Archive for August 2008

FOOD DELIVERY UPDATES IN LIGHT OF NEW MILF-PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT HOSTILITIES

August 16, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning from Manila!

Below is a news item regarding UN efforts aimed at helping out in the provision of food for those fleeing residents affected by the latest rounds of conflicts between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). Close to 130,000 residents were already displaced by the hostilities that have not even geared up for full battles.

As already reported, the contentious issue centers on the ‘ancestral domain’ for Muslims. There were not much public debates about the matter, though in Mindanao various sectors were invited to participate in the deliberations prior to drafting. The disagreements regarding content and implementation led the MILF forces to withdraw from the peace talks, and proceeded with occupation of villages by their armed force.

Below is a news item regarding UN efforts to assist in the food supply chain for the fleeing residents.

[13 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to yahoo.com database news.]

UN begins airlifting food aid to Mindanao

The United Nations has begun airlifting food to Mindanao to avert a major humanitarian crisis as thousands flee fighting between Muslim rebels and troops, officials said yesterday.

 

Fighting continued as soldiers used artillery and helicopter gun ships to pound rebel positions around towns and villages in North Cotabato, a poor farming province in Mindanao.

The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has begun airlifting 400 metric tons of rice worth $308,000 to assist 90,000 persons from conflict-affected communities in North Cotabato for at least one month.

The food support is WFP’s response to the request made by the provincial government of the province, with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) still validating the number of the persons affected by the ongoing clashes.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said more than 129,819 people have been displaced from 42 villages in North Cotabato since fighting began last week.

The refugees are to be provided food support in at least 43 government evacuation centers in the province.

“WFP fully understands that the situation remains fluid, and we will continue to work closely with all concerned to further assess the total number of affected persons and adjust our response accordingly. WFP remains concerned over the growing number of persons displaced by the violence between the armed forces and the MILF,” said Stephen Anderson, WFP country director.

“Many of the affected population are women and children, and we are concerned for their well-being and stand ready to support humanitarian needs. We hope for peace, so that these families can return to their communities,” he said.

Anderson said WFP remains committed to providing support and technical expertise during emergencies and natural disasters.

The NDCC said 43 evacuation centers have been set up for the refugees but these are now overcrowded and fast becoming health hazards.

“This is turning into a humanitarian mess,” Rep. Risa Hontiveros said.

“The refugee crisis is an unacceptable cost of the government’s mismanagement of the peace process. A peace process should lead to the protection of life and property, and yet what’s happening is the opposite,” said Hontiveros, who has called for an immediate halt to the fighting.

Fighting began last week after the Supreme Court ordered the government to suspend plans to establish an extended Muslim homeland in Mindanao.

The decision saw around 1,500 heavily armed renegade Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels take control of mainly Christian villages and towns in North Cotabato.

Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Leila de Lima described the situation in North Cotabato as “serious” and called for an immediate ceasefire.

She told local television that evacuation centers needed urgent supplies of food and medicine for the refugees.

The government has said that the fighting will not disrupt the ongoing peace process and that the Supreme Court decision last week was a “temporary setback.”

Future uncertain

In Pikit, North Cotabato, nine-year-old Rakma Kasanuba sings lullabies to her baby sister as the infant tries to sleep in a makeshift hammock under a guava tree as mortars explode without end in the distance.

Her three other younger sisters sit on the muddy ground guarding their meager belongings while military attack helicopters thunder overhead searching for Muslim separatist rebels 400 meters away in a forested area.

At her tender age, Rakma is a veteran of evacuation camps.

“I don’t know why I am here,” she told AFP. “My family was told by the military to leave because they said Moros (Muslims) were advancing.

“We left at dawn, but my father had to stay behind to protect our house,” Rakma said. “My mother took us here, but she is away to look for food and relatives who were also told to evacuate.”

Rakma and her sisters are among 6,000 people forced to flee their homes in Tacepan, a mixed Christian-Muslim farming hamlet that is one of 22 villages being illegally occupied by a renegade group from the MILF.

In a town’s school, families are tightly packed in small classrooms, with no bedding.

Latrines are overflowing, while goats, cows and other farm animals taken by the refugees crowd the school lawn in a feeding frenzy on what little grass is left.

Though soldiers have been sent to protect them, they are not safe from indiscriminate mortar fire from the enemy side.

Social welfare officer Imelda Balios said urgent appeals for supplies have been sent to the government to avert a bigger humanitarian crisis. – Pia Lee-Brago (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)

MOA BETWEEN GRP & MUSLIM REBELS (MILF)

August 15, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

The controversial MOA between the GRP (Philippine government) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which calls for the establishment of a Bangsamoro ancestral dominion or area in Mindanao island, was supposedly signed recently. Detractors were able to delay the signing by petitioning the Supreme Court for a restraining order.

 

Mr. Iqbal, a top official of the rebel group, pronounced thereafter that the MOA is already a done deal, that no Supreme Court order could stop its implementation. Maybe the rebels better prepare statements that would somehow allay the fears of detractors of the MOA, detractors that include Muslim residents of Zamboanga City.

 

Amid the amicable spirit behind the drafting, the non-signing so far had led to new rounds of hostilities in the affected areas. See the MOA highlights for your briefer view.

 

[06 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to yahoo.com database news.]

 

 

Highlights of MOA between government, MILF

 

Philippine Star – Tuesday, August 5

The memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain whose signing today was ordered stopped by the Supreme Court would authorize the so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) to negotiate directly with foreign governments and set up its own police force.

 

Aside from expanded territory, the BJE under the MOA will also be given control over natural resources found within 15 kilometers from the shoreline of BJE territories.

Beyond 15 kilometers, control over key resources like oil and minerals will be shared 75-25 between the BJE and the government.

According to the MOA, the core of the BJE covers the present geographic area of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, including the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan, and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite.

The MOA said a plebiscite would be held to decide the possible inclusion of 735 barangays in Isabela City in Basilan, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga Sibugay and Palawan.

Under the MOA, the BJE will also establish a system of governance suitable and acceptable to the people under its jurisdiction.

“The parties agree that the BJE shall be empowered to build, develop and maintain its own institutions, inclusive of civil service, electoral, financial and banking, education, legislation, legal, economic, and police and internal security force, judicial system and correctional institutions, necessary for developing a progressive Bangsamoro society, the details of which shall be discussed in the negotiation of the Comprehensive Compact,” the MOA said.

The MOA said the BJE is free to enter into any economic cooperation and trade relations with foreign countries, provided that these alliances will not put the Philippines in conflict with other nations.

“Without prejudice to the right of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity to enter into agreement and environmental cooperation with any friendly country affecting its jurisdiction, it shall include the option to establish and open Bangsamoro trade missions in foreign countries with which it has economic cooperation agreements and the elements bearing in mind the mutual benefits derived from Philippine archipelagic status and security,” the MOA said.

It also stated that the Philippine government shall “take necessary steps to ensure the BJE’s participation in international meetings and events such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other specialized agencies of the United Nations.”

“This shall entitle the BJE’s participation in Philippine official missions and delegations that are engaged in the negotiation of border agreements and protocols for environmental protection, equitable sharing of incomes and revenues, in the areas of sea, seabed, and inland seas or bodies of water adjacent to or between islands forming part of the ancestral domain, in addition to those of fishing rights,” according to the MOA. – James Mananghaya/Philstar

DEVELOPMENT KITS: INNOVATION & DEVELOPMENT

August 15, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good day!

As I’ve been stressing in various articles and lectures of mine, development efforts can only take substance in any community in the presence of innovation interventions. No effort can be regarded as ‘development’ without intervention.

Development theory had already clarified the central import of innovation in any change undertaking. Without which, any such effort to help people move in life would be ‘social work’ or ‘humanitarian work’ rather than development.

Here is a report from the United Nations that deals with the subject, with case studies done in Africa.

[09 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to eldis.org database news.]

Innovation for sustainable development: local case studies from Africa

Authors: United Nations Publications
Produced by: Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations (2008)

This report aims to shed light on the way innovative solutions have arisen to address local sustainable development challenges, examining the determinants of success and the scope for replication. The report focuses on the African experience, and contributes to the documentation for the 16th and 17th sessions of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

The volume is composed of ten case studies, selected for their truly innovative nature, effective implementation, significant outputs and generation of real social welfare improvements. Examples include sustainable community-based beekeeping, community water supply initiatives and innovative water governance. They are grouped under five headings: enhancement of agriculture and fisheries, protection of ecosystems, water management, health improvement and sustainable tourism.

Practical conclusions drawn from the case studies include:

  1.  
    • sustainable projects need to link environmental goals to income generation, draw upon local knowledge and ideas, ensure effective buy-in from stakeholders through local community involvement in project design and implementation, and employ financially self-sustaining business models
    • external forces which impact on a project and affect conditions for success include international markets and national legislation. In some cases though, local success can provide arguments for more accommodating national policies to facilitate replication and scaling up
    • simplicity in project design, committed seed capital and integration of local traditions and cultural heritage appear to be important success factors for innovative local initiatives

Available online at: http://www.eldis.org/cf/rdr/?doc=38653&em=310708&sub=enviro

OBSTACLES TO PEACE PACT BETWEEN PHILIPPINE STATE AND MUSLIM REBELS

August 14, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Allahu Akbar!

Here is a news report about the obstacles to peace pact’s signing between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The analysis came from a US-based group called the US Institute of Peace.

The involvement of US-based groups in GRP talks with insurgents does attract curiosity of sorts. While I have nothing against internationalizing Philippine insurgencies so as to involve 3rd parties in the talks, involving US-based groups is another thing altogether as it fuels our thesis of Americans’ involvement in the launching of rebel groups here at the behest of the Anglo-American oligarchy.

At any rate, do read for yourself the news below. The same group wasn’t actually allowed to co-facilitate the signing of the peace pact in Malaysia.

Peace be with you!

[05 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to yahoo.com database news.]

US Institute of Peace says it had warned government about obstacles to peace pact

 

A group calling itself the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) had been tasked by the US State Department to undertake a project to help expedite a peace agreement between the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from 2003 to 2007 and which supports the establishment of an ancestral domain for the Bangsamoro people.

 

However, after undertaking its Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP), the USIP has warned of the obstacles to the inking of a peace agreement between the two parties – the need for constitutional amendments, a case at the Supreme Court, Congress’ disapproval of the agreement and the political weakness and unpopularity of President Arroyo.

USIP is an independent, nonpartisan institution established and funded by the US Congress.

Its goals are to help prevent and resolve violent international conflicts, promote post-conflict stability and development, and increase conflict management capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide.

The US’s special interest in the GRP-MILF peace agreement is meant to prevent international terrorist groups from exploiting the conflict in the Philippines after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the US.

The late MILF chairman Salamat Hashim also personally wrote US President George Bush in 2003 to help resolve the conflict between the government and the Moro people.

The US support for the peace talks with the MILF came during the same period that the MILF, through Salamat, declared that they had renounced terrorism to attain its political ends.

At that time, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that while the “United States absolutely supports the territorial integrity of the Philippines,…we also recognize that the people of Mindanao have legitimate aspirations and some grievances.”

The US government was unwilling to commit financial and economic assistance to MILF areas until an agreement had been signed. The State Department asked USIP to inform it of significant developments, advise on appropriate government responses and if negotiations were not leading to a satisfactory settlement, recommend an end to US engagement.

In a special report published in February of this year and written by G. Eugene Martin and Astrid Tuminez, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, USIP said Mrs. Arroyo expended only minimal political capital to move the peace process forward and that the three branches of government “also lack consensus on the outlines of a deal that may be offered to the Moros.”

Martin was the executive director of the PFP while Ramirez served as the project’s senior research associate. Their special report highlighted the USIP activities in the Philippines from 2003 to 2007. The USIP clarified, however, that the views expressed in the report “do not necessarily reflect the views of USIP, which does not advocate specific policy positions.”

USIP tried but failed to be part of the peace negotiations between GRP and MILF as Malaysia, the host of the talks, had not agreed, but the group had produced and disseminated to educators, journalists and politicians a short video on ancestral domain, tracing the history of Moro grievances and articulating how and why an agreement on ancestral domain could effectively address the roots of conflict.

The video was shown during discussions of Moro ancestral domain in Manila universities, at forums in Mindanao and in a briefing with three Philippine senators.

“Efforts to help the parties think creatively of ways to overcome long-standing obstacles on ancestral domain and to initiate dialogue among disparate Moro ethnic groups made USIP a valuable contributor to the peace talks,” the report said.

There are many hindrances, however, and the USIP said resolving conflict in Mindanao is likely to be an extended undertaking even with the best of intentions from all parties.

“As with past agreements, a serious risk exists that the national legislature could scuttle any agreement signed by the government in the implementation phase. The Supreme Court might also declare unconstitutional any deal on ancestral domain that grants Moro significant political authority and control over natural resources,” the report said.

The report also noted that the ability and intent of Mrs. Arroyo, whose term would expire in 2010, to press the peace process to settlement were also uncertain.

If Mrs. Arroyo makes serious compromises with the MILF or forces significant change in the political and economic dominance of Christian migrants over land, resources and political power in Mindanao, the USIP report said “she could rouse a wave of opposition that might endanger her presidency.”

“Nonetheless, if such an agreement were signed and fully implemented, it would unequivocally augment the president’s historical legacy after nearly 10 years at the helm of Philippine politics,” it said.

The USIP report also said the multiple changes in the composition of the GRP negotiating panel had been a challenge and although GRP negotiators were “well-informed, creative and well-intentioned, they are in many ways unable to influence those at the center of political power and public opinion.”

USIP’s PFP ceased in June of 2007 but the group said the peace process in Mindanao was far from concluded.

The USIP implemented its role as facilitator of the peace process through USIP president Richard Solomon, a former ambassador to the Philippines, who assembled a group of other former ambassadors to the Philippines, the chairman of the USIP Board and a retired general.

The term facilitation signified that the US was not assuming a direct, hands-on mediating role in the negotiations. – Aurea Calica/Philstar

PHILIPPINES’ ORGANIC ISLAND SURGING AHEAD

August 14, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning from Manila!

If there is any thought that the islanders of Negros would want themselves to be known the world over, it is their being dubbed as the “Philippines’ organic island.” And rightly so, for they have, under the initiative of the governors of the island, been moving heaven and earth to get the entire island towards that goal since 2005 yet.

The provinces of Negros Occidental (West) and Negros Oriental (West) concurred over the idea around three (3) years ago today, to transform the entire island into an organic paradise. The island used to be almost exclusively planted to sugar, a pattern that had since been modified towards multi-crop and biodiversity enterprises. For sure, the organic initiative will lead the entire island towards biodiversity, even as it has become common policy in the two provinces to see to it that both farms and backyards (including middle class village homes) should cultivate plants.

I was privileged to be invited as a major guess speaker by the province of Negros and partner NGOs in 2005 on the occasion of the launching of the organic island project. I just concluded a book on fair trade & food security then for the KAISAMPALAD, the national NGO council for fair trade & food security, when I got the invitation to share notes about food security to the people of Negros. I found the enthusiasm of the people for the project very high, it was indubitably a very popular movement since even the radical groups there were enthusiastically involved.

I couldn’t forget that event as the organizers timed it with the Mascara Festival of Bacolod City/Negros Occidental. The pageant night, when the Miss Bacolod was chosen, was truly an enchanting night of performances by artists who were wearing the classic mask designs for that occasion, coupled with pyrotechnics and band performances. The occasion catapulted the organic movement to euphoric heights!

The news item below indicates that the organic initiative has been surging ahead, as local counterpart funding for its growth phase has been moving up too. May this organic experience light up the other islands of the blessed Republic so as to make the archipelago green again.

[ 13 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to yahoo.com database news.]

MANILA, Philippines – Negros Oriental province has earmarked an initial P3 million for popularization of the use of organic fertilizer in the province, an online news site reported.

 

Visayan Daily Star reported that NegOrganic NOW (Nutrients Of Worms) program is gaining headway through verme composting.

Provincial agriculturist Gregorio Paltinca also said the program is promoting the production of natural fermented solution.

He said trainings and seminars are being conducted for farmer beneficiaries before they are given 500 grams of worms.

But he stressed this is not a dole-out, as the recipient-farmer has to return what is given to him after six months, to be distributed to other farmers.

Government hopes to provide all farmers in the province with the needed worms and technology to produce organic fertilizer.

Paltinca said organic farming has been proven to increase the farmers’ yields, produce chemical-free vegetables and other farm products, as well as good for the environment.

Meanwhile, Gov. Emilio Macias II ordered Paltinca to come up with a time frame for the production of organic fertilizer. – GMANews.TV 

AMERICAS’ DEVELOPMENT UPDATES

August 13, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Let’s continue our news sharing about development-related matters. Across the Americas comes news bits, from penguin populations in Argentina to environmental news in Brazil, up through governance news in Venezuela.  

[01 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to DevEx database news.]

Argentina

Penguin populations have plummeted at a key breeding colony in Argentina, mirroring declines in many species of the marine flightless birds due to climate change, pollution and other factors, a study shows. Dee Boersma, a University of Washington professor who led the research, said the plight of the penguins is an indicator of big changes in the world’s oceans due to human activities. For the past 25 years, Boersma has tracked the world’s largest breeding colony of Magellanic penguins on Argentina’s Atlantic coast. Since 1987 she has observed a 22 percent decrease in the population of these penguins at the site. (Reuters)

Brazil

Brazil’s new environment minister, Carlos Minc, called all sugar cane mills in the northeastern state of Pernambuco an environmental “disaster of disasters” and fined them USD 75 million. In a crackdown called Old Green Mill conducted jointly with the environmental protection agency Ibama, Minc said that all 24 mills in the state had committed a series of crimes. Since he took over as minister after conservationist icon Marina Silva stepped down several weeks ago, Minc has targeted Brazil’s powerful farmers, ranchers and miners, who are riding a global commodity boom, and blamed them for fueling deforestation. (Reuters)

Colombia

Republican John McCain, in an unusual trip to Colombia as a US presidential candidate, called on President Alvaro Uribe on July 1 to make further progress on human rights while pushing the US Congress to vote on a trade pact between the two countries. McCain kicked off a three-day trip to South America and Mexico by meeting Uribe in an effort to tout his positions on trade and showcase his foreign policy experience over that of Democratic rival Barack Obama. McCain pressed the Colombian president to make further progress on human rights issues while highlighting the success of efforts under his administration in fighting the FARC. (Reuters)

Haiti

Aid for Haiti is falling short as the Caribbean country is buffeted by urgent needs to help feed its poor while developing domestic food production and jobs, a UN official said on June 1. The UN System is an umbrella group that represents all of the international organizations and conventions that have been created by the world body. Permanent coordinator of the UN System in Haiti Joel Boutroue said the UN System plans to collect USD 131 million in funding for near- and mid-term programs to support local food production and the creation of new jobs in the poorest country in the Americas. (Reuters)

United States

US President George W Bush has signed a bill removing Nelson Mandela and South African leaders from the US terror watch list, officials say. Mandela and ANC party members will now be able to visit the US without a waiver from the secretary of state. The African National Congress (ANC) was designated as a terrorist organization by South Africa’s old apartheid regime. A US senator said the new legislation was a step towards removing the “shame of dishonoring this great leader.” (BBC)

Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez was personally involved in covering up his nation’s role in an Argentine election scandal, according to a court statement by a witness who might testify at a criminal trial in Miami. The claim was made by Franklin Duran, who faces trial on charges of acting in the US as an unregistered agent of Chavez’s government. Prosecutors say Duran conspired to silence a Florida businessman who toted USD 800,000 in a suitcase from Caracas to Buenos Aires, where the valise was seized Aug. 4. Prosecutors say the cash was intended for the campaign of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who was elected president of Argentina on Oct. 28. (Bloomberg)

ASIA & PACIFIC UPDATES

August 12, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning from Manila!

Let’s see what we got across Asia and the Pacific recently, concerning development engagements, relief and humanitarian activities. Below are news captions about Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Japan, and Sri Lanka.

[31 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Asia & Pacific

 

 

Australia

A draft blueprint of Australia’s emissions trading scheme will include fuel, but is unlikely to recommend what the country’s key emissions cap should be. The blueprint’s government-backed architect, economist Ross Garnaut, is due July 4 to release a plan for how emissions trading could operate, likely suggesting that government force companies to bid for emissions permits at auction, a perceived failing of the EU scheme. But inflating already record-high petrol prices could fuel a backlash against the government’s pledge to cut emissions with a trading system by 2010. (Reuters)

Bangladesh

Obtaining food remains the biggest priority for Bangladeshi families living in areas still devastated by Cyclone Sidr last year, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said July 1, announcing it will continue its aid operations to the affected region. The next major harvest in the delta country is not due until November or December, and many households lack sufficient food reserves to last until then, according to a press release issued by WFP. (UN News Service)

Burma (Myanmar)

At least 7,000 cyclone survivors sheltering in three temporary camps in Laputta town, in the Irrawaddy delta, are under renewed pressure from the local authorities to return home, according to sources there. About 10,000 refugees are still living in Laputta’s five refugee camps, supported by local authorities and nongovernmental organizations. The 7,000 now urged to return to their home villages have been warned that unless they leave the camps they can expect no aid next month, said one local source. (ReliefWeb)

China

The UN expects China to be at the forefront of efforts to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, such as the global food crisis, climate change and the quest to slash poverty, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said July 1, calling on the Asian nation to step up its contribution in international affairs. Addressing students at the Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, at the start of the second leg of his East Asian tour, Ban said China is already playing an important role as a permanent member of the Security Council and as a growing contributor to peacekeeping and the UN budget. (UN News Service)

India

The Jammu and Kashmir state government should protect Parvez Imroz, an award-winning human rights lawyer who survived an armed attack on June 30 in Srinagar by alleged security forces members, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said July 1. The state government and Human Rights Commission should launch an immediate and thorough investigation into the attack and take criminal action against those responsible. “All members of the security forces found responsible, no matter how far up the chain of command, should be prosecuted,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. (HRW)

Indonesia

Indonesia’s anti-terrorism police unit has found assembled bombs and detained suspects during a raid on a house in Palembang in South Sumatra province, the national police spokesman said on June 2. The detentions came as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was visiting the area in the west of Indonesia on Sumatra Island. Earlier, Metro Television reported that seven suspects had been detained, but a police source involved in the raids told Reuters that more than seven were being held. (Reuters)

Mongolia

The president of Mongolia has declared a four-day state of emergency in the capital amid violent protests over claims the general election was rigged. Crowds torched the HQ of Mongolia’s governing party – the former Communists – and attacked a police station. Over 60 people were hurt – around half of them police – as officers used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon against stone-throwing protesters. The unrest went on into the night, with reports of bank robberies and looting. Rioters set fire to the Cultural Palace, home to a theater, museum and national art gallery in the capital, Ulan Bator. (BBC)

Nepal

Nepalese police have detained more than 40 Tibetan monks and nuns near the country’s border with Tibet. The group was planning to protest at China’s policies in their homeland. The demonstrators were halted several kilometers from the frontier after marching through the mountains from the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. Tibetan exiles in Nepal have protested almost daily since China suppressed violent anti-government demonstrations in Tibet that broke out in March. (BBC)

North Korea (DPRK)

A new agreement between the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) paves the way for the agency to step up its food assistance to more than five million hungry people in the country. The agreement, which was signed on June 27, was hailed by WFP as a significant breakthrough in its long-standing efforts to ensure that all those in need of food aid in the DPRK are able to receive it. (UN News Service)

Japan

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Japanese leaders in Tokyo on June 30 and praised the “immense contribution” Japan has made to the work of the United Nations. Speaking to the press after meeting Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Ban said that “Japan should be proud of being ‘a peace-fostering nation’ and its commitment to multilateralism,” Ban added. “The Japanese people should know how much Japan’s global role is appreciated in the United Nations and worldwide.” (UN News Service)

North Korea (DPRK)

The UN World Food Program, which has warned of a humanitarian crisis in North Korea due to a food shortage, said on June 30 it reached a deal with Pyongyang to rapidly expand aid, and that a US ship carrying wheat had arrived. Flooding last year, higher commodity prices and political wrangling with major donor South Korea have pushed North Korea to a food shortfall similar to ones it faced about a decade ago when famine killed an estimated 1 million people. The WFP said the agreement it reached with the North will allow it to expand its operation, previously aimed at feeding 1.2 million people, to feed more than 5 million in the country of about 23 million. (Financial Times, UK)

Sri Lanka

For thousands of Sri Lankans without easy access to potable water, a low-tech filter has provided them with a convenient source of safe water, saving on fuel costs and cutting disease. The water filter was first mass-produced in Nicaragua and used in emergency relief operations. It is essentially a clay pot fortified with ground paddy husk and coated with colloidal silver that strains out virtually all harmful bacteria and parasites. The American Red Cross (ARC) began production of the clay filter in Sri Lanka in January 2007 and has distributed some 10,000 units so far. (IRIN)

 

AMERICAS’ DEVELOPMENT UPDATES

August 11, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Let’s continue our news sharing about development-related matters. Across the Americas comes news bits, from penguin populations in Argentina to environmental news in Brazil, up through governance news in Venezuela.  

[01 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to DevEx database news.]

Argentina

Penguin populations have plummeted at a key breeding colony in Argentina, mirroring declines in many species of the marine flightless birds due to climate change, pollution and other factors, a study shows. Dee Boersma, a University of Washington professor who led the research, said the plight of the penguins is an indicator of big changes in the world’s oceans due to human activities. For the past 25 years, Boersma has tracked the world’s largest breeding colony of Magellanic penguins on Argentina’s Atlantic coast. Since 1987 she has observed a 22 percent decrease in the population of these penguins at the site. (Reuters)

Brazil

Brazil’s new environment minister, Carlos Minc, called all sugar cane mills in the northeastern state of Pernambuco an environmental “disaster of disasters” and fined them USD 75 million. In a crackdown called Old Green Mill conducted jointly with the environmental protection agency Ibama, Minc said that all 24 mills in the state had committed a series of crimes. Since he took over as minister after conservationist icon Marina Silva stepped down several weeks ago, Minc has targeted Brazil’s powerful farmers, ranchers and miners, who are riding a global commodity boom, and blamed them for fueling deforestation. (Reuters)

Colombia

Republican John McCain, in an unusual trip to Colombia as a US presidential candidate, called on President Alvaro Uribe on July 1 to make further progress on human rights while pushing the US Congress to vote on a trade pact between the two countries. McCain kicked off a three-day trip to South America and Mexico by meeting Uribe in an effort to tout his positions on trade and showcase his foreign policy experience over that of Democratic rival Barack Obama. McCain pressed the Colombian president to make further progress on human rights issues while highlighting the success of efforts under his administration in fighting the FARC. (Reuters)

Haiti

Aid for Haiti is falling short as the Caribbean country is buffeted by urgent needs to help feed its poor while developing domestic food production and jobs, a UN official said on June 1. The UN System is an umbrella group that represents all of the international organizations and conventions that have been created by the world body. Permanent coordinator of the UN System in Haiti Joel Boutroue said the UN System plans to collect USD 131 million in funding for near- and mid-term programs to support local food production and the creation of new jobs in the poorest country in the Americas. (Reuters)

United States

US President George W Bush has signed a bill removing Nelson Mandela and South African leaders from the US terror watch list, officials say. Mandela and ANC party members will now be able to visit the US without a waiver from the secretary of state. The African National Congress (ANC) was designated as a terrorist organization by South Africa’s old apartheid regime. A US senator said the new legislation was a step towards removing the “shame of dishonoring this great leader.” (BBC)

Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez was personally involved in covering up his nation’s role in an Argentine election scandal, according to a court statement by a witness who might testify at a criminal trial in Miami. The claim was made by Franklin Duran, who faces trial on charges of acting in the US as an unregistered agent of Chavez’s government. Prosecutors say Duran conspired to silence a Florida businessman who toted USD 800,000 in a suitcase from Caracas to Buenos Aires, where the valise was seized Aug. 4. Prosecutors say the cash was intended for the campaign of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who was elected president of Argentina on Oct. 28. (Bloomberg)

ASIA & PACIFIC UPDATES

August 9, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning from Manila!

Let’s see what we got across Asia and the Pacific recently, concerning development engagements, relief and humanitarian activities. Below are news captions about Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Japan, and Sri Lanka.

[31 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Asia & Pacific

 

 

Australia

A draft blueprint of Australia’s emissions trading scheme will include fuel, but is unlikely to recommend what the country’s key emissions cap should be. The blueprint’s government-backed architect, economist Ross Garnaut, is due July 4 to release a plan for how emissions trading could operate, likely suggesting that government force companies to bid for emissions permits at auction, a perceived failing of the EU scheme. But inflating already record-high petrol prices could fuel a backlash against the government’s pledge to cut emissions with a trading system by 2010. (Reuters)

Bangladesh

Obtaining food remains the biggest priority for Bangladeshi families living in areas still devastated by Cyclone Sidr last year, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said July 1, announcing it will continue its aid operations to the affected region. The next major harvest in the delta country is not due until November or December, and many households lack sufficient food reserves to last until then, according to a press release issued by WFP. (UN News Service)

Burma (Myanmar)

At least 7,000 cyclone survivors sheltering in three temporary camps in Laputta town, in the Irrawaddy delta, are under renewed pressure from the local authorities to return home, according to sources there. About 10,000 refugees are still living in Laputta’s five refugee camps, supported by local authorities and nongovernmental organizations. The 7,000 now urged to return to their home villages have been warned that unless they leave the camps they can expect no aid next month, said one local source. (ReliefWeb)

China

The UN expects China to be at the forefront of efforts to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, such as the global food crisis, climate change and the quest to slash poverty, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said July 1, calling on the Asian nation to step up its contribution in international affairs. Addressing students at the Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, at the start of the second leg of his East Asian tour, Ban said China is already playing an important role as a permanent member of the Security Council and as a growing contributor to peacekeeping and the UN budget. (UN News Service)

India

The Jammu and Kashmir state government should protect Parvez Imroz, an award-winning human rights lawyer who survived an armed attack on June 30 in Srinagar by alleged security forces members, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said July 1. The state government and Human Rights Commission should launch an immediate and thorough investigation into the attack and take criminal action against those responsible. “All members of the security forces found responsible, no matter how far up the chain of command, should be prosecuted,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. (HRW)

Indonesia

Indonesia’s anti-terrorism police unit has found assembled bombs and detained suspects during a raid on a house in Palembang in South Sumatra province, the national police spokesman said on June 2. The detentions came as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was visiting the area in the west of Indonesia on Sumatra Island. Earlier, Metro Television reported that seven suspects had been detained, but a police source involved in the raids told Reuters that more than seven were being held. (Reuters)

Mongolia

The president of Mongolia has declared a four-day state of emergency in the capital amid violent protests over claims the general election was rigged. Crowds torched the HQ of Mongolia’s governing party – the former Communists – and attacked a police station. Over 60 people were hurt – around half of them police – as officers used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon against stone-throwing protesters. The unrest went on into the night, with reports of bank robberies and looting. Rioters set fire to the Cultural Palace, home to a theater, museum and national art gallery in the capital, Ulan Bator. (BBC)

Nepal

Nepalese police have detained more than 40 Tibetan monks and nuns near the country’s border with Tibet. The group was planning to protest at China’s policies in their homeland. The demonstrators were halted several kilometers from the frontier after marching through the mountains from the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. Tibetan exiles in Nepal have protested almost daily since China suppressed violent anti-government demonstrations in Tibet that broke out in March. (BBC)

North Korea (DPRK)

A new agreement between the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) paves the way for the agency to step up its food assistance to more than five million hungry people in the country. The agreement, which was signed on June 27, was hailed by WFP as a significant breakthrough in its long-standing efforts to ensure that all those in need of food aid in the DPRK are able to receive it. (UN News Service)

Japan

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Japanese leaders in Tokyo on June 30 and praised the “immense contribution” Japan has made to the work of the United Nations. Speaking to the press after meeting Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Ban said that “Japan should be proud of being ‘a peace-fostering nation’ and its commitment to multilateralism,” Ban added. “The Japanese people should know how much Japan’s global role is appreciated in the United Nations and worldwide.” (UN News Service)

North Korea (DPRK)

The UN World Food Program, which has warned of a humanitarian crisis in North Korea due to a food shortage, said on June 30 it reached a deal with Pyongyang to rapidly expand aid, and that a US ship carrying wheat had arrived. Flooding last year, higher commodity prices and political wrangling with major donor South Korea have pushed North Korea to a food shortfall similar to ones it faced about a decade ago when famine killed an estimated 1 million people. The WFP said the agreement it reached with the North will allow it to expand its operation, previously aimed at feeding 1.2 million people, to feed more than 5 million in the country of about 23 million. (Financial Times, UK)

Sri Lanka

For thousands of Sri Lankans without easy access to potable water, a low-tech filter has provided them with a convenient source of safe water, saving on fuel costs and cutting disease. The water filter was first mass-produced in Nicaragua and used in emergency relief operations. It is essentially a clay pot fortified with ground paddy husk and coated with colloidal silver that strains out virtually all harmful bacteria and parasites. The American Red Cross (ARC) began production of the clay filter in Sri Lanka in January 2007 and has distributed some 10,000 units so far. (IRIN)

 

QUEZON CITY – MANILA’S BEST PERFORMING

August 8, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good afternoon from Manila!

A most gladdening news about my city of residence, the suburban Quezon City, is that it ended up as the best performing city in the latest urban study by the Asian Institute of Management or AIM.

Primarily suburban, residential-government center-education in land use, this city had since grown to integrate mixed land use concepts in its renewal and development efforts. With a technocratic mayor at the helm, Sonny Belmonte, who was former president of the national champion Philippine Airlines, vowed to expand commercial engagements all the more and build more ambitious projects.

Witnessing the bankability of this city, the World Bank didn’t have 2nd thoughts in extending a financing package worth P3 Billion for developing the North Triangle area. The new mixed land use area is now rapidly rising, even as the ‘Sillicon Valley’ techno-park in neighboring University of the Philippines is shaping up and will be launched soon.

The news item about the bright situation of the city is summed up below.

[06 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to yahoo.com database news.]

 

MANILA, Philippines – A week after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), the local executive of Quezon City on Monday delivered his own version of the annual report to his constituents.

 

Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr reported before local city officials that the Quezon City government has aced two important factors needed to become a “well-run city” – these are: good governance and a growing economy.

“I am happy to note that we are getting good grades in both,” Belmonte said in his seventh State of the City Address (SOCA), held at the Quezon City Hall.

Belmonte, who boasted having spoken before German and Singaporean audiences abroad to talk about the city’s urban management strategy, said his government is determined to maintain the distinction of being the most competitive city in Metro Manila, as named by the Asian Institute of Management.

After recording its sixth consecutive annual budget surplus totaling to P283 million last year, Belmonte said their government has the right amount of tools to fuel their development programs for the years to come.

He said that the local government would be spending the next two years in alleviating poverty and unemployment in the city, by focusing on key sectors such as education, business and public works.

Belmonte delivered his almost hour-long “QC-style SONA” during an event that saw the coming together of local city government officials from regular councilors and village captains to well-known local leaders like QC vice mayor Herbert Bautista and celebrity couple Harlene Bautista and Romnick Sarmenta.

‘Ten-fold’ education

Belmonte, in his speech, emphasized the local government’s commitment to strengthen further the education system, especially after the city’s schools division ranked number one in Metro Manila in the National Achievement Tests for Elementary.

In the last six years since 2001, the Quezon City mayor said 87 more public elementary and high school buildings have been erected, providing almost 1,500 new classrooms. Currently, nearly 500,000 children are enrolled in the city public schools in the primary and secondary levels.

“Education is our biggest human resource investment channel. This is where we can maximize the use of our resources and spread the gains,” Belmonte said.

Part of encouraging the city’s young students to brush up on their studies is the “ten-fold” upgrade of the financial assistance awarded to class valedictorians and salutatorians – the previous P24,000 in stipend and tuition coverage every school year has shot up to P100,000.

The city’s focus on education had even gone on to extend to the disabled youth, with more than 200 of them getting allowances and supplies.

As part of the school program, some 9,000 public teachers would undergo a comprehensive training under the “Training for Outstanding Performance in Education.”

Belmonte added that around 13,000 Grade 1 pupils would also benefit from the city’s feeding program while thousands of job hunters would get training in call center operations, as well as computer and cell phone repair.

The health sector has also benefited in the government’s intensified efforts toward development, according to Belmonte, wherein the PhilHealth coverage has extended to more than 47,000 beneficiaries already.

As well, an ordinance is being eyed to develop a comprehensive and sustainable sanitation and septage management program to address the waste problem in the city. Belmonte also mused the government’s saving of around P7 million by reducing biogas emission.

Public works

Meanwhile, leading the local government’s infrastructure projects is the linking of major thoroughfare sprawled all over the city, including the connection of the Commonwealth Avenue and Quirino Highway; the Katipunan Ave and Commonwealth Ave; and Mindanao and Visayas avenues.

But the public works effort of the government does not only center in the widening and connecting of roads and highways, but also trickles down to the very walkways that people trek.

Belmonte encouraged peoples to walk more for them to cope with the soaring prices of oil.

“At this period of escalating gasoline prices, encouraging more people to walk is also good for our health and our pocket,” Belmonte said.

Business beyond this term

He said that the business sector in the city has grown in the last six years, with number of registered businesses jumping from 30,000 last 2001 to over 53,000 last year.

He added he expected the numbers to grow further especially since the securing of business permits has been made faster and easier.

He cited as an example the government’s practice – to drive in entrepreneurs – of allowing aspiring businessmen to begin the construction of their establishments while their papers are still being processed.

Although triggering uproar from affected residents, the local government, through a P3-billion project with the World Bank, is currently in the early stages of transforming a major area in the city – the North and East Triangles – into a leading business district that would rival that of Makati’s.

“We have set the pace for transformation in Quezon City, and are laying the foundations to help make sure that these gains will last beyond this term,” Belmonte said. – Mark Merueñas, GMANews.TV

AID FUNDS FOR AFRICA, ANYONE?

August 7, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang araw! Good day!

Aid commitments to the south by the more developed economies of the North have been among the news trends recently. There is, for instance, the commitment of $25 Billion per year for the whole African continent, a commitment that hopefully won’t fly in the air as mere political promise.

A relevant news concerns IMF-World Bank actions about the matter.

[30 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to DevEx database news.

 

IMF, World Bank & IFI Round-Up

Leaders of the Group of Eight rich nations are set to backtrack on their landmark pledge at the Gleneagles summit in 2005 to increase development aid to Africa to USD 25 billion a year. A draft communiqué obtained by the Financial Times, due to be issued at the group’s July summit in Hokkaido, Japan, shows leaders will commit to fulfilling “our commitments on [development aid] made at Gleneagles” – but fails to cite the target of USD 25 billion annually by 2010. This goal – which was repeated at last year’s G8 summit in Germany – was seen as an important boost for Africa. The ambitious plan was a cornerstone of former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s G8 presidency and championed by his successor, Gordon Brown.

Warning that rising food and oil prices pose a crisis for the world’s poor, Robert B. Zoellick, the President of the World Bank, is calling on President Bush and other leaders convening in Japan next week for the G8 summit meeting to make new aid commitments to avert starvation and instability in dozens of countries. Zoellick’s letter, obtained by NYT, came with a lengthy study of the impact of rising prices for food, fuel and commodities on the world’s poor. Zoellick said in his letter that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Food Program (WPF) had short-term needs of USD 10 billion. Zoellick’s letter calculates that, for the world’s 41 poorest countries, the combined impact of high food, fuel and other commodities is a ‘negative shock’ to their economies, reducing GDP by between 3 and 10 percent, causing ‘broken lives and stunted potential’ for millions.

The World Bank gave the go-ahead at a board meeting July 1 for the creation of a pair of global investment funds to back developing nations’ efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. The Climate Investment Funds, led by Japan, Britain and the US and to be administered by the World Bank, are expected to start with total initial funds of USD 5 billion and become operational by the end of the year, it said. The approval of the Clean Technology Fund and Strategic Climate Fund comes days before a summit of G8 in Hokkaido, Japan, on July 8 where climate change issues are on the agenda. ‘The G8 is likely to broadly support the establishment of the climate investment funds,’ Warren Evans, Director of the World Bank’s environment department, told reporters.

A new IMF study, looking at the impact of soaring oil and food costs, said many poor and developing countries will likely have to change their economic policies in response to soaring commodity prices, AFP reported. The IMF Food and Fuel Prices–Recent Developments, Macroeconomic Impact, and Policy Response report found that poor households are most affected by food price inflation and “warned that the share of undernourished (people) in developing countries could rise rapidly above the current 40 percent of total population.” Energy and food values are still rising and the IMF said its research suggests the “problem is worsening.”

The World Bank’s private sector arm has launched a new fund it hopes will unlock as much as USD 5 billion in infrastructure investment for the world’s poorest countries. As part of its drive to reach deeper into some of the most forbidding markets, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) will use a pot of USD 100 million to cover the initial costs of power, logistics, and transport, ports and communications projects. Once a project is shown to be viable, it will be tendered to other investors, the Financial Times (UK) reported. Working with an initial partner, the IFC fund – known as InfraVentures – will cover start-up costs such as feasibility studies and legal fees. Half of its resources will be devoted to sub-Saharan Africa, with the remainder spread across Latin America and Asia.

NGOs & UN DEVELOPMENT

August 4, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning!

A global fund for natural disasters is among the top agenda of the world body and its partner NGOs. The frequency and ferocity of quirk earthquakes and cyclones has prompted concerned institutions to ‘call to arms’ and address the disaster effects properly.

A relevant news is contained below.

[29 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to DevEx database news.]

 

UN, NGO and General News Round-Up

The UN has proposed a USD 10 billion global fund to help poor countries cope with natural disasters the world body said were occurring with ever more frequency and ferocity, Reuters reported. A UN report on factors creating world economic insecurity said the existing response to floods and earthquakes of emergency appeals and voluntary contributions should be boosted with a permanent facility, possibly under UN auspices. In a trend some have linked with global warming, more than four times as many disasters occurred annually between 2000 and 2006 than during the 1970s, the report said. The damage costs were seven times higher at an average of $83 billion per year.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the G8 nations to stick with a three-year old pledge to raise African aid levels to USD 25 billion a year, after a report the leaders may be about to backtrack. “I would like to urge and emphasize that leaders of G8 should implement their commitment which was made at the Gleneagles summit meeting,” Ban said, referring to the G8’s 2005 summit. “When it comes to climate change … and the global food crisis, these campaigns should be led by the industrialized countries — they have the capacity, they have the resources, and I hope the leadership demonstrates their political will,” he said. Ban’s comments came ahead of the G8 summit in northern Japan on July 7-9.

Somali gunmen freed two UN aid workers from Sweden and Denmark – just hours after seizing them on June 28 in southern Somalia, UN and Somali officials said. The aid workers were released without ransom and were safe, a UN security official told Reuters. The two – who were working for a UN program to clear landmines – were kidnapped in Somalia’s Bakol region. Suspicion for kidnappings generally falls on clan militia and Islamist insurgents who are fighting the Somali government and their Ethiopian military allies.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has criticized the outcome of last Friday’s run-off presidential election in Zimbabwe – which went ahead despite international appeals for a postponement given the violence and intimidation that preceded it – as illegitimate. “The outcome did not reflect the true and genuine will of the Zimbabwean people or produce a legitimate result,” Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement issued June 30 in Tokyo, where the Secretary-General was on an official visit.

The UN and African Union (AU) have appointed the Burkina Faso Foreign Minister, Djibril Bassole, as their new Darfur peace envoy. The UN said Bassole will conduct efforts to mediate between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels from the region’s city of Fasher. He replaces current UN and AU envoys Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim. Recent peace efforts have faltered – armed men held 38 peacekeepers at gunpoint for five hours on June 30.

Last month’s earthquake in Sichuan, China, has caused some USD 6 billion in damage to the province’s agricultural sector, severely affecting over 30 million people in rural communities, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said June 30. The 7.9-magnitude earthquake of May 12 devastated the mountainous Sichuan province, killing an estimated 69,000 people and causing extensive property damage. More than 30 million rural inhabitants lost most of their assets, and thousands of hectares of farmland were destroyed, while millions of farm animals also died.

SOCIAL TECHNOLOGIES IN WORLD FUTURE CONFERENCE

August 2, 2008

SOCIAL TECHNOLOGIES IN WORLD FUTURE CONFERENCE

 

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Good afternoon from Manila!

 

The social sciences are surely gearing up for more ambitious engagements in producing and disseminating social technologies. Below is a news about a forthcoming future society conference, with social technologies stakeholders participating.

 

[28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to the Social Technologies database news.]

 

Social ) Technologies For Immediate Release

1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 815

Washington, DC 20036 CONTACT: Hope Katz Gibbs

Main office: +1 202 223-2801 Leader, Corporate Communications

Website: http://www.socialtechnologies.com Direct: +1 703 502-3405

Blog: http://changewaves.socialtechnologies.com Cell: +1 703 346-6975

Email: hope.gibbs@socialtechnologies.com

 

Social Technologies Participating in 2008 World Future Society Conference

Several senior futurists will be presenting at the WFS annual conference

Washington DC, July 26–28

 

Washington, DC, July 23, 2008—Several senior futurists from the Washington, DC-based research and

consulting firm Social Technologies will be speaking at the World Future Society annual conference,

July 26–28, being held this year at the Hilton Washington in Washington, DC.

 

The topic of this year’s conference is WorldFuture 2008: Seeing the Future through New Eyes.

“I always look forward to attending the World Future Society conferences because hundreds of

interesting futurists, academics, and business leaders gather to talk about fascinating topics—and

this year looks like it will be especially interesting,” says Tom Conger, founder of Social Technologies,

pointing to session topics including Business Futures, The Influence of Mega-Energy Markets, and

 

Future Hotspot: East Asia.

Conger says he’s especially looking forward to attending the two sessions being led by his

colleagues:

Leader of Social Technologies’ London office Roumiana Gotseva will be part of a panel about

State-of-the-Art Monitoring Systems on Sunday, July 27, from 2–3:30 a.m.

“Forewarned is forearmed,” she explains, “and in today’s quickly changing environments,

nimble organizations are closely scanning and monitoring the forces that create new

gamechanging opportunities and warn about possible threats or discontinuities.”

Later that day, futurists Terry Grim and Scott Reif will be presenting a forum on Assessing

Foresight Capabilities: An Organizational Scorecard on Sunday, July 27, from 4–5:30 p.m.

“Social Technologies has developed the first-of-its-kind Foresight Maturity Model, based on

Carnegie Mellon’s successful software-engineering model, which presents a clear and

disciplined approach for assessing where you are in the many different practices of

foresight,” Grim explains.

“It can help practitioners to answer the question: How are we doing? This continuous process

improvement approach moves each practice through the five different levels of maturity or

development: ad hoc, aware, capable, mature, and world-class. Using this framework,

attendees will learn how to assess or baseline their current level of foresight practice and

then develop an informed plan for moving forward.”

Also on Sunday, July 27 from 4-5:30 p.m., Social Technologies’ Thought Leader Josh Calder

will be participating on the panel Demographics Is Destiny, which will examine the values

and experiences of generations around the world. Josh will discuss India and China. John

Milewski, Senior Manager for Special Programs at the Newseum, will act as moderator.

The panelists will examine the contrasting demographics, how these different generations

and populations are relating to one another, potential dangers, and the reasons for hope.

Learn more

 

For additional information about the conference, visit: http://www.wfs.org. To learn more about Social

Technologies, send an email to Hope Gibbs (hope.gibbs@socialtechnologies.com).

About ) Social Technologies

Social Technologies is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the integration of

foresight, strategy, and innovation. With offices in Washington DC, London, and Shanghai, Social

Technologies serves the world’s leading companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. For more

information visit http://www.socialtechnologies.com, the blog:

http://changewaves.socialtechnologies.com, and our newsletter:

http://www.socialtechnologies.com/changewaves.

Josh Calder ) Futurist / Leader, Global Lifestyles

Josh Calder, a professional futurist since 1995, is Social Technologies’ Thought Leader. Josh tracks

social, economic, and consumer change for corporate and government clients. Areas of special

interest include emerging markets, cultural change, and international relations. Josh has an MA in

foreign and defense policy from American University and a BA in government from Wesleyan

University.

Rouminana Gotseva ) Leader, Futures Observatory

Roumiana Gotseva is an accomplished futurist and strategy consultant who leads the Futures

Observatory program and manages Social Technologies’ London office. Since joining S)T in 2005 she

has managed consulting projects for major European firms such as BP and Cadbury Schweppes. Her

skills include strategic planning, scenario development, systems thinking, trend interpretation, and

environmental scanning. An accredited expert with the European Commission, Roumiana evaluates

proposals and projects under the Information Society Technologies and e-Content programs. She is

also a founding fellow of the European Academy for Digital Media and has sat on juries for the

EuroPrix digital content award and the Bulgarian Web Awards. Roumiana holds an MBA from the

University of Minnesota and is working toward an MS in studies of the future at the University of

Houston.

Terry Grim ) Futurist

After working at IBM for 30 years on leading-edge technology and strategic projects, Terry Grim joined

Social Technologies in 2007 as a futurist and consultant for strategic practices. She brings an

extensive background in strategy development, customer engagements, and large-scale and missioncritical

development management for top IBM clients including NASA, British Telecom, and the State

of Washington. Terry received a BS with high honors (Phi Beta Kappa) in computer science from the

University of Florida in 1975. She has an MS in studies of the future from the University of Houston

and now teaches in that program.

Scott Reif ) Futurist

Scott Reif is a futurist and contributing writer to Social Technologies’ Technology Foresight and Global

Lifestyles multiclient projects. He also serves as a project manager, administering and writing for

custom client projects. Scott’s domains of expertise include social foresight and epistemological

futures, with a special focus on the emerging fields of complexity studies and integral theory.

Currently a graduate student in the MS program for studies of the future at the University of Houston,

he is in the process of completing his thesis work on the study of behavior under conditions of

uncertainty. Scott has a BA in philosophy from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

About ) The World Future Society

The World Future Society is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, scientific and educational association of people

interested in how social and technological developments are shaping the future. The Society was

founded in 1966 and is chartered as a nonprofit educational and scientific organization in

Washington, DC. For more, visit www.wfs.org.

TRADE & HUNGER: SALVING HUNGER VIA TRADE POLICY

August 1, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Let me continue on the issue of hunger, which many politicians are raising howls this early in time for the 2010 polls. The tendency right now, with politicians’ short-sightedness and poverty of wisdom, is that hunger will be perpetuated and sustained even long after the same politicians are all dead.

In the study on fair trade & food security I did for the national center for fair trade and food security (KAISAMPALAD), I already raised the howl about hunger and recommended policy and institutional intervention.

Since other experts, notably nutritionists, already highlighted many factors to hunger and under-nutrition, such as lifestyle problems, economics, and lack of appropriate public policy, I preferred to highlight in that study the factor of trade on food insecurity and the hunger malaise. Let me cite some cases here to show how trade and hunger are directly related:

·        Immediately after the termination of the sugar quota of the USA for Philippine-sourced sugar in the early 80s, the domestic sugar industry collapsed. 500,000 hungry sugar workers and their dependents had to line up for food, a tragedy and calamity that shamed the country before the international community. Till these days, the trauma caused by that ‘line up for porridge’ solution remains among those children of those days who are now adults, one of whom became my student at the University of the Philippines Manila campus (a girl).

 

·        Two years ago, a cargo ship carrying PETRON oil to the Visayas got struck with leaks and a tragic spillage covering wide swaths of sea waters. The island province of Guimaras suffered catastrophically from that incident, its economy was as bad as a war-torn economy for one year. Its marginal fishers couldn’t fish for at least one year as the sea spillage had to cleaned up. The hunger and under-nutrition caused by that tragedy is indubitably related to a trade activity: oil being transported to a predefined destination.

 

·        At the instance of trade liberalization on fruits upon the implementation of a series of GATT-related and IMF-World Bank sanctioned measures that began during the Cory Aquino regime, the massive entry of apples and fruit imports immediately crashed tens of thousands of producers of local mangoes, guavas and oranges, as domestic consumers (with their colonial flair for anything imported) chose to buy fruit imports in place of local ones. Economic dislocation and hunger instantly resulted from the trade liberalization policy.

The list could go on and on, as we go from one economic and/or population to another. What is clear here is that trade measures and activities do directly lead to food insecurity and the attendant problems of malnutrition and hunger. In the case of the Guimaras oil spillage calamity, humanitarian hands such as the Visayan provinces and Manila’s mayors’ offices, added to private and NGO groups, quickly moved to help the affected residents. Of course the PETRON itself took responsibility for the spillage, clean up, and offered humanitarian help as well. But did trade stakeholders ever paid for the hunger malaise suffered by the sugar workers and families, fruit small planters, and other families in the aftermath of shifting trade policy?

A strategic solution to trade-related hunger would be to constitute a Hunger Fund, whose funds shall come from at least 0.1% of all tariffs (on imports). A 0.1% tariff alone today translates to P800 million approximately, or close to $20 Million. This can serve as an insurance of sorts for trade-induced hunger. The funds will then be administered by an appropriate body, comprising of representatives from diverse sectors and headed by a nutritional scientist of international repute (e.g Dr. Florencio) rather than by a politician or ignoramus species.

Furthermore, insurance groups here can begin to innovate on food production-related insurance to cover force majeure damages. Cyclone insurance and earthquake insurance would be strong options for agricultural producers, even as other options can be designed most urgently.

I would admit that trade-related hunger and its solutions are practicable for the productive sectors of our population. There are 2.3 million street people today who comprise the relatively ‘unproductive sectors’, who all suffer from hunger. This need to be tackled as a distinct sector and problem, and discussed separately.

[Writ 28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]