25 June 2012


The general consensus of commentators is that the Rio +20 world summit conference has failed to produce any agreement of significance and represents yet another wasted opportunity to address the pressing issues facing the future of the planet.

As one described it, “Rio+20 has been an international gathering of over 50,000 people whose ecological footprint was infinitely bigger than its outcomes.”

‘Rio will go down as the hoax summit,’ Oxfam chief executive Barbara Stocking said. ‘We elect governments to tackle the issues that we can’t tackle alone. But they are not providing the leadership the world desperately needs.’ 

The vague final text contains frequent use of words such as “recognises," "reaffirms," and encourages," but very few "adopts" or "will".

For example whilst acknowledging the reality of climate change and stating that "combating climate change requires urgent and ambitious action", moves to eliminate subsidies on fossil fuels - recommended in a number of authoritative reports as likely to boost economies and curb CO2 emissions - came to nothing.

Plans to enshrine the right of poor people to have clean water, adequate food and modern forms of energy also foundered or were seriously weakened during the six days of preparatory talks.

On the other hand while acknowledging that many would be disappointed with the lack of progress, some world leaders attempted to cast the outcome in a more positive light emphasising the areas where progress had been made, such as the pledge to develop a set of sustainable development goals within three years, and to ensure better governance of the high seas through marine protected areas, regulation of illegal fishing etc.

While the leaders summit was busy watering down the original proposed draft, in contrast the parallel “Peoples’ Summit” was abuzz with hope and solutions. Ideas and opportunities were shared about how to address the crises of environment, equity and ecology. Experts explained that we have energy solutions to bring about a green energy revolution, avoiding catastrophic climate change and providing access to power for 1.6 billion people who have none: an energy revolution that would provide millions with decent jobs and bolster failing economies.

Perhaps one other hopeful outcome from the main conference was in the hundreds of side agreements that do not require ratification or direct financing by governments, and that offer the promise of incremental but real progress, such as Microsoft’s pledge to roll out an internal carbon fee on its operations in more than 100 countries, part of a plan to go carbon-neutral by 2030, and the Italian oil giant Eni’s commitment to reduce its flaring of natural gas.

“Even a complicated, diverse world can address problems not through treaties, but by identifying the goals that then inspire decentralized actions,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.


A recent report on Children’s Rights in Australia notes that whilst Australia enjoys ''one of the most affluent economies of the world'' it still lacks a comprehensive national law setting out children's rights.

As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Australia is reviewed regularly on its progress in implementing the provisions of the Convention. The review was conducted earlier this month in Geneva.

The committee noted that there were ''fragmentation and inconsistencies'' in how children's rights were handled across states and territories citing ''serious and widespread'' concerns about racial discrimination faced by indigenous youth

Elsewhere, the experts also found special protection measures for asylum-seeking and refugee children fell far short of international requirements. While noting ''efforts'' to move children and vulnerable families in immigration detention facilities to places such as community-based detention arrangements, the committee was ''deeply concerned'' about asylum issues. One of those issues was related to the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers which was brought to the attention of the committee by Edmund Rice International.

In the concluding observations of the committee the Australian government was asked “to evaluate reports of hardship suffered by children returned to Afghanistan without a best interests determination” – a reference to the reports prepared by the Edmund Rice Centre.


Global Financial Integrity (GFI) praised G20 leaders commitment to move toward the automatic exchange of tax information at their recently concluded meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Corruption, crime, and tax evasion in the form of illicit financial outflows cost the developing world US$1 trillion per year according to GFI research, with Mexico—the current chair of the G20—suffering more than half a trillion dollars in outflows over the past decade.  Illicit outflows pose serious problems for developed Western economies as well, with Greece—the epicenter of the European debt crisis—hemorrhaging US$160 billion in illicit outflows from 2000 through 2009.

G20 leaders committed “to lead by example in implementing” the practice of automatic tax information exchange, and called upon other “countries to join this growing practice as appropriate,” a move lauded by GFI  as a major step towards curtailing tax evasion.

GFI also praised the renewal of the mandate of the G20’s Anti-Corruption Working Group for another two years, but were skeptical about the pledge on “the recovery and restitution of stolen assets.”

“As long as G20 nations like the United States and others allow for the incorporation of anonymous shell companies, trusts and foundations, G20 nations will be safe havens for the corrupt proceeds of foreign leaders as well as terrorists, criminals, and tax evaders,”
said GFI director Raymond Baker.

GFI is the leader of the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development a consortium of governments and research and advocacy organizations, which includes Edmund Rice International.
Micah Challenge in Australia has launched a campaign in support of country-by-country reporting, linked to information about tax dodging through tax havens. A petition is available for signature on the site.


Every minute eight people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. If conflict threatened your family, what would you do? Stay and risk your lives? Or try to flee, and risk kidnap, rape or torture? For many refugees the choice is between the horrific or something worse.

In choosing a theme to mark World Refugee Day this year the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has highlighted some of the tough choices facing refugees, helping the public to empathize with, and understand, their dilemma.

Currently more than 42 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes and communities with more than a million forced to flee their countries in the last eighteen months alone.

Sadly the response of the Australian political leaders to this global problem (which actually has minimal impact on Australia) continues to be marked by misrepresentation, political expediency and a lack of basic humanity.

2 June 2012


The 2012 theme for World Environment Day is Green Economy: Does it include you? 

The UN Environment Programme defines the Green Economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.

Practically speaking, a Green Economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes.

As the Green Economy is about social equity and inclusiveness then it includes everyone! The challenge for each of us therefore is to find out more about the Green Economy and assess whether, in our country, we are being included in it.

To learn more about the Green Economy bookmark the World Environment Day website, where the concept of what the Green Economy and what it means to you will be explained ahead of World Environment Day. Visit the What is the Green Economy? page to read a layman’s explanation of the concept. 

The Green Economy will also be a major theme at the UN Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development later this month.


Most countries are losing huge sums of money from companies’ use of tax havens. According to the OECD, developing countries are losing far more through tax dodging than they receive in aid. 

Tax havens play a key role in making this happen, by providing the financial secrecy which allows companies to dodge taxes.

World leaders are due to attend the next G20 meeting at Los Cabos, Mexico in June.

In the lead up to that meeting the End Tax Haven Secrecy coalition, of which Edmund Rice International is a member, is organizing a week of global action to draw attention to the need for action to combat tax havens.

Here is a short video explaining the nature of the problem (originally produced in Spanish but with an English voice-over). A petition to world leaders attending the G20 can also be found at the End Tax Haven Secrecy website.


During the month of May the global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children focused on the detention of children in Australia. During that month the number of children detained in facilities across Australia dropped from 463 to 281 according to the Australian Minister for Immigration.

Nevertheless the issue of children in immigration detention made headlines in Australia again recently after a young mother and her sons were taken from their home and placed in detention – indefinitely.

Ranjini from Sri Lanka was verified as a genuine refugee and set about starting a new life with her new husband in Melbourne. She and her husband recently discovered they’re expecting their first child together. But 2 weeks ago the Australian Security and Intelligence organisation (ASIO) revised her security finding which means that now she and her young sons join around 50 other refugees (including 6 children) held without knowing the reasons for their detention, without independent review and without an opportunity for appeal.

The best guess for the reason for her detention is that her former husband, who is dead, may once have been a driver for Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka. However as refugee advocates have pointed out, even if that is true, it does not involve the woman and her children in any sort of offence, and it says nothing about their character.

At present, Australian law allows a child to be imprisoned (potentially for life) without having broken the law and without being able to challenge the reason for their imprisonment.

Australia is one of the only countries in the world with a policy of mandatory, indefinite detention for asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Up to 4,000 people are held under this policy and hundreds of children have also been affected.

A petition is available at the above website to End Immigration Detention of Children.


More than US$2.2 billion in weapons and ammunition were imported by blacklisted states between 2000 and 2010 in the face of dozens of United Nations, regional and multilateral bans, aid group Oxfam said as it pushed for a legally binding arms trade treaty.

The international community will attempt to draft an arms trade treaty to regulate the global weapons market during a conference in July at UN headquarters in New York.

Oxfam said the illegal trade reinforced the case for "robust" and legally binding laws on the sale and transfer of arms.

Oxfam's report, "The Devil is in the Detail" says that the global trade in consumer goods such as bananas, coffee and cocoa is more tightly regulated than the arms trade.

"The challenge is to ensure the new treaty is really strong. It must unambiguously stop arms transfers where they would fuel conflict, poverty or human rights abuses," said Oxfam arms control campaigner Anna Macdonald.

"Existing arms embargoes are far too easy to break or ignore. The lack of international regulation means that states under embargo have been importing whatever weapons they choose with impunity."
Visit the Oxfam website to sign the petition supporting a treaty to control arms.

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