Russian Actions against Greenpeace International Part of a Familiar Trend

Last week, the CGP blog commented on the state of the CSO sector in Russia amidst the oncoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the country. The highly controversial interactions between the environmental group Greenpeace International and the Russian government in the past weeks align with the past grievances we reported on:

A Russian coastguard official points a knife at a Greenpeace International activist who tried to scale an oil platform owned by state-owned energy giant Gazprom (Source: Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace).

30 people from 18 countries detained on the Greenpeace International ship “Arctic Sunrise” are awaiting trial on piracy charges and face up to 15 years in prison if convicted related to a September 18th  incident in which some of the activists tried to scale an oil rig in the Pechora Sea owned by the national oil-giant Gazprom. The activists may spend up to two months in pre-trial detention in a Murmansk jail awaiting the decision of Russian prosecutors. Greenpeace International director Kumi Naidoo called the seizure of the vessel and the arrest of its crew the worst “assault” on the environmental activist organization since one of its ships was bombed in 1985. The detained activists are reportedly being kept in “solitary confinement for 23 hours a day,” while others are held in “extremely cold cells.” Russian officials have called the protest “pure provocation” and an “encroachment on the sovereignty” of Russia.

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Waving the REDD Flag in Indonesia’s Forests

As an archipelagic nation, Indonesia consists of around 17,000 islands with 98 million-hectare tropical forests, the third largest in the world after Brazil and Democratic Republic of Congo. Home to “twelve percent of all mammal species, 16% of reptile and amphibian species, and 17% of bird species,” Indonesia’s tropical forests are undoubtedly an important sanctuary and essential source of the world’s oxygen supply and carbon sink function.

The world, however, has been alerted that this lung of the earth is deteriorating, piece by piece, at a disturbing rate. One of Indonesia’s five big islands, Sumatra, for instance, has lost 85% of its forests. Meanwhile, another island, Borneo, experienced an average annual loss of 2.1 million acres of its forest area between 1985 and 2005. Although the nation has been lauded for its economic bounce after the devastating 1998 financial crisis with a 6% GDP growth on average over  8 years, it seems that Indonesia’s staggering economic growth is having an inverse trend to its environmental record.

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It’s Getting Hot in Here… Notes on the UNFCCC Summit

Source: Hudson CGP/People, for more on Ryan Gosling in Development go here:

What’s hotter than Durban, South Africa (besides Ryan Gosling in Development)? That would be the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which recently concluded its annual meeting there (referred to as the COP17). The main topic of discussion was the Kyoto Protocol and how the UNFCCC can extend its regulations on carbon emissions. Currently, the Kyoto Protocol only binds industrialized countries to specific emissions levels, which are due to expire next year. Developing countries, in contrast, can voluntarily decide to reduce their own emissions. However, three main barriers continue to exist, despite the successful attempt to push through an agreement by the end of the two-week summit that will result in meetings in 2015 and 2020.

The first is that the biggest polluters (U.S., China, and India) have failed to ratify the treaty (the U.S.), or view it as a significant obstacle to poverty alleviation (China and India). The second is that the rich countries, most significantly affected by the Kyoto agreement, are calling for a more even distribution of limitations (instead of targeting rich countries for the majority of emissions cuts and allowing developing countries to continue to pollute). The final obstacle to seeing results is that the Kyoto Protocol does not dictate a legal framework that enforces the emissions limitations. As a result, the meeting in Durban sought to create a new agreement that would allow for continued funding of green initiatives, encourage countries to renew their emissions commitments, and decide upon an international governing body to mandate climate objectives.

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If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands

Everybody says that money can’t buy us happiness; however, when most people think of development, their minds jump to money. For a long time, economists have focused primarily on GDP to measure the development of a nation. It was not until the UN released the first Human Development Report (HDR) in 1990 that another tool came to light. The first HDR focused on the well-being of the population as an indicator for development rather than just the economic growth of the country. As a result, measuring the happiness of a country has become the latest trend. Continue reading

Methods of Development | An Apple a Day Keeps NCDs Away

Source: United Nations

Dismissing the long-held notion that noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) only affect high-income countries, the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs took place September 19-20th in New York City. The last UN meeting targeting health issues focused on AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, otherwise referred to as communicable diseases (CDs). While CDs are still a significant issue in global health and development, NCDs are taking center stage. The NCDs selected for the UN meeting include cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory diseases/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes. Though experts acknowledge that the list of NCDs featured in the meeting is limited, the chosen NCDs can be attributed to a similar set of underlying factors, including: tobacco use, alcohol consumption, poor diet, and physical inactivity.

With rapidly aging populations, developing countries are experiencing a new wave of economic and social issues. Such a demographic shift requires a country to adapt new health policies that allow its population to lead long and healthy lives. NCDs, which are preventable and treatable in most cases, demonstrate a changing need in developing countries’ health care systems. They also represent a significant change in how to deal with public health issues. While previous programs targeted CDs that signaled immediate danger and could rapidly decrease a country’s population, NCDs reflect an increasingly connected, globalized world, where lifestyle and personal choices may contribute more to one’s health than the circumstances one was born into.  Continue reading