Somewhere over the rainbow – First LGBT minister in Serbian government

On 24th April Serbia held extraordinary elections, third general elections in 4 years.  Frequency of the elections is such that it’s hard to call them extra-ordinary any more. As same parties won more or less same percentage and carriers of the lists are more or less the same as in last 15 years, it really seems that attribute of extraordinary is completely overrates.

But than, on 11th of August PM announced new government[1] and something extraordinary did happened.  As it goes in last years, we have two types of ministers. Ministers who are there by political line. We all know their names and competences do not matter that much as in every government they get to be ministers of different sector. Other group are ministers that are served to public as the experts in their sphere; whose competences we are supposed to blindly trust and everyone have hard time remembering their name (at least until the first scandal).

Ana Brnabić, despite being from the 2nd group of ministers was the one whose name got to the press immediately. She has not been yet in the office properly and her competences were already scanned within tiniest detail. Did I say competences?? Oh, sorry I meant personal life. New minister of public administration and local governance is, by the words of the Prime minister himself, member of the LGBT community.

Prime minister was on a top of the task and started casual damsel in distress defense. He explained that she admitted it to him and that she was ready to step down if it’s a problem – with the rhetoric of toddler that do something bad, who decides to admit it to the parents and hope to be released from punishment for the honesty. I guess we should all conclude how our PM is so generous and smart to put good of the government and her competences over something personal and obviously less worthy. He also added that she is LGBT but she is nice and lovely. Does this mean that others are not? Is nice and lovely opposite of what LGBT people are, so that we need to make sure that public understands that she is both?  He closed his defense by saying that he stands behind his choice (as she is the right person because he picked her and not because of her competences).

I do not want to take historical moment away. Yes, it is huge step for LGBT community in Serbia to have lesbian minister.  But as we saw on the example of women in politics, having vice-president of the government does not mean that women are now equally participating in political life.  That is why we should greet new minister and wish her all the luck in her new work, for the sake of her, for the sake of LGBT population and Serbian local governance as being her responsibility.

But we should not be deceived that this puts human rights in Serbia on any higher level.  Justice, health, education, labor still do not treat LGBT as equal, their basic freedoms are still limited and there is constant treat of different forms of violence over them. In country with high recession, soaring national debt, shady privatizations, high corruption index, limited media freedom and heavy austerity measures social rights are shrinking in their outreach and power.

Having an LGBT minister is important, however in society of limited public recognition every outed individual bears pressure of and responsibility for whole community. This means that her work in spheres of local governance is going to be under the load of her LGBT profile as well, as much as LGBT community will have now to take load of her ministerial work.

There has already been meeting with her and LGBT organizations, as one of few Governmental meetings to discuss LGBT rights. But we must name things as they are. Yes we have LGBT minister but her work lies in different domain and she has no jurisdiction over social issues. Such bridging of responsibilities within Ministries is neither feasible to her as individual, nor as Minister, nor its realistic. So until Prime minister, responsible ministries and state apparatus stand with and behind LGBT community in their black on white demands and proposal on legislations changes and investments, in at least tolerant if not solidarity based society, we should not rush to greet new Serbian government for being so inclusive and moving under the rainbow.

/Vesna Jusup 

Works with member relations at the European Green Party secretariat 

Former project leader at Cooperation and Development Network of Eastern Europe

 

[1] Small reminder on previous text on this blog; this government has 5 out of 20 Ministers (including PM), not event fulfilling 30% quota of women participation. By the time text is written we still do not know final convolution of the Parliament, but hopes to move step further in equal participation are very low and non-extraordinary.

 

Being a garbage police is not easy in Catalonia

I am the garbage police at home. Everything has to be separated based on what bin it goes into and I can even pick up what others throw in the wrong waste bin. It’s easy to be the garbage police where I live in Gävle with an advanced waste management system in every part of the municipality.

It’s so good that it has been awarded a lot of prices, both nationally and internationally, and the services of our municipal waste management system are asked for in other countries. During the years I’ve brought a lot of foreign visitors: El Salvador, Dominican Republic, South Africa, Mozambique, Canary Islands, Chile, Guatemala, Colombia, Rwanda, Catalonia etc. Most of them politicians. And all of them are impressed.

It’s not by chance we have this form of waste management. It was a clear political prioritization between having our municipal energy company build a waste incinerator, or developing a way for sustainable recycling. It took many years of political discussions before the waste separation was in place.

According to SDG #12 by 2030 we should substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. We are really on the right way in Gävle but it’s not enough. We can do even better. We’re generally good at recycling in Sweden compared to many other EU member states even though we are ruled by the same legislation.

I’m now spending my holiday in Catalonia but it’s impossible to recycle the same way I can do at home since the awereness of environmental issues amongst citizens is low. All kind of packaging is thrown in the same container and it’s normally just a mess where you will find anything from electro domestics to organic waste.

SDG #12 also state we should support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production. The issue about waste is a common challenge for all of us. For rich and poor countries. The more developed the more waste, but we handle it different based on awereness and political will. Thanks to political decision we normally don’t burn rubber wheels any longer in the EU as it is forbidden. Still we continue to live in societies with unsustainable consumption patterns generating much more consumer-products than we need and using much more natural resources than sustainable and necessary. People continue to think about waste as something just to throw away and not something that could be turned into a new product.

So how can we support developing countries when we don’t live up to our own legislation at home? The SDG:s are also about us. We should not forget that. In Europe we have to rethink and use existing legislation to diminish our waste and follow the waste hierarchy. It’s far too easy to break the rules without being sanctioned. We also need to develop the legislation further to collect all kind of materials as such. Why should we not recycle an old plastic chair when we recycle the plastic bottle. And we should support developing countries not only with technology but also with environmental legislation in combination with economic incentives to prevent, reduce, reuse and recycle. We can do that by sheding a light on good local examples. There is no one-size-fits-all. It depends on the size of the municipality, and what kind of industry, agriculture, etc. The Gävle model could suit a lot of municipalities but not all. One kind of good cooperation is that between municipalities but the resources are too limited to make any real change. I would like to see more of that in our cooperation policy.

/Bodil Valero 

Member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Greens (Miljöpartiet de gröna)

Nauru – A place bound by its past, haunted by its present and threatened by its future

Recently the tiny island of Nauru came into the spotlight through the Nauru files*, detailing the abuse of asylum seekers in the Australian immigration facilitation camp located on the island. It is an event that might seem to have little to do with development and climate change, but in fact, it has everything to with it.

Nauru bares the scars of its history, with incredible damages to its ecosystem and large parts of the island both unsuitable for cultivation as well as habitation. It has also found that it’s economic future has been inextricably linked with the old colonial master that once created the platform for the destruction of the Island, Australia.

Nauru, a protectorate of Australia between 1923 and 1966 was once on the richest islands in the Pacific. It is now also a prime example of the problematic relationship between unsustainable resource extractions by old colonial administrations; and how they in turn have created economic dependencies that make countries complicit in illegal practices that are sprung from repressive migration regimes.

The phosphate deposits found on Nauru catapulted Nauru into one of the richest countries per capita in the world. But, the mining, managed by Australia until 1967 and later by Nauru, depleted the islands resources with massive environmental damages. Its main sources of income now are the selling of fishing rights, offshore banking and aid from Australia, and it is here that the Nauru detention centre enters into the picture.

Nauru’s dependency on the economic gains of the detention facility makes it dependent on Australia continuing its gate-keeping practices when it comes to migrants. Before the temporary closure of the detention facility in 2007, it accounted for 20% of Nauru’s GDP, with Nauru officials voicing concerns of an economic crisis ensuing after its closure.

At the same time Nauru is part of the Alliance of Small Island States comprised of 44 members and very active in the fight against climate change. Nauru is well aware what a future awaits if the climate goals are not met (yet still, if they are met, the future of Nauru is in danger) and has long advocated a harder and more active stance to climate change.

Due to the mineral extraction, large parts of the island lack original forests, a small and flat island, making it more vulnerable to storms that are likely to increase due to climate change. The mineral extraction has also worsened costal erosion and the islands coral reef has experienced a diminishing production, the increasing ocean acidification will further this development, making the island even more vulnerable to the storms previously mentioned. This combined with the fact that it is a country a few metres above sea level, and sea levels expected to increase, the future is grim. The perils of the future is not lost on the Nauru leadership, meanwhile, its present is dependent on an ever-worsening world.

It is a depressing irony and bizarre example of the paradox of the international system that with the guaranteed increase of climate refugees in a region that will be hit extremely hard by climate change; Nauru’s economic future stands with this increase. At the same time, Nauru stands to be one of the countries hit hardest by climate change, setting it’s population up to become climate refugees themselves, the only question is which island they will be housed on, waiting for asylum.

/Daniel Silberstein

PhD International Relations, Stockholm University, Stockholm Graduate School of International Studies

* https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/nauru-files

Money, tax and welfare

The recent Brexit leave campaign with its bright red bus swooshing by on the telly stirred up a lot of questions regarding resource allocation in my head. Happily proclaiming that money normally spent on the EU should be redistributed to the UK national health service (NHS) (1), the bus positioned not only the national versus the European and the global, but also how public funds are used, as well as the value of our common services. Moreover, it came with a narrative that placed institutions and people outside the national border as destructive to the British economy and welfare.

Coincidentally, zapping onto a Swedish TV show (Korrespondenterna) a couple of days later the same theme of allocating public money was discussed, however this time from a different perspective – that of tax evasion.

The European Commission estimates that around 1 trillion euros leaves the EU each year in unpaid taxes (2). An extortionate amount of money. Some illegally but also some through legal loopholes and tax planning meaning that large companies end up paying a fraction of what a firm not using loopholes would. This spring, European leaders agreed to address and cut down on these loopholes. The EU also sanctioned Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands for allowing companies and individuals to escape taxes.

Improving public services does not mean keeping people from using them and closing borders. It means to fairly contribute to these services and thus clamping down on tax evasion is one such thing. Referring back to my former blog post on doughnut economics, working against tax evasion to improve public services will help us move towards the social foundation of inclusive and sustainable economic development, and hence, inviting more people to take part in the services and prosperity in society.

/Anna Tranberg

Works with research and innovation at the Swedish governmental agency for innovation systems

Federation of Young European Greens COP21 delegate

(1) a promise that was withdrawn before most people had the time to boil the kettle the day after the referendum

(2) www.ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/tax_fraud_evasion/a_huge_problem/index_en.htm

Housing as a basic human right

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”[1]

“By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.”[2]

How far are we today from making this demands come true or are these only dead letters?

World population is increasing day by day, just as the number of city population and the number of people who can not afford appropriate housing for themselves. At the moment, over 900 million people are living in slums, in conditions undignified for a human life. Making the dream to

ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services come true seems further away than ever before.  

Most housing problems originate from housing commodification and placing them on the market, where the prices of the real estate are increasing thanks to the financial scheming, despite the constant construction. The price of a square meter is going up and the flats are becoming unavailable for the majority.

I will use as an example of my home town (Jagodina, Serbia) where in the years between 1971 and 2002 the numbers of housing units and households in the very city were approximately the same, as Table 1 shows. There were very few empty or emptied flats, until the number of flats drastically increased in the years between 2002 and 2011, which was not matched with the increasing number of households. Although the statistics initially seems encouraging and seems to suggest that the construction is effective, the background of the data is quite different.

Out of 17.488 currently existing flats in the city, 4.000 are empty and over 2.100 are used on the basis of various leases, renting, family relations and so on. The great number of empty, mostly newly built flats, can statistically support the fact that it is safer to invest in construction, even if those flats cannot be sold at the moment.

Year 1971 1981 1991 2002 2011
Population 27658 35488 37560 35589 37282
Households 8948 11676 12768 12987 13844
Flats 8281 11067 13203 13695 17488

Tabela 1. Uporedni pregled broja stanovnika, domaćinstava i stanova Jagodina[3]

And while a smaller number of individuals owns a large number of real estate, ordinary people can only dream of buying a flat, since the average salary is 35.000 RSD (300 euros) and the price of a square meter is around 600 euros. We should also bear in mind that average market basket is larger than the average salary. In the end, the question is: for whom are those new flats being built for, if the majority of the population cannot afford them?

At the moment, the share of public flats in the total number of housing units in city is around 0,6%[4] . It is among the lowest in Serbia and very small even in comparison to western countries, since it is so popular to compare with them these days. The share of public flats in the total number is 10 per cent in England and the Netherlands, and a French law states that at least 20 percent of flats should be social housing. Social housing is still desirable and attractive for living in these countries.

In order to reach the goal set at the beginning of the text, a new mass investment in the public and social housing for everyone is necessary, especially for those who cannot afford housing in the current market game.

 

/Predrag Momcilovic

Project manager at Serbian Green Youth, research associate at Belgrade University, Serbia 

[1]    .The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25, chapter 1.

[2]    .Sustainable development goals, Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

[3]    .Republic statistical office Serbia, http://www.stat.gov.rs/

[4]    .Republic statistical office Serbia, http://www.stat.gov.rs/

The role of storytellers in development policy

Generally the aid policy has been based on donor’s conditions and interest through decades. Though all evidence show that the domination of donor countries perspectives in aids policies is a huge obstacle that still has to be overcome in order to provide a solid foundation for sustainable development.

The Swedish newspaper, Götebors Posten, published an important debate written by a few researchers from Gothenburg University, Professor Fredrik Söderbaum et al, on June 29th 2016.  In this debate they emphasized one of the major issues on aid policy within the framework of development policies:

“Policy framework fails to adequately take into account the poor people’s ability and power to themselves create the development they want for themselves, their families and their countries. Research on the driving forces behind development emphasizes people and their organizations and institutions – from trade unions to religious organizations and cooperatives to local history societies and diaspora groups – are the most important development resource and thus the main driving force for social change.”

 

This important issue has already been discussed internationally by many scholars during the last decades and are relevant to Sweden’s aid policy as well as other countries. Although the successful actions for change on this major issue have not yet been taken, there is further need to improve the next step of critical approach to the aid policy. Further critical approach on aid policy is needed to provide a profound and comprehensive knowledge on the power relations of the recipient countries. For instance one of the key issues regarding power relations in recipient countries are: whose voices are heard and whose voices are unheard in shaping in recipient countries? What are the diverse narratives or stories among the people?

The fact that there are greater socio-economic gaps and social injustice within the developing’s world compare to the rich world, should be taken into considerations by donors countries. Due to the great gap in socio-economic, social status and power relations in recipient countries, the voices being heard are often the strongest voices.

 

Thus, the constant question that should be asked in analysis framework and action planning should assume: whether or not the donors reach out to the civil society’s real representative? Have the donors reached all the storytellers and strengthen all the voices?  How could the donors reach the divers storytellers in order to include different part of the civil society in problem analysis, needs assessment and action plan?

Refugee situation demands change in life style in rich countries

On 25 May, the Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven presented his refurnished government. In his speech he emphasized – as a matter of top priority for the government ­– that the Swedish version of a European welfare state shall be reinforced, not dismantled. His statement must be seen with Sweden’s more restrictive refugee laws, put in place half a year ago, as backdrop; Sweden will not allow a growing number of refuges jeopardize the welfare for its citizen.

At the very same day news also reported about riots in Southern India, due to a draught which experts said climate change most likely had worsened.

These two occasions captures in a nutshell the challenge that we in the rich world face, if we really mean what we say about working for a sustainable world for all; the consequences of our life style (e.g. more refugees due to climate change effects) eventually will hit back on us and challenge the way we live.

The political crossroad is between safe guarding, at any cost, the wealth we have accumulated – or being foresighted and realize that a future stable society rests on the fact that wealth is spread more evenly over the world than today. The former means amongst other things building higher and higher walls around our countries. The latter implies sharing what we have, and in doing so accept that some of the privileges we have grown accustomed to must go.

Transports for example. In a sustainable world The Holy Car cannot be every man’s and woman’s property. Instead sharing will be the norm; public transports as the standard transporting system and if absolutely necessary using a car through a car sharing organisation. Cycling to work and no more flying to Hong Kong for a shopping weekend.

Food is another example. If everyone on earth shall have a fair share of food, vegetarian food must become the norm, with fish and meat as rare complementary dishes.

This change is under way, but for a large group of people the change will be painful. I’m thinking primarily about blue collar workers with no higher education. This is the group within which right wing nationalistic parties have been recruiting support the last couple of years. In Sweden, but also in the rest of Europe and in the USA.

This group have fought hard within labour unions to achieve the wealth the enjoy today. They should rightfully be proud of their efforts. Many of the reforms they have participating in establishing, now forms the basis of the welfare state. When our prime minister emphasizes that the Swedish welfare state shall not be abandon, but developed, he signals to them that they are not forgotten.

That is a necessary step in order to pull this group back from the nationalists. But at the same time it puts us greens, not least, in a dilemma; much of the consumption culture that the working class today can be part of must be the very target for change if we want to build a more sustainable future.

To unlock this dilemma, I believe that greens in Europe need to work closely with social democratic parties and movements. Even when bearing in mind that a large part of union members views us as evil on earth. But if we don’t have the working class on board we will never achieve real change in our societies.

The way to go about it is through close alliances with other parts of the social democrats; the internationalists, the people that for century have fought for disarmament and sustainable development. Moreover, and in the same spirit as the Icelandic reforms after their big banking scandal, every reform should be designed so that it puts more burden on richer people than on low paid workers and unemployed.

Working together with social democrats will put us greens in many difficult situations, where our credibility as agents for sustainable change will be questioned. But waiting until we grow big enough to be the dominant party in government will simply take too long.

Together we can’t!

A non-male or non-heteronormative politician has to go through all the closed gates, through windows, purify their intentions to serve the cause without attempting to question and subvert the political and societal structures, which were bread by the patriarchy. It is wildly feared that such politicians will turn the world into Babylon. Out of many fears, this particular one is the least irrational. Indeed, questioning systems that stink can and will amplify voices that were never heard, unravel the languages that we didn’t even know existed.

Politicized marginal groups have always looked up to progressive, leftist movements, which have accommodated many of us. Leftist movements have benefited from being inclusive, from being somewhat representative of minorities, but soon realized that within the modern over-simplified political milieu pluralism can confuse voters. With nationalism on its raise, the left decided to shift the paradigm from embracing diversity to dismissing it. Emerging popular movements claim the knowledge of what people are and what people want. Their policies are relying on post-material white-collar concerns and populist anti-establishment mobilization. This sometimes translates into abandoning very little progress that we’ve made in the battle against patriarchy in number of domains of our social and political life. The new popular approach is bizarrely post-gender, therefore, criticisms for single-man leadership are being instantaneously delegitimized. Guess what, we may have battles to win for working class and ones who are struggling, but sometimes it takes more than just a man with a fabulous long hair to represent us all.

This issue goes even farther than representation. Analyzing the rhetoric of these movements, it seems to me that the only identity they find really hard to let go is the national identity and when national flags are waved, all non-male and queer people see is dozens of cheap fabric tinted in monochromatic color of patriarchy. That color is very last decade and please, don’t try to make it happen again in 2016! Let it go!

We as Greens, who have strong affiliation with eco-socialist ideas and somehow contextualize ourselves within the history of leftist movements, have come a long way to understanding that sustainable future is not going to become a reality anytime soon, if we do not commit to gendering democracy. We understand that we are facing serious problems with representation and the measures need to be practiced heavily. Do we?

Green parties in some countries go in coalition with the popular leftist movements for the sake of electoral success. Fair enough. Now the question is, how do we ensure that these partnerships are not another Pandora’s box?

/Gio Megrelishvili

Project Manager at the Federation of Young European Greens

Gender Studies master programme graduate 

La Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional en la Agenda Política de Guatemala – Food and nutrition security in the political agenda of Guatemala

(eng translation below)

La problemática alimentaria de Guatemala está determinada, en la última década, por la desigualdad social, que mantiene al 59%  de la población en condiciones de pobreza y en situación de vulnerabilidad alimentaria.

El importante informe del Relator Especial sobre los Derechos a la Alimentación Jean Ziegler en 2006 destacaba a Guatemala como el país de América Latina con mayores niveles de desnutrición crónica y expresaba su preocupación del no cumplimiento del objetivo 1 de los ODM. Esta preocupación de Ziegler se cumplió. La última encuesta ENCOVI, indica que la pobreza en Guatemala ha pasado del 51.2 por ciento en el 2006 a 59.3 en el 2014 y la extrema pobreza del 15.3 a 23.4 por ciento.

Al tratar los problemas centrales del país en la Agenda Nacional Compartida -construida por partidos políticos en el año 2002- se expresaba claramente los compromisos en la Agenda Política, indicando la necesidad de promover la generación de un nuevo modelo económico incluyente, basado en el crecimiento con equidad, en los recursos y posibilidades del país, su riqueza cultural y su biodiversidad, entendiendo la necesaria subsidiaridad como una responsabilidad del Estado, y como un derecho de la sociedad.

Sin embargo los cambios ofrecidos no se han sido cumplido. Un estudio realizado al programa Hambre Cero del último gobierno (2012-2015) concluía que dentro de sus debilidades para alcanzar el objetivo estaba, la no búsqueda de cambios estructurales en el país, que permitan verdaderamente combatir la pobreza y la desnutrición.

En Guatemala el 2% de la población es propietaria del 65% de la tierra, el modelo económico excluyente, no promueve el acceso a los medios de vida, especialmente a la tierra en propiedad o en alquiler, así como la calidad y acceso a otros recursos naturales y ambientales. Por el contrario, se ataca a los dirigentes y activistas de las comunidades en sus territorios, con el impulso desde el gobierno de un extractivismo autoritario. Así como la erosión de los activos genéticos del país, con políticas alimentarias y agrícolas, favorables al uso de recursos genéticamente modificados, convertir a la diversidad biológica del país en mercancía, sin salvaguardar el derecho de los pueblos indígenas  y campesinos a usar y controlar las semillas nativas. Ademas el uso insostenible del agua con sobre explotación y contaminación de las fuentes, con impactos terribles en la alimentación.

Para cumplir con el objetivo 2 de las ODS sobre combatir el hambre y lograr la Seguridad Alimentaria, Guatemala requiere de acciones políticas concretas que incluye la necesidad urgente del desarrollo de mercados internos competitivos, que generen empleo e ingresos y aseguren la existencia de alimentos que se puedan comprar.

Urge de la aprobación de la iniciativa Ley de Desarrollo Rural Integral, para que los próximos gobiernos lo puedan implementar. También urge del fondo verde internacional de CC para Guatemala, que aporte a la agroecología, la conservación de suelos, el mejoramiento de las condiciones productivas y la calidad de vida del interior del país, así como el fortalecimiento de la promoción de las energías nuevas y renovables.

A la vez requiere de la implementación de proyectos de inversión social que sean efectivamente equitativos hacia la población de escasos recursos, con transparencia, combatiendo el clientelismo político y la corrupción.

 

/Matilde Bajan

Project coordinator at CEMAT; Centro Mesoamericano de Estudios sobre Tecnología Apropiada 

 

Food and nutrition security in the political agenda of Guatemala

The last decade, the food-related problems of Guatemala has been determined by social inequality, which holds 59 % of the population in poverty and vulnerable to food insecurity.

The important report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, stated in 2006 that Guatemala is the Latin American country with the highest levels of chronic malnutrition and expressed concerns of the non-fullfilment of Goal 1 of the MDGs. This concern of Ziegler was justified. The latest survey of ENCOVI, indicates that poverty in Guatemala has risen from 51.2 % in 2006 to 59.3 in 2014 and the extreme poverty from 15.3 to 23.4%.

To deal with the central problems of the country, it was in the ‘Shared National Agenda’ (built by political parties in 2002) clearly articulated the commitments made in the Guatemalan Political Agenda. It indicated the need to promote the creation of a new inclusive economic model, based on growth with equity of resources, capacities, its cultural richness and biodiversity – understanding the necessary subsidies as a state responsibility, and as a right of the society.

However, the offered changes have not been fulfilled. A study of the Zero Hunger program (a program by the previous government, 2012-2015) concluded that within their weaknesses to achieve the objective was the inability to find structural changes which would have enabled a real combat of poverty and malnutrition.

In Guatemala 2 %of the population owns 65% of the land. This exclusive economic model does not promote access to livelihood, especially land owned or rented, as well the quality and access to other natural and environmental resources. On the contrary, it attacks leaders and activists of communities with a boost of authoritarian extractivism from the government. The erosion of the country’s genetic assets is a consequence of the country’s food and agricultural policies which are favorable to the use of genetically modified resources, making the country’s biological diversity merchandise, without safeguarding the rights of indigenous peoples and peasants to the use and control of native seeds. Furthermore, the unsustainable use of water means exploitation and pollution of the sources, with terrible impacts on nutrition.

To comply with objective 2 of the SDGs – combating hunger and achieving food security, Guatemala requires concrete policy actions that includes the urgent need for the development of competitive domestic markets, that would generate employment and income and ensure the existence of food to buy.

This urges the adoption of the Law of Integral Rural Development so that future governments can implement it. It also urges the international Green Climate Fund to support Guatemala, which contributes to agroecology, soil conservation, improving production conditions and the quality of life within the country as well as strengthening the promotion of new and renewable energy.

At the same time Guatemala needs the implementation of social investment projects that are transparent, combating political patronage and corruption and are effectively equal to the population with scarce resources,

 

/Matilde Bajan

Project coordinator at CEMAT; Centro Mesoamericano de Estudios sobre Tecnología Apropiada 

Divest now!

Divestment is a process on the opposite side of investment. It implies withdrawal of stocks, bonds or investment funds from fossil fuel companies. At the same time divestment is a powerful political tool to point out core problems, to target perpetrators rather than users/victims and to point out necessary changes of the financial system.

Throughout history there have been several divestment campaigns that contributed to changes in sectors they had targeted. For ex. campaigns against military actions in Darfur[1], Tobacco industry[2], etc.  Perhaps the most famous example was the Divestment campaign as regards the Apartheid system in South Africa[3].

Concerning Divestment from fossil fuels, the argumentation is built around 3 arguments:

  1. Moral argument – To illustrate it, the best way would be to quote Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org: “If it’s wrong to wreck the climate then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage”. To reach the Paris climate goals, up to 80 percent of fossil fuel reserves have to remain in the ground.
  1. Democratic argument – is applicable to investment funds over which citizens should have ownership. Pensions funds, Universities, Local authorities and city/municipal governments, etc. These investments must be transparent and citizens must have a say in the way money is used. If we elect local governments on bases of their political programme we must ensure that their investments with public money are also following the same political line. Having said that, as so many elected politicians on different levels pledge their support and will to combat climate change, one could expect huge amounts of public funds to be divested from fossil fuel industries any time soon.
  1. Financial argument – If a vast majority of fossil fuel reserves will not be used due to strict climate policies, fossil fuel companies (and their shares) will lose value dramatically. Therefore, foresighted investors are already backing out of fossil fuel investments, not (only) for moral reasons, but because of the financial risk these investments are bearing.

Divestment is not only about stopping or slowing down damaging processes. The potential of divestment lies in the fact that financial means remain at our disposal to invest them in sustainable activities/industries. Investing in a development of renewable energy will never be easier than in times when we divest public and private money from fossil fuel industries.

The real power of divestment is in the fact that it delegitimizes the fossil fuel industry and that it expands a notion of political participation to finances and raise the demand for full transparency and accountability of the ones we elect to govern.

At the end, it is important to mention the campaign Divestment from Fossil fuels[4]. It is clear that the world energy supply cannot continue on its fossil basis and that complexity of climate change needs to be tackled through different means. One thing we can do is to demand, among others, our municipalities, our banks, our universities, our pension fund, our churches, and our insurances to divest from fossil fuels. Divest now!

/Vesna Jusup 

Works with member relations at the European Green Party secretariat 

Former project leader at Cooperation and Development Network of Eastern Europe 

 

[1] http://fpif.org/divestment_ending_the_genocide_in_darfur/

[2] https://www.nsra-adnf.ca/cms/file/files/NSRA%20MLT%20Divestment%20Fact%20Sheet%20Dec14%20final2.pdf

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disinvestment_from_South_Africa

[4] https://europeangreens.eu/fossilfree2016