Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election Brings Back a Polarising Wartime Figure

“Over our dead bodies.” Villagers in Beragama, Sri Lanka protest to prevent government surveyors from carrying out mapping due to fears of losing their land. Credit: Sanjana Hattotuwa/IPS

By Alan Keenan
BRUSSELS, Nov 21 2019 – On 16 November, Gotabaya Rajapaksa – who served as defence secretary during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war – won a decisive victory in Sri Lanka’s presidential election.

Although Rajapaksa’s victory was not a surprise, the margin of his win exceeded expectations among many analysts. The candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya (who, like Mahinda, is widely known by his first name) captured 52.25 per cent of the vote. His main rival, Sajith Premadasa, candidate of the ruling United National Party (UNP), came in second with 42 per cent.

Gotabaya, who has been linked to atrocities committed at the end of the war, is a polarising figure in Sri Lanka, and Saturday’s vote revealed sharp divisions in the electorate along ethnic lines.

Although both candidates were from the ethnic majority Sinhalese community, Rajapaksa, who ran a strongly Sinhala nationalist campaign, was the outsize winner among the Sinhalese, securing such a huge majority that he needed few if any votes from ethnic Tamil or Muslim voters.

By contrast, overwhelming majorities of Muslim and Tamil voters – who together make up roughly a quarter of the population – cast their ballots for Premadasa.

Of the record 35 candidates on the ballot, two who seemed positioned to command enough votes to affect the outcome did less well than expected. Anura Kumara Dissanayake, leader of the left-wing Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, won only 3.16 per cent of the vote, and former army commander Mahesh Senanayake, running as the candidate of a new, civil society-backed political party, won less than half a per cent.

The presidential campaign was one of Sri Lanka’s most peaceful, with only a handful of violent incidents. One concern highlighted by Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya was the unprecedented amount of “fake news” spread on social media and in mainstream media outlets as well.

Most of the disinformation targeted Premadasa’s campaign, including a particularly damaging story reported by pro-Rajapaksa outlets during the final days claiming Premadasa had signed a secret pact with the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance, in exchange for its support.

What accounts for Gotabaya’s decisive victory?

Voters’ security concerns, Sinhalese ethno-nationalism, Sri Lanka’s economic straits, the current government’s infighting and the SLPP’s organisational strength were the main factors driving Gotabaya’s victory.

Although Premadasa had a credible shot at winning, Gotabaya was widely seen as the front runner from the start. Backed by his brother Mahinda, who remains popular among Sinhalese voters but was constitutionally prevented from running for another term, Gotabaya faced in Premadasa an opponent who was a senior minister in an unpopular, divided and ineffective government.

Tapping into widespread feelings of anger and vulnerability stemming from the government’s failure to prevent the devastating ISIS-inspired Easter Sunday attacks on Christian churches and hotels – notwithstanding advance warnings from the Indian government – Gotabaya put a promise to deliver “security” and “eradicate terrorism” at the centre of his campaign.

The combination of Gotabaya’s pledge to prioritise security and his ethno-nationalist message resonated especially with the many Sinhala voters who remember the key role he played as defence secretary in the 2009 military victory over the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers.

Gotabaya enjoyed the active support of influential Buddhist monks who have long promoted the idea that Tamils and Muslims threaten Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist character – a sentiment that has increased among Sinhalese since the Easter bombings.

Given the Rajapaksa family’s popularity among Sinhalese voters, Premadasa needed overwhelming support from Muslims and Tamils to have any chance at victory, a reality that led the SLPP to argue that a Premadasa presidency would be hostage to minority interests.

The governing UNP’s unpopularity also gave Gotabaya a big boost. With economic growth rates weak and debt repayment obligations high, the UNP government has had little revenue with which to deliver significant benefits to poor and middle-income Sri Lankans. The sharp fall in tourism following the Easter bombings added to the difficulty that large numbers of Sri Lankans have had making ends meet.

Moreover, under the UNP, government policymaking, including on economic issues, was confused and often contradictory. The increasingly toxic relationship between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe exacerbated the government’s ineffectiveness.

In October 2018, Sirisena attempted to remove Wickremesinghe as prime minister and replace him with Mahinda Rajapaksa, a move that courts ruled unconstitutional but that helped cement an impression of chaos in the country’s governing ranks. Premadasa proved unable to separate himself clearly enough from the government’s unpopularity.

The SLPP’s strong island-wide organisation also benefited Gotabaya. The Rajapaksas and their supporters built up the party methodically since forming it in 2016 to be the political vehicle for the Rajapaksa family’s return to power.

Big wins in the February 2018 local government elections strengthened the party at the grassroots level. Unlike Gotabaya, who had carefully laid the foundation of his campaign over the previous two years, Premadasa was named the UNP candidate just days before the campaign began, after a bitter struggle with party leader and prime minister Wickremesinghe.

From that point on, the Premadasa campaign was playing catch-up while holding a weaker hand than Gotabaya, with flimsier party organisation and less funding and media support (most private media are owned by Rajapaksa allies and backed Gotabaya strongly, and more than a few outlets spread disinformation on his behalf).

What is the Rajapaksa family’s return to power likely to mean for Sri Lanka’s longstanding ethnic tensions?

The strongly Sinhala nationalist character of Gotabaya’s campaign, his reliance for the win almost entirely on votes from Sinhalese, and his brother’s policies during his ten years in office (2005-2015) all suggest that persistent ethnic and religious tensions – which increased following the Easter bombings – could dangerously sharpen under Gotabaya’s presidency.

Many fear that the new political landscape will bring renewed energy to the long-running campaign of anti-Muslim hate speech, violence and economic boycotts led by militant groups claiming to defend Buddhism.

These groups first flourished under the Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency in 2013 and 2014, when they received support from the police and military intelligence, then under Gotabaya’s control as defence secretary.

Anti-Muslim campaigning waned in the first year after the Rajapaksas left office in early 2015 but ultimately grew even more violent, with eyewitness and video evidence indicating the involvement of members of their SLPP party in attacks on mosques and Muslim businesses and homes in March 2018 and in the aftermath of the Easter bombings in May 2019.

Gotabaya has always denied any support for militant Buddhist groups, but he is widely seen by Muslims as hostile to their community’s economic and social well-being. The strong support that Muslim voters and political leadership gave Premadasa leads many to worry that the community will now be targeted for its perceived disloyalty.

Post-election attacks on a mosque in the southern city of Galle and a surge in anti-Muslim hate speech on social media since the results were announced have already bolstered these concerns.

Gotabaya has indicated little interest in helping heal the bitter ethnic divisions that endure in the wake of the country’s devastating 26-year civil war, which pitted the government against an insurgency led by the Tamil Tigers and left 100,000-150,000 people dead.

Grievances and political marginalisation of Tamils gave rise to decades of inter-ethnic violence that included abuses and rights violations by both government and Tamil Tiger forces. Throughout the war and in its aftermath, Gotabaya has opposed reforms that would address Tamil concerns, including ones that would decentralise power and give the Tamils greater control over their own affairs.

Both he and the SLPP denounced efforts by the outgoing UNP-led government to draft a new constitution that would move in this direction by, among other things, expanding the powers of the provinces, arguing that such changes threaten national security and the Buddhist and unitary nature of the state.

The risk of renewed Tamil militancy is very low, however, given the destruction of the Tamil Tigers and their support base and the enormous number of troops still stationed in the north, where the Tamil population is concentrated, ten years after the end of the war. Surveillance of northern Tamils is extensive, with military intelligence informers reportedly placed in every village.

The Rajapaksas and the SLPP have denounced even the modest reduction in the military’s footprint in the north that occurred since the change of government in 2015, claiming that it endangers national security; and they are unlikely to relax further the military’s presence in Tamil-majority areas.

Tensions are likely to simmer nonetheless. The presidential election coincided with the 1,000th day of continuous protests by Tamil widows and family members seeking information about the fate of loved ones who disappeared during the war, many of them after surrendering to the army.

What are likely to be Gotabaya’s first political moves as president?

Gotabaya has stated publicly that the popular Mahinda will soon join the country’s leadership as prime minister. UNP leader Wickremesinghe remains in the post for now, but his ability to hold on to the parliamentary majority needed to remain in office is eroding.

Within hours of the final voting results’ release, key UNP ministers announced their resignation. The UNP may decide to support parliament’s dissolution in the coming days or weeks, which would set the stage for a general election, in order to avoid large numbers of its parliamentarians crossing over to the SLPP and backing Mahinda as prime minister.

Under the constitution, the president himself cannot dissolve parliament until it has sat for four and a half years, a threshold that will be reached in mid-February.

Gotabaya may also try to strengthen presidential powers. Just hours after Gotabaya was declared the winner, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who serves in parliament and is head of the SLPP, issued a statement criticising the constitution’s Nineteenth Amendment, which the Sri Lankan parliament passed just after Mahinda lost the presidency in 2015 and that reduced the powers of the office.

The amendment strengthened the prime minister’s role, re-established a two-term limit on the presidency, and reinforced independent commissions on human rights, police, the judiciary and civil services. Many welcomed the end of the all-powerful executive presidency.

Others have argued that the Nineteenth Amendment, by dividing executive powers between the president and prime minister, produced weak and confused government. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s statement hinted strongly that the SLPP would push for parliament to revoke the amendment and re-concentrate powers in the presidency.

Should a strong presidential system be re-established, there will be reason to worry that it will come at the expense of the margin of independence that the judiciary and police have gained since 2015.

Even in the absence of constitutional changes, there is little chance of progress in the numerous criminal cases pending in the courts against Gotabaya and other members of the Rajapaksa family and their close associates.

Mahinda has sought to delegitimise these as politically-motivated “persecution and harassment”. The dozens of high-profile cases of political assassinations, abductions, disappearances and attacks on journalists that took place under the earlier Rajapaksa administration, which the police have been investigating with relative vigour since 2015, are certain to go nowhere or be dropped.

What are the implications of Gotabaya’s presidency for relations with international institutions and countries with which it has key economic and security ties?

The Rajapaksa family’s return to power and their strongly Sinhala nationalist agenda pose major challenges to efforts by certain countries and international bodies to support post-war reconciliation and accountability. These are goals that the outgoing UNP government notionally supported but for which it failed to build a strong domestic constituency.

For his part, Gotabaya has made it clear that his government will turn its back on commitments that Sri Lanka previously made in relation to the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) 2015 resolution on reconciliation and accountability, which the UNP-led government co-sponsored.

The resolution called for numerous reforms designed to address Sri Lanka’s violent past, including the establishment of four transitional justice institutions. The UNP government viewed two of these – a truth-seeking commission and a special court to investigate and prosecute alleged international crimes during the war – as too controversial to establish.

The two institutions that did get off the ground – the Office of Missing Persons and the Office of Reparations – are likely to be weakened or even dismantled under Gotabaya. It is unclear whether the new government will encourage the passage of a new resolution at the UNHRC repudiating the 2015 resolution, or wait for the current resolution to expire in March 2021 and seek to block any efforts to renew it.

Either way, UNHRC member states that have been part of the push for reconciliation and accountability should work to keep the council engaged on the core concerns addressed in the 2015 resolution and to maintain close oversight of Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

India, Japan and Western governments will all be concerned at the prospect that the Rajapaksas will strengthen relations with China, which during the election made clear of its preference for Gotabaya and the SLPP. Economic and political ties between Sri Lanka and China grew during Mahinda’s presidency; the Chinese-built and now Chinese-leased port in Hambantota is a flagship example.

China’s competitors’ worries that the port could eventually be used for Chinese military purposes are certain to increase now that the Rajapaksas are back in power. Gotabaya’s government should not be expected to move quickly or decisively in that direction, however, preferring instead to maintain balanced relations with all of Sri Lanka’s donors and trading partners.

The Rajapaksas are probably hoping that they can use their closer ties with Beijing to leverage continued economic support from other governments fearful of “losing” Sri Lanka to China.

U.N. Group Launched to put Afghan Women at Centre of Peace Initiatives 

Two Afghan women walk near an ancient Mosque in western Herat province. On Tuesday Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the United Nations launched a women’s group that aims to “protect and safeguard” the work that’s been done in the advancement of women’s rights in the last 18 years. Courtesy UNAMA / Fraidoon Poya.

By Samira Sadeque
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 21 2019 – Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the United Nations this week launched a U.N. group that aims to put women at the centre of peace initiatives in Afghanistan. 

“There is a new story, there is a new Afghanistan. And part of that new Afghanistan is the women in Afghanistan,” Ambassador Adela Raz said at the launch of Friends of Afghan Women on Tuesday.

The purpose, Raz said, is to “protect and safeguard” the work that’s been done in the advancement of women’s rights in the last 18 years, and to ensure that Afghan women are no longer “recognised by victimhood, but rather than as a partners”.

Women’s rights and gender-based violence continues to remain a glaring issue in Afghanistan, with Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Afghanistan reporting an escalation in Amnesty International’s 2017-18 report.

According to the Amnesty International report, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission documented thousands of accounts of gender violence cases, ranging from beatings, murders, to acid attacks. 

It remains a “frightening moment” for Afghan women, says Heather Barr, a former Afghan researcher and current acting director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch. 

“There is every reason to believe that were theTaliban to regain power through a deal they would make it a priority to restrict women’s rights dramatically,” Barr told IPS. 

Concerns about the Taliban’s prisoner swap with the United States and Australia, which also took place on Tuesday, came up at the launch as well, when Raz candidly responded, “Look, peace is not easy. The process is painful. It needs patience.”

Last week, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani agreed to “conditionally” release the prisoners in an effort “to pave the way” for further peace talks. 

“The Afghan government has often done the wrong thing on women’s rights, but things could still get much much worse,” said Barr, who has been doing research on Afghanistan since 2007 and lived in Kabul for six years. “All of these fears have been exacerbated by how peace discussions have played out so far.”

At the launch on Tuesday, Raz assured that the group is looking into the complex layers of addressing women’s rights caught in the conflict. 

“I absolutely can tell you it was not an easy decision for the government of Afghanistan, especially for the people of Afghanistan, to be fine with that,” Raz said, adding that they’re hopeful that the message is sent to the Taliban that they’re serious about peace. 

United Kingdom Permanent Representative Karen Pierce, who is co-chairing the group, pointed out that Afghan women were granted the right to vote before American women did, and said the purpose of the group was to put women at the centre of the peace process. 

“It’s got this very central role of wanting to put women right at the heart of the peace process, not so that they have to be invited, but so that they are an integral part from the word ‘go,’” she said. 

Afghan women, meanwhile, continue to remain on the ground to fight these injustices, says Omar Waraich, Deputy Director of South Asia at Amnesty International. An Asia Foundation 2018 report stated that women’s rights in Afghanistan are improving, albeit slowly. 

The report further claimed women’s access to justice has significantly improved, with a survey showing more women were bringing domestic disputes to court than men. It attributed this change to the work by grassroots organising by civil society, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, as well as the police which has established a special support unit for women reporting violence. 

Beyond that, Afghan women in everyday lives are continuing to fight. 

“Afghan women are among the bravest people the world has seen. Despite more than four decades of conflict, they have made remarkable strides,” Waraich told IPS. “They have defied the restrictions imposed on them by hardline religious groups. They have raised their voices against injustice in the face of grave threats.”

Barr echoed this thought, and said Afghan women have fought for years “to convince the Afghan government to include them in talks as part of the government’s delegation, with limited success.”

“Under U.N. Security Council resolution 1325 Afghan women have a right to be full participants on any talks about their country’s future,” she told IPS. “They have been waiting much too long for that right to be respected.”

Waraich reiterated the importance of keeping the advancement of Afghan women’s rights at the core of the narrative. 

“These gains did not come easy, they were the result of long and tough battle – and they must not be allowed to be reversed,” he said. “The women of Afghanistan have been among the loudest voices for peace. But for any peace process to be worthy of its name, it must put Afghan women and their concerns at its heart. They must be heard not ignored or silenced.”

The group currently has 20 members, including the U.S., Qatar, and France, as well as support from international unions such as the African Union. 

More Than just a Toilet: Fusing innovation & Partnerships for a Better World

Kohler and International Development Enterprises (iDE) have partnered to provide safe sanitation solutions to communities in Ghana since 2016. Photo Cred: iDE

By Ratish Namboothiry
KOHLER, Wisconsin, Nov 21 2019 – Each year, World Toilet Day* raises awareness of the crucial role that sanitation plays in reducing disease and creating healthier communities.

At Kohler, we’re committed to finding solutions for universal sanitation access by leveraging our design & innovation competencies and partnering with like-minded organizations to bring meaningful innovations to those communities most in need.

It’s time to shine a brighter light on a sad and heartbreaking truth: each day people are dying because of a lack of basic sanitation solutions.

According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet, open defecation still exists for 10% of the population, and women and girls spend 266 million hours a day trying to find a safe and discrete place to go. The result? Hygiene-related diseases, like diarrhea, that account for 1 million deaths annually. This has to end.

Partners like Water Mission and iDE are making a meaningful impact and changing the story for so many.

In January 2017, Water Mission initiated a Healthy LatrinesTM program to provide safe sanitation to families in in western Honduras. Enter the KOHLER Pour Flush Toilet – an affordable seated toilet that flushes when water is poured in by the user.

To date, Water Mission has impacted over 6,300 people by building Healthy LatrinesTM that include a Kohler pour flush toilet. Additional installations are currently under construction as part of a program to reach 5,000 families in five years.

The organization provides the toilet to the families, who in turn, are asked to help build the Healthy Latrines.

[The Water Mission® organization is a Christian engineering nonprofit that designs, builds, and implements safe Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas.

Since 2001, Water Mission has used innovative technology and engineering expertise to provide access to safe water for more than four million people in 55 countries. Water Mission has 350 staff members working around the world in permanent country programs located in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.]

“We like the Kohler toilet because it is designed to be practical in its installation,” remarked Hector Chacon, Water Mission’s County Director in Honduras. Moreover, individuals take great pride in the aspirational design and working to improve general sanitation issues.

In addition to its longstanding partnership with Water Mission, Kohler has also worked closely with iDE – a social enterprise organization that developed its own self-enclosed toilet.

As part of an overall effort in Ghana (a country where just 67% of the population lives without access to a toilet), iDE’s brand Sama Sama chose the KOHLER pour flush toilet as an option for those individuals requiring a sitting model, such as families with older members or those with special needs.

Sama Sama Managing Director Osei Agyeman-Buahin said the goal is to consistently innovate to diversify its offering for a diverse customer base.

Our goal is to provide safe sanitation solutions for all and to continue to push ourselves to innovate, iterate and improve upon the solutions we provide. Innovation for Good is Kohler’s internal incubator designed to find new business opportunities that have a social purpose aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At Kohler, we lean into our water and sanitation innovation expertise to create products and solutions that can provide meaningful change.

If we’re going to put an end to the sanitation crisis, the time for real action and strong partnership is now. A better world awaits.

*The theme of World Toilet Day this year was: Leaving no One Behind. According to the United Nations, close to half of the world’s population- or to be exact, 4.2 billion people — are still living without safely managed sanitation. This is not without consequences and it is estimated that inadequate sanitation causes over 400,000 diarrheal deaths every year. The UN’s Sustainable Goal 6 calls for sanitation for all, by 2030. World Toilet Day was commemorated on November 19.

Green Steel

IBUKU have helped create pioneering bamboo buildings such as the ‘Heart of School’ at Green School. Credit: INBAR

By Charlotte King
BEIJING, China, Nov 21 2019 – How Indonesian craftsmanship is undergoing a revival at the world’s first ‘bamboo university’.

It’s fast-growing, flexible and strong. Standing underneath a bamboo canopy, it is easy to understand why people have been using this grass plant for years, in the construction of houses, bridges and scaffolding.

Bamboo has several advantages in construction, including its height, light weight, excellent tensile strength and flexibility. Critically, bamboo is also abundantly available and low cost, making it a traditional choice of housing material for many poorer communities.

Despite its many advantages, for years bamboo has been regarded as ‘poor man’s timber’: a cheaper, less resilient form of construction material. According to Orin Hardy, founder of bamboo training course Bamboo U, “There was a time when nobody would want to be seen to live in a bamboo house.”

One bamboo design company is working hard to change this perception. In the heart of the Balinese jungle, IBUKU’s fairytale headquarters offer a window into the future of bamboo construction: multi-storey, open-air housing with electricity, water and modern amenities.

IBUKU have helped create pioneering bamboo buildings such as the ‘Heart of School’ at Green School. Credit: INBAR

Founded in 2010, IBUKU’s team of designers, architects and Balinese bamboo craftsmen have created hundreds of structures, many of which are now famous as part of the iconic Green School and Green Village.

For the last few years, IBUKU has teamed up with Bamboo U, to provide courses in bamboo construction. Bamboo U is based next to IBUKU headquarters, and offers multi-day ‘build and design’ workshops. People on the courses work with a range of architects, designers and engineers to learn more about bamboo’s properties and potential, and to help build their own bamboo structures. IBUKU provides a number of experts for each course, and invites all trainees to visit their headquarters and bamboo warehouse.

Bamboo U participants learn a lot from the IBUKU team about bamboo’s technical aspects. Although the strong, sturdy dendrocalamus asper is the bamboo of choice for much construction in Bali, IBUKU also use other species for secondary structures, or for decorative use: the wavy, irregular bambusa blumeana, for example, provides a playful addition to balcony railings. It is this willingness to work with nature which Orin hopes to inspire in Bamboo U: “It’s about creating an understanding of the place you’re in… The built environment has become so important. We need nature to be in the built environment. We’ve sacrificed all of that spontaneity and creativity in the name of function.”

No hand tools in sight: an introduction to traditional bamboo joinery with IBUKU’s craftsmen. Credit: INBAR

As with all parts of IBUKU’s work, Balinese bamboo carpenters have a central role to play in the selection of bamboo materials: they know which poles to pick, and how to use them. On Bamboo U courses, these craftsmen also teach participants about traditional bamboo joinery and assembly methods, using hand tools and techniques which they have used from a young age. For Orin, it’s these bamboo carpenters who “really make the magic happen”, and their interaction with course participants “is an essential part of our Bamboo U ethos.”

For Defit Wijaya, senior architect at IBUKU, Bamboo U’s work is an extension of IBUKU’s own aims: to show that bamboo housing is possible. He acknowledges that many people are skeptical about the safety of bamboo structures, and that only a small number of countries have bamboo construction codes. “We need to take more risks to show what bamboo can do. Here [in Bali] we have the luxury of trying this out.”

The team at Bamboo U are not the only ones to inspire people with bamboo construction. The International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), an intergovernmental organisation, coordinates research and demonstration projects to promote bamboo housing among its Member States.

Students are encouraged to build their own designs from scratch. Credit: INBAR

In recent years, their work has helped to push down some of the barriers facing bamboo construction: INBAR has helped create new international standards for bamboo construction design and testing, and has formed a Construction Task Force made up of experts from around the world. Most importantly, INBAR has helped to bust the myths about bamboo construction across its network of Member States: last year, Ecuador confirmed it would integrate bamboo into its huge ‘A House for All’ programme, and in 2017, the government of Nepal approved the first design for an earthquake-resilient bamboo school.

According to Charlotte King, from INBAR, “The role of bamboo construction has never been more important. We know that around 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from infrastructure construction and operations. Future development risks locking the world into a high-carbon pathway for hundreds of years.

“As bamboo grows throughout the tropics in Africa, Asia and the Americas, it could provide us with a natural, renewable material for infrastructure in developing countries.”

Students are encouraged to build their own designs from scratch. Credit: INBAR

Find out more about Bamboo U training opportunities here, and about IBUKU’s work here.

Established in 1997, the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) is an intergovernmental development organisation that promotes environmentally sustainable development using bamboo and rattan. It is currently made up of 45 Member States. In addition to its Secretariat Headquarters in China, INBAR has five Regional Offices in Cameroon, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana and India. Find out more about INBAR here.

Charlotte King is a communications specialist in climate change and sustainable development. She works at the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) joins GGGI as its 34th Member and 1st Regional Integration Member

By GGGI / OECS Joint Media Release
Nov 21 2019 (IPS-Partners)

Today, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) became the 34th Member of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) after formally submitting its Instrument of Accession. The OECS is also the first regional integration organisation to become a member of GGGI.

Since the establishment of the GGGI Caribbean office in 2019, located within OECS Commission headquarters in Saint Lucia, the two entities have worked together to pursue a joint programme of activities in support of capacity building and development of green growth options in OECS countries.

The joint programme includes activities at both the regional and national levels to support the small island countries in the Eastern Caribbean transition their economies toward low-carbon, climate-resilient sustainable growth. Because the OECS is a regional organisation, membership in GGGI means that the OECS Commission, as well as the OECS Member States, will have access to GGGI membership benefits. GGGI is already working with the OECS Commission, as well as directly with the governments of OECS Member States, to support the transition to more sustainable energy systems and accelerate the flow of climate finance in the region.

“GGGI is delighted to welcome the OECS as its newest member and looks forward to working together to accelerate the process of resource mobilisation for green growth initiatives in the OECS Member States.”

“The membership of the OECS into GGGI takes this collaborative effort one step further to expand on their support for the Caribbean region,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, Director General of GGGI.

Director General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules, wholeheartedly welcomed the opportunity to bring the unique integration movement that is the OECS to the GGGI, noting that this is the first time that a regional organisation has joined the pioneering institution.

“We are a unique integration project because six of our Member States are independent and six are non-independent, with three of these being French territories.”

“In common with many Small Island Developing States, we are at the frontline of climate change disasters and we bear the brunt of the escalating devastation from sudden onslaught climatic events, such as coastal erosion and sea level rise, marine pollution and every other manifestation of a planet in terminal crisis.”

“We have become members of the GGGI because we need to have our voices heard in every significant global forum and we are extending the hand of solidarity and common purpose to everyone who understands the urgency of a new development paradigm that is green, blue, inclusive and regenerative.”

Dr. Kristin Deason, GGGI’s Caribbean Representative added that “OECS’s accession as a member of GGGI showcases the importance that Eastern Caribbean countries are placing on sustainability, resilience, and green growth. It is clear that the OECS Member States are serious about transforming their energy sectors into more sustainable, resilient systems, and we are excited to help support that transition.”

The threats of the climate emergency have severely affected Caribbean states with rising sea levels, destruction of the local environment, food insecurity due to lower yields in agriculture production, and strengthened natural disasters such as hurricanes and tropical storms. Given the severity of these issues, the combined work of the OECS Commission and GGGI helps to identify and develop projects that support countries with the adoption of green growth policies, gaining access to climate finance, and promoting sustainability in the region, particularly in the areas of renewable energy and sustainable transportation.

One of the first events to come out of the organisations’ collaboration was the Virtual Island Summit, an all-online event bringing together experts from the Caribbean and Pacific to share information on sustainable practices and discuss the most pressing issues for island communities worldwide. As part of the event, a joint panel provided the opportunity to explore initiatives in both regions that support implementation and enhancement of countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Climate Agreement.

Also, in 2019, OECS and GGGI worked jointly to review insurance mechanisms for solar PV installations, and to investigate incorporating standards for rooftop PV into the OECS building code. Currently, both organisations are working with the governments of Saint Lucia, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Commonwealth of Dominica to implement and enhance their NDCs and increase climate financing.

“As GGGI’s very first regional member, OECS is paving the way with a new program format at GGGI, and I look forward to seeing our joint programme develop into a strong example of regional coordination and support for green growth,” explained Dr. Kristin Deason, GGGI’s Caribbean Representative.

To get updates on the joint OECS/GGGI program, follow @GGGICaribbean on Twitter and GGGI Caribbean on Facebook.

About the Global Green Growth Institute:

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is a treaty-based international, inter-governmental organisation dedicated to supporting and promoting strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries and emerging economies. It has operations in over 30 developing countries, including Saint Lucia in the Caribbean and Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, and Papua New Guinea in the Pacific.

About the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States:

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is an international organisation dedicated to economic harmonisation and integration, protection of human and legal rights, and the encouragement of good governance among independent and non-independent countries in the Eastern Caribbean comprising Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

(GGGI Caribbean Office)
Kristin Deason
GGGI Caribbean Country Representative
+1 758 726 2949
kristin.deason@gggi.org

(GGGI Seoul HQ)
HeeKyung Son, Communications Specialist
+82 70-7117-9957
H.Son@GGGI.org