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In brief

by hans.dembowski

In brief

Cyclone damage at Gopalpur port.

Cyclone damage at Gopalpur port.

Cylone hits Indian coast, Lampedusa disaster, IPPC report on climate change, post-2015 debate and more.

Well prepared

The cyclone “Phailin”, which struck eastern India in October, caused much less damage than was initially feared. According to Indian authorities, the storm triggered the largest evacuation effort in India’s history. Up to one million people were brought to safety. Twenty-three deaths were officially reported by mid-October. The last storm of this size occurred in the late 1990s and killed over 10,000 people. Phailin quickly disappeared from the headlines.  Nonetheless, the cyclone caused a great deal of property damage in a very poor coastal region. (bm)


Refugees die in Mediterranean

Refugee policy is being discussed once again in Germany and the EU after a boat carrying over 500 people capsized near the island of Lampedusa, not far from the Italian coast, at the beginning of October. According to media reports, the boat experienced distress, it caught fire and many people could not escape. At least 360 refugees died and others are still missing. Only a few days later, another 34 refugees died on the Mediterranean. Representatives from the EU expressed sadness and concern. Cecilia Malmström, the EU commissioner for home affairs, called for greater cooperation on immigration policy. “How many more people have to die before something is done?” asked Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta. A quickly-convened meeting of EU home affairs ministers did not result in changes to the refugee policy, however. The council merely decided to form a working group to look into the matter. Italy feels abandoned by the EU when it comes to managing its coastline and is calling for more support. (bm)


Global climate ­continues to warm

The fifth report by the Inter­governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed once again that climate change is advancing, most likely due to human activity. The panel of scientists warns that the global mean temperature is rising because of increased greenhouse gas emissions, which warm oceans and glaciers. Extreme weather is also becoming more frequent, the report states. The scientists argue that substantive climate protection is desperately needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing emissions would at least slow the progress of global warming. According to the report, the acidity of the oceans has also increased. Scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) have criticised the IPCC report for minimising the damage to the oceans. The IPSO warns that the increasing acidification of the oceans will have dire consequences. Since 1990, the IPCC has issued regular reports on the latest findings relating to climate change. (bm)

Alternative Nobel Prize 2013

The winners of the 2013 Right Livelihood Award have been determined. Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, won the Alternative Nobel Prize for his efforts to heal women who have been the victims of war-time sexual violence. Raji Sourani, a Palestinian human rights lawyer, was another winner this year. Sourani lives in Gaza and founded the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights to document rights violations and help victims. US citizen Paul Walker will get the  Prize for his commitment to ridding the world of chemical weapons. The Right Livelihood Award Foundation also honoured a Swiss citizen for the first time. Hans Herren and his Biovision Foundation use biological pest control and sustainable agriculture to fight poverty, hunger and disease in Africa. (bm)


Debate on new development goals 

The post-2015 debate is gathering momentum worldwide (see D+C/E+Z 2013/7-8). At the UN General Assembly in New York this fall, Martí Petit Antoni, prime minister of Andorra, said he wanted the post-2015 agenda to  be even more ambitious than the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He believes that many of the MDGs will not be achieved by the 2015 deadline. The Assembly decided to merge the post-2015 process with drafting Sustainable Development Goals. Experts also discussed the future goals at a UN Development Programme conference in Seoul. UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan argued that people all over the world want greater equality between the rich and the poor. She explained that good governance is an important issue for people as well. The umbrella organisation United Cities and Local Governments took on the post-2015 agenda at its World Summit in Rabat, Morocco. Participants passed a declaration that emphasised the importance of promoting inclusion and improving the lives of people living in the world’s cities. The declaration stated that addressing these issues would help create a sustainable future for all. In addition, the declaration stressed that the post-2015 agenda must concentrate on local factors in order to be successful. In New York, the Mauritanian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Ahmed Teguedi, insisted that rich nations do their part. According to Teguedi, debt relief, technology transfer and facilitating trade between the global north and south are key concerns. Jose Maria Pereira Neves, the prime minister of Cape Verde, encouraged world leaders to focus on climate change instead. In his view, that is the most urgent problem the world is facing today. (bm)


AU accuses ICC ­of racism

The African Union is considering a withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is being charged in The Hague because of post-election violence in 2007/08, has accused the court of racism towards Africa and Africans. Many African heads of state agree with Kenyatta and are calling for the court to suspend proceedings against sitting presidents. The organisation Human Rights Watch was outraged by the accusation. South African bishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu also supports the ICC. Tutu stated that the African politicians accusing the court of racism are simply looking for a license to kill and oppress their own people without being held accountable. The December issue of D+C/E+Z will deal with the ICC. (bm)


­Chemical weapons destroyed in Syria

Acting on a resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council, a team of experts began destroying Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in early October. The experts are part of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which will be presented with the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize in December. Syria is estimated to possess 1,000 tons of chemical weapons. According to the UN Security Council resolution, the country could be free of chemical weapons by mid-2014. The resolution states that “no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain, or transfer chemical weapons”. (bm)