WorldScan: July 19, 2002

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UN Appeals for Funds to Avert Starvation in Africa

NEW YORK, New York, July 19, 2002 (ENS) – Warning that some 13 million people in southern Africa are on the brink of starvation in the region's worst food crisis in nearly a decade, the United Nations Thursday launched a broad $600 million humanitarian appeal to help secure food and other relief supplies to combat the looming disaster.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the international community and the countries concerned to "join hands" with the UN in a partnership to avert another human tragedy on the African continent.

"There is still an opportunity to avert famine and to save lives, but this window is closing rapidly. With your support, we can save lives today," Annan said in a message delivered on his behalf by Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kenzo Oshima to a meeting at UN Headquarters in New York, where the appeal was launched.

The $611 million appeal covers Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, where crop production has dropped for two straight years because of drought and floods. The situation in those countries has also been exacerbated by high rates of HIV/AIDS and a host of other problems, including land degradation and poor management of strategic grain reserves, UN officials said.

Oshima told reporters that during his recent visit to the region, he was "deeply struck" by the impact of the crisis on ordinary citizens and the scale of the challenge facing the international community.

"The effect of the devastating HIV/AIDS pandemic and other factors means that we must take a multi-sectoral approach to the crisis," he said. "That is, food aid is going to be the key element but it must be complemented with non-food assistance such as health, nutrition, water, sanitation and other programmes."

The money from the Consolidated National Appeals for the Humanitarian Crisis in Southern Africa would be used to address food security needs, livelihoods and the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.

The Secretary-General has appointed James Morris, executive director of the UN World Food Programme, as his Special Envoy on the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa. Morris will travel to the region and work with the six governments to review the humanitarian situation, current relief efforts and contingency planning, in order to ensure coherent and complete response to the crisis.

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No Aerial Spraying, Colombia's Indigenous People Plead

PUERTO ASIS, Colombia, July 19, 2002 (ENS) - The Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Putumayo Zone (OZIP) and the 128 Indigenous Governing Councils in the Department of Putumayo have issued a plea to the government of Colombia and the international community not to spray their lands with herbicide intended to kill illegal coca plants. They say all forms of life will die in the spray, not just the coca plants.

The Colombian government has announced that on July 28 they will begin a massive constant aerial spraying of illicit coca plants in the territory of Putumayo.

At a meeting in Puerto Asis on July 9 and 10, indigenous leaders formally called upon the Office of the Ombudsman of the People (Defensoría del Pueblo), the attorney general, the minister of the environment, human rights organizations, national and international NGOs, social organizations, and the rest of the population, "to stand by us in denouncing, and helping to find peaceful solutions to, this violent act of aerial spraying."

The Indigenous Authorities, 128 Governing Councils, of the indigenous peoples of Putumayo signed an agreement with the Colombian government on July 26, 2001 that "specifies a commitment to the social, economic and cultural recovery and reconstruction of our peoples affected by the invasion of our territories, as well as a commitment on the part of indigenous peoples to voluntarily and gradually substitute crops grown for illicit use."

The indigenous leaders said they are not drug traffickers and must not be treated as such. "We are willing and committed to being a part of the solution to the problem, but we demand that the government and its police force also comply, and not spray those territories inhabited by the indigenous people and peasants who signed, with the same government, serious agreements that bind both parties."

"We are directly affected by the problem," they said, "and the illicit crops that we do have are grown for survival. They are not commercial fields and therefore we should not be given the same treatment as criminals.

The indigenous people say they are abiding by the 2001 pact, entitled, "A Mutual Agreement for the Substitution of Coca Crops for Illicit Use in the Department of Putumayo," and they are asking that the government comply with the agreement too.

"We know from past experience that this aerial spraying will wipe out everything," the indigenous leaders said. "The small subsistence farms and gardens will be exterminated, it will affect the flora and fauna, and the rich biodiversity of the Amazon jungles will be poisoned with glyphosate."

"The conflict will intensify," they warn, "and a huge number of people will be displaced from their homes. Even the investments that the government itself has made in projects to support food security and cattle ranching will be destroyed."

The Indigenous Authorities have identified their communities on maps brought to them by the government, so that they will not be sprayed. "Nevertheless," they said, "we have fears and doubts, because a string of governments have accustomed us to a historic lack of respect for pacts."

"Aerial spraying is death," they declare. "It is genocide. Glyphosate does kill. It kills communities through death by hunger because they spray our daily sustenance - the food, the pastures and the water."

The indigenous peoples of the Putumayo are the Muráis, Ingas, Quichuas, Pastos, Awas, Paeces, Emberá, Sionas, Muinanes, Yanakonas, Kamentzá, Koreguajes, and Kofanes.

They are asking for "the urgent presence of competent authorities that can support us in finding solutions to this problem, and accompany us in denouncing this situation."

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Julia Butterfly Hill Arrested, Deported from Ecuador

QUITO, Ecuador, July 19, 2002 (ENS) - Quito police arrested American activist Julia Butterfly Hill and seven other protestors Thursday outside the Quito offices of U.S. oil company Occidental Petroleum (Oxy). Most of those arrested represent Ecuadorian communities adversely affected by the new OCP pipeline being built by Oxy through a rainforest.

Hill was deported from Ecuador Thursday, and is now on her way back to the United States. The deportation occurred two hours before a scheduled Habeas Corpus hearing for Hill and the seven Ecuadorian activists with whom she was arrested.

Hill resisted her deportation. As she was dragged through the Quito airport by immigration police, she called out, "I'm being deported against my will. I was never told what I'm being charged with. I was never once read my rights. I was shown a piece of paper in Spanish but was refused a translator. I was refused a lawyer and the only reason I'm being deported is because I've lent my solidarity to the forests of Ecuador and the communities defending their lands and their basic human rights."

Hill arrived in Ecuador July 9 to show her support for the Ecuadorian struggle to resist the petroleum pipeline project. Prior to the arrest, Hill visited the Mindo community and witnessed the forest destruction, as she and community members reoccupied the pipeline construction site.

Members of the Mindo community have recently staged a three month tree-sit to halt construction - the first action of its kind in South America. Hill became internationally known for the two years she spent in a California redwood to keep it from being logged. The tree still stands above Stafford, California.

Community representatives from Mindo, Esmeraldas, Lago Agrio and Shushufindi, along with members of Acción Ecológica and Amazon Watch, had arrived at the Oxy offices with Hill for a Thursday meeting with senior officials to discuss the environmental and social impacts of the project.

The delegation was refused entrance to the meeting at which time the crowd began to protest their exclusion. During the arrests, police acted violently, kicking community representatives, and dragging them by the hair to throw them against vehicles.

The street protest by individuals whose homes and communities are threatened by the controversial pipeline continued. After 50 demonstrators shut down Oxy's offices for two hours and closed Avenida Amazonas, one of Quito's main streets, in front of their office, Oxy agreed to meet with community representatives.

The Mindo Nambillo Cloudforest Reserve, through which the pipeline is being built, is called by conservationists "an unparalleled epicenter of biodiversity." It is inhabited by more than 450 species of birds - 46 threatened by extinction. Construction works have now reached a tapering knife-edge ridge, high above the region's watersheds. Atossa Soltani, executive director of the advocacy group Amazon Watch, said, "To bring heavy machinery up here would cause massive landslides and a massacre of incredible and endangered ecosystems."

According to government sources, the majority of Amazon crude that will flow through the OCP pipeline is destined for markets on the West coast of the United States.

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78 Nations Condemn Nuclear Shipments

NADI, Fiji, July 19, 2002 (ENS) - Japan and the United Kingdom were denounced for ongoing plutonium waste shipments through the Pacific Ocean by the 78 nations of the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) Summit in their final Declaration today. The leaders called for an immediate end to the shipments that have entered the Exclusive Economic Zones of five Pacific nations this week.

The Nadi Declaration of the Third Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government says, “We express our strong objection to the transport of nuclear and other hazardous materials through the waters around ACP states. We call for the immediate cessation of such practice, in order to prevent any occurrence of accidents that could seriously threaten their sustainable development and the health of their peoples.”

Summit host Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase asked African and Caribbean delegates to join their Pacific counterparts in expressing outrage and opposition to those who are so willing to put the Pacific and its peoples at risk.

He said the Pacific people’s close relationship to the ocean is the reason why they are so adamantly opposed to actions that expose them to threats of pollution, hazardous wastes and destructive effects of nuclear materials.

The two ships, Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal, carrying 255 kgs of weapons-usable material were found today by Greenpeace well within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of New Caledonia, at coordinates the group reports as 20 degrees, 31 minutes South and 163 degrees, 10 minutes East at around 12 noon Fiji time.

In the last week the two ships have also breached the EEZs of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Solomons, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister Serge Vohor said it is time to put a full stop to these shipments.

“Greenpeace congratulates and applauds the African Caribbean and Pacific Governments for taking this courageous and strong stance on this issue,” said nuclear campaigner, Angenette Heffernan.

“We recognize that many of these countries have donor aid relationships with the shipping nations, but they have gone ahead and expressed their strong opposition, prioritizing their concerns over the devastating health and environmental consequences of allowing these shipments to continue. Japan, the UK and Australia can no longer use their aid to force countries into accepting these lethal shipments through their waters.”

British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. which operates the two ships, routinely issues assurances that the waste shipments are safe. They carry spent nuclear fuel from Japan to the UK for reprocessing over routes that are kept secret. Plans are in the works to return the material in the form of mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel back to Japan for the generation of electricity.

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Global Council of Forest and Paper Associations Formed

WASHINGTON, DC, July 19, 2002 (ENS) - Forest and paper trade associations in 39 countries have formally established of their first global association, the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA), to work together on issues affecting forest and paper producers around the world.

The member associations represent industries accounting for 75 percent of the world's paper and more than 50 percent of the world's wood production, the council said in a statement.

At their first meeting Wednesday, the members elected W. Henson Moore, president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association, to serve as the council's first president for the term 2002-2004.

As its first official act, the group adopted a position statement against illegal logging.

"This is an important step for the global forest products community," said Moore. "Through the ICFPA, forest and paper associations from around the world will have the opportunity to work together on the global stage."

The council expressed its commitmnet "to the principles of sustainable development and to working with other stakeholders to ensure that environmental, social and economic benefits of our natural resources are available to current and future generations."

Moore will head a group of ICFPA member organizations participating in the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa this August.

"Most other industries have a group like this so the industry can speak with one voice on international issues before the UN and other international bodies," said Moore.

"Our industry has traditionally been a close partner with national governments in addressing some of the globe's most pressing problems, such as illegal logging and climate change. With the International Council, we can now bring those efforts together and focus our collective efforts on global action."

Forest and paper association leaders from around the world have been meeting informally as a Forum to discuss issues of common interest since 1996. Marie Arwidson, director general of the Confederation of European Paper Industries and chairman of the Forum in 2000-2001 said, "We believe the ICFPA can be a valuable partner to international organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations."

ICFPA is launching a website at http://www.icfpa.org.

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Europe to Cut Forest Protection Funding

BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 19, 2002 (ENS) - The European Commission has proposed merging two existing schemes to fund protection of European Union forests, one monitoring the effects of air pollution and the other establishing anti-fire measures.

A new six year program would run from 2003 to 2008, with an overall budget more than 10 percent lower than the two forest protection programs being replaced.

Termed Forest Focus, the initiative's area of responsibility is expanded to include monitoring of biodiversity and the effects of climate change, including carbon sequestration.

Provision has been made to finance the studies and pilot projects required to develop the monitoring of forest biodiversity, carbon sequestration and soil properties and to enhance existing monitoring activities by giving them an EU-wide scope.

Funding for the first four years would be €52 million, with a maximum of €38 million more during the remainder of the period. This total of €90 million compares to over €100 million allocated under the existing programs over the last six years.

The proposal now needs ministerial and parliamentary approval.

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said, "Forests cover more than a third of the EU's surface. They are vital for our livelihood. They are not only a source of raw material for the timber industry, but they also serve important functions as reservoirs of bio-diversity and as carbon sinks that lessen the effects of climate change. By protecting our forests we safeguard economic opportunities as well as our natural heritage."

But the conservation group WWF warns that Europe must do more to protect its forests. In a statement issued today by the WWF Mediterranean office, Isabella Morandi said, " Every year, in the Mediterranean, more than 50,000 fires burn an average of 600,000-800,000 hectares, an area the size of Crete or Corsica. In Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece the average total burnt area has quadrupled since the 1960s."

Currently only about 10 percent of Mediterranean firefighting investments go towards prevention, she said, with 90 percent for suppression mechanisms. WWF believes that investments should focus more on prevention procedures and policies, and not just band-aid solutions.

A balanced fire-management system with prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery actions should be considered an integral part of landscape planning in all Mediterranean areas at risk from forest fires, Morandi said.

{ENDS Environment Daily, contributed to this story. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London.}