Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Greenwashing of dams at World Water Forum

Activists created a living river and inflated a large dam in central Marseille today against the corporate greenwashing of dams at this week's 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, France. The colourful manifestation of over 50 protestors from China, Turkey, Brazil, Vietnam, France, and others called attention to how dams are destroying the world's freshwater biodiversity and causing irreversible losses to the world's cultures. Ronack Monabay of Friends of the Earth – France, stated that “large dams are not green. 60% of the world's rivers are dammed, and freshwater ecosystems are losing species and habitats faster than any other type of ecosystem. Millions of people have been displaced because of dams worldwide. These are the reasons why we are protesting today. Life depends on healthy rivers.”

Yet, the world's banks are rushing to finance big dams. Since 2003, the European Investment Bank (EIB) alone has spent close to €1bn in financing dams in the global South under the guise of clean energy access, though the dams primarily benefit manufacturers and large industries looking for cheap electricity to produce export goods. The protestors warned that the World Water Forum has turned into a trade show for corporate initiatives to greenwash the dam industry. At the Forum, the International Hydropower Association (IHA) presented the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, a voluntary self-policing scorecard for dam builders. This Protocol is “a greenwash of the world's dam industry,” said Zachary Hurwitz, Policy Coordinator of International Rivers. “The Protocol allows dam builders to claim they are sustainable while they continue to violate international and national environmental and human rights law. In order to not repeat the errors of the past, dam builders must be held accountable to the highest social and environmental standards.”

One of the World Water Forum's twelve priorities for action, “Harmonize Water and Energy,” calls for 20 countries to adopt the Protocol by 2015. The IHA is lobbying governments, the European Union, and international agreements, such as the EU Emissions Trading System and Water Framework Directive, to use the Protocol in place of existing high standards. Instead of adopting the IHA Protocol, the protestors are calling on corporations, governments and international financial institutions such as the World Bank and European Investment Bank to comply with the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams, and international standards such as the Conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). They also call on governments and international financial institutions to stop to finance large dams and to diversify their energy portfolio towards more sustainable energy alternatives.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Gender equity: Germany behind Nordic countries and Spain

In terms of gender equity Germany places itself well above the European average, but below the Nordic countries and Spain. This is made apparent by the Gender Equity Index (GEI) 2012, published by Social Watch on the eve of Women’s International Day, 8 March. The GEI prepared annually by Social Watch measures the gap between women and men in education, the economy and political empowerment. The index is an average of the inequalities in the three dimensions. In literacy, it examines the gender gap in enrolment at all levels; economic participation computes the gaps in income and employment; empowerment measures the gaps in highly qualified jobs, parliament and senior executive positions.

Social Watch measures the gap between women and men, not their wellbeing. Thus, a country in which young men and women have equal access to the university receives a value of 100 on this particular indicator. In the same fashion, a country in which boys and girls are equally barred from completing primary education would also be awarded a value of 100. This does not mean that the quality of education in both cases is the same. It just establishes that, in both cases girls are not less educated than boys.

Germany’s 80 points rank it among those countries with LOW GEI. The country’s index is seven points higher than Europe’s average – which is 73 – and places it also above neighbouring Luxembourg (68), Czech Republic, Austria (both with 73), Poland (76), France (77), Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland (the three with 79), but below its other neighbour Denmark (84). It should be noted that only the eight countries leading the score (Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Spain and Mongolia) have reached the minimum of 81 points that places them as countries with a MEDIUM GEI.

The five levels according to which the index measures the gender gap are: CRITICAL, VERY LOW, LOW, MEDIUM AND ACCEPTABLE. It should be noted that no country has reached 90 points or more, meaning that no country has yet reached the ACCEPTABLE level.

The only dimension in which Germany reaches an acceptable value is education (100 points), while in economic participation and empowerment the country’s performance is much less praiseworthy: 78 and 62 respectively (LOW in both cases). Norway, Finland and Iceland are at the top of Europe and also the world, with 89, 88 and 87 points respectively. The three European countries that present largest gender gaps are Malta (63), Albania (55) and Turkey (45).

Out of the 154 countries computed by the IEG 2012 those five in the worst global situation are the Republic of Congo (29), Niger (26), Tchad (25), Yemen (24) and Afghanistan (15).

Social Watch members are spread across all regions. The network fights for the eradication of poverty and its causes, the elimination of all forms of discrimination and racism and to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and the realization of human rights.

For a detailed description of methodology sources see

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Women’s Day: Gender pay gap remains unchanged for 10 years

Whereas mainstream debate points to women’s underrepresentation in corporate boardrooms a new report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reveals that worldwide, women are paid 18% on average less than their male counterparts at work. The report, Frozen in time: Gender pay gap unchanged for 10 years, released on the eve of International Women's Day, looks at women's wages in 43 countries, twice the number of previous studies. "For the last decade we have seen women's wages hitting a road block. The pay gap remains frozen in time almost everywhere. Asia is the continent with the greatest wage differential between men and women with no progress made to close the gap for over a decade," said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

For the first time, researchers have ranked industries internationally by analysing the differences in wages in 15 sectors from construction to domestic workers. The report also includes detailed statistics from official sources in 18 countries. More unionised sectors such as the public sector tend to have lower pay gaps. Those with low unionisation rates and low wage levels, such as retail, hotels and restaurants as well as agriculture tend to have higher gaps. Part of the problem is that many workers are not paid a decent minimum wage.

The report also found:
* Male dominated sectors such as construction have the smallest gender pay gaps due to the relatively low numbers of women, and the fact that the women tend to be better educated.
* Domestic workers show the lowest level of earning and the largest gender pay gaps.
* The highest 'unexplained gender pay gaps' attributed to discriminatory practices are found in Chile, South Africa and Argentina.
* A 'child penalty' contributes to keeping women's wages low, particularly affecting women aged 30 - 39.

The report is the third study into the gender wage gap by the ITUC, following up on studies in 2008 and 2009. It was written by Dutch academics K.G Tijdens and M Van Klaveren and is based on country level wage data from the ILO, Eurostat as well as on individual-level wage data from the multi-country WageIndicator Foundation web survey. While previous ITUC reports show that official figures tend to underestimate the gender pay gap, data collection has improved in recent years, especially through the OECD and the EU.

The report can be read >>> here.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

(Bio-)fueling injustice? EU driving global biofuel production

The European Union’s biofuel policy continues to threaten food security and increase land grabs in Africa, shows a new report by the EuropAfrica platform and FIAN, (Bio)fueling injustice: Europe’s responsibility to counter climate change without provoking land grabbing and compounding food insecurity in Africa. The report is released as the EU is set to review its biofuel policy in 2012 in line with environmental impacts. “Imported industrial biofuels for European renewable energy exacerbate land grabs in Africa and fuel violations of the right to food”, says Nora McKeon coordinator of EuropAfrica. “The EU has to realise that its energy and agricultural policies have global impacts, often affecting the most vulnerable in poor countries. Decision makers cannot ignore the evidence; it’s time for a total re-think of biofuel policy.”

The report shows that 66% of the land grabs in Africa are intended for biofuel production, some 18.8 million hectares. Among the biggest investors are companies from Europe, as case studies from Senegal and Mali show, with European investments likely to increase further. “We want to grow food for people in Africa, not for fuelling cars in Europe. The switch to biofuel crops in Senegal has been a failure. Productivity has fallen sharply since we started trying the Jatropha biofuel crop, and many farmers are feeling cheated. We call on the European Union to drop its renewable energy target for biofuels until measures are in place which ensure that the right to food is not violated”, says Marius Dia, of CNCR (Conseil National de Concertation et de Coopération des ruraux du Sénégal).

Despite contrary claims, the EU is highly dependent on imports. Already in 2008, the EU imported almost 40 percent of its biofuels or biofuel feedstock. The study further finds that the EU and its Member States violate their human rights obligations by not having conducted an adequate assessment of the impact of the biofuel policy on human rights and by not regulating European companies and financial actors. According to Blandine Bouniol, Policy Coordinator at CONCORD, the European NGO Confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, the EU’s good intention to fight climate change by promoting renewable energy is turning into a disaster. Europe is outsourcing its production, getting a ready supply of biofuels at the expense of the environment and people in the developing world.