BEYOND TODAY: HRE 2020 To Promote Human Rights Education

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By Jaya Ramachandran

BERLIN | GENEVA - “Everyone has the right to know, seek and receive information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms and should have access to human rights education and training,” says Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration adopted by the General Assembly on December 19, 2011.

Two years on, a global coalition of civil society organisations has been set up to promote human rights education by supporting and strengthening the implementation of existing international standards and commitments as envisaged in the Declaration, which reaffirms the purposes and principles of the UN Charter pertaining to “the promotion and encouragement of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”,

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BEYOND TODAY: When Freedom and Sovereignty Are Hollow Words

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Image credit: Wikimedia CommonsBy Julio Godoy*

BARCELONA - The German political comedian Karl Valentin once coined a wonderful phrase to parody the cowardice of people who betray their own will: “Mögen hätt’ ich schon wollen,” Valentin mocked them, “aber dürfen habe ich mich nicht getraut.” Loosely translated: “say “I actually would have loved to want, but I did not dare to can.”

Valentin’s grim humour is a perfect match for the present predicament of European governments vis-à-vis the U.S. and British global surveillance of telecommunications, revealed by the brave Edward Snowden. All heads of governments, from Angela Merkel in Germany to Mariano Rajoy in Spain, passing through François Hollande of France, have expressed their alleged outrage towards the U.S. spying of their official and private telephone and Internet communications. All of them have used the same expression: What the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been doing all these years is “unacceptable.”

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DEVELOPMENT: ‘We Can, And Must, End Poverty’

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By Erik Solheim* Photo: Erik Solheim | Credit: Wikimedia Commons

While the international community has learned much about what works in terms of reducing poverty, and the world is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people whose income is less than USD 1.25 a day, it is far from achieving the overarching MDG goal of eradicating extreme poverty. Subsequently, "getting to zero" remains a challenge in the face of the intractable difficulties of reaching those mired in extreme poverty, says the OECD Development Co-operation Report (DCR) 2013, which explores what needs to be done to achieve rapid and sustainable progress in the global fight to reduce poverty. But Erik Solheim, a former Norwegian Minister of International Development, and current Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, insists in an Editorial to the Report that ‘We Can, And Must, End Poverty’.

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DEVELOPMENT: Developing Economies’ Myths and Realities

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Remittance advertising in Oxford Street, London with Polish and Russian slogans. Credit: Kaihsu Tai | Wikimedia CommonsBy IDN World Economy Desk

BERLIN - The South Centre, an intergovernmental organization of developing countries, has good news about developing economies. Contrary to the view promoted by ‘establishment institutions like the IMF’ (International Monetary Fund), recent events show that major developing countries have not “decoupled” their economies from those of advanced ones, avers Yılmaz Akyüz, chief economist of the Geneva-based organization.

In another analysis, Akyüz says: “Workers’ remittances have emerged as a major source of external financing for Developing Countries (DCs) in the new millennium, second only to FDI (foreign direct investment inflows)”.

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DEVELOPMENT: Asia Wants To Abolish Hunger and Poverty

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By Ashok KumarCredit: FAO

BANGKOK – Asia-Pacific region has bumpy roads to traverse before it achieves ‘zero hunger’ and ‘zero poverty’. But it is gearing up for 'food security for all' backed by 'concerted efforts' to achieve Zero Hunger by 2025 when global population is estimated to surpass the 8 billion mark.

The 'Zero Hunger Challenge' – highlighting that hunger can be eliminated in our lifetimes – was launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June 2002 at Rio to commemorate and review the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in June 1992.

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DEVELOPMENT: Swiss Aid To Prevent Food Losses

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Photo: ©FAO/Christena DowsettBy Richard Johnson

GENEVA - The Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation has come up with a Christmas and New Year gift that has the potential of feeding some 2 billion people around the world. The international cooperation agency, based in Berne, is placing $2.7 million at the disposal of three United Nations agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) – to launch a joint project to tackle the global problem of food losses, beginning with pilot programmes in Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda.

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DEVELOPMENT: Sweden Commended For International Aid

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By Richard Johnson Photo: Sweden’s stakeholder engagement to promote sustainability. Credit: Global Reporting Initiative

PARIS  – At a time when international development cooperation does not draw public focus, a new report highlights Sweden’s significant contribution to assisting countries in need of money they cannot afford to muster on capital markets. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Sweden provided USD 5.24 billion in official development assistance (ODA) in 2012. This amounted to 0.99 percent of its gross national income (GNI) – in excess of the United Nations’ target of 0.7 percent of GNI

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DEVELOPMENT: Rising Migrant Remittances Highly Significant

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Picture: An elderly woman counts money in China. © Curt Carnemark/World BankBy J C Suresh

TORONTO - A new report has highlighted the importance of funds remitted home by migrants, which are now nearly three times the size of official development assistance given by rich developed nations and larger than private debt and portfolio equity flows to developing countries. They exceed the foreign exchange reserves in at least 15 developing countries, and are equivalent to least half of the level of reserves in over 50 developing countries, says the latest issue of the World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief.

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DISARMAMENT: No-Nuke Australia Thwarts Nuclear Free World

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By Neena BhandariCampaigners at the Humanitarian Disarmament Campaigns Forum in New York*

SYDNEY - Australia has been expressing support for a nuclear weapons-free world, but documents obtained by disarmament advocacy group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), reveal that the Australian Government sees the increasing international focus on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons as "rubbing up against" its reliance on the United States nuclear weapons.

ICAN has obtained declassified diplomatic cables, ministerial briefings and emails under freedom-of-information laws, which show that the Australian Government plans to oppose efforts to ban nuclear weapons

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DISARMAMENT: Daughter Takes Kennedy’s Peace Torch To Japan

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Photo: Caroline Kennedy | Credit: U.S. State Dept.By Taro Ichikawa

TOKYO - Caroline Kennedy was just 20 years old when she accompanied her uncle, the late Senator Edward Kennedy, to Hiroshima, site of the first U.S. bomb attack that killed 140,000 people on August 6, 1945. In a Senate hearing in September, confirming her appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Japan, she said she was deeply moved by her visit in 1978 that included a tour of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

In her video message to the people of Japan posted before assuming office on November 12, 2013, she remarked that her trip to Hiroshima had left her "with a profound desire to work for a better, more peaceful world".

Less than one month after her arrival in Tokyo as U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy – the only living daughter of President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated in Dallas some 50 years ago in November – visited Nagasaki in western Japan, which also suffered American atomic bombing on August 9, 1945.

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DISARMAMENT: ‘We Are Suffering A Slow-Motion Nuclear War’

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By Julio Godoy* Robert Jacobs | Credit: Academia.edu

BERLIN - Robert Jacobs was born 53 years ago, at the height of the cold war, amidst the then reigning paranoia of nuclear annihilation of humankind. In school, he was eight years old. “We learned about how to survive a nuclear attack. We were told that the key to survival was to always be vigilant in detecting the first signs of a nuclear attack.”

45 years later, Jacobs, Bo for his friends, is one of the world’s leading researchers on the social and cultural consequences of radioactivity on families and communities. Bo holds a PhD in history, has published three books on nuclear issues, and is author of hundreds of essays on the same matter. He is also professor and researcher at the Graduate Faculty of International Studies and the Peace Institute, both at the Hiroshima City University, Japan.

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DISARMAMENT: Nagasaki Meet Recommends Concrete Steps

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Photo credit: popularresistance.orgBy Ramesh Jaura*

BERLIN | NAGASAKI – More than 50,000 nuclear weapons have been eliminated since the historic Reykjavík Summit between the then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his counterpart from the erstwhile Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, which culminated into a groundbreaking Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in December 1987. But 17,300 nukes remain, threatening many times over the very survival of human civilization and most life on earth, as the 2013 Nagasaki Appeal points out.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) estimates that nine countries possess nuclear weapons: United States (7,700 warheads), Russia (8,500), Britain (225), France (300), China (250), Israel (80), India (between 90 and 110), Pakistan (between 100 and 120) and North Korea (10).

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DISARMAMENT: Challenges Remain But There Is Good News

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By Ramesh Jaura* Image credit: ICAN

BERLIN  - There is a lot of good news on the nuclear disarmament front but there are miles to go before the campaigners for banning the bomb can ‘lie down and sleep in peace’. Almost seventy years after the first use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, about 17,000 continue to threaten the very survival of humankind.

The few countries that keep these weapons of mass destruction are planning to spend more than USD 1,000,000,000,000 over the next decade to maintain, and modernize them. More than one trillion dollars over ten years, or USD 100,000,000,000 per year.

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DISARMAMENT: The Key To Sustaining Future Generations

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Photo: World Future Council awardees | Credit: Lusha Chen By Joan Erakit*

NEW YORK -- Striving to promote the interest of future generations through policy making, The World Future Council gathers each year to review strategies that are progressive and change the way our global community functions.

The process begins with a serious question: what are the most important topics of our time and which countries are addressing them with such vigour, others take notice?

This is the task given to the World Future Council in partnership with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) – a trifecta with the goal of affecting positive change.

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ASIA-PACIFIC: India Celebrates Soft Power At Film Festival

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By Shastri Ramachandran*Photo: Czech director Jiri Menzel, who was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award | Credit: .iffi.nic.in

NEW DELHI - One truly “international” act that India appears to have got right is the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). In this centenary year of Indian cinema, the 44th edition of IFFI, which was hosted in Goa for the 10th year, would be remembered for some unforgettable films and the presence of great filmmakers.

Increasingly, audiences – both classes and masses – are attracted to IFFI for the quality and variety of cinematic offerings. Glitter and glamour are no longer the pull factors at IFFI, where even personalities are in the spotlight for their work, values, experiences and insights, and not for their appearance or attire.

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ASIA-PACIFIC: Foreigners Usurp One-Third of Papua New Guinea

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Credit: Wikimedia CommonsBy J C Suresh

TORONTO - “O arise all you sons of this land, Let us sing of our joy to be free, Praising God and rejoicing to be Papua New Guinea.” This is the first verse of the song that was promoted to national anthem, when the country in Oceania became independent of Australia in September 1975. Much of the spirit it embodies, seems to have vanished little by little.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has fallen prey to one of the rapidest and largest land grabs in recent history, coordinated by dozens of foreign corporations, from Malaysia, China, Australia, and USA, among other countries. They have appropriated nearly a third of the country, devastating the world's third-largest rainforest and taking away land and heritage from its inhabitants, according to an investigative report and a film, ‘On Our Land’, released by the Oakland Institute and the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG)

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ASIA-PACIFIC: South Korea Hosts The Green Climate Fund

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By Jutta WolfPhoto credit: Land Rover Our Planet, Flickr

BONN – A huge amount of some 5.7 trillion US dollar – 5,700,000,000,000 – is required yearly to build a green infrastructure by 2020 in order to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees C, a new report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates.

Developing countries in particular are in pressing need of adequate funds to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) plays an important role in providing the necessary funding. Continued warming from the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere is projected to have substantial adverse impacts on the environment, human health and the economy

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ICT: Malaysia Needs More Than ‘Cyberjaya’

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Image: Sunset over Cyberjaya (2010) | Credit: Wikimedia CommonsBy Murray Hunter*

BEIJING  - The ritualistic month-long celebration of Merdeka (independence) activities in Malaysia has largely lost its meaning, in part because the history of the roles that different groups played in the road to independence has been rewritten to support the current rulers.

The August 31 celebration, the day that Malaya gained independence from the British, as the major national day seems to exclude the aspirations of Sabahans and Sarawakians, who on September 16, 1963, joined Malaya and Singapore in a union called Malaysia. Groups like the Communist Party of Malaya, which fought and lost many lives against both the British and Japanese, are almost totally excluded from the nation's Merdeka narrative as well

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ICT: Rising Carbon Footprint Can Be Reduced

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By Kalinga SeneviratneConnect Asia-Pacific summit 2013 | Credit: ITU *

BANGKOK - Information Communication Technology (ICT) is generally supposed to promote good environmental protection through use of e-services such as paperless communications and teleconferencing that reduces travel, especially air travel. But, increasingly questions are being asked whether adopting ICTs is really contributing to reducing the carbon footprint.

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ICT: Social Equity Key To Asia’s ‘Mobile Revolution'

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Photo: Delegates at the CTO Group Meeting at Connect Asia-Pacific summit 2013 | Credit: ITU | I.WoodBy Kalinga Seneviratne*

BANGKOK  - Opening the Connect Asia-Pacific Summit of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in the Thai capital, secretary general Dr Hamadoun Touré remarked that the conference was about putting the “feet on the accelerator in the quest to embrace broadband” but also warned that it needs to add value to the lives of the ordinary citizens.

The Summit – the last of the regional gatherings organized by ITU since 2006 – included some 554 participants from 37 ITU Asia-Pacific Member States, including 7 Heads of State or Government, 30 Ministers, deputy ministers and Ambassadors. A total of 88 Project Proposals were submitted for funding and the Summit identified a market opportunity of approximately 53 billion USD by the roll out of broadband services in the region

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