Thursday, September 28, 2006

UK's Beckett: Future of Africa linked to climate change

Interesting comments, especially by UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown (note he reminds us that in Darfur there is no peace for peackeepers to keep), in this article atBlack information Link 28 Sep 2006:
The problems of international development and climate change were interlinked, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett stated yesterday.

Speaking at a Fringe event organised by IPPR, Channel Four, Amnesty, Oxfam and Safer World, a number of issues, including Darfur, climate change, Uganda and Zimbabwe were raised.

Ms Beckett was joined on the panel by International Development Secretary Hilary Benn MP, Tidjane Thiam, Commission for Africa, Monica Naggaga, Oxfam, Mark Malloch Brown, United Nations and David Mepham, IPPR who chaired the event.

Mr Mepham began the session by raising the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett highlighted that the United Nations extended the mandate of the Africa Union last week, ensuring that a security vacuum was not allowed to develop.

However, this move was stepping away from the brink and was not a positive move forward, she asserted. The Africa Union should work with all sides in the conflict and receive back-up and support from all other nations.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn added that the Africa Union was dealing with the symptoms of the problem and a political solution was needed. Moreover, a way of bringing groups together to begin a move to some form of regional Government was needed.

Indeed, UN troops were already in Sudan following the civil war there, making it unusual that the country now opposed a UN force in Darfur, he argued. Monica Naggaga stressed that the Africa Union needed support to provide protection to people in Darfur, in particular the 200 women raped every month.

Elsewhere, Mark Malloch Brown asserted that Darfur was by far the biggest problem in the world today. The UK, United States and many in Europe wanted to do more, he added, applauding the UK's efforts in this since 2003.

Tidjane Thiam reiterated calls for a political solution, highlighting that minority rights had to be protected in the country.Mr Mepham asked whether the imposition of a no-fly zone across the north of the country was an option.

In response, Mark Malloch Brown argued that countries were reluctant to deploy troops to Darfur, partly because of the size of the country and scale of the task at hand, and peacekeeping was about having a peace to keep, a situation missing in Sudan.

A representative of Crisis Action asked whether the ministers could confirm the carrots and sticks deployed to enforce peace in Darfur. In the same round of questions, the subject of trade embargos against Sudan was raised.

Hilary Benn asserted that it was best not to discuss the carrot and sticks to be offered as negotiations were still on-going.However, the people of Sudan had an incentive to aim for a peaceful solution as the country had generous oil reserves, he stressed.

Furthermore, the Sudanese claim that they were not consulted over the role of the Africa Union was untrue, the Minister proclaimed. The Africa Union, the Arab League, China and many others had an important role to play, Mr Benn maintained. Margaret Beckett added that the Sudanese had appealed to the Arab League and fellow African nations for support on the premise that the measures to secure peace in Darfur were merely imperialist mechanisms being deployed by the UK and others.

Mr Malloch Brown stated that the Sudan conflict was not on the BBC every night, ensuring that its profile was not constant. Therefore it was crucial for people to keep up the pressure on Governments, he argued.

Indeed, many multi-national corporations could be pressured into ceasing oil extraction from the country, he asserted. On questions on climate change from the audience, a representative of Christian Aid raised the suggestion that African nations could be compensated for the detrimental effects they faced from climate change.

Elsewhere, a representative from Manchester Friends of the Earth asked how useful it was to Africa, if the UK cut carbon emissions year on year. Additionally, a question on the exportation of flowers from Africa was raised. In response, Mark Malloch Brown stated that a real investment strategy for Africa was needed.

On the export of flowers, he asserted that the initial positive benefits had now led to unintended consequences that had to be addressed. Margaret Beckett argued that climate change and development were intrinsically linked issues.

Indeed, an increase in global temperatures was estimated to result in a four per cent decline in the GDP of African nations. A partnership between developed and undeveloped countries, including technology transfer, would highlight how climate change and development were not mutually exclusive, she maintained.

Moreover, the UK was responsible for only two per cent of world carbon emissions, she claimed, making a global, and not just individual, agreement on climate change imperative. Mr Benn added that the issue of climate change also involved individual choices, raising the problem of how such environmental measures are enforced.

Moreover, if people believed that the scale of the problem was impossible to remedy, support for measures would be lost. The Government had pressed the World Bank for an energy investment framework to address the issue of developing countries creating larger capacities for electricity generation, Mr Benn went on to say.

It was essential to help countries like China invest in electricity generation without the consequences of global warming, he argued. Labour MP Kerry McCarthy asked a question on aiding people of Uganda to return to their homes after fighting. A further question on the country related to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The issue of Western Sahara and the Morocco backed block on the UN resolution on the conflict was also raised. Monica Naggaga stressed that the UK should support the resettlement of Ugandan refugees. Mark Malloch Brown stated that ICC rulings could not be taken away but could be suspended, a useful bargaining tool in negotiations with the LRA in Uganda, he maintained.

On Western Sahara, he highlighted that UN resolution after UN resolution had been passed but to no avail.Tidjane Thiam asserted that minority rights had to be protected, highlighting South Africa as a good example of a constitution that ensured this.

Hilary Benn asserted that the UK Government had helped to fund Mega FM in Uganda, a project that was proving an important tool in getting people to feel safer and move back home following positive news reports.In the final round of questions, Tidjane Thiam asserted that China had an increasingly important role to play in international development.

Moreover, a new scramble for African resources may be about to begin, Mark Malloch Brown asserted. He argued that the problem of Zimbabwe, including the illegal immigration into South Africa, had tried to be addressed by the UN and South Africa but to no avail. This had to be addressed, he concluded.

No comments: