19 December 2011


Once again opinions vary in regard to the success or otherwise of the recently concluded UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa.

Optimists point out that the Durban Package set up by the conference will, for the first time, bring all greenhouse-gas emitting countries in the world into a common legal regime under UN jurisdiction in 2015, that would force them to cut emissions no later than 2020.

Defying expectations, the Kyoto Protocol has also been extended until 2017, which will "bear in mind different circumstances of developed and developing countries".

The new global legal framework will be decided by 2015 and come into force by 2020. Called the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, it will "raise levels of ambition" in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But the world's most poor and low-lying states say that the accords still leave them vulnerable and the targets agreed are not sufficiently aggressive to slow the pace of global warming, which threatens them most.

The agreement does, however, importantly acknowledge that there is a gap between the aggregate level of reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases to be achieved through global mitigation efforts and what is needed to avert dangerous climate change.

To reach the 2deg C target that scientists consider the maximum for containing global warming within manageable limits, emissions, which are currently rocketing, must begin to fall by 8.5% by 2020 compared with 2010.

At the request of the EU and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the delegates agreed to launch a work plan to identify options for closing this gap.

Others are more forthright in expressing their disappointment. Those at 350.org described it as being better than "the worst" possible outcome, but it's still a cowardly, unacceptable delay on global climate action -- and a recipe for climate disasters.

"It's certainly not the deal the planet needs - such a deal would have delivered much greater ambition on both emissions reductions and finance," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He went on to say that "the atmosphere responds to one thing, and one thing only—emissions. The world’s collective level of ambition on emissions reductions must be substantially increased, and soon."

It remains to be seen whether or not the rhetoric, speeches and carefully worded resolutions from Durban will be translated into effective action.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo should be one of Africa's richest countries. It has a mineral wealth estimated to be around $24-trillion (£15-tn). There are huge deposits of cobalt, diamonds, gold, copper, oil and 80 per cent of the world's supplies of coltan ore — a valuable mineral used in computers and mobile phones.

Yet 100 women a week are still dying in childbirth and 16,000 children under the age of five die every year. One in three children in the DRC will never get anything more than primary education.

One of the reasons the country has been unable to recover is that it is being pursued by international debt speculators, known as Vulture funds.

It has been 16 years since most of the world began writing off the debts of the poorest countries, but the vulture funds, a club of between 26 and 35 speculators, have done almost everything to ensure that these countries do not have a chance to get back on their feet.

Vulture funds operate by buying up a country's debt when it is in a state of chaos. When the country has stabilised, vulture funds return to demand millions of dollars in interest repayments and fees on the original debt.

The DRC is a heavily indebted poor country (HIPC). It had finally completed the long and tough process required to receive debt relief. Congo’s debt was due to be cut by over $7,000 million. The IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank had agreed to cancel 100 per cent of pre-2004 debts. Other creditors like the UK having committed to do the same.

But a Vulture Fund had been circling the DRC. Just as it reached HIPC completion point, FG Hemisphere swooped. Having bought one of the African nation’s debts cheaply on the secondary market, it refused to participate in the debt relief scheme, and instead began pursuing repayment of $100 million for this debt – $80 million more than the country would have been expected to pay for the debt under the HIPC process.

Recently, the NSW Supreme Court ruled in favour of FG Hemisphere Associates and said the Democratic Republic of Congo must hand over $30 million.
FG Hemisphere has now gone to Jersey to claim $100-m from the DRC because a legal loophole means that the island remains free of anti-vulture laws that were passed in the UK last year.

So far, according to the World Bank, the top 26 vultures have managed to collect $1-bn from the world's poorest countries and still have a further $1.3-bn to collect. Gordon Brown, the former British Prime Minister and long-time Finance Minister in Tony Blair's administrations, has described the payouts as ‘morally outrageous.’

In Australia you can take action by sending a message to the Australian Attorney General Nicola Roxon urging the introduction of legislation to prohibit vulture funds from accessing Australian courts


Trafficking in humans is now estimated to be the second most lucrative criminal activity in the world after the illegal arms trade. That means it is even more lucrative than the illegal drug trade.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 2.4 million people (including 1.2 million children, are trafficked globally, generating profits of around $32 billion. A UN study has found that 79% of trafficking is for sexual exploitation while 18% was for forced labour.

Stop the Traffick has developed materials to raise awareness about the issue of trafficking and to help concerned members of the public recognise the signs that someone may be a victim of trafficking. The travel and hospitality industries in particular have been targeted so that those working in the industry, guests, travellers and those vulnerable to trafficking know what human trafficking is, the signs to look out for and how to take appropriate action to prevent the trafficking of men, women and children.

At the conclusion of her recent visit to Australia, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, urged the Australian Government to devote greater attention to the rights and needs of the victims of human trafficking, especially children, while praising the authorities for their commitment to fighting trafficking regionally and domestically.

For information about trafficking in Australia, visit the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) website.


In a letter in response to the campaign by Stop the Traffick (Australia) to end harvesting of cotton in Uzbekistan using forced labour of schoolchildren, (featured in this bulletin in August), a spokesperson for the Cotton On company stressed that its Supplier Agreements stipulate zero tolerance for child labour.

The letter reiterates the company’s commitment to its corporate social responsibilities and acceptable working conditions and trade practices. The letter also outlines the steps the company has taken to ensure its Supplier Agreements and Vendor Ethical Code of Conduct are adhered to; this includes the recruitment of Ethical Compliance Auditors and the engagement of third party auditors in countries of production where they do not have dedicated resources.

This response gives encouragement that our advocacy efforts can be effective.

You may like to consider sending a brief note of congratulation to Cotton On acknowledging their stance on this issue.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?