Thursday, 25 February 2010

America's March to Socialism: Why We're One Step Closer to Giant Missile Parades


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China Should Lead Asia In Achieving Millennium Targets By 2015

MANILA, Feb 17 (Bernama) -- China, with its huge resources and success in reducing poverty should lead developing Asian countries in attaining the Asia-Pacific region's Millennium Development Goals (MDG), United Nations Development Programme Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Ajay Chhibber said Wednesday.

"China is the champion of the Millennium Development Goals," Chhibber said after the launch of the regional report, China's Xinhua news agency said.

The report entitled: "Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in an Era of Global Uncertainty", was prepared by the UNDP, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

China has been on track in attaining most of its MDG targets including slashing poverty rate from 60 percent to 16 percent in 2005, reducing malnutrition, halting the spread of HIV and AIDS and providing universal primary education.

China has also allocated a quarter of its fiscal stimulus package to social protection programmes such as allocating for low rent housing and improving rural living standards.

Chhibber noted that China has set a very important positive example to other countries who are yet to fulfill their MDG commitments.

"But more than that, China, owing to its substantial resources, can also help other developing countries attain MDG targets".

"China can play an important role (so that Asia) can achieve its MDG (by 2015). China has large (foreign exchange) reserves ( and a) large (budget) for international cooperation programmes," he said.

This is especially crucial now, Chhibber said, given that the global meltdown threatens the recent gains that Asian countries have posted in attaining their MDG.

The joint report released Wednesday warned that the global economic crisis could trap an additional 21 million people in the Asia-Pacific region in extreme poverty, living on less than US$1.25 a day.

We must arm ourselves for a class war

Protesters in Greece
Protesters in Greece are demanding that the plutocrats pay Photo: EPA

If you don't work in the City or in economics, you may not have heard of the annual Mais lecture, which was delivered last night by George Osborne. But it's a big deal, arguably the most important set-piece speech in the Square Mile calendar. And only once before has City University, the host, deigned to invite an opposition politician primed for election to deliver it.

On that occasion, the young thrusting pup at the lectern derided a government in crisis, its finances in a state, its economic reputation in tatters. He promised to cut the deficit, to intervene in markets where necessary, and laid out a "new framework" for running the economy. That man was Tony Blair.

Last night, George Osborne became the second opposition politician to deliver the lecture. His title? "A New Economic Framework". That aside, the difference could hardly be more stark. In 1995, the economy was in recovery. With the deficit past its peak, the great transformation in macro-economic management had already taken place, when the collapse of the Exchange Rate Mechanism forced Britain to start targeting inflation rather than exchange rates.

Today, the economy is in a far more damaging spiral. The first leg of the financial and economic crisis, which stemmed from excessive private borrowing and the subsequent collapse of the banking industry, is over. The second leg, characterised by a crisis of sovereign debt in even the richest economies, is only just beginning. The Bank of England's inflation-targeting approach is under question from sources as authoritative as the International Monetary Fund. The world economy looks increasingly vulnerable to a "double-dip", tipping back into recession or stagnation rather than bouncing back to health.

More important, both political parties are committed to spending cuts of a scale never before experienced by the public. Ignore the fuss about economists' letters: based even on Labour's plans for public spending, the next half-decade will be the first time in modern history that a government has imposed five successive years of real spending cuts. The question is not about timing (the Tories would cut earlier and slightly more) but over who will push the cuts through. Labour perennially disappoints and misses its fiscal targets. What most recommends the Tories is the pedigree that suggests they will at least approach the task with some relish.

All the same, Osborne is terrified of imposing such deep and painful cuts. He privately despairs that he will end up as the most unpopular politician in modern history. Which helps explain his plan, spelt out last night, to set up a three-man Office for Budget Responsibility to advise him on how far to cut spending. The hope is that the OBR will attract the opprobrium when state-sector workers are laid off or given pay cuts, when VAT is raised, when the retirement age is increased, and when public-sector pensions are finally tackled.

However, as good a start as the lecture made, it failed to address the scale of the social task facing the Tories. Osborne mentioned the Conservatives' plans to tackle inequality, but only as an afterthought. And that is precisely what the divide between rich and poor has been for decades: a worthy economic topic that is too big, nebulous and intractable to tackle. I suspect that this is about to change. We have known for some time that income disparities have climbed to the highest level since the Thirties. What is new, and worrying, is that whereas this gap narrowed as a consequence of the Great Depression – as the wealthiest lost money and the poorest benefited from the newly created social safety nets – this time the crisis has served to widen the chasm, not least because the plutocratic bankers were bailed out with taxpayers' cash.

In part, inequality is a natural consequence of globalisation. When a company shifts factories overseas, the shareholders make more money, but the workers lose their jobs. Optimists claim that this wealth should trickle down to those unemployed workers as the shareholders go out and spend more, but reality has proved otherwise. According to Albert Edwards of Société Générale, homeowners have been distracted from noticing this disparity by housing bubbles that convinced them they were becoming wealthier. But that fantasy has been obliterated by the crisis.

The poorest today are, in absolute terms, less destitute than before, able to afford food, shelter, even satellite TV. But the disparity between them and the richest has risen. It is not merely, as Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in their book The Spirit Level, that this damages health and encourages crime; in times of austerity, inequality can tear apart the social fabric. Take Greece, where the most frequent chant in this week's riots was: "Make the plutocrats pay!"

So Ed Balls's plan to pitch this election as a class war is, I'm afraid, on the button. Class, money and privilege will be unavoidable issues during the next parliamentary term. Rather than ignoring them, the Tories must take action. Better to start thinking about free-market reforms that share the wealth more equitably than to leave it to the Left to suggest that taxes on the wealthy are the only solution.

World trade — unwelcome guests?

Delta Farm Press logo

Feb 25, 2010 8:08 AM, By Elton Robinson, Farm Press Editorial Staff

Jim Stack doesn’t have a problem with world trade as a means to provide the world’s inhabitants with an adequate supply of agricultural products. It’s what comes with it that troubles him.

“When we move products around, we cannot help but move pests and pathogens, too,” the director of the National Biosecurity Research Institute at Kansas State University said at the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

“In 2007, the United States imported 48 million tons of agricultural products and only inspected 1 percent to 2 percent of them. The volumes are just too big. We know things are getting through. We are intercepting thousands of pests and pathogens with just 1 percent to 2 percent inspection.”

Stack says the problem will likely worsen as world population increases, and world trade rises to compensate.

“Today, over 1 million people live on lands that exceed the carrying capacity. One-third of the world’s population lives in poverty, and 100 million people live in imminent danger of starvation.”

With projections that world population will reach 9 billion people in several decades, or 32 percent more people than exist at present, “this places a lot of pressure on the world to produce.”

Stack noted that the United Nations’ Millennium Goals, established 10 years ago to eradicate extreme poverty, alleviate extreme hunger and improve public health, suggests that increasing world trade is the key to providing food security in the world.

But what critters will be hitching rides on crates and containers? Quite a few, Stack says, unless plant biosecurity efforts are stepped up.

Stack defines plant biosecurity as “containment, or keeping certain organisms in certain spaces, and exclusion, or keeping certain organisms out of certain spaces. That’s whether we’re talking about a field, a state or an entire nation.

“During the course of this meeting, there are 6 million cargo containers in transit on the ocean. Interestingly, while we’ve been sitting here, 82 containers are going to fall off the ship. Some of them wash up on shores, break open and spew their contents. If it’s a shipment of Lays potato chips, it’s not bad. But it’s not just the product. It’s the containers they’re being shipped in. Invasive species will cause $1.2 billion in damage in the three days of this meeting.”

Stack says the magnitude and expanse of modern trade makes it virtually impossible to check every container or crate. “The geographic barriers that used to keep organisms contained are irrelevant. We’re putting them on ships and airplanes. Natural barriers are now irrelevant.”

Stack said an example surfaced recently, with central Italy’s importation of used automobile tires from the United States, which carried mosquitoes which subsequently vectored a virus. “Thousands of people became ill. They lost productivity in the workplace. A lot of donated blood was also affected and they had massive disruptions of scheduled surgeries.”

The speed at which produce moves is another concern for Stack. “Right now, we can produce plants in Kenya and Guatemala, harvest them, transport them to the United States, get them through the inspection process and to wholesale in the United States in 36 hours.

“Right outside the inspection stations is a line of trucks waiting to transport the products once they’re cleared.”

The 2008 farm bill “calls for enhanced surveillance and interception for imported goods,” Stack said. “This is another step in the right direction. Is it going to be enough? Absolutely not, but not because of inadequate effort. It’s because the volumes are too large.

“Just in the Port of Miami in 2009, we imported over a million live plants and 2.6 million pounds of seed for planting. Forty-four thousand potential invasives were intercepted and 2,700 exotic pests were identified.”

Stack says one key to enhancing plant biosecurity is early detection. “The idea is to find it fast. It’s the people in the fields, the packing houses and the distribution systems that need to be the eyes. Enhanced surveillance is all about being aware of what the potential introductions are or being aware of unusual circumstances.”

Stack noted that the National Plant Diagnostic Network is one of several organizations providing training for the effort. “There are also online modules and workshops. I encourage you to stay current on this.”

Stack says that some leaders in developed nations have advocated that their countries “stop trading plants altogether. We can’t do that. But we have to understand the consequences of trade, then commit the preparation necessary to deal with some of the negative impacts.

Another aspect of plant biosecurity is bioterrorism, according to Stack. “It is not as big a deal as natural introduction, but to ignore it would be foolish.”

There has been at least one instance of bioterrorism, Stack said. “In Brazil there is a pathogen that was introduced from one region to another by land reformers who wanted to damage the local cocoa industry and its hold on local politics. They wanted to muck up the economy there so they could come into power. The pathogen did become established, and cocoa production fell 62 percent in 10 years.”

The irony of plant biosecurity versus food security isn’t lost on Stack either. “Increased trade undermines plant biosecurity. How does this make sense? The solution is the problem.”


The Latest CFO Headache: The United Nations



This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

CFOs face scrutiny from a wide range of sources: financial analysts, regulators, lawyers and accountants. A new body can now be added to this list, a body which is likely to cause some consternation. The U.N. last week formally castigated 86 global companies for failing to live up to the reporting requirements they agreed to when the companies became signatories of the UN Global Compact.

The scolding was undertaken by a coalition of global investors that are signatories to the U.N.’s Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), an organization created in 2006 that uses investors to try and force companies to adhere to a global set of corporate and social obligations. That coalition of investors manages assets of over $20 trillion, so they carry some weight.

The companies involved in the exercise include some well known names such as Visteon and Lionbridge Technologies from the U.S., Spice PLC from the U.K. and Orascom Construction Industries from Egypt. Specifically the report says the companies involved had not submitted a mandatory report on how they put the U.N. PRI initiative into action.

The report also praises companies that underwent a similar rebuke in 2009 but then submitted their reports. These companies included Bayer from Germany, Nikon from Japan and Inditex from Spain.

What the U.N. expects — and what many CFOs will find hard to achieve — is that companies need to play a large role in solving global issues such as climate change and poverty. As Gavin Power, Director of the U.N. Global Compact says: “The most critical challenges of our time…require a collective response involving investors, the corporate sector and all societal actors.” From that reading it seems that companies now have to bring about world peace and end hunger on top of delivering quarterly earnings. Many CFOs will think that is perhaps a responsibility too far.

Britain's Weather Office Proposes Climate-Gate Do-Over


By George Russell


At a meeting Monday of 150 climate scientists, representatives of Britain's weather office proposed that the world's climatologists start all over again and produce a new trove of global temperature data that is open to public scrutiny and "rigorous" peer review.

After the firestorm of criticism called Climate-gate, the British government's official Meteorological Office has decided to give its modern climate data a do-over.

At a meeting on Monday of about 150 climate scientists in the quiet Turkish seaside resort of Antalya, representatives of the weather office (known in Britain as the Met Office) quietly proposed that the world's climate scientists start all over again on a "grand challenge" to produce a new, common trove of global temperature data that is open to public scrutiny and "rigorous" peer review.

In other words, conduct investigations into modern global warming in a way that may help to end the mammoth controversy over world temperature data that has been stirred up in the past few years.

The executive summary of the Met Office proposal to the World Meteorological Organization's Committee for Climatology was obtained by Fox News. In it, the Met Office defends its historical record of temperature readings, along with similar data collected in the U.S., as a "robust indicator of global change." But it admits that "further development" of the record is required "in particular to better assess the risks posed by changes in extremes of climate."

Among other things, its older data is maintained on a monthly basis, and the Met Office proposal says that is "grossly inadequate" to providing information on a daily and "sub-daily" basis.

A Met Office spokesman, Dave Britton, declared that the decision to re-do the data collection had been gestating for "a long time," then added: "But it would be naïve to say that [the Climate-gate controversy] didn't have an impact." He added: "It's not something that we can do alone."

As a result, the proposal says, "we feel that it is timely to propose an international effort to reanalyze surface temperature data in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which has the responsibility for global observing and monitoring systems for weather and climate."

The new effort, the proposal says, would provide:

• "verifiable datasets starting from a common databank of unrestricted data"
• "methods that are fully documented in the peer reviewed literature and open to scrutiny;"
• "a set of independent assessments of surface temperature produced by independent groups using independent methods,"
• "comprehensive audit trails to deliver confidence in the results;"
• "robust assessment of uncertainties associated with observational error, temporal and geographical in homogeneities."

Click here to read the executive summary.

The Met Office proposes that the new international effort to recalibrate temperature data start at a "workshop"' hosted by its Hadley Climate Research Centre, which maintains data in collaboration with the controversial Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at Britain's East Anglia University. The Met Office would invite "key players" to start the "agreed community challenge" of creating the new datasets. A Met Office spokesman said the new effort would take about three years to complete, but would not estimate the cost.

The Met Office proposal asserts that "we do not anticipate any substantial changes in the resulting global and continental-scale ... trends" as a result of the new round of data collection. But, the proposal adds, "this effort will ensure that the datasets are completely robust and that all methods are transparent."

Those strongly underlined assurances put the Met Office in strong contrast to the accusations that have been hurled at its collaborator, CRU, epicenter of the Climate-gate controversy. Among other things, the CRU had stonewalled climate skeptics who demanded to know more about its scientific methods in establishing a dramatic record of global warming, especially in the 20th century. (An inquiry established that the institution had flouted British freedom of information laws in refusing to come up with the data.)

The stonewall began to crumble after a gusher of leaked emails revealed climate scientists, including the CRU's chief, Phil Jones, discussing how to keep controversial climate data out of the hands of the skeptics, keep opposing scientific viewpoints out of peer-reviewed scientific journals, and bemoaned that their climate models failed to account for more than a decade of stagnation in global temperatures.Jones later revealed that key temperature datasets used in Hadley's predictions had been lost, and could not be retrieved for verification.

Jones stepped down temporarily after the British government announced an ostensibly independent inquiry into the still-growing scandal, but that only fanned the flames, as skeptics pointed out ties between several panel members and the East Anglia center. In an interview two weeks ago, Jones also admitted that there has been no "statistically significant" global warming in the past 15 years.

The Met Office's desire for more robust and transparent data could also prove to be a blow for Rajendra Pachauri, head of the United Nations-backed International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose most recent report, published in 2007, has been exposed by skeptics as rife with scientific errors, larded with un-reviewed and non-scientific source materials, and other failings.

As details of the report's sloppiness emerged, the ranks of skeptics of the work have swelled to include larger numbers of the scientific community, including weather specialists who worked on the sprawling IPCC report. Calls for Pachauri's resignation have come from organizations as normally opposed as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the British chapter of Greenpeace. So far, he has refused to step down.

The Met proposal argues says that its old datasets "are adequate for answering the pressing 20th Century questions of whether climate is changing and if so how. Bet they are fundamentally ill-conditioned to answer 21st Century questions such as how extremes are changing and therefore what adaptation and mitigation decisions should be taken."

Those "21st Century questions" are not small and they are very far from cheap. At Copenhagen, wealthy nations were being asked to spend trillions of dollars on answering them, a deal that only fell through when China, India, and other near-developed nations refused to join the mammoth climate-control deal.

The question after the Met Office's proposal may be whether environmentalists eager to move those mountains of cash are also ready to stand down until the 21st century questions get 21st century answers.

Bali-Hoo: U.N Still Pushing for Global Environmental Control

Thursday , February 25, 2010

By George Russell

Despite the debacle of the failed Copenhagen climate change conference last December, the United Nations is pressing full speed ahead with a plan for a greatly expanded system of global environmental governance and for a multitrillion-dollar economic transfer scheme to ignite the creation of a "global green economy."

In other words: Copenhagen without the authority — yet — of Copenhagen.

The world body even has chosen a time and a place for the culmination of the process: a World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, the 20th anniversary of the famed "Earth Summit" that gave focus and urgency to the world environmentalist movement.

The 2012 summit date is significant for another reason: It marks the end of the legal term of agreement for the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, which includes carbon reduction targets, and provided the legal basis for an international cap-and-trade market for carbon, centered in Europe. The U.S. first signed then backed away from the Kyoto deal without ratifying it; until its apparent collapse, the comprehensive Copenhagen deal was intended to include the U.S. and supplant Kyoto with a new, legally binding regime.

The new Rio summit will end, according to U.N. documents obtained by Fox News, with a "focused political document" presumably laying out the framework and international commitments to a new Green World Order.

Just exactly what that environmental order will look like, and the extent of the immense financial commitments needed to produce it, are under discussion this week at a special session in Bali, Indonesia, of the United Nations Environment Program's 58-nation "Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environmental Forum," which oversees UNEP's operations.

The GC/GMEF, as it is known, is made up of environmental ministers and top-level bureaucrats from a roster of supervising nations — the U.S. is one of them — and its meeting is surrounded by a galaxy of environmentalist non-government organizations (NGOs) and environmental journalists from around the world.

Idyllic Bali is a favored venue for U.N. environmental meetings, in part because of its seclusion from too many outside eyes, and because its Pacific location and small size make it a highly congenial hothouse for environmental enthusiasm. In 2007, it served as a launching pad for the Bali Action Plan, which laid the negotiating basis for the Copenhagen treaty process.

The latest Bali session runs from Feb. 24 to 26, and is accompanied by a welter of other UNEP activity ranging from sessions on international waste management and chemical disposal, to the start of a process aimed at a new international treaty covering the storage and disposal of environmental mercury.

But the major topics are a global system of governance and what amounts to the next stage of a radical transformation of the world economic and social order, in the name of saving the planet.

Alongside that, as always, are discussions of vast sums of money that should flow to developing nations to help them make the transition to the new, greener world. As one of the papers written in advance of the meeting to "stimulate discussion" puts it, "the situation ... presents genuine opportunities for a dramatic shift from what can be termed 'business as usual.'"

For the anonymous bureaucrats who wrote the discussion papers, "business as usual" apparently means the current world economy, which the anonymous authors disparagingly term the "brown economy," or the "current dominant economic model." It is, according to the UNEP documents, a model in crisis, "which currently consumes more biomass than the Earth produces on a sustainable basis," and also "depletes natural capital" and "risks perpetuating and exacerbating persistent poverty and distributional disparities."

The new green economy under discussion at Bali will be something very different: For starters, it is much more vague, and as far as the discussion paper authors are concerned, it will stay that way.

The paper paints the coming green order in nebulous and utopian terms. It "implies the decoupling of resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth." It involves "substantially increased investment in green sectors, supported by enabling policy reforms." The investments will "provide the mechanism for the reconfiguration of businesses, infrastructure and institutions, and for adoption of sustainable consumption and production processes." It will lead to "more green and decent jobs, reduced energy and material intensities in production processes, less waste and pollution, and significantly reduced greenhouse-gas emissions."

But when it comes to measuring the achievement of those goals, the paper says, "it is counter-productive to develop generic green economy indicators applicable to all countries given differences in natural, human and economic resources." In the process of turning brown to green, "a green economy in one country may look quite dissimilar to a green economy in another country."

All of which may make judging the value of investment in the ecological transformation difficult to evaluate, except for insiders. But then, the paper suggests that the world may have an additional governing structure composed of exactly those insiders. As the paper puts it:

"Moving towards a green economy would also provide an opportunity to re-examine national and global governance structures and consider whether such structures allow the international community to respond to current and future environmental and development challenges and to capitalize on emerging opportunities."

The discussion paper, published — but not distributed — on Dec. 14, 2009, assumes that the goal of the green economic transformation is the same as that of the ill-fated Copenhagen conference: a 50 percent reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. That, the paper says, will require a staggering $45 trillion dollar to accomplish — much of it in transfers from rich nations to poorer ones.

The paper, however, paints that as a bargain — "an average yearly investment of just over $1 trillion." About half of that would go for "replacing conventional technologies with low-carbon, environmentally sound alternatives."

Click here to read the Green Economy paper.

Another major investment target would be "ecosystem-based adaptation and mitigation"—paying people and governments to maintain and expand forests, wetlands, coral reefs and other productive sources of "natural capital," which the current "dominant economic model" — the paper provides no other specifics — abuses.

But that is only the beginning of the transformation. Consumption patterns must change, so that fewer wasteful products are consumed, and more ecologically proper ones are produced — organic food and beverages, for example. The UNEP authors, citing other analytical papers produced by UNEP, claim that "the global market for environmental products and services is projected to double from the present $1.37 trillion per year to $2.74 trillion by 2020."

Beyond the organic food market, however, "environmental products and services" are not defined in much detail. One area would be the management of chemicals and solid and hazardous waste — as the paper puts it, "solid waste management alone consumes on average 20-50 percent of most city budgets."

In social terms, one of the most important goals of the transformation would be jobs, jobs, jobs — all of them green, and many of them, as it happens, already in existence.

The report notes, for example, that the U.S. recycling industry as of 2002 already employed over 1 million people; more investment would thus provide "significant opportunities" for more job creation. The same goes for looking after trees: Citing the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the paper claims that "10 million new green jobs could be created by investing in sustainable forest management."

The report argues that significant amounts of the money developed countries have thrown at the problem of ending their current steep recessions could be counted as the type of green investment it envisages as part of the trillion-a-year future. In the U.S., for example, the document says that 11.6 percent of the economic stimulus as of August 2009 — about $112.8 billion — is the type it sees as vastly increasing in the future.

Where is all the money supposed to come from? The paper is emphatic that government alone doesn't have enough. The paper says that "regulated market mechanisms" are needed to "to promote new and innovative investments in green technology."

But above all, the paper asserts, the focus on ecological transformation must become all-encompassing if it is to succeed. Quoting from UNEP's formal medium-term strategy for 2010 to 2013, it says that "linkages between environmental sustainability and the economy will emerge as a key focus for public policymaking and a determinant of future market opportunities."

In other words, the green economy requires a green-oriented political revolution. As UNEP's medium-term strategy puts it: "The current environmental challenges and opportunities will cause the environment to move from often being considered a marginal issue at the intergovernmental and national levels to the center of political and economic decision-making."

The authors of the UNEP "discussion" papers see that organization — the U.N.'s principal environmental watchdog — and especially its governing "Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environmental Forum," as the central nexus of that new eco-centric regime — and that strengthening its authority at both the national and international levels will be a growing theme as the 2012 Rio Conference looms nearer.

"It is clear that environmental ministers alone cannot meet today's environmental challenges," asserts yet another Bali discussion paper. "One step towards strengthening their standing vis-à-vis other sectors is to strengthen the national [environmental] governance system."

Meantime, UNEP's GC/GMEF "is mandated to bring all environmental aspects together and to formulate broad policy advice and guidance" in the area of "international environmental governance reform" — with the aim of having it all ratified, eventually, by the U.N. General Assembly.

Click here to read the discussion paper on international environmental governance.

In all of this, it appears, the 2012 Rio Conference on Sustainable Development and the preliminary meetings that will determine its agenda is intended to play an important role in focusing attention on the agenda being discussed at Bali, and in creating the suggested frameworks of future "international governance." Above all, the planned Rio summit will be a framework that welds together the UNEP framework of environmentalism with the U.N.'s traditional anti-poverty agenda — which also involves huge investment transfers to poor countries from rich ones.

The two agendas come together in the rubric for Rio: sustainable development. As the paper on governance turgidly puts it: "eradicating poverty, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development [are] overarching objectives of and essential requirements for sustainable development."

Vast international wealth transfers, crash investments in "green" technologies for energy, food, transportation and virtually everything else, with the aim of making enormous cuts in carbon emissions by 2050 — the sum of all the discussions underway at Bali appears indistinguishable from the Copenhagen agenda that was declared dead in December.

Except the U.N. and many nations — including the U.S. — apparently don't think so. Indeed, a series of new Copenhagen process negotiations have just been set for Bonn in April, with another set for late May to early June.

Their official aim is to bring Copenhagen back from the dead by the end of this year at a final negotiating session in Mexico.

In a press release announcing the negotiating round, Yvo de Boer, head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which manages the Copenhagen negotiating process, declared that "this constitutes a quick return to the negotiations" — and a continuing determination to put a new treaty in place as the capstone of the Green World Order.

But at the same time, he made clear that a deal by the end of the year is unlikely; 2011 is more feasible.

If that happens, de Boer won't be applauding from his current position. He has resigned, effective July 1, to become a consultant.

The first major preparatory meetings for the Rio summit in 2012 will be held at U.N. headquarters in New York City in mid-May.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News.

CHINA and UN-DESA to build the world largest ICT application database to be managed by the Chinese inside UNDESA

UNDESA and China are undertaking an initiative to collect a broad array of current ICT applications from almost all geographic regions of the world. Through this Knowledge Base, these cases could become a useful tool at the disposal of government at all levels, the private sector and civil society around the world. The primary goal of this initiative is to provide information that will stimulate an even more rapid expansion of electronic government, which will be more tailor-made to citizen’s needs.

Increase in nominations for the United Nations Public Service Awards

Public institutions from 44 countries have submitted over 200 nominations for the 2010 United Nations Public Service Awards (UNPSA). The number of nominations has increased this year by 23.2% compared to last year. Public institutions from Africa, Europe and North America, as well as Western Asia have submitted a growing number of nominations. The Asia and the Pacific region continues to provide the highest number of nominations (although this year their contribution decreased slightly).

Contact Information:

Haiyan Qian, Director, DPADM
John-Mary Kauzya, Chief, Governance and Public Administration,
Adriana Alberti, Coordinator of the United Nations Public Service Awards Programme,

Advancing communist agenda of social integration - China using DESA as trampoline for ECOSOC and Commission for Social Development

The Commission for Social Development concluded its forty-eighth session today by approving a draft resolution on the social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development ( NEPAD ).

By the terms of that text, introduced as orally revised by the representative of Yemen, the Commission would have the Economic and Social Council encourage African countries to step up efforts to implement NEPAD by developing and strengthening governance institutions in order to create an environment conducive to foreign direct investment for the region’s development.

Further by the text, the Council would urge those States that had not done so to join and strengthen the African Peer Review Mechanism, as well as urge continuous support for poverty eradication and sustainable development measures in Africa, with a particular emphasis on the Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, the Council would ask the Secretary-General to submit a report on the social dimensions of NEPAD, to be tabled in collaboration with the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, during the Commission’s forty-ninth session.

Also during the meeting, Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, hailed the Commission on its first ever approval of a text on social integration and on showing the will and commitment to tackle daunting remaining challenges to the achievement of such broad social development goals as social integration, poverty eradication, and full employment and decent work for all, as set forth in the Copenhagen Declaration of the World Social Summit.

In other business, the Commission adopted the report of its forty-eighth session and the provisional agenda and documentation for its forty-ninth session. It then adjourned the forty-eighth and opened the forty-ninth.

The Committee then elected by acclamation Jorge Valero ( Venezuela ) as its new Chairperson. Andi Xhoi ( Albania ); Katja Wiesbrock Donovan ( Germany ), Jimmy Blas ( Philippines ) and Najla Abdelrahman ( Sudan ) were elected Vice Chairs.

In order to increase profile and attention to DESA - Sha Zukang convinces Ban Ki Moon to become honorary Chair of GAID

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to become Honorary Chairman of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID). The Secretary-General accepted the invitation of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman of the Global Alliance, during a meeting with him and other members of the Alliance leadership last week in New York.

The meeting, in which Sha Zukang, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, participated, was held to discuss the work of the Global Alliance and its focus on action and result-oriented partnership building in making digital technologies work for development.

“With the Secretary-General’s leadership and name recognition, we are poised to devote our creative energies and entrepreneurial spirit to direct the ICT [information and communications technology] revolution towards development for all,” said Mr. Abu-Ghazaleh. “The Alliance is now in a position to enhance further its relevance, visibility and, ultimately, its development impact,” he added.

The Secretary-General’s acceptance of honorary chairmanship of GAID reaffirmed the direct link between the Secretary-General and the Alliance that was established at the creation of GAID.

Mr. Abu-Ghazaleh briefed the Secretary-General on current efforts to further raise the profile of GAID and highlighted its activities in promoting the use of information and communications technology to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. He informed the Secretary-General that the Alliance will focus in 2010 on promoting application of information and communications technology for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, in particular, through the creation of a Matrix of ICT Solutions for MDGs Advancement ‑‑ a unique online resource for knowledge sharing, analysis and policymaking that will serve as a tool for development practitioners in their work towards the achievement of the Goals. The Secretary-General welcomed the initiatives spearheaded by the Alliance.

“This year, 2010, projects to be the most important year to date for the Global Alliance, and is also the year of the MDGs, as underscored by the UN Secretary-General,” said Mr. Sha. “The Alliance has to make full use of the knowledge and resources embodied in its vast network in order to generate concrete actions and deliverables,” he added.

Following the meeting with the Secretary-General, on 8 February, the seventh meeting of the GAID Steering Committee was held, with the participation of Under-Secretary-General Sha. Participants focused on the next steps to reaching the objectives of the Alliance and discussed ways in which they can contribute to the successful implementation of the 2010 Action Plan. In addition to Mr. Abu-Ghazaleh and the two Co-chairs ‑‑ Kamran Elahian, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Global Catalyst Partners, and Ramon Garza, President and Chief Executive Officer of Indigo BrainMedia ‑‑ other Steering Committee members attending the meeting were: Ivo Ivanovski, Minister for Information Society of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Richard Hall of Intel; Pietro Sicuro of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie; Armen Orujyan, President of Athgo International; Huffines of CIVICUS; and by videoconference, A.W. Khan, Assistant Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and representatives of ITU and Ericsson.

The Steering Committee announced the appointment of the new Executive Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Global Alliance, Sergei Kambalov. The former Executive Coordinator, Sarbuland Khan, will continue to assist GAID as Honorary Advisor to the GAID Chairman.

The Global Alliance for ICT and Development was launched in 2006 as a multi-stakeholder platform to put in practice the spirit and vision of the World Summit on the Information Society, and promote the use of information and communications technology to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. It provides all stakeholders a broad forum and a global platform for dialogue and partnership on cross-cutting issues.

For more information, please visit, or contact Enrica Murmura of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs - GAID, tel,: +1 212 963 5913, e-mail:

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

UN report castigates WB's poverty estimates


The United Nations has noted that economic liberalization across the world since 1980s has slowed down growth and poverty reduction and increased inequality and vulnerability in most countries. The growth slowdown was market in all the years except the period 2003-08.

No viable yardstick exists to estimate poverty. The world is not on the track to meet the Millennium Development Goals 1 of bringing down extreme global poverty by half by 2015. MDG high-level meeting is scheduled in September 2010.

The impact of the current financial crisis which began from later half of 2008 has only added to the worsening situation.

Economic liberalization has reduced the policy space of the government and decreased revenue collection, both of which are necessary tools of the state to combat poverty and hunger.

South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa house most of the world’s poor. Poverty in SouthAsia increased from 20% in 1981 to 43% in 2005, while that in sub-Saharan Africa it has more than doubled from 11% to 28% between 1981 and 2005.

The UN Report on the World Social Situation-2010 with the theme – Rethinking Poverty – released by the UN Assistant Secretary-General, Jomo Kwame Sundaram here on Monday, in this context, urged “it is time to rethink way we understand poverty, how it is measured and policies to address it.”

It called to set up efforts for promoting decent work, protecting and augmenting social expenditures, particularly for health and education and establishing social protection floor comprised of a basic social security package. The 1995 Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development identified poverty eradication as one of the three pillars of social development. The 1995 World Social Summit has defined poverty as deprivation, social exclusion and lack of participation.

The report also observed that there is no proper mechanism to estimate the level of poverty. Income or spending yardstick does not tell the entire story.

The earlier estimate of poverty was those living on less than US$ 1 per day. Later it was said that those living on less than US$ 1.08 a day are poor. In 2005 the World Bank redefined poor as those living on less than UD$ 1.25 a day. If US inflation is considered, the poverty line should be US$ 1.45 a day, the UN report said.

In India the Arjun Sengupta Committee has estimated that about 78% of the people live on less than Rs 20 a day. According to Tendulkar Committee poverty in India has increased, while NC Saxena Committee estimates more that half of the population of rural India as poor.

The World Bank has said that the global poverty has declined from 1.9 billion in 1981 to 1.4 billion in 2005. Taking a dig at the World Bank, the UN Assistant Secretary-General, Jomo Kwame Sundaram said : “if this is so then why the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has estimated an increase of 142 million hungry people in the world since 1990-92. This shows there is a contradiction in the estimate of poverty.”

The UN report noted inconsistent correction for rural-urban price differences, only for India and China, mainly for urban prices introducing urban bias. Hence the World Bank estimates for India and China are not comparable to rest of the developing world as it grossly underestimate poverty in these two large countries or overestimate poverty elsewhere. If China is removed from the World Bank’s estimate, the number of poor people living worldwide has increased from 1.1 billion to 1.2 billion.

The UN report also observed that the conventional household income estimate tends to ignore the variations in household size, assets and demographic composition. It also tends to ignore intra-household disparities. There may be some chronically ill member in some households

The report also found that “poverty magic bullets” like micro-finance, property rights, including land titling and “Bottom of the Pyramid” marketing have not worked well to eradicate poverty.

According to the report as market failures are likely to occur, good governance with social objective is necessary for poverty alleviation. Focus should be on alternative growth-enhancing governance capabilities to address key development bottlenecks. Growth process needs to be more stable by maintaining consistently counter-cyclical macroeconomic stance. Measures should be aimed at reducing inequality. Targeting poor is often expensive and politically unsustainable, while missing out many deserving and therefore the social measures should be universal in nature.