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Entries tagged "World Bank"Page Previous 1 • 2 • 3
April 5, 2011 · By Janet Redman
The UN climate talks held in Cancun late last year paved the way for a new Green Climate Fund to channel money for developing countries to build resiliency, protect forests, and bring low-carbon technologies and practices into mainstream use.
That marked a critical victory for developing countries, but the biggest fights have yet to come. In the coming year, a committee of 40 government representatives (25 from developing and 15 from developed countries) will be working furiously with the UN and other institutions, as well as finance, gender, community participation, and other experts, on making this fund a reality. They must do everything from creating a management structure to forging a global definition of "clean energy."
This ambitious task is meant to result in a Green Climate Fund that can handle the tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars a year developing countries will need in the coming decades to combat climate change and at the same time continue their fight against poverty.
It's fundamentally disturbing, however, that the World Bank — the planet’s leading cheerleader for a growth-without-limits development paradigm — is elbowing its way to the front of the line to help design the new fund, almost guaranteeing itself a permanent role in its management.
More than 90 environment, development, human rights, and anti-debt organizations from around the world conveyed this concern in a letter to the Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the convener of the first fund design meeting.
In the letter, civil society leaders called for strictly limiting the World Bank's role in the design on the Green Climate Fund for the following reasons:
First and foremost, the World Bank continues to finance dirty coal, oil and gas projects. According to a World Bank Group Energy Sector Financing Update prepared by the Bank Information Center, the global lender supported fossil fuel projects to the tune of $6.6 billion in 2010, a 116 percent increase from the year before. That included $4.4 billion for coal power projects, more than it spent on all new renewable energy and energy efficiency projects combined for the year ($3.4 billion). So while the World Bank is undeniably increasing it renewable energy financing, the volume is still dwarfed by its fossil fuel lending.
Bobby Peek, director of groundWork/Friends of the Earth South Africa, an environmental justice group in Durban, South Africa, that endorsed the NGO letter, noted, “Only a year ago the World Bank made its largest loan ever to dirty energy, signing $3.75 billion over to the Eskom energy company to build a 4,800MW coal-fired power station in South Africa.” He asked, “Is this the institution we want to put in charge funding the solutions to the climate crisis?”
Bank officials say that the Eskom power plant — and similar coal projects in other countries — are important for bringing access to electricity for energy-poor families. But environmentalists and local activists argue that the project will benefit large mines and smelters, not the local community.
In fact, in an independent review of the Bank’s 26 fossil fuel loans in 2009 and 2010, Oil Change International found that none of these clearly identify access for the poor as a direct target of the project. The Bank agreed that not a single coal or oil project could be classified as improving energy access.
To the World Bank’s credit, it may be about to change course to a degree. A leaked draft of its new 10-year energy strategy revealed plans to move away from supporting new coal projects in middle-income countries. But environment and development groups argue that the language used in that draft document is riddled with loopholes. The energy plan also includes a massive scale-up of hydropower mega-dams that threaten to displace communities, destroy fisheries, and release their own greenhouse gases.
The Green Climate Fund should remain fully independent from the World Bank. Its design committee should engage experts from UN agencies and all regions of the world. Experts on gender, sustainable development, poverty alleviation, renewable energy and efficiency technologies, indigenous peoples, human rights, and social and environmental safeguards should weigh in, too.
June 3, 2010 · By Beth Goldberg
Lawyers in this country often get a bad rap for charging predatory rates and manipulating the fine print for their personal gain. It is too easy to forget that lawyers play a vital role of enforcing the rule of law and protecting our most basic rights and liberties. So how do we respond when the tables are turned and a lawyer's rights are being violated /in need of defense?
The US State Department suggests we sit on our hands. Nothing has improved for almost a week since Rwandan police arrested Peter Erlinder, a US lawyer and head of the International Criminal Court’s defense lawyer’s association, in Kigali last Friday. He had just arrived to defend his client, presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, when he was arrested and charged with the same crime for which she is wanted: practicing “genocide ideology.”
Rwanda’s recent constitution includes a “Genocide Ideology Law,” intended to penalize genocidaires and those who deny the reality of the1994 genocide. Although this law rests on good intentions, President Kagame has employed it with increasing frequency and in situations where it is unsubstantiated. In essence, the law has become a tool of the regime for political targeting and elimination of their opposition.
Erlinder’s arrest is especially notable in this trend because it is the first time Rwanda has used “genocide ideology” charges to detain a foreign national. While Erlinder never denied the genocide, he has said it is inaccurate to blame only one side and criticized Kagame for suppressing open discussion of the subject. Ironically, the Rwandan government responded to Erlinder's rational appeal by making him an example of his own criticisms.
Kagame’s regime has leveled this emotionally charged indictment against its political opponents in the lead up to presidential elections August 9th. The most recent and high profile charge came against Victoire Inagabire April 21st, after she announced her candidacy for Kagame’s seat.
The international community, particularly the World Bank, has heaped praise on Kagame’s regime for its role in Rwanda’s economic recovery and political stability since the disastrous genocide there in 1994. This praise should not overshadow the increasingly authoritarian tendencies in Rwanda, however. These include muzzling of the independent press, harassment and intimidation of opposition parties in elections, and now criminal indictments against political opponents and their lawyers. Read more about the regression of democracy in Rwanda here.
The United States is incontrovertibly required to address Rwanda’s actions, both to protect Mr. Erlinder and to send a broader diplomatic message that such unlawful action against US citizens abroad will not be permitted. Yet so far, the US has prioritized maintaining its healthy political relationship with Rwanda.
“The US has had a special relationship with Rwanda, which remains one of the largest recipients of US foreign assistance in Africa. Given the US government's expressed commitment to democracy and the rule of law, it is critical that the Obama Administration and the US Congress uphold these values in Rwanda and demand the immediate release of Peter Erlinder, an advocate of justice,” said the Institute's Emira Woods.
The National Lawyers Guild, of which Erlinder was formerly president, was first to issue a statement demanding his immediate release. At a national press conference in Washington June 3rd, the president of the National Lawyers Guild, David Gespass, said, "Professor Erlinder has been acting in the best tradition of the legal profession and has been a vigorous advocate in his representation of his clients. There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for representing defendants it dislikes.”
The injustice of Erlinder’s arrest and detainment is on the hands of both Rwanda and now the United States for its continued inaction. "The real issue here seems to be whether the US and the world will stand by and allow my father to be detained and prosecuted for doing his job, as an attorney and advocate for his clients," said Sarah Erlinder, daughter of Peter Erlinder.
The detainment became extremely critical Tuesday, when reports that Erlinder was hospitalized and had tried to commit suicide while in jail were released by the Rwandan government. "He mixed between 45 and 50 tablets in water and took the concoction in an attempted suicide," Rwandan Police Spokesman Kayiranga said. "However, the police managed to intercept and took Erlinder to hospital before the drugs could take their toll on his body." Erlinder’s family disputes the validity of this claim and is pressing the Red Cross to make an independent investigation into his condition.
Why are NGOs the only reliable mechanism for news here? The US Embassy in Rwanda has been disturbingly absent throughout this affair.While the US Embassy staff took off work this Monday for Memorial Day, a holiday to commemorate those who fought for justice and freedoms, a champion of those very values remained behind bars just miles away in Kigali. Justice and rule of law shouldn't take vacations, especially when champions of the law like Peter Erlinder need our help.
You can write to the Rwandan government demanding Peter Erlinder's release here.