EU & migrants, Syria, plastic bags and are you woke?

Posted on 03 July 2018

+ Off-shore migration centres for EU?

European Union leaders are exploring “controlled centers” inside Europe to assess migrants, and "regional disembarkment platforms” outside the bloc, likely in North Africa, according to Devex. They also agreed to transfer €500 million to the EU Trust Fund for Africa, the controversial aid instrument designed to address the root causes of migration.

The International Organization for Migration expressed serious reservations about the implications of some parts of the plan in a letter obtained by Devex.

Oxfam’s Policy Advisor on Migration, Raphael Shilhav, said EU governments were still trying to “offload their responsibilities onto poorer countries outside the EU.”

No African country had yet agreed to host one of the regional centers.

Social democrats across Europe are doing a U-turn on their approaches to immigration, rejecting their traditionally liberal approach. They worry that the alternative is closed borders, but it makes some social democrats uncomfortable.

The Danish social democrats have made a U-turn in immigration policy, using their 'social welfare' roots to frame an argument in favour of off-shore centres. There is a fundamental contradiction between a very liberal immigration policy and the survival of the welfare state, they argue. "A welfare state simply cannot afford anything other than a restrictive immigration policy."

To give the Danish Social Democrats credit, they did balance their tough stance on immigration with a promise to double aid to those countries hosting refugees.

And immigration  has played a big role in many EU elections recently.

But they'd do well to learn the lessons of the failure of the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres.

Controversial activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied has taken to twitter to  voice her thoughts that Australia can't take any moral high ground with regards to illegal immigrants being separated from their families at the USStates-Mexico border. 

"The worst thing about seeing this stuff go down in the US is knowing Australia is in no position to be morally superior given our record on Manus (and) Nauru."

"A great distance across the sea from us is Nauru, an island nation in the middle of a silent ocean. Almost 1,000 women, children and men are held there as hostages; just like us, they were exiled by the Australian government," says Behrouz Boochani, a refugee living in Manus.

When President Trump told Prime Minister Turnbull that Australia is worse than the United States in how it treats asylum-seekers and refugees, he was correct. But only for now."

"New Zealanders have been rightly horrified by Trump’s camps separating children from their parents. Are we similarly outraged by the illegal detention by the Australian government of babies and mothers?" writes Thalia Kehoe Rowden.

+  The war on plastic

During the last fortnight in Australia, supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths have removed single-use plastic bags from their stores.

They are now scrambling to combat "bag rage" as frustrated shoppers vent their anger over the removal.  One man put his hands around a supermarket worker's throat, the West Australian newspaper reported. Grocery stores are putting on more staff to help customers get used to the change.

More than 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world's oceans each year, according to United Nations Environment Programme figures.

The UN wants to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 and says more than 60 countries have so far taken steps to ban or reduce plastic consumption.

Around 40 countries  - not New Zealand yet - have banned single-use plastic bags, with charges or outright prohibitions in place in China, Bangladesh and about 15 African countries (see below).

Samoa plans to ban single-use plastic bags and straws, with an eventual goal of including plastic and styrofoam containers and cups.

Even terrorist group Al-shabaab banned plastic bags in areas of Somalia arguing the waste is bad for the environment.

Come on New Zealand!

Good news comes from Martinborough who went plastic bag free yesterday.  And some supermarkets are cautiously trying to lead the way, with Countdown withdrawing plastic bags from ten of it's stores and New World planning to by the end of the year.  Pak' n Save has always charged for plastic bags and provided cardboard boxes for customers as an alternative.

Forest and Bird presented research to the government this week that seabirds are more at risk of dying due to plastic in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world.

The embarrassment continues.  US researchers found earlier this year that Oriental Bay in Wellington has some of the worlds worst plastic pollution. Researcher Marcus Eriksen from the Five Gyres Institute revealed the shocking find. "I can say, having done this around the world 60,000 miles of sailing in all oceans studying plastic, this is one of the worst beaches I have seen," he said.

Our clean green image continues to take a hit, with a recycling sector in crisis This Spinoff article couldn't have put it better "When it comes to recycling and reducing waste, we are in danger of becoming a global embarrassment hanging with the bottom of the pack. We may be talking the talk but we’re definitely not walking the walk." 

New Zealand can learn from places like Kenya, where a plastic bag ban has had both positive and negative impacts. There are fewer plastic bags clogging storm water drains and filling fishing nets in lakes. Urban slums are cleaner and more hygienic, with fewer flying toilets (yes, you've read that right) making streets and paths treacherous, especially for wheelchair users. 

But biodegradable bags are not cost-effective for low-income street vendors, and the ban has affected packaging for exporters.

The cleanest and most established example is in Rwanda, which brought in a ban in 2008. (*See this article from the Guardian about how European countries could learn from African countries' treatment of refugees.)

Join the challenge and ‘Choose To Refuse’ single-use plastic during July.

+  Lowy Poll: more Australians worried about climate change

Key findings in the latest Lowy Institute poll out of Australia shows: 
  • Support for the US alliance remains firm, but trust in the US fallen to its lowest levels. Most Australians have little confidence in President Donald Trump. 
  • Despite heated public debate about foreign interference in Australia’s political processes, Australians seem more concerned about Chinese investment than influence. Only 41% of Australians view foreign interference in our political processes as a ‘critical threat’, but there has been a striking rise in the proportion of the Australian population (to 72%) who say the Australian government is ‘allowing too much investment from China’.
  • There has been a sharp spike in anti-immigration sentiment. For the first time in Lowy Institute polling, a majority (54%, a 14-point rise from 2017) of Australians say the ‘total number of migrants coming to Australia each year’ is too high. Australians also appear to be questioning the impact of immigration on the national identity.
In 2018, 59% of Australians (up five points) say ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem’ about which ‘we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs’. Almost all Australians (84%, up three points) say ‘the government should focus on renewables, even if this means we may need to invest more in infrastructure to make the system more reliable’. Only 14% say ‘the government should focus on traditional energy sources such as coal and gas, even if this means the environment may suffer to some extent’.
+ Kiribati

The new Kiribati Government has criticised a film documenting the nation's struggles with climate change, saying it does not follow ethical standards.

It said the film failed to provide the opportunity for local people to share their side of the story.

The government also has an issue with the film tying a migration scheme to New Zealand with climate change and said it was offensive to claim that Kiribati will be sinking and drowning in 30 or 50 years.

The film, 'Anote's Ark' has become a regular on the international festival circuit.  Kiribati's former president Anote Tong spent much of his three terms between 2003 and 2016 attempting to raise global awareness regarding the climate threats facing his nation.  

As sea levels continue to rise, low-lying regions of the isolated archipelago have been inundated by seawater, while increasingly more frequent and powerful typhoons repeatedly flood the interior.

After a change in administrations, film maker Matthieu Rytz has fallen out with Kiribati's political leaders.

Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes give it a 100% - "Anote's Ark succeeds by its ability to send a meaningful message without a preaching tone."
+ Is the Pacific the most aid dependent?

Last week we ran a story from DataBeech on aid dependency in the Pacific. Readers got in touch wanting to unpack the paragraph on Pacific aid dependency a bit more.

Number crunching was done by Matt Dornan and Jonathan Pryke at ANU in their paperlast year. 

According to their data, official development assistance (ODA) is higher in the Pacific than in any other region on a per capita basis, and ten Pacific island countries are among the 25 countries where ODA is highest as a proportion of national income.

"The Pacific islands is one of the most aid-dependent regions in the world.  Although Pacific island countries have seen a scale-up in development assistance, it has been modest relative to that enjoyed by other developing countries. Improvement has been mixed in areas identified as a concern by the aid effectiveness agenda, with high levels of volatility and lack of predictability particularly problematic."

But Peter Zwart from MFAT says "What Matt and Jonathan actually found is that while aid dependency is high regionally, it is very skewed to small countries. In the single largest countries, PNG and Fiji, which together account for around 85% of all Pacific people, aid per Capita is lower than in sub-Saharan Africa – that means most Pacific people get less aid than their counter parts in Sub-Saharan Africa.

"Combined with rates of child stunting that are among the highest in the world, very high numbers of kids out of school, there is a profound development dilemma across western Melanesia (Timor Leste, PNG, Solomon Islands) which needs to be given a lot more focus in an SDG ‘leave no-one behind’ context than it currently gets."

"Timor Leste, PNG and Fiji respectively get about 8%, 5% and 3% of their GNI from aid – that is a long way from aid dependency and in all cases their aid dependency ratio has been declining."
+ How to respond to the safeguarding challenge 

In the UK, the Charities Commission has now decided to focus on safeguarding.

Safeguarding is everyone's responsibility. That's the conclusion of Charity Finance in the UK who convened a panel of experts to look at how best to respond to recent reports of sexual abuse scandals in aid agencies.

CEO's need to be talking to heads of safeguarding regularly and there must be a supportive culture.  Trustees and senior management can underestimate how big an impact they can have. “If they prioritise safeguarding and ask the right questions, it has an enormous ripple effect through an organisation. But sometimes trustees don’t appreciate that."

"The best organisations I have worked with on safeguarding view it in a wholly positive way. They have left compliance a long way behind and moved on to concentrate on welfare. This brings it to life and engages everyone."
+ You woke?

This clip comes with a Trigger Warning: You may laugh at yourself.

The Urban Dictionary definition of ‘Woke’ - "like being in the Matrix and taking the red pill”. It refers to gaining a sudden understanding of what’s really going on and finding out you were wrong about much of what you understood to be true. Most recently it is used to refer to social conscious individuals whom have gained an awareness, or rather a painful self-awareness, of the bias and prejudice (i.e. racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) that exists in everyday social transactions.'
+  Syria - a fierce state not a fragile state

This assessment of Syria’s post-conflict landscape from Brookings Institute poses challenges for both policymakers and development practitioners.

"With its military victory close at hand, the regime’s intent is to use reconstruction to reimpose its authority, tighten its control over Syria’s society and economy, and fundamentally alter Syria’s demography to achieve what Assad himself has characterized as a “healthier and more homogenous society.”

"Syria is regularly held out as an example of a fragile state driven into conflict by the cumulative effects of poor governance and dysfunctional institutions. It is more accurate, however, to describe Syria as a “fierce” state: one in which ruling elites elevate survival above all else and design institutions to support this aim."

Institutions that lack both accountability and transparency.

Assad regime has consolidated its hold over these instruments of reconstruction.

"If the United States and EU wish to influence Syria’s post-conflict trajectory, they will need to rely on alternatives to reconstruction as potential sources of influence or pressure on the Assad regime."
+ What’s UNFPA doing in the Pacific?

Last week's CID talk showcased the work of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Regional director of the Asia-Pacific Björn Andersson and sub-regional director Bruce Campbell presented a snapshot of their Sexual and Reproductive Health (SAHR) transformation agenda and work in the region, which spans the Pacific, parts of the Middle East, and Central, East, and South Asia.

Since 2014, UNFPA’s work has averted upwards of 4.5 million unplanned pregnancies and 1.4 million unsafe abortions, and saved the lives of some 28,000 children and 4000 women. See a video summary on their impact in the Asia-Pacific region here.

If you missed it, for a fuller explanation of the work UNFPA are doing with midwives and nurses to reduce the Pacific's high rates of violence against women as well as improving maternal health, please head over to the CID website.  You can read the summary of the talk, along with presentation slides and the video.  

They also spoke with Radio NZ, while they were in New Zealand and you can listen to their interview here.


Environment Pacific Islands