Thursday, 20 June 2013

20 June 2013 - World Refugees Day

Every minute 8 people are forced to leave all their belongings to escape war, persecution or terror.

Who are they? There are several types of forcibly displaced persons.

Refugees - A refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”, according to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters. Developing countries host four-fifths of the world’s refugees. The 48 Least Developed Countries provide asylum to 2.3 million refugees.

Asylum seekers Asylum seekers say they are refugees and have fled their homes as refugees do, but their claim to refugee status is not yet definitively evaluated in the country to which they fled.

 Internally Displaced Persons Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are people who have not crossed an international border but have moved to a different region than the one they call home within their own country.

Stateless Persons Stateless persons do not have a recognized nationality and do not belong to any country. Statelessness situations are usually caused by discrimination against certain groups. Their lack of identification — a citizenship certificate — can exclude them from access to important government services, including health care, education or employment.

 Returnees:Returnees are former refugees who return to their own countries or regions of origin after time in exile. Returnees need continuous support and reintegration assistance to ensure that they can rebuild their lives at home. (data from the UN Commissioner for Refugees).

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The partner work of Oakland Institute, WWF and Greenpeace helped stopping hunge land grabbing case in Cameroon

A massive palm oil plantation project of 60,000 hectares developed in Cameroon in 2009 by a subsidiary company of venture capital firm Herakles Capital, was stopped on 18 May 2013 by an order of the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife .
This story reveals the strategy used by multinational investment funds to take possessions of lands in Africa and take advantage of competitive rental prices, concessional clauses and poor legal enforcement procedures in developing  countries.

1 - In the early stages, the project was presented as a valuable initiative to support the sustainable development of the territory in North Western Cameroon, to favour the employment of locals and ensure the constructions of basic facilities like schools, hospitals and roads in remote areas.

2 - However, the successive steps of this initiative showed the real purposes of the project as testified by official documents of the company circulated by the Oakland Institute:

  • Disregarding the local opposition, Herakles Farms moved forward with the removal of the rainforest for the establishment of massive tree nurseries for palm oil plants. This action permanently destroyed forests with their unique heritage of biodiversity. Furthermore, In order to move more rapidly on their project, the company quitted the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a certification scheme designed to promote global social and environmental standards for palm oil production. Without such international oversight, the company intended to accelerate the development of the plantation. 
  • A report on Herakles’ development by Cameroonian non-governmental organisation Centre for Environment and Development (CED) alleges that the concession agreement breached both the spirit and the letter of Cameroon law. 
  • As per similar investments registered in Central and West Africa, the agreement included extremely generous investment terms, including a total exemption from all taxes and duties for ten years. The only payment required under the oil palm concession agreement between Herakles and the Cameroonian government was based on an annual ‘area rent’, which was going to provide just US$66,000 a year to the government once all of the land was planted
  • Herakles has vigorously denied allegations of illegality, and stated that it is, “not receiving any special treatment putting the company above the law”.Herakles has countered the allegations stating that “millions of dollars” of additional revenue will be generated by sale of timber on the land which Herakles will cut, trim and stack ready for auction by the Cameroonian government. However, internal Herackels documents published by the Oakland Institute demonstrated that the Company rather than spending the timber revenues for medical services, university scholarships and farming programmes intended to distribute the revenues as dividends to its creditors and investors. Further information

Concession area for the palm oil plantation

Satellite picture of the concession in the Ndian, Kupé-Manengouba, and Manyu Divisions.

Herakles Farms discharged all these allegations by stating that the terms of the agreement with the Government of Cameroon couldn't be discussed for confidential reasons.

Most affected African countries by land grabbing per hectares (Land Matrix source)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Growing emissions of CO2 accelerated greening of arid areas around the globe

The Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), established the Environmental Earth Observation Research Program, to conduct, among the others, research activities to assess impacts of climate change on vegetation functioning and processes. A recent study presented by research leader Randall Donhue at CSIRO showed how the greening of large stretches of arid land observed by satellite images since the 1980s is associated to the rising concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), which fertilizes plant growth. CO2 is also a major player in global climate change, which is making the planet warmer and, in places, wetter. Warmer temperatures in cold regions and increasing precipitation in dry areas are therefore expected to spur plant growth.
The picture below analyses the greening of the Sahel as observed from satellite images for the period 1982-2003. The overall trend is positive over a large portion of the Sahel region, reaching up to 50 per cent increase in parts of Mali, Mauritania and Chad, and confirming previous findings at a regional scale.

As the study by CSIRO noted, increases in CO2 also fertilize plant growth by making more carbon available to plants and allowing plants to lose less water to the air during the process of photosynthesis. Plants need carbon and water for growth. More of both, means more growth. In particular, the greening effect of increased CO2 proved at global level is even seen in areas that are getting drier due to reduced rainfall and warmer temperatures as a result of global climate change. The results of this study give evidence to new elements for the better understanding of the global warming phenomenon.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Italian economic crisis turned back the clock of 13 years

A study presented by the most important Italian trade union, the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) shows the dramatic effects of the current crisis in the country.
 According to the simulations presented in the study, if the government lead by Prime Minister Enrico Letta, as well as the European authorities, will not approve substantial reforms of economic policy in the upcoming months, with current trends, the country will need more than 13 years to reach the GDP level of 2007 and more than 63 years to reach the same levels of employment. Since 2008 the GDP, the study reports, loses an average of 1.1 percentage points each year, while jobs fell by more than 1.5 million compared to 2007. The gross wages lost 0.1% each year (those net 0.4%), productivity is on average negative 0.2%, as well as lower investments, again on average, by 3.6 points per year