Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Poverty - Greatest Environmental Threat

Without economic support, we exhaust the harvest of the earth. Calls to answer climate concerns have come to naught in the recent meetings. Do the IFIs not breathe the air we breathe?


PERVERSE government subsidies are contributing to the plundering of the world's environment, with collapsing fish stocks among the biggest problems, said Mike Moore, former head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Among the worst-hit regions are waters off Africa which draw fishing fleets from East Asia, a trend aided by incentives such as tax deductions for fuel, Mr Moore said.

"So what happens, frequently, is these guys get the tender, and vacuum the lot out," he told the United Nations Environment Programme's Finance Initiative conference in Melbourne. "There's no incentive to be sustainable. And frequently the money doesn't even make it to the (African) country because it's cheaper to put in a bank in Switzerland for the politicians."

Mr Moore, a former prime minister of New Zealand, welcomed the gathering of bankers, insurers and financial industry delegates as an opportunity for "some very old ideas" to prevail against governments' tendency to opt for closed markets that stymie trade and hurt growth. "The greatest threat to the environment is poverty," he said.

Mr Moore also railed against big retailers counting "food miles" to curb carbon emissions from transport by encouraging consumers to opt for local produce. Farmers from Kenya, for instance, would suffer, he said.

By contrast, Michael Hawker, chief executive of Insurance Australia Group, hailed consumers as "the biggest driver" in forcing companies to be transparent about their greenhouse gas emissions and curb them.

Mr Moore also ruled out the WTO as a body that could lead global efforts to curb carbon emissions, by penalising countries that benefited from others' costly actions but took none of their own, for instance. It would take just one member's veto to block such WTO action. "In a perfect world, yes, of course, it should be inside an international institution," he said. "I just can't see us managing to do that in the next five years."

Paul Dickinson, chief executive of the Carbon Disclosure Project, which surveys companies' carbon action, however, said the time for dithering by nations was running out: "The development of carbon markets is rudimentary at the very least, and certainly not on course for any of the kind of reductions that we require to respond credibly to the problem."

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

US Loses Fight in Cotton Subsidies

The US could face billions of dollars in trade sanctions for failing to scrap illegal subsidies paid to American cotton growers.

The World Trade Organisation ruling is a victory for Brazil's cotton industry and for West African states which say the payments harmed their producers.

Brazil hailed the ruling, saying US subsidies had hit world prices, hurting farmers in Brazil and elsewhere.

But US officials believe the payments comply with international trade rules.

Washington is expected to make an appeal against the ruling.

Roberto Azevedo, the Brazilian foreign ministry's trade chief, said that the three-member WTO compliance panel had upheld the findings of its interim report released in July.

"It wasn't changed," he told the Associated Press (AP) news agency just after the ruling was released confidentially to US and Brazilian officials in Geneva.

The office of the US Trade Representative in Washington confirmed the news, saying the US was "very disappointed".

Brazil has reserved the right to impose annual sanctions of up to $4bn on the United States but would probably seek less in retaliatory measures because the US has removed some of the offending subsidies, AP notes.

Oxfam official Gawain Kripke told the BBC that the ruling would also have a beneficial impact on African cotton farmers, if Brazil is successful in reducing American cotton subsidies.

But if they are not then small countries, like Mali or Burkina Faso, wouldn't really hurt American producers very much.

"The truth is that it takes a bigger country to really make the US comply, because the market has to be big enough that the US is worried about it," he said.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

UN Begins Asian Tour as Myanmar Rounds Up Activists

Myanmar's military rulers are still rounding up activists, rights groups said Sunday, even as UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Bangkok for an Asian tour aimed at piling pressure on the generals.

As security forces in Yangon detained more pro-democracy campaigners, the junta however eased restrictions put in place at the height of last month's mass protests, relaxing a curfew here and restoring Internet access.

Amnesty International reported on Sunday that six dissidents were arrested in Yangon, Myanmar's main city, over the weekend.

The London-based human rights watchdog said the arrests were part of an ongoing crackdown by the Myanmar authorities following the army's violent end to September's protests, which left at least 13 people dead.

"Continued arrests fly in the face of the promises made this week by the Myanmar authorities to cooperate with the United Nations," Amnesty said.

Gambari, a seasoned UN troubleshooter dispatched by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, arrived in Bangkok late Sunday to prepare for what he hopes will be a return visit to Myanmar, just two weeks ago after his last mission.

He made no comment as he landed in Bangkok ahead of talks Monday with Thailand's army-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont.

Gambari was to head to Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China and Japan after his stop in Thailand.

The United States - one of Myanmar's harshest critics - is keen to see Gambari in the country without delay.

"We are encouraging special envoy Gambari to get back to Burma as soon as possible," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters during a trip to Israel, using Myanmar's former name.

Buddhist monks led up to 100,000 people onto the streets of Yangon in September, but the subsequent crackdown by the generals, who have ruled this country since 1962, led to deaths and the arrests of more than 2,000.

Concern is growing for the safety of about 1,000 people still in custody, after a Thailand-based monitoring group said last week that one activist died after being tortured during interrogation.

Amnesty said the six activists recently detained included Htay Kywe and Mi Mi, who led some of the first rallies against the regime in mid-August, warning they were at "grave risk" of torture and ill-treatment.

The UN Security Council on Thursday issued a statement deploring the regime's crackdown. It urged the junta to hold talks with the opposition led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and release political prisoners.

Myanmar's official media has labelled the statement "regrettable," but said it would cooperate with the world body.

It made no acknowledgement of the UN call for the release of political prisoners nor for it to hold dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Gambari will likely attempt to harness regional support to push the generals to adopt democratic reforms, said Debbie Stothard of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, but warned that the junta appeared indifferent.

"The toll of detentions and deaths seem to be increasing, at the same time as Gambari is flying around looking for diplomatic support," she told AFP.

Two of the countries on Gambari's agenda - China and India - are key allies and trading partners of Myanmar, and are under particular pressure to take a tougher stance against the regime.

Since Gambari's last visit, Than Shwe has made a heavily conditional offer to hold talks with Aung San Suu Kyi.

He also appointed deputy labour minister Aung Kyi as a liaison officer tasked with coordinating contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi, but so far no meeting appears to have taken place.

Myanmar's state press on Sunday made no mention of the envoy's Asia tour, instead publishing accounts of pro-government rallies and lauding its own much-criticised "road map" to democracy.

"Myanmar is in the process of transforming itself into a modern and developed discipline-flourishing democratic nation," said the New Light of Myanmar, the government mouthpiece newspaper.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

UN Urges Myanmar to Hold Talks With Aung San Suu Kyi

The United Nations urged Myanmar's military regime to hold talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and lift a condition that she stops calling for demonstrations and international sanctions against the junta.

"The earlier you start talking directly, the better,'' Ibrahim Gambari, the UN envoy who visited the Southeast Asian nation last week, told UN radio yesterday.

General Than Shwe has offered to meet Suu Kyi if she stops backing anti-regime protests and sanctions. He appointed a government minister yesterday to build relations with the National League for Democracy leader, who has spent almost 12 years in detention since 1990, Agence France-Presse reported.

Gambari's call for dialogue came as officials from the UN Security Council's 15 member states met in New York to discuss a statement drafted by the U.S., U.K. and France condemning the regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, AFP reported. Security forces in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, clubbed and shot at demonstrators two weeks ago as they staged the biggest anti-government protests since 1988.

The UN is concerned Than Shwe "put some conditions on the commencement'' of the talks with Suu Kyi, Gambari said, adding Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called for the dialogue to be free of stipulations.

Gambari said he plans to visit Myanmar again next month and will seek the advice of neighboring countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian nations.

"It is very important to gain their support, get their perspectives,'' he said, according to the UN's Web site.

Peaceful Resolution

Asean, a 10-member bloc that includes Myanmar, has expressed "revulsion'' at the violent crackdown and demanded the junta resolve the crisis peacefully.

The junta rejected the results of parliamentary elections in 1990 won by the National League for Democracy. Suu Kyi is among more than 1,000 political prisoners in the country.

The draft Security Council statement condemns "the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations'' and urges the junta to "cease repressive measures,'' AFP reported.

China is calling on members not to use strong language in the text, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing today.

"Myanmar's situation has calmed down considerably. Whatever the UN Security Council does, we hope it will be constructive and responsible and encourage Myanmar to return to stability as soon as possible,'' Liu said.

1988 Uprising

Buddhist monks last month led more than a week of protests against the regime in the biggest show of defiance since a pro-democracy uprising by students in 1988.

That revolt was crushed when the army killed 1,000 protesters on Aug. 8, 1988, and an estimated 3,000 others in the weeks afterward, according to the U.S. State Department.

At least 30 people were killed and 1,400 arrested in the crackdown that began Sept. 26, according to the Australian government.

The European Union is set to expand sanctions against Myanmar, including a ban on further investment, U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband said yesterday.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Oct. 15 will probably agree on "a package of tougher measures,'' Miliband said in a statement to the U.K. Parliament.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Free Burma!

Free Burma!

International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4 and just put up one Banner then, underlined with the words "Free Burma!“

We are #5477. Join and show your support here. Let Burma know that the world knows and they have support from outside their oppressed homeland.

Free Burma!

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