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Susannah Schaefer, President & CEO, Smile Train

Devex - 26. September 2019 - 16:11
Kategorien: english

Tell it like it is

D+C - 26. September 2019 - 14:12
Denialists are questioning sciences, but scholars all over the world fight back

Harald Lesch is a professor of astrophysics at Munich University. He has become a celebrity by hosting science programs on TV. His own research focuses mostly on plasma physics, black holes and neutron stars, but he has also contributed to climate research and advises policymakers on that issue.

As a physicist, he was always used to being respected and seeing his work taken seriously. That has changed. “Ever since I started discussing climate change, I have been facing personal attacks,” the scholar says. Internet shit storms occur regularly, and even personal threats are not exceptional. Lesch finds this trend hard to understand. “The facts of climate change are neither personal nor political,” he insists. “What I do is science.” It is, however, science with a bearing on people’s lives.

Other scientists share Lesch’s fate. In general, they enjoy people’s trust. Climate scientists, by contrast, often do not. The reason is that populists and right-wing extremists deny that human beings are causing global warming. These forces cast doubt on research findings and do what they can to discredit, attack and threaten the people who produce those results. The denialists’ message resonates beyond the usual filter bubbles because their network is well organised. It is called the “denial machine” in the USA, where this machine originated. It is powered by flimsy think tanks that hardly do any noteworthy research, but excel in spreading propaganda. The supposed experts they employ are shady journalists and politicians or sometimes scientists who are largely isolated in their discipline’s community. The denial machine depends on financial support, especially from corporations that have an interest in business continuing as usual in the energy sector. Of course, funding is largely non-transparent.

At the same time, the consensus among scientists is overwhelming – both in regard to the reality and to climate change and its dangers. Indeed, there have never been any scientific efforts that came close to what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been coordinating since 1988. No other endeavour involved so many scientists from all over the world or required such extensive resources. The IPCC reports are becoming ever more precise and ever more frightening. There can be no doubt: we are heading towards climate catastrophe.

Nonetheless, leading policymakers keep casting doubt on the science. The most prominent of them, of course, is US President Donald Trump. Science denial has spread to other areas of environmental relevance and even evolution theory. In some parts of the USA, schools now teach divine creation as described in the Bible. An astrophysicist like Lesch can prove creationism wrong in next to no time, but more people fall for this “theory” than one would expect.

Scientists are fighting back. In 2017 and 2018, Marches for Science attracted hundreds of thousands of participants around the world. Masses rallied against science denial and fake news. A large number of scientists support the youth movement Fridays for Future. Declaring themselves to be Scientists for Future, they spell out the facts that motivate the movement for climate protection. Obviously, these facts are so inconvenient that they trigger angry denial.

We are in the midst of a culture war and do not know how it will end. One must hope that reason will prevail. The level of hatred that is being expressed is frightening. All too often, insults, threats and denigration are not fact-based at all, but merely personal. Why is this so? All I can say is that the science deniers probably feel that they themselves and their lifestyles are being put in question. Climate change and its dangers are real, however. Therefore, both scientists and journalists must live up to their duty. It is to tell things like they are.

Katja Dombrowski is member of the editorial team of D+C Development and Cooperation / E+Z Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit.

Kategorien: english

Ambitious mission

D+C - 26. September 2019 - 12:42
Germany’s development policymakers want religious actors on board as partners for sustainable development

Many people in secularised Europe forget that we live in a world that is shaped by religion. It is only fair to say that the global south is very religious. But people in industrialised countries too consider themselves very religious and not only in the USA, Canada or Switzerland. An essentially religious outlook has impacts on how people live. It plays a major role in processes of change. Development policy is about improving lives, building institutions and boosting economic activity in developing countries. It would be wrong to ignore religious communities in this context.

State actors in Germany have realised the need for action. For decades, religious communities and their representatives were side-lined and not considered good partners for official development assistance (ODA). The guiding idea was that cooperation with faith-based agencies would fly in the face of the religious and ideological neutrality of the state. As a result, development policymakers missed opportunities to get important civil-society partners on board.

In 2014, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) started to take remedial action. The starting point was that faith communities matter for achieving development objectives because they reach masses of people and are powerful multipliers. This is one of the reasons why church-run aid agencies tend to be rather successful.

The BMZ laid the foundations for cooperation with religious organisations in 2016. They are spelled out in the strategy paper entitled “Religions as partners in development cooperation”. It lists ten essential measures. They include amongst others:

  • gaining new partners – stepping up cooperation with religious actors,
  • developing networks – strengthening religious aid organisations’ capacities,
  • raising religious literacy,
  • factoring in religion and
  • joining forces – forging an international alliance.

Faith-based actors are powerful civic forces. They work in diverse ways to promote sustainable development. The BMZ’s response is to cooperate with religious communities on implementing action to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The idea is certainly not to support missionaries. In scope and orientation, BMZ cooperation is not denominational. The addresses are not simply the established Christian partners. Indeed, people and organisations of other religions are just as welcome, and they are paid particular attention.

Challenging task

We are still at a fairly early stage of leveraging religious communities’ potential for international cooperation. However, important steps have been taken and a great deal has been achieved (see background information). We appreciate that we have launched a challenging and perhaps even audacious programme. A precondition for cooperation with religious communities, religious actors and faith-based organisations (FBOs) is that the German government does not support or promote religious activities but only civic and socio-political engagement. There must be neither religious nor ideological bias.

German development policy is indeed neutral in religious and ideological terms, but it is value-based nonetheless. Our work is geared to the criteria of sustainability, rule of law – with a special emphasis on human rights – and respect for democratic principles. On this basis, we endorse the fundamental right of religious freedom. It needs to be secured and guaranteed worldwide, not least in view of religious communities’ potential for contributing to SDG achievement.

What do we want to achieve?

We want to join forces with religious communities, relevant faith-based actors and FBOs as partners and break new ground in collaboration with them. We want to make the huge potential visible – and tap it. The focus is not so much on an inter-religious or intra-religious dialogue – in which the BMZ, as a secular government agency, does not engage. We focus on development-oriented, socio-political debate with religious communities, their leaders and FBOs. Such dialogue increasingly leads to inter-faith cooperation. We support that trend because it generates positive social capital and helps to shape policymaking and business in the global south in partnership with principled players who have the capacities to make major contributions.

Interest in what links development and religious faith has increased significantly in recent years at both EU and UN level. We want to raise awareness of the opportunities presented by these partnerships – across the development community and among the general public.

Berthold Weig is Senior Policy Officer for religion and development at Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

BMZ strategy paper, 2016: Religionen als Partner in der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (Religions as partners in development cooperation – only in German).

Kategorien: english

Praising the social market economy

D+C - 26. September 2019 - 12:00
Faith leaders in Tanzania do not want to see economy leaving anyone behind

The Interfaith Confederation has expressed itself in favour of Tanzania adopting a social market economy following the German model. The social market economy combines a capitalist system with safety nets and social infrastructure that prevent or at least alleviate poverty. The model requires strong social protection policies and legal provisions that ensure opportunities for all.

In contrast to socialism, the state is neither supposed to plan nor control investments, labour, production and distribution of goods. However, prudent regulation must ensure a healthy business environment. Policies guiding issues such as taxes, competition, social protection, education or trade must serve this purpose.

In Tanzania, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), which is close to Germany’s Christian Democrats, has recently published a book on the issue. It was written by a team of experts who were coordinated by the Interfaith Confederation. An author from the KAS was involved too. The Interfaith Confederation has announced that it has decided it will henceforth pay more attention to economic affairs in general. Indeed, both Christendom and Islam are marked by ideas of social justice, charity and opportunities for all.

Faith leaders were present at the book launch in Dar es Salaam. Sheikh Hassan Kabehe, head of the Tanzania Muslim Council in the northwestern Mwanza region, said: “Religious leaders have a responsibility of responding in shaping the economy as economies are part of religion, which is in itself not all about spiritual issues only.”

As an independent nation, Tanzania has tested other economic models in recent decades. In 1967, the government opted for what it called “African Socialism”. The idea was that state control of the production of forces would lead to equality and prosperity. It failed, as became absolutely obvious by the time the Soviet Union collapsed.

In 1992, Tanzania therefore adopted the free market economy and liberalised foreign trade. The emphasis was on private sector development, but most Tanzanian businesses could neither keep up nor cooperate with their international competitors. Moreover, they were not allowed to attract foreign investors.

The free market economy has not delivered the desired results. Social disparities are growing, and poverty is widespread. The country has almost 60 million people, but it only ranked number 159 on the UNDP’s Human Development Index last year. The index reflects per capita income, life expectancies and educational achievements.

The new book endorses the social market economy because this model brought about Germany’s economic miracle after World War II. The authors argue that, adapted to Tanzanian circumstances, it should facilitate inclusive and sustainable development.

Tanzania’s top faith leaders agree that they have shied away from economic questions for too long. The Interfaith Confederation acknowledges that social services and economic activity need to be reconciled. Father Charles Kitima, the executive secretary of the Catholic Tanzania Episcopal Conference, argues that by adopting the social market approach, the country can become strong economically and competitive in regional and international markets. Stephen Munga, the Lutheran Bishop who chairs the Interfaith Confederation, says: “We don’t want to see anyone left behind.”

Lawrence Kilimwiko is a journalist, author and media advisor based in Dar es Salaam.

KAS-Tanzania, 2019: Social Market Economy model for Tanzania: Towards inclusive and sustainable economic development – Smet model.

Kategorien: english

Loving Israel and hating Jews

D+C - 26. September 2019 - 11:43
The anti-Semitism of Trump and Netanyahu

A curious image circulated in social media in the last few years: Shmuley Boteach, a charismatic right-wing orthodox rabbi, shown smiling with Steve Bannon, Trump’s former advisor and a known anti-Semite. Why, one might ask, would a rabbi want to pose with someone who was not only reported to have refused to send his children “to a school with Jews”, but more importantly was the editor of Breitbart News, a website openly associated with white nationalism and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories?

One could as easily ask, is the photo any more odd than the Israeli government’s love of Donald Trump? Most Jewish Americans, including myself, consider the US president to be an anti-Semite. He prominently spoke of “very fine people on both sides” after white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting “Jews will not replace us”. One of them, moreover, had killed a women by driving a car into a group of anti-supremacist protesters.

Trump also routinely deploys anti-Semitic imagery in campaign ads, featuring opponents beside Stars of David on piles of cash, or linking prominent Jewish bankers and financial experts to the global economic crisis of 2008. And yet Trump is the most popular US president in Israel in living memory. Which is only slightly less strange than Israel’s government arming Ukrainian neo-Nazis or supporting Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the most anti-Semitic elected leader in Europe.

For many people, the spectre of anti-Semites who love Israel appears to be a new phenomenon. However, the idea that Jews should relocate to Palestine was not only an idea endorsed by Jewish nationalists. Christian policymakers were among the instrumental architects of Zionism, often with their own reasons to want to send Jews packing.

Lord Balfour, the British diplomat who pledged a Jewish nation in the British colonial mandate, was a known anti-Semite. He believed that Jews had no real home in England and would be pliant clients in Palestine, too weak to create a state that might challenge the British empire. Nationhood for Balfour was a biological condition only experienced by Christian, Western Europeans.

Ernest Bevin, a British foreign secretary, echoed this thinking. He argued that it was better to resettle hundreds of thousands of Jews who had survived the Nazi Holocaust in Palestine than to have them move to the UK or the USA – countries in which survivors had extended family, and they looked to as new possible homes. Bevin believed – correctly – that the west would not welcome these victims of war and genocide.

As the socialist magazine Jewish Life reported in the years after the war, rather than condemn such sentiments, Zionist activists welcomed them: they too lobbied for Jews to be barred from resettling in the US or Britain.

Awful in a double sense

Trump’s recent accusation that American Jews who support critics of Israel, such as Democratic Congress women Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, are being “disloyal” to Israel, has a long lineage. Trump’s words were awful in a double sense. He reiterated the old idea among white supremacists that American Jews are not really loyal to the USA, and he reinforced the Zionist idea that to be a good Jew, one has to put Israel above party, or country.

That is a sentiment the longest serving prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has repeatedly echoed: the diaspora, the home of Jews for thousands of years, is a place of death. Jews, he said recently at the Holocaust memorial site Yad Vashem, deserved the Nazi genocide as they were “weak” and didn’t fight back. Jews who do not enlist in Fortress Israel deserve what is coming. As education minister Rafael Peretz recently said, “assimilated” or diasporic Jews in the US are a “second Holocaust”: one wonders if he means it literally.

Jewish Studies historian Enzo Traverso remarked that Zionism, originally conceived, was to “regenerate” Jews by making them more like European nationalists, and if that means turning them into a colonial power, so much the better.

While there have been historically other visions of Zionism that were not colonial, right-wing Zionists founded the Israeli state, and they can only conceive of Jewish life as bound within the confines of an ethnically defined nation, one in which they are the ethnic majority and the ruling and economic elite. They are ethno-nationalists. It should not be surprising that Netanyahu and others like him speak badly of non-Israeli Jews who do not believe in a nation defined by a single race. White nationalism, the historical enemy of the Jewish people, has now found an alliance with the only Jewish state.

Yet Jews are not reducible to a single state; neither demographically nor politically. We don’t need any Lord Balfours telling us where our “home” might be. Criticising Israel is not criticising Jews; to suggest so is to conflate Israel with the Jewish people. And yes, that is anti-Semitic because Jews belong to the nations and communities in which they live, like anyone else.

And yet anti-Semitism is on the rise: Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán, massacres in synagogues are but some of the features of our new political reality. If you would like to oppose anti-Semitism, oppose the far-right – but do not oppose legitimate critiques of Israeli human rights abuses or its ongoing occupation of Palestinian land.

Benjamin Balthaser is a professor in the English Department of Indiana University’s campus in South Bend.

Kategorien: english

Anti-Semitic Zionists

D+C - 26. September 2019 - 10:53
How Evangelicals have usurped Jewish American’s support for Israel

US President Donald Trump is obsessed with the state of Israel. Some analysts consider his policies the most pro-Israel in history. Trump basically endorses everything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does, though Netanyahu himself is a most controversial politician himself. For example, Trump has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. He supports Israel’s illegal actions including the building of settlements on occupied land and the demolition of Palestinian homes.

While Trump’s pro-Israel bent is clear, the reasons are not obvious to many people. It is true, of course, that every US administration since the creation of Israel has been staunchly pro-Israel. Some observers say that is due to shared geo-strategic interests. Others point out lobbying efforts by Jewish Americans. Trump’s relationship with Netanyahu is uniquely unquestioning, and that is because some of his most important constituents like it that way.

Among Trump supporters, Christian Zionists are especially strong, whereas Jewish voters tend to oppose him.

Christian Zionism is a belief held by many Evangelicals, who number one quarter of the US Christian population, but adhere to a fundamentalist interpretation of the bible. Christian Zionists believe that Israel must gather all the Jews of the world, enlarge its territory, destroy Muslim holy places, and ethnically cleanse “the holy land” of all non-Jews. Many assume that this must be done to facilitate the return of Christ. Evangelicals of this kind support Israel, but not Judaism. In their worldview, Jews play a merely instrumental role. The implicit subtext is that Jews do not belong in American communities, because good Jews move to Israel. Their ideology is tinged with anti-Semitism, and it fits the picture that Trump himself has a pattern of using anti-Semitic memes (see essay by Benjamin Baltheser in D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2019/10, Focus section).

These things, however, are only rarely expressed explicitly. Nonetheless, there is a long history of anti-Semitic statements. For example, John Hagee, a prominent Christian Zionist, has declared that the Nazi genocide was ordained by God to send Jews “back to Israel.” He has also said Jews have only themselves to blame for anti-Jewish sentiments. The reason, in his view, is that they did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, and thus “birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come”.

In any case, Christian Zionists are told that it is their religious duty to support Israel. They will be blessed if they do, and they risk being cursed if they don’t. They endorse the most pro-war, racist and right-wing forces in Israel. Accordingly, they want the US administration to do so too.

Up to a quarter of US citizens are Evangelicals. A recent survey by LifeWay Research showed that about 80 % of them basically appreciate Christian Zionism. Experts reckon that up to 30 million are Christian Zionists. They are not simply a religious group, but have become a hugely influential political movement. Robert O. Smith, a theologian, speaks of “political action informed by specifically Christian commitments, to promote or preserve Jewish control over the geographic area now comprising Israel and Palestine.”

Powerful lobby organisation

Several lobbying groups are pushing the agenda. The biggest, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) was founded by the above-mentioned Hagee in the 1990s and now claims to have 7 million members. Though the number is difficult to verify, CUFI is certainly the largest pro-Israel pressure group in the USA today. It dwarfs better known, mostly Jewish organisations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) or J Street.

In July, CUFI held its annual summit in Washington DC. Its political clout was on full display. Vice President Mike Pence, a professed Christian Zionist, addressed the meeting, and so did Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, and John Bolton, the national security adviser. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and other Republican senators were present as well.

CUFI currently has more political clout than Jewish organisations. CUFI wholeheartedly endorsed moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, for example, while many Jews did not. CUFI was in favour of Netanyahu’s Nation-State Bill in 2018, which codified Jewish primacy into Israel’s basic law. This constitutional amendment was controversial in Israel because it undermined the principle of equal citizenship. Therefore, most Jewish organisations in the USA opposed it, but the Trump administration stayed silent.

American Jews find themselves in an awkward position. Their stance on Israel tends to be more nuanced because they do not believe everything Netanyahu does or that everything Christian Zionists want is good for Israel. Netanyahu himself is controversial among Jews, not least because he recently called new elections simply because he otherwise would have had to face corruption charges.

Their problem is that Christian Zionists have usurped their influence on US policy toward Israel. Christian Zionists do not show any regard for peace, reconciliation and human rights in the holy land. They basically resent liberal political parties. All they are interested in is their interpretation of Biblical prophecies.

While Christian Zionists tend to hide their anti-Semitism, they are outspoken about resenting Muslims. Their hatred and fear of Arabs is an important reason for their support of Israel. Their Islamophobia was on full display at the CUFI summit in Washington. For example, the Palestinian refugee crisis was blamed on the “inhospitality of Arab nations”. The killing of children by the Israeli military was explained away with false accusations of Arabs using them “as human shields”. Such anti-Muslim rhetoric is nearly indistinguishable from mainstream American Islamophobia since the terror attacks on New York and Washington on 9/11 2001.

The public has mostly ignored Christian Zionism. Therefore, challenges have basically arisen from Christian groups so far. “It was mainly an internal Christian conversation,” says Alex Awad, a Palestinian Christian. He has founded a group called “Christ at the Checkpoint” which invites Evangelicals to Palestine so they can see with their own eyes what painful impact Christian Zionism has on Palestinian Christians. Awad and likeminded Christians emphasise Jesus’ message of love.

Popular opposition to Trump is growing. Due to Evangelicals’ deepening alliance with him, CUFI and similar groups are getting ever more exposure. A wider audience has become aware of their political potency. At this year’s CUFI summit, activists from various faith backgrounds – Jews, Muslims, Christians and secular activists – rallied in protest. They made it clear that refuting Christian Zionism is no longer merely an issue of inner-Christian debate.

Jonathan Brenneman is a Palestinian American Christian. He is a human rights advocate and lives in Elkhart, Indiana.

Kategorien: english

Nkurunziza rules out running again

D+C - 26. September 2019 - 9:36
Burundi will hold presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections in 2020

The country’s civil servants were shocked when, at the end of 2017, the Ministries of Finance and Internal Affairs issued a joint decree that required them to contribute financially to the elections. According to the decree, a portion of government employees’ salaries was to be withheld for a period of two years starting in January 2018. This money was deducted even though the decree stated elsewhere that contributions to election funding were supposed to be voluntary.

There was therefore a collective sigh of relief when President Nkurunziza announced that the necessary funding for the elections was almost in place and thanked everyone who had donated. “Since we have raised close to the target amount, further participation is strictly voluntary,” said the president on 30 June during a speech commemorating the 57th anniversary of Burundi’s independence.

The total cost of next year’s elections is still unknown. CENI, the independent national election commission, announced in June that it had submitted a budget proposal to the Ministry of Finance. Christian Kwizera, the ministry’s spokesperson has said that the equivalent of approximately $ 33 million has been made available. Five years ago, however, the entire election process cost over $ 60 million.

Presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections are scheduled for 20 May 2020. Politicians are pleased that they are all being held on the same date. Others have voiced criticism. For example Julien Nimubona, a political scientist, argues that the election of a president for a seven-year term is of national importance, so it should not be linked to electing members of parliament in specific constituencies and local-government leaders in the municipalities.

A second round of voting for the presidency is likely, and Nimubona warns that the results of the other elections might be declared void, depending on how other parties than the one of the future president fared in them.

Tensions across the entire country

Across the country, supporters of the ruling party, CNDD-FDD, and the most important opposition party, CNL, view each other with hostility. Tensions are running particularly high in the provinces of Ngozi, Muyinga and Kirundo in northern Burundi and Makamba in the south. Some local party headquarters have already been destroyed, for instance the office of the CNDD-FDD in the province of Cibitoke and the office of the CNL in Nyabiraba, a municipality in the province of Bujumbura. Tharcisse Niyongabo, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, blamed the latter attack on CNL members themselves. The party denied that accusation.

Another party, Sahwanya Frodebu has complained that authorities have banned its meetings and that some of its members were arrested. Aimée Laurentine Kanyana, the minister of justice, has called on all the country’s judges to pursue cases of political intolerance. “No one is above the law,” she said.

Incumbent President Nkurunziza declared in December that he would not run for re-election, which surprised even some of his fellow party members. The decision was confirmed in May, and the CNDD-FDD announced that there would also be a new party head. It is still unclear who that will be.

In 2015, Nkurunziza ran for an unconstitutional third term, triggering mass protests. The security forces suppressed rallies in the then-capital of Bujumbura, sometimes violently. Many Burundians fled into exile. In 2018, Nkurunziza instigated a change to the constitution that would allow the president seven terms in office as opposed to the previous limit of two (see also my article in the Debate section, D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2018/07). Many people in Burundi still find it hard to believe that the president is indeed stepping down.

Mireille Kanyange is a journalist and reporter for Radio Isanganiro in Burundi.

Kategorien: english

Sustainable development summit a reminder of ‘the boundless potential of humanity’

UN #SDG News - 26. September 2019 - 0:29
The first UN summit on the progress of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development closed on a hopeful note, with Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed declaring that the two-day event had been a reminder of “the boundless potential of humanity to create a better future for all”.
Kategorien: english

Countries in West Africa must work together to ensure mining companies pay enough tax

ODI - 26. September 2019 - 0:00
Countries in West Africa face similar challenges, often with the same multinational mining companies, so should collaborate to strengthen their position.
Kategorien: english

The Social Inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador Before and During the Revolución Ciudadana

DEVELOPMENT - 26. September 2019 - 0:00

This article investigates the evolution of social inclusion among indigenous peoples in Ecuador. It highlights how some policies have deepened social problems like poverty and inequality and reviews the literature on social inclusion to define the reference framework of the investigation, also considering some qualitative aspects, like cultural and linguistic barriers that are crucial for the effectiveness of the policies and essential to understand the indigenous social system. The article compares the actual indigenous condition with the period prior to the Revolución Ciudadana to highlight if notable changes occurred in the quality of life of the Ecuadorian indigenous peoples.

Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECCS): The Distracting Injustice of an Infeasible and Unlikely Technofix

DEVELOPMENT - 26. September 2019 - 0:00

In their constant attempt to avoid responsibility, polluters promote technological innovation as the ‘true’ solution to global warming. This article, through the case of BECCS, illustrates all that is faulty with such reasoning, and how indulging such diversion from addressing the environmental crisis with science-backed solutions violates human rights and the SDGs, and evidently, deepens the crisis and postpones the responsibility of making inconvenient changes to future generations.

Another view of the Climate Action Summit

Global Policy Watch - 25. September 2019 - 22:19

The so-called ‘Climate Action Summit’ was an odd affair. It began with a youth dialogue, including a speech from Greta Thunberg, who called out the audience of heads of state and CEOs of some of the companies known for their inaction in the face of the climate emergency.

“How dare you say it is business as usual”, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth, how dare you”, she said. This public telling off was greeted with tumultuous applause – perhaps showing that it was going to be business as usual after all.

Continuing the business of the day: the aim of the Summit was to “boost ambition and rapidly accelerate action to implement the Paris Agreement”, something some of the richest countries on earth have resolutely chosen to ignore or to obstruct.

Countries show off their achievements

The day was arranged into a series of sessions, during which we heard from a number of countries of the plans they had put, or were putting in place, with some positive results.

The Colombian speaker described how a coalition of eight Latin American countries, including Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Haiti were working together so that by 2030, 70% of regional energy will come from renewable sources.

The Chinese state counsellor said that the country was mobilising stakeholders and resources to scale up pre 2020 actions, while its neighbour India is devising low carbon pathways for industry.

Germany plans to phase out coal by 2038.

The New Zealand Prime Minister recounted how on a visit to Tokelau she learnt that the sea is invading the seaside burial grounds, so there will be a zero carbon bill in Parliament to ensure the country keeps to its 1.5 degree limit.

Perhaps the most moving presentation – apart from Thunberg – was that by the Marshall Islands, one of the countries most likely to suffer from the climate emergency, who’s President described it as “representative of the most climate-vulnerable people on earth.

Business – turns from bad to good fairy

This time around business is showing that it is a full-time actor – and perhaps will make a full-time take-over of the UN. Each of the sessions – except the last one on Small Island Developing States – had a presentation from a business CEO, financial institution, or philantrocapitalist (billionaires who have turned over a new leaf).

It was edifying to see how positive they all were about the changes they were planning to bring about. Almost as if, having finally made it to ‘the good side’, they wanted to prove how well they were behaving and collect their gold stars.

Willis Towers Watson CEO and Board Director, John Haley talked about investment to low and middle income countries to build infrastructure to withstand climatic risks. The Chairman of Danone spoke on working to build a 1% coalition of food and agri-based businesses around the world, which are committed to putting nature-based solutions at the heart of their businesses.

Bill Gates, who is now co-chair of the Global Commission of Adaptation described how the Commission will focus on scaling up support to farmers, with services such as digital advisory services, farmer finance, and implementing policies that incentivise resilience. Strangely there was an emphasis on how big the returns could be on investment – almost as if this were a company presentation.

All in all, another day at the new-style UN.

By Daphne Davies.

The post Another view of the Climate Action Summit appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

Iraqi President highlights key role of sustainable development in country’s future

UN ECOSOC - 25. September 2019 - 22:00
Ensuring good governance, tackling corruption and creating job opportunities for youth are top priorities for Iraq as the country continues to emerge from war and terrorism, President Barham Salih said on Wednesday. 
Kategorien: english

Syrian displacement poses ‘serious threat’ to Lebanon’s development goals, President tells UN Assembly

UN ECOSOC - 25. September 2019 - 19:58
While the “heated” wars in the Middle East over the last decade have recessed, the President of Lebanon told the United Nations General Assembly’s annual general debate on Wednesday that Syria’s displacement crisis has had repercussions on his country’s “security, political, social, economic and environmental spheres”.
Kategorien: english

Helping the climate: joining forces for sustainable rice

GIZ Germany - 25. September 2019 - 19:09
: Mon, 23 Sep 2019 HH:mm:ss
Joining forces can stem climate change in agriculture. An alliance for sustainable rice shows how this can work – and farmers benefit too.
Kategorien: english

Creating arable land behind weirs in Ethiopia

GIZ Germany - 25. September 2019 - 19:09
: Mon, 16 Sep 2019 HH:mm:ss
Climate change, droughts and floods make arable farming virtually impossible in the Ethiopian lowlands. Weirs are used to collect the precious water and store it in the soil.
Kategorien: english

Gender Equality: a thread running through the Sustainable Development Goals

Global Policy Watch - 25. September 2019 - 18:49

UN SDG Summit: 24-25 September

The need for gender equality is being referred to throughout discussions on the SDGs as an important prerequisite to achieving the goals

25 September New York: “There is simply no way we can achieve the 17 SDGs without achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls”. Who said this? A feminist polemicist? No, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointing out that gender equality is the thread running through the 2030 Agenda.

“We need to understand that gender equality does not depend only on national efforts to implement the SDGs – it requires new international governance arrangements” says Cecilia Alemany from DAWN, a contributor to Spotlight 2019*, a Civil Society Reflection Group publication that analyses annual progress on the 17 SDGs.

A central plank of achieving women’s human rights is the recognition and validation of unpaid care work, and the rights of informal sector workers including in global production chains where women predominate. None of this can be adequately addressed at the national level alone.

The feminization of poverty is a continuing global challenge and, at the same time as fighting structural inequalities, women play a central role in reducing poverty and hunger (SDG1), achieving food security and sustainable agriculture (SDG2) and eliminating violence and conflict (SDG16).

Women’s position – a barometer of achieving the SDGs

A country cannot be said to have achieved equal access to quality education (SDG4) if girls don’t go to secondary school or if those who have reached high levels of education continue to work in the low productive sectors. A population isn’t healthy (SDG3) if women continue to die in childbirth, or gender violence is considered as a normal practice against teenage girls and women. Decent work and social protection (SDG8) aren’t achieved until women’s unpaid work and their lack of social protection is addressed.

Providing public services is a state obligation, a human right and a policy tool to fight women’s inequality. “The SDGs aren’t going to be achieved if social services are cut to reduce deficits and women are forced to take over state responsibilities in the face of budget cuts”, says Gita Sen from DAWN.

It is important to fight to prevent increased privatisation of public services, as there is clear evidence that free access to public services reduces poverty – in OECD countries this has reduced poverty by 20%. Current decisions on what appear to be very attractive public-private partnerships will impact future policy space and states’ capacity to decide and own their social services provision.

More power-sharing in supra-national organisations

Without a change “at the top” in international governance, women’s concerns will never be addressed. ”Power is still very masculine everywhere, and it is hard to find women’s rights activists in international financial institutions”, says Alemany. If discussions for achieving SDGs at the SDG Summit are going to lead anywhere, among the measures needed for women’s equality are:

  • Avoid the increasing reductionist vision that gender equality is a smart investment. This ignores how macroeconomic policies, global value chains and reduced policy space for developing countries harm women;
  • strengthen human rights, including women’s rights in existing policy and funding initiatives and implement all SDGs nationally and internationally;
  • ensure gender parity in international organisations and national governments;
  • secure direct participation by women’s rights and feminist organizations in governance fora and bodies. Enable women from the global South, rather than northern female philanthropists or entrepreneurs, to make their views known;
  • promote gender equality and real partnerships with local feminist and women’s rights organisations to support their work, influence and advocacy;
  • recognise that violence against women, and femicide, particularly in the global South, is an emergency that can only be stopped through budget allocation and policy efforts.
  • Secure full funding for the UN human rights’ treaties system and ensure that their sessions are implemented; and that they incorporate women’s organizations’ voices and recommendations, as has not always been the practice.

To find out more, please contact: Daphne Davies: Tel/WhatsApp:US: +1 917 291 3560; UK: +447770230251,

* To see Spotlight 2019 report on all 17 SDG:

The post Gender Equality: a thread running through the Sustainable Development Goals appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

Earth’s oceans and frozen spaces paying price for ‘taking the heat of global warming’

UN #SDG News - 25. September 2019 - 16:38
Our oceans and frozen spaces have been “taking the heat” for global warming for decades, climate experts said on Wednesday, warning that without a radical change in human behaviour, hundreds of millions of people could suffer from rising sea levels, frequent natural disasters and food shortages.
Kategorien: english

Self-declared "patriot" wants "globalist" help

D+C - 25. September 2019 - 16:15
The absurdity of what Trump just said at the UN needs to be pointed out

“The future does not belong to the globalists. The future belongs to patriots,” Trump said in regard to trade policy according to the FT (paywall). He also criticised China for relying on market barriers, state subsidies, product dumping, the theft of intellectual property and forced technology transfer. The obvious irony is that these things are not objectionable in themselves and may well serve patriotic interests, but they do indeed breach the principles of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Trump’s criticism is based on paradigms of an institution the supports of which he likes to denounce as "globalists". No, intellectual coherence is not his strong point.

He also lambasted Iran and pledged to ramp up sanctions. The plain truth is that the crisis that Trump triggered by quitting the nuclear deal is spinning out of his control. He had thought the US was strong enough to intimidate Iran's Shia dictatorship and would get concessions by threatening military action. It turns out, however, that he is more afraid of going to war than the mullahs are.

Things have actually been playing out pretty much along the lines that I predicted in a blog post in late July. It is an open secret that Trump now hopes that the USA's European allies like France, Germany and Britain will somehow help him out of this mess so he will neither lose face nor have to go to war. It is worth reiterating: Trump needlessly canceled the nuclear deal that his predecessor Barack Obama had concluded with Iran in close cooperation with the governments of not only France, Germany and Britain but also Russia and China. Multilateral action had worked, but his unilateral pressure is not working.

As far as I can tell, Trump attended parts of the special summit on climate action simply because he hoped to get the attention of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and perhaps French President Emanuel Macron, knowing that he needs their support in regard to Iran. I cannot think of another reason why he would have gone there, given that he is a stubborn denier of climate change. It fits the picture that his tweet regarding Greta Thunberg, the teenage Swedish climate activist, was comparatively mild-mannered: "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!"

Trump obviously had nothing substantial to say in response to Thunberg's UN address in which she told policymakers that her generation would never forgive them if they fail to respond to the climate crisis effectively. Her speech was actually quite impressive and is worth reading.

The science is unequivocal. We are heading for climate disaster. Unless action is taken fast, today's world leaders will be considered failures not only by Thunberg's generation but those that will follow as well. Science denying populists like Trump may imagine themselves to be patriots like Roosevelt, Churchill or de Gaulle, but in retrospect they will look more like Hitler or Mussolini in view of the devastation they are failing to prevent. Just to make sure that I will not be misunderstood: I am not likening Trump to Hitler, I am likening the damage climate change is set to cause to the devastation of World War II. I don't think that this is an exaggeration, especially if humanity fails to avoid dangerous tipping points such as the melting of Greenland's ice shield or the slowing of the Gulf stream.

In a similar way, science acknowledging leaders such as Merkel and Macron, who see the dangers ahead but are so far failing to respond wholeheartedly, risk going down in history as the equivalents of the halfhearted Germany policymakers who were unable to stop the rise of the Nazis or their international counterparts who failed to challenge them appropriately when there was still time for doing so. Do they really want to look like Chancellor Heinrich Brüning or Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain? I know that the politics of tackling climate change are tricky, but incrementalism is simply not enough. At this point, the global community needs determined leaders who are willing to move ahead of the crowd.

Impeachment inquiry

Of course, Trump's domestic problems are mounting too. An impeachment inquiry  has been formally announced. The reason is that the president is suspected of having tried to make Ukraine's government help him to win reelection next year. It is a complicated story. The rough outlines are that Trump:

  • apparently demanded that Ukraine start investigating the son of former Vice President Joe Biden who wants to run against Trump next year, and
  • withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to Ukraine even though it had been approved by Congress.

Trump has basically admitted that both has happened, but he claims that there was no link. He pretends that he wanted to fight corruption. So far, there is no evidence of Biden's son having done anything wrong, however, while Trump's children are well known to be using their father's position for commercial gain. Even worse, it is generally assumed that foreign governments like to rent rooms in Trump hotels because they hope to score points with the president that way. The Trump family, so far, has denied the public information on how much money the Trump Organization raked in that way.

Trump claims to be a patriot. An increasing number of Americans see him in a very different light. Don't take my word for it, check out what David Leonhardt wrote about Trump in the New York Times (paywall): “He is the president of the United States, and he is a threat to virtually everything that the United States should stand for.”   According to Paul Krugman, who writes a column for the same newspaper, Republican politicians in general only “pretend to be patriots”.

Self-declared patriots like Trump have been gaining ground in many countries in recent years. Their populist stance is certainly self-serving, and citizens of all countries concerned should pay close attention to whose interest these politicians are really promoting. After all, they have a tendency of following Trump’s example.

Kategorien: english

Tinged with racism

D+C - 25. September 2019 - 15:48
The brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s former president, wants to be elected head of state and is wooing a radicalised Buddhist base

The Easter Sunday bombings of three churches and three hotels ripped Sri Lanka out of a ten-year period of relative peace. Some 260 people were killed. The country had felt comparatively quiet since the end of the civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government forces. But the old tensions continued to simmer under the surface, and new ones have emerged.

April’s suicide attacks were carried out by Islamist extremists belonging to the organisation National Thowheed Jamaat. They targeted Sri Lanka’s Christian minority. But Buddhists instantly grasped the opportunity to express anti-Muslim resentment and launch campaigns accordingly. Right-wing nationalist organisations like the “Buddhist fighting force” Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), an organisation founded by Buddhist monks that has long warned against Islamist extremism, have been gaining momentum.

The ethnic and religious tensions in Sri Lanka’s complex society can be traced back to before the colonial era. They have repeatedly led to violence. Events that have gone down in history include the Kotahena riots of 1883, a series of bloody clashes between Buddhists and Catholics, and the Sinhalese-Muslim riots of 1915, in which Buddhists fought against Muslims.

However, the ethnic and religious causes of these conflicts cannot be teased apart: these affiliations overlap in Sri Lanka, and religious identity to a certain extent forms the basis of ethnic identity. That is how “ethno-religious” groups emerged.

The largest population group are the Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist. The second-largest group are the Tamils, most of whom are Hindus. There are also Muslims and Christians, the latter being found among both the Sinhalese and the Tamils, as well as a few other small religious communities.

The Buddhist Sinhalese have always seen Sri Lanka as their homeland. They believe that they have an uninterrupted history as a Buddhist-Sinhalese nation and claim to always have lived here. By contrast, the Hindu-Tamil minority has always lived with a feeling of insecurity. Some were brought to the island by the British colonial power in order to work on plantations. However, the larger number who live in the north and east have a distinct culture. Their feelings of exclusion worsened when the Sinhalese came to power after independence and soon curtailed the special rights ethnic minorities had enjoyed, for instance in regard to education, trade and political representation.

Language plays an important role. Before the country became independent from Britain in 1948, English was the official language and the language of education. Then an argument erupted concerning whether Sinhalese and Tamil should serve those functions. Some stated that only the language of the majority should be used. Following an election that was largely focused on this issue, a national coalition came to power in 1956 that pushed Sinhalese through as the sole official language.

Buddhists against Hindus

That event was one of the primary reasons why the Tamils began, in the 1960s and 70s, to fight for their linguistic and political rights. When their demands were rejected, they called for the creation of an independent state in the areas where they made up the majority of the people. That effort failed as well, and various groups took up arms. The result was three decades of civil war.

The conflict is often presented as an ethnic conflict between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. But rhetoric and mobilisation often depicted it as struggle between Buddhists and Hindus. When the nationalist government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former president, militarily beat them, it acted as though its victory was the triumph of Sri Lankan Buddhism over all other religions.

Even after 2009, however, ethnic and religious tensions did not subside completely. All subsequent governments have manipulated the tensions, and no administration has attempted to uproot radical priests and intolerance. Policymakers fear to offend those leaders’ constituents. Christians, particularly Evangelicals, are threatened and intimidated. In recent years, Muslims have also increasingly become the target of attacks and hate speech. Nationalist Buddhist groups like the BBS are particularly aggressive. Over time, the BBS has become a broad-based movement that has ramifications throughout the country. It could also count on the silent support of Rajapaksa, who was in office until 2015.

At a large rally in February 2013, the BBS published a ten-point resolution. Among other things, it demanded that food should no longer be certified as halal, that women should no longer be allowed to work in the Middle East and that no more mosques should be built with funding from Arabic countries. The BBS propagated the idea that Muslims would destroy Buddhist heritage and that Muslim business owners would force their Sinhalese employees to convert to Islam.

This BBS campaign came to a head in the June 2014 riots that cost four people their lives. Around 80 others were wounded and thousands were displaced. The leaders of the BBS and other radical groups escaped unscathed.

There was another wave of violence against Muslims in February 2018. This time, it was primarily perpetrated by the group Mahason Balakaya. In Sri Lanka’s central province, numerous Muslim-owned businesses were destroyed after a group of Muslim youth had killed a Sinhalese in a fight. A visually-impaired Muslim died in a burning house. The leaders of the extremist organisations that was responsible for the aggressions were arrested and charged, but they were later released on bail.

The Easter Sunday bombings led to the latest flare-up of anti-Muslim violence. Some three weeks later, Muslim businesses were attacked in multiple cities in the northwest and west. According to the Muslim activist Hilmy Ahamed, most of these incidents were inspired by rivalries between shop owners. In his eyes, the problem is that “racism mobilises the mob”. A full-blown campaign is going on against Muslim women. Many Sinhalese have decorated their shops with stickers that read “Api Sinhala” (“We are Sinhalese”).

A disconcerting pardon

Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the general secretary of the BBS, is a Buddhist monk. He was sentenced to prison last year for threatening witnesses and lawyers in court. Shortly after the Easter Sunday attacks, he was pardoned by President Maithripala Sirisena. He had not even served a single year of his six-year sentence. The head of state was apparently eager to secure the support of Buddhist-Sinhalese hardliners.

The current government had never criticised the radical monk in the past, even though it came to power primarily on the votes of Hindus, Christians and Muslims. The pardon disconcerted human-rights activists in Sri Lanka. It is now being contested in court. The BBS, meanwhile, is enjoying the public’s full attention, staging huge rallies and dominating TV news.

The ethnic tensions are playing into the hands of the nationalist Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP), which is now fielding Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former president’s brother as its presidential candidate. The party wants to come back into power in the upcoming elections and is trying to secure the support of Sinhalese voters with racist statements. At a demonstration in the city of Kandy, Gnanasara went so far as to say that he wants a parliament that is only made up of Buddhist-Sinhalese representatives. “We cannot have any minorities in parliament because that would give them the power to make decisions about the government.”

Hopefully the upcoming election campaign will spark a public debate about what kind of country Sri Lankans want to live in. We will know in January whether a Buddhist-Sinhalese theocracy will prevail or a multi-cultural vision that has the courage to treat all religions and ethnicities equally. The great irony is that Sri Lanka has a long history of religious communities living peacefully side by side. Such peace cannot be taken for granted however, because identity politics offers reckless leaders routes to power.

Anupama Ranawana-Collie is a theologian, writer and researcher and presently a visiting researcher at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, United Kingdom.
Twitter: @ARanawana25

Arjuna Ranawana is editor of

Kategorien: english


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