15 June 2009
Despite agreement on the text of a document to be used as a starting point for the negotiations, on one of the key issues – how much industrialized nations should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the short-term – finding agreement still remains a contentious issue.
A clear agreement on reduction targets for 2020 is essential if a global deal is to be reached in Copenhagen in December.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), developed countries would need to slash their emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to constrain global warming to 2ºC. If temperatures rise more than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, dangerous climate impacts are highly probable.
Speaking in London recently leading scientists – including 20 Nobel prize winners – reiterated that message, adding that to get on the right pathway, global greenhouse gas emissions must also peak by 2015 at the latest.
Most industrialized nations have now roughly stated where they stand on reducing their emissions by 2020. Germany has pledged reductions of 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, and the European Union as a whole will decrease its emissions by 30% of 1990 levels by 2020 if other nations agree to binding targets.
But the current level of Australian and US commitments falls far short of the near-term targets needed by developed nations. Under proposed legislation, the US will decrease its emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, whilst Australia will commit to a domestic reduction target of 25% on 2000 levels by 2020 in the context of an ambitious global outcome.
In the meantime, emerging economies such as India and China are calling for all rich countries to sign up to the same level of commitment as Germany whilst the grouping of Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) have called for developed countries to cut emissions by at least 45% by 2020.
Oxfam Australia is encouraging everyone to make their concerns and wishes for climate change known to the government.
The Pope assured the campaign organizers of his prayers and support for the world appeal, which was launched on the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The appeal affirms, "Children must be considered fully as human beings, true right-holders, entitled to enjoy human rights in an inalienable way and without discrimination."
Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the initiative would call attention "to this important [convention] and the urgent need to fully implement it."
The Pontiff made a particular message of the need to "respect the inviolable dignity of the rights of the child, of the recognition of the fundamental mission of the family in education, and of the necessity of a stable social environment that can favor the psychological, cultural and moral development of each child."
The statement issued at the April meeting was accompanied by a ‘shame’ list of countries that had failed to fully implement the internationally agreed tax standard adopted by the G20 finance ministers in 2004.
The proposed crackdown has been welcomed as a positive step by commentators and organizations campaigning to end global poverty.
The Tax Justice Network estimates that wealthy individuals alone held US$ 11.5 trillion offshore in 2005, resulting in lost taxes of perhaps $255bn a year. This is five times what the World Bank estimated in 2002 was needed to address the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving world poverty by 2015. This much money could also pay to transform the world’s energy infrastructure to tackle climate change.
An analysis conducted for Oxfam has found that at least $6.2 trillion of developing country wealth is held offshore by individuals, depriving developing countries of annual tax receipts of between $64-124bn. If money moved offshore by private companies were included this figure would be much higher. The scale of the losses could outweigh the $103bn developing countries receive annually in overseas aid.
The decision means that the government is moving to make torture a criminal offence in Australian law and it also means UN inspectors can visit Australia to monitor and report on human rights in places of detention.
Nevertheless as George Williams the Professor of Law at the University of NSW pointed out in a recent article 'gaping holes' remain in Australia's laws and practices in relation to torture.
Torture is one of the most serious violations of a person’s fundamental rights. It destroys their dignity, body and mind and has far-reaching effects on their family and community.
Despite the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, its practice remains widespread, particularly in places out of public view.
The Optional protocol is the first international instrument which seeks to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment through the establishment of a system of regular visits to places of detention carried out by independent international and national bodies.
International and national bodies will work together to conduct regular visits to all places of detention in all States Parties and will make recommendations to the authorities to establish effective measures to prevent torture and ill-treatments and to improve the conditions of detention of all persons deprived of liberty.
3 June 2009
More than 135 million people – the equivalent to the population of Germany and France combined - are at risk of being displaced as a consequence of desertification.
Desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) threaten human security by depriving people of their means of life – by taking away food, access to water, the means for economic activities, and even their homes. In worst-case scenarios, they undermine national and regional security, force people to leave their homes and can trigger low- or high-level intensity conflicts.
The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is held every year on 17th June to mark the anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. This year, the theme of the day is "Conserving land and water = Securing our common future "
Th day follows on from World Environment Day on 5th June.
The theme of this year’s Environment Day is ‘Your Planet Needs You-Unite to Combat Climate Change'. The theme is designed to highlight the necessity for all nations to take proactive measures at the climate convention meeting to be held December 2009 in Copenhagen.
A range of suggested actions that individuals and communities can take in support of the environment can be found at the above website.
Whilst celebrating progress made during the past ten years, the World Day Against Child Labour on 12th June will highlight the continuing challenges, with a focus on exploitation of girls in child labour.
The ILO has estimated that some 165 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in child labour. Many of these children work long hours, often in dangerous conditions. Child labour is closely associated with poverty. Many poor families are unable to afford school fees or other school costs. The family may depend on the contribution that a working child makes to the household’s income, and place more importance on that than on education. And when a family has to make a choice between sending either a boy or girl to school, it is often the girl who loses out.
More than ever today, children need a good quality education and training if they are to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in the labour market. However, in many countries the schools which are accessible to the poor families are under-resourced and inadequate. Poor facilities, over-sized classes, and lack of trained teachers lead to low standards of education.
In the Millennium Development Goals the United Nations and the broader international community set targets of ensuring that by 2015 all boys and girls complete a full course of primary education and that there is gender parity in education. These targets cannot be met unless the factors that generate child labour and prevent poor families from sending children to school are addressed.
Among the most important steps required are:
- provision of free and compulsory education;
- tackling barriers to girls education;
- ensuring that children have access to a school and a safe and quality learning environment;
- providing catch up education opportunities for children and youth who have so far missed out on formal schooling;
- tackling the worldwide shortage of teachers and ensuring a properly trained and professional teaching force;
- enforcing laws on child labour and education in line with international standards;
- tackling poverty, and creating decent work for adults;
- raising public awareness to tackle child labour.
The report warns that although the first goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015 from its 1990 level is still reachable based on current projections, the deepening global recession, rising unemployment, and volatile commodity prices in 2008 and 2009 are seriously affecting progress toward poverty reduction. The recent food crisis has also thrown millions into extreme poverty.
According to the report recovery prospects depend on effective policies that restore confidence in the financial system, but the world must also act decisively to support low-income countries that cannot respond to the effects of the crisis without burdening their poorest people. This underscores the urgency of increasing official development aid.
ONE is an international organization committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. It works closely with policy experts, African leaders, and anti-poverty activists to mobilise public opinion in support of tested and proven programs to fight poverty.
Resources and suggestions for Anti-Poverty week have also recently posted on the above website.
Anti-Poverty Week was established in Australia as an expansion of the UN's annual International Anti-Poverty Day on October 17.
The main aims of Anti-Poverty Week are to:
* strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia;
* encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.
Everyone who is interested in helping to reduce poverty and hardship here or overseas is encouraged to organise their own activities during the Week or join in some being organised by other people. The activities can be large or small, and events at the local level are especially welcome.
In delivering the apology to indigenous Australians on behalf of the nation in Feb 2008, Prime Minister Rudd called for a new partnership between between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
However, stopping disadvantage and discrimination of Indigenous Australians requires both government policy change and individual behavioural change. It’s not just up to the government to make things better: individuals can do something too!
A simple way to begin is to understand, acknowledge and support Indigenous culture and people, and to speak up against racism.
Following on from recently concluded Reconciliation Week and National Sorry Day the national advocacy organisation Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) is aiming for 20,000 people to sign a pledge during a three week campaign. This means 20,000 individual commitments to build a new partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians based on mutual respect.
Many people say they would like to help end the disadvantage of Indigenous Australians but they don’t know how. This campaign fills provides an opportunity.