Opinion: Challenging the Nuclear Powers’ Extremism

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the 2010 High-level Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on May 3, 2010. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the 2010 High-level Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on May 3, 2010. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Dr. Joseph Gerson
NEW YORK, Apr 22 2015 (IPS)

On the eve of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference five years ago, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that governments alone will not rid the world of the specter of nuclear annihilation.

Addressing an assembly of movement and civil society activists, he expressed heartfelt sympathy and appreciation for our efforts, urging us to remain steadfast in our outreach, education, organising and in pressing our demands.Practicing the double standard of holding one set of parties accountable to a contract while others flaunt its terms is its own kind of extremism. C. Wright Mills called it “crackpot realism.”

As if to prove the secretary-general’s critique of governments correct, anyone who has been paying attention knows that this year’s Review Conference is in trouble before it starts. It could fail, jeopardising the future of the treaty and – more importantly – human survival.

In the tradition of diplomatic understatement, U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Angela Kane has explained that this is “not the best of times for disarmament.”

Apparently not understanding the meaning and purpose of treaties, and with remarkable disregard for the vast majority of the world’s nations which have long been demanding that the nuclear powers fulfill their NPT Article VI obligation to engage in good faith negotiations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, lead U.S. Non-Proliferation negotiator Adam Scheinman warned that “countries not pursue extreme agendas or place unrealistic demands on the treaty.”

Practicing the double standard of holding one set of parties accountable to a contract while others flaunt its terms is its own kind of extremism. C. Wright Mills called it “crackpot realism.”

Joseph Rotblat, the realist Nobel Laureate and single senior Manhattan Project scientist to quit the nuclear bomb project for moral reasons, put it well years ago while speaking in Hiroshima. He explained that the human species faces a stark choice.

We can either completely eliminate the world’s nuclear weapons, or we will face their global proliferation and the omnicidal nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will long tolerate what it perceived to be an unequal balance of power, in this case nuclear terror.

Blinded by the arrogance of power, Schienmen and his Nuclear Nine comrades are apparently oblivious to the mounting anger and loss of trust by the world’s governments in the face of the nuclear powers’ disregard for their Article VI obligations, traditional humanitarian law, and the dangers to human survival that follow.

As a U.S. American, I had something of an Alice in Wonderland “through the looking glass” experience observing the U.N. High Level Conference on Disarmament debate in 2013.

After the opening formalities, Iranian President Rouhani spoke on behalf of both his country and the Non-Aligned Movement, stressing three points: Iran does not intend to become a nuclear weapons state.

The P-5 Nuclear Powers have flaunted their refusal to fulfill their Article VI NPT obligation to commence good faith negotiations for the elimination of their nuclear arsenals. And, the United States had refused to fulfill its 2010 NPT Review Conference commitment to co-convene a conference on a Middle East Nuclear Weapons and WMD-Free Zone.

What was remarkable was not Rouhani’s speech. It was the succession of one head of state, foreign minister and ambassador after another who rose to associate his or her government with the statement made by President Rouhani on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The U.S. response? A feeble and arrogant “trust us”, followed by the announcement that under Chinese leadership the P-5 had almost completed work on a glossary of terms.

Similar dynamics followed at the International Conferences on the Human Consequences of Nuclear Weapons in Mexico and Austria, which were attended by the vast majority of the world’s nations.

The tiny New START Treaty reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, which leaves them still holding more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals – more than enough to inflict Nuclear Winter many times over – won’t pacify the world’s nations.

Nor will the recent U.S.-Iran deal which the U.S. Congress has placed in jeopardy. On the eve of the 2015 Review Conference the inability of other nations to trust commitments made by the United States are one more reason the Review Conference and the NPT itself could fail.

Add to this the new era of military confrontations, resumption of nuclear (and other) arms races, and continuing nuclear threats from the simulated U.S. nuclear attack on North Korea to the U.S. and Russian nuclear “exercises” over Ukraine.

What are other nations to think when the U.S. is on track to spend a trillion dollars for new nuclear weapons and their delivery systems and every other nuclear power is following suit?

Clearly Ban Ki-moon was right.

And as anti-slavery abolitionist Fredrick Douglas observed more than a century ago, “Power concedes nothing without a struggle. It never has, and it never will.”

This is why nuclear abolitionists, peace, justice and environmental advocates – including 1,000 Japanese activists carrying five million abolition petition signatures in their suitcases – are returning to New York from across the United States and around the world for the Peace & Planet mobilisation on the eve of this year’s NPT review conference.

We’re anything but starry eyed.

Recognising that change will only come from below, our international conference at The Cooper Union and our rally, march and festival in the streets will press our central demand: Respect for international law.

The Review Conference must mandate the beginning of good faith negotiations for the abolition of the world’s nuclear weapons. And, being the realists that we are, we will be building the more powerful and issue-integrated (abolition, peace, economic and social justice and climate change) people’s movement needed for the longer-term and urgent struggle ahead.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Opinion: Peace & Planet: Challenging the Nuclear Powers’ Extremism

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the 2010 High-level Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on May 3, 2010. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the 2010 High-level Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on May 3, 2010. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Dr. Joseph Gerson
NEW YORK, Apr 22 2015 (IPS)

On the eve of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference five years ago, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that governments alone will not rid the world of the specter of nuclear annihilation.

Addressing an assembly of movement and civil society activists, he expressed heartfelt sympathy and appreciation for our efforts, urging us to remain steadfast in our outreach, education, organising and in pressing our demands.Practicing the double standard of holding one set of parties accountable to a contract while others flaunt its terms is its own kind of extremism. C. Wright Mills called it “crackpot realism.”

As if to prove the secretary-general’s critique of governments correct, anyone who has been paying attention knows that this year’s Review Conference is in trouble before it starts. It could fail, jeopardising the future of the treaty and – more importantly – human survival.

In the tradition of diplomatic understatement, U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Angela Kane has explained that this is “not the best of times for disarmament.”

Apparently not understanding the meaning and purpose of treaties, and with remarkable disregard for the vast majority of the world’s nations which have long been demanding that the nuclear powers fulfill their NPT Article VI obligation to engage in good faith negotiations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, lead U.S. Non-Proliferation negotiator Adam Scheinman warned that “countries not pursue extreme agendas or place unrealistic demands on the treaty.”

Practicing the double standard of holding one set of parties accountable to a contract while others flaunt its terms is its own kind of extremism. C. Wright Mills called it “crackpot realism.”

Joseph Rotblat, the realist Nobel Laureate and single senior Manhattan Project scientist to quit the nuclear bomb project for moral reasons, put it well years ago while speaking in Hiroshima. He explained that the human species faces a stark choice.

We can either completely eliminate the world’s nuclear weapons, or we will face their global proliferation and the omnicidal nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will long tolerate what it perceived to be an unequal balance of power, in this case nuclear terror.

Blinded by the arrogance of power, Schienmen and his Nuclear Nine comrades are apparently oblivious to the mounting anger and loss of trust by the world’s governments in the face of the nuclear powers’ disregard for their Article VI obligations, traditional humanitarian law, and the dangers to human survival that follow.

As a U.S. American, I had something of an Alice in Wonderland “through the looking glass” experience observing the U.N. High Level Conference on Disarmament debate in 2013.

After the opening formalities, Iranian President Rouhani spoke on behalf of both his country and the Non-Aligned Movement, stressing three points: Iran does not intend to become a nuclear weapons state.

The P-5 Nuclear Powers have flaunted their refusal to fulfill their Article VI NPT obligation to commence good faith negotiations for the elimination of their nuclear arsenals. And, the United States had refused to fulfill its 2010 NPT Review Conference commitment to co-convene a conference on a Middle East Nuclear Weapons and WMD-Free Zone.

What was remarkable was not Rouhani’s speech. It was the succession of one head of state, foreign minister and ambassador after another who rose to associate his or her government with the statement made by President Rouhani on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The U.S. response? A feeble and arrogant “trust us”, followed by the announcement that under Chinese leadership the P-5 had almost completed work on a glossary of terms.

Similar dynamics followed at the International Conferences on the Human Consequences of Nuclear Weapons in Mexico and Austria, which were attended by the vast majority of the world’s nations.

The tiny New START Treaty reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, which leaves them still holding more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals – more than enough to inflict Nuclear Winter many times over – won’t pacify the world’s nations.

Nor will the recent U.S.-Iran deal which the U.S. Congress has placed in jeopardy. On the eve of the 2015 Review Conference the inability of other nations to trust commitments made by the United States are one more reason the Review Conference and the NPT itself could fail.

Add to this the new era of military confrontations, resumption of nuclear (and other) arms races, and continuing nuclear threats from the simulated U.S. nuclear attack on North Korea to the U.S. and Russian nuclear “exercises” over Ukraine.

What are other nations to think when the U.S. is on track to spend a trillion dollars for new nuclear weapons and their delivery systems and every other nuclear power is following suit?

Clearly Ban Ki-moon was right.

And as anti-slavery abolitionist Fredrick Douglas observed more than a century ago, “Power concedes nothing without a struggle. It never has, and it never will.”

This is why nuclear abolitionists, peace, justice and environmental advocates – including 1,000 Japanese activists carrying five million abolition petition signatures in their suitcases – are returning to New York from across the United States and around the world for the Peace & Planet mobilisation on the eve of this year’s NPT review conference.

We’re anything but starry eyed.

Recognising that change will only come from below, our international conference at The Cooper Union and our rally, march and festival in the streets will press our central demand: Respect for international law.

The Review Conference must mandate the beginning of good faith negotiations for the abolition of the world’s nuclear weapons. And, being the realists that we are, we will be building the more powerful and issue-integrated (abolition, peace, economic and social justice and climate change) people’s movement needed for the longer-term and urgent struggle ahead.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Two Years After Rana Plaza Tragedy, Rights Abuses Still Rampant in Bangladesh’s Garment Sector

Most of the roughly four million people employed in Bangladesh’s garment industry are women. Credit: Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)

Most of the roughly four million people employed in Bangladesh’s garment industry are women. Credit: Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)

By Kanya D’Almeida and Naimul Haq
DHAKA/UNITED NATIONS, Apr 22 2015 (IPS)

Some say they were beaten with iron bars. Others confess their families have been threatened with death. One pregnant woman was assaulted with metal curtain rods.

These are not scenes typically associated with a place of work, but thousands of people employed in garment factories in Bangladesh have come to expect such brutality as a part of their daily lives.

“I have faced many cases, and been arrested and jailed seven times […]. The only charge they bring against me is raising my voice in favour of the workers.” — Mushrefa Mishu, president of the Garment Workers’ Unity Forum
Even if they don’t suffer physical assault, workers at the roughly 4,500 factories that form the nucleus of Bangladesh’s enormous garments industry almost certainly confront other injustices: unpaid overtime, sexual or verbal abuse, and unsafe and unsanitary working conditions.

Two years ago, when all the world’s eyes were trained on this South Asian nation of 156 million people, workers had hoped that the end of systematic labour abuse was nigh.

The event that prompted the international outcry – the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory on the morning of Apr. 24, 2013, killing 1,100 people and injuring 2,500 more – was deemed one of the worst industrial accidents in modern history.

Government officials, powerful trade bodies and major foreign buyers of Bangladesh-made apparel promised to fix the gaping flaws in this sector that employs four million people and exports 24 billion dollars worth of merchandise every year.

Promises were made at every point along the supply chain that such a senseless tragedy would never again occur.

But a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on the eve of the two-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster has found that, despite pledges made and some steps in the right direction, Bangladesh’s garments sector is still plagued with many ills that is making life for the 20 million people who depend directly or indirectly on the industry a waking nightmare.

Based on interviews with some 160 workers in 44 factories, predominantly dedicated to manufacturing garments sold by retailers in Australia, Europe and North America, the report found that safety standards are still low, workplace abuse is common, and union busting – as well as violence attacks and intimidation of union organisers – is the norm.

Violation of labour laws

Last December the Bangladesh government raised the minimum wage for factory workers from 39 dollars a month to 68 dollars. While this signified a sizable increase, it was still less than the 100-dollar wage workers themselves had demanded.

Bangladesh exports 24 billion dollars of garments every year. Credit: Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)

Bangladesh exports 24 billion dollars of garments every year. Credit: Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)

Furthermore, implementation has been slow. According to Mushrefa Mishu, president of the Garment Workers’ Unity Forum representing 80,000 workers, only 40 percent of employers comply with the minimum wage law.

She told IPS that women, who comprise the bulk of factory workers, form the “lifeblood” of this vital industry that accounts for 80 percent of the country’s export earnings and contributes 10 percent of annual gross domestic product (GDP); yet they have fallen victim to “exploitative wages” as a result of retailers demanding competitive prices.

Indeed, many factories owners concur that pressure from companies who place bulk orders to scale up production lines and improve profit margins contributes to the culture of cutting corners, since branded retailers seldom factor compliance of safety and labour regulations into their costing.

“[These] financial costs [are] heavy for the factory owners,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told IPS. “They argue that a small compromise on the profit margin can go a long way in helping Bangladesh factories achieve compliance.”

Wherever the blame for non-compliance lies, the negative consequences for workers – especially the women – are undeniable: an April 2014 survey by Democracy International found that 37 percent of workers reported lack of paid sick leave, while 29 percent lacked paid maternity leave.

Workers who are unable to meet production targets have their salaries docked, while HRW’s research indicates that “workers in almost all of the factories” complained of not receiving wages or benefits in full, or on time.

Forced overtime is exceedingly common, as are poor sanitation facilities and unclean drinking water.

Collective bargaining – a risky business

Faced with such entrenched and systematic violations of their rights, many garment workers are aware that their best chance for securing decent working conditions lies in their collective bargaining power.

Although the Bangladesh government raised the minimum wage for garment workers to 68 dollars a month, activists say only 40 percent of employers comply. Credit: Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)

Although the Bangladesh government raised the minimum wage for garment workers to 68 dollars a month, activists say only 40 percent of employers comply. Credit: Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)

But union busting and other anti-union activity are rampant across the garments sector, with many organisers beaten into submission and scores of others terrorised into keeping their heads down.

Although Bangladesh has ratified International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining, those who try to exercise these rights face harsh reprisals.

“I have faced many cases, and been arrested and jailed seven times but later released because they found no [evidence] against me,” Mishu, of the Garment Workers’ Unity Forum, told IPS. “The only charge they bring against me is raising my voice in favour of the workers. Whenever we raise our voices against the garments factory owners, instead of negotiating with us they apply force to silence us.”

Mishu’s testimony finds echoes in numerous incidents recorded in HRW’s report, including an attack in February last year on four activists with the Bangladesh Federation for Workers Solidarity (BFWS) that left one of their number so badly injured he had to spend 100 days in hospital.

Their only crime was helping employees at the Korean-owned Chunji Knit Ltd. Factory fill out union registrations forms.

Other incidents include a woman being hospitalised after an attack by men wielding cutting shears, activists threatened with death or the death of their families, and one organiser being accosted on his way home and slashed so badly with blades he had to be admitted to hospital.

“We find that factory owners […] use local thugs to intimidate and attack union organisers, often outside the factory premises,” HRW’s Ganguly explained. “And then they blithely disclaim responsibility by saying that the attacks had nothing to do with the factory.”

In one of the worst examples of anti-union activity, HRW reported that an activist named Aminul Islam was “abducted, tortured and killed in April 2012, and to date his killers have not been found.”

Although hard-won reforms have raised the number of unions formally registered at the labour department from just two in 2011-2012 to 416 in 2015, overall representation of workers remains low: union exist in just 10 percent of garment factories across Bangladesh.

Factory safety

Ganguly told IPS that because the Bangladesh garment industry grew very rapidly, “a lot of factories were set up bypassing safety and other compliance issues.”

Between 1983-4 and 2013-14, the sector mushroomed from just 120,000 employees working in 384 factories to four million workers churning out garments at a terrific rate in 4,536 factories, which run the gamut from state-of-the-art industrial operations to “backstreet workshops” and everything in-between.

Unchecked expansion in the 80s and 90s meant that many of these buildings were disasters waiting to happen. While incidents like the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse and the 2012 Tazreen factory fire, which killed 112 people, have largely taken the spotlight, a string of similar calamities both before and after suggest that Bangladesh has a long way to go to ensure worker safety.

Figures quoted by the Clean Clothes Campaign point out that between 2006 and 2010, 500 workers died in factory fires, 80 percent of which were caused by faulty wiring.

Since 2012, 68 factory fires have claimed 30 lives and left 800 workers injured, according to the Solidarity Center.

Atiqul Islam, president of the industry’s leading trade body, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told IPS that factory owners are taking far more precautions now to ensure that preventable or ‘man-made’ disasters remain a thing of the past.

Before the Rana Plaze incident, he said, there were only 56 inspectors overseeing thousands of factories. Now, there are over 800 inspectors, trained by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to keep a check on the many operations around the country.

Indeed, regulations like the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, an initiative carried out on behalf of 175 retailers based primarily in Europe, which is overseeing improvements in over 1,600 factors, as well as the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety that is looking into improvements in 587 factories at the behest of 26 North American retailers, indicate progress.

But as Ganguly said, “Much more needs to be done to ensure worker rights.”

For a start, experts say that proper compensation must be paid to survivors, or families of those who lost their lives due to negligence in the Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions disasters.

As of March of this year, only 21 million dollars of the estimated 31 million dollars’ compensation has so far been pledged or disbursed. HRW also found that “15 companies whose clothing and brand labels were found in the rubble of Rana Plaza by journalists and labour activists have not paid anything into the trust fund established with the support of the ILO to manage the payments.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Saudis Compensate Civilian Killings with 274 Million in Humanitarian Aid to Yemen

Morocco is also participating in Operation Decisive Storm, with at least six fighter aircraft. Credit: ra.az/cc by 2.0

Morocco is also participating in Operation Decisive Storm, with at least six fighter aircraft. Credit: ra.az/cc by 2.0

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 22 2015 (IPS)

Saudi Arabia’s right hand does not know what its left foot is up to, belittles an Asian diplomat, mixing his metaphors to describe the political paradox in the ongoing military conflict in Yemen.

The Saudis, who are leading a coalition of Arab states, have been accused of indiscriminate bombings resulting in 944 deaths, mostly civilians, and nearly 3,500 injured – and triggering a large-scale humanitarian crisis in Yemen.“Repeated airstrikes on a dairy factory located near military bases shows cruel disregard for civilians by both sides to Yemen’s armed conflict.” — HRW’s Joe Stork

As if to compensate for its sins, Saudi Arabia this week announced a 274-million-dollar donation “for humanitarian operations in Yemen”, according to the United Nations.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia temporarily halted its nearly month-long air attacks, presumably under pressure from the United States, which was seriously concerned about the civilian killings.

Asked why the United States intervened to pressure the Saudis to halt the bombings, an unnamed U.S. official was quoted by the New York Times as saying: “Too much collateral damage” (read: civilian killings).

The attacks, which demolished factories and residential neighbourhoods, also hit a storage facility belonging to the London-based charity Oxfam, which said the contents were humanitarian supplies with no military value.

Oxfam welcomed the announcement that “Operation Decisive Storm” in Yemen has ended. However, it warned that the work to bring aid to millions of Yemenis is still only beginning.

Grace Ommer, Oxfam’s Country Director for Yemen, told IPS the airstrikes and violence during the past 27 days have taken as many as 900 lives. More than half of these were civilians.

“The news that airstrikes have at least temporarily ended is welcome and we hope that this will pave the way for all parties to the current conflict to find a permanent negotiated peace,” she said.

“The news will also come as a massive relief to our 160 Yemeni staff throughout the country as well as the rest of the civilian population all of whom have been struggling to survive this latest crisis in their fragile nation,” Ommer added.

With instability and insecurity rife throughout the country and fighting continuing on the ground, all parties to the conflict must allow aid agencies to deliver much needed humanitarian assistance to the millions currently in need, Ommer said.

Oxfam also pointed out that Yemen is the Middle East’s poorest country where 16 million – over 60 percent of the population – are reliant on aid to survive.

The recent escalation in violence has only added to the unfolding humanitarian disaster, it said.

The Saudi air strikes were in support of ousted Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi whose government was overthrown by Houthi rebels.

Sara Hashash of Amnesty International told IPS more than 120,00 people have been displaced since the Saudi-Arabian-led military campaign began one month ago “leading to a growing humanitarian crisis.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters the Saudi donation will support the needs of 7.5 million Yemenis in the coming three months.

“This funding will provide urgently-needed lifesaving assistance including food assistance for 2.6 million people, clean water and sanitation for 5 million people, protection services to 1.4 million people and nutrition support to nearly 79,000 people,” he added.

The air attacks also struck a dairy factory last week, killing about 31 workers, and flattened a neighbourhood, leaving 25 people dead.

“Repeated airstrikes on a dairy factory located near military bases shows cruel disregard for civilians by both sides to Yemen’s armed conflict,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“The attack may have violated the laws of war, so the countries involved should investigate and take appropriate action, including compensating victims of unlawful strikes,” he added.

While civilian casualties do not necessarily mean that the laws of war were violated, the high loss of civilian life in a factory seemingly used for civilian purposes should be impartially investigated, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, in a statement released here.

“If the United States provided intelligence or other direct support for the airstrikes, it would as a party to the conflict share the obligation to minimize civilian harm and investigate alleged violations.”

According to HRW, the Saudi-led coalition, which is responsible for the aerial attacks, includes Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, and United Arab Emirates.

“If the U.S. is providing targeting intelligence it is a party to the conflict and is obligated to abide by the laws of war,” Stork said.

“Even if not, in backing the coalition the US will want to ensure that all airstrikes and other operations are carried out in a way that avoids civilian loss of life and property, which have already reached alarming levels.”

Asked about reports of civilian killings, Dujarric said “obviously, just at first glance, these kinds of reports are extremely disturbing when you see a probability of a high level of civilian casualties.”

“But I think all… all the violence that we’ve seen over the weekend, I think, serves as a reminder for the parties to heed the Secretary‑General’s call on Friday for cessation of hostilities and for a ceasefire, which he talked about in Washington,” he added, 24 hours before the temporary cease-fire.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

East African Environmental Activist Wins Major Prize

By Lisa Vives
NEW YORK, Apr 22 2015 (IPS)

On Earth Day, Apr. 22, Kenyan activist Phyllis Omido takes the stage in Washington DC to receive the Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts to defend her community from lead poisoning and force the closure of a lead smelting plant that was emitting fumes and spewing untreated acid wastewater into streams, poisoning the neighbourhood – including her own baby.

Courtesy of the Goldman Prize.

Courtesy of the Goldman Prize.

“At first we thought he had malaria or typhoid, but doctors found he was suffering from lead poisoning,” Omido recalled. The lead was traced to a smelter where Phyllis had recently started work as a community liaison officer.

“The doctors said the lead reached my baby through my breast milk,” Phyllis said in London last week as she made the trip to the U.S. to receive the Africa award of the prestigious Goldman prize.

The smelter – built in the heart of Owino Uhuru, a densely-packed slum in Mombasa, Kenya’s second city – extracted lead from used car batteries. Lead is a potent neurotoxin. It damages the development of children, targeting the brain and nervous system.

The smelter began operations in 2009 without any environmental impact assessment (EIA). One of Phyllis’s first jobs was to commission one. The findings revealed that the smelter was poisoning the neighbourhood, but the company was unwilling to move.

“I went to the company’s directors and the government’s environment agency, which had licensed the smelter. I showed them reports from lead experts. But nobody wanted to listen,” she says. Meanwhile, children were getting sick; women were having miscarriages; even the neighbourhood chickens were dying.

She claims that the company routinely sacked workers after a few months because it knew their exposure to lead was unsafe. But after a worker died, the community held a demonstration. A local MP, who was also a minister for the environment, came. “We hoped he would help. But he said we should keep quiet because the company brought jobs. He accused me of being in league with his political opponents.”

After a long struggle, with help from Human Rights Watch and the U.N. special rapporteur on toxic waste, she was able to see the company close the plant in 2014.

Since then, she has set up a local NGO, the Center for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action, to fight other causes like salt miners who are damaging Kenya’s nearby coastal fisheries. And she has more work to do in Owino Uhuru.

Omido and the other prize recipients – from Myanmar, Canada, Haiti, Scotland and Honduras – will each receive 175,000 dollars for their ongoing work. Dana King and conservation scientist Dr. M Sanjayan will be Masters of Ceremonies. For more information about the prize, visit the website.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

First Genocide of 20th Century Was in Africa, Says Nigerian Writer, Correcting Pope

By Lisa Vives
NEW YORK, Apr 22 2015 (IPS)

An Anglo-Nigerian writer has respectfully urged Pope Francis to look beyond Armenia for the first genocide of the 20th century.

In an essay in the British Guardian, David Olusoga wrote: “When the media analysts at the Vatican scrutinize the social media traffic of the past seven days, their eyes might well be drawn away from Turkey and the Armenian diaspora towards a cluster of tweets, comments and Facebook posts that emanate from Africa.

“There, another debate raged last week,” he said. “The pope’s description of the Armenian massacre as “the first genocide of the 20th century” was simply incorrect. That grim distinction belongs to the genocide that imperial Germany unleashed a decade earlier against the Herero and Nama, two ethnic groups who lived in the former colony of South West Africa, modern Namibia.”

Olusoga pointed out that the Namibian genocide, 1904-1909, “seemed to prefigure the later horrors of that troubled century.” The systematic extermination of around 80 percent of the Herero people and 50 percent of the Nama was the work both of German soldiers and colonial administrators; “banal, desk-bound killers.” The most reliable figures estimate 90,000 people were killed, he said.

In the case of the Herero, he recalled, “an official, written order – the extermination order – was issued by the German commander, explicitly condemning the entire people to annihilation. After military attempts to bring this about had been thwarted, the liquidation of the surviving Herero, along with the Nama people, was continued in concentration camps, a term that was used at the time for the archipelago of facilities the Germans built across Namibia.”

“Some of the victims of the Namibian genocide were transported to those camps in cattle trucks and the bodies of some of the victims were subjected to pseudoscientific racial examinations and dissections.”

Recollection of this horror comes as a conference on reparations winds up in New York. However, unlike in the U.S. which apologized for slavery by resolutions in the House and Senate a decade ago, “All of this is now well known and widely accepted in Africa and even in Germany,” says Olusoga.

“In 2004, the German government apologized to the Herero and admitted that what Germany had done to their ancestors constituted a genocide,” he said. “As the co-author of one of the more recent histories of the genocide, I am regularly invited to attend conferences and give lectures on the subject in Germany and the word is spreading. A decade ago, my co-author and I described what took place in Namibia between 1904 and 1909 as “Germany’s forgotten genocide”. That phrase is now past its sell-by date, everywhere, it seems, other than in the Vatican.”

Olusoga wondered if the pope’s statement was made in ignorance or if the Vatican was guilty of the sin of deliberate omission. “Catholicism is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else,” he observed – “200 million Africans are followers of the faith. But awareness of history is also increasing in Africa and crimes such as the Namibian genocide can no longer be ignored, whether by accident or design.”

David Olusoga is the co-author, with Casper Erichsen, of The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

“Vuclip” ومجموعة “MBC” يعلنان عن شراكة استراتيجية لتقديم محتوى حصري ومميز على الهواتف المتحركة في الشرق الأوسط

“Vuclip” ومجموعة "MBC" يعلنان عن شراكة استراتيجية لتقديم محتوى حصري ومميز على الهواتف المتحركة في الشرق الأوسط

 

تحالف قوي بين شركتين رائدتين لتوفير برامج ترفيهية شهيرة مثل “Arab Idol” و “The Voice”

لمستحدمي الهواتف المتحركة في منطقة الشرق الأوسط

22 ابريل، 2015: أعلنت اليوم "Vuclip"، الشركة الرائدة والمتميزة في مجال توفير مشاهدة الفيديو حسب الطلب على الهواتف المتحركة للأسواق الناشئة عن عقد شراكة استراتيجية بالتعاون مع قسم "Brand Management Department" فى مجموعة "MBC"، التي تُعد أكبر مجموعة للوسائل الإعلامية الترفيهية الناطقة باللغة العربية وأكثرها انتشارًا من حيث عدد المشاهدين في العالم العربي.

ومع استمرار النمو لعدد المشتركين في الشرق الأوسط، فإن مستخدمي "Vuclip"سوف يمكنهم الآن الإستمتاع بمشاهدة سلسة بدون انقطاع على هواتفهم المتحركة لأنجح البرامج التليفزيونية في المنطقة مثل “Arab Idol” و"The Voice" و“Arabs Got Talent" و"The X-Factor" بالإضافة إلى العديد من البرامج الأخرى. سوف تتيح هذه الشراكة أيضاً للمشاهدين الفرصة لمشاهدة المحتوى المميز لمجموعة MBC من الدراما وأخبار النجوم والرياضة ، فضلاً عن أحدث مسلسلات الدراما التركية المدبلجة باللغة العربية في أي وقت ومكان.

وفي هذا السياق، ذكرت "مي الدهان"، رئيسة قسم ادارة المحتوى في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا لشركة "Vuclip": "تعد MBC”" شركة رائدة في مجال أعمالها لاسيما فيما يتعلق بالترفيه في المنطقة وذلك من خلال بثها للعديد من البرامج الحاصلة على جوائز والتي تأتي ضمن أعلى البرامج مشاهدة من قبل قاعدة المشتركين لدينا. كما أن "“MBC وVuclip”" لديهما سجل حافل من الشراكة القوية وإننا سعداء بأن نمضي قدمًا لتقديم مستوى متميز من خلال هذه الشراكة. ومن ناحية أخرى، فإنه يسرنا أن نقدم إلى المشتركين لدينا في أنحاء منطقة الشرق الأوسط بأسرها الفرصة للاستمتاع بباقة شاملة وحصرية من المحتوى عالي الجودة في مجال الترفيه العربي."

وسيتمكن المستهلكين من مشاهدة المحتوى المتميز لمجموعة "MBC" على هواتقهم المتحركة من خلال الاشتراك في خدمة "Vuclip" المميزة بحسب الطلب. خدمة "Vuclip" المميزة متاحة للعملاء من خلال التطبيقات والإنترنت وعبر الخدمات التي توفرها شركات الهواتف المتحركة في منطقة الشرق الأوسط.  

وفي إطار تعليقه على هذه الشراكة، قال أمين الحسيني من شركة "MBC" :"إننا في MBC”" نقدر جمهورنا ونعتبره أهم شئ ومن ثم فإننا نستمر في تطوير برامج وشراكات لتُضيف من المحتوى الذي نقدمه اليهم. ومع انتشار استخدام الهواتف المتحركة في الشرق الأوسط فإن هذا قد انعكس بالتالي على زيادة مشاهدة المستهلكين للفيديو من خلالها. ان شراكتنا مع "Vuclip" هي شراكة مثالية لتوسعة خدماتنا  والمحتوى المميز الذي نقدمه عبر الهواتف المتحركة والذي يعد تطورًا طبيعيًا في إطار شراكتنا الاستراتيجية حيث يُعتبر هذا القطاع هو أكثر القطاعات نمواً حالياً."

 

 

 

نبذة عن “Vuclip”: 

Vuclip” هي الشركة الرائدة في مجال توفير مشاهدة الفيديو حسب الطلب على الهواتف المتحركة للأسواق الناشئة، حيث يزيد عدد المشتركين فيها عن 7 ملايين مشترك في كل ربع سنوي في ستة دول حول العالم. ومن خلال الشراكات الاستراتيجية المبرمة مع ما يزيد عن 200 استديو مرموق حول العالم، فإن شركة "Vuclip" توفر للمشتركين أفضل أفلام هوليوود وأروع البرامج التلفزيوينة والفيديوات الموسيقية المفضلة لديهم في 20 لغة متوفرة. كما أن ميزة (Dynamic Adaptive Transcoding(tm)) المقدمة من Vuclip”"، تتيح للمشتركين تجربة مشاهدة متواصلة ودون انقطاع على مختلف الهواتف المتحركة المتصلة بأي شبكة. يقع مقر "Vuclip" في "ميلبيتاس" بكاليفورنيا، ولها مكاتب في دبي وبكين وكوالالمبور ومومباي ودلهي وجاكرتا وبانكوك.

نبذة عنMBC”":
مجموعة “MBC” هي أول شركة بث عبر قمر صناعي خاص مفتوح في العالم العربي والتي تأسست في لندن عام 1991 ثم نقلت مقرها الرئيسي فيما بعد إلى دبي عام 2002. وعلى مدار الـ 20 عامًا الماضية، فقد حققت مجموعة “MBC”  نموًا كبيراً لتصبح مجموعة وسائط إعلامية ذات مكانة مرموقة تعمل على إثراء حياة الناس من خلال الإعلام، والتفاعل، والترفيه. وانطلاقًا من مقرها في دبي، في الإمارات العربية المتحدة، فإن مجموعة “MBC”  تضم 14 قناة تليفزيونية هي: "MBC1" و"“MBC MASR 1 & 2 (ترفيه عام للأسرة) و“MBC2″ و“MBC MAX” (أفلام على مدار 24 ساعة)، و"MBC3" (ترفيه للأطفال)، و"“MBC4 (ترفيه للمرأة العربية العصرية)، و“MBC ACTION” (مسلسلات وأفلام إثارة) و"“MBC Bollywood (مسلسلات وأفلام (Bollywood) و"“MBC Pro Sports (قناة جديدة لكرة القدم السعودية) وقناة "العربية" وقناة "الحدث" (قناة أخبار باللغة العربية على مدار 24 ساعة) و"وناسة (قناة موسيقى عربية على مدار 24 ساعة)، و"MBC DRAMA" التي انطلقت مع الاحتفال بمرور 20 عامًا على تأسيس المجموعة، وتقدم دراما عربية على مدار 24 ساعة و7 أيام في الأسبوع، كما تشمل المجموعة محطتي راديو وهما "“MBC FM (موسيقى خليجية) و"PANORAMA FM" (موسيقى إيقاعات عربية معاصرة)؛ بالإضافة إلى "“O3 PRODUCTIONS، وهي عبارة عن وحدة إنتاج وثائقي متخصصة. كما أن لديها العديد من البرامج المتاحة عبر الإنترنت. www.mbc.net, www.alarabiya.net، و www.shahid.net

للمزيد من المعلومات يرجى الاتصال بـ:

بسيم العياش، تنفيذي علاقات عامة، ، شركة غولين، دبي: +971 55 396 6449

 

“Vuclip” ومجموعة “MBC” يعلنان عن شراكة استراتيجية لتقديم محتوى حصري ومميز على الهواتف المتحركة في الشرق الأوسط

“Vuclip” ومجموعة "MBC" يعلنان عن شراكة استراتيجية لتقديم محتوى حصري ومميز على الهواتف المتحركة في الشرق الأوسط

 

تحالف قوي بين شركتين رائدتين لتوفير برامج ترفيهية شهيرة مثل “Arab Idol” و “The Voice”

لمستحدمي الهواتف المتحركة في منطقة الشرق الأوسط

22 ابريل، 2015: أعلنت اليوم "Vuclip"، الشركة الرائدة والمتميزة في مجال توفير مشاهدة الفيديو حسب الطلب على الهواتف المتحركة للأسواق الناشئة عن عقد شراكة استراتيجية بالتعاون مع قسم "Brand Management Department" فى مجموعة "MBC"، التي تُعد أكبر مجموعة للوسائل الإعلامية الترفيهية الناطقة باللغة العربية وأكثرها انتشارًا من حيث عدد المشاهدين في العالم العربي.

ومع استمرار النمو لعدد المشتركين في الشرق الأوسط، فإن مستخدمي "Vuclip"سوف يمكنهم الآن الإستمتاع بمشاهدة سلسة بدون انقطاع على هواتفهم المتحركة لأنجح البرامج التليفزيونية في المنطقة مثل “Arab Idol” و"The Voice" و“Arabs Got Talent" و"The X-Factor" بالإضافة إلى العديد من البرامج الأخرى. سوف تتيح هذه الشراكة أيضاً للمشاهدين الفرصة لمشاهدة المحتوى المميز لمجموعة MBC من الدراما وأخبار النجوم والرياضة ، فضلاً عن أحدث مسلسلات الدراما التركية المدبلجة باللغة العربية في أي وقت ومكان.

وفي هذا السياق، ذكرت "مي الدهان"، رئيسة قسم ادارة المحتوى في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا لشركة "Vuclip": "تعد MBC”" شركة رائدة في مجال أعمالها لاسيما فيما يتعلق بالترفيه في المنطقة وذلك من خلال بثها للعديد من البرامج الحاصلة على جوائز والتي تأتي ضمن أعلى البرامج مشاهدة من قبل قاعدة المشتركين لدينا. كما أن "“MBC وVuclip”" لديهما سجل حافل من الشراكة القوية وإننا سعداء بأن نمضي قدمًا لتقديم مستوى متميز من خلال هذه الشراكة. ومن ناحية أخرى، فإنه يسرنا أن نقدم إلى المشتركين لدينا في أنحاء منطقة الشرق الأوسط بأسرها الفرصة للاستمتاع بباقة شاملة وحصرية من المحتوى عالي الجودة في مجال الترفيه العربي."

وسيتمكن المستهلكين من مشاهدة المحتوى المتميز لمجموعة "MBC" على هواتقهم المتحركة من خلال الاشتراك في خدمة "Vuclip" المميزة بحسب الطلب. خدمة "Vuclip" المميزة متاحة للعملاء من خلال التطبيقات والإنترنت وعبر الخدمات التي توفرها شركات الهواتف المتحركة في منطقة الشرق الأوسط.  

وفي إطار تعليقه على هذه الشراكة، قال أمين الحسيني من شركة "MBC" :"إننا في MBC”" نقدر جمهورنا ونعتبره أهم شئ ومن ثم فإننا نستمر في تطوير برامج وشراكات لتُضيف من المحتوى الذي نقدمه اليهم. ومع انتشار استخدام الهواتف المتحركة في الشرق الأوسط فإن هذا قد انعكس بالتالي على زيادة مشاهدة المستهلكين للفيديو من خلالها. ان شراكتنا مع "Vuclip" هي شراكة مثالية لتوسعة خدماتنا  والمحتوى المميز الذي نقدمه عبر الهواتف المتحركة والذي يعد تطورًا طبيعيًا في إطار شراكتنا الاستراتيجية حيث يُعتبر هذا القطاع هو أكثر القطاعات نمواً حالياً."

 

 

 

نبذة عن “Vuclip”: 

Vuclip” هي الشركة الرائدة في مجال توفير مشاهدة الفيديو حسب الطلب على الهواتف المتحركة للأسواق الناشئة، حيث يزيد عدد المشتركين فيها عن 7 ملايين مشترك في كل ربع سنوي في ستة دول حول العالم. ومن خلال الشراكات الاستراتيجية المبرمة مع ما يزيد عن 200 استديو مرموق حول العالم، فإن شركة "Vuclip" توفر للمشتركين أفضل أفلام هوليوود وأروع البرامج التلفزيوينة والفيديوات الموسيقية المفضلة لديهم في 20 لغة متوفرة. كما أن ميزة (Dynamic Adaptive Transcoding(tm)) المقدمة من Vuclip”"، تتيح للمشتركين تجربة مشاهدة متواصلة ودون انقطاع على مختلف الهواتف المتحركة المتصلة بأي شبكة. يقع مقر "Vuclip" في "ميلبيتاس" بكاليفورنيا، ولها مكاتب في دبي وبكين وكوالالمبور ومومباي ودلهي وجاكرتا وبانكوك.

نبذة عنMBC”":
مجموعة “MBC” هي أول شركة بث عبر قمر صناعي خاص مفتوح في العالم العربي والتي تأسست في لندن عام 1991 ثم نقلت مقرها الرئيسي فيما بعد إلى دبي عام 2002. وعلى مدار الـ 20 عامًا الماضية، فقد حققت مجموعة “MBC”  نموًا كبيراً لتصبح مجموعة وسائط إعلامية ذات مكانة مرموقة تعمل على إثراء حياة الناس من خلال الإعلام، والتفاعل، والترفيه. وانطلاقًا من مقرها في دبي، في الإمارات العربية المتحدة، فإن مجموعة “MBC”  تضم 14 قناة تليفزيونية هي: "MBC1" و"“MBC MASR 1 & 2 (ترفيه عام للأسرة) و“MBC2″ و“MBC MAX” (أفلام على مدار 24 ساعة)، و"MBC3" (ترفيه للأطفال)، و"“MBC4 (ترفيه للمرأة العربية العصرية)، و“MBC ACTION” (مسلسلات وأفلام إثارة) و"“MBC Bollywood (مسلسلات وأفلام (Bollywood) و"“MBC Pro Sports (قناة جديدة لكرة القدم السعودية) وقناة "العربية" وقناة "الحدث" (قناة أخبار باللغة العربية على مدار 24 ساعة) و"وناسة (قناة موسيقى عربية على مدار 24 ساعة)، و"MBC DRAMA" التي انطلقت مع الاحتفال بمرور 20 عامًا على تأسيس المجموعة، وتقدم دراما عربية على مدار 24 ساعة و7 أيام في الأسبوع، كما تشمل المجموعة محطتي راديو وهما "“MBC FM (موسيقى خليجية) و"PANORAMA FM" (موسيقى إيقاعات عربية معاصرة)؛ بالإضافة إلى "“O3 PRODUCTIONS، وهي عبارة عن وحدة إنتاج وثائقي متخصصة. كما أن لديها العديد من البرامج المتاحة عبر الإنترنت. www.mbc.net, www.alarabiya.net، و www.shahid.net

للمزيد من المعلومات يرجى الاتصال بـ:

بسيم العياش، تنفيذي علاقات عامة، ، شركة غولين، دبي: +971 55 396 6449

 

Water Politics Polarised in Mexico

Greenpeace activists on the Santiago river, in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, protesting against industrial pollution of water courses in 2014. Credit: Courtesy of Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists on the Santiago river, in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, protesting against industrial pollution of water courses in 2014. Credit: Courtesy of Greenpeace

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Apr 22 2015 (IPS)

Laura Romero has piped water in her home for only a few hours a day, and at least once a week she is cut off completely. Like the rest of the residents in her neighbourhood in the north of the Mexican capital, she has to store water in containers like drums or jerrycans.

“When there is no water, they send out water trucks. We insist they should mend the leaks in the infrastructure, but they tell us they have to draw up preliminary specifications” in order to calculate costs, Romero, a member of the Frente de Organizaciones Sociales en Defensa de Azcapotzalco (Front of Social Organisations in Defence of Azcapotzalco), complained to IPS.

The Front manages public funds to build low-cost social housing on preferential terms in Azcapotzalco, a middle-class neighbourhood. In December a batch of these houses was completed, but the Mexico City government’s water authorities refused to connect the water supply, and the Front fears the same will happen with another of their construction projects.

“The government says that each person must pay 8,000 pesos (about 350 dollars) to be connected (to the water supply),” Romero said.

In contrast, there are at least six shopping malls and one entertainment centre in the area that have a permanent water supply.

Issues related to availability, quality, pollution, monopoly and overuse are putting water resources under pressure in this Latin American country of 118 million people. World Water Day was celebrated Sunday Mar. 22, with the theme for this year being Water and Sustainable Development.

In Mexico water assets are regarded as a national public resource, supervised by the National Water Commission (CONAGUA) and administered by the central government, state and municipal governments, which are empowered to grant distribution and management concessions, including handing over water resources to the industrial and agricultural sectors.

A constitutional reform in 2012 defined water as a human right, but there has been no improvement in the water situation in the country as a result of this change.

“Many bodies of water are polluted, and many communities have problems with water supply,” said Omar Arellano, coordinator of the Ecotoxicology group, part of the Union of Scientists Committed to Society’s (UCCS) Social and Environmental Observatory Programme.

Arellano, an academic at the Biomedical Research Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), told IPS that “in recent years a number of river diversion schemes have put local settlements at risk and altered water cycles.” These schemes, he said, were one of the causes of the problems.

Arellano is one of the authors of the 2012 study “La contaminación en la cuenca del río Santiago y la salud pública en la región” (Pollution in the Santiago river basin and public health in the region), which found that 280 companies dump toxic effluents into the river.

They reported that this river in the western state of Jalisco is contaminated with 1,090 hazardous pollutants and poses a health and environmental risk for some 700,000 people living along its banks. The situation in this river basin is just one example of what is happening in other parts of Mexico.

Employees of the state water and sanitation agency in the city of Toluca in Mexico state, 66 kilometres from Mexico City, carry out maintenance work at a water treatment plant. Credit: Courtesy of Organismo Agua y Saneamiento de Toluca

Employees of the state water and sanitation agency in the city of Toluca in Mexico state, 66 kilometres from Mexico City, carry out maintenance work at a water treatment plant. Credit: Courtesy of Organismo Agua y Saneamiento de Toluca

There is water, but not for everyone

The National Water Resources Plan for 2014-2018 indicates that average natural water availability per capita in Mexico fell from 18,035 cubic metres a year in 1950 to 3,982 cubic metres in 2013.

In spite of this reduction, water availability is not the main problem. United Nations guidelines state that countries with less than 1,000 cubic metres per capita per year suffer from water scarcity, and those with between 1,000 and 1,700 cubic metres per person face water stress.

In absolute terms, Mexico has an average annual water availability of 471 billion cubic metres, according to CONAGUA’s Water Atlas 2013, including surface and underground water as well as water imported from the United States under bilateral treaties.

However, nearly 14 million people have no water in their homes. The problem is greatest in the states of Veracruz (southeast), Guerrero (southwest), and Mexico state (centre) adjacent to the nation’s capital.

Moreover, 34 million people depend for their water on aquifers that are gradually drying out.

The National Water Resources Plan recognises that ethnic minorities and women, especially in rural and peri-urban areas, suffer the most from lack of drinking water and sanitation.

Claudia Campero, the Latin America representative for the Canadian NGO Blue Planet Network, told IPS that the constitutional reform “is an opportunity to change the paradigm: we want a sustainable vision for the future of water.”

Mexico was supposed to amend its 1992 General Water Law, to bring it into line with the 2012 constitutional reform, by February 2013, but this has not yet happened.

Meanwhile, water disputes among users, communities, organisations, the government and private interests have been exacerbated by the presentation of two contradictory bills.

On Feb. 9 a coalition of social organisations and academics presented a citizens’ proposal for a new General Water Law that would guarantee water for human consumption and economic activities, systematic recycling, local management at the river basin level and the creation of a special fund.

Earlier, in March 2014, CONAGUA sent a bill to Congress but the text raised massive negative reactions and was removed from the parliamentary agenda on Mar. 9, 2015.

De facto privatisation

The organisations and academics blocked the CONAGUA bill because they viewed it as a water privatisation measure that commodifies the resource, bans research into water quality and levels of pollution, and favours diversion of the flow of rivers and the construction of dams and other works.

“The risk is that inequality will increase. We need comprehensive management of water resources,” said Arellano.

De facto privatisation of water services has continued to advance slowly in Mexico in a number of different ways.

In the city of Saltillo, north of Mexico City, and in Aguascalientes in the centre of the country, water management is in private hands. In the Mexican capital itself, four private concessions have been granted for metering water consumption and collecting water rates.

Breweries, dairy producers, water bottling plants, makers of soft drinks, mining companies and even investment funds have obtained water concessions, according to studies by several academic authors.

Agua para Tod@s, Agua para la Vida (Water for All, Water for Life) is a network made up of more than 400 researchers and 30 NGOs that has created a map of water conflicts sparked by deforestation, overuse, pollution and other causes.

In 2013 the volume of water handed over in concession for use in agriculture and industry surpassed 82 billion cubic metres, 51 billion of which came from surface sources and 31 billion from aquifers.

“There is a lack of transparency about which companies have benefited from privatisation. There is no need to wait 20 years to see its effects,” Campero said.

Mexico is highly vulnerable to climate change, which is causing temperature fluctuations, drought, anomalous rainfall and variations in river flow. It is predicted that by 2030, availability of surface and underground water in the country will be affected.

By 2030 – in 15 years’ time – demand is forecast to increase to over 91 billion cubic metres while supply will only reach 68 billion cubic metres, a gap between supply and demand for which innovative solutions have still not been envisaged.

“We want water; it is not fair that the state should deny us access to it,” complained Romero in the Azcapotzalco neighbourhood of Mexico City.
Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Valerie Dee