URGENT ACTION – Save the Climate Change talks from ‘failing’

The Copenhagen summit to stop the climate crisis is at risk of failing. Only massive public pressure can save it.

Over the year, TckTckTck have been working with over 250 global NGO’s. Over 12 million people have already come together in nearly every country on earth to show their support for a climate deal, now. Please sign our giant petition. If you’ve already signed, now is the time to forward it to all your friends. We need to get to 15 million supporters by the weekend to make leaders listen.


Today, the world’s leaders have arrived for an unprecedented 60 hours of direct negotiations. Experts agree that without a tidal wave of public pressure for a deal, the summit will not stop catastrophic global warming of 2 degrees.

Click here to sign the petition for a real deal in Copenhagen —  we already have a staggering 12 million supporters – let’s make it the largest petition in history in the next 72 hours! Every single name is actually being read out at the summit — sign on and be part of history. Forward this email to everyone!

Our partners have teams meeting daily with negotiators inside the summit who will organize a spectacular petition delivery to world leaders as they arrive, building a giant wall of boxes of names and reading out the names of every person who signs. With the largest petition in history, leaders will have no doubt that the whole world is watching.

Millions watched our vigil inside the summit on TV on the weekend, where Archbishop Desmond Tutu told hundreds of delegates and assembled children:

“We marched in Berlin, and the wall fell.
We marched for South Africa, and apartheid fell.
We marched at Copenhagen — and we WILL get a Real Deal.”

Copenhagen is seeking the biggest mandate in history to stop the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. History will be made in the next few days. How will our children remember this moment? Let’s tell them we did all we could.

Please sign the petition, or at any number of our partner’s websites including Avaaz, Oxfam, Greenpeace (who are running campaigns in over two dozen countries), and dozens of others. Use our tell-a-friend tool, or spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, or your other social networks.

If you’ve been waiting for the one thing you can do that might impact the negotiations, this is it!

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Children Affected by Armed Conflict – Applicable Rules?

Sometimes when you read accounts of wars and armed conflict in many places, you cannot imagine that there are any ‘rules’ that troops abide by during such conflicts. If there are any rules – are they applied and who polices them? Well there is some good news – International Humanitarian Law is continually being developed and can be applied through the International Courts. INEE has added the article below in its bi-weekly newsletter:

PUBLICATION: The UN Security Council’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on Children Affected by Armed Conflict – Applicable Rules of International Humanitarian Law

(UN)

This working paper aims to present the legal framework under international humanitarian law and related instruments applicable to the UN Security Council’s monitoring and reporting mechanism (MRM) on children affected by armed conflict. This mechanism monitors and reports on the six grave violations against children committed by parties to armed conflict. The six grave violations form the basis of the Security Council’s architecture in protecting children during war and include:

  1. Killing or maiming of children
  2. Recruitment or use of children as soldiers
  3. Rape and other grave sexual abuse of children
  4. Abduction of children
  5. Attacks against schools or hospitals
  6. Denial of humanitarian access for children

The working paper provides detailed information on each of the six grave violations.  Further, the report details the rights afforded to civilians, in specific children, in situations of conflict under international humanitarian law.

For access to the complete report, please click here.


And some more news about war and law,again from INEE:

ARTICLE: The Ambiguous Protection of Schools Under the Law of War – Time For Parity With Hospitals and Religious Buildings

(Gregory Raymond Bart)

An article in the Georgetown Journal of International Law by Gregory Raymond Bart addresses the disparate treatment of schools compared to hospitals and religious buildings under the law of war. According to Bart, a disturbing trend during recent armed conflicts has been the propensity to treat school buildings less respectively than hospitals and religious buildings. One important cause of this trend is the different privileged status afforded to each building type under the law of war.

The law of war equally forbids targeting hospitals, religious buildings, schools, and other civilian buildings unless they become justifiable military objectives. But ironically, it fails to equally protect these buildings from being used for such objectives in the first place. Under the law of war’s privileges for civilian hospitals and most religious buildings, armed forces cannot use these buildings for military purposes ­­– without exception. However, in contrast, according to the law of war schools are allowed to be used for military purposes if necessary. This is surprising because military use results in a school being transformed from being a protected site into a justifiable target for an opposing army. Even more troubling, such use increases the likelihood that an opposing army will confuse converted and unconverted schools and wrongfully attack one that shelters children and other civilians.

Bart identifies three critical issues that affect attempts by regimes to establish privileged status for a specific type of building during war: 1) defining which buildings qualify; 2) ensuring maintenance of privileged status by prohibiting their military use; and 3) ensuring their recognition by armed forces. Bart concludes that the law of war has evolved over the past century to better protect hospitals and religious buildings by addressing these issues. The current privilege for schools needs to similarly evolve. Most importantly, it should prohibit armies from using school buildings for military purposes.

For access to the full article, please click here.

Further resources on this topic can be found on the INEE blog here:
http://www.ineesite.org/index.php/post/protecting_education_from_attack/

UN Climate Change Conference – Free Disaster Risk Reduction Resources

INEE has done it again  -providing comprehensive support resources for activities to reach the most vulnerable.

The fifteenth United Nations climate change conference (COP15)  is taking place from December 7 to 18 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Government leaders and scientists from nearly 200 nations will gather to discuss carbon emissions curbs, clean energy and other issues related to the global environment.

We’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the fact that natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity. The average number of natural disasters has increased from 200 a year to more than 400 today, and this is predicted to increase by as much as 320 percent in the next 20 years.

Save the Children estimates that over the next decade 175 million children per year will be affected by these disasters. As disaster risk reduction is a first step in helping communities to adapt to increasingly intense and frequent natural disasters, child-centered risk reduction should be a cornerstone of climate change adaptation. The INEE network advocates that members work to meet the goals of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) through education by:

  • Creating safe learning environments with safe construction and retrofitting
  • Maintaining safe learning environments through school disaster management
  • Protecting access to education with educational continuity planning
  • Learning and teaching about disaster prevention and preparedness in formal and non-formal environments
  • Building a culture of access and safety; promoting schools as centers for community risk reduction

INEE is mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and risk management into its work and resources through the following initiatives and good practice tools:

  • INEE Minimum Standards Training Materials focused on DRR: INEE has adapted its training documents, the INEE Minimum Standards Training Guide and Trainers Workbook, with a focus on DRR. These materials, designed for a 3-day training but adaptable for other durations, can be used to guide policy makers and practitioners to better understand and integrate disaster risk reduction into their work, including contextualising the INEE Minimum Standards and other tools toward this goal.
  • INEE Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction provide a framework of guiding principles and general steps to develop a context-specific plan for safer school construction and/or retrofitting initiative.  Click here to download the Guidance Notes in English. Click here to download the User’s Guide and Feedback Form, which provides talking points on what the guidance notes are, why they are important, who should use them, how they should be used, and how you can provide feedback to improve them.

Specific tools and resources (INEE)

TOOL: Disaster Prevention for Schools

(ISDR)

This guidance document is for school administrators, teachers, education authorities and school safety committees. It reviews strategies for disaster prevention for schools; creating and maintaining safe learning environments; teaching and learning disaster prevention and preparedness, educational materials and teacher training, and developing a culture of safety.

TOOL:  Child Friendly Schools Infrastructure Standards and Guidelines

(Ministry of Education, Rwanda)

This document outlines the infrastructure standards which are expected to be meet by all Primary and Tronc Commun schools in the Republic of Rwanda. Through this document the Ministry of Education of Rwanda sets clear standards and gives practical guidance on how to achieve them. These standards have been developed through a comprehensive consultation process with the school communities including head teachers, staff members and pupils. Then these concerns were further developed through technical expert review process where many specialists from organizations have contributed. The draft was then presented at regional and national consultation meeting where directors of education, head teachers and teachers from public and private schools gathered to give their inputs. It is with all these inputs that a Rwanda-specific standard and guidelines were able to be drafted.
TOOL: Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction into School Curriculum

(The Regional Consultative Committee on Disaster Management)

These guidelines were developed to guide member countries in introducing and integrating DRR into school curricula. It shares good practices from several countries, from highlighting key approaches to mainstreaming DRR into the curricula to articulating suggesting steps for priority partnerships. The tool also highlights long term activities that are essential to institutionalization.


OECD: Draft Policy Handbook on Natural Hazard Awareness and Disaster Risk Reduction Education

(Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)

The growing impact of natural hazards on OECD and non-member economies has stimulated a demand for an in-depth evaluation of possible strategies to reduce their large-scale damaging effects. In both developed and emerging countries, the rise in direct and indirect costs of disasters is caused by several factors, most of which are human-induced. The increased vulnerability and exposure of people and assets to natural perils are, in significant part, due to the growing concentration of people and values in conurbations, inadequate land-use zoning and planning, inadequate construction standards, environmental degradation, the inability to adapt to climate change, and an insufficient level of disaster risk preparedness.  This handbook is aimed at providing policy guidance in the field of natural hazard awareness and disaster risk reduction education to OECD and non-member governments.

ARTICLES: Child’s Right to a Safer School: Lessons from Asia
(Southasiadisaster.net)

In any disaster situation anywhere in the world-be it a human induced or natural-children are among the most vulnerable groups.  At the same time, there are many unheard/unpublished stories of children dead due to both human-induced and natural disasters.  The following journal on school safety was designed as a special issue for the Asian Conference for Disaster Reduction in 2007. In this issue readers will find several articles with direct reference to all aspects of school safety, such as: Society’s Responsibility: Safer Schools, A Community-based Approach for School Safety and Education for Disaster Reduction, and Let Our Children Teach Us!

WEBSITE: Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project (CDMP): School/Shelter Hazard Vulnerability Reduction Resource Page: http://www.oas.org/CDMP/schools/schlrcsc.htm

(Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project)

The Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project has constructed this webpage with several resources on school safety, including on the importance and vulnerability of school buildings, steps to reduce the vulnerability of school buildings, the maintenance of school buildings and how to take the initiative to move forward projects and policies.  The web page also includes links directing users towards crucial information and organizations involved in the school safety and DRR.

WEBSITE: School Safety and Security: www.oecd.org/edu/schoolsafety (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has established a new page on their website for ‘School Safety and Security.’  OECD states that, “a safe and secure environment is a prerequisite for effective teaching and learning. Threats to the safety and security of people and property can arise from natural hazards – for example earthquake, floods and storms – or from human actions – such as vandalism, arson, and violent crime. While catastrophic events and human tragedies cannot be eliminated entirely, there is a role for facility designers, institutional managers, emergency response teams, and post-crisis intervention in mitigating their negative impact.”  On this webpage users can locate current resources on safer school construction along with upcoming events and other pertinent information regarding school safety.

Further resources relevant to climate change and humanitarian response (INEE):
REPORT: Feeling the Heat – Child Survival in a Changing Climate
(Save the Children)

Save the Children’s new report states that climate change is a real threat to children in the 21st century and is an immediate global emergency. Children are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and adaptation therefore must involve children and support interventions responding to their needs and priorities. Within the context of climate change, access to education is a critical issue.  Women in affected communities identify education as an essential strategy to help their children adapt to the effects of climate change in the long term. In addition, education is vital for empowerment and for maternal, newborn and child survival. Nonetheless, girls’ access to education during conflict or natural disasters can be severely reduced. Girls are the first to be taken out of school to support their families, carry out household chores or work to bring in extra income. As these situations intensify and become more frequent as a result of climate change, girls’ access to education could be further compromised. Women and children must be consulted and involved in strategies to adapt to climate change. Women show exceptional leadership and are the first to make changes in their communities and for their children to reduce disaster risk as well as adapt to climate change. Unless women are involved in decision-making, leadership and implementation, efforts to reduce the risks associated with disasters and climate change are unlikely to succeed.

The report also advocates for investment in child focused DRR. It asserts that activities undertaken before the onset of a natural disaster can build people’s resilience to shocks and help ensure that children and their families are as prepared as they can be. The report notes that the proliferation of natural disasters – including small-scale, climate-related events – will challenge the humanitarian system’s ability to respond. In order to meet increased needs, aid must be swift and well targeted, and donors must ensure that staff on the ground are in a position to scale up quickly. Wherever possible, it will be crucial to help communities prepare for and respond to the increasingly frequent threat of disaster.

REPORT: Climate Change, Conflict and Fragility
(International Alert)

Just under three billion people live in 46 conflict-affected countries where climate change could create a high risk of violent conflict, according to International Alert’s 2007 report, A Climate of Conflict.  Its new report Climate Change, Conflict and Fragility urges policy-makers to take into account the interaction between the impact of climate change and the social and political realities in which people live that will determine their capacity to adapt.The political dimension of adapting to climate change, and the underlying causes of vulnerability in a state unable to carry out its core functions, has to be factored in. In particular, the report recommends that adaptation to climate change be conflict sensitive, responding to the needs of the people, involving them in consultation, taking account of power distribution and social order and avoiding pitting groups against each other. It also recommends that greater efforts be taken to plan for and cope peacefully with climate-related migration.

REPORT: Future floods of refugees – climate change, conflict and forced migration
(NRC)

This report asserts that climate and environmental issues are among the underlying causes of migration, and that climate change can trigger conflict and displacement. It deals with the form and scope of future displacement in addition to protection and preventive measures. The report recommends that climate change adaptation in developing countries be given priority together with mitigation and emission-reducing measures. Financial resources must be made available to countries that bear the consequences of forced migration related to climate change.

REPORT:  Monitoring Disaster Displacement in the Context of Climate Change
(IDMC, NRC, OCHA)

To date, there have been no reliable estimates on forced displacement driven by climate change related disasters, nor a methodology for making such estimates.  This study provides for the first time a reliable estimate of the scale of forced displacement caused by rapid-onset natural disasters in 2008, with a special focus on climate related disasters and proposes a methodology to monitor disaster-related displacement on an ongoing basis. It looks at natural disasters and forced displacement in the context of climate change in order to provide an estimate of forced displacement related to disasters in 2008, specifically climate-related disasters; and secondly, to propose a methodology that could be applied to monitor disaster-related displacement on an ongoing basis. The findings show that at least 36 million people were displaced by sudden-onset natural disasters in 2008. Of those, over 20 million were displaced by sudden-onset climate-related disasters. As a reference, the total population of people living in forced displacement due to conflict, including IDPs and refugees, was 42 million in 2008, with 4.6 million having been newly internally displaced during the year. It is likely that many more are displaced due to the other climate change-related drivers, including slow-onset disasters, such as drought and sea level rise; however the study does not present an estimate of their number.

EPORT: Addressing the Humanitarian Challenges of Climate Change Regional and National Perspectives: Preliminary Findings from the IASC Regional and National Level Consultations
(OCHA, ICRC, WFP)

Climate change is one of the major global challenges for humanity in the 21st century; and yet it is only in the last few years that the human face of climate change – the socioeconomic and humanitarian dimension – has been fully acknowledged. While climate change has global repercussions, the most vulnerable communities will experience the greatest impacts from climate and disaster risk; climate change is threatening the lives and livelihoods of these communities, eroding their resilience and undermining opportunities for sustainable development. As a result, climate change threatens to overwhelm the current capacity of the humanitarian system to respond effectively by increasing hazards, vulnerabilities and response costs.  Addressing climate change demands a multi-faceted and coordinated response at all levels. This document represents the initial outcomes of the first round of regional and country level consultations, including stocktaking and an overview of the challenges, opportunities and next steps.

ARTICLES: Forced Migration Review 31: Climate change and displacement
(Forced Migration Review)

In response to growing pressures on landscapes and livelihoods, people are moving, communities are adapting. This issue of FMR debates the numbers, the definitions and the modalities – and the tension between the need for research and the need to act. Thirty-eight articles by UN, academic, international and local actors explore the extent of the potential displacement crisis, community adaptation and coping strategies, and the search for solutions. The issue also includes a range of articles on other aspects of forced migration.

POLICY PAPER: Climate Change and Adaptation Response: Principles and approaches for field programs
(InterAction)

This policy paper articulates principles and approaches for field programs in response to climate change and adaptation.  It highlights that the number of disasters and disaster-affect­ed people grew from 1.6 billion in 1984-1993 to 2.6 bil­lion in 1994-2003 but that despite the increasing frequen­cy of disaster events and growing numbers of at-risk people, investments in disaster management have reduced deaths. Up-front investment in adaptation mea­sures will greatly reduce the impending costs of climate change. The principles, challenges and strategies highlighted are relevant to education programming.

WEBSITE and REPORT: Second Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction
Website: http://www.preventionweb.net/globalplatform/2009/
Report: http://www.preventionweb.net/files/section/193_GPProceedingsFINAL.pdf
(ISDR)

This website documents proceedings and outcome of the second session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, including a report on the proceedings, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland from 16-19 June 2009. The Chair’s Summary and documents on the outcomes, including recommendations from National Platforms, Parliamentarians, the ISDR Management Oversight Board and on climate change adaptation, gender, youth engagement in disaster risk reduction. There are also reports specific to education, such as from the Roundtable on Risk Round Table 4: Risk Reduction Education
http://www.preventionweb.net/globalplatform/2009/programme/roundtable/v.php?id=118

WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS DAY – more FREE resources

WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS DAY -Non-discrimination – December 10th 2009

Do we agree on ‘DAYS’ ? One answer ,of course, is  to say if it  is that important, every day should be human rights day. And so it should. As human rights are so important for everyone,rich,poor,old,young,white,black…then everyone has a stake on whether it is important or not.

Anyway at least the day raises a little more  awareness leading to  action for the following year.

As usual INEE provides some good resources for educators around the globe and here is a sample. Go their website for more

Peter Hyll-Larsen from the Right to Education Project housed by ActionAid and the INEE Minimum Standards Update Focal Point for Rights as a cross cutting issue, has written a blog post to mark this thematic focus of World Human Rights Day –  Non-discrimination in education in emergencies: the fundamental challenge.

TOOL: Education in Emergencies – Including Everyone: INEE’s Pocket Guide to Inclusive Education

This is a quick reference guide to help practitioners make sure that education in emergencies is accessible and inclusive for everyone, particularly those who have been traditionally excluded from education. Addressing the immediate educational needs of a diverse range of learners during emergencies is often seen as challenging, especially during the acute phase. Questions about what inclusive education looks like in practice, and how it translates into emergency settings, are common. There is often a misunderstanding that greater stability is needed before efforts to reach excluded groups can move forward. However, there are actions that everyone involved in an emergency education response can take, from the start, to include more people in learning. This guide looks at how to make education in emergencies more accessible for everyone, particularly those often excluded from education.

The Pocket Guide is for anyone working to provide, manage or support education services in emergencies, and offers practical actions that stakeholders in education in an emergency can take to improve inclusion. The booklet provides three types of information:

  1. Advice on practical ways to make each stage of an emergency response moreinclusive
  2. Ideas for addressing resistance or lack of awareness of inclusive approaches among other stakeholders
  3. A selection of key resources and materials that offer more detailed ideas on making emergency education responses more inclusive of marginalized groups

Click here to download Education in Emergencies: Including Everyone, the INEE pocket guide to inclusive education.

You can also order hard copies of the Pocket Guide in English here.

You can pre-order French, Arabic and Spanish copies by emailing admin@ineesite.org.

WEBPAGE: The Right to Education Resource Webpage on Education and Discrimination

A collection of Human Rights documents on education and discrimination, including highlights from relevant international conventions and General Comments from the Council on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  Click here.

TRAINING MANUAL and TOOLKIT: Non-Discrimination in Emergencies

(Save the Children)

This training manual and toolkit builds on the experiences of Save the Children’s work in emergencies across the world and is applicable to man-made or natural emergencies. It draws on the experiences gained in the 2004 tsunami response and this is reflected in many of the examples used. The publication aims to provide easy-to-use training materials and tools for highlighting discrimination with partners, communities and children in all emergency contexts. The manual has three functions:

  • a manual for trainers who may be new to work on non-discrimination in emergencies, offering tips on designing training for diverse audiences;
  • to provide exercises to raise awareness and increase knowledge about discrimination in emergencies;
  • a toolkit of easy-to-use checklists and handouts for reference

To access this training manual and toolkit, please click here.

THEMATIC GUIDE: INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit Thematic Guide on Human Rights

(Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies)

This Thematic Guide draws together the most practical and concrete tools and resources relating to Human and Child Rights to help education practitioners and policymakers meet the INEE Minimum Standards. Click here to download this collation.

RESEARCH: Education in Emergencies in South Asia – Reducing the Risks Facing Vulnerable Children

(Centre for International Education and research, University of Birmingham and UNICEF ROSA)

This research study documents the range of vulnerabilities in the South Asia and some of the programming strategies to address these groups. There are also 8 country studies. The underlying principle of the research is that of non-exclusion, but also then enhancing capability for the future. The premise is that by creating and building on ‘good’ schools or learning spaces, founded on the rights of the child, the vulnerable will be more likely to have their concerns addressed.

For access to the complete study, please click here.

TRAINING MATERIALS: Making a Difference -Promoting Diversity and Tackling Discrimination

(Save the Children)

These materials have been prepared for Save the Children UK to help programme staff analyse how discrimination impacts on the lives of children, in order to plan effective programming responses. We hope the materials will be used widely by colleagues in organisations wishing to explore issues of diversity and discrimination.

The workshop activities are divided into four categories:

  • Awareness: for use with participants who have a limited awareness of diversity and discrimination issues; or who have a detailed knowledge of one issue of difference, but no experience of integrating other issues of difference into their work.
  • Assessment and analysis: for participants who already have an initial awareness of diversity and discrimination issues, but who lack, confidence or ideas for how to get started in applying the theory to practical planning, implementation and review. Some of these activities can also be adapted for use with partners and stakeholders as part of baseline research in planning and review processes, not just as staff training activities.
  • Action: provides frameworks to help participants implement actions to promote diversity and non-discrimination.
  • Gathering and verifying information: provides ideas for different ways of collecting and checking the information that participants will draw on when analyzing the current situation and developing plans for intervention.

To download these training materials, click here.

Climate Change – the real truth?

Of course no matter what people say we do not know the truth but we may know some of the truths.

What is more troubling about the climate change debate is that, as usual, it is being hijacked. On one side climate change activists may leave out some important facts, because we are not all scientists and we would not understand ( I heard this argument put forward as a reason for children being excluded from the climate change debate -they are too young to understand).

On the other side -the climate change denyers/disbelievers -they often have vested interests and damn all evidence as being trumped up by governments who want to tax people more.

What has been forgotten is the sum total of our destructiveness – we have forgotten about the plundering of the tropical rain forests, overfishing of the oceans, urban pollution, destruction of habitat and species and the list gets longer each day. It is the sum total of our effects on our environment that we should be concerned about –  not just climate change. The evidence about climate change has to be seen in the context of recent human activities (which we know a lot about) and the broader climatic cycles that can only be interpreted through archaeological and geological studies (such as inter-glacial periods etc) which we are still learning about.

What do we know about?

Habitat destruction

Habitat destruction

The expansion of agricultural activity has led to the destruction of huge areas of natural habitats, including forests, grasslands and wetlands, in nearly all regions of the world. For tropical forests, the richest habitat for biodiversity, logging is typically the first major pressure, often providing access to remote areas and leading to further clearance and degradation. The expansion and development of urban areas and infrastructure also reduces natural habitats, and new roads give access to additional areas, which results in further losses. The relative importance of these factors varies in different parts of the world (box 2), but all play a significant part in the destruction of habitats and therefore in driving ecosystem change.

habitat destruction

Pollution

The urban areas of Europe, North and South America as well as Asia are some the world’s major producers of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution. Other significant polluters are the coal-fired power stations of South Africa and bio-mass burning in other parts of the African continent. Heavily used shipping lanes such as the Red Sea also contribute significantly to the earth’s man-made pollution.

These are some of the findings of 18 months of observations by the European Space Agency (ESA) satellite Envisat. The images produced by Envisat make clear the impact of human activities on air quality and the spread of urban pollution.

no2levels_europe

Overfishing

zambezi_overfishing

Is overfishing a problem?

The FAO scientists publish a two yearly report (SOFIA) on the state of the world’s fisheries and aquaculture. 2 The report is generally rather conservative regarding the acknowledging of problems but does show the main issues. In general it can be stated that the SOFIA report is a number of years behind time of the real situation.

  • 52% of fish stocks are fully exploited
  • 20% are moderately exploited
  • 17% are overexploited
  • 7% are depleted
  • 1% is recovering from depletion

The above shows that over 25% of all the world’s fish stocks are either overexploited or depleted. Another 52% is fully exploited, these are in imminent danger of overexploitation (maximum sustainable production level) and collapse. Thus a total of almost 80% of the world’s fisheries are fully- to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse. Worldwide about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone. In the real world all this comes down to two serious problems.

  • We are losing species as well as entire ecosystems. As a result the overall ecological unity of our oceans are under stress and at risk of collapse.
  • We are in risk of losing a valuable food source many depend upon for social, economical or dietary reasons.

Examples of the outcomes from overfishing exist in areas such as the North Sea of Europe, the Grand Banks of North America and the East China Sea of Asia.[2] In these locations, overfishing has not only proved disastrous to fish stocks but also to the fishing communities relying on the harvest. Like other extractive industries such as forestry and hunting, fishery is susceptible to economic interaction between ownership or stewardship and sustainability, otherwise known as the tragedy of the commons.

And now the arguments about climate change (ref:BBC)

So what are their arguments, and how are they countered by scientists who assert that greenhouse gases, produced by human activity, are the cause of modern-day climate change?

1. EVIDENCE THAT THE EARTH’S TEMPERATURE IS GETTING WARMER IS UNCLEAR
Sceptic Counter
Instruments show there has been some warming of the Earth’s surface since 1979, but the actual value is subject to large errors. Most long-term data comes from surface weather stations. Many of these are in urban centres which have been expanding and using more energy. When these stations observe a temperature rise, they are simply measuring the “urban heat island effect”. In addition, coverage is patchy, with some regions of the world almost devoid of instruments. Data going back further than a century or two is derived from “proxy” indicators such as tree-rings and stalactites which, again, are subject to large errors. Warming is unequivocal. Ocean measurements, decreases in snow cover, reductions in Arctic sea ice, longer growing seasons, balloon measurements, boreholes and satellites all show results consistent with records from surface weather stations. The urban heat island effect is real but small; and it has been studied and corrected for. Analyses by Nasa, for example, use only rural stations to calculate trends. Research has shown that if you analyse long-term global temperature rise for windy days and calm days separately, there is no difference. If the urban heat island effect were large, you would expect to see more warming on calm days when more of the heat stays in the city. Furthermore, the pattern of warming globally doesn’t resemble the pattern of urbanisation, with the greatest warming seen in the Arctic and northern high latitudes. Globally, there is a warming trend of about 0.8C since 1900, more than half of which has occurred since 1979.
2. IF THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE WAS RISING, IT HAS NOW STOPPED
Sceptic Counter
Since 1998 – more than a decade – the record, as determined by observations from satellites and balloon radiosondes, shows no discernible warming. The year 1998 was exceptionally warm because of a strong El Nino event, while 2008 was unusually cold because of La Nina conditions. Variability from year to year is expected, and picking a specific warm year to start an analysis (or a cold one to end with) is “cherry-picking”. If you start in 1997 or 1999 you will see a sharp rise. Furthermore, while the UK Met Office regards 1998 as the hottest year yet, Nasa thinks it was 2005 (they use the same data but interpret it differently). According to the Met Office, the 10 warmest years in the modern record have all occurred since 1997.
3. THE EARTH HAS BEEN WARMER IN THE RECENT PAST
Sceptic Counter
The beginning of the last Millennium saw a “Medieval Warm Period” when temperatures, certainly in Europe, were higher than they are now. Grapes grew in northern England. Ice-bound mountain passes opened in the Alps. The Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than it is today. There have been many periods in Earth history that were warmer than today – for example, the last interglacial (125,000 years ago) or the Pliocene (three million years ago). Those variations were caused by solar forcing, the Earth’s orbital wobbles or continental configurations; but none of those factors is significant today compared with greenhouse warming. Evidence for a Medieval Warm Period outside Europe is patchy at best, and is often not contemporary with the warmth in Europe. As the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) puts it: “The idea of a global or hemispheric Medieval Warm Period that was warmer than today has turned out to be incorrect.” Additionally, although the Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than in the following few decades, it is now warmer still. One recent analysis showed it is warmer now than at any time in the last 2,000 years.
4. COMPUTER MODELS ARE NOT RELIABLE
Sceptic Counter
Computer models are the main way of projecting future climate change. But despite decades of development they are unable to model all the processes involved; for example, the influence of clouds, the distribution of water vapour, the impact of warm seawater on ice-shelves and the response of plants to changes in water supply. Climate models follow the old maxim of “you put garbage in, you get garbage out”. Models will never be perfect and they will never be able to forecast the future exactly. However, they are tested and validated against all sorts of data. Over the last 20 years they have become able to simulate more physical, chemical and biological processes, and work on smaller spatial scales. The 2007 IPCC report produced regional climate projections in detail that would have been impossible in its 2001 assessment. All of the robust results from modelling are backed up by theoretical science or observations.
5. THE ATMOSPHERE IS NOT BEHAVING AS MODELS WOULD PREDICT
Sceptic Counter
Computer models predict that the lower levels of the atmosphere, the troposphere, should be warming faster than the Earth’s surface. Measurements show the opposite. So either the models are failing, or one set of measurements is flawed, or there are holes in our understanding of the science. Interpretation of the satellite data has not always been straightforward – but it does not show the opposite of what computer models predict. Two separate analyses show consistent warming, one faster than the surface and one slightly less fast. Information from balloons has its own problems but the IPCC concluded in 2007: “For the period since 1958, overall global and tropical tropospheric warming estimated from radiosondes has slightly exceeded surface warming”.
6. CLIMATE IS MAINLY INFLUENCED BY THE SUN
Sceptic Counter
Earth history shows climate has regularly responded to cyclical changes in the Sun’s energy output. Any warming we see can be attributed mainly to variations in the Sun’s magnetic field and solar wind. Solar variations do affect climate, but they are not the only factor. As there has been no positive trend in any solar index since the 1960s (and a negative trend more recently), solar forcing cannot be responsible for the recent temperature trends. The difference between the solar minimum and solar maximum over the 11-year solar cycle is 10 times smaller than the effect of greenhouse gases over the same interval.
7. A CARBON DIOXIDE RISE HAS ALWAYS COME AFTER A TEMPERATURE INCREASE NOT BEFORE
Sceptic Counter
Ice-cores dating back nearly one million years show a pattern of temperature and CO2 rise at roughly 100,000-year intervals. But the CO2 rise has always come after the temperature rise, not before, presumably as warmer temperatures have liberated the gas from oceans. This is largely true, but largely irrelevant. Ancient ice-cores do show CO2 rising after temperature by a few hundred years – a timescale associated with the ocean response to atmospheric changes mainly driven by wobbles in the Earth’s orbit. However, this time, CO2 is leading temperature. Furthermore, the situation today is dramatically different. The extra CO2 in the atmosphere (35% increase over pre-industrial levels) is from man-made emissions, and levels are higher than have been seen in 650,000 years of ice-core records. They may in fact be higher than at any time in the last three million years.
8. LONG-TERM DATA ON HURRICANES AND ARCTIC ICE IS TOO POOR TO ASSESS TRENDS
Sceptic Counter
Before the era of satellite observation began in the 1970s, measurements were ad-hoc and haphazard. Hurricanes would be reported only if they hit land or shipping. The extent of Arctic ice was measured only during expeditions. The satellite record for these phenomena is too short to justify claims that hurricanes are becoming stronger or more frequent, or that there is anything exceptional about the apparent shrinkage in Arctic ice up to 2007. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment project notes that systematic collection of data in parts of the Arctic began in the late 18th Century. The US National Hurricane Center notes that “organised reconnaissance” for Atlantic storms began in 1944. So although historical data is not as complete as one might like, conclusions can still be drawn from it. And the IPCC does not claim that global warming will make hurricanes more frequent – its 2007 report says that if anything, they are likely to become less frequent, but more intense.
9. WATER VAPOUR IS THE MAJOR GREENHOUSE GAS; CO2 IS RELATIVELY UNIMPORTANT
Sceptic Counter
The natural greenhouse effect keeps the Earth’s surface about 33C warmer than it would otherwise be. Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas, accounting for about 98% of all warming. So changes in carbon dioxide or methane concentrations would have a relatively small impact. Water vapour concentrations are rising, but this does not necessarily increase warming – it depends how the water vapour is distributed. The statement that water vapour is “98% of the greenhouse effect” is simply false. In fact, it does about 50% of the work; clouds add another 25%, with CO2 and the other greenhouse gases contributing the remaining quarter. Water vapour concentrations are increasing in response to rising temperatures, and there is evidence that this is adding to warming, for example in Europe. The fact that water vapour is a feedback is included in all climate models.
10. PROBLEMS SUCH AS HIV/AIDS AND POVERTY ARE MORE PRESSING THAN CLIMATE CHANGE
Sceptic Counter
The Kyoto Protocol has not reduced emissions of greenhouse gases noticeably. The targets were too low, applied only to certain countries, and have been rendered meaningless by loopholes. Many governments that enthuse about the treaty and want a successor are not going to meet the reduction targets that they signed up to in Kyoto. Even if it is real, man-made climate change is just one problem among many facing the world’s rich and poor alike. Governments and societies should respond proportionately, not pretend that climate is a special case. Poorer countries should not be forced to constrain their emissions and therefore their economic growth, as they will be under a Copenhagen treaty. Some economists believe that a warmer climate would, on balance, improve lives. Arguments over the Kyoto Protocol are outside the realms of science, although it certainly has not reduced greenhouse gas emissions as far or as fast as the IPCC indicates is necessary. The latest IPCC Working Group 2 report suggest that the impact of man-made climate change will on balance be deleterious, particular to the poorer countries of the tropics, although colder regions may see benefits such as increased crop yields. Investment in energy efficiency, new energy technologies and renewables are likely to benefit the developing world. A Copenhagen treaty would not force emission constraints on the world’s poorest countries – in fact, it will funnel money to them for technology and climate protection, helping clean growth. More affluent developing countries – including China – will have to constrain their emissions growth but they agreed to this at the 2007 Bali summit.
In case the two columns are not completely visible,I will try and separate them for ease of use:

1. EVIDENCE THAT THE EARTH’S TEMPERATURE IS GETTING WARMER IS UNCLEAR

Sceptic

Instruments show there has been some warming of the Earth’s surface since 1979, but the actual value is subject to large errors. Most long-term data comes from surface weather stations. Many of these are in urban centres which have been expanding and using more energy. When these stations observe a temperature rise, they are simply measuring the “urban heat island effect”. In addition, coverage is patchy, with some regions of the world almost devoid of instruments. Data going back further than a century or two is derived from “proxy” indicators such as tree-rings and stalactites which, again, are subject to large errors.

Counter

Warming is unequivocal. Ocean measurements, decreases in snow cover, reductions in Arctic sea ice, longer growing seasons, balloon measurements, boreholes and satellites all show results consistent with records from surface weather stations. The urban heat island effect is real but small; and it has been studied and corrected for. Analyses by Nasa, for example, use only rural stations to calculate trends. Research has shown that if you analyse long-term global temperature rise for windy days and calm days separately, there is no difference. If the urban heat island effect were large, you would expect to see more warming on calm days when more of the heat stays in the city. Furthermore, the pattern of warming globally doesn’t resemble the pattern of urbanisation, with the greatest warming seen in the Arctic and northern high latitudes. Globally, there is a warming trend of about 0.8C since 1900, more than half of which has occurred since 1979.

2. IF THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE WAS RISING, IT HAS NOW STOPPED

Sceptic

Since 1998 – more than a decade – the record, as determined by observations from satellites and balloon radiosondes, shows no discernible warming.

The year 1998 was exceptionally warm because of a strong El Nino event, while 2008 was unusually cold because of La Nina conditions. Variability from year to year is expected, and picking a specific warm year to start an analysis (or a cold one to end with) is “cherry-picking”. If you start in 1997 or 1999 you will see a sharp rise. Furthermore, while the UK Met Office regards 1998 as the hottest year yet, Nasa thinks it was 2005 (they use the same data but interpret it differently). According to the Met Office, the 10 warmest years in the modern record have all occurred since 19

3. THE EARTH HAS BEEN WARMER IN THE RECENT PAST

Sceptic

The beginning of the last Millennium saw a “Medieval Warm Period” when temperatures, certainly in Europe, were higher than they are now. Grapes grew in northern England. Ice-bound mountain passes opened in the Alps. The Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than it is today

Counter

There have been many periods in Earth history that were warmer than today – for example, the last interglacial (125,000 years ago) or the Pliocene (three million years ago). Those variations were caused by solar forcing, the Earth’s orbital wobbles or continental configurations; but none of those factors is significant today compared with greenhouse warming. Evidence for a Medieval Warm Period outside Europe is patchy at best, and is often not contemporary with the warmth in Europe. As the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) puts it: “The idea of a global or hemispheric Medieval Warm Period that was warmer than today has turned out to be incorrect.” Additionally, although the Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than in the following few decades, it is now warmer still. One recent analysis showed it is warmer now than at any time in the last 2,000 years.

4.computer models

Computer models are the main way of projecting future climate change. But despite decades of development they are unable to model all the processes involved; for example, the influence of clouds, the distribution of water vapour, the impact of warm seawater on ice-shelves and the response of plants to changes in water supply. Climate models follow the old maxim of “you put garbage in, you get garbage out”.

counter

Models will never be perfect and they will never be able to forecast the future exactly. However, they are tested and validated against all sorts of data. Over the last 20 years they have become able to simulate more physical, chemical and biological processes, and work on smaller spatial scales. The 2007 IPCC report produced regional climate projections in detail that would have been impossible in its 2001 assessment. All of the robust results from modelling are backed up by theoretical science or observations.

5. THE ATMOSPHERE IS NOT BEHAVING AS MODELS WOULD PREDICT

Sceptic

Computer models predict that the lower levels of the atmosphere, the troposphere, should be warming faster than the Earth’s surface. Measurements show the opposite. So either the models are failing, or one set of measurements is flawed, or there are holes in our understanding of the science.

Counter

Interpretation of the satellite data has not always been straightforward – but it does not show the opposite of what computer models predict. Two separate analyses show consistent warming, one faster than the surface and one slightly less fast. Information from balloons has its own problems but the IPCC concluded in 2007: “For the period since 1958, overall global and tropical tropospheric warming estimated from radiosondes has slightly exceeded surface warming”.

6. CLIMATE IS MAINLY INFLUENCED BY THE SUN

Sceptic

Earth history shows climate has regularly responded to cyclical changes in the Sun’s energy output. Any warming we see can be attributed mainly to variations in the Sun’s magnetic field and solar wind.

Counter

Solar variations do affect climate, but they are not the only factor. As there has been no positive trend in any solar index since the 1960s (and a negative trend more recently), solar forcing cannot be responsible for the recent temperature trends. The difference between the solar minimum and solar maximum over the 11-year solar cycle is 10 times smaller than the effect of greenhouse gases over the same interval.

7. A CARBON DIOXIDE RISE HAS ALWAYS COME AFTER A TEMPERATURE INCREASE NOT BEFORE

Sceptic

ce-cores dating back nearly one million years show a pattern of temperature and CO2 rise at roughly 100,000-year intervals. But the CO2 rise has always come after the temperature rise, not before, presumably as warmer temperatures have liberated the gas from oceans.

Counter

This is largely true, but largely irrelevant. Ancient ice-cores do show CO2 rising after temperature by a few hundred years – a timescale associated with the ocean response to atmospheric changes mainly driven by wobbles in the Earth’s orbit. However, this time, CO2 is leading temperature. Furthermore, the situation today is dramatically different. The extra CO2 in the atmosphere (35% increase over pre-industrial levels) is from man-made emissions, and levels are higher than have been seen in 650,000 years of ice-core records.

8. LONG-TERM DATA ON HURRICANES AND ARCTIC ICE IS TOO POOR TO ASSESS TREN

Sceptic

Before the era of satellite observation began in the 1970s, measurements were ad-hoc and haphazard. Hurricanes would be reported only if they hit land or shipping. The extent of Arctic ice was measured only during expeditions. The satellite record for these phenomena is too short to justify claims that hurricanes are becoming stronger or more frequent, or that there is anything exceptional about the apparent shrinkage in Arctic ice up to 2007.

Counter

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment project notes that systematic collection of data in parts of the Arctic began in the late 18th Century. The US National Hurricane Center notes that “organised reconnaissance” for Atlantic storms began in 1944. So although historical data is not as complete as one might like, conclusions can still be drawn from it. And the IPCC does not claim that global warming will make hurricanes more frequent – its 2007 report says that if anything, they are likely to become less frequent, but more intense.

9. WATER VAPOUR IS THE MAJOR GREENHOUSE GAS; CO2 IS RELATIVELY UNIMPORTANT

Sceptic

The natural greenhouse effect keeps the Earth’s surface about 33C warmer than it would otherwise be. Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas, accounting for about 98% of all warming. So changes in carbon dioxide or methane concentrations would have a relatively small impact. Water vapour concentrations are rising, but this does not necessarily increase warming – it depends how the water vapour is distributed.

Counter

The statement that water vapour is “98% of the greenhouse effect” is simply false. In fact, it does about 50% of the work; clouds add another 25%, with CO2 and the other greenhouse gases contributing the remaining quarter. Water vapour concentrations are increasing in response to rising temperatures, and there is evidence that this is adding to warming, for example in Europe. The fact that water vapour is a feedback is included in all climate models.

10.PROBLEMS SUCH AS HIV/AIDS AND POVERTY ARE MORE PRESSING THAN CLIMATE CHANGE

Sceptic

he Kyoto Protocol has not reduced emissions of greenhouse gases noticeably. The targets were too low, applied only to certain countries, and have been rendered meaningless by loopholes. Many governments that enthuse about the treaty and want a successor are not going to meet the reduction targets that they signed up to in Kyoto. Even if it is real, man-made climate change is just one problem among many facing the world’s rich and poor alike. Governments and societies should respond proportionately, not pretend that climate is a special case. Poorer countries should not be forced to constrain their emissions and therefore their economic growth, as they will be under a Copenhagen treaty. Some economists believe that a warmer climate would, on balance, improve lives.

Counter

Arguments over the Kyoto Protocol are outside the realms of science, although it certainly has not reduced greenhouse gas emissions as far or as fast as the IPCC indicates is necessary. The latest IPCC Working Group 2 report suggest that the impact of man-made climate change will on balance be deleterious, particular to the poorer countries of the tropics, although colder regions may see benefits such as increased crop yields. Investment in energy efficiency, new energy technologies and renewables are likely to benefit the developing world. A Copenhagen treaty would not force emission constraints on the world’s poorest countries – in fact, it will funnel money to them for technology and climate protection, helping clean growth. More affluent developing countries – including China – will have to constrain their emissions growth but they agreed to this at the 2007 Bali summit

THE DEBATE CONTINUES ONLINE …….

A selection of web sites and blogs.

IPCC

UN climate convention

British Antarctic Survey

Climate Audit

Climatic Research Unit,

Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies

realclimate.org

Science and Environmental Policy Project

UK Met Office

Hadley Centre National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

UN Environment Programme data centre

US National Snow and Ice Data Center

World Meteorological Organization

Brave New Climate

Climate Change: The Next Generation

Climate Debate Daily

Climate Sanity

CO2 Science

Deltoid – global warming

Grist – climate and energy

James’ Empty Blog

Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog

New Scientist – climate


Human Rights Day – Embrace Diversity, End Discrimination

Human Rights Day 2009 focuses on ending discrimination, under the theme Embrace Diversity, End Discrimination.

“Discrimination lies at the root of many of the world’s most pressinghuman rights problems. No country is immune from this scourge. Eliminating discrimination is a duty of the highest order,” said Navi Pillay, U. N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. ““Our main objective is to help promote discrimination-free societies and a world of equal treatment for all,” she said.

The High Commissioner encouraged people everywhere to join hands in celebration of Human Rights Day to speak out and act to advocate non-discrimination and raise awareness in their local communities.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted December 10, 1948 by the international community, has served as a beacon of hope. The Declaration has been translated into more than 360 languages. It holds the Guinness World Record for most translated document in the world.

“The extraordinary vision and determination of the drafters produced a document that for the first time set out universal human rights for all people in an individual context,” U. N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

Many countries have incorporated provisions of the Declaration into their Constitutions and laws. The principles of the Declarationform the basis of numerous actions taken by the nations of the world.

Join hands to end discrimination

All human rights work can be viewed through the non-discrimination lens. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status.

These stories describe its impact on peoples’ lives and the work everyone can support to end discrimination.

Quality Education for Indigenous Peoples

The enjoyment of the right to education is not fully realized for most indigenous peoples. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says that without access to quality education indigenous communities will not be able to fully enjoy their rights. The Expert Mechanism is a group of five independent specialists who provide expertise on the rights of indigenous peoples to the Human Rights Council.

In their report to the Council on the right of indigenous peoples to education the experts say, “Deprivation of access to quality education is a major factor contributing to social marginalization, poverty and dispossession of indigenous peoples”.

The report makes the case that designing education programs for indigenous communities must take into account many factors that acknowledge the special needs of these communities. Indigenous students cannot be forced into mainstream education systems which do not integrate indigenous culture, it says.
An approach using a single model is inappropriate because of the diversity of indigenous peoples.

Promoting “indigenous perspectives, innovations and practices in an environment that replicates traditional ways of learning” is another interest of the Expert Mechanism. This includes having mother-tongue based bilingual and multilingual education at the primary as well as at higher levels. Indigenous languages should be integrated into the teaching programs. The report proposes that community members be trained as language teachers and the development of indigenous literacy material.

The report identifies gender issues as a common impediment to education for both boys and girls in indigenous communities. In fact, girls are regularly prevented from attending school. The report found that “families often prefer girls to remain at home to perform domestic chores and care for children and siblings”. When put together with other discrimination issues, this has serious social consequences for the indigenous communities.

The Expert Mechanism says that indigenous peoples have the “right to educational autonomy” including “the right to decide their own educational priorities […] as well as the right to establish and control their own educational systems and institutions, if they so choose”.

The report recommends too that human rights education be included in schools to encourage cooperation between the different cultures. The Expert Mechanism advises that “learning about human rights is the first step towards respecting, promoting and defending the rights of all individuals and peoples.” For this to happen, States must ensure funding for appropriate teaching materials and the recruitment of indigenous teachers. Education is identified by the report as “one of the best long-term financial investments that States can make.” This year on December 10, celebrate Human Rights Day by joining together to celebrate diversity and end discrimination.

22 October 2009

A story of modern slavery

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences, Gulnara Shahinian, in her latest report to the Human Rights Council, has called for comprehensive global action to eliminate the practice of bonded labour which she describes as a form of slavery. Quoting data from the International Labour Organisation, the Special Rapporteur says at a minimum, more than 12 million people are living as forced labourers. The causes are many – poverty, demand for cheap labour, unemployment, national or global crises.

“Time and realities may have changed,” Shahinian says, “but the core essence of slavery persists in modern economies. In its modern forms, we find forced labour in agriculture, domestic servitude, the garment industry, the construction industry and prostitution and in the supply chains of mainstream companies.”

Bonded labour occurs when a person offers their services in exchange for the repayment of a debt and, as part of the arrangement, loses control over work conditions and the length of the agreement. Usually there are no safeguards attached to the agreement that would normally be found with a regular loan such as reasonable conditions of repayment or agreed interest rates. Often the employer uses the debt to force individuals to work in exploitative conditions: bonded labourers commonly work very long hours, for very low wages and with no days off.

Technically, bonded labourers can end their state of servitude once the debt is repaid but as the report points out, this seldom happens. Debtors are often illiterate, lack basic maths skills and are easy prey for money lenders.

In building a profile of this form of forced labour the Special Rapporteur has found poverty first and foremost plays a crucial role: the vast majority of bonded labourers are chronically poor. Consequently, they often have little or no education, they are mostly from socially excluded groups, including indigenous people, minorities and migrants and they are more vulnerable because in many cases they have limited access to land where they might otherwise earn a living.

The Special Rapporteur is concerned that in the eyes of many, human trafficking and bonded labour are one and the same. Shahinian says seeing forced labour only through the prism of trafficking means that the magnitude of the problem is seriously underestimated. “Forced labour which may occur in the informal sector, in supply chains and export processing zones, within indigenous or minority populations and in rural areas – the overwhelming majority – is not addressed,” she says.

International efforts to sign, ratify, enforce and monitor the slavery conventions “pale in comparison” to those for trafficking, she says. Given the gravity of the human rights violations associated with bonded labour and the millions of people affected by such practices in every part of the world, it is important, the Special Rapporteur says that slavery be given its due prominence and attention.

Shahinian acknowledges that many countries have ratified the slavery conventions and the relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization. However, where laws on forced labour exist, their enforcement is limited and Shahinian says there are very few policies and programmes specifically directed at bonded labour. “Comprehensive action to eliminate this phenomenon,” she says, “requires strong political will and the coordinated actions of many Governments to enforce international law and protect the rights of all.”

4 November, 2009

Peter Gabriel and the HUB

It was an ordinary day of skateboarding dog videos on YouTube last November when a harrowing clip appeared. The grainy shots from Egypt showed police officers beating and sodomizing a man with a nightstick. The clip had been distributed by Egyptian bloggers Wael Abbas and Hossam el-Hamalawy as a call to action against police brutality.

There was one problem. YouTube has strict guidelines against graphic sexual or violent material, and suspended the bloggers’ account. Eventually the story got picked up by other bloggers and the mainstream media, and sparked international outrage that led to the prosecution of the offending officers and the reactivation of Abbas and el-Hamalawy’s YouTube account.

But with thousands of undocumented abuses playing out around the world every day, the episode highlighted the potential for an online-video network devoted to human rights. Filling that void is the Hub (hub.witness.org), a video-sharing Web site launched by ex-rock star Peter Gabriel to empower people to document and publicize unseen atrocities. Now in beta, the Hub allows anyone around the world to submit clips to a central site where its target audience of activists can connect and take action. “It’s a YouTube for human rights,” Gabriel says. And it shows how the dynamics of social networking can be applied in powerful new ways.

The Hub is an offshoot of Witness, the Brooklyn-based human-rights nonprofit that Gabriel started in 1992 after learning the extent of abuses worldwide while headlining a concert tour sponsored by Amnesty International. “What I found extraordinary was that people could suffer in this way and have their stories completely buried,” he says. “But it seemed like whenever there was video evidence, it was very hard to deny and bury and forget.”

For the past 16 years, Witness has provided video cameras to carefully selected activists and community leaders in more than 100 countries. The group has amassed one of the largest existing collections of human-rights-abuse footage and has shown its videos to policy makers and human-rights groups around the world. There have been plenty of success stories as a result, from the arrest of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo for war crimes in the Congo to raising money for land-mine victims in Senegal. Just last year, “Crying Sun,” a Witness video on the impact of war on the community of the North Caucasus mountains, was presented to Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, whose private militia had been widely criticized by human-rights organizations. Afterward, Kadyrov funded the rebuilding of homes, a school, a medical center, and other infrastructure.

Some links

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Alliances for Africa

Amnesty International

Arab Organization for Human Rights

Asian Human Rights Commission

Carter Center

Centre for Human Rights
(University of Pretoria, South Africa)

Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
(Washington College of Law, American University)

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

Derechos Human Rights

European Court of Human Rights

Human and Constitutional Rights (Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, Columbia Law School )

Human Rights Internet

Human Rights Library
(University of Minnesota)

Human Rights Watch

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

International Committee of the Red Cross

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

International Federation of Human Rights Leagues

International Institute of Human Rights

Rights International

Universal Rights Network

Women’s Human Rights


Climate change – Vietnam

Vietnam is a rapidly developing country and education still has a long way to go. Although there is a subject called social and environmental studies, the curriculum ,teaching methods and learning  process still does not prepare students for a rapidly changing world -particularly in terms of creative and problem solving activities for students. Below is the prime minister’s input to COP15:

Vietnam Responds to Climate Change

Climate change, shown by global warming and rising sea level, is one of the biggest challenges to mankind in the 21st century. The escalation in both frequency and severity of natural disasters and other extreme climate phenomena is the talk of the day in many countries around the world. Responding to climate change requires not only efforts from individual countries, but also the joint actions on the global scale for both mitigation and adaptation.

H.E. Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam 30/11/2009 16:05

In the past 50 years, Vietnam has witnessed a lot of climatic changes. For instance, the average temperature has increased by 0.5 – 0.7oC, the normal sea level has risen by 20cm, and the number of typhoons and tropical depressions rises to 7 or 8 a year. Though preventive measures have been actively taken, losses and damages from disasters are extremely severe for Vietnam. In the last 10 years alone, natural disasters have cost Vietnam around 800 lives and 1.5% of GDP a year.

According to the latest estimates, in 2100 Vietnam’s average temperature could increase by another 2.3oC and the sea level could rise by 75 to 100cm. Many areas in Vietnam could be submerged. The Mekong River delta, which produces more than 50% of rice and contributes 90% of rice export of Vietnam, could see 19-38% of its current land area submerged. Vietnam is among the few countries worst affected by the impacts of climate change, especially by rising sea level due to its long coastline that harbours many densely economic areas and communities. Moreover, the coastal communities are heavily dependent on the weather and climate because of their agricultural, fishery and forestry production. Though full assessment is yet available, it could still be confirmed that climate change has been the biggest and apparent challenge to the protection of food security in Vietnam and the world, threatening the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and the path to poverty reduction and sustainable development.

Being a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, Vietnam has been making its own efforts and closely cooperating with the world community to respond to impacts of climate change in conformity with the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” specified in the UNFCCC. The Vietnamese Government has actively been implementing the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol and has attained concrete results. The Vietnamese population is 1% of world population and the carbon dioxide emission is only 0.4% of the world. Vietnam has submitted its First National Report to the UNFCCC and is now preparing the second one. The Vietnamese Government has also approved the National Strategy on prevention and mitigation of natural disasters to 2020, published the scenarios on climate change and rising sea level to 2100.

Meanwhile, to actively respond to climate change, the Vietnamese Government approved in 2008 the National Target Programme to Respond to Climate Change (NTP-RCC). The strategic objective of the NTP-RCC is to assess the impacts of climate change on industries, sectors and provinces in each periods, and to have feasible action plans to effectively respond to climate change in both the short- and long-term to ensure sustainable development, tap all the opportunities for economic development on the low-carbon path, use energy effectively and economically, explore and use effectively new energy sources, replace fossil fuels by renewable energy, and to develop green industries. Based on climate change and sea-level rise scenarios, Vietnam is assessing the possible impacts and formulating suitable responses.

Vietnam considers responding to climate change, especially to sea-level rise as an important and crucial task to attain sustained socio-economic development. Together with domestic efforts, Vietnam has actively promoted international cooperation to have coordinated actions, joining the international community to effectively respond to climate change, protect the climatic system on Earth, prevent and mitigate natural disasters. Vietnam is committed to effectively implement measures to reduce Green House Gases (GHG) emissions with the active support of developed countries and the international community.
The Copenhagen Conference is an important milestone in the course of implementation of the Bali Roadmap. At this Conference, Vietnam brings to the world the following understandings:

First, Earth is our common house that requires the collective efforts and contributions from all nations in the fight against climate change.

Second, the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol should remain as fundamental legal documents for the international community to respond to climate change. However, the Kyoto Protocol should be revised and amended to incorporate new provisions for high GHG emission countries.

Third, developed countries should take the lead in making strong mid-term and long-term commitments on GHG reduction. These commitments should be quantifiable, reportable and verifiable in order to limit the increase of global mean temperature to not over 2¬¬0 C by the end of this century.

Fourth, developed countries should provide appropriate financial and technological assistance to countries seriously affected by climate change, especially by sea-level rise, through new financial and technology transfer mechanisms and the access to the adaptation fund.

Fifth, countries including Vietnam, which are most vulnerable to climate change and especially sea-level rise, should be given prioritised mechanisms and special supports in financing and technological transferring, and assisted to strengthen capacity to respond to climate change by high GHG emission countries. The international community should have a coordination body and develop a special support programme for these countries to effectively respond to climate change, and especially to sea-level rise.

Sixth, developing countries should actively contribute to the global efforts by developing and implementing National Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) on a voluntary basis to ensure sustainable development.
As a country providing a fifth of world food exports and also a country among the few worst affected by climate change, especially sea-level rise, Vietnam is particularly grateful for the international assistance so far and would urge for more international support in order to effectively address this challenge so as to contribute more to global food security.