil Society Loud and Clear in Cochabamba

Posted on 19 April 2010 by editor

Credit: Daniela Estrada/IPS TerraViva

By Daniela Estrada*

SANTIAGO, Apr 19, 2010 (Tierramérica) РThe success of the climate change conference taking place in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba will depend on how unified civil society ultimately is in its efforts to influence the United Nations climate summit, in Mexico, say Latin American activists.

The World People‚Äôs Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Apr. 19-22, convened by Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, has brought together some 12,000 people from 130 countries, including international personalities, representatives from citizen groups and government officials.

The bulk of the debate will be led by civil society, which tends to oppose the market-based mechanisms proposed by most of the governments to fight climate change, and this is fuelling doubts about just how much impact the Bolivian forum will have on the official climate talks taking place within the United Nations.

Only presidents who are personally close to Morales are attending the Cochabamba conference, such as Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, and Hugo Ch√°vez of Venezuela. Other governments, like those of Brazil and Chile, will not participate. “I think it’s a very important space for coming together, where it will be possible to discuss and come to agreement on our positions and strategies, but that depends on the organisations that participate,” Colombian Lydia Fernanda Forero, member of the council of the Hemispheric Social Alliance, told Tierram√©rica.

The Alliance, an umbrella of grassroots organisations and networks from Canada to Chile, will have a greater presence in Cochabamba than it did at Klimaforum 2009, the civil society summit held in December in parallel to the 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“Thanks to (President) Morales we have a rainbow of social and political entities behind this issue that we couldn’t have even dreamed of four months ago,” including student and labour groups, said Eduardo Giesen, the Latin America coordinator of Friends of the Earth International’s climate justice programme.

For Alejandro Yianello, of Argentina’s Piuk√© Ecologist Association, “it’s an advance that there are other actors discussing the issue ” besides those associated with COP 15. He told Tierram√©rica that he applauds the Cochabamba conference’s shift of the focus towards “the rights of Mother Earth.”

Itelvina Massioli, of the Brazilian Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST – Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) and of V√≠a Campesina International, said in an interview with Tierram√©rica that the conference will not be a “trade fair” but rather “an important space for information, reflection, dialogue and coordination among peoples.”

The conference’s 17 working groups will deal with issues like the structural causes of global warming and the Bolivian proposal to create an international tribunal for climate justice and convene a climate referendum of the peoples of the world.

Also up for discussion is the situation of indigenous peoples and of “climate migrants,” and possible solutions for financing the transfer of technologies necessary for communities to adapt to the effects of climate change.

“Morales’s call synthesises what many social movements in Latin America have been proposing in a fragmented way,” which poses a big challenge to the organisations, said Lucio Cuenca, director of the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts, in Chile.

Mexico, which will host the COP 16 in December – an effort to reverse the failure of the Copenhagen meet -, is represented in Cochabamba by delegates from at least seven environmental groups.

“Our general proposal is to say ‘no’ to the false solutions against climate change offered by nearly all governments, such as market mechanisms that do not have mitigating effects,” Miguel Valencia, an organiser of Klimaforum 2009, told Tierram√©rica.

“Cochabamba can be a democratic space for developing organisational capacity to build accord within civil society,” said Claudia G√≥mez, of the non-governmental Mexican Centre for Environmental Law.

But not everyone sees this forum as an opportunity to strengthen civil society’s role in the climate change debate.

The non-governmental Wildlife (Vida Silvestre) Foundation, which last month in Argentina led the campaign to turn out the lights to fight climate change, will not participate in the conference “due to budget issues” and because “it is more a meeting for indigenous organisations,” said foundation member Mar√≠a Jos√© Pach√°. “It’s not a UN meeting,” she said.

Hern√°n Giardini, delegate from Greenpeace Argentina, is participating in the Bolivia meet, but told Tierram√©rica that he hopes it doesn’t turn into an alternative process to that of the UN. It is the United Nations where decisions are made, he said.

In contrast, the director of the non-governmental Sustainable Chile Programme, Sara Larra√≠n, believes the Cochabamba conference represents precisely the possibility of recuperating “international democratic governability,” given the failure of the official talks.

“We believe the people’s conference is a fundamental space because if a pole of subversion and response is not created, and if we don’t take the floor from the governments, there is no possibility that the negotiations will advance,” Larra√≠n stated to Tierram√©rica.

“We are going with the expectation of the creation of a genuine social and popular movement that takes up the environmental questions – in this case the climate crisis – as a social and socio-political problem, and that it is constituted beyond the non-governmental environmental organisations,” said Friends of the Earth’s Giesen.

(*Emilio Godoy in Mexico City, Marcela Valente in Buenos Aires, Franz Chávez in La Paz, and Fabiana Frayssinet in Rio de Janeiro contributed reporting. This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.) (END)


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Les droits de l’Homme et les droits de la nature sont les deux noms d’une même dignité

Posted on 16 April 2010 by editor

Eduardo Galeano

Eduardo Galeano

Malheureusement, je ne pourrais pas être avec vous.

Un b√Ęton s‚Äôest mis dans la roue, qui m‚Äôemp√™che de faire le voyage.

Mais je veux accompagner d’une façon ou d’une autre votre réunion, cette réunion des miens, et il ne me reste plus d’autre choix que de faire le peu que je peux et non l’un peu plus que je veux.

Et pour y être sans y être, je vous envoie au moins ces quelques mots. Continue Reading


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New Directions or Just New Directors?

Posted on 16 April 2010 by editor

By Terna Gyuse

CAPE TOWN/RIO DE JANEIRO, Apr 15, 2010 (IPS TerraViva) – The business and political leadership of the world’s strongest emerging economies meet this week in Brazil. Are these gatherings of the champions of a new and fairer global economy, or of new pretenders to the old throne?

On Apr. 15, Brazil hosts summits of the trilateral India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) organisation and the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) group. Both organisations seek to strengthen the role of their members in the world economy.

“A part of the idea behind IBSA is to push for reform, but the reform is not about empowering smaller countries,” says Shawn Hattingh, a researcher at the International Labour Research Information Group in Cape Town.

“It’s about IBSA members getting greater voting rights (within the IMF and World Bank). It’s basically a power play within the existing system.” ‚Ä® In Hattingh’s view, neither IBSA nor BRIC represent anything new for the majority of people living in the South.

China, he says, is locked in a dependent relationship with its major trading partner, the U.S., that limits its desire to press for deep changes.

Looking at China’s trade with Africa, Hattingh sees little other than a familiar desire to protect its own interests in oil and other natural resources from the continent: infrastructure projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo are closely tied to lucrative mining contracts; Zimbabwe got electronic jamming equipment in return for mining contracts; in Angola, a new airport was bartered against 10,000 barrels of oil per day; Sudan is purchasing arms and helicopter gunships in exchange for oil.

Assessing trade and investment relations between Brazil, India and Africa, he says these relationships too are predatory ‚Äď and he would include South Africa’s own transnational corporations in this analysis – offering little benefit to the majority in the countries they operate in.

“To protect the interests of their own corporations, (IBSA members) will clash occasionally with the U.S. or the UK at a regional level, but they would never seriously seek to undermine these powers – rather they by and large serve their interests. As such, they don’t seek to undermine the existing order.”

Is this assessment fair? Rathin Roy, director of the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, would not agree.

“The IBSA countries have, each in their own way, made significant advances in (showing) that inclusive growth is possible, that poverty reduction and human development need not await generations of narrowly focused growth maximization,” he told a forum of academics and policy makers who met in Brasilia on Apr. 12.

C√Ęndido Grzybowski, head of the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses (IBASE) and a prominent member of the International Council of the World Social Forum (WSF) says it’s unfortunate that the new associations of emerging economies take the established economic order as their starting point.

But would a global economy dominated by the newly emerging powers be worse?

Grzybowski says “maybe, maybe not.” China’s approach “is better than sending armies, as imperialists have done in the last five centuries,” for instance in Africa, recalling several stages of colonialism in that continent, and the damage caused by British, French and Portuguese forces.

The difference with China, he says, is that it tries to negotiate.

“(China) doesn’t send an army, but it is a new imperialist,” he said, comparing China to another rising power in the BRIC group, Brazil. In South America, “Brazilian companies are buying everything they can lay their hands on.”

Grzybowski referred to the state-owned oil giant, Petrobras, which extracts oil and gas in many parts of Latin America, and multinational companies like the steelmaker Gerdau, Votorantim (mining, metalworking, cement, steel and paper) or the Odebrecht construction group. Odebrecht also has important investments in Algeria and Liberia. Petrobras is active in Angola’s oil sector.

These Brazilian transnational corporations are acquiring other companies and large productive sectors in other countries, following “the old nationalistic vision of ‘going multinational’ and taking over major industries in other countries to build their power.”

For an alternative vision, Hattingh points to ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, as an example. ALBA seeks to directly address social inequalities and develop alternatives to existing trade relations, including projects such as the Bank of the South, which would give developing economies an alternative to the IMF.

“ALBA is not creating a world of equality or socialism, but at least it’s creating a situation where people can get social services, where jobs are being created around very interesting programmes of food sovereignty for example,” he says.

“There’s no willingness on the part of the players in BRIC or IBSA (to join such initiatives). That would only come if there were major struggles and the state felt itself to be under threat.”

ALBA’s membership is mostly smaller economies – Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and three oil producers: Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

South Africa was twice invited to join the Bank of the South, and twice refused.

But the threat to the state that Hattingh mentions ‚Äď viewed from the opposite perspective as pressure from below ‚Äď is the factor that will determine the future form and impact of IBSA and BRIC, in Grzybowski’s opinion.

The emerging economies could have an important role in developing a world economy that will serve the interests of the majority, “if they do not aspire to be partners of the global powers-that-be, or their future substitutes, but promotors of a new global architecture.”

However, he stressed, “that will depend less on their governments than on their societies,” which would have to demand changes in the rules of global governance.

*Fabiana Frayssinet in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.


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Indígenas a la defensa de la Madre Tierra

Posted on 16 April 2010 by editor

Logo oficial Conferencia Mundial de los Pueblos sobre Cambio Clim√°tico

Por Franz Ch√°vez

LA PAZ, 15 abr (IPS TerraViva) – Su conocimiento ancestral y tradiciones ser√°n los aportes que har√°n las naciones ind√≠genas al debate de la Conferencia Mundial de los Pueblos sobre Cambio Clim√°tico y los Derechos de la Madre Tierra, que comenzar√° el pr√≥ximo lunes en la central ciudad boliviana de Cochabamba, seg√ļn analistas. Continue Reading


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All Eyes on Cochabamba Meet

Posted on 16 April 2010 by editor

Credit: IPS TerraViva

By Julio Godoy

BONN, Apr 16, 2010 (IPS TerraViva) – International negotiations towards a new regime on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, responsible for global warming, are as deadlocked today as they were last December at the Copenhagen climate summit.

This is the conclusion most experts and analysts reached after some 2,000 delegates from 190 countries met Apr. 9-11 in the German city of Bonn, to discuss ways to advance a new international agreement on global warming.

The three-day meet was the first time delegates from practically all over the world came together after the disastrous U.N. conference on climate change in Copenhagen.

The official admission of failure in Bonn was given by Yvo de Boer, the departing head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). De Boer said in Bonn that the pledges made so far by industrialised countries to reduce their GHG emissions “are nowhere near adequate.”

He urged industrialised countries to “raise the level of their ambition” concerning reducing GHG emissions.

De Boer, who in February announced his quitting the UNFCCC, also dismissed any chances of reaching an agreement during the follow-up conference at Cancun, Mexico, scheduled for this December.

“Not in my wildest dreams can I imagine that we’ll reach an agreement in Cancun,” de Boer said.

In Bonn, Bolivia’s head of delegation, Pablo Sol√≥n, called the Copenhagen agreement “undemocratic.‚Äô‚Äô Sol√≥n recalled that the paper was not agreed upon by the conference plenary session, “but was imposed by (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama.”

“We at the group of 77 (developing countries) and China were still discussing a draft, when Obama appeared in front of the television cameras and announced this paper,” Sol√≥n said.

Sol√≥n called the Copenhagen agreement “a laissez-faire paper which allows everybody to do whatever she wants. We won’t go this way,” Sol√≥n announced.

The Bolivian delegate also condemned the U.S decision to cut environmental aid in the framework of the so-called Global Climate Initiative for developing countries which opposes the Copenhagen document, including 5.5 million US dollars for Bolivia and Ecuador.

“It is the right [of the U.S. government] to take such decision, but it is not very elegant, and appears to be a penalty” imposed upon sovereign countries, Sol√≥n pointed out.

Sol√≥n also dismissed the cuts as marginal. “If the global temperatures rise four to five degrees by the end of the century, then to lose the aid from Washington does not matter,” he said.

Sol√≥n invited all developing countries to participate in the alternative summit at Cochabamba, organised by his country’s government from Apr.19 to 22. In Cochabamba “those who are already suffering from global warming will have the chance to speak out,” Sol√≥n said.

Most delegates and experts lay blame for the gloomy predictions for future climate negotiations on the refusal of the U.S. to comply with the reduction objectives set out by the Kyoto Protocol for industrialised countries.

The U.S. refuses to ratify the Kyoto Protocol while having the world’s highest emissions per capita. “The U.S. does not want another round of the Kyoto Protocol,” de Boer said.

Developing countries, led by the growing economies of China and India, and by the South American countries Bolivia and Ecuador, rejected the agreement reached at Copenhagen on the grounds that it failed to deliver precise reduction objectives for GHG emissions.

Instead, the Copenhagen paper only mentions the objective of maintaining the average increase of global temperatures below the limit of two degrees Celsius by the year 2050, compared to preindustrial levels.

Such divergences and the continued deadlock in the negotiations led de Boer to predict in Bonn that “two agreements [could] emerge from [the summit of] Cancun.” One, supported by the U.S. and other industrialised countries, especially Japan and Canada, and another, ratified by developing countries, including China and India.

Independent experts also called attention upon the failure of industrialised countries to meet their own pledged objectives of Kyoto.

According to a paper by the European Commission (EC) dated Mar. 9, which analyses the real emission reductions reached so far, “the current developed country pledges ‚Ķ imply a reduction in their emissions from around 13.2 percent by 2020 below 1990 level (for the lower end of the pledges) to around 17.8 percent (for the higher end of the pledges).”

The paper notes that these reductions are “already insufficient to meet the objective to remain below (the average rise of global temperatures) two Celsius degrees.” To reach this objective, GHG reductions in the range of 25 to 40 percent are needed from developed countries.

The EC also notes that two other weaknesses in the development of emissions “would make the real results even worse.”

These two weaknesses are the “banking of surplus emission budgets” to a new regime and the accounting rules for land use, land-use change and forestry (also called LULUCF) emissions from developed countries.

The banking of surplus emissions refers to some 10 billion tonnes of emissions in Russia and the Ukraine, which remain unused due to the restructuring of industry in the two countries. If no agreement is reached in Cancun, and the guidelines of the Kyoto Protocol are prolonged, Russia and the Ukraine could “bank” this surplus “with the effect that… cuts in emissions would be undermined,” the EC notes.

The full banking of these 10 billion tonnes of GHG into a new agreement would mean further limiting reductions by industrialised countries to 11 percent.

“The current rules under the Kyoto Protocol, if continued, would entail lowering the actual stringency of the current emission reduction pledges and imply that reductions can be claimed without additional actions, which brings no real environmental benefit,” the EC paper notes.


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Un legado milenario para salvar el planeta

Posted on 16 April 2010 by editor

Pascual Pachaguaya. Credit: Franz Chavez

Franz Ch√°vez entrevista a PASCUAL PACHAGUAYA, sabio aymara

LA PAZ, abr (IPS) РEl resurgimiento del pensamiento de los sabios aymaras (amautas) a favor de la naturaleza, el bienestar colectivo y la defensa de la vida se ha transformado en Bolivia en un proyecto político liderado por el izquierdista presidente Evo Morales.
Continue Reading


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Activistas contra la expansión mercantil

Posted on 16 April 2010 by editor

Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS TerraViva

Por Julio Godoy

BERL√ćN, abr (IPS TerraViva) – La crisis ambiental generalizada impone el reemplazo del actual modelo capitalista de producci√≥n por uno que promueva el “decrecimiento selectivo” de la econom√≠a y la explotaci√≥n acotada y responsable de los recursos naturales, seg√ļn expertos y activistas europeos.
Continue Reading


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Los derechos humanos y los derechos de la naturaleza son dos nombres de la misma dignidad

Posted on 16 April 2010 by editor

Eduardo Galeano

Por Eduardo Galeano

Lamentablemente, no podré estar con ustedes.

Se me atravesó un palo en la rueda, que me impide viajar.

Pero quiero acompa√Īar de alguna manera esta reuni√≥n de ustedes, esta reuni√≥n de los m√≠os, ya que no tengo m√°s remedio que hacer lo poquito que puedo y no lo muchito que quiero. Continue Reading


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THAILAND: Bloody Crackdown Exposes Battle Lines in Class War

Posted on 12 April 2010 by editor

A protester offers food to a soldier in Rajdamnoern in old Bangkok, just before the crackdown. Credit: Marwaan Macan-Markar/IPS

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Apr 11, 2010 (IPS) РThe morning after the Thai troops’ bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters here, the mood among them remained as it was after the guns had gone silent only hours before. The red shirts, called such because of their signature protest colour, appeared defiant, edgy and, in some cases, victorious. Continue Reading


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Skilful Surfing by Digital Culture Project

Posted on 06 April 2010 by editor

Credit: Jorge Luis Ba√Īos/IPS

By Dalia Acosta
HAVANA, Apr 6, 2010 (IPS) – Buoyant in the storm and sailing for new horizons, the Cuban cultural project Esquife (Skiff) has spent over a decade navigating the rough waters of thought-provoking digital journalism, stirring up opinions rather than wallowing in complacency.

Convinced that “the editor of a digital publication must keep his eyes on the horizon, an ear alert to the academic world, his heart in the street, one hand on the computer keyboard and the other knocking on the door of life,” poet and journalist Andr√©s Mir describes his job as editor as “taking an ethical stance.”

“We have a network of more than 100 contributors all over the country, of whom 20 or so are regulars. We are not concerned about the person’s CV but about their work, and we set very high standards for that. We do not publish just any old thing, and we take responsibility for everything written in the magazine,” Mir told IPS.

Esquife’s critical, incisive and enquiring gaze monitors events of cultural significance on the island every week, and devotes special coverage to the Cuba International Book Fair, the Havana visual arts biennials, and the May cultural festival in the eastern province of Holgu√≠n, known as the Romer√≠as de Mayo.

Its logo is a paper boat, made out of newspaper, and its name refers to the small boats that transport passengers and crew between a ship and land. Not satisfied with posting a magazine on the internet, it has also incorporated an electronic distribution system reaching over 3,000 email addresses.

“When we publish an article that might cause trouble or raise concerns, we sign it ourselves. People who work in digital media tend to forget about reality. We cannot forget that we are still working in the physical world. We do not just want to get inside a computer, but to go out into the world,” said Mir.

Esquife, founded in 1996 as the personal initiative of Mir and Cuban painter Hanna G. Chomenko, began as a communication, research and creative project investigating the links between visual and literary images, and promoting dialogue between artists’ proposals and the wider public.

The collective organised several exhibitions, one of which was devoted to women, with over 40 artists participating, and then in 1999 the Esquife group put most of its energies into fulfilling a longstanding dream: creating a magazine, not in the utopia of print but in “digital reality.”

“Ours was the first digital magazine on arts and literature produced in Cuba. I don’t know whether that counts as a great achievement, but at the time we felt we were banging our heads against a brick wall,” said Mir, as he recalled the great efforts they made to avoid becoming an “institutionalised” magazine.

From the start, Esquife had the backing of the Asociación Hermanos Saíz (Saíz Brothers Association РAHS), an organisation bringing together young Cuban creative talent; but although the magazine project always recognised those things it had in common with AHS, it refused to be tied down in a closer association.

Keeping to “the margins,” it worked on shedding light on emerging and alternative initiatives, and turned the spotlight on creative artists who are kept out of official promotion circles. The initial idea was complemented with the opportunity to download music files, image galleries and books.

Founded during the severe Cuban economic crisis of the 1990s, which had a major impact on newspapers and magazines, Esquife attempted to fill the “need for a different kind of journalism that would be more in-depth and less cosmetic, more analytical, and cultural in the broadest and deepest sense of the word,” Yanet Bello told IPS.

One of the four people who “do everything” at the core of the project for several years now, Bello said that more than a decade after the magazine’s first issue appeared, its creators still face a lack of understanding by certain official individuals and bodies.

“We’re still fighting a lack of comprehension of the digital world. It’s not always understood that the digital media cannot be controlled in the same way as print products,” said Bello, who mentioned the lack of support for an international meeting organised by the project last year.

The International Theoretical Meeting on Digital Media and Culture was not covered by the national media, and faced countless hurdles because of government fears that “it would be contaminated by politics,” specifically by proposals from dissident political groups.

Nevertheless, with essential support from several AHS programmes, the meeting created a new space for Cuban cultural thought, centred on information technologies, digital journalism, social networks and their social impact.

“Now we’re engaged in reorganising the Esquife site to make it more dynamic and to build up a social network for debate on these issues. In other words, we want to put the theoretical meeting permanently online, as an ongoing debate, using the same media that are the objects of our analysis,” said Mir. (END)


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