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Entries tagged "United Nations"Page Previous 1 • 2 • 3 • 4 Next
December 2, 2011 · By John Cavanagh
Last week, we sent our supporters the Institute's new America Is Not Broke report, which explains how the nation could raise more than $800 billion dollars annually through a tax on Wall Street and other popular measures. My IPS colleagues Sarah Anderson and Janet Redman have spent years helping to build a coordinated campaign in the United States, Europe, and other countries to back a "financial transactions tax."
This week, Janet is in Durban, South Africa, where she's rallying other groups at the global climate talks to support this tax to help fund poor countries making the leap into a clean energy future. In the dispatches Janet is writing from South Africa, she reports that the UN estimates it will cost poorer nations close to $1 trillion annually to address climate change in the coming years. A significant share of this could come from a financial transactions tax.
Janet has pulled together a rainbow of global groups to do an action, press conference, and sign-on letter to South African President Jacob Zuma to support this Robin Hood effort. Sarah reports that it is likely that Europe will adopt this tax next year.
IPS is committed to bringing the momentum in Europe and elsewhere into the U.S. debate in the coming months, and turning this Occupy moment into a time of real change. In the face of growing pressure, the Obama administration has dropped its active opposition to new taxes on financial transactions. The door is now open for a win that both reins in the Wall Street casino and raises substantial funds for vital issues like climate.
The Institute is also releasing a Main Street jobs agenda report this week with YES! Magazine and our other allies in the New Economy Working Group. In this report, we explain how to create millions of jobs by shifting the locus of our economy from the Wall Street to a vibrant, green Main Street economy.
December 2, 2011 · By Janet Redman
With the Occupy movement spreading faster than wildfire, it's hard not to ask how every issue relates to it. Climate change is no exception. The question is particularly compelling right now because representatives of 194 countries are gathered in Durban, South Africa, to negotiate next steps for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The connection is easy to make, actually. Like the economic crisis that sparked the Occupy movement, climate change is about inequality.
A few countries are responsible for releasing the vast majority of the global warming pollution that’s in the atmosphere. And they got rich pumping the subsidized oil and burning the cheap coal that produced those emissions. Their wealth did come at a cost — but to poor communities, especially in the global South. And, ironically, the countries and communities that are least responsible for today’s climate crisis are some of the most vulnerable to its impacts and have the fewest resources to respond.
A cacophony of global voices comes together at the annual UN climate summit. Policymakers, indigenous nations, labor unions, youth activists, environmentalists — you name it, they’re probably here, trying to stop global warming.
But powerful corporations whose bottom line depends on access to cheap energy, land, water, and other natural resources are here as well. Not surprisingly, their mission is to defend the status quo, and they wield the political weight of some of the richest nations and the most influential financial institutions (like the World Bank).
Frustrated with the seemingly boundless clout of corporate interests and those heralding the benefits of market-based solutions, like carbon trading, critics have taken to referring to this 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the climate convention as the Conference of Polluters. They're putting out a call to #OccupyCOP17.
José María Figueres, a former Costa Rican president, echoed the sentiment. Calling on all vulnerable countries to occupy the meeting and refuse to leave until progress is made, he said, “We need an expression of solidarity by the delegations of those countries that are most affected by climate change, who go from one meeting to the next without getting responses on the issues that need to be dealt with."
Figueres was referring to two key goals. First, developed countries must renew their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol — the only internationally binding treaty on climate pollution. Second, they must commit to providing developing countries with the money they need to support their adaptation to a warmer world and the transition to low-carbon economies. The United States and other rich countries are sidelining both of these broadly shared objectives.
Janet Redman, co-director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies, is observing the United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa. www.ips-dc.org
Join the global call for climate justice by participating in 1,000 Durbans in conjunction with the December 3rd Day of Action on Climate Justice.
September 30, 2011 · By Phyllis Bennis
When the issue of Palestinian statehood and UN recognition finally came to the United Nations, CTV, Canada’s largest commercial television network, invited me to comment. A CTV regular, I watched Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas address the General Assembly at the CTV studio, and went on the air moments after his speech. As usual, my comments were framed by international law, human rights and equality. I focused on the 20-year-long failure of the U.S.-backed “peace process,” Israel’s continuing violations of the Geneva Conventions and other international obligations of an occupying power, and the centrality of the United Nations.
Shortly after the live interview, the B’nai Brith of Canada launched a public campaign against CTV, urging their supporters call the network to say that “biased reporting against Israel is unacceptable” despite their inability to identify a single error of fact in my commentary. In response, CTV removed the interview from their website, replacing it with an interview with the head of B’nai Brith who views Israel’s occupation as completely acceptable.
But then, following an immediate push-back by a number of Canadian organizations, including Canadian Friends of Sabeel, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East and others, CTV quickly restored the on-line version of my commentary. Watch it yourself (scroll down on the CTV News Video section on the right) – see why we need places like IPS that encourage independent ideas, and why IPS has friends in social movements in the U.S., Canada (and beyond) to turn them into action!
June 10, 2011 · By Nikita Lalwani
This week, the United Nations is hosting its General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS, for which roughly 3,000 people and 30 Heads of State have flocked to New York to evaluate the past three decades of AIDS research and activism. This meeting provides an excellent backdrop against which to assess the current state of global health. Like many diseases, AIDS disproportionately affects people in developing countries. For example, according to the latest UN statistics, roughly 25 percent of the adult population in Lesotho and Swaziland suffer from the disease, as compared to 0.6 percent in the United States and 0.2 percent in the United Kingdom. The UN reported in 2007 that 95 percent of people afflicted by AIDS live in poor countries, with 76 percent of AIDS-related deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.
But such disparity is preventable, according to Incentives for Global Health, a new NGO. This group — with an advisory board that includes among others philosophers Peter Singer and Baroness Onora O'Neill, economist Amartya Sen, and former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin — envisions a future in which everyone may access quality medication through a proposed "Health Impact Fund." The problem, the group's members argue, is that the current system of drug development and sales hurts the poor.
"Despite relatively low manufacturing costs, patented medicines are often very expensive and are therefore unaffordable for most people; and diseases concentrated among the poor attract little or no pharmaceutical research," wrote the group's leaders Yale Professor Thomas Pogge and University of Calgary Professor Aidan Hollis in their Health Impact Fund report. "As a result of both factors, the disease burden among the poor is, avoidably, very high."
The Health Impact Fund aims to solve both problems by giving pharmaceutical companies the option to sell their drugs at a uniform low cost worldwide. In exchange, the companies would for ten years receive payment from the fund — a fixed sum starting at roughly six billion dollars — proportional to the health impact of their drug, giving them incentives to focus on diseases that disproportionately affect the poor. The fund is to be financed by countries supporting the project, so as more and more countries sign on, the fund will grow and attract more pharmaceutical companies. At the conclusion of the tenth year, the company would also concede a royalty-free open license for generic versions of the medicine.
The project is designed to align the incentives of companies with social welfare. We shouldn't be surprised when companies fail to focus on finding treatments or cures for very important health needs if there's no money in it. And there's little point browbeating companies on the basis of "corporate social responsibility" if as societies we're really just passing the buck. Health innovation is a global social responsibility for which all must cooperate — companies will simply respond to incentives. If companies find it profitable to invest in developing drugs for the most pressing health needs, then results will follow.
"All people benefit when pharmaceutical firms organize themselves for optimal health impact: when their innovations target the most burdensome diseases and when they market their products for optimum disease reduction and not merely for sales," Pogge and Hollis continue in their report. "And low prices for advanced medicines will have a large impact on poor people in the United States no less than in Haiti, because high prices deter the poor everywhere from purchasing medicine."
Before the Fund becomes a reality, the group must test its efficacy in a few pilot runs. In particular, they must figure out the best way to assess a given drug's health impact. But the project is underway. If successful, it may revolutionize the global health landscape. As people who care about the well-being of others, we — scholars, activists, governments — have an obligation to get on board.
Nikita Lalwani is an Institute for Policy Studies intern, managing editor of The Yale Globalist, and a Yale Daily News staff writer.
February 19, 2011 · By Phyllis Bennis
Sometimes a Security Council vote can mean a victory for human rights no matter which side wins. Today’s vote on a resolution mildly condemning Israeli settlement activity is one example. If the U.S. had voted for the resolution, or even abstained and allowed others to pass it, it would have strengthened the international opposition to the Israeli occupation, and perhaps helped set the stage for greater UN and international engagement in ending the Israeli occupation and challenging Israel’s apartheid policies and other violations of human rights. It would have been a great victory.
But instead, the U.S. vetoed the resolution – the vote was 14 to 1, with no abstentions. On this issue once again, the U.S. stood absolutely isolated. And ironically, that was a victory too. Because the unity of other countries – Britain, Russia, Brazil and others spoke after the vote, expressing stronger than usual support for the anti-settlement resolution, and referencing (Britain most strongly) their recognition of a Palestinian state that may be declared in September.
In actuality, that recognition by itself is unlikely to achieve an end to the Israeli occupation; the PLO’s 1988 declaration of an independent state quickly won close recognition from close to 100 governments and the occupation intensified. But the recent moves towards greater recognition – especially from a number of Latin American countries who had not previously recognized Palestine – may foreshadow greater UN involvement in holding Israel accountable for its violations.
The U.S. had been threatening the veto for weeks. But in the last few days there had been rumors of a possible shift. A bribe was offered: if the Palestinians would withdraw the resolution, the U.S. would accept a “presidential statement” from the Council; a diplomatic step-down from the power and enforceability of a resolution. The Palestinian diplomats, backed by global support for the resolution and facing massive popular discontent at home because of concessions offered to Israel during peace negotiations, stood firm. Then there was another rumor, maybe the U.S. would abstain, allowing the resolution to pass.
In the end, the Obama administration’s early threats proved accurate. The U.S. stood alone. Ambassador Susan Rice’s statement was astonishingly defensive – she went to great lengths to claim that the U.S. actually agrees with the resolution, that no one has done more than the U.S. to support a two-state solution, that the U.S. thinks settlement activity (not, we should note, the continuing existence of longstanding settlements now home to 500,000 illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, only new settlement activity) violates Israel’s international commitments and more. She tried to convince the world that “opposition to the resolution should not be misunderstood” to mean that the U.S. supports settlement activity – only that the Obama administration “thinks it unwise” for the United Nations to try to stop that settlement activity. She defined settlements as one of the “core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians,” not as a violation of international law and a host of specific UN resolutions – therefore, she claimed, the issue was just one of the wrong venue for this debate.
We’re really against settlements, she pleaded, we just want to end them our way. On our terms. In our peace talks. And we all know how well that’s gone so far.
In fact, the U.S. veto in the Security Council was consistent with a long and sordid history. As of 2009, fully half of the vetoes ever cast were to protect Israel from being held accountable in the UN for violations of international law and human rights. Another -third were to protect racist regimes in southern Africa -- South Africa and pre-independence South-West Africa -- from the same accountability. Taken together, fully five out of six or more than 80% of U.S. vetoes have been cast to protect Washington’s allies accused of apartheid practices.
The Middle East is in the throes of a new wave of democratic revolutionary motion, and it is high time Palestinians were able to be part of that wave. While the U.S. use of the veto remains part of a sordid history, this time the veto may be different. It may actually help set the stage for much greater international engagement in the United Nations that, if combined with the mobilization for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions as well as growing opposition to U.S. military aid, could move once and for all to end the Israeli occupation and apartheid.