Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some background information

UNANIMA Board Members
As I settled into the Catholic guest house that my community has been a part of for the past 100 years, as its Minister of Hospitality, I was asked to represent my religious community on the Board of UNANIMA International, a coalition of 17 religious congregations seeking to work with the UN on behalf of: women and children, immigrants and refugee, and the welfare of the planet.

As a UN-NGO, UNANIMA has met the standards set to be an NGO (non-government organization) and participate in the UN conferences and committees. Please check out this web site if interested in our involvement in the UN.  http://www.unanima-international.org/eng/
Two major issues UNANIMA is addressing:  TRAFFICKING AND WATER.

It is my experience as a Board member, living a short subway ride from the UN and participating in many of its activities that made me what to tell others about the work and influence of the UN.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Another Example of Why the UN is Important

Sustainable Development Conference
A Side Event, at the Sustainable Development Conference, was sponsored by the following three countries: Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro.  To grow their Green Economy and improve sustainable consumption practices, they joined together to developed regional plans that would enable them to share expertise and practices in the areas of energy, tourism, agriculture forests and transportation. 

I bring this event to your attention, because in the 1990’s these countries were bitter enemies. The Yugoslav Wars were ethnic conflicts among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia:  Serbia and Montenegro on one side and Croatia and Bosnia on the other.

As the delegates from these counties came together for their many meetings at the UN, did they see the opportunity for backroom diplomacy?  I like to think they did.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The final results of CSD 19

Sustainable Development Conference
CSD 19 failed to adopt a negotiated outcome and failed to achieve it goals.

 The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) ended on May 13.  After two weeks of intense negotiations, that continued into the night of the May 13, and only officially concluded on Saturday morning after all night meetings. 

UN headquarters - Sustainable Development Conference

The reasons point to doubts regarding the ability of governments to collectively and effectively address crucial ‘sustainable development’ issues. (Sustainable development is the effort to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.)  CSD is known as a valuable platform for global communities to address sustainable development issues, exchange success stories, engage with major groups and forge partnerships. 

This failure of CSD implies problems within CSD and in the overall governance priorities of the international community regarding sustainability and the future of our world and species.  As one delegate noted ”What happened at CSD 19 might serve as a wake-up call for us all.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

What’s Right about the UN?

General Assembly in session during the 
Sustainable Development Conference.
Having attended UN conferences and presentations for the past four years, I feel I can give my opinion regarding what the UN has achieved and continues to contribute to our global society.  Presently, much criticism is leveled against the United Nations: ineffective, poorly organized, unnecessary.  No institution is prefect and some of the remarks are justifiable, but I would like to tell one reason, of many that could be told, WHY the UN is needed.

We need the UN because it has given us the words we need to rise above the crassness, greed and bigotry of our unreflected lives. For example:

Sculpture at the entrance to the UN.
Check any of these Conventions on UN web sites and asked yourself,  “Which of these Human Rights is unnecessary in the present political reality?”  In addition to the ongoing work of the UN “to bring all nations of the world together to work for peace and development, based on the principles of justice, human dignity and the well-being of all people.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Commission on Sustainable Development

May 3 – 13, 2011
This article is a follow up on the mining issue that has the attention of many delegates at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).

As the indigenous people find their voice, the story of what mining has done to their ancestral lands is being told.  I would like to share from case studies the descriptions of what has happened on their lands.

From the Mirarr People in Northern Territory of Australia: Paper submitted for distribution at CSD

“Recurring water and tailings management problems have plagued the mine. Contaminated water regularly leaks into the adjacent Kakadu National Park. Hundreds of spills, leaks and license breaches have been recorded since the mine opened and has contributed to growing social problems in the region. …. In March 2004, mine process water was directed into the miners’ drinking water system containing uranium at concentration 400 times greater than the maximum permissible drinking level. ….In December, 2009, a dam burst sending 6 million litres of contaminated water into the National Park.
Commission on Sustainable Development

 From the Palawan Case Study in the Philippines: Paper submitted for distribution at CSD

The Philippines has suffered many disastrous environmental impacts from mining including the Marinduque/Boac River tailings containment rupture in 1996, when an estimated 4 million tons of mine waste escaped into the local river system. A recurrent pollution problem caused by the failures of tailing management at the Atlas mine in Toledo City, Cebu.

The picture is clear that people are worse off because of environmental degradation and human right violations attendant to mining operations.  Government statistics attest that only a small fraction are benefiting from employment generated by the mining operations.

Palawan is home to large numbers of endemic species – both flora and fauna that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.  It is home to 30%of the country’s coral reefs and has 17 key biodiversity areas. These are also endangered as a result of poor mining regulations.

These stories are repeated again and again by indigenous people throughout the world.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Commission on Sustainable Development -19

May 3 to 5, 2011
Commission on Sustainable Development – 19
The Commission on Sustainable Development is off to a running start. This CSD Conference from May 3 to 13 is doing ‘double duty’ in addressing the themes of CSD – 19 and preparing for Rio +20 in June, 2012.

This years themes for CSD cover: transport, chemicals, waste management, mining and sustainable consumption and development.  All of these themes affecting our carbon foot print and the need to go GREEN.

Mining is receiving major attention, as communities across the globe protest the land degradation, lost of ancestral lands, increased poverty, illnesses resulting from toxins in water and river systems.

The out cry is heard not only in developing countries but in the USA, as people protest the drilling for natural gas by the energy companies that result in contaminated drinking water. 

More on this issue later next week.