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The Global South’s Vision COP26

4 min read.

In a speech which outlines the Global South’s vision and red lines for COP26, Leon Dulce calls for putting people before profit, working towards achieving ‘Real Zero’ and making developed polluter nations pay for the climate crisis.

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The Global South’s Vision COP26

Good evening comrades and colleagues! We thank everyone for coming together in this meeting of hearts and minds of those deeply committed in the global struggle for climate justice.

As we approach the crucial climate talks, and to cue our discussion on what are the non-negotiables of the exploited, dispossessed and oppressed peoples of the Global South, I will lay down four red lines that hopefully capture the dividing lines we have drawn up between the common future we want, and what the UN Special Rapporteur Professor Phillip Alston calls an emerging ‘Climate Apartheid.’

First, we must assert that People and Planet must be put first over Profit. COP 26, like all global intergovernmental gatherings, is an agora dominated by the powerful advanced capitalist countries and corporate lobbies. Yesterday, news broke of a massive document leak revealing countries like Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Australia lobbying the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to water down recommendations for carbon cuts and climate finance in their authoritative scientific reports.

It is not surprising that these powerful interests are trying to dominate the climate talks, and consequently marginalize the already marginalized voices of the most climate vulnerable peoples and communities in the most vulnerable nations of the world. Indeed, COP26 reflects the realities that we are in a global economic and political system of imperialism that cannot refrain from plundering the world’s natural resources and exploiting the people’s labor or else it will collapse.

The silencing of grassroots voices in the talks is just the tip of the iceberg of impunity we face as we struggle to demand climate justice. Down in the frontlines, many environmental defenders and activists are permanently silenced for holding the line against the relentless march of corporations and their collaborationist governments. Killings of defenders have doubled over the past decade, and the frontlines of biodiversity and climate such as Colombia and the Philippines are the hotspots of these killings.

And so we will collectively act to hold governments of nations to account to their social contracts with their peoples—public interest dictates they should commit to prioritizing the people’s needs, which includes ensuring our economies operate within the limits of our planet’s limits, and ensuring that people’s inalienable rights to a clean and healthy environment are upheld. They should also recognize that people on the ground have the most valid solutions to the climate crisis, from indigenous and community conserved areas to land cultivation areas and community based renewable energy systems.

Second, at COP26 we will demand Real Zero, not Net Zero. This means we will reject the various false climate solutions being peddled by governments and corporations that try to delay the urgent need to stop the climate crisis at its source.

We are expecting new and old proposals of the supposed ways to work-around the fundamental solution of cutting down on the consumption of fossil fuels. Some are proposing technological solutions such as carbon capture and storage plants in Timor Leste, and even a decades-old nuclear power plant here in the Philippines. Some are even branded as supposedly ‘nature-based’ such as REDD plantations across Asia and Latin America.

False solutions try to hide what science and justice has already demonstrated—that what we need are deep, drastic, and binding emissions cuts from the advanced capitalist countries and carbon major companies. Please, stop changing the topic.

Third, we will push back on the downplaying of the common but differentiated responsibilities in addressing the climate crisis by demanding a just transition anchored on the historic injustices the Global South has experienced at the hands of Developed Nations.

And this is not only referring to the biggest contributors to historic greenhouse gas emissions—there is little or no talk to historic injustices of ‘resource curses and traps’, the neocolonial subjugation of economies resulting in chronic poverty and, consequently, climate vulnerability. For instance, much of the Philippines’ forest loss was from the United States’ colonial timber industry.

Their imposition of structural adjustment programs and onerous loans have shackled our economy at their mercy. Even in present times when we experience the climate and ecological crises alongside the pandemic crisis, we are still forced to service the resulting debts from these impositions instead of funding a just and green economic recovery that could have been an opportunity to address these intersecting crises. Even UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for debt reliefs amidst the protracted COVID crisis.

Lastly, we will assert that polluter and plunderer countries and economies must pay. We will demand just compensation for the loss and damages of climate-impacted nations and peoples. We will demand developed nations to commit to the climate finance targets recommended in the latest IPCC reports.

There is a lot of talk of pushing for Green New Deal stimulus packages in the Global North, but what we need to start talking about is a global people’s Green New Deal from the climate disruptors to the climate disrupted—from the Global North to the Global South.

Anticipating the limits and expected failings of the COP26 negotiations, these red lines must be fought both inside but most especially outside the climate talks if we are to win back this world from corporate capture and imperialist domination. We call on our fellow advocates, activists, and defenders to join us in the series of initiatives organized under the banner of the Southern People’s Action on COP26 or SPAC26, notably in mobilizing on November 6 declared by climate justice movements as a Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, and on November 9, a rallying point inside the COP26 green zone where we will explore visions from the ground of the world we want to create.

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Leon Dulce is the national coordinator of Philippine environmental campaign center Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. He is also the coordinator for Oilwatch Southeast Asia and the Yes to Life, No to Mining Southeast Asia networks.

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Fighting the Good Fight: Announcing the Progressive International Observatory

From organizing delegations to preparing investigations, the PI Observatory will ensure greater transparency, integrity, and accountability in our democracies. “Democracy is a fragile plant,” said PI Council member Noam Chomsky

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Fighting the Good Fight: Announcing the Progressive International Observatory

Around the world, democratic institutions are under attack. From Narendra Modi in India to Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, authoritarian leaders are getting organized to rig the rules, capture the courts, spread lies, and criminalize dissent.

But the institutions that claim to defend democracy are unfit to address this global crisis. On the contrary, groups like the Organization of American States (OAS) have abetted attacks on democracy. In the case of Bolivia, for example, the OAS provided cover for a bloody military coup against the government of Evo Morales on the basis of manipulated statistics. “There is no credibility in the OAS,” Bolivian President Luis Arce said in March.

The time has come to build an alternative: an institution with the technical skills, legal expertise, and global reach to combat disinformation, to challenge persecution, and to provide real-time defense of democratic institutions.

Over the past year, we have dispatched delegations of data scientists, trade unionists, and parliamentarians to observe the electoral process in embattled democracies around the world — from Ecuador to Turkey to Brazil.

Along the way, we have earned a reputation with anti-democratic forces around the world. At the CPAC conference in Brazil back in September, extreme-right Colombian senator María Fernanda Cabal called the Progressive International a “group of convicts” for our successful efforts to beat back Keiko Fujimori’s coup attempt in Peru. “Don’t let the Progressive International believe that they are going to do what they did in Peru,” she said to the Brazilian audience. “From now, we are going to start writing down the names of electoral observers.”

But against these vicious attacks, we have seen major triumphs. In Ecuador, our international pressure helped ensure the presence on the ballot of the country’s largest political force. In Bolivia, vigilant international solidarity help ensure a stable democratic process that returned the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) to power. In Peru, our team of data scientists helped refute the claims of electoral fraud with which Fujimori attempted to steal the election. legal to annul tens of thousands of votes and steal the election.

Now, we are building from these victories to launch a global Observatory — and we are inviting you to build it with us.

From organizing delegations to preparing investigations, the PI Observatory will ensure greater transparency, integrity, and accountability in our democracies. “Democracy is a fragile plant,” said PI Council member Noam Chomsky. “Today the threat is severe from a resurgent proto-fascist right. The formation of this Observatory should create a badly needed barrier to these destructive tendencies.”

The timing of the launch is critical. Just this month, we are preparing to travel to two key battlegrounds: Chile and Honduras. In Chile, the promise of a new and inclusive constitution is under threat by reactionary forces that declare their support for military dictatorship. In Honduras, candidates face daily assassination attempts as their prospects for victory rise. The Observatory will bring the eyes of the world to bear witness to these authoritarian tactics, and to stand up for the right to fair elections that they seek to undermine.

The stakes are even higher in the year to come. Elections in Colombia, France, and Brazil promise to shape the political trajectories of entire continents for years to come. “Brazil is at a critical juncture,” says São Paulo’s former mayor Fernando Haddad. “Now more than ever, we need an institution to observe, protect, and defend our right to free and fair elections. The launch of the Progressive International Observatory is a source of hope here in Brazil and around the world.”

With today’s launch, we invite you to become a part of this Observatory — to protect the “fragile plant” of democracy to grow and flourish around the world.

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Russia in Africa: What Is Behind Moscow’s Push to Influence Africa on the UN Security Council?

Research suggests that the links are overstated, especially compared to Africa’s voting patterns with other council members.

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Russia in Africa: What Is Behind Moscow’s Push to Influence Africa on the UN Security Council?
Photo: Sam Oxyak on Unsplash

Over the past two decades, Russia has aimed to re-establish itself as a world power. A key way to achieve this has been through its permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In recent years, Russia’s posturing on several international conflicts has increasingly divided the UNSC, causing a degree of paralysis that hasn’t occurred since the Cold War.

At the same time, questions have arisen about how A3 members – the annually elected grouping of African states – coordinate positions among themselves, and with respect to the interests of the five permanent UNSC members (the P5). In particular, are certain African members becoming more aligned to Russia’s positions on the council?

These questions have been promoted, for example, by South Africa’s vote against the United States (US)-sponsored draft resolution on Venezuela that Russia and China vetoed in February 2019.

To understand these dynamics, a recent study by SAIIA and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) examined voting patterns between the A3 and Russia. An assessment of all votes cast by UNSC members between 2014 and 2020 found that most resolutions were still approved unanimously, with close to 95% of all votes cast in favour of any tabled resolution.

So the institutional ‘paralysis’ that many council observers refer to, while still considerable, applies to a few debates in which council members disagree. These divisions were seen most sharply in discussions relating to Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine and the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

The SAIIA–ISS research found that Russia consistently stood out above other council members in its willingness to veto or abstain from tabled resolutions. It abstained from 45 votes and cast 20 vetoes between 2014 and 2020.

Russia especially opposed positions led by the other permanent member states – ‘loudly’ disagreeing with stances put forward by France, the United Kingdom and the US. This dissent is usually based on its criticism of the West’s apparent attempts to ‘monopolise the truth’ and over what constitutes human rights. Russia also enjoys a convenient (but passive) alliance with China, which shares similar grievances over Western-dominated approaches to global conflicts.

In contrast to Russia, the A3 seldom voted against any draft resolutions tabled between 2014 and 2020, preferring instead to abstain on contentious issues. An example is the controversial 2018 US-sponsored draft resolution on Palestine.

Russia stands out in terms of its willingness to veto or abstain from tabled UNSC resolutions

As divisions have deepened among the P5, African countries on the UNSC have increasingly relied on collective positions among themselves and those aligned to the African Union (AU). This has given Africa greater agency in global multilateral processes that directly affect conflicts and crises on the continent.

A similar approach has been taken in recent years by all 10 non-permanent members (E10). These efforts paid off considerably on specific council discussions, such as allowing greater humanitarian access to Syria. But the coordination and coherence of E10 positions have again waned somewhat since 2018.

More consistent UNSC positions by the A3 have given African states greater leverage to engage with other council members. The risks of not doing so were revealed in December 2018 when A3 members disagreed on a common approach to the thorny issue of financing for AU-led peace support operations. The fallout can still be seen today. Recent attempts to revitalise negotiations have only managed to expose lingering divides between New York and Addis Ababa.

The SAIIA–ISS study found little evidence of a growing alignment or greater coordination between the A3 and Russia, based on their voting patterns from 2014-2020. The coincidence of ‘in favour’ votes between the A3 and Russia declined year-on-year, falling to 72% in 2020 compared to 91% in 2014. The overlap in A3 votes ‘in favour’ with the US, UK and France by contrast, ranged from 91% to 93% in 2020.

There are also extremely few cases in which the A3 collectively abstained or voted against draft resolutions in line with Russia’s position. Between 2014 and 2020, on only one occasion did an A3 member vote against a draft resolution that Russia vetoed (South Africa’s 2019 Venezuela vote).

These findings show that the relationship between Russia and the A3 on the UNSC is relatively uncoordinated, especially compared to A3 votes in relation to other permanent members. While the SAIIA–ISS study didn’t delve into the content and substance of resolution-specific negotiations, the alignment between Russia and the A3 during the 2014-20 period was very weak.

Arguments that certain A3 members are becoming more aligned to Russian interests on the UNSC don’t hold for the African group as a collective. Russia’s ‘loud dissenter’ role on the council may well continue, but to succeed, it needs more significant support from other members, including the A3. Based on the SAIIA–ISS research results, that seems unlikely.

This article was originally published by the The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), an independent public policy think tank advancing a well governed, peaceful, economically sustainable and globally engaged Africa.

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The Westphalia State System and the Crisis in Ethiopia

Will Ethiopia’s civil war blow up its dream of a single state, and in the process, blow up Western notions of statebuilding?

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The Westphalia State System and the Crisis in Ethiopia

April 2018, Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and in 2019 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for resolving the long-standing border conflict with neighboring Eritrea. However, since November 2020 when he ordered the military to violently quell an opposition movement in Tigray, a region along the northern border, his international standing and domestic popularity have significantly declined. Now, Ethiopia faces the prospect of splintering.

Prior to Abiy’s election, the government of Ethiopia had been dominated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which had effectively ruled the country since 1991 when they joined forces with other armed groups to overthrow the previous government. After Abiy came to power—he had organized the victorious Prosperity Party out of many ethnic-based parties to oust the Tigrayans—the TPLF quit the government and its leadership returned to Tigray where it focused on consolidating its authority in the region, and curtailing the influence of the Ethiopian government and military.

In August 2020, previously scheduled elections throughout Ethiopia were postponed ostensibly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the TPLF considered this a betrayal and held its own elections that the central government deemed illegitimate. This, coupled with the TPLF’s seizure of military bases in Tigray, pushed tensions between Abiy and the TPLF over the brink and shortly thereafter  Abiy sent the Ethiopian army to Tigray leading to a large-scale armed conflict.

The war has produced a mounting humanitarian crisis in Tigray, with aid workers struggling to bring in more assistance, especially food. The central government, however, has opposed this as it believes it sustains the TPLF. Since July, only 686 aid trucks in total have entered Tigray—far less than the 100 a day needed to avert famine—and none since October 18. Furthermore, there are few aid personnel on the ground to facilitate delivery and distribution. In August, Ethiopia halted operations by the Dutch branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the Norwegian Refugee Council. The UN has also reduced its staff from 530 to around 220. On September 30, the Ethiopian government announced the expulsion of seven senior UN officials, including the country heads of UNICEF and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. On November 9, 16 other UN personnel were detained by the government. Currently only about 1,200 humanitarian workers (including the UN) remain in Tigray. Moreover, violence against aid workers has also undermined relief efforts; 23 have been killed in Tigray so far. Currently, despite 5.2 million people in need (over 90% of the population in Tigray) and about 1.7 million displaced, only about 10% of the aid required has been delivered.

As worrisome as the situation in Tigray is, also of concern is that the war appears to be metastasizing—more armed actors are entering the conflict and the areas being fought over are expanding. Earlier this year, the government deployed militias from the Amhara region and allowed intervention from forces in neighboring Eritrea. But, the course of the conflict turned in late June 2021 when the TPLF dealt a severe blow to the central government by  retaking Mekelle, the capital of Tigray. Shortly thereafter, Abiy appeared to realize he had overreached in attacking Tigray and unilaterally declared a ceasefire. Yet, the TPLF has continued to fight, first pushing out Ethiopian forces from the remaining parts of Tigray, and then turning their attention southwards toward the central government.

Much like the 1991 campaign that toppled Mengistu Haile Mariam’s government, the TPLF has made alliances with other armed opposition groups, and last week a new group emerged, the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces. In addition to Tigrayan forces, it also includes the Oromo Liberation Army, the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front, Agaw Democratic Movement, Benishagul People’s Liberation Movement, Gambella Peoples Liberation Army, Global Klimant People Right and Justice Movement/Kimant Democratic Party, Sidama National Liberation Front and Somali State Resistance. This coalition has indicated that its main aim is to preserve the 1995 constitution that ensures federalism and the right to self-determination.

On November 3, Tigrayan forces captured Dessie and Kombolcha (two towns on the road to Addis Ababa—only about 160 miles northeast of the city) and are now positioned to attack the capital. In response the Ethiopian government has declared a state of emergency and encouraged citizens to take up arms to defend the capital. Will backfire from Abiy’s failed political-military strategy blow up the status quo of single-state Ethiopia?

Aside from the urgent humanitarian conditions, lurking in the background is the issue of who is responsible. If Abiy is deposed and survives, there will surely be calls to put him on trial for war crimes. This demand will partly be for revenge, but also to obscure that atrocities have been committed by all parties in this conflict. According to a recently concluded joint investigation by the UN and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission of conduct during the conflict in the period of November 2020 to June 2021, the government as well as forces from Tigray and Amhara have committed abuses, such as torture, rape, and civilian killings. Although reports like this are welcome, they overlook the impact of colonialism, its intentionally provocative and fraught political geographies, and the political cycles of its legacies. The constructions of many postcolonial states have been wedded at birth to difficult mixes of ethnic groups whose identities were purposefully politicized in a “divide-and-conquer” strategy, thereby creating weakness that allowed European domination.

Although ethnicity is not inherently destiny, these problematic dynamics are playing out once again in Ethiopia, a country with more than 80 different ethnic groups and a population of over 100 million. Since the formal dissolution of colonies, arms sales and proxies have been a staple of influence. Several countries have sold millions in arms to Ethiopia, which has contributed to the violence. In the past five years about $92 million worth of arms have come from Russia ($69 million), the US ($10 million), Israel ($4 million), China ($4 million), France ($2 million), and Germany ($2 million).

The digital frontier is another space for expressing influence and as disclosed in the recent Facebook Papers, the armed conflict in Ethiopia has likely been hastened by social media postings by various militia groups intent on inciting ethnic violence, though no action was taken by Facebook to stop this practice. Therefore, beyond Abiy’s gambit, this situation underscores that the colonial project has backfired and is blowing up Western notions of statebuilding. Abiy should be held to account for instigating this round of violence, and other armed actors should likewise be prosecuted for perpetrating atrocities. But regardless of these legal cases or who rules Ethiopia, will anyone be accountable for configuring these volatile circumstances?

This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site once a week.

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