:::: MENU ::::

Upstream Journal

magazine on human rights & social justice

  • The critical voice of South Sudan: An interview with Mading Ngor

    The critical voice of South Sudan: An interview with Mading Ngor

  • Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

    Can we create a framework to help businesses prioritize human rights?

  • More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

    More than 109,000 children work in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa industry...

The Upstream Journal

Journal

Giant’s walk

INNU2012_0075The deceased grandfather of Nikashant Antane, a young Innu man, came to him in a dream and said, “Get up and help your people.” So Antane, also called Michel Andrew but known in his community as “Giant,” started walking to raise awareness about diabetes in Innu settlements and to reconnect Innu youth with Nutshimi, the country. Continue Reading

share this articleEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on Reddit
Journal

Shell oil challenged by law from 1789

Shell gas flare at Rumuekpe which sits just next to a large

Shell gas flare at Rumuekpe in the Niger Delta, the main oil-producing region. Nigeria is the fifth largest exporter of oil to the United States, but most local people are still poor. 70 percent of them try to survive on less than a dollar a day. Photo: Elaine Gilligan/Friends of the Earth

US Supreme Court to decide if corporations can be pursued in American courts for their role in human rights abuse abroad

An obscure US law from 1789 may have the potential to hold corporations, governments and individuals accountable for international human rights violations. The Alien Tort Statute grants US courts jurisdiction in cases of certain violations of international law, and cases can be brought by foreign citizens. The law reads: “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

Continue Reading

share this articleEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on Reddit
Journal

A new global advocate for universal access to renewable energy

solar panel BWWhen the first session of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, last year, I was already in the area and attended on behalf of the Social Justice Committee. IRENA is to be an independent, international agency run by countries who want to move into a future that doesn’t rely on nonrenewable energy sources like fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Much of the inspiration for IRENA came from the work of Hermann Scheer, a German politician, activist, writer and an outspoken advocate for renewable energy. Opposed to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries until his death in 2010, he tried to counter their message that a future powered by renewable energy is naïve and not possible, a path that will cause severe economic hardship and leave people freezing in the dark.

Founded in January 2009, IRENA now has more than 100 member countries, and 58 others have signed in support and/or applied for membership. Canada is not a member, and has not indicated support. We have not even reached the stage of thinking about developing our own national “energy road map,” a stage reached by many European countries thirty years ago. Continue Reading

share this articleEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on Reddit
Journal

World Bank told to get real, be more sensitive

The 2012 evaluation, “Results and Performance of the World Bank Group,”  found that it continues to fall short of its goals, mainly because it needs to be more realistic and sensitive to the local “political economy”

The World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group examined the effectiveness of its activities. Here are excerpts from its recent annual report, along with our take on what it means:

“Although country programs have met their objectives more often than not, the record falls short of the 70 percent performance standard set in the World Bank’s Corporate Scorecard. There is little disagreement on the need to strengthen realism and results frameworks for country programs, a finding supported by recent IEG country program evaluations and an evaluation of the Bank’s matrix system. Realistic country programs typically show an understanding of the country’s political economy and are characterized by selectivity and focus on areas in which the Bank can best add value.”

Upstream’s translation: The World Bank continues to neglect the needs of the people it is supposed to serve, operates in an imagined environment, and leaves out stuff it doesn’t like – like human rights abuse and oppression.

“In infrastructure, agriculture, and beyond, evaluations regularly stress the relevance of high-quality project design and effective progress monitoring to project outcomes. They repeatedly refer to overambitious project design, inadequate consultation with stakeholders, insufficient candor during supervision, and failure to follow up on problems identified during supervision missions as reasons for less-than-satisfactory achievements.”

Upstream’s translation: When you don’t include the people affected, things don’t work.

“Human development was the only area in which the share of projects rated moderately satisfactory or better in development outcome ratings improved between FY06–08 and FY09–11. Although the change is not statistically significant, it is a positive development for the sectors that can be examined further.”

“Since the mid-2000s, ratings for human development operations have been poorer than those in other areas.”
Upstream’s translation: The economy, not the people, is still the point of World Bank programs.

“Dialogue with a range of stakeholders is important in driving the demand for change. An in-depth understanding of political economy and associated risks is key to assessing ownership of and opposition to a particular intervention, as well as the likelihood that it will succeed and its eventual impact. More effective management of governance and anticorruption risks calls for greater consistency in the Bank’s approach to setting risk tolerances across client countries as well as a harmonized control framework across Bank financing instruments.”

Upstream’s translation: Another way of saying that the people affected don’t have a say, their realities aren’t taken seriously, and the World Bank’s Washington-based technocrats need to get real.

What wasn’t in the report? No mention of these words or phrases: human rights, rights-based development, consent, empowerment.

share this articleEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on Reddit
Journal

Talking about climate change – but not about it’s biggest cause and who is responsible

In the World Bank report “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4C Warmer World Must be Avoided”(Nov. 2012), World Bank President Jim Yong Kim gave these comments on climate change:

“The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach of millions of people in the developing world, it threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development.

This report spells out what the world would be like if it warmed by 4 degrees Celsius, which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes.

The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.”

Coal-fired power plants are the largest contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, yet coal was not mentioned at all in that World Bank report. And it wasn’t mentioned in a Washington Post editorial by Kim in January on the World Bank’s role in climate change.

1,199 new coal-fired plants are being proposed worldwide, according to the World Resources Institute.* China and India together account for 76 percent of the proposed new coal power capacities. Among the largest developers of new coal-fired plants are the “Big Five” Chinese power companies, the world’s biggest coal-fired power producers. China consumes more coal than the next ten largest consumer nations combined.

Japan, the World Bank and the US provide more than half of the world’s public international finance of coal-fired power plants.
Japan 27 projects, $10.1 billion
World Bank 29 projects, $5.3 billion
United States 23 projects, $4.2 billion
Asian Development Bank 21 projects, $3.9 billion
Germany 12 projects, $3 billion
China 7 projects, $3.1 billion
European Investment Bank 9 projects, $2.5 billion
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 9 projects, $869 million

Others public funders: Italy, Korea, United Kingdom, the African Development Bank, Italy, France, Norway, Spain, Canada, the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, Switzerland and Netherlands. Total: $37 billion for 156 projects.
* Ailun, Yang, and Yiyun Cui. 2012. “Global Coal Risk Assessment: Data Analysis and Market Research”. WRI Working Paper. World Resources Institute, Washington DC. Available online at wri.org.

 

share this articleEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on Reddit
  • 2012 / May
  • By sjcintern
  • 0
Journal

International environmental groups want the World Bank to “clean up its act” before it expands its role in climate finance

International environmental groups want the World Bank to “clean up its act” before it expands its role in climate finance

The World Bank is pushing for a leading role in climate finance, even though it has been unable to finalize its own energy strategy and continues to finance dirty energy projects, say the major environmental organizations Friends of the Earth (US), Sierra Club (US) and Oil Change International.

The groups want the World Bank to stop funding dirty energy projects, either directly or indirectly, and adopt “an energy strategy that promotes truly clean energy and energy access.”

They are concerned that the World Bank continues to push for a leadership role in climate finance through carbon offsetting schemes and investment funds, while its own energy strategy is still awaiting agreement. The Bank is engaged in carbon trading, the Climate Investment Funds, and the Green Climate Fund while continuing to disproportionately fund dirty energy projects within its core energy portfolio, with nearly half of energy lending – more than US$15 billion – going to fossil fuels in the last four years. Continue Reading

share this articleEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on Reddit
Journal

Profile: Dimitri Roussopoulos & Lucia Kowaluk

“I am working towards, in large ways and in small ways, toward a society or a community in which people have their basic needs met, in which they know they can see the fruit of their labour, where they can have a community of friends and colleagues around them, and can live a life.”  Photo courtesy Dimitri Rousopoulos.

“I am working towards, in large ways and in small ways, toward a society or a community in which people have their basic needs met, in which they know they can see the fruit of their labour, where they can have a community of friends and colleagues around them, and can live a life.” Photo courtesy Dimitri Rousopoulos.

My first encounter with two activists who have transformed Montreal’s urban space was with a group of a few dozen environmental enthusiasts who have gathered in the backyard of the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. The Centre was launching a guide on climbing plants as part of its continuing efforts to encourage citizens to make their urban space environmentally friendly.

It was also inaugurating an educational garden terrace dedicated to Lucia Kowaluk, long-time Montreal political and environmental activist and a founder of the Centre.

Lucia and her partner Dimitri Rousopoulos have engaged in community involvement and left-wing activism for more than half a century. They have campaigned for nuclear disarmament, faced down bulldozers to save the Milton-Parc neighbourhood, founded an alternative publishing house, established the largest cooperative housing project in North America, and set up the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre.

Now in their seventies, they have no intention of slowing down. “If you want to do this kind of work, you have to spend your whole life doing it,” Lucia said. Continue Reading

share this articleEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on Reddit
Journal

“Clicktivism”

Avaaz supporters at a protest to protect the Amazon from clear-cut logging. More than 2 million people signed the Avaaz on-line campaign petition.   Photo: Avaaz

Avaaz supporters at a protest to protect the Amazon from clear-cut logging. More than 2 million people signed the Avaaz on-line campaign petition.
Photo: Avaaz


Avaaz, the online campaigning organization, leads the largest global movement on the web. Is online campaigning the future of activism?

In 2011 Indian activist Kisan Baburao (“Anna”) Hazare declared a fast unto death unless the Indian government agreed to allow civil society to draft a new anti-corruption law. 500,000 Indian citizens joined the Avaaz campaign supporting his call for reform in less than two days, and the Indian government agreed to Hazare’s demands. Continue Reading

share this articleEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on Reddit
Journal

Microfinance a development model in crisis

“As she took out larger loans and built up her savings, Melvis was able to purchase some equipment and hire two additional staff. She now sells thirty cakes a week, and has her own street side shop.

“As she took out larger loans and built up her savings, Melvis was able to purchase some equipment and hire two additional staff. She now sells thirty cakes a week, and has her own street side shop.” Photo courtesy Opportunity International

Brady Josephson, national director of Opportunity International Canada, a charity providing financial services to the poor in developing countries, is eager to talk about how microfinance can succeed.

“Melvis is an unbelievable baker, amazing, who was selling, on average, eight cakes a week before she joined Opportunity. She had a great talent, but spent so much time collecting ingredients, baking without proper tools and having to do the entire cake herself she was unable to grow her business. Continue Reading

share this articleEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on Reddit
Journal

Without a country Burma’s Rohingya people

Under Myanmar’s 1982 citizenship law, Rohingya children - both registered and unregistered - are stateless and face limited access to food and health care. Many are prevented from attending school and used for forced labour, contributing to a Rohingya illiteracy rate of 80 percent. More than 60 percent of children aged between five and 17 have never enrolled in school.  Photo: Digital Media

Under Myanmar’s 1982 citizenship law, Rohingya children – both registered and unregistered – are stateless and face limited access to food and health care. Many are prevented from attending school and used for forced labour, contributing to a Rohingya illiteracy rate of 80 percent. More than 60 percent of children aged between five and 17 have never enrolled in school. Photo: Digital Media

On August 8th, 1988 thousands of Burmese poured into the streets calling for democracy. Soldiers opened fire at the unarmed golden-robed Buddhist monks, students, professionals, women, and children. The shooting didn’t stop for ten days, but the people kept flooding the streets in protest. As many as 10,000 people were killed, thousands more were arrested, and many were tortured.

Nur Hashim Salim, co-founder of the Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organization (CBRO), was one of the protestors. A high school student at the time, he feared for his life especially because he belongs to the Rohingya ethnic minority, a marginalized Muslim community in the north-western part of the country. Denied citizenship rights and persecuted by the military, he went into hiding. His parents were detained and tortured for weeks to reveal his location, and so he fled to Bangladesh to save his life. Continue Reading

share this articleEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on Reddit
Support Upstream Donate Now »