Posts Tagged ‘Papua Neuguinea’

Indonesien: “Das verdünnt sich doch”

Mittwoch, Dezember 28th, 2011

“PNG rejects appeal to block Ramu nickel sea dumping

A Papua New Guinea court has rejected an appeal by local landowners to block deep sea dumping of waste from the Ramu nickel mine, junior partner Highlands Pacific said on Thursday.

Posted: Thursday , 22 Dec 2011

SYDNEY – A move to block deep sea dumping of waste from the Ramu nickel mine in Papua New Guinea has been rejected in an appeals court, ending a lengthy legal battle delaying the Chinese-backed project, junior partner Highlands Pacific said on Thursday.

The $1.5 billion project, one the biggest Chinese investments ever in the impoverished South Pacific nation, has been plagued by protests over plans to dump 100 million tonnes of waste into the Bismarck Sea.

A court in Papua New Guinea had already approved the dumping, but an appeal by local landowners was lodged against the decision in September.

“It is now time to get on with the commissioning and operation of the project and for the benefits to start flowing through to all stakeholders,” Highlands Managing Director John Gooding said.

Highlands holds an 8.56 percent stake in the project. Metallurgical Corp of China leads a Chinese consortium that owns 85 percent, with the rest held by the Papua New Guinea government. The project, the first of its kind for Papua New Guinea, is being designed to yield 31,150 tonnes of nickel and 3,300 tonnes of cobalt a year for at least 20 years.

The partners expect the mine to be running at maximum capacity by late 2013.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

© Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved”

 

(Quelle: Mineweb.com)

Australien: Menschenrechte – Wieso?

Samstag, Mai 14th, 2011

“Australia says 32 asylum seekers will go overseas

By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press

A boat load of 32 asylum seekers found in Australian waters will become the first to be sent to Malaysia, Papua New Guinea or another Asia-Pacific country under the government’s contentious new strategy to deter future refugees from making the same journey, an official said on Saturday.

The government last week struck a deal with Malaysia to swap asylum seekers for bona fide refugees and is negotiating with Papua New Guinea to accept hundreds of people who have paid smugglers to bring them to Australia by boat.

The message to asylum seekers is that Australia will not accept any more of them.

The navy intercepted the latest boat load of asylum seekers suspected to be from Afghanistan and Pakistan off the northwest coastal town of Broome overnight, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said.

They would be housed in a detention center at Christmas Island, an Australian territory near Indonesia, temporarily before they were sent to another country where their refugee applications would be processed, Bowen said.

Bowen said Malaysia had a right to reject any of the individuals on board. Papua New Guinea was not the only other country in the Asia-Pacific region which Australia was asking to accept its asylum seekers, he said.

“I am not going to flag which country these people will be sent to, but they will be held at Christmas Island, pending removal to a third country,” Bowen told reporters.

Lawyers and human rights groups have condemned Australia’s deal with Malaysia, under which Malaysia will accept 800 asylum seekers who entered Australia illegally by sea in return for Australia settling 4,000 registered refugees living in Malaysia.

Lim Chee Wee, president of the lawyers’ association Malaysian Bar, labeled the deal misguided and irresponsible and accused Australia of trying to dodge its international obligations.

Australia was effectively consigning 800 people to a “degrading, demeaning and dehumanizing” life of uncertainty and suffering because Malaysia was not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention, he said.

The Law Council of Australia, another lawyers’ group, called the deal an inappropriate solution to a complex problem.

Australia has long attracted people from poor, often war-ravaged countries hoping to start a new life, with more than 6,200 asylum seekers arriving in the country by boat last year. Most are from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq, and use Malaysia or Indonesia as a starting point for a dangerous sea journey to Australia.

 

(Quelle: San Francisco Chronicle.)

Australien: “Draussen bleiben!”

Freitag, Mai 13th, 2011

Australian government plans to deport refugees to Malaysia

By Will Morrow

The Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard last weekend took its vicious anti-refugee measures to a new level by announcing an agreement to deport 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia, where they will languish indefinitely in squalid conditions.

The blatant purpose of Gillard’s deal with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is to deter refugees from exercising their rights under international law to flee persecution and seek political asylum. Although details of the scheme are yet to be finalised, Gillard refused to rule out children, pregnant women and the sick being removed to Malaysia, insisting that the plan had to be “tough.”

While the government claimed that its intention was to end the incentives for “people smugglers,” the punitive scheme is clearly directed against the refugees themselves. Gillard stated: “Do you think you would [attempt to travel to Australia]? … You’ve only got one shot. You’ve only got so much money…You’ve only got one life to lose. And you [throw in] all your money…to potentially lose your life and go to the back of the queue in Malaysia.”

Gillard’s so-called “queue” amounts to a virtual life sentence, with refugees either trapped for years in Malaysia, which is notorious for abuses of basic democratic rights, or forcibly removed back to their country of origin.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported last year that 83,000 refugees were already living in Malaysia, in constant fear of victimisation and police brutality, despite being recognised by the UNHCR as genuine refugees. Another 12,000 asylum seekers are still applying for refugee status.

In Malaysia, not all refugees are detained but they are denied access to public education and healthcare, and cannot legally work. While Malaysian PM Razak claimed the asylum seekers would be free to “mingle” in the community, those caught working are subjected to bare-skin caning and thrown into detention.

Malaysian Human Rights Commissioner Datuk Subramaniam estimated that “1,300 illegal foreigners have died during detention” between 2002 and 2008, according to the Malaysian Star Online. Australian web publication New Matilda reported that in some cases detainees received one cup of water each day and were “held in overcrowded environments with 300-400 people in a 30 square metre room, which often lack[s] ventilation.”

In order to magnify the deterrent effect, the Gillard government reportedly plans to stagger the 800 deportations to Malaysia over a prolonged period of time so as to create a feeling of doubt in the minds of all asylum seekers that they might be among those consigned there. To accompany the plan, a PR campaign with the slogan of “Don’t do it” has been translated into Farsi, Dari, Pashto, Arabic and Bahasa Indonesian, and broadcast in foreign countries.

In exchange for accepting the 800 refugee arrivals, Malaysia will send to Australia 4,000 refugees, determined by the UNHCR to be in need of protection, over four years, at a rate of 1,000 per year. Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen cynically claimed that this was a “good humanitarian outcome.”

In reality, the temporary lift to the small annual refugee intake, to just over 14,000 per year, is simply the price that the Labor government calculated that it had to pay in order to ramp up its punitive efforts to repel asylum seekers. More than 6,500 refugees are currently being detained for deliberately lengthy periods—many have been incarcerated now for 18 months or more—in Australian onshore and offshore facilities.

Labor’s “Malaysian Solution” goes beyond the “Pacific Solution” of former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard. Under that program, refugees attempting to reach Australia’s shores were transported to detention camps on Manus Island, a Papua New Guinean territory, or the South Pacific island of Nauru. They were denied the most basic legal and political rights, and detained for up to five years.

As a result, severe mental health problems, incidents of self-harm and attempted suicides were widespread among detainees. Some of those eventually allowed into Australia have never recovered psychologically. Moreover, they were issued only with a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV), barring them from bringing spouses and family members to Australia and exposing them to the continuing risk of being sent back to their country of origin.

Amid mounting public revulsion at Howard’s inhuman regime, upon Labor’s election in 2007, it was compelled to close the Nauru and Manus Island camps and abolish the TPVs. In recent weeks, however, the Gillard government has begun to reinstate all the essential tenets of this system. Last month, Immigration Minister Bowen announced that refugees convicted of any offence, no matter how minor, while in detention would be subject to deportation or the issuing of a temporary visa.

This week, in addition to preparing to send asylum seekers to a life of misery in Malaysia, the Gillard government announced negotiations with PNG to recommission the Manus Island facility.

Throughout its empty posturing against the “Pacific Solution,” Labor emphasised that Nauru had not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention. Now the Gillard government is negotiating a deal with Malaysia, which is not a signatory to the Convention either, and therefore has no legal obligation not to refoule (forcibly return) refugees to their country of origin, regardless of the threat to their safety.

Gillard’s announcement came barely a week after East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta dealt the apparently final blow to Labor’s hopes for an equally punitive “regional refugee processing centre” in Timor. Since coming to power in a backroom coup last June, Gillard had held out the prospect of building such a detention centre as the cornerstone of Labor’s strategy to stop the arrival of refugee boats.

Under conditions of an ongoing global economic crisis that is affecting wide sectors of the Australian economy, Gillard’s anti-refugee measures are an attempt to divert rising social and political discontent with her government by scapegoating asylum seekers.

The Malaysian deal was announced just three days before this week’s federal budget, the central focus of which is a series of measures to slash welfare benefits and force unemployed workers, sole parents and disabled workers into low-paid work.

Alongside the budget’s cuts to welfare and other social spending, the Labor government allocated more than $1 billion for detention centres in 2011-12—an increase of $819 million—and an additional $3.3 billion for anti-refugee “border protection” measures, including $292 million for the Malaysian plan, as well as increased naval and aerial surveillance.

Labor’s measures are in line with those being taken by governments across Europe, and the Obama administration in the US, to shut their borders to destitute people fleeing persecution and war.

All sections of the Labor Party are unanimous in their support for this agenda, despite media speculation that there were reservations in the so-called left faction about the Malaysian plan. After being briefed by the government, prominent “left” Senator Doug Cameron told the Australian that he considered the Malaysian plan an “innovative” solution to the problem of immigration.

The entire political establishment is complicit in this offensive. The Gillard government is seeking to outdo the Liberal-National Opposition, whose leader Tony Abbott has demanded a full return to the “Pacific Solution” in order to “stop the boats.”

While the Greens nominally oppose the plan, they have made abundantly clear that they will not withdraw their support for the minority Gillard government, despite the party’s leader Bob Brown stating that the two major parties were “recreating the Howard solution effectively.”

Despite their expressions of concern for asylum seekers, the Greens are only proposing a more “humane” form of the same reactionary border protection policy that bars refugees from freely entering Australia.

 

(Quelle: WSWS.)

Siehe auch:

Malaysian socialists: No to Australia’s outsourcing of the violation of refugee rights to Malaysia

Pazifik: Vorbereitung auf den Untergang…

Dienstag, Mai 10th, 2011

“If a Country Sinks Beneath the Sea, Is It Still a Country?

By LISA FRIEDMAN of ClimateWire

Rising ocean levels brought about by climate change have created a flood of unprecedented legal questions for small island nations and their neighbors.

Among them: If a country disappears, is it still a country? Does it keep its seat at the United Nations? Who controls its offshore mineral rights? Its shipping lanes? Its fish?

And if entire populations are forced to relocate — as could be the case with citizens of the Maldives, Tuvalu, Kiribati and other small island states facing extinction — what citizenship, if any, can those displaced people claim?

Until recently, such questions of sovereignty and human rights have been the domain of a scattered group of lawyers and academics. But now the Republic of the Marshall Islands — a Micronesian nation of 29 low-lying coral atolls in the North Pacific — is campaigning to stockpile a body of knowledge it hopes will turn international attention to vulnerable countries’ plights.

“At the current negotiating sessions and climate change meetings, nobody is truly addressing the legal and human rights effects of climate change,” said Phillip Muller, the Marshall Islands’ ambassador to the United Nations.

“If the Marshall Islands ceases to exist, are we still going to own the sea resources? Are we still going to be asked for permission to fish? What are the rights that we will have? And we are also mindful that we may need to relocate. We’re hoping it will never happen, but we have to be ready. There are a lot of issues we need to know the answer to and be able to tell our citizens what is happening,” he said.

Frustrated by the dearth of answers to the questions he was posing, Muller said, Marshall Islands leaders contacted Columbia Law School. Michael Gerrard, who leads the law school’s Center for Climate Change Law, picked up the challenge and issued a call for papers.

Theoretical questions become real

Gerrard, who is arranging a conference sponsored by Columbia University’s Earth Institute next year, said that when he began reaching out to scholars, he realized most were working in isolation from one another. And, he said, some of the most ticklish legal questions facing small island nations have been understudied — because until recently, the notion of a country’s extinction has been largely theoretical.

“The prospect of a nation drowning is so horrific that it’s hard to imagine,” Gerrard said. Moreover, he added, until just a few years ago, it was difficult to have a conversation in the international community about how countries might adapt to climate change.

“There was a concern that it would divert focus from mitigation. But now people recognize that even with the most aggressive imaginable mitigation measures, the climate situation will get worse before it gets better, and we have to begin making serious preparation,” he said.

The plight of refugees is the most emotional of the looming questions. Deciding where to relocate citizens is just the beginning for a disappearing nation. Still unanswered: What will the political status of those displaced people be? Will they assimilate into the culture and economy of their new host country, or will they retain a separate identity?

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that rising sea levels, saltwater intrusion and accelerated coastal erosion could lead to as many as 200 million environmentally induced migrants worldwide by 2050.

The Carteret Islanders of Papua New Guinea could be some of the world’s first climate “refugees.” The land is expected to be under water by 2015, and Papua New Guinea’s mission to the United Nations has already announced it would evacuate the approximately 2,000 islanders to Bougainville Island — about a four-hour boat ride away.

Maldives wants a fund of last resort

Meanwhile, in the Maldives, President Mohamed Nasheed declared upon entering office that he would create a sovereign fund — something of a last-resort insurance policy — in the event that the country’s 305,000 citizens would require relocation. The fund fell victim to budget shortfalls, but Maldivian officials have said it had the desired effect of raising awareness in the international community.

And while environmental migration is not a new phenomenon, the projected scale of human movement over a short period of time is unprecedented. But, noted University of New South Wales professor Jane McAdam, “there is at present no internationally agreed definition of what it means to be an environmental ‘migrant,’ ‘refugee,’ or ‘displaced person,’ and consequently, no agreed label for those affected.”

Edward Cameron, former senior adviser to the government of the Maldives, added: “We see at the moment how many people are on the move in Pakistan.” While the floods devastating that country have been displacing millions internally, Cameron asked, “What if they were on the move across an international border? They certainly wouldn’t have refugee status.”

But while questions abound over the status and rights of displaced persons, experts say that field of study is burgeoning compared to the study of sovereign rights of vulnerable countries.

McAdam, who has looked at the question of whether a disappeared nation could retain its U.N. seat, noted that there is no automatic triggering mechanism that “undoes” a state.

“Certainly states have ceased to exist in the past, but it’s through occupation, war, state secession,” McAdam said. The closest thing to an extinct nation would be a government in exile. Yet even that assumes the government will eventually return to its territory — something climate change may make impossible.

“There’s precedent for other things that we can draw on, but … there’s no self-executing formula for deciding when a country doesn’t exist anymore,” she said.

Cleo Paskal, associate fellow at Chatham House and author of “Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map,” said one of her top worries is the fate of countries’ maritime exclusive economic zones.

Those areas where countries have exclusive rights to the resources are measured from coastlines or offshore islands. But, Paskal noted, the laws assume the coastlines won’t change or disappear. That’s already happening.

Laws assume coastlines are a constant

“Any country with a coastline or offshore islands that are being used to anchor claims need to start thinking about if that coastline or offshore island is affected, and what will that do to the exclusive economic zone claims?” she said. “The core issue is that we have written our laws, regulations, subsidies on the assumption that the environment is a constant, and it isn’t.”

Moreover, as Paskal noted in a recent blog post, countries that take in climate “refugees” might make a case for governing the former nation’s maritime zone — something she described as a “very lucrative and geopolitically touchy proposition.”

Meanwhile, Paskal and others warn that well before a country disappears under rising waters, it will face less provocative but deeply vexing problems.

“On your way down, before your country disappears, you’ve got desalination problems, agriculture problems, import problems. You might lose your fresh water; your land might start to degrade because of saltwater intrusion,” Paskal said.

Cameron said threatened nations need answers to the vexing legal questions of land, water and migration for their own sakes as well as to send a signal to developed countries stalling on climate change action that “if you don’t come up with a response, we’re going to start looking at legal options.” But more broadly, he said, the international community needs to start viewing climate change through the lens of human rights.

“What we’re trying to do in this debate is take an old issue, which is climate change, and make people look at it in a completely different way … as a human and social issue instead of an ecological issue,” he said. “Climate change is not about polar bears; it’s about people, and human rights helps us to understand it as a human issue.”

Copyright 2010 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.”

 

(Quelle: The New York Times.)

Kanada: Gold-Konzern missachtet (auch) Menschenrechte in Papua Neuguinea

Donnerstag, April 28th, 2011

“Impacted Community Confronts Barrick Gold On Human Rights Abuses, Company Lies, And Cultural Slurs

Indigenous representatives from Porgera, Papua New Guinea traveled to Canada this week to speak at Barrick Gold’s annual general meeting (AGM). This year marks the fourth year that the Porgerans have visited Barrick Gold’s AGM, each time raising serious human rights and food security issues.

aclbarrickagm260

Article by Sakura Saunders, Editor of ProtestBarrick.net. Originally posted at http://www.engagemedia.org.

We are attacked continuously and we are attacked often by a very noisy and very articulate opposition,” Peter Munk, Barrick Annual General Meeting, 2010

Jethro Tulin, Akali Tange Association a member of the Porgera Alliance said, “Since 2008 we have stood here at Barrick shareholder meetings and told them about the abuses our people suffer at the hands of Barrick’s security forces – beatings, shootings, rapes and gang rapes.”

“At past AGM meetings, the board has assured the shareholders that our words were not true. But now, the world knows that there are serious abuses occurring at your Porgera Mine in PNG.”

In 2011, due to pressure from an investigation by Human Rights Watch, Barrick finally allowed for an investigation of their security regarding the allegations of gang rapes. Five Barrick employees were fired, while eight former employees were implicated in the abuse.

Barrick founder and Chairman, Peter Munk, was later quoted in the Globe and Mail saying “gang rape is a cultural habit” in the countries like Papua New Guinea, angering the Porgeran community and prompting the country’s Mining Minister, John Pundari, to demand a public apology.

Instead of an apology, Barrick Gold’s Australia-Pacific President, Gary Halverson stated that Munk’s comments were taken out of context, lamenting that “only a small portion of this conversation was included” in the Globe and Mail article. The Porgera Alliance has since called for accountability in addition to backing the Mining Minister’s call for an apology.

Similarly, a Amnesty International report released in 2010 showed evidence of at least 130 structures adjacent to Barrick’s Porgera mine were burned down, many of which were houses, while villagers were beaten, harassed, and detained.

Barrick housed the police who carried out these fiery evictions, and according to Mark Ekepa of the Porgera Landowners Association, they continue to support these same police.

“Barrick is continuing to house, feed and provide fuel to Mobile Units of the Papua New Guinea state who are responsible for burning down local landowners’ houses in 2009, and who continue to carry out beatings, rapes and house burnings around the mine.”

Ekepa and Tulin traveled again to Canada this year to bring attention to these issues and call for the relocation of all the indigenous landowners who live in the Special Mine Area as well as the end to the practice of dumping toxic waste directly into their 800 km-long river system.

Background:

PNG Mining Minister Responds to Munk’s Statement about Gang Rape, Porgera Alliance demands Accountability:
http://www.porgeraalliance.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Munk-Respond-Pundari.pdf

Porgera Alliance Letter to Peter Munk regarding his statement: “Gang Rape is a Cultural Habit”: http://www.porgeraalliance.net/2011/03/letter-to-peter-munk-regarding-his-statement-gang-rape-is-a-cultural-habit/

Barrick says chief’s comments taken out of context
http://www.postcourier.com.pg/20110328/news15.htm

FollowProtestBarrick.net :: facebook.com/protestbarrick :: twitter.com/stopbarrick :: youtube.com/waysofseeing “

 

(Quelle: Intercontinental Cry.)

Global: Klimawandel in der Südsee – schon heute eine Frage von Leben und Tod

Montag, Juli 19th, 2010

“CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE PACIFIC – A MATTER OF SURVIVAL

By Sonia Smallacombe


Kiribati (Photo taken by Roisterer/Wikipedia).

Indigenous peoples in the Pacific region are among the first to face the direct adverse consequences of climate change, due to their dependence upon and close relationship with the environment and its resources. While they are amongst the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases, they are also amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to their small size, coastal populations, high dependence on natural resources and the low-lying nature of their lands. As a result, indigenous peoples in many Pacific Island countries feel particularly helpless. Further, they realize that there are climate change threats that cannot be reduced, mitigated or eliminated and they are therefore forced to accept that adaptation is the only responsive option available to them.

Impacts of climate change

On average, more than 90% of the population of the Pacific region are indigenous. This includes Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu, Rapa Nuie (Easter Island), Papua New Guinea etc. Most of the Pacific region comprises small island states and indigenous peoples are heavily impacted by climate-induced warming: their islands are inundated by rising sea levels, increasing erosion occurs from intense storms, and saltwater intrudes into freshwater supplies. These changes are affecting livelihood activities such as hunting and fishing, and impacting on island infrastructure, access to water resources, food and housing availability, and even the very health of indigenous peoples. There is also concern that climate change will result in revenue loss across important economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry, tourism, energy and other industry-related sectors.

Rising sea levels

Many Pacific Islands have low land masses and, as a result of the rise in sea levels, are experiencing damage to buildings and infrastructure. Crops and causeways linking villages are being flooded, forcing cars, buses and trucks to drive through seawater. This has been particularly noticeable in Kiribati and a number of other small Pacific Island nations, which could completely disappear beneath the waves at some point this century. The small island of Tebua in Tarawa used to be a landmark for fishermen but today it is knee-deep under water. Kiribati suffers the effects of king tides that wash through the islands from one side to the other with great ease. It is now a common factor in Kiribati to have king tides with waves 2.8 metres in height.[1]
High tides and stormy seas have also recently caused problems in the Marshall Islands, Cook Island, Tuvalu and low-lying islands of Papua New Guinea. In Tuvalu, fresh groundwater mixes with salty seawater, forcing some farmers to grow their root crops in tin containers. These damaging effects of climate change are likely to intensify if sea levels rise as predicted.

Damage to Pacific ecosystems

In the Pacific region, environmental changes are prominent on islands where volcanoes build and erode; coral atolls submerge and reappear and the islands’ biodiversity is in flux. The region has suffered extensively from human-made disasters and hazards resulting from nuclear testing, pollution including shipping-related pollution, hazardous chemicals and hazardous wastes (Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs), and solid waste management and disposals. These issues, as well as the threats of climate change, have severely affected the ability of island ecosystems to maintain a healthy and pristine environment for the economic, social and cultural viability of indigenous communities.[2]
   Warmer temperatures have led to the bleaching of the Pacific Islands’ main source of survival – the coral reefs. Bleaching occurs when reef-building corals, reacting to stress such as warmer waters, loosen the algae that help feed them. Because the algae give them colour, the starved corals look pale, hence the term “bleaching”. Continued bleaching ultimately kills corals. Reef-building corals provide most of the primary productivity of coral reefs and are also an important shelter for a diversity of marine organisms. Reduced abundance and diversity of reef-building corals is thus very likely to have a major influence on the surrounding biodiversity. Coral reefs are home to much of the seafood that is enjoyed by indigenous peoples in the region.[3]

Food and water security

Agriculture in the Pacific region, especially in small island states, is becoming increasingly vulnerable due to heat stress on plants and salt water incursions. Crops with low tolerance to climate hazards such as bananas, one of the main staple crops, are severely threatened. Soil erosion from destructive wave activity, frequent storm surges and landslides causes land loss to many indigenous communities. Plantations and livestock are the major sources of subsistence farming, and are now faced with serious threats from new diseases and pests linked to flooding, drought and other climatic variations. Threats to food security are thus of great concern to the region.
   A significant impact of climate change and climate variability on indigenous peoples in the Pacific region is unreliable water availability. In many places, there is often a lack of water storage systems such as water tanks. If improvements were made to water supplies and accessibility systems, indigenous peoples would not have to rely on unpredictable and untreated river sources. Hence, sustainable water sources, maintaining and improving water quality and minimizing the spread of water-borne diseases is an important issue for indigenous peoples in the Pacific.

Drought

Some 2,000 miles to the west of the Pacific is Australia, which is experiencing the worst drought in 100 years, even with the flooding that occurred in late 2007 and early 2008. Scientists are not certain that climate change is to blame but it is the most popular theory. One concern is that when there is rain in the northeast coastal regions, soil washes into the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef. This process is damaging the coral, and warmer waters are also killing parts of the reef.

Carbon emissions trading

In the Pacific, like in most other regions, indigenous peoples are not only affected by climate change but also by the initiatives developed to address it. Carbon emissions trading is an area of concern for many indigenous peoples. At the same time, however, some indigenous peoples see the potential economic benefits of taking part in carbon trading projects, especially when indigenous communities have already developed, over thousands of years, sustainable, neutral and carbon negative livelihoods. A unique agreement, which claims to be the first of its kind in the world, was recently negotiated in Australia. In June 2007,
when a giant new natural gas refinery was constructed in Darwin, ConocoPhillips agreed to pay the Aboriginal people of the Western Arnhem Land region of Australia AUD 1 million (USD 850,000) per year, for 17 years, to offset 100,000 tons of the refinery’s own greenhouse emissions (The Western Arnhem Fire Management Agreement). The Aboriginal people concerned will use traditional fire management practices, which have been scientifically shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as compared to naturally occurring wildfires.[4]
   Carbon trading continues to be a hugely contentious issue, however, mainly due to its inherent problems. The main concern is that, while companies do not have to actually reduce their emissions, they can pay other companies and groups, mostly from nonindustrialized countries, to reduce emissions or to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, and thus account for these as their own reductions. The big benefit to companies is that, when paying others, they pay only a fraction of what they would need to invest at home to achieve the same goal.[5]

Adapting to climate change through migration

As people begin to feel the heavy impact of climate change on the quality of life in the Pacific, migration will become a major issue, particularly as a result of flooding from the rising sea level. Forced adaptation is already underway, with some communities being displaced from their traditional lands and territories due to coastal and land erosion caused by large stormdriven waves. Dislocation is already a reality in Samoa and Vanuatu, where flooding from extreme weather and rising sea levels have become the norm and thus have serious implications for people residing in the region. People living in Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville atoll island of Cartaret have asked to be moved to higher ground on the mainland. The people of Sikaiana Atoll in the Solomon Islands have also been migrating away from their atoll, primarily to Honiara, the capital. Similarly, there has been internal migration from the outer islands of Tuvalu to the capital, Funafuti. In the case of Tuvalu, this migration has brought almost half of the national population to Funafuti atoll, with the inherent negative environmental consequences, including an intensified demand for local resources.[6] New Zealand has agreed to take 75 Tuvaluans per year, in a slow evacuation process of the island.
   Migration as a solution is, however, highly problematic. It is a violation of the right of countries to exist as peoples, a threat to cultures and tradition, causes loss of lives, loss of biodiversity, loss of spiritual connectivity and loss of settlement.[7] It is therefore crucial that the issue of “environmental refugees” is seriously discussed and that indigenous peoples become genuinely involved in designing and implementing responses to climate change.

Adapting by applying traditional knowledge

Traditional knowledge and practices are important to sustaining and managing the environment. In a coastal village on Vanua Levu, Fiji, the philosophy of vanua (which refers to the connection of people with the land through their ancestors and guardian spirits) has served as a guiding principle for the management and sustainable use of the rainforest, mangrove forest, coral reefs and village gardens.
   In other parts of the Pacific, indigenous peoples have supported mangrove conservation along the coastline to protect against natural disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis. It is seen as a cheaper undertaking than seawalls, which are funded from external sources. Mangrove conservation involves the community in the management process as well as the inclusion of women in the replanting activities. Other activities include the provision of a water drainage system as well as banning tree clearing. However, it is recognized in the Pacific that enhancing adaptive capacity involves more than local options, which will only be successful if they are integrated with other strategies such as disaster preparation, land-use planning, environmental conservation and national plans for sustainable development.[8]
   Grants from United Nations agencies, such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), promote the development and dissemination of appropriate crops and technologies in the Pacific region. The merging of indigenous and atoll technologies through action research and documentation is designed to support agriculture and fisheries. A similar activity, managed by the Solomon Island Development Trust, is due to take place through a small grant from IFAD’s Indigenous Peoples’ Assistance Facility (IPAF). Indigenous populations will be assisted to improve post-crisis resilience by merging traditional with scientific knowledge.
   Institutional barriers that prevent adaptation exist in the Pacific region. For example, adaptive capacity and resilience in the Pacific is hampered by limited resources and lack of access to technology. On the other hand, the application of traditional knowledge and past experiences has been strengthened in various ways, such as the implementation of traditional marine social institutions, as exemplified in the Ra’ui in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. This is an effective conservation management tool aimed at improving coral reef health. Indigenous peoples’ ecological knowledge and customary sea tenure is also integrated with marine and social science to conserve some of the wildlife, such as the bumphead parrotfish in Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Changes in sea tenure, back to more traditional roles, have also taken place in Kiribati.[9]

What needs to be done

While there is scientific consensus, notably through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with regard to the threats that climate change poses, governments have been slow to respond. The vulnerability of the whole Pacific region to disasters poses a real threat to achieving economic stability, social development, environment conservation and cultural diversity. In September 2007, Mr. Elisara-La’ulu, Director of Ole Siosimaga Society (OLSSI) in Samoa, said that bystanders who knew that the world was in crisis but did nothing were just as bad as the architects of the crisis. He urged government leaders to ask indigenous peoples about the effects of climate change before taking any decisions, and that indigenous peoples should not act when under pressure from global processes driven by big governments.[10] During a meeting in April 2008, Mr. Elisara noted that:

For us Pacific peoples, the discussion on climate change is not just a theoretical issue that we talk about when we come to these global meetings! It is there and we see the effects in our daily lives. For us it is a matter of life and death! In many cases we have to decide whether to stay on our islands or leave our homes. As sovereign countries, our rights as countries are protected under the Charter of the United Nations. We plead accountability against those causing these violations of our rights to exist as peoples, as countries, and as sovereign nations. Someone must bear responsibility for our demise when we lose our cultures, when our traditional ways of lives are trashed, and we are denied our freedom to exist as peoples. This is an issue of climate justice that we are calling for here and will continue to do so in every opportunity that comes our way![11]

There are two important issues that some of the small island states, such as Samoa, are highlighting. The first issue is the importance of allowing communities themselves to prioritize and pursue their adaptation needs. Community representatives need to work with policymakers to identify solutions that take account of cultural values in order to protect the livelihood and well-being of indigenous peoples. The second issue is the urgent need to put early warning systems in place to ensure that indigenous communities have the information they need to respond to each hazard and potential threat. This in turn will go some considerable way towards implementing sustainable community activities to adapt to, and minimize, the adverse impacts of climate change.
   At the Pacific Regional Civil Society Organization Forum held in Tonga in October 2007, the following recommendations were made:

• That regional contingency plans be developed to accommodate environmental refugees in a manner that maintains their national identity and indigenous cultural integrity;
• Engage indigenous peoples’ organizations in the development of programmes that involve measures to deal with the effects of climate change;
• Promote forest conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy; and
• Involve indigenous peoples in programs that support community-level mitigation and aptation measures and, at the same time, recognize the value of the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, which has enabled them to maintain and interact with their environment in a sustainable way.[12]

 

Notes

[1] Fiu Mataese Elisara. Effects of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples. A Pacific presentation during the International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change, Darwin, Australia April 2-4, 2008.
[2] Ema G. Tagicakibau. Pollution in Paradise: The Impact of Nuclear Testing and Radio-Active Pollution on Indigenous Peoples in the Pacific and Strategies for Resolution. Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, August 2007.
[3] Robert W. Buddemeier, Joan A. Kleypas, Richard B. Aronson. Coral Reefs and Global Climate Change: Potential Contributions of Climate Change to Stresses on Coral Reef Ecosystems. Pew Centre, January 2004, page 25.
[4] Victo Mugarura. Aborigines burn the way to climate control. BBC, September 18, 2007 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6726059.stm
[5] D. Wysham. A Carbon Rush at the World Bank. Foreign Policy in Focus, February 2005. See www.fpif.org
[6] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group 2: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, 2007, page 708.
[7] Fiu Mataese Elisara. Effects of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples. A Pacific presentation during the International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change, Darwin, Australia April 2-4, 2008.
[8] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group 2: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, 2007, page 709.
[9] Ibid, page 708.
[10] Meetings Coverage, DPI/NGO Annual Conference, NGO/626, PI/1794, Department of Public Information, UN, New York, 6 September 2007.
[11] Fiu Mataese Elisara. Effects of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples. A Pacific presentation during the International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change, Darwin, Australia April 2-4, 2008.
[12] Communiqué of the Pacific Regional Civil Society Organization Forum held in Tonga in October 2007, pages 4-5.

 

Sonia Smallacombe is a member of the Maramanindji people in the Daly River region of the Northern Territory in Australia. She is currently working in the United Nations Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and is the focal person on climate change.
   The views expressed in this paper do not necessarily represent those of the United Nations or the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.”

 

(Quelle: Indigenious Affairs.)

 

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