The Importance of Equity at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris

Social equity plays an important role in the solution to environmental sustainability. This is one of the core missions for Friends of the Earth, an environmental network campaigning on the most urgent and environmental issues. Cam Walker, the Campaigns Coordinator at Friends of the Earth Australia, talks about the social equity being part of the solution…

Friends of the Earth (FoE) describe themselves as the “world’s largest grassroots environmental network, uniting 76 national member groups and some 5,000 local activist groups on every continent.” Based on this, will any members of your group be attending the Paris Climate Conference?  

There will be a huge number of people, at least several hundred. At events like this, we try to have a number of delegates from the global south and locals. We tend to have most of the delegates from the local area. As this will be held in Europe, they will mostly be from there.

Ideally, what are the changes FoE want to see at the summit? Why are these changes so important?

In tracking the debate over the last 20 years, it is clear that the issue of equity has come and gone. The Kyoto Protocol was was based on the notion of equity, yet this was lost in the 2000s as the US and its allies dominated the debate, which lead to a rise in particular voices, who were not open to there being any limits on overall carbon use. We want the concept of ‘fair shares’ at the core of any agreement in Paris. This will mean commitments for meaningful money on the table from the global north to the south and agreements to limit carbon production and hence limit warming. Within the UN, we want to see a binding treaty to control the behaviour of transnational corporations.

CamWalkerFoEphoto

How will the decisions at the conference affect Australia and the wider community?

 If we look globally, Australia has been a real climate change villain for most of the past 15 years. We are one of the largest per capita greenhouse gas emitters, and we need to reduce emissions here. We must stop exporting coal. We must listen to our regional neighbours, especially those in the Pacific. We want to encourage our government to play a key role in reaching an agreement which will hold overall warming to a maximum of 2°C.

In a news report on your website, an article you posted said that that the final preparation sessions for the Paris global climate summit in Bonn, Germany last month were disappointing. It talks about a weak negotiation text favouring developed countries. Can you talk more about this please? 

 We need to have a conversation about the loss and damage mechanism. The crux of climate change is two things. 1. The need to understand there are ecological limits. This means there are limits on allowable carbon pollution, with implication for how economies can develop. This awareness is lacking in the negotiations. 2. The right to develop conversation. The global north has used a lot of the available carbon budget to develop their economies. The south must be allowed the same right. But as a global community we need to do this in a way that doesn’t burn us all off the planet.

What are the main issues you are facing with completing these objectives in Australia? 

 For international negotiations, there is a much higher target that we must commit to: to the order of 60-70% by 2030. It is ‘up to’ 30 per cent at present, which is less than half of what’s required. In Australia, we support and help implement a ‘loss and compensation’ mechanism at a global scale, which means direct financial payments and support with adaptation and mitigation in southern nations. On the domestic level, we need to transform away from coal and liquid and natural gas. This won’t happen at the climate summit but is a required step if we are to fulfill our global responsibilities.

What happens if these changes are not made?

 There will be continued incremental climate disruption. We’ve seen the changes – the shifts in cyclone activity, stronger el nino cycles, sea level rise, etc. We are heading towards an ecosystem collapse within conceivable time. Given this reality, failure is not a heartening option. Even with political will, (limiting temperature rises to) two degrees is going to be very hard.

How can the UN climate change summit help get FoE’s voice heard in Australia?

 Fossil fuel projects are being resisted across the planet by communities and towns one by one. It is up to the leaders of the nations that will gather in Paris to listen to climate science and achieve a binding agreement to limit emissions. It’s an opportunity we can’t ignore. We have to work as strategically as possible. We are working with civil society organisations, lobbying nations from the global north, and also collaborating with important voices amongst the emerging nations to help ensure their voices are heard.

Control the Unavoidable

Control the Unavoidable

The neo-conservative Tea Party and new President-elect Donald Trump regard climate change as a myth. However, well-established scientific evidence proves them wrong. The consequences of the changing climate are unpredictable; millions of people will certainly be displaced. Climate action is expensive but there is no alternative.

Climate change is happening even faster than the predictions would have told us five years ago or ten years ago.“ President Obama stated at the SXSL Discussion in the White House this October. Climate change is the major challenge of our time. More than 95 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is the result of human activity. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the globally biggest knowledge society, rang the alarm bells in its 2014 study and warned against unrestricted greenhouse-emissions. “A given amount of emissions will lead to a given amount of temperature increase that will lead to a given amount of smooth incremental sea level rise“, and the report concludes that “pushing global temperatures past certain thresholds could trigger abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes that have massively disruptive and large-scale impacts“. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which serves as reference in the negotiations taking place within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) assumes a highly-probable forecast traced to an increased amount of carbon dioxide particles in the atmosphere in its assessment from 2007: tropical storms and hurricanes will intensify, heavy rainfalls and floods are becoming an ever more frequent occurrence, rising temperatures will lead to droughts and crop failures, sea-level rise will be due to rainfalls and melting glaciers.

Freshwater availability in Central South, East and Southeast Asia particularly in large river basins is projected to decrease due to climate change which, along with population growth and increasing demand arising from higher standards of living, could aversely affect more than a billion people by the 2050s“, the IPCC-scientists write in their 2007 report. The global population has tripled since 1950, about 3,3 billion people suffer from freshwater scarcity, one billion of them is forced to consume polluted water. Persistent droughts and further rising sea-levels will worsen the already existing problem in the near future.

img_8242Back in 2006, the 700 pages Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, authored by the London macroeconomist Nicholas Stern, and published for the British government, attracted attention beyond the academic world. His study examined the economic implications of climate change and the closely related consequences for modern societies. Preventing the excess of 550 parts per million, carbon dioxide particles in the atmosphere, costs about one percent of the world’s GDP, Stern calculated. The global economy will have to bear the ultimate costs of reducing CO2 emissions. That can be one explanation why there has not been much of political will shown in protecting vulnerable communities.

Migration patterns and sources of displacement have changed. Many experts argue that the migrant/refugee dichotomy disregards the very complex reasons of people who have to flee but are not considered as refugees according to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The deterioration of the environment and the impacts of climate change will trigger large population movements. As the IPCC illustrated in its first report in 1990, “the gravest effects of climate change may be those on human migration“. According to figures of the International Organization of Migration (IOM), an overall of approximately 1,6 billion people have been affected by droughts over the last 30 years; hurricanes, cyclones and other types of storms made a severe impact on 718 million people during the same period. The United Nations estimate that about 350 Million people can be displaced due to the adverse effects of climate change. In international refugee law, however, destructive environmental conditions are not sufficient to claim protection. Stern declared that “the exact number who will actually be displaced or forced to migrate will depend on the level of investment, planning and resources“. Contracting parties of the 2015 Paris Agreement recognize that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies. However, necessary measures remain to be addressed.

The article on ‘Loss & Damage’ in the PA suggests solutions in supporting people affected by environmental disasters. In paragraph 50 signatory states of the PA call on the Executive Committee of the Warsaw Interantional Mechanism to establish a Task Force to develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change. Sea-level rise and groundwater salinization which have already damaged common agricultural land on islands and coastal regions prevail the central inescapable causes of action to be claimed in a long-term perspective. The most affected countries are the least responsible. The article will be characterized by the hostility of industrialised countries to pay for compensations. For comparison: measured in absolute numbers, China is the biggest polluter with 9.019,518 kilotons (kt) followed by the United States (5.305,570 kt) and India (2.074,345 kt). Bangladesh, a country expected to be hit hard by climate change impacts, emitted only 57,069 kt CO2 in 2011 according to World Bank figures.

The goal is to avoid the uncontrollable and control the unavoidable, said Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in a statement to the German weekly “Der Spiegel“ ten years ago. The 2030 agenda of the international community and the Paris Agreement which are the blueprint of political policy on a world stage will require action from every single country and its citizens, from the private sector, non-profit organizations and the academia. Author Naomi Klein summarizes as she pleads for an “act on climate“ in her book ‘This Changes Everything’:The longer we wait, the more it builds up, the more dramatically we must change to reduce the risks of catastrophic warming.

Thilo Kuehne

Global Vision Institute

The text has been sent to the subscribers of GVI’s November newsletter. More articles from international experts will be published the coming weeks. If you wish to sign up for our newsletter, put your name and email on the right of this page.

GVI Projects: Training the Future Leaders

GVI is developing a pilot accreditation programme for universities where students in the field of International Affairs will be trained to become the next generation of values-driven international leaders.

Through periodic assessments of values, supportive workshops and a UN mentoring programme, students will be able to develop a more in-depth understanding of the UN values and how to apply them in a real world context. This will set students on a value-based track allowing them to inject passion and purpose into their future career as scholars, practitioners or policy-makers and develop a range of skills valued by employers, including competencies  for collaborative leadership, enhanced innovation, accountability and a greater sensitivity to human rights.

The outcomes of the programme are that students will have a better understanding of the UN system and its values, better career opportunities in international organizations and a higher level of commitment to UN values and how to become an influencer within the international system.

GVI depends on donations from supports like you. To donate to GVI and the work conducted, please click here.

GVI Interview: Merlyn Ooms, Board of Directors GVI

MErlynMs. Merlyn Ooms is a member of GVI’s Board of Directors. A specialist in diplomacy and security, she has been working at The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in London, United Kingdom for the past three years. As a new Board Member, GVI interviews Ms. Ooms for her take on GVI’s mission in the current international system.

 

 

 

What about GVI’s mission makes it relevant today for the international system?

Today’s world sees increasing complexities of international relations and systems, where UN values are continuously under pressure. It is vital for these values to be upheld.This is where staff of international organisations (IO)play an instrumental role in managing and defending these principles.

From a functionalist perspective, international organisations are here to serve altruistic ends, assuming that we are a homogeneous international community. However, even if built upon the broad principles stated in the UN Charter, relative heterogeneity in terms of values continues to characterise the environment in which we operate.

In our daily jobs most of us work to strengthen human rights and improve social justice. This however won’t be realisable without leading by example and adopting values that will drive global vision and citizenship.GVI provides the necessary knowledge and training for IO staff to support the personal, organisational and social transformation needed to align policy and practice with the UN values for peace, justice, equality, human dignity, and environmental sustainability.

 

2) What do you love about GVI?

I love the passion and personal commitment of GVI’s members and its board of directors to be an influencer in the international system by promoting crucial values that will strengthen transparent and accountable management and leadership.

 

3) What do you hope to achieve in your role on Board of Directors?

In my role, I hope to be able to add new ideas for expanding GVI’s mission across the next generation of players in the international system.

We are currently working on an accreditation programme for universities where through periodic assessments of values, supportive workshops and a mentoring programme, students in the field of International Relations will be able to develop a more thorough understanding of the UN values and how to apply them in their future careers. This will set students on a value-based track allowing them to inject passion and purpose into their future career as scholars, practitioners or policy-makers.

The Promise of Well-Being: An Article by GVI President Alisa Clarke

In her role as President of Global Vision Institute, Alisa Clarke discusses about the case for human rights in the newly developed Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Ms. Clarke explores how the SDG’s are tackling human right issues such as inequality in efforts to promote an overall well-being for all and lead to global fulfillment. We invite you to read the full article on this compelling argument by clicking on the following link: Clarke from 978-1-63484-709-4

The Importance of Equity at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris

Social equity plays an important role in the solution to environmental sustainability. This is one of the core missions for Friends of the Earth, an environmental network campaigning on the most urgent and environmental issues. Cam Walker, the Campaigns Coordinator at Friends of the Earth Australia, talks about the social equity being part of the solution…

Friends of the Earth (FoE) describe themselves as the worlds largest grassroots environmental network, uniting 76 national member groups and some 5,000 local activist groups on every continent. Based on this, will any members of your group be attending the Paris Climate Conference?  

There will be a huge number of people, at least several hundred. At events like this, we try to have a number of delegates from the global south and locals. We tend to have most of the delegates from the local area. As this will be held in Europe, they will mostly be from there.

Ideally, what are the changes FoE want to see at the summit? Why are these changes so important?

In tracking the debate over the last 20 years, it is clear that the issue of equity has come and gone. The Kyoto Protocol was was based on the notion of equity, yet this was lost in the 2000s as the US and its allies dominated the debate, which lead to a rise in particular voices, who were not open to there being any limits on overall carbon use. We want the concept of ‘fair shares’ at the core of any agreement in Paris. This will mean commitments for meaningful money on the table from the global north to the south and agreements to limit carbon production and hence limit warming. Within the UN, we want to see a binding treaty to control the behaviour of transnational corporations.

CamWalkerFoEphoto

How will the decisions at the conference affect Australia and the wider community?

 If we look globally, Australia has been a real climate change villain for most of the past 15 years. We are one of the largest per capita greenhouse gas emitters, and we need to reduce emissions here. We must stop exporting coal. We must listen to our regional neighbours, especially those in the Pacific. We want to encourage our government to play a key role in reaching an agreement which will hold overall warming to a maximum of 2°C.

In a news report on your website, an article you posted said that that the final preparation sessions for the Paris global climate summit in Bonn, Germany last month were disappointing. It talks about a weak negotiation text favouring developed countries. Can you talk more about this please? 

 We need to have a conversation about the loss and damage mechanism. The crux of climate change is two things. 1. The need to understand there are ecological limits. This means there are limits on allowable carbon pollution, with implication for how economies can develop. This awareness is lacking in the negotiations. 2. The right to develop conversation. The global north has used a lot of the available carbon budget to develop their economies. The south must be allowed the same right. But as a global community we need to do this in a way that doesn’t burn us all off the planet.

What are the main issues you are facing with completing these objectives in Australia? 

 For international negotiations, there is a much higher target that we must commit to: to the order of 60-70% by 2030. It is ‘up to’ 30 per cent at present, which is less than half of what’s required. In Australia, we support and help implement a ‘loss and compensation’ mechanism at a global scale, which means direct financial payments and support with adaptation and mitigation in southern nations. On the domestic level, we need to transform away from coal and liquid and natural gas. This won’t happen at the climate summit but is a required step if we are to fulfill our global responsibilities.

What happens if these changes are not made?

 There will be continued incremental climate disruption. We’ve seen the changes – the shifts in cyclone activity, stronger el nino cycles, sea level rise, etc. We are heading towards an ecosystem collapse within conceivable time. Given this reality, failure is not a heartening option. Even with political will, (limiting temperature rises to) two degrees is going to be very hard.

How can the UN climate change summit help get FoEs voice heard in Australia?

 Fossil fuel projects are being resisted across the planet by communities and towns one by one. It is up to the leaders of the nations that will gather in Paris to listen to climate science and achieve a binding agreement to limit emissions. It’s an opportunity we can’t ignore. We have to work as strategically as possible. We are working with civil society organisations, lobbying nations from the global north, and also collaborating with important voices amongst the emerging nations to help ensure their voices are heard.

 

Pushing for a Zero Emissions goal

One of the major steps towards climate action is providing viable, sustainable solutions. This is the core mission for Beyond Zero Emissions, a not-for-profit organisation designing and implementing a zero emissions economy for Australia. Stephen Bygrave, the CEO of beyond Zero Emissions, talks about the solutions already being implemented in Australia…

Firstly, you mentioned you spoke with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) this afternoon about the upcoming climate change conference. Did you advise them on emission issues in Australia?

 I spoke with DFAT this afternoon as they were holding a briefing for civil society and business groups for the upcoming Paris climate conference and Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) will be going to that conference. BZE has done a range of research on climate solutions, which we will be presenting to governments, business and NGOs at the Paris conference.

There are obviously many things on the agenda at the Paris conference but, ideally, what are the changes you want to see at the summit? And why are these changes so important?

 We are pushing for a zero-emissions goal – 2 degrees and below means transitioning to zero emissions in the second half of this century. We will be sharing research and reports on zero emissions energy, buildings, transport, land use etc. which show how it is possible to make this transition. We are working with other NGOs like Zero Carbon Britain, Track Zero, the World Resources Institute and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), to try and get the zero emissions goal into the Paris text agreement. We are showcasing the Zero Emissions Byron project where the Byron Shire community is taking the Beyond Zero Emissions plans and implementing them on the ground. This will be Australia’s first regional area to go to zero emissions in ten years. There are a number of other cities and towns interested in zero emissions – Copenhagen and Adelaide are racing each other to be the first zero emissions city. Copenhagen, Melbourne and Vancouver are also interested. This amazing array of projects show that the transition to zero emissions is already happening.

How will the decisions the Paris conference affect Australia and the wider community?

 Even a 2 degree target means zero emissions. However the post 2020 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) means the world is on track for 2.7 degrees warming by 2100. If we hit

2.7°C it means catastrophic climate change. Even the consequences of  2°C warming is scary. This is why we are aiming for 0 degrees warming. We have already seen the impacts from 1 degree Celsius with ice sheets and glaciers melting, floods, hurricanes, droughts, fires etc.

StephenBygravePhoto

In the statement on your website, you have created a transition plan for Australia to be at zero emissions in ten years using commercially available technology. What kind of commercial technology do you mean?

 Our approach is to look at existing technology to implement right now – we don’t have time to wait. The window is closing to stop runaway climate change. For example, reports show that new wind and solar technology is cheaper than coal. Energy efficient buildings will have enormous savings for the Australian economy. Moving to zero emissions transport such as high speed rail and electric vehicles will have huge improvements in economic productivity. New investments are required in energy systems, buildings, agriculture, transport etc regardless of climate action, so let’s make them efficient and low emissions now.

What are the main issues you are facing with this transition in Australia?

 Political will and the guts to do this. Another issue is standing up to the vested interests, as there are many existing companies whose interest is to keep the status quo as that is where they profit. Some businesses are seeing the need to change their business model as times change, others are not – they will eventually suffer if they don’t change quickly and address the innovation challenges we currently face.”

How can the UN climate change summit help get BZEs voice heard in Australia?

 The UN climate change summit will help to apply pressure back on Australia for more ambitious action and not just talk. At Paris there will be a realisation that we’ve been talking about climate action for the past three decades with little result. There is a need for increased pressure and increased action. There is also increased recognition that people just want to get on with climate action. We are seeing a number of local communities and state governments who are keen to implement zero emissions solutions on the ground. The UN summit will highlight these actions and show that disruption is already upon us.

How Behaviours Impact environmental sustainability

 

An important part of climate action is understanding how everyone can help to reduce their carbon footprint. Suzanne Harter, a Climate Change Campaigner at Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) talks with GVI about the important changes everyone can take to help work towards a more environmentally sustainable world…

Firstly, is any part of your organisation going to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris?

 Yes, ACF’s CEO, Kelly O’Shanassy, and our climate change campaigns manager, Victoria McKenzie-McHarg, are both going.

According to your website, The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) wants to “get to the heart of environmental problems by tackling the underlying social and economic causes.” On this understanding, ideally, what are the changes you want to see at the summit? Why are these changes so important?

 We are hoping to see increased commitment to climate action at the negotiations. Current emissions reductions commitments still have global warming increasing to 2.7°C which is much too high. We would like to see international governments collectively committing to targets and a review process that will keep global warming at much less than 2°C. We are pushing for 1.5°C, which is a much safer limit. Also we are hoping to see greater assistance to developing nations that need help both mitigating and adapting to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Climate finance and pushing for a 1.5°C ceiling will be important topics especially for many of our low-lying neighbours who are facing some of the most difficult impacts of climate change. (Kiribati’s) President, Anote Tong, has made it clear they are going to be under water if we don’t get climate change under control.

How will the decisions at the Climate Change conference affect Australia and the wider community?

 There are two things happening in Paris: There are the negotiations, but there are also communities, businesses and non-state actors mobilizing, raising ambition and broadening the field of actors and actions. These broader actions and commitments are an important part of the Paris COP. The conference is also helping to shine a light on issues of concern such as the impact of coal and fossil fuels on our future. ACF is working to stop new coal mines being built in Australia, and that includes taking action to stop the Carmichael mine, which has recently been approved in the Galilee Basin. There will be many people in Paris that share our concern about such a massive new mine, which if developed would be one of the biggest in the world, responsible for billions of tons of carbon pollution and endangering the Great Barrier Reef.

What are the main issues you are facing with climate change in Australia?

 Fossil fuels are at the heart of our energy sector and this need to change. The government needs to shift its allegiance and support clean energy rather than subsidising fossil fuels and acting as a barrier to a clean future. The current government removed the carbon price scheme, which was having a positive impact. It has now been dismantled and replaced by the ineffective direct action plan, which is not working. There has been no strong commitment to climate action by the current government.

Suzanne Harter

How can the UN Climate Change Conference help ACF’s voice be heard?

 It can help get the government to take stronger action. It can also help build a stronger movement. Because of the added focus on climate change, we are seeing a range of sectors– unions, health and medical, youth and aboriginal sectors—getting involved in the broader movement and raising their voice because they understand how climate change is affecting their communities. This big voice is being transferred to Paris. It shows our government and other governments around the world how strong, broad and committed the climate movement has become. For example, the People’s Climate March wouldn’t have occurred without the conference. People are mobilising and sending a message about stronger action on climate change. The conference is also putting pressure on big polluting companies and mobilizing more responsible companies. We have seen some positive actions from big business globally, including those that have signed on to “We Mean Business” commitments. Recently 12 businesses in Australia signed on to a range of commitments sending a positive message about businesses that understand the need to take action.

Now I just wanted to talk to you about your view on environmental sustainability. How can individual behaviour demonstrate environmental sustainability values?

 In a whole lot of ways. There are simple things that people can do every single day. For example, by choosing products produced sustainably, the heating and cooling of homes, light and energy use, investment in solar power. Individuals can also support sustainability by pushing governments for more public transport or by walking or cycling. It can also be through the way we eat. For example, eating meat is a high carbon food so it’s not the best from a sustainability perspective. We need to think about sustainable food and patterns – what we eat, wear what transport we use and what we advocate from government.

What about at the organisational level?

I’ve seen several different organisations implementing green initiatives including simple things like reducing what is printed and not printing in colour; creating practices related to the kitchen like composting and recycling; and increasing the sustainability or their buildings. For example, the building I’m in now has an efficient way of heating and cooling with air flow, efficient water and light usage. Decisions about how to be green through our built environment are important but so is building a culture around it.

What about the system or governmental level?

The government itself is a big purchaser so governments can support sustainability through their purchasing decisions.  Government operations also need to be as low emissions as possible. Finally, the policies implemented by government need to have long-term, positive environmental impacts.  In general, governments should have sustainability goals and pathways to achieve them, including transparent, credible and just policies and purchasing agreements.

GVI Twitter Chat on Wednesday 23 September

Are the new SDGs truly transformative, or “new wine in old bottles”?  

Join us for our Twitter chat on 23 September!  #GVIChat  #SDGs 
Many applaud the groundbreaking global consultations that have accompanied drafting the new SDGs.  But is the current international system capable of doing things differently? Do transformational SDGs require equally transformational institutions, processes, thinking and behaviors? Are we there yet? How do we get there?

Tell us on 23 Sept from 13:00-14:00 EST on Wednesday 23 September #GVIChat #SDGs 

 

 

”Poverty is a denial of human rights,” Jorge Romano

Ending poverty is a great step at improving human rights. This is  one of the missions of ActionAid, an organisation that is active in ending poverty and promoting human values. Jorge Romano, the Executive coordinator of ActionAid Brazil talks up the various approaches at improving on human rights as well as the challenges in demonstrating them. He equally talks up on human rights at the organisational as well as international system…..

ActionAid describes itself as “A global movement of people who work together to promote human rights and overcome poverty.” Can you explain what human rights means to you?

Along the past 4 decades, ActionAid has taken different approaches to tackle poverty. As we say in our Rights Based Approach manual: “the trajectory of change for ActionAid has been a move over time from a charity organization to an Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) approach to development. In developing its HRBA approach, ActionAid builds on the idea that human development is the central concern of development, and takes the lead of the famous economist Amartya Sen, who defines development as a process of expanding the freedoms people enjoy. So, our HRBA is an approach to development that centres on supporting rights holders to organize and claim their rights and to hold the duty bearers to account. We analyze and confront power imbalances that perpetuate poverty, and we take sides with the poor and excluded to overcome it”.

Who would you say is a leader in promoting human rights, and what makes her/him a leader?

People use to have the idea of big leaders that raise the issue of human rights in the international debate, and even manage to mobilize others to insert those rights to the public agenda. As a result we have a significant number of human rights recognized at international level but that are not implemented in the day-to-day basis.  For ActionAid the great example of leadership in human rights that we need are those people that in their own specific context of discrimination and violence are able to mobilize and articulate local populations and act in network even with other organizations to advocate for the implementation of those rights. In this sense, there are a significant number of social movements´ leaders across the world promoting human rights at a very concrete basis in the day-to-day life.  Most of them are unknown. I can give the example of Dona Dijé, a Brazilian rural woman worker, descendant of African slaves, and leader of a movement of rural women who make their living from collecting palm tree coconuts in Amazonian Brazil.  Following Brazilian Constitution that states the social function of the land, Dona Dijé – and 400,000 other so-called babassu nut breaker women – struggle for their rights to an ancestor sustainable practice that is to collect the natural resource even if it is in landlord’s private land who make no use of it.  There is thousands of Dona Dijé across the world today fighting injustice and not giving up in their struggle for their rights.

How do you see human rights manifest as behaviors or actions in the international system? e.g. an international NGO working with your stakeholders and partners globally?

I could share one example about it. ActionAid is engaged in a campaign called Safe Cities for Women. The campaign is active in 19 countries and focuses on the end of gender violence in public spaces. It is led by women living in poverty mostly claiming for a gender responsive urban planning and service provision.  In addition to the national actions ActionAid also teams up with urban grassroots movements under the Global Platform for the Right to the City to both add a women´s perspective in the advocacy agenda as well as influence the final declaration of UN Habitat 3 Conference to include safe cities for women as one dimension of human rights to the city. Our work involves various dimensions: from empowering poor people locally to understand and influence the institutional design of public policies and the mechanisms for its implementation until work with stakeholders and build platforms to influence the UN agenda.

jorge_romano

How do you see human rights manifest as behaviors in your organization? Are there policies or procedures that demonstrate human rights principles? Which are these?

We have internal norms and procedures that translate our values centered in human rights. In this sense, ActionAid has developed a Human Rights Based Approach that is the basis for staff training and a tool for the work with our partners. Our understanding of poverty is a denial of human rights. Therefore our Global Monitoring Framework is centered in how the poor people lead the changes of this situation. Our theory of change makes us believe everyone has the power within them to create change for themselves, their families and communities. ActionAid is a catalyst for that change. We know we can only achieve our goals by working collaboratively, both locally, nationally and globally – with people in poverty, our supporters, partners and colleagues.

In your team, how do you see human rights values being played out? Is there a culture of human rights? If yes, why do you say that?  If no, how do you think it can be developed?

In our team we put in practice the HRBA through staff training and discussions, selection of staff, and in the daily relations among the people in the organization.  We try that all the people understand the situation of poverty as a situation of human rights which leads to the denial of human rights is present in our context analysis and in our action plans and in the direct work with partners and communities. We also try that the narrative of our communications and marketing strategies and images are in accordance with our commitment to put poor people as agency and not reproduce prejudices and stigma.

At an individual level, how do you recognize someone who is committed to human rights? How do they behave? Is this something other people can learn? Can ActionAid teach us some of these behaviors?

At individual level one committed to human rights shows respect to diversity and fights against the prejudices the majority of us were raised with. If this person is a man, he is aware of his patriarchalism privileges and fights against it. And that person eventually fails in doing that is able to recognize it and change his behavior. The introduction of human rights in our daily behavior is a challenge that we need to face all the time every day fighting against the cultural patterns that we were educated in. Therefore, when a person recognizes his/her mistake and makes a move to change his/her discriminatory behavior, this kind of attitude should be valued and stimulated. On the other side, it´s very important to promote one style of leadership that empower the staff and create opportunities for them to make decisions by themselves and innovate. This implies the recognition of the value of each of the members of the team and gives equal opportunities for all.

What are some of the challenges in demonstrating human rights at all these levels (system, organization, team, individual)? how can we overcome these challenges?

One of the main permanent challenges is to move from theory to practice. This move implies eventually on conflicts. We need to know how to manage such conflicts in a constructive fashion.

Another very important challenge is to deal with the growing intolerance of our current time. Despite that human rights have been progressing in the letter, some would say that the era of rights is coming to an end, and we are beginning to live under a time of fundamentalisms.  Intolerance is growing at international, national and local level. This feature that in the past remained hidden it is nowadays proudly present in the streets and in the media. How to face discrimination against migrants, religious fundamentalisms, reduction of the age of penalties, restrictions on women´s rights over the control of their bodies and sexuality, among others, would be perhaps the biggest challenges for civil society at all levels .

Finally also another challenge is the negative side of the new social media that promotes the tribal behavior, a style of narcissist endogenic sociability, and an unaccountable violent discourse against the different with violation of human rights.

Integrity: Wholeness is Essential

Kitty Arambula, Integrity Consultant of Anticorruption and Integrity Office (OAI) at Asian Development Bank

The word “integrity” derives from the Latin integritas or integer, which means intact or whole. Integrity is defined, in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, as follows:

– The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles

– The state of being whole and not divided

In current parlance, integrity, when applied to people, their attitude and behavior, has primarily come to be understood as only the first definition. However, I believe that it would serve humanity well, if we all remember and consider the second, and original, definition, as doing so may in fact help us to understand and act with more integrity in everyday life.

Sadly, in our age of unprecedented abundance and access to information, we are confronted with daily reports of dishonesty of varying forms and scale. The news media- on the internet, television or in the papers – increasingly appear to report cases of fraud and corruption across all sectors of society, from governments and intergovernmental institutions, to the corporate world and the non-governmental sector, and committed by a wide range of actors.

Corruption has been identified by some as the cause and result of poverty and an important element in perpetuating inequality. It disproportionally affects the poorest of the poor and the otherwise marginalized, and has been found to be an undermining factor in all aspects of society: economic, social, political, environmental and even cultural.

Two main underlying elements are drivers of corruption. For the haves, it is greed, an intense and selfish desire to amass or obtain something, either material goods, or immaterial things such as power. For the have-nots, it is a desperate tool to fulfill a legitimate need. Research has shown a positive correlation between the perception of systematic corruption on the one hand, and high poverty rate and low-income levels on the other, in many developing countries.

In industrialized countries, corruption appears to be more prevalent where people have access to considerable resources. In both situations, a sense of “not having”, whether driven by real or perceived need, lead to the act of trying to get what is not rightfully or lawfully theirs.

The corollary of this increased (visibility of) corruption is the upsurge of protests against corrupt acts and behavior, the adoption of systems to prevent or curb such acts and behavior. Systems of control and audits, measures of surveillance, checks and balances, as well as investigations processes, coupled with the increased use of concomitant jargon – such as compliance, ethics and integrity -, are on the rise in intergovernmental, government and private sectors alike, as a result.

However, the long-term solution to problem of corruption cannot only be a “stick”, such as external structures and systems, which force people to behave in certain ways, and hollow phrases. The human mind, the world’s most sophisticated computer, will find a way to circumvent boundaries and limits, much like guerrilla warfare. These measures have to be accompanied by acts that give back to the word integrity its true meaning.

Such strengthening of the internal framework can be encouraged in two ways: first, by offering an external carrot to reduce the incentive for dishonesty, which, for example, is what Singapore has done – its government officials are paid high wages for precisely that reason.

Second, efforts can be made to build and strengthen people’s internal normative and value framework, to ensure that the desire to act in a wrongful matter is strongly diminished or even completely suppressed within the individual.

This is where the original definition of integrity comes into play: an individual who is “whole”, i.e. in unison with her or himself – mind, head and body aligned-, is possibly in a better position to act with integrity than someone who is not.

Such wholeness is attained through various means, depending on factors, such as culture, religion, population group and country, but the ultimate goal is to attain a unity of person, which is invariably accompanied by inner peace, contentment,
a sense of well-being, and a disinclination to do bad things.

With such an attitude and outlook, an individual, be it on her or his own, or as part of a group, will be, more often than not, inclined to do the right thing. And the more one does a good thing, the more they will be disposed to do it again.

And, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you want to see in this world.” It is from the wholeness of the individual that real change can be made, through her or his own personal actions, through actions in groups, actions by organizations, and even nations.

Even though international systems are created with the best intentions, and generally equipped with principles, policies and procedures that are conducive to beneficial actions – like the United Nations, the integrity of these systems depends wholly on the actions of the individuals of which the system is composed. If each person working in an international organization behaves with complete integrity, the organization will naturally function likewise at all levels: with integrity.

And so the virtual circle goes: from whole individuals, to whole organization, to whole society, which in turn ensures whole individuals. Let us begin, shall we?

 

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