climate change

This Week in the World of Conflict… November 29th-December 5th, 2011

  • The Global Campaign for Aid Transparency released its 2011 Pilot Aid Transparency Index that highlights the shortcomings of international aid in an effort to make it more transparent.
  • Friday marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. We can only hope for a day when armed groups no longer use systemic sexual violence as a tactic of terror.
  • An attempt by the US, Russia, China, India, Israel and a few other nations to weaken the comprehensive ban on cluster munitions has failed. The countries tried to cut a deal in which they would ban cluster munitions produced before 1980 but be given specific legal authorization to use all other munitions. More than 50 states said there was no consensus for adopting the weakened protocol.
  • Nations will gather in Durban, South Africa on Monday in an attempt to hammer out a future climate agreement. A growing number of nations are apparently willing to delay climate-treaty negotiations until 2015, meaning that a new binding treaty could not be finalized until 2020 and would not take effect until years later. Saturday was Occupy the Climate or Global Day of Action on Climate Change in several cities around the globe, and thousands took to the street in Durban calling for climate justice.
  • December 5th was the 10th annual International Volunteer Day, a day to say thank you to volunteers for their efforts. The UN’s latest State of the World’s Volunteerism Report shows empirical evidence of the importance and contribution of volunteerism on a global scale and highlights that increased people-to-people contacts could help to better manage communal conflicts and cross-border disputes.
  • Gambia’s Fatou Bensouda is set to be named the new International Criminal Court chief prosecutor, replacing Luis Moreno-Ocampo whose term ends next year. The successor will be formally elected by the Assembly of States Parties at the annual meeting in New York on December 12th, yet so far, Ms. Bensouda is the only candidate in the running.
  • Statistician Howard Friedman reported on the five countries with the highest military expenditure. The US leads this list, spending nearly $700 billion in 2010, or around 43% of the entire global military expenditure, nearly six times more than the amount spent by the next largest, China and more than the total spent by the next 15 largest spenders combined.

What does climate change have to do with conflict? Part 2

In my previous post, I discussed the key concerns that will exacerbate conflict in fragile states during climate change from the Initiative for Peacebuilding’s report on climate change, conflict and fragility. This post will reflect on the policy and adaptation recommendations for reducing conflict risk.

The report outlines five main policy objectives for reducing climate-induced conflict:

1)  Adaptation needs to be conflict- sensitive

2) Peacebuilding needs to be climate-proof

3) Shifts toward low-carbon economies must be supportive of development and peace

4) Steps must be taken to strengthen poor countries’ social capacity to understand and manage climate and conflict risks

5) Greater efforts are needed to plan for and cope peacefully with climate-related migration

Ensuring these policy objectives requires a fundamental shift in the way institutions are organized and the way inter-linkages between organizations are addressed. Institutions responsible for climate change adaptation need to be structured to maximize the participation of ordinary people and focus at the local level to hedge against uncertainty. This includes disseminating information in ways that ordinary people can understand and utilize.

The first step that is necessary is to undergo a large-scale systematic study of the likely costs of adaptation that includes both the social and political dimensions. This study needs to be done in tandem with thinking about how that money should be used, what governance and institutional changes must be made and considering the role of actors from development and peacebuilding communities, as well as the private sector in adaptation. These sectors must work with existing structures to create more adaptable institutions that are able to draw on shared research, ensure the right people know how to access the right information, interpret the information, communicate it in the field and are able to adapt and evolve to accommodate uncertainty. These new institutions must consider things holistically, by wrapping issues of climate change, conflict and governance, poverty and livelihood all together.

Discovering how power is organized within the current structures will help in the building of new structures that can alleviate the privileged access to economic and political opportunity, and ensure that the provision of goods and services does not become a corrupt money making scheme. Good governance means increased resilience to violent conflict or poverty. In many cases this will mean not merely how are institutions “presently organized (to) meet the challenges of climate change,” but rather “how should institutions be organized in order to meet these challenges?” It becomes a case of adapting development to adapt to climate change. Separating development and adaptation funding is fundamentally misconceived as cooperation across and between sectors is necessary for any real chance at success.

Many rich countries will be simultaneously shifting to low-carbon economies to meet demands on climate change adaptability. This shift must be peace-friendly and supportive of the adaptive development happening in poorer countries. For example, a switch to bio-fuel in richer countries caused food prices to rise by 30% in 2008, which directly caused violence in over 30 countries. This type of shift will be counter-productive.  Migration must also be dealt with in a responsible manner, with immigrants seen as an asset for local society rather than a burden in their new areas.

Internal incentives for receiving funding within existing donor institutions are frequently based around meeting quantitative targets rather than qualitative issues that might be more appropriate. Establishing rules, norms, guidelines and incentives that reward for innovation will better equip a country to manage uncertainty. Large-scale humanitarian responses will be necessary on top of the restructuring.

This report outlined the necessary adaptation needed in fragile states, but completely neglected that of powerful states, which are susceptible to climate conflict as well. One needs only look to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the southern US states six years after Hurricane Katrina to know that even rich states are often ill-equipped to deal with weather crises. If these crises are compounded and not isolated to one location within a nation, or result in large-scale destruction of entire areas, even rich states may be unable to deal with the crises that emerge. The expectations in richer states for action is higher, therefore state failure may be reacted to with all the more intense violence. Informing the public of options and creating local structures able to deal with uncertainty are necessary to hedge against this type of crises in richer states as well.

What does climate change have to do with conflict? Part 1

The Initiative for Peacebuilding’s report on climate change, conflict and fragility covers policy recommendations and adaptational capabilities that will be necessary to hedge off violent conflict in fragile or weak states.  One needs only see the example of the Haitian earthquake, the current flooding in Pakistan or even the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in the southern US to know that extreme weather can have an effect on peace and security in an area. Whether or not you believe climate change is caused by man-made global warming makes little difference; major weather patterns are currently disrupting areas where peace is fragile at best or where war may already be full-blown. Massive death or displacement of people, combined with state fragility, means overwhelmed security services and government systems, and a lot of angry people who feel completely abandoned.  The impact is felt the greatest among the poorest and most vulnerable members of society who have little means to escape and inequitable access to necessary resources. This inevitably heightens the risk of violent conflict in an area.

Current international negotiations on reducing global warming and responding to climate change almost entirely ignore the aspect of this heightened risk of conflict. Development and humanitarian workers are rarely well informed about the security implications that climate change will have for their work and so adaptation is not being included in long-term rebuilding or restructuring policies within organizations. These potential conflict implications are one of the most compelling arguments for richer states to take serious climate change action as the costs will be massive from loss of life, livelihood and humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping perspectives. Current estimates of costs range from $49 to $380 billion per year by the year 2030, without even taking into account private sector and peacebuilding problems. However, over-stating the conflict dimension can lead to oversimplification and inaccurate perceptions of security which risks overlooking cost-effective and sustainable options in favor of high cost and likely ineffective militarized ones. The key remains in shifting the way institutions are organized, their ability to cope with change and the way they are interlinked with one another.

Managing water supply is vital. Not only is it necessary for human life, but water shortages also affect agriculture causing increased food insecurity, especially for the poor.  The risks to human health from both water borne diseases caused by poor water management and inadequate diets caused by food insecurity will put increased pressure on already strained medical and government resources. Water shortages and food insecurity often lead to violent conflict where poverty, weak governance, political marginalization and corruption reign supreme. Climate change will only exacerbate this problem as already fragile systems become even more overburdened.

Migration of people increases the likelihood of conflict, as newcomers are seen as an unwanted burden that compound social pressures or even transfer conflict from one location to another. Attempting to block immigration with regulations and physical barriers may exacerbate the conflict risk. Migration will be primarily to urban centres, which will increase the strains of maintaining livelihoods and many of the current mega-cities are already in low-lying coastal areas which are at long term risk from rising sea levels. Changing climate will result in the fluctuation of the supply of key resources, which will in turn affect land values and will present money-making opportunities for the already rich and resourceful. Social and economic consequences will not be randomly or “fairly” distributed among the population—in most cases, the rich will get richer while the poor will be the ones to suffer.

Current natural science knowledge is also unevenly distributed and used, with the richer countries having greater access than the poorer countries. Lack of information leads to poor policy making and weak adaptation, which means there is a greater chance of conflict. For example, the UK currently has over sixty different climate change models to work with. Nepal, who has for the past several years been experiencing severe weather changes, has none.

So how can fragile states deal with these inequities and potential conflict risks? In the next post, I will detail the report’s recommendations for adaptation to climate change.

This week in conflict… October 2nd- 8th, 2010.


  • The UN called upon governments to expand their efforts to ensure the protection for the world’s 43 million forcibly displaced people in the face of  “never-ending” conflicts that are creating new semi-permanent refugee populations. More than 5.5 million refugees are stuck in protracted situations.
  • China began hosting its first UN climate conference this week aimed at building momentum and finding areas of agreement ahead of the annual summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Climate change is said to highly affect global conflicts. China said at the conference that rich nations must vow greater cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and warned of lost trust in talks, while rich countries accused China of undercutting progress.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report on Friday calling for equal participation by women in post-conflict peacebuilding. He laid out a seven-point action plan aimed at changing practices among all actors and improving outcomes on the ground.


  • At least nine civilians were killed after al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu, Somalia attacked an African Union’s peacekeeping position on Saturday and another eight were killed on Sunday. On Wednesday it was announced that over 30 people had been killed in the past three days and at least 51 wounded in this continued fighting. Uganda announced it could raise an entire 20,000 troop force for the African Union to defeat Somalia’s Islamist rebels and pacify the country in a statement released on Monday. Uganda’s President has been urging greater urgency in regional and international efforts to stabilize Somalia since the twin bomb blasts that rocked Uganda’s capital in July that were led by the al-Shabab militia. Uganda is also the site for the new UN regional peacekeeping hub for the Great-Lakes region.
  • The UN Security Council traveled to Sudan this week to discuss the scheduled referenda on self-determination. Southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country on January 9th, while the central area of Abyei will vote on whether to be part of the north or south. Sudanese officials announced on Tuesday that the long-awaited timetable for the referendum has been released, but that unforeseen circumstances could still delay the vote. Voter registration is to start in mid-November, with the final voter list ready by December 31st, leaving just 8 days before the January 9th deadline for the vote. Armed men abducted a civilian peacekeeper in Darfur on Thursday.
  • Ethiopia’s best-known opposition leader was released after five years in jail for treason related to the 2005 election dispute on Wednesday. The move was seen as a placatory gesture by the newly sworn in Prime Minister, who had refused to let her out for the parliamentary elections, in which the ruling party won 99.6% of the seats.
  • Nigeria’s government admitted it was warned of the parade attack last week that killed at least 12 people by foreign agencies and did the best it could to secure the area. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) also suggested that it gave the security forces five days notice of the attacks. South African police invaded the Johannesburg home of the leader of MEND on Saturday, apparently acting on the request of Nigerian authorities who claimed he was stockpiling weapons and re-arming fighters in the Niger Delta region. No weapons were found after a 10 hour search. Nigeria’s secret service detained an aid to one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s election rivals on Monday in connection to the bomb attacks, raising concern over violence in next year’s election polls. The former MEND leader announced that he received a phone call from a “close associate” of Goodluck Jonathan urging him to tell MEND to retract its claim of the bombings, so that they could blame them on northerners who are opposing the President. The next day, the former leader was being described as the main suspect in the bombings. On Wednesday, the Northern Political Leaders Forum declared that President Jonathan should immediately resign from office or they will take take steps to impeach him because he has proved he is incapable of leading the nation justly and fairly, amid another bomb scare. On Friday, inmates at a prison in northeastern Nigeria torched a part of the building, raising fears that a radical Islamic sect, who has many members incarcerated in the jail, are attempting a comeback. The sect previously staged an uprising that resulted in the deaths of hundreds.
  • Guinea’s already postponed runoff presidential elections may be delayed even further due to technical issues such as production and supply of voters’ cards. The originally scheduled September 19th election was delayed because of election violence. On Wednesday, the government announced it will hold the delayed second round on October 24th. On Wednesday, the first place winner of the first round of elections insisted that a run off could only be possible if the “controversial” election commissioner is changed and threatened to boycott the elections if he was not.
  • Suspected al-Qaeda militants killed five Algerian soldiers and wounded another 10 in an attack on their convoy on Saturday. Around 200,000 people have died in the country since violence broke out in the early 1990s between Islamist rebels and government forces.
  • According to a leading survey, governance standards have improved significantly in Angola, Liberia and Togo over the past four years but have decline in Eritrea and Madagascar. Mauritius was revealed as Africa’s best-governed country, while Somalia was listed as the worst-governed nation.
  • The Egyptian Journalists’ Union has accused the government of cracking down on media that is critical of the authorities in advance of an upcoming November parliamentary election. Two popular talk shows were recently closed down.
  • UN peacekeepers say they have captured the rebel commander they accuse of being behind the rape of hundreds of villagers in eastern DR Congo in August on Tuesday. The UN peacekeeping force was largely criticized for failing to prevent the mass rape of over 300 people, which took place just 20 miles from their base. Recent budget cuts to the newly scaled back MONUSCO peacekeeping mission, mean that the mission lacks sufficient helicopter strength to operate effectively in the country’s unstable east. The UN announced that the crisis in the DRC is beyond their capacity. ICC appeals judges ruled on Friday that Thomas Lubanga, accused of war crimes, should not be released and ordered that his trial resume following a two month stay after the prosecutor failed to comply with the trial chamber’s orders.
  • The first of 500 additional UN peacekeeping troops arrived in Cote D’Ivoire on Thursday in advance of the October 31st election. The UN is distributing voter and identity cards across the country.
  • Recent attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has shown that the group has extended its reach to vulnerable communities in the Central African Republic. Four LRA rebels are said to have been killed in a clash on Monday with the UDFR.


  • Two suspected US missile strikes into northwest Pakistan reportedly killed at least 12 militants on Saturday and another five militants of German nationality were thought to have been killed in drone strikes on Tuesday. On Monday, gunmen attacked seven more fuel tankers in revenge for last week’s NATO incursions into the country, and on Tuesday at least 20 trucks were targeted, resulting in the deaths of at least 3 people. Two Pakistani troops were said to have been killed in the incursion. The attacks continued, with another dozen tankers attacked on Wednesday, resulting in the death of at least one man. On Thursday, two suspected suicide bombers hit a crowded Muslim shrine in Karachi, killing at least 7 people. At least four people were said to have been killed in more NATO drone attacks on Thursday, bringing the death toll from drone attacks to over 150 in the past month alone. On Friday, three drone missiles killed at least five suspected militants, and two soldiers were killed in a roadside blast in the northwest. NATO’s Secretary-General has spoken out against the continued blockage of the main NATO supply routes into Afghanistan by Pakistan, saying that the incursion was “obviously… unintended”. Meanwhile, former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf has decided to form a new political party in an effort to “introduce a new democratic political culture” to his people. An ironic choice of words from a man who led a coup in 1999 to overthrow an elected civilian government because he was fired.
  • Eight private security firms have been disbanded and hundreds of weapons confiscated in Afghanistan as the government moves towards taking full responsibility for the country’s security. Afghanistan is set to take over security from foreign troops by 2014. At least 3 Afghan civilians were killed alongside 17 insurgents in a NATO air strike targeting senior Taliban commanders in the south on Sunday. The US military later apologized for the civilian deaths. At least eight people were killed after two explosions rocked Kandahar on Monday. On Tuesday, an Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a French and Afghan outpost, but missed the target. The soldier has fled and has yet to be caught. Following the barrage of complaints of election fraud, a provincial head of the Independent Election Commission was arrested on Monday. The officer was accused by candidates and observers of taking bribes in exchange for important election posts. Peace talks were supposedly underway between Taliban reps, Afghan officials and a Pakistani government delegation in Kabul this week aimed at setting the ground for negotiations on ending the Afghan war, although participants denied that the talks involved Afghan and Pakistani officials meeting with the Taliban, calling them instead “brainstorming sessions”.  NATO claimed that a Taliban leader and seven of his associates were killed in an air strike and ground operation on Wednesday, and that the Taliban “shadow governor” of a northwestern province was killed in a separate operation on the same day. On Thursday, a German soldier was killed in a suicide attack in a northern province. On Friday, a British soldier was killed in an explosion in the southern Helmand province and at least 15 people were killed in a separate bomb blast in a mosque in a northern town. Also on Friday, two other ISAF soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in the south; Taliban insurgents burned eight NATO supply trucks and killed six Afghan guards; one senior Taliban commander was captured with four others and one insurgent was killed in Kabul; and Afghan forces killed four suspects in a firefight in Kabul.
  • Police in Bangladesh arrested three militants from the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in their continuing crackdown on militancy. Police claim that LeT followers have regrouped and are trying to launch fresh attacks.
  • Fiji’s former prime minister Chaudry was arrested on Friday for allegedly violating public emergency regulations that outlawed holding public meetings. Chaudry is thought to be a real contender to overthrow the current military government in the next election. The current President, who seized power in a 2006 coup, imposed the ban and scrapped plans for an election after saying conditions were not right.
  • Three Thai soldiers were killed after an ambush by suspected Muslim separatists in south Thailand on Sunday. The soldiers were said to be patrolling a road near the Malaysian border when gunmen opened fired from a nearby hill. On Tuesday, at least three people were killed after an explosion hit a residential building north of Bangkok. On Wednesday at least four people were said to have been killed in drive-by shootings by separatist rebels in the south.
  • Government troops continued their operations against militants in eastern Tajikistan resulting in the death of four soldiers, a police officer and two insurgents. Meanwhile, official press centres in the area are virtually closed and communication lines remain blocked making it extremely difficult for media representatives to get any information about the ongoing events. In retaliation, Tajik troops killed at least 5 rebels between Monday and Tuesday. On Thursday, a land mine blast killed six soldiers in an operation on the Afghan borders.
  • Police in Sri Lanka have been ordered to arrest activists who put up posters that criticize the President’s backing of a prison term for a former army chief who ran against him. The former army chief, once a national hero, was ordered to serve 30 months for corruption charges. Police have claimed that the order was intended to prevent posters from being placed in prohibited areas.
  • Authorities in Indian Kashmir began scaling down security as part of its efforts to defuse tensions. More than 100 people have been killed since June. Kashmiris remain angry about the widely-hated security law that gives the military sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot protesters that are still in place.
  • Disturbing pictures of Nepali police carting off ballot boxes in Nepal, following the primary election held among some 80,000 Tibetan exiles to pick candidates for polls for a new parliament-in-exile and prime minister next year, have raised concern of continued repression of political activities by the Chinese. China objects to the election for a government in exile which it does not recognize.
  • The offices of the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) party in Kyrgyzstan were attacked on Wednesday after some 100 members of two local movements forced their way into the offices. The two movements had staged a protest in Bishkek’s central square early that day. Kyrgyzstan is scheduled to hold an election on Sunday amid fears of increasing violence.
  • South Korea’s defense minister announced that his military would initiate a new and expanded propaganda war if provoked by the North and has reinstalled 11 sets of psychological warfare loudspeakers along the border. The North has warned that if undertaken, it will fire across the border and destroy the loudspeakers. The South also suggested that the North’s nuclear programme has reached an “alarming level” and poses a serious threat to the South. North Korea confirmed on Friday that Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Il’s youngest son will succeed him as the next leader.
  • The announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner angered the Chinese authorities, who see Liu Xiaobo as a criminal. Liu Xiaobo is currently serving time in a Chinese prison for “incitement to subvert state power” and co-authoring Charter 08, a call for democratic reforms in the country. The Chinese warned that awarding Liu the prize would damage Sino-Norwegian relations. Liu is a long-time activist for human rights and democracy.

Central and North America

  • An armed gang kidnapped at least 20 tourists in Mexico on Saturday near the resort city of Acapulco, in what is thought to be the latest bout of drug related violence in the country. On Saturday, assailants tossed a live grenade into a square in Monterrey, injuring 12 people.
  • The controversial and notorious security contractor Blackwater (now renamed Xe) is said to have received a new contract in the $10 billion range. Two former Blackwater employees are currently on trial in the US for murdering civilians in Afghanistan, and in 2008, give Blackwater guards were charged with the deaths of 17 Iraqis civilians, which were ultimately dismissed. The group also has been charged with weapons export violations. The first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee was delayed on Wednesday after the judge told prosecutors they could not call their star witness, because they had learned of his identity only through harsh interrogation at a secret CIA camp.
  • The controversial and much protested “Ground Zero mosque” scheduled to be built in New York City turns out not to be a mosque after all, but a multi-faith community centre that includes a gym, playground and childcare area. It’s Muslim prayer area does not even satisfy the stringent requirements for a sanctified mosque.
  • The US State Department issued a travel alert to Europe on Sunday following the threats of a possible terrorist plot in several European countries.
  • The US midterm elections are to become the most expensive in history, and nearly five times as much as the last Presidential election, at an estimated $5 billion. This is the first year in which all donation limits were removed, allowing corporations to get involved.
  • A Canadian army captain convicted of shooting an unarmed Taliban fighter in Afghanistan after a battle avoided a jail term this week and instead will be kicked out of the Canadian forces. The killing has been dubbed a “mercy killing”, citing that the Captain only shot the gravely wounded enemy to end his suffering as he believed he was not going to receive treatment from Afghan forces. Mercy killing is not a defense in Canada. The Supreme Court in Canada ruled on Friday that suspects in serious crimes do not have a right to consult their lawyer during a police interrogation, essentially reversing the Canadian Charter’s right to counsel in specific cases.

South America

  • Ecuador’s President Correa vowed to punish and purge his enemies after last week’s police rebellion. He suggested the axe would also swing towards opposition politicians whom he accused of attempting a coup. Days later, the government agreed to raise the pay of its police and armed forces by $35 million annually, calling the announcement a “coincidence”. Debate has been ensuing over whether the police tried to kill the President during the riots or were simply protesting against pay cuts and conditions. On Wednesday it was announced that at least 46 police officers were detained for their alleged participation in the revolt.
  • Former guerrilla Dilma Rousseff won the first-round Presidential election in the Brazilian  polling with 46.7% of the votes, and will do battle in the October 31st runoff against Social Democrat Jose Serra who won just under 33% of the votes. Green party activist Marina Silva gained far higher than pollsters had expected with 19% of the vote.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales is said to have kneed a political opponent in the groin during a friendly football match of political rivals. A bodyguard of Morales tried to arrest the kneed opponent after the match, but he was quickly ordered to be released by the opposition leader.

Middle East

  • The Palestinian leadership confirmed that it will not return to direct peace negotiations with the Israelis without an extension to the now-expired freeze on settlement construction, a move endorsed by the Arab League. The Israelis have begun deflecting blame for the breakdown of talks, with expectations of the Palestinians “to show some flexibility”. The Syrian President said that the peace talks were only aimed at “bolstering domestic support” for Obama during a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Two Israeli soldiers were convicted on Sunday of using a nine-year old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the three-week Gaza war in 2008-9. The soldiers will face prison sentences of up to three years. Israeli paramilitary border police killed a Palestinian on Sunday after he entered East Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank without a permit. On Monday, arsonists, suspected to be radical Israeli settlers, damaged part of a Palestinian mosque in the West Bank, scrawling the word “revenge” in Hebrew on a wall. On Monday, a video of an Israeli soldier dancing around a blindfolded, bound prisoner provoked more anger from Palestinians. The Israeli army condemned the video, calling it an “isolated incident” and opened a criminal investigation on the matter on Tuesday. Many see this as the continued degrading treatment and mentality of the occupier in the country, remembering the degrading photos from an Israeli guard that surfaced on facebook in early August, among others. On Wednesday, Israeli PM Netanyahu announced he would push for legislation requiring all those who want to become Israeli citizens to pledge a loyalty oath to the “nation-state of the Jewish people” in an attempt to win back angry settlers. On Thursday, the Israeli military said it had carried out an air strike in the Gaza Strip against Palestinian militants planning an attack in Israel. Witnesses say the strike targeted a car traveling in the central Gaza Strip. The ICC is being urged to prosecute members of the Israeli defense force for its role in the Gaza flotilla killings, however, Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute, meaning it can only be possible after a reference from the UN Security Council.  On Friday Israel signed a deal with the US to buy $2.75 billion worth of radar-evading Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets. The F-35 is said to be the most-advanced fighter in the world.
  • Hamas announced on Wednesday that it would retaliate against the Western-backed Palestinian Authority if it continued to take actions against their members in the West Bank. The PA has recently been cracking down on Islamist activists, with Hamas claiming that nearly 750 of its activists have been arrested since August 31st. On Friday, Israeli forces killed two senior Hamas militants in the West Bank.
  • Iran has detained several western “spies” it claims were behind the recent cyber attacks on its nuclear programme. The number of jailed students in Iran has been reported to be the highest in decades with over 73 students currently being held in jails over their activism. Student opposition to the government report that the government has been using a new militarization strategy on campuses to stop opposition political activism there. On Thursday, at least four police officers and one bystander were killed after a gunman opened fire on a police patrol in Iran’s Kurdish region. On Friday, Iranian security forces killed two people suspected in Thursday’s attack.
  • Britain’s deputy ambassador to Yemen and her colleagues survived a rocket propelled grenade attack on their car on Wednesday. It is thought that the attack was carried out by al-Qaeda.
  • Tensions have increased in Lebanon and Syria after Syria issued arrest warrants for more than 30 people accused of misleading the investigation into the assassination of Lebanon’s former PM in 2005. Syria’s wanted list includes senior Lebanese judges, politicians and journalists who are said to have been “false witnesses”.
  • Iraq postponed its first full census in more than two decades until December on Sunday to avoid triggering open conflict between Arabs and Kurds locked in a fight over oil-rich land in the north. The survey is crucial because it will determine who has the greatest percentage of the total population in the region, and can therefore claim it as its own under the constitution. Two senior security officials in the north were arrested in connection with a plot to bomb the provincial government building on Sunday. Also on Sunday, gunmen using silenced weapons– increasingly the weapon of choice of insurgents–opened fire on a police checkpoint, killing one policeman in Falluja. At least one person was killed in Baghdad in a roadside bombing that targeted a deputy minister in the Iraqi government on Monday, at least one other person was killed in a separate bombing within the city and at least three people were killed in a bomb attack in Jalawlah. On Wednesday a civilian was wounded in a rocket attack in Kirkuk, while a roadside bomb targeting police patrol in a northern city wounded two policemen. On Friday, armed men in two boats wounded seven security guards when they attacked a prison in Basra, causing a riot in the prison. Also on Friday, a policeman was killed by a sniper in Baghdad.


  • Russian forces killed as many as five people as they besieged two housing blocks in Daghestan on Saturday in a counterterrorism raid.
  • The leader of Russia’s opposition Yabloko party was detained along with several environmental activists after protesting in the North Caucasus. The protesters were later released by police without charge. Russia announced on Thursday that it had successfully tested a long-range missile seen as a mainstay of its nuclear forces, after a series of failures which had raised doubts about its viability.
  • Roma and other migrants leaving France will soon be required to be fingerprinted, in an attempt to discourage them from coming back to France after being expelled. The fingerprinting is scheduled to begin October 15th, and will include anyone over the age of 12. Nearly a million protesters demonstrated on Saturday, pressing President Sarkozy to drop plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. This was the third day of protests in a month. A French blogger who filmed himself burning a Qur’an and urinating on it to put out the flames will face charges of incitement to religious hatred on Tuesday. He faces up to five years in jail. France’s highest court has approved the law banning full-facial veils in public. In six months time, women wearing the veil will face arrest and a $195 fine or “citizenship lessons”, while a man who forces a woman to wear the veil will be fined $42,000 and serve up to a year in prison.
  • The far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders has gone on trial this week on charges of inciting anti-Muslim hatred. Wilders released a short film in 2008 that denounced the Qur’an as a fascist book, urging Muslims to tear out “hate-filled” passages. Wilders is appealing to have the case dismissed invoking freedom of speech.
  • Bosnians went to the polls on Sunday to vote in general elections. Voters complained that the elections were dominated by issues of nationalism and ethnicity instead of the economy and necessary political reforms. Preliminary election results indicated that the current tripartite government is likely to remain deadlocked over Bosnia’s future, with two of the leaders advocating unity and a third pushing for the country’s breakup. The Bosnian state prosecutor indicted four Bosnian Serb police officers on Thursday on charges of mass killing, detention and torture during the 1992-5 war.
  • Teachers in an eastern Ukrainian city complained this week that the ruling Party of Regions is putting pressure on them, and that it is no longer possible for any to become a school director and not be a member. Many parents of students complain that the Party has started using secondary schools for its election campaign with pictures of the local Party candidate on display.
  • England and France may soon find themselves cooperating defensively on everything from nuclear warheads to transport aircraft, helicopters and aircraft carriers. The two countries are set to hold a summit in three weeks to discuss collaboration.

Take your place at the table

The 2010 Summit Tables are fast approaching and we need to make our voice heard so that the leaders will take bold action on climate change, poverty and economic justice. So far, previous commitments have not been met and this is unacceptable.

The G8 and G20 summit leaders need to hear our voices– we must be loud and numerous enough so that we are not ignored. We the people, together have power.

Please take a minute to look at the At the Table campaign and add your voice to the conversation.

Individualistic Climate Change

We all hear about the terrible effects of climate change and environmental abuses on our earth. These are abuses against our human rights and are something that majorly affects peace worldwide. We are all urged to change our individual actions to reduce our carbon footprints and told how this is the best way to stop negative climate change.

Sometimes I wonder.

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take these measures– I am a hardcore advocate of sustainability who writes about these types of issues frequently and urges people to think of generations to come and our individual footprint on this earth. What I am saying is that I don’t think this is the entire picture of what’s going on in our environment. Why is everything always thrust upon the individual who really has very little say (or none) in what happens worldwide? Where is governmental restraint? Corporate restraint? What other factors are contributing to climate change?

Sometimes I wonder what effect the over 2,000 nuclear bomb tests done globally since the 1940s have had on our environment and how this, in and of itself, has contributed to global climate change and environmental harm.

Let’s entertain that idea for a second.

A nuclear bomb has enormous destructive capability. More modern nukes can have the explosive power of more than 50,000 kilotons (that’s thousands of tons) of TNT. Tests have been done in the atmosphere, underground, in the water and even in outerspace, spewing out tremendous heat, energy and radiation into the air, ground and water; along with creating shock waves carrying immense pressure that is able to take  down buildings. Hmmm. And we are expected to believe that this has had no lingering effect on the climate, weather patterns, or our health? Well, not entirely, but its definitely not in the forefront of our environmental ideology.

A nuclear explosion underwater has the capability to create a tsunami. A nuclear explosion underground has the ability to create an earthquake. A nuclear explosion in the atmosphere rains radiation down to the earth and has enough explosive power to take down large buildings in a massive radius. What long term effects does this radioactive legacy have on our environment and our climate? What cancers and other maladies has it caused in humans and animals? What weather patterns changed on account of these explosions?

They say that simply increasing ocean temperatures by a few degrees can drastically change the weather. So we are expected to believe that numerous underwater ocean tests of nuclear devices that give off extreme amounts of heat and radioactive power have not effected ocean temperature or toxicity at all?

Now, I’m not a scientist. I’m not a nuclear specialist. I’m not a climatologist. But I do think that the entire truth of the situation is being downplayed. How can these explosions NOT have a lingering, long-term negative effect on our health, our climate and our world? How can they expect us to believe that individual actions are responsible for all our climate problems? I think that this shift to the individual helps to dissuade the blame and ensures that states can take the least amount of responsibility and action. If the problem is individual– then the best way to solve it is through individual actions– right?

Treaties have been established by international bodies to try and stop nuclear weapons testing. The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in space (most recently violated by the US), still allowing for underground testing, and was originally signed by the USSR, the UK, and the US. And the testing continued.

Then in 1968, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty set to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. 189 states became party to the treaty, with five signing states (US, Russia, UK, China and France) already in possession of nukes and unwilling to fully give up their power. Four states have never signed and have also been in possession of nuclear armaments: India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan. And the testing still continued.

In 1996, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty was adopted by the UN General Assembly to ban all nuclear explosions in all environments, yet has not fully entered into force. Tests are still happening. Our environment is still being polluted with radioactivity. And yet, where is the discussion on their effects on climate change and the environment? Why is this not talked about in the mainstream?

And where is the legislation necessary to protect our rights? Why is the individual responsible when it is governments who are letting it happen? When there are no laws to protect the citizenry from major toxicity and environmental harm we all face the consequences. Democracy is supposed to be by the people, for the people. In reality it is by a few individuals, for a few individuals (and corporations) and the well-being of the general population is not what is being protected.  Why are there such lax laws governing corporate or governmental environmental abuses? Why are major treaties not being respected?

I say it’s time for states to take responsibility and stop thrusting it all on the backs of the individuals. I say it’s time for the international community to take responsibility. I say its time we started looking into ALL the reasons behind our climate problems and stop blaming the individual for everything. It is not individual changes in and of itself that is going to make a real difference for our future, it is through collective action that difference will be made. If our states are not acting in our collective interests, whose interests are they acting for? Who is looking out for our collective interests and the interests of future generations? We need to speak our voice against atrocities and make change or our voice will be taken away from us.

Nuclear weapons have one purpose- destruction and death. I say its time for those countries in possession of such destruction to become accountable to the rest of the world for their actions. I say its time these countries faced the truth of their actions. I say its time that international bodies and states started actually representing collective interests instead of focusing on their own power and greed. Individual state power is not in our collective interest. If these governments truly represent the people, they should start acting like it and start thinking of all of our futures. It is time the true reason for government– to protect our rights and help keep us safe from abuse– becomes reality.

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A different kind of human right violation.

Environmental issues are often left out of many human rights discussions to focus on more direct abuses. This is an overwhelmingly important topic to human rights, so why is it so often shrugged off? Why do people not see environmental abuses as violations against their human rights? Why are they not more angry at the amount of toxins and pollutions they are subjected to through their daily living practices?

The area where I live (Kitchener-Waterloo region) is reported to have some of the worst air quality scores for ground level ozone in Ontario. Ozone is a key ingredient of urban smog. It is mostly formed with oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), combined with heat. When it forms in the atmostphere it provides a filter for damaging ultraviolet light emitted by the sun. When it forms on the ground, it can have severe health effects for humans and damaging effect for plants and animals. Repeated exposure can cause permanent structural damage to the lungs, aggravated asthma, reduced lung capacity, increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis and even death. It also interferes with the ability of plants to produce and store food and makes them more susceptible to disease, insects, other pollutants and harsh weather. Plants that are unable to produce or store food are unable to produce food for us to eat.

Burning of fossil fuels is one of the main emittors of nitrogen oxides. In Kitchener’s case, it is reported that over half of our pollutant load comes directly from coal plants in the Ohio Valley across the border. Ontario is contributing to the pollution as well. Ontario ranked 5th highest for pollution release in North America with 184,415 tonnes of pollution released per year, mostly created during the production of electricity utitlities. Our pollution affects more than just Ontario residents, and we are affected by pollution created elsewhere. This is bigger than just a national problem, it is a global one. We are affected by everyone else.

This pollution is causing great harm to people and is even responsible for human deaths (around 2000 per year in Ontario alone). It is costing a great deal of money to our health care system, our lives, and our future. If you doubt this, take a look here. The sad thing is that it is mostly avoidable. There are other electricity production and industrial options that do not have this effect. So why do we continue to allow extremely environmentally damaging industries and production facilities?

The sad reality is that this problem encompasses so much more than air pollution. We are bombarded with toxins and pollution at every turn. In our products, in our homes, in our water… Clean water is a thing of the past, as the levels of pharaceuticals, pollutions and toxic chemcials rises and rises and becomes harder and harder to remove or even test for. In fact, the “acceptible” levels of toxins allowed in our products is incredibly disturbing. Many antiquated laws allow known dangerous chemicals to remain in our products in certain levels.

The US Environmental Protection Agency reviews about 17,000 new industrial compounds each year, with about a 90% approval rate. The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act requires that any chemicals that display evidence of potential harm to humans must be tested before approval, however, only a quarter of the 82,000 chemicals in use in the US have EVER been tested despite their potential to harm. A similar occurence is happening here in Canada, though perhaps in slightly lower numbers.

Testing the levels of toxicity in humans leads to incredible results. The average person has at least 100 toxins in their body and perhaps even more than this, some in incredibly damaging levels. Unfortunately, the testing is super expensive (like $15,000 to test for only about 300 toxins– and there are literally THOUSANDS upon thousands that we are potentially exposed to). Many of the toxins stay on in our bodies in our fatty tissues and are not removed naturally. They build up over time with each exposure and are passed on to our children at birth. Many of these toxins found in every day products are hormone disrupters, or are incredibly neurologically damaging or carcinogenic (cancer causing). The overall costs of using these type of chemicals is incredibly high.

Regardless of your beliefs on climate change, does it make any sense to continually toxify ourselves with polluting and damaging practices? These practices are interfering with our right to life, and our right to an adequate standard of living and health for ourselves and our families. From a purely economic standpoint, they are costing us BILLIONS of dollars each year.

The current “acceptible” levels of toxins and pollutions are causing us great harm, and this needs to change. Humans are innovators. We have the capacity, skill and determination to overcome many problems. So why are we stuck in the stone age of production, when there is soo much information on the subject and acceptable alternatives to use? Why do we not learn from our studies and use technologies that are already in existence to slow or stop the production of new toxic or polluting substances?

My thoughts on the matter– it comes down to one thing. Money. The profits to be made or lost for corporations, and the overall effect for the economy.

That’s just not a good enough reason for my human rights to be interfered with. I cannot avoid these chemicals, even if I live a life full of organic foods; pollution and toxins still rain down on me. They are still introduced through products with flame-retardants sprayed on them. They are still introduced through everything else I use in my home. They are still breathed in through my lungs, and are everywhere I go in society.

Toxins and pollutions won’t be reduced overnight, but ignoring environmental protection acts or allowing lax policies is certainly not helping. We need to take a stand for our own human rights. Why do we have agencies for our protection, if their number one concern lies with industry and corporate rights and not with the general public? This is a major disservice to humanity and needs to be changed.

It’s time humans wised up to their own stupidity and started to make real changes. Our future depends on it.

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