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2019 Youth Writes Awards – Engaging young writers through quality journalism

12. September 2019 - 11:09

Global Geneva president Veronique Barbey presented the three awards, which consist of travel grants, at a special panel on the challenges of writing for young people  at the Morges Book Festival (6-8 September, 2019). Nearly 40 high school students from Swiss schools participated in the competition. “What this initiative has shown is that there is not only rising writing talent among young people, but that young people are reading,” she said.

Barbey added that with more people now aware of this initiative, the hope is that it will expand not only to other Swiss schools but also globally. Global Geneva has had approaches from mainly international high schools ranging from Frankfurt to Bangkok expressing interest, but also from institutions in such far flung locations as Liberia,  Nairobi and Los Angeles. “The quality of the writing presented is really quite impressive,” she said. Furthermore, she noted, “these are young people who are profoundly interested in key global issues.”

Youth award winners with writers and journalists at the 2019 Morges Book Festival. (Photo: Edward Girardet)

The three laureates were: Australian Maxine Rechter of the International School of Geneva (1st Prize: 1200 CHF Travel Award) for her story on female circumcision, The Price of Purity; Senegalese American Mohamed Diagne, also of the International School of Geneva (2nd Prize: 750 CHF Travel Award) for his story Kyanite; and American Nicholas Machen of the British School of Geneva (3rd Prize: 500 CHF Travel Award) for Capital.

As part of Global Geneva’s commitment, all entries were edited and commented on by professional editors from around the world who offered suggestions to the students on how to improve the writing. “It is important to encourage young people to improve their writing skills but also to read more,” said Global Geneva editor Edward Girardet. “It is also important to engage them along professional lines and to help promote their curiosity in critical planetary issues, such as the climate crisis, humanitarian response, human rights, the environment…”

For Girardet, the importance of helping youth hone their writing skills is a crucial component of this journalistically-linked educational initiative. “This is what teachers and parents, and particularly university professors are telling us,” he maintained. “More and more high school students are arriving at the college level with poor writing and even reading capabilities. This is a huge issue and we should be concerned.” (See also our editorial for the Fall, Sept-Nov. 2019 print and e-edition)

The Youth Writes programme is not seeking to turn all young people into journalists. However, all school leavers, whether they are planning to become doctors, lawyers, bankers or electricians, need to know how to write well and to develop strong communications capabilities.

As Girardet points out, youth also need to become more aware of the need for trusted and quality journalism in an age of rampant false news and disinformation, particularly in social media. “Unless we engage young people now, there will be no one left to support real journalism, which is crucial for democracies to thrive,” said Girardet. “It is also vital to link education with reporting.”

For many of the Global Geneva network, which consists of some 2,000 journalists, editors, photographers, film-makers, cartoonists and other media specialists world-wide, the quality of the entries by the Youth Writes competitors has proven encouraging. Numerous stories, articles or podcasts proved to be exceptional and often highly imaginative. Global Geneva also held its first Youth Writes workshop in March, 2019, at the Ecogia International Red Cross Training Centre in Versoix, Switzerland. This is also part of the magazine’s efforts to help highlight key issues of the International Geneva – and Switzerland – community worldwide.

Depending on funding, Global Geneva is hoping to expand this initiative across Switzerland in 2019/20 with more workshops, but also the creation of Youth Writing and Journalism Clubs, and by collaborating more closely in English and in French with international and state high schools. It also hopes to expand the programme globally. Global Geneva is further developing other reporting initiatives, notably ‘Global Journeys’, aimed at bringing young people in direct contact with the need for quality reporting from the field.

Global Geneva is in the process of approaching various Swiss and international foundations, sponsors and others willing to support its educational approaches. In the same vein, it is seeking to work with the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, Global Compact companies and other private sector institutions interested in the need for more educationally-linked public interest initiatives involving young people.

All award entries are published both online as individual articles as well as in the Fall Sept-Oct 2019 print and e-edition of Global Geneva Magazine. If your school or institution is interested in being involved and/or would like to receive complimentary print copies please contact: editor@global-geneva.com

If you or your organization would like to support this or other Global Geneva initiatives in the public interest, please contact: The Editors, Email: editor@global-geneva.com

The Global Geneva Youth Writes 2019 Young Journalists & Writers Programme is funded by the Alcea Foundation, Lausanne.

 

Kategorien: Jobs

Salman Bal, nouveau directeur du Centre d’Accueil de la Genève internationale (CAGI): D’un village de montagne kurde en Turquie au sommet de la diplomatie suisse

9. September 2019 - 11:44
This article is part of Global Geneva’s development of a French-language component at the request of readers. The following piece (a shorter version will be published in English) focuses on Salman Bal, the new director with  Turkish-Kurd background of CAGI, International Geneva’s welcome centre designed to help UN agencies, NGOs, companies and individuals visiting or seeking to operate in the Lake Geneva Region.  

L’ambassadeur suisse Salman Bal, nouveau Directeur du Centre d’Accueil Genève internationale (CAGI) depuis le mois de mai, dévoile à Global Geneva les défis qu’il compte relever. Association à but non lucratif, fondée en 1996 par la Confédération suisse et la République et canton de Genève, le CAGI aide les nouveaux arrivants actifs dans le cadre de la Genève internationale à s’installer et s’intégrer dans la région lémanique. Ses prestations gratuites proposent un réseau et service d’accueil, un service logement et information, l’organisation d’événements, un service de soutien aux ONG et un service d’accueil des délégués.

« Notre tâche principale est d’aider les employés et employées de la Genève internationale et leurs familles à s’adapter à un nouveau lieu, pour être performants dans leur nouveau travail, qui, pour beaucoup de diplomates est souvent, par exemple, de couvrir une vingtaine d’organisations internationales qu’ils connaissent peu. Ces personnes doivent œuvrer avec un nouveau chef, travailler dans un écosystème genevois qu’elles connaissent peu et en même temps trouver un logement. Sans oublier, si elles ont une famille, de chercher une école pour les enfants. Le CAGI s’efforce de les aider à s’installer au mieux », explique le directeur d’une instance qui bénéficie également du soutien d’institutions publiques et privées

Un des services essentiels du CAGI est d’aider les nouveaux arrivants à trouver un logis grâce à la bourse du logement en ligne qui leur permet de recevoir une liste d’appartements ou de maisons selon les critères qu’ils souhaitent, ce qui leur évite de courir les régies ou de parcourir des dizaines de pages sur internet. « Deux de nos experts peuvent également relire les contrats de bail à loyer des personnes qui ne connaissent pas les lois suisses ou qui ne comprennent pas bien le français. Nous donnons aussi des conseils quant aux documents nécessaires pour trouver un logement et, lorsque la personne quitte Genève, nous la rendons attentive à ce qu’il faut faire au moment de la remise du logement. Les chefs d’agences et les ambassadeurs, ainsi que leurs adjoints, peuvent, s’ils le souhaitent, bénéficier d’un service VIP qui les accompagne pour la visite de chaque logement », précise Salman Bal. Le service du logement assiste aussi des missions permanentes dans leurs recherches de bureaux.

Le CAGI vient ainsi en aide à un millier de personnes par an. Il coopère, entre autres, avec la Fondation Terra et Casa qui propose en priorité des logements à des personnes en lien avec la Genève internationale. « Des particuliers peuvent aussi nous contacter s’ils ont des appartements ou des maisons à louer ou s’ils louent des chambres destinées aux stagiaires des organisations internationales ».

Un réseau d’accueil est également proposé aux personnes qui arrivent à Genève munies d’une carte de légitimation, grâce à la trentaine de bénévoles qui appellent chaque nouvel arrivant à Genève pour lui souhaiter la bienvenue. « Plusieurs personnes m’ont dit s’être souvenues de ce premier appel car elles n’avaient pas eu cela ailleurs. Nous leur faisons également découvrir des lieux cachés ou insolites du canton de Genève et du canton de Vaud. Lorsque je suis arrivé comme étudiant à Genève, je ne connaissais que le triangle Plainpalais-Eaux-Vives-Pâquis. C’est sans doute le cas pour d’autres personnes. Nous organisons des excursions, comme la visite du château de Jussy avec dégustation de produits locaux. Au mois de juin, nous étions dans le jardin d’une villa au bord du lac pour assister au départ du Bol d’Or », déclare Salman Bal.

Le nouveau directeur du CAGI symbolise l’attrait que la Genève internationale suscite. Salman Bal n’est pas né Suisse, il l’est devenu avec une ardente patience, en réussissant un parcours hors du commun. Son désir de suissitude est né lorsqu’il était adolescent. Sa trajectoire l’a mené d’un village de montagne kurde en Turquie à la diplomatie de la Confédération helvétique puis au cabinet du Directeur général de l’Office des Nations Unies à Genève Michael Møller, avant de diriger l’entité qui résume bien sa passion pour Genève.

United Nations Office in Geneva – 18 Dec 2018. UN Photo by Elma Okic Un symbole de la Genève internationale

J’ai rencontré Salman Bal au siège de la Mission de la Suisse auprès de l’ONU, en 2014, lorsqu’il était diplomate. Une année plus tard, il devenait fonctionnaire international, en tant que conseiller pour les questions politiques du Directeur général de l’ONUG, le Danois Michael Møller. D’une voix posée, dans un français impeccable et avec une légère cadence suisse alémanique, Salman Bal me dévoilait son chemin de vie. « Je suis né entre octobre et décembre 1971 à Çiflikkaleköyü, un village de montagne kurde en Turquie sans électricité et sans eau courante. Mon père est arrivé en Suisse dans la région de Bâle. Quelques années plus tard, ma mère, mon frère et ma sœur l’ont rejoint. Je suis resté au village avec ma grand-mère. Mon grand-père était en Allemagne et ma grand-mère l’a ensuite rejoint. Un oncle s’est alors occupé de moi. A 9 ans, j’ai quitté mon village et je suis arrivé à Bâle ».

Dans la cité rhénane, le jeune garçon suit une scolarité qu’il terminera avec une maturité en poche. Le week-end et les vacances, il ne les consacre pas au repos mais aux petits boulots qu’il enchaîne pour gagner un peu d’argent. « Je tirais, par exemple, les chariots qui vendent du café, de la bière et de l’eau dans les trains. C’est ainsi que je suis arrivé à Genève. Ce devait être en 1990. Dans ce travail, nous avions des pauses de quelques heures. J’en ai profité pour découvrir Genève ». Une ville qu’il retrouvera tout au long de son cheminement professionnel.

« À Bâle, nous avions eu un échange avec une classe genevoise du Collège de Candolle » se souvient-il. À 16 ans, l’âge où les jeunes cherchent leur voie, Salman Bal a un rêve précis : « Je voulais devenir diplomate suisse ». Rêveur pragmatique, le jeune homme se donnera les moyens de son ambition. « J’ai entrepris des études en relations internationales et préparé la licence à l’Université de Genève puis à l’Institut des hautes études internationales », devenu l’IHEID The Graduate Institute.

Salman Bal s’envole ensuite pour l’Angleterre. Il entre à l’University of Essex à Colchester où il obtiendra un Master en droits de l’homme. Il reviendra périodiquement dans la Cité de Calvin. Au printemps de l’an 2000, après avoir travaillé pour l’OSCE au Kosovo, il entre au Palais Wilson, siège du Haut-Commissariat aux Droits de l’Homme de l’ONU. « L’année suivante, j’ai passé le concours diplomatique suisse. J’ai quitté Genève en mai 2001 et j’y suis revenu en 2011 ».

For a modestly-sized city, Geneva is often better-known an a knowledge hub of world-wide impact than Switzerland itself. (Photo: Edward Girardet)

Suisse, Kurde, Turc. Si Salman Bal a pleinement conscience de ses appartenances identitaires, les gens qu’il côtoie peinent à définir son identité, d’autant plus qu’il s’exprime dans plusieurs langues : le kurde, le turc, l’allemand, le schwitzerdütsch, le français, l’anglais, le norvégien, langue de son épouse, et l’espagnol. Polyglotte et fin connaisseur des arcanes onusiennes, Salman Bal a exaucé son rêve de devenir diplomate et qui plus est à Genève, phare de cette Suisse multiculturelle et multilingue qu’il représente et qu’il contribue à faire connaître aux nouveaux arrivants.

Les langues, atout que l’ambassadeur Bal sait d’autant mieux mettre en lumière puisque le CAGI propose également une Bourse d’Échanges Linguistiques (BEL) qui s’adresse à tous, Internationaux et résidants locaux, gratuitement. La bourse est basée sur le principe de l’échange, complémentaire et non alternative aux cours de langues donnés par les écoles. « Ce réseau compte 1’300 personnes et 65 langues. De nombreux Genevois et Genevoises s’y intéressent. La prochaine rencontre aura lieu à l’Ecole Club Migros car nous souhaitons coopérer avec les acteurs locaux, comme l’IFAGE, pour rapprocher la Genève locale et la Genève internationale ».

Réaliste et visionnaire, le nouveau directeur du CAGI entend mettre davantage l’accent sur la communication et les événements conviviaux, comme les Mix & Mash. « Je souhaite notamment accueillir, durant la Geneva Peace Week, l’exposition intitulée Bouc émissaire, accrochée auparavant au Landesmuseum de Zurich. Nous sommes également en contact avec le Grand Théâtre de Genève pour organiser des événements conjoints. Je souhaite rassembler les deux mondes que sont la culture et la politique parce qu’ils peuvent enrichir mutuellement leurs débats. J’ai été frappé de découvrir que le programme de l’opéra pour la nouvelle saison a mis à l’affiche au moins deux thèmes qui touchent des sujets liés à la Genève internationale ».

Le Kiosque culturel du CAGI, situé à la porte VI du Palais des Nations, encourage par ailleurs les fonctionnaires internationaux et les diplomates à suivre les événements culturels proposés à Genève, à des prix préférentiels. Et un Delegates Information Desk est installé lors des grandes conférences, devant les salles de réunions, avec des informations sur ce que les délégués peuvent faire à Genève et dans les environs.

L’ambition de l’ambassadeur Bal au niveau de la communication est double : mieux mettre en exergue les services qu’offre le CAGI aux fonctionnaires et diplomates internationaux qui arrivent à Genève, mais également en amont, avant leur arrivée dans la Cité de Calvin. « Nous aimerions en outre augmenter le service aux organisations non gouvernementales pour mieux répondre aux questions et demandes de nombreuses ONG qui s’installent à Genève. Nous réfléchissons par ailleurs à la possibilité de mettre en place une structure pour venir en aide aux épouses et époux des diplomates en poste à Genève pour les orienter à trouver une activité économique ou académique. Car les conjoints, qui ont souvent dû quitter leur profession, se sentent parfois un peu perdus à Genève ». M. Bal souligne aussi la demande, qui continue à augmenter, adressée au service d’accueil des délégués qui a aidé à financer plus que 7’300 nuitées des délégués des ONGs et des PMA en 2018.

Le directeur du CAGI souhaite surtout faire une large place aux jeunes. « Je veux rapprocher davantage de jeunes Genevois et des jeunes actifs au sein des organisations internationales. Au mois de septembre, j’organiserai une réunion avec les jeunes de notre réseau de bénévoles et des représentants de Young UN. Et je désire également convaincre plus d’organisations qui ne sont pas du sérail du secrétariat onusien à rejoindre les membres sympathisants du CAGI, comme l’ont fait l’OMPI et l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) ».

Si l’attitude proactive de l’ambassadeur Bal porte déjà ses fruits, comment compte-t-il s’y prendre pour diminuer la méfiance des habitants de la Genève locale envers les diplomates et fonctionnaires internationaux et pour ce qui est des privilèges dont ils bénéficient ? « Beaucoup a été fait, mais il reste beaucoup à faire », reconnait-il.

Les journées portes ouvertes au Palais des Nations, au CERN, à l’OMC et au siège d’autres organisations internationales ont contribué à rapprocher les « Locaux » des « Internationaux », tout comme les soirées Mix & Mash. Le Directeur général de l’Office des Nations Unies à Genève Michael Møller, qui a quitté son poste en juin, a aussi été très actif. Ce parfait francophone a tissé des liens avec des citoyens issus de tous les milieux sociaux : écoliers, étudiants, réfugiés, journalistes, autorités genevoises et fédérales et autres. Salman Bal, qui a été son conseiller politique, peut en témoigner. « Je tiens à souligner que le dernier message du Conseil national concernant la Genève internationale a été largement adopté. Sur les 200 conseiller nationaux, 185 ont dit oui et deux ont dit non. Nous voyons que les efforts des dernières années ont eu un impact sur l’intérêt des Suisses et notamment des Suisses alémaniques envers la Genève internationale ».

Qu’en est-il de la méfiance des Locaux par rapport aux Internationaux ? « J’ai l’impression que cette image relative aux privilèges et immunités dont jouissent les diplomates et fonctionnaires internationaux est en partie due à une mauvaise communication. Les membres de la Genève internationale ne gagnent pas tous des salaires mirobolants et il est faux d’affirmer que les fonctionnaires internationaux ne paient pas d’impôts. Ils paient un impôt au sein de l’organisation dans laquelle ils travaillent et la plupart d’entre eux n’ont pas de plaques diplomatiques. Je reconnais qu’un effort de communication doit être fait, notamment envers les personnes qui ont des idées sur un monde qu’elles ne connaissent pas bien. Pour que les deux mondes se rencontrent et se connaissent davantage, par exemple par le biais de projets culturels ».

Le souhait de l’ambassadeur Bal ? « Faire en sorte que lorsqu’une personne a été en poste dans notre ville, elle devienne à son tour ambassadeur ou ambassadrice de la Genève internationale », conclut-il.

Swiss journalist Luisa Ballin is a contributing editor of Global Geneva magazine.

 

Kategorien: Jobs

Global Geneva Special Report: UN Trade Forum Advance Presentation

6. September 2019 - 11:41
UNCTAD wants ‘call to arms’ on trade and climate.

Partly because of Dorian, it looks as if UNCTAD’s first Trade Forum will give the spotlight to small island developing states (SIDS).

UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, wants countries at its first UN Trade Forum next week to issue “a call to arms” to the UN Climate Summit for the international community to make structural changes and reallocate resources to help small states to cope with climate change.

The organization’s Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi, says tackling climate change can bring “many added benefits such as economic diversification, jobs and innovation, which form the base for shared prosperity and financial stability. Trade has an important role to play in leveraging those co-benefits.”

Global trade policy ‘must be part’ of the climate solution

UNCTAD argues in its advance declaration: “Global trade policy must change and do more to be part of the climate solution. [The] climate crisis will wipe out trade gains of small island developing states if not addressed now.”

Presenting the UN Trade Forum at a press conference on 3 September, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Director of the UNCTAD Division on International Trade and Commodities, said the meeting signals an important departure from the past two decades of treating trade as a taboo subject in climate action.

“The Paris Agreement [on climate control] does not contain any references to trade, but in a sense it’s the most important trade agreement,” Ms Coke-Hamilton added in a statement.

Feeding into UN Climate Action Summit

The Forum’s report on Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change is to feed into the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York on 23 September.

Dorian changes the agenda.

Ms Coke-Hamilton broke from her prepared notes to speak first about the devastation being caused in The Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian, “the third devastating hurricane in less than three years” to hit the Caribbean and the worst in over 55 years. The earlier storms had “wiped out” Barbuda and Dominica as economies, and the latest winds and sea surges have devastated the Bahamian island of Abaco and made parts of Grand Bahama, including the main city of Freeport, “virtually uninhabitable”.

“I think that says more than anything we could ever say about the issue of climate change, and the countries that are on the front line of this problem,” she commented. Starting out with a theoretical approach towards trade and sustainable development goals in the climate crisis, UNCTAD preparations for the forum discovered small island developing states (SIDS) faced some critical issues.

Three SIDS Premiers and other ministers

Three SIDS Prime Ministers are expected for the weeklong Forum, which opens on Monday: from Barbados, St. Lucia and Vanuatu. Ministers are also coming from Jamaica, the Maldives and Malta, as well as Poland, current President of the climate change governmental group known as CoP24, as well as representatives of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

Climate change threatens national survival

“Not only will climate change continue to wipe out trade prospects for many of these countries. It has a significant impact on the very existence of these countries,” Ms Coke-Hamilton declared.

Barbados Premier says “time to reinvent the international order for local resilience”

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, due to present the 16th Raúl Prebisch Lecture in Geneva on Tuesday, said in an advance statement : “It is time to reinvent the international order. One that builds local resilience as well as promoting global competitiveness.”

Ms Coke-Hamilton, who comes from the Caribbean, said of small developing states : “We may not be large and powerful but in the final analysis we matter for the international trading system.” Many of the countries most vulnerable to climate change contribute less than 1% to its impact, she observed.

A WTO issue now?

“What are the potential trade rules that can be put into place and what are the international mechanisms that can begin to be brought to bear?” she asked, suggesting that today this could even be an issue for the World Trade Organization (WTO), where many nations, including developing states, had resolutely opposed action.

Forum agenda aims for holistic solutions

She said UNCTAD itself had programmes on “the blue economy”, biodiversity in climate change, and “a very strong programme” on plastics and pollution. The aim of the forum, she said, was to obtain “a more holistic engagement” from the international community. “It has to be worldwide and a global effort,” she said, but challenged a questioner who suggested she meant to target the United States for failing to join the international consensus. She pointed out that many countries have signed the Paris Agreement but still have to implement measures that match their commitments.

Invisible yet indispensable

Ms Motley’s lecture is entitled “Invisible yet indispensable”. Her pre-lecture statement says: “Climate change is not a theory, or prospect. Small island states, coastal and low-lying states are on the front line. But the world order has been fundamentally undermined by the adhoc exercise of power over universal principle.” She warns that if nothing effective is done, many members of the international community will feel “invisible and dispensable”*.

* “It is time to reinvent the international order. One that builds local resilience as well as promoting global competitiveness, for it will not stand if many of its members feel invisible and dispensable.” The SIDS include 38 UN members and 20 non-UN members. Googling SIDS, however, will bring up a page on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Scrutinizing finance, technology and capacity building

The UNCTAD briefing presser said “the forum will explore how to change the [climate control] approach from one of allocating or shifting burdens among countries through trade restrictive measures to figuring out ways in which trade could help all countries, developing and developed, big and small, share the burdens of transforming their economies. Delegates will deliberate on how to accelerate action on the means of implementation – finance, technology and capacity-building – and the role of trade as an enabling factor in meeting this need and leveraging the various co-benefits of tackling the climate emergency.”

Why SIDS suffer most

The briefing, in a section entitled “trade flows or trade blows?”, points out that SIDS “tend to lose from changes in terms of trade because they are net food importers or from limited adaptation to trade because of high trade costs and specialization in goods with little trade.”

Safeguards for recovery needed

Ms. Coke-Hamilton’s statement said: “It is important to provide SIDS with flexibilities in line with their vulnerability to risks induced by climate change, including strong safeguards which can be triggered after a natural disaster to provide enough policy space for recovery.”

Focus matches December climate conference

UNCTAD notes: “The forum’s focus on islands and coastal communities mirrors that of the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference to be hosted by Chile in December.”

“Trade can be an enabling fact in adaptation and in mainstreaming oceans-based economic activities in SIDS, where domestic markets remain small and remoteness is an intractable hindering factor.”

Joint action plan on oceans use

SDG 14 seeks to advance conservation and sustainable use of oceans. UNCTAD, UN Environment and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have put together a joint action plan to help countries achieve the trade-related targets. It is estimated to need $2.8 million to implement but argues that World Bank analysis suggests “improvement in global fisheries management can bring additional economic gains estimated at US$83 billion”.

Circular economy and biodiversity

The conference announcement states: “With its focus on islands and coastal communities, the agenda of the Trade Forum practically mirrors the Chilean vision of a ‘blue’ COP 25, which has oceans as its overriding theme. SIDS and coastal communities may not be able to change the political course of efforts to mitigate climate change, but what the international community does or does not do will determine their fate. The Forum also reflects other priorities recently set out by the Chilean presidency: circular economy and biodiversity. While striking – the two events have been conceptualized independently of each other – this convergence is indicative of the critical importance of all these areas.”

 

Kategorien: Jobs

Metin Arditi: l’écrivain amoureux de la Suisse et de l’Esprit français (Edition française)

6. September 2019 - 9:46

At the request of readers, Global Geneva will start publishing occasional articles in French, or both in English and French.

EVENT: Conférence de Metin Arditi: Swiss Made Culture. Vendredi 6 septembre 2019,18h30. Hôtel Royal, Crans-Montana, Suisse. (Conference on the Swiss writer Metin Arditi) En partenariat avec le Festival du Livre Suisse – Entrée libre, réservation :

Dans le Dictionnaire amoureux de la Suisse et le Dictionnaire amoureux de l’Esprit français, Metin Arditi, l’un des auteurs suisses de langue française les plus lus avec Joël Dicker, propose des abécédaires à son image : curieux, originaux et inattendus. Ecrivain des mille et un ailleurs, Metin Arditi a eu de nombreuses vies, avant de se consacrer exclusivement à l’écriture en 2004. Parmi la douzaine de romans qu’il a signés, appréciés tant de la critique que du public, figurent La Fille des Louganis, Le Turquetto, Prince d’orchestre, La Confrérie des moines volants, Juliette dans son bain, L’Enfant qui mesurait le monde et Carnaval noir.

Né à Ankara, ayant baigné dans la tradition laïque d’une famille juive, Metin Arditi est arrivé dans un pensionnat de Suisse romande à l’âge de sept ans. Une expérience formatrice marquera sa vie et son œuvre. Devenu homme d’affaires, de science et des arts, ce mécène mélomane a présidé le prestigieux Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR). Après des études de génie atomique à l’Ecole polytechnique de Lausanne (EPFL) et à l’Université de Stanford aux Etats-Unis, il s’installe à Genève, où il fonde une société d’investissements immobiliers. En 1988, il crée la Fondation Arditi, puis, en 2009, la Fondation Les Instruments de la Paix–Genève qu’il co-préside avec l’écrivain palestinien Elias Sanbar, Ambassadeur de Palestine à l’Unesco.

En 2014, il crée la Fondation Arditi pour le Dialogue Interculturel, qui compte en son sein les anciens présidents de la Confédération suisse Micheline Calmy-Rey et Pascal Couchepin. Auteur également de récits et d’essais sur La Fontaine, Vincent Van Gogh, Niccolò Machiavelli et Friedrich Nietzsche, Metin Arditi a été nommé par l’UNESCO ambassadeur de bonne volonté en 2012 et envoyé spécial pour le dialogue interculturel en 2014.

Lors de l’un de nos entretiens, Metin Arditi m’avait expliqué son attachement aux langues : « Dans ma famille à Istanbul, au début des années 50, on entendait cinq langues : le français, le turc, le ladino, mélange d’espagnol et de turc, le grec et l’allemand que mon père parlait avec ma gouvernante autrichienne. On m’a ensuite mis dans une école interne à Paudex près de Lausanne où j’entendais d’autres langues encore : le farsi, l’anglais et l’italien. J’apprenais ces langues avec mes copains, le soir dans les dortoirs. Quelqu’un a été surpris de m’entendre parler l’italien. C’était une des langues de mon enfance, que j’ai ensuite étudiée et pratiquée dans mon travail ».

Parfait cosmopolite, Matin Arditi a été naturalisé suisse et, en octobre dernier, il a été fait Commandeur de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres à Paris par le ministre français de la Culture. Dans son Dictionnaire amoureux de la Suisse (Plon, 2017), il associe à chaque entrée un souvenir. Réminiscences liées à des villes de la placide Helvétie : Bâle la royale, Berne, la charmante, Lausanne et ses arts, Zurich ou le vrai argent, Genève et son esprit ou encore La Chaux-de-Fonds, métropole à l’urbanisme horloger figurant au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO qui a notamment vu naître l’architecte, peintre, sculpteur et urbaniste Le Corbusier, dont le talent a également été salué par l’UNESCO.

Patrie de bâtisseurs, la Suisse a aussi été une terre d’asile et d’écriture. Par quel miracle attire-t-elle autant d’écrivains ? « Thomas Mann, Bertold Brecht ou Robert Musil s’y installeront en réfugiés politiques. Mais Hess, Borges ou Nabokov n’étaient pas contraints, ils avaient librement choisi de faire de la Suisse leur dernière patrie. Tant d’autres sont venus écrire dans ce pays dont on répète qu’il ne s’y passe rien qui puisse stimuler l’imagination… Que cache donc cette Suisse conventionnelle, engluée dans son bien-être, plus soucieuse d’efficacité que de rêve, pour attirer des Rainer Maria Rilke ou des Patricia Highsmith, dont le métier est d’imaginer ?» se demande Metin Arditi, un brin provocateur.

La Suisse, pays mystérieux, a aussi vu naître le sculpteur Jean Tinguely et abriter ses amours avec sa complice, la lumineuse Niki de St-Phalle. Tout comme leur créativité partout saluée. « Le succès ne change pas les grands artistes. Il les conforte dans leur liberté… Couple d’une solidarité rare qui incarnera l’une des aventures artistiques les plus flamboyantes du XXe siècle » , affirme l’écrivain.

Conférence de Metin Arditi – Swiss Made Culture – Vendredi 6 août 2019 – 18h30 – Hôtel Royal – Crans-Montana. (Photo: Tourism Valais)

Mais si Metin Arditi a la plume heureuse pour célébrer le génie helvétique, il sait griffer avec un même talent. A la lettre S de son dictionnaire amoureux figure un nom : Swissair. Il fut un temps, se souvient-il, où « monter dans un avion Swissair, c’était être choyé, se sentir en sécurité. C’était déjà être en Suisse. Et voilà qu’en un rien de temps, la fierté du pays devient l’objet d’un drame et d’une angoisse nationale ». Drame du vol New York-Genève qui s’échouera au large de la Nouvelle écosse et dont aucun des 229 occupants ne survivra. Viendra ensuite une gestion calamiteuse, puis l’épisode humiliant du grounding des avions de l’une des meilleures compagnies du monde, cloués au sol. Swissair étant incapable d’honorer ses dettes. « Des sociétés se créent, d’autres disparaissent. Mais cela n’excuse pas l’incompétence et l’arrogance des dirigeants de Swissair ».

Pour Metin Arditi, l’amour de la Suisse passe aussi par l’estomac. Fin gourmet, l’homme de lettre avoue sa passion pour les fromages suisses et les vignes en terrasse de Lavaux, dont un lieu de production : le dézaley, nom de vent et appellation phare, situé sur la commune de Puidoux. « Une fascination », se délecte l’épicurien féru d’une suissitude à laquelle il rend un hommage en 170 définitions et une dédicace à son ami fraternel Elias Sanbar, écrivain et ambassadeur palestinien «qui lui aussi connaît la douceur des terres d’accueil ».

Chantre du panache de l’Esprit français

A Crans-Montana, Metin Arditi présentera également son Dictionnaire amoureux de l’Esprit français (Plon-Grasset, 2019). « Je suis né dans un pays où la France n’a jamais été une puissance coloniale ou mandataire. Où, lorsque j’étais enfant, elle n’avait pas d’influence économique prépondérante. Et où, pourtant, sa présence était exceptionnelle. Le français flottait avec une nonchalance gracieuse sur les rives du Bosphore. Chacun le parlait. Par quel miracle ? Je ne sais pas. A l’Istanbul de mon enfance la France n’offrait pas seulement le plaisir de lire ses grands écrivains, celui d’écrire en les prenant comme modèles, de respirer sa langue comme sa syntaxe dicte de le faire. L’essentiel est ailleurs », écrit-il en préambule.

Une France dont l’esprit le séduit. « On ne considère en France que ce qui plaît », dit Molière. Partant de cet indiscutable constat, l’écrivain suisse examine les diverses formes dans lesquelles s’incarne en France le désir de plaire, le goût du beau, mais aussi l’amour du trait assassin, un irrésistible penchant pour la théâtralité ou la tentation des barricades.

Metin Arditi, qui tient également une chronique dans le quotidien français La Croix, cite Jules Ferry, La Liberté et la tradition, et l’historienne Mona Ozouf qui définit parfaitement cette nation contradictoire : « La difficulté avec la France, c’est qu’il y en a deux : en elle coexistent une nation aristocratique et une nation démocratique ; un pays conservateur et un pays révolutionnaire ; l’un presque engourdi, l’autre éminemment inflammable. » Un pays, où un ténor de la grande politique, ancien ministre, ancien tout, cité par l’écrivain suisse, parle de « l’inconscient monarchique français » et de l’Elysée « investi de pouvoirs d’autant plus fascinants qu’ils sont mystérieux ».

Mystère, charme et liberté. Un je-ne-sais-quoi qui rend l’Esprit français irrésistible. Et Metin Arditi d’évoquer l’ironie du philosophe Vladimir Jankélévitch, dont un des textes phares a pour titre : Le Je-ne-sais-quoi et le Presque rien. « Comme l’ironie, l’expression incarne l’esprit français spirituel au plus haut degré, et temporel au point d’être frivole. Elle dénote à la fois le travail accompli (on a cherché, sans succès) et une délicatesse ; on affiche son échec. On le revendique avec élégance. On prend acte de ses propres limites, preuve d’un esprit distingué…Je ne sais pas quel est le mot juste, mais vous le devinerez sans que ni vous ni moi ayons à préciser duquel il s’agit. Car nous voyons les choses d’un même œil, vu que nous appartenons au même monde… ».

Un même monde, où la France et la Suisse romande se partagent une langue commune à laquelle l’écrivain d’origine turque rend hommage avec panache.

Geneva-based writer Luisa Ballin is a contributing editor to Global Geneva magazine.

For more information on the Crans-Montana event. Pour plus d’informations: Conférence de Metin Arditi: Swiss Made Culture. Vendredi 6 septembre 2019,18h30. Hôtel Royal, Crans-Montana, Suisse. 

Email contact: event@swissmadeculture.ch

Website: www.swissmadeculture.ch

An article in English featuring Metin Arditi: Lost and Found at the Sion Book Festival

For more Global Geneva articles on the Valais

Rilke’s Valais: I have this country in the blood

Weird but wonderful: the Valais Festival of New Music

A weekend in the Valais: culture, vineyards and thermal baths

Kategorien: Jobs

Switzerland, Afghanistan and the Seas

4. September 2019 - 16:34
This article is part of Global Geneva’s Focus on Oceans series and appears in the Fall, 2019 print and e-edition.

STROLLING ALONG THE COBBLED-STONE STREETS of Geneva’s Old Town, you can take a quick side-trip by entering the city’s 17th century Hotel de Ville, or town hall, to view the “Salle Alabama”. A dark red-adorned conference room flanked by paintings, this is where, in 1872, the United States and Great Britain agreed to the arbitration of their dispute over the ship CSS Alabama.

The United States claimed that Britain had violated neutrality by allowing five warships, including the Alabama, to be constructed knowing full well that they would eventually enter into naval service with the Confederacy during the American civil war and enable them to conduct raids against the Union.

International Committee of the Red Cross meeting in 1864 in what became the Salle Alabama in Geneva’s Town Hill. (Photo: ICRC)

Other institutions and events also mark Switzerland’s ocean history. The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), whose charter was signed eight years earlier in 1864 in the same room, marking the beginning of “International Geneva”, according to the official tourism site. The ICRC has long depended on humanitarian delivery by sea as part of its world-wide operations.International conferences to codify the customary principles of the law of the sea also have been held in Geneva. The United Nations Conference the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), for example, met in the Palais des Nations from 1972 to 1982.

For many years, too, the Graduate Institute of International Studies (Institut de hautes études internationales) offered regular courses on the Law of the Sea. Switzerland’s oceans interests have been manifested in trade, shipping, research, exploration and dispute settlement. Thus the Swiss Confederation has pressed for guaranteed access to the seas and has played a pivotal role in securing oceans access rights for all non-coastal and geographically disadvantaged states.

MARE LIBERUM: FREEDOM OF THE SEAS

Since the rise of nation-states with the Treaty of Westphalia, humanity has confronted the problem of access versus control of the seas. When Portugal interfered with Netherland’’s trading in 1602, the Dutch East India Company seized a Portuguese galleon leading to a diplomatic incident and a legal claim. A young Dutch lawyer named Hugo Grotius was commissioned to write the brief in the case which was published in 1609 as Mare Liberum or Freedom of the Seas.

He argued that the “high seas”, which came to be defined as the open ocean existing beyond national control, must be accessible for trade and exploration. “The sea then, like the air, cannot be appropriated,”he noted. This idea that the seas are open to all evolved as the norm of freedom of navigation.

However, access to the sea and the exercise of freedom of navigation depends on geography: the land dominates the sea. This means that countries which host the largest amount of coastal area also control the optimal marinespace. States originally claimed ocean territory sufficient to protect coasts and in those early days, there was only one maritime zone – the territorial sea – whose breadth was the reach of a cannon ball.

In multiple treaties after-wards, territorial sea claims were extended and the customary law of the sea was codified, culminating in 1982 with UNCLOS, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The convention basically provided more marine space to countries with broader coasts, leaving fewer high seas.As a result, only coastal states with land can dominate the seas.

So what about the world’s 37 landlocked countries, ranging from Andorra to Mongolia or Kazakhstan? Lacking a coastline, they are at a disadvantage, particularly with regard to trade. They depend on transit over the land territories of neighbouring countries. Thus land-locked states have long demanded recognition by the international community of a fundamental right of ocean access and transit to maritime ports.

Switzerland and Afghanistan at the forefront

In 1919 Switzerland submitted a Memorandum on the Claim to a Maritime Flag to the Paris Peace Conference. “The realization of the principle of free access to the sea…has long been cherished by Switzerland,” it stated. “…the Swiss Confederation would attach great value to a formal recognition of this right by the Powers, all the more so since Switzerland,in spite of her landlocked situation in the heart of the continent has a considerable share in the world’s commerce.

”Switzerland underscored that during the Great War (World War I). The transport fleet of the International Committee of the Red Cross flew the Swiss flag. On the basis of equal sovereignty and for international trade and humanitarian support operations, Switzerland sought recognition of its maritime flag on the oceans, citing the evolving norm of international law that “every State has the right of unrestricted navigation upon the open sea.”

By the 1950s, draft articles on the law of the sea were being reviewed by the International Law Commission of the United Nations. The draft articles, however, contained no provision pertaining to landlocked states. Anticipating the UN Conference that would consider the proposed articles with a view to a binding multilateral treaty, Afghanistan conveyed a note on behalf of such states calling for a universal declaration “stating the right of free access to the sea of all countries whether landlocked or not… and recognizing a universal right to transit by air, railroad, road and water-ways through their respective territories.”

Food vendors in Kabul. Landlocked Afghanistan needs access to the Persian Gulf for its imports and exports. (Photo: Edward Girardet)

As a Central Asian and Indian subcontinent country surrounded on all sides by the (then) Soviet Union, China,Iran and Pakistan, Afghanistan sought a legal right to transit, particularly via Karachi to the Indian Ocean, as part of ocean access for desperately needed development. The fact that James Michener’s reference in the opening paragraph of his book Caravans to the US naval attaché at the American embassy in Kabul may strike some with amusement, it does underline Afghanistan’s dilemma – and deep concern – as a landlocked country.

Recognizing the rights of landlocked countries

In 1958 the Swiss government convened a conference in Geneva of “States without direct territorial access to the sea”. Kicking off with the 1957 Afghanistan Memorandum and stressing their geographic common denominator, the participating states unanimously agreed that the new codification of the law of the sea must include the rights already granted by jus gentium (the [customary] law of nations) to landlocked countries.

With energetic lobbying by both Switzerland and Afghanistan, the promotion of those norms is now expressed in UNCLOS Part X. Article 125 (1). This proclaims that landlocked countries shall have “the right of access to and from the sea” including “freedom of the high seas and the common heritage of mankind”. It also granted the right of “freedom of transit” through neighbouring‘transit’ countries, such as Austria through Germany or Chad through Cameroon by all means of transport, such as road, rail, air or water.

Afghanistan signed UNCLOS in 1983 but – with ongoing war – has yet to ratify. Switzerland signed in 1984 and acceded to the Convention in 2009. Being surrounded by stable and friendly European Union States, Switzerland can depend on functioning transit agreements. Afghanistan, however, has difficult neighbours.

The Afghanistan–Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) signed in 2010 is supposed to ensure access to Pakistani ports, especially Karachi. Despite this, the agreement has been subject to political uncertainties derived from bilateral tensions, leading to interruption of Afghan-Pakistan border transit. An alternate three-nation transport and transit corridor pact between India, Iran and Afghanistan was signed in Tehran on 23 May 2016. The aim is to secure a Kabul trade route that bypasses Pakistan.

And there is a new factor that will bear upon Afghanistan’s transit trade and ocean access: China and the new Silk Route – overland and maritime. Access to the resources of the water column, the seabed and the coastal shelves has propelled civilizations and development. States lacking sea coasts are geographically disadvantaged.

Oceans enable nations to trade, fight, fish, exchange cultures and beliefs, and generate energy to run lights, vehicles and computers. When political tensions cause suspension of bilateral transit and maritime port agreements, land-locked States can invoke the law. Access to the oceans for all States is now a right enshrined in the international law of the sea—a legacy of Switzerland and Afghanistan.

Global Geneva contributing editor CHARLES NORCHI is the Benjamin Thompson Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Oceans & Coastal Law in the University of Maine School of Law USA.

Kategorien: Jobs

China and the Golden Veins of Henan: A film-maker’s view

2. September 2019 - 15:08
Andy Cohen’s documentary, Ximei (2019), was premiered at the 18th International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) in Geneva, Switzerland, in March, 2019.

Local health officials, worried they would get left behind by China’s miraculous economic engine, moved in to exploit and monetize the untapped resource of pure blood from Henan’s peasants. Blood product companies, backed by the central government, rushed mobile blood units into villages. Propaganda campaigns followed, advertising that bloodselling is good for your health, good for the country.

Heeding the call, villagers lined up in droves to sell their blood, sometimes as often as three times a day, to earn roughly five US dollars per sale. The more blood and plasma collected, the more profit everyone made. It seemed like easy money.

The blood rush continued unabated. Unsanitary equipment and collection methods were used to collect, separate, and reinject the peasants’ plasma and platelets necessary for the blood products. Many peasants were hooked up to one machine at the same time, with strangers’ blood flowing between them.

Uneducated health officials never thought to screen the blood they extracted. As a result of all this negligence on the part of the health department, AIDS spread rampantly throughout the peasant villages. Instead of generating income, the unchecked rush created one of China’s worst health crises and cover-ups. The peasant population didn’t know what hit them. Nor did the ill-equipped and outdated local hospitals.

THE BEIJING GOVERNMENT: DENYING VICTIMS ACCESS TO CARE, COMPENSATION AND JOURNALISTS

Hundreds of thousands of infected peasants later, when the story finally broke, the government – responsible for the blood selling campaign – forbade the victims access to imported medicines, to travel, nor to petition for medical expense compensation. They were sequestered in what became known as the AIDS villages.

To this day, journalists are denied access to these villages. Making a film on so sensitive an AIDS story in a totalitarian society has obvious challenges. Some are predictable, but many are not; particularly in the highly monitored, impoverished rural areas where the pavement stops and the dirt roads start.

Film-maker Andy Cohen filming Ximei in China. (Photo: Andy Cohen Productions)

We started shooting footage seven years ago, but after only a few minutes of filming in an alleyway in a village of less than a hundred people, we found out that the neighbours of Ximei, our protagonist, an infected peasant woman, were government-paid informants. Westerners, usually never seen in these parts, triggered an instant telephone tag to the authorities.

We hid the cameras and scattered our crew in time. The law in these areas are in the hands of local authorities and their parapolice thugs loyal to their rural version of the Communist Party. We had to play a cat-and-mouse game since our first shoot in Xincai, and this continued until the final shoot last year, when even filming undercover of giant wheat fields, the Party’s shiny black sedan managed to find us.

The officials expelled us from the province under threat of arrest.Being surveilled is no game if you are Chinese and live in China. The temporary surveillance our crew encountered is nothing compared to the permanent surveillance Ximei and others encounter on a daily basis.

On more than one occasion, our Chinese cameraman and fixer, Huang Huang, was detained and beaten, the footage along with our camera confiscated (Huang Huang has been in jail since May, 2019, for his activism). The mother of our driver, who lives in Beijing, was paid a surprise visit by an official. Her son now works in a restaurant having given up driving in order to safeguard his mother.

Most of the local villagers featured in our film were interrogated by the police and made to sign statements. Creating arbitrary fear is a means totalitarian states use to control people’s freedom of movement and of expression.

One courageous woman, Ximei, chose not to be intimidated by these strong-armed government bullies. Possibly born between 1982 and 1985 – she believes – Ximei was 10-11 years-old when working in the wheat fields late at night with other kids. She got tired and fell asleep. The wheel of a wheat thresher caught her hair, ripping off her scalp. She needed a blood transfusion and this is how she contracted AIDS.

Frail from years of fighting AIDS with substandard medications, she dared to stand up for her rights and those of her fellow survivors. Ximei created the Ximei House, which offered a bed, food and counselling to anyone with AIDS. With a compromised immune system, she gambled her life daily, as she cooked and did chores for her sick patients, all the while confronting the local authorities who continually abused her.

XIMEI: A HERO OF OUR TIME

The more I got to know Ximei, the more I realized I was working with one of the great heroes of our times. I followed and filmed her as she tended to dying victims, offered suicide counselling to those who wanted to end their life, gave home care for HIV-infected orphans, fought off discrimination and petitioned the government on behalf of her patients. I became determined to help her by getting her story known.

Documentary journalism is one of today’s cornerstones of free expression. It shines a light on the dark injustices of the world, gives voice to those whose cries are often drowned out.

Of course, with this comes a huge moral responsibility. Because most of my subjects are freedom fighters, showing their actions on film can jeopardize them. When Ximei received reprisals, such as house arrest.and constant harassment for the film being shown earlier this year in Geneva and for her speaking at the United Nations with the help of one journalist and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), who lobbied the Chinese during an official delegation, the local officials received orders to back off.

Ximei has been finally granted proper compensation and is now allowed more freedom of movement within China. Ximei remains a great inspiration and role model to me. She struggles daily, not only to wake up and fight through illness, but to stand up to one of the world’s most powerful governments. She was given AIDS through no fault of her own. And instead of helping, her government abused her and her fellow patients, hoping they would all die off and the story buried with them.

In the end, Ximei brings her patients a measure of dignity and humanity. By holding the authorities’ feet to the fire,speaking out against unfair treatment, the existence of every individual is validated.

Andy Cohen (Left)

ANDY COHEN is an American documentary film-maker, journalist and author based in Geneva. He also participated in Global Geneva’s first ‘Youth Writes’ (Young Journalists and Writers Initiative) workshop in Versoix, Switzerland, in March 2019, helping high school students better understand the role of documentary film reporting. For more information on Andy Cohen’s film Ximei (2019), please click here to view an extract. To contact Cohen at AC Films, please go to his website.

Kategorien: Jobs

Capital by Nicholas Machen. 2019 Youth Writes Third Prize Laureate

27. August 2019 - 12:28
Please note: The Awards will be presented on Sunday, 8 September (1630 hours) at the Morges Book Festival as part of a special panel on youth writing. All are welcome.

I remember the first time I truly figured out that they controlled everything. I put on my televisor and decided, for once, to switch to one of the entertainment programmes everyone got for free; to see what the differences were. I don’t remember it precisely, but it went something like this:

“One could but dream about the changes we’ve made these last few years. Mechanised whirrs of robots fill the air with the sounds of progress; all jobs have been artfully perfected by automation, and people live in a time where work is no longer necessary in complex fields. There are no stressful jobs; there are no workplace accidents; there are practically no human errors possible. All thanks to ISM. Now, ISM has not ‘taken over the world’, as some are worried, it has simply become… a cog in it. We care, that’s why we’re here.”

“Thanks, Frank. I too agree that ISM is a wonderful service that has improved not only the quality of all of man’s goods and services, but has also created tons of community and medical buildings to support the weak and vulnerable. This has been our interview, and thank you for watching out there, button-mashers! Keep up the hard work!”

I shut off the televisor as a familiar blue light and ditty began to fill the room, soon to make way for three giant letters that finalised every programme: ISM.

“So this is what low-class televisor programmes are like,” I had thought, “it’s all just more propaganda.”

I’m taking a long drag of a tobacco-substitute cigarette now as I walk out onto the balcony of my apartment which overlooks the crowded, trashy streets below me. I’m not one of those wage-slaves down there, you see; I was one of the few to realise the capabilities of the Incorporated Shipping… whatever it is early, buying big in the company’s stocks when it was still on its first legs. Now? I live off my fortune, but it’s hard to see meaning in a life where everything I do has no point; where everything I could do, robots could do better. What is the joy in putting effort into something you can just as easily have done for you? Didn’t stop me from looking, I guess.

Still, it’s not worth anything anymore; everything is pointless. You either live a life of devout, unflinching slavery, or you sit there like some sadist bastard and watch the lower classes burn. Nothing you do has any meaning here; not since machines took meaning and perfected it. Painting, writing, even newscasting like the show I’d seen all that time ago was scripted corporate honey to entice the working class into watching propaganda.

“Anything you can do, I can do better!” I chuckled as I remembered old commercials advertising the release of a mechanical butler for your household. “I can do anything better than you!” I whispered along. I had been one of the first to really believe that machines could do it, become people like us, make great things, advance humanity. In a way, I was right. In all others, oh so wrong.

I found an old beer bottle one night in a gutter, from back then; early 2016. Realised the old caps didn’t even have a way to remove them from bottles without buying a tool. It’s amazing to see the changes that happened since just a short while ago. Comparing even the most basic and seemingly dynamic things from only 10 years past to what we’ve got now, it’s like looking at ancient relics.

It didn’t take long for employers to see potential in this new, sleepless model of worker. It took even less time for it to start being used to their advantage. In only a few years, they WERE the workers. Everyone else just sat there, staring into blue blankets of light, putting the weight of their fingers down on multi-coloured buttons. Nothing they did meant anything anymore; they didn’t need their fancy degrees, or their high-strung educational superiority, and it showed. Some people realised it, tried to buy ‘local’ as it were, got handmade toys, hand-painted pictures; bought hand-raised dinner. But they couldn’t compete with the dirt-cheap prices of the new trading market, ironically so inflated in price now.

The ISM: Incorporated Shipping… Mercantile? I think that’s it, can’t remember for sure. Anyways, ‘they’ launched with the goal of becoming the first ones to set up trading on Mars (and beyond when they could). It’s funny, really; even now we haven’t set up more than a colony anywhere besides Earth. Everyone had a good laugh at their goal, myself included, but I liked where their head was. I wanted to go to space too, like science fiction always told us we would. I wanted to fly out into the black kaleidoscope of stars, the great expanse. I’d always wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, and I suppose I never really stopped wanting to, since just a few days later, I bought some stock. Ridding my ‘cigarette’ of its built-up dust, I position myself so I’m leaning back upon the glass door to the open balcony, sucking down the last of the smoke from what I guess you could call my post-modern corncob pipe. I’m smiling, remembering how I always used the dull task of disposing of a cigarette’s burnt paper and leaves to dramatically punctuate my sentences. Guess I’m done with it, so I’m shoving it into an ashtray now.

I guess, in a way, I do regret the stocks. I don’t blame myself for the rise of the ISM, as it was bound to happen anyway, with the government rolling over and showing its soft underbelly to every rich company that came to pet it, but I know I contributed. I bought stock in the place before I knew that it took its goals to be “greater than ever” so seriously. I suppose I’m expected to be jolly with my ‘nice life’ up in the higher apartment floors, with good food and fancy drink and beautiful company, but I’m not. I never could get over that feeling of no… meaning.

Hell, I’m one of the few left who decided they wanted to live in a world like this. Maybe I’m not smart enough to end it now, I don’t know, but look at what good it’s done me; sitting here writing in a notebook about all the reasons life no longer matters like some deranged psycho. Christ. If we’d had some way of stopping this whole mess, somebody to step in and say “No!”, maybe we’d be OK. But we don’t, and we’re not.

I remember a conversation I had with one of the other investors the other day, a Samuel Greenwood. Way he figures is people at the top can’t be too happy either, but if they give up their money to help a few button-mashers, they’ll be in an even worse position, and said low-class people might just use the money to turn against all the high-class people. So instead, they keep everyone dormant with low wages and high prices and brainwashing and all this… meaningless drivel. I can’t speak for Sam’s credibility there, but I know I’d rather be one of those smug richies than stuck with no income and no purpose. At least they manage a company. Yet I don’t know how I’d feel now had I been one from the start.

I wonder how many times I’ve broken down since the beginning of all of this, asking questions I can’t answer. I’ve wept and I’ve hollered, and gotten drunk and high and everything I could think of to go somewhere else, somewhere interesting. I tried visiting the world, but everywhere I go is just the same corporate cyan buildings with towering navy-blue billboards that read ‘ISM’. The first few months of nothing quickly dissolved into absent-mindedly drugging myself until nothing mattered anymore. Not my wife, who ran a company before it was starved into submission by the ISM, not my kids, who decided they couldn’t take the tainted world’s crap anymore and moved to Mars, not my friends who I can’t support because I don’t have enough for both them and me, nothing. The ISM, the capital ISM, ruined everything when it gained control of it all.

Maybe you’re in better times, maybe I’m still alive or maybe I’m not, I don’t know. But if you are rather than I, don’t forget why your times are better; because world trade is trade, and not just a shipment of exorbitantly priced supplies from one part of a company-turned-government to another.

Nicholas Machen is a Year 11 student at the British School of Geneva. This entry is also published in the print and e-edition of Global Geneva’s Fall Sept-Nov. 2019 issue.  The Global Geneva Youth Writes 2019 Young Journalists & Writers Programme is funded by the Alcea Foundation, Lausanne.

Kategorien: Jobs

Kyanite by Mohamed Diagne. 2019 Youth Writes Second Prize Laureate

27. August 2019 - 11:55
Please note: The Awards will be presented on Sunday, 8 September (1630 hours) at the Morges Book Festival as part of a special panel on youth writing. All are welcome.

I STARED IMPATIENTLY at the white-tiled ceiling as I lay flat on my back, questioning if this was anywhere near worth missing my one day-off; one that I had planned to spend cushioned on my comfortable, serene sofa, reading the brilliant “Don Quixote” outside my well-warmed fireplace. However, I simply couldn’t forget the bespectacled gaze in my sister’s eyes as she blissfully reminisced over this “International Awareness” session. She described it as a “daunting enlightenment”, one that would ultimately change the way I viewed myself and my origins. It was at that description that I realized exactly where this was headed. As a cisgendered Norwegian male, I was very likely going to be listening to some misinformed “humanitarian rights” activist ramble on about why I should fight for the rights of minorities, despite the extremely evident fact that many of these “minorities” have already achieved the basic rights that I possess.

As I laid on an obscurely shaped sofa in a nearly empty room, a short, young man entered through the door opposite me. He wore an informal collar shirt, and stood in an unsettlingly elated manner, as if he had just won a first-prize ticket to the Alpines. He couldn’t have been any older than 25.

“Hello, sir! I’m Brian Archwood. Are you Elias Nilsson?”

“Yes.” I replied nonchalantly. There’s only one room in this painfully petit building. Who else would I be?

“Excellent.” he said as he pulled out what appeared to be a box of deep blue needles from his side pocket. “I’m going to ask you to close your eyes as I perform a simple acupunture. This method utilises needles carved from authentic kyanite, a gemstone that grants the spiritual gift of wisdom and knowledge. Be prepared for….minor hallucinations, and don’t hesitate to stop me if this is too painful in anyway.”

It’s been quite sometime since I’ve had to restrain myself from rolling my eyes. Gemstones are nothing more than amalgamations of different sediments in the Earth’s crust. In other words: dirt. Even then, it seems rather presumptuous to assume my supposed need of their hypothetical “wisdom and knowledge”.

Regardless, I closed my eyes and tried to distract myself from the sheer idiocy that I’d gotten myself into. As I felt a sharp pain in my arm, I saw a blurry image of a man with skin darker than ebony itself. He was sobbing. I took a deep breath and concentrated on the image for a better view. I instantly regretted it. With a loud, sharp gunshot, the man fell to the ground. It was only then that I realized what appeared to be his loved ones surrounding his slain corpse. Another man, with skin mirroring the white scleras of the fallen dark silhouette, has walked up to his shattered victim, and began to yell excessively at the neighboring individuals, who displayed varying emotions that I could just barely make out; heartbreak, indignation, sin, outrage, remorse, and one that I realized I’m all too familiar with – misery. The image started to fade away, and all I saw was a white message in the far corner of my sight that read “Police Brutality”.

A feeling of deep guilt washes over me, an overwhelming wave. I can feel the prick of tears crawling out of the corner of my eye, though I can’t tell for certain if it is from the blinding brightness of the vision, or its dark context.

Another one appears. A young girl, no older than 16, is screaming fiercely at a tall, dark figure. As I sharpen my vision, the figure focuses and becomes a blond man with a crooked smile on his face. For some reason, this strikes an unwarranted sense of concern in my chest. My vision becomes misty again. It’s then that I notice a bed beside the two figures, with the tall one furiously forcing the smaller one onto the sheets. All I hear is a loud scream echo across my mind, as another white message appears to reveal another missive: “Rape”.

The next comes faster. A thin figure, surrounded by several small silhouettes, shakes in a petrified manner. He’s grasping his scalp desperately, as if he believed it would offer some sort of refuge for him to hide in. It was then that I realize that there is a disturbing aura emitting from his head, as if his mind is tainted. The surrounding silhouettes slowly point their sharp-edged fingers, and begin to laugh impishly. The poor child falls to his knees, as if his head is about to shatter into billions of broken pieces. The cruel, dusky shadows enlarge until I can no longer see the boy anymore. A white light dissolves the image and presents a new message that read “Ableism”.

At this point, my body was shaking furiously. There was a painful temptation to open my eyes once more and free myself from this nightmare, but an even stronger urge to finish the lesson I’d asked for.

The final image was the simplest. There was a young boy, with skin as pure as silk and a mind as clear as day. Surrounding him was a crowd of bright silhouettes, reaching their hands up to him as if he was destined for success. The image flashed in the blink of an eye, and I was greeted to a message I didn’t have to read to understand the image: “Elias.”

I woke slowly to find that my arms and chest were sore from the various needles implanted in me during my slumber. I searched with puzzlement for the man who was here not too long ago.

“Had I fallen asleep?” I questioned myself in disbelief. Next to me was the box of blue needles. Kyanite, was it?

Discretely, I slipped a needle into my coat pocket, as a….souvenir. As I left, I noticed a sticky note and a pen on the desk beside the door, and decided to leave a small note for the kind gentleman.

“Cheers, Brian.”

Mohamed Diagne is a Year 13 student at the International School of Geneva. This article is also published in the print and e-edition of Global Geneva’s Fall Sept-Nov. 2019 issue.  See overall article on the Global Geneva Youth Writes initiative.  The Global Geneva Youth Writes 2019 Young Journalists & Writers Programme is funded by the Alcea Foundation, Lausanne.

Kategorien: Jobs

The Price of Purity by Maxine Rechter. 2019 Youth Writes First Prize Laureate

27. August 2019 - 11:44
Please note: The Awards will be presented on Sunday, 8 September (1630 hours) at the Morges Book Festival as part of a special panel on youth writing. All are welcome.

SCREAMS, THAT’S ALL SHE COULD HEAR. Gut-wrenching cries as her sister writhed on the stained table, the dirt encrusted blade approaching her tender flesh. Eshani felt a tear trickle down her cheek as she remembered the feeling of that cold intruder. Nasrin’s head swung wildly, the tendons in her neck taut, her fists clenching and her muscles straining as she tried to fight the crude restraints. Eshani could already see the red marks as the twine scraped against her sister’s skin.

She wanted to reach out, hold her hand but as she stepped forward Auntie Faduma shot her a warning look before stomping over, her heavy gut swinging, and sitting down on her sister’s chest. The table’s legs trembled at the additional weight, as did Nasrin’s arms.

“Eshani…please…” a broken voice whispered. “Help me, sister…”

Finally she looked upon the begging face. Wide eyes looked back, sources to the river of flowing tears, touching quivering lips, and she saw the fear. The pure terror that had inhabited her own features just a year ago. She knew it well, like she knew the pain and the shame. She also knew that her sister would survive, as she had. As if sensing her powerlessness, the wide eyes squeezed shut, the tense lines forming around them betraying the disappointment felt underneath. And as flesh was cut and thrown onto the ground with sickening squelches, a needle was held up, eager to sew.

Nasrin continued to bleed for days, her sheets, newly bloodied every morning. Eshani knew that something was wrong, but the elders said that it took time to heal and that her sister had needed more to be cut, to make sure her rebellious spirit remained contained. She never questioned them; they must be right. They tended to Nasrin every day, plastering dried leaves to her injured tissue and ripping them off every night. The nights were the worst. As Eshani attempted to sleep in the bed next to her sister, choruses of sobs and cries, often interjected by moans of pain as she moved her bound legs, echoed against the walls of their room. Eshani had offered to help her on numerous occasions but after her refusal to cut the ropes around Nasrin’s thighs, her sibling had only offered stoic silence as a response.

Tonight was different, Nasrin had been trembling all day and Eshani had heard her mother frantically whisper the words “fever” and “dehydration” to her grandmother although she didn’t understand the complex vocabulary at her young age.

Nasrin kept moving, pulling her blanket up only to remove it seconds later, her teeth violently chattering against each other all the while. “Eshani, help me.” was the feeble mumble that came from the bed. “Of course, what do you need?” the elder sister answered, jumping off her bed, eager to finally help. “I need to go to the bathroom.”

First, Eshani helped lift her sister’s upper body, a painful process. Then, together, they gently swung Nasrin’s bare legs to the edge of the bed, her bare feet barely touching the ice-cold floor. Eshani wrapped her sister’s hot arm around her shoulder and slowly, Nasrin stood. Warm drops fell on Eshani’s shoulder, the tears accompanying the weak cries of pain. Each step, each rub of thighs brought more until they finally arrived to the dirty cubicle. Slowly, her sister lowered herself onto the yellowed, chipped seat. As the slow trickle of urine began , Eshani could see the pain it caused reflected in her face, her sharp teeth digging so hard into her delicate lips that a small drop of blood appeared, mingling with the stream of salty water that already ran down her round cheeks. She looked away. When she was finished, they lifted her off the seat and proceeded, slower than before, towards the bed. As they marched forward, Eshani felt her sister’s tense body beginning to shake against hers. It became more violent as they advanced and soon a thick, warm liquid fell onto her feet and the tang of metal filled the air. She looked down to find stark scarlet drops. She noticed the rivulet of red seeping down her sister’s trembling leg and horrified, glanced up to her sibling’s beautiful face, her hair soaked in sweat, in time to see her brown eyes roll back into her head as she collapsed to the stone ground.

“This happens to the impure and unfit, you know this, Halima” my grandmother told my mother’s sobbing form, as she hunched over my sister’s cold, dead body. The elders said that it was Nasrin’s fault, that she had resisted too much, hadn’t accepted the leaves they generously offered, had failed to become the woman she needed to be for her community. Hearing these vicious words about her kind-hearted sister, brought for the first time true anger into Eshani’s heart. It mounted within her, slowly turning into fury as she woke every day alone in her room and slept fitfully every night, accompanied only by a deafening silence, missing her sister’s soft breathing. As she ate every meal without her sister’s joyful laughter and lived while her sister lay cold in the ground, forgotten and shamed, Eshina’s fury raged and consumed her.

It flickered and died as the years passed, as more girls were taken. As her five year old cousin was brought to that dust-filled room, as the dirt-encrusted blade reappeared, as more flesh was thrown onto the growing pile. As her cousin’s small muscles strained like Nasrin’s once had, like hers had. And as she watched the twine encroaching into her thin wrists, her auntie cutting off her protests, roughly covering her mouth with her callused hands, she simply stood against the tarnished wall, broken and powerless. “Hopefully this one won’t die” she whispered to herself as the screams began anew.

Maxine Rechter is a Year 13 student at the International School of Geneva. This article is also published in the print and e-edition of Global Geneva’s Fall Sept-Nov. 2019 issue.  Also see overall article on the Youth Writes Young Journalists & Writers Award Programme.  The Global Geneva Youth Writes 2019 Young Journalists & Writers Programme is funded by the Alcea Foundation, Lausanne.
Kategorien: Jobs

Youth Writes – Young Journalists & Writers Programme Awards September, 2019

27. August 2019 - 11:40

The purpose of Youth Writes is to encourage young people not only to improve their writing skills, but also their ability to discern what is credible – and what is not – in social media. This is a concern that numerous teachers, parents and college professors have expressed to us. More and more high school students are arriving at the university level with poor writing and even reading capabilities. (See also our editorial for the Fall, Sept-Nov. 2019 print and e-edition)

Nevertheless, the quality of the entries by the Youth Writes competitors has proven encouraging. Many of the stories, articles or podcasts entered proved to be exceptional and often highly imaginative. As part of Global Geneva’s commitment, all entries were edited and commented on by professional editors from around the world who offered suggestions to the students on how to improve the writing. We also held our first Youth Writes workshop in March, 2019, at the Ecogia International Red Cross Training Centre in Versoix, Switzerland.

We hope to expand this initiative across Switzerland in 2019/20 with more workshops by collaborating more closely in English and in French with international and state high schools, but also to expand the programme globally given the exceptional interest we have received from various schools ranging from Frankfurt, Brussels, Bangkok, Nairobi and even Liberia. Global Geneva is also developing other reporting initiatives, notably ‘Global Journeys’, aimed at bringing young people in direct contact with the need for quality reporting from the field.

We are also seeking to work with the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, Global Compact companies and other private sector institutions interested in this important public interest initiative in support of young people.

GLOBAL GENEVA YJWP 2019 AWARD WINNERS

All award entries are also published in the Fall Sept-Oct 2019 print and e-edition of Global Geneva Magazine. If your school or institution would like print copies please contact: editor@global-geneva.com

Maxine Rechter (1st Prize: 1200 CHF Travel Award) International School of Geneva Story: The Price of Purity.

 

 

Mohamed Diagner (2nd Prize: 750 CHF Travel Award) International School of Geneva Story: Kyanite

 

Nicholas Machen (3rd Prize: 500 CHF Travel Award) British School of Geneva Story: Capital

 

 

If you or your organization would like to support this or other Global Geneva initiatives in the public interest, please contact: The Editors, Email: editor@global-geneva.com The Global Geneva Youth Writes 2019 Young Journalists & Writers Programme is funded by the Alcea Foundation, Lausanne.
Kategorien: Jobs

The Global Reef Expedition: A mission to assess the health of coral reefs around the world

26. August 2019 - 10:21
This article is part of a special Global Geneva Focus series on Oceans.

IN 2011, scientists from the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation set out on a mission to explore the remote coral reefs of the world. An international team of scientists, photographers, videographers and conservationists, as well as local leaders, were assembled to map, characterize, and evaluate coral reefs throughout the western Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They wanted to take a snapshot of the reefs in time, to survey and map the reefs and assess their health before it was too late.

Coral reefs are in crisis. We’ve already lost half of the world’s coral reefs in the past 50 years. Current models predict that we are likely to lose most of the other half before the turn of the century. Corals are threatened by a variety of factors including global warming, ocean acidification, overfishing, pollution, development, and disease—all of which appear to be getting worse.

CORAL REEFS: A KEYSTONE ECOSYSTEM

One of the reasons the Foundation was interested in studying coral reefs, is that they are considered a keystone ecosystem for assessing the health of the entire ocean. Although they occupy less than one quarter of one per cent of the marine environment, more than a quarter of all known marine fish species spend at least part of their lives in these delicate habitats. It is estimated that one out of every seven people around the world depends on coral reefs for food or income, so their impact on people far outstrips their relatively small size.

The grand idea behind the Global Reef Expedition is to get a baseline assessment of coral reef health around the world, and to hopefully find places resilient to change. The expedition specifically chose to explore remote reefs far from civilization, particularly those relatively free from human influence, but we also surveyed the health of reefs that were close to port and heavily fished. Comparing the health and ecological condition between remote and relatively pristine coral reefs with those that have been compromised by chronic stress from human use will enable us to identify high-priority sites for protection. Our ultimate goal is to use all of this information to create models of coral reef health and resiliency, so that we could identify places in need of protection, and those most likely to weather the forecasted coral apocalypse.

M/Y Golden Shadow and dive boat, Calcutta. Stern View.

As part of our studies, we were able to access remote reefs to conduct scientific research with the use of the Golden Shadow, a 219 ft (66.7 metres) yacht with dedicated laboratory facilities, a diving recompression chamber, and an onboard aircraft—the Golden Eye—that was used extensively for aerial surveys of coral reefs. This modern and advanced research vessel was made available to the Foundation through the generous support of His Royal Highness Prince Khaled bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia, who donated the use of his ship for the Global Reef Expedition.

Dive crew of the Calcutta. Surface shot. A GLOBAL JOURNEY RESEARCHING OVER ONE THOUSAND REEFS AND INVOLVING OVER 200 SCIENTISTS

Over the course of five years, our scientists nearly circumnavigated the globe on the research vessel M/Y Golden Shadow as they studied over 1,000 coral reefs in 15 countries and 97 islands on the Global Reef Expedition. Many of the reefs visited on the expedition had never been studied before. Along the way they recorded nearly 500 different species of coral, 1500 species of fish, and conducted over 11,000 surveys of what lived on the reef and covered the seafloor.

On this epic voyage we witnessed coral bleaching first-hand on pristine reefs in the Indian Ocean, explored the little-known cold-water coral reefs of the Galápagos Islands, and conducted what was likely the last survey of healthy reefs in northern reaches of the iconic Great Barrier Reef. Our first stop on the Global Reef Expedition was in The Bahamas, where we wanted to see how coral reefs were coping with the triple threats of climate change, coral disease, and loss of many of their keystone species.

Acropora abrotanoides is the dominant coral in this image. MR diver filming reef.

We then traveled to Jamaica and teamed up with local fishermen and conservation organizations to help them establish a fishing sanctuary to preserve local fisheries for current and future generations. Our research eventually took us down through the Caribbean, and across the South Pacific, where we came upon many healthy and ancient coral reefs, a giant swarm of sharks, and indigenous communities who protected their reefs with rules set forth by traditional leaders centuries ago.

In addition to conducting research, we spent time with local communities to explain our research, share our results, and listen to hear how they use the reef and what changes they have seen on the reef over their lifetimes. We brought along teachers and educators to teach local students about coral reefs, and award-winning filmmakers and photographers to capture the journey and document what we saw underwater. Nearly 200 scientists from around the world participated in the Global Reef Expedition, lending their expertise and knowledge of the local reefs.

THE FIRST GLOBAL CORAL REEF ATLAS

Scientists on the expedition also mapped and surveyed the reefs down to a one-square-meter scale to better understand their health and resiliency. In the process they developed a new method to accurately map coral reefs using a combination of Earth-orbiting satellites and field observations. Last month they published the first global coral reef atlas, which contains maps of over 65,000 square kilometres (25,097 square miles) of coral reefs and surrounding habitats—by far the largest collection of high-resolution coral reef maps ever made.

Pocillipora coral and Acropora are dominant in this reef scene.

To develop the new model to accurately map coral reef and other tropical shallow-water marine habitats, scientists took data collected from extensive SCUBA surveys conducted on the Global Reef Expedition and extrapolated that information across the entire reef using ultra-high-resolution satellite imagery. By comparing the maps with video footage from cameras dropped at precise coordinates along the reef, the scientists were able to verify the accuracy of their new mapping method.

M/Y Golden Shadow with dive vessel, the Calcutta.

The high-resolution coral reef maps they created contain detailed information on the location and depth of different parts of the coral reef (such as the reef crest, fore reef, back reef, and lagoonal reef) visited on the expedition, as well as information on the size of seagrass beds and mangrove forests along the coast. All of these coastal habitats are key components of tropical coastal ecosystems and help to filter water, protect the coast from storms, and provide nursery habitat for commercial and subsistence fisheries.

Now, we have completed the fieldwork for the Global Reef Expedition and our scientists are hard at work analyzing the data. By comparing assessments of coral reef biodiversity, oceanographic conditions, and human pressures, we can reliably describe the status of coral reef health, identify major threats, and determine processes and factors that control the health and resilience of coral reef ecosystems worldwide.

A closeup image of a pink anemonefish within the tentacles of a magnificent anemone.

We are working across vast geographic scales in order to see what factors are most important to maintaining the structural integrity and health of reefs, which will be used to make predictions regarding the future health of coral reefs, including their capacity to adjust to climate change. The data will generate science-based tools and decision aids that can also be used to mitigate the threats to these life-supporting marine ecosystems.

As we continue to analyze and understand the data we collected on the Global Reef Expedition, we aim to provide applied scientific knowledge to local resource managers and relevant government officials, bridging science with management to achieve our long-term goal of ensuring health and sustainable coral reef ecosystems around the globe. With this research, we hope to provide knowledge of the critical ecosystem components that promote coral reef resilience and produce effective reef management tools that will influence policy and resource management actions urgently needed to improve and sustain the health of coral reefs around the world.

LIZ THOMPSON is Director of Communications for the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland, USA. She has more than 12 years of experience in marine conservation, policy and communications and writes about the scientific research conducted aboard the Global Reef Expedition. She also promotes the Foundation’s outreach and education programmes around the world.

Kategorien: Jobs

International Geneva: Not just a hub but a global reality

25. August 2019 - 18:32

SEVERAL MONTHS AGO, while chatting with a group of international aid workers in Bangkok, I was asked why we had chosen Global Geneva as the title for our magazine (www.global-geneva.com),particularly given that much of our content is produced by writers from all over the world.

“It’s an unusual concept,” one of them told me. “But it doesn’t seem to be about Geneva.” It’s an observation we often receive. And it usually takes a few minutes to explain why we consider the ‘Geneva’ brand so important as the world’s leading information hub for planetary themes, such as humanitarian action,climate change, human rights, conservation, health, peace and security, or world trade. And why it is so crucial to report them in a manner that makes them both inciteful and accessible to world-wide audiences, particularly young people.

On the surface, ‘international Geneva’ represents some 30 major United Nations and other international organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, World Trade Organization and the World Council of Churches, plus well over 400 non-governmental organizations ranging from the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and Interpeace to Médecins sans Frontières International and Medair.

More than a city or a region

But this does not even begin to take into account the scores of private sector companies, law firms, media groups and banks that operate internationally. Nor the hundreds (if not several thousand) of other globally-oriented players operating out of Switzerland, Lichtenstein and neighbouring border regions. And yet all are part of the ‘international Geneva’ concept. These include organizations such as the Anne Frank Foundation (See article on the Anne Frank legacy), ArtBasel and Bank of International Settlements in Basel; ETH, FIFA (See article on FIFA corruption) and the Andan Global Citizen’s Alliance in Zurich; EPFL, IMD, International Olympic Committee and the Jan Michalski Foundation in Lausanne;IUCN (See article on IUCN’s Inger Anderson) and WWF in Gland as well as Tree of Life Foundation, IBSA Foundation for Scientific Research and SwissStem Cell Foundation in Lugano.

A growing number of organizations located in neighbouring France, such as Interpol in Lyons and the Mérieux Foundation outside Annecy, consider Geneva a key focal point.

Every year, this exceptional international community hosts major conferences, workshops, cultural events, arbitration meetings or mediation retreats that attract hundreds of thousands of participants from all over the world. This is where Global Geneva is beginning to play a pivotal role.

International banks and companies overlooking the Rhone River in Geneva. (Photo: Edward Girardet) International Geneva: A knowledge vortex with global impact

As Michael Møller, until recently head of the United Nations Geneva office, points out (See Luisa Ballin’s article in the Sept-Oct. 2019 Fall  edition of Global Geneva), ‘International Geneva’ is more than just a city. It is a hub with global impact. And in many ways, the term “international Switzerland” might prove more appropriate. Regional UN hubs such as Nairobi, Vienna, Bangkok and even New York are also part of this same knowledge and operations vortex for dealing with issues such as climate change, disaster risk reduction, refugee action and conflict mediation.

Hence our decision to rely on highly diverse articles with ‘insight’ rather than ‘news’ combined with powerful story-telling based on quality and informed journalism provided by our world-wide network of over 2,000 reporters, writers, cartoonists, film-makers, photographers as well as specialists. Our aim is to help make ‘international Geneva’ issues more accessible – and engaging – to Swiss and world-wide audiences. In previous editions,for example, we have published Focus series exploring key global themes such as Geneva’s blue water wave or French water wizard for the planet, Alain Gachet),  the destruction of cultural heritage and polar regions. These are now part of our regular coverage.

In this edition, we are looking at Oceans, in particular, the impact of the earth’s steadily worsening climate crisis, an issue highlighted in one of our lead articles as “the race no one is winning.” Contributors, such as Liz Thompson of the Living Oceans’ Foundation, writes about their five-year planetary investigation by ship with scientists, journalists and students into the state of coral reefs around the world, while Elizabeth Kemf’s Letter from Florida reports on community struggles to save local cultural heritage and environment from rampant urban development, including efforts to protect the coast-line against hurricanes.

Some of our articles highlight what is being done inthe way of innovation or galvanizing expertise for possible solutions to global challenges and problems. The article by journalist William Dowell on Agora Rising examines International Switzerland’s innovative approach to real time cancer research. The essay by Danish scientist Anders Meiborn of the Lausanne-based EPFL explains a transnational Red Sea project that could help save the world’s corals. Another article by Peter Hulm looks into how Coral Vita, an entrepreneurial initiative recognized by UNEP’s Young Champion of the Earth initiative, is already providing ways of ‘recultivating’ new corals.

Telling the ‘Geneva’ story based on first-hand experiences from the field

Equally important for us is to obtain the perspective from the field based on first-hand experiences. Aid worker Louis Parkinson’s Letter from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on how Burmese Rohingyas are struggling to survive in the world’s largest refugee camp offers a rich personal story that helps us better understand what it happening. Human rights specialist Norah Niland explores in her Letter from Sicily how the Mediterranean now represents the world’s deadliest anti-refugee wall as governments, such as Italy’s, are seeking to prevent humanitarians from doing their civic duty by criminalizing rescue operations.

Plus more unusual pieces about unusual places, notably South African reporter Peter Kenny’s look at what must be one of the world’s most architecturally bizarre capitals, Nur-Sultan (former Astana) of landlocked Kazakhstan,with its efforts to become the new ‘Geneva’ of Central Asia. Or Charles Norchi’s piece on how Switzerland – and Afghanistan – have helped enshrine the right of access for all to the oceans in modern-day international law of the sea. Or my own article on how Afghanistan’s women may offer a way of ending the country’s over 40-year-long war with Switzerland as a neutral arbiter to help bring diverse combatants to the negotiating table.

Young street vendor in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Photo: Louis Parkinson) Global Geneva: A leading print and online magazine on planetary issues

Ever since our first pilot edition in December, 2016, we have sought to develop Global Geneva into a trusted print and online magazine. It has been a struggle, but we are finally getting there. Numerous editors and journalists from New York and Port-au-Prince to Hong Kong and Islamabad have contributed their time – and content– while various groups and individuals, such as Swiss philanthropists Vera Hoffmann and Yann Borgstedt, and institutions such as the Alcea and Oak foundations, have provided us with grants.

Now moving into our seventh print and e-edition with a website that is increasingly drawing readers worldwide, we are emerging as International Geneva’s leading English-language publication on planetary concerns.

Youth Writes: A imaginative initiative for reaching out to young people

Critical to our global outreach is the development of our Youth Writes initiative, which kicked off in late 2018 with our Young Journalists and Writers Programme (YJWP). The purpose is not only to help young people improve their writing skills (a growing concern amongst numerous parents, teachers and university professors),but also how to discern what is credible – and what is not – in social media at a time when disinformation and false news threaten our democracies and ability to make informed decisions. (See our pilot workshop which took place in early 2019)

With 4,000 sponsored complimentary copies of Global Geneva being delivered to Swiss schools from Basel to Montreux, we launched our first young people’s journalism workshop at the ICRC Ecogia Training Centre in Versoix outside of Geneva in March.

We also started a writers’ competition for high school students, whose winners – all focusing (fact or fiction) on International Geneva themes – are scheduled to receive their awards at the Morges Book Festival 6-8 September, 2019. Depending on support, our hope is to extend this initiative world-wide, by developing educational partnerships (including working with high schools in countries such as Liberia and Sri Lanka) as a means of highlighting international Geneva and SDG themes. In this edition, we are publishing the intriguing entries of our three young writer laureates. Plus a piece in Breaking In, our section dealing with young people’s experiences in undertaking internships or volunteerships around the world.

Making our content for free worldwide – with your support

Finally, as part of Global Geneva’s business plan for the next two or three years, we have adopted an approach not unlike that of The Guardian newspaper. We wish to ensure that our content is made available as widely as possible – for free.

This includes our quality print edition (also available in e-format online), which we are finding to be crucial to our outreach strategy. More and more readers, including young people, are telling us that they enjoy the print version as it demonstrates both seriousness and quality. Many, too, say they read the print more readily than online content, which, as research institutions are increasingly demonstrating, is an ‘old school’ phenomenon that needs to be taken into account. People actually read print articles, but tend to skim through – and not necessarily absorb – online versions.

Furthermore, our print edition draws more readers to our website. However, in order to achieve an impact, and to survive, Global Geneva, which strives to be editorially independent in the public interest with critical, but solutions-oriented reporting, needs to ensure a mix of foundation grants, sponsorship, advertising, subscriptions and support membership. This coming autumn, we are launching a crowd-funding initiative, plus encouraging corporate subscriptions enabling us to make complimentary bulk copies available to companies, schools, universities and conferences. There are exciting times ahead, but our readers must also be our partners.

Editor-in-Chief, Edward Girardet – Contact: editor@global-geneva.com

Kategorien: Jobs

Nur-Sultan: International Geneva’s challenge in Central Asia

30. Juli 2019 - 14:34

Some liken landing in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital, to touchdown in the film set of a futuristic sci-fi movie in Central Asia. It’s one of the most space-age looking of the world’s capitals. It lies in the central northern part of the Central Asian nation, flashing its bold skyline, signalling a city emerging from adolescence. At 21 years of age, Nur-Sultan, formerly Astana, which itself replaced Almaty as the capital in 1997, has just reached full adulthood.

More pertinently, it also lays claim to being the region’s “City of Peace”, since being awarded the title by UNESCO in 1999, not unlike Geneva thousands of kilometres to the west. But rather than lying at the foot of the Swiss and French Alps, this former settlement of fast-growing modern boroughs is part of an architecturally “planned-from-scratch” capital, the master plan of Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. It overlooks the sprawling semi-arid steppes along the Ishim River. It also represents the ninth largest country on the planet, but whose population is only 18.5 million. This is where the Old Silk Road used to run, connecting East and West.

The city evokes space, abounding with eye-catching landmarks such as the Baiterek Tower, a vaulting observation globe upheld by symbolic trees, that overlooks the city. There is the pyramid-shaped Norman Foster-designed Palace of Peace and Reconciliation; and the surrounding parkland near the presidential palace, and the tepee-like Khan Shatyr, a shopping centre designed by the same architect. Nearby is the majestic Nur-Astana Mosque, the third biggest in Central Asia, with its 40-metre golden dome flanked by four 63-metre minarets.

Yet almost eerily, the capital’s main thoroughfares rarely throng with people. Except at rush hour, when the two main boulevards that virtually define Nur-Sultan are clogged with backed-up traffic. In contrast, along the banks of the Ishim River and in the old area of the city, life constantly throbs.

A “planned from scratch” City of Peace: Nur-Sultan with the Nur-Astana Mosque, the third biggest in Central Asia, in the distance, The mosque has a 40-metre golden dome flanked by four 63-metre minarets.. (Photo: Peter Kenny)

Astana: A city of changing identities

Initially founded by the Russians in 1830 as Akmoly, then Akmolinsk, as a defensive fortification for Siberian Cossacks, the city has undergone various identity transformations. In 1961, the Soviets renamed it Tselinograd, “city of Tselina”, the term used for under-developed but highly fertile lands. Over three decades later, it was renamed Akmola (‘white tomb’) and then yet again in 1997 as Astana (‘capital city’) after replacing Almaty as the country’s administrative heart.

Not everybody rejoiced at the name change. Some feel Astana is an established brand and people railed as forking out a fortune for a costly new signposting exercise named after the recently retired president. In a place where public debate is not encouraged – nor does it proliferate –  there is resistance to the latest name change. The old title is often still used.

As an aspiring regional vortex, the Kazakhstan capital remains remote. It is not exactly on the tip of everyone’s tongue worldwide. Yet the direct flight time from London to Astana is only 6 hours 50 minutes. From Frankfurt it is 6:25, taking roughly the same time as to fly to Dubai from the centre of Europe. It is also far shorter hop than from Europe to Beijing, Singapore or Tokyo, plus is well connected to Istanbul. But it’s going to take a lot more to convince outsiders that Nur-Sultan is not just an artificial hub pushed by inspired political or economic interests, or a desire by the United Nations and other international forums to share their conferences and other global events more equitably with hitherto ignored parts of the world.

Kazakhstan’s new president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev,, speaking to journalists. A former Director General of the United Nations Office in Geneva from March 2011 to October 2013),Tokayev is seeking to place Kazakhstan and Nur-Sultan onto the world stage. (Photo:Office of the President of Kazakhstan)

Geographically, Kazakhstan’s second-largest city is arguably located at the centre of the planet, connecting Asia with Europe as a region of growing importance. Hotels are relatively inexpensive, conference facilities are of surprising high quality, while taxis are cheap and the capital safe. Without doubt, the government is encouraging this image of a city as an increasingly crucial international hub. Two years ago, for example, it hosted Expo 2017, an international exposition focusing on ‘Future Energy’ as its theme. This aimed to spur global debate among countries, NGOs, companies and the public on: How do we ensure safe and sustainable access to energy for all while reducing CO2 emissions?” The Kazakhs are aiming to take this argument to New York for the UN’s 2019 Climate Summit in September. (See Global Geneva article on the current failure for more concerted climate action)

Asserting itself on the world stage

The more graceful city of Almaty, in the south, ringed by snow-capped mountains and Kazakhstan’s capital during the Soviet era, put itself on the international organizations’ map in 1978 when it held a pivotal conference of health experts and world leaders to commit to health for all. But in October 2018, it was Nur Sultan’s turn. It co-hosted with WHO and UNICEF the Global Conference on Primary Health Care to renew a world-wide commitment to universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Almaty, Kazakhstan’s main city. (Photo: Peter Kenny)

Since then, Nur-Sultan has become a platform for high-profile diplomatic talks and summits on critical global issues, such as rounds of Syrian peace talks between the Assad regime and the opposition. In 2003, Nur-Sultan also began hosting the Congress on World and Traditional Religions, a diverse gathering of religious leaders, which is now held every few years, to discuss religious harmony and ending terrorism and extremism with the latest such gathering held in October 2018.

A city of purpose, but still beset by shortcomings

Unlike Almaty, Astana does not have a history of being earthquake prone. For local native, television programme director Alena Gorbacheva it is a superb home city. “The city has the right geometry, perfect symmetry and lovely landscapes from the bird’s-eye view,” she explains. It has excellent facilities, and despite some urban issues, such as public transport, life is manageable. As a city, it also exudes purpose.

Almaty, which is double its size, has a small but efficient underground rail network, but Nur-Sultan’s geomorphic makeup renders it impossible to safely build a subway. For the moment, the city has mainly bus and taxi-sharing, plus a steadily growing bike service, as its principal forms of public transport. While a light-rail service is planned, it still has far to go to develop the sort of transport system that will make it readily attractive to outsiders. “But when you come down from heaven to earth all these vast squares, long, long boulevards and dead public spaces are uncomfortable to walk around and use, due to the harsh weather conditions,” admits Gorbacheva.

Nur-Sultan’s pubic transport system still needs to be improved if it wishes to assert itself as a regional hub. (Photo: Peter Kenny)

Second coldest capital in the world

Climate-wise, summers can be great, but the winters are long and bitterly cold. Nur-Sultan ranks as the second-coldest national capital in the world after Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. That’s a position formerly held by Ottawa in Canada until the city became Kazakhstan’s new capital. As a result, Nur-Sultan is an unlikely ‘walking’ city’.

Nevertheless, people such as Gorbacheva is hopeful the government’s strategy to improve the transport shortcomings of the capital, which she still calls Astana, will work. “On the whole, Astana is like any other young city. It has a lot of challenges which are not, fortunately, barriers for it to earn international recognition,” she says. She rattles off the saying “Astana is for work and Almaty is for life,” noting that the former capital has an enviable reputation for cultural events, finance, nightlife and restaurants, but such attractions are now being increasingly found in her city.

Despite the freezing winters even the Beatles are here – as statues in downtown Nur-Sultan..(Photo: Peter Kenny)

As a member of Kazakhstan’s ethnic Russian minority, Gorbacheva is optimistic that her country is slowly transforming, including efforts to attract investment, including Russia. She studied for five years in Moscow and said that the government is generous in helping students to study at the best universities abroad, provided they come back and work in Kazakhstan. Many students head to Western Europe or the United States under the scheme.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Kazakh language has become the official tongue, but Russian is widely used in government institutions and meetings; Russians remain prominent in every aspect of life. In 1989 Kazakhs were 39 per cent of the population, numbering some 6.5 million, and Russians 38 per cent. Today ethnic Kazakhs make up around 68 per cent of the population, and ethnic Russian have settled at about 20 per cent. While many Russians left following the collapse, some are returning.

Getting on the world events’ calendar

Nur-Sultan’s outlandish architecture os one of its draws. (Photo: Peter Kenny)

Given its modernist architectural attractions coupled with a keen regional vision, Nur-Sultan is already firmly entrenched in the world event’s calendar. Current plans by Pakistan, Iran and other neighbouring countries to develop rail links through Afghanistan (depending on the security situation) in a bid to link the Indian Subcontinent, the Middle East and even Europe with Central Asia, are something Kazakhstan hopes to cash in on. Nur-Sultan is also establishing itself as a tech hub. The Astana Hub Technopark has already established connections with other innovation ecosystems in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, plus is also reaching out to Silicon Valley and Switzerland’s own EPFL Innovation Park in Lausanne.

Bringing world religious leaders together. The Congress on World and Traditional Religions in October, 2018.(Photo: Peter Kenny)

In keeping with its global peace mission, perhaps influenced by the Geneva experience of Kazakhstan’s new President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (he served as the UN’s Geneva Director General from March 2011 to October 2013), the country signed on 3 July 2019 a law ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. As with South Africa, it has publicly eschewed a nuclear armaments’ capability by getting rid of its nuclear weapons, including the closing down of its test site in Semipaltinsk.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) based in Madrid and Nur-Sultan are organizing the eighth Global Summit on Urban Tourism under the ‘Smart Cities, Smart Destinations‘ theme in the Kazakh capital from 9-12 October 2019.  Another significant event will be the 12th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in June 2020. According to Yerkimbayev Daulet, an Expo centre director, the city is expecting trade ministers from 164 member countries and 20 observer countries of the WTO, plus over 4,000 participants. This will make Kazakhstan, the world’s biggest landlocked country, the first Central Asian country to hold such a conference.

Much of this comes at a time when global trade is on a knife-edge, especially with ongoing tensions between the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China. For WTO spokesperson Keith Rockwell, Kazakhstan has an historical ability to bring nations together and to understand the perspectives of large countries. “The Silk Road went through Kazakhstan and trade is a part of the historical DNA of the country. But perhaps the event might create new trade, business and investment opportunities as well as to show the facilities of this impressive city,” he said.

This vision was all made evident at the Kazakhstan capital’s 21st anniversary celebrations in July this year, an event that reportedly attracted some 450,000 people. It was also emphasized by Almaty-born Tokayev during his inaugural presidential speech a month earlier. “Over the coming years, the leading issues of our time will come to the fore: which countries will be able to effectively adapt and integrate to the new global realities, and who will be left on the side-lines of world development.” Stressing its ability to respond to the main economic and political “challenges of our time,” he added that Kazakhstan was open for business by developing “creative change” for all. This, he maintained, “is how I view progress.”

For Kazakhstan – and Nur-Sultan – to excel, however, much will depend on whether such UN-style speeches can be translated into reality. For Deputy Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev, who spoke with Global Geneva during the May 2019 Eurasia Media Forum in Almaty: “Kazakhstan cannot afford to limit its perspective to its geography only. We mean to be part of global development by also contributing to global peace, global stability and global development.”

Investing both in modernity and global influence

Kazakhstan is driving itself into modernity by spending heavily on education and infrastructure. It is also seeking to internationalize itself by focusing more on English in schools. Much to the dismay of Russians, it is also in the process of dropping the Cyrillic alphabet, using Roman letters for the Kazakh language. Nevertheless, despite being rich in oil and gas resources – it boasts Central Asia’s best-performing economy – severe discrepancies exist between the privileged and the poor. It also ranks low on press freedom indices and is accused by watchdog bodies of practising religious discrimination.

Kazakhstan’s chief Rabbi Yeshaya Cohen believes that Kazakhstan is  helping to foster religious tolerance. (Photo” Peter Kenny)

Kazakhstan’s Jerusalem-born Chief Rabbi Yeshaya Cohen believes that the country, which has a 70 per cent Muslim majority and some 26 per cent Christians (plus several thousand Jews), actually seeks to foster “mutual self-respect” of religions. The country, for example, allows freedom of worship for Eastern Orthodox Christians, Catholics and traditional Protestant denominations but has been criticised for being less tolerant of some evangelical Christian groups and Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as some Islamic groups as well.

Human rights are also reportedly improving. As a nation that emerged from the Soviet sphere, Kazakhstan has known the meaning of political repression. The founding Kazakhstan president ruled as a strongman for 30 years, but the 2019 elections were considered to be relatively free and fair. As I learned, people now feel that it is time to open up more, to allow trade unions to flourish, to tolerate more independent media and to permit more dissent. Only in this manner can Kazakhstan seriously embrace its new aspiring role as a regional icon of peace.

South African journalist Peter Kenny covers UN, WTO and international issues from Geneva.

Kategorien: Jobs

Climate Crisis: The Race No One is Winning

30. Juli 2019 - 13:21

The goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the mid-21st century. It calls on all countries, including the leading industrial nations, to slash their climate-altering carbon dioxide emissions, the major source of global warming.  These emissions stem from fossil and bunker fuels used by vehicles, international shipping and energy production, and industries with highly adverse forms of pollution such as cement production.

The global plan to reduce carbon emissions also appeals for more sustainable land use, including a halt to the massive destruction of rainforests ranging from the Amazon in Latin America to the Southeast Asian islands of Indonesia, Malaysia and New Guinea. Governments representing the world’s leading – and most detrimentally polluting – economies have pledged to support developing nations in their climate mitigation and adaptation measures, all the while monitoring and reporting progress. These measures include investing in new sources of renewable energies, more efficient and less destructive forms of agriculture, reforestation, and adopting more intelligent urban development approaches, particularly in megacities where more than half the world’s population now live.

The Paris Agreement was meant to herald unprecedented and urgent action. Instead, the pace of implementation is slow and half-hearted. In some cases, political expediency and self-interest have led to startling and dangerous setbacks.  Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro recently accused his government’s own National Space Institute of ‘lying’ about the increasingly high rate of deforestation.   Since coming to power in early 2017, US President Donald Trump has condemned climate change as ‘fake news’ and withdrew from the Paris Agreement, arguing that it unfairly penalized key US industries. He blithely rolled back one environmental protection law after another despite warnings from his own federal agencies.

Time is running out for our planer. (Photo: WMO) Carbon dioxide emissions are still dangerously rising

The impact of such reckless behavior and attitudes is that in 2018 carbon dioxide emissions grew faster than at any time since 2011. Already, global emissions had increased by nearly 50 per cent since 1990.  Against this backdrop of complacency, the alarm bells are getting louder.  Last year, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Bonn issued dire warnings that the world had less than 12 years to keep global warming to 1.5 Celsius. Scientists pointed out that an additional 0.5 Celsius rise, the planet’s current trajectory, would be catastrophic, significantly worsening the likelihood of drought, floods and heatwaves. The message is stark and clear: the world must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius.

The May 2019 decision by the UK parliament to declare a climate change emergency – a breath of fresh air amid the quagmire of Brexit – is a step in the right direction. But simply stating that Britain will lower its greenhouse gas by 80 per cent compared to the 1990 baseline is not enough. It requires a massive public information campaign, designed to change consumers’ behaviour. It also needs to scale-up low-carbon, energy-saving approaches ranging from more effective – and cheaper – public transportation options to reduce vehicle use to alternative energy subsidies for individual homeowners. Luxembourg’s recent decision to make all public transport free is a welcomed initiative that could be emulated by other countries. The expansion of bike lanes coupled with free or cheap rentals in cities such as Paris, Copenhagen and Seattle is also encouraging.

Free or low-cost electric bike rentals are increasingly becoming a widely used form of public transport in Paris. (Photo: Edward Girardet) Climate crisis action: time to get real

It is against this backdrop that UN Secretary General António Guterres called for the September 2019 Climate Summit. A high-level Summit, he reasoned, was needed to correct the course by re-engaging countries on a collective path to reduce climate emissions and thus, above all, to “save the planet.”

A dramatic overstatement? Not at all. Unfortunately, no one seems able to identify the golden bullet needed to put the Paris Agreement back on track. Bold new initiatives – and not just the usual declarations – are required with both rewards and punishments to propel countries to adopt the right measures. These urgently need to include climate sensitive development policies plus a more effective transition away from fossil fuel dependency.

But how easy will it be to persuade the leading oil, gas and coal-producing nations, such as the United States, China, India and Australia to embrace the change that is urgently needed?

The oil and gas industry needs to held more accountable. (Photo: ARAMCO) The world’s leading oil companies need to be held accountable

Achieving the Paris Agreement could mean directing enforceable measures against the world’s one hundred or more fossil-fuel producing companies, such as Saudi Arabia’s ARAMCO (worth US 465.49 bn in 2017), China’s Sinopec, America’s Exxon/Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. According to the Carbon Majors Database, such operations account for 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. While companies such as BP and Shell seek to present themselves as reformist and open to change, their bottom lines still represent fossil fuel profit.

One proposal that is gaining traction is a basic carbon tax. Currently businesses and individuals can “dump” carbon into the atmosphere at little or no cost. Attaching a price tag to such emissions could yield concrete results. Yet, to date, barely 40 countries have priced carbon in some form or another. Other proposals include drastically increasing fossil fuel taxes both at source and at the gas pump or distribution point. For such efforts to succeed, however, public education is required as is the political will to withstand the likely public outcry at the higher prices.

Unfortunately, there are too few politicians willing to shoulder the political consequences for tackling climate change head-on. Australia’s Scott Morrison was recently re-elected Prime Minister after a divisive campaign dominated by climate change. The image of Morrison brandishing a lump of coal in parliament is a reminder of the lengths politicians will go to demonstrate their commitment to the fossil fuel industry.

Burning coal represents the world’s biggest single source of carbon dioxide emissions and nothing less than a hard and fast U-turn on retiring all existing coal-fired power plants is needed. The Green Climate New Deal, promoted by freshman US congresswoman, Alexandra Ocasia-Cortez, aims to limit US reliance on oil, gas and coal. It has been derided as “socialist” by President Trump, and largely ridiculed by many parts of the American political establishment as naive and cost prohibitive.

World-wide, however, there are glimmers of hope. Cities such as Barcelona, London, Paris, Cape Town, Hong Kong and San Francisco are being recognized for their leadership and climate action.  California has introduced climate change measures that are beginning to have an impact. Faced by increasingly frequent wildfires, droughts and floods, it updated its ‘Safeguarding California Plan’ in 2018 and is implementing 300 different actions to reduce greenhouse gas reduction emissions ranging from promoting hybrid cars and rooftop solar energy initiatives to more efficient water use and forestry management.

Heavily criticized for its use of waste dumping and use of heavy residual ‘bunker’ fuels, the world shipping industry, through the International Maritime Organization (IMO), has developed a strategy to reduce by 50 per cent of its carbon emissions by 2050. While difficult to monitor, standards are being set. Maersk, the world’s biggest shipping company, even announced a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

Select airlines, too, are making distinct efforts to reduce carbon emissions. According to a London School of Economics report, EasyJet stands at the top of the list aiming to halve the passenger per kilometre emissions rate by 2020 compared to some of its rivals (75gm of CO2 per passenger/kilometre) compared with 172gm for Korean Air and 112gm expected for International Airlines Group, which includes British Airways. Companies with the weakest plans include Air China; China Southern; Korean Air; Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

Young people have got it right

Perhaps the most encouraging, however, is the rising concern of young people who are mobilizing to demand immediate action to safeguard their futures. It is, after all, they who will be forced to inherit the next several decades of our failure to respond. Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, started a global school walkout meeting. In London, protesters have taken to the street demanding climate action.

Yet, despite much of the good work and momentum, the most realistic future scenario remains bleak. Whether in the United States, Hungary or Nepal, far too many politicians still have not understood – or are unwilling to acknowledge the magnitude – of the crisis. Key global political decision-makers need to wake-up and assume their responsibilities as their current half-measures and go-slow approaches are leaving the planet dangerously – increasingly – exposed to disasters and peril.

According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) in Geneva, the world is experiencing one climate related disaster a week. Without a serious and concerted effort to reduce carbon emissions, the world has little choice but to brace itself for the likely consequences. The recent flooding in Iran, hurricanes in the Caribbean, heatwaves in Europe and India, and landslides in Bangladesh all attest to the need for ambitious adaptation and disaster risk reduction strategies.     However, even such actions are not enough. The real question at hand is whether the 2019 Climate Summit will result in a real “leap in collective national political ambition” or simply result in more public and politically-correct declarations of concern. Nothing less than a tsunami of political change, perhaps one fueled by an outraged younger generation, is needed to reach the 2050 objective of net zero carbon emissions.

The Editors

Global Geneva is seeking to cover the climate crisis with compelling reporting from the field that helps audiences better understand what is at stake. We are also engaging young people as much as possible through our ‘Youth Writes’ initiative by encouraging them to write about climate and other related issues. For more information, please contact: editor@global-geneva.com  

Further reading

https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-crisis-deaths-stunting-malnutrition-2639609592.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

Related articles in Global Geneva

http://www.global-geneva.com/transnational-red-sea-project-that-could-help-save-earths-coral-reefs/

http://www.global-geneva.com/the-u-n-s-michael-moller-placing-international-geneva-on-the-global-frontline/

http://www.global-geneva.com/mangroves-a-tool-for-climate-change-and-more/

http://www.global-geneva.com/a-letter-from-america-development-versus-environment-not-in-anyones-backyard/

http://www.global-geneva.com/alain-gachet-a-water-wizard-for-the-planet/

http://www.global-geneva.com/harnessing-the-power-of-media-for-real-change/

Kategorien: Jobs

Are Afghanistan’s women the key to ending over four decades of war?

30. Juli 2019 - 12:26

Editorial note: Some of the Afghan and international sources interviewed for this article refused or were reluctant to go on record for fear of repercussions.

“Much has happened in Afghanistan, both good and bad, since 2001,” says Hassina Syed, a small but forceful dark-haired former refugee, referring to the US-led invasion of her mountainous and desert Central Asian homeland in October 2001 to oust the Taliban. “When the Americans came, we had a lot of hope that things would get better.  This hasn’t happened. But now there is a whole new generation of Afghans who want something different. People are tired of war. They are tired of the killing. They are tired of the power games. They want a country of peace with jobs and a future. No one can go back to the way it was before. Not even the Taliban.”

Now 40 and a mother of three girls, Hassina, who was named a Young Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in Geneva in 2016, speaks in words chosen not to offend. “It is important not to blame people but always to keep a door open for honest discussion,” she says. “Only by talking frankly can we find a real political solution to Afghanistan. But this also means involving women. We need to be fully part of the process. This is how I have always done business. Resolving our country’s problems are no different.”

For numerous Afghans, but also informed foreigners, one of the biggest problems with Afghanistan’s – and the international community’s – current approach to democracy is that the scheduled elections for the end of September 2019 do not hold legitimacy. Many perceive Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank technocrat whose own 2014 election was highly questionable with votes bought and people intimidated, as arrogant and doing everything possible to remain in power.

One key critic, Atta Mohammed Noor, a former governor of the northern province of Balkh whom this writer first met in the 1990s and who is currently head of the Jamiat-e-Islami party, warned of “severe consequences” if the proposed elections are once again marred with incidents of vote rigging and fraud. “Such an election will push the country toward new crisis,” he added, also maintaining that he would join the Taliban if this were to happen.

Parliamentary and District Council Elections in October, 2018 in Afghanistan. Voting in-process at one of the polling centres at Zarghoona High School in Kabul. (Photo UNAMA / Fardin Waezi)

If this occurs, one of the only possibilities, many believe, is to seek the creation of a new interim or transitional government, possibly with United Nations oversight. Even sources within UNAMA (the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan), which is supporting the 2019 elections whose campaigning officially kicked off with a field of 18 candidates on 28 July, admit that this may have to happen.

For the moment, however, they are assuming – ‘hoping’ might be a better word – that Ghani and other presidential hopefuls will “play the game” as one UN official put it. The Afghan Independent Election Commission, which has been criticized in the past for some of its representatives being involved in campaign rigging, has called for fully transparency and for all candidates to “respect the law.” Another problem is basic security with the Taliban and other insurgent groups already seeking to disrupt the election process with armed attacks.

Basically, as one respected analyst in put it: “Candidacies are up for sale. The power-brokers are seeking to ‘buy’ the next elections. Many Afghans know this and that is why there is no trust.” As he and other experienced observers suggest, Americans and Europeans within the NATO and international aid community are fully aware of this, and yet they are still pushing for the elections to happen, regardless of the consequences. This is the political backdrop against which Hassina Syed and other concerned activists are seeking to express themselves.

Afghan journalists ar a press conference. Afghanistan’s press has been performing a courageous and necessary role in the public interest, but is now coming under rising assault by those who do not like their reporting. (Photo: UNAMA)

One significant issue, however, is Ashraf himself. According to human rights critics, he and his cohorts have been consistently seeking to threaten or otherwise silence the opposition. The Kabul authorities have been steadily eroding the rights of journalists to report openly about what is happening in Afghanistan.

Initially one of the country’s post-Taliban success stories the development of an independent press – significantly supported by both the United States and Europe – and crucial to any vibrant democracy, is now being effectively shattered as journalists are threatened, beaten up and even killed by various factions, including the Taliban, or unknown assailants. With campaigning barely underway, Ashraf bodyguards reportedly assaulted a cameraman for trying to film a woman who had criticized the president’s running mate, prompting angry journalists to boycott the event.

Highlighting the importance of Afghan women

Over the past year, Hassina, who grew up in Peshawar, Pakistan, after her family fled as refugees from Kabul in 1983 when she was four, has been meeting with both Afghans and internationals to explore the possibilities of a follow-up plan to avoid violence or popular dissent, notably an interim administration, should the elections fail to provide the confidence Afghans need in their country. Such a transitional government, she argues, should represent all Afghans, including the Taliban. It would also give ordinary Afghans “the chance to have a real voice.”

As an ambitious entrepreneur-turned-advocate, Hassina returned to Afghanistan in 2002 following the collapse of the Taliban, where she began setting up her own businesses, The Syed Group. These include companies dealing with Afghan marble, food production and distribution, mattresses, drip irrigation and travel. But she is also involved with local NGOs whose aim is to help Afghan women through educational and other capacity-building initiatives. For example, Hassina plays an active role in Afghanistan’s National Organization for Women (NOW) promoting training and women’s rights. She later become one of six female members of Afghanistan’s 3,000-strong Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking in Afghan-accented English learned while running Gandamack Lodge, an international boutique hotel in Kabul, and other businesses, Hassina feels comfortable dealing with expatriates, whether aid workers or diplomats. She understands how they think. This includes helping foreigners better grasp why Afghan women are so crucial to both the peace process and long-term recovery. She also acknowledges her refugee experience in Peshawar as invaluable for cultivating contacts amongst the Pakistanis, many of whom, she notes, want nothing more than to see an end to the war. This, she says, would open up of the region to more expansive trade.

Hassina Syed meeting with Afghan and international officials in Kabul.

As Hassina points out, the situation in Afghanistan has improved significantly for women, even if they still represent a small minority in leadership positions. Much of this has been helped by the extensive progress achieved over the past 18 years in nation-wide education and health care, particularly for girls and women. Many such initiatives were massively backed by western donors ranging from the United States and Canada to the European Union proving to be one of the most effective programmes of all outside aid support.

“There are now far more women in the ministries, the parliament and in business. But we have had to overcome a lot of obstacles. And we still need to constantly prove that we are just as capable, if not more. We’re not just decoration for gender-equality initiatives. We want to have full influence in the rebuilding of our country.” After all, she adds with a twinkle, “women do represent more than half the population. You can’t ignore that.”

Hence Hassina’s efforts to ensure that ordinary Afghans, both male and female, have a decisive say not only in the electoral process but also the development of their country without being hijacked by incumbent political interests. As human rights and other groups point out, this needs to include free and fair elections.

Switzerland could hold the key to a peaceful future for Afghanistan

Over the past year, Hassina has been meeting with numerous organizations and individuals from all walks of life, whether Afghan or foreign, among them elements close to the Taliban. Her purpose, she says, is to listen but also to outline her own views on what needs to be done in order to help bring about peaceful change and end to over 40 years of conflict coupled with genuine national reconciliation.

One option, she suggests, is for neutral Switzerland to assume a mediation role by hosting talks in the Alps with the Taliban and other players (“Afghans love mountains,” she explains) as a means of bringing everyone to the table. The Swiss Foreign Ministry in Bern has said that it is willing to do this if asked. Some Afghans are also looking again at the Swiss cantonal model, a process dismissed by the 2001 Bonn Agreement and the new constitution of 2004, giving regions and local populations a far greater say in the running of their country.

Ordinary Afghans are seeking a better life, including the chance to enjoy normal recreational activities such as visiting Band-e-Amir, the country’s first officially gazetted national park. (Photo UNAMA / Eric Kanalstein).

Hassina considers the promotion of a better economic future to be part of this process. Based on her business experience, one aim is to persuade the international community to provide ‘smarter’ investment and development as part of their commitment to Afghanistan’s long-term recovery. “Why do so many young Afghans want to migrate?” she asks. “Because they see no future in Afghanistan. They just see more war and no jobs.” In addition, as both she and others point out, the lack of employment is one reason why the insurgents, including outside groups such as ISIS, can attract support, notably by paying fighters. Or claiming to hand back Afghanistan to Afghans without the presence of foreign military forces.

Hassina’s very deliberate but low-key outreach approach includes establishing contacts with internationals ranging from United Nations agencies, NGOs and European Union development teams to the Pakistanis and visiting US officials. This past summer, for example, she has travelled both to Europe and the United States to meet with players interested in what is really needed to help forge an end to the war. For her, the key issue is to bring on board what ordinary Afghans, such as farmers, health workers, mullahs, or local business people, have to say because, as she maintains, it is very much a different message from what many politicians purport to be on the agenda.

Afghanistan: an enormous food supply potential

“I want our foreign friends to understand what is at stake,” she explains. “Afghans want them to be part of our future, like helping to set up new businesses, rebuilding infrastructure, buying our products. There is no reason why Afghanistan should not become a key trading partner for the entire region.”

For example, Hassina has already helped establish more than 1,000 drip irrigation initiatives. She believes that with proper development, drip access in areas where there are no traditional rainfed or irrigation water options will enable Afghanistan to open up new land for young entrepreneurial farmers, many of whom would otherwise have no access to farming. Afghanistan, she insists, could become “a major supplier” of quality fruit, vegetable and other food products to places such as the Gulf countries.

Furthermore, given Afghanistan’s strategic position on the cusp of Central Asia and the subcontinent, new roads and railways could open the country to China, Iran, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and even Europe. “But this will only happen if there is peace and proper investment as well as with good relations with all our neighbours,” she adds. Pakistan, for example, recently declared plans to build a railway from its northwestern border post of Chaman to the Turkmenistan frontier, a project that would help both Pakistani and Afghan exports.

Afghan school girls. More than half the population of Afghanistan is female with women increasingly wanting to have a say in the running of their country. (Photo: UNMA).

This is the reason why ordinary Afghans need to be part of both the political and peace process, Hassina stresses. There can be no “ifs and buts,” she adds, pointedly contradicting the arguments often raised by western diplomats or Afghan politicians that women cannot play an influential role in traditional society, notably Pushtun areas where the Taliban rule. Hassina further observes that female leadership is nothing unusual, even for countries with dominant or large Muslim populations, such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey.

“What about Indira Gandhi or Benazir Bhutto?” she maintains. “They were very successful female prime ministers.” At the same time, she points out that much of this reticence among conservative circles has more to do with culture than religion. “Yet things are changing. Women are far more outspoken today than before. And they don’t want to lose their rights. Or return to the past.”

Demographically, times have changed, too, Hassina points out. Well over 60 per cent of the country is now under the age of 25. These are young Afghans with no experience of the Jihadist period against the communists during the 1980s and 90s, or even the post-1996 Talib regime. “Afghanistan is a much different country today. People want to feel that they are part of the future and that the government is listening to them. This includes any arrangements with the Taliban. No one wants deals imposed from the outside. This is why we need to involve ordinary people more, and to listen to them.”

For the moment, as some observers note, the current US-led talks with the Taliban do not represent the movement as a whole. Not unlike the mujahideen (holy warriors) who rose to power during the Soviet-Afghan war, there is no one overall Talib leadership. Instead, the Taliban consist of a broad movement of numerous semi-autonomous factions based on local, regional, military or tribal affiliations. Some, too, are criminally-based, making fortunes out of trafficking, such as opium production, or extortion. Certain groups also maintain close contacts with outside players, such as the Pakistanis, Iranians and Saudis. The end result is that, even with a ‘deal’ in Doha, no one faction can claim to represent all of Afghanistan’s Taliban.

What we need to do now, says Hassina, is to try and influence such processes in a positive manner. “Peace cannot be imposed. There are no quick fixes for Afghanistan’s future.” Nor will more military intervention achieve long-term peace. People want security, but this cannot be done artificially. “The grass roots need to be part of it, so One Afghan, One Vote, would be a great start.”

Afghans need to feel that they have a future. Main thoroughfare on the outskirts of Kabul. (Photo: UNAMA) Even the Taliban want a good future for their families

Responding to criticisms that such a broad sweep of nation-wide representatives would be difficult if not impossible to convene, Hassina shakes her head. “People need to feel that there is something in it for them. A better future for their families. Or proper education for their children. Or marketing support for farmers. Everyone needs to feel that they can look forward to a better life. Even the Taliban.”

Part of the problem, analysts maintain, is that Afghanistan is now paying for the misguided efforts of the international community since Bonn, which sought to impose a top-down, western-style solution on the country. Not only did much of the US-led intervention ignore basic on-the-ground realities but it also failed to listen properly to the concerns of ordinary Afghans. This then encouraged a military rather than a development or investment-inspired approach to resolve Afghanistan’s security problems.

Hence the call for an interim – and, above all, accountable – government with no one faction or group of politicians in control. For Hassina, such a transitional government could include UN or international involvement, not unlike Cambodia’s interim administration during the 1990s following the collapse of the Khmer Rouge. “But it has to be seen as an administration operating in the interests of ordinary Afghans,” she maintains. “It also needs to include a cross-section of Afghans, and to involve the Taliban, but more as individuals representing their own communities than a political movement.”

This is the message that Hassina and other concerned Afghans are now seeking to put across. One seemingly basic key to credible elections is the urgent need for a fully-implemented electronic voter or national biometric ID. Initially proposed during the early 2000s, the idea was abandoned as “too expensive” or “inappropriate” but there has also been political opposition to the concept. For the moment, there are only some biometric IDs but no properly computerized electoral procedures, a system that could have saved billions of dollars in pointless military or development outlay and avoided even more war. The current approach with the use of printed registration cards (with an estimated 13 million eligible votes, some 24 million voter cards were produced) still invites abuse.

Parliamentary and District Council Elections in Afghanistan in October, 2018. Despite the West’s massive investment in this country,including in lives, th Voting -process remains largely antiquated and open to abuse.(Photo UNAMA / Fardin Waezi)

As Hassina argues, biometric IDs would enable women to take a more active part in the elections. “They could finally vote without someone looking over their shoulder telling them what to do. If women are involved properly in any election, we will see a dramatic change throughout Afghanistan. Women are the ones who have to deal with their families, particularly if their menfolk are killed or unable to work.”

For a successful entrepreneur and women’s rights advocate, Hassina strongly believes that Afghan women can make a difference. She also maintains that it is time to confront a new reality.

“Everything has changed with education, the internet, mobile phones, satellite television…Ordinary Afghans, particularly young people, can see the benefits of peace and contact with the outside world. Afghans now know what real development can bring, namely a future.”

Global Geneva editor Edward Girardet is a journalist and writer who has covered Afghanistan since just before the Soviet invasion in December 1979. He is author of several books, including “Killing the Cranes: Reporting 30 years of war in Afghanistan,” as well as co-editor of “The Essential Field Guide to Afghanistan.

Related articles in Global Geneva

LETTER FROM GHAZNI: The Palace in the brush

Afghanistan’s Unwinnable War. A journalist’s reflection on 40 years of conflict.

Letter from Islamabad: Afghanistan from Past To Present To Past Again

Law in Afghanistan: The Crooked Path from Custom to Code

Masood Khalili’s Whispers of War – A guerrilla’s journey during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: Struggling to preserve a country’s heritage

Kategorien: Jobs

A Letter from America: Development versus environment – Not in anyone’s backyard

30. Juli 2019 - 5:21

A lone mangrove cluster clings to survival on the Indian River Lagoon in Edgewater, Florida, on Maryann Thornhallsson’s property. After years of struggling to preserve a stretch of the idyllic waterway in East Central Florida, Maryann has lost her bid to save the integrity of her riverside home of 43 years.  Despite weeks of heightened protest by hundreds of community members and Floridians from afar – Edgewater’s City Council narrowly voted on 1 July 2019 (three in favour of, and two against) to back an environmentally disastrous and unethical development project. This was despite the fact that over 175 citizens squeezed into in the Edgewater City Council Chambers, including representatives from the Sierra Club, to express their opposition. Many others could not join as there was not enough parking.

Ground breaking on the project can begin as early as February 2020, creating a restaurant, with 56 parking places for 152 clients. In addition, a bait and tackle shop, and a 44-slip boat marina, will all be crammed onto less than one acre (0.40 ha) of land plus a half-acre (0.20 ha) designated right of way, collectively-owned by residents who live adjacent to the project site. The Orlando-based Aski Development company intends to concrete the east end of the natural hard-packed shell right of way used for centuries by residents and lagoon visitors, beginning with Native Americans. It will be paved over as part of the developer’s parking lot.

Maryann, whose husband suffers from Hodgkin’s disease, and her granddaughter, both need wheelchair access. After the project is underway, she’ll face a seven to 10-foot (two to three metres) wall close to her property’s edge. She’ll need to park in the restaurant lot. The wind-buffering mangroves will be uprooted as will native trees on her land, including three types of pine, a Magnolia and several palms. They will be felled to make way for water retention ponds to serve the development.

Climate crisis: more than just a growing concern

Maryann and her community are not alone in their attempt to protect the Indian River Lagoon and keep their peaceful existence. From Palm Coast some 90 kms (56 miles) north to Edgewater, Florida, residents are rallying against unsustainable development and calling for common sense environmentally-sound projects.

Many are particularly worried about climate crisis and the resulting rises in the sea level, erosion of river banks, beaches and dunes, flooding, pollution of waterways, and the ravaging effects of tidal waves and torrents on coastal highways. In March of 2019, crews began repairs on a 1.3-mile (two kilometres) stretch of State Road A1A that collapsed in 2016 in the centre of Flagler Beach during Hurricane Matthew. They are also concerned about algae blooms and red tides, and the loss of fish now rotting on their shores, depriving them of food and income.

Citizens across the country are also bracing themselves and preparing for hurricanes. Texas and its neighbours are still reeling from Hurricane Harvey which caused about $125 billion in damage in 2017. Harvey affected 13 million people, destroyed or damaged some 135,000 homes, and demolished up to a million vehicles. People ask why did Houston flood so badly? Because developers failed  “to follow a federal policy (established in 1989) requiring that new developments cause ‘no net loss’ in wetlands. Instead, wetlands have been turned into neighbourhoods, office buildings, and strip malls in Houston”, the worst affected city, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.

It is distressing that the large majority of proposed or approved development in Volusia and Flagler counties is in or adjacent to coastlines, wetlands, or forests, often old growth, with an array of endangered species including the Florida panther, manatee, right whale and the country’s national emblem and mascot, the bald eagle. Apollo 11’s lunar module was named for the bird and Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon on 20 July 50 years ago, declared to the world when the spaceship touched down: “The Eagle has landed”.

Floridians are particularly on high alert this season after three straight years of being impacted by major hurricanes including Matthew, Irma and Michael. The Florida Panhandle continues its recovery from Hurricane Michael, the largest hurricane on record to hit the area, devastating the region as a Category 5 in October of 2018. According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, total estimated insured losses from Hurricane Michael had reached $6.6 billion as of June 28, 2019.

After Matthew struck in 2016, a Category 1 hurricane with much less of an impact, it took three full years to repair my house. Some neighbours abandoned their’s usually because of lack of insurance. And the situation is likely to get worse given the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.

New data published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, reveals that 75 per cent of the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Central Florida will be highly vulnerable to erosion and inundation from rising tides by 2030, and that sea level rise will occur in the next 10 years. It is already happening in communities across the globe, and in the US, Florida is predicted to be affected more than any other state. “Adapting to climate change in the US will cost trillions of collars”, according to a recent report by the Center for Climate Integrity. The bare minimum for the costs of coastal defences that communities need to build to hold back rising seas and prevent chronic flooding and inundation over the next 20 years will cost more than $400 billion, say the authors of the report. The minimum down payment for short term defence is estimated to be $75.9 billion.

The Old Dixie Highway. Part of Florida’s cultural heritage under threat. (Photo: Liz Kemf)

Edgewater’s developers have already invested in their down payment, having constructed a seawall where a marina and restaurant are to be built. If predictions by scientists are accurate, the rising levels of the river, driven by sea level rise, could overcome the existing walls. Local newspapers and television stations have reported the estimated costs of protecting Florida property: $1 billion in Volusia and Flagler counties alone during the next 20 years. If feasible, Florida would need 9,000 miles(14.5K km) of seawalls by 2100, if trends continue, according to the the Center for Climate Integrity.

Conversely, South Africa proposes reducing “sea storm risk” through the following methods:
  • Managing foredunes (e.g. improving vegetation cover and increase sand volume)
  • Avoiding hardening the coastline (through the use of engineering solutions such as sea walls, embankments etc.) but rather use environmentally-friendly coastline management options such as sand replenishment
  • Limiting housing and development along the coast
  • Managing estuary mouths using science-based methods

On the West Coast, the estimated expenses for building seawalls could cost taxpayers and homeowners more than $22 billion, according to the Center for Climate Integrity. Several states forbid the building of new seawalls, including North Carolina, Maine and Oregon, while others restrict their construction as they disrupt natural replenishment of sand. In Edgewater a hard-packed sand-like shell road is going to be paved over, eliminating natural drainage.

Like Florida, and up the eastern seaboard into Canada, California has built to the water’s edge, with houses falling off cliffs, or poised to collapse into the Pacific from Malibu to the Big Sur. On Florida’s southeast coast, faeces-filled sewage floods streets near Miami, which combats flooding year-round. Countries like the Netherlands prepared for sea-level rise decades ago, and are sharing lessons with some US cities such as New Orleans.

“Florida is by far the most heavily impacted state…with 23 counties facing at least $1 billion in seawall expenses (each),” predicts the Center for Climate Integrity.  Through The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Office housed in Geneva at the United Nations Environment Programme, a global coalition of countries have estimated the value of ecosystem services such as those provided by wetlands, estuaries, lakes, coral reefs, mangroves, tropical wet and dry forests. TEEB’s conclusion: it’s often better to leave well enough and let nature do the work.

Meanwhile, Maryann Thornhallsson and her neighbours, as with so many others, find themselves on the losing end of an argument that values short-term economic benefits at the expense of an increasingly unstable environment.

“Floridians have been through a lot over the past year: a coastal water crisis that plagued our state for months, a Category 5 hurricane that devastated the Panhandle, and a closely-watched election that changed the tone at the Capitol, just to name a few”, says Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director of NGO Florida Conservation Voters (FCV).

Florida’s newly-elected Republican Governor, Rick DeSantis, who was a Congressman representing Flagler and Volusia counties, has given environmentalists some hope. Recently, he announced a record $360 million for Everglades restoration projects, $50 million to restore Florida’s world-renowned springs, and $25 million to improve water quality as well as to combat harmful algal blooms and red tide, which plagued both coasts in 2018.

Everglades National Park: A unique sub-tropical wetlands. (Photo: National Parks)

Everglades National Park in the southern tip of Florida is the largest designated sub-tropical wilderness reserve on the North American continent. It also contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, according to the Gland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2010, Everglades National Park was put back on UNESCO’s World Heritage Danger List at the request of US federal authorities themselves, partly because of concerns of adjacent urban growth. In April, DeSantis appointed Florida’s first chief science officer, Thomas Frazer. He is director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, and a specialist in freshwater and ocean ecosystems. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the legislature severely underfunded the state’s most important suite of land conservation programmes, Florida Forever. Lindsay Cross, Government Relations Director for FCV said, “Politicians and developers are finding ways to override the will of voters. Moreover, Florida’s Legislature has failed to strengthen environmental laws, adequately protect wetlands, increase clean energy production and conserve critical waters and natural resources.”

“The State’s Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) Toll-roads project – the biggest and most expensive highway construction plan in decades – could impact thousands of acres of our best remaining natural and agricultural areas. The security of our water and food supply and the long-term viability and character of our rural communities will be irrevocably damaged if these massive roads are built,” she added.

Edgewater: a pivotal case

Meanwhile, other communities in Central Florida’s Deltona/Daytona Beach/Ormond Beach metropolitan region have been monitoring the showdown in Edgewater. On the same day as its City Council ignored citizens and science in the decision for development, nearly 8,000 residents of nearby Flagler Beach and similar communities, including members of Neighborhood United (a local NGO), petitioned to stop or alter development plans by North Carolina-based Sunbelt Land Management.

But across this magnificent stretch of Florida, notable for retaining its natural heritage, in contrast to much of the state, commercial development is claiming more and more environmentally valuable land – in the familiar paradox that natural beauty attracts the urbanization that destroys it.

Just south of Flagler Beach’s city limits, a proposed development, “The Gardens Project”, would create a 9,000+ residential and commercial site.

As in Edgewater, a marina would be built on the Matanzas River with 250 boats slips, restaurants, shops and office space. In short, it would be a town nearly twice the size of Flagler Beach itself. It would need to be connected to a sewer system, while children would require schooling. Old Florida roads would have to be widened to make room for thousands of vehicles. The forested and marshland site is nearly half the size of Tomoka State Park’s 2,000 acres (800 ha).

Project Manager for The Gardens, Ken Belshe predicts that picturesque tree-lined John Anderson Road in the development site would not need to be widened for several years, and that Sunbelt’s plan includes a four-lane thoroughfare through the site, giving its resident population and commercial employees access to John Anderson Road and State Road 100 for delivery trucks, lawn and pool services as well as dumpsters.

Neighborhood United’s organizer, Sallee Arnhoff, acknowledges the need for high density housing, but not in the middle of the Bulow Creek watershed area. Traffic and storm water runoff from The Gardens’ thousands of residents and extensive commercial enterprises would severely impact the integrity of Bulow Creek State Park, North Peninsula State Park, the marshes and estuaries along the Old Dixie Highway and my own backyard, The Tomoka State Park. At this time of writing, it is not sure what a second proposed meeting to further debate the pros and cons of the controversial project will bring.

Elizabeth Kemf is a journalist, anthropologist, writer, and a member of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and Tomoka Poets. She lives adjacent to the Tomoka State Park and the Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Reserve in Florida after several decades of campaigning with international environmental organizations based in Switzerland.

“The Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Preserve protects a lasting legacy, a magical part of old Florida, where waters from palm-lined subtropical rivers mix with vast salt marshes just back from the sea. This rich estuary serves as a nursery for so many species identified with Florida, like manatees, snook, blue crabs and wading birds. Perhaps just as important, it captures its place name from the Timucua, the last of the native tribes who lived in close relationship with these unique lands and waters. Protection of these lands did not just come about on its own but through partnerships between the state, county, conservation organizations and concerned citizens who continue to appreciate the magical sense of place which is the Tomoka.” – Clay Henderson, former chair, Volusia County Council, and president emeritus, Florida Audubon Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kategorien: Jobs

Mangroves: a tool for climate change – and more

25. Juli 2019 - 12:31
This article is part of Global Geneva’s Focus on Oceans series. Community participation is the key to successful nature-based solutions to environmental challenges, IUCN argues.

Mangrove forests have a special place in my heart, making the work I have done on this ecosystem very personal and rewarding. Between university years, I did field work in the so called “mosquito-ridden and muddy” mangroves of northern Madagascar and absolutely loved it.

The soothing scent of rich silt is the prevailing aroma of the mangroves, and the mud provides an excellent and free spa treatment. Furthermore, numerous marine species, including fish and shrimp, are known to use the shelter provided by mangroves as nurseries while they mature. They feed on leaf scraps and microorganisms, all the while hiding from predators in the thick tangles of roots.

Due to the alien and unusual characteristics of the mangroves, I found my attention constantly divided between appreciating the trees and their intertwined roots and marvelling at the vibrant world of crabs and mudskippers living under and above the surface. Knowing that mangrove populations are dwindling, my feelings were bittersweet as I moved through this beautiful ecosystem.

Thank goodness, however, I am not the only one who finds these forests amazing and valuable. These dynamic ecosystems provide approximately US$33-57K per hectare per year of income to national economies in services such as coastal protection, food and medicines. According to UN estimates, over 100 million people live in proximity to mangroves. Furthermore, although this ecosystem covers less than 1% of our planet’s surface, it can offer substantial benefits in climate change control. For example, a 10km2 area of mangrove forest can store the same amount of carbon as 50km2 area of tropical upland forests.

Unfortunately, however, mangroves are disappearing three to five times faster than global forest losses, and annual carbon emissions resulting from mangrove loss have been calculated to exceed the carbon emissions from the whole of Austria. All the more reason to preserve this ecosystem.

Other ecosystems play similar roles in temperate regions: salt marshes and seagrass meadows, for example. It is estimated that under the right conditions, these ecosystems can store even more carbon than mangroves. When found together, healthy mangroves, seagrass, marshes and coral reefs support each other in offering higher biological productivity and benefits for people dependent on these resources and for biodiversity despite the imminent threat of climate change.

Why else do we need mangroves? The answer stems from their resilience. Disaster Relief and Reduction (DRR) is a growing issue brought to light by the increasing frequency of powerful cyclones like Idai and Kenneth. They wreaked havoc across the Western Indian Ocean region early in 2019, severely affecting nations like Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Mangroves are exceptionally resilient and can function as bulwarks against ocean surges and storms. (Photo: IUCN)

A belt of mangroves 100 metres thick has the ability to reduce wave height by two thirds, greatly reducing the damage to an area. On top of that, a cost analysis from the Philippines showed that the protection provided by mangroves was not only less expensive than erecting a seawall (without mentioning maintenance costs), but also provided local communities with fisheries-related benefits (e.g. acting as nursery grounds for different species) worth over US$170,000. In the same country, one hectare of mangroves is estimated to save US$3200 per year in flood prevention benefits.

Unfortunately, mangroves have declined by 35% compared to their pre-1980 global coverage, largely because of land conversion and overexploitation. Losses are extremely high in South-East Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific. While the loss rates are now slowing due to the increased recognition and awareness of mangrove benefits, the global rate of loss continues at approximately 1% per year. Lack of sustainable financing is often cited as a reason for long-term project failure in mangrove protection. Those who lose out the most are local communities who depend on the mangroves for their livelihoods and the biodiversity living within these forests.

Studies by Save Our Mangroves Now!, a project jointly implemented by the IUCN, WWF-Germany, and funded by the German government, show that often overlapping jurisdictions and a lack of coordination within government ministries cause inefficiencies and conflict. Experience tells us that community participation should be key to effective implementation and enforcement, since the primary users (locals) tend to have the greatest motivation to manage their ecosystem.

Nature-based solutions are increasingly recognized as the preferred approach to meet the needs of people and the environment in addressing climate change risks. Several international institutions, including the European Union, now have programmes and projects adopting this approach, and IUCN has been active on this front for many decades.

Running from 2006 to 2018, the programme Mangroves for the Future (MFF), based in Bangkok, Thailand, but chaired by IUCN and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), put its focus on building resilient coastal communities in 11 Asian countries by taking account of all the relevant marine ecosystems.

More than 140 projects were completed using its partnership approach, benefiting more than 300,000 people, IUCN reports. Three-quarters of the projects were implemented by community-based organizations or local NGOs. Climate change and disaster risk reduction were major themes of the initiative. Its activities were largely funded by Norway and Sweden, and IUCN said the lessons learned from the 12-year engagement will be used to help coastal communities to keep their ecosystems healthy for sustainable development. Similarly, Germany supports about 40 projects in more than 15 countries, receiving global support from Save Our Mangroves Now!

Raphaelle Flint is Marine Programme Officer for IUCN’s Global Marine & Polar Programme in Gland, Switzerland.

 

 

 

Kategorien: Jobs

Is the United Nations in Geneva failing as a global people’s forum?

28. Juni 2019 - 13:47

For an international gathering of such importance (the ECOSOC meeting was one of several major events at the Palais), it seems extraordinary that both the United Nations and the Swiss, the host government and proponent of the so-called “international Geneva” brand, had failed to provide the sort of support that one might expect for such a crucial event. Throngs of out-of-town representatives ranging from Scandinavian governments, the OECD and European Union to Canadian, Austrian and Indian NGOs who had travelled in especially found themselves waiting outside the main gates of the UN’s Palais des Nations for two hours or more in the hot sun.

Furthermore, there was no distinction between international delegates and ordinary tourists taking part in daily UN tours. They were all processed in the same lines. Many delegates missed critical meetings leaving them furious. Other meetings were cancelled, but with no one informed. Many criticised the ‘incompetence’ and ‘lack of preparation’ of the organizers. “It’s pretty outrageous,” noted one British NGO representative who had flown in from Nairobi. “It’s not as if we’ve come in for our enjoyment, particularly at Geneva prices. We’ve got work to do,”

While some joked guardedly – and without too much political correctness – that this was what it must be like for Syrian or Yemeni refugees waiting to be processed (if only for two hours), they placed the blame squarely on the United Nations – and the Swiss. Many vented their frustrations with Tweets lambasting the organizers, but few offered solutions.

For one thing, UN processing, even for those with pre-accreditation, began at 8.00 am. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, which handles many more people, processing begins at 6.00 am and normally takes less than 10 minutes. Similarly, at Geneva airport, where passengers pass through equally tight security checks, the wait is rarely more than 20 minutes. Furthermore, given the large number of participants, there was no effort to even set up special processing tents in order to cope with such an expected surge.

Cultivating International Geneva’s image: who is responsible?

Swiss officials, including the city’s International Geneva office, which seeks to promote this highly cosmopolitan lake region on the world stage, were quick to maintain that they were not actually responsible for the event despite their commitment to host delegates “in the best possible conditions”. It is up to the organizers, they say.

For their part, UN representatives argued that insufficient staff and funding were partially responsible for what many delegates had described as a ‘fiasco’. There is no reason why processing could not begin at 6.00 am, or even earlier, said a UN spokesperson, but this depends on whether funding is available for overtime.

She also maintained that Geneva airport security does not have to process accreditation as well. Yet, as delegates pointed out, they had already undergone pre-online accreditation, so failed to understand why it should take longer. Furthermore, as noted by UN officials, the organization has presented a Master Security Plan to the Swiss government, which would enable the entire pavilion area outside the Palais’ main gate to be covered (by 2023 it is hoped), preventing delegates from having to stand out in the sun or rain. So there is at least awareness conditions – and preparations – need to be improved.

Gates at the Palais des Nations (Photo: UNOG)

Responding to complaints of lack of information, UN officials note that it is up to the organizers to provide the necessary details and updates to delegates, but, again, this all depends on funding or available staff. As part of the UN’s renovation plan for the Palais, for example, there will eventually be huge information screens. The recent International Labour Organization (ILO) meeting with 51 heads of state, a UN spokesperson pointed out, had indeed erected processing tents and proceeded “without major hiccups, thanks to efficient planning and appropriate financial provisions.”

Perception is what matters; not excuses

So perhaps, as some suggest, this says more about UN or state commitment to events dominated by governments and official delegations rather than those involving civil society, or “the people”, such as humanitarian response.

What needs to be recognized is that most people are not concerned by excuses or official justifications, but deal with perception. According to a number of delegates, including one Geneva-based ambassador, people simply wish to have a properly-run conference. As one northern European government representative put it: “There is no way that the Dutch or Swedish would have allowed this to happen. Such a conference is a matter of prestige. One expects more from the Swiss.”

The key challenge for the U.N. is how to deal with more effective security without turning the Palais des Nations into an impenetrable bastion that no longer provides access to the very people it is supposed to be representing. Ever since 9/11, security at the Palais, which was built in the 1930s to accommodate the League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations, has tightened. Security has become even more stringent since the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015.

Prior to the World Trade Center attacks, virtually any member of the public could enter the Palais precincts. There were no walls, gates or electronic devices requiring special badges. For those who remember the 1980s and 1990s, the Palais des Nations was still very much a “People’s Palace” for NGO,  UN and government representatives to wander around freely, step into meetings or buttonhole members of the press. Even the public could stroll in, have lunch at one of the cafeterias or feed the peacocks in the Palais’ sprawling gardens (which technically belong to the people of Geneva) with its spectacular view of the Lake and Mont Blanc.

As outgoing UN Director-General Michael Møller admits: “There is a constant tension between the desire for greater openness and the – unfortunate – need for greater security. It involves tradeoffs, but our desire for maintaining and strengthening the Palais des Nations as a House of the People never diminishes.” (See Luisa Ballin’s Global Geneva article on Michael Møller)

The Palais des Nations: A clear security issue, but one with threatens openness

Nevertheless, there are fears that the United Nations is increasingly closing itself off from ‘ordinary’ human beings.  According to ACANU, the UN foreign correspondents’ association, access is becoming more difficult for journalists, particularly those who do not cover UN issues on a regular basis. As one reporter noted, “the UN should be delighted that journalists on the outside are also seeking to cover events.”

Many organizations no longer hold their meetings at the Palais, preferring instead to host them at other locations, such as the Graduate Institute’s Maison de la Paix or the International Conference Centre, where security is less tight or better managed. Or not in Geneva at all.

Human rights demonstration at the ‘Chair’ initially contructed by Handicap International to remember landmine victims.

While public demonstrations are allowed by the Geneva authorities at the wooden ‘Chair’ (International Geneva’s free speech “Hyde Park corner”) just outside the Palais, there is always the fear that unruly protesters or even terrorists could enter the Palais grounds. Attacks against UN buildings around the world have ranged from bombings in August 2003 in Baghdad, December 2007 in Algiers, and August 2011 in Abuja, Nigeria, to assaults against the UN guest house in Kabul in 2009 and UN office in Somalia in June 2013. These remain part of the UN security psyche and hence, according to UN officials, have understandably lead to a certain paranoia.

So what can be done to ensure better – and more informed – access? As some suggest, why not engage UN Volunteers or even students to act as conference hosts? This would involve the outside more closely, plus offer exceptional volunteer experience to young people. This is what the World Economic Forum and other organizations do.

There also needs to be much closer – and publicly perceived – collaboration between the UN and its Swiss hosts. Many delegates interviewed in recent days have little or no idea what “international Geneva” implies. Clearly, there is a huge information gap and a failure to inform, particularly people and organizations outside of Switzerland. Hosting official “International Geneva” websites alone is not going to do the trick. The Palais des Nations and what the UN represents needs to be fully integrated into the region, including neighbouring France, supposedly also part of the “Greater Geneva” urban vision.

Lake Geneva with fountain. (Photo: Geneva Tourism)

While the Swiss help fund a What’s On information desk for visiting delegates, many outsiders have little idea where to go once outside the Palais precincts. Unlike London, Bangkok or Hong Kong, there is no FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) where anyone, whether diplomat, NGO representative, entrepreneur or journalist, can go to meet people, have a drink or meal, and attend a public evening lecture. The FFCs are often the first place where visitors will stop off to meet people or find out what’s happening. They also tend to close late, as the manager of the Bangkok FCC put it: “when the last member leaves.” (The current Club Suisse de la Presse will be undergoing renovation with still no clear role as to whether it may eventually incorporate a similarly-engaged FCC component).

With high profile events such as ECOSOC, some suggest, and particularly if the weather is good, why not have more public events, such as a large evening networking reception in the Palais gardens also open to the people of Geneva? This could be hosted by Global Compact companies, most of which claim to support the Sustainable Development Goals, as their contribution to International Geneva’s knowledge and global action hub.

According to recent official statistics, the UN last year hosted over 12,000 meetings involving over one million people. For its part, the International Geneva office points out that events organized by international organizations in Geneva itself topped a record, 3,364 meetings in 2017 – and this despite growing competition from other cities such as Copenhagen, Bonn or Bangkok.

So Geneva remains one of the world’s favourite – and most neutral – conference locations. Yet, as some warn, if both the UN and Geneva wish to step up to the mark on a more sustainable long-term basis, they will need to engage in far more out-of-the-box thinking, including more effective public information outreach worldwide. Poorly organized events do not help.

Foreign correspondent and author Edward Girardet is editor of Global Geneva magazine. He lives between Geneva and Bangkok.

 

 

 

Kategorien: Jobs

Parag Khanna’s Latest Book: The Future is Asian

26. Juni 2019 - 14:48

Asia is not a continent, Parag Khanna observes; it is an extended region that includes some five billion people, whereas China’s population accounts for a mere 1.5 billion. As Khanna sees it, It is this immense assortment of humanity that will almost certainly define the future as the Asian Century.

Understanding the full extent of Asia requires a bit of mental gymnastics from Westerners who are accustomed thinking of Asia as a succession of disparate states, separate entities that seem to have little in common with each other. That perspective, Khanna observes, is a lingering after-effect of 19th and 20th century colonialism. As Khanna sees it, even the United States, which always thought of itself as anti-imperialist, has often been an indirect participant in colonial imperialism. The most glaring example may have been the Vietnam War in which Americans initially provided support to France’s postwar efforts to reclaim its lost colonies in Indochina.

The United Nations and many of the international institutions intended to provide economic and political stability after World War II also reflect, to a large extent, the power balance that existed in the world towards the end of the colonial era.  The result has been a number of strange anomalies when one looks at the global order today.

The UN Security Council no longer represents the real distribution of power

Why, for instance, does France, which has a population of less than 70 million people, still wield  veto power in the UN Security Council, while India, with a population of just over a billion citizens, has no permanent representation on the Council at all? And Japan, the third most powerful economy in the world, is excluded from a permanent seat. The reasons for not expanding leadership of the institutions are understandable. Add too many players and the system becomes unmanageable.  But the cold truth is that the organization no longer reflects the real distribution of power in the world today, much less what it will be in the near future.

While many of the countries that make up Khanna’s vision of greater Asia are admittedly still disconnected from each other – and often burdened with internal political growing pains – the fact is that the Old World, in which developing countries seemed to keep developing without getting anywhere is rapidly changing. Globalization, the growth of the worldwide supply chain and China’s New Silk Road initiative (referred to as the BRI or Belt Road Initiative) will accelerate the process faster than most of us expect.  Many emerging markets are on the point of being fully emerged.  China, to put it bluntly, has already re-emerged, but countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and Bangladesh are also becoming manufacturing centres.

A more important insight for Europe and America is that Asia, as Parag Khanna defines it, is where most important economic growth will take place over the next decades, and that means that from now on it is likely to be the main focus for future investment.

Khanna, referred to by the New York Times, as one of the current foreign policy whiz kids, was born in India, where his grandfather was a life-long civil servant and diplomat.  Khanna’s father initially moved the family to the United Arab Emirates and finally to the US, where Khanna received a major part of his education. Following that, he has been a regular at most of the major international conferences engaged in brainstorming on the future of the planet.

Khanna provides a fast recap of world history as seen from an Asian perspective, but it is really the numbers that make his case.  The shift of major new investment towards Asia is undeniable. Khanna notes that countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel, whether you consider them part of the Asian mix or not, are focusing the lion’s share of their investment interests on Asia.  While virtually every member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has reduced its trade with the United States, trade with other Asian countries has been surging.

The United States has long counted on its technological sophistication to provide continued economic dominance over everyone else, but whether US high technology will be enough to save the US economy in a changing world is far from guaranteed. China has set 2030 as the target date for surpassing the US in artificial intelligence, and it already surpasses the US in the number and quality of its super computers.

China’s consumer market can expect to dwarf both the US and Europe

Kai-Fu Lee, who at one time headed Google and then Microsoft’s operations in China and recently published an analysis of future Artificial Intelligence (AI) prospects, AI Superpowers, warns that the key to dominating AI is access to data on which to base the algorithms that drive the system. With at least 800 million Internet users in China versus 100 million in US, it does not take a great deal of imagination to see where the future lies. As a consumer market, China can also be expected to dwarf both the US and Europe.

Market domination is likely to influence global culture as well. Until now, the US and Europe have pushed western notions of individual liberty, the rule of law, freedom of movement and a Western vision of human rights. The Chinese are clearly more authoritarian. Philippines strongman Rodrigo Duterte has gone even further and authorized murder of suspected drug dealers and gangsters. Khanna points out that in the future, democracy – at least as far as one-person, one vote – itself may be in question. The Chinese don’t like their government, he says, but they trust it. What they want is concrete results concerning safety, a functional economy and living conditions. To obtain that many people are willing to sacrifice a certain amount of personal expression to have a secure environment.

The chaos of the Trump administration and Britain’s government paralysis over Brexit have raised serious questions about the wisdom of crowds, especially when they seem unwilling to do the kind of research necessary to understand the trend towards increasingly complex globalization.  Khanna suggests that government of the future may more closely resemble Plato’s idea of a benevolent philosopher king, or translated into modern terms, a technocracy overseen by elected officials.

In the final analysis,  Khanna’s underlying message is to wake up and be aware that major changes are taking place. A new blueprint for the global economy and consequently the world is taking shape.  The age of superpower, or even multipolar hegemonies, dominating the planet may eventually be replaced by a more diverse assortment of formerly developing countries coming on line with their own ideas about what really works.

Their vision is likely to be quite different from the one inherited from the after effects of 19th century colonialism. In short, the emerging markets may finally be emerging. Welcome to the Wild East.

Parag Khanna seems intent on following his own advice. After years of traveling the world and several books, he has rebased himself to Singapore, the backdrop for ‘crazy rich Asians’. His book Is a sobering read for those Europeans and Americans who hope to shore up an aged and faltering system, but even more, it is an important read for any of us to understand the future as Khanna sees it, as well as the economic and social changes that Khanna predicts are certain to  shape it.

Journalist and author William Dowell is Global Geneva’s Americas Editor based in Philadelphia. He has covered global issues ranging from Southeast Asia to North Africa for TIME, ABC News and other media.

Author Parag Khanna The Future is Asian by Parag Khanna is published by Simon & Schuster.
Kategorien: Jobs

Chappatte and the stifling of graphic satire

26. Juni 2019 - 13:01
As part of Global Geneva’s regular profiling of cartoonists collaborating with the Geneva-based Cartooning for Peace Foundation, we examine the position of Patrick Chappatte, a Lebanese-Swiss, who, amongst other papers and magazines, has been working with the International Herald Tribune (now International New York Times) for the past 20 years. 

The caricature by Antonio Moreira Benyamin was initially published by L’Espresso, a major Portuguese weekly, and offered to the New York Times as part of a syndication service. It was then used in the NYT’s international edition provoking a broadside of criticism, particularly in social media, claiming that its portrayal of the two political leaders with Trump wearing a kippa (skull-cap) and Netanyahu a Star of David medallion was blatantly anti-Semitic. Two days later, the NYT announced that its publication had been an ‘error of judgement’.

The editors of the NYT then offered a somewhat grovelling apology noting that “such imagery is always dangerous” and particularly at a time with anti-Semitism on the rise “it’s all the more unacceptable.” The paper went on to maintain that such an incident would not be allowed to happen again and that the paper would revise its editorial process. It also announced that it would terminate all its syndication contracts as well as end the publication of daily political cartoons, including those by regular graphic editorialist Patrick Chappatte. According to opinion editor James Bennett, the paper had already stopped running political cartoons in its North American edition, so there was really nothing new about its decision.

The New York Times: Catering to political correctness

For many, however, the NYT’s catering to political correctness sparked even more outrage, particularly amongst journalists and cartoonists. They condemned the paper for its ‘cowardice’, ‘feebleness’ and ‘lack of commitment’ to a free and outspoken press. According to Plantu, chief cartoonist for Le Monde and a founder of Cartooning for Peace (a Global Geneva media partner), the move was ‘stupid’ as it endangered democracy and freedom of opinion. He could not imagine, he said, “a newspaper without political caricatures”. For Marianne, a French weekly, the decision was like “killing a mosquito with a bazooka”.

Chappatte (Courtesy The New York Times).

Some went even as far to say that the NYT editors were no better than the autocratic political leaders around the world who seek to stifle the right of cartoonists to express themselves. Among the latest victims: Turkish artist Musa Kart, currently in jail, and Zunar, a Malaysian cartoonist and 2016 Cartooning for Peace laureate, who has faced 43 years imprisonment for sedition under the previous regime before it was voted out in 2018. According to British cartoonist Martin Rowson, who described the NYT move as pompous and hypocritical, this is also why five cartoonists were murdered in the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. Or why dozens of British cartoonists were on the Gestapo death list during World War II.

So where does this leave Patrick Chappatte, who works between Geneva and Los Angeles,  and is known professionally as Chappatte? How does he see his role as a cartoonist, or graphic editorialist as he describes himself, in the early 21st century, when so much of the press is under attack?

Chappatte, who also draws for the Swiss dailies Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Le Temps as well as the German weekly, Der Spiegel, says the Portuguese cartoon should never have been published by what he describes as the “world’s best newspaper.” For him, it has also brought enormous disappointment. “All I can do is sigh when I put down my pencil. So many years of work, destroyed by a single drawing, not even by me.”

Courtesy Chappatte.

Cartooning requires an enormous sense of responsibility

For Chappatte, who was born in 1967 in Karachi, Pakistan, of Lebanese mother and Swiss father, his own “unique freedom to draw has always been guided by an enormous sense of responsibility.” It is this professional commitment, he maintains, that enabled him to produce two cartoons a week for the International Herald Tribune (later International York Times), a collaboration that began in 2001. It also led him to win – as the first non-American – two unprecedented Overseas Press Club Awards for his drawings in 2011 and 2015.

Chappatte, who first drew attention to the NYT decision to cancel cartoons in his personal blog, noted that he thought Americans understood the concept of political caricatures. However, as he also pointed out, “that was before…” A number of America’s best cartoonists, he maintains, “have lost their jobs because their editors considered them too critical of Trump.”

As a cartoonist, Chappatte has spent considerable time focusing on editorial collaboration with other cartoonists, particularly in conflict zones such as Syria, Gaza and Lebanon, with the goal of promoting dialogue through cartoons. Since 1995, he has worked in what is known as comics journalism, which seeks to use cartooning and reporting tools as part of graphic novels. Also published by the NYT, these include Plumes Croisée (Crossed Pens), an initiative that has taken him to the slums in Nairobi or to report on gang violence in Central America. In a similar vein, he has undertaken educational workshops supported by the Swiss Foreign Ministry aimed at street kids.

Chappatte (Courtesy The New York Times)

Social media do not serve debate, but promote polemics

It is for this reason that Chappatte’s reflection on the role of cartooning is more subtle if not profound. Freedom of expression and satire need to be properly managed, he maintains. This is one reason why he helped found Cartooning for Peace in October 2006 in Geneva, together with Plantu and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. He is currently its Vice-President. The suppression of cartoons by a newspaper as influential as the NYT also points to the insidious role of social media which, he says, “do not serve debate, but rather promote polemics.”

“Perhaps we should start getting worried. And to be disgusted,” Chappatte declares. “Press cartoonists were born with democracy and when our liberties are threatened, they themselves are menaced. But I fear that it is not just the drawing of caricatures which is under threat, but journalism and freedom of opinion in general.”

“We are living in a world now where moralistic crowds inundate social media and rise up like a storm…These demand immediate public actions by editors leaving no room to ponder or to engage in dialogue,” he continues.

Courtesy Chappatte.

So how to resolve this? For Chappatte, one solution is to encourage journalistic colleagues to “stop being intimidated by angry throngs. In this mad world, we need visual commentary more than ever…as well as humour.”

Despite having sacrificed its star cartoonist on the altar of social media brouhaha, the New York Times has proposed continuing its collaboration with Chappatte, but through other projects that do not entail political cartooning in its Opinion pages. These include developing new graphic novels or visual reportages along the lines already produced by their star artist.

As one of the world’s leading and innovative cartoonists, Chappatte has little need to distinguish himself further. Working with his journalist wife, Anne Fréderique Widmann, his unusual conflict or social reports, including his depictions of death row prisoners in the United States, or exhibitions at prestigious locations such as the Elysée Palace in Paris, have already made their mark. For example, together with Plantu, the two cartoonists helped raise funds for the Cartooning for Peace Foundation by doing ‘live’ drawings during a direct broadcast of the Suisse Romande Orchestra.

Courtesy Chappatte.

The Swiss cartoonist’s ability to express himself also lies within the perfect symbiosis that exists between his subtle pencil strokes and an open, universalist mind. Together with his family, he lived in different parts of the world, notably Lebanon, Singapore and the United States, before coming to Geneva to work as an intern with a local newspaper. He also used this time to develop his graphic talents.

Chappatte’s persistence finally paid off. Not only did he emerge as a perceptive and incredibly creative cartoonist for different quality newspapers, but he made it to the ranks of the New York Times. He did this by patiently convincing its editors that they needed a more international perspective that only he as an artist-cartoonist-journalist could bring. Chappatte cartoons began assuming a prominent place on the opinion pages of America’s best known newspaper.

Is political satire no longer welcome?

“This is the amazing thing about American pragmatism. There is a certain spirit that I appreciate and from which one can always learn. They know how to listen and give you a chance. If an American editor says, sure, let’s do it, it’s convincing. In Switzerland or France, on the other hand, they would tell you: you haven’t understood. I told you no! They would have looked at my proposal as a form of jostling for power. I was only able to publish my drawings in the United States because I lived in New York and understood how it all works.”

Courtesy Chappatte.

For those concerned by the need to encourage a more vibrant and independent press, particularly at a time when independent journalism is under attack, it is hard to grasp why such a reputable newspaper as the New York Times almost immediately kowtowed to the clamours of social media. And in the process not only opted to curb one of the world’s leading cartoonists, but also send a message that critical satire is no longer welcome. The question now is whether Chappatte – and other cartoonists – can convince not only the NYT but other papers that have also dropped graphic satire that such critical voices are desperately needed.

Luisa Ballin is a Swiss journalist and contributing editor to Global Geneva.

Genève. 12.9.2016. Patrick Chappattte dans son atelier. photo © eddy mottaz Patrick Chappatte. You can visit his website at: https://www.chappatte.com/en/ You can also read his essay: The end of political cartoons at the New York Times. 

 

 

 

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