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The Nuclear-Climate Nexus and Sustainable Peace

While humanity faces a range of interconnected transnational threats and crises in the 21st Century, climate change and the continued existence of nuclear weapons stand out as two existential threats. Both threaten the survival of life on earth as we know it and both are of our making. There is increasing interest in how climate and nuclear threats interact with each other. This workshop will present some of the key findings of a recent study on the “Climate-Nuclear Nexus” including: the impact of climate change on nuclear and international security; the climatic and ecological consequences of nuclear war; the obstacles of climate and nuclear threats to achieving sustainable peace; the problems and risks of nuclear energy in advancing climate and nuclear disarmament action; and the availability of renewable energy and other resources to diminish climate and nuclear threats.

Berlin, Germany, 1st October / 16:30 - 18:30

Speakers

  • Jürgen Scheffran, INES Co-Chair, University of Hamburg (Workshop Coordinator)
  • Rob van Riet, World Future Council
  • Alex Rosen, IPPNW Deputy Director
  • M.V. Ramana, Princeton University (via Skype)

Organised by World Future Council and INES


Abstract

On the long arc of human existence, climate change and the continued existence of nuclear weapons are relatively new to the scene, having only appeared over the last century. Both threaten the survival of life on earth as we know it and both are of our making.

UNFOLD-Zero

Gandhi’s grand-daughter to address UN nuclear disarmament day commemoration

Ela Gandhi, the grand-daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, will address the 2016 United Nations commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 27 in Geneva.

‘There is no moral justification for nuclear weapons,’ says Ms Gandhi, who is a Co-President of the global, inter-faith organization Religions for Peace. ‘People of faith the world over cannot but reject nuclear weapons – including their possession and the threat of their use – as an affront against God and creation.’

Ms Gandhi was recently in Kazakhstan, where she led an international delegation to the site in Kurchatov where the Soviet Union detonated over 450 nuclear weapons for tests, causing death or serious health impacts to over 1.5 million people. ‘The catastrophic impact of these nuclear tests on the health of the Kazakh people demonstrates the immorality of these weapons. Their use is a crime against current and future generations.’

‘One of our actions is a joint statement of religious leaders, mayors and parliamentarians which highlights the Common Good of a nuclear-weapon-free world and which we have presented to the United Nations demonstrating global support for nuclear disarmament. Now it looks like the UN will take up our call and commence multilateral negotiations in 2017 for a nuclear-weapon-free world.’ Ela Gandhi.

The UN commemoration event is being organised by UNFOLD ZERO, a global platform promoting United Nations initiatives for nuclear disarmament, in cooperation with the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (Geneva) and the Permanent Missions of Kazakhstan and Ecuador to the UN.

‘The risk of nuclear weapons use by accident, miscalculation or intent has increased due to conflicts between Russia and the West over Ukraine, heightened tensions in North East Asia and increased possibilities of terrorists acquiring nuclear materials or hacking into nuclear command and control systems,’ says Alyn Ware, Member of the World Future Council and Co-founder of UNFOLD ZERO. ‘The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons occurs on the anniversary of an incident in which a nuclear war nearly occurred due to technical faults in the Soviet nuclear command and control system during a similar time of high tension. A similar incident today could lead inadvertently to the destruction of human civilization.’

The UN commemoration event will also highlight the links between nuclear disarmament and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. ‘The nuclear weapons industry consumes $100 billion per year,’ says Colin Archer, Secretary-General of the International Peace Bureau. ‘This money could go a long way in financing the SDGs, offering a much better chance that the goals can indeed be reached.‘

The commemoration event is part of Chain Reaction 2016, a series of nuclear disarmament actions and events around the world running from July 8th (the 20th anniversary of the International Court of Justice decision affirming the general illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons) until October 2, the International Day of Non-violence and birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.

When the atom bomb was detonated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Mahatma Gandhi noted that ‘The atomic bomb has deadened the finest feelings which have sustained mankind for ages.’ Ela Gandhi believes that humankind can recover its soul, prevent a nuclear war, and achieve peace through co-operative actions, especially by people of faith working in cooperation with legislators, governments and the United Nations. ‘One of our actions is a joint statement of religious leaders, mayors and parliamentarians which highlights the Common Good of a nuclear-weapon-free world and which we have presented to the United Nations demonstrating global support for nuclear disarmament. Now it looks like the UN will take up our call and commence multilateral negotiations in 2017 for a nuclear-weapon-free world.’

The UN commemoration will include a video of Chain Reaction events around the world, plus the presentation to the United Nations of the Astana Vision declaration: From a Radioactive haze to a nuclear-weapon-free world.

For more information contact info@unfoldzero.org or visit Chain Reaction – UN event.

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Annual-Report_2016

Annual Report 2016

Annual-Report_2016

Abstract

From promoting renewable energy solutions and respecting the rights of children and future generations to driving policy action on nuclear disarmament and financing climate protection, our work is far reaching and interconnected. Over the past year, we have achieved remarkable successes in helping implement exemplary policies by bringing together change-makers from around the world to reclaim our future.

This report captures the full scope of our work. We are very proud to share these achievements with you and look forward to the journey ahead.

Ahead of UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants: World Future Council calls for better protection of refugee women and children

Hamburg/New York/Geneva, 16 September 2016: On Monday, 19 September, for the first time in the history of the United Nations, Heads of States and Governments will address the large movements of refugees and migrants at a high-level summit during the General Assembly. The milestone event aims to strengthen governance of international migration and create a more humane and coordinated system. 

More than 21 million people were forced to leave their countries in 2015, over half of whom are under the age of 18. In just five years, the number of child refugees has risen by 77 per cent, while the proportion of women refugees reached 47% in 2015.

María Fernanda Espinosa, Ambassador of Ecuador to the United Nations in Geneva and Co-Chair of the Ending Violence against Women and Girls Commission, World Future Council, says: “Refugee women and children face various security risks at every stage of their journey. They are still not sufficiently protected and often do not even find adequate support, such as psychosocial assistance, in their destination countries. We therefore call on world leaders to tackle this serious challenge and take effective and binding measures to ensure the safety of refugee women and children.”

In an appeal to the governments and institutions of the world published in March 2016, the World Future Council called for rigorous measures to protect refugee women and children from violence. The WFC is currently putting together a report on best practices to protect refugee women and children against violence to promote existing and proven practices. The report is expected to be published at the end of the year.

Media Contacts

Alexandra Schiffmann
Media and Communications Manager
+49 4030 70 914-19 (Hamburg, Germany)
alexandra.schiffmann@worldfuturecouncil.org

World Future Council

The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy-making. Its up to 50 eminent members from around the globe have already successfully promoted change. The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision makers with effective policy solutions. In close cooperation with civil society actors, parliamentarians, governments, business and international organizations the World Future Council identifies “best policies” around the globe. The World Future Council is registered as a charitable foundation in Hamburg, Germany.

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The role of exemplary laws and policies in upholding children’s rights and promoting a healthy environment

World Future Council’s written contribution to the Day of General Discussion: “Children’s Rights and the Environment” 23 September 2016, Geneva.

The UN-Committee on the Rights of the Child, the body of independent experts responsible for reviewing progress made by States parties in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, has decided to devote its 2016 general discussion day to the issue of children’s rights and the environment. The purpose of General Discussion Days is to foster a deeper understanding of the contents and implications of the Convention as they relate to specific articles or topics. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified international human rights instrument, with 196 States Parties.

The overall objective is to promote understanding of the relationship between children’s rights and the environment; identify what needs to be done for child rights-related laws, policies and practices to take adequate account of environmental issues; and for environment-related laws, policies and practices to be child-sensitive. Assess the current status of environmental issues in child rights–related laws, policies and practices, and, vice versa, of children’s rights in laws, policies and practices related to the environment, including by identifying gaps and good examples.

The World Future Council has submitted a written contribution highlighting visionary and good policies and laws that already recognise the strong relationship between children’s rights and the environment.

Further information


2016 Day of General Discussion: “Children’s Rights and the Environment”

The role of exemplary laws and policies in upholding children’s rights and promoting a healthy environment

Written Contribution submitted by the World Future Council

Introductory remarks

The World Future Council (1) strongly welcomes the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s (UNCRC) decision to devote its 2016 general discussion day to the topic of children’s rights and the environment. Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) contains some articles that touch upon the relationship between children’s well-being, health and the importance of an intact environment, a special article does not exist. This is primarily due to the fact that human rights laws and treaties, including the CRC, emerged before the international community had fully developed an understanding of the profound importance and impact that a healthy and intact environment has on the enjoyment of human / children’s rights.

For many years now we have witnessed the outcomes of global warming across the planet as rising sea levels and melting glaciers along with severe droughts, floods and hurricanes have left behind destroyed infrastructures, damaged crops and devastated livestock. Families and communities have all too often had to flee their damaged homes and belongings. More and more children and youth are affected by environmental toxicants, pollution and degradation of their environment that can have severe long-term impacts on their health and well-being.

Climate change raises a myriad of threats for children that have different effects on a range of human rights children should enjoy (2) and shows that the deprivation of one right can negatively affect others and the rights of generations that follow. Girls, boys, youth living in vulnerable situations and groups, (e.g. in poverty, with a disability), indigenous people, and those in developing countries often suffer the most.

The CRC is one the most important treaties that expresses the will of the international community to protect and safeguard children. This obligation is not limited to national territories and complex issues like climate change which are not limited to national borders create new challenges and demand fresh approaches to tackle them.

Relationship between children’s rights and the environment

Climate Change: In recent years the evidence for human influence on the climate system has grown to be clear and unequivocal (3). Weather phenomena like El Niño and La Niña, intensified by a warming climate, are already have a devastating impact on ecosystems and human well-being. (4) The right to life and survival (Article 4) is at risk not only due to environmental degradation but also due to the interplay between climate change and risks associated with nuclear weapons, facilities and materials (5).

The right to food and housing (Article 27) is under threat as climate change increases hunger, starvation and drought, weakens food security and undermines an adequate standard of living. In Eastern and Southern Africa 26.5 million children need support, including more than one million who need treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Rising food prices force families to forgo meals, sell off their assets and cattle and take other drastic measures in order to survive (6). Many species including marine organisms, coral reefs and polar ecosystems will not be able to keep up with the rate of climatic change which will lead to increased extinctions and profoundly challenge the health and productivity of fisheries and other ecosystems. Climate change is, furthermore, projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources in most dry subtropical regions which will increase competition for water (7). Children are particularly affected by a lack of essential nutrients, which in turn not only impairs their healthy development but also their concentration and receptivity at school. Particularly for children under 5 severe malnutrition can lead to starvation. Undernutrition at a young age can have long-lasting effects, including increased risk of illness, delayed mental development or premature death, and can be passed on to the next generation. Undernourished girls have a greater likelihood of becoming undernourished mothers, who are more likely to give birth to low birth-weight babies (8).

The Right to health (Article 24) is a precondition for other human rights and is strongly related to the right to access to clean water and sanitation. Changes in temperature, humidity and rainfall have an impact on water, sanitation and hygiene and have been linked to increases in vector and water-borne diseases such as dengue fever, diarrhea and cholera, which are major killers of children (9). Sudden climatic events can produce post-traumatic stress and make healthcare infrastructure unavailable. In combination with food insecurity it also negatively affects access to anti-retroviral therapy and adherence to treatment requirements (10). Drought and its impact on livelihoods can also force people, especially adolescent girls and women, to engage in transactional sex, which increases their vulnerability to HIV infection. Mortality among children living with HIV is two to six times higher for those who are severely malnourished than for those who are not (11).

Children’s right to nationality, to identity and to be cared by his or her parents (Art. 7 and 8) and to protection could be violated as climate change contributes to an increasing number of children being deprived of a family environment due to the death of parents or from events that force them to work abroad or abandon or sell their children. This puts children in danger of being trafficked, to be taken into alternative care or to be on the move (12). The right to be registered immediately after birth and to have a name as well the right to a nationality is also endangered by the increasing risk of unexpected climate disasters as parents die or are separated from their children.

The right to a nationality is also at stake as some island nations face inundation due to rising sea levels, potentially leaving children stateless if they are not provided with a new nationality (13).

The number of unaccompanied minors is on the rise putting rights and well-being at risk (Article 29). In drought-affected areas, some children, especially girls, are staying away from school to fetch water over long distances, or have to migrate with their families due to loss of crops or livestock. Being out of school often increases a child’s risk of abuse, exploitation and, in some areas, child marriage and violates the right to education (Article 29). Children’s right to rest and leisure (Article 31) and to participate is also affected by climate change as children have to contribute to a family’s income.

Environmental pollution causes grave and irreparable damage to the earth and contributes to health problems and a lower quality of life (14). Air pollution is a major environment-related health threat to children and a risk factor for both acute and chronic respiratory disease; especially Asthma and allergies (15)(16) but also to other adverse health effects. Some of the most important harmful effects are perinatal disorders, infant mortality, allergy, malignancies, cardiovascular disorders, an increase in oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction and mental disorders. Numerous studies have exposed that environmental particulate exposure has been linked to increased risk of morbidity and mortality from many diseases, organ disturbances, cancers, and other chronic diseases (17). Children are particularly at risk as they are still growing and their immune systems and detoxification mechanisms are not yet fully developed. Children engaged in hazardous labour, such as working in mines and quarries, are most at risk. Sick, malnourished and weak children can face ongoing health challenges as adults.

Obligations of States and other actors

General Comment No. 15 (2013) on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health (art. 24) already provides some clear action points related to local environmental pollution but stays vague when addressing the role of business activities and climate change (18).

Strong laws and policies along with their implementation and monitoring play a crucial role to ensure children’s rights and the best interests of the child are upheld and respected. When drafting a new law or amending an existing one the CRC’s general principals along with its General Comments should be taken into consideration.

The incorporation of children’s rights and environmental rights into fundamental law and/or of the country’s constitution could ensure that the best interests of the child are recognized. While three quarters of the world’s national constitutions include references to environmental rights, few have treated these provisions as legally enforceable. Supreme Courts or constitutional courts, as national bodies in charge of ensuring the conformity of domestic laws with the Constitution can play a vital role in highlighting the need for action to align, amend or adopt new laws in accordance with the CRC. Argentina’s Supreme Court’s judgement on environmental rights, 2008 (19) and the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Philippines in favour of the rights of future generations to a healthy environment (20) are good examples.

With innovative future-just policies and appropriate market signals, businesses can lead the way in securing a sustainable future by pursuing broader mandates with the correct legal frameworks to reach social and environmental goals. In 2010, Maryland became the first US state to pass the Benefit Corporation legislation which aims to provide standards for corporations that follow a triple bottom line—’People, Planet and Profit’ (21). While voluntary agreements and commitments by industry and business are on the rise with some notable impacts, law enforcement could lead to more effective, sustainable solutions at a faster pace which Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan demonstrates (22). The successful ban of plastic bags in many countries also shows how laws, when effectively applied and implemented, can play a huge role in protecting the environment (23).

Global treaties, conventions and commitments could lead states parties to develop comprehensive laws in response to many environmental challenges. One example is the Costa Rica Biodiversity Law of 1998 (24). The Montreal Protocol, 1987 is another success story. Recently UNEP announced that Montreal Protocol parties have achieved complete phase-out of ozone-depleting CFCs, once widely used in refrigerators and spray cans, which contributes – among other things – to higher skin cancer rates (25).

The UN decade on Education for Sustainable Development achieved lots of success in creating awareness of good practices and strengthening environmental education. There is, however a strong need for broader structural implementation. The right to education (Article 29) stresses the importance of teaching respect for the natural environment and understanding and engaging with global problems. Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards (2011) is one the first regulations that mandates that students to be environmentally literate as a high school graduation requirement with a number of very positive results for students, teachers and the local environment (26).

The spectrum of environmental policies has broadened gradually to address increasingly complex environmental and health related problems but many environmental policy interventions are still necessary (27). Children’s rights impact assessments are a vital tool to assess the impact of a law and should include environmental aspects, as is foreseen in Scotland (28).

Recommendations to UNCRC (see also annex)

  • Compile a General Comment related to the topic children’s rights and the environment.
  • Examine the possibility of an Optional Protocol due to the urgency of the topic.
  • Assist the establishment of Ombudspersons for Future Generations at the national and international levels, who can actively advocate for long-term interests.
  • Promote comprehensive and mandatory environmental education/education for sustainable development.
  • Encourage States to contribute to the fulfilling of the Sustainable Development Goals.

References

1. The World Future Council works on solutions to some of the most pressing challenges by finding and spreading exemplary laws and policies that have a proven record of producing positive impacts both for current and future generations, working with parliamentarians, policy makers and relevant stakeholders as well UN bodies at an international level.

2. Susana Sanz-Caballero, children’s rights in a changing climate: a perspective from the UN-CRC, in ethics in science and environmental politics, vol. 13:1-14, 2013

3. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate change 2014, Synthesis report summary for policymakers,

4. El Niño 2015-2016 hit hardest some of the world’s poorest countries hardest, often leaving children the worst affected. Severe drought, flooding and a higher than usual occurrence of forest fires. http://www.unicef.org/environment/

5. https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/peace-and-disarmament/

6. Families who use to eat two meals a day may cut back to one and those who could once provide a single meal for their dependents are entirely reliant on food aid.

7. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate change 2014, Synthesis report summary for policymakers

8. http://www.unicef.org/environment/

9. El Niño has created in Brazil favourable breeding conditions for the Aedes mosquito that can transmit the Zika virus, as well as dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.

10. Patients tend not to take medication on an empty stomach, and many people will use their limited resources for food rather than for transport to a health facility.

11. http://www.unicef.org/environment/

12. Newborns of parents forced to migrate are at greater risk of not to be registered due to loss of personal documents or entering a country without a visa.

13. Susana Sanz-Caballero, children’s rights in a changing climate: a perspective from the UN-CRC, in ethics in science and environmental politics, vol. 13:1-14, 2013

14. Acid rain, water, noise, soil and light pollution are also on the rise adding further stresses to the environment, wildlife and humans.

15. WHO subdivides between indoor air pollution (which is responsible for 2 million deaths annually mostly children caused by pneumonia), outdoor pollution and urban outdoor air pollution (are estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths worldwide per year. Children living in middle-income countries disproportionately experience this problem) and  transport-related air pollution. http://www.who.int/ceh/risks/cehair/en/ and http://www.euro.who.int/en/data-and-evidence/evidence-informed-policy-making/publications/hen-summaries-of-network-members-reports/what-are-the-effects-of-air-pollution-on-childrens-health-and-development.

16. Susanna Esposito et al in Impact of air pollution on respiratory diseases in children with recurrent wheezing or asthma, BMC Pulmonary Medicine201414:130, DOI: 10.1186/1471-2466-14-130, Published: 7 August 2014

17. Roya Kelishadi, Environmental Pollution: Health Effects and Operational Implications for Pollutants Removal, Journal of Environmental and Public Health, Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 341637,http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/341637/

18. General Comment No. 15, Paraphe 49

19. Celebrating the world’s best laws and policies to secure children’s rights, Future Policy Award 2015, World Future Council Foundation, 2015, page 15.

20. In July 1993 the Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled in favour of a group of children, acting on their own behalf as well as that of future generations, to cancel timber licences on the grounds of a violation to their constitutional rights to a healthy environment http://www.futurepolicy.org/crimes/right-of-future-generations/

21. http://www.futurepolicy.org/business-priorities/maryland-benefit-corporations/

22. Scotland’s Zero waste, 2010 seeks to lay the foundation for a social transformation towards a zero waste society http://www.futurepolicy.org/enterprise-and-design/consumption/zerowastescotland/

23. http://www.unep.org/PDF/Kenya_waste_mngnt_sector/appendix.pdf

24. http://www.futurepolicy.org/biodiversity-and-soil/costa-ricas-biodiversity-law/

25. http://ozone.unep.org/en/focus

26. The regulation aims to provide a locally developed programme of study throughout the curriculum that catalyses change within the community and builds as environmental stewardship ethic in students. http://www.futurepolicy.org/curricula-reform/marylands-els/

27. http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/policy/intro

28. https://www.cypcs.org.uk/uploaded_docs/children’s%20rights%20impact%20assessment.pdf

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September News from the WFC!

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World Future Council Newsletter – September 2016
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Dear friends,

The United States and China, the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have announced they will formally ratify the Paris climate change agreement at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China. This commitment could be a huge step forward in the efforts to combat climate change.

To hear more encouraging updates on the path to a sustainable future, read about our recent activities in this month’s newsletter.

With best wishes from London and Hamburg,

Jakob von Uexkull (Founder),
Alexandra Wandel (Director) and
Stefan Schurig (Member Management Board)

Support our work by donating
Belo Horizonte’s Food Security Policy

September 12 marks the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation. In the same spirit, we have been spreading an exemplary food security policy from Belo Horizonte, Brazil to Windhoek, Namibia by bringing together experts from both countries and facilitating knowledge exchange. Click here to read more about the ground-breaking policy.
New Report: Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development

This brand new report identifies the various drivers behind the push for the renewable energy transition around the world and documents some of the sustainable development benefits experienced around the world. Click here to read the full report.
Seizing the Solar Energy Revolution in Tanzania
When Ajuna Kagaruki and her husband built their new house in Mabwepande, a suburb of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, it was not an option to wait for the government to connect the area to the national grid. Instead, they decided to take action themselves in order to have electricity for their life with the three children. Today, a 120 kwh Solar Home System (SHS) lights the house, powers a TV and an iron and charges their mobile phones. Click here for the full story.
Support our work with a donation

News
What can be done to better protect refugee women?
© Jazzmany / Shutterstock.com
In cooperation with filia.die frauenstiftung and UN Women German Committee (UN Women Nationales Komitee Deutschland e.V.) we are developing a study to identify the most innovative and inspiring initiatives in protecting refugee women and girls from violence during all phases of the migration cycle. Our goal is to promote the exchange of best practices and to open up a space for dialogue and experience-sharing.
Read more
The View of the World from Europe
© Smith Photography / Shutterstock.com

We are all, Europe. We are all, America. We are all black. We are all refugees. The challenges we face know no borders. They transcend nationality, race, age, ethnicity and political lines. A view of the world from Catherine Pearce, our Director of Future Justice.
Full article
In 2011, Maryland became the first US state to require students to be environmentally literate as a high school graduation requirement. Hear what teachers have to say about the benefits of this pioneering regulation, which has resulted in broad improvements in student’s learning outcomes.
Recognising nature as a legal person: the Whanganui River in New Zealand
The relationship between indigenous peoples and nation states is historically marked by conflict and oppression. The exploitation of natural resources, usually ignoring indigenous knowledge, feed into these conflicts. The 2014 Whanganui River Deed of Settlement is an exemplary attempt to protect the River’s natural resources while respecting the long ignored voices of the local Whanganui tribes.
Read more
Upcoming Events
European Renewable Energy Study Tour

To make Europe a Union again, we need to increase cooperation. This is also the case for energy politics. This is why, from September 25-29, we are organising a study tour for 15 delegates from European regions on “Regional Cooperation for Scaling Up RE in the EU”. Read more.
International Workshop | Maryland, US

From October 12-14, we are bringing together Ministries and legislators to learn first-hand about Maryland’s successful implementation of environmental literacy legislation, exchange best practice and identify potential policy reforms for their own countries and regions. Read more.
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World Future Council · Lilienstrasse 5-9 · Hamburg 20095 · Germany

Study Tour: Regional Cooperation for RE in EU

Copenhagen/Sonderborg/Hamburg/Eemshaven/Assen/Ghent/Brussels - 25-29 September

Renewable energy sources (RES) will have to play a predominant role in EU’s future energy mix. However, the current policy and regulatory framework does not entirely facilitate this transition but rather reflects a business-as-usual approach. The current RE target on EU level in the Climate and Energy 2030 Framework lacks ambition with regards to the low goal setting of “at least 27%” but also due to its “EU-wide” level approach without member state contributions. Given this weak policy framework, there is one mechanism, which may still help to increase the share of renewables to the scale and speed which is needed given today’s challenges: The idea of regional cooperation. Regional cooperation can effectively bridge the gap between national renewables policies and a Europeanised approach to renewables deployment. Additionally, regional action across borders allows for participation of non-state actors, possibly a higher political legitimacy and fitted solutions for local conditions. A common cross-border identity might be facilitated through these projects and the revenue generated by the decentralised energy plants is more likely to stay in the region.

Therefore, Heinrich Böll Foundation EU Office and the World Future Council organised a study tour to further develop, discuss and exchange solutions enhancing and strengthening regional cooperation aiming at a sustainable energy transition. The goal is to provide concrete examples and transferable policy solutions by discussing crucial questions with and in front-runner regions. Therefore it will be organised in the framework of HBF’s #Regions4GreenEconomy series which are organised together with the representatives of different German Länder in Brussels, and the Global 100% RE Campaign.

The study tour follows a stakeholder workshops on regional cooperation, exploring opportunities to scale up renewable energy in the European Union. To read more about the results of this workshop as well as about the program, please click here.

Maryland_Environmental_Literacy_Standards

International field trip on exemplary environmental education policy

Given the many challenges our societies and environment are facing, children and young people across the globe must be equipped to positively shape their future and be empowered to learn and live in an increasingly sustainable manner. Practical environmental education that is integrated across the curriculum has been shown to be a key solution offering a wide variety of benefits both for students, teachers, the environment and wider society.

In 2011 the U.S. State of Maryland introduced a pioneering Environmental Literacy Standard which mandates that all Maryland students are environmentally literate by graduation. Environmental literacy is now taught in very diverse and holistic methods throughout the school curriculum (often in great hands-on outdoor experiences such as restoring reefs and wetlands, planting trees and learning at outdoor environmental education centres). Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards was the 2015 winner of the WFC’s silver Future Policy Award, as it provides an excellent holistic model of sustainable and environmental education that has been implemented with the support of a broad coalition of partners.

International Workshop

Maryland, US, 12-14 October

The World Future Council’s Rights of Children (RoC) team is now bringing together Ministries and legislators who are interested in learning first-hand about this pioneering model in an international workshop in Maryland (12-14 October 2016). The legislators will learn about Maryland’s successful implementation of environmental literacy legislation, exchange best practice and identify potential policy reforms for their own countries and regions.

Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards

In 2011, Maryland became the first US State to make environmental education obligatory for high-school students. The State Board of Education ruled that each local school system must provide a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary environmental education programme that is integrated into the general school curriculum.

While the teaching of environmental education is now required from pre-school to graduation, the focus is on all incoming Grade 9 students (14 and 15 year olds) who must complete a comprehensive environmental education programme that meets the Maryland Environmental Literacy Curriculum Standards.

© Jazzmany / Shutterstock.com

What can be done to better protect women and children refugees?

Best practices to protect refugee women and children from violence

An increasing number of refugees worldwide are women and children. In many cases, they are being driven to leave their homes due to armed conflicts, insecurity or generalised violence. For women and girls, this includes gendered forms of violence: some flee to escape the threat of female genital mutilation or forced marriage, while others are victims of domestic or sexual violence. Without regular pathways to reach a country where they can seek international protection, women often have to resort to dangerous routes. Throughout their journey, they are exposed to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, psychological violence, trafficking, early and forced marriage, transactional sex and domestic violence. And once they reach their destination, many women and young girls face further protection risks due to limited access to support services, a lack of effective procedures to identify victims of gender-based violence and inadequate reception conditions in accommodation facilities.

Once they reach their destination, many women and young girls face further protection risks due to limited access to support services, a lack of effective procedures to identify victims of gender-based violence and inadequate reception conditions in accommodation facilities.

What can be done to better protect women refugees and asylum-seekers? What practical steps can be taken to prevent violence? How can refugee women and girls be included in the process of finding solutions to these challenges?

In order to provide an answer to these questions, we have started a research project in cooperation with filia. die frauenstiftung and UN Women German Committee. Our study aims to identify the most innovative and inspiring initiatives which can be considered effective in protecting refugee women and girls from violence during all phases of the migration cycle, with the goal of promoting the exchange of best practices and opening up a space for dialogue and experience-sharing.

We are mapping initiatives that address different aspects related to ending violence against refugee women and girls at the local, national, regional and global level. Initiatives can be laws, regulations, action plans, projects, programmes, services or campaigns, implemented by international organisations, local, regional or national authorities, civil society organisations and NGOs, as well as grassroots and social movements. Special attention will be given to initiatives that have been designed and/or delivered in close collaboration with refugee women, with the aim of strengthening their self-empowerment and self-organising.

Special attention will be given to initiatives that have been designed and/or delivered in close collaboration with refugee women, with the aim of strengthening their self-empowerment and self-organising.

We aim to collect best practices examples that concern any form of violence (including physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence) during all phases of the migration cycle (i.e. violence in the country of origin; violence during the journey; and violence in destination countries). This mapping exercise will be followed by a comprehensive evaluation and assessment process by the project team in order to select a set of best practices that show a high degree of sustainability and effectiveness, and have a high potential for transferability to other municipalities, regions or countries. We will particularly highlight initiatives that pioneer change, show a high degree of innovation and focus on women’s empowerment.

The analysis of these initiatives for our upcoming report will provide important insights into the key elements of best practices to protect refugee women and girls from violence. Our goal is to develop practical policy recommendations to inspire policy-makers and civil society actors to take action to ensure that refugee women and girls are effectively protected.

Contact

For more information on the project, of if you would like to submit an initiative, please contact us at marta.sanchez@worldfuturecouncil.org.

Project partners

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Whanganui-River_by_Alex-Indigo

Recognising nature as a legal person: the Whanganui River in New Zealand

The relationship between indigenous peoples and nation states is historically marked by conflict and oppression. The exploitation of natural resources, usually ignoring indigenous knowledge, feed into these conflicts,threatening the sovereignty, rights, culture and ultimate existence of indigenous peoples. The historical relationship between the state of New Zealand and the Māori has proved to be no exception. However, the 2014 Whanganui River Deed of Settlement is an exemplary attempt to protect the River, and its natural resources while respecting incorporating the long ignored voices of the local Whanganui tribes.

Conflict flows

The Whanganui River, home for a large proportion of Māori villages in pre-European times and regarded as taonga (special treasure), is sacred to the Whanganui Iwi Māori tribe and believed to have human traits. Prior to 1848 a substantial Māori population, which was dispersed along the Whanganui River and its major tributaries, enjoyed rights and responsibilities over it. This changed in 1848 when the Crown purchased 86,200 acres of land at Whanganui. The Crown proceeded to assert authority over the land and River within the area purchased and, as a result, faced Māori opposition, who asserted control over the rest of the area and continued to make use of the River.

Frequent conflicts arose between the Crown and the Māori. The River’s relevance as an important communication route motivated, in 1887, the inauguration of a steam-boat service, which was protested by the locals, who argued this would greatly affect fish and eel weirs population, their main food source. Only a few years later, by 1891 most fish and eel weirs had, in fact, been destroyed, and yet the boat services continued. Rights to extract and sell gravel from the River were equally protested by the Whanganui Iwi, who attempted to obstruct the River works, but were ignored by the Parliament. In 1903, the Coal-mines Act Amendment Act, without consultation with the Whanaganui Iwi, brought further misery, by declaring the beds of all navigable rivers to be vested in the Crown.

The Māori tribe continued to be voiceless throughout the 20th Century until the Whanganui River Māori Trust Board was established. It negotiated outstanding Whanganui Iwi claims for the settlement over the Whanganui River and, in signing the Deed of Settlement, the Crown recognised, amongst other things, its failure to protect the interests of Whanganui Iwi, and the adverse effects and prejudice caused to Whanganui Iwi.”

Several settlements have, prior to the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement, recognised Māori conceptions of the environment, among them are settlements that relate to the Waikato, Waipā and Kaituna Rivers. The Waikato River settlement, for example, recognises that the River is an ancestor (tupuna) to the Waikato-Tainui and it possesses a life force.

The Settlement

On August 2014, and following numerous petitions to Parliament dating back more than a century, the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement (or Ruruku Whakatupua) was finally signed. Under the settlement, the Whanganui River is recognised as a legal person, granting the River rights, powers, duties and liabilities and “recognises the intrinsic ties which bind the Whanganui River to the people and the people to the Whanganui River.” Not only has Māori belief been incorporated into the Deed of Settlement but the River is also represented by two guardians (with advisors) who act ‘as one’: one is nominated by the Crown and the other one by the Iwi natives.

The Deed of Settlement helps ensure a more sustainable usage of natural resources by, for example, significantly limiting dredging from the riverbed. It also respects natural areas and traditional knowledge: S.3.3.3. states that Iwi and Crown guardians, working must “promote and protect the health and well-being” of the River within a framework of traditional Māori knowledge. Ensuring a less polluted River, not only helps to restore local ecosystems and balanced biodiversity, but it brings a significant impact on the ocean’s health as well.

This policy is not only vital for environmental and natural resources protection but it also recognises  the local community and its relationship with the State, and the local environment. Poverty and human rights violations are addressed through the redress of historic exploitation by the Crown and the development of the River that had taken place without Māori consent. The Crown also “recognises its failure to protect the interests of Whanganui Iwi, and the adverse effects and prejudice caused to Whanganui Iwi.” The historical oppression  by the Crown over the Iwi is also taken into account. By consulting and partnering with local tribes, the Crown provides an avenue to redress such atrocities and violations, where possible.

It must be noted, however, that this Settlement is only appropriate and well-adapted to the cultural values and traditions of the Iwi. Local inhabitants of other faiths don’t have their beliefs acknowledged within the Deed of Settlement. This means that the Deed does not have the neutrality of pluralism and secularism, which the New Zealand government displays elsewhere in its policies.

By electing guardians and advisors from the tribe and incorporating their beliefs, knowledge and practices, it further empowers the local Iwi. It also provides for public consultation and genuine engagement in its design and implementation such as the appointment of legal representatives who “must … develop appropriate mechanisms for engaging with and reporting to [local Māori] on matters relating to [the river]”. The Deed establishes a strategy group comprised of representatives of persons and organisations with interests in the Whanganui River. This includes the Iwi, local and central government, commercial as well as recreational users and environmental groups.

This Settlement is by no means the consequence of a fully healed relationship, both between New Zealand’s indigenous peoples and the State, and between humans and nature. However it is a cause for celebration. The burden of environmental degradation rests the heaviest on the shoulders of indigenous peoples, who are more likely to rely upon a healthy and thriving  environment and yet, perversely usually have little say, or few means of access in these matters. Hopefully policies like the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement can inspire Governments around the world to take action towards recognising and respecting indigenous knowledge, and the restorative capacity of healing nature and communities.