Thursday, October 20, 2005

World Watch

Hhhhmmmm.........was I saying nice things about the UN yesterday .... sigh .... this report on sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers has certainly taken some of the gloss of my UN love-fest. I sincerely think that, in a globalising world, the UN is essential; yet, as it exists at present, it is a troubled organisation (kind of like the World it represents really). It definitely needs meaningful reform (as opposed to John Bolton style reforms). One of the main problems that the UN faces is that it is very hard for it to be more than merely the sum of its member organisations.

The Times writes (quoting Prince Zeid the author of one of the reports on the abuse):

"The entire responsibility for this mess is with the member states," he said, adding that meetings he had scheduled after his report was published were only sparsely attended.
Meanwhile the Independent has this sobering report on the environmental consequences of China’s economic development. A couple of worthy extracts:

Because of their increasing reliance on coal-fired power stations to provide their energy, the Chinese are firmly on course to overtake the Americans as the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, and thus become the biggest contributors to global warming and the destabilisation of the climate. If they remain uncontrolled, the growth of China's carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years will dwarf any cuts in CO2 that the rest of the world can make…

The ecological damage that China's breakneck industrialisation is having on the country itself has been widely recognised. In an interview earlier this year, China's deputy environment minister, Pan Yue, said five of the 10 most polluted cities worldwide are in China; acid rain is falling on one-third of the country; half of the water in its seven largest rivers is "completely useless"; a quarter of China's citizens lack access to clean drinking water; one-third of the urban population is breathing polluted air; and less than a fifth of the rubbish in cities is treated and processed in an environmentally sustainable way.
And meanwhile lawmakers in the US state of Georgia are trying to impose a poll tax of sorts. The consequence of which will be disenfranchisement of poorer voters (and you can guess what race they will be - predominantly). The New York Times writes in an editorial:

Critics of Georgia's new voter-identification law, which forces many citizens to pay $20 or more for the documentation necessary to vote, have called it a modern-day poll tax, intended to keep blacks and poor people from voting...Georgia Republicans, who get few votes from African-American voters, pushed a bill through the Legislature this year imposing the nation's toughest voter-identification requirements…Under the new law, voters with driver's licenses were not inconvenienced. But it put up huge obstacles for voters without licenses, who are disproportionately poor and black. Most of them would have to get official state picture-identification cards and pay processing fees of $20 or more. Incredibly - beyond the cost imposed on such voters - there was not a single office in Atlanta where the identification cards were for sale.

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