The Future is Equal

Archives for November 2, 2017

Uprooted by climate change: responding to the growing risk of displacement

Climate change is already forcing people from their land and homes, and putting many more at risk of displacement in the future. Supercharged storms, more intense droughts, rising seas and other impacts of climate change all magnify existing vulnerabilities and the likelihood of displacement, disproportionately affecting low-income countries, women, children and indigenous peoples

Responding to these growing realities demands far stronger action towards ending global climate pollution, supporting resilient communities, ensuring rights for people on the move and developing long-term strategies to ensure that those who are forced to move in the future are able to do so safely and with dignity.


What to watch for at the UN’s climate change conference

By Heather Coleman
Climate and Energy Director, Oxfam America

When the Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted by 195 countries back in 2015, most assumed that the next several COP meetings would be sleepy, technical affairs. After all, the agreement was done! Only the fine-print—the so-called “Paris Rulebook” — was left undecided.

The “rulebook,” which is due to be completed 2018, will include detailed guidelines on how the different parts of Agreement will be implemented. Because the Paris system relies on countries enacting their own emissions cuts, accountability and transparency are essential.

While these proceedings might normally go unnoticed, both President Donald Trump’s announced intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and back-to-back extreme weather disasters this year have put next week’s summit in Bonn in the spotlight.

Here are four things to watch as the negotiations unfold:

1) Shifting country dynamics: Since Trump’s withdrawal speech in June, many have wondered how his administration would engage in a process to establish rules for an agreement they never mean to implement. Their intentions are spurious at best, malevolent at worst. Because the U.S. is still technically part of the Agreement until formal withdrawal take effect in 2020, Trump’s envoys can actively participate in negotiations.

How active the U.S. will be at the Bonn meeting is still an open question: the U.S. State Department has announced that Tom Shannon, the Undersecretary for Political Affairs, will lead the delegation in Bonn. Shannon, a career diplomat who’s served presidents of both political parties, will likely streamline and professionalize U.S. engagement on technical issues at the COP, in line with what previous U.S. teams have done. Staff from the White House are also expected to attend, and to promote further support for advanced fossil fuel technologies.

In the past, the U.S. had provided substantial leadership within their negotiating bloc, the Umbrella Group, which is comprised of developed countries outside of the European Union. With the U.S. taking a less-visible role at the COP, it’s not yet clear how the Umbrella Group will function, and which members will attempt to set its direction more broadly.

2) Call for action to support small island states: Several small island nations and territories have been ravaged by powerful hurricanes and other severe weather events this year. With Fiji chairing this COP meeting, there is no doubt that the issue of “loss and damage” will be a focus this year. “Loss and damage” describes the permanent and unavoidable impacts caused by climate change.

As these countries ask for more support to respond and build resilience to future disasters, one subject of much discussion will be what “financial mechanism” (funding system) can address damages to homes, cultures, and communities.

3) Businesses, local governments, and others demand climate action: The Paris Agreement explicitly recognized the role of sub-national actors in helping address the climate crisis — states, cities, provinces, businesses, and so forth. The 2016 COP22 meeting in Marrakech formalized their role and started to coordinate and promote their actions.

In the wake of Trump’s June 2016 decision to back away from the Paris Agreement, hundreds of pro-Paris businesses, universities, and local and state governments signed the “We Are Still In” declaration. This network will host a series of events at the COP this year, where leaders like California governor Jerry Brown and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg will showcase all the work still being done in the U.S. to fight climate change.

4) Setting the stage for deeper emission cuts: The Paris Agreement calls for a “Facilitative Dialogue” process in 2018 to measure both countries’ progress towards meeting their 2020 emissions goals and holding warming as far below 2 degrees Celsius as possible. This will be big test: are countries prepared and able to do more to reduce emissions (or “ratchet up ambition” in climate lingo) going forward?

This COP is so important because it tees up next year’s Facilitative Dialogue; how things go in Bonn will heavily determine if the FD is a real and credible moment, or a hollow and mostly-symbolic affair.

Climate change is affecting our communities, our businesses, our Pacific neighbours and the poorest people in the world. It is threatening to unwind the progress made over the last 60 years in the fight against poverty. Every government must do its part to fix this problem. Join us in demanding that our government commits to a Zero Carbon Act.

Facing hardship, but striving for self-reliance

Story by Kamilo ‘Ali, Oxfam’s Polynesia Micronesia Livelihoods Programme Manager, 13.10.2017

Seven years ago, Sione Te’i fell from a multi-storied building and completely paralysed both of his legs. He’s confined to a wheelchair 24/7, with his legs covered, which seriously limits income-generating opportunities for him.

As a way of making money, Sione used to help out a friend whose livelihood is making and selling carvings – however, this income was not reliable. Sione would only earn money if the carvings sold.

“Some weeks I would get $30 pa’anga [approximately NZD 20], max, and other weeks I would get nothing. My wages depended on the sales of the carving that my friend made.”

In order to earn a more stable living, Sione started working for the Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC), who Oxfam has been partnering with since 2011. The partnership started with a focus on sustainable livelihood sources for young people, with an emphasis on sustainable farming to conserve the fragile, land-based resources. TNYC seeks to ensure that their projects are inclusive of people living with disabilities, in order to reduce the barriers they face to accessing secure livelihoods.

Oxfam’s Rural Enterprise and Sustainable Livelihoods in Tonga (RESULT) project, in partnership with TNYC, has the goal of establishing a viable youth-led and community-focused business, selling virgin coconut oil and dried vanilla bean. The establishment of this business aims to generate sustainable cash flow to support TNYC’s non-commercial social activities, as well as providing employment opportunities to unemployed youth, and creating an environment that will allow them to flourish. RESULT staff saw the opportunity to use the coconut shells from the VCO, which were initially simply discarded, to be turned into handicrafts and carving.

That’s where Sione comes in. With the skills he gained from helping his friend make and sell his carvings, he now produces and sells handicrafts from coconut shells as a part of the RESULT project.

Sione is happy that, through this, he can earn an income he can rely on.

“I now earn a more stable income here at TNYC of $100 pa’anga [NZD 65] a week.”

TNYC provides transport for Sione to and from work, and they also take him home when he needs to use the toilet.

“If the toilet facility here at the TNYC was fully enclosed I would not have been needed to be taken home to go to the toilet during working hours.”

Sione’s goal is to get himself his own carving tools so he can work from home, where he is most comfortable.

Two months on: Rohingya refugee crisis

Two months into the crisis, more than 603,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed over into southern Bangladesh, while thousands are still trapped in the border. According to the UN, the pace of new arrivals made this crisis the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, and the concentration of refugees in Cox’s Bazar is now amongst the densest in the world.

In the early hours of 25 August 2017, violence broke out in the Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar and has driven more than 603, 000 people across the border into Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban Districts, southern Bangladesh. The people who have fled join the more than 300,000 others already living in cramped and makeshift camps since the 1990s, bringing the total refugee population to 815,200, as of 23 October, according to the United Nations.

Overall situation

The extent and implications of the large influx have resulted in a critical humanitarian emergency. The Rohingya refugees have faced a treacherous journey across the border fleeing the violence in Northern Rakhine.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reports of women and girls, as young as five years old, being raped by men in army uniforms as they fled their homes. High numbers of gender-based violence and trauma survivors require appropriate specialized services, including clinical management of rape, surgical intervention and mental health and psychosocial support.

They are in urgent need of lifesaving assistance in food, water, sanitation, shelter, health, and strong support in place to ensure their safety, dignity and respect for individual rights.

The large number of people initially started taking shelter under the open sky in the forest areas, by the roadside, and in surrounding villages. The population movements within Cox’s Bazar remain highly fluid, with an increasing concentration in Ukhia, where the government has recently allocated 3,000 acres for a new camp.

More than half of the refugees are women and 60 percent of these are girls under the age of 18. There are more than 120,000 pregnant women and mothers with new babies who are among those struggling to survive in cramped camps and settlements that are ill-equipped to deal with their needs.

“There is no toilet or bathroom here. The latrines are far away. The women take a shower at night, we are unable to do it in the daytime.”

Sumaya, 44, lives in Thengkhali Camp with her husband and eight children. They live high on a hilltop and use makeshift latrines or holes in the ground. Two months into the crisis, there is still an estimated 300,000 people with no access to basic sanitation facilities.

Refugees carry Oxfam food parcels in Thengkali Camp, southern Bangladesh. Each food parcel contained three kilograms of rice, fortified biscuits, sugar and soaps. A total of 23,458 parcels have been distributed and benefitted over 140,000 individuals. Photo: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam

We are there

Oxfam is responding now and has reached more than 185,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh by providing clean drinking water, portable toilets and sanitation facilities, plastic sheets, and other essential supplies. We aim to help more than 200,000 people during the first phase our response.

We are also supporting the government and humanitarian partners to ensure that newly established refugee camps will meet the necessary humanitarian standards.

Our collaboration with partner national organizations, such as the NGO Forum for Public Health and Coast Trust, have brought rich insight into the response as they bring in local knowledge and cultural sensitivity in delivering aid to the affected people.

In the recent weeks, we started working in Rubber Garden, a newly established transit site situated at about six kilometers from Ukhia, near Balukhali refugee camp. An estimated 1,200 individuals have transited over the past week, with some families who have journeyed for more than 15 days before finally crossing the border. We immediately provided a water tank with a total capacity of five cubic meters and delivered 10,000 litres of safe drinking water. We have also built 31 emergency latrines with separate units for men and women.

In Unchiprang, where water is scarce, we have finished installing a surface water treatment system with production of an estimated 45,000 litres of clean drinking water per day. This has benefitted more than 15,000 individuals.

Going forward, our programmes will include clean water and sanitation, hygiene materials and promotion, gender integrated into WASH, and safe spaces for women.


Uprooted by climate change: responding to the growing risk of displacement

Climate change is already forcing people from their land and homes, and putting many more at risk of displacement in the future.

Supercharged storms, more intense droughts, rising seas and other impacts of climate change all magnify existing vulnerabilities and the likelihood of displacement, disproportionately affecting low-income countries, women, children and indigenous peoples.