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January 06 2011

COP 16: Agreement on Form But Without the Funds

By Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Diana Rhudick · View original post [fr]

The 16th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended in Cancun on December 11 with the adoption of a raft of decisions.

There were 15,482 delegates in attendance at the COP 16, including 6164 government representatives from 192 signatory countries, 4 from a state with observer status, 339 members of 25 divisions of the UN Secretariat, 231 from 19 UN institutions and specialized agencies, 429 from 47 intergovernmental agencies, 6377 from 647 NGOs, and 1938 representatives of 699 media outlets.

Greenpeace Mexico march to Mexico City's historic center to ask for concrete resolutions to fight climate change. Photo by LUIS RAMON BARRON TINAJERO, copyright Demotix (03/12/2010)

Optimism prevailed among the politicians and other officials attending, as demonstrated by Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the COP 16, who stated the following at the closing ceremony:

“Cancun has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process has been restored.”

Ordinary citizens and Bolivia, the only country that did not vote for the final text, are not so certain.

The blog of the Togolese section of the NGO network Young Volunteers for the Environment, founded in 2001 and operating in 13 countries throughout Africa and in America, contained a virulent article by Séna Alouka. He described the city where he was writing from as being against the COP 16 sessions and their outcome. In an article entitled “Accord bidon à Cancun: A quel prix?”( Phony Agreement in Cancun: At What Cost?), the author wrote “from the all-expenses-paid, all countries, all inclusive hotel, the Crowne Paradise Cancun”:

Strategies were needed to save face and to “keep the patient in a coma” for as long as possible. Cancun provided an opportunity for several delegates to form, exchange, share, and discuss real solutions to the problem of climate change. Although this city by the sea,  whose construction was damaging to the environment, garnered millions of dollars from this COP, it managed to strike a blow to the neocolonials found in the histories of G20, G8, or G2 meetings by demonstrating that it is more gentlemanly to discuss in public and to follow the spirit of the Convention's principles.

At the closing session of the COP 16 in Cancun at 5 AM on December 11, 2010, in a room with 70 people at best, Séna Alouka asks this question:

Where did the 15,000 people registered here go? They probably went to finish their shopping and rush home. In the end, they came up with a text called the “Cancun Agreement,” which has the advantage of receiving the approval of the majority of delegates (better than the previous episode in Copenhagen).

The author noted sarcastically that he appreciated

the EXTREMELY POSITIVE nature of all the press releases I've read since yesterday. For most of our English-speaking colleagues, and those in the Climate Action Network (whose mechanism I am now mastering),  the majority of the releases were prepared well before the end of the COP.

…. whatever the final Cancun agreement is, the President ended her speech with such a phrase: “We understand that we are not following our own internal regulations but to save face at Cancun, we are adopting the text.”

The blog thinks that

The agreement nevertheless failed on the critical point: deep and binding cuts in CO2 emissions for developed countries. As it is, the collection of measures will not be enough to stop the advance of the climate machine. CO2 emissions have increased 37% since 1990, and temperatures could climb by 4 to 6 °C by the end of the century.

Serge Orru, on the site, asserts in his article, “Il faut préparer l'après Cancun” (We Must Prepare for Post-Cancun):

Yes, progress was made in Cancun that must be given form…but, it is in our industrialized nations that we must massively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, weapons of mass destruction of mankind! ….

It's like a Christmas present for our children, but Santa Claus doesn't exist (shhh, just don't tell our little darlings)

or rather, he must truly exist in each of us, in our actions and in our deeds, every day!

Jean-Michel Bélouve wrote an article on his blog reprinted by the site called “Conférence climatique de Cancun: l'accord cache le désaccord” (Cancun Climate Conference: The Disagreement Behind the Agreement):

We may ask ourselves how the countries that we still call wealthy can agree to pay out such sums ($100 billion, by 2020). The agreement also fails to mention the sources of the financing. But we fully realize that the countries of the West, with excess debt and some of them headed for bankruptcy, will not be able to consent to such a demand on public funds. So, during the workshops, they planned new taxes…

The cost of collecting, monitoring, and policing such a system would be very high, and its effectiveness would be uncertain.

Jean-Michel continues, saying that they simply make references to innovative taxes, and adds:

In short, they don't know where to find the money, because none of the developed countries at the negotiating table appear ready to reach for their wallets.

The article also mentions another point in the agreement that appears difficult to implement. The large emerging countries (China, India, Brazil, etc.) are asked to report their inventories of greenhouse gas emissions, and the actions taken to reduce them. The article draws certain conclusions about this request:

These reports will be submitted for international review, which is to be “nonintrusive,” “nonpunitive,” and “respectful of national sovereignty.” To put it plainly, there will be no monitoring, simply a statement from the countries concerned.

Pierre-Jean wrote an article in his blog on December 14 called “Cancun : la Bolivie persiste et ne signe pas,” (Cancun: Bolivia Still Won't Sign):

Pablo Solon, negotiator for Bolivia, said, “this agreement won't stop temperature from rising by 4°C.” A Green Fund managed by the World Bank, no word on how the money will be collected, no specific commitments to lower emissions, recognition of REDD mechanism  (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) as is, in other words, without considering indigenous populations or recognizing market mechanisms, etc. Seen from this perspective, we reach the conclusion that not only was Bolivia right to be opposed, but that it is also the last spokesman for the most radical opponents.

October 13 2010

Mexico: Blogosphere Previews United Nations Climate Change Conference- COP 16

By Andrea Arzaba

The next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 16) will take place from November 29 until December 10, 2010 in Cancun, Mexico.

There are several discussions on the subject. Bloggers are analyzing whether the conference will bring the usual disappointment about a lack of action from the climate change and ecological actors, or if this time it will provide a new perspective and a new opportunity where failure is not an option.

Laguna Nichupté in Cancun Mexico. Image by Manuel Canela, Flickr user manuelcanela, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

Laguna Nichupté in Cancun Mexico. Image by Manuel Canela, Flickr user manuelcanela, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license [es], one of the best-known Green websites for Spanish speakers, mentions the importance of COP 16 as an international commitment:

El fracaso no es una opción ya que condenaría al planeta, sus ecosistemas y sus habitantes a un cambio climático catastrófico, advirtieron organizaciones civiles respecto a la décimo sexta Conferencia de las Partes de la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre Cambio Climático (COP-16), que se llevará a cabo en nuestro país del 29 de noviembre al 10 de diciembre de este año.

Por ello, las organizaciones de la sociedad civil Cemda, Greenpeace, Oxfam y la Heinrich Böll Stiftung, lanzaron este día la campaña La cumbre climática en Cancún debe ser exitosa, para exigir a los tomadores de decisiones de la COP 16, que éste sea el espacio y el momento para destrabar los acuerdos globales que evitarán el caos climático.

Failure is not an option because it would condemn the planet, its ecosystems and their inhabitants to a catastrophic climate change, as civil organizations warned about the 16th Conference on Climate Change (COP-16 ), which will be held in our country (Mexico) from November 29 to December 10 this year.

This is why civil organizations like Cemda, Greenpeace, Oxfam and Heinrich Böll Stiftung, today launched the campaign “Climate summit in Cancun has to be successful,” in order to demand decision makers from the COP 16, [to make sure] this is the space and time to unlock the global agreements that will prevent climate chaos.

In JOIN [es], an online magazine written by youth in Mexico, Adrian Monfort wrote the article “Cancun, COP 16 and the fight against climate change”, where he discusses the importance of this event for current and future generations:

Esto nos pinta un panorama crítico, en donde las necesidades de concretar acuerdos entre los países es urgente y el tiempo para hacerlos es mínimo. México como anfitrión y participante de la reunión previa (COP 15) promovió activamente el año pasado la negociación de un nuevo acuerdo global, y al no conseguirlo, reafirmó su intención de lograrlo en Cancún.

Para nosotros como jóvenes y ciudadanos esto tiene implicaciones trascendentales, ya que seremos nosotros los que estaremos viviendo en un mundo cada vez más deteriorado por los cambios medioambientales.

This paints a critical picture, where the need for specific agreements between countries becomes urgent and the time to make them happen is minimal. Mexico, as a host and participant of the previous meeting (COP 15) actively promoted last year’s negotiation for a new global agreement, and because of the failure to achieve it, they reaffirmed the intention do it in Cancun.

For us, as young people and citizens of the world, this has major implications, as we will be the ones living in a world increasingly deteriorated by environmental changes.

Image from COP 15 by flickr user WWF FRANCE, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

Bloggers from Espacio Mexicano Dialogo Climático Cancún [es] (Mexican Space for Climate Dialogue Cancun) consider that the role of Mexican and international organizations and social movements at the event is fundamental:

Se han minimizado las expectativas de la Conferencia de las Partes – COP-16: no se observan propuestas firmes de los países desarrollados en la mesa de negociaciones en materia de mitigación y está en riesgo el sistema multilateral de negociación. Por ello el movimiento social y las organizaciones civiles mexicanas y mundiales discutiremos en Cancún nuestras propuestas para hacer frente al problema y, a través de manifestaciones pacíficas haremos escuchar la diversidad y pluralidad de nuestras voces.

The expectations of the Conference - COP-16 have been minimized: We have not seen firm proposals from developed countries in the negotiating table in terms of mitigation, and the multilateral negotiation system is at risk. Therefore, Mexican and international social movements and organizations will discuss in Cancun our proposals to tackle the problem, and through peaceful demonstrations we will make the diversity and plurality of our voices heard.

Finally, in the webpage (Mexico Do Something) there is an article written by Alejandra Biotes, where she discusses how COP 16 attendants will be able to learn about and experience firsthand the natural resources Cancun has to offer:

Recientemente una comitiva de activistas, proveniente de Copenhague, estuvo de visita en Puerto Morelos para ver de cerca las instalaciones y servicios con los que se cuenta en ese lugar.

Los integrantes de las ONG’s, que visitaron Puerto Morelos, eligieron las zonas de cenotes y otras áreas naturales para que quienes asistan a la Cumbre acampen ahí ¿Un pretexto para disfrutar los escenarios naturales que ofrece nuestro país, o la opción más accesible para estar presentes en la discusión del futuro del planeta?

Recently a delegation of activists from Copenhagen visited Puerto Morelos to see up close the facilities and services that the place has to offer.

The members of NGOs, who visited Puerto Morelos, chose the areas of cenotes and other natural areas so that those attending the summit may camp out there. A good excuse to enjoy the natural scenery that our country offers? or the most affordable option to attend the discussion on the future of the planet?

September 28 2010

September 13 2010

Global: If there is no water, there is no life

By Victor Kaonga

The Twentieth gathering for the World Water Week (WWW) took place in Sweden's capital Stockholm from the 5th to the 11th of September 2010 with the theme The Water Quality Challenge-Prevention, Wise Use and Abatement. According to the organisers, “urbanisation, agriculture, industry and climate change exert mounting pressure on both the quantity and quality of our water resources.” The week was therefore organised to  “deepen the understanding of, stimulate ideas on, and engage the water community around the challenges related to water quality.”

At the end, delegates came up with the Stockholm Statement which noted that the the Millennium Development Goals will only be achieved by wise management of water resources and secure and equitable access to safe water and adequate sanitation. Inadequate access to water and sanitation deprives billions of people, especially women and girls, of opportunities, dignity, safety and well-being.

Bloggers who attended World Water Week have shared their notes and opinions online. Duncan Mara shares his World Water Week diary.
Sunday sessions:

The early evening session was the launch of the Second Information Kit on the 2006 WHO Wastewater Use Guidelines – not yet online (but my part is here). My presentation was on choosing a sensible value for the maximum tolerable additional burden of disease – i.e., the maximum DALY loss per person per year (pppy). The default value used for this in the 2006 WHO Guidelines is 10−6 pppy for this, but this is very ‘extravagant’ and I recommended a value of 10−4 DALY loss pppy as it reflects epidemiological reality in developing countries and some industrialized countries (e.g., Australia and the USA) much more closely. [Actually this also applies to Drinking-water Quality Guidelines, but that’s a real can of worms – for WHO, US EPA and the EU, amongst others − waiting to be opened…]


I attended the lunchtime side event on “What knowledge do we need to do better on Sanitation?” This was basically how the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and its partners see how their ‘Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity’ (SHARE) research consortium, funded by DFID, will progress. Check out the SHARE website when it gets going by the end of the month (in the meantime there are some details here).

Then I went to the afternoon seminar on “Water quality issues and new approaches in Latin America”. Interesting couple of papers – one on water and wastewater problems in Mexico City by Dr Blanca Jiménez (UNAM). The other was by Professor Eduardo Jordão (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) on the use in Brazil of UASBs + some form of secondary treatment serving populations of 20,000−1,500,000 – but little mention of costs or cost-effectiveness, and no mention of high-rate anaerobic ponds.

As I was rushing from the lunchtime session to the afternoon session my colleague Dr Jan-Olof Drangert (University of Linköping, Sweden) shoved a leaflet into my hand – all about his new website Sustainable Sanitation for the 21st Century, which comprises a free e-book and a set of PowerPoint presentations for training professionals in the sanitation and water sector. There’s a certain EcoSan emphasis, but it’s certainly very well worth taking a look. You can download the PowerPoints as ppt files, so you can use them as they are or select which slides you want to use in your own presentations. Excellent idea!


I went to the workshop on “Improved water use efficiency through recycling and reuse” and gave a presentation on Natural wastewater treatment and carbon capture. Professor Emeritus Takashi Asano (UC Davis), in a keynote presentation, told us all about water demand and wastewater recycling and reuse in California – a complex system necessitated by building a megacity (Los Angeles) in a desert and by California being the nation’s major table-food (vegetables, fruits) producer. Then Dr Ashley Murray (UC Berkeley) gave a really interesting paper on wastewater-fed aquaculture: set up a local business to grow fish in maturation ponds and the business returns half its net profit to the wastewater treatment works (waste stabilization ponds) to help pay for O&M – a very neat concept which she developed in Ghana.

But what is the impact of water shortage in the developing world? A special post in Ethiopian Review features a post about the challenges facing women in Afgooye, Somalia, where many families have no access to clean water or sanitation. The title of of the post reads “World Water Week in Somalia: “If there is no water, there is no life”:

There are no schools, latrines or reasonable toilets in the camp, besides some old toilets in the old building. We face a shortage of water here. We have to buy one barrel of water for 15,000 shillings (just under $10 [US dollars]) that is brought by a donkey cart as there is no running water pipe in the camp.

Global Voices Author Victor Kaonga was part of the media team at the World Water Week. In a post about Sick Water he emphasises the need for both the government and citizens in Malawi to address what is known as Sick Water:

In Malawi water is all things-political, health, economic, social, rights, an MDG, gender, spiritual, academic issue, etc. Dealing with water challenges needs a multi-faceted approach.

Statistics-good as they look do not speak everything in Malawi. Water Aid Country Representative Robert Kampala noted that Malawi noted that while some strides have been made in ensuring that at least about 70 percent of the population has access to safe water, Malawi still needs more work in improving the quality of water. Imagine we hear that Water supply coverage is at 65% country wide while Basic Sanitation 86% country wide. Interestingly I learn that in urban and rural areas, improved sanitation (basically latrines with slabs and flush toilets) are only at 65% and 46% respectively! This is sad. Where do the rest go if there are no toilets? And how then is our water affected?

And in a separate post, he asks, “Did you know the most scarce sanitary facility?”:

Toilets are a scarce facility the world over. About 2.6 billion don’t have the toilet. The problem is worse in developing countries which apparently also have serious effects of poor sanitation. But let me be quick to think aloud about toilets in developing countries. There appears to be too much bush to hide and use as toilets. You cannot do in a well-built urban area. Lack of planning in some cities creates poor sanitary situation. Personally I don't like slums. Additionally some cultures seem not to be toilet-unfriendly. At a corporate level, there are some institutions too that do not have a culture for toilets.

World Water Week 2010 left Timothy Karpouzoglou with a lot of questions:

World Water Week (WWW) 2010 is over, leaving me with some questions. Is WWW really about “opening up” or about “closing down” the debate on water resource management?

The overall theme for this year WWW has been water quality. WWW aims “to highlight positive action and new thinking towards water related challenges and their impact on the world’s environment” and also to “deepen the understanding of, stimulate ideas, and engage the water and development community around the challenges related to water quality”. These are all valid and urgent concerns in moving the debate forward.

So what is this new thinking? Some of it can be seen as more of the old thinking restated with today’s policy buzzwords. “Water quality” is still decided by scientists, talking to scientists about the science behind the solutions. The framing of the problem was often about the right technology. Common effluent treatment plants and wastewater treatment plants are commonly-suggested solutions, even if the costs associated are too high and unaffordable in many parts of the developing world.

Jeremy Allouche notes that World Water Week is an elitist club:

Here’s our first blog from World Water Week - some call it ‘the pilgrimage of water’. Well… the price of the pilgrimage (about £650) makes it difficult to attend and it remains very much an elitist club. In this regard, one always wonders how useful these high-level international events are and whether we are not repeating the same stuff again and again.

The disconnect between the conference and the world outside is sometimes too evident: while the international media reports on the floods in Pakistan and the droughts and floods in Niger, here the focus of the conference is on partnerships between water professionals and projects around new sexy ideas on water. Although water quality is the focus of the conference, climate change is another hot topic here: mainstreaming water and climate change, governance and capacity building for water and climate change, etc…
Still, the big highlight of this morning was the session on “Revisiting the Large Dam Controversy”. Although the World Commission on Dams (WCD) report has been criticised (especially around implementation guidelines), there has been some consensus around the principles and values it articulated. But now, with the development of climate change adaptation strategies and the arrival of new financiers, some fear that the new context (WCD+10) may end this fragile consensus.

Lyla Mehta discusses controversy at the conference:

It’s my fourth day at World Water Week, the annual mecca for policy-makers and players from the World Water Council, the Water and Sanitation Programmes (WSP), Stockholm Water Institute, WaterAid, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), as well as several UN and bilateral agencies such as DFID and others who can afford to pay the entry fee. Most people seem to come for networking, meetings, dinners and drinks, to launch new initiatives and reports… and occasionally even to attend the odd session.

I've been doing the same, though I had hoped to be more excited by some of the sessions and workshops. Most of them have been highly technical, with many of the same global perspectives and declarations that we have been hearing for a long time. But this is probably a reflection of how mainstream most talk about water is, be it in the media, policy or research realms…
For me, the highlight of the conference was the session on “Revisiting the Large Dam Controversy” hosted by the very exciting online journal Water Alternatives. It’s been 10 years since the World Commision on Dams published its landmark report, which provided guidelines for dam-building, covering social, environmental, economic and institutional aspects. This was the only session I attended where there was passion and debate, not surprising due to the topic even though a few were hoping for more blood-letting! Ten years on, there has been much progress. WCD guidelines are now mainstreamed in many new and ongoing projects all around the world. The WCD principle on the “right to consent” is also gaining acceptance in many global organisations and institutions.

Still, there are many ideological rifts and no clear consensus on ways forward, with early opponents still openly rejecting the WCD process and conclusions. This was exemplified by the words of ex-World Bank official John Briscoe, who proudly stated that the WCD and similar commissions should pack up since they are often rejected by dam-building nations who reject their guidelines. But Briscoe didn’t seem to do himself or his former institution any favours by continuing to ignore the fact that water resources development remains a highly contested process, often shaped by forces in the wider political economy. Moreover, southern governments who claim to be ‘democratic’ may not necessarily be representing the interests of the poor and marginalised through dam-based development.

In the end the Stockholm World Water Week 2010 revealed broad consensus on many water-related issues as Alex McIntosh reports:

By Day Four of the 2,500-attendee conference, a few overarching themes have begun to emerge. First, in the majority of the watersheds across the globe, we know too little about the amount of water available, the amount extracted in aggregate for human use, or the quality of the watershed. For this reason, in the seminar On the Road the Corporate Water Reporting, panelists from Nature Conservancy, CERES, Quantis, PepsiCo, CH2M HILL, Unilever, Borealis and other organizations all agreed that the trend towards greater water reporting transparency would continue, primarily driven by businesses’ need to obtain and manage their supply chain water resources, and in response to consumer/customer/investor stakeholder pressure.

A second theme emerging from World Water Week is there is general consensus among the world’s water experts and advocates that humanity already has passed the “safety point” with respect to sustainable use. In the seminar The Future of Global Water Technologies, panelists from McKinsey & Co, ITT, Black & Veatch and more framed the discussion by agreeing on four points:

* The world faces significant water resource challenges today, which will worsen in the coming years.
* Business as usual practices will not close the “water gap”.
* Cost effective, sustainable solutions are possible, but will require an economy-wide approach.
* A pathway towards water sector transformation does exist.

May 21 2010

TheWeekInGreen | 20100514 | Episode 23: Interview with Reza Aslan

In the 23rd episode of The Week in Green, author and journalist Reza Aslan discusses nuclear politics in the Middle East and the way in which the Green Movement has changed perceptions of Iran among young Americans.
در بیست‌وسومین برنامه هفته سبز با حمید دباشی آقای رضا اصلان نویسنده و روزنامه‌نگار، درباره جنبه‌گیری‌ها و سیاست‌های هسته‌ای ایران و هم اینکه چگونه جنبش سبز چهره ایران را در مجامع جهانی عوض کرده گفتگو می‌کنند.
Reposted byiranelection iranelection

February 23 2010

The Widening Web of Control

The International Council on Human Rights Policy have published a draft report named The Widening Web of Control: A Human Rights Analysis of Public Policy Responses to Crime, Social Problems and Deviance, which is available for comments and review. The multidisciplinary project involved research in five different policy areas: public health/infectious diseases control; city and urban poor; punishment and incarceration; policing and surveillance; controls over migrant and non-citizens.

February 16 2010

IGF 2010 First Round Meeting

An open consultation to discuss the agenda of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Vilnius was held in Geneva, Switzerland on February 9, 2010. During the consultation, a discussion on the desirability of continuation of the IGF was introduced by Patrick Spearing from the United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs (UNDESA). UNDESA is the Secretariat department having responsibility for the report containing the recommendations of the Secretary-General on the desirability of continuation of the IGF. Mr Spearing recalled that "the forum was established by a U.N. General Assembly decision on the basis of the Tunis Agenda," and that "it will be the United Nations membership that determines whether or not to support its continuation." Mr Spearing further stressed that, "in order for the General Assembly to consider the recommendations of the Secretary-General, the report of the Secretary-General containing those recommendations must be submitted to the UN General Assembly at the 65th session later in 2010." Mr. Spearing also noted that the United Nations Economic and Social Council has primary responsibility for relations among development actors and does have a mechanism for consultation with nongovernmental organizations. Switzerland as the President of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology (CSTD) made a point concerning the multistakeholder approach. "The United Nations Commission on Science and Technology has the advantage of taking a broader approach to the multistakeholder aspect. By that I mean, that the CSTD also provides for consultations with the private sector, which ECOSOC does not do. And also with a broader view of consultations with civil society." Prof. Wolfgang Kleinwächter criticizes the decision. He stressed, "this is part of a bigger story to move backwards, to cancel openness, transparency and bottom up policy development process and to withdraw from the principle of "multistakeholderism". He further stressed that the decision's aims is "to get the Internet policy processes back under control of an intergovernmental regime and to silence non-governmental stakeholders, at least if it comes to public policy issues and decision making." Prof. Kleinwächter added, "This recognition of the principle of "multistaklehoderism" in the Tunis Agenda 2005 was the biggest conceptual achievement in WSIS and was in particular accepted as a guiding principle for Internet Governance in contrast to a "one stakeholder (intergovernmental) approach". The acceptance of civil society as an "equal parter" (in their specific role) was a big step for civil society, Prof. Kleinwächter emphasized. Later in 2010, the United Nations General Assembly will decide if it should extend the Internet Governance Forum's initial five-year mandate, based on a review of its work as well as its achievements.

February 09 2010

Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group to the UN Internet Governance Forum Meet in Geneva

The fifth Annual Meeting of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 14-17 September 2010. The IGF was formed to support the United Nations Secretary-General in carrying out the mandate from the World Summit on the Information Society with regard to convening a new multi-stakeholder policy dialogue forum to discuss issues related to key elements of Internet governance. The IGF was established in July 2006 and since then four annual forums have been organized. A first round of open consultations will be held in Geneva on 9 February 2010 to take stock of the Sharm El Sheikh meeting and will discuss the agenda and the format of the Vilnius meeting. On February 10-11, a Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group to the Internet Governance Secretariat will meet to discuss the preparation of the Vilnius meeting. Comments on the Substantive Program Agenda had been published online. The Remote Participation Working Group (RPWG) in cooperation with the IGF Secretariat will make available a moderated chat function for online interaction; the link is available here. The hashtag will be #IGF10. Katitza Rodriguez, The Public Voice Coordinator will be twittering from @thepublicvoice and @txitua. The Webcast of the open consultations will be available through this link.

January 20 2010

The erosion of the right to privacy in the fight against terrorism

The current wave of privacy-intrusive measures in the name of countering terrorism should be countered through a global declaration on data protection and data privacy; the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Martin Scheinin said, as he released his latest report which focuses on the erosion of the right to privacy in the fight against terrorism. In his report, Scheinin critically assesses developments that have adversely affected the right to privacy in various parts of the world using the justification of combating terrorism. These include racial or ethnic profiling, creation of privacy-intrusive databases and resorting to new technology, such as body scanners, without proper human rights assessment. Based on his evaluation, the UN independent expert dismisses the perception that, in an all-encompassing process of “balancing”, counter-terrorism always outweighs privacy. Instead, he calls for a rigorous analytical framework for securing that any restrictions on privacy rights are necessary, proportionate and adequately regulated. One of his main recommendations is that the inter-governmental Human Rights Council should launch a process aiming at a global declaration on data protection and data privacy. The Special Rapporteur also encourages the Human Rights Committee, the independent expert body supervising compliance with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to consider drawing up a general comment on the right to privacy, including the proper scope of its limitations. Scheinin will present his report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in the second week of March. In his previous reports, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism has addressed themes such as definitions of terrorism, racial and ethnic profiling, the right to a fair trial, and the gender impact of counter-terrorism measures. Mr. Scheinin was appointed Special Rapporteur by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in August 2005. The mandate was renewed by Human Rights Council Resolution 6/28.

November 11 2009

Civil Society Groups and Privacy Experts Release Madrid Declaration, Reaffirm International Privacy Laws, Identify New Challenges and Call for Concrete Action to Safeguard Privacy

In a crisply worded declaration, over 100 civil society organizations and privacy experts from more than 40 countries have set out an expansive statement on the future of privacy. The Madrid Declaration affirms that privacy is a fundamental human right and reminds "all countries of their obligations to safeguard the civil rights of their citizens and residents." The Madrid Declaration warns that "privacy law and privacy institutions have failed to take full account of new surveillance practices." The Declaration urges countries "that have not yet established a comprehensive framework for privacy protection and an independent data protection authority to do so as expeditiously as possible." The civil society groups and experts recommend a "moratorium on the development or implementation of new systems of mass surveillance." Finally, the Declaration calls for the "establishment of a new international framework for privacy protection, with the full participation of civil society, that is based on the rule of law, respect for fundamental human rights, and support for democratic institutions." The Madrid Declaration was released at the Public Voice conference in Madrid on Global Privacy Standards. Multiple translations of the Declaration are available. You can still sign the Madrid Declaration until January 28, 2010, International Privacy Day. Please, send your signature to privacy @ datos-personales DOT org

November 09 2009

Southern Madagascar Hit Hard by Severe Drought and Toxic Spill

While the political direction of Madagascar remains mired in total uncertainty since the coup d'etat in March, in Addis Ababa, the international community is again trying to mediate an agreement between the various political movements. The president of the African Union and one of the mediators present in Addis Ababa, Jean Ping, opened the meeting by stating:

“The reality as you know it on the ground in Madagascar is characterized by fatigue that is felt by the people of Madagascar, people who are hoping the crisis will come to an end. A crisis to which, after all, they are the hostages. Whereas the socio-economic situation in your country is getting worse day by day. The people of Madagascar deserve better destiny and that depends completely on you”

This sentiment seems to be shared by a large portion of the blogosphere who focused their attention on the other challenges affecting Madagascar. Several provinces are currently plagued by the cumulative disastrous effects of a severe drought, the toxic spill of a ship wreck that poisoned the livelihood of thousands of fishermen and the ecological disaster of illegal logging of the rain forests.
(Update: A power sharing agreement was signed by the 4 political movements over the week-end (BBC) where Madagascar will be led by 3 co-presidents. More analysis can be found on this political breakthrough on Reuters and Madagascar Tribune (fr) )

The ecological scandal of the Gulser Ana toxic spill

The Gulser Ana was a Turkish freighter transporting Phosphate that sunk off the coast of Madagascar, spilling toxic waste in the process and killing migrating whales and causing illness among the fishermen community. Although the disaster has been reported in a few media recently, the ship started to sink two months ago as Malagasy bloggers signaled on their blogs back in early September.
Tomavana wrote on his blog (fr):

En plus d’écarter le drame écologique du Sud de l’île des actualités nationales, la controverse politique autour de ces nouvelles nominations pose la question du suivi de ce dossier sensible

The political drama not only steers the focus away from this tragic event but it makes one wonder who will be accountable for following up and taking charge of the issue.

Joan asks simply: “Have you heard of the Gulser Ana ?”. In the comment section, Capt Collin Smith explores the possible causes of the grounding:

The only explanation which can exculpate the Captain and Officer of the Watch of this vessel is mechanical breakdown. Anything else is human error, and therefore incompetence, if not recklessness. How can a ship go aground in perfect visibility if the OOW and Captain are paying attention and properly trained? [..] Another practice to save money. The Captain and OOW should have been arrested when they got ashore, and held.

Mialisoa reports on her blog that (fr):

les habitants « souffrent de problèmes respiratoires, et de maladies cutanées et diarrhéiques ». Car non seulement ces personnes ont été exposées aux déchets toxiques, mais le nettoyage des zones polluées s’est fait sans vêtements de protection et sans équipements adéquats

The locals suffer from respiratory problems, skin diseases and diarrhea. Not only were the people exposed to toxic waste but the clean up was also performed without adequate equipments and protective gears

The lack of report early on in the media prompted this reaction from Tomavana on twitter:

“@fanjakely j'ai l'impression que les habitants Sud #Madagascar sont des malgaches de 2nde zone. J'entends nos beaux discours mais nous sommes pas #Solidaire”

“@fanajkely I have the impression that the people from the South of Madagascar are considered 2nd class Malagasy citizens. I hear a lot of nice speeches but we are not showing solidarity”

Unfortunately that was not the only source of worry in the region.

Severe drought

Rain has been very scarce in the Southern region. According to the Guardian, the unseasonal dry weather caused by climate change (10% increase in temperature) has prompted a severe drought and warning signs of famine for the past six months. Tovoheryzo Raobi Jaona explains how climate change has affected the south (fr):

“Avant, il y avait une sécheresse tous les dix ans. Or, depuis 2000, il y en a eu quatre”

“Before, a drought was observed every 10 years. Since 2000, there has been 4″

Féroce Remanongona, an elected official goes further as to say (fr):

Nous prions le Grand Dieu que le cyclone passe chez nous. Même s’il détruit nos maisons, c’est mieux que subir la sécheresse

We pray God that a cyclone comes our way. Even if it destroys our homes, it's better than facing the drought

This is a powerful statement when one recalls how the recent cyclone devastated the majority of the region.

The Panos Insitute recently published a series called “Pushed to the Edge” about the effect of climate change on the Malagasy population in the Southern region. Here is a testimony from the report by Bruno:

I noticed that the weather had changed from our usual predictions, and the rainy seasons were starting very late… Not only was rice production affected, but also sweet potatoes and cassava. It was getting hotter and hotter, which made planting cassava challenging… When I harvested it, I discovered that the roots had become smaller, compared to my previous harvest. In terms of rice, I used to collect three to four large baskets and now I can harvest only one small basket. The change is so obvious that it makes me ask the question, “What is happening to the climate?”

A recent academic paper for the American Political Science Association by Richard Marcus illustrates the challenges of water resource management in the Ambovombe-Androy region. The paper states that

“Rural communities are suddenly faced with having to pay exorbitant costs for water. They are ill-prepared to carry out their municipal functions and unable to raise the level of user-fees or community taxes necessary to fund infrastructure development”

Stephane, a blogger from Foko Madagascar attended the UN conference on climate change in September and blogged about the challenges facing developing countries like Madagascar.

Finally, a resolution to condemn the plundering of natural resources in Madagascar has been introduced by Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) at the House of Representatives. Illegal logging of precious woods from the rain forest has been increasing with the political turmoil.

October 21 2009

La Coalizione Internazionale della Società Civile discuterà

degli Standard Globali della Privacy
Madrid, 3 novembre 2009
‘The Public Voice’, la più grande coalizione mondiale della società civile, organizzerà una conferenza a Madrid, Spagna, il 3 novembre 2009, per discutere degli ‘Standard Globali della Privacy in un Mondo Globale’. La conferenza si svolgerà in coordinazione con la 31ª Conferenza Internazionale Annuale dei Garanti della Privacy e della Protezione dei Dati. Interverranno alla conferenza sia alcuni fra i principali attivisti ed esperti della comunità accademica, della protezione dei consumatori e dei diritti digitali e del sindacato, sia funzionari pubblici e rappresentanti del settore privato. Insieme, discuteranno su come mantenere alto l’interesse della comunità globale riguardo ai temi della privacy, e su come promuovere la partecipazione della società civile nei processi decisionali che hanno come obiettivo l’adozione di migliori standard globali di protezione della privacy e dei dati personali. La conferenza inizierà con la rassegna sia dei più recenti sviluppi riguardo la privacy e la protezione dei dati, sia delle principali campagne di attivismo. Stavros Lambrinidis, Vice-Presidente del Parlamento Europeo, è stato inviato a commentare i principali sviluppi in questo campo. La conferenza tratterà anche delle sfide attualmente poste dalle nuove tecnologie e dal alcune pratiche economiche: rappresentanti della società civile e del settore privato discuteranno le implicazioni per la privacy di pratiche quali il ‘cloud computing’ e i motori di ricerca internet. Verranno inoltri discussi i flussi transnazionali di dati nel settore pubblico e privato, dai dati dei passeggeri aerei e le transazioni finanziarie, al sub-appalto di dati personali. Durante l’ultima sessione della conferenza sarà presentata la ‘Dichiarazione di Madrid della Società Civile sugli Standard Globali’. La dichiarazione sarà discussa da funzionari responsabili della protezione dei dati personali dell’OCSE, del Gruppo di Lavoro Articolo 29 dell’UE, degli Stati Uniti e del Canada. Peter Hustinx, Garante Europeo della Protezione dei Dati, chiuderà la conferenza presentando alcune osservazioni finali. La conferenza è patrocinata dall’Agenzia Spagnola di Protezione dei Dati Personali, ed è gratuita per tutti i partecipanti. Il programma, il modulo d’iscrizione e le informazioni pratiche sono disponibili al sito: Per informazioni: Katitza Rodriguez, The Public Voice Coordinator, katitza AT epic DOT org

October 10 2009

September 25 2009

A civil szervezetek nemzetközi szövetsége megvitatja a magánélet védelmének globális normáit

Madrid, 2009. november 3. A világ legszélesebb civil társadalmi szövetsége, a „Public Voice” 2009. november 3-án Madridban (Spanyolország) tartandó konferenciáján vitát rendez „A privacy globális normái a globális világban” címmel. A konferenciát az adatvédelmi biztosok 31. éves nemzetközi konferenciájához kapcsolódóan rendezik meg. Az egyetemi szféra, a fogyasztói és a digitális jogok, valamint a munka világa prominens képviselői és szakértői vitatják meg köztisztviselőkkel és az üzleti szektorral, hogy miként lehet növelni az adatvédelmi tudatosságot a globális közösségben, és hogyan lehet elősegíteni a civil társadalom részvételét azokban a döntéshozatali folyamatokban, amelyek jobb adatvédelmi és magánélet-védelmi normák globális elfogadásához vezetnek. A konferencián elsőként áttekintik a legfrissebb privacy- és emberi jogi fejleményeket, valamint a világszerte lezajlott nagyobb privacy-aktivista kampányokat. Stavros Lambrinidis, az Európai Parlament alelnöke is meghívást kapott a legfrissebb fejlemények észrevételezésére. A konferencia foglalkozik azokkal a jelenlegi kihívásokkal is, amelyeket a fejlődő technológia és az új üzleti gyakorlat idéztek elő: a civil társadalom és az üzleti szektor képviselői megvitatják az olyan magánéleti vonatkozású témákat, mint a „cloud computing” vagy az internetes keresés. Szóba kerül továbbá a határátlépő adatáramlás a magán- és a közszektorban, az utaslistáktól a pénzügyi tranzakciókon át a személyes adatok kezelésének kiszervezéséig. A konferencia záró fóruma nyilvánosságra hozza a civil társadalom Madridi Nyilatkozatát a magánélet védelmének globális normáiról, amelyet az OECD-ből, az EU 29-es munkacsoportjából, az Egyesült Államokból és Kanadából meghívott adatvédelmi szakemberek vitatnak meg. A zárszót Peter Hustinx, az európai adatvédelmi biztos tartja. A konferencia támogatója a spanyol adatvédelmi hatóság, a részvétel ingyenes valamennyi résztvevő számára. A regisztráció kötelező. Kérjük, regisztráljon a címen. Kérjük, hogy teljes nevét adja meg, azokét is, akik nevében regisztrál. A részletes program, a regisztráció és a gyakorlati tudnivalók megtalálhatók a címen. @thepublicvoice #globalprivacy Kapcsolattartó: Katitza Rodriguez, The Public Voice Coordinator, katitza AT epic DOT org

September 23 2009

Internet Governance Forum - United States

The first IGF-USA will take place on October 2, 2009 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The IGF-USA is a multistakeholder effort to raise awareness about Internet governance issues and to contribute to awareness about the Internet Governance Forum. IGF-USA is a one day forum to engage civil society, government, technologists/researchers, industry and academia in discussions about topics that are being deliberated at a global level regarding governance of the Internet, including management of critical Internet resources, privacy, cyber security, access, openness/freedom of expression, child online safety, capacity building and development. At the IGF-USA, like the IGF itself, all parties participate on an equal footing, and through identifying and discussing issues, participants help to broaden understanding and identify possible best practices that can inform global decisions that affect the Internet.
  • When?: Friday, October 2, 2009
  • Where?: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1800 K Street, NW, Washington DC. The CSIS location is one block from the Farragut West station on the Orange and Blue lines. Take the 18th Street exit and walk north to the corner of 18th and K streets. CSIS is also just a few blocks away from the Farragut North station on the Red line.
Download the program here
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