Himalaya Initative gets going

MEDIA RELEASE: WORLD FOOD DAY: WORLD FUTURE COUNCIL CALLS FOR WELLBEING OF PEOPLE AND NATURE THROUGH SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS

March Newsletter

COVID-19 — From health crisis to child rights crisis

Why health, wellbeing, and education of children across the globe are at risk from the pandemic — especially, but not only, in the Global South

Press Release: Securing a World of Climate Resilience, Prosperity and Peace. World leaders identify solutions and call for immediate action

World leaders identify solutions and call for immediate action
Hamburg / Cairo, 16.9.2019.

Environment And Climate Change Emergency: Turning Words Into Action

On the eve of the biggest global “Fridays for Future” youth strike for climate, the World Future Council offers its strong support to the dedicated young people holding leaders accountable for their climate commitments. If we are to meet the 1.5°C target of the Paris agreement bold action needs to happen now.

Guarding our Future

Abstract

Guarding our future: All over the world climate change, environmental destruction, financial crises, and the widening gap between rich and poor are spreading insecurity and fear. We know that big changes in running our societies are needed. Laudable declarations and inspiring ideas abound. Yet we seem to be experiencing deep inertia. How can we turn fine words into action?

Policy making seems to be stuck in a way of thinking that is inadequate in the face of severe global challenges. We have a collective responsibility to implement and deliver ambitious sustainable development strategies for an interconnected world of some 9.6 billion people by 2050. We believe there is enough wealth on the planet to provide peace and wellbeing for all.

If we update our policies to protect long-term interests. If the rules of engagement are fair and for the common good. If we protect diversity of life on this planet. The World Future Council is advocating a vision of Future Justice – common sense policy solutions that will benefit society as a whole and provide a high quality of life for generations to come.

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Press Release: María Fernanda Espinosa was elected President of the 73rd UN General Assembly

Member of World Future Council and Ecuadorian Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, was elected President of the 73rd UN General Assembly

New York/Hamburg, 6 June 2018 – Dr. María Fernanda Espinosa, Member of the World Future Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility in Ecuador, was elected 73rd President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) yesterday.
According to the UN, Dr. María Fernanda Espinosa secured 128 votes against 62 votes obtained by the only other candidate, UN Ambassador Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake of Honduras.

Dr. María Fernanda Espinosa: The Ecuadorian politician and poet is the fourth woman and the first woman ever from Latin America and the Caribbean to preside over the UN General Assembly Picture (c) World Future Council

Alexandra Wandel, Director of the World Future Council (WFC), congratulates:

On behalf of the World Future Council, I would like to congratulate you on your election, and send my best wishes in your esteemed position as 73rd President. Your leadership and inspiring vision will help to strengthen the United Nations, and global society as a whole.

The forthcoming 73rd session offers a key moment to advance intergenerational equity in the UN System to ensure that the needs of present generations are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. We recognise the longstanding interest and support shown by the Government of Ecuador in these efforts, not least during your former position as Minister of Natural and Cultural Heritage. We are confident that with you as President of the UN General Assembly, future generations will have a strong advocate within the United Nations.

The World Future Council is working with the informal Governmental Group of Friends for Future Generations, which provides an important platform to develop new initiatives in this area. The Group of Friends endorsed the proposal to establish Global Guardians for Future Generations, to provide balanced advocacy for future generations, so that the UN can play a leading role in securing intra- and inter-generational equity globally. The innovative nature and normative legitimacy of the Global Guardians for Future Generations will play an important role in complementing existing efforts to help ensure that the UN Development System is more inclusive, impactful and coherent. With your esteemed leadership, the 73rd session of UNGA will seize new initiatives at a time when achieving fairness between generations in the context of sustainable development is becoming all the more important. This as a unique moment for significant breakthrough on the Global Guardians proposal, which would be welcomed by Member States and civil society.

We wish you just the best success for your endeavours, and strongly hope that working together decisively, we will promote the interests of future generations and our mutual values.

Yours sincerely,

Alexandra Wandel

Director

World Future Council

Ms. Espinosa (2nd from left) speaking during World Future Council (WFC) event in Hamburg in 2016. Also pictured: WFC Councillors Scilla Elworthy, Thais Corral and Rama Mani (from left to right). Picture (c) World Future Council

 

Media contact

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact

Media Contact

Miriam Petersen
Media and Communications Manager
World Future Council
Dorotheenstr. 15, 22301 Hamburg, Germany
Email: miriam.petersen@worldfuturecouncil.org
Phone: 01781018019
www.worldfuturecouncil.org

About the World Future Council

The World Future Council (WFC) consists of up to 50 eminent global changemakers from governments, parliaments, civil society, academia, the arts, and business who have already successfully created change. We work to pass on a healthy planet and fair societies to our children and grandchildren. To achieve this, we focus on identifying and spreading effective, future just policy solutions and promote their implementation worldwide. Jakob von Uexkull, the Founder of the Alternative Nobel Prize, launched the World Future Council in 2007. We are an independent, non-profit organization under German law and finance our activities from donations. For information visit www.worldfuturecouncil.org

For press enquiries, please contact Miriam Petersen, miriam.petersen@worldfuturecouncil.org, 0049 40 307 09 14 19.

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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.

The Climate-Nuclear Nexus: Two Key Threats Endangering Future Generations

Over the next two weeks, Heads of States are meeting in Paris to finally agree on a plan to curb climate change. Considering that climate change can exacerbate a range of interconnected transnational threats and crises that our generation faces today, such as extreme poverty, hunger, violent conflicts and pandemic disease, meaningful action is urgently needed.

Despite this, the proposed measures are again nowhere near proportional to the problem. In fact, the climate negotiations have so far been subjected to lack of information and misguidance on so-called solutions that should enable us to limit the rise in temperatures to 2°C. One particular problem is that too many of the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) still build on nuclear energy as a way for low-carbon development.

This is extremely problematic given that increased reliance on nuclear energy to reduce carbon emissions will contribute to the risks of nuclear proliferation. In these crucial times, current instabilities and geopolitical tensions are an important dynamic to consider. The increasingly aggressive nuclear threat postures between Russia and NATO in Europe, the rising nuclear tensions between China and US allies in the South China sea, and the excessive expenditures (over US$100 billion annually) on nuclear weapons consume resources required and undermine conditions conducive for tackling climate change in a cooperative manner. Further proliferation of nuclear weapons would make this even worse.

Climate change and the continued existence of nuclear weapons stand out as the two principal threats to the survival of humanity. On the long arc of human existence, both threats are relatively new to the scene, having only appeared over the last century. However, both threaten the survival of life on earth as we know it and both are of our making.

Jonathan Schell said it best: “Anyone concerned by the one should be concerned with the other. It would be a shame to save the Earth from slowly warming only to burn it up in an instant in a nuclear war.”

Nuclear energy is neither required for nor capable of solving the climate crisis. Nuclear energy lacks the capacity potential to significantly replace the huge amounts of fossil energy. In addition, the nuclear ‘fuel chain’ contains a variety of problems and risks, including the release of radioactive materials at every stage of the cycle and trans-generational safety problems from nuclear waste disposal. A very serious problem is the possibility, at various stages of the nuclear fuel chain, to divert nuclear technologies and know-how towards nuclear weapons development.

As the Word Future Council has highlighted in a recent report, climate change and nuclear weapons interact with each other in additional ways. Conflicts induced or exacerbated by climate change could contribute to global insecurity, which, in turn, could enhance the chance of a nuclear weapon being used, could create more fertile breeding grounds for terrorism, including nuclear terrorism, and could feed the ambitions among some states to acquire nuclear arms. Furthermore, as evidenced by a series of incidents in recent years, extreme weather events, environmental degradation and major seismic events can directly impact the safety and security of nuclear installations. Moreover, a nuclear war could lead to a rapid and prolonged drop in average global temperatures and significantly disrupt the global climate for years to come, which would have disastrous implications for agriculture, threatening the food supply for most of the world. Finally, climate change, nuclear weapons and nuclear energy pose threats of intergenerational harm, as evidenced by the transgenerational effects of nuclear testing and nuclear power accidents and the lasting impacts on the climate, environment and public health from carbon emissions.

Overall, the discrepancy between long-term goals and concrete steps undermines the conditions for international cooperation in security and climate policies. Despite growing awareness of the urgency of tackling the climate and nuclear threat among policy-makers, academics and civil society, concrete action is lagging behind.

Why is this so, when considering that renewable energy technologies provide viable alternatives? By harnessing local renewable energy sources, jurisdictions increase their political and energy independency, while the degree of local and international cooperation needed to transition to 100% Renewable Energy can act as a catalyst for cooperation in tackling other transnational security threats. This helps solving geopolitical crises, avoid future armed conflicts triggered by climate instability and resource scarcity, and build cooperative security mechanisms. Similarly, regional initiatives could attempt to tackle both climatic and security threats. For example, Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones (which already cover the entire Southern Hemisphere) can, in turn, promote regional environmental and climate protection policies, as exemplified by the Antarctic Treaty System. Such action could also be sought in the Arctic, where the effects of climate change and the dangers of nuclear weapons come together as increased competition over resources and the opening up of routes for military maneuvering and posturing, including with nuclear weapons, can heighten tensions between the region’s powers.

Finally, there exist international legal obligations both with regard to curbing climate change and achieving universal nuclear disarmament. It is thus not surprising that on both fronts, litigation has been pursued to ensure these obligations are implemented. Climate cases have been filed in several countries, including in the Netherlands, where the Court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, noting that the State has a legal obligation to protect its citizens, ordering the Dutch government to reduce its CO2 emissions by a minimum of 25% (compared to 1990) by 2020. On the nuclear front, the Republic of the Marshall Islands filed applications last year in the International Court of Justice against the nine nuclear-armed states (US, UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea), claiming that they are in breach of obligations relating to nuclear disarmament under the NPT and under customary international law. Cases are proceeding against the three of the nuclear-armed states that have accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ–the UK, India, and Pakistan.

For the people of the Marshall Islands, and a rising number of people in other parts of the world, the effects of these two threats are not a theoretical, future issue of concern. Behind the facts and figures are stories of real suffering from climate change and nuclear weapons programmes.

The plight of one group in particular is illustrative of the human impact of the nuclear enterprise and climate change. The inhabitants of the remote Pacific island chain of Bikini Atoll were forced from their homes in the 1940s so that the United States could test its atomic bombs there, bringing with it a legacy of transgenerational effects of radiation exposure, including high cancer rates, birth deformities and environmental poisoning. The lands they had called home were declared uninhabitable. Now, the tiny patches of earth they were relocated to in the Marshall Islands are at risk of suffering the same fate, as rising sea levels are breaching sea walls, washing over their islands, killing crops and forcing the Bikini Atoll refugees to consider relocating again–this time to foreign continents thousands of miles away. As if to underline the potentially catastrophic convergence of both perils, there is even the danger that rising sea levels could spill the radioactive waste from testing, which has been stored on the islands, into the ocean. Their experience should serve as a cautionary tale. If we don’t seize the opportunities soon to rid the world of these threats, we will drift toward a similar fate.

The World Future Council has been highlighting how climate change and nuclear weapons interact with each other through its ‘Climate-Nuclear Nexus’ project. Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Tony deBrum, received together with the People of the Marshall Islands the Honorary Right Livelihood Award on 30 November for initiating litigation in the International Court of Justice to ensure the nuclear-armed states uphold their disarmament obligations.

Originally published on

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