02.03.2021 – US, United States – Codepink

Jodie Foster said …
Tahar RahimJodie and Foster in “The Mauritanian.” (Image by Graham Bartholomew/STX Films)

Tuesday night at the Golden Globes the Best Actress award went to Jodie Foster. She used the opportunity to talk about the importance of the film The Mauritanian, in which she plays attorney Nancy Hollander, and to raise up the beauty of Mohamedou Slahi. She was able to talk about how he had been a teacher of being loving and forgiving. So we must seize this moment to yet again call for GITMO to be closed!

The Mauritanian comes out today on demand and we invite you to join us and the community that has stood outside the White House in orange jumpsuits for 19 years for a Q&A with Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was unjustly imprisoned at GITMO for fourteen years, and Nancy Hollander, his attorney who uncovers a far-reaching conspiracy (she is the one Jodie Foster plays).

We will gather on zoom March 6th at 12 PM PT / 3 PM ET,  for an introduction of the film by Shailene Woodley (who plays Nancy Hollander’s associate) and CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou. Following the film will be the Q&A. RSVP here to join us– the first 100 to rsvp will get a free ticket to the film.

Forty men remain in Guantánamo today. They are all Muslim. Most have never even been charged with crimes. Six have been cleared to leave, yet the government has made no efforts to transfer them out of the prison. The military commissions have barely moved forward: they are still unfair, and deny detainees fair-trial rights. Tell Biden he must put an end to this symbol of injustice, torture, and indefinite detention – once and for all and ask your friends to join you.

03.03.2021 – scoop.me

Denmark protects the homeless: Covid 19 vaccinations for people without shelter
(Image by SCOOP.ME)

Homeless people are at particular risk for a Covid 19 infection. After all, staying home or washing your hands regularly isn’t so easy when you don’t have a roof over your head. That’s why Denmark is now prioritizing homeless people in the vaccination schedule. 200 of them received the first partial vaccination between February 15 and 16.

The Covid 19 pandemic is hitting homeless people particularly hard. Staying at home, washing hands regularly and social distancing are hardly feasible for homeless people. For this reason, several Danish charities are working together to move homeless people to the front of the vaccination queue. The Danish vaccination strategy follows a 12-step plan: the population is divided into target groups. Homeless people fall into target group 10 and, as it stands now, are scheduled to be vaccinated in early April. Homeless and socially disadvantaged people who are at particular risk can “move up” to category 5 and will be vaccinated earlier. This category includes people with illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular disease or immune deficiencies.

Doctor’s visit as a requirement for vaccination

However, this “step up” requires a doctor’s visit. Only when a doctor’s estimation finds the individual to be at particular risk of a serious reaction to the virus will they move up to category 5. This approach has been met with criticism from nonprofit organizations that advocate for the rights of homeless people in Denmark: Since homeless people can rarely benefit from the country’s health services, the additional prescribed doctor’s visit is another obstacle.

“Unfortunately, homeless people are not automatically put in category 5. We have the impression that almost all of them would, however, if they had the opportunity to see a doctor”

says a member of Gadejuristen (Danish for: street lawyers). Gadejuristen is an NGO that provides legal advice to vulnerable people at the street-work level.

Homelessness in Denmark

According to VIVE, the Danish Center for Social Science Research, 6,431 people are currently homeless in Denmark. 200 of them were administered the first partial vaccination between February 15 and 16, 2021, through the nonprofit organization Gadejuristen, after having undergone a medical examination.

Defining Homelessness:

FEANTSA is the only European NGO focused exclusively on the fight against homelessness. Its ultimate goal is to end homelessness in Europe. FEANTSA has developed a definition of homelessness and calls it “ETHOS”. ETHOS describes homeless people according to their housing situation. This defines whether a person is homeless or houseless, their housing situation is considered unsecured, or insufficient. These categories break down into 13 operational categories that can be used for various policies, such as: identifying homelessness, developing, monitoring, and evaluating homeless policies.

Denmark has been vaccinating since December 27, 2020. The country’s goal is to immunize the whole population by the early summer months of 2021. With a 3% share of fully administered vaccinations (measured by total population), the northern European country secures second place (after Malta) in the vaccination ranking within the EU.

Vaccinations for homeless people in other countries

But Denmark is not the only country thinking about its homeless citizens: Covid 19 vaccination initiatives for homeless people also exist in the Vatican, in communities of Detroit in the United States, and in parts of Montreal in Canada. In Austria, homeless people are part of the extended risk group. This group is expected to be vaccinated in Phase 2, with a planned vaccination start in March 2021.

Homelessness in Denmark – Facts and Figures

VIVE has conducted a national survey on homelessness every two years since 2007. Over a period of seven days (always in the 6th calendar week), the Danish Center for Social Science Research collects data. The national homeless census covers eight different homeless situations.

According to the latest count from 2019, homeless people are distributed as follows:

  • People sleeping rough (ETHOS 1.1): 732
  • People sleeping in emergency shelters (ETHOS 2.1): 313
  • People staying in homeless shelters/hostels (ETHOS 3.1): 2,290
  • People staying in hotels due to homelessness: 191
  • People staying with family and friends: 1,630
  • People staying in short-term transitional housing: (ETHOS 8.1): 121
  • People housed after release from prison (ETHOS 6.1): 72
  • Homeless people after release from hospitals/treatment facilities (ETHOS 6.2): 148
  • Other: 380
  • Not specified: 554

Total: 6,431

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

03.03.2021 – Newsclick

5 Years Since her Assassination, Movements Across Globe Demand Justice for Berta Cáceres
Berta Cáceres, indigenous peoples’ rights activist, receives the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015. – Still from the video tribute for the posthumous Champions of Earth 2017 award, by UN Environment. (Image by CC BY 3.0 / UN Environment – ONU Brasil -)

Berta’s organization, COPINH, has called for a series of global actions to intensify the struggle demanding justice in her case

Five years have passed since Berta Cáceres was assassinated in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras. Berta was the co-founder and coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and following the coup d’état in 2009, had emerged as an important national leader in the movement for the re-foundation of Honduras.

Before her assassination, Cáceres had been subjected to a campaign of threats, intimidation, criminalization, and acts of physical violence by members of the Honduran security forces, as well as private security guards and employees of the Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. (DESA) company. This was due to her active role in the resistance to the construction of the hydroelectric project Agua Zarca on the Gualcarque River that is sacred to the Indigenous Lenca people.

In these five years since her assassination, COPINH has waged a tireless struggle to achieve justice for their comrade and leader Berta. In November 2018, after a long drawn-out trial which even saw the exclusion of COPINH’s legal representation, seven people were convicted of participating in the murder of social leader and environmental activist Berta Cáceres. The convictions and posterior sentences were hailed as a partial victory, but for the organization, achieving justice goes far beyond the convictions of the hit-men that were paid to pull the trigger. They believe that justice involves bringing those to trial who were involved in planning and financing the operation, of which there is already evidence of pointing to the members of the powerful Atala-Zablah family, who held positions on the board of DESA as well as key shares in the company. Following the convictions in November 2018, COPINH had said that justice must involve the trial and conviction of all those involved in “the plot of persecution, harassment and threats that brought about the assassination of Berta Cáceres.”

As of now, the key advance towards reaching the upper echelons of the DESA company and untangling the criminal structure behind this assassination, was the arrest on March 2, 2018 of David Castillo former military intelligence officer and president of the DESA company. Castillo was arrested when he was trying to flee the country for the United States where he bought a USD 1.2 million house 8 months after Berta’s murder.

Records show Castillo coordinating with members of the Atala-Zablah family about Berta and maneuvers to thwart COPINH’s determined resistance to the hydroelectric project. However, since his arrest, Castillo’s legal team filed numerous petitions to the court in order to delay the proceedings. The pandemic-imposed lockdown put this process in greater risk, especially given that his preventative detention was set to expire March 2, 2020. Yesterday, March 1, after 36 months, proceedings began in earnest with the evidentiary hearing. Following the proceedings the court announced that after 11 suspensions, the trial of David Castillo is scheduled for April 6-30, 2021.

International cry for justice

As COPINH and Berta’s family mark five years without her physical presence, they have invited people from across the world to join them in their reiterated demands for justice. “We commemorate 5 years since the siembra (planting) of our comrade Berta Cáceres, 5 years of fighting against impunity and injustice in Honduras, 5 years of confronting powerful economic and political sectors that have attempted to steal justice out of our hands, but at the same time, they are 5 years of building ties of solidarity between comrades of struggle that have accompanied the demand for justice, 5 years walking with Berta in the construction of processes of emancipation and autonomy for the people,” COPINH wrote.

In this regard they have called for an international campaign on social media platforms beginning at 9:00h Honduras, to “demand that the Honduran authorities promptly investigate all perpetrators of the crime and ensure that David Castillo’s trial proceeds without delay.” They have called on people across the globe to use the hashtag #JusticiaParaBerta (Justice for Berta) as well as #CastigoALosAtala (Punishment for the Atalas) and #5AñosJuntoABerta (5 years with Berta). They have also called on people to tag the Honduran state entities involved in the case including the Judicial Power (@PJdeHonduras), Public Prosecutor’s Office (@MP_Honduras), the Human Rights Secretary (@sedhHonduras), and the Secretary of Governance and Justice (@sgjd_honduras).

At night, COPINH will livestream a virtual concert “Justice for Berta” with artists from Honduras, El Salvador, Cuba, Venezuela, Guatemala, Colombia, Uruguay, the UK, and Spain, including Roger Waters, Andrea Echeverri, and Rebecca Lane.

On March 3, a forum will be held titled “Indigenous People against Corruption,” and on March 4 COPINH is calling on people globally to plant a tree in honor of Berta. COPINH hopes to revive the international cries for justice in Berta’s case ahead of the trial of David Castillo which will be even more crucial than the trial of the 7 who were convicted of executing the assassination. Castillo is the link to those who planned and financed the murder and as such, as with this whole process, it will be an arduous struggle.

In the trial held in November 2018, Laura Zúniga, one of Berta’s daughters and a member of COPINH, gave a victim’s impact statement reflecting on the struggle for justice and why the family and the organization has remained resolute: “From the moment my mom was murdered, we were excluded from the process, and we don’t agree with it. We don’t agree with being denied the possibility of having an observer present during my mom’s autopsy, of not receiving information. We’ve had to fight for information at every moment, every step of the way. We didn’t do it on a whim, we did it because we are prepared to do everything necessary to get to the truth because we understand that it’s our right, because we understand that it’s the right of the Honduran people, because we want to establish precedents for justice.”

Courtesy: Peoples Dispatch

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

02.03.2021 – US, United States – Common Dreams

Experts Say J&J-Merck Deal—Though Welcome Step—Does Not Get to ‘Heart of the Matter’ on Vaccine Apartheid
People lining up for COVID-19 vaccination in New Jersey in January. (Image by greenleft.org.au)

“Our elected leaders are choosing to allow a few Big Pharma companies to maintain their monopoly control over these drugs in order to maximize their profits.”

By Kenny Stancil

In response to the Biden administration’s brokering of a deal wherein pharmaceutical giant Merck will utilize excess manufacturing capacity to produce the coronavirus vaccine of its longtime competitor, Johnson & Johnson, public health advocates said Tuesday that the partnership—though welcome—reveals how global vaccine supplies could be significantly increased if patent monopolies were dissolved and the technology controlled by Big Pharma shared worldwide.

“Factories across the world are lying idle when they could be producing hundreds of millions of vaccines this year—but they can’t because Big Pharma is refusing to share the know-how.”
—Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now

President Joe Biden on Tuesday will formally announce the deal, which has the potential to boost the supply of Johnson & Johnson’s recently authorized single-shot vaccine, The Washington Post reported.

While Merck, one of the world’s biggest vaccine makers, failed to develop its own Covid-19 shot, the company will dedicate two of its U.S. facilities to producing its rivals’ shots, “perhaps even doubling what Johnson & Johnson could make on its own,” according to two senior administration officials who spoke to the newspaper about the new arrangement on the condition of anonymity.

Though the agreement was heralded by many as “huge” news and a positive development that would increase production at a key time to help fight the pandemic, advocates for broader access and an end to corporate control of vaccines both in the U.S. and around the world said the deal is also revealing.

“This partnership with Merck and J&J lays bare what we’ve known all along: there is excess manufacturing capacity in the U.S. and around the world for manufacturing lifesaving vaccines,” Margarida Jorge, campaign director at Lower Drug Prices Now, said in a statement.

“But instead of doing everything we can to get these vaccines developed using taxpayer dollars into people’s arms as quickly as possible,” said Jorge, “our elected leaders are choosing to allow a few Big Pharma companies to maintain their monopoly control over these drugs in order to maximize their profits.”

“The Trump administration and Congress could have prevented the problem in the first place by refusing to grant exclusive patents for Covid medicines developed with taxpayer funding,” she added. “But President Biden can still scale up production to meet global demand by using existing authorities.”

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Jorge’s comments come in the wake of progressives’ demands for the Biden administration to invest in the ramping up of global manufacturing capacity and to stop derailing a popular knowledge-sharing effort supported by more than 100 countries that would make it possible to disseminate vaccine recipes around the world.

Like his predecessor, Biden has continued to block India and South Africa’s proposal for an emergency waiver of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which mandates the enforcement of patent protections, allowing pharmaceutical companies to monopolize control over scientific knowledge and technology even though they are publicly funded products.

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, told Common Dreams that the White House-brokered deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck “could be the beginning of a concerted effort on the part of rich countries to face down the rapidly building pressure to override patents on Covid-19 medicines.”

“It couldn’t be clearer that the Big Pharma patent model is failing us—failing to provide the medicines we need fairly or in sufficient supply,” Dearden added. “Only this morning, we learned that factories across the world are lying idle when they could be producing hundreds of millions of vaccines this year—but they can’t because Big Pharma is refusing to share the know-how.”

As the Associated Press reported Monday, factory owners on three different continents “say they could start producing hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccines on short notice if only they had the blueprints and technical know-how.”

“But that knowledge belongs to the large pharmaceutical companies who have produced the first three vaccines authorized by countries including Britain, the European Union, and the U.S.—Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca,” AP noted. “The factories are all still awaiting responses.”

If blueprints were shared, “then immediately overnight every continent will have dozens of companies who would be able to produce these vaccines,” said Abdul Muktadir, whose Incepta plant in Bangladesh already makes vaccines against hepatitis, flu, meningitis, rabies, tetanus, and measles.

In response to the manufacturing partnership negotiated by the Biden administration, Dearden told Common Dreams that “using spare Merck capacity to produce the J&J vaccine is welcome, but it’s still not getting to the heart of the matter.”

“It’s good these two companies will be working together. It would be even better if the technology were shared with qualified manufacturers around the world to produce as much as possible to protect people worldwide now and in the future.”
—Peter Maybarduk, Public Citizen

“This technology should not be the property of these giant corporations,” he said. “They should not have the final say on who produces these life-saving vaccines and on what terms. Nor should they decide, in effect, what order people are vaccinated in.”

As Dearden pointed out, “most countries in the Global South are demanding patents be overridden. It’s really obscene that those countries that have already bought the majority of vaccines available this year are saying, ‘No, no, that’s not necessary, the system works just fine.’”

“In fact, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a perfect candidate to be a people’s vaccine,” Dearden continued. “It promises to work well across the world, it’s one-shot, and it was developed with huge amounts of public funding.”

“This research should never have been privatized,” he added. “Biden could make a real difference here—by dropping U.S. opposition to the patent waiver proposal at the WTO, and by unilaterally overriding patents on the J&J medicine and declaring it a people’s vaccine.”

Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, agreed that the deal brokered by Biden “is positive and that we can go further.” He told Common Dreams that “we will have to be much more ambitious in order to vaccinate the entire world.”

“It’s good these two companies will be working together,” said Maybarduk. “It would be even better if the technology were shared with qualified manufacturers around the world to produce as much as possible to protect people worldwide now and in the future.”

According to Jorge at Lower Drug Prices Now, “This path would ultimately mean less profits for the corporations that currently hold the patents.”

But as Brook Baker, senior policy analyst at Health GAP and professor of law at Northeastern University, said last week in response to a reporter’s question about the impact of temporarily suspending the WTO’s intellectual property rules on the profit margins of patent holders, the TRIPS waiver doesn’t mean that pharmaceutical corporations won’t be well-compensated. Besides, Baker added, “we should recognize that Pfizer and Moderna are already poised to earn billions this year even after receiving billions in public subsidies.”

Mustaqeem De Gama, a South African diplomat involved in the WTO discussions, told AP that “people are literally dying because we cannot agree on intellectual property rights.”

Ultimately, progressives have argued, declining to share vaccine recipes with the world is not only morally indefensible but also self-defeating insofar as it prolongs the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, enabling the virus to mutate and ensuring that global economic hardship continues.

“To end the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes,” Jorge concluded, “our elected leaders must choose to prioritize the health and economic well-being of people over Big Pharma’s profits.”

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02.03.2021 – Deutsche Welle

Nigeria: Hundreds of kidnapped students released — governor
(Image by Nigeria: Hundreds of kidnapped students released — governor | News | DW | 02.03.2021)

The governor of Zamfara state has said that 279 girls taken from a school are “now safe.” Their abduction was the second mass school kidnapping to take place in Nigeria this year.

Hundreds of Nigerian students kidnapped from their boarding school in the northern state of Zamfara have been released, state governor Dr. Bello Matawalle said on Tuesday.

“Alhamdulillah! It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students of GGSS Jangebe from captivity,” Matawalle wrote on Twitter. “This follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts. I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe.”

01.03.2021 – US, United States – Independent Media Institute

Black Lives Still Don’t Matter in America
Warner Bros. has rescheduled the release date for “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The historical drama, starring Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, will debut on Feb. 12, 2021. (Image by Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

A welcome change in national leadership in the U.S. means little for the scourge of racism infecting the nation—unless words are matched by action.

By Sonali Kolhatkar

There is a scene in the new film “Judas and the Black Messiah,” directed by Shaka King and produced by Ryan Coogler, in which Chairman Fred Hampton of the Illinois Black Panther Party explains to a group of Black students that just because their school was allowing them to change its name to “Malcolm X College” did not mean they were now free from oppression. Hampton, who is played by actor Daniel Kaluuya in the film, clarified that there is a “difference between revolution and the candy-coated façade of gradual reform.” Hampton, a real-life revolutionary who was murdered by the state in 1969 at just 21 years of age, was ultimately seen as the greater danger to American society than white supremacy and racism.

Indeed “candy-coated” reform is all that most politicians have offered Black communities in America for decades. Evidence of it abounds in the form of damning statistical measures showing racial discrimination against Black Americans in health (including from the novel coronavirus), law enforcementcriminal justicevoting rightseducationemployment(including during the pandemic), housing, and life expectancy before and especially during the past year.

The starkest symbol of how little the lives of Black people mean to the state are the ongoing reckless killings by police that almost always go unpunished. In one of the more recent and widely covered instances, the brutal police killing of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, that took place nearly a year ago as he lay naked, hooded, and handcuffed in the middle of the street, has gone unpunished after a grand jury declined to press charges. Although a medical examiner ruled that he had died from “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” and the police initially refused to release the incriminating and deeply disturbing video of his last conscious minutes of life, it seems that there will be no justice for Prude.

Prude, like countless other Black people killed by police—whether they were women like Breonna Taylor, or children like Tamir Rice—are sacrifices to the altar of white supremacy. They are daily reminders of the bottom-rung status that Black people occupy in the American consciousness. Even George Floyd, whose deadly videotaped encounter with Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was so egregious and widely viewed that even Donald Trump, among some of the nation’s most vociferous white supremacists, could not immediately deny the injustice that unfolded, is yet to receive justice. Floyd would have likely been alive today had Chauvin only been held accountable for the previous incidentsin which he attempted to use fatal force, including at least one in which he placed his knee on the neck of a Black suspect.

Meanwhile, all that is offered up in response to widespread anger over police killings are more examples of “candy-coated” reform. No matter how much money is spent on training police to not be so violent, they routinely kill on average about 1,000 Americans a year, with stunning consistency. Their victims are disproportionately Black.

White supremacists emboldened by Donald Trump’s presidency want to ensure that justice will remain ever elusive. In a stunning exchange between Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) and Judge Merrick Garland at a recent hearing for Garland’s nomination as attorney general, Kennedy spent more than five minutes attempting to trap the judge over his position on racism. The white Southern conservative senator who voted to acquit Trump of responsibility for the January 6 Capitol riot, who cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election, and who denounced four congresswomen of color (“the Squad”) as “whack jobs” tried vainly to test Garland’s understanding of the definitions of “systemic racism” and “implicit bias.”

Kennedy was clearly hoping he could get the judge to claim that entire agencies in the U.S. government were racist because there might be some evidence of systemic racism in their ranks. The senator—more invested in being protected against accusations of racism than actually not being racist—is a powerful elected official representing a state with the second-largest percentage of its population that is Black in the nation.

The nation’s standard for tackling racial discrimination in the United States is so low that the fact that Garland, the man who would be the nation’s top cop, was able to clearly explain systemic racism and accept that it does indeed exist has been hailed as a triumph. What went less noticed is Garland’s absurd defense of the extraordinarily generous funding that police departments enjoy because Capitol police officers were attacked by white supremacist Trump supporters on January 6. He told senators that he is of the same mind as the current liberal president: “Biden has said he does not support defunding the police, and neither do I.” Garland said he believes “in giving resources to police departments to help them reform and gain the trust in their communities.” In other words, he understands there is deep racism in American society but is unwilling to take the hard steps to dismantle it.

The main difference between white supremacist supporters of police and liberal reformist supporters of police centers on rhetoric. The former group wants to claim American racism is over while the latter wants credit for admitting it is still a problem. Regardless of who is making decisions—Kennedy, Trump, Garland, or Biden—police are free to keep killing Black people with impunity.

Rather than be distracted by pretty words, following the money offers a much clearer picture of liberal priorities. American cities, including those run by Democrats, spend inordinately large percentages of their budgets on police. The central demand of Black Lives Matter, to “defund the police,” has largely gone unmet. It matters little how much lip service politiciansinstitutionscorporations, and others paid to the notion of equality last year when mass protests rocked the nation over Floyd’s killing. If offenders are not held legally accountable and money is not moved to reflect a priority for racial justice, empty words are nothing more than “candy-coated” reform.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” reminds Americans that just a few decades ago, law enforcement officials from the city, county, and federal level collaborated to brutally murder Fred Hampton, a charismatic revolutionary leader of the Black Panther Party. While law enforcement painted the killing as a justifiable response to shots fired at them during a raid of Hampton’s apartment, in the end it was determined that only one shot was fired by the Panthers while police unloaded nearly 100 bullets, killing Hampton and one of his colleagues and injuring others. No officer was ever held accountable, but the survivors of the attack were instead charged with attempted murder—as stark an example as one might find of the racism of American justice.

Having just experienced a dramatic change in leadership from an avowed and dangerous white supremacist to a more traditional liberal leader, the nation has understandably breathed a sigh of relief. After four years of openly racist rhetoric, policies and actions, even the diverse demographics of President Biden’s Cabinet appointments are enough to inspire excitement for a better future. But we’ve been here before. Reforming the police is simply not as good as defunding the police. The symbolic hallmarks of reform are no substitute for revolutionary change.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

01.03.2021 – Kester Kenn Klomegah

Africa’s development must be based on resilient approaches with nature and people at the center
(Image by Professor Patrick Verkooijen)

Interview by Kester Kenn Klomegah

In this insightful and wide-ranging interview, Professor Patrick Verkooijen, Chief Executive Officer of Global Center on Adaptation discusses the organization’s establishment, its main objectives, challenges and the plans for the future.

The Global Center on Adaptation in Africa (GCA Africa), based at the African Development Bank (AfDB), has launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program to mobilize US$25 billion to scale up transformative actions on climate adaptation. It hopes to mobilize funds and bridge the financing gap for climate adaptation across Africa. Here are the interview excerpts:

What does the setting up of the Global Center on Adaptation mean for Africa?

PV: Africa is on the frontline of our climate emergency. Five out of the ten world most climate vulnerable countries are in Africa. Contributing a meager 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is more victim than contributor to climate change, with the bulk of its emissions deriving from deforestation and poor land use practices. Climate change is already negatively affecting the continent’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Its impacts are showing up in extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and heatwaves affecting most of the continent with severe economic consequences. Hurricanes Idai and Kenneth in 2018 that hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi affected over 3 million people, led to the death of over a thousand people and damaged infrastructure worth about US$ 2 billion.

Compounding the already enormous climate challenges, Covid-19 has ushered in an era of multiple, intersecting systemic shocks, and one of its casualties has been our capacity to adapt and respond to escalating climate risks. Investment in climate adaptation fell in 2020, even as more than 50 million people were affected. There is no doubt the adaptation challenge for Africa is extraordinary. For us, although the adaptation challenge is a global agenda, our priority is Africa.

We must make up for lost ground and lost time by accelerating action on climate adaption and resilience. Climate change did not stop because of Covid-19, and neither should the urgent task of preparing humanity to live with the multiple effects of a warming planet. If the virus is a shared global challenge so too should be the need to build resilience against future shocks.

In September last year, in the midst of the pandemic, we virtually launched our Africa office hosted by the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Many African Heads of State and Government participated – they understand how vital accelerated adaptation action is because they are living with the impacts of climate change every day. Our rationale is that it doesn’t make sense to have an Africa office in isolation. We also have offices in Beijing and Dhaka because we think solutions that work well in South Asia, for example, could potentially also be translated to Africa and vice versa.

Do you target regions and different segments of the population in Africa? How do you determine and direct the activities of the GCA-Africa?

PV: If we fail to include fairness and equity in how we adapt to a warming planet, we risk pushing millions more people into poverty. We know how that story ends – with more conflict, migration and instability. With that in mind, we work closely with our partners including the African Adaptation Initiative and the African Development Bank to ensure our activities are directed towards where the need is greatest. Partnering with existing networks, platforms and organizations ensures that we don’t duplicate existing resources but can play a role in effectively filling the gaps that exist.

Right now global, regional, national, subnational and local entities are working simultaneously, and in parallel to support adaptation actions and many important initiatives exist. However, the speed and scale of adaptation action is grossly insufficient to meet the demand and many stakeholders are not connected to the resources, knowledge, expertise or support others can offer them. GCA is key to bridging this gap while ensuring at the same time that best practices can be replicated and scaled up in order to catalyze progress towards resilience in the most effective and efficient way.

Africa’s development – be it in infrastructure, agricultural production, urban development, and youth empowerment – can have a different path from other regions. Africa can have a development that is based on deep understanding of climate risks for planning, resilient approaches with nature and people at the center, and continuous innovations in technology, financing, and governance for a climate-smart adapted future.

What are the long-term priority objectives here? But in the short-term, what projects would you tackle in Africa?

PV: The short-term objective, in terms of the programs, is to make sure that when COVID-19 support packages are developed — and they are being developed in real time by the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and other partners — they have resilience or adaptation action embedded in them. Current estimates of the cost of climate change to Africa are between US$7 – US$15 billion per year. African countries are projected to experience clear detrimental macroeconomic consequences from climate change over the coming decades. The IMF estimates that this cost could rise to US$50 billion by 2040, about 3% of the continent’s GDP. It is estimated that climate change could result in lower GDP per capita growth ranging, on average, from 10 to 13 per cent, with the poorest countries in Africa displaying the highest adaptation deficit. So it’s important we act, and we act now.

Let me give an example. As part of the recovery package in Africa and other continents, there is a lot of investment in infrastructure. We want to make sure that these investments have climate risk embedded in their design and hence in their implementation and maintenance. We don’t want to build infrastructure anymore which will be destroyed when the next floods come.

For us there is a very simple business case, over and above a moral argument, that investing in adaptation is good economics. We think that it is absolutely vital that, in the development of these new infrastructure projects or agriculture projects, that the climate lens is being applied consistently, and that is what we are planning to do in Africa long-term. We are developing tools, guidelines, methodologies, and innovation programs for governments and development partners to do precisely that. You cannot develop properly without taking climate into consideration. There is this integrated approach that is not always applied, not only in Africa but also across the globe. That is what we are working on.

Since the start of this initiative, what would you consider as your main achievements on the continent? How did you overcome the initial challenges in order to get these positive results?

PV: The urgency of the compounded COVID-19 and climate crises is compelling a new and expanded effort to accelerate momentum on Africa’s adaptation efforts. At the GCA we are joining forces with the African Development Bank to use their complementary expertise, resources and networks to develop and implement a new bold Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to galvanize climate resilient actions through a triple win approach to address COVID-19, climate change, and the economy.

The AAAP will contribute to closing Africa’s adaptation gap, support African countries to make a transformational shift in their development pathways by putting climate adaptation and resilience at the center of their critical growth-oriented and inclusive policies, programs, and institutions.

As part of this program, just a couple of weeks ago, at the inaugural Climate Adaptation Summit, hosted by the Netherlands, we announced a new program to deploy billions of dollars to help young people in Africa build a new digitally-driven model of agriculture that can feed the continent’s people and boost prosperity even as the planet heats up. The African Development Bank has already committed to put half its climate finance towards the initiative – US$12.5 billion between now and 2025.

The challenge now is to raise an equal amount from donor governments, the private sector and international climate funds. In the Covid-context this is challenging – our latest report “State and Trends in Adaptation” showed that investment in climate adaptation fell in 2020 even as more than 50 million people were affected by a record number of floods, droughts, wildfires and storms.

The pandemic is eroding recent progress in building climate resilience, leaving countries and communities more vulnerable to future shocks. I think awareness is really starting to increase that we can either delay climate action and pay for that choice or plan now and prosper. The returns in investing in building climate adaptation and resilience are much greater than the investment – investing US$1.8 trillion globally in the next decade could generate US$7.1 trillion in total net benefits.

We are also working to strengthen ecosystems that support youth-led climate adaptation entrepreneurship, and youth participation in adaptation policies; scale up climate adaptation innovations by strengthening business development services to 10,000 youth-owned enterprises and 10,000 youth with business ideas on jobs and adaptation; develop tailored skills and provide starting tool packs for one million youth to prepare them for climate resilient jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities in adaptation and unlock US$ 3 billion in credit for adaptation action by innovative youth-owned enterprises through innovative financial instruments.

With all these on the agenda, what role do African leaders have to play in terms of the global adaptation agenda?

PV: With climate-related disasters expected to slow GDP per capita growth, African Governments are likely to experience increasing pressure on budgets and fiscal balances. Climate extremes are already leading to increased government expenditure, a reduction in the volume of collected taxes, ultimately resulting in an increase in government debt and impairment of investments. Adaptation and investment in climate resilience remain high development and investment priorities for Africa if the continent is to attain the SDGs.

In their Nationally Determined Contributions, African countries have already identified key areas where investments in adaptation and resilience building could yield high dividends. These include agriculture and forestry, water resources, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity and ecosystems, and human settlement. Many African countries are also in the process of preparing and finalizing their National Adaptation Plans.

Having said that climate change is an all of society problem. No one can solve it alone. The role of African leaders is crucial to mobilise governments to boost climate action on both mitigation and adaptation. They need to improve their ability to incorporate climate risks in to planning and financing major infrastructure, agriculture and other resilience-related investments. With the youngest population in the world, Africa needs to find ways to unlock the power of its youth for adaptation – something we are very focused on at the GCA. Having said all of that, there are already a lot of good adaptation initiatives happening on the continent and many other countries in different regions are going to be able to learn from what Africa is doing.

Besides this, what specifically are the expectations from the leaders, looking at the fact that policies and approaches are different in African countries?

PV: Earlier this year we published a GCA policy brief, with the African Adaptation Initiative which recommended focusing stimulus investment in Africa on resilient infrastructure and food security to overcome the COVID-climate crisis. This was endorsed by 54 Heads of State and Government on the continent so when it comes to the need to accelerate adaptation action, it’s clear African countries are very much aligned. We are working hard on the ground to facilitate knowledge management and capacity building both within countries and between countries as well as promoting partnerships and co-operation at sub-regional and regional levels for increased synergy and scale. This cannot happen without the support of African leaders.

For example in Ghana, we are working to develop its first national-level assessment of the resilience of its infrastructure systems to climate change. By exploring and showcasing the potential co-benefits of nature-based solutions as part of country-level package of investment in grey and green infrastructure, Ghana will function as a demonstration country of how to reduce costs and enhance ecosystems and we plan to roll out the initiative to other countries across the continent.

What platforms are there for discussing the GCA initiatives and programs for African elite and the public? Do foreign organizations offer any support for these?

PV: In January 2021, we hosted our first annual Ministerial Dialogue with over 50 ministers and leaders from international organizations including the newly appointed climate envoy John Kerry and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva. The aim of this event is to help scale-up global leadership cooperation to accelerate climate adaptation. Going forward it will also serve as an annual high-level forum on climate change adaptation, acting as a lever for global leadership to drive a decade of transformation for a climate resilient world by 2030. African leaders were very active in the dialogue and we look forward to hearing from them in our future sessions.

There are also other partnerships such as the Climate Commissions of the African Union and the African Climate Policy Center. The African Risk Capacity, a specialized agency of the African Union is making important progress enabling countries to manage climate risks and access rapid financing to respond to climate disasters. The African Union is leading the pan-African Great Green Wall initiative which involves many international organizations and foreign governments.

But climate adaptation will not be successful if it just comes from the top-down. The design of adaptation actions must include and be led by local communities who ware best placed to understand needs. Solutions need to be context relevant and accompanied by soft support designed to enhance uptake such as formal education initiatives, agricultural extension or behavioral change campaigns.

Do you suggest governments have to act now to accelerate issues that you have on the agenda for the next few years? What kind of support do you envisage from African governments?

PV: Over half of Africa’s total population experiences food insecurity. The growing number of extreme climate events, from droughts and new crop diseases to floods and unpredictable growing seasons, continues to threaten Africa’s ability to feed itself. There are increasing rainfall and malaria risks in East Africa, increasing water stress and decreasing agricultural growing periods North Africa, severe flood risks in coastal settlements in West Africa and increased food insecurity, malaria risks and water stress in Southern Africa. The effect of aggregated climate impacts could decrease the continents GDP by 30 percent by 2050.

Suffice to say Africa really doesn’t a moment to lose and we need to accelerate climate adaptation now. In looking towards recovery from the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that we all build forward better. It is our responsibility to ensure that the opportunity isn’t wasted and countries around the world must support Africa in this.

About African Development Bank: The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group is the premier development finance institution in Africa with a mandate to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in the continent, thereby contributing to poverty reduction.

The Bank Group achieves this objective by mobilizing and allocating resources for investment in the continent; and providing policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts. The African Development Bank’s authorized capital of around $208 billion, and is subscribed to by 81 member countries made up of 54 African countries and 27 non-African countries. For more information, visit www.afdb.org

01.03.2021 – Moscow – Prensa Latina

Russia launches first Arktika-M weather satellite
(Image by Prensa Latina)

Russia on Sunday launched the first weather satellite weather satellite from the Baikonur cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, informed.

The launch of the spacecraft, designed to monitor climate and environmental conditions in the North Polar zones, is the third of 29 planned for 2021.

Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin said on his Telegram account that the satellite deployed the solar antennas and other elements and there is already communication and control over the device.

Roscosmos stated that the minimum composition of the Arktika-M hydrometeorological space system should include two satellites, to be replaced alternately.

The devices will provide round-the-clock monitoring about the Earth’s surface and the seas of the Arctic Ocean, as well as constant and reliable communication.

The launch of the second satellite of the Arktika-M series is planned for 2023, and it will be followed by three more devices in 2024 and 2025, Sputnik news agency reported.

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

The notion of neurotic repression may offer a helpful perspective on a central doctrine of the early Quakers; namely, that all human beings are naturally and fundamentally flawed, but most, if not all, can be significantly changed for the better.

An Analytic Perspective on Quaker Spirituality — The Postmodern Quaker
the EARTH is red

POEM

by Rosalinda Maog

the EARTH is red
the earth is heart
the heart is earth
the earth is body

seems, only on earth
can growth be found
In what we awaken to at birth
breathe, breathing, will breathe
in the land I grew up into
whomever, whatever, wherever
will return, will squeeze in, will sidle
will center, will lie down
will sit, stand, fly
be quiet
be calm
will gush forth
will seep out
will stream
will stay
on the ground …
Let’s you embrace, kiss, soothe

with every pulse of the earth
hope will be as dew
a drizzling delight
mercy will be sprinkled
pouring grace will come
radiating energy
goodness will hail
emptiness swells
blazing creativity
shine will melt down
water will spring forth
earth will be filled
in awesome stillness
the whisper will heed
love will bleed

in the land I was born into.
loving without fading
endless harmony
the birds will hum
the clouds, gesture
the wind will play
the colors are blooming
the leaves are singing
light will brighten up
fire will heal
the heart will plummet
What is WITHIN will be felt.

(In the original Pilipino language)

ang LUPA ay pula
ang earth ay heart
ang puso ay lupa
ang lupa ay katawan

pawang sa lupa lamang
masusumpungan ang pagtubo
sa kinagisnang pagsilang
huminga, humihinga, hihinga
sa lupang tinubuan
sinuman, anuman, nasanman
babalik,sisiksik, gigilid
gigitna, hihiga
uupo, tatayo, lilipad
tatahimik
kakalma
bubulwak
babalong
dadaloy
tutuloy
sa lupa…
papayakap, papahalik, papayapa

sa bawat pintig ng lupa
hahamog ng pag-asa
papatak ng tuwa
aambon ng awa
uulan ng biyaya
aaraw ng lakas
babagyo ng buti
dadaluyong ang kawalan
uunos ng likha
malulusaw ang kinang
bubukal ang tubig
pupunuin ang lupa
manghang titigil
makikinig ang bulong
babalong ng pag-ibig

sa lupang kinagisnan
nagmamahal ng walang kupas
magmamayaw ng walang maliw
huhuni ang mga ibon
kukumpas ang mga ulap
maglalaro ang hangin
namumulaklak ang mga kulay
aawit ang mga dahon
sisigla ang liwanag
apoy ang maghihilom
bubulusok ang puso
LOOB ay dadamhin.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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